Although we want to think of our pets as always being with us, that’s not reality. Did you know that dogs are considered “senior” at the age of 7? And cats reach senior age when they are between 8-10 years old. That doesn’t seem like much in human years, does it? I mean, we were barely out of elementary school at those ages! It is sad that pets have a shorter lifespan than people, but there are things we can do to help our older pets live long and happy lives.
First, keep up with the vet visits. Just like us as we age, senior pets are at risk for more health problems. You may need to bring your pet in for checkups more often. Discuss it with your vet – most recommend at least two visits a year. Certain breeds have a predisposition to particular issues, and your vet will let you know what they are. You also need to keep them up to date on their vaccines, just like you did when they were younger.
Second, watch their diet. Sometimes pets will show their age through changes in their eating habits. Not eating could be a sign of their slowing down or a medical problem. O r they might gain weight because they are eating and not as active as before. So pay attention to how much they eat and how much they weigh. You may have to adjust the amount you feed them or change their food. When in doubt, ask your vet!
Third, just like people, there will be complications that come with old age. Their fur may go grey or white, they may lose vision or hearing, or they may get tired or stressed more easily. Just let your pet dictate the activities they participate in, and if you know something will be upsetting (like fireworks), comfort them in the ways they like best.
There are some natural ways you can help your pet age more gracefully. You can learn pet massage, which will help ease joint pain and soreness. It can help your animals stay frisky for longer, and it is a great bonding experience for the two of you. Getting a few wooden stairs or a ramp to help them get in and out of the car or to their favorite sleeping spot, like your bed, more easily. And it doesn’t require a trip to the vet or medications or anything.
There are also some supplements you can discuss with your vet, too. These are great to help get some more good years out of your pet, and are a more natural option than medications. Essential fatty oils will help keep your pet’s coat shiny, but it may also help with brain function. Glucosamine and chondroitin are another good combination that can ease arthritis and inflammation issues. Talk to your vet to see what they recommend for your pet.
Another thing I want to mention is that there are a lot of senior pets out there available for adoption. Some places waive adoption fees for these pets or offer reduced rates to facilitate adoptions. Just because these pets are a little older does not mean you will be robbed of any of their love or happiness. Senior pets need love too, and they’ll love you just as much as a younger animal. So don’t pass them by if you are at a shelter and thinking about bringing home a new member of the family.