Watching our best mates age can be challenging, we want them to still be those lovable puppies and kittens forever. As extensions of our family, sometimes even so before we had two-legged litters of our own, it can be really difficult to see the signs of ageing appear in your fur baby before you are ready. As they live for only a fraction of our lifetime, it is inevitable that we will have to nurse them through their golden years and into seniority. You may notice that your bestie exhibits changes in the style and longevity of exercise they enjoy, gradual onset of arthritic symptoms like limping or yelping, or an inability to jump up into the car or on the bed. Yep, I hate to say it, but it’s happening.
The upside is, with some careful consideration and a great maintenance plan in place, you can ensure that your elderly dog or cat is healthy, comfortable and living their best life, well into their retirement.
Arthritis – Osteoarthritis refers to the quickened breakdown of cartilage in your pet’s joints, while at the same time, the production of natural cartilage in their bodies slows down. While we never recommend self-diagnosing arthritis in your pets, there are certainly some tell–tale signs that should encourage you to see your Vet for diagnosis and ongoing care treatment for your elderly mate.
Diet – nutrition should play a big part in an elderly pet’s life. There are plenty of osteo-care foods and supplements on the market that can add beneficial nutrients and minerals to your pet’s diet, including glucosamine, calcium and Chondroitin Sulfate. Just be sure to read the labels and speak to a professional for their expert recommendations before purchasing. We find those prepared from natural ingredients perform better and have a couple of favourites that we routinely see great results with. Glyde has a powder formulation, but we particularly love their chews as do the dogs. Cats don’t seem to have the same response to the Glucosamine formulations doing much better with the Essential fatty acid supplements, with Omega 6 being the main anti-inflammatory ingredient. We love the Antinol capsules, being a cold pressed green-lipped muscle extract (most products are cooked and powdered), with many of our patients on this supplement able to reduce their medication doses.
Weight – keeping your dog lean will reduce the amount of pressure on their joints and organs, especially their aging hearts. Seen especially in aging dogs who have dropped off the puppy-esque exercise regime, it is crucial to keep a keen eye on the amount of food your dog is getting every day so that their calorie intake matches the amount of exercise they are enjoying. Weight management is critical, and should be discussed with your Vet at your next consultation to alleviate any guessing you might be doing when it comes to feeding portions. A good quality dry food will meet their requirements eliminating the need add too many leftovers or cheap pet foods, and you’ll find that the better the quality, the less you have to give your dog (making what may initially feel like a larger outlay financially, last longer than your supermarket dry biscuits in the long run). Not to mention they don’t have the salt and sugar levels of the cheaper foods and the adverse effects these can have on our ageing pets.
Gentle, low-impact exercise – short, frequent sessions of swimming, walking in water and lead walks should replace long runs and ball throwing, particularly if your pet is carrying an injury. Aim to take your dog out for 5-10 minutes strolls a few times a day rather than one long stretch at the beach or dog park. Over enthusiastic rumbling with others dogs can also place unnecessary strain on your dog’s heart and body. Getting your cat to exercise, well good luck with that, when you figure it out let us know! 😉
Logistics – place steps by beds and couches for ease of use and try using raised feeding stations to reduce strain. Avoid using stairs if you can take an alternate route throughout the home and assist your dog into and out of the car to avoid high-impact jumping. This is particularly important if your pet has back issues. Discourage fly-ball or ‘zoomies’ inducing activities where your dog will want to jump and flip in the air, but will no doubt pay for their enthusiasm later. Our Vets may also be able to tailor specific exercises to assist with getting better movement and reduced pain for your mate.
Slips and spills – reduce opportunities for your fur baby to slide or fall over by placing carpets over hardwood floors and tiled areas. Ramps can be used on external steps. Rubber mats around food and water bowls and raising these can mean that your bud doesn’t need to lower themselves through the neck and shoulders adding further discomfort.
Massage and warming treatment – gentle daily rubs can make all the difference to soothing your pooch’s or kitties’ aches and pains. Just like humans, most pets enjoy a gentle massage and will signal to you if you are applying too much pressure or the areas that cause discomfort. Warm heat packs can also be placed in bedding to relieve stiffness, especially in the morning when their aging body might feel extra soreness in joints after laying down for prolonged periods.
Supportive, raised bedding – Keep your elderly patient comfortable by raising their bed off of the cold ground and ensuring they have plenty of cushion to support their bodies. Bean bags and very soft bedding can prove challenging though, with having to drag oneself up out of a snug and often mobile surface. We all know what it’s like to struggle getting up, so just imagine what it is like for them if you were in their shoes. Just like humans, pets can feel stiff after a night tossing and turning but removing drafts and hardwood or concrete flooring will aid in alleviating discomfort first thing and will ensure they get a better nights’ sleep.
Unfortunately, aging is an inevitable process for all and they may go through other illnesses that can cause a variety of health issues, discomfort and inflammation, and may require special care. With a personalized maintenance plan from your Vet in place, it is possible to assist your bestie in living their best life from home. If you are concerned that your pet may be exhibiting the first signs of arthritis, take a look at our Osteoarthritis checklist before booking in a consult with one of our experienced staff at DVS.