Top Tips to help your elderly pets in the colder season

 

1.Keep them warm

As our pets get older, they feel the cold more. But they probably won’t tell you about it, and it’s very easy to overlook when pets need that extra bit of warmth.

If they were never bothered by the cold before, and also if you don’t feel the cold so much, you may not easily notice that a bit of extra warmth would be very welcome.

Pets don’t tend to shiver or whine when they’re cold, they may very well not show any signs at all.

In fact, some pets really don’t help themselves and prefer to lie on a cold floor or in a draught- it can be quite tricky to persuade them otherwise. But it’s worth it.

If in any doubt, just assume that warmth will be beneficial- you’ll almost certainly be right!

Elderly pets move around less, and so they produce less body heat. Their blood circulation slows down, and the body heat is kept more towards the centre, leaving the legs cooler.

Also, areas of muscle tension can get quite cold. This is again due to lack of circulation in these areas. Many elderly pets have tension in their lower back and also in their neck area.

And of course any joints that are affected with arthritis will be more vulnerable to the cold.

A simple warm water bottle or wheat bag applied to these areas can work wonders (check it’s not too hot, and always allow them to wiggle away if they don’t enjoy it).

If you can leave the heating on for your pets while you’re out, this can massively help to keep them comfortable.

Maybe they enjoy snuggling up under a blanket.

Many dogs enjoy having a coat on when you take them out (even if they never needed or wanted one when they were younger).

Make sure you dry them really well after a rainy walk. Cold, wet fur really cools the whole body down and can be very uncomfortable.

And there are lovely warm, fleecy coats for indoors, too.

How about some snuggles in front of the fire?

 

2.Keep them moving

‘She’s old, she doesn’t go on walks anymore’.

Sometimes it can feel unkind to make an elderly pet move, when it’s clearly a struggle for them- and they look comfortable on their bed.

But just like for us, you ‘use it or loose it’.

When pets stop moving, several detrimental things happen:

– They loose muscle mass and strength.

– The joints seize up and it becomes even harder to move.

– The fascia (the very thin layer of tissue that envelopes each muscle and organ) starts to adhere to the underlying tissues, effectively shrink wrapping the muscle, making movement even harder, and also slowing down the removal of inflammatory waste products from the area.

Some simple things you can do to help:

– Go on several shorter, rather than one long walk.

– Make access into and out of the house and car easy

               – Maybe you need a ramp

Get a high quality, sturdy one and start early- it can take a while to help get pets used to it. I cannot tell you how many people try and then give up with ramps, because their dog didn’t like it. It’s worth to see this as a project, that might take some time and adjusting. Live will be so much easier, once you have convinced your dog to use a ramp. It really is worth to persevere.

Cats do well with ramps in and out of the house, to their food bowl and favourite sleeping spot.

               – Maybe you need to carry and lift them

               – Cats may need help with their cat flap, maybe a bigger or more conveniently placed one

– Make walking in the house easy:

– Cover the floor in non slip rugs or carpet. Slippery floors are terrible for ageing joints

– Place a rug or a yoga mat in front of your dog’s bed to help give them traction when they get up

– Go for sensible exercise:

               – Leave the ball thrower at home! (In fact, throw the ball thrower away)

               – Slow walks in different areas, to make it more interesting and to provide different terrain.

               – Walking on a mixture of concrete, grass, sand, undergrowth etc etc helps your dog with their balance and keeps the nerve connections between the brain and the legs strong.

– Light massages can work wonders: gently move the skin back and forth over their lower backs, and any other area they enjoy

 

3.Keep them hydrated

Older pets often don’t drink enough. And especially if they’re on a dry diet, they may not take in enough water.

This can then lead to mild dehydration. They may feel more sleepy, less alert and may interact less. Over time it can lead to less optimal

You can help by offering them a wet food instead, or as well as, their dried food.

You can add in some home cooked food too. Have a look list of foods to add to pets diet for some foods that are healthy and that they may enjoy.

Try offering broth or soup (Ideally home made, but there are some good options you can buy too). Here’s an easy recipe for chicken soup. And a tasty product we like is Furr Boost.

Cats should definitely be on a moist diet. Yes, they can get rather addicted to their kibble, but it really doesn’t provide enough moisture for them. And cats usually don’t drink enough to make up for that.

You can water their food down a little.

And cats often love running water. Cat fountains or a slightly dripping tap can be very popular.

Make sure the water is fresh and keep the bowls kept meticulously clean.

 

4.Keep life interesting

With less movement and less to explore, life can get quite boring. And plenty of elderly pets can start to withdraw because nothing interesting is happening. Others can get hyper attached and ‘needy’. And while it can feel lovely to be needed, it can also get quite overwhelming- for both you and your pet.

Here’s where you can start:

– Instead of going for a walk, go for a ‘sniffari’. Take your dog out somewhere, just for them to sniff at everything. They may not be so mobile, but their nose is still working just fine. You can even carry them outside for a good sniff, and then back in again, it they can’t go for short walks anymore.

– Bring the outdoors in: bring leaves or sticks inside for them to sniff. Let them sniff you and your clothes when you’ve been outside.

– Try some enrichment toys: there are plenty of toys that let you hide treats, that your dog has to sniff out. This can work well for food motivated cats, too.

– I really like essential oils here too. They can be calming or uplifting, and can can help with various health issues too. Always use very good quality oils around pets, make sure they’re diluted appropriately and inform yourself of which oils to avoid. Watch out for another blog on this soon!

There’s much more that can be done, but the important thing is to start.

 

If I had to pick just 4 of the tips above as a start, this is what I would choose:

– Warm water bottle

– Rugs on the floor

– Wet food and some fresh foods added

– Sniffaris

And of course snuggles in front of the fire- who could say no to that?