Monday, September 12, 2016

How to Help Your Senior Pet Maintain a Healthy Weight

It is just as important for pets to be at a healthy weight as it is for their human owners. Overweight pets are at a risk of developing arthritis, pain, and lameness. They also can develop intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) that can lead to paralysis, especially in long-backed breeds like miniature dachshunds. Overweight dogs take more time to recover from surgery and often experience sub clinical conditions such as inflammation, high cholesterol, and high lipids that lead to pancreatitis, diabetes, and gastrointestinal disease. Obese dogs frequently experience breathing difficulty and heart problems. When senior pets are overweight, their age and weight combine to contribute to a higher risk of developing these health concerns. That’s why it is crucial for senior pet owners to help their four-legged loved ones maintain a healthy weight.

Change your pet’s diet

Your veterinarian is in the best position to help you determine exactly how overweight your senior pet is, what his diet should consist of, and how often you should feed him. Your vet will guide you through helping your senior pet lose weight in a healthy and safe way. It is likely that your vet will instruct you to lower your senior pet’s intake of carbohydrates and help lose weight slowly over time rather than drastically changing his diet. Your vet will also most likely ask you to stop feeding your senior pet table scraps and other people food, as it is often high in sugar, salt, and carbohydrates. A balanced, nutritious diet is best for your senior pet. Orijen Senior dog food is a great choice. 

Sometimes, pet owners do not recognize how many treats they give their senior pets in one day. While we understand that you love your pet and want to reward him or show him affection with a treat, you are not doing anything to help him maintain a healthy weight. Consider tracking how many treats you feed your senior pet in a day if you think that you may be contributing to his weight problem.

Another option is to avoid giving your senior pet high-calorie, processed treats and instead choose healthier treats for him. Carrots are a healthy snack for pets, as are apples without the seeds or core, blueberries, green beans, and frozen bananas. Keep in mind that raisins and grapes are poisonous for dogs. You should also avoid peaches, plums, and persimmons because of their pits.

Be sure your senior pet gets plenty of exercise

No, your senior pet should not be running a marathon with you every day. But, your senior pet should be getting plenty of exercise. Of course, discuss your pet’s new exercise regimen with your veterinarian before you begin to ensure that you don’t overdo it. One of the best ways to exercise your senior pet is to go on vigorous walks. Dedicate time each day to at least one thirty-minute walk. If your schedule prevents you from walking with your senior pet, hire a dog walker who can get him outside when you cannot. Most dog walkers have flexible schedules, so you should be able to hire one who can work around your schedule.

Swimming is an activity that is ideal for older dogs because it is low impact and easy on their weakened joints and muscles. Swimming also builds strength and is relaxing and comforting for most dogs.

Playing tug-of-war is an exercise option that is great for exercising older dogs. This game strengthens their bodies and is good for their jaws, neck, and shoulders. Just be sure to be gentle and avoid hard or violent tugging or swinging that can cause your senior pet to strain a muscle or cause dental damage.

Other exercise options include playing with your senior pet. Fetching a ball or a Frisbee can be a fun exercise for your pet and yourself. He may not be able to chase a ball as quickly as he once did, but your pet will enjoy playing with toys with you and engaging in activities that get him to run, jump, and chase to the best of his ability.

Your senior pet deserves to be happy and healthy to the end of his days. By helping him maintain a healthy weight, you will increase the chances that he will feel good and play with you for as long as possible.

This blog post is courtesty of Janice Miller.

Janice Miller is a veterinarian and also runs a non-profit that helps place shelter dogs with foster parents until they go to their forever homes. She helped co-create because she wanted to have a way to spread reputable pet health and safety resources to pet owners everywhere. The site seeks to provide homeowners, parents, and pet owners with the information they need to keep themselves and their loved ones out of harm’s way.

Image via Pixabay by bykst