Cats | Dogs | December 11, 2015

Adopting a Senior Pet

Val Culpin
By: Val Culpin
Dog on the couch

There is something lovely about having a senior pet around the house. The lively activity and mischievousness of youth is replaced by a more mellow, all knowing and worldly wise gray face who takes life one day at a time, and at their own pace. If this sounds like the kind of pet that fits your lifestyle, you should consider adopting a senior pet.

There are no surprises with a senior pet. Their personality traits are established already and they are normally very accepting of whatever life throws at them. The puppyhood or kittenhood headaches of housetraining are well behind them, and their more mellow demeanor is a comfort to live with. Older dogs often have some basic training as well, and if you do wish to do a little more training, their attention span is usually much better than that of a puppy.

Senior pets are also usually less destructive. The urge to chew and scratch is much less likely to cause problems. Dogs are often content with a sedate walk in the neighborhood or a gentle game of fetch as a form of exercise, as opposed to the more energy draining needs of a younger dog who needs more activity. Many senior cats will also still enjoy chasing that little red dot of the laser pointer, but perhaps for not quite as long as their kitten counterparts.

There are some considerations in caring for an older pet:

1. Veterinarian visits
Regular check-ups are important for your pet’s health, and become even more important as your pet ages. Age-related diseases can be subtle, and symptoms may be easy to miss. If you notice any changes in your pet’s behavior, appetite, or energy level, be sure to check with your veterinarian. Senior pets are advised to see a veterinarian every six months.

2. Nutrition is important
If your older pet is less active, he will need fewer calories. Feed a high quality food. Dogs with joint problems may benefit from supplementation with glucosamine or fish oils. It is vital for older cats to stay hydrated, so feeding a wet food is a good way to help with that. Pets with kidney or heart disease may also need special diets. Consult your veterinarian.

3. Stay mobile
Exercise helps your senior pet maintain a healthy body weight, and it helps slow the degeneration of joints from arthritis. Walking is excellent exercise. Swimming in a heated pool is also an excellent way to maintain joint mobility.

4. Practice proper dental hygiene
Dental care is just as important for pets as it is for us. Dental disease is painful and may make eating difficult for your senior pet. If your pet won’t tolerate you brushing its teeth, consider dental treats, or dental toys designed to help keep the teeth clean and healthy. Teeth cleaning by your veterinarian will also help to maintain oral health.

5. Accessibility
Older dogs and cats may develop arthritis or other joint problems, which can make it harder for them to get around. You can help by providing ramps to help them navigate around the house, get up on the bed, or get outside. Make sure litter boxes are easily accessible. Orthopedic pet beds may help keep your pet comfortable and relieve pressure on the joints.

6. Love them up
Nothing tells your pet that you love them like a good belly rub or ear scratch. As your pet ages, physical contact is more important than ever. Every moment you have together is precious, and increasing the physical connection between you will strengthen your bond immeasurably. Maximize every opportunity for bonding with your pet – you will both be glad you did.

With recent advances in veterinary science and nutrition, dogs and cats are living much longer and healthier lives, so a dog aged 9-10 or a cat aged 13-14, can still have many good years left to enrich your life. As with any living being, age can bring its problems, but maintaining good health starts with common sense, regular exercise, good nutrition, and regular visits to the vet.

Adopting an older pet can be so rewarding, and you can take pleasure in the knowledge that you have saved the life of a deserving and sweet old soul.