Loving Your Senior Pet
- Thursday, 15 March 2012
As a dog owner, you are conscientious about your pet’s healthy diet and exercise routine. As he ages, it is important to be aware of his day-to-day demeanor and habits. Caring for an aging pet often requires some special considerations and adjustments to a daily routine. With a little extra TLC, you will help ensure that he lives out as much of a long, healthy, and comfortable life as possible.
What Does “Senior” Mean?
There has been much discussion among experts about how to determine the age of dogs. The most commonly used estimate is the “7-7 rule” that implies dogs and cats age 7 times faster than humans. While the ratio is actually more complex than this, it is important to know that your furry family member does age significantly faster than you, and may begin to show signs of slowing down around the age of seven.
While there really is no one method to determine “senior” status, what has been confirmed is that the size of dog and breed affects age progression significantly. Notably, large breed dogs have a shorter life expectancy and can be considered “senior” sooner than most medium and smaller breeds. Breed often plays a role in the rate of age progression, as some breeds are more susceptible to age related ailments.
Most Common Challenges Senior Pets Face
As pets age, the percentage of fat increases and muscle decreases. A healthy diet is critical at this stage of life. Talk to your veterinarian about how many calories are appropriate for your senior pet. In addition to affecting cardiovascular health, extra weight can exacerbate joint and mobility issues. Consider switching from high calorie dog biscuits to vegetables or low calorie treats.
Veterinarians often also see bone, and cartilage tissue decrease as a dog ages. This can cause progressive joint disease, and most commonly arthritis. Supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin, which are available in a pill form or as an additive in treats, have been shown to promote joint heath. Regular exercise can also help keep arthritis at bay, in addition to maintaining a healthy weight. If your senior dog is already showing signs of mobility problems, there are now senior friendly mobility harnesses on the market that can aid keeping up regular walks. Dog massage can also be extremely therapeutic for sore joints and muscles. A handheld pet massager is an easy way to incorporate targeted massage into your daily petting routine.
Other signs that your pet is transitioning to senior status may include itchy skin, dry eyes, footpad callouses, or brittle nails. Keep your eye out for subtle symptoms and be prepared to ask questions at your next veterinarian check up.
Signs Your Pet is Uncomfortable or In Pain
Because pets do not communicate pain, it is important to pay close attention to daily habits. Is he sleeping more often than normal? Do you notice any lumps on his skin? Is his skin itchy or are his eyes bloodshot? Is he wetting the bed at night? Aging pets also tend to experience more digestive upsets. Many common signs of joint or bone pain may include favoring a limb, difficulty standing or sitting, seeming “stiff” or “sore” and being reluctant to jump or run. Consult your pet’s veterinarian at the earliest signs of these or any other unusual changes in behavior.
Researching your dog’s breed is the key to awareness. Pay close attention to your furry friend’s behavior, ability to keep up with you while playing or walking, and general day-to-day eating habits. Your dog has been your pal and friend for many years and keeping him comfortable and healthy will make his senior years more enjoyable for both of you.