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Natural Awakenings Fairfield Cty/Housatonic Valley, CT

Enhancing Quality of Life for Senior Pets

Oct 02, 2014 03:44AM ● By Mary Oquendo

All of us age. However, our pet companions age much faster than we do. It almost seems like they were a puppy or kitten one day and a senior pet the next. By instituting some basic changes, we can help them age gracefully rather than struggling.

Dietary Changes

Since most senior pets are not as active, they require fewer calories. The primary reason many senior pets are overweight is because the owner has not accounted for this change. Your pet should be fed a premium, high-quality food which is easier on their digestive system than food with fillers and extra sugars. 

However, a senior pet may become underweight if their teeth are in poor shape because it becomes painful to eat. Fillers and sugars found in cheaper pet foods are harmful to their teeth. Talk to your veterinarian if you suspect this has become an issue for your pet.

As your senior pet ages, his body may not be as efficient at absorbing nutrients, even if fed high-quality food. Your pet may need additional supplements. Look for the NASC seal on the label. The National Animal Supplement Council seal assures that the labeling is accurate. 

A senior pet may have chronic medical conditions which require a specific diet. Before changing your pet’s diet, discuss their needs with a veterinarian who has training in nutrition.

Mental Stimulation

Since your senior pet is not as active, provide mental stimulation for them in the form of toys. Ones that require them to think for the treat are especially beneficial.

Loud noises and chaotic environments may stress your pet even if the same situations did not bother him in the past. Your senior pet may enjoy soothing music played throughout the day. 

Take a day trip with your dog. Go to a park and enjoy the day at his pace. Even though senior dogs may not be able to romp and jump, they still enjoy recreation time with you.

Exercise

Senior pets may not have the stamina that their younger self possessed. Walks and other forms of outdoor activity should be shorter, as well as take place in early morning or evening during warmer weather. Elderly or immune-compromised pets are more susceptible to heat stroke. A substitute for outdoor activity can be found in the form of exercise equipment. DogTread makes indoor equipment to strengthen muscle and stamina.

Mobility

Older pets may have a tough time getting around. There are ramps designed to help pets onto the bed or into a car.

Place rug runners on wood floors. Wood floors are slippery and can injure an arthritic pet while trying to walk or stand up on them.

Use orthopedic beds. There is a difference in beds priced at $30 compared to those at $75. Generally, the more expensive beds use higher quality materials and last longer.

There are carts and strollers designed for any size pet.

Grooming needs will change. For some pets, it will become more frequent while other pets will need less. Your personal professional pet groomer is the best person to discuss their changing needs with. Regardless, all nails should be trimmed. Long nails may throw off their spinal alignment causing discomfort and exacerbate arthritis. The hair on the bottom of their pads should be trimmed. If not, it can make it difficult for an arthritic pet to stand up.

Health

Medical conditions can seemingly occur overnight. The sooner a health concern is addressed is directly proportionate to the rate of possible recovery. Your veterinarian can recommend an interval for wellness checks based on your pet’s needs. Older pets may lose use of their senses such as hearing and sight. For dogs on electronic fences that really rely on visual boundaries, losing their sight may be especially problematic. If the pet cannot see the end of the property, they may inadvertently run into a busy street.

Supplement modern veterinary care with energy work such as Reiki or crystal therapy, which are both gentle and non-invasive.

With a little bit of love and some adjustments to your household, an older pet can truly enjoy the golden years.

Mary Oquendo is a Reiki master, advanced crystal master and certified master pet tech pet first aid instructor. She is the co-owner of Hands and Paws-Reiki for All in New Milford. She can be reached at HandsAndPawsReiki.com.