It feels like just yesterday that your tiny puppy or kitten was darting around and unrolling the toilet paper. Now you’ve been together long enough that your good girl has become a golden girl! And while caring for an ageing pet can be a challenge, it can also be super rewarding for both you and them. That’s why The Scolz spoke to Dr Amanda Schnitker, medical director at Companion Animal Hospital River North in Chicago, about tips on how to make your pet’s twilight years the best ones yet.
REARRANGE YOUR HOME
Anyone who has ever woken up sore after a workout has come to grips with getting older. Use your own ageing body to help you remember to tune into aches your pet might have. Watch for changes in their habits. For example, if your pet needs to lie on the floor to eat from their bowl, consider elevating their food and water dishes to make meals more like a drive-in than a picnic.
When it comes to your formerly frisky feline, according to Schnitker, a new litter box can make all the difference; look for something larger with a lower lip. “Cats get arthritis in their spines, not necessarily their limbs, and [turning in] tight circles can give them trouble,” she says. “They’ll get an aversion to litter boxes and start going outside the box unless it’s larger.” If you have the room for it, large circular litter boxes are ideal for any aged cat.
If all these accommodations are making you see dollar signs, don’t panic! Think about affordable non-pet store products that will serve the same purpose. For example, use a wooden block instead of an expensive plush staircase to help your pets up to their favourite nap spots. Or instead of completely scrapping your cat’s multi-level tree because it’s more difficult to climb, add blocks or ramps to make the higher platforms easier to reach.
REARRANGE YOUR ROUTINE
Not very long ago, your dog could fetch a frisbee for hours. But lately, they’ve been slowing down halfway through the fun. Instead of cutting outplay completely, Schnitker says keeping your pets moving, albeit a little less, will make them more mobile in the long run. “I talk to [pet owners] about how exercise is so important for all of us as we age,” she says. “The more you become inactive, the harder it is to become active again… You want to keep them active and mentally engaged as they age to keep their brains and bodies strong.”
Scheduling long walks, or even going for joint-friendly swims, takes more time than a quick sprint around the block, but adjusting to the needs of your faithful friend is a way to honour their years of loyalty.
And don’t forget about the mind games! Puzzle feeders, which require pets to solve a small puzzle to receive their food, are great for keeping minds sharp.
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