Pet life expectancy has doubled in the past fifty years. The reasons for this include improvements in pet nutrition, use of supplements and more frequent veterinary exams. In addition, the development of new medications has greatly improved our pets’ lives and longevity.
As our beloved pets grow older, they have some of the same aging challenges that we encounter. Offering a healthy diet, following a regular exercise routine and keeping up with annual doctor visits are a few easy things everyone can do for their pets.
It is vital that your senior pet maintain their measured intake of food and water. Weight control has been shown to add 2 years to a dog’s lifespan. Your veterinarian may recommend a specific senior or prescription diet based on your pet’s needs. Supplements such as glucosamine and fish oil may be useful in some pets with arthritis.
Pay close attention to your pet’s eating habits. Are they eating less than normal? Are they drinking more or less water? Changes in eating and drinking habits are an important clue that a medical condition may need to be addressed. Discuss any changes with your veterinarian.
While you may want to give your older pet a break from activities, regular exercise is an important part of keeping up your pet’s quality of life. Exercise slows the progression of aging. Also, maintaining regular physical fitness with your pet can help to keep their mental and emotional health sharp. Laser pointers, scratching posts and stringed feathers are all great ways to exercise your indoor cat. Taking frequent short walks is a great, low-impact activity for older dogs and swimming is easy on old joints.
Older pets should have physical exams more than once each year. When your pet reaches the equivalent of 50 human years (7 years of age for dogs and 10 years for cats), it is time to increase the frequency of exams. You and your veterinarian can decide when this becomes a necessity.
Many pets develop at least one serious condition in their senior years, so keeping up with their regular physical exams is important. Upon completing a physical exam and gathering history about your pet, your veterinarian may recommend blood and urine testing to detect and evaluate any problems. Early detection is the best way to protect your pet and give them the best chance possible of recovering from a treatable disease or support the aging process.
Know the common signs of aging: stiffness or limping, decreased activity, poor hearing, changes in hair coat, changes in appetite and thirst. Should you see any of these signs in your pet, tell your veterinarian. When detected early, arthritis, cancer, dental disease, kidney disease, heart disease and hormone imbalance can be improved, treated or supported.
Prevention is the key to your pet’s overall health. By careful monitoring, attention to any changes and providing proper nutrition and exercise, you are on the right path to assisting your beloved pet into their senior years.