Is your pet a pensioner?

Jan 1, 2016 by     No Comments    Posted under: Hünd news
Picasso, the dignified senior citizen.

Picasso, the dignified senior citizen. Photo credit: Jorisna Bonthuys

Dogs and cats are usually considered seniors when they reach 7 years of age
Although the aging process is different for each animal, certain changes are common in most cat dogs as they age. They slow down physically, just like humans do. Problems related to age usually cannot be cured, but many can be managed successfully if detected early.

Tip #1: Diet for Aging Pets
Diet is an important part of your senior pet’s overall health. Slowing metabolism and lower activity levels make older pets more prone to obesity. The nutritional needs of older pets are significantly different from when they were younger. They require fewer calories, protein and salt, and more vitamins and minerals. Fatty acid is important for skin and coat health.

Tip #2: Bi-Yearly Vet Exam for Older Pets

As a rule, larger animals enter their senior years before smaller animals, but each animal is a little different. Your vet is the best judge of your pet’s aging. As your pet approaches senior status, your vet may recommend basic blood and urine tests as a baseline for measuring future changes. Regular blood testing can help identify diseases in their earliest and most treatable stages.
Ask your vet to clean your dog’s teeth regularly and follow the cleaning with recommended dental care at home. If your pet has not been spayed or neutered, ask your vet about having this done to avoid tumours of the mammary or prostate glands. Also visit your vet for a senior health care exam at least every six months to monitor changes in your pet’s health.

Tip #3: Exercise for Senior Dogs
Exercise such as swimming or walking is ideal for old dogs. Joint movement will reduce stiffness and pain. Exercise will help reduce weight, which in turn will make movement easier. It is also a wonderful fact that while exercising an aging dog, we too get some exercise.
Exercising your dog’s mind is just as important as exercising his body. Older dogs will take longer to learn a new trick or game, but they will enjoy it just as much as they did when puppies. A new game or trick will add excitement to a senior dog’s life, adding zest to the day’s activities.

Tip #4: Furniture for Senior Dogs
If the stairs get a bit too much for us as we grow old, they will for our aging pet too. Changing things around in the house can really improve a senior pet’s quality of life. A foam bed with easy access, will be a welcome spot for resting. Dog stairs to the sofa or bed will ease the stress on joints. A ramp will help an old dog to climb into a car. And having rugs on hardwood floors will make walking easier.

Tip #5: Toilet Time for Older Dogs
Senior pets need to relieve themselves more frequently than before. It’s a great idea to install a pet patio door to give them free access to the yard whenever the mood strikes them.

Tip #6: Grumpy Old Dogs
Pain, especially arthritic pain, can make older pets more grumpy. Pain management will help reduce such patterns of behaviour. Groom your senior pet at least once each week. Check for lumps, sores, parasites, bad breath, and ear discharge.

Picture: Jorisna Bonthuys

How to identify a senior pet

  • Just not acting himself or herself
  • Interacting less often with family
  • Responding less often or less enthusiastically
  • Having difficulty climbing stairs
  • Having difficulty jumping
  • Exhibiting increased stiffness or limping
  • Drinking more often
  • Urinating more often
  • Change in eating patterns
  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Losing housetraining abilities
  • Becoming confused or disoriented
  • Experiencing changes in coat, skin, or growths
  • Exhibiting bad breath, red, or swollen gums
  • Inability to chew dry food
  • Exhibiting tremors or shaking

 

Small changes to take care of your senior pet

Older dogs slow down physically just like humans do. Although the aging process is different for each animal, certain changes are common in most cast and dogs as they age. Problems related to age usually cannot be cured, but many can be managed successfully if detected early.

Change #1: Diet

Just like people, when animals reach a certain age we need to start watching what and how much they eat. Your vet will be able to advise you on the correct nutrition as well as portion.

Change #2: Bi-Yearly Vet Exam

Every 6 months your senior pet should have their check-up. Regular blood testing can help identify diseases in their earliest and most treatable stages.

Change #3: Exercise (physically and mentally)

Exercise such as swimming or walking is ideal for old dogs. Joint movement will reduce stiffness and pain. Exercising your pet’s mind is just as important as exercising the body.

Change #4: Comfort

As your pet gets older the less comfortable they become. A comfortable bed would be a great help for their aching bones and joints.

Change #5: Toilet Time

Trips to the loo for your pensioner will increase as they get older.

Change #6: Pain Awareness

Your senior pet will experience more pain as the years pass. This will become noticaeble when they show signs of becoming slow, stiff and uninterested in games. Never give your animal human pain killers, rather consult your vet for the correct medicine.

Many thanks to Tygerberg Animal Hospital for allowing us to duplicate this article that appeared in PawPrints (July 2012, Issue 2)

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