Caring for your Senior Pet

From the age of 7 your pet’s health can change.  Although your pet may still look and behave like a youngster, after their 7th birthday (or 5th birthday for large and giant breeds) cats and dogs enter their senior years. In human terms, it’s equivalent to entering your 50s. And just as our nutritional and physical needs change when we’re seniors, your pet’s feeding and exercise routines need to change too.

Regular visits to your vet will help detect medical conditions that could become evident or more pronounced in old age. The earlier these diseases are detected, the better the chances of managing them successfully.1

Diseases such as cancer, diabetes and kidney disease are more common in senior pets.  Conditions such as arthritis also occur much more frequently.

Call the clinic and ask about scheduling twice-yearly physical examinations and laboratory tests to screen for common diseases

A nutritious and balanced diet is an essential part of an active, healthy lifestyle for all senior dogs. Crucially, to maintain kidney and heart health, pet foods for senior cats and dogs need to have reduced levels of phosphorous and sodium.

Keeping senior pets happier and healthier for longer

  • To aid digestion, consider feeding them several meals a day instead of one large serving.

  • Keep your pet on a regular exercise routine to help preserve muscle tone and to keep bones and joints strong.
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  • Provide a comfortable, warm bed. Many older pets suffer from arthritis or general muscle stiffness.

  • Keep their bed and surrounding areas clean, and always remain proactive in controlling fleas.

  • Because senior pets are prone to inactivity, inspect their nails on a regular basis and trim them when necessary.

  • Natural oils in the skin are reduced with age and can make your pet’s skin and coat dry and lustreless. Older cats often have difficulty grooming themselves.  Brushing and grooming will help stimulate the skin to produce natural oils.

  • Accidents may become a problem as bladder muscles weaken. Pay extra attention because your pet will need to be let outside more promptly and frequently to avoid house soiling.  You might need to have an extra litter tray inside for your cat as an extra precaution.

Getting the most from vet visits

  • Take your dog for a walk prior to your visit. This will make your dog less anxious, and less likely to have an “accident” at the clinic.

  • Use a carrier basket or box. Being inside a confined, familiar space will have a calming effect.

  • Take control in the waiting room. Keep your pet relaxed by giving them lots of attention and talking softly.

  • Stay with your pet in the consulting room. Your familiar face and smell will be comforting.

  • If you would like extra time to talk to your vet be sure to schedule it when you make your appointment, or try to avoid peak hours.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask your veterinarian questions or to ask for clarification.

  • When your veterinarian gives you instructions on caring for your dog, be sure to write them down or ask for them in writing.

  • Find out when your veterinarian wants you to bring your dog back for a follow-up, and schedule the appointment before you leave the clinic.

  • If your veterinarian recommends a special pet food or medication for your dog, pick it up before you leave the clinic so you don’t have to make a special trip for it later.
  • Only feed the food recommended by your veterinarian

  • Instead of scraps or titbits, feed small amounts of your pet’s recommended food

  • Make sure your pet doesn’t scavenge for food

  • Always provide plenty of clean, fresh water