Caring for Senior Pets

murray2Consider adopting an older pet!

Senior pets still have a lot of love to give. There are many fantastic advantages to having a senior pet:

  • For starters, with age comes experience. Older pets may already be housebroken or litter box trained, and may already know how to behave well in a home setting.
  • An older pet’s personality, size and needs are already established. You’ll know what to expect as opposed to the many surprises that await kitten and puppy owners.
  • Their temperament is also typically calmer than a younger pet. They are already well past the time-consuming kitten and puppy phase.
  • Older pets can make terrific, loyal and loving companions. An older pet’s sense of appreciation and contentment is unsurpassed.
  • Pets of all ages deserve a loving home. You will feel great about rescuing a wonderful pet that others might not want simply because of its age. Bringing a senior pet into your life could be the most rewarding experience you might have.

Already have an older pet at home?

Keep your senior pet in tip-top shape

  • Regular, moderate activity and daily playtime will help your senior pet stay healthy and avoid obesity, which can put extra stress on your pet’s heart and on arthritic joints.
  • Even the most energetic dogs slow down as they become older. Many elderly dogs try to keep up with their owner while running or walking and don’t know to rest when they’ve reached their limit. Look for signs that your dog is tired and reluctant to continue exercising, and take that as an indicator to scale back your dog’s exercise regime. Talk with your vet about an appropriate frequency, length of time and type of exercise for your senior dog.
  • Dogs of all ages love to swim, and this is a great activity for senior dogs because it is low-impact and is easy on their weakening joints and muscles.
  • Massage can help reduce your senior pet’s potential for arthritis and relief from muscular stiffness and discomfort. Plus, massage will help relax and calm your pet.
  • If the weather is too cold and snowy to take an elderly pet outdoors, try playing hide and seek in your home. Hide and have your dog use his sense of smell to seek you out. It’s great exercise and your dog will love always being “it.” Some cats will play this game, too – give it a try with your senior cat!
  • Older cats are usually less adaptable to change, so you can reduce stress by maintaining normalcy in your household. If your cat has to be boarded while you are on vacation, keep her with a familiar blanket that already has her scent on it – or, better yet, have a pet sitter come to your home. Stress can be alleviated by giving more affection and attention during times of emotional upheaval.

Help your senior pdusty-and-sassy1et stay sharp

  • Contrary to popular belief, an old dog – or old cat – can be taught new tricks. Animals of any age enjoy learning. Stimulating your older pet’s mind is a great way to make sure your pet is healthy and happy. Try out training techniques at home or register for a local class.
  • Play “treasure hunt” by hiding small treats around your home for your senior pet. Also, try putting treats in a KONG toy for dogs so they can work at getting the reward. Hide cat treats in crumpled pieces of paper or an empty plastic water bottle (leave the lid off or cut a small hole in the side to allow the treat to fall out during play).
  • Peak activity for cats occurs in the early morning and in the evening. Your senior cat might be more apt to play at those times and it’s a perfect opportunity to get her moving. Try using a wand or fishing pole-style toy to get her to chase. Rolling ping pong balls across a wood or tile floor will provide lots of interactive playtime, too.
  • Although senior pets like familiarity, simple things like rotating toys can bring some excitement into their lives.
  • Take your senior dog on car rides and on walks in new locations so they can explore and take in the sights, sounds and smells of different locations.

Senior pet wellness checks

  • Keep in mind that every year for a dog or cat is equivalent to 5–7 human years. In order stay current with your senior pet’s health care,  visit your veterinarian every six months for a complete exam and any necessary laboratory tests. These regular visits will enable your veterinarian to diagnose any age-related illnesses at the earliest stage possible and begin treatment.
  • In between vet visits, make sure you pay attention to any changes in your pet’s behavior, activity level or physical appearance.