Caring For Your Senior Pet: A Checklist
For most pet owners, our pets become family. Regardless of whether they have been a part of your family since they were weaned or if they are a newer addition, senior pets capture our hearts. However, owning a senior pet is no small feat; they require a lot of special attention and care to remain healthy.
Senior Pets Need Proactive Owners
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), preventative care beats reactive care. This is especially true for senior pets. "Senior pet" means different things, and is heavily age and breed dependent. For example, large dogs over 100 pounds are considered seniors when they are 6, as they will rarely live past 10 years of age. For small to medium dogs, you should start considering them a senior around age 10.
Cats are different as well. While they usually live longer than dogs, cats should be considered seniors around the 10 year year mark. These distinctions are made by the AVMA, and are important for your pet's wellness. While younger pets can recover easily in many cases, illness takes a heavy toll on senior pets. Preventing diseases from developing, and catching them early when and if they do, allows you to ensure your pet receives the best possible care.
To help your pet live their best life, as healthily as possible, follow this checklist.
"According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, preventative care beats reactive care when it comes to senior pets." TWEET THIS
Senior Pet Care Checklist
During your next regular check up, be sure to discuss the following things with your veterinarian. Keeping on top of these items will help you keep your senior pet healthy.
- Dental Health. Many owners do not think their pets need dental work; however, just like humans, pets need their teeth cleaned. It's important to note that dental problems do not just appear and then stop, especially when gums are impacted. According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), dental problems can also lead to other systemic issues and diseases. Make sure dental exams are a part of your senior care routine.
- Diet, Nutrition, and Weight Control. We love our pets, and spoiling them is easy. However, older pets are more susceptible to disease; therefore, it is imperative that owners pay attention to what pets eat. This includes discussing supplements, additives, digestibility, and even caloric content with your vet. Since older pets are generally less active than their younger counterparts, ensuring they remain at a healthy weight helps ensure their heart stays healthy too.
- Parasite Control and Vaccination. You may be familiar with flea and tick medicine, but you will also need to watch for other parasites. Follow your veterinarian's recommendations for testing and preventing parasitic infections, as these can be devastating to a senior pet. Compromised immune systems can be much deadlier for older pets. However, not all pets will require every vaccination; this depends on environment, climate, and age. Discuss updating vaccines with your vet, per AVMA recommendations.
- Keep Your Pet Moving. Just like people, when pets slow down they age faster. While their bones are weaker, there are many ways to keep your pet active and healthy. One way to do this is to incorporate movement therapy.
- Pay Attention To Mental Health Too. Mental health is easy to overlook, in both people and pets. Keeping your pet mentally stimulated helps preserve their mental health. This should be balanced with routine though, as too much new stimuli can negatively impact your pet's health.
- Be Prepared To Change Their Environment. Like older people, older pets sometimes need accommodations. This may include changing where they sleep, helping them avoid stairs or difficult terrain, or other changes. Senior pets who have a disability will need special accommodations that you should discuss with your vet.
- Watch for Reproductive Issues and Schedule Regular Checkups. Senior pets who were never neutered or spayed will likely experience some distress in their reproductive organs. There are a variety of different but potentially fatal problems that can arise during senior years; regular checkups can help you and your vet keep an eye on your pet. For senior pets, regular checkups should happen every 6 months--once a year just isn't enough. Catching problems early is important. Increased veterinarian oversight and care can only add to your pet's life.
- Consider Stem Cell Therapy. This form of therapy is a revolutionary new tool that veterinarians can use to give your pet a longer, less painful life. Pets who suffer from arthritis, hip dysplasia, and other degenerative diseases have found relief and increased quality of life after incorporating this treatment option. This treatment option should be backed by state-of-the-art procedures and a veterinarian with experience for best results.
Caring for senior pets can be difficult, but it is very emotionally rewarding. They give us some of their best years, so we care about ensuring their last years are comfortable. For more information about how to properly care for your senior pet, or to schedule a check-up, contact us today. We will guide you through this time in your pet's life with caring and compassion, helping you help them enjoy their last years.
About Dr. Natalie Waggener
Dr. Natalie Waggener has 17 years of experience in emergency work and general practice in Rhode Island, Florida and Massachusetts. She has a special interest in dentistry, wellness care and rehabilitation therapy. She is currently licensed in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island.