Tips on Caring for Older Pets

altMy dog finally hit the double digits this past August, and while he’s still super healthy and energetic, I can’t help  but notice some small signs that tell me that he’s starting to slow down a little.

While small breed dogs can easily live to be 15 plus years or more, and my own cat lived to the ripe old age of 20, larger breed dogs, like the Golden Retriever I currently own, are considered to be entering their geriatric years beginning at the age of 8-10 years.

But don’t just assume that an aging pet will have to experience a decreased quality of life. As long as you remain loving and observant of your pet’s advancing health care needs, your pet should be able to comfortably enjoy their geriatric years.

So here are a few simple tips on ways to help make your aging pet more comfortable and how to notice changes that may signal changes in their health.

  • Provide your pet with a super comfy and well cushioned pet bed, since aging animals can often suffer muscle loss, which can make sleeping on hard surfaces very uncomfortable. There are lots of great options available for well cushioned or therapeutic foam style pet beds.
  • Be sure that all the things that your pet needs to access, like food, bedding, litter boxes and water bowls, are always easily accessible to them. And if you notice that your pet has trouble bending down, make small adjustments in these things to help lessen their difficulty with leaning down. Something as simple as raising up a food or water bowl can mean a world of difference to your pet if they suffer from a stiff neck or arthritis.
  • Slippery floors and stairs can become increasingly difficult for your pet to manage as they become older.  Consider adding no-slip carpeting or area rugs to help give your pet more traction and make them feel more secure in and sure-footed.
  • Older pets can often suffer from joint stiffness, so take note if they appear stiff when they first wake up, or if they seem to gradually warm up out of this stiffness with activity. If your pet exhibits any of these stiffness symptoms, always consult your veterinarian, so they can provide advice, carefully evaluate and offer supplements or anti-inflammatory pet medications or therapies to help manage aging stiffness or arthritis if necessary.
  • Take notice if your pet exhibits changes in appetite, because a change in appetite is not always directly attributed to being a natural part of the aging process and could be caused by a more physical problem, like a painful or infected tooth. Again, consult your veterinarian to discuss and evaluate your own situation.
  • Increased thirst or a litter box that is excessively soaked, could be indicators of hormonal imbalances, urinary tract infections or liver or kidney failure, so if any of these symptoms appear, you should always consult your Vet for a professional evaluation.
  • Aging pets often experience changes in their eyes after the age of 10, which may cause their eyes to appear either gray or cloudy. While many of these age related eye changes are considered common and may not adversely interfere with their vision, it’s always best to ask your veterinarian to evaluate any eye changes that you might observe.
  • Notice if your pet appears confused from time to time or if they seem to lose their way in places that should be familiar to them. It’s possible your pet could be experiencing beginning symtoms of dementia caused by changes in the brain. Or if your pet begins excessive vocalizing, that is not typical for them, this could also be something you should ask your veterinarian to evaluate more carefully for you.
  • Exercise is still very much essential for aging pets, so long as they are healthy and not suffering from any extreme health issues. Your Vet will be able to work out an appropriate exercise program with you, that will meet your pet’s individual needs, based on their health evaluation and accompanied by an adequate re-evaluation plan with your Veterinarian.

I hope these tips will help your and your pet enjoy their Pet Golden Years, but don’t forget that these are only simple “tips” and are in no way meant to be a substitute for the professional care that regular trips to your Veterinarian will provide for your Senior Pets.