Everybody gets older every day – that includes your pet. Depending on your pet’s size, health, nutrition, breed and some other factors, their approximate age in human years varies, the following charts published by the American Veterinary Medical Association can give you an estimate. Older pets have different needs than younger ones and here are a few things to take into consideration as your pet gets older.
Regular vet visits
If you’ve had a health pet for years then odds are you probably only visit the vet for updated immunizations. As your pets get older, you will want to visit the vet more consistently since preventing disease is usually easier and cheaper than curing disease. Talk to your vet about any concerns with mobility, sight, hearing, etc. in your older pet to see if there are food supplements or specific diets that your pet might benefit from.
Keep a healthy weight
Older pets are usually less active than younger ones so it is important to adjust their caloric intake to prevent unnecessary weight gain. In some cases switching to a lower calorie food will be beneficial to older pets. In other cases, older pets start losing weight due to illness or tooth and gum sensitivity. If this is the case, providing softer foods might be necessary.
Tooth and overall mouth health
You can help your older pet stay healthy by brushing their teeth regularly. If your pet is not likely to let you brush, then provide dental chews daily to try to keep their mouths healthy.
The type of exercise and duration might be a little different than in their younger years, but they still need to move regularly. Many vets suggest linear exercise – like taking your dog for a walk or swimming. High movement activities like chasing balls involves a lot of jerky movements and fast turns that can easily injure your older pet. While it is vital for your pet to exercise, it is also important to listen to your pet, don’t force them to walk or play longer than they want. If your pet has not had a consistent exercise routine in the past, then start slowly. Be very patient.
Older pets might be more sensitive to hot weather, overheating more easily. You will also find that many of the bigger pets, or arthritic pets, will move a lot slower when the temperatures drop.
Help older pets on and off the couch, bed, and in and out of the car. You can also use ramps to provide easier access. Avoid unnecessary trips up and down stairs. As you pet gets older certain things that used to be super easy become a little more troublesome and the risk of injury increases. Provide a soft spot to lie on, orthopedic beds and raised beds can be great options for dogs with achy joints. Use rugs or carpeting in areas with slippery surfaces to avoid falls.
Just like people, older pets can greatly benefit from therapeutic massages to help them relax and relieve minor aches and pains. You can try massage techniques at home or schedule your pet for a massage with an expert pet massage therapist or chiropractor.
Old dogs and new tricks
Don’t forget to stimulate your pet’s mind, pets of any age can learn something new. Regardless of your pet’s age, new games and toys will keep their mind agile and in many cases can be crucial to their interactions with you later on. For example, teaching hand signals to a pet that’s hard of hearing, or auditory cues for those going blind. But even if your pet is in perfect health, a good puzzle toy at feeding time or your added attention while teaching a new cue is greatly appreciated.
Home wellness check
One of the most important things for your older pet is for you to be aware, doing regular home checks for bumps, bugs, spots and moles, coat quality, teeth and gum health, etc. Observe your pet so you can distinguish changes both physically and emotionally. Report back to your vet regularly to discuss best options for your pet as they get older.
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