Thanks to advancements in veterinary medicine, pets are living longer than before. In the past two decades, the average life expectancy of dogs has increased by 1.3 years and 1.5 years for cats. With these extra years may come age-related changes that require a little more love and attention.
Just like us, senior pets require a different set of lifestyle and medical needs. With aging may come loss of mobility, loss of eyesight or hearing, weaker joints, and a slower metabolism. At PetMedic Hospitals, we want to help keep your pet at their happiest and healthiest for as long as possible. Our veterinarians are here to help ease you into the next stage of your pet’s life.
When is my pet considered “senior?”
How fast your pet ages depends largely on genetics, nutrition, and environment. Generally speaking, small dog breeds are considered seniors at roughly 8 to 9 years old. Large dog breeds age faster and they are generally considered senior at about 6 to 7 years old. Cats have a longer life expectancy and are typically considered to be senior at 11 years old.
As your pet reaches seniority, here are some ways you can keep them healthy and comfortable:
1. Bring your pet to the veterinarian for routine preventative care.
As Benjamin Franklin once said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Our veterinarians recommend bringing your pet in at least twice a year for a wellness exam. The reason being, many diseases don’t show visible symptoms and your pet’s natural instincts are to try and hide any pain. By bringing your pet in regularly, it gives our veterinarians the opportunity to catch any problems early. Not only is it better for your pet’s health, but it’s also more cost-effective to treat them regularly for preventative care rather than treat costly diseases.
2. Adjust your pet’s diet to include high-quality, nutrient-rich food.
Proper nutrition helps keep your pet healthy inside and out. Just like how growing puppies need special nutrient-rich food, your senior pet will also need a diet best suited for them. As your pet ages, their metabolism slows down. This, along with the fact they may not exercise as much as when they were younger, means their caloric intake will need to be adjusted. Keeping your pet at a healthy weight puts them at a lower risk for diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Not only this, but a healthy body weight also means less stress on joints, and even better cognitive health!
Your pet’s nutritional needs will vary depending on many factors other than age, such as lifestyle, breed, and genetics. Our veterinarians offer nutritional counseling and can help build a plan specifically tailored for your pet. Your pet’s doctor may recommend foods that include important fatty acids to help aid mobility and joint support. Always consult with your veterinarian before making any drastic changes to your pet’s diet. To schedule an appointment, visit here or contact your nearest PetMedic hospital.
3. Regularly exercise your senior pet and do range-of-motion exercises.
Your pet’s joints stiffen and weaken as they age. If your pet isn’t used to regular exercise, ease into it slowly! Start off with low-impact, short walks on smooth or flat surfaces. Be mindful of breaks and always keep your pet hydrated.
4. Keep your pet’s mind sharp with stimulation, toys, and puzzles.
Old pets can definitely learn new tricks! Mental stimulation is a great way to keep your pet’s mind sharp. Puzzle feeders, trick training, socialization, and daily play all help with maintaining your pet’s cognitive health as they age.
5. Provide your pet any special accommodations.
With aging comes muscle stiffness, loss of flexibility and mobility, and loss of hearing or sight. Fortunately, there are many easy accommodations you can make to help your pet feel more comfortable. Some suggestions include:
- Use soft bedding
- Use ramps to help get your pet in the car, on the bed, or up the stairs
- Cover hard-flooring with plush carpets or rugs
- Use non-slip booties
- Use slings to help them stand up
- Massage their joints
Using our veterinarian’s suggestions will keep your pet at their most optimal self over the years. To learn more, or speak with a veterinarian, please schedule an appointment here.