Senior Pet Serenity: A Guide to Happy and Healthy Aging

Dr. Jessica Sims, Owner / Veterinarian at Oakwell Animal Hospital


Greetings, dear reader! Today, let’s turn our focus on . These furry companions have shared our lives, often aging gracefully alongside us. As your trusty guide in this adventure, I’m here to offer you insights, humor, and practical advice on caring for your aging feline and canine companions. So, grab a cup of tea, find a comfy chair, and let’s explore this delightful journey together!

Meet the Stars of the Show: First, let me introduce you to our two aging protagonists. There’s Mr. Whiskers, the dapper senior cat, who’s been with you since the infamous tomato plant incident. Then, we have Fido, the dignified old hound, who’s diligently guarded your front door since the Great Sock Disappearance of 2015. These are more than mere pets; they’re cherished family members who deserve the best care in their golden years.

Our fluffy friends can’t walk up and say “Mom, my hips hurt lately” or “Hey, it hurts to get up in the mornings” but they can give us more subtle clues. Here are some of the things veterinarians use as clues to indicate there’s an issue with arthritis: hesitation/refusal to use stairs or jump up or down from couch/bed, “slowing down”, difficulty rising or settling, not using the litter box consistently anymore, not engaging in favorite activities as long or as enthusiastically. It’s estimated that by age 8, 80% of dogs are affected by arthritis! For cats, 60-90% are expected to have arthritis after age 12!

NSAIDs – Not Just for Humans: Imagine Mr. Whiskers, once a graceful leaper, now attempting to reach his favorite windowsill like a tipsy tightrope walker. And picture Fido, the fetch enthusiast, watching the tennis ball roll by with an air of detached amusement. But fear not, for science has a remedy!

Veterinarians often recommend a therapeutic trial with NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to alleviate arthritis pain in our aging companions. They can’t always tell us when they’re in pain, but if they’re back to their old perky selves after starting an NSAID trial, that’s a sure sign that pain was holding them back! BUT BEWARE, human medications (ibuprofen, tylenol, etc) are extremely dangerous for pets, so let the professionals decide what the best options are for your furry friend at an aging pet check-up.

The Fishy Business of Fish Oils: Fish oils, the unsung heroes of the pet world! Imagine you’re Fido, and every step feels like you’re walking on creaky floorboards. Here come fish oils, those slippery saviors filled with omega-3 fatty acids. They’re like WD-40 for your pet’s joints.

Incorporating fish oils into your pet’s diet can be transformative. You’ll be astonished at how they can turn Mr. Whiskers from a lounge lizard into a sprightly kitty, ready to chase imaginary mice. Just remember, moderation is key; we don’t want Fido auditioning for Aquaman at the dog park. Let your vet calculate the correct fish oil dose for arthritis for your pets.

The Art of Cat and Dog Acupuncture: I know what you’re thinking: acupuncture for pets? It may sound far-fetched, but it’s a real thing. Picture this! Pet acupuncture is a legitimate practice where tiny needles stimulate specific points on your pet’s body, aiding in pain management and overall well-being. However, a word of caution: this is best left to licensed professionals. Watching Mr. Whiskers receive acupuncture might be as entertaining as witnessing a cat pondering quantum physics, but don’t attempt this at home.

Next up, polysulfated glycosaminoglycan (say whaaat?) is a mouthful but this wonder drug can help protect your dog’s joints instead of just treat the symptoms after the damage is done! There aren’t many options when it comes to reducing the damage arthritis is causing in the joints, but this drug (called Adequan), is able to actually defend your pet’s cartilages! Unfortunately, some pets see great results while others see minimal or no improvement and there’s no way to predict which ones are which ahead of time. 

The Great Pet Mystery: Is It a Toy or a Bed? As your beloved pets age, their interests and needs evolve. Mr. Whiskers may believe that his new catnip toy doubles as a comfy nap spot, and Fido might decide that his orthopedic bed is just another oversized chew toy.

Pets have their quirks, and it’s your role to adapt. When Mr. Whiskers turns his scratching post into a plush recliner, indulge him. And when Fido transforms his bed into a battlefield, offer him a new chew toy with a smile.

Mental Gymnastics for Your Pet’s Mind: While we’re on the topic of adaptation, remember that aging pets require mental stimulation as much as physical exercise. Although Mr. Whiskers may no longer leap onto high shelves, puzzle feeders and interactive toys can provide mental exercise. Fido may find joy in hunting for hidden treats around the house.

Consider it brain training for your pet; you’ll be amazed at how it rejuvenates their spirits.

Keep the Fun Alive: As your pets age, it’s easy to fall into a routine of early bedtimes, cozy blankets, and early bird specials. But remember, Mr. Whiskers and Fido still possess youthful spirits! They may be a bit slower, a tad grayer, but their hearts remain as young as ever.

Don’t retire the game of fetch, don’t forget those belly rubs, and don’t forsake those leisurely park walks. Age is merely a number, and our aging pets prove that you can chase your tail and pursue your dreams, regardless of your years.

A Little Extra Love Goes a Long Way: In the end, the best way to care for your aging pets is with love and attention. They’ve been your companions through thick and thin, and now it’s your turn to be there for them.

Offer Mr. Whiskers that additional chin scratch and Fido an extra treat. Treasure the moments you share because life is an extraordinary adventure, and our pets are our steadfast fellow explorers.

So, there you have it—a guide to caring for your aging cat and dog. Remember, they may have more gray hairs and wisdom, but they remain the same loving companions who’ve journeyed with you through life’s ups and downs.

As we bid farewell to our furry friends, remember this: in the world of aging pets, every moment is an adventure, every purr is a symphony, and every tail wag is a dance. Embrace the journey, and may your days with your cherished companions overflow with laughter, love, and the occasional misadventure.

Until our next rendezvous, may your pets age gracefully, and may your hearts forever be warmed by their presence.

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