Happy Senior Dog
Pets don’t necessarily slow down as they get older, and senior pets also don’t automatically suffer from conditions like joint pain, decaying teeth and obesity. Here are some ways you can help keep your senior pet healthy and help him get the most out of his golden years. 

Take Him for Exams

Wellness exams are one of the most important preventive steps you can take to help ensure your pet’s continued good health. The American Animal Hospital Association recommends that older pets, or pets in the last 25 percent of their expected lifespans, be examined every six months. Regular wellness checks can help with early detection of diseases and other potential health problems.

Routine dental exams and cleanings should also be included in your pet’s preventive regimen. These cleanings are essential for preventing plaque and tartar on teeth, which can spread bacteria throughout the rest of the body and potentially cause serious health issues. Cleanings can also help reduce the risk of dental disease, which can lead to pain, difficulty chewing and tooth loss.

Keep Him Pain-Free

Does your pet have a hard time getting around? Does he avoid activities that he used to enjoy? If you have noticed any of these signs, don’t assume they’re a normal part of aging. Your pet might have arthritis.

Most often characterized by stiffness, lameness and pain, arthritis usually involves inflammation and degeneration of the joints. Arthritis can be caused by a number of factors, including repetitive stress, excess weight, injury and infection. Exercise and a good diet throughout your pet’s life can sometimes help prevent arthritis, but unfortunately these measures may not always help.  

If your pet is diagnosed with arthritis, there are plenty of ways to keep him as pain-free as possible. Help him maintain a healthy weight and make sure he gets enough exercise, but not so much that he aggravates his joints. (Just be sure your veterinarian gives his exercise regimen the OK.) Here are some additional ways to help keep your pet comfortable:

  • Set up bedding on the first floor so he does not have to climb stairs.
  • Keep him off cold, hard floors, which can aggravate arthritis.
  • Place food and water dishes and litterboxes where he can easily reach them.
  • Build ramps to help him get around (for instance, to help him climb up or off of the porch).
  • Medications that can alleviate the pain of arthritis are also available. Your veterinarian can suggest the best treatment options for your pet.

Feed Him Right

Obesity is a common health problem in dogs and cats. And unfortunately, it can become especially troublesome during their senior years because it can be hard on their joints. Your veterinarian may suggest feeding your pet a diet specifically made for senior or less active pets to help keep your pet at a healthy weight.

Keep Him Active

Exercise is another important way to not only keep your aging pet’s weight in check, but also to build and maintain his muscle strength. Senior pets can lose muscle tone if they do not exercise. Check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s exercise routine.

Watch His Behavior

Many diseases typically associated with advancing age can be addressed if caught early. By being vigilant, you may even be able to help prevent some problems altogether. Here are some basic health concerns you should be aware of:

  • Appetite loss or changes in drinking
  • Bad breath
  • Bumping into things
  • Lack of energy
  • Lack of response to name or commands
  • Lameness
  • Lumps and bumps just under the skin
  • Weight loss
If your pet shows any of these signs of illness or other changes in behavior, talk to your veterinarian. Many health conditions that may affect your pet as he ages can be treated effectively with medication and/or a change in diet.

Your pet’s golden years are time to cherish. And with proper attention to preventive care, diet and exercise, you can help your senior pet live his life to the fullest.

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