We all want a long, happy and healthy life for our pets.
Just like in humans, many factors influence your dog’s health throughout their life, including genetics, the breed, and the individual. However, there are some key considerations that will help your dog to feel good and help them live full, rich lives for as long as possible.
How can you look after your older dog or senior cat?
Our pets cannot tell us when they need extra support, so it is important to keep an eye out for signs that they might need some help. Some signs include:
Their sense of smell, taste, hearing and vision may decline
They may show some behavioural changes
They may be faced with more medical challenges
They will need more rest throughout the day
They may tolerate exercise and stress less
Some senior pets will experience some decline in their mental function
How to look after your senior pet:
Carrying excess weight puts additional stress on musculoskeletal and cardiorespiratory systems. This can make any clinical condition worse. For example, if your pet develops arthritis when they are older, being overweight will make this a lot worse. Keeping your dog or cat at an ideal body weight during its life, can increase lifespan by up to 18 months and delay the onset of age-related conditions by 2 years.
Older pets can often benefit from a diet designed specifically for their senior years, which can provide them with the correct nutrients in an easily digestible form.
Grooming and Dental Care
Our senior pets can find it challenging to keep themselves clean and groomed, especially if they suffer from arthritis or other joint issues. Keep a close eye on their claws, coat condition, ears and bottom end to make sure they are clean, unmatted and free from parasites or infection.
It is also important to look after their teeth as dental disease causes pain and difficulties when eating. Keep your pets teeth clean by brushing or talk toy our vet about how best to look after their dental needs.
Older pets may need extra support in your home and when getting into the car, as they may struggle with stairs and big jumps. It is worth using pet steps or ramps where needed and picking up your pet to prevent them from jumping up and down too often.
Also think about how to make sure they can reach all their needs, such as water and food bowls, beds and toys, without having to go too far.
Senior dogs and older cats need plenty of rest in well-padded beds somewhere quiet away from drafts. They may need to go to the toilet more often, and so easy access to the outdoors, or litter trays, is important.
Giving your senior dog or cat the right level of exercise every day is important for their mental and physical wellbeing. Exercise is essential for maintaining both the musculoskeletal system and mental well-being.
As your dog ages, they may not need the same length of walkies as they once did. However, being in the fresh air, having a good sniff, meeting and greeting other dogs and humans is all part of a healthy lifestyle. Several short 10-15-minute walks may be all your older dog needs, and you can supplement that with interactive “playtime” at home such as finding food from a treat puzzle. Cats may also benefit from puzzle feeders, toys and gentle playtime.
These are just some of the key ways that you can help your senior pet to age gently and comfortably. If you are worried about the health of your pet, please do contact your veterinary surgeon.