As people are taking better and better care of their pets, they are living longer. As a result, more pets are reaching their ‘senior years’ than ever before. Taking care of senior pets can take a little more attention and time. By doing these extra steps can help ensure a healthy happy four-legged friend for many more years to come.

1. Biannual wellness visits

Many veterinary clinics will recommend biannual visits for wellness check ups when your pet reaches a certain age. Dogs and cats age much faster than humans do, and a year is a long time for an older animal. A year in a Great Dane’s life could be equivalent to seven human years!

Many health parameters can change in a short amount of time, such as weight and growths or masses. Catching problems and diseases early will generally lead to a better ability to treat them.

Veterinarians are trained to spot subtle changes that you might overlook. By scheduling appointments every 6 months for your senior pet, you can maximize the chances these will be caught.

2. Screening blood work

Blood work is like an internal physical exam. Many disorders obvious on blood work may not be apparent on a routine wellness exam.

Doing regular routine blood work allows your veterinarian to monitor trends as well. There is always a reference range of ‘normal’, but if your dog’s values creep up within that reference range, your vet might be able to catch a disease in its very early stages.

Normal blood work also provides a reference point for determining time frames. If your cat was normal three months ago, any current blood work changes are obviously new and may indicate a more aggressive and quickly progressing disease process.

3. Keep a lean body condition

A thinner body condition has been associated with up to 2 additional years of life in studies evaluating weight and longevity. In addition, the onset of diseases commonly associated with age, such as osteoarthritis, are delayed when pets are kept at a leaner body condition.

4. Good nutrition

Nutrition is even more important in senior pets. Be sure to feed a reputable brand. ‘Senior’ blends are designed to help support older pets, and do work. Look for added vitamin E, which can help with brain aging, glucosamine, which can help with painful joints and probiotics, which can help aid digestion. Always consult your veterinarian before giving supplements to your pets.

5. Mental stimulation and activity

Older pets can suffer from senility just like humans. Research has shown that exposing them to new and interesting activities, such as car rides, trips to the park, and new toys or ‘puzzles’ can help keep mental sharpness.

In addition to enriching the brain, physical activities can help older pets maintain muscle tone and stay strong. Being mildly to moderately active can help senior pets cope with arthritis issues and enrich their mind.

With a few small changes and little more time and effort, you can help your pets reach their golden years and thrive.