Just like humans, many pets are living longer today. Thanks to improved veterinary care and dietary guidelines, pets are enjoying longer lives with their loved ones. However, the longer lifespan of our pets often means that owners and veterinarians must know how to care for pets during their senior years. Most veterinarians agree that cats and dogs reach the geriatric stage at age seven, though some larger breeds of dogs are considered to be seniors when they are six because of their shorter lifespans. If you have a pet nearing their senior years, you may be concerned about how to best care for them. We offer four tips for caring for a senior pet below, so that you can help ease your four-legged friend into their twilight years more easily.
- See your veterinarian regularly
While old age certainly is not an illness, it does carry with it certain health concerns that become more prevalent. That’s why regularly scheduling visits with your veterinarian is a good idea as your pets age. Being proactive will help your vet identify health problems sooner, and it is much less expensive to prevent disease in your older animals than it is to treat it.
You also may consider asking your veterinarian to conduct a body condition evaluation of your senior pets during their visits. During these checks, your vet can determine whether your pet is at an ideal weight. Extra weight is not good for animals at any stage of their lives, but it can be especially detrimental to their health during the senior years, which leads to our next tip.
- Keep your pet at a healthy weight
It is not in your senior pet’s best interests to be underweight or overweight; yet, studies show that nearly 50% of all dogs and cats in the United States are overweight or obese, and the percentage increases among senior pets. Obesity in animals is a health risk, just as it is for their human owners. Overweight dogs are at a higher risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, skin diseases, and cancer. They also commonly develop serious joint complications including arthritis and hip dysplasia. Overweight pets also have a more difficult time tolerating heat and breathing.
To keep your senior pet at a healthy weight, choose a high-quality food that is appropriate for his species, age, and size. Your veterinarian can help you determine the best pet food and nutritional mix for your senior pet in addition to how much and how often to feed him. Avoid feeding your pet people food because it contributes to weight gain and can spur other medical problems.
- Make sure your senior pet gets plenty of exercise
Of course, regular exercise for your senior pet is one way to help him stay at a healthy weight. However, pet owners need to be sure they are exercising their senior animals in appropriate ways. Discuss exercises with your vet if you are unsure where to begin. In most cases, a daily walk is an ideal exercise for senior pets. If you work and are unable to walk your dog every day, consider hiring a dog walker from a company like Rover. Dog walkers are happy to get your pet outside for a healthy walk when you are unable to do so. Other exercises that usually are safe for aging pets include play periods with toys or family members. Do not play too roughly and make sure your pet has access to water while exercising.
- Keep your dog’s teeth healthy
Many owners fail to recognize the importance of dental health for their senior pets. Older dogs and cats are susceptible to bacteria if their teeth have been neglected for a period of time. Tartar builds up and leads to gingivitis, which can allow bacteria to get into your senior pet’s bloodstream and damage his organs. One way to keep your pet’s teeth and gums in good condition is to do regular brushing at home and ask your vet to do yearly cleanings. Monitor your senior pet’s teeth and gums and make sure you report any concerns to your veterinarian immediately.
Pet owners want to see their pets live long, healthy lives. That is possible if you provide proper care for your senior pet and follow the tips we have suggested here.
Image via Pixabay by tpsdave
Article by Caroline Hampton