Caring for Your Aging Pet
As we age, there are lots of changes to our bodies and minds. Some people age gently while others suffer from a variety of physical and psychological changes. Pets age in a similar fashion, however it is hard to diagnose pets because they cannot communicate in the same way that people can.
Changes that you can expect in your aging pet include some of the following things: changes in activity levels (decreases OR increases), restlessness at night, amount of vocalization such as barking, meowing or whining/crying, memory loss (forgetting to use their litter box or basic verbal commands such as “sit”). There may also be increased anxiety and there is a possibility they will become defensive or aggressive. Some pets may becoming clingy and begin to exhibit separation anxiety, or less interested in affection, petting and other social habits. Cognitive dysfunction, changes in social behavior and accidents in the house are all common in the aging pet.
Physical changes may be easier to identify, and is best done by a veterinarian. Don’t assume anything about your pet’s health and chalk it up to old age, as there are a variety of illnesses that could be affecting your pet. A common physical problem in older dogs is arthritis, especially in large breeds. Obesity at any age can cause serious health problems, however can be avoided by changes in diet and exercise. Abnormal symptoms to watch out for include vomiting, diarrhea, excessive coughing and rapid changes in weight. Bad breath in dogs is a common complaint, however can be a managed with regular dental care by your veterinarian.
Cats experience gastrointestinal changes, which affects their ability to digest and absorb fat. Constipation can also occur, however it may indicate serious disease so consult your vet if your cat has not eliminated in 24-36 hours. They also suffer from arthritis and may avoid jumping or climbing. There are many supplements and foods for arthritic pets so talk to your veterinarian.
When your pet begins to reach his or her senior years, always keep your eye out for any physical or behavioral changes. It can be difficult for a pet to adjust to his or her new limited capabilities, so be understanding and do your best to help your pet. Create a health plan with your veterinarian and keep regular appointments. Being aware of your pet’s needs will ensure they enjoy their lives well into their golden years.
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