TLC For Your Ageing Pet

While animals grow older, they are prone to developing a range of problems- musculo-skeletal issues, arthritis, thyroid or kidney disorder and cancer, to name a few. "Pets become less energetic and attentive with age," says Nicholas Dodman, BVMS, of Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and the editor of Good Old Dog. "They'll sleep a little more and be generally more quiet and composed."

But there are things you can do to help your animals live long, happy and comfortable lives while they are with you. Amp up your Vet Visits When your pet hits middle age, you should see your vet once every six months instead of every year. While this may feel frequent, remember that animals age six to 10 times faster than humans, so a bi-annual appointment for your pooch is akin to you visiting the doc every three to four years. At these visits, your vet should do a more thorough physical examination. Pair this assessment with a full blood scan and urine analysis and consider checks for thyroid function-all tests that your pet may or may not have had recently, depending on his health and your vet's preferences.

Make New Food Rules As in humans, pets' metabolisms, digestive tracts and nutritional requirements change as they age. When activity levels decline, decrease your pet's calorie intake. Being overweight is especially hard on joints in senior pets. Look for food that's higher in protein and fibre and lower in fat. Set up Safer Surroundings As your dog or cat naturally slows down, make sure he's able to continue with normal activities-even if he needs help. Step stools and ramps offer a great way to help cats and dogs access their favourite windowsill or couch, a litter box with low sides allows cats an easier in and out and elevating food and water bowls can help if a dog's neck can't reach down as easily. Buy Better Bedding Buy a plush, supportive and comfortable bed for your older animal.

The best are supportive enough that his body doesn't rest anywhere on the floor when he's lying down but are easy to climb into. Place his new digs in a warm, easily accessible location. Adjust Exercise While it's natural that your pooch begs you less often to come play, he should still be willing and able to exercise when you prompt him (which you need to do!), according to Molly Cassandra, DVM, of the Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center. Now is the time to cut back on the distance and speed of your walks. Taking several short strolls instead of a single long one is easier on the joints. For the severely achy, switching to swimming or walking on sand, when possible, can help. Cats should also be able to maintain their usual bursts of play throughout the day-if they seem sluggish, encourage them with new toys.