Just like people, pets age and approach their "senior" years. For dogs, that tends to occur around age 7 and age 8 for cats — although there are differences as smaller breeds tend to reach their golden years somewhat later.

As beloved members of the family, our collective objective is to keep your pets happy, healthy and safe for years to come. This month we wanted to share several major considerations to keep your pet healthy during the "senior" years and beyond.

Update Your Pet’s Diet
As pets age, their nutritional needs change. Older pets tend to need more vitamins and minerals to help maintain their skeletal structure while helping to combat arthritis. They also need additional fiber and an appropriate level of protein to support their physical, digestive and mental activities. Most importantly, older pets require a diet packed with fewer calories and fat to match their slowing metabolism and waning activities levels.

One of the greatest challenges associated with maintaining the wellness of "senior" pets is weight management. Older, overweight dogs are at a greater risk of joint, heart, respiratory and other ailments, including diabetes and cancer, which may be lessened through the administration of the proper food and quantities at meal time. However, some older pets tend to eat substantially less presenting an equal health challenge. It’s vital that your "senior" pet consume a balanced, nutritional diet to ensure the proper function of their eyes, kidneys, mental abilities and vital organs and systems.

Senior Pets Eating

If you are unsure which food to provide your aging pet, please contact us. We would be delighted to review your pet’s health history and activity levels to recommend several brands that will serve your pet well — and to discuss what supplements, if any, may be advantageous for your pet.

Encourage Exercise
Just as it’s harder for us to get out of the sofa and go for a run, the same holds true for your aging pet. Inertia is a powerful force and it’s up to you to help keep your pet active. Older pets need not exercise at the same intensity level, but they should exercise for the same amount of time each day as they did when they were younger. Walks with periodic "bursts of speed" will help keep the heart and lungs well exercised, joints and ligaments flexible, muscles firm, and spirits high while combating pain and inflammation.

Senior Pets Exercise

When exercising your pet, be aware that older pets may have a harder time hearing or seeing you — so keep them in familiar surroundings. If possible, exercise your pet in a fenced yard or on a leash to prevent the "flight" response to an unexpected or startling noise.

And don’t encourage your pet to "overdo it" as many older animals have a more difficult time regulating their body temperature after an intense workout.

"Seniorize" Your Home
With increasing age comes less flexibility and dexterity. On each birthday, review your house as you did when your new kitten or puppy first arrived to ensure it is "senior" friendly.

Rugs on stairs and floors can make a significant difference to an older pet’s ability to stand up, lay down or move about — particularly one with arthritis. And if your pet is accustom to sleeping on your bed, determine if ramp, bench or step would make the ascent easier or the descent safer. Also, ensure your pet can easily exit and re-enter your home so there are no barriers to your pet wanting or being able to "do their business."

Lastly, ensure your pet’s bed is fluffy, pest-free, warm and comfortable.

Monitor Your Pet’s Teeth
The lack of dental attention throughout a pet’s life often becomes first notable around year five — when plaque and tartar have already impacted your pet’s tooth enamel and gums. It’s important that your pet’s teeth are cleaned prior to your pet joining "AARP" as sensitive teeth can reduce the inability to eat and chew — and unhealthy gums can invite bacteria and infections. The loss of teeth, in particular, can impact your pet’s desire or ability to eat — leading to a variety of health concerns.

Beyond professional teeth cleaning, we recommend daily or semi-daily brushing with a pet-approved toothpaste and toothbrush. Toys and treats designed to help keep your pet’s teeth may also be an option. Please contact us to discuss what approaches might be best for your pet — particularly if your pet has persistent bad breath or red gums.

Hug and Massage Your Pet
Touching and hugging your pet not only creates deep bonds fostering trust and relaxation, it also affords you the ability to feel if anything on your pet has changed. Have they gained weight? Are they losing hair? Is a limb sensitive? Do you feel something new like a bump or cut?

Hugging Senior Pets

As pets get older, the sooner a potential problem is detected and addressed the faster any issue can be addressed — or your mind can be put at ease. Take the time to massage each pet daily. They will enjoy it and you will, too.

Schedule Regular Checkups
As pets age, the regular checkup becomes increasingly important as a proactive, preventative device to help enhance your pet’s wellness, longevity, overall comfort and happiness. During annual or semi-annual checkups (the older the pet the more frequent the checkups should be), you can ask questions, and we can share any physical, mental or other aspects of interest.

Together, we can "revitalize" your "senior" keeping them healthly, mentally engaged and happy.