Young at Heart: Caring for Senior Pets

iStock_000043604038_LargeThere is no age limit when it comes to how much love and joy a pet can bring into our lives. This is especially true when it comes to our four-legged geriatric friends. Opening your home and heart to a senior dog or cat, or caring for an aging pet who has been with you since puppy or kitten years, is deeply rewarding. Older pets are charismatic, generally mellower, oftentimes settled in to the routines and rules of the household, and affectionately grateful for the time you spend together.

However, caring for a senior pet does require some adjustments and considerations that weren’t necessary during his or her younger years. Understanding the changing health needs of senior pets is vital for successfully navigating your pet’s golden years.

The good news is, with a little forethought, you can expect to watch your best fur friend age gracefully and with the enthusiasm and unabashed joy of those younger years.

Veterinary Wellness Care for Senior Pets

When your pet was younger, you may have only had to pencil in those wellness exams annually. But, as your pet ages (generally 7 years and older), it is recommended that your pet’s wellness exam schedule increase to bi-annually (twice a year). The chances of developing a disease or health condition increase with age, and oftentimes the symptoms are nonexistent or hard to detect until the problem is more serious. By monitoring your pet’s health more frequently with biannual exams, we are more likely to diagnose potential problems and help mitigate issues that relate to pain or decreased mobility.

Nutrition and Weight

As pets age, they may experience problems with digestion and require nutritive formulated diets to help them acquire the vitamins and minerals they need, while maintaining age-specific caloric requirements. Many senior pets also benefit from supplemental vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids, often found in fish oils, which can help improve mobility.

If you have questions about your senior pet’s dietary needs, or notice a marked change in his or her eating habits, please don’t wait to call us.

Mobility and Exercise

While your senior pet may not be running a marathon this year, make no mistake about it – he or she needs daily exercise. Walking for 20-30 minutes can help reduce joint degeneration pain associated with arthritis, a common condition among most seniors. While walking, pay close attention to your pet’s level of energy and whether or not he or she is exhibiting symptoms of pain. Take extra precautions when it comes to weather conditions, as our seniors are more susceptible to heat and cold.

Dental Health for Senior Pets

Even if you have never brushed your pet’s teeth before, it is never too late to pay attention to oral health and dental care. Good dental hygiene can even add years to the life of your pet and help discourage tooth loss and periodontal disease. Rocklin Ranch offers an array of comprehensive pet dental care services, from routine teeth cleaning to the highest quality anesthetic and from veterinary dental to oral surgical care. We can even help get you started on that important tooth-brushing regime!

Behavioral Changes in Senior Pets

As your pet ages, it is common for him or her to experience hearing and vision deterioration. Combine these limitations with mobility challenges, and – for some pets – you may start to see behavioral changes. With reduced sight and hearing come increased risks for accidents and disorientation, which can sometimes instill fear or anxiety in a pet who was once the life of the party.

Recent studies have also shown that dogs and cats can experience age-related cognitive dysfunction. Many behavioral changes can also be red flags, indicating an underlying illness or increased level of pain. To be on the safe side, schedule an appointment for your pet to be thoroughly examined when any changes in behavior occur.

Through maintaining your pet’s age-specific recommendations for nutrition, veterinary care, dental care, and exercise, it’s entirely possible to keep him or her vital, active, and happy throughout all life stages. Senior pets offer us a chance to slow down, pay attention, and enjoy those moments of snuggle times, laughs, and even challenges.

We at Rocklin Ranch Veterinary Hospital love our senior pals and have tailored some of our wellness care services to meet their needs specifically. Call us to learn more.