Caring For An Older Pet Part 2 December 7, 2015 16:03
Adjustments and Changes
Nutrition and Diet
As your pet ages, you may need to change their diet, the amount of food, and the timing and frequency of meals. The general rule is that you need to feed an older pet small meals, more often. That way, you are giving their digestive process a constant work-out, without putting it under stress.
For older dogs, try three to four small meals a day. If your dog has diabetes or cancer, you may need to increase this to five or six, or to whatever is practical within the boundaries of your own lifestyle. Cats, too, will benefit from this routine, unless thay have always been fed on-demand.
Older animals are simply not as active as they once were. Excess body weight puts more pressure on their muscles and bones, increasing the chances of muscle frailty and arthritis. You will need to reduce the amount of food you are giving them.
Older animals need more water. Always make sure there is enough water in accessible locations (an older cat, for example, may need more bowls at ground level) and change their water daily. Water consumption indicates general health. Cats normally have very efficient kidney systems. A sudden or dramatic increase in water consumption may indicate physical changes that demand professional attention. Observe, too, any changes in your dog's drinking habits. A sudden change of habit can signal physical changes.
Always have water beside your pet's meals, especially if you give them dried food. Pets are often thirsty after dehydrated food. Older animals need extra hydration so add a little bit more water to their meals. If your pet has any form of cancer, kidney disease, auto-immune disorder or diabetes, spring water, distilled water or filtered water is advisable. We do not want to debate the issue of water quality, except to say that chemicals and toxins are present in our water supply, and pets with certain conditions need every opportunity to boost their immune systems to aid their chance of recovery.
Older pets are less able to tolerate saturated fats, chemical preservatives and processed foods. If you have fed them canned, dried or processed foods, now is the time to change. Introduce changes to discerning cats gradually.
Signs that you need to change a diet
The condition of your pet's faeces indicates how they are handling their diet. If your pet is constipated, has gas or dehydrated faeces, you need to increase their fluids. Conversely, if your pet has diarrhoea or is vomiting, you need to introduce a more natural diet.
Observe any changes or fluctuations in the condition of your pet's skin or coat. Eczema, hair loss and other skin or hair conditions should be first addressed by a change of diet - chicken, vegetables, rice, raw carrot and garlic (do not add garlic or other strong herbs if your pet is being treated homoeopathically). Provided that your pet does not have liver disease or cancer, evening primrose oil (in either tablet/capsule or oil form) and virgin cold-pressed safflower oil are recommended additives.
Older pets require less carbohydrate in their diet (because they are less active). Be careful of giving too much dried or dehydrated food, as it can cause constipation. Despite 'natural' claims, it is still processed and dehydrated. Bones can cause constipation - as your pet keeps chewing them, they take in air, which can upset their digestion. Remove the bone as soon as all the meat has been extracted.
SUITABLE DIETS FOR OLDER PETS
The best food is that which is fresh and natural. Chicken (cooked chicken is more easily digested) mixed with rice (white rice is more easily digested than brown) and vegetables is recommended, as it is high in protein, has little fat, and provides vitamins, minerals and the right blend of carbohydrates. Broccoli, pumpkin, sweet potato and carrots are excellent sources of antioxidants, minerals and vitamins of particular benefit. Orange vegetables (carrots, sweet potato and pumpkin) have beta carotenes which fight cancer and prevent tumour growth. Steamed vegetables are preferable to boiled, and be sure not to overcook. If your pet will not eat vegetables, make vegetable soup or puree instead and pour this over the chicken and rice. You can try adding carrot juice to meals.
Steamed fish, especially the deep-sea and oily varieties such as salmon, tuna, sardines and cod, are particularly recommended for cats. Cats and dogs which are still able to handle to some degree of fat and bones could have raw chicken wings or drumettes. You may need to supervise cats.
For dogs and cats no longer able to eat raw bones and red meat (because of the high fat content), try adding chopped or grated apple or carrot to their meals. Some cats do eat apple and carrot - if it is well disguised!
Any seeds you may want to add for extra protein - for example, linseeds - need to be crushed first. Be wary of seeds and some cereals (such as oats); as they increase body temperature which may put added strain on the liver.
Herbal and Vitamin Supplements
There are herbal and vitamin supplements that you may consider adding to your pet's meal. Supplements are needed when dietary intake is inadequate. A natural diet, especially one rich in vegetables, will usually provide all of the mineral and vitamins required.
A good example is antioxidants. They boost the immune system and one of the most effective, which doubles as a flea preventative, is garlic. You can use odorless garlic capsules if you prefer. A little bit of fresh mint or parsley will always freshen the breath and parsley, in particular, is high in vitamin C and is another cost-effective antioxidant.
Exercise tips for an older dog
It is better to exercise an older pet gently, over small distances. This is particularly important for dogs which have arthritis.
You need to change your expectations of an older dog - especially bigger dogs or working dogs which have always been active. People often say, 'well, if he can't run any more, that's it.' Really, what they are saying is 'I want a dog to run with me.' Their old mate may be perfectly happy watching from the sidelines, reclining in old age. You might consider getting a second dog to meet your own expectations and lifestyle habits and letting your old mate train the young one in the ways of the world.
You may also need to reconsider where you walk you dog - is it safe for them? For example, if they are blind, are there too many curbs? If they are deaf or losing their hearing, are they straying too close to traffic or too far away from you? Is your favourite park full of boisterous puppies and children that irritate your older mate?
Think about the time when you exercise your dog. A dog which is losing physical confidence or faculties will be less stressed walking at night. An older animal is also less able to handle extreme temperatures - don't walk them in the heat of the day or if it is too cold (especially if they have arthritis).
The way you walk
Accept that your dog is slowing down. You will need to slow down a bit too. Don't run if they can't keep up - it just causes them added stress, increases their chance of injury and makes walk time less enjoyable. If you are used to walking your dog without a leash, you may need to reconsider. Blindness, loss of hearing, loss of physical confidence and slowing reflexes mean that they may not know what situations are dangerous or may be unable to respond to danger as well or as quickly as they were once able. Just think about how you would walk with your grandma and give you dog the same respect- they've earned it and they now need your support.
Caring For An Older Pet/ Part 3- Treating Age-related Ailments Naturally will be published on 14/12/15