As you can imagine, the puppy and kitten days are much different from the senior years. As our pets age, their needs change. Below are a few items to take into consideration as your pet moves into their senior years.
- Health care. Regular trips to the veterinarian are necessary and become even more important as your pet ages. Symptoms of age-related diseases can be hard to miss, so establishing a baseline of health with regular exams and bloodwork is essential to the health of your pet. It’s recommended that pets in their senior years see a vet every six months, but in-between visits, be sure to watch for changes in your pet’s behavior, appetite and energy levels, as they are signs that you should take your pet to the vet.
Just so you know, cats are usually considered mature at 7 to 10 years old, senior at 11 to 14 years old, and geriatric at 15 or older. Dogs can be called senior at 7 years old, but larger dogs age more quickly. For example, a large breed such as a Great Dane is a senior at 6 years old, while a Yorkie is middle-aged. Be sure to visit with your veterinarian to help you determine when your pet is a senior.
- Nutrition. As a pet ages, they often slow down, which means they need fewer calories than their younger selves did. Pet obesity is a huge problem for pets as it puts unnecessary stress on their joints, so be sure to watch the portion size you give your pets, and give a limited amount of high-quality treats. Also, treats can be replaced with fresh fruits and vegetables, or even playtime and extra lovings. Also be sure to look for a food that fits your pet’s needs throughout the years. Most food brands offer a senior formula, while others offer more specialized diets specific to certain diagnoses, which are often prescribed by your veterinarian. Pets with joint issues can also benefit from supplements and food with glucosamine or fish oil. Be sure to have a conversation with your vet to determine the proper amounts.
- Teeth. Healthy teeth also makes for a healthy pet. Dental disease can be painful for your pet, making it hard, if not impossible, for them to eat. And, bad breath can also be a sign of disease or health issues with your pet. During their bi-annual vet visits, make sure the doctor is examining your pet’s teeth. Most offices offer a professional dental cleaning, where you can help keep your pet’s pearly whites shining bright with toothbrushes or wipes. If your pet isn’t a fan of brushing or the wipes, consider dental treats, toys or raw bones from a butcher to help keep their teeth in top shape. Again, be sure to talk about your pet’s dental needs with your vet.
- Pain. As your pet ages, you’ll also find that they may stiffen up or seem like they are in pain. Many times, supplements will help keep pets agile and mobile; however, sometimes they may have additional needs with medication. One can also consider alternative therapies such as acupuncture, laser treatments or massage therapy, which are available to you in Gillette. A great place to start is by having a conversation with your vet.
- Play time. Yes, exercise and play time is still important for your senior pet. Granted, you don’t need to go on those 10 mile hikes like you used to, unless they are still in tip top shape, but daily walks, time chasing a ball or squeaky toy, enrolling in a new pet trick class, or sprinkling some catnip on a new mousy toy is important. This will also help keep your pet healthy and trim, as well as slow the breakdown of joints from arthritis. Plus, it helps keep your bond with your pet strong, thus keeping you happy as well. As you may know, people with pets often live longer due to the stress-relieving properties of bonding with a pet.
- Safety. As a pet ages, you may seen them bump into things, have a hard time jumping into the back of your car like they used to, or even not respond as quickly to your commands. This may be due to joint issues, or even vision or hearing issues. Remove dangerous objects from your pet’s path, or use gates to help keep them confined to safer areas when necessary. Consider purchasing ramps, rugs or stairs at a pet store to help with mobility issues; you can also find harnesses with hand grips, that will help you lift your pet safely. We’ve also heard of pet booties or grips that will help older pets move around safely on laminate or wood floors. Pet stores make litter boxes that older cats can access easier, and you might even consider purchasing a bed with some orthopedic support or heat for those aging bones. You might also consider using hand signals with your pet as another form of communication with them as they go through training. And, while having your dog off leash or putting the cat out to enjoy some fun in the sun might be what you usually do, as they age, it may not be as safe for them as usual-especially if they have issues with hearing or vision. Keep a watchful eye on them so they don’t get into a situation they may not be able to get out of safely.