Pets don’t live nearly as long as they should, but they pack so much love and affection for their human caretakers into their lives. We’re incredibly blessed to have the companionship of a good cat or dog for as long as we can keep them happy and healthy. To repay the devotion your pet has shown you over the years, follow these tips to help her feel young again.
#1: Cultivate your older pet’s mind
Many older pets suffer from cognitive decline, which can create anxiety and strain your bond. Help keep your pet’s mind sharp with these mental muscle exercises:
- Change your walking routine — As your dog walks her normal route, sniffing provides great mental stimulation, but the same old path can become boring. Change neighborhoods for your daily walk, choose a new hiking trail, or hit a different park. Use a leash if your dog doesn’t have a solid recall or you walk in a busy area, but find off-leash play areas that will help perk up your canine’s cognitive skills by allowing her to make her own choices about where to play. If your older dog is losing her hearing, keep her safe with a long leash that allows room to roam without her wandering off.
- Engage in clicker training — When training your pet, a clicker device lets her work out which action brings a reward. You can use a clicker to mark a behavior you like, such as your cat batting a ball. Each time your cat swats at the ball, click, and reward her. She’ll soon figure out the criteria required for a treat, but the mental energy she uses to decipher the behavior you like helps keep her mind sharp. You can use clicker training for teaching tricks, such as “sit,” “down,” or “shake,” or use it to simply mark behaviors your pet performs. The article, “101 Things to Do with a Box,” by revolutionary force-free animal trainer Karen Pryor, includes excellent methods that will encourage your pet to think for herself.
- Feed from puzzles — Imagine having your food delivered in the same manner at the same time every single day. Boring, huh? Make your pet work for her food with a food puzzle designed to encourage her to roll, slide, or flip puzzle parts to find her reward. Low-cost food puzzles can consist of cardboard tubes with pinched ends, wadded balls of paper filled with kibble, or snuffle mats. You can also hide small portions of your pet’s meal throughout your home for her to find.
- Practice skills daily — Similar to working on the daily crossword puzzle, keep your pet’s mind active with brief training sessions. You can cover previous skills your pet has learned or work on more advanced tricks, but daily training will help your pet’s mental and physical health.
If your pet is showing signs of cognitive dysfunction, schedule an appointment with us to discuss treatment options.
#2: Give your older pet’s body a boost
Many older pets suffer from osteoarthritis or other conditions that make exercising unpleasant or difficult, but activity is critical for maintaining muscle mass. Boost your pet’s physical health with the following:
- Low-impact exercise, such as swimming—your cat may need extra encouragement
- Traction, such as toe grips or carpet runners, to allow easier movement on slick surfaces
- Daily exercise sessions disguised as play time, with ample rewards
To help ease your senior pet’s stiffness, invest in a firm, orthopedic bed to help support her joints as she relaxes. Consider adding a heating pad in the cooler months to soothe aches and pains. Use ramps or stairs for easier access to furniture and other higher home areas for pets who can no longer jump.
#3: Uplift your pet’s spirits
As pets age, they may not seem as perky as their younger counterparts. Use these tips to revive your pet’s spirits:
- Continue to include her as part of the family, and do not ignore her if you welcome a younger pet into your home.
- Schedule daily one-on-one time to ensure your pet has your undivided attention.
- Take part in your pet’s favorite activities; for example, visit the beach, play laser games, or go for leisurely car rides.
- Stick to a set schedule, because senior pets can become confused and anxious if their routine is constantly in upheaval.
Many senior pets are content to spend their days filled with cuddles, naps, and treats. But, she will feel young again if you make a few changes to help boost her mind, body, and spirit.
Is your senior pet showing her age? Schedule an appointment and we will help you develop a rejuvenation plan that will make her feel young again.