By: Misa Nash
Age is not a disease. Although senior pets may develop age-related problems, good care allows them to live happy, healthy, and active lives in their senior years. Contrary to popular belief, dogs do not age at a rate of 7 human years for each year in dog years. Cats and small dogs are generally considered “senior” at seven years of age. Larger breed dogs tend to have shorter life spans than smaller breeds and are considered senior when they are 5 to 6 years of age.
Caring for a senior pet doesn’t take much more effort than a younger pet, but can cause a change to our day-to-day routines in order to meet their needs. Regular visits with a veterinarian will likely change depending on what your veterinarian recommends. Radiographs and blood tests may be suggested as the pet ages to ensure that all levels are stable and there are no red flags. Radiographs can give us an inside look at your pet’s bones and show us possible signs of arthritis. Asking for a physical evaluation every visit can help you and your veterinarian keep track of any lumps that may be forming or physical or behavior changes.
Keeping track of these changes can help us better understand what we need to alter at home to keep our fluffy seniors comfortable. Arthritis can be extremely painful and make it hard for our loved ones to get around. Making small changes to our surroundings can have a large impact on their well being. Thicker bedding can provide support for joints that may have arthritis forming. Providing a raised bed has many benefits for our larger pets, including regulating temperatures and orthopedic support. Lying on the floor can put pressure on hips, shoulders, and elbows. Raised bedding can provide firm, even support. Placing carpets and rugs on your floors make it easier for your pet to maneuver throughout your home. Installing ramps make it easier for your pet to get outside for regular exercise.
Like us, pets need regular exercise. At each office visit, consult with your veterinarian about healthy exercise routines for your pet. Walking your dog or having playtime outside is an easy and healthy way to keep your pet moving around. Cats can be more of a challenge. Providing toys for your pet can help keep them active. Treat dispensing toys can be even more motivation to keep your senior pets moving around. Treat choice is an important part of an everyday diet. Diet is important for the function of your pet. Diets suggested by your veterinarian can include prescription diets that help support organ function, joint support, and dental health.
Dental health is something that we often put on the back burner, as humans. With our pets, we often don’t think about dental health, until bad breath is present. Keeping your senior pets teeth in healthy shape is important. Poor dental hygiene can be dangerous for their hearts and other organs. Infections can set in and seniors make take longer to recover. Your veterinarian may suggest dental cleanings for your pet. Asking about healthy dental products and routines can help you keep them healthy.
As our pet ages, we often delay veterinary visits until something is wrong. Keeping up with veterinary appointments, vaccinations, and senior work ups can help the longevity of your pet. Providing healthy choices in diet, treats, and exercise can help maintain our seniors in between exams with your veterinarian. Remember to ask questions and give your senior pet the best treatment for their unique needs as suggested by your veterinarian.