Gray hairs creeping up around the eyes and under the chin. Maybe you’ve noticed your dog isn’t as enthusiastic about fetch as he once was. Perhaps the cat isn’t jumping on top of the bookshelf like she used to. All of these are common occurrences with pets as they age. Here are a few tips to help keep your senior pet happy and healthy.
- Stay current with routine veterinary care – While there is an old adage that “age is not a disease”, it is certainly a signal to start more careful monitoring for it. Although it can vary somewhat by age and breed, pets over the age of 7 are generally considered senior. Veterinarians recommend that senior pets are seen every 6 months for routine wellness exams. During those examinations, veterinarians may screen for a variety of conditions that can affect older animals including: heart, renal, endocrine, liver, ocular, and dental disease. They can also monitor pets for signs of arthritis and cancer. Blood work and urine testing are common components of routine disease screening. As older animals have weakened immune systems, your veterinarian can work with you to develop the most appropriate vaccination and parasite control plan for your pet.
- Monitor body condition – During routine veterinary visits, your veterinarian can provide guidance on how to monitor your pet for appropriate body condition. Body condition is an important assessment of a pet’s plane of nutrition – whether he is receiving appropriate, inadequate, or excessive nutrition. Additionally, a change in body condition can be an important sign of an underlying medical problem that may need addressing.
- Keep them moving – Senior pets may have a variety of reasons for slowing down or not being quite as active as they were when they were puppies and kittens. One of the most common reasons for this is joint discomfort. Getting these pets up and moving, with regular play and exercise is important in maintaining joint comfort and mobility. Additionally, these activities may help these pets lose a little weight, easing some of the burden on the joints and improving overall health. Adding a joint health supplement such as Tomlyn’s Joint & Hip supplement can also help keep older dogs comfortable and moving.
- Provide adequate provisions for heat and cold – Senior pets may have a diminished capacity to thermoregulate compared to their younger counterparts. During cooler weather, senior pets may require a sweater or jacket to keep warm when outdoors. Additional bedding at night can also help to keep pets warm. Similarly, senior pets may be less tolerant of hot weather. Scheduling walks during the coolest parts of the day, providing shade or access to air conditioning and ample fresh water can all help these animals cope with the heat.
- Monitor and support healthy skin, nails, and pads – With age, nails can become more brittle and skin more friable. Additionally, pads may be at greater risk of developing cracks and calluses. Large and giant breed dogs are prone to developing calluses on their elbows, hocks, hips and underbelly. These issues can be exacerbated in the winter with snow, ice, and salt. In warmer months, rough surfaces such as concrete, sand at the beach and rocky trails can make these problems worse. Regular use of Tomlyn’s Protecta-Pad Cream can help soothe and protect pads, calluses, and brittle nails.
If you are looking for additional information, these FAQs from the American Veterinary Medical Association are a great resource.
Have fun, enjoy your older pet, and remember – it’s not always about years in a life, but rather the life in those years!