By the time your pet becomes a senior citizen, you two know and love each other deeply, having formed a solid unique bond, and created fond memories after years of fun and adventure. Your senior pet has likely shared many of your most meaningful milestones, and you cannot imagine having experienced these moments if your constant companion had not been by your side. Pets support us throughout our lives with their steady presence, unconditional love, and uncanny ability to make us smile. As your pet ages, you will in turn support them by ensuring your furry pal receives the high-quality veterinary care they deserve, helping make their golden years some of their happiest and healthiest. Our Wales Animal Clinic team loves our senior pet patients, and we’re sharing tips on how you can help provide your four-legged friend with the care they need, so you can both enjoy many more years together. 

#1: Ensure your senior pet receives regular veterinary wellness care

Wellness care, which focuses on preventing disease and detecting health problems early, is particularly important for senior pets. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends twice-yearly veterinary wellness visits for senior pets, because they are at higher risk for age-related diseases and conditions than healthy adult pets. To enable your veterinarian to monitor treatment progress, adjust medication doses, or add new treatments, senior pets who have chronic health problems require frequent clinic visits. To help ensure your pet’s quality of life (QOL) remains good, your veterinarian will keep a close eye out for these common adverse senior health conditions:

  • Cancer — Cancer is the most frequent cause of senior pets’ death, and can significantly decrease a pet’s QOL.
  • Cataracts — Cataracts can develop gradually or quickly, inhibiting your pet’s ability to see, and vision loss can cause some pets extreme fear and anxiety.
  • Chronic kidney disease (CKD) — CKD inhibits the body’s ability to filter the blood’s biological waste, causing an affected pet to feel ill and nauseated. 
  • Obesity — More than 50% of pets are overweight or obese, and these extra pounds significantly affect their ability to move and breathe.
  • Arthritis — Many senior pets have arthritic joints, causing pain and decreasing their mobility.

In addition to a thorough physical examination, a senior pet wellness exam will include diagnostic blood and urine tests, including a complete blood count, biochemistry profile, urinalysis, and thyroid assessment. Your veterinarian can help you navigate your pet’s senior years and will explain how your four-legged friend’s activity level, living conditions, daily nutrition, and regular veterinary care can prolong their health and vitality. 

#2: Ease your senior pet’s achy joints

Older pets—cats included—commonly develop arthritis, but pet owners often mistake their four-legged friend’s changes for normal aging signs. Arthritis commonly develops in the hips, elbows, lower back, knees, and ankles. As arthritis progresses, this disease wears down joint cartilage and sometimes underlying bone, causing your furry pal to experience significant inflammation and pain. The first step toward relieving your pet’s pain is recognizing arthritis signs, which may include:

  • Limping
  • Stiffness after resting or sleeping
  • Abnormal posture
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Hesitancy to jump onto furniture
  • Reluctance to use stairs
  • Decreased interactions with family members
  • Irritability
  • Increased sleeping
  • Vocalizing

If you suspect your senior pet is suffering from arthritis, contact our team. To determine whether your pet has painful joints, we will perform a thorough physical exam.

#4: Manage your senior pet’s weight

Pet obesity is a significant problem in the United States, affecting the majority of cats and dogs. Only a few extra pounds can add a significant amount of stress on a pet’s joints, and worsen mild joint problems. Regulate your pet’s caloric intake to help keep them fit and trim, and consult our veterinary team to determine whether your four-legged friend needs to lose weight.

#5: Provide low-impact exercise for your senior pet

For a pet to stay happy and healthy, they need physical exercise, and while your senior pet may not be able to participate in all the rigorous physical activities they did in the past, movement remains important to maintaining their mental and physical health. Ensure your pet avoids exercises that cause repeated joint strain, such as running on pavement, which can cause joint damage and pain. To help keep your senior pet happy and fit, encourage them to participate in low-impact exercises, such as walking or swimming. 

#6: Keep your senior pet’s mind sharp

As do people, senior pets can also suffer from declining cognitive function, and they need regular mental stimulation to stay sharp as they age. To stimulate your senior pet’s mind, introduce these activities to their routine:

  • Use food or treat puzzles, or hide food throughout your home for your pet to find. 
  • Switch up your regular walking route by exploring new neighborhoods.
  • Teach your pet a new trick or command. 
  • Provide interactive toys to encourage your pet’s physical activity and mental stimulation.

Because you have both shared many of life’s milestones, your senior pet holds a special place in your heart. Our Wales Animal Clinic team can provide your senior pet with the high-quality veterinary care they need to get the most of their golden years. Schedule your senior pet’s wellness appointment today, and help them continue to enjoy a good quality of life.