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New Year, New Care: A Guide on How to Care for Older Dogs & Cats

As we usher in a new year, it’s the perfect time to reassess and update the care routine for our beloved geriatric pets. Older dogs and cats have special needs, and at The Gentle Vet, we understand the importance of adapting their care as they age. This blog post will guide you through setting up a nurturing and effective care routine for your senior pets in the year ahead.

Assessing Your Pet's Health at the Year's Start

The beginning of the year is an ideal time to evaluate the overall health of your older dog or cat. Observe any changes in their behaviour, mobility, or appetite. These subtle shifts can be crucial indicators of their well-being and may necessitate adjustments in their daily care. While home observations are essential, nothing replaces a thorough check-up at the vet. Starting the year with a comprehensive veterinary assessment provides a baseline for monitoring your pet’s health and catching any emerging issues early on.

Scheduling Regular Vet Visits and Health Screenings

Beginning the year with a check-up is a great start, but remember, as your geriatric pet grows older, their health needs can change more rapidly. To keep on top of these changes, it’s beneficial to establish a routine schedule for regular veterinary visits. This not only aids in the early detection and management of common age-related conditions but also ensures your pet’s care plan is continually updated to match their evolving needs. As a pet owner, it’s helpful to plan these visits in advance, setting reminders on your calendar or coordinating with your vet for recurring appointments throughout the year.

Updating Your Pet’s Care Plan Based on Age-Related Changes

Embracing the changes that come with your pets’ advancing years is a vital aspect of caring for them. As they enter their senior phase, the focus of their care routine may need to shift to accommodate their evolving requirements. Here are some common signs of ageing in pets and how to help alleviate them:

  • Reduced Mobility: Signs such as reluctance to climb stairs or less enthusiasm for walks often point to joint discomfort or arthritis. Introducing joint health supplements and ensuring a cosy, accessible sleeping area can offer relief. Gentle, regular exercise is also beneficial for maintaining mobility
  • Weight Fluctuations: Noticeable weight changes could indicate metabolic shifts or health concerns. Tailoring their diet to a senior-specific formula helps them manage weight effectively. For unexplained weight loss, especially in cats, consulting a vet is essential to exclude medical issues like thyroid problems.
  • Cognitive Health: Changes in behaviour, disorientation, or altered interactions can signal cognitive decline. Mental stimulation through simple games, maintaining a consistent routine, and veterinary advice for specific interventions are key to managing these changes.
  • Sleep Pattern Changes: Variations in sleep habits could stem from discomfort or cognitive changes associated with ageing. A peaceful, snug sleeping spot and a consistent daily routine can provide comfort and stability.
  • Sensory Changes: Adapting to hearing or vision loss requires a stable environment. Maintaining a consistent home layout helps them navigate safely. Employing scents or sounds can aid in orientation and communication.
  • Skin and Coat Health: A decline in grooming habits can lead to a lacklustre coat or skin issues. Regular grooming and supplements like omega-3 can maintain skin and coat health, keeping your older dog or cat feeling more comfortable.

 

While these signs often accompany ageing, they could also be symptoms of underlying conditions. It’s advisable to discuss any observed changes with your vet.

Setting Up a Comfortable and Stimulating Home Environment

For senior pets, their living environment plays a significant role in their overall well-being. As they grow older, certain adaptations in your home can make their daily life more comfortable and engaging. Here’s a quick run-down of how to take care of an older dog or cat at home:

  • Easy Accessibility: As mobility decreases, making your home more accessible is crucial. Installing ramps or pet steps helps them reach their favourite spots without strain. This is especially helpful for pets with arthritis or joint issues.
  • Comfortable Bedding: Orthopaedic pet beds provide extra cushioning for ageing joints, offering relief from discomfort and promoting restful sleep.
  • Temperature Regulation: Older pets may struggle with body temperature regulation. Keeping their environment warm and draft-free is important, especially in colder months.
  • Non-Slip Flooring: Hard floors can be challenging for pets with mobility issues. Rugs or non-slip mats can prevent slipping and provide stability as they move around.
  • Mental Stimulation: Keeping their mind active is as important as physical health. Interactive toys, puzzle feeders, or simple games can stimulate their cognitive functions and prevent boredom.
  • Quiet Spaces: Senior pets may appreciate quieter, more secluded areas where they can retreat and relax without disturbance.
  • Consistent Layout: Maintaining a consistent layout helps pets with sensory impairments navigate the home safely. Avoid frequent rearranging of furniture which can be disorienting.
  • Gentle Grooming: Regular grooming helps maintain coat and skin health, and it’s also an opportunity for bonding and comfort.
  • Stress-Free Environment: A calm and stable atmosphere is beneficial for older dogs and cats. Reducing loud noises and sudden changes can help keep them relaxed.

A Note on Dental Health

Dental health is another critical aspect of caring for senior pets, often overlooked yet immensely impactful on their overall well-being. As cats and dogs age, they become more susceptible to dental issues which, if ignored, can lead to serious health complications.

  • Why Dental Health Matters: In geriatric pets, the risk of periodontal disease increases significantly. This condition, characterised by inflamed gums and the deterioration of the supporting structures of the teeth, can lead to tooth loss, infections, and pain. Moreover, bacteria from dental diseases can enter the bloodstream, potentially affecting major organs and causing systemic health problems.
  • Common Dental Issues in Older Pets: Senior dogs and cats frequently face challenges like tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth resorption. These issues can cause discomfort, making it difficult for them to eat properly and maintain a nutritious diet. Bad breath, a common symptom of dental problems, can also be a sign of underlying health issues.
  • The Importance of Regular Dental Check-Ups: Scheduling a cat dental cleaning or a visit to a dog dental vet can help prevent oral health issues from escalating and contribute to the overall well-being of geriatric pets. Veterinarians can provide professional cleanings to remove plaque and tartar buildup while addressing other issues before they become more severe.
  • Home Dental Care: Alongside professional check-ups, maintaining a dental care routine at home is vital. This includes brushing your pet’s teeth regularly with pet-specific toothpaste and providing dental chews that help reduce plaque and tartar buildup.

Seeking Geriatric Veterinary Care

For comprehensive geriatric veterinary care, consider The Gentle Vet. Our team is experienced in handling the unique challenges faced by senior pets. We provide tailored care plans, including pain management strategies and palliative care options, ensuring your pet’s golden years are as comfortable as possible.
As you navigate the year ahead with your older pet, remember that their needs may change, but your love and care should remain constant. Embrace these changes and continue to provide the nurturing environment they deserve. For any specific advice on geriatric dog or cat care, feel free to contact us. Our team is dedicated to supporting you and your ageing companion every step of the way.

Get Help from The Gentle Vet

Chronic conditions in pets, such as dog epilepsy, cat kidney disease, or allergies in your furry companion, require attentive, ongoing care. By understanding these conditions, adhering to prescribed treatments, making dietary adjustments, and maintaining open communication with your veterinarian, you can significantly enhance your pet’s comfort and quality of life.
Remember, at The Gentle Vet, we’re here to support you every step of the way in your pet’s journey through their golden years. For specific concerns — like cat arthritis treatment, dog arthritis treatment, or for a pet cancer vet  — don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We are committed to providing compassionate, comprehensive care for your beloved companion, through it all.
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