Caring for Old Pets
We all want our furry friends to live for as long as possible. But with ageing comes the increased risk of age-related health conditions, such as arthritis and heart problems.
In this post, we explore what ageing means for our cats and dogs and simple tips on how you can help keep them in optimal health.
What age is considered a senior dog?
Most dogs live until around 12 years of age, however, some live much longer. Depending on the breed, dogs may be considered senior when they reach between 5 and 10 years of age.
What should I expect from an older dog?
Older dogs age similarly to humans; in general, they may become more lethargic, develop white hairs, and may experience age-related health conditions.
As dogs get older, you may notice the following changes:
- Your dog may sleep more than usual and generally have less energy throughout the day.
- Weight gain is common once a dog reaches mid-to-older age.
- Their bowel and bladder habits may change; they may go more often or much less.
- Their appetite may reduce.
- They may develop a less shiny coat.
- Many dogs experience a lowered immunity from illnesses.
- They may develop hearing or sight loss.
- Some dogs may develop age-related conditions, such as arthritis, heart, liver, or kidney disease.
- Cognitively, some dogs may present as confused, anxious or appear more subdued.
How to care for an old dog
Caring for very old dogs involves monitoring any changes. The following guidance can help you care for your dog as they grow older to ensure they remain as happy and healthy as possible:
- Oral hygiene – As dog’s age, they can be more susceptible to infected gums and decaying teeth. When this happens, bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream via the gums and lead to significant problems with organ function. Maintaining regular professional and at-home cleaning. Your vet can provide tailored senior dog dental care advice so that you can keep your pup’s teeth as pearly white as possible.
- Regular grooming – Undertaking regular grooming helps keep your dog’s coat in a healthy condition and provides the opportunity to check your dog for any potential weight changes or lumps. Ensure you keep your dog’s nails trimmed to help provide better traction on slippery surfaces and prevent mobility problems.
- Senior-friendly nutrition – Your vet can advise you on the best diet plan for your dog. Some older dogs cannot eat certain foods due to dental issues, whereas others may need increased vitamins and minerals.
- Keep them active – Although your dog may sleep more, getting them up to move around regularly will help keep their joints supple and prevent unnecessary weight gain. If mobility is an issue, consider taking your dog for more frequent shorter walks rather than one long walk per day.
- Regular access to their toileting area – Older dogs often need the toilet more frequently, which means they need regular access throughout the day to their toileting area to prevent any accidents.
- Easy access to food, water, and toys – Maintaining regular fluid and food intake is essential to maintaining healthy bowel and bladder movements. If your dog’s mobility is poor, ensure their food and water bowls are in a convenient location that they can easily reach.
- Regular health checks – Monitor your dog for any changes and maintain regular health checks with your vet.
- Keep them warm and comfortable – During cold weather, ensure your dog has plenty of blankets and perhaps a dog coat or jumper to keep them warm. If your dog has arthritis, you could also invest in a pet-safe heat pad or memory foam bedding for maximum comfort.
How to care for an old dog with arthritis
Arthritis is a common age-related illness that causes inflammation of the joints, resulting in pain and restricted mobility. Arthritis can happen due to injury, general wear and tear or because of your dog’s breed (some breeds, such as German Shepherds and Labradors, are at increased risk of joint-related problems).
There are various treatments available to help ease the symptoms of arthritis, including supplements and medication to reduce inflammation, hydrotherapy, and surgery. Your vet will be able to guide you on the best form of treatment for your pooch.
For ways you can provide relief from arthritis at home, here are some tips to provide the best senior dog joint care:
- Keep your dog active – Inactive joints can lead to stiffness, so gentle exercise is recommended; a short walk a couple of times a day may be better than one long walk.
- Maintain a healthy weight – Being overweight can lead to more pressure being placed on joints. Maintaining a balanced diet and keeping active will help keep your dog in optimal health.
- Stay warm – Arthritic joints and bones can be more painful during the colder months, so putting a dog-friendly heat pad in their bed or investing in a dog coat can help keep them comfortable.
- Keep nails trimmed – When a dog’s nails become long, this can affect their mobility and cause additional pain to already problematic joints. Shorter nails will also provide better traction on hardwood floors, which will make it easier for them to move around.
- Improve accessibility – As dogs get older, they may not get into their usual bed as easily as they used to and may find reaching food and water bowls more difficult. If this is the case, consider investing in a lower-sided dog bed and ensuring their bowls are placed on a flat surface so they can easily reach them.
At what age is a cat considered elderly?
On average, a cat aged 11 years or over is classed as elderly, however, some cats may age quicker than others depending on age-related medical conditions.
What should I expect from an older cat?
Just like humans, as they grow older, cats are likely to present with increased lethargy, slower movements, and they may develop age-related health conditions.
When caring for older cats, you may see some of the following changes:
- Reduced energy and more time spent napping.
- Changes in appetite.
- Weight gain or weight loss.
- Changes to their regular bowel and bladder movements.
- Vision and hearing loss.
- Their coat may become less shiny, and there may be more white hairs.
- Cognitively, cats may experience disorientation or personality changes.
- Age-related health conditions such as arthritis, kidney, liver and heart problems.
- Lowered immunity to certain illnesses.
How to care for an old cat
Caring for very old cats may require some changes to your day-to-day routine to help ensure they remain as happy, healthy, and comfortable as possible:
- Oral hygiene – Maintain a regular oral hygiene routine with your cat, checking for any potential growths, gum redness and bad breath. Dental-related conditions can begin to affect other organs if not treated efficiently. Maintain regular check-ups with your vet to ensure their teeth remain in tip-top condition.
- Regular grooming – As cats get older, they may find it more difficult to groom themselves. Stay on top of grooming by brushing them regularly, wiping any discharge from their face and monitoring for any lumps or weight changes. As cats age, they are less able to retract their claws, which means they are more susceptible to catching them on carpets and clothing; maintaining regular claw trimming will help reduce this risk.
- Age-appropriate nutrition – Some cats may develop nutritional deficiencies as they age or may be more prone to weight gain. Some cats may lose the sense of smell, which can affect their appetite, while those with dental problems may struggle to tolerate certain food consistencies. Your vet will be able to recommend a diet that is most suitable for your elderly cat.
- Keep them active – Although older cats may have less energy, most will still enjoy staying active and playing with toys. Consider investing in senior-friendly toys and horizontal scratching posts to make playing more accessible to them.
- Make changes to their litter tray – If your cat usually has an outdoor litter tray, you may want to consider adding in an indoor litter tray as they get older, particularly during colder months.
- Ensure their water and food are easily accessible – If your cat struggles to climb the stairs, consider adding a water and food bowl on each level of the home. Also, ensure that the placement of the bowl is within easy reach for your cat, preferably on a flat surface.
- Consider microchipping – Many older cats may experience cognitive changes as they age. For outdoor cats, this may lead to them feeling disorientated and struggling to find their way home. Having your cat microchipped is a reassuring way to know that your cat will be reunited with you if they get lost.
- Monitor for changes – Having regular check-ups with your vet and frequently monitoring your cat for any changes will help them stay in good health and can prevent any potential health-related complications.
As pets age, this can result in more frequent trips to the vets for regular check-ups. To help your furry companions remain in the best health, Asda Money offers two levels of pet insurance cover so that you can choose the policy that is right for you and your budget.