How to Care for Your Senior Animals

March 17, 2014 - 2:34pm

We appear to live in a throw away society, and it seems that many people think this is applicable to our animal friends as well.

When I get a pet, they are with me to their end but if you look through the ads of pets to give away, there are many listed simply because they are getting
older, they aren't fun anymore, or maybe you have to give them a little more care. It irks me to no end to see these kind of ads as I just recently put down my 20+ year old cat. I loved every moment of those 20 years with him and still miss him.

People ask how was it possible to have a cat live that long! Although not typical, there are a fair number of cats and small dogs that can live to this age (large dogs have a much shorter lifespan). It depends a lot on genetics and the care given during their lifetime. We won't talk about genetics here, so I will just discuss the care portion that you can give your pet to ensure they live the healthiest life possible.

Food plays an important part in the health of our animals.

Feeding a food with good ingredients, not full of fillers and unhealthy preservatives, will cut down on health problems and vet visits. You get what you pay for when it comes to pet food.

At the same time, don't be afraid to take your pet to the vet if they have a problem. I have so many people call with questions they should be calling a vet about. They are afraid it will cost them money to even ask them a question! I find most vets are very good about this. Although they can't make any diagnosis over the phone they can give you suggestions, and if need be,take your pet in! Explain if it is a money issue. A check up isn't that expensive and then you can go from there if further medical attention is needed.

Much like ourselves, regular health checkups are important to make sure you catch any small changes and get them treated before they turn into a
bigger problem. So find a vet you AND your pet like, they are an important part of your pet's life.

Keeping your pet at a healthy weight may add years to their lives. We all know the dangers of obesity, diabetes, joint problems and heart
problems. Those apply to overweight pets as well. It goes back to the food you feed. Less fillers and healthy ingredients are generally less
fattening, but also READ what the suggested serving is for your pet's size, age and activity level...it's on every bag!

So many of us just fill the bowl and get the pet in that habit early on. So measure what your feeding (it is only a guideline so you may feed more or less
depending on your pet's activity level and metabolism), it will help with any weight issues generally.

Exercise of course helps you both as well, so walk those dogs... and cats! (good luck with that!) I know a few who do, but let's face it, they aren't the greatest on a leash, but buying toys and catnip and actively playing games with your cat will help keep them trim. Maybe just stick to walking your dog.

Finally, joint pain and inflammation from old age and old injuries don't have to mean the end of your pet's life. We all want to see our friends
be pain free, but before you think about putting them down, you may be able to extend their life by years by feeding a good joint and/or
anti-inflammatory natural supplement. It's worth a try! You may even start feeding them before they get to the point where they appear to
need them, and save them from some suffering. This is especially true when you know there may be a problem down the road because of an injury
such as a broken bone that may make them more susceptible to arthritis.

I hope you all get to enjoy your pets in their senior years. As sad as it is to see them go, I would never give up any of the memories. My old
cat was even blind and deaf for the last six months of his life. That just made him even more cuddly. He would climb up on my lap and put his
head on my chest as soon as I got home ...his safe place. He knew no matter what I was there for him...I would never dump him at the shelter
or get rid of him because his health needs were a little more demanding.

He was with me till his end and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tara Kennedy is a Professional Agrologist specializing in animal nutrition and management. She graduated from the U of S with a degree in Agriculture majoring Animal Science. She is owner/operator of the specialty pet and feed store, Kennedy's Animal Nutrition Centre.

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