As our beloved companions get older they begin to slow down and many suffer from the same age-related wear and tear as we humans do. Arthritis, gastric upsets, diminished senses, sensitivity to extreme heat and cold are just a few. Below is a list of tips you can use to make your senior pet more comfortable, happy and healthy.
Feeding the best diet
Feeding your pet high quality food not only makes them feelbetter, but can reduce the chances of illness and disease in the future. Raw food, home-cooked meals or premium commercial food will go a long way in keeping your pet happy and healthy. And don't forget to add variety to your pets diet. By rotating what you feed you are insuring that your pet gets a more balanced array of vitamins and minerals. Not to mention, how would you like to eat the same thing day after day year after year. Be careful, however to introduce dietary changes gradually to avoid tummy upset and diarrhea. Begin by adding in 1/4 of the new food to what you currently feed for between 5 to 7 days. The second week feed 1/2 new food to 1/2 the current diet and so on until you have made a complete change. Once your pet gets used to more variety they will more easily tolerated dietary changes.
Consider adding supplements
Adding natural vitamins and supplements can also be of great benefit to our pets, especially seniors. My personal "Holy Trinity" is a good Mulit-Vitamin, EFA's (essential fatty acids) and a Plant Enzyme and Probiotic Supplement (such as Animal Essentials). A good multi-vitamin will ensure your pet receives adequate daily amounts of necessary vitamins and minerals. EFA's do more than keep skin and coat healthy. EFAs are the building blocks for prostaglandins, which work to regulate hormones, immune and nervous systems and cardiovascular function. People and pet's bodies cannot make them and so they need to be added to our diet. Enzymes and Probiotics help enhance your pet's health by promoting the proper balance of good intestinal flora and by supporting the digestive systems that aid in the assimilation and utilization of vitamins and nutrients. Enzymes combine with food and water to aid in the breakdown of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.
Even if your dog or cat is not displaying signs of arthritis you can help prevent or slow the onset by starting them on a natural supplement designed to promote joint and cartilage health. Look for supplements that contain ingredients such as glucosamine, chrondroitin, MSM, vitamin C, white willow bark, boswellin, yucca powder, manganese ascorbate, bromelain, selenium (especially in conjunction with vitamin E), vitamins C, A, and E. In addition, Omega 3 fatty acids from fish oils has shown promise in treating arthritis in animals and humans.
Buy an orthopedic pet bed
Beds made out of convoluted foam offer greater support for sore achy joints and muscles. Soft fluffy beds may look and feel appealing to us, but as anyone with back problems will tell you, a nice firm bed is much more comfortable. The same is true with our pets.
Raise your pet's food and water bowls
Raise your pet's food and water bowls to provide the height that your dog (or cat) needs for healthy eating and drinking. Raised feeders minimize neck strain and reduce air ingestion making them ideal for senior and large breed pets.
Be aware of diminishing sight and hearing
Don't drastically rearrange rooms and furniture as your pet has probably learned to navigate his/her environment quite well and sudden changes can lead to fear and confusion. When approaching your older pet make sure they can see or hear you coming. A pet with sight or hearing loss can become very startled by an unexpected touch. Clapping your hands or making some other loud noise can help alert pets of your approach. The vibrations created by walking heavy-footed also work well to alert pets that someone is coming.
Just like people, our pets become more sensitive to extreme heat and cold
Provide pets with a warm place to lie and sleep in the winter, away from drafty windows and doors. Consider buying a heated bed or insert to keep them cozy. In the summer, make sure outdoor areas have plenty of shade and cool fresh water available at all times. Indoors, make sure they have a cool spot away from direct sunlight.
Ramps and special harnesses can make life for seniors much easier and less painful
They can help them climb stairs, get in and out of vehicles, rise from lying down and provide extra support while standing or walking. Cats can greatly benefit from portable stairs that aid them up and down from the bed, couch or other favorite cuddle spot.
Don't forget about exercise
Your older pet still needs to get out there and be part of the world; drinking in the fresh air and soaking up some sunshine. It's just as important for them to keep moving as it is for us when we age. Be aware, however that you need to adjust the length and strenuousness of their exercise. Shorter distances and less challenging terrain may be needed. And, definitely be careful in any extreme weather, as older animals cannot tolerate extremes like when they were younger. Also, make sure you always have an ample supply of clean water for you and your pet.
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