If your older pet is still chasing balls and enjoying life, there is no reason to change her habits. But if she's stiff first thing in the morning or hesitates before walking down stairs, the following tips may help her be more comfortable around the house.
• Create thick, warm bedding because this will minimize the pain from arthritis and alleviate bedsores, which is the thickening of elbows and heels. • Put up baby gates to keep an unstable dog off staircases. • Improve lighting to help a dog who is struggling with poor eyesight navigate through darker areas of the house. • Put nonslip rugs down where there are hard floors if the dog is showing any signs of arthritis, such as wobbly legs or stiff movements. • Raise food bowls off the floor so older dogs don't have to test their balance by bending forward. • Start using gestures or whistles if your dog isn't responding as quickly as he used to when you call him. • Explain to children that an older dog needs quiet time. Some dogs can become less tolerant with age especially if they are painful and may react more aggressively.
Cats • Switch an older cat to a high-grade wet food to help increase her moisture intake, but check with your vet first. • Groom your cat once a week, or more often for long-haired cats, as self-grooming becomes difficult for them in old age. • If your cat has problems jumping, lower her bed or build a ramp up to it, but remember that a cat tends to find the best bedding on their own -even if you buy a nice bed, she still may choose your pillow. • If your cat is unstable, restrict her to a secure area since it is hard to cat-proof a house and she may hurt herself by jumping off furniture or trying to leap over a barrier. • Explain to children that they need to respect an older cat's space. If a cat is stressed from being chased or crowded, she may scratch or even in defence.
Fit for all Older pets need consistent, moderate exercise. Walk your dog at least once a day rather than take him for a 10-kilometre hike once a week. Senior pets, particularly dogs, are at risk of losing muscle mass (this mass helps maintain the joints and reduce arthritic pain). The only way to prevent this loss is through exercise. Regular moderate exercise keeps joints moving, helps to maintains the range of motion of the joints and reduces the pain associated with arthritis. Since cats are smaller, their joints don't carry as much weight. They still develop arthritis however it usually develops later in cats than in dogs and will more often affect their spine/back. Cats are also at risk of being obese if they do not exercise, which makes them more prone to diabetes and constipation. If you can't feel your cat's ribs, there is reason to be concerned about her weight. If you can get cats to move around, they'll lose weight so it's important to encourage older cats to play. Once they start losing weight, they will become more mobile and start playing again.
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