Learn how to take care of your elderly dog, cat or other pets to ensure that they stay healthy and young at heart.
It can be difficult for someone who spends time with a pet on a daily basis to spot the first
Senior Status typically reach their twilight years between 10 and 12, but for it varies by size: Small (up to 20 pounds): 10 to 12 years old
Medium (21-50 pounds): 8 to 10 years old
Large (51-90 pounds): 7 to 8 years old
Giant (91 pounds and over): 5 to 6 years old
Cognitive Dysfunction (CD) Known as the pet equivalent of Alzheimer's disease, CD affects nearly half of elderly dogs and cats. It can lead to disorientation, reduced or increased activity levels, social issues and memory lapses.
- Senior Solution: Keep your pet mentally stimulated by feeding him through a puzzle toy so he's encouraged to think and work for his food, recommends Kristen Collins (MS, CPDT), an animal behaviorist and certified professional dog trainer at the ASPCA's Animal Behavior Center.
- Senior Solution: Put a heat lamp over your dog's or cat's bed and a heating pad below to soothe muscles, Shojai says.
- Senior Solution: At around 7 years old (larger animals should make the switch sooner, so ask your vet first), transition your dog or cat to one of the "senior" food product lines, which are high in protein but low in calories. Many aging pets, especially cats, also struggle with constipation, so smaller, more frequent meals and a diet rich in fiber will aid their digestive system.
- Senior Solution: If your vet rules out medical troubles, and you'd prefer not to crate your pet when you're away from home, up the number of
litter boxesfor cats and buy pee pads for dogs (put at least one in every room).
- Senior Solution: Use verbal directions more frequently if your pet's eyesight has worsened. Dogs may not be as comfortable in low light, so consider switching your daily walk to morning rather than at dusk, Shojai says. For animals with hearing problems, a flashlight can help you get their attention. "As pets get older, it's important to utilize all of their senses," she says.
Originally published in the August 2011 issue of Family Circle magazine.