A graying muzzle. Cloudy eyes. The inability to jump on the bed. Your aging pet is signaling a life well-lived—but a life far from over. Your senior pet may need help getting up on the couch, but with supportive measures, they can enjoy many more happy, healthy years by your side.
Our Terra Linda Veterinary Hospital team wants to help you support your senior pet through their golden years. Here are our top five tips.
#1: Maintain your senior pet at a healthy weight
More than half the nation’s pet population tips the scales to the too-heavy side, so your furry pal has a good chance of being included in that number. But, with obesity comes an increased risk for a host of health problems, including:
- Kidney, liver, and heart disease
- Respiratory difficulties
- Anesthetic and surgical complications
- Decreased life span
- Some cancers
Senior pets are more likely to gain weight because of various metabolic conditions, arthritis, and certain medications, but you can break the cycle. Keep your pet lean throughout their life, and especially during their senior years, with the following methods:
- Measure out meals — Most pets become overweight because their owners do not accurately calculate and measure out meals. Once you know how many calories your pet should eat, divide that number into correctly portioned meals to prevent overindulgence.
- Work for food — Encouraging your pet to work for their food is a great mental and physical workout. As your senior pet works their way through their skillset, reward them with a handful of kibble or a meatball of canned food after each trick.
- Strive to exercise — Make a point of playing with your senior pet each day. Gentle play sessions, like low-intensity fetch, tug, or chase games, can keep your four-legged friend lean and limber.
#2: Brush up on your senior pet’s dental care
By the time your pet is 2, they likely have some level of dental disease, as up to 90% of pets develop gingivitis, plaque, and tartar in a couple of years. After a lifetime of snacking on sticky treats and gnawing on durable toys, your furry pal’s teeth have undergone a large amount of wear and tear. Roughened enamel attracts bacteria-laden plaque and tartar, which ultimately destroy the teeth’s supporting structures and can also lead to heart, kidney, and liver disease.
Promote total-body health in your senior pet by taking good care of their oral health. Brush their teeth regularly—daily, if possible—and offer approved treats and chews. Add enzymatic agents to their food and water to reduce oral bacteria and minimize plaque accumulation. And, most importantly, schedule regular professional dental cleanings that allow us to assess your pet’s oral health, clean above and below the gumline and address any problems.
#3: Banish brain fog in your senior pet with enrichment activities
The older your pet gets, the more likely they will develop cognitive dysfunction. Declining cognitive function is often considered a normal part of aging, but the condition can be managed through enrichment, supplements, and medication.
Engaging in daily mental activities is a crucial part of a cognitive dysfunction management plan, as these “brain games” can ward off declining cognitive abilities. Incorporate the following fun into your pet’s daily schedule:
- Training sessions
- Interactive toys
- Sniffing walks
- Treat puzzles
- Canine sports
- Indoor agility courses
#4: Make your home easier for your senior pet to navigate
Senior pets often develop arthritis, vision loss, and cognitive dysfunction, which can make moving around their home difficult. Support your aging pet by:
- Keeping your home’s layout the same
- Installing nightlights in dark areas
- Placing steps or ramps up to furniture or down stairs
- Elevating food and water dishes
- Switching to low-sided litter boxes
- Purchasing a firm orthopedic bed
- Laying down carpet runners or yoga mats on slick floors
- Placing all resources in an easy-to-reach location
#5: Schedule more frequent screening tests for your senior pet to catch disease early
While age is not a disease, pets often develop health issues later in life, many of which can be diagnosed in their early stages through routine wellness screening tests. As part of your senior pet’s biannual wellness visit, they will undergo several screening tests that can detect diseases, such as kidney failure, liver disease, endocrine disorders, heart problems, dental disease, and many others, in the earliest stages, before your pet begins showing clinical signs. Early detection and intervention give your pet a better prognosis and quality of life than an advanced condition that is harder to treat.
Return your senior pet’s lifetime of love and affection by supporting their health and wellness through their golden years. Give our Terra Linda Veterinary Hospital team a call to schedule your senior pet’s biannual wellness visit to keep them happy and healthy.