A major problem in aging pets is mobility. Loss of the ability to walk well can not only tax the body but the mind. Pets who are unable to move the body in a natural way have difficulty urinating, having bowel movements, and interacting with family and housemates. This can make them unsure of their place in the household.
Below are some basic things you can do to make sure your pet is comfortable not only physically but emotionally:
Provide good traction: Tile or wood floors can be a huge obstacle for your pet. Use rug runners, bath mats or yoga mats to give them a nice ‘runway’ to walk on. Use something that is easy to move (but doesn't slide) and easy to clean.
Grooming: Many ‘furry’ dogs get a lot of hair between their toes, and in essence they are wearing furry socks. By using a beard clipper for people, you can clip all the hair around their pads and toes to help expose their pads. (we call this "Grinch foot syndrome" :)
Water/Food Bowls: Make sure your pet’s water and food bowl are in a location that they can get to easily. Multiple water bowls around the house will help your pet make shorter trips to get a drink. Dehydration is very common and dangerous in older pets. Easy access to water is essential.
Stairs: Stairs may be very scary to a dog that has arthritis. Try to make the bottom level their ‘home’ so that they don’t have to go up the stairs too often. If they do, make sure there is good traction or you assist them.
Harnesses: There are great harnesses that you can purchase that give your dog a little bit of assistance. Or you can use a beach towel under their abdomen as a sling. You will be surprised how much they appreciate the relief!
More times outside and a Port-O-John in the home: When a dog becomes arthritic, going to the bathroom outside becomes a painful chore. This discomfort may cause your pet hold their bowel movements and urine for longer periods. Or when they do ‘go’ outside – they don’t go as much as they should. Then when they are back in the house – they need to go unexpectedly. Make an effort to let your dog go outside more often and provide an area that is ‘ok’ for them to use in the home in case of an emergency. This will not only help them physically but also emotionally – because they KNOW they aren’t supposed to potty indoors. Puppy Pads near the door or artificial turf made for this purpose are excellent choices. As frustrating as accidents may be, do not punish your pet if they happen. Your dog is naturally opposed to making a mess in his "den". He will be as upset about it as you are.
Lower the Litter Box: Some litter boxes have very high edges and your cat may need to ‘jump’ into it – purchasing a litter box that has lower sides will help them comfortably get into their bathroom. Double check that the litter isn't too deep for your cat. Older cats may struggle with sinking into the sandy surface. A thinner layer of litter can help them feel more stable.
Lower your cat’s food bowl: Many people feed their cats on a higher surface – especially when they have dogs in the house that like to steal their cat’s food. Place the cat’s food bowl on the floor – but barricade the dog! Most cats do not show signs of arthritis – so if you see your cat’s appetite decrease, try to make the food bowl more accessible in case that is the issue.
Pain Medication and Anti-Inflammatory Drugs: See your regular veterinarian if you feel your pet would benefit from some medications that relieve inflammation and pain. Too many people do not see their veterinarian during their pet's senior years because they do not think there is anything that can be done - however - there are MANY safe medications that allow pets to live more comfortably!