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There’s something special about senior pets. Maybe it’s their graying faces and wise, soulful eyes that have a story to tell — or the random moments of playfulness where they act like a puppy or kitten again. Whether they’ve been with you their entire lives or are a recent addition to your family, the incredible bond we form with them is just as strong. And while it can be hard to watch our pets age and begin to struggle, it’s a time in their life where they need us most.

As with pets of all ages, caring for senior pets takes time and patience. They still need exercise to keep them physically and mentally healthy, and providing toys or treat puzzles can help prevent boredom and keep them mentally stimulated. Senior pets also require more frequent veterinary care, so it’s important to always keep your vet updated on your pet’s condition. If you notice changes in your pet’s behavior, eating habits, or bathroom habits, it could be an indicator that something is wrong. In addition to proper veterinary care, there are things we can do at home to make sure our senior pets stay healthy, comfortable, and happy.

1, A Comfortable Bed

All pets deserve to have a nice, comfy bed but it becomes even more important as pets age —especially since conditions like arthritis can be aggravated by lying on hard surfaces. Help them rest their achy joints by providing a soft bed with an orthopedic insert. If your pet is still a chewer, you can purchase a raised, cot-style bed that provides Support. If you choose a fabric bed, make sure it has a removable, washable cover for easy cleanup. Waterproof liners add an additional level of protection if your pet has issues with incontinence. Check out this list of eco-friendly options that help pets and the planet.

2. Pet Stairs and Ramps

Accessing furniture or getting in and out of vehicles can become more difficult (and painful) as a pet ages. You can ease joint strain and help prevent injury by investing in pet stairs or a ramp. Make sure they have a surface that provides sufficient traction, and it’s always best to measure your furniture or vehicle to make sure you’re purchasing a product that’s the correct height. You can find great deals on pet stairs and ramps online, or get super crafty and build your own.

3. Pet Socks or Booties

If you have a lot of non-carpeted surfaces in your home, you might want to consider pet socks or booties for your furry friend. More than a fashion statement, these socks and booties have an anti-slip bottom that helps pets keep their traction on non-carpeted surfaces. Measure the length and width of your pet’s paws first to make sure you purchase the correct size.

4. Jackets or Sweaters

A soft, comfortable jacket or sweater helps older pets retain body heat while outside on chilly days. They also help keep joints warm, which can ease pain and stiffness. Sweaters and jackets should be made of soft material and made so they don’t restrict a pet’s movement. It’s also important to remember that not all pets like wearing clothes. If your pet looks uncomfortable or stressed after you put them in clothing, it’s best to remove it and consider an alternative option like using a self-warming mat or bed.

5. Elevated Feeding Dishes

A raised pet dish can make feeding time more comfortable, especially for larger, taller pets. You can purchase raised stands, make your own or use items you have around the home — unused boxes, short stools, or crates — to help raise their dishes to a comfortable level.

6. Potty Training Pads

Our feline friends have the benefit of litterbox access, but it’s a different story for dogs. As pets age, their need to eliminate can increase. If your pet needs to go out several times during the night or is left home for an extended period during the day, you can help prevent accidents by training them to use potty pads. Reusable, washable pads are a great alternative to the disposable option. They might cost a bit more upfront, but you’ll be doing the planet a favor by eliminating the amount of plastic and trash going into landfills.

Adopting a Senior Pet

Older pets are typically surrendered to shelters due to age, medical issues or because their caregiver has passed away. Being taken away from the only family they’ve known can leave them sad, confused, and wondering why their family has left them behind. Senior pets have just as much love to give as younger pets, but they often have a more difficult time finding homes. You can help by choosing to adopt a senior pet or providing a foster home where they can live out their final days in comfort and surrounded by love.

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