Expert Tips for Taking Care of Senior Pets

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It can be hard watching our furry friends age, and since dogs are considered senior pets at 7 years old and cats when they turn 10, we want to make sure we’re giving them the resources they need to live a long and healthy life.

Jacqueline Cigliano, president of For Our Friends Rescue, a no-kill, nonprofit organization known for rescuing mostly senior animals, knows a thing or two about keeping senior dogs and cats as happy and healthy as possible.  

“Begin with regular vet checkups, including wellness bloodwork on a yearly basis. Discuss any new behaviors with your vet such as excessive drinking, as this can be an indication of kidney disease, diabetes, or Cushing’s disease onset. If these are caught early, a treatment plan can be put in place including diet, supplements, and fluid therapy,” says Cigliano. Other behaviors including loss of appetite, coughing, or excessive licking should also be addressed as soon as possible.

Aging animals and humans alike may battle with arthritis at one point or another. “If you see your pet limping, not willing to walk or lying in different spots around the house, arthritis could be the culprit. Have this vet check to rule out any anterior cruciate ligament [ACL] tears or benign or malignant masses. A firm bed is best for arthritic dogs or other leg issues. Ramps for stairs can be helpful, but if the dog is not steady or has a neurological issue (common in senior dogs), ramps can pose a bigger problem…they could fall and get badly hurt,” explains Cigliano.

Be sure to encourage your dog to walk, but don’t force them. Shorter, more frequent walks are best for seniors, and choose harnesses over collars, especially for little dogs who are prone to issues of the trachea, the tube that carries air from the throat to the lungs. And remember to go back to basics: Always have fresh water available and if needed, leave wee-wee pads out when you’re not home.

Don’t have a senior animal? You can help one in need of a loving home. Adopting or fostering senior animals has many benefits: They typically come already trained and more calm than their puppy or kitten counterparts, making them the perfect companion for older adults. “A senior animal does not necessarily mean they have health issues or reduced mobility.  Many seniors we rescue are still very active and in good health,” says Cigliano.   

To learn more about adopting or fostering, or to make a monetary or goods donation to support the great work of For Our Friends Rescue, a 501(c)3 organization, visit their website at forourfriends.org.