Recommended Lifestyle Changes for Senior Cats and Dogs

As they age, pets have trouble seeing, hearing and moving as well as they once did, but they still have a lot of love to give.

As they age, pets have trouble seeing, hearing and moving as well as they once did, but they still have a lot of love to give. They just require a little extra care than younger cats and dogs. By making the small changes described below, you can help your pet age in comfort and good health.

A Stable Routine
Older pets are less tolerant of change than younger animals, and they tend to become anxious more easily. To help keep your older pet happy, maintain a regular routine for meals, walks and other daily activities. If you must make a change, do it slowly to avoid causing your pet unnecessary stress.

Regular Preventative Care
Because older pets are more likely to develop health problems than younger animals, regular veterinary care is important. Most veterinarians recommend that senior pets have wellness visits twice per year and blood work at least once per year. These visits allow veterinarians to detect and treat developing health problems in their early stages.

Household Changes
As your pet ages, consider making some of the following adjustments to your home to make your pet more comfortable:

  • Putting your pet’s bed, food and litter box on a single floor to minimize or eliminate the need for the animal to climb stairs.
  • Adding nightlights around the house if your pet begins to have problems seeing in low light.
  • Adding ramps or stairs where needed to allow your pet to reach favorite perches.
  • Removing obstacles and clutter from floors to help your pet navigate the house.

Temperature Control
A senior pet may have trouble regulating its body temperature. This means that older dogs and cats are more sensitive to heat, humidity and cold than younger animals. To keep your older dog or cat comfortable and safe, keep the animal inside with the heat or air conditioner running as needed. Also, be sure to provide a warm bed or blanket in an accessible area of your home.

Feeding Changes
Senior Diets
As animals age, their metabolisms slow, and their digestive systems become less efficient at absorbing nutrients. To ensure that your pet receives adequate nutrition, consider switching the animal to a specially formulated senior diet. You should also ask your veterinarian whether or not your pet needs dietary supplements to remain in good health.

Most veterinarians recommend switching cats, small dogs and medium dogs to senior diets when they are seven years old or older. Large dogs should start eating senior diets when they are five or six years old.

Food Type
Feeding Frequency
Older pets often have trouble digesting large meals. Consider feeding your pet three or more small meals per day instead of feeding the animal one or two large meals.

Older animals are more prone to dehydration than younger animals, so paying attention to hydration is important as your pet ages. We recommend that you continue to feed your pet predominantly dry food to help with tartar build up and other dental issues that can become more prevalent with senior animals, but substituting some wet food occasionally can help ensure your pet is hydrated.

Ensure you always have water with you on any outings your pet takes with you, and continuously refresh their bowl at home.

Careful Handling
Older pets are more fragile than younger animals. Their hearing and eyesight are often diminished, and they are slower to heal from injuries than younger pets. To avoid accidentally injuring your older dog or cat, consider the following suggestions:

  • Avoid rough play.
  • Carefully monitor interactions between children or younger animals and senior pets.
  • Avoid sudden movements around senior animals.
  • Use care when lifting or carrying senior pets.
  • Never touch an older dog or cat until you are sure the animal has seen or heard your approach.
  • Use head collars or harnesses instead of neck collars when walking older dogs.
  • Use care when combing and brushing older pets.

Have a Question About Your Senior Dog or Cat?

Contact our clinic to speak with a member of our team about special considerations for older puts.

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