Due to advances in technology and medication, our pets are now living longer than ever before. It’s great for us, as it means we can spend longer with our beloved companions. However, it does also mean that we need to think harder about how to support them in their old age so that they can maintain a great standard of living and don’t start to suffer due to medical issues that are bound to develop. Veterinarians call this senior pet care.
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What’s Classed as ‘Senior’?
The age of your pet when they’re classified as ‘senior’ entirely depends on their species and state of health. An old dog, for example, may be much older than an old rabbit.
Typically cats are the longest living domestic house pet, reaching their senior years at anywhere between 12 and 15.
Dogs follow fairly closely, with their life expectancy, being between 9 and 14. Larger breeds of dog tend to live less time that smaller ones due to health issues developed as a result of strain on their limbs, back and organs.
Small breeds of dog have even been known to live up to 20 years old if they’re in good health.
Rodents, such as rabbits and guinea pigs have an average life expectancy of between 5-8 years, but smaller animals may only live an average of up to 3 years.
Depending on your pet’s species and breed, you should prepare ahead of time to understand when they may start to require adjusted schedules and extra medical treatment to help them maintain their lifestyle.
Common Pet Health Issues as they Age
There are a number of specific health issues that you should come to expect if you’re the owner of a senior pet.
As cells age, all pets are more at risk of lymphoma or cancers of the breast or bone. You should look out for lumps on your pet’s body or changes to movement or bowel movements which may indicate that there’s something wrong.
Although you should attempt to keep your pet’s teeth and gums clean throughout their lives, they will naturally deteriorate. This could cause pain when eating and mean that your pet struggles to take in enough nutrition.
If you pet is struggling to eat, it may mean that they need teeth removing or need to start eating softer foods.
Pains in the joints can hinder movement as your pet ages. This could mean that you’ll need to change their exercise routine to match with their state of health. Over exercising could cause more pain and discomfort.
Hearing or Sight Loss
You may notice hearing or sight loss purely because your pet isn’t as responsive as they used to be. These issues can rarely be treated, so you may need to make adjustments to their routine in order to accommodate.
As your pet ages, they are likely to lose their memory and could become anxious or scared easily, just like people. You can help them to cope with this by maintaining the structure and decoration of your house and keeping a strict routine.
How to Make Adjustments to Your Home
If your pet has mobility, sight or hearing issues, there are certain things that you can do to help them cope.
- Try to keep your furniture in the same place. This reduces the confusion your pet will feel and will make them less anxious.
- If your pet now struggles to climb stairs, try to move their food and bed downstairs so that they have access to everything easily.
- Ensure you maintain a strict routine for feeding. Keep the same time each day so that your pet’s body can adjust and so they don’t become anxious about where their next meal is coming from.
- If they usually jump up on the sofa, you may need to start assisting them up and down when they want to cuddle.
Changes to Veterinary Care
As your pet ages, they are likely to need much more veterinary care and medication. This can become expensive and more difficult to manage, especially if your pet struggles with mobility.
The best option, if your vet offers the opportunity, is to sign up for veterinary homecare. This is where your vet will make house calls to assess your pet and administer medication.
It provides your pet with a stress free option, making them comfortable during treatment as they can be in a place that they know and also helps you out if you’re unable to transport your animal due to their mobility issues, or your own. For more details about senior care for pets, see here.
How You can Help Maintain Your Pet’s Health
Knowing that your pet is getting older can mean that you need to adapt your lifestyle a little to make them feel more comfortable.
Although your pet needs to stay fit and healthy, your normal exercise routine may be too much. You should let your pet set the pace. If you have a dog, only take short walks and perhaps more often so that their body has time to recover.
Your pet’s dietary requirements may change as they age because they may need more nutrition in certain areas to maintain their health. For example, more oils could be required in order to ease the joints.
You may also need to switch to softer food to maintain their teeth and gums.
It’s a great idea to consult your vet when your pet gets older to help understand what they need.
As your pet ages, they still require mental stimulation to keep their brain from deteriorating. You may need to buy addition toys or keep up training exercises in order to keep them healthy and maintain their routine.
Ensuring You Have Pet Insurance
Throughout your pet’s lifetime, it’s a great idea to get a good insurance policy to cover any illnesses or operations that your pet may require. However, it’s never more important than when they get old.
You will never really know when your pet will require medical assistance and it’s essential that you have the funds to cover it to keep them comfortable. For dogs and cats, insurance is a necessity, as their medical bills can build up quickly.
As your pet ages, make sure you have adequate cover in place and prepare for health issues in as many ways as possible to maintain their great quality of life.