Watching a beloved pet grow old is never easy. Fortunately, pet owners have a lot of control over the health and happiness of their aging animals. Senior dogs and cats have different needs than their younger counterparts, so it’s important to learn how to care for them properly. Here are a few important steps you can take to keep your older pet healthy and comfortable.
Budding research is revealing several health benefits of CBD—a compound derived from hemp—for humans and pets alike. According to the American Kennel Club, CBD oil has been found effective in treating pain, seizures, and inflammation in dogs. Additionally, CBD can benefit the heart and digestive system of pets, and even reduce pet anxiety! If you’re interested in trying CBD oil on your senior pet, check out this CBD oil buyer’s guide for a detailed breakdown of the top 10 CBD oils of the year. Just make sure to check with your vet before giving it to your dog.
Try to take your senior pet to the vet at least twice per year. When vets are able to catch health problems early, they’re much easier—and cheaper—to treat. At each visit, your vet will conduct diagnostic tests and physical exams to assess the health of your pet’s various body systems. If you ever notice a sudden change in your pet’s behavior, a quick visit to the vet won’t hurt. For example, sudden aggressive behavior may be a sign of pain, or vision or hearing loss. Similarly, sudden bladder incontinence may indicate an underlying medical condition.
Older pets have unique nutritional needs. As dogs get older and less active, they may face problems with weight gain. On the other hand, some older animals may have trouble digesting their usual food, which may result in weight loss and malnutrition. Instead of buying special food marketed to senior pets, get familiar with pet food labels, and choose food with high-quality ingredients. Older dogs, for example, typically need plenty of protein, complex carbohydrates, and fiber in their diet.
A healthy diet always goes hand in hand with exercise. Exercise is crucial for maintaining muscle mass and keeping your senior pet happy. Blue Buffalo recommends creating an exercise routine that stays within your pet’s physical limitations. Health problems such as osteoarthritis can make it difficult for dogs to run or even walk quickly, so go slowly on your walks and let your dog set the pace. If you have a senior cat, keep them active by scheduling in play time every day.
Mental stimulation is vital for preventing cognitive decline as pets get older. Fortunately, taking your dog out on a walk or playing with your cat are both excellent forms of cognitive stimulation. For an added mental health boost, take your pet somewhere new, and let them explore the sights and smells around them. Or, you can try some of these mental activities to keep your pet’s mental health alert and active.
If your pet has stiffness or pain, a few simple lifestyle modifications may help them live a little more comfortably. For example, an orthopedic dog bed can relieve pressure points, while raised food and water bowls will take the strain off your pet's neck. Since older dogs tend to get cold more easily, ensure their bed is in a warm location and provide blankets for extra coziness.
Above all, older pets need your love and attention. Just because your dog may not be able to run or jump like they used to doesn’t mean they don’t want to play with you. Acknowledge your pet’s limitations, provide a little extra care, and relish every moment you have together.
By Julie Malone - June 17, 2019