Do you think of your pet as ‘old’? If you compare our average lifespans, one human year equates to several pet years which means that many reach middle age by the age of seven. Small breed dogs and cats can live into their mid-teens but larger dog breeds have a much shorter life expectancy and most are considered senior as young as five.
Age can bring many changes, from superficial things like a greying muzzle to more serious health problems you will need to keep an eye out for. zooplus is here to help you and your pet cope with all the changes old age may bring.
Feeding your senior pet
As your pet ages they will naturally want to take things at a slower pace. If you carry on feeding exactly the same meals, any unused calories will be stored as fat on the body so it is a good idea to monitor any weight gain carefully and switch to a light, reduced calorie diet if necessary.
Diets for senior cats and senior dogs usually offer reduced calorie content with increased palatibility. Sometimes they include added taurine, an amino acid which is essential for a healthy heart. Antioxidants may also be added to help support your elderly pet’s immune system.
Special therapeutic foods may be called for to help your pet if they develop problems with particular organs, such as the kidneys or digestive system. Always consult your vet before switching to a veterinary or prescription diet to make sure the formula is going to be beneficial for your pet.
A thorough grooming requires a lot of flexibility and for older pets this becomes more and more difficult. If you notice your pet’s coat is starting to look a little scruffier, help them out with regular but gentle grooming sessions. Be extra careful not to pull or prod your pet as older pet’s skin becomes thinner and loses its elasticity. A soft brush with natural bristles is ideal.
Keep your pet feeling fresh by cleaning up around their eyes and inside their ears with damp cotton pads or special pet wipes. Routine dental care is important throughout your pet’s life but particularly as they get older and the build-up of plaque and tartar may begin to cause serious problems. Brush regularly with pet toothpaste and take them to the vet if your pet has trouble eating or you notice any build up on teeth or bad smells.
Caring for stiff joints
If your pet shows a reluctance to get up in the morning and stiffness in their movement, it may be an early sign of osteoarthritis, a painful condition which means that the cartilage between one or more or your pet’s joints is deteriorating. Try massaging your pet’s limbs gently and make sure they stay warm during the winter months. A well-padded bed to protect from cold floors is essential. Special Orthopaedic beds for older pets are made from memory foam which cushions and supports the joints of older or very active pets.
Keeping pets active with regular, gentle exercise is the key to keeping them mobile for longer. Joint supplements such as Green Lipped Mussell Extract or glucosamine may also help prevent the further deterioration of joint tissue. Try to look at your home from your pet’s point of view and ensure they have easy access to important areas like their bed or litter tray. Older pets will appreciate some steps or a ramp to help them climb onto the sofa or into the back of the car.
The more you give your older pet to do and think about the better. Pets left to sit and sleep all day at home with no stimulation or exercise will deteriorate much faster than a pet who is still encouraged to be mentally and physically active. Intelligence games such as our Trixie Activity Fun Board have sections especially suitable for older cats.
If you have younger dogs in the household that still need long walks, you can always take your older boy or girl with you in a bike basket or doggy trailer. That way they can enjoy all the stimulation and fun without having to over exert themselves!