Your Golden Girl (or Boy): Making the Most of the Senior Pet Years
When you have older pets with a little grey around the muzzle, it’s good to remember that, while dying isn’t optional, suffering can be. This means that senior pets can live active, happy, and pain free lives into their golden years and beyond. Your veterinarian can help make this a reality.
What is a Senior Pet?
Generally speaking, your pet is a senior at the age of 7. This varies to some degree with species and breed. Your veterinarian can determine when your pet falls into the senior life stage, one reason that preventive care exams annually is so important.
Age Is Not A Disease
Some pet owners notice their pets slowing down and chalk it up to old age. But age is not a disease! Older animals can be active, healthy, and comfortable with just a few adjustments to their environment and attentiveness to the manageable conditions that often accompany old age.
Senior pets are at risk for obesity. While weight is only one component of a healthy senior, keeping them lean improves their mobility, their overall general health, and their longevity.
It’s great to start with a physical exam with your pet’s veterinarian. We can do a nose to tail assessment, talk to you about your pet’s behavior and history, and recommend screening tests to check for early signs of disease.
When we screen for certain diseases early, we not only detect small problems before they become big issues, we also establish a normal baseline of results for your individual pet. We can use these later to determine if the disease is in the early stages, and treat appropriately. Early detection of disease means less discomfort and better outcomes for your pet, at less of an expense to you in the long run.
What To Watch For
Any change in behavior should be a red flag, and a call to action to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. In addition, be on the lookout for:
- Changes in weight, especially weight loss
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Changes in stool or bathroom habits (house soiling)
- Hiding more than usual
- Hair loss or thinning, brittle coat
- New lumps, bumps, or swelling
- Difficulty breathing or panting while at rest
- Mobility issues
- Persistent cough
- Bouts of weakness
- Cloudy eyes, bumping into things
- Disorientation, increased aggression, or sensitivity to noise
- Foul mouth odor
Comfort at Home for Senior Pets
Once you’ve addressed any urgent health concerns with your veterinarian, turn your focus to keeping your senior safe and comfortable at home. Here are some tips for creature comforts for your senior pet.
With safety in mind, remember that your senior may have more trouble navigating stairs, getting into the car, and navigating hills and uneven terrain. What’s more, they may not realize they are less agile than they used to be. It’s smart not to put your senior pet into dangerous situations, even if they didn’t seem dangerous in the past.
When it comes to senior pet comfort, here are some of our best tips:
- Give your senior pet several cozy beds for your senior to rest in, and to keep them warm.
- Help your pets to avoid stairs by providing all their essentials on one floor; food, water, litter box, and access to the outdoors.
- Evaluate your pet’s litter box to ensure she has no trouble getting in or out.
- Keep a stable routine of walks, feeding, and playtime to reduce stress and anxiety.
- Provide lots of love, attention and TLC; your senior pet thrives on your attention!
- Groom your senior pet regularly, as she may have trouble doing it herself. Keep nails short to help mobility and prevent slipping.
- Talk to us about your senior pet’s dietary needs, and switch to a senior diet is recommended.
- Talk to us about physiotherapy to improve muscle tone and decrease pain.