By Leslie Campos, Contributor
(Image courtesy of Reba Spike on Unsplash)
It’s hard to watch your best furry friend get older, especially if they experience health problems. While there’s no way to turn back time, you can find ways to care for your aging pet and keep them as healthy as possible. Check out this guide to caring for your elderly animal and enjoying the time you have left together.
Make Taking Medications Easier
Many elderly pets wind up needing medication to keep them comfortable and pain-free. Administering medications is one of the trickiest things about pet care, but there are methods to make it easier.
Common ways to administer pills include hiding them in food, using a special pill treat, or even flavouring medicines to mask the medicinal taste. If your pet struggles to take medication or cannot chew a treat, flavourings could be a saving grace.
Speak to your veterinarian about alternative prescriptions, such as a liquid suspension versus capsules. Also, ask your pet’s pharmacy about flavouring possibilities; some offer compounded prescriptions that result in flavoured medications your pet will accept.
Choose the Perfect Products
Spoiling your pet isn’t as easy when treats are off the table. Fortunately, there are still ways to pamper your beloved pet in their senior years if food is a challenge. From toys to comfort items to household helps, look for ways to make life easier and more fun for your pet.
Many elderly dogs still enjoy playing, and activities like swimming, leisurely walks, and hide and seek with treats are simple to do with dogs of all ages. Soft chew toys and cozy bedding also make great treats for senior pets.
Before you start shopping, look for websites that offer product reviews from vets. While anyone can write reviews, reviews from veterinarians confirm that your product picks are healthy and safe.
Seek Ways to Support Mobility
Older pets—dogs, especially—often develop mobility issues as they age. Large dog breeds may also develop mobility problems sooner. Incorporating pet mobility aids and making your home senior-friendly makes life easier for critters and humans.
For example, one must-do tip for senior dog care is to use carpets or rugs in pet areas. Wood, laminate, and tile create a slip hazard, and wet floors are even more treacherous. Keep the floors dry and confine your elderly pet to a carpeted area for safety.
Some pets may benefit from non-slip booties, while less mobile dogs could use a mobility harness or sling for support. Carpeted stairs to their favorite window, sleep spot, or couch can boost your pet’s independence and quality of life.
Explore Pet Insurance
While most humans have health insurance, pet health coverage is less common though just as important. Veterinary care quickly adds up, but comprehensive pet insurance may help cover your pet’s treatment, medications, and even surgery.
Note that while insurance coverage is generally limited to dogs and cats, there are coverage possibilities at different price points. Not every pet will qualify, and senior animals often age out of the insurance range, but it’s worth checking out. Check with your pet’s veterinarian to see whether they offer payment programs or discounts, too. Everything adds up, and saving money could allow you to invest more in keeping your pet comfy and happy.
Reduce Stress at Home and Work
Pet parents whose critters exhibit anxiety or stress know that animals feed off their humans’ energy. NPR notes that various studies confirm emotional synchronization between pets and their owners, which can be both positive and negative. Minimizing stress for both of you is one way to promote health and wellness.
For humans, alleviating work stress might help you feel calmer at home. Working from home a few days per week serves a dual purpose of companionship with your pet, plus less commute and office-related stress. Exercise and relaxation are two other activities to enjoy with your dog or cat if they’re interested.
On days you have to leave for work, have a pet sitter check on your furry friend periodically. Monitor your pet for signs of stress, such as pacing, panting, dilated pupils, and yawning when they aren’t tired.
Speak to your vet if your pet seems to suffer from anxiety or consistent stress. Many older pets continue to show interest in where their humans are and what’s going on, but separation anxiety is a problem that needs treatment.
Spoil Your Pet (and Yourself)
Finding ways to treat your pet (and yourself) can help alleviate stress for you both. For many senior pets, food treats aren’t the healthiest option, and they may not be interested in toys or activities. Make the most of their golden years by dedicating time to things they enjoy.
If your cat loves to lie on the carpet where the sun shines through the window, join them for pets and cuddles. For dogs that love to ride in the car, plan a trip—whether to nowhere or somewhere—and let them look out the window along the way.
Feed Them a Nutritious Diet
Feeding your older dog a healthy diet is important for promoting overall well-being, slowing the effects of aging, and managing chronic health conditions. To maintain their health, seniors need high-quality food with inclusions tailored to their age, weight and activity level.
Look for foods high in proteins and essential fatty acids like fish oil. To help with your search, consider grain-free kibble. This can be an excellent option because it’s easier to digest and contains fewer carbohydrates than other types of dog food.
Keep Up with Grooming Routines
Some pets love grooming, while others dislike the process. Depending on your pet’s preferences, consider adding to your grooming routine. At-home grooming can be a comfortable experience that gives you quality time with your pet.
For animals that enjoy and can handle a grooming salon trip, more frequent visits might be necessary to keep nails a safe length and fur tidy. However, for senior dogs with mobility problems, a mobile vet might be the most convenient and personal solution to keeping your pet looking their best.
In either case, senior dogs benefit from quick yet gentle grooming sessions, says Animal Behaviour College. Tune in to your pet’s comfort level and ensure they aren’t overly stressed or uncomfortable. Helping your pet live out its golden years in comfort can be heartbreaking and rewarding. Spending time pampering your beloved furry friend is the best way to honour them in their final years. With this guide, you can ensure your pet lives a comfortable and happy life right to the end.