Senior Pets Need Love, Too

21 10 2010

It is no secret that animal shelters are overrun with unwanted pets, whether it be strays, pets the family has grown tired of or litters of puppies or kittens that should have and could have been avoided in the first place. But a growing number of the animals being dumped in these shelters are senior pets. Pets that have been with their families from the puppy or kitten stage but have been disposed of because they are old, deaf, blind or otherwise “imperfect.”

In many ways, senior pets are very much like their senior human counterparts. They deal with some of the same diseases associated with aging as their owners do: diabetes, kidney disesase, heart disease, incontinence and osteoarthritis. Behavior changes are not uncommon in senior pets, either. Some will suffer from senility, fear of storms or other loud noises that wasn’t there before and even separation anxiety. These changes are normal and part of the aging process in your pet and if handled properly, doesn’t have to be a strain on your family.

Easing the aging process is not that difficult. Just like the special care and attention you paid to your puppy or kitten, your senior pet needs specialized care, too. Semiannual trips to the vet’s office and lab tests are strongly recommended. It is important to work closely with your veterinarian to determine the proper medications and course of action needed to deal with your aging pet’s physical and mental health issues.

It’s possible, and even likely, that your senior pet will need to be on at least one medication (or more) for their various health issues, but there are still things you can do to help ease your pet into his or her senior years and minimize or avoid certain health issues:

  • Help your pet maintain a healthy weight and give lots of exercise.
  • Make sure all vaccines are up to date and heartworm preventitive is given.
  • Don’t let your aging pet run and jump. This type of activity is hard on their joints. If your pet is already suffering from osteoarthritis, walking and swimming are better exercise choices.
  • Give your senior pet a warm, soft place to sleep. They deserve it!
  • If teeth are becoming loose, sore or falling out, work with your veterinarian and determine a softer, healthy diet.

There are plenty of resources available for your senior dogs and cats: Caring for Your Aging Cat: A Quality-of-Life Guide for Your Cat’s Senior Years and The Living Well Guide for Senior Dogs: Everything You Need to Know for a Happy & Healthy Companion are just two examples. Work closely with your veterinarian, too. Between the two of you, you can show your pet the love and support he or she needs to get through the twilight of their life.

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