November is National Senior Pet Month, a month dedicated to celebrating senior cats and dogs. Senior pets can offer so much love, loyalty and companionship to pet owners, but it can be tricky knowing the right way to care for your senior pet as they age and adapting to your dog or cat’s new health needs. As our pets continue to live longer and more research is gathered around pets and aging, the more important it is to make sure we’re giving our senior dogs and cats the best care for their needs.
Here at Bone & Biscuit, we value giving our pets the best care for them possible, no matter their age or breed. To celebrate Senior Pet Month, we are giving you our guide to caring for a senior dog or cat. If you have a senior pet or are looking to adopt a sweet old soul from a shelter and need some tips, keep reading for Bone & Biscuit’s guide to caring for senior pets!
Tip #1: Use Carpets Where You Can
If you have a lot of hardwood floors or slippery surfaces, it can be difficult to walk on for your senior dog or cat, especially if they have arthritis or other health concerns. Carpeting stairs and floors or adding rugs and non-slip mats in spots they frequent is a great way to make it easier for them to walk around your home comfortably. If you can’t add carpets to your home, there are many comfortable options like booties and grips for your senior pet’s feet to help them walk on slippery floors.
Tip #2: Set Up Ramps & Small Steps
If your dog or cat is set to sleeping in higher-up spots, but can’t make the jump anymore, setting up a ramp or steps to their favourite spots (like your bed or the couch) helps to make sure they can still reach them. It’s a simple way to keep them mobile and independent as they age.
Tip #3: Find A Diet That Works For Your Dog Or Cat
With senior cats and dogs, weight gain can quickly become an issue. A healthy, more natural and nutrient-dense diet can also help ensure better health and keep them living longer and happier lives. Also, if your senior pet has sensitive or missing teeth, choosing softer foods over hard kibble (or softening kibble by adding water) and treats is another thing to consider. Of course, making major switches suddenly can also be difficult for their digestion, and you should always take into consideration your senior dog or cat’s particular needs and health concerns. We recommend consulting with your veterinarian for diet advice and collaborating with your local Bone & Biscuit for specific products.
Tip #4: Exercise & Take Them On Frequent (But Short) Walks
Keeping your senior dog or cat physically active is especially important as they age to keep them mobile and healthy. Taking your dog on more frequent, but shorter and more gentle walks help to make sure they’re getting the exercise they need at their own pace. Avoiding rocky hikes or walks with sharp inclines is another thing to consider. Taking some time for extra (but gentle) playtime is another great way to add to their exercise routine.
Tip #5: Take Them For Regular Checkups
The older they get, the more often they’ll most likely need more checkups from your veterinarian. They can check their bloodwork, check for illnesses, monitor their current health conditions, and help you detect issues early on. Setting up regular checkups can help you keep on top of things and feel more secure in your pet’s health. Of course, this can depend on your pet’s personal needs, as not every dog or cat needs the same amount of specialized care. Consult with your vet to find a routine that best fits you and your senior pet’s needs.
Tip #6: Gear Up Your Senior Pet
Older cats and dogs can feel the weather more than younger pets can. If you live in an area that can get extremely hot or cold, you’ll want to prepare to make sure your pet is comfortable despite the change in weather. Consider things like water bottles, cooling vests, life jackets, or paw protectors for hot asphalt for hotter weather, and warm jackets, sweaters or snow booties for colder weather. Also, getting a comfortable harness that wraps around their body (instead of their neck) is usually more comfortable for senior dogs.
Tip #7: Make Sure To Use Hand & Voice Commands
This one can be a bit tricky if you haven’t trained them from a younger age, but we firmly believe that you can train an old dog new tricks. As senior dogs and cats get older, they often lose some of their sight and hearing capabilities. Teaching them both hand and voice commands will help them to better understand you as they age. If you have a younger pet, we highly recommend starting to train them with both now.
Tip #8: Spend Lots of Bonding Time Together
A simple cuddle session on the couch for a movie can go a long way in bonding with your senior pet and giving them the attention they need. Spend some extra time cuddling, petting, and praising them to help strengthen your bond and boost their mood. Bonding time is especially important if you’re adopting a senior pet into your family, too.
Tip #9: Get An Anxiety Vest
Also called a thunder jacket, this type of jacket can help keep your dog or cat calmer when they are in stressful situations. As dogs and cats become older, often they can also become more anxious. Using tools like an anxiety jacket will help keep them calm and avoid straining them.
Tip #10: Keep Your Senior Pet Comfortable & Calm
This is a bit easier said than done, but one of the best ways to keep your senior pet calmer and healthier is to ensure they’re comfortable. For instance, if you know your dog finds busy areas or lots of people stressful, try to avoid parks or shopping areas that could cause your pet stress. Understanding what does or doesn’t stress out your senior dog or cat is key!
Tip #11: Try Different Activities for Mobility
While similar to exercising your dog or cat, for pets that are especially arthritic or stiff, investing time in mobility exercises can go a long way in keeping them healthier. Many cities and towns have physical therapy or pet yoga classes, but there are plenty of options online as well. Doing gentle stretches to help keep them mobile and keep them more active for longer, and help with stiff joints. Of course, you always want to be careful not to overdo it, so always consult with a professional or your vet for advice geared towards your cat or dog.
Tip #12: Invest In Their Sleeping Arrangements
Who doesn’t want a comfortable space to sleep in? As your pet gets older, senior pets tend to sleep more than they used to, and harder surfaces or worn-down beds can take their toll on your pet’s joints and muscles. Many pet owners advocate for heated beds, too, as a way to not only keep them warm but to also relax your pet’s muscles (although they don’t work for every dog or cat). Investing in comfortable bedding, blankets and softer toys will help ensure they have a comfortable place to rest.
Tip #13: Be Patient
As dogs and cats age, they can often become slower, more tired, and have a harder time hearing. Many dogs and cats also experience things like dementia and other health issues, and can often struggle with things like holding their bladder for long periods of time. While it can frustrating if it seems like your pet isn’t listening, or if you have to clean up accidents for an older pet when you didn’t have to before, remember to be patient and compassionate. Your senior dog or cat, as they age, physically or mentally isn’t always able to behave like they used to. A little patience and love can go a long way in helping them feel comfortable and helping you handle the aging process of your beloved family member better.
Tip #14: Spoil Them Rotten!
There’s nothing like spoiling your senior pet with new toys, tasty treats, and loads of affection! As your senior pet ages, it’s important to take the time to treat them now and then to a little something special. Of course, always keep in mind their dietary restrictions or needs, but spending that extra time and care to spoil your senior dog or cat will not only make their day but also help you to strengthen your bond with one another and make sure they’re having the best time possible.
If you’re on the hunt for the perfect thing to spoil your pet with, stop by your local Bone & Biscuit store for tasty treats, new toys, healthy pet food options, and some extra affection from our staff and store owners for your senior pet. Check out our store directory to find your nearest Bone & Biscuit pet supply store today.
*Disclaimer: The contents of this blog post, such as any graphics, images, text and other material contained on this site are for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s medical condition. Never disregard professional advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
If you think your pet has a medical emergency, call or visit your veterinarian or your local veterinary emergency hospital immediately. Reliance on any information appearing on this website is at your own risk. If you have medical concerns or need advice for your dog or cat, please seek out your closest holistic or integrative veterinarian.