How to Care for a Mature Pet
Animals age at a different rate than humans. A seven-year-old cat, for example, is equivalent to a 54-year-old person. A 15-year-old dog is an octogenarian at best. With proper care, our pets can live long and healthy lives, and there are steps you can take that will ensure their final years are as happy and carefree as their first.
The signs of aging
Even if you have two dogs born of the same litter, they may react to age in different ways. You can’t rely on age alone to tell you if your pet has a officially reached the senior stage. Watch for changes in their behavior. These may include:
● Bowel or urination pattern changes
● Excessive water consumption
● Waning appetite
● Unusual agitation
● Hair loss
● Decreased grooming
Older animals displaying any of these signs may be in the early stages of diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, cancer, or heart disease. Like aging humans, animals’ bodies begin to deteriorate as they become less able to cope with and recover from physical ailments.
How to help
Start by talking with your veterinarian. They will likely recommend twice yearly visits to detect signs of illness. Your veterinarian will pay special attention to your senior pet’s diet and dental health and may order more frequent blood work to monitor for signs of infection, such as heartworms.
If your dog is showing signs of joint or muscle pain, skin issues, or anxiety, talk to your veterinarian about adding CBD oil to their diet. Derived from the cannabis plant, CBD oil is a non-addictive and non-hallucinogenic cannabinoid with anti-inflammatory properties that may reduce pain. It’s considered safe for most animals. This guide goes into greater detail and offers answers to common questions about CBD.
While supplements can ease pain and keep your dog active, you may also need to make changes to their diet. According to Purina, at around seven years of age, a dog’s nutritional needs, specifically those relating to brain health, begin to change. A dog food specifically formulated for senior pets will include vitamins and minerals to support joint, skin, and eye health. High-protein foods, which include chicken as the first ingredient, will help support lean muscle mass and weight maintenance.
Senility in senior pets
Unfortunately, declining physical health is not the only potential issue that can plague older animals. Dr. Patty Khuly VMD tells VetStreet.com that canine dementia is an issue that deserves attention. Cognitive dysfunction is a serious concern, especially if you have young children in the home, as mental decline can reduce your dog’s ability to recognize beloved family members. Hearing loss and poor vision add to the dangers.
Close and comfortable
As your dog ages, keep him comfortable by putting his bed in a warm, sunny spot. An orthopedic mat is best. Ensure easy access to food and water and don’t get frustrated if your dog has an accident in the house or doesn’t seem like himself. When riding in the car, keep your dog buckled up in an appropriate harness system, and keep him on a close leash when you go for your daily walks.
Finally, don’t ignore the signs that your pet’s health has deteriorated to the point of no return. If he has pain that cannot be controlled, can no longer eat, or cannot stand on his own, it may be time to make the tough decision. After all, your dog cannot tell you in words that they are suffering; it is up to us to know when enough is enough.
Dogs come into our lives and change them for the better. Treat them with the respect they deserve from the moment they become a part of your family until they grow old. Lifestyle changes and a watchful eye can increase your dog’s quality of life even as their final years creep up. Still, talk to your veterinarian the moment you suspect issues.
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