Cats, dogs and many other pets are susceptible to some of the same health issues and diseases as humans. They can get cancer, leukemia, diabetes, or arthritis. They can have allergies, become overweight, have kidney trouble, or have a stroke just as you or I can. We should care for our aging pets as we would an aging family member. Keeping your pet on a healthy diet, adding appropriate supplements and assuring that they get the proper exercise can prevent serious illness and assure that they lead long, happy and healthy lives. Check out these tips for how to properly care for your aging cats and dogs.
Sometimes we like to treat our pets with snacks and goodies a little too often. Although they look adorable with their plump little faces, it may be harmful to their health to be carrying around excess weight. Overweight pets are more likely to have hip and joint issues and get arthritis and are more prone to diabetes and poor heart health. Minimizing your pet’s food intake, increasing exercise and cutting back on the snacks will assure that your pet gets back on track to living a healthy and active life. You can also look for pet foods and treats that are higher in fiber and lower in fat. Look for pet food that is labeled “light,” “indoor” or “senior.”
It is fairly common for pets to lose a little weight as they age, but if your pet seems to be losing excess weight, it could be time to switch your pet to a more natural food. Some pet foods are made with animal byproducts instead of real meat, which significantly reduces the amount of protein and vitamins in your pet’s food. Make sure that you are feeding your pet a food that is free of fillers (which make a pet feel full but do not provide much nutrition) and full of protein, fat and vitamins. Look for pet food that is labeled “active” or “advanced.” Puppy and kitten foods are also very high in fat and calories and can be used to boost your pet’s weight or for dogs and cats who are pregnant and or nursing.
Also note: If your pet is underweight but has a very large belly but appears thin everywhere else, take your pet to the vet to be checked for worms.
Having Trouble Walking
If your pet is having trouble walking or going up stairs, it may be time for you to invest in some products that could significantly help your pet get around. There are many foods, treats, and supplements that have glucosamine and chondroitin in them. Usually found in cartilage, tendons and vertebrate tissues, these substances can help to rejuvenate your pet’s hips and joints and increase their mobility. You can also purchase ramps or stairs to help your pet access beds, couches or vehicles without having to jump and put strain on their legs. There are even litter boxes that have ramps for your elderly cats.
Itchy or Dry Skin
If your pet has been itching, scratching, or biting his or her paws, he or she could be experiencing an allergic reaction. Some pets, especially dogs, have seasonal allergies. Seasonal allergy symptoms can be reduced by keeping your pet away from tall grasses or gardens that could be triggering the allergic reaction. Using shampoos made with oatmeal and aloe can help to soothe the skin and you can also ask your vet about using children’s Benadryl in small doses to help reduce allergy symptoms in your pet.
If your pet seems to be experiencing year-round allergies, he or she is most likely allergic to something in his or her food. Getting your furry friend tested for food allergies can be expensive; instead, try the process of elimination by switching the main protein in your pet’s food. Most pet foods use chicken as the main ingredient so it is the easiest first ingredient to eliminate and check. Try a food that is made with lamb, duck, or fish instead to see if your pet’s condition improves. If changing the protein doesn’t seem to help, other ingredients to eliminate are grains, which can be difficult for some pets to digest. Look for pet food labeled “grain free” or “core.” Make sure to always switch your pet’s food gradually to avoid digestive upsets and to accurately test your pet’s reaction to the new food.
Bad Breath and Dental Hygiene
As pets get older, so do their teeth and gums. Provide pets with toys or treats that will also help to scrape plaque and tartar off of their teeth as they play. Look for bones or rubber toys that have ridges and bumps or rope toys which can also act as dental floss. Giving your pet wet food is a great way to add moisture to their diet, but excessive wet food can cause buildup on your pet’s teeth and weaken gums. You can also purchase dental hygiene products for your pet, such as toothbrushes, mouthwash, and mints. Brushing your pet’s teeth may seem like a pain, but it could eliminate the cost of having to take your pet to the vet to have teeth pulled or treat an infection.
Warning Signs of Health Issues
We can usually tell if our pets are not feeling well just by the way that they behave. If your pet is lethargic or uninterested in food, water or treats, you can assume that he or she is not feeling like themselves and they should be taken to the vet immediately. Also take note if your pet is drinking excessive amounts of water, losing balance or hiding in unusual places around the house; these too could be signs of dwindling health.
Your pet may not always be able to tell you what he or she needs so it is your responsibility to know your facts and make sure that your animal lives the best life possible. Your pet is counting on you.