This month we’re talking about the health of older pets. Here are a few things to think about if you have an older pet. As vets, we tend to consider that cats and dogs become senior around the age of 8, but of course our pets are likely to age at different rates and may be affected differently by the ageing process.
Diet and weight
As our pets get older they can start to put on weight. Age tends to bring with it lower levels of exercise, and fewer calories being burned. Specialist senior diets are often lower in calories and help older pets to control their weight. Once your pet reaches around 8 years old, it’s important to have regular consultations with your vet to make sure your pet has the right diet. It’s also possible for older pets to lose weight. Weight loss or gain may not just be down to old age, so it’s always worth getting any changes in weight levels checked out.
Joints and muscles
Age can cause deterioration in a pet’s joints and muscles. A run around the park might become a walk around the block for dogs. And you might find your cat is sleeping more and climbing trees less. Especially if your pet is suffering from joint pain such as arthritis. Pets which struggle to run and jump like they used to may be in pain. Even things like getting onto the sofa can become a chore for older pets, but treatments are available to help them regain some of their mobility. Even older pets will benefit from exercise – just at a gentler pace. For dogs, two or three short walks a day can be easier on joints than one long walk.
You may notice changes in the behaviour of your older pets. For example, they may become disorientated more easily, may sleep more during the day and wake in the night and lose interest in interacting with the people around them. However, older pets are still likely to enjoy play, and you should still have plenty of toys on hand to keep them entertained. Food puzzles or maze bowls can keep dogs stimulated and ensure they don’t get bored. Cats should still enjoy playing with toys too, but may not always be in the mood.
To ensure your older pets receives the best care, keep an eye out for changes in their body condition and behaviour and get in touch if you notice anything out of the ordinary.