Elderly pets likely require more frequent trips to the vet, a diet change, and maybe even some new products.
A sick or very elderly pet can also call for those tough conversations between you, your family, and a vet—so it’s important to know how to handle them. Here’s how to make sure your furry family member is as healthy, comfortable, and loved as possible during their last few years and months.
1. Monitor Their Diet
Most mammals—humans and pets alike—tend to gain fat and lose muscle as they age. But there’s no universal rule for tweaking pet food intake accordingly: Some animals need fewer calories and more protein and fiber; others may need the reverse. And the “senior” label on pet food has no legal definition, so it can mean different things depending on the brand. Bottom line: Talk to your vet at each checkup about health and behavioral concerns, including what and how much your pet is eating.
2. Increase Vet Visits
As they age, some pets may lose their sight or hearing, contract arthritis, or develop heart, kidney, or liver disease. Almost half of dogs over age 10 will develop cancer (less is known about the rate of cancer in cats). Pets can also develop cognitive dysfunction. Twice-yearly vet visits can help you detect early signs of certain diseases, many of which can be treated with a combination of prescription drugs, supplements, and lifestyle changes, such as making your cat’s litter box more accessible or providing a heated bed for your arthritic dog.
3. Ask the Tough Questions
Whether to let go of a furry family member is a heartbreaking decision to make, but if your pet is seriously ill, an honest evaluation can help you and your vet determine if it’s time. Use an online quality-of-life scale that takes into account appetite, mobility, and pain; try the ones on lapoflove.com. If you choose to euthanize, ask your vet about at-home services.