Older pets need special care | VailDaily.com

Older pets need special care

EAGLE COUNTY ” Dogs and cats have a shorter life span than humans, which means they get older sooner than we do. Therefore, we pet lovers will tend to have several pets in our lives.

An older cat will not seem as old as an older dog because cats tend to sleep most hours of the day anyway. Older dogs ” more so than cats ” are slower at getting up, don’t move as fast and may be in pain. Senior dogs need special attention to keep them as healthy as possible and pain free. I will discuss some of these issues and how to help our companions.

An important consideration is nutrition. We all have this misconception that if our pet has less energy or is looking unhealthy, we should add supplements to its diet. When we add supplements that provide additional energy, protein, calcium, phosphorus, trace minerals or vitamins, we believe this will be beneficial to our pet. But this is based on promotional literature or uncontrolled studies.

Nutritional supplements should not be given unless they are needed for managing a specific condition. Over-supplementation can predispose your pet to medical problems. No supplements are needed for routine feeding if a good-quality pet food is given.

A poor-quality diet is unlikely to be improved by supplementation. Inferior diets more often contain mineral excesses and imbalances, as well as poorly digestible energy and protein. Some examples of supplements that are beneficial are fish oils (omega fatty acids) for skin conditions and for dogs fed low-fat diets, and glucosamine for arthritic dogs.

Older dogs cannot handle the puppy and adult dog foods for long periods of time. Therefore, there are senior diets that are easier to digest and have a lower protein content (easier on the kidneys). Some older dogs may start to drink greater quantities of water. It is important to determine if this is due to a kidney problem, salt content or some other medical issue.

The most visible sign of aging in a dog is the lack of energy ” reluctance to get up or go up the stairs or jump in the car. Remember that a dog cannot tell you whether it is in pain or not, but most of you caring owners should be able to notice its discomfort.

Pain can be exhibited in different ways: excessive panting, shaking, whining, immobility and decreased appetite. Arthritis and hip dysplasia are the most common old-age reasons for inactivity and pain.

Larger-breed dogs are more predisposed, but smaller breeds and even cats can get arthritis. The earlier you detect this, the sooner treatment can be initiated to slow down the process. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories help alleviate some pain and decrease the inflammation in the joints but can be hard on the organs if given long term.

Glucosamine/MSN supplements are very beneficial with minimal side effects. Acupuncture works at a deeper level in alleviating pain, slowing the disease process, rebalancing the body and giving energy.

The degree of exercise will have to be modified to fit your dog’s condition. Movement in the joints is a necessity, but your older dog can no longer follow you on your two-hour mountain-bike rides or go for hourlong runs.

It is very sad that your outdoor workout partner (your dog) can no longer keep up, but remember to still take it for walks or shorter hikes. It will need this for physical and mental well-being.

In the winter, when it is cold, your arthritic dog may exhibit more pain, as we do with our aching joints. A warmer and softer surface to sleep on will be easier on your dog.

In the meantime, still give your pet a lot of care and affection ” it loves you unconditionally and still loves to be with you whenever possible.

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