Senior Pet Care
Older pets may have somewhat different care needs than they had when they were young. As with humans, although a comfortable and long life can never be guaranteed, certain measures of senior care can be helpful in maintaining health and longevity.
Diets for Senior Pets
As pets age and their activity level decreases, they require less food, so their weight should be monitored. Older pets are less mobile, both because of a slowing metabolism and because of mobility issues, such as arthritis. Being overweight only exacerbates their condition.
Of course, it is still necessary to maintain their nutritional health, and any unexplained weight loss should be investigated since it may be indicate serious medical problems, such as heart, liver or kidney disease or dental infection.
Supplementary fatty acids may be helpful for older pets. Animals with certain conditions, such as heart of kidney disease, may be put on low-sodium diets or diets that adjust their electrolyte balance. Dietary supplements, like glucosamine and chondroitin, may be administered to benefit pets with joint problems.
Veterinary Checkups for Senior Pets
Pets of all ages should be examined annually by a veterinarian. This is especially important for older pets as they are more prone to disease processes associated with aging. In addition, because their senses of hearing, vision and smell diminish, they may be more prone to accidental injury. Veterinarians may recommend semi-annual checkups for older pets.
During a veterinary examination of an older animal, tests may be taken for problems more common as pets age. The doctor will be carefully monitoring:
- Blood chemistry
- Stool and urine
- Heart, liver and kidney function
- Blood pressure
- Thyroid hormone levels
- Dental health
- Eye and ear health
In older pets, dental cleaning is extremely important and a dental scraping may be required more frequently. If heart disease is suspected, an electrocardiogram (EKG) may be part of the checkup.
Behavioral Changes in Senior Pets
Older pets are normally less energetic than they once were. It is natural for them to sleep more and be less tolerant of extreme temperatures. Due to the changes experienced with aging, such as stiffness or pain in the joints, weak sphincter muscles, diminished sensory capacities or cognitive changes, pets may:
- Be less playful
- Tire more easily
- Have trouble rising or climbing stairs
- Have difficulty getting into the car
- Be uncharacteristically cranky or aggressive
- Be more withdrawn
- Urinate or defecate in inappropriate places
Special Accommodations for Senior Pets
Some accommodations that will make your older pet more comfortable include:
- Ensuring that the animal gets proper exercise
- Keeping the pet from extremes of temperature
- Providing appropriate nutrition
- Administering supplements and medications as needed
- Providing softer bedding as necessary
- Handle the animal more carefully