As our beloved animal companions age, their care needs evolve—requiring extra care, attention, and consideration. Spending quality time with them, providing an abundance of love and companionship, and offering them reassurance are essential throughout their journey—and ours.
From tailored veterinary care to creating a safe and comfortable home environment, we aim to offer practical tips that pet parents can utilize to ensure their pet ages gracefully, fostering a happy and healthy aging process!
Want to learn more about taking care of your senior cuddle buddy? Find some helpful tips below to ensure their contentment!
Maintain Regular Veterinary Check-Ups
The age at which pets are considered seniors varies depending on their breed and species. While cats are generally considered to be a “senior” at around 10 years of age, dogs don’t necessarily have a universal age of seniority. Instead, it depends on their breed and size. Larger dogs are often considered to be seniors at 6 to 8 years of age due to their tendency of a shorter lifespan. On the other hand, some dogs may not may not be considered a “senior” until over the age of 10.
As your furry friend enters their senior stages of life, they are more prone to developing various health issues—such as arthritis (causing inflammation of the joints), vision or hearing loss, liver disease, organ dysfunction, dental problems, heart disease, and other illnesses—than their younger counterparts. In fact, cancer is the main cause of death in almost half of dogs and a third of cats over the age of 10. Additionally, their immune system is not as robust as it once was, making them more vulnerable to infections.
Scheduling frequent veterinary visits is crucial in monitoring the health of your adorable furry companion! Ensuring that they receive regular check-ups is significant and highly beneficial, especially in terms of detecting and treating potential issues early on. Pet parents are advised to take their canine or feline friend for check-ups at least twice a year—if they are geriatric, then these visits are recommended every six months. During these check ups, veterinarians may implement preventative measures and conduct essential examinations such as blood tests, dental assessments, urine tests, and evaluations for signs of age-related diseases. These comprehensive tests contribute to the overall well-being of your pet!
Transform Your Home for Senior Pet Comfort and Accessibility
As your furry friend enters their golden years, it's not unusual to observe a decline in their mobility, vision, and hearing—perhaps even to a significant extent. Much like humans, the aging process can usher in various changes in their physical abilities, potentially influencing their overall quality of life. For instance, senior pets commonly encounter issues such as stiff joints, decreased muscle mass, and reduced flexibility. Collectively, these factors contribute to the discomfort or difficulty they may experience when engaging in once-routine activities—like climbing the stairs, jumping onto furniture or surfaces, and carrying out regular daily tasks. Due to the impacts of stiff joints and inflammation, once effortless activities can become challenging for our beloved aging fur babies.
Moreover, sensory impairments, such as diminished vision and hearing, are normal occurrences for pets as they age. Many senior pets might develop conditions like cataracts or degenerative eye diseases, while hearing loss can be a result of age-related changes in their inner ear. These sensory changes can not only impact your pet’s awareness of their surroundings and response to commands, but overall engagement with their environment as well.
Therefore, creating a safe and supportive home environment that aligns and accommodates their evolving needs and potential challenges is important! It involves thoughtful consideration of your elder companion’s aging needs—you want to modify your home to ensure not only accessibility but also safety!
All in all, design your homely abode with your cuddly companion’s safety and comfort in mind!
Here are a few ways you can do this!
• Remove tripping hazards and secure any loose electrical cords
• Consider using ramps or providing steps to assist with mobility if your pet has difficulty climbing or navigating elevated surfaces. This helps to reduce strain on their joints.
• Smooth, slippery hardwood floors may be hard for senior pets to grip or walk on. Consider adding a rug or carpet around areas they frequent (ex. their bed or near their food) to make it easier for them. You can also install non-slip flooring or use other non-slip materials to prevent falls—common in older dogs and cats.
• Install safety gates or secure the stairs in your home to prevent accidents
• Raise food and water bowls to a height that makes it easier for them to eat and drink without having to bend down too much or cause strain on their head, neck, and back areas.
• For senior cats, use low-entry litter boxes for easy access. This makes it easier for them to maintain their hygiene. Provide them with accessible vertical spaces for climbing and resting.
Elevate Your Elderly Pet's Comfort
Creating a comfortable space is paramount for senior pets! By prioritizing your golden-aged pal’s comfort, not only are you investing in their health, but also their happiness and the unwavering companionship they bring to your life. Providing for their needs in their golden years demonstrates the love and care you have for your beloved companion, fostering a stronger bond between you both.
Ensuring the comfort of your senior pet is vital for many reasons. For one, it contributes to their emotional and mental well-being. A familiar and comfortable space helps to reduce anxiety or stress and reduces the potential for behavioral issues—promoting a sense of security and a positive mental state. It can also help to prevent isolation. Senior pets can become more sedentary, leading to isolation and less inclination to partake in regular activities and interactions. A comfortable environment can facilitate social interaction and contribute to a positive atmosphere, making it more likely for them to engage socially—whether it be with their human family members, other pets, or participating in activities they enjoy.
Below are ways that you can provide comfort for your aging canine or feline companion!
• Provide your elder pet with soft, cushioned surfaces in some of their favorite spots! Ensure their bedding is comfortable to alleviate joint pressure. Consider investing in soft, orthopedic beds or heating pads to provide relief for any arthritis or mobility issues your senior companion may be facing.
• Play calming music or soothing sounds to reduce anxiety.
• Exposure to natural sunlight can contribute to their well-being. Consider investing in nightlights.
