by Jenny Smiechowski –
Pets today are living longer than ever. Just 15 years ago, the average cat lived 11 years, and the average dog lived 10.5 years. But by 2016, cats were living an average of 12.9 years and dogs an average of 11.8 years (1).
Lucky for us pet parents, these numbers will likely keep rising as veterinary medicine continues to advance. But as wonderful as it is to have our pets around longer, it can also be challenging…
Just like older people, older pets deal with less mobility, more diseases, less energy, and more cognitive problems. That means, there’s more you have to do to keep your pet happy, healthy and comfortable in his or her older years.
But don’t worry. There are plenty of simple, natural ways to help your pet age gracefully and comfortably. Here are five tips for giving your senior pets the special care they need:
Watch their weight
Holding on to extra weight can cause your pets to age faster and put them at a greater risk for diseases like heart disease, diabetes, urinary disorders, reproductive disorders and even cancer (2). An overweight or obese pet is also more likely to deal with joint issues, since excess weight puts pressure on joints, eventually weakening them enough to cause arthritis (3). Although genetics can play a role in your pet’s weight, the biggest factors—diet and exercise—are completely in your control (2). So make sure your senior pet is eating a healthy, well-portioned diet and getting plenty of walks and play time.
Keep mobility in mind
Older pets, especially dogs, tend to develop mobility issues as they age. Most mobility issues in senior pets are caused by stiff, arthritic joints (4). As I already mentioned, one of the best ways to keep your dog’s joints healthy is by helping him or her maintain a healthy weight. Of course, some dogs have a genetic tendency toward joint issues no matter what their weight. Breeds like golden retrievers, German shepherds, and Yorkshire terriers, for example, are likely to develop joint issues for genetic reasons (3). If that’s the case for your dog, turn to a healthy, grain-free diet, plenty of exercise and joint-supporting supplements like glucosamine to ward off joint problems as long as possible (5). You may want to consider trying PetAlive’s Muscle & Joint Support™ for Ease of Movement, which contains glucosamine, along with other herbs that aid in relieving joint-related issues.
If your senior pet already has joint issues, there’s a lot you can do to help him or her get around safely and comfortably. You can place throw rugs strategically throughout the house to make uncarpeted floors less slippery. If you allow your pets on the bed and couch, you can invest in doggie stairs that allow them to get to their favorite sleeping spots. You can also purchase support slings and harnesses that help you lift your pets and support them as they walk (6). Although older cats tend to maintain more mobility than older dogs, cats develop arthritis too. This can make it hard for them to jump in and out of their litterbox, so if you notice your older cat is struggling, cut a little opening in the side of the box to make his or her life easier (7).
Focus on disease prevention
As your pets get older, they are more at risk for diseases like heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, liver disease and cancer (8). So you’ll want to implement a disease prevention plan that includes extra vet check-ups, as well as an extra healthy lifestyle.
With senior pets, it’s a good idea to bring them to the vet twice a year instead of sticking to the annual check-up schedule they followed in their younger years. Extra vet check-ups are important for senior pets because they help you and your vet catch changes in your pet’s health early before they progress into a serious disease (9).
Part of the reason older pets are more prone to disease is that their immune systems are weaker (8). So consider buying supplements that support your senior pet’s immune system, like PetAlive’s Immunity and Liver Support™ for Cats & Dogs. This supplement contains herbs like dandelion, Echinacea, Ashwagandha and milk thistle, which promote immune system balance and healthy liver function.
Give them an energy boost
Older pets sometimes struggle with sluggish energy levels. They sleep more, slow down on their walks and just don’t have the same playful zest they once did. It’s natural for an older dog to choose rest and comfort overplay and excitement (10), but if you feel like your senior dog has slowed down too much, bring him or her to the vet just to make sure your pet’s dipping energy levels aren’t something serious.
If there’s no underlying health problem causing your pet’s lethargy, make sure he or she is getting enough food and at least some exercise. Even short walks around the block can make a big difference in an older pet’s energy levels and health. You can also try supplements that promote healthy energy levels like PetAlive’s Energy Tonic™. Energy Tonic contains herbs like Amalaki fruit, eleuthero root, rosemary and spirulina, which studies show support stamina, circulation, and energy.
