It’s no surprise that as we age, we have to consider more and more behaviours, actions and activities in order to remain healthy. From more frequent doctor visits to the need for additional exercise, fighting the effects of ageing for as long as possible can help us remain healthier and happier for longer.
While the effects of our own bodies changing is easy enough to feel and see, it’s not necessarily the same for our pets. Despite this, they undergo many of the same effects of ageing as we do – mobility issues, problems with eyesight, organ troubles and joint pain are just a few of the many examples of ailments that can affect our pets.
Compounding this problem is the weather and climate; different seasons bring different challenges to face. Whether your pet spends their time exclusively indoors or frequents the outdoors as well, being ready for each season is vital when caring for an ageing pet.
As such, let’s look at what you can do to be a good caretaker of your older pets throughout the year.
Year-Round: Medical Care and Pet Insurance
Taking care of an ageing pet requires plenty of special attention and consideration, but not all of it is dependent upon the season. Some aspects of senior pet care revolve around periodic inspections, check-ups and other medical evaluations. Meaningful actions in this area – such as visits to the vet – can help identify potential problems sooner and keep your beloved pet in better shape for longer.
First and foremost, vet visits are a huge concern. Most vets will agree that annual check-ups for pets such as dogs and cats are acceptable in the early years, but older pets should be checked out twice per year1.
Given that ageing pet healthcare costs can quickly spiral out of control, many owners want to have pet insurance to potentially cover some of the costs. While it can be difficult to secure pet insurance for pets past a certain age, carrying coverage during their younger years can mitigate this concern in some situations.
Ageing Pet Care in Winter
We previously covered a variety of actions to take for your elderly pets during winter, but some of these tips bear repeating.
Older pets in general should be kept inside during the winter months, except when taking potty breaks – and even then, preparing them for the cold is essential2. However, some form of physical activity is ideal; you can find a variety of ways to help keep them exercising indoors, or invest in pet cold weather gear to keep them toasty when outdoors.
Maintaining a healthy weight during the winter months can actually be even more essential in older pets, as excess weight – just like cold weather – can cause joint pain. This double whammy can lead to even greater discomfort for your senior dogs and cats.
Ensure your pets have adequate bedding and warmth when indoors as well. Comfy beds and crates, blankets and cushy hiding spots may keep your older cats and dogs comfortable.
Spring Senior Pet Care
When the weather begins to warm up, even your older pets may feel more energetic. The temptation to take a stroll outside with your dog or cat may be powerful, but you’ll first want to take precautions.
Just like we bundle up before heading out into cool weather, you should do the same for your pets. Even if the weather is warming up, relatively cool temperatures may cause joint pain or changes in immune strength in older pets3. The emergence of pollen during the spring can also wreak havoc on pets with various allergies; be sure to utilise any medications designed to treat known issues in your pet before going outside. Last but not least, if your pet loves to come and go as he or she pleases, then be sure to keep an eye on them when they’re outside; they may quickly become cool (or hot) and wish to come back inside.
Summer Senior Pet Care
Arguably the most difficult time of the year for many pets, summer presents issues related to heat, disease and dehydration for many senior dogs and cats.
First and foremost, the high temperatures of summer can cause elderly pets in particular to suffer from heat exhaustion, which can be deadly. Dogs in particular are susceptible to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Dehydration is another major concern. Dogs and cats alike may not immediately show signs that they are dehydrated, with the danger only becoming obvious once they are severely dehydrated. If your pet’s eyes appear sunken in, they are panting, or they are moving more slowly than normal, then dehydration is a likely cause during the summer months. Make sure any outdoor pets have a place where they can cool off (whether it’s indoors or even just a large source of water).
Last but not least, investing in one or more insect repellents that will keep fleas, ticks and other nasties away from your pet is ideal. These critters bring with them a number of diseases that can be harmful to pets of any age.
Ageing Pet Care in Autumn
With temperatures cooling down once again, autumn provides an opportunity for both you and your senior pet to be outside and be healthy. Visits to a local dog park during the autumn months can be excellent exercise for your pet and a great way to ensure they are socialising with other animals (dogs in particular are social animals by nature7).
Brushing your cat or dog is crucial during autumn, as their summer coats often begin shedding to make room for their winter ones. By grooming them, you’ll help reduce the chances of uncomfortable fur, hairballs and/or hiding spaces for ticks. It also ensures their fur can be more easily parted, which will allow any skin condition or surface-level issue to be identified more rapidly.
Every season brings a new challenge for pet owners, and this is definitely true for those of us who have older pets in the home. Whether it’s warm, cold or somewhere in between, be aware of your pet’s situation and account for the variables at play. Through a combination of love, healthcare and preparation, you can ensure that your pet’s later years are as healthy and comfortable as possible.