• Learn massage therapy techniques to relax your senior pet. It can help towards pain relief, improved blood circulation, and is great for bonding.
• Older pets are more sensitive to temperature changes. In warmer weather, ensure they have access to cool, shaded areas. In cooler months, provide them with warm, cozy bedding and shield them from drafts. Consider adjusting the thermostat in your home to a temperature that best suits their comfortability.
• Provide them with a safe and accessible quiet space where they can rest undisturbed and relax. As your furry friend gets older, they may need more sleep (approx. between 12 to 15 hours a day, sometimes up to 20 hours—thought this range can vary widely among pets)
Efforts to enhance the comfort of your longtime furry friend can generally contribute to an improvement in their overall quality of life. It allows them to age gracefully and navigate their surroundings with ease, while enjoying their daily activities!
Embrace Regular Grooming and Pampering Sessions for Your Senior Companion
Grooming is highly essential for senior pets! As they age, their skin and coat may become drier, thinner, flakier, more prone to breakage, and more sensitive. Older pets may also experience increased shedding, matting, changes in coat texture, and loss of skin elasticity—contributing to sagging or wrinkles. With their immune system weakened due to old age, senior pets are also more prone to getting skin infections. Keep in mind that grooming can be physically taxing for senior dogs and cats, so they may struggle to groom themselves effectively. If not cared for properly or promptly, it can only become worse.
This is where you lend a helping hand, providing you furry friend with gentle touches and attention with at-home grooming sessions! You want to keep them looking and feeling their best.
Regular grooming helps to maintain skin and coat health, prevent matting and tangles in their fur—especially for older pets with longer hair, removes debris and dead hair, improves blood circulation of the skin—ensuring that nutrients reach their hair follicles, and helps to distribute natural oils produced by the skin throughout their fur. These all contribute to a shinier, healthier, and moisturized coat. Importantly, grooming provides an opportunity for you to inspect their skin for any abnormalities, such as lumps, bumps, or rashes. It also allows for the detection of parasites, like fleas or ticks, for which senior pets are more vulnerable to. Grooming sessions should consist of brushing their fur, nail trimming, dental care, cleaning the ear and eye area, and more.
Reinforce Diet and Nutrition
Naturally, as your pet gets older, their dietary requirements will change to adhere to their specific nutritional needs. At this stage of their life, it is important to ensure a healthy and balanced diet!
With any pet, hydration will always remain a vital part of their nutrition—especially for senior pets, who are more prone to dehydration due to age-related changes in their bodies. Keep a watchful eye on their water intake and ensure continuous access to fresh and clean water. If your pet needs some enticing, consider adding chicken or bone broth to their water or creating flavored, homemade frozen treats.
According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), senior dogs and cats may require up to 50% more protein to improve or slow muscle loss. While older dogs may do well from a diet with increased protein and fiber content, senior cats might require a high-protein diet that’s easy to digest and tastes better. Both species benefit from low-calorie foods to prevent weight gain, but individual needs may vary. Establishing a consistent feeding schedule is pivotal as it helps your wise companion maintain stable energy levels and promotes digestive health. To help aid digestion, divide meals into smaller, more frequent portions—this can be beneficial for senior pets with reduced appetites.
Proper weight management is crucial for the health and longevity of your aging pet. Senior pets are often susceptible to weight-related challenges, such as gain, obesity, or loss due to decreased activity levels and changes in metabolism. In older dogs, weight gain increases the risk of certain health issues like diabetes, arthritis, difficulty breathing, and cardiovascular problems, while weight loss is more common in senior cats. Be sure to regularly monitor your pet’s weight and adjust their diet as needed!
Senior pets can find support from vitamins, minerals, and dietary supplements. For example, joint supplements such as glucosamine can play a beneficial role in supporting your pet’s joint health. Additionally, omega-3 fatty acids are known for promoting both coat and joint health—advantageous for seniors with arthritis or mobility issues. Always consult with your veterinarian to determine the most suitable diet and supplements for your aging companions. They can assist you in determining the right food, calorie intake, and nutritional requirements for your beloved pet, addressing concerns such as digestion, joint mobility, immunity, and weight. Some may even recommend transitioning to specialized or specific prescription diets.
Keep Them Active!
Though senior pets may not be as active as their younger counterparts, it’s important for them to receive regular exercise. Not only does it help to maintain their weight and muscle mass, but it also promotes joint flexibility without causing undue stress or excessive strain. Exercise should be tailored to their individual needs, physical ability, and energy levels. It should also accommodate their reduced stamina and mobility.
Opt for short, leisurely walks, gentle play, swimming—a low-impact exercise that is easy on the joints, and safe, gentle stretching exercises. To keep track of your pet’s activity levels, maintain a journal with records of the duration and type of exercise or playtime—note any observable changes. You can also explore pet activity tracking apps or devices.
Mental stimulation is also significant for senior pets! As your furry friend grows older, it is important to provide them with some form of stimulation to keep their minds sharp, active, and engaged—it’s vital for their overall well-being! Since cognitive function typically declines in old age, incorporating activities that challenge and engage their minds is essential. Provide them with interactive toys, puzzle feeders, treat-dispensing toys, and new experiences to keep them entertained and prevent mental decline.
Be mindful that a gradual decrease in activity may not simply be due to old age, but also an underlying health issue that may require attention from your veterinarian. Watch out for signs of pain, discomfort, lethargy, or changes in behavior and consult your vet if necessary.