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Caring For Your Aging Pet

Dogs and cats age a lot faster than humans and therefore reach their senior years more quickly. Dogs are generally considered to be elderly once they reach 6-10 years of age, with larger breeds ageing faster than the smaller breeds. Cats are considered elderly from 10-11 years of age.

As they are a part of our family, we want to make sure that our older pets are cared for as best as possible, making their senior years a happy time. Providing them with love, comfort and safety is imperative and there are a few other things you can do to make life easier for your older pets. 

1. Raise Their Food and Water

As your pet gets older, it may become more difficult for them to lower their neck to eat food or drink water. You could buy a raised platform or bowl station or use something already around the house, like bricks or timber to lift the food and water bowls your animal already uses.

2. Consider the Litter Box

For older cats, arthritis and failing kidneys contribute to issues using their litter boxes. There are litter boxes on the market with lower openings designed for older cats, but you can also use a storage bin with an entryway cut out in the front. If you have multiple cats in your household, you should have one litter box for each cat, plus one extra.

3. Ramp it up

Arthritis is a common problem in dogs as well. An easy home modification to enable easier mobility for your dog or cat companion is to buy or build a ramp or shallow stairs. A ramp or stairs of stable cushions allows your animal the same freedom and access to couches or beds that they had when they were younger.  

4. Tread your Stairs

Install anti-slip treads made from carpet or rubber onto stairs. If your pet can no longer make it up the stairs at all, place their bed in a comfortable spot downstairs. This way they have no need to be anywhere other than the first floor of your home.

5. Floor Talk

If your floors are smooth or slippery you could trial non-slip rugs, outdoor carpet squares or even yoga mats for better traction for your pet. Think materials that are easy to wash and do not absorb stains and odours easily.

6. Try a Doggie Door

If a dog has urinary incontinence issues then a doggy door or dog flap is useful. These can provide the freedom for your canine to urinate outside as they need. You will want to install the door in a low area to provide ease of access for any mobility issues.

7. Buy an Orthopaedic Bed

If your dog displays any of the behavioural symptoms of joint problems, an orthopaedic bed is specifically designed for their needs. Smaller dogs should sleep in a bed relative to their size because they get cold more easily and may feel insecure in a larger bed. If you have a dog flap installed, place the dog bed near the door for easy access to the bathroom. If your pet is an older cat, place their bed within the vicinity of their litter box, but not too close to it. Cats also enjoy cave-style beds just like their ancestors.

8. Double Check Your Temperature

Older animals have more difficulty regulating their body temperature, so they are more sensitive to temperatures that varies significantly from their own body temperature. If you use aircon set it between 22-24 degrees and pay attention to your animal’s specific behaviour and be guided by their behaviour (panting or shivering etc).

9.  Keep Them Moving Within Their Abilities

Your dog used to like going for walks?  They probably still do, just not as far.  Exercise and mental stimulation is important for muscle strength, keeping joints moving and helping prevent cognitive decline.

These simple modifications can improve your animal companion’s entire quality of life and increase their lifespan. Our pets deserve to live out their lives in safety, love and comfort.

Written By: Dr Glenn Geissler BVSc

Originally published in MyPet Magazine Autumn/Winter 2019.
You can view all past issues of MyPet Magazine online here.

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