Healthcare Tips for Senior Dogs, Cats
By Lorie Huston, DVM
Senior pets have different health requirements than a younger dog or cat. Here are some tips to help you keep your senior pet healthy.
1. Don't Forget the Health Check-ups
Make sure your senior pet has regular visits with your veterinarian. In fact, many veterinarians recommend that senior dogs and cats should be examined twice a year, even more so if the pet has serious health issues. A thorough physical examination by your veterinarian may reveal health issues that can impact your pet’s life and comfort level, such as dental disease, arthritis, heart disease, kidney disease and more.
2. Note Any Behavior Changes
Watch your senior pet’s behavior carefully. This is important for all pets but doubly so for senior dogs and cats. Changes in your pet’s behavior may be a symptom of disease. Watch specifically for changes in your dog or cat’s appetite and water consumption. Watch for changes in urinary and bowel habits and alterations in sleep routines. If your pet suddenly becomes irritable for no reason, it may be because he is in pain, having difficulty seeing, or having a hard time hearing properly. Any changes in your senior pet’s routines or behaviors should prompt a consultation with your veterinarian.
3. Make it Easier for Them to Get Around
Be aware that senior pets may have pain caused by arthritis or other health issues that make it difficult for him to get around as well as he did when he was younger. Consider providing ramps or stairs to allow your senior pet to access furniture or beds. Litter boxes with lower sides may be necessary for senior cats to allow easier access. Ramps on stairs may make it easier for your pet to get up and down the stairs. Carpeting on slippery floors may help your pet gain his footing. Your senior dog or cat may need assistance getting into and out of the car as well.
4. Choose an Age-Appropriate Diet
Dietary requirements may change as your pet ages. It's important that you provide your senior pet food that is age appropriate. Some older pets tend to gain weight and may need a diet for less active dogs or cats. Others may have difficulty holding their weight and may need a diet with a higher calorie content or better palatability. Older pets also may have diseases that can be manipulated and/or controlled at least partly through the diet. Your veterinarian can help you choose an appropriate diet for your senior pet based on your pet’s individual nutritional requirements.
5. Pimp Out Their Bed
Providing soft blankets and towels for your senior pet's bed. This will help them rest easier and sleep better. There are even special orthopedic beds made for senior dogs and cats. In addition to having denser form to help cushion your senior pet's aging joints, some orthopedic beds can be outfitted with a heat and/or vibration source, which increases circulation and reduces stiffness — perfect for cats and dogs with arthritis.
The term used to describe how much an animal will like a specific taste or food
A medical condition in which the joints become inflamed and causes a great deal of pain.