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Oldies, but goodies. Here’s how to care for your “vintage” pets.
Whether you’re considering adopting an older pet from a shelter, or whether your companion has aged gracefully into their golden years, senior pets make wonderful additions to the family. All too often, elderly pets are considered less-adoptable due to their age, but that definitely isn’t the case! There are a million and one reasons why senior pets are awesome, and contrary to popular belief, older animals do not always require extensive extra care. Instead, just a few simple steps can keep your grey-haired companion feeling not only loved, but in tip-top shape.
1. Take it Easy
Just as humans may often lose their “child-like” energy as they age, so too do our companions outgrow their puppy nature as they mature physically and mentally. While this can be harder to see in cats, who sleep 14-18 hours per day regardless of their age, with dogs, the progression of slowing down can become increasingly noticeable as the years go on.
The danger lies in the fact that many dogs are incredibly stoic and may ignore pain, especially if they are having fun– a trait that can be dangerous for dogs with health conditions or joint concerns. It’s up to us as their caretakers to limit their intense physical activities as they get older, while still giving them plenty of outlets for their energy.
- Slow Down – Transition lengthy runs into short jogging or walking excursions, and monitor carefully for signs of fatigue.
- Take Breaks – Whether during physical activity or during stimulating activities, such as when company is present, older pets need the freedom to stop, lie down, and recuperate their spent energy. A walk should always incorporate oodles of time to stop and smell the roses, and/or catch their breath.
- Limit Excursions – Going out for your daily run without a beloved running partner can be hard, but keep in mind that a 12-year old pooch may not want to or have the joint strength to go out every day. Use your pet’s downtime moods to determine how their level of physical activity may be helping or harming them, and adjust your together-time activities accordingly.
- Find Alternatives – Your pet is your best friend and favorite adventure companion. If you can’t hike Mt.Everest with them, then bring the mountain to them. In other words, find activities your pet can safely participate in with you. Yoga is a pet favorite (as many YouTube videos show!), and even investing in a pet stroller or car seat can allow you to take your buddy for a relaxing bike ride, without physical exertion on their part. Simple car rides are another great option.
- Napping is Always a Good Solution – Older pets sleep more. It’s a fact. Let them! Better yet, take the occasional nap with them and let their newfound appreciation for relaxing become a regular bonding session. Happy dog kisses and cat purrs are awesome things to wake up to.
2. Keep Life Interesting
Does your dog love new toys? Toys are an easy way to keep your pet’s mind sharp and engaged, as well as add a little physical activity into their routine. If you have the budget to purchase a bag of new toys all at once, you can rotate them throughout the upcoming weeks to keep the surprises coming. New toys can be also include nearly-free DIY toys like a new tennis ball, a plastic water bottle with some kibble inside, or a tug toy made out of a knotted tee shirt. For cats, easy additions to their toybox, like plastic Easter eggs, gives them something new to bat around the house.
- Change is Good – Rotate toy selection to keep your pet surprised.
- The Best Gifts Come from the Heart – Incorporate DIY toys for a personal touch that (bonus!) smells like you, their favorite human.
- Challenge Them – Investing in one or two puzzle toys for can help keep your pet’s mind sharp well into their elder years.
- Switch it Up – New experiences, new sights, and new walk destinations all add excitement and stimuli into their routines.
3. Senior TLC
While pets will bask in your attention no matter their age, senior pets often need and appreciate a little extra love and care to keep them healthy.
- Double-Up – More frequent vet visits, often every 6 months instead of yearly, to keep tabs on age-related health concerns.
- Tailor the Home – Additional safety precautions may need to incorporated into the home to “senior-proof” their living quarters.
- Safety Features – For dogs, as their sight and hearing fades, you may want to make doubly sure they aren’t going to get lost, even if they were off-leash trained before. A KirinGie.Me pet profile, chip, and leash system ensures your pet will never stray far from their loving home!
- Spoil ’em a Little – That definitely doesn’t mean bringing on the bacon cheeseburgers! Instead, a gentle daily massage acts like an extended petting session, with a little more purpose to soothe sore joints.
4. Consider a Younger Friend
Adopting a second pet to keep your senior company is a decision to consider very thoroughly. Sometimes social and/or previously active pets as they age do appreciate and liven up with a younger companion in the home. Others, especially those that have been an “only child” for any length of time, are much happier absorbing all of your attention, rather than sharing it. However, increasing your senior pet’s activity level (and happiness!) can have a very positive effect on an aging pet’s health.
- Avoid Baby Fever – If you do choose to add another pet to your family, consider a youthful adult companion for your senior pet, rather than adopting a puppy or kitten. This way they can enjoy the benefits of youthful energy without being overwhelmed.
- Do a Test Run – How does your pet handle other visiting animals? Invite a friend over who owns a pet similar in age to one you’re considering adopting and monitor how your pet acts. Anxious? Jealous? Protective? Then a second companion is probably not the best option.
Have you ever rescued a senior pet? How did you show them a little extra love? Let us know in the comments!
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