Watching your pet’s age can be a difficult thing for many people. You might notice a prominent show of gray on your pup’s muzzle or perhaps they aren’t as quick to hear when company arrives at the door. Your feline friend might prefer to watch wildlife from the comfort of the living room window, instead of chasing them outside or doesn’t get into as much mischief around the house as they used to.
Depending on the size, breed, and activity level of your pet, most dogs are considered senior by the age of seven, cats by age ten. While this may affect your annual visits to the vet (additional blood work is suggested to check the metabolic and organ functions as well as twice yearly exams), it doesn’t necessarily mean that your daily routine needs to drastically change. You may just need to fine tune it. Age is not a disease. Although senior pets may develop age-related problems, good care allows them to live happy, healthy and active lives in their senior years!
Although they can appear gradually over time, some of the most common signs of aging to watch for with your pets include:
- Decreased activity
- Longer periods of rest and/or sleeping
- Decrease in their sense of hearing and/or vision
- Joint inflammation/arthritis
- Inability to hold their bladder
One of the most helpful things you can do for your aging pet (or pet at any age of life) is to provide them with a diet high in moisture and quality protein to ensure they maintain a healthy weight. Contrary to popular belief, aging pets require more protein than younger ones, and the higher the moisture content of their food, the easier it is for the organs to process. Many commercial brand kibbles that have been formulated for seniors often boast on their packaging that their food is low fat, low calorie, increased fiber, and with added glucosamine and chondroitin.
Any animal, regardless of age, that is overweight will certainly see the benefits of being on a diet that is lower in fat and calories. However, the “added fiber” is a sneaky way for dog food companies to add in unnecessary cheap fillers, while reducing the meat content of your pet’s diet. Kibbles made with added glucosamine and chondroitin can also be tempting to purchase for your aging pet to help ease joint discomfort and arthritis. Unfortunately, the amounts added aren’t enough to provide therapeutic levels of support and there is no way to determine the quality of the supplements themselves. Some better options include adding in a quality bone broth like Primal Pet Foods (the added moisture will greatly benefit your pet too); using a quality joint supplement such as Super Snouts Joint Powder, which contains green lipped mussel that will aid in the support of joint mobility and cartilage maintenance; or treating your dog with Sea Jerky (Sea Flex available for cats!) that contains sea cucumber, sea chondroitin, and naturally occurring glucosamine from shrimp and crab shells.
Keeping your pet active will also help them in maintaining a healthy weight as well as control oncoming arthritis. If their usual 1-mile jog or hour-long game of fetch seems to be wearing them out, opt for shorter walks more frequently throughout the day and allow for longer periods of rest in between. Make sure they have a well cushioned bed or two around the house such as the various Jax & Bones beds we carry!
It’s also important to keep your aging pet both mentally and socially active. Food puzzle toys such as the West Paw Zogoflex line, provide a fun way to mentally stimulate your aging pup - some of those toys include: Tux, Toppl, and the Rumbl! Short periods of socialization and playtime with other dogs in a controlled situation is also ideal, so as to not overstimulate them.
Most importantly, one of the best things you can do for your aging pet is to just spend a little extra time with them. You never know, you might just learn that taking a slower pace to life and enjoying the “now” moments is just what the both of you need.