What You Can do to Help Your Pet in Their Later Years

Photo by CC user Ian Livesey on Flickr.

We all love playing with our pets when they’re young and boisterous, tearing round the house and yard, getting into all kinds of scrapes. As they get older, they inevitably lose some of that energy, but modern medicine means that most pets can now enjoy a long and healthy old age. This can be just as rewarding, a time to enjoy spending time together in different ways. You will need to give them some support to help them deal with the challenges of aging, however – so what do you need to know?

Healthy eating

Every animal can enjoy a healthier old age if it eats a healthy diet, and it’s never too late for positive changes to make a difference. Most animals need to eat more carefully in later years, taking in fewer calories overall because they’re not running about as much, and some are prone to developing intolerances to certain foods at this stage. Your vet can advise you on how best to adapt your pet’s diet to keep it in optimum health.

Regular check-ups

Taking your pet to the vet regularly gets more important with time because age makes everybody more vulnerable to illness. Catching problems early on makes them easier to treat. Your vet may also be able to offer preventative healthcare measures such as dietary supplements to correct imbalances. In addition to this, you should be checking your pet more often at home, as older animals sometimes need help with grooming.

Mouth care

One area where older animals need a lot of extra help is mouth care. This isn’t just about keeping teeth and gums healthy but also about preventing diseases that can affect the whole body. Some pets allow their owners to clean their teeth, which is time-consuming but very helpful. If this isn’t the case, you can help by providing dental health chew sticks or adding a dental protection agent to their water.

Joint care

Like humans, pets often have problems with their joints as they get older, experiencing stiffness and pain. This can make them reluctant to move around as much as they should to stay healthy, but you can help by adapting their environment – for instance, by placing a ramp over steps. If really severe arthritis sets in but doesn’t affect all limbs evenly, your pet may benefit from the same kind of device used by some amputee animals, with wheels to let them rush around using two legs, giving them a new lease of life.

Keep life interesting

Animals that are less capable of doing things that they used to enjoy need new activities to keep their spirits up. If your pet likes meeting new people, make sure that mobility difficulties don’t get in the way of this, even if it means buying a papoose and carrying your pet with you when you go out. Find games that you can play together that don’t require as much energy or moving around. Even simple things such as listening to music can do a lot to reduce stress for some pets.

When should a pet be put to sleep?

No matter how much you do, there may come a time when your pet is simply not enjoying life any longer and you need to consider whether or not it’s kinder to make that final trip to the vet. Usually, the sign that reveals that the time has come is that your pet stops making an effort to do basic things such as eat, drink, or keep clean. At that point, unless the problem is caused by a temporary illness, there’s unlikely to be anything that you can do to improve the situation.

After your pet has died

Whether your pet dies a natural death or passes away with the help of a vet, letting go is never easy. We haven’t traditionally had rituals to help us deal with the loss of pets as we do with the loss of humans, but today, pet cremation and burial are becoming more common, and making a final respectful gesture of this sort can make it easier to adjust. You may also find it helpful to watch videos that you made of your pet, or have a favorite picture of the two of you framed.

All the memories we have of our pets are precious, and if you look after your pet well during those final months or years, you’ll have wonderful memories of that time. Even if it hurts to think about at first, as time passes, those memories will bring you more and more joy.