Keep your elderly dog healthy and comfortable with these senior pet care tips
It began subtly. You noticed some gray fur on the snout of your black lab. Your once spry playmate stopped jumping after his tennis ball. And your formerly vigorous walks with him turned into leisurely strolls. Then your vet said a word you hadn't heard before: "senior." Pet care changes as our beloved furry family members age, and caring for an elderly pet takes a little more attention than you might think.
There are some good reasons to learn about senior pet care, too. Aside from keeping your pet comfortable in their later years, quality care keeps your pet healthy, which saves you money at the vet.
Is My Pet a Senior?The American Veterinary Medical Association considers a medium-sized dog to be elderly at the age of seven years old. Ten years for a dog is roughly equivalent to 58 human years; for a large dog, however, that equates to 66-78 years.
As dogs age, they experience age-related health problems, as you might expect. Some of the most common conditions, according to Vet Street, are:
- Vision loss
- Hearing loss
- Kidney disease
Just like humans, of course, many factors influence the health and longevity of our pets. Diet, lifestyle, and genetics all influence your pet's health as they age. Here are 10 senior pet care tips to help you give your furry friends the golden years they deserve.
10 Senior Pet Care Tips
1. Watch for changes in behavior
Your pet can't speak, but her behavior can give you big clues into her health. While an older dog is naturally less active, paying attention to unusual behaviors can help you catch problems early. Look for signs like:
- Increased agitation or irritability
- Decreased appetite
- Increased water consumption
- Changes in bowel movements or urination
2. Schedule regular vet visits
Your veterinarian can advise you on the best routine, but whether that's every three months or just once per year, it's important to get your pet to the vet. Regular medical exams give you and your pet the advantage in catching age-related health problems.
3. Change their diet
Older pets are less active and therefore need fewer calories. This is especially important as weight gain can lead to or exacerbate a lot of health problems. Again, talk to your vet to determine the best diet for your pet.
4. Keep moving
Like humans, dogs need regular exercise as part of their senior pet care program. Your dog might not jump the way she used to, and she might not chase the frisbee like before, but movement keeps the joints healthy, the weight down, and the mental stimulation going.
5. Look for signs of arthritis
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, arthritis is a common ailment in older pets. Contact your vet if you notice any of these symptoms for an extended period:
- Problems climbing stairs
- Decreased activity
- Seemingly stiff joints
- Problems sitting or standing
Your vet may prescribe anti-inflammatories, but you can also make accommodations to ease your pet's pain, such as special diets or low-impact exercise.
It's important to note that you should never give your pet over-the-counter human pain medications unless specifically prescribed by your vet.
6. Make your home senior pet-friendly
Your dog may not be able to get around as easily as before, but you can make changes to their surroundings that can help them.
- Get an orthopedic bed for your dog
- Keep them warm with a jacket or sweater
- Make it easy to access water
7. Be patient
Pet MD points out that senior pets "may experience loss of sight and/or hearing." Give them extra time to get around the house or out on walks.
8. Help them stay clean
As your dog ages, she may have trouble keeping herself clean and groomed. Assist her in keeping her teeth clean by brushing them regularly. Use a brush to gently keep her fur neat and clean. The bonus is that this is also a good time for the two of you to bond and enjoy each other's company.
9. Be aware of the signs of cognitive dysfunction
As your dog ages, she may become confused and anxious. Other common signs of cognitive dysfunction include:
- Fear of loud noises
- Decreased interest in play
You can help them by keeping a strict schedule of activities, such as feeding, walking, and bedtimes. Anti-anxiety medication may also be helpful.
10. Focus on the quality of life
Your pet may not be able to go on those long hikes anymore, but she can still enjoy her senior years. You know your pet (and what she'd like) better than anyone. Give her extra cuddle time on the couch. Buy her favorite treats. Talk to her more often. Your dog's later years can be beautiful. And the more quality time you can spend together, the better her quality of life will be.
One way to improve the quality of your pet's life is through excellent medical care. That's why the right pet insurance is so important. Get in touch with your local Pekin Insurance agent today to give your pet the coverage they deserve.