Caring for aging pets

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pet ownership in the U.S. is at its highest level with an estimated 70 million households owning a pet, and 75 percent of those homes are estimated to have aging pets.

As a result, there is a growing demand for health-enhancing products for senior pets. As animals age, they lose their desire to eat and consume fluids, which affects their ability to maintain optimum health and body weight. Senior pets need special attention and care to maintain optimum health. Based on research by the nation's leading veterinarian organizations, the top six ways to care for aging pets: 1. Know when your pet is a "senior." According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, by age 2, most pets have already reached adulthood. By 5, they are considered middle age, and at 7 they've started their senior years. Dogs, especially larger breeds, begin the aging process a lot sooner and should be treated as seniors after reaching 3 to 4 years of age. 2. Make quick checks a daily routine. Older pets like and benefit from a soft, full-body massage, which provides an opportunity to check for lumps. Brushing your pet's coat regularly stimulates the skin and removes loose hair. Also, check your pet's teeth for loose or missing teeth, bad breath and inflamed gums. 3. Seniors need high-quality, easily digestible food and plenty of fresh water. Older pets may experience a loss of appetite, and they need the correct balance of protein and nutrition in order to help maintain optimum health and weight. Diets can treat disease or metabolic conditions, but they can include less palatable prescription diets. 4. Watch your pet's waistline! Reportedly, 25 percent of pets in the U.S. are overweight. Obesity leads to many health-threatening conditions, including an increased risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and decreased immune competence. Metabolism in senior dogs drops by up to 30 percent, which contributes to weight problems. 5. Vitamins and minerals should suit aging bodies and metabolisms. Adjusting these elements to fit the needs of senior animals can improve their overall health. As animals age, there is a decreased need for calcium and phosphorus. If reduced, there is less stress to eliminate these minerals from the body. Addressing an increased need for vitamins results in improved health, body function and immunity, while an increased supply of anti-oxidants helps to decrease free radicals that can have an effect on a number of body systems. 6. Adjust levels of exercise. While obesity can be treated with a combination of exercise and diet, older pets may have ailments, such as painful arthritis, that are aggravated by extensive exercise. Be watchful and ask your vet for recommendations. Products and chews with glucosamine have been shown to help ease a pet's joint discomfort.

Follow these tips for a longer and healthier life for your beloved pets.