Today, our dogs and cats are living longer than ever. And, as their guardians, it’s up to us to help keep our pets happy and healthy into their golden years. There are a variety of changes in a senior pet’s health and wellness that you should expect and take into consideration.
Your dog or cat will likely slow down as he ages, but that doesn’t mean he should sleep all day! Encourage your pet to be active, even if the walks or play sessions are shorter than they used to be. In its “Senior Pet Care” article, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) warns that without exercise, a pet’s body will deteriorate more quickly.
Slower Sensory Response
You may not even notice that your pet’s senses have dulled, says AAHA, since it happens gradually in most pets. A pet’s hearing, sight, taste, touch and smell can all dull with age. A good way to keep senses sharp it so keep your pet active – mentally and physically. Excercises, like training and playing, can even delay or reduce the effects of cognitive dysfunction syndrome — a form of dementia — in senior pets.
A common age-related issue for pets is arthritis. In his article on Vetstreet.com, Dr. Marty Becker explains that dogs who can’t seem to get comfortable, have difficulty moving well or just seem “off” might have arthritis pain. This is also true for cats, says Dr. Ernie Ward in his Vetstreet.com article, “Feline Arthritis.” If you suspect your pet has arthritis, take him to the vet to have him checked out. There are a variety of treatments to help your pup be more comfortable. Learn more about arthritis in dogs, diagnosing arthritis and available treatments.
Lumps and Bumps
As your pet ages, he’s more likely to start developing skin abnormalities, like bumps, lumps and other growths. These can range in severity from completely benign to indications of allergies, to cancer. Let your vet know of any new developments so your vet can examine and/or aspirate the cells to determine if they’re a health risk and read Petfinder’s article, “I found a lump on my pet’s skin. What should I do?”
Risk of Obesity
AAHA cautions that senior dogs and cats have lower caloric needs than younger pets. Along with the inevitable reduction in energy, your senior pet is at greater risk of obesity. Extra pounds can wreak havoc on your senior pet’s joints and organs so keep an eye on your dog or cat’s caloric intake and make sure he stays active. Find out how to tell if your dog is overweight.
Kidneys are a common organ to wear out — especially in cats, causing your pet to have trouble controlling his bladder, says AAHA. For your dog, try to give him frequent bathroom breaks and consider a waterproof cover on his bedding, recommends the Grey Muzzle Association. Of course, sudden incontinence in cats or dogs could be a symptom of a health issue so talk with your vet. Learn four must-know tips for preventing kidney disease in cats.
According to Harmony Animal Hospital in Jupiter, FL, the vast majority of dogs over four years old have some form of dental disease. If left unchecked, “these conditions can provide entry for bacteria into the blood, which may lead to infection in almost any body organ.” So make sure to ask your vet about whether she would recommend an annual or one-time dental cleaning for your pet.
The AAHA Senior Pet Care article recommends that pet parents take their senior dogs and cats in for twice-yearly vet visits. But don’t hesitate to go more often if you have concerns! Changes in your pet’s behavior aren’t necessarily an inevitable symptom of “getting old.” There are plenty of treatment options for diseases and problems if caught early enough. Remember, you are your pet’s best health advocate!