by Jennifer Sawyer
Supporting your pet’s health throughout their senior years is so important so that they can remain happy and healthy during their senior days! Here are some tips on how to provide the best senior pet care for your beloved companion:
Biannual Physical Exams With Your Veterinarian
Many changes in your pet won’t be visible to the untrained eye, so it is important to keep up with annual vet visits. Some vets even recommend increasing your yearly visits to biannual to keep an extra close eye on your senior pet’s condition.
During a physical exam your vet will be able to examine your pet from head to toe, looking for any abnormalities. They may also make some recommendations to you regarding your pet’s current care plan that you have in place, such as altering their diet and giving medications and/or supplements.
In younger pets, bloodwork is recommended to be performed once per year, and can be utilized as a “baseline”, to allow your veterinarian to see what your pet’s “normal” is, or it is often done when your pet is sick.
As pet’s age, running routine bloodwork becomes increasingly important, as more discrete changes may be occurring within your pet, without obvious symptoms of illness.
By performing routine bloodwork, your veterinarian can monitor the function of your pet’s vital organs such as their kidneys, and liver. It is not uncommon for a pet to develop disease of these organs, or others. Upon doing bloodwork your vet will be able to safely recommend the appropriate treatment plan for your pet, which may include medications and diet change.
Regular checkups will help your vet identify when things aren't normal.
Without bloodwork your vet may be limited as to what they are able to prescribe because some medications can negatively impact a diseased organ, so bloodwork is necessary to determine if it’s use is safe for your pet.
As your pet becomes a senior their food requirements may change. It is important to discuss your pet’s diet with your veterinarian. Your own veterinarian is the only one who can make a safe and appropriate food recommendation for your pet as they are aware of your pet’s current health requirements.
For instance, if bloodwork indicates that your pet has developed kidney disease- there are specific foods geared towards supporting that disease. If your cat has developed thyroid disease- there is a food for that as well.
Many specialty diets geared towards specific medial needs must be prescribed by your veterinarian.
If your pet has developed arthritis your vet may recommend switching to a food that has glucosamine and omega fatty acids to help support their joints. There are so many foods that are specifically designed to treat certain health conditions, so speaking with your veterinarian about your senior pet’s diet may be highly beneficial!
If you are not comfortable altering your pet’s diet- or they have dietary restrictions, supplements may be a good idea! For instance, if your pet has developed arthritis or seems to have decreased mobility, supplements like Porch Potty's Hip & Joint Max may help.
Consider a dietary supplement that supports joint health when your dog gets older.
These supplements may include but are not limited to; glucosamine, chondroitin and/or omega fatty acids. These are meant for supporting joint function! There are many other supplements that are available to support various health conditions so be sure to discuss supplements with your vet prior to administration.
It is important to note that you should not give any medications or supplements (human or animal) to your pet without speaking with your veterinarian first.
Monitor Your Senior Pet’s Behaviour
When it comes to behaviour- you know your pet best! Continue to be diligent as your pet ages, by monitoring their behaviour for any changes. You may notice that perhaps they are bumping into things, stumbling, confused, have a decreased appetite. These are all observations that you should inform your veterinarian about!
Some behavioural changes may indicate that your senior pet is developing cognitive dysfunction. Some clinical signs you may see with this condition can include but are not limited to:
- Urinating and/or defecating in the house
- Altered sleep/wake cycle
- Activity changes
- Interaction changes
If you notice any of these symptoms, please call your veterinarian to schedule a physical examination.
Make Your Home Senior-Pet-Friendly
If you notice that your pet has difficulty with their mobility you may want to consider altering your home. If your pet has trouble getting up- try placing more rugs or mats around the house to provide them with more traction. If this isn’t possible, there are also booties that you can purchase to help.
When elderly dog can't make it to the yard, you can bring the yard to him with a dog potty.
If your pet has difficulty with the stairs, try putting up a baby gate to prevent them from venturing up/down the stairs to ensure they don’t injure themselves. If your pet has difficulty getting outside to go to the washroom, or is experiencing incontinence, consider purchasing an indoor bathroom such as a Porch Potty to make going to the bathroom easier on your senior pet.
Making Their Walk Senior-Friendly
Senior pet’s mobility usually decreases with age or ailments (such as arthritis). While your pet may still love the idea of a walk, you may find that they just aren’t able to participate the way they used to.
Consider purchasing a pet stroller. While these may seem silly to some people, your pet may really enjoy it. Taking your pet on a walk provides physical and mental stimulation.
If your pet isn’t able to walk- putting them in a stroller can still give them the mental stimulation they need. This will reduce your stress too! You don’t have to worry about your companion injuring themselves on their walk, and you know you will have a reliable way to get them home if they are not able to walk the rest of the way!
Even if your dog can't handle long walks themselves, daily walks will keep them mentally stimulated.
Consider Quality Of Life
This is a very important factor to consider but can be so emotionally challenging to evaluate. Again, you know your pet best, but if you struggle with evaluating this, your vet can help you.
A good way to monitor your senior pet’s quality of life is by marking the type of days they have on a calendar. Each day mark down if your pet has a good or bad day.
If the bad days outweigh the good days then it may be time to reach out to your vet for recommendations on how to keep your pet more comfortable as they age.
Remember, your veterinary team is there to help your furry family member, so be sure to discuss your pet’s health with them. Always ask your vet before making any diet, medication, or supplement changes.
Lastly, enjoy the senior years with your pet, they can be the absolute best years yet!