Pets offer a special kind of companionship, which is why many Americans consider them part of the family. In fact, research shows that in the U.S., there are more than 84.6 million pet owners. Of course, as pets age, they develop different needs. To keep your senior pet comfortable and healthy, follow these tips.
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Make Your Yard Senior Pet-Friendly
The outdoors can be a sanctuary for older pets — or a dangerous landscape. Like humans, dogs and cats can develop mobility issues as they get older. To prevent falls, install ramps on steep steps and eliminate terrain difficult to walk on.
Firstly, ensure that your yard is secure and that your pet is not able to escape into a road or wilderness area. Ensure that your pet is microchipped in case they do escape, and attach a Tile or Apple Tag tracker to your pet's collar as an extra precaution.
Additionally, older pets may have decreased mental abilities, so it's best to keep harmful items out of reach:
- Fence in compost containers
- Pick up fallen seeds and fruit
- Remove poisonous plants
- Store garden tools in a shed
Schedule Regular Check-Ups
Pets may develop health problems as they age; sometimes, the conditions aren't obvious. To catch issues early, schedule yearly checkups. If you have a limited budget, you can find a vet clinic like Elaine’s Basic Care and Wellness Center that offers low-cost wellness visits.
Keep Your Pet Engaged
Animals still need exercise as they grow older, but physical activity may look different due to decreased energy and mobility. To avoid injury, choose low-impact exercises such as gentle play, walking, and swimming.
Senior pets also need mental exercise to keep their facilities sharp. There are plenty of fun ways to stimulate your pet's mind:
- Play hide-and-seek
- Nose work games
- Food dispensing toys
Make Dental Care a Priority
Like humans, pets can develop plaque, leading to gum disease and lost teeth. To prevent plaque buildup, take care of your pets' teeth with the following:
- Provide rawhides and dental chews
- Feed them oral disease-fighting food
- Brush their teeth daily
- Schedule annual dental cleanings with your vet
Keep in mind that toothpaste is for humans; only use pet toothpaste when brushing your dog's or cat's teeth.
Use Pet-Safe Cleaning Supplies
As pets get older, they may develop incontinence. You can prevent accidents by making pee pads and litter boxes more accessible or using pet diapers.
When accidents do happen, use pet-safe cleaners on carpets and upholstery. For example, if a stain develops on your couch, look up “couch cleaning near me” and hire a well-reviewed professional cleaning company to treat the affected furniture. Look for cleaners who use specialized tools, and don't forget to double-check ratings and referrals.
Consider Your Home's Layout
As pets age, they may not be able to navigate your home like they used to. You can help arthritic dogs and cats maneuver difficult spots with small changes:
- Trim paw hair and nails
- Install rubber-backed mats on flooring with little traction
- Use pet steps and ramps for tall furniture
- Install mesh bed guards to prevent falls during the night
Remember Senior Pets Are Sensitive to Temperatures
Extreme heat and cold can seriously harm pets; during the summer, dogs and cats can suffer heat stroke, while winter weather can cause hypothermia. As temperatures climb, keep pets cool with the following tips:
- Avoid hot cement and asphalt
- Refill the water bowl frequently
- Cut walks and exercise short
During the winter, you can ensure pets' health with these steps:
- Set up an outdoor dog house with dry bedding
- Limit baths to prevent dry skin
- Dress short-haired pets in sweaters and boots
Caring for a senior pet takes patience and flexibility, but your efforts will keep your furry companion healthy and comfortable. Together, you can enjoy your dog's or cat's golden years.