Caring for Senior Pets
Advances in veterinary medicine mean pets are living longer, healthier lives—great news for pet pawrents who will get more time to spend with their furry family members. Just as your pet required special care in their puppy or kitten years, their needs change as they enter their senior years. Whether your pet has been a lifelong companion or you’ve recently adopted a senior pet, we’ve put together a few tips on how to best care for your pet as they age.
Routine Veterinary Care
As pets grow older, they are more at risk for health problems including:
- Dental disease
- Kidney disease
- Thyroid disease
- Hearing and vision loss
The best way to stay ahead of any health complications in your pet is through regular wellness visits and bloodwork. Your veterinarian will be able to help detect health issues in the early stages when they’re easier to treat and allows them to stay on top of existing health issues. With regular visits, your veterinarian will be able to recommend changes in your pet's care as needed. It is typically recommended that senior pets have an exam every six months to tend to any health issues.
As your pet ages, they may require dietary changes as a result of decreased activity levels or a need for food that is easier to digest. Speak with your veterinarian to determine the best diet for your senior pet.
Exercise & Mental Stimulation
Senior pets need exercise to help maintain a healthy weight, muscle mass, and to keep them from getting bored. If your pet is resistant to regular exercise, talk to your veterinarian about options such as physical therapy.
Along with exercise, your senior pet needs mental stimulation to stay sharp. Try teaching them a new trick or providing puzzle toys! If your pet doesn’t seem interested in playing with their toys, add a treat or some catnip to entice them.
Senior Pet Proofing
It’s important to look around your home to see if there are changes that can be made to make your senior pet’s day-to-day a little easier, especially if your pet has mobility, vision, or hearing issues. Changes to consider include:
- Set up a pet ramp so your pet can easily access their favorite spots. Make sure the ramp is sturdy to avoid any potential accidents or injuries.
- If your pet has difficulties with stairs, keep essential items such as food, water bowls, and litterboxes accessible on the main floor of your home.
- If your senior cat is having difficulties getting in and out of their litterbox, consider switching to a litterbox with a lower front lip.
- Set up extra light for nighttime and in darkened stairways to help pets move around the house and consider purchasing a dog collar light to help illuminate their path when outside.
Many senior pets have medications to help keep any health issues at bay and allow them to live a more comfortable life. Talk to your veterinarian about medications that may be available to help your pet in their daily life.
If you have any questions about caring for your senior pet or would like to schedule a wellness exam, give Merrifield Animal Hospital a call at (703) 560-1881 today!