November is dedicated to senior pets, most notably as Adopt a Senior Pet Month. However, you may already have a golden oldie in your family who could use some extra TLC to cushion their aging joints, invigorate their mind, and monitor their health status. If you’re lucky enough to have a senior pet in your home, reward the lifetime of love they’ve shown you with special care and attention. Your senior pet is an incredible companion who deserves the best in their golden years, so try our many tips that will help keep your best friend happy and healthy.
How can I keep my senior pet comfortable as they age?
Arthritis in pets is more common than many pet owners realize, as pets are masters at hiding pain. And, arthritis is not only a senior pet condition, but can also develop in younger pets, so your pet may have been silently suffering for years before their signs became noticeable. The best way to keep your aging pet comfortable is with joint health supplements early in life to maintain healthy cartilage and strong bones. If your senior pet is showing arthritis pain, the following ways can help ease their discomfort:
- Switch to a firm orthopedic bed — Fluffy beds are perfect for sinking into, but not so great for support. Beds with soft stuffing can easily compress, providing little cushioning between your pet’s aching joints and the hard floor. Upgrade your pet’s bed to an orthopedic version that provides firm support and does not sink to the floor.
- Install ramps — Stairs are difficult for pets with arthritis pain and vision deficits, which are common in senior pets. As your pet ages, they may become too stiff and sore to go up and down staircases, or they may be unable to gauge stair depth as their vision fades. Place your pet’s resources on a single level, and install ramps to their favorite resting areas or furniture to avoid difficult stair navigation.
- Use carpet runners — Slick surfaces are treacherous for older pets, especially if their weakened limbs slide out from under them, contorting already painful joints. Provide traction for your pet by placing carpet runners on tile, wood, or linoleum floors. You can also purchase your pet gripping aids, such as Dr. Buzby’s ToeGrips or PawFriction, to help them walk comfortably on slippery surfaces.
- Discuss natural pain-relieving aids — In addition to pain medications for arthritic pets, many natural pain-relieving options, such as laser therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, and physical therapy, are offered. Ask our Airway Animal Clinic veterinarian about the best options for your pet’s needs.
What’s the best way to keep my senior pet active?
Your pet will naturally slow down and become less active as they age, but that inactivity can lead to a vicious cycle—inactivity leads to weight gain, which causes inflammation and excess pressure on the joints, which worsens arthritis, which leads to inactivity because exercising is more difficult. Keep your pet at a healthy weight by engaging in routine, low-impact exercises such as swimming, walking, nosework, food puzzles, and brief play sessions.
How should I encourage my senior pet to stay mentally sharp?
Many pets suffer from cognitive dysfunction, but subtle signs are often chalked up to normal old age changes. However, you can keep your pet’s mind sharp to avoid mental function decline, indicated by an altered sleep-wake cycle, disorientation, house soiling, activity level changes, or altered interactions. Try these methods to boost your pet’s mind:
- Feed your pet with food puzzles instead of from a dish
- Engage in daily training sessions
- Explore new places
- Switch to interactive toys
- Choose a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids to support brain health
What health care does my senior pet require?
Although age is not a disease, many health conditions can plague your pet as they age. And, since pets age faster than people, biannual or more frequent wellness exams are the best way to closely monitor your pet’s health. By detecting disease in its earliest stages, we can more easily treat your pet’s condition and provide a better prognosis and quality of life for longer. In addition to a thorough physical exam, we’ll conduct screening tests to root out hidden disease, provide nutrition counseling and a behavior assessment, and discuss lifestyle changes appropriate for senior pets.
Is your senior pet feeling their age? Give us a call at Airway Animal Clinic to schedule a senior wellness visit for your pet. We will discuss ways to keep your furry pal comfortable, active, and happy throughout their golden years.