Free senior pet health check. How to book your space at the Woodgreen Pets Charity event

Fun games to help fight doggy dementia
Fun games to help fight doggy dementia

It’s the sad cost of loving a pet for years, and watching them decline as they get older is heartbreaking.

Woodgreen’s community outreach officer, Serena Moore, knows though, that even with age there’s plenty of love and life in the old dog (or cat) yet, and owners can help keep them happy and healthy.

How can I prepare for their senior years?

Find out how to spot the early signs of illness

Start making changes in middle age, including switching to a senior diet by the age of seven. Giving them fewer calories means they won’t put on weight as their exercise regime naturally slows down. These foods also contain special nutrients for older pets.

Even if they are not showing any signs of arthritis or other joint disorders, supplements can help keep them comfortable, particularly for bigger breeds.

Regular check-ups are highly recommended.

Book a free senior health check

A monthly check-up of the basics is good common sense, so you spot anything that’s not the norm for your pet and notice any changes early. This includes checking for healthy pink gums, clean teeth and good breath! Check their ears for wax, and eyes should be bright and free from weeping or cloudiness.

Run your hands all over them to check for lumps, watch out for fleas, sore skin or matted hair, and check their claws and pads. If nothing else, this will make any vet check a familiar sensation.

Keep an eye on toileting too … just like in humans, any change to their norm could be a sign of illness. And don’t forget regular worm and flea treatments.

If your cat begins to lose weight, despite eating or drinking more, ask your vet to check their thyroid as soon as you can.

Vet check-ups can help spot early signs of problems

Do they need to slow down?

It varies! Some will turn into total couch potatoes, while others will still love to run and chase. Reduce fast, exercise vigorously, even if the dog loves it, as it could be causing pain or damage.

Watch your dog while they walk, to spot stiffness.

And consider reducing the length of walks, many older dogs are happy with a quick walk – or even a 20 minute sniff-ramble – compared to the long walks of their younger years.

Keeping their minds active is also vital – enrichment games, even for just a few minutes, keeps their wits sharp and helps prevent doggy dementia.

Make your home senior friendly

Older dogs are more prone to slips or falls. Put rugs on slippery surfaces and try to discourage jumping between heights to help prevent joint damage. Consider ramps or steps to help them where necessary, and introduce changes gradually.

When is a whiff a bad thing?

Older dogs can be prone to bad breath, but it shouldn’t be dismissed. Dental disease can cause pain and decay, but is also directly linked to heart disease.

Get hold of pet-friendly toothpaste and dental chews. If your dog hasn’t had an oral program before, they can lick the meaty toothpaste from the brush the first few times, before moving on to brushing itself.

However, if they already have gum disease brushing might be painful; consult your vet about plaque and tartar removal in a way that won’t hurt your dog.

As well as having any unusual sign checked out as soon as possible, an annual check-up allows a trained professional to review changes and know what’s normal for your pet. They will keep an eye on weight, do blood tests and routine check-ups. Senior pet clubs often include discounts on medication and treatments.

Need a prescription? It is sometimes cheaper to purchase online, so the vet might be able to issue you with a prescription to file elsewhere. And if your pet lives with pain, speak to your practitioner about the best way to keep in under control, giving your pet healthy and happy final years.

For more advice from Woodgreen’s friendly team, the charity is running a FREE Senior Pet Health & Wellbeing Check at its Godmanchester Center on Wednesday 7th December. To find out more or to book, visit www.woodgreen.org.uk/events.

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