Pets offer many benefits, from companionship to improved health.
On average, dogs live around 11 years and cats live well into their teens. As your pet ages with you, both of your needs and abilities may change.
Here are a few tips to help you keep your pets healthy and happy for years to come!
- Medical needs: As with people, pets often require additional medical care as they age. Consider pet insurance or a rainy day savings fund. In addition, make sure to stay up-to-date with preventative care, such as vaccinations and checkups. Arthritis is one of the most common problems senior animals face, so be on the lookout for signs, which can include limping, difficulty moving or changes in posture, increased sleeping and resting, irritability, or licking/chewing on the sore area. There are many things your vet can do to help with your pet’s health, from medications to laser treatments.
- Food: Your pet’s dietary needs may change as they age. For example, your pet may need a more easily digestible food or soaked or wet food if they have teeth issues. Also, it’s important to watch their weight and not to over feed, as additional weight will add to your pet’s health issues.
- Exercise: With aging pets, the phrase “use it or lose it” still holds true. For example, if your arthritic dog is sedentary, it’s going to be very difficult for your pet to regain fitness. Short, regular walks, such as once or twice a day – or daily playtime for an indoor cat – is usually the best bet. Check with your vet about the length and intensity of exercise that’s recommended for your pet at their particular age and level of health.
- Environment: Older pets may have difficulty with stairs or jumping up on areas where they used to sleep, so be prepared to make adjustments as needed. In addition, older pets will likely be more sensitive to the cold.
- Long-term care and emergency plans: Although it’s unpleasant to think about, it’s a good idea to plan for your pet, if you were to pass on before him, or if you had to move to a place where they couldn’t live. The ASPCA offers a handy “Pet Trust Primer” to get you started.
If you are currently without a pet and aren’t sure if making a 10-plus year commitment is right for this time of your life, consider fostering a pet or volunteering with pets. Or, consider adopting a senior pet. Senior pets often require less training and exercise than youngsters.
Remember that one thing is certain: For those who love animals, having them in your life is a great joy and well worth a little advanced planning!