Caring for your aging pet is often a time of frustration and confusion for pet owners. They love their pet and they know, intellectually, that their pet is changing with age.
But it's hard to remember that when you're cleaning up after an accident or you're woken up in the dead of night by a howling cat.
The good news is that there are ways to help your pet age gracefully. There are even ways to help mitigate behavior problems that crop up with old age. Here are a few methods to keep in mind.
Pets, like humans, benefit from regular exercise. Keeping their bodies active and engaging their minds is one of the best ways to help keep cognitive decline at bay.
Unfortunately, many pet owners assume that their elderly pet isn't interested in exercise.
Your pet's needs may change as they age, but regular exercise is just as important for a senior animal. Regardless of age, almost all dogs love going for walks.
If you're walking a senior dog, you have to pay extra attention to the weather, the route, your pace, and how your dog feels before and after walking. Older dogs are especially susceptible to temperature and they may not be able to walk as fast or as far as they once did.
Also, try to walk on grass or sand if you can--it's easier for your dog to walk on, especially if they have joint issues.
Think Outside the Box
If your pet has behavior problems, it's time to think outside the box and consider why that is.
Owners are often unaware that behavior problems are the result of cognitive issues since dogs and cats can't communicate their confusion or anxiety in a way that's easily recognizable. They know that they've done something wrong, they just don't understand what it is or how to fix it.
If your pet is having behavior problems, the best place to start is to create a regular schedule and adapt their environment to make it easier for them to navigate.
Let's say, for example, that your elderly cat is soiling outside her litter box. You know she has weakened eyesight, but don't necessarily remember that her eyesight is also worse at night. Unfortunately, at night, her poor eyesight is at its worst, leaving her frightened and confused when she has to find the litter box.
If she also has cognitive decline, the issue is even worse.
To mitigate this, move her litter box somewhere that's easier for her to find. Make sure that she knows where it is and use night lights in areas she frequents so it's easier for her to find her way.
Don't Forget the Joys of Life
Finally, don't forget the joys of life!
Your senior pet has just as much joy for life as a younger animal--they just express it in different ways. Maybe an old cat likes dozing in the afternoon sun. Maybe an old dog likes getting extra belly rubs from their humans.
Make a list of things that your pet loves the most and make sure to give it to them! It's a good way to keep them engaged and happy in their later years.