1- Cushioned bedding
Arthritic dogs and cats need somewhere to sleep comfortably. Provide thick bedding in multiple locations. Bedding is necessary for large dogs which easily compress thin bedding, putting stress on pressure points like the elbows.
2- Keep them warm
Skinny dogs and cats are much more sensitive to the cold. Consider giving them a hot water bottle to snuggle with on cold nights. Senior outdoor dogs should have the luxury of coming indoors on cold days. Their arthritis is made much worse in the cold, damp weather.
3- Tempt their appetite
Calorie requirements increase in geriatric animals. Pay attention to their weight and appetite. If they’re losing interest in kibble consider adding some canned food or low-fat human food like cooked veggies or lean meat to keep them interested
4-Stimulate their mind
Just like people if you don’t use it you’ll lose it. Buy some new toys or rotate toys so the old seems new again. Try a food puzzle or hide treats around the house for your pet to find them. Set aside time in your day to play with them.
5- Take them to the vet
Catching disease early is the key to keeping your senior pet healthy. A veterinarian can pick up on signs of illness before they are life threatening. Wellness blood work and urinalysis are important among the elderly catching problems in seemingly healthy animals.
6- Pay attention
Dogs and especially cats will hide pain and illness as part of their natural survival instinct. If you know your pet’s routines, you will notice any subtle changes quickly. Has your cat stopped jumping up to sit with you on the couch? Have you been lifting your Golden Retriever into the car for the last couple of months? This is not just “old age” these are signs of pain or illness.
7- Provide lots of fresh water
This may seem like an obvious tip, but there are many diseases in senior animals that cause an increase in thirst, such as renal disease. Dehydrated pets often have no appetite or energy. Keeping them well hydrated is critical. Consider buying your senior cat a water fountain which may increase water consumption.
8- Adjust your expectations, but don’t give up on them
Your senior dog may not be able to do 5 km walks anymore, but he will still enjoy a walk around the block. This keeps their mind stimulated and helps combat muscle loss.
9- Take them for a Pedicure
Geriatric animals do not wear down their nails as well as the young. Senior cats don’t maintain their nails properly as arthritis stops them from using their scratching post. Trim nails monthly to avoid nails growing into pads or long nails affecting ability to grip the slippery floor.
10- Be strong for them when they need you the most
Be aware of your pet’s quality of life, is it time to say good-bye? If you’re having a hard time with this decision, ask your veterinarian for help or start marking good days vs. bad on the calendar. Are they still enjoying life? Do they still greet you at the door? It truly is an act of love to peacefully and painlessly relieve the suffering of a beloved pet.
Written by North Hill Animal Hospital