Puppies and kittens get all the attention. There’s one simple reason for that, and it’s cuteness, though their playful antics and exuberant energy win them points as well. However, you may have discovered that true joy can be found in the love of a senior pet.
Over the years, your cat or dog has become a full-fledged member of the family, and they’re adept at fulfilling their role as faithful companion year after year, through thick and thin, greeting you with a wagging tail or a gentle purr when you walk through the door after a hard day’s work. That’s the kind of devotion that wins hearts.
There’s just one thing that should bother you: your pet’s health. As animals age, they become frailer and subject to the same illnesses and injuries that plague older humans. Cats and dogs can both be hit hard by arthritis and diabetes, or they might simply find it more difficult to climb up and down the stairs. They need your help to continue living in comfort, and you can deliver it if you follow these simple words of advice.
Watch Them Closely
Changes in the behavior of your dog or cat tell you that something’s amiss, though there are significant differences between the animals. Felines tend to be more stoic and hide their pain, says expert Pam Johnson-Bennett. However, more intense meowing often gives them away. As for both types of pets, look out for a decreased appetite and a lack of energy.
Get Them Moving
Although they’re less active, exercise is more important for your senior pet now than ever. As with humans, too much time lazing about results in weight gain and heart problems, along with increased joint pain. A daily walk wards off the worst when it comes to dogs, while cats can be enticed to stretch their limbs with toys, wands, and lasers.
Tease Their Brains
Daily playtime helps to deter feline cognitive dysfunction, a disease not unlike Alzheimer’s in humans. If you want to kick things up a notch, build an obstacle course for your cat or create a food puzzle for your dog. Both of these activities put their wits to the test.
Feed Them Right
Make sure you keep your pet on a healthy diet; otherwise, your dog or cat is likely to gain weight, which would ultimately sabotage all of your efforts to keep them healthy. The Honest Kitchen recommends giving them several smaller meals per day without increasing the overall amount of food, though that requires a little more labor on your part. Bear in mind that animals do need more protein as they get older.
Brush Their Teeth
Brushing a dog or cat’s teeth is something that pet owners never used to do, but it’s becoming standard procedure for dogs and cats, who often have a hard time eating once cavities and gum disease set in. Don’t expect it to be easy, especially on your first go. You may have to coax your animal into submitting to the brush using treats and rewards.
Adapt Your Dwelling
There’s no need for any major construction work to adapt your dwelling, just a bit of accessorizing. Pet steps go a long way in making the sofa, bed, or car more accessible for an aging canine or feline and are widely available online, though you should read through reviews and choose the right model based on the size and needs of your pet.
Increase Vet Visits
While once a year was enough for your dog or cat when they were young and healthy, they should see the doctor at least twice annually in old age. The reason is obvious: increased risk for debilitating diseases that need to be detected early on for proper treatment.
None of these efforts are particularly difficult, and you’ll be rewarded with many more years of cuddling and playtime with your beloved ball of fur, in happiness and good health. Make that happen for your sake and theirs.