Top Tips For Looking After Your Senior Pets

Just as one baby or puppy proofs the home, you may now need to make your home ‘senior friendly.’

Dogs who are prone to hip dysplasia or IVDD (intervertebral disc disease) would benefit from the use of ramps or stairs leading to couches or beds. This makes it much easier for them to still access these areas and helps to prevent injury.

I have steps around the house and both dogs and cats make use of them (even the ones who don’t need them).Orthopaedic beds can soothe joint pain and

arthritis and the addition of non-slip mats will provide traction on tiled floors and prevent your pet from slipping and potentially hurting themselves.

Also consider keeping furniture and food and water bowls in the same position, particularly if your pet’s eyesight is failing.

In your eyes, your dog will always be a puppy or your baby; even as their muzzles slowly start to grey, they can no longer walk as far as they used to, or they aren’t as agile as they once were.

It almost seems to sneak up on you- one day you are buying young adult food (1+), then you blink and find yourself reaching for aging (12+). It is a tough pill to swallow and difficult to acknowledge that our pets are getting older, especially when converting to the dreaded human years.

So how does one know when their pet has reached senior status? This is largely dependent on the size of the animal; small breeds are considered senior between 10-12 years, medium breeds between 8-9 years and large and giant breeds between 6-7 years. Similar to small breed dogs, cats are considered senior between the ages of 11-14 years.

Don’t despair just yet though. The right combination of diet, environment and preventative care can extend the lives of our fur kids. While we might not like to admit it (hands up if you are happily living in denial), it is important that you take note and pay attention to your pet’s changing needs. We may not be able to stop them from aging, but we can prolong their quality of life, and keep them behaving like the puppies we still think they are, for years to come.

DIET

Nutrition plays a vital role in your pet’s wellbeing. I firmly believe in feeding them the best you can afford from day 1, whether that be home cooked meals, raw, kibble or a combination thereof. Senior pets can often have dietary issues such as loss of appetite, difficulty chewing, obesity and other digestive problems. You may have to move to soft food, add more fiber to their diets, decrease carbohydrates or add supplements. This is best discussed with your vet who can advise you based on your pet’s specific needs.

REGULAR VET CHECK UPS

It is recommended that you take your senior pet for a check-up at the vet at least twice a year. This will help your vet to identify any issues early on before they become major health problems. This is something I am personally working on. I generally only go to the vet when I notice something is wrong or a pet is a bit off, so I am trying to do better. Don’t skip the dental. Dental care is very important, and I cannot stress this enough. Bad dental hygiene can lead to major issues beyond the mouth, such as kidney, liver and heart disease. It can even cause strokes. Make sure to keep their pearly whites in tip top condition.

SUPPLEMENTS

I am a firm believer in herbal/homeopathic supplements for pets and have had great success with them.

Don’t get me wrong, I also believe in modern medicine, but herbal remedies can be gentler on their systems and can often be given in conjunction with chronic medication.

Senior pets can benefit from essential fatty acids (Omega-3 and omega-6). These improve overall condition and aid in brain function, boost the immune system and have anti-inflammatory properties which are highly effective at reducing the severity of arthritis. Probiotics promote good gut health by restoring ‘good’ bacteria which can be killed off by medication.

CBD is also claimed to treat and assist many ailments, from fostering a healthy appetite to alleviating pain and treating seizures and cancer.

Before giving your pet any supplement, it is best to do your research and consult with your vet.

EXERCISE

Just like in humans, the less you move, the more achy, stiff and creaky you feel. That is why it is vital to keep continuing exercising your senior dog, unless otherwise directed by your vet. Exercise helps to keep them lean and maintain their weight, keeps their joints and muscles healthy, as well as keep their minds alert. Just be sure to tailor your dog’s exercise needs to their requirements i.e., shorter walks, slower pace. Mental stimulation can also be achieved by allowing them to sniff their environment on walks. Or you can introduce them to food puzzles or brain games.

SPECIAL ACCOMMODATIONS

Just as one baby or puppy proofs the home, you may now need to make your home ‘senior friendly.’ Dogs who are prone to hip dysplasia or IVDD (intervertebral disc disease) would benefit from the use of ramps or stairs leading to couches or beds. This makes it much easier for them to still access these areas and helps to prevent injury. I have steps around the house and both dogs and cats make use of them (even the ones who don’t need them). Orthopedic beds can soothe joint pain and arthritis and the addition of non-slip mats will provide traction on tiled floors and prevent your pet from slipping and potentially hurting themselves. Also consider keeping furniture and food and water bowls in the same position, particularly if your pet’s eyesight is failing.

BE OBSERVANT

One of the best tools you have is knowledge. You know your pet better than anyone else, so take note of any changes in behaviour, appetite, growths etc. I make notes on my phone so that I can accurately remember what happened and discuss it with my vet if need be.

KNOW YOUR BREED

Some breeds are genetically predisposed to certain conditions: Hip dysplasia is common in German shepherds, Labradors and Rottweilers, IVDD in Dachshunds, Bassets and Beagles. Knowing your breed and recognizing symptoms of common conditions can help you to prevent them from occurring by implementing preventative measures from an early age.

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