Help them stay stimulated
Many people don’t realize that dementia is a problem pets face too. In fact, studies show that by the time they are 15 years old, 41 percent of dogs and 50 percent of cats show signs of cognitive decline (11). But just like older people, older pets who stay active, engaged and mentally stimulated tend to hold on to their cognitive capabilities longer. Keep your pet’s brain active through new toys, tricks and games. You may even want to give your senior pet a food puzzle to solve (12). Besides keeping their minds active, feeding senior pets an antioxidant-filled diet and giving them fish oil can also help keep their cognitive abilities intact longer (11).
Remember, whenever you notice a change in your pet’s physical abilities or behavior, you shouldn’t just chalk it up to old age. Take him or her to vet for a checkup. Changes are common with age, but it’s better to know what’s causing your pet’s problems, so you know how to help him or her.
I know caring for a senior pet may seem like a lot of work. But I promise if you give your older pets the extra care and attention they need, you’ll be rewarded with happy, loving seniors who are eager to share the last phase of their life with you.
- Taylor, Chris. “Your Money: As pets live longer, they may need long-term health care.” Reuters. 13 Sept. 2016. Web 23 Oct. 2017. <http://www.reuters.com/article/us-money-pets-longevity/your-money-as-pets-live-longer-they-may-need-long-term-health-care-idUSKCN11J25D;.
- German, A. J. “The Growing Problem of Obesity in Dogs and Cats.” The Journal of Nutrition. July 2006; 136(7): 1940S-1946S. doi: http://jn.nutrition.org/content/136/7/1940S.full. Web 24 Oct. 2017.
- O’Connor, Anahad. “Paying the Price of a Fat Pet.” New York Times Well Blog. 20 Apr. 2012 Web 24 Oct. 2017. <https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/20/paying-the-price-of-a-fat-pet/;.
- “Managing Canine Arthritis.” American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation. 19 Sept. 2011. Web 24 Oct. 2017. <http://www.akcchf.org/canine-health/your-dogs-health/caring-for-your-dog/managing-canine-arthritis.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/;.
- Straus, Mary. “Natural Dog Arthritis Treatments.” Whole Dog Journal. 12 Oct. 2017. Web 24 Oct. 2017. <https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/10_3/features/Canine-Arthritis_15910-1.html;.
- Wilson, Connie. “Senior Dogs: Give Rover the Golden Years he’s earned.” Modern Dog Magazine. N.D. Web 24 Oct. 2017. <http://moderndogmagazine.com/articles/senior-dogs/608;.
- “The Special Needs of the Senior Cat.” Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. N.D. Web 24 Oct. 2017. <http://www.vet.cornell.edu/fhc/Health_Information/brochure_seniorcat.cfm;.
- “Senior Pet Care (FAQ).” American Veterinary Medical Association. N.D. Web 24 Oct. 2017. < https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/Caring-for-an-Older-Pet-FAQs.aspx;.
- “Senior Dog Care: Caring for Older Dogs.” Best Friends Animal Society. N.D. Web 24 Oct. 2017. <https://bestfriends.org/resources/senior-dog-care-caring-older-dogs;.
- Richmond, Mardi. “Mixed-Aged Dog Packs: How to keep your mixed-age dog pack safe and happy.” Whole Dog Journal. Apr. 2008. Web 24 Oct. 2017. <https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/11_4/features/Mixed-Aged-Dog-Packs_16022-1.html;.
- “When Pets Lose Their Sense Of Place.” Veterinary Practice News. 9 Jul. 2013. Web 24 Oct. 2017. < https://veterinarypracticenews.com/when-pets-lose-their-sense-of-place/;.
- Becker, Marty. “Age is just a number: 7 tips for keeping senior dogs healthy and happy.” Today. 25 Aug. 2015. Web 24 Oct. 2017. <https://www.today.com/pets/age-just-number-7-tips-keeping-senior-dogs-healthy-happy-t39511;.