Caring for Older Pets: One Step at a Time
Some pets are capable of reaching an impressive age, however, most do not, and it is imperative that owners feel fully equipped to support their pet as they enter their mature years. Keeping an older pet healthy and happy can be hard work, but it is worth it considering how much love they have left to give.
Adjusting for Comfort
Older pets have different environmental needs than their younger, more spritely counterparts. While their slowing down can be a good thing for tired owners, it is important that pets are allowed to age in an environment that doesn’t challenge them needlessly. This will keep their spirits lifted and help them take part in family activities as they used to.
- When it comes to rest, much like us, older animals require more sleep during the day. Don’t take it personally – they aren’t avoiding you! Ensure they have plenty of options for peaceful rest with soft, comfortable beds away from draughts. If you have the room, giving elderly pets their own special space away from noise can be beneficial for their peace of mind.
- Improving walkway access is very important for older animals. Your home may have areas of laminate or smooth, slippy flooring which was easy for them to navigate in their youth, but as their joints begin to stiffen and they find it harder to maintain a flexible condition, pets need to be able to find their grip easily. Rugs and carpets can make a huge difference in keeping your older pets happy as they can wander around and join in family activities without the fear of slipping.
- Don’t make your elderly pet travel far for the things they need. To improve access to basic needs like water and rest, try to keep things like your pet’s bed, water, food and toys in close proximity to each other. This will help them stay stimulated without the need to travel far when their mobility is affected by age.
- Consult with your vet regarding incontinence. While your pet may not experience embarrassment themselves, we want our furry friends to live with dignity. There are many options for tackling incontinence depending on your breed, living situation and the severity of the problem.
Changing Eating Habits
A pet’s dietary requirements tend to shift with age, so it is important to understand the specific needs of your pet breed as they get older. From a certain age, your pet may need to gradually move on to a diet designed to suit seniors. Speak to your vet about when this is advised, and discuss the options available.
- Keep a keen eye on how much and how often your pet is eating and drinking. You should mention any changes to your vet, who might then want to perform an examination to see if there is an underlying medical condition affecting their dietary habits.
- Observe how easily they can chew their food. Jaws and teeth weaken with old age in a similar manner to other joints and bones in the body, so it should be noticeable if your pet is struggling to chew its food. A vet may suggest changing to a softer diet to help to alleviate these issues.
- Reduce competition as necessary. If your older pet shares its home with a younger, more energetic pet, try to separate their meals and ensure that their food is not being stolen from them. Your older pet may not have the energy to compete, but they deserve to enjoy mealtimes just as much as younger animals do.
Older pets still need exercise and bonding time despite slowing down. Walks can be more challenging, but by reducing the length of the walk and increasing the regularity, you can help your pet maintain a healthy weight and let them explore the world as they used to without tiring them out. Remember that they are more likely to suffer from temperature changes as they get older, so give them a warm coat to wear in wet and cold weather.
Puzzle feeders can provide mental stimulation without making them work too hard, and they will still enjoy playing with their owners as long as all parties take it slowly. Grooming can be done carefully, which provides the opportunity for you to check your pet for unusual lumps and areas of concern while your pet enjoys spending time with you. Those who are informed may want to help ease their pet’s pains by performing simple physiotherapy manoeuvres on their pet, though this is usually best left for professionals and is a worthy investment.
As usual, it is recommended that lifestyle changes are discussed with a professional, such as a member of the team at Animal Tracks Vet Clinic, so your pet can benefit from the best expertise available. Your pet will thank you!