4 Ways to Help Your Aging Pet Living Longer

Habits that help Mr. Whiskers stay lively and healthyHabits that help Mr. Whiskers stay lively and healthyWrinkles. Gray hair. A tendency to randomly yell, "Get off my lawn!" It's obvious when your human friends start aging, but signs are subtler for your dog or cat--and often can be easily missed.

First, forget this: "Animals age 7 years for each human year." Larger dogs reach seniorhood when they're just 6; most dogs and cats are there by age 10. After that, older dogs and cats age 4 to 8 years for every year that humans age. "Many senior dogs and cats silently suffer painful osteoarthritis or have diabetes, failing kidneys, or cognitive decline," says Robin Downing, DVM, hospital director of the Downing Center for Animal Pain Management in Windsor, CO. Here's help for your aging pet:

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Be alert to aging clues. Excessive thirst or unexpected weight gain or loss can signal age-related disease, says Mark Epstein, DVM, medical director of the TotalBond Veterinary Hospital in Gastonia, NC. Check weekly for other clues: Sniff your pet's ears and mouth, feel his tummy, and run your fingers through his coat. Call your vet if you detect foul breath, lumps, or ear or nasal discharge-or if your pet hesitates on stairs, can't sit up for treats, or squats instead of hikes his leg to pee. If kitty's stopped hopping onto the counter, she could have osteoarthritis. (And be sure to keep these 16 home pet remedies on hand in case anything arises.)

Book senior wellness exams. Every 6 months, get a urinalysis, fecal exam, blood count and chemistry panel, and parasite evaluation to nip serious problems early. (And that includes his weight. Here's what to do if your poodle's on the pudgy side.)

Serve age-appropriate food. "Recognize that as animals age, nutritional needs change," says Dr. Downing. Ask your vet about special senior diets.

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Tone down activities. Don't let your older dog race to catch a ball--gently roll it across the floor. Entice kitty with a feather wand, but don't allow her to leap. A pet stroller lets you and your pal enjoy the great outdoors together. (Learn how to keep your pet safe in the sun with this guide.)

By Arden Moore, Prevention




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