Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How to Help a Senior Pet Age Gracefully

By Julia Williams

September is Senior Pet Health month, so I thought now would be a good time to discuss how responsible pet owners can help their aging animals live longer and be healthier. Early recognition of problems that occur naturally with age is crucial, as is making a few lifestyle changes to accommodate a senior pet. Like humans, advanced age can lead to arthritis, decreased mobility and decreased organ functions in senior pets. The following tips can help a senior pet age gracefully and enjoy their “Golden Years.”

Provide regular exercise. The pace of your daily walk with Fido may be slower, and they may take longer to retrieve their ball in a game of fetch. Cats may not jump as high or chase after their toy as quickly as they once did. Nevertheless, senior pets need sufficient exercise to avoid obesity, keep their muscles strong and their aging joints limber. Read “Games to Play with Pets” for some fun and creative calorie-burning activities. Just be sure to carefully monitor your pet during exercise to make sure they don’t overdo it.

High quality pet food is the foundation for health at any age, but it’s even more essential for senior dogs and cats. Choose a pet food that uses premium ingredients and natural preservatives. CANIDAE dog food and FELIDAE cat food are excellent choices – their Platinum® formulas for senior pets have lower protein, lower fat and reduced calories, along with glucosamine and chondroitin to promote better joint health.

Don’t overfeed your senior pet. To help prevent weight gain that results from a senior pet’s decreased metabolism and lower activity level, figure out how much to feed your dog or cat each day, and stick to that amount. If you give them any treats, be sure to factor those calories into their daily allotment. In general, senior pets require 30 to 40% less calories; overfeeding can lead to obesity and problems with arthritis.

See your veterinarian regularly. Twice a year check-ups are advised for senior pets, which may help your vet catch potential problems in their early stages. Besides giving your pet a thorough physical exam, your vet may recommend blood work to check the liver, kidney, thyroid and pancreatic functions, to assess your pet’s immune system and to help detect infections, cancer, anemia and other problems. You may also want to consult a qualified holistic veterinarian, which can be especially helpful for pets with arthritis and chronic digestive issues.

Good oral care is a must for senior pets. Check their teeth regularly, and watch for signs of tartar or gum disease. If you’ve been brushing your pet’s teeth regularly and practicing good oral hygiene throughout their life, good job! This can minimize (but not eliminate) the need for professional dental cleanings that require anesthesia. To help your senior pet keep his pearly white smile and minty fresh breath (okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration), check out this article for tips on teeth brushing and oral hygiene.

Hearing, vision and sense of smell can all diminish as a pet ages. Making some adjustments in and around your home can help your senior pet avoid dangerous situations. Look around your home to eliminate any obstacles that they might trip over or bump into. Remove furniture and other objects with sharp corners, and fill in holes in the yard so your pet doesn’t accidentally harm himself while playing. Avoid startling your senior pet when you approach, by first announcing yourself with your voice.

Minimize stress as much as possible. Like humans, pets often become less tolerant and more irritable as they age. You can help by knowing what constitutes stress for your senior pet (crowds, noise, children, etc.) and limiting exposure to those things whenever feasible. Establish a routine and try to avoid sudden schedule changes. Pet steps, ramps and padded pet beds are all easier on arthritic joints. 

Remember – old age is not a disease, it’s a stage of life. Familiarize yourself with the common aging changes and medical conditions that may affect senior pets, and see your vet immediately if you notice any signs of illness. If you stay vigilant, practice responsible pet ownership, and provide lots of loving care, chances are good to great that your senior pet will be happy and healthy. In other words, his Golden Years will be just that!

Read more articles by Julia Williams


  1. Great message. Thanks for this post, Julia!

  2. Great tips every owner of a senior pet should know.

  3. Melty Shepherd going on 17 eating Canidae Platinum twice a day, she is doing great on it. She's smilin!


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