Just like their owners, pets grow old, and as they age, they need extra care. It's not just physical care that they need; mental and emotional care are essential, too. Naturally, this takes up a lot of time and energy, however, there are many owners who remain responsible for their pet's well-being right up until the end.
Older pets do not always become ill. Many remain in good health, but general veterinary checks bedome more important as your pet ages. Vaccinations, dental checkups and parasite treatments all are part of having a pet; as your pet gets older and its body begins to deteriorate, extra health worries such as arthritis and organ failure are brought into the equation.
Happily, there are medications available to help prolong your pet's life and make it more comfortable. Many insurance companies will pay out for these treatments, but some will stop insuring animals over a certain age -- usually 8 years old for dogs and 10 years old for cats. Before your pet reaches old age, check with your insurance company to make sure the policy continues until death.
If your pet requires an operation, the veterinarian may suggest a blood test to ensure that there are no underlying problems. Diabetes and kidney failure are high risk with aging, and can cause severe problems when an anesthetic is involved. Blood tests are expensive and not always necessary, but they are worth considering. If your pet already has a condition, blood work may be carried out more frequently as health problems can get worse over time.
As pets get older, their digestive system and nutrient requirements change. Their teeth and gums may also not handle tough bones and chews like they used to. Older pets need food that is softer, more easily digested, with higher fat and protein content than a younger animal needs. Try to stick to the same brand if possible. If you do have to change brand, introduce the new food slowly to avoid making your pet ill. Always make sure fresh water is available.
Arthritis may restrict the movement in your pet's joints, but exercise is still essential. Walks may become shorter and slower, and your time outside may be limited to a couple of hours a day or less. You may find your pet is unable to manage stairs, jump onto furniture or get into the car, and that it is worse during the colder months. There are products that can help with this, such as special steps and ramps to help dogs and cats cope with these problems.
You can also add alternative treatments to their diet. Cod liver oil and glucosamine are proven to help arthritic joints and are available at most veterinary surgery clinics, pet stores and pharmacies. Acupuncture in pets is also becoming more popular to help with muscular and skeletal problems. However, as with any treatment, check for contra-indications with your vet.
Taking your dog swimming at a specially built canine hydrotherapy center can also help, as the water makes it easier for them to move. This not only helps with arthritis but is also an enjoyable form of exercise. However, hydrotherapy can be expensive and there are limited places that provide this treatment.
Mental and Emotional
Love, cuddles and more love: good old TLC is possibly the best form of medicine for any pet at any age, but even more important as they get old. Your pet needs to know that you still love them, so make sure that you show them you do.
Your Senior Pet will need a Sitter with no children, no other pets, and no stairs (or at least securely blocked off from them). Alternatively you could arrange Home Visits to your home by a Police checked Sitter, or a House Sitter can come and stay overnight for an agreed length of time while you're away.