Keep Aging Pets Safe: 7 Signs To Watch For
By Christine A. Bournias
Your Pet Is Getting Old. Bite Your Tongue.
Your pet is having another birthday.
Each birthday celebration for your furry friend brings another year of joy into your life. Age also brings added responsibility for Pet Parents. As a responsible pet guardian, you need to watch for both physical and mental changes that can occur with your pet with each passing year.
Your pet’s everyday behaviors or habits can be telling signs of old age. Or, it can be a medical concern. At very least, aging signs are more reason to pay close attention to your pet’s good health and well-being.
The number one attribute that you can have as your pet ages is patience. If your pet begins to move slower and wants to sleep more than they want to play, be their advocate. And exercise lots of patience.
7 Things To Watch Out For With Your Aging Pet
1. Bad Teeth & Breath
Look for dark or yellowing teeth. Plaque and food particles cause bad breath. Clean your pet’s teeth and brush their tongue on a regular basis. Proper dental hygiene early on can help eliminate foul breath and/or rotten chompers.
Pets of all ages need good dental hygiene, but especially as they age. Getting your pet’s teeth professionally clean may be a wise investment. A younger animal may be able to recover more quickly than your elderly fur baby, as placing a senior pet under anesthesia often is risky.
Be certain to ask your trusted Veterinarian about regular cleaning procedures that would be ideal for your individual pet.
If your furry friend must go in for another unrelated procedure, you may consider getting their teeth cleaned at the same time of the surgery. That way, you’ll place less stress on your pet’s internal system.
Teeth Cleaning Alternatives
A good old fashioned toothbrush, or even wiping their teeth with a toothy washcloth and homemade pet toothpaste in between cleanings can help prevent bad breath and decay.
Time and convenience is a common objective. Innovative teeth cleaning options are better than not cleaning them at all. Try placing toothpaste on a crunching treat. The crunch of the cookie with pet toothpaste can help clean the teeth with their chewing action.
Teeth Cleaning Products
Many Pet Parents look for alternative or supplement options when it comes to cleaning their pet’s teeth. There are many dental products on the market and you can feed your pet soft chews for older dogs and cats. The chews serve as a tasty treat and help with dental limitations. Always ask your Veterinarian for their recommendation first before you try something new.
DID YOU KNOW?
Smaller dog breeds have increased dental problems. Develop a dental cleaning protocol with your Veterinarian team. By asking experienced pet experts, you can learn helpful tips on how to clean your little buddy’s teeth at home in between professional cleanings.
Pets dental hygiene is essential of any age—it’s a priority. As a responsible Pet Parent, be certain to make time for good dental health for your older furry friend.
2. Poor Eyesight & Loss of Hearing
Look for cloudy eyes in aging pets. The eyes can be a telling sign of many age related health concerns.
The good news is, dogs don’t rely on their eyesight like humans do. Animals—especially dogs—have a heightened olfactory sense. Their nose is their navigation. Our pets rely mostly on smell, with their eyes being the least important. Their heightened senses arrive in this order:
Dogs have superior ways to see the world around them. With “predator” vision, they can see colors differently. They also see the world by movement and proprioception.
Be Your Pet’s Eyes
Avoid rearranging your furniture and be sure to train your pet early on with hand signals and associations. If you have other pets in the house, they can wear a little bell to help guide them to get around.
If your pet’s eyesight dims or their hearing diminishes, rest assured their other senses will kick in. In fact, dogs have the ability to sense their surroundings with a similar technique called echolocation . Echolocation in dogs works much like the same stunning ability as bats.
DID YOU KNOW?
Special needs animals deserve loving homes too. Potential adopters tend to gravitate first towards cute, yet over-rambunctious dogs nine times out of ten. They ignore the really great ones. Our senior or blind/deaf animals are much easier to care for than typical animals that are viewed as “normal.” —N. Ahern. Hollow Creek Farm Equine and Canine Rescue
Blindness can strike at any age in pets. It can be the result of stress induced surgery, or even just one unfortunate diabetic seizure. Eye conditions are painful and can lead to more medical troubles in the future. Necessary eye removal surgery can be the kindest thing you can do for your furry friend. Animals don’t care about aesthetics like humans do. We put so much emphasis on appearance and impose our biases on our pets. Humans are the ones who invent these “poor me” stigmas. Animals don’t fret about their eyes or ears, they’re just as happy digging a hole in the dirt.
