Our pets are members of our family and deserve the same love, companionship, fun and happiness in their senior years as they did in younger life. Maintaining quality of life should be the primary goal of all decision making for older animals, and a few small changes can have huge impacts on their levels of comfort.
One of the best pre-emptive actions to take is regular visits to the veterinarian for wellness checks. These usually encompass a thorough physical examination, detailed history, blood samples, blood pressure measurement and urine analysis. Catching diseases early is the best way to ensure they are treated and well managed, and it can sometimes be difficult for owners to ‘unpick’ what is a subtle symptom of illness versus a normal age related change. Your veterinary doctor is the best person to help with this, and the better they know both you and your pet, the better positioned they are to help. As a minimum all animals should be checked every 12 months, but for pets above 8 years old a veterinary examination every 6 months can make the world of difference to their long term health.
Senior animals respond best to a holistic approach to health, and in addition to standard medical therapy, it is always worthwhile considering supplements, acupuncture, physiotherapy, nutritional support, mental stimulation, environmental management, dental hygiene, regular grooming, and weight management in any treatment plan. Your doctor will be able to help you find the best treatment plan for your individual pet, in alignment with the practicalities of the family they live with. No two treatment plans ever look the same for senior pets!
In addition to veterinary visits, there are many practical things owners can do to improve and maintain quality of life as their pets age:
Senior pets can experience ‘cognitive dysfunction’ which is broadly similar to a diagnosis of dementia/Alzheimer’s in people. Maintaining mental stimulation with games, regular walks, puzzle feeders, snuffle mats and simple hugs and cuddles is vital to help maintain dogs mental abilities. Puzzle feeders and snuffle mats can be easily purchased at petshops or online, or youtube has great videos on how to make your own (an ideal activity for kids in the hot summer months!)
Just like us, our pet’s digestive system and metabolism change as they get older. Feeding the best quality diet you can afford is really important for senior pets, as is maintaining a healthy weight for your pet. Many leading brands have diets specifically formulated for older animals, and 8 years old is usually the recommended age to make the transition from a regular to a senior pet food, although this may be advised earlier for some larger breed dogs.
Joint support requires a multi-faceted approach.
Dogs: Regular exercise and consistent routine is really important – please don’t stop dogs walks ‘because they’re old’; if anything, it’s more important now than ever, and they usually do best with regular shorter walks throughout the day. Supplements such as glucosamine, chondroitin and green lipped mussel extract can be of huge benefit to slow the signs of arthritis; please use a veterinary recommended product and ensure you are dosing accurately for your breed of dog. Tiled floors can become slippery for weaker joints/muscles so use rugs and/or yoga mats to help them grip and move around their home comfortably in addition to upgrading their beds to low sided, memory foam pet mattresses.
Cats: Senior cats should still enjoy playing with their favourite toys in the same way they always have. It is sometimes harder to assess cats for signs of joint pain, but lack of interest in playing and an inability to jump onto high surfaces are definite signs your cat should see a vet. Joint supplements can be of huge benefit in the same way as dogs, and it is important to pay attention to their litter trays as they age. High-sided litter trays can be really hard for older cats to step into, and many struggle with any litter that causes them to walk unsteadily such as those resembling tiny pebbles or pellets. Switching to soft litter in a low-sided litter tray can make the world of difference to our senior cats, as well as making sure they have a low-sided, memory foam pet mattress to rest on.
Find their Joy!
Quality of life is the million little things that all add up to the bigger picture of how much your pet enjoys their life. None of us want our pet to be in pain, but ‘pain-free’ is different from ‘good quality of life’. All pets have things they love and enjoy, and these are as unique as their individual personalities. From playing catch, to cuddles on the sofa, to chewing bones, to ‘walkies’, to rummy rubs, to treats in the morning…… these things all matter. And your senior pet deserves as much joy now as they have ever had; if not more. So, find the things that bring your four legged friend joy and do more of them!
Facilitating longevity and a good quality of life for your senior pet allows you to enjoy your time with them, and their time with you. A pre-emptive approach, regular veterinarian visits, and small changes at home go a long way to achieving this. For further guidance, book an appointment with us. We care about your pets, especially those that need a little extra TLC, and we want to see them treated like our own.
For further guidance, book an appointment with us. We are regarded as one of the best vet clinics in Dubai & Al Barsha and also as one of the most affordable and cost-effective vet clinics in the UAE.