As our pets age, we may struggle to understand their needs, and to ensure they are healthy and comfortable. If you’ve ever wondered what your senior pet would say if they could speak our language, you’re in luck. Emerald Animal Hospital shares five things your senior pet needs you to know, to help them enjoy their grey-muzzle years to the fullest. 

#1: “The pet food I eat matters more than ever.”

Your pet’s nutritional needs change with age. Adjusting their diet and adding supplements can support their health and comfort.

  • Senior food — Less activity and a slower metabolism can lead to weight gain, if you don’t adjust your pet’s caloric intake. Obesity is a common senior pet health issue, and can lead to the following problems:
    • Arthritis
    • Breathing issues
    • Diabetes
    • High blood pressure
    • Heart disease
    • Skin conditions
    • Cancer 

Senior-specific pet foods have fewer calories, and include age-related nutritional supplements. Your veterinarian can help you decide when your dog should switch from an adult to a senior diet.

  • Supplements  — Supplements can keep your senior pet more comfortable as they age. Many veterinarians recommend joint supplements with methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), glucosamine, and chondroitin, to help with arthritis and age-related discomfort.  Always speak with your veterinarian before adding supplements, to ensure that the ingredients won’t interfere with your pet’s current prescription medications.

#2: “Long walks make me dog-tired, but I still need exercise.”

Senior pets need regular exercise to stay healthy, but you may need to decrease the intensity and duration. Keeping your pet active has the following health benefits:

  • Weight management
  • Joint lubrication
  • Mental stimulation

If your pet develops pain or mobility difficulties, schedule an appointment with our veterinary team, to determine the cause of the problems and discuss alternative exercise routines. The following signs can indicate arthritis:

  • Favoring a limb
  • Difficulty sitting or standing
  • Sleeping more
  • Stiff or sore joints
  • Hesitancy to jump, run or climb stairs
  • Weight gain
  • Decreased activity or interest in play
  • Attitude or behavior changes, including increased irritability
  • Being less alert

#3: “Interactive pet toys keep my mind sharp.”

Similar to humans, your senior pet’s brain needs to stay active as they age. These simple activities are quick and easy, and can help lower your pet’s risk of cognitive dysfunction. 

  • Interactive games — Engaging toys, such as food puzzles, provide mental stimulation and slow down voracious eaters. 
  • New tricks — Contrary to popular belief, an old dog can learn new tricks, and practicing a new command engages their brain and strengthens your bond.
  • Hide and seek —  Hide your pet’s toy, and let them find it by following their nose.
  • Novel routes — Visit a new neighborhood for your daily walk, or travel in the opposite direction on your regular route. Allow your dog time to investigate new smells, and let them lead the way when appropriate. 

#4: “I need you to make our house more senior-pet friendly.”

Years ago, you puppy-proofed your home for your pet, and now you should modify your living space to meet your senior pet’s changing needs. Ensure their comfort with these upgrades:

  • Heated orthopedic bed — A heated orthopedic bed can support your pet’s joints, and provide relief from age-related discomfort. A new bed can also improve the quality of your pet’s sleep and overall health. Put your pet’s bed on a surface where they will have good traction, to avoid accidental falls or slips that could result in injury.
  • Elevated bowls An elevated bowl places less strain on your pet’s neck, hips, shoulders, and joints. 
  • Stairs and ramps — Jumping can be hard on your senior pet’s joints, and pet stairs will help them access the bed or couch. For the car, your senior pet will get in and out more easily with a foldable ramp. 
  • Nightlight — As your pet ages, their vision may decline. Place nightlights around your home, to help your senior pet navigate in the dark.

#5: “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I need to visit the veterinarian more often.”

As your pet ages, they become more susceptible to age-related health issues. We recommend biannual wellness exams, so signs of illness or other problems can be detected and treated early. Some of the most common conditions in senior pets include:

  • Arthritis — Degenerative joint disease can cause significant pain and mobility problems.
  • Dental disease — Brush your dog’s teeth regularly with a finger brush and dog-friendly toothpaste, and speak with your veterinarian if your dog displays these oral disease signs:
    • Bad breath
    • Excessive drooling
    • Gum inflammation
    • Loose teeth
  • Kidney disease — Aging pets are at increased risk for kidney disease, which cannot be cured, but can be controlled and managed with the correct diet and medication.

We are here to help you keep your senior pet happy and healthy throughout their grey-muzzle years. Contact our Emerald Animal Hospital team to schedule your senior pet’s wellness appointment.