PET CARE: Tips on caring for your senior pets

Columnist Nicolette Joosting shares her tips for helping senior pets get the most out of life

By Nicolette Joosting

You can never make a senior pet too comfortable.

They age in similar ways to us. The body starts its betrayal of youth in early middle age, progressing at its individual pace. Joints stiffen up, become arthritic. Muscles start aching. Hearing range decreases and vision changes. Like us, our pets may suffer hypertension, diabetes, kidney disease and heart disease. Cancer is common.

Food preferences change, as does the ability to absorb nutrients. Seniors become more susceptible to infections. It gets hard to keep oneself clean. As life gets more difficult into the geriatric years, what matters most is warmth, getting to the bathroom and companionship.

RELATED: A year after fire, B.C. senior and his dog thankful to be together

Aging is not a disease. Nor is weight loss part of normal aging: weight loss is a key indicator that there is something wrong.

We are able to help our pets throughout their aging and it need not cost a minor fortune.

Outdoor pets will appreciate warm shelter and deep soft bedding, even if they never used anything like that as a youngster. Even indoors, providing an extra source of warmth is vital, especially since we tend to keep our homes cool. Circulation changes with age and older pets can be feeling cold all the time. Sweaters and heated beds can go along way to relieving some of those aches and pains.

Help them with grooming and keeping themselves clean. Not only will they feel better, but by trimming nails, brushing coats, washing faces and other bits, you will be preventing ingrown nails, infections and the discomfort of a matted coat. Start slowly and gently until you have developed a routine. Try out the brush you would use on your own head. A soft brush is best because some brushes will cause pain on the thinner skin or going roughly over bony parts.

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As mobility changes, using the bathroom becomes a major challenge. For cats, we use an under-the-bed storage box, without the lid, to provide a hobble-in hobble-out litter box. By paying attention to how your cat gets in and out of the box and ensuring there is no hesitation to use it, we can prevent episodes of constipation and inappropriate elimination.

We can help our pets keep up with nutrition by raising their food and water dishes to shoulder height, to make it less painful and tiring to eat. Experiment with this to find the best solution for your pet. Add extra food and water stations close to their favorite beds, making it easier for them to get a drink or snack.

Everyone in the family can be aware that the older pet has some aches and pains. Adapt how you snuggle, cuddle and play with them. Offer steps or easier ways for them to join you in bed and on the couch. Just because they are old does not mean they have to be left in the cold. The older pet thrives on being able to continue to give and receive love and companionship.

That’s just a few tips. Simple changes can go along way to helping your pet age with less pain and discomfort, adapting as their needs change. There is no such thing as too comfortable!

Nicolette Joosting is a veterinarian living in Harrison Hot Springs.


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