Photo Credit: Hollow Creek Farm Equine and Canine Rescue
DID YOU KNOW?
Senior Rescue animals need you the most. Old, large no eye dogs need homes too. Their eyes are just one part of the equation. Just because they’re older and blind, doesn’t mean they’re not adoptable. — Petfinder.com
First symptoms of an ear infection are head shaking, scratching, and whining. If your pet’s ears have a bad smell or if you see dark coffee ground looking deposits in their ears, this could be signs of an infection. Eliminate a chance for more serious medical problems by consulting your Veterinarian right at the signs of discomfort. Early on, it’s wise to research a possible pet insurance plan that’s right for you.
If they can’t see or hear, there ARE ways to make it work. Don’t turn your back on your older family member. They need you as their caregiver more than ever.
All they really care about is pleasing you. Animals need love and socialization from their person more than they need their hearing or sight.
3. Mobility Difficulty: Legs & Limps
Does your pet feel frail and bony when you pick them up? Do they stagger while they walk? Is their gait different than they used to be?
Or, you might notice that your pet has trouble getting up. Freedom of movement could be a telltale sign of old age in your pets.
As your pet ages, their bone structure is more brittle, their fur may shed more, and their muscles tend to atrophy. Nonetheless, they’re still your fur baby.
If you notice signs of your pet’s gait changing or if they can’t pick themselves up from the floor, it may be time to consider supplements for their joints and mobility.
Consult with your Veterinarian for medication or alternative healing remedies.
CBD and the other beneficial cannabinoids found in the hemp plant work with the endocannabinoid system (ECS)—which all humans and animals possess. The ECS’s job is to promote balance in the body, making sure all major systems work together. If these ECS systems don’t promote adequate balance, phytocannabinoids (natural plant cannabinoids) work to connect to the ECS to help create a balanced state. Cannabinoids allow the body to self-heal.
Many Pet Parents rely on a variety of popular CBD (Cannabinoids) pet products . Alternative product lines have different formulas to handle various conditions, including those that are common in with older animals:
- Cracked paws
- Fear of thunder and fireworks
- Inconsistent sleep
- Insect bites
- Joint and mobility
- Nervous licking
- Seasonal allergies
- Travel stress
Consult with a reputable Veterinarian and get regular check-ups. If you’re not able to get to your Veterinarian’s office, look for available and convenient
vaccination and wellness clinics that pop up in your area.
4. Appetite Loss: Nutrition & Medical Changes
When your pet ages, changes in appetite are common.
Your pet may experience food allergies and/or digestion sensitivities. Older pets might need more carbohydrates versus a higher protein percentage in their food or they may just want to eat a little less with temperature fluctuations.
Food Is Vital
What food you feed your pet is vital. And there’s a plethora of pet food brands to choose from. But your food selection comes down to what works for your budget, your pet’s unique needs, and your Veterinarian recommendations. I.e. Athletic or working dogs may need more protein to secure their muscle mass, but as they age, too much protein could tax their internal organs. Small, less active or older animals may have entirely different nutritional needs than larger breed counterparts.
Your pet’s body weight can fluctuate during all stages of their life. However, you’ll want to look for huge variances in weight. You’ll notice a big difference when you pick up or pet your furry friend. Extreme weight loss or gains could mean a visit to your Veterinarian’s office.
Too many treats can cause unhealthy gains too. Eating the wrong foods early in life can cause big problems later on. Although we love our pets, limit fatty food rewards or unhealthy human grade treats every time they perform a perfect “sit.”
Good nutrition and healthy fuel is vital, particularly when they age. Avoid the urge to feed your pets people food or table scraps and keep your pet away from common toxic foods, unknown food allergies, or potential pet danger.
