Things you need to know to care for old pets
If you’ve had years of experience caring for pets, you might understand what it feels like to watch your pets transform from young to old. Just like humans, animals go through an aging process, although our pets’ lifespans are substantially shorter. Do you have any idea about how to take care for old pets?
Before welcoming a new pet into your home, be sure you understand the true commitment it takes as you will likely be with them throughout their entire life. Once your pet becomes a senior, there are lots of things you can do to ensure their last years are enjoyable.
To help you understand what to expect as your pet becomes older, we’ve put together a list of eight things you need to know.
Understand exactly when your pet has become a senior
At what point your pet officially becomes a senior depends on the type of animal, the breed, medical history and the size. If we’re looking at cats, most people consider cats to become seniors around the age of seven. Thanks to medical breakthroughs, the average lifespan of a cat has increased to 12 years.
Despite this, you can still have a cat that lives to 15 and acts like a kitten its entire life, some things just happen by chance. If we’re looking at senior dogs, smaller breeds tend to live longer so small dogs are considered to be senior around the age of 11. In any case, care for old pets starts a bit before.
Medium sized dogs are considered seniors around 10 years, large dogs are considered seniors around 8 years and massive breeds can be considered seniors at just seven years old. These differences mainly have to do with the genetics of the breeds as a general rule of thumb, if they’re bigger they age quicker.
Taking care for old pets involves keeping an eye on their diet. A senior pet requires special care, especially in terms of diet. How long your pet lives could potentially fall on whether they were eating a balanced diet. Because senior pets can’t get as much physical activity as younger animals, they can become overweight easier.
Based on your pet, it is best to consult your veterinarian for pet food options that will elevate their pet’s health as they age. Senior specific pet food will often contain less fat and calories which help protect against common weight gain.
Keep their minds stimulated
Just like us humans, as pets age they can experience declining mental health. We know physical activity is essential for animals at all stages in their lives, but people forget that mental activity is just as important. A good way to take care of old pets, is mental stimulation.
For example, dogs can experience CDS – cognitive dysfunction syndrome which is actually a lot more common than people realize. A whopping 50% of dogs 11 years old and up actually have CDS and while you can’t cure it, you can help your dog slow down the effects.
When trying to support your senior pet’s mental health, try treat motivated games, food stuffers, puzzle games and more. In addition to the amazing quality time this provides, it will help your pet stay engaged, improving their overall quality of life during their final years.
Regular light exercise
This is an obvious one, but even as your pet ages and their activity levels decline it is still important that they get exercise. Issues like stiffness and arthritis are common but lighter exercises that stay within your pet’s comfort zone can help combat this.
Another great activity your senior pet is sure to enjoy is swimming! Staying in shallow water might be the best option if you’re concerned about your pet’s mobility. Playing fetch and shorter distance walks are things you should focus on as your pet gets older, just be sure your pet is not getting overexerted.
It’s time for extra visits to the vet
Generally, you should be taking your pet to the vet annually for a regular checkup to ensure your pet is in good health. When your pet becomes a senior, it is a good idea to increase these visits to twice a year.
Senior animals are at a higher risk of medical conditions so early detection of any problems can be lifesaving. Don’t save in the wrong place: Taking care of old pets will demand extra visits to the vet. It’s a good idea to get your vet to focus on things like searching for lumps of concern, heart function, eyesight and hearing. If you notice any sudden changes in behaviour, consult your vet immediately.
Make your home more comfortable for your senior companion
Senior pets are prone to mobility issues which can make navigating through their home a bit more difficult. Things that once were easy to do might have now become hazardous due to blindness, decreased physical capability, loss of hearing and more.
To make things a little less stressful for them consider closing off access to stairways, limiting slippery floors with carpets or mats, and providing stools or steps for them to get up onto couches or beds.
Stay on top of dental hygiene and grooming
When your pet ages, their teeth are more prone to infections as well as increased sensitivity. Infections in the teeth can lead to heart disease and other issues so it is imperative that you keep your pet’s mouth in good condition.
It is best to consult your vet on what exactly this entails but for some this means using a toothpaste designed for your pet, dental drops to lower bacteria and more. And on the other side of things, taking care of what’s on the outside of your pet is also very important!
Grooming should be top of mind for seniors as they can develop matting due to inactivity from them constantly laying down and because their efforts to groom themselves might not be like what they once were. It is also important to remember to check and groom the hair surrounding their private areas to keep it clean and healthy.
Take your senior pet on adventures and to social events
If your pet has always loved interactions with humans and other pets, make it a priority during their final years to provide them with as much as you can.
Getting a group of friends together to go to the park with your senior dog might seem like a simple gesture but these interactions will contribute to your pet’s overall wellbeing and quality of life. Usually if you’re setting up some time with other animals, other seniors are best as young animals can sometimes overstimulate older pets.
Get a sense of how your senior pet interacts with other animals and if it goes well, try to schedule more dates where they can interact again! And if you’re just spending time one-on-one, things like rides in the car, relaxing days on the beach or even weekend getaways where pet friendly accommodations are available are all great experiences that you will remember with your pet after they are gone.
Updated: Feb 06, 2023
Originally Published: March 15, 2022