As my pets approach, or have attained senior status, I am more conscious than ever of their health and longevity. Gator, my big Weimaraner, is 12 and is definitely in his twilight years. Lucy, the Siamese-mix, is 10; Chico, a Snowshoe Siamese-mix, is 9 ½ years old; and Maggie, the Bulldog, will celebrate her 8th birthday in October. I don’t like to think of the future without my beloved pets, so I do whatever I can to improve their lives and keep them in the best of health.
Here are a few suggestions for you to keep your dog or cat in tip-top condition and hopefully increase his or her lifespan:
Buy the best pet food you can afford. Healthy food supports good digestion, improves the immune system and even cognitive function. That is especially important for senior pets, because impaired cognitive function can wreak havoc on an animal’s life. We are witnessing some of that with Gator now. Avoid by-products, artificial preservatives, corn, soy, wheat and be sure the food contains 1 or 2 named meats in the first 4 ingredients. If you cook homemade food for your pet, check with your veterinarian to be sure you are including all of the vitamins and minerals and amino acids needed for an animal to thrive.
Keep your pet’s weight under control. Obese dogs and cats won’t live as long. Ask your veterinarian for help, if your fur-baby needs to lose a few pounds.
Some vaccinations are necessary; others are not. As animals age, they build up some immunity to diseases. Talk to your veterinarian about titer tests, which will tell exactly what vaccines are in the animal’s system in an amount to protect him from disease. Rabies vaccinations are required in all states, but many others could be optional. You want to protect your senior pet but not over-vaccinate.
Exercise helps keep Fido and Fluffy young. Our Gator struggles to get up and down inside the house but take him outside on-leash, and he becomes a puppy again. He loves his walks around the lake, and I’m convinced they help keep him mobile. Walk your dogs, play with your cats. Keep them moving, even in their senior years.
Keep your pet’s teeth in good condition. Daily brushing goes a long way toward good dental health in dogs and cats. When your vet says it’s time for a professional cleaning, get it done. Dental infections occur in pets and poor hygiene is a contributor.