You may already provide your pets with healthy and proper nutrition. But what about when your dog eats poop or likes to munch on blades of grass? If they’re having consistent stomach issues, these unappealing habits could be warning signs to medical concerns.
According to Dr. Martin Goldstein (Dr. Marty), pets could be at risk serious digestive problems. Talk to your Veterinarian about your pet’s eating habits and behaviors to determine if they may need a different diet or effective probiotic supplements.
Watch Out For Signs That Could Be Related To Food:
- Medical Changes
- Fluctuation in weight
- Excessive urination
- Dry, flaking skin
If you notice a huge loss of appetite or if your pet is sluggish or lethargic, seek medical assistance immediately. As your pet ages, it’s important to obtain a full panel of blood work. The kidney and liver organs are particularly ones to keep an eye on.
These Conditions Amplify In Senior Pets
● Extreme Temperatures
● Food and Allergies
● Injuries (hot or cold, extreme or minor; sprains, tendons, ligaments, bones)
● Insect Bites Or Stings
● Poisonous Plants or Substances
● Raw or Rough Paw Pads
● Snake Bites
● Safety tips
Be ready to respond to your older pet in the unfortunate event of an emergency. Keep an essential basic first aid or medical emergency kit and a copy of your pet’s medical records, vaccination records, and emergency phone numbers with you in the event of a life threatening health issue or when you plan to travel with your pet.
In addition, responsible Pet Parents have a pulse on the CDC animal guidelines on animal health and disease updates as they evolve.
5. Mental decline
Look for mental decline in your pet.
Pay attention to your pets and watch for mental decline. Do you find yourself repeating commands? Are they pulling to one side? Do they get lost more easily? Do they excessively repeat behaviors that previously came quickly to them? Are their activities of daily living becoming more difficult than usual?
Like elderly humans, pets can get senile. “Old Dog Disease”, also known as Idiopathic or “Old Dog” Vestibular Disease, can mimic conditions of that of brain tumors or strokes. Tilted heads, falling over, circling in one direction, and/or mini seizures can be symptoms of a variety of diseases including Old Dog Disease.
6. Exercise & Social Interaction
Your pet doesn’t come with an owners manual and every animal is different.
Is your pet becoming less interested in activities or that daily walk around the block? Disinterest in things that they usually love can be a sign that your pet needs your help. Maybe they could run circles around you or jump over tables before, but now they’re slowing down.
If you see your pet retracting or not coming when they’re called, observe them closely for other medical signs. If you’ve ruled out serious medical problems, perhaps you may want to include mental stimulation games in their playtime protocol.
Fun Games For Senior Pets
Delight your pets and keep them happy. No matter what age, you need to be willing to try new things and be innovative in your approach with your furry family member. Pet puzzles and games can be effective in keeping your pets sharp throughout all stages of their life. Look for ways to provide healthy activity and mental stimulation.
Homemade tunnels and obstacle courses can work in a pinch. But don’t overload your pet in efforts to keep busy. Ten minutes of moderate exercise and mindful games and interactive tricks will suffice.
Socialize Senior Pets
Socializing your pup early on can provide adequate activity and favorable mental stimulation that they need. Senior pets can also benefit from new training courses or tips and tricks. Of course they need you, but they also benefit from being around other creatures like themselves.
Playdates for dogs can be beneficial. Not all dogs play well together. In fact, they’re just as selective as humans when it comes to picking their furry friends.
If your dog is older, grumpy, or frail, they could be in pain and not want to deal with rambunctious dogs or young puppies. Ask your local Pet Hotel for customized boarding or individual pet care . Sometimes extra loving and attention from other pets and humans help your senior pet feel more special.
Keep your older pet occupied and happy with lots of fun things to do. Several pet care facilities add on “extras” like reading to their guests, blowing bubbles, or taking action videos.
Remember 10 minutes of mind games and tricks = 30 minute trot around the block.
