Aging pets face issues including arthritis-induced mobility problems, vision and hearing loss, and a predisposition to disease, but the appropriate care can prolong their well-being, and their life. Our team at Scripps Ranch Veterinary Hospital wants to offer advice, to help you care for your senior pet.
Senior pets need more frequent veterinary visits
Regular veterinary wellness checks help detect problematic health conditions early, and allow better management. Yearly checks are recommended for pets until they reach about 6 years of age, and they should then receive veterinary attention every six months. During a senior wellness check, procedures include:
- Physical exam — Your senior pet will be evaluated from nose to tail, to check for issues including arthritis, cataracts, glaucoma, dental disease, heart conditions, lung disease, and abdominal masses.
- Diagnostics — Blood tests, urinalysis, and fecal checks will be performed, to check for conditions such as diabetes, thyroid dysfunction, infection, and kidney and liver disease, and to ensure they do not have parasites.
- Preventive care — Your senior pet will receive their recommended vaccinations and preventive medications.
Senior pets need to stay at an ideal weight
As your pet ages, they tend to be less active, and their metabolism slows down, which can result in weight gain. Extra weight can put pressure on arthritic joints, making normal activities painful. Additionally, excess fat can cause low-grade inflammation throughout their body, and has been linked to numerous conditions, including diabetes mellitus, arthritis, cancer, and heart disease. Excess weight can also exacerbate mobility and breathing issues. To help your senior pet stay svelte:
- Veterinary evaluation — Initially, consult our veterinary professionals to determine your pet’s weight status. We will ascertain your pet’s ideal weight, and develop a weight loss strategy, if needed.
- Weight tracking — Weighing your pet regularly can help you track your pet’s progress if they are on a weight loss program, or ensure they are staying at their ideal weight if weight loss is not necessary. In addition, monitoring your pet’s body conditioning score (BCS) will help you track your pet’s weight status.
- Appropriate nutrition — Our veterinary professionals can help you decide on the food that offers your senior pet the best nutritional value.
- Appropriate portions — The portion recommendation on your pet’s food label can help you determine the amount your pet needs, but you must also factor in your pet’s weight, age, breed, activity level, and neuter status. Calorie calculators can help you ascertain your pet’s daily energy requirements. Once you determine the portion size, use measuring cups, to accurately measure their food.
- Snacks — Treats should make up no more than 10 percent of your pet’s diet, and you need to adjust your pet’s meal size to account for their treats.
Senior pets need mental stimulation
All pets benefit from mental stimulation to keep them engaged, and enrich their lives. Senior pets especially benefit from mental stimulation, to help prevent cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS), a disease akin to Alzheimer’s in humans. Signs include:
- Disorientation — Affected pets may act confused, or become lost in familiar locations.
- Abnormal interactions — Your affectionate pet may start seeking solitude, or your independent pet may become clingy. Affected pets may not want to interact with other pets.
- Sleep habits — Your pet’s sleep/wake cycle may be disrupted and, as their condition progresses, they may start vocalizing at night.
- Inappropriate eliminations — Your pet may forget their house training, and soil the house.
- Decreased activity — Affected pets may become less active.
- Anxiety issues — Your pet may develop anxiety issues, especially when left alone.
- Memory loss — Affected pets may not respond to well-known commands, and be unable to process new information.
You can mentally stimulate your pet by feeding their meals in food puzzle toys, teaching them new tricks, playing games, and taking them on regular outings in different locations.
Senior pets need good dental care
Your pet’s dental health is extremely important to their overall well-being. Bacteria that build up around your pet’s teeth and gums can cause pain, and loose or fractured teeth. In small pets, their jaw bone can deteriorate, leading to a fractured jaw. In addition, the bacteria can travel through your pet’s bloodstream, and damage other organs, including the heart, kidneys, and liver. Your pet’s teeth should be checked at least once a year, and they should receive regular professional dental cleanings, to keep their mouth as healthy as possible. You can also brush your pet’s teeth daily at home, to help ensure their teeth remain healthy and strong.
Senior pets need a safe home environment
Issues such as arthritis, vision loss, hearing loss, and CDS can affect your pet’s navigation through their environment. Take steps to ensure they are safe in your home.
- Food and water bowls — Ensure your pet’s food and water bowls are readily accessible, and consider elevating the bowls if neck pain prohibits them from easily reaching the contents.
- Ramps — Pets with arthritis may have difficulty getting to their favorite resting spots. Providing ramps to areas where your pet enjoys lounging will prevent injury, if they attempt to jump on and off surfaces.
- Furniture arrangement — Rearranging your furniture can confuse pets affected by vision loss or CDS.
Your senior pet deserves to enjoy their remaining years, and following this advice will help you provide them with the best care. If you would like your senior pet evaluated, contact our team at Scripps Ranch Veterinary Hospital, to schedule an appointment.