Just because your pets have slowed down a bit doesn’t mean that they know they are getting older, but it does mean you need consider how to help your aging pets feel young again. Cats and dogs have trouble understanding when owners, out of concern for their pets’ health, try to curtail activity. There are many simple, inexpensive ways to help pets continue to enjoy themselves. Remember, depression and stress go hand in paw, and both can impact physical health.
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Aging Pets Need Appetite Stimulation
Today, you can find commercial foods designed to relieve disease symptoms and, in some cases, cure them. Even otherwise healthy pets often prefer softer foods during their golden years. Dogs and cats with missing teeth find them easier to eat, and pets with less smell-sense find wet foods more pungent and appealing.
Here’s a trick that can help: Warm up food in the microwave for 10 seconds. That increases the scent and can stimulate lagging appetites, especially in cats. You can also add warm water to dry kibble and run it in the blender for a familiar tasting but easy to eat meal.
Offer meals in small but frequent servings. For reluctant eaters, leaving food out all the time can “switch off” the appetite signals in the brain. Many cats, in particular, like to have their head and neck stroked while eating or to lick soft foods off your finger. Go ahead, spoil them!
Dogs tend to consider mealtime a social event. Try feeding your reluctant eaters at the same time you eat or keep the dog company until he finishes his meal.
Soothe Your Aging Pet’s Achy Joints
What if arthritis makes leaps painful? Many older dogs have trouble jumping into the car while older cats may start to struggle to leap up to their favorite perches. Moving a box or chair nearby helps give less athletic seniors the leg up they need. Pet products companies offer pet ramps for easy access to beds or automobiles, ensuring that your pet won’t miss out on activities they love just because they’re old.
A great product to consider is a glucosamine/chondroitin supplement. There are many different OTC products and treats that contain these powerful ingredients and your vet can recommend the best ones for your furry wonders.
Joints require movement to naturally lubricate these “body hinges” or they’ll become even more painful. Encourage gentle exercise. If your dog adores playing fetch, or kitty loves chasing a mouse toy, indulge them. Just keep the toy near the ground so they won’t have to jump.
Blind and Deaf Pet Tips For Aging Pets
Get creative and make the most of what your pet can still do. Deaf animals that still see often respond to hand signals, for example. Teach your dog that flashing the porch light means “dinner time” so he’ll still come running. Stomp your foot from across the room to alert him to your presence before petting him with the vibrations to avoid startling your deaf pet.
Blind pets rely on memory to safely navigate so avoid re-arranging furniture. Pet-proof the house to protect them from injury. Place baby gates to prevent tumbles down stairs and speak to your pet when you enter a room to announce your presence. Use pleasant scents like mint for cats or liverwurst for dogs to leave a “breadcrumb” trail from their bed to the potty or food bowl to help them find their way.
Aging Pets Need More Potty Breaks
Schedule extra bathroom breaks for your pets. Eat lunch at home to accommodate his needs or add a pet door. There are many kinds including some that only open to the specific pet’s microchip or collar tag, so you can manage who goes out.
Add extra litter boxes so your cat won’t have to hurry across the house to find relief. Be sure you have one on each floor of the house and at both ends. If your cat has problems with stairs, move them to one floor. Shallower boxes allow arthritic cats to climb in and out more easily. Alternatively, consider using plastic storage boxes. They come in all shapes and sizes, allowing you to find the one that works best for your cat family.
Older female dogs often have urinary accidents, particularly while asleep due to the loss of muscle tone in the muscles that control the bladder. They have no idea that it’s happened, and the condition has nothing to do with potty training.
If your dog is struggling with this, there are a few things that you can do to help her out. Pick up her water two hours before bedtime and take her out before you go to bed. Reduce cleanup by confining her to linoleum areas or protect carpet with sheets of plastic lined with Depend Undergarments to catch any accidents. If you have a washable dog bed, remove the cover, and insert the stuffing in a plastic garbage bag to protect the filler before putting the cover back over that.
Slow Down Your Aging Pet’s Senility Changes
Enriching your pet’s environment and stimulating him mentally acts like the fountain of youth for the brain. Puzzle toys, training games, and making the pet think improves cognitive function, delays the onset of senility, and improves memory.
So, treat your competition dog by going through some obedience drills so that he still feels like a winner. Take your dog hunting for the pure joy of being together again in the field. Cheer your cat on when she “kills” that toy mouse and make her some steps to get up to places she loves. Do a little extra prep for that road trip if your dog loves adventuring with you. Allow your pets to continue to participate in the things they love most and do what you can to make it easier on them.
Ultimately, pets live longer because we love them better. Today, dog and cat owners care – and care deeply – about the wellbeing of their animal companions. We know the love we share with our pets cannot be easily replaced and is a treasure to cherish and preserve.
Share this post with your pet-loving friends and family to help them provide their pet with the best possible “golden years”.