Getting older: How to help your senior pet age comfortably
By Veronica Daehn Harvey
The puppy you adopted years ago may not be quite as spry anymore.
Just like humans, pets’ bodies, minds, and behaviors change as they grow older. Senior dogs and cats can face issues of mobility, achy joints, failing eyesight and hearing, incontinence, confusion, forgetfulness, respiratory problems, poor coat, weight loss, trouble chewing and swallowing, low energy, neediness, anxiety, and stress, among others.
But senior companion animals don’t have to suffer. As your dog or cat ages, consider these tips to keep them comfortable, from Nancy Hugenberg, DVM, of Orchard Mesa Veterinary Hospital in Grand Junction, Colo.
· Watch for soreness and discomfort and see a veterinarian for arthritis and pain medication. Acupuncture and Class IV laser therapy can be helpful.
· Provide quality bedding. A mattress made of memory foam or egg-carton-patterned foam help with comfort.
· Watch for floors that are slippery. Provide rugs or mats to help your pet with his or her footing.
· Avoid rearranging furniture, so as not to confuse your senior dog or cat.
· Check your pet’s teeth. They may be painful.
· Exercise your senior pet, but do not hike as far or push him to play as long. Swimming is a great option for older dogs, as it’s easier on their joints. Using a life jacket can be comforting for them and you.
· Make sure your dog or cat does not get too cold or hot. Senior pets may struggle to make smart decisions as they age and may lie in the sun or stay in the cold too long. Rather than cooling or warming their bodies, energy should be spent on digestion and healing.
· Feed your senior pet a quality diet that is appropriate for her age. Choose a protein-rich pet food that has quality ingredients (but skip food with extra protein). Provide soft pet food if your animal’s teeth or jaw are sore. Don’t feed your pet too much or overdo it with treats. Excess weight aggravates arthritis and other health issues.
· Provide clean, fresh water in a clean bowl. Washing your pet’s food and water bowls helps prevent bacterial buildup.
· If your pet has arthritis in his neck, raise his food and water bowls off the ground slightly.
“If your pet just isn’t himself, a physical exam by a veterinarian can help uncover health issues. Treating concerns sooner rather than later is better for everyone,” Hugenberg says. Exams are recommended every 6 months for pets older than 7.
Veronica Daehn Harvey plays house with her husband, children, cats, dog, and chickens in the western Colorado desert. She likes red wine, acoustic guitars, good books, and great friends.
Photo Credit: ©iStockphoto.com
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