Help Your Pet Transition From Adult to Senior

Assistive Devices

There are too many assistive devices for pets to list here, and this is a growing market. From walking carts, leg braces, and body vests to harnesses, nonslip booties, and slings, these innovative devices are all designed to assist with mobility and preserve pets’ ADLs.

ADLs

For cats and dogs experiencing age-related changes, modifying their ADLs is important for preserving their joie de vivre. The key is to re-create these activities in a way that doesn’t contribute to pain.


Exercise and sports. Fetch is a beloved activity that’s easy to modify. Rather than throwing the ball up, requiring your pet to jump, throw the ball along the ground. Instead of throwing the ball 50 or 60 yards, shorten the distance. For cats who like to chase a feather toy or laser pointer, modify how quickly you move the toy, and don’t force your cat to jump.

Mental games. Mental stimulation is just as important as physical stimulation. Keeping our dogs and cats engaged in their world can help maintain their quality of life and reduce boredom. Use interactive food toys that require your pet to work for a small portion of her meal. Hide multiple small meals around the house to simulate hunting. Install a window platform or rearrange your furniture so your pet can watch wildlife out a window or glass patio door.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is an inflammatory joint disease that occurs in approximately 50 percent of cats and dogs across all ages, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, and may occur even more commonly in older animals. OA causes pain and stiffness in affected joints, severely limiting your pet’s mobility as she ages. This condition can develop following joint injury, but it can also develop wherever there is joint instability or a defect in the joint surface. Overweight pets are especially vulnerable to OA, because the fat that accumulates in these pets secretes inflammatory and pre-inflammatory hormones that contribute to the disease process. Being overweight also makes the progression and signs of OA more difficult to manage because of the chronic, repetitive strain and pounding on joints.

In the early stages, OA signs may be subtle. Owners may notice a reluctance to do certain activities. Clinical signs like limping may not appear until very late in the disease — if at all. Regular evaluation by your veterinarian is an important component of early detection and intervention, and there are many strategies for retaining and enhancing strength and function. Medications, proper nutrition, and rehabilitation can help support and maintain both joint comfort and function. Weight loss may also be a critical component of OA management. To maximize your pet’s ability to live life to the fullest, partner with your veterinarian and set the stage for success!

Nutrition

Talk with your veterinarian about the best dietary plan for your aging pet. For overweight pets, getting to an ideal body weight is a critical component of healthier aging and maintaining their ADLs. Your veterinarian will work with you to establish a diet and exercise plan to keep your pet at a healthy weight and address her unique nutritional needs as she ages.

With a little imagination and assistance from your veterinarian, you can modify your home environment and create a rich life for your aging pet. After all, these senior citizens deserve the opportunity to live happily ever after!


This article originally appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of HealthyPet magazine.

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