In her latest “Director’s Blog” entry, Los Angeles County Animal Care & Control Director Marcia Mayeda offers information about pet aging and tips on senior pet care.
Pet aging is bittersweet, especially if you have a long-time bond with your animal. It can be sad to see the effects of aging, like graying hairs (or even hair loss) and slower gait. But consider these changes as opportunities to pamper your pet and truly make them feel comfortable and loved.
If you have recently adopted a senior animal, being able to accommodate their special needs will help you bond together.
Growing old affects animals in many ways, and movement is one of them. Certain breeds of pet, like Dachshunds and Manx cats, are more prone to arthritis than others. Even if your aging pet does not have arthritis, they may have stiff joints from time to time, especially in cold weather. There are many ways you can improve your pet’s quality of life in this regard. Heated beds are adored by older cats and dogs alike. Hydrotherapy, particularly water treadmills for canines, may be helpful.
More affordable are other devices like the Help ‘Em Up Harness, which acts as a brace to help dogs with hip and back problems. The harness lifts and supports the hips, belly, and back. The harness can be worn for long periods of time and does not need to be removed for bathroom breaks.
If you have a pet that tires easily or has considerable mobility issues, consider using a stroller. Even if you have a larger dog this may be an option, as certain brands can carry animals weighing up to a hundred pounds. This way, your dog can continue to enjoy walks outside without the discomfort.
Senior pet care may also involve providing help with hygiene and staying warm. As cats age, they may find the high walls of a litter box to be a cumbersome burden. Thankfully, litter boxes with low walls are available to help cats with this issue.
Elderly cats may also have increasing difficulty maintaining their hygiene as they lose flexibility. You may find that your older cat may develop patches of matted hair where there were none previously. Spending more time brushing your cat will help, and if your elderly cat has no patience for a comb you can try using a grooming glove that will allow you to gently brush the cat while providing a pleasant petting sensation for the animal.
Of course, some cats and dogs will lose hair as they grow older, and some of these animals may develop obvious balding. These pets may need clothing to help regulate body temperature, especially in cold weather. Even in warm weather, it is a good idea to clothe these animals, as those with patchy hair may get sunburned after too much exposure. Some animals lose weight as they grow old, sometimes from age-related problems with the thyroid or the kidneys. These animals will also appreciate clothing, as they have less insulation.
Living with senior animals is not always easy, but it can touch the heart like nothing else. Your pet may not even be aware of the changing needs they may have, but it is up to you to recognize that need and try to fill it as you are best able.
Why not make the most of your pet’s golden years? The memories you build during this time will last forever.