Hats off to you for the great care you’ve given your pet! Thanks to you, they’ve reached the golden years. At this time, your TLC is especially vital. Here are ways to keep your precious friend comfy and well.
Schedule Vet Visits Every Six Months
With regular appointments, a doctor can identify and treat health problems in their early stages. Periodic blood work can reveal clues that might otherwise be missed. With timely medical care, some conditions are curable. Or, by catching disease at its onset, the progression can be slowed.
Along with biannual exams, vets recommend that dogs and cats receive professional dental cleanings once a year. Without them, the same oral bacteria comprising dental plaque can travel through the bloodstream, harming the liver, heart, and kidneys.
While vets suggest daily tooth brushing for dogs, this may not be feasible. In that case, offer dental treats, toys, or tartar-reducing food.
Obtain Specialized Medical Care
If your animal is purebred, it may be genetically prone to certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or arthritis. With an online search, you can verify whether this applies to your pet. If so, see a vet specializing in the care of your breed. For example, depending on breed genetics, you may want to have your pal examined by an ophthalmologist, cardiologist, dermatologist, or neurologist.
When a pet incurs an injury or surgery, a rehabilitation specialist can customize a therapy program to expedite healing. Some programs include acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, and water exercise. In the US, there are 40 specialty areas of veterinary medicine.
So, how do you locate a vet specialist? If your animal is under the care of a general practitioner, the doctor can likely refer you to a network specialist affiliated with the practice. If your vet can’t supply a referral, click on this link to Preventive Vet. Then, on the landing page, click on the blue link corresponding to the branch of medicine you need.
Note that a vet specialist is advisable if you have an “exotic pet,” meaning one other than a dog or cat. A general practitioner may not have the experience to treat an exotic pet, such as a guinea pig, parrot, or cockatiel.
Even if your animal has no signs of breed-specific illness, see a specialist for preventive care. Meanwhile, you can stay alert to any new symptoms requiring attention.
Be Vigilant with Medication
If your pet refuses to take a prescribed drug, tell your doctor right away. You can still get medicine into your friend. The vet can prescribe a compounded pet medication. Compounding is the pharmaceutical process of customizing medicine to a patient.
There are a few reasons why vets prescribe compounded drugs. A desired medication or dosage may not be commercially available. Or, the doctor may choose a different drug form that a pet is more likely to accept.
Compounding can change a drug from pill to liquid form, facilitating ingestion. It can also formulate a drug as a topical gel, expediting absorption. For oral medications, pharmacists can add flavoring or texture, disguising the drug as a treat. This way, you can entice your pal to comply with treatment. Compounding is a lifesaving technology for pets who’d otherwise reject medication.
Some progressive pharmacies use a Compounding Automated Ordering System. This paperless method enables vets to promptly fill prescriptions via computerized forms.
Automated ordering is also more efficient for doctors when they need to change or refill prescriptions. Computers retain prescription data, sparing doctors the need to re-enter information. In turn, you benefit from timely access to your pet’s medication. Here’s an example of a compounding pharmacy and ways drugs can be camouflaged, bypassing pet radar.
Adapt your Home and Care to Pet Needs
With aging, your pet may experience impaired mobility, hearing, vision, and cognitive function. Dogs and cats may develop incontinence. Here are ways to manage the changes.
Make high areas more accessible. When a favorite chair or bed becomes Mount Everest, place a cushion or box nearby, serving as a step. For an arthritic dog, a ramp facilitates entering the car or house.
If you have a cat or dog, a raised feeding station makes eating more comfortable. An orthopedic bed can reduce joint stiffness and pain. If your home tends to be drafty, choose a bed with a heating element. Get ready for kisses with this purchase!
Also, speak with your vet about supplements or medications that alleviate arthritis symptoms.
Protect a dog or cat from hazardous objects they might not see while navigating your home. For example, buffer sharp table corners. To prevent injury from falling objects, remove furniture items that could topple if your pet bumps into them.
Keep pathways clear leading to your pal’s food, bed, or litter box. When you’re unable to watch over your munchkin, keep them in a safe area, secured by a pet gate.
If you own a dog, you might teach the command “Watch,” which you can issue when nearing a hazard. To alert your pup when approaching stairs, teach “Step.” When walking a vision-impaired dog, keep them on a short leash, reducing stumbling risk.
Here’s good news! If your pet is diagnosed with cataracts, surgery can correct associated vision loss.
Unless your pet is very ill or frail, ensure daily exercise. To avoid joint and muscle strain, choose gentle activities and shorten playtime. With a dog, for example, opt for tug-of-war versus Frisbee chasing.
Encourage play by offering toys that make noise or have pleasing scents, like catnip for a kitty. Especially ideal for felines are “puzzle toys,” enticing them to hunt for the food tucked inside. If your schedule makes it difficult to exercise your sweetie, consider hiring a professional pet sitter.
Are you a dog owner with a pool? If so, invite your dog to swim, a nice low-impact activity for arthritic joints. If your pup has trouble staying afloat, apply a swim vest.
On hot days, be keenly attentive to a flat-faced or “brachycephalic” dog, keeping them cool. With less air intake through a short nose and inefficient panting, brachycephalic breeds are in danger of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Examples of such breeds are the Bulldog, Pug, Shih Tzu, Boston Terrier, and Shar-Pei.
For an incontinent dog, frequent walks may prevent household accidents. If unsuccessful, use doggy diapers, potty pads, and artificial grass mats, available online by Chewy and Amazon.
Since urine degrades skin, if you use diapers, you’ll need to change them frequently. If leaking mostly occurs during sleep, use an incontinence bed, made of moisture-wicking material that drains urine into a tray.
Signs of cognitive decline are disinterest, reduced alertness, and generalized anxiety. Additionally, a pet may forget its potty training. However, dementia is preventable.
One means to keeping your animal sharp is exercise, due to the mental stimulation it provides. Periodically introduce new toys, especially interactive ones. Food puzzles can engage a pet for long periods. To extract the treat from a puzzle, strategic thinking and moving are required!
Modify your Pet’s Diet
Ask your vet’s recommendation for a high-quality senior food formula. Tailored to aging pets, such food is nutrient dense, easily digested, and less caloric than regular pet food.
Note that aging dogs need more protein than middle-aged pups, to support waning muscle strength and immunity. A pet with heart disease should be on a low-sodium diet. One with kidney disease needs a diet that controls levels of calcium, phosphorus, and other electrolytes.
Some foods have remedial ingredients designed for senior pets. For instance, fish oil relieves joint inflammation. Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate fortify joint cartilage, reducing bone friction. Dental foods combat gum disease, averting tooth loss and extractions.
If your cutie is overweight, gradually downsize food portions. Hopefully, your pal won’t notice the change. A pet at a healthy weight has a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Continue the fabulous care you’ve showered on your pet. Schedule vet visits at least every six months. For advanced care, see a vet specialist, with in-depth knowledge of your pet’s breed and medical conditions. If your cutie refuses prescribed medicine, speak with your vet about a compounded alternative.
Take advantage of products that foster animal comfort, safety, and health. Among them are ramps, raised feeding stations, heated orthopedic beds, pet gates, puzzle and interactive toys, diapers, and potty pads. Even rugs and carpeting make a huge difference for arthritic joints.
To address specific medical conditions, speak with your vet about supplements, rehabilitative therapy, and special diets. During hot conditions, ensure that a brachycephalic dog remains cool. If you need assistance with animal care, hire a professional pet sitter.
Having read this article, hopefully you feel encouraged. May your pet enjoy a long and happy life!