6 Steps to Enhance an Aging Pet’s Quality of Life

6 Steps to Enhance an Aging Pet’s Quality of Life

Just like you, your pet’s needs change with each passing year.

Helping your pets into their “golden” years is part of being a loving, caring pet owner, because old age is a condition, not a disease. With these six actions, you can help your pets to not only survive, but thrive as they age.

1. Exercise

Staying active is crucial to staying healthy. Taking your dog for a walk every day is good for you and your pet. The length of time and the intensity will be determined by your dog’s stamina and fitness level.

For your cat: Buy a few interactive cat toys (including wand toys, such as Da Bird) and exercise your cat at least 10 minutes a day. Sunlight and fresh air are as important to pets as to humans. Make sure your pets have safe access to both.

2. Healthy diet

If your pets are doing well on their current food, there is no reason to change just because they have turned a certain age. Your veterinarian can offer further advice. And of course, clean fresh water should be available at all times in more than one place.

3. Keep teeth and gums healthy

A healthy mouth does not smell. Gums should not be red or bleeding. Brushing a few times a week can help keep your pet’s mouth healthy. Just like in humans, a mouth filled with bacteria can infect the entire body. Use pet enzyme toothpaste and a toothbrush made for animals. For more instruction, check with your veterinarian.

4. Regular veterinary care

Immune systems can weaken with age, making an older pet more susceptible to disease and infection. Vaccinations should be kept current and a regular physical check by the vet can help prevent illness. Generally at age 7, health-related problems can start, so this is the time for your pet to get a geriatric screening and have baseline lab tests done.

5. Changes to the home

A few alterations to make your pet’s life easier and more comfortable:

•  Make it easier for the cat to get to the litter box by getting one with lower sides.

•  Make it easier for your dog to get outside by changing steps or installing a ramp.

•  Change to more supportive bedding and keep it out of drafts. Older pets do not handle temperature extremes well.

•  Elevate food and water dishes to minimize bending down to eat.

6. Kindness and interaction

An older cat or dog may become more easily agitated and act out with aggressive behavior that is uncommon for them. There is a type of senility that pets can develop which can cause this change in behavior. Any changes in the home environment, especially if there will be new pets, pet sitters or other visitors coming into your home, should be done gradually.

Sight and hearing loss, as well as tooth pain, also can cause more aggressive behavior because the pet becomes startled or bumps into things.

More questions?

How old is my pet?

An animal’s life span is shorter than ours, so they age much faster.

Dogs: The larger breeds age faster. Large dogs begin aging around age 8, medium size dogs around age 9 and small dogs around age 11.

Cats: Generally an 11-year-old-cat is like a 60-year-old person.

Signs and symptoms to monitor

Your pet will develop these gradually, not overnight, so being aware of your pet’s general health on a regular basis will help you to notice changes:

•  Incontinence.

•  Change in appetite.

•  Excessive panting.

•  Joint stiffness.

•  Loss of hearing or sight.

•  Sleeping more.

•  Decrease in activity.

•  Behavior changes.

•  Difficulty chewing food.

•  Ulcers, lumps or masses.

•  Increased water consumption.

•  Change in weight.

•  Difficulty getting up.

•  Bad breath.

•  Intolerance to temperature changes.

Remember:

Your older pet may spend more time on their bed but they still need your attention. If they can’t come to you, go to them. Give love and attention to your aging pet. Remember how much unconditional love they have given to you over the years.

If the time comes for euthanasia, consider finding a vet who will come to the house. Make your pet’s last moments quiet and peaceful, with you there.

About this Experts Contributor: Linda Beatty is the owner of Ask Linda Pet Sitting, which provides pet sitting services in Indianapolis, Indiana. She also is an instructor for pet safety and wellness instructor, and has a 12-year-old dog and two cats, ages 10 and 11. Find her on Google+.

As of December 16 2014, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.


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