Tips On Caring For A Senior Pet
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Some more information about senior pets:
In dogs, defining the age at which a dog is called "senior" can be based on size. Large breed dogs age faster than smaller breeds, so a Great Dane can be considered a senior at 6 years of age, while a Chihuahua might not be considered a senior until 8-10 years old. Environment, genetics, and diet all play a role in how a pet ages.
Cats over 7-10 years old should be considered seniors. According to one study I came across, almost 90% of cats over 12 suffer from arthritis. Adjustments may need to be made if cats are fed on high surfaces (counters) as it may be painful for them to jump up onto high surfaces.
In both cats and dogs, dental disease is a concern, and without proper care can be an issue. This is something most vets check at wellness exams (starting at an early age) and they can provide you with tips to help you care for your pets teeth.
Physical exercise and mental stimulation are still important for your senior pet's health, but intensity, frequency, and duration may need to be modified as your pet gets older. Playful toys, food puzzles, and exercise can help keep your pet engaged and entertained.
Maintaining a healthy weight for your pet through all life stages is important. As your pet ages, pay close attention to weight gain as exercise and activity slow down. Quantity of food may need to be reduced.
Work with your vet to set up yearly wellness exams, and if there are any concerns that arise, to address them ASAP. What seems like a small thing now, if not properly cared for, can turn into a much larger problem later.
Special accommodations may need to be made as your pet gets older. For dogs, ramps or stairs to get up onto the bed (if they sleep with you) or into that car may need to be utilized. Cats may need to have easy access litter boxes with lower walls. If cats are fed on a high perch, that may need to be lowered so they can access it. Carpet or non-slip rugs may need to be utilized on slick floors so animals don't slip and fall. Soft bedding may need to be provided for both cats and dogs. Older pets may require more water, or easy access to water. Water and food bowls may need to be raised for dogs to make eating and drinking easier.
Other types of accommodations may need to be made if your pet suffers from hearing loss or poor eyesight as they age. To learn more about caring for a blind pet, please click here.
Scheduling regular wellness visits with your vet (regardless of your pet's age) is important. It is much easier and less expensive to prevent issues from ever happening or to treat issues if they are found early at a wellness check up or as you notice changes in your pet.
If you don't currently have a pet, your local shelter is a great place to go find a senior pet companion. While senior cats and dogs may have more health concerns than puppies and kittens, this is often offset by having senior pets having lower energy levels, already house trained, no teething/sharp puppy teeth, and senior shelter pets having an overwhelming amount of love and gratitude to give. Many shelters and rescues (like us here at Leave No Paws Behind) are always looking for fosters so we can continue to help more animals. In most cases, the rescue/shelter will cover the medical costs of their fosters, eliminating the concern of potentially expensive medical care.