Dogs and cats who reach their senior years often need help to stay happy, healthy, and comfortable, but your extra love and care can transform your pet’s final life stage into their most enjoyable yet. Our Westerville Veterinary Clinic team has the tools and knowledge to help you support your aging pet’s changing needs. Simple changes can majorly impact pet health, so we’ve compiled our list of favorites to help pet owners.
#1: Prioritize routine senior pet veterinary visits
Although age itself is not a disease, older pets are at greater risk for developing many common health conditions, such as hormonal disorders, kidney disease, cancer, or heart disease. Thorough semi-annual examinations and routine screening tests, including blood work and urinalysis, can help to detect these diseases in their earliest stages and improve treatment response. Older pets also still require vaccines and year-round parasite control to maintain good health.
#2: Keep up with senior pet dental care
Dental disease is painful and can reduce your four-legged friend’s quality of life. Additionally, the oral bacteria that perpetuate gum inflammation and tooth loss can seep into the bloodstream and cause distant organ damage, shortening an older pet’s remaining time. We understand that many pet owners are concerned about anesthetizing their geriatric pal for a dental cleaning, but the risks are about the same as for younger pets, so long as a complete pre-anesthetic workup is performed. For most pets, untreated dental disease is more risky than anesthesia.
#3: Schedule daily physical and mental exercise for your senior pet
Daily exercise and mental stimulation are proven to reduce a pet’s risk for cognitive dysfunction, a condition similar to human dementia. Exercise also helps maintain joint health, muscle tone, and a healthy body weight. Daily “sniff-a-thon” walks, light play sessions, and training sessions are good options for most senior pets, while many dog sports offer special competition “masters” divisions for super-fit, active seniors.
#4: Amp up your senior pet’s grooming routine
As pets get older, they are more likely to develop health issues that affect their skin or haircoat. You may need to increase your dog’s bath frequency—medicated shampoos are helpful for greasy or scaly skin conditions—or schedule more frequent groomer visits. Cats may groom less if they suffer from arthritis and may require frequent brushing and occasional bathing or shave-downs to prevent painful hair matting.
#5: Minimize senior pet stress
Most senior pets want to stick to a consistent, predictable daily routine that minimizes their stress. Try to avoid sudden changes in routine, boarding facility trips, or adding new puppies or kittens to the home. Hire a knowledgeable pet sitter when you travel, so your pet can remain in the comfort of their familiar, quiet home.
#6: Modify your senior pet’s living space
Many older pets develop mobility problems from arthritis or struggle with vision or hearing loss. Ensure you bring any of these changes to our veterinary team’s attention, so we can implement a treatment plan that keeps them comfortable. Home modifications can also help. Try the following:
- Place rugs or runners on slippery floors for traction
- Block off stairs
- Avoid moving furniture
- Add comfy beds around the house
- Add litter boxes to each house level
- Ensure easy access to food and water
- Place pet stairs or ramps near favorite furniture to increase accessibility
#7: Monitor your senior pet’s quality of life
Senior pets who develop chronic diseases should be monitored for significant changes in their quality of life, such as the pet’s ability to stay nourished and hydrated, maintain a healthy weight, move around without pain, and interact with family members. If you feel your pet’s quality of life is suffering, our veterinarians can guide you through end-of-life decision-making. We can also provide a quality-of-life scale to use at home for easy day-to-day comparisons.
Senior pets are family members who deserve the same respect and treatment as human family elders. Support your pet as they move through life by providing ongoing veterinary care and making adjustments to ensure their comfort and safety. Contact the Westerville Veterinary Clinic to schedule your senior pet’s next wellness visit and screening tests, or for more tips on helping senior pets thrive.