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Our senior pets hold special places in our hearts. Walks become shorter and more time is spent sleeping than playing, but they also experience these playful bursts of energy that put smiles on our faces. Our bonds with them strengthen as we help them navigate their way through their senior years, and we learn to appreciate every special moment.
Those who have never cared for an aging pet might be unsure of what to expect, but an important thing to remember is that just because a pet is older doesn’t mean they can’t still enjoy a happy and fulfilling life. Arthritis might make it harder to get around, and sight and hearing may slowly fade, but it doesn’t stop them from enjoying playtime with their human or quiet snuggles on the sofa. Here’s what to expect as your pet ages, and what you can do to keep them healthy and safe during their senior years.
Watching for Changes in Mobility and Activity Level
As pets age, arthritis and other joint ailments make it harder to get around, and the slippery surfaces of hardwood and tile floors can make for extra challenges while navigating their ways through our homes. An easy solution is to pick up a few non-slip rugs or old yoga mats from a thrift store, then place them in hallways and areas where your pet spends most of their time. The traction will make it easier for them to walk and can help prevent them from losing their balance.
You might also notice that your pet hesitates to jump up onto furniture, get into the car, or use the stairs. Some people think their pet is being stubborn, but the cause is likely joint pain or stiffness. If you start to notice mobility issues or changes in their activity level, make an appointment with your veterinarian. They can rule out major medical concerns and recommend natural supplements, prescription drugs, and holistic therapies such as chiropractic care that can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.
Use pet stairs and ramps to help pets access furniture and sleeping areas without the risk of injury; they can also be used to help pets get in and out of vehicles. Also, add a few old towels or an extra blanket to their bed to provide a warm place to rest their achy joints.
Dealing with Diminished Sight and Hearing
If your pet is experiencing reduced or full loss of vision or hearing, it’s important to take extra precautions both inside and outside of the home. A pet with these impairments can’t always hear or see cars and other dangers or hear you when you try to call them inside. Pets with impaired vision are also at risk of taking a tumble down the stairs or bumping into sliding glass doors or furniture.
Keep them safe by closing basement doors and using baby gates to block access to stairways. Outside, make sure you remove toxins and potential hazards from the yard and keep fence gates closed to prevent them from escaping.
Helping Them Maintain a Healthy Body and Mind
Exercise is essential, especially since being overweight can have long-term effects on a pet’s health, and it places extra strain on joints. Short walks can help maintain a healthy weight while protecting mobility and preventing loss of muscle tone, but make sure you closely monitor them during activity so they don’t overdo it. Engaging both dogs and cats in indoor games or giving them puzzle toys to play with are also good forms of exercise, both for their body and mind.
Understanding the Importance of Routine Veterinary Care
Annual exams are important for pets of all ages, but it’s recommended that senior pets have more frequent visits to monitor their dental health, look for signs of arthritis or joint pain, test for vision and hearing loss, and perform blood work to test thyroid, liver, and kidney functions.
It’s also important to monitor your pet’s health in between visits. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends talking to your veterinarian if you notice any of these common warning signs of disease in your pet:
- increase or decrease in eating and drinking habits
- sudden weight changes
- incontinence issues
- lumps or masses
- coughing or difficulty breathing
- blood in urine, or bleeding from nose or mouth
Having a pet diagnosed with medical ailments or disease can be scary, but your veterinarian will develop a treatment plan that will keep them healthy for as long as possible.
Enjoying the Golden Years
A pet’s senior years can be some of the best years of their life, and with some extra care and planning, you can help keep them comfortable, safe, and healthy for years to come. If you’re looking to adopt a senior, check with your local shelter or an organization that specializes in helping senior pets find loving homes.
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