An Informative Guide to Geriatric Pet Care

The Dog sleeps sad waiting in the room - Hampton Park Veterinarian - Geriatric Pet Care - Charleston, SC

The life expectancy of pets has increased dramatically over the past few decades. People are taking better care of their pets than ever, and advancements in veterinary science and pet nutrition have made a huge difference in the health and wellness of aging pets.

If you have an aging pet, you’re likely starting to worry about their future. How can you make sure that their elderly years are just as happy as their younger years?

We’re here to talk all about geriatric pet care so you can keep your older pet healthy and happy. Read on to learn more.

Don’t Skip Vet Appointments

You should do your best never to skip vet appointments for your furry friends, but this gets even more important as your pets get into their older years. Even if your pet seems healthy, you should do a yearly pet check-up.

The most important type of veterinary care is preventive veterinary care. This is what routine vet visits are for.

The vet will make sure that your pet is up-to-date on their vaccinations, that they appear to be in good health, that their dental health seems good, and that there are no obvious concerns.

They may also recommend blood tests (or other tests) for common problems that older pets face.

Remember that preventive care is more affordable than emergency care. Taking your pet to the vet every year will save you money while you keep your pet healthy and happy.

Keep Track of Health and Behavior Changes

Again, this is something you should be doing even from the time your pet is young, but it gets more important as they age.

Occasional short-term health and behavioral changes are normal. It’s also normal for pets to develop slightly different personalities as they get older. For example, many pets get cuddlier as they age.

Other changes are unusual. If a pet is showing signs of distress or illness (even if it’s mild), note those changes so you can talk to your vet about them. It may even benefit you to make a vet appointment even if it’s not time for your pet’s yearly visit.

It’s Normal for Pets to Slow Down

On the topic of changes, keep in mind that as pets hit their “elder” years, it’s normal for them to slow down a bit. They may not get the “zoomies” as often, and their playtime may be shorter than it was in their younger years.

While it’s okay to bring this up to your vet when you notice it, we also urge you not to panic!

With that in mind, you should still be playing with your pet when they’re in the mood for it. All pets have different playtime tolerances, so let your pet lead the way.

Playing will help your pets stay mobile as they get older.

Consider Changing Your Pet’s Food

Did you know that older pets have different nutritional requirements? That’s why there’s special pet food for elderly pets!

Older pets benefit from foods that are easier to digest. They also have different caloric needs and they can benefit from the extra nutrition in elderly pet food.

Talk to your vet about the food that they recommend for elderly pets. They’ll be able to make recommendations based on your pet’s breed, health, and age, as well as your budget.

Minimize Weight Gain and Loss

It’s difficult to keep a pet’s weight in check as they get older.

For older dogs, weight gain is a big problem. For older cats, weight loss tends to be more common (though weight gain can also happen).

There are a few ways you can help your pet maintain a healthy weight. First, make sure that you know whether or not your pet is actually healthy. Visit your vet to get your pet weighed and discuss your options.

If your pet needs to gain or lose weight, we recommend getting a scale so you can keep track of their progress between vet visits.

Make sure your pet is getting enough physical activity. Play with them or encourage independent play with a variety of toys.

Watch your pet’s diet. Resist the urge to over-feed your pet, even if they’re begging. Weight loss food can help your pet feel full for longer.

If your pet is underweight, consider getting a dental check-up. The problem could be that their teeth hurt.

Keep Pets Mentally Stimulated

Pets need mental stimulation to stay sharp as they get older. Understimulated pets can also suffer from depression.

Again, playing is a great way to keep your pets mentally stimulated. It’s not the only way, however, so pets that are uninterested in playtime can still get some mental work in.

Consider making or buying food puzzles for your pets. They’ll love the challenge of accessing the food (and they’ll love the treats they get as a reward).

If you have a cat, provide plenty of spots to sit near windows, or even outside in an enclosed patio or pet enclosure. Cats love looking outside. Better yet, put a bird feeder nearby.

Consider Making Environmental Changes

If your pet has lost some mobility, now is a great time to make small changes to your home to make it easier for them to navigate.

Consider adding small stairs or ramps for your pet so they’re able to easily get inside, in the car, or on the furniture. This will protect your pet’s knees.

Provide more comfortable places to lay down in ideal areas. There’s nothing an older pet loves more than laying in the sun.

If your pet has specific special needs, talk to your veterinarian about their recommendations.

Geriatric Pet Care Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated

Geriatric pet care is a bit more complicated than caring for younger pets, but as long as you’re keeping up with vet visits and keeping these considerations in mind, your pet can live happily in its elder years.

Caring for older pets may mean occasional emergency vet visits, tests, and medication, but it’s worth it to provide a great life for your furry friend.

Are you looking for a new vet for your treasured pet? At Hampton Park, we’ve got you covered. We offer veterinary surgery, pet dermatology, and more.

Click here to contact us and set up an appointment today.