Wizened, gray muzzles should be cherished, because they depict a lifetime of love. As your beloved companion enters her golden years, she may require more care to remain happy and healthy. Return her many years of love with these simple changes to your home that will keep her comfortable as she ages.
#1: Stimulate your pet’s mind to stay sharp
People do crossword puzzles to help stave off Alzheimer’s, and the same mind games can work for your pet. Try new things with your furry friend to keep her mind sharp and prevent cognitive dysfunction. Create or purchase a food puzzle to make her work for her meals, instead of feeding her from the same old dish. Interactive toys, like tennis ball launchers or robotic mice, will get your pet up and moving to engage in the game. If your pet enjoys hitting the trails, explore a new path for a change of scenery, letting your pup pick her pace so she can soak in the different scents. Clicker training is another great way to engage your pet’s mind while she tries to work out how to get her treat. Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks. You can also teach your senior cat some new skills, as long as she’s sufficiently rewarded.
#2: Work out weak muscles
In addition to her mind, your pet’s muscles need a good workout—if she doesn’t use them, she’ll lose them, as the saying goes. Senior pets are often less active because of osteoarthritis pain, which causes their muscles to slowly waste away, so manage her pain, and ensure she’s active every day to keep her as strong and healthy as possible. As your pet ages, she may not be able to take part in high-intensity activities, so stick with low-impact exercises such as swimming, which does not put strain on achy joints.
#3: Throw down traction on floors
Slick or slippery flooring, such as vinyl or hardwood, can be dangerous for older pets, because their instability while walking, combined with painful joints, can cause them to slide or fall. Help your pet keep her balance by placing carpet runners as pathways, and ensure her bed won’t slide across a slick floor when she lies down.
#4: Set up stairs
When you notice that your pet isn’t quite as spry as she once was and cannot leap onto furniture, lend a helping hand. Stairs or ramps to favorite resting areas or lookout perches can help her get up and down without the pain caused by jumping, and can prevent joint or back injuries.
#5: Create more cushion for achy joints
Soft, fluffy beds may seem perfect for your pet, but those squishy beds provide little or no support, essentially placing your furry friend on the floor when the bed compresses to a thin layer. Choose a high quality orthopedic bed designed to hold its shape to help support your pet’s joints. Consider adding a heating pad during cold weather, as older pets struggle more to regulate their body temperature and heat soothes aches and pains.
#6: Limit calories to stay lean
While senior cats sometimes require more calories to maintain a healthy weight, older dogs need less food to avoid packing on the pounds. Keep a close eye on your dog’s body condition score to minimize the impact of extra weight on her joints, heart, and other organs. If you’re struggling to keep your pet at a healthy weight, schedule an appointment—metabolic imbalances or endocrine disorders often make maintaining a sleek body figure difficult in older pets.
#7: Jump on joint supplements
While cats are excellent at hiding signs of pain, especially joint pain, they suffer from osteoarthritis as much as dogs. Before you notice signs of pain, add joint supplements to your pet’s diet to protect her cartilage and preserve her joint health for as long as possible. Talk to us about the best options for your furry friend, as not all supplements are created equal.
#8: Team up for top-notch care
If your beloved, aging companion is struggling despite the changes you’ve made at home, give us a call. With our knowledge and expertise, we can offer more tips on keeping your four-legged friend comfortable, and recommend medications, supplements, and special diets that will help her feel like a young pup or kitten again. Many people think pain is the biggest problem in older pets, but they also suffer from disease processes, inappetence, nausea, dental disease, gastrointestinal upset, and anxiety caused by loss of hearing, vision, and mental function. Let’s work as a team to develop a comprehensive treatment plan that will ensure your best friend lives a happy, healthy life for as long as possible.
We’ve been here for your pet’s entire life, and we’ll be here until her last moments. For help keeping your senior pet’s mind sharp, her joints from aching, and her anxiety at bay, give us a call.