The Ultimate Guide to Senior Pet Care: Health and Comfort

Elderly Man in Polo Shirt Holding Dog in Hands // Healthier Pets Today

Do you want to learn about senior pet care? Stick around! Pet care looks much different than it does for adolescents and middle-aged animals, which is why senior pet care is essential. Immune systems and metabolism aren’t the only things to change: you’ll even notice different behaviors and routines. I’m a vet tech with a decade of experience caring for aged pets, so I know the delicate nature of their health in later years. I also know some changes you can make to improve your old buddy’s health and comfort. Using real-life instances from my profession, I’ve outlined seven checkboxes to help you ensure your senior pet’s safe, healthy, and happy environment. Let’s get started.

7 Tips for Senior Pet Care 

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1. Regular Vet Visits 

A healthy senior pet with no pre-existing conditions should see the vet every six months. Once you reach age 10, I suggest you take it every quarter. 

Older animals have a weakened immune system, and your vet will monitor your pets’ health with each appointment. They’re now more susceptible to kidney/bladder disease, joint issues, and dementia. Luckily, medications exist to slow progression and fight these conditions.

Regular vet appointments can also detect cancer and possibly stop it in its tracks, not to mention provide medication for failing eyesight and hearing.

2. Age-appropriate Nutrition

As your pet ages, their dietary needs change, and you should prepare to make nutritional adjustments.

Aging animals experience drastic weight fluctuations, so they gain and lose weight fast. It is our job to provide food that keeps weight while avoiding obesity.

Senior dogs require a diet of 25% protein and polyunsaturated fatty acids, while cats need 40-50% protein and polyunsaturated fatty acids from fish oil.

3. Regular Exercise 

Exercising an old dog keeps their mind sharp and their body healthy. 

I always encourage pet owners to provide a minimum of 30-minute walks twice a day, and luckily, dogs look forward to a walk no matter how old they get. Bambi, my 9-year-old GSD, gets 30-minute walks twice daily, and I’ll often throw in 5 minutes if she doesn’t appear tired.

For senior cats, I recommend using wand toys and feathers to rouse them to play for 10 minutes twice daily. My oldest daughter bought the Hey Brother Cat Tower to encourage our cats to climb, jump, and play. It works like magic.

4. Pain Management 

Older pets will often experience pain from inflamed joints and tendons, and you’ll notice this issue if they’re limping, trembling, or constantly adjusting.

Many pet owners come to a crossroads when dealing with pain management because vets sometimes prescribe steroids and opiates for their animals. However, we should remember that the most important thing is a pain-free pet, especially in their final years.

A trip to the vet should get you the needed medication for your ailing pets. Remember to take immediate action to prevent total lameness.

5. Mental Stimulation

Mental stimulation is an effective way to slow the progress of canine/feline cognitive dysfunction. You can incorporate games into your pet’s routine to work out their minds. 

For one, walks provide an excellent opportunity to see new things and encounter new smells, which 10 in 10 dogs recommend. However, if you need indoor-friendly ideas, look to snuffle mats, lick mats, and even hide-and-seek.

If your elderly friend is a feline, consider investing in cat towers, tunnels, and puzzle games. Our cat, Freddie, also never turns down a game of hide-and-seek.

6. Comfort and Safety

As pets age, their comfort and safety become a significant concern. Their needs resemble those of older humans, such as cozy bedding, quiet spaces, and sometimes thick clothes for warmth. 

Keep their food, water, and bedding accessible so your pets don’t strain to find them. It would help if you covered sharp edges with padding so your dog doesn’t injure himself from bumping into them. 

You might even notice incontinence, but it is never enough to put down your friend. It is only a sign of age and disease in their last years, and there is medication to help. Remember that incontinence is also common in elderly humans.

7. Grooming

The older your pet gets, the more fussy he will be during grooming. But this does not make grooming less essential. It just means you should be more patient when caring for his coat. 

I suggest switching things up, like using a softer brush, taking breaks, and throwing in a massage. They may still stress out during the session, so I’d recommend placing them on a non-slip surface to avoid falls.

Frequently Asked Questions 

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What Age is a Senior Pet?

Giant dog breeds enter old age at around eight years, and medium-sized dogs are considered senior dogs at ten years. Meanwhile, tiny breeds enter old age at 11-12, and cats are considered seniors around 11-14.

How Do You Care for Aging Pets?

The three main points of elderly pet care are nutrition, health, and safety. All other considerations fall under these three areas. Remember these before making any medical, life, or dietary adjustments. 

How Do You Enrich an Older Dog’s Life?

You can enrich an older dog’s life by taking him on short, frequent walks to allow him to see and smell new things. Invest in enrichment toys like lick/sniffle mats if you can’t provide regular walks.

How Do I Know if My Senior Dog is Healthy?

A healthy senior dog should be healthy weight and have regular bowel movements. Other health factors depend on your pet’s age and medical history. However, the best way to know your pet’s health status is to visit his veterinarian.

Senior Pet Care: Golden Years, Golden Care

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When our pets approach their golden years, we must keep them safe and healthy. We can make better choices by educating ourselves on what is “normal” for our pets and booking a vet appointment when that changes. Senior pet care can bring some anxiety as our furry friends go gray, but remember that they’re counting on you to keep them healthy as you’ve done thus far. You’ve got this!