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While you can't turn back the clock as your pet ages, you can make sure he's getting the very best care to help make his
senior years healthy and happy. One of the most important aspects of good care is proper nutrition, and your pet's needs may change as he gets older. Talk to your veterinarian and follow these tips for feeding your senior
Pets experience many of the same
physical and mental changes that we do as they age, such as feeling less active than in our youth. For starters, don't assume all these changes are
due to old age, since some illnesses can cause the same changes. Make sure you tell your vet about any changes you're noticing in your pet, so that medical problems can be ruled out. And, if the problem is determined to just be old age, your vet can advise you about how to vary your feeding and exercise routines to
accommodate your pet's new lifestyle.
Keeping your pet on the lean side doesn’t only make him feel better, it may help him live longer, too. In one study,
Labrador retrievers that were fed a diet restricted in calories lived nearly two years longer than those fed
free choice. Although this research hasn't yet been repeated in other
dog breeds or in cats, it's possible that preventing your pet from becoming
too pudgy is more important than ever before.
If he’s already
overweight, talk to your veterinarian about how to safely begin a gradual program of weight reduction. Some of the changes might be simple adjustments, like not leaving your pet’s food out all the time, opting instead for feeding him at a few regular times during the day. Eliminating table scraps and avoiding too many treats may also help. With a cat, be careful not to limit the amount fed too severely. Cats that eat too little food can develop
serious liver problems.
Before beginning any weight loss program, talk with your veterinarian, who can check for medical problems that could have caused the weight gain. In addition, your veterinarian can help you determine which diet and
exercise program will work best for your pet, offer tips on how to switch diets, if needed, and help you keep an eye out for signs of trouble.
Feeding your pet the
right balanced diet to maintain the correct body weight for his age will help shepherd him through his golden years. Older animals are more susceptible to chronic conditions, like
arthritis, as well as kidney and
heart problems, to name a few. Fortunately, researchers have made great strides in veterinary nutrition and have developed
special therapeutic diets that can help manage a variety of disorders in dogs and cats. Talk to your veterinarian about what dog or cat food would be the best for your aging animal.
Monitoring how much water your pet drinks each day is important, as well. Be sure to keep plenty of fresh water available at all times for your pet. Certain problems, like arthritis, can make it more difficult for pets to get to the water bowl, while others, like
kidney disease, cause pets to drink more. Be sure to talk with your veterinarian if you suspect a problem.
Besides eating and drinking right, your senior pet needs to have some
exercise every day to help keep him physically and mentally active. Your veterinarian can help you decide what is appropriate for your pet.
exercise, too. A variety of interactive cat toys are available that can help give your senior
cat a mini-workout. And it doesn't have to be a lot — setting a timer for just 5 to 10 minutes, three times a day, is enough exercise for some cats.
Besides love and
regular visits to your veterinarian, the best thing you can do for your elder pet is to keep him eating properly and moving in the right direction. This will hopefully keep you and your furry companion together for years to come.
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