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How to Keep Your Elderly Pets Strong & Healthy

Aging is a natural part of life, and at some point, our little puppies and kittens mature into adults, and then eventually, into seniors. As our pets age, they can develop many of the same health issues as we do, including vision and hearing loss, arthritis, cancers, and heart disease, just to name a few. Senior pets can also experience confusion, an increase in separation anxiety, and other behavioral changes. It is important to learn how to care for our gray faced furry friends as they grow older, so they remain healthy and happy.    

Food For Thought

Providing proper nutrition for your pet is an important factor in their health at any age, but especially as they grow older. As they age, your pet’s metabolic rate changes and slows down. They burn less calories during the day which means they need to consume fewer calories (sometimes up to 20% less) to maintain a healthy weight. Many dogs and cats can benefit from a change in food to a lower calorie, lower fat “senior” food. However, not all senior diets are the same, and because each pet is unique, their nutrition needs can differ. Be sure to speak with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s food to make sure you are providing the best possible nutrition to suit their needs and lifestyle. 

Don't Forget To Brush

Older dogs and cats may be less likely to keep up the same grooming habits as they did when they were younger. You may notice their fur becoming dull, or matted. Or maybe they have excess dry skin or dander. These are all signs that your pet may not be grooming regularly, if at all. Daily gentle brushing helps remove dead skin and distribute the natural oils that give their coat that healthy shine. Use this time to check your pet for lumps, hot spots, sore muscles or joints, or other signs of irritation. Incorporate a light massage while brushing to comfort your pet, and reward them with a little treat afterward. They will love the quality time and the positive reinforcement. 

And don’t forget the teeth! It is important to clean your senior pet’s teeth, as bacteria can cause gum disease and other health issues. If you brush at home, be sure to get the proper tools, including a dog or cat specific toothbrush and animal friendly toothpaste. A professional dental cleaning should be done every six months by your veterinarian. This is especially important with senior animals. Speak with your veterinarian about scheduling regular appointments to monitor not just the teeth, but also the overall health of your aging pet. 

Game On!

It is common for dogs and cats to sleep more, and be less active over all, as they get older. But regular exercise is still important for pets to stay healthy. Though your pup may not be able to go on runs with you any longer, a walk or two every day will help keep his body healthy and his mind active, resulting in a happier dog overall. Try changing up the route to give your dog a chance to sniff new places, which will help stimulate their brain and senses. If fetch isn’t their favorite game anymore, opt for treat puzzles, or a quick round of “find the toy”, where you hide their favorite toy in an accessible part of the house and have them seek it out. Interacting with your dog on this level will help them stay active and also increase your bond at the same time.

Cats, too, need daily exercise as they age. If you’ve got an indoor cat at home, try interactive games like string feather toys, treat puzzle boxes, and automated toys that move on their own. These activities will help keep your cat mentally alert and get them moving, while having fun. 

Laying on hard floors could be painful for senior pets, especially if they have arthritis. Giving them supportive, soft beds to snuggle up in will help ease their discomfort. Introducing an animal safe heating pad to their favorite sleeping spot can do wonders for achy joints. For outside dogs, an elevated bed or dog cot is a great way to relieve pressure on their bones by getting them off the ground and giving them extra support.

Comfort is Key

But perhaps the biggest comfort of all would be the amount of love your pet receives from you. They may be moving slower these days, but they still have just as much love to give, and need just as much attention as they did in their puppy days. The bond you share with your pup is special. Take the time each day to shower your pet with love, pets, kisses, and belly rubs. After all, they deserve it! 

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