Show Love to a Grey Muzzled Loved One for Senior Pet Month
As November rolls in and the nights turn chilly, we start to throw an extra blanket on the bed at night and increasing the budget for dessert-themed coffees. As November is also Senior Pet Month, you might also want to think about providing some extra care to your furry loved ones, too. While they might sprint after a ball like a puppy or get into mischief unrolling the toilet paper like a kitten, your pets are just like us when we get older – the creature comforts become more important to quality of life.
Older pets, in general, suffer more frequently from stiff joints, arthritis, illnesses, and sensitivity to temperature changes. That’s why we are focusing on the little things you can do for your pets as they get older to keep them comfortable, especially as the seasonal changes bring more opportunity for discomfort.
Turn up the thermostat: temperature changes affect pets, despite the thickness of their fur, just as much as it affects us. Unlike humans, though, your pet can’t throw on another sweater. As our pets age, cold drafts, sudden temperature changes, and laying on cold floors may have greater impact on their bodies, such as increasing joint pain, making them stiffer after resting, and more difficulty in staying comfortable.
Consider adding another layer to their usual sleeping spot or getting a thicker bed, moving their bedding away from windows or drafty corners, and investing in a solid winter coat for your dog if you enjoy longer walks. Your cat may also enjoy a heated pet bed for therapeutic warmth on cold nights (just avoid the human heating pads, which are addictive for cats but can overheat them).
Anticipate Health Issues: Time can sneak by and, before you know it, you have a happy and healthy middle-aged pet on your hands. While this can be the best time of your relationship, when you are old friends who know each other so well. You may want to consider anticipating the signs of aging showing up by adding in some extra health checks to the mix.
Rather than the standard once a year visit for all the standard checks, bring them in for semi-annual checkups to catch any growing health concern you may have. As pets age, they are more likely to have failing eye sight, hearing, growing pain from arthritis, and can have hidden signs of illness that our pets are excellent at hiding. The best way to cope with these health changes is by catching them early, so more regular health care may be the answer.
Take Mobility into Consideration: Your dog may still be your running buddy, but that doesn’t mean it’s comfortable for him to keep hopping in and out of your car like he used to. Growing mobility issues for aging pets can affect the quality of life. Despite being able to do nearly everything they used to be, it may be more painful, and can bring them at higher risk for sports injuries.
Instead of keeping those hard wood floors bare, consider adding in area rugs, especially in areas which include sharp turns or where your pet frequently walks. The traction on the floor will prevent slipping and will make laying down and getting up less of a struggle. Raised pet dishes often bring mixed opinions in the pet community but may be a relief for a large elderly dog who struggles to crouch down to their bowl. Make small ramps if your cat is suddenly leaving puddles outside their litter box – it may be too difficult to jump into and out of their litter box now that they are older.
Finally, big changes in an elderly pets’ environment may be stressful, especially if they are one of the unlucky pets who lose their eyesight with age. Rearranging furniture or switching the location of food and water bowls can bring confusion and accidents to geriatric pets who may struggle to see clearly or remember new locations of items.
Mental Care Is Just as Important: Your pet may start to have changes mentally along with their physical signs of aging. While the age at which they start to feelold rather than actold varies, all pets need a different kind of mental care once they start to slow down. Older pets may need more quiet time than their rambunctious, younger selves, so a secluded spot to call their own can be a welcome retreat to a mentally overstimulated dog or cat. Even dogs and cats who don’t enjoy actually being crated may like a travel crate with the door taken off as an ideal retreat area. This can be especially important once the holidays start to come around, as crowded living rooms and loud noises often are par for the course on celebrations. If your pet was sensitive to these situations before, you may find them more reactive now.
Don’t Stop Treating Them Like a Puppy (or Kitten): Your pet will stay as young as you treat them. While we are often encouraged as new pet owners to socialize, socialize, socialize with our young pets, we often fall off in our efforts as they get older. Believe it or not, pets need constant stimulation and playtime to stay young and mentally fit. Buy them the new squeaky toy, continue to take them for evening fetch marathons, and always bring them with you on a quick trip to the park. Mental exercises such as these can be the difference between a tired and grumpy 12-year-old and a frisky and interested 14-year-old. New and interesting experiences, which challenge problem solving or involve more than one sense (smell and sound, for instance) are the key traits of challenging socializations.
Your pets will get older, but how you treat them as they age can extend the quality of life that they experience. By ensuring they are comforted at every stage of life, you can guarantee you’ll have more bonding time with your pet, and they will enjoy every last minute with you.
Have a particular problem with your geriatric pet? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!
By Lauren Pescarus