Dogs and cats are truly special, furry members of our family. Just like our elders need special attention, so do the older dogs and cats that have become such a special and integrated part of our lives. Since August is recognized as Senior Pet Month, here are some tips from your friends at Willow Pet Hotel on how to care for your senior pets.
What can you do to help your senior dog? Here are some tips:
- Schedule regular visits with your veterinarian.
It is important that all pets be examined at least yearly, this becomes especially important as your pet’s reach their golden year. Even if your dog or cat appears healthy, some diseases are not visible to the eye, so it’s best to have a professional opinion on a yearly basis. Plus, your pet is an essential part of the family, so it’s always better to present disease rather than trying to treat it.
Tip! Each time you’re at the vet, ask for a body condition evaluation with each visit. Body condition is crucial to understand if your pet is overweight, underweight or at the perfect weight for their frame and breed. Additionally, your vet can give you tips to do this at home to keep your pet in the best shape!
- Feed your older pets a high-quality diet. Be sure to be mindful of food to keep your dog or cat at his/her ideal body weight. Overweight dogs and cats have a higher incidence of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, skin disease, even cancer.
For older dogs: Read the dog food label and choose a diet that is appropriate for your dog’s age and lifestyle.
For older cats: Make sure the diet has appropriate protein levels. Try to avoid vegan and vegetarian diets, as cats are inherently carnivores. In addition, it’s always helpful to read food labels closely and choose appropriately for your cat’s age and lifestyle.
- Take care of your dog and cat’s mouth. Brushing your dog and cat’s teeth may seem like a silly idea but it can help keep their mouth healthy. If you cannot brush, consider dental treats (they exist for dogs and cats!) and toys that help keep the teeth clean.
- Provide physical and mental stimulation for dog and cat!
For your senior dog: Regular exercise can keep your older dog lean and maintain healthy joints and muscles. But, be wise and mindful to modify your dog’s exercise needs to his individual abilities. For a large breed dog, walking around the block is probably just getting started but for a tiny Chihuahua, a brisk walk around the block may be a long trek. If your senior is not used to exercise, start slow and gradually increase the intensity — and only after you’ve consulted a veterinarian. Also, be careful with short-nosed (brachycephalic) dogs on hot days.
For your senior cat: Environmental enrichment is important for cats of all ages and should not be forgotten about for senior cats. Cat interactive toys, food puzzles (particularly for overweight cats), and even supervised access to the outdoors through the use of “catios” or cat leash walking can help keep senior cats entertained as well as helping to burn excess calories and keep muscles and joints healthy.
- Provide older pets with special accommodations. For example, pets with arthritis might benefit soft bedding and, for cats, litter boxes with lower side allow for easier access. Ramps can help make stairs easier to navigate for senior dogs. Be sure to make food and water easily accessible for both older cats and dogs.
These are just a few tips to get you started in caring for your senior pets and allowing them to live more comfortable lives into their golden years. Always be sure to check with your pet’s vet before starting a new diet or exercise routine. Your vet should be a key caretaker and consultant with any questions you may have about your pet at any stage of their lives.
Willow Pet Hotel follows these practices and others when caring for your senior cats and dogs! Come take a tour and see what we’re all about.