Caring for a pet in its twilight years can be hugely rewarding; whether you’ve had your pet since it was a puppy or kitten, or actively decided to adopt an older pet because of the endearing qualities they can offer.
With some understanding of your pet’s changing needs as they age and a few small adaptations to their environment, you can make a big impact on the quality of your pet’s life.
We’ve put together some tips to help you understand more about caring for older pets.
Make sure your pet is microchipped, in case they go missing. Older pets can sometimes become disorientated and their reactions can be slower, getting them into trouble. Microchipping is a simple and affordable process carried out by your vet and allows your pet to be easily reunited with you, should they stray and be scanned.
Many of the disorders that affect older pets can be treated and managed to allow your pet to live a happy and comfortable life, particularly if treatment is sought early. It’s important that your pet has regular health checks to identify any potential issues before they become problems, as well as keeping on top of their preventive health care treatment, even if they no longer venture outdoors.
Older pets might not be as active as they once were, so regular health checks are the perfect opportunity for your vet to check your pet’s weight and advise you if any changes need to be made to their diet. Your vet can also do a thorough check including looking for or overgrown claws and dental issues.
Adapting the home
Older pets might not be as agile as they were when they were young, finding it difficult to make accurate calculations when jumping. For cats, strategically positioned furniture, boxes or ramps can help them reach their favourite places safely. Dogs may also appreciate a ramp over steps in and out of the house.
Indoor rabbits may find kitchen or laminate flooring slippery so rubber mats can be used to help them grip when hopping around and low sided litter trays will make toileting easier as they may not be able to jump over a high rim.
Outdoor rabbits with a two story hutch may need revised accommodation if the ramps up and down become a struggle for them.
It’s important to provide a variety of cosy, well-padded beds in warm places that can be easily accessed. Older pets might take more naps than they used to so they need to have comfortable spaces that they can use to rest.
Although joint function may deteriorate with age, and arthritis can be a problem, exercise is still important for senior pets. Controlled weight and exercise, little and often, can help to alleviate symptoms as long as you don’t allow your pet to overdo it. Your vet can advise you on what amount of exercise is appropriate for your pet.
Time spent bonding with your senior pet can be hugely rewarding and beneficial to both pet owner and pet. Cats and rabbits may appreciate help with grooming, which becomes more difficult as they age.
Play time should be shorter and softer than when the pet was young but is still important for enrichment and mental health.