My Border Collie, Joker, is a little over 14 years old. Writing this, I know he doesn’t have much longer with us. I’ve made him as comfortable as I can, and have found some ways to deal with his aging naturally.
Senior Dogs and Old Cat Care
Joker is fairly large, weighing about 50 pounds. He hasn’t had hip problems like many larger breeds do, but he does have trouble getting up and down stairs. Here are a few things I have found to be helpful for an aging animal:
Glucosamine sulfate supplements are typically used in humans to help ease joint pain. I have found that 30mg per pound is usually a good dosage for my dog. I split this dosage over 12 hours. To give it to your animal in two doses, figure out how much they need and then divide that in half, giving it to them once in the morning and once at night. A glucosamine supplement may or may not come with added chondroitin. (Find glucosamine for dogs here.)
Chondroitin is believed to help the body maintain fluid and flexibility in the joints. Normally 5mg per pound is effective, again divided and given over 12 hours. (Find a glucosamine/chondroitin supplement for dogs and cats here.)
Although not completely natural, senior dogs can be given aspirin for pain relief. You can give them 5mg per pound once a day, or split this into two doses. Buffered aspirin or baby aspirin is best.
NOTE: Do not give aspirin to cats without consulting your veterinarian. Cats metabolize aspirin differently than dogs so a specific dosage is required. Do not give your pet acetaminophen or ibuprofen unless directed by a vet. These can be fatal to pets.
Pets do well with an Omega-3 fatty acid supplement. As there are many to choose from, be sure to check the dosage on each item. (Find a fish oil formulated for dogs here.)
While older pets may not be as active, they should still be given daily exercise so they don’t become stiff over time.
Slimming your pet down may help with older pet mobility issues.
If the issue is arthritis, you may be able to use a warm compress to give some relief. I use a cloth bag filled with rice or flax seed. You can warm this slowly in the oven and then wrap a towel around it. It will form to the leg or hip or whatever it is applied to. Cats will usually curl up around it.
A soft bed, including those with memory foam, are great for older pets.
Gently massaging the legs will often help with mobility issues.
Acupuncture is used on pets as well as people, often with surprising results.
Cataracts and other eye ailments can occur in pets too. You may need to clean the eyes more often than you would with a younger animal.
Some senior dogs get more finicky as they age. I’ve tried several foods with Joker until I just started making my own.
You can give your older pet probiotics in the form of yogurt in small amounts. Most pets can tolerate yogurt even if they can’t tolerate milk products. If they have a problem with any lactose, try and almond milk or coconut milk yogurt. Supplements (like this) are also available.
In addition to being wholesome, you may also need to provide food that is soft. I make my own food for Joker with chicken, beef, or pork and then add rice to it, plus some veggies snuck in. There are many recipes online to make your own pet foods.
Many older pets lose eyesight or become confused about their surroundings. Be on the lookout for your pet wandering around (what may seem to be) aimlessly. Years ago I had a dog that went blind at about 10years of age. Every now and then he would walk around the house, systematically bumping into things. I think this was his way of reassuring himself about the location of things. It seemed to work for a week or so, then he would do it again.
Older pets sometimes have to urinate more often, so be prepared to let them out frequently. As Joker had more and more trouble getting up and down, we used puppy training pads for him. They absorbed moisture well and locked it into the pad so that it could be cleaned up easily.
Caring for older dogs and cats can be more work, but the joy you get from them, and them from you, is well worth the effort. Have you found any natural solutions to caring for older cats and dogs?