As our dogs and cats mature, their needs change quite dramatically.Senior pets require special considerations that can help keep them safer, healthier,and even increase their lifespan.

Here are a few ways to better care for an aging dog or cat:

Routine Health Care: Just like us humans, our pets need regular,routine visits to the doctor. Be sure to keep your pet’s vaccinations up to date, schedule preventative check-ups and regular visits to keep up with prescriptions or special care instructions from your veterinarian.

Be Aware: Aging dogs and cats may begin to show changes in their appearance and their behavior. Discovering dramatic changes in activity levels or appetite or water consumption will help you to understand that your elderly pet may be experiencing new or worsening conditions like arthritis, vision or hearing loss, kidney disease or even certain cancers. Keeping an eye on how your pet moves around your home, particularly around staircases or elevated furniture can help you to watch out for signs of arthritis in your pet. Dogs and cats who begin to avoid stairs or appear to have problems standing or sitting may be showing symptoms of this common condition.

Changes in your pet’s health can also affect their cognitive health. Becoming suddenly or overly frightened by noises or wandering off or seeming confused about the surroundings can be signs of cognitive dysfunction in your pet. Incontinence and a drastic decreased interest in playtime can also be signs that your dog or cat may be struggling with reasoning and brain-related skills.

If you notice any sudden changes in your pet’s health or behavior, be sure to consult with your veterinarian right away.

A New Diet: Senior dogs and cats have special dietary needs.As pets become less active, they need fewer calories. Talk to your vet to determine the best types of foods (and how much) should be provided to your dogs and cats as they age.

Senior Proof: As your dog or cat ages, it’s important to make adjustments to your home to accommodate their needs. Be sure that your pet has easy access to water and consider an orthopedic bed for your dog or cat. Older dogs may also appreciate wearing a warming jacket or sweater around the house.

While it may be difficult to watch your pets change overtime, with your help, your elderly dogs and cats can continue to have quality lives. Just show more patience and more sensitivity to your pet’s changing needs and rely on your veterinarian for professional advice on how you can continue to provide the best for your best friend.