You may have noticed that your aging pet isn’t quite as spry as they used to be. Maybe they’re slower to jump up and play, or they get a little lost in the house. You might find your mature animal thirstier than usual, or less hungry.
A wonderful advantage of veterinary and nutritional advances is that our pets have longer life expectancies. We get more quality time with them, and better care.
The opposite side of that coin is that a long life doesn’t necessarily equal quality of life. Aging comes with its own sets of challenges for animals just as it does with us.
How do we care for older pets? What are the primary concerns we should keep in mind, and what symptoms or warning signs can we be on the lookout for? How can we give our beloved pets comfortable and happy golden years?
When Is a Pet “Old?”
We know dog years and cat years aren’t quite the same as human years. But what exactly constitutes “old” for a pet?
The American Veterinary Medical Association considers cats and small dogs 7 years of age, and large dogs of 6 to be geriatric. 7 years for a cat and 6 for a large dog equals roughly 54 in human years.
We wouldn’t really consider a human in their 50s to be geriatric, and some experts say that a dog isn’t really considered senior until they’re closer to 10 years old. However, 6–7 is the age when it’s important to start keeping an eye out for symptoms of age-related health issues.
Common Aging Issues
Your pet is unique. You’ve lived closely with them long enough to know that no other animal on earth is quite like them. They have their own likes and dislikes, distinct personality, and ways of showing affection.
While every animal is different, there are certain conditions that typically accompany aging. Some of these are common to particular breeds, and some are the simple marks of maturity, thanks to slowing metabolisms and a lifetime of activity.
Managing a healthy weight is critical to your older pet’s health.
As pets age, their metabolisms begin to slow, and they tend to become more sedentary. Exercise and proper nutrition are key to keeping dogs and cats from putting on excessive weight. Obesity in animals can lead to health and respiratory problems, as well as arthritis and muscle pain.
At the other end of the spectrum, weight loss can also be a result of aging. Some animals lose their appetites, and this loss of appetite is often a sign of a deeper health problem.
Whether your pet gains or loses weight, any major change should be addressed with your vet.
Vision and Hearing
Pets can grapple with vision and hearing loss due to aging.
Animals can’t simply ask us to repeat ourselves, so what can sometimes seem like sudden hearing loss is often the result of a gradual process.
Aging pets are prone to vision issues like glaucoma, retinal atrophy and cataracts.
It’s important to watch for signs of vision and hearing problems, such as ears not twitching or startle reflexes not responding to sudden noises, or bumping into new obstacles.
The immune systems of senior pets aren’t as strong as in their youth. As a result, external parasites like fleas and ticks present an even greater risk, and internal parasites like heartworms and intestinal parasites can be devastating.
Proactive parasite prevention both inside and out is vital. And we mean inside and outside the home, as well as inside and outside your pet. Scoop that poop, put on those flea collars, and practice good hygiene.
Arthritis and Osteoporosis
Aging pets can develop painful chronic conditions in their joints and bones. Some dog breeds, like dachshunds and German shepherds, are particularly prone to certain bone and cartilage issues. More cats suffer from osteoporosis than dogs, but both animals commonly face arthritis.
Good nutrition and supplements, as well as regular exercise and an attentive veterinarian are your best bets for preventing and treating bone and joint conditions.
Dry and Irritated Skin, Paws and Noses
As dogs age, their skin can dry and crack, particularly on the paw pads and the nose. This not only creates irritation and discomfort, it also makes them susceptible to infection.
A good balm can help your pet maintain skin moisture in these crucial areas. Pet CBD Balm not only gives a soothing blend of broad spectrum CBD, but also hemp seed oil, salmon oil, shea butter, and other effective ingredients.
Proactive Pet Care
So, what are the things we can do to help our mature pets live their best lives?
First and foremost, consult your veterinarian regularly. Don’t skip checkups, and be sure to report any injuries or concerns promptly. Catching a limp today can save you and your pet a lot of trouble in the future.
Veterinary care is especially important in catching serious illnesses before they can develop. Animals are prone to kidney disease, heart problems and cancer, just like humans. Be sure to keep an eye out for symptoms of serious illness, and report them to your vet immediately.
Your vet is also a good source of advice on age-appropriate exercise and nutrition for your pet.
A balanced and nutritious diet is the place to start.
Fresh, raw food is excellent for aging cats. A diet of only dry food is bad for a senior cat, and should be avoided or at least supplemented with vet-recommended wet food or raw, fresh meat (just remember not to give kitty too much tuna, due to mercury). Older cats need more energy, in large part because it’s harder for them to digest fats and protein.
Older dogs require more protein to maintain their muscle mass, but less sodium to protect their hearts and kidneys. Aging dogs also respond well to fresh, raw food and canned food.
A healthy diet provides a pet with vitamins and minerals they need. But sometimes, especially with older animals, a supplement is called for.
The American Kennel Club cites studies showing that older dogs supplemented with a “brain protection blend” of antioxidants, B vitamins, fish oil, and L-Arginine performed significantly better on difficult mental tasks than dogs not given the blend.
For dogs with joint and muscle issues, chondroitin, glucosamine and CBD are popular supplements to ease pain and inflammation.
As always, consult your veterinarian about the possible need for supplements.
Keep your critters moving! Age-appropriate, moderate exercise is vital for your older pet’s health.
That senior cat would probably rather lounge in the sun all day, but they need that exercise to keep their brain and body robust. Invest in some engaging toys and devote some of your time to playing with your cat. Cats love hunting, problem-solving and brain games. Anything that piques their interest will get them up and moving.
Your aging pup will respond to the same exercise they loved in their prime — just at a slower pace. Keep their joints in mind when getting in and out of the car, climbing stairs, or jumping obstacles. Low-impact exercises like hydrotherapy, swimming and slow walks are perfect for short, frequent periods.
Caring for an aging pet requires careful attention, patience and compassion. Follow your pet’s lead, and work with them at their speed, and never hesitate to ask your veterinarian questions.
Be sure to check out our CBD supplements for pets facing joint pain, anxiety, stress and more.