Watching our fur babies get older is one of the hardest things about being a pet parent. Luckily, there are many things you can do to help your pet live their best life throughout their golden years. Here are our top tips for taking care of an aging pet.
How Old Is a Senior Pet?
The adage about one dog year being equivalent to 7 human years isn’t quite accurate, especially since larger dog breeds age faster than cats or small dogs. In general, giant dog breeds like Newfies, Great Pyrenees, and Bernese Mountain Dogs are considered to be seniors as young as 5 or 6, while cats and smaller dogs are typically classified as seniors around 8-10 years of age. When in doubt, ask your vet whether your pet is considered a senior.
Watch Out for New Symptoms
Aging is a slower process than you might expect, so you should always be on the lookout for minor symptoms before they turn into large problems. You should be aware of problems common to all older dogs as well as some more breed-specific problems.
For example, Pit Bulls, Labs, Goldens, German Shepherds, and other large dog breeds are more susceptible to hip dysplasia, arthritis, and other joint problems than smaller breeds. Brachycephalic (flat-faced) dog breeds like Bulldogs, Frenchies, and Pugs are more prone to breathing problems like a collapsing trachea.
Always take note of any changes you see in your dog and bring your concerns to your vet (sooner than later). Things to look for that could indicate potential problems include:
Drinking more or less water than usual
Sleeping more than normal
Lumps or bumps
Reduced energy levels
Go to the Vet Twice a Year
When your fur child was younger, yearly vet visits were fine to update your kitty or pup’s vaccinations and check for common health issues. Once your pet becomes a senior citizen, though, you should start bringing them to the vet twice a year for checkups. Many health issues are treatable when caught early but deadly when caught late.
Accommodate Mobility Issues
Like humans, pets tend to struggle with joint pain, arthritis, and other mobility issues as they age. Look for signs that your pet is having a harder time getting around and adjust your home to accommodate them. You might use ramps in place of stairs or provide steps for your dog to get into your bed or onto the sofa. Additionally, an orthopedic pet bed can help cushion aching joints.
Manage Their Safety
As animals get older, they may lose their eyesight or become confused. Use baby gates to block off stairs they could fall down and keep an eye out for other potential risks like fire pits or swimming pools that could cause potentially fatal pet falls.
Keep Up With Their Hygiene
Brushing and bathing your pet, along with trimming their nails and brushing their teeth, becomes even more important as they age. Not only is it harder for your pet to clean themselves, but neglecting your pet’s hygiene can cause serious health consequences.
Failing to brush your dog’s teeth, for example, can not only lead to bad breath and tooth loss, but bacteria that live under your pup’s gumline can actually enter their bloodstream and damage their heart, liver, and kidneys, which can be fatal.
Give Them Food Puzzles
As your fur child ages, they may not be able to tolerate long walks or runs anymore, but they still need physical and mental stimulation. Food puzzles, snuffle mats, treat balls, and lick mats are all excellent ways to keep your pet active without putting excessive strain on their joints.
Keep Them Warm
Senior dogs - especially those with short coats, such as Pit Bulls, Bulldogs, and Frenchies - may struggle to regulate their body temperature as well as they used to. While shivering may indicate pain, it can also mean they’re cold. Keep your beloved pet warm with a stylish hoodie or sweater if they seem to get cold easily.
Love Them to Pieces
Last, but certainly not least, love your aging pet, spoil them (in healthy ways), and just appreciate their presence while they’re still with you. Unfortunately, our fur kids don’t live as long as we do, so it’s all the more important to love them as much as possible while we can.