Caring for Elderly Pets
Thanks to advances in veterinary care, our pets are living for longer. Many mature pets remain in good health for years, but just like humans, as our pets approach old age, they will often need some additional care and support. With many elderly pets, certain functions such as sight and hearing might start to diminish. They may also start to experience medical conditions, such as cataracts, osteoarthritis, heart or kidney problems. They might also sleep more, or become more sensitive to extreme temperatures.
Even if your pet is starting to slow down or show signs of age, they can often continue to lead a full life, and your relationship with them can still be very rewarding.
- Be vigilant with your pet’s health. Monitor your pet’s health regularly, and take them to the vet at the first sign of any potential issues. Prompt veterinary attention can make a big difference with the health of elderly pets.
- Keep up-to-date with vaccinations, worming and flea treatments. Mature pets can develop more compromised immune systems, so these measures are important to uphold.
- Consider a change in diet. Mature dogs start to use less energy and often become less active. They will typically need fewer calories, instead needing a food rich in easy to digest protein. Supplements to support joint health and the immune system could also become necessary. Cats may need a senior cat food, which will be easier for them to digest.
- Regular bathing may become important. Elderly pets often find it difficult to clean themselves, so you may have to bathe and deodorise them regularly. It is also important to check canine claws and keep them trimmed if necessary – if they are less active, claws may grow too long and become uncomfortable for your pet.
- Keep pets mentally active. Many elderly pets still like to play, so setting up a mentally challenging game such as hide and seek or an obstacle course will help maintain mental agility. Ensure however that you consider your pet’s limits and do not make the game too hard, as this may confuse and frustrate them.
- Consider gentle exercise. It is important for mature pets to stay active. Gentle exercise can prolong heart health, and can stave off obesity and osteoporosis.
- Manage your home with your pet in mind. Ensure your pet has a comfortable bed, placed away from drafts, and ideally near a radiator in the winter. If they have joint problems, perhaps limit your pet to the downstairs areas of your house, and maybe invest in a ramp for your dog, so they can get out of the car or bath easily.
It can be sad to see our pets slow down, or observe changes in their physical or mental state when they reach old age, especially if you have owned them since they were kittens or puppies. Elderly pets can also demand more of your time and patience. However, with consideration, care and empathy, small measures such as these really can boost their quality of life, and can also be very rewarding.