I have been the last one to recognize that a beloved family pet was showing signs of getting older. That’s not unusual when you spend a lot of time with a dog (or cat) each day. I was in denial regarding the dog’s aging process, because like most pet owners, I didn’t want to face the reality of parting with a four-legged family member. No harm was done in my case and warning signs from aging pets often develop slowly and permit us humans a little time to adjust. Be aware of typical warning signs so you can help ease your pet into old age.
Signs of Arthritis
Dogs are slower to get up in the morning and begin to walk and lie down differently. Cats starts sleeping longer hours. Arthritis usually afflicts the joints of the legs, back and neck, weakening the joints and making movement painful.
Place a heat lamp over your pet’s bed and a heating pad under bedding to help keep joints warm and soothe aching muscles.
Cognitive dysfunction (CD) is the pet equivalent of Alzheimer’s in humans and about half of all aging pets will develop some degree of CD as they age. Warning signs of pet cognitive dysfunction include memory lapses, social behavioral changes, decreased or increased energy level and disorientation.
Help keep your pet’s memory sharp by feeding them or giving daily treats through a puzzle toy. This makes them think and work for their food.
If your dog or cat begins ‘going’ everywhere like he did prior to being housebroken or if he ‘goes’ with increased frequency, it’s a warning sign of an age-related disorder. Kidney failure, bladder infection, brain tumor or neuromuscular conditions present with change in elimination habits.
Pay a visit to the vet to discover the underlying problem and at home place puppy pee pads around the house for a dog and invest in more litter boxes for an aging cat.
Vision or Hearing Loss
A pet that no longer comes when called or responds to well-known commands may be suffering with some degree of blindness or deafness.
When vision is dimming, times of low-light make seeing even more difficult. Walk a visually-challenged pet during mid-day and keep a light on in the rooms he is in most often.
A flashlight works wonders for a pet that is going deaf. Use the flashlight to get his attention and give commands.
Just as with humans, a pet’s activity level and metabolism decrease with age and the weight begins to pile on. The more weight gain a pet has, the less active and more likely he will be to develop other age-related health issues.
Gradually change pet’s diet to a ‘senior’ formula at age 7. Senior formulations are lower in calories and higher in protein than other food blends. Make the food transition slow to avoid digestive issues in your aging pet.