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Caring for Your Older Pet

pets senior aging geriatric

Nutrition for Senior Pets

Good nutrition is essential to keeping your older pet healthy. Keep these tips in mind when selecting pet food.

  • Buy Senior Pet Food. Help your pet maintain a healthy weight by feeding food specially formulated to meet the nutritional needs of older pets. Excess weight stresses the joints. If your pet already has arthritis, gaining weight will make symptoms worse.
  • Avoid Overfeeding Your Pet. Older pets generally need less calories because they are less active. Adjust the amount of food you give your pet to avoid weight gain. Pay attention to the calorie count of treats, too. Buy low-calorie treats and limit the amount of treats you offer your pet.
  • Get Rid of Free Radicals. Free radicals, unstable molecules that can contribute to aging and hamper immune system functioning, can be neutralized with foods that are high in vitamin E and beta-carotene.

Many of the same problems that affect people as they age, such as arthritis and diabetes, can also affect your pet. Making a few changes to the way you care for your furry friend will help you ensure that your pet stays healthy and happy as the years go by.

Look for Common Signs of Illness

Changes in your pet's behavior can be a sign that something is wrong. Sick animals can become more or less affectionate than before. Some may refuse to leave your side, while others will spend more time alone. Cats, in particular, tend to find out-of-the-way hiding places when they don't feel well.

If you notice any of these symptoms, it's a good idea to make an appointment with your pet's veterinarian:

  • Changes in Eating Habits. Has your pet lost interest in eating or started drinking more than usual? A lack of interest in food can be caused due to dental issues, kidney or liver disease or a change in food, while increased thirst can be a sign of diabetes.
  • Elimination Woes. Frequent constipation or diarrhea or difficulty urinating can be signs of serious illness and should not be ignored. Housetraining setbacks can also occur as your pet ages. Sometimes, making a few modifications, such as adding litter boxes to every floor of your house for your arthritic cat or adding a ramp to your home for a dog with hip dysplasia can solve the problem.
  • Bumps, Lumps and Other Issues. Bumps and lumps can be caused by harmless cysts or may be a sign of cancer. The only way to determine the cause is with a visit to your veterinarian. Other issues that warrant a trip to the vet include frequent coughing, trouble breathing, vomiting or changes in your pet's coat.

Make Your Pet Comfortable

Older pets will appreciate anything you can do to increase their comfort, starting with a soft place to rest. Look for cat and dog beds made of therapeutic foam that support your furry friend's joints. Heated beds will help your pet keep warm during the winter months.

Staying warm is a particular concern for older pets. Pets that were perfectly comfortable on chilly days in their younger years may have trouble staying warm when temperatures drop. A pet jacket or sweater will help keep your senior pet warm, although dogs may be more likely to tolerate wearing a sweater than cats.

Daily runs with your dog may have to end if arthritis or a general slowing down due to age is a problem. Although runs may no longer be possible, it's still important to make sure your dog still gets exercise every day. Playing games with your dog or cat not only improves physical fitness, but also helps keep your pet mentally sharp.

Arthritis and other joint problems can make jumping more difficult. If your pet usually sleeps with you but has trouble jumping on the bed, buy pet stairs or a ramp to make getting into bed easier.

Regular veterinary visits are very important as your pet ages. If it's been six months or more since we have seen your furry friend, give us a call to schedule an appointment.

Sources:

PetMD: How to Care for Senior Pets
http://www.petmd.com/dog/centers/nutrition/slideshows/how-to-care-for-senior-pets

AVMA: Senior Pet Care (FAQ)
https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/Caring-for-an-Older-Pet-FAQs.aspx

Petfinder: Caring for Your Senior Pet
https://www.petfinder.com/dogs/dog-care/senior-dog-care/

ASPCA: Dog Nutrition Tips
http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/dog-nutrition-tips

Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice: Nutrition for Aging Cats and Dogs and the Importance of Body Condition, May 2005

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15833567

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Testimonial

Don't take a good vet for granted, that's what I say. I currently live in another state and have taken my 10 year old dog to numerous vets over the years (California, Colorado, Vegas, and then some). Never have I ever received the attention and care I've gotten w/Dr. Hines. Within the past 3 months alone, my dog went to 3 different vets for a horrible and painful skin problem that broke out all over her body.

The first vet: I spent more time ponying up the $175 for the visit than the Dr. spent actually looking at my dog. He performed a woods lamp exam for ringworm. Even without Google or a veterinary degree, I could tell it wasn't ringworm. Thanks for taking my money.
Second vet: "Here's some spray, now here's your bill. Bring her back in two weeks so I can charge you another visit." No tests, nothing.
Between the two, I felt like I got nowhere. No definitive answer on why this affected my dog and the medication given wasn't even for a diagnosed condition. Just some general topical spray. I could have bought it at Petsmart and saved myself the time and money.
Recently, on a visit to Idaho, I planned ahead to bring my dog to the Rupert Animal Clinic. I asked the same questions, had the same concerns and now have different results. Dr. Hines gave me options on what route to take, ran appropriate tests and communicated with me every step of the way (even calling me personally when test results came in). My primary concern was cancer. Our dog is like our child- we'll pay the money if we can keep her healthy and safe. In the future, I've resolved to bring my dog to Rupert Animal Clinic on our annual trip for all of her exams. I know she won't be treated as a little cash cow to exploit an owner's love for pets.

Sung L.
Rupert, ID

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