Senior Pet Adventures
Get your pet out to enjoy the world—try new things and discover exciting adventures. Moderate, healthy exercise and Doggy Day Camp can keep your furry friends content and happy.
Designated pet care time for your “sugar face” can be a welcome surprise to your elderly pet. Senior pet care options can be convenient for both extended bouts of time or if you have to run quick errands. Seek out your local and trusted Pet Hotel to watch your older pets while you’re out and about.
When it’s safe to do so—and when the world is ready—a good way to bond with your gentle dog is to volunteer your time with your friendly friend. Research what it takes to become a support or certified therapy animal. Joyful home visits benefit older neighbors, assisted living facilities, and reading programs with children at public libraries.
7. Overstimulation & Heat Illness
Animals can get grouchy with old age.
Many things can affect your pet’s mood; weather, being cooped up, overstimulation, not enough exercise, or lack of socialization. Determine if there’s a serious medical problem by taking note of their state of mind and everyday behaviors.
Senior Pets And Too Much Human Time
As it turns out, hanging out with us humans can be too much for our extended fur family. Just like animals can be under-stimulated, overstimulation and fatigue can happen with our pets.
Even when family members respect their pet’s need for downtime, our pets have tremendous olfactory and hearing capabilities. The sounds of our everyday human conversations, loud children, a blaring television, or a scented candle can lead to undue stress, particularly in our older furry friends.
According to Jessica Pierce, a bioethicist and the Author of “Run, Spot, Run: The Ethics of Keeping Pets”, dogs need a break from their people from time to time to achieve emotional balance.
“Dogs can feel suffocated by us. In any home—especially a home with children—dogs need a safe zone or a quiet place where they can go if they need to chill out and not interact with anyone.” — Jessica Pierce “Run, Spot, Run: The Ethics of Keeping Pets”
Senior Pet Temperament
Maybe it’s time for your senior pet to experience a change of scenery?
Pet Hotels provide safe and healthy pet care for your furry friends. Pet professionals examine your pet’s age, size and temperament before entering Camp’s play yard. All pet’s playtime should be monitored closely to watch for signs of irritation or aggression.
Too much exercise can leave your aging pet exhausted. Be sure to allow your pet to stay at pet care facilities that knows the difference between unhealthy exhaustion and appropriate stimulation. The importance of rest has to be top priority.
Avoid exercising in extreme temperatures for your fur babies. Too much sun, heat, and humidity are dangerous for pets. Older animals have an even lower tolerance for extreme temperatures. Age is especially a concern when it comes to heat.
Your pets need frequent breaks from strenuous activities, especially in warmer temperatures. Extra summer tips help to keep your pets healthy.
Extreme temperatures (hot or cold) can affect your pet’s ability to keep their body’s internal core temperature regulated, particularly in the warm summer (or frigid winter) months. Refreshing water keeps your pet hydrated and replenished.
Don’t leave your older pets outside for extended periods of hot weather and make sure your pet has access to shady spots to relax. Know the warning signs of heat exhaustion or overheating .
Senior Pets And Fun Age Specific Ideas
Keep your sugar face pet safe and happy this summer.
Pet Parent’s top priority and responsibility is their fur baby. Responsible Pet Parents look for signs of aging throughout all stages of their pet’s life. Natural signs of aging are common, however, others can be true medical warning signs. Senior or special needs pets look to us to be their advocate. Trust your Veterinarian for professional advice for your aging animal.
Expert boarding facilities or professional Pet Sitters can offer advice on pet care, socialization, training, play and stay plans too. . Discover local experts that know pet behavior and will assist you in finding the ideal play and/or stay environment for ALL your furry family members, including the old ones.
If you own an older dog,
Got a senior pet you’d like us to watch? Call your local Best Friends Pet Hotel.
About The Author:
Christine A. Bournias resides in Michigan with her 2-pack; two new beautiful adopted miracles. As her “Angelwriter”, Nicodemus (1997-2010) is the wisdom behind the stories she shares. Christine champions the magnitude of building the bond between a dog and their person(s) by means of respectful communication and enduring admiration.
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