Thursday, November 29, 2012

Care and Respect for Senior Pets

This article is a great resource for anyone with older four legged friends. Written by the talented Melissa Hathaway who provides a few tips on how to best help and maintain a healthy senior pets.

Care and Respect for Senior Pets

When humans get older they need more specialist care and this is completely true of our four legged friends too.

When dogs get on in years they deserve the same respect, care and love that any family member would receive. They have been a loyal friend and character all their lives and now it is time to repay them with some love, care and attention.

How old is your dog?  

Many people use the “one year of a human’s life equates to seven of a dogs” way of working out how old a dog is, but to be more accurate different breeds of dogs age in different ways. Cross breeds often age at a later stage than pedigree breeds and smaller dogs aren’t considered senior until later than large dogs. As a rough idea you can begin to think of your dog as heading towards his senior years at around seven. From then on just keep a closer eye on them and look out for any signs of aging. You may also be able to discuss the details of a senior care programme with your veterinarian. Noticing changes early in your pet can improve their quality of life in their senior years. 

Signs of a senior

You may notice that your dog’s movement is slowing down a bit and they may be experiencing a bit of stiffness, particularly in cold, wet weather. They many want to take less exercise and this is the time you also need to be careful about weight gain. Dogs can suffer from arthritis just the same as humans and this can impair their movement. Some drug treatments could help to reduce pain and improve your dog’s quality of life and some physiotherapy treatments can make a big difference. Exercise a senior pet little and often, about 20 minutes, two to three times a day is ideal.

With less exercise, you are going to have to be careful with what you feed your dog. Cut back a little on those treats and tit-bits and it may be a good idea to put them on a senior diet which is lower in calories but full of the essential vitamins and minerals. Speak to your vet to find the perfect diet for their needs.

Your senior dog could also have some deterioration of their eyes and ears. Dogs are very good at adapting and using other senses but they may also become a little more anxious and worried about dangers. Reassure your pet when out on walks in busy areas.

Many changes inevitably come with age as they do with all of us, but there can also be medical problems that arise with age. An older dog’s immune system may not be so good at fighting off diseases and internal organs can deteriorate. If you notice a particular change in personality with your pet, it could be a sign of illness. Get them checked out by your vet. 

Paying for those expensive bills

An increase in visits to the vet can become expensive and even insurance premiums can escalate with a pet’s age. It is even more important to do your research when it comes to finding the right Pet Insurance for an older dog. It is best to insure your pet as early as possible as some policies won’t insure dogs over seven or eight years old, but if you have left it till later, don’t despair, with a little bit of research you should be able to find a policy to suit you. When taking out a policy ensure that it offers comprehensive cover and that it suits all your needs. Some policies cancel insurance as your dog gets older, so look into this if you want it for the long-term. Most pet insurers will exclude pre-existing conditions from the cover, so bear this in mind as you may need to save separately for this. 

Don’t let them be forgotten

When it comes to choosing a new animal, senior pets can often be overlooked. The thrill of taking a cute puppy into the home often wins. Adopting a senior animal can have many benefits. You already know the size of the pet. They will probably already have had some training in obedience and socialisation and they are likely to be house-trained. Many have lost their homes through no fault of their own but due to owner circumstances and they offer ready-made companions. Many rescue homes have lots of loveable older companions waiting to live out their senior years with a caring owner. Take a look at some of the adoption sites and shelters and you won’t be able to resist those loving eyes.

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