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Sharpen Your Pets' Mind

Thank your pets for the years of happiness they have given you by helping them age gracefully...

by Jennifer Matlack - Women's Day Magazine

Old faithful...Walking your dog

When Frank thinks about this 16-year-old dog, Hank, he doesn’t dwell on this creaky joints or his unlimited capacity for naps... he thinks about how Hank slept with his two daughters since infancy, and how his firstborn’s first word was dog. But he notes it took careful, age-appropriate care to keep Hank healthy into his golden years.Tending to the unique needs of senior pets (any dog or cat over seven years old) can add up to two years to a pet’s life and save on vet visits.

Feed them well...
Shop Smart! Choose a food formulated for older animals. Today’s senior pet foods are packed with supplements: antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and digestible proteins, fiber and other ingredients shown to heal mature bodies. Also, scrutinize the label to ensure you’re getting the good stuff. Kibble and canned foods that meet the minimum standards set by the nonprofit Association of American Fee Control Officials (AAFCO) will indicate that the ingredients provide complete and balanced nutrition. Those that don’t make the cut... and not all do ... are labeled for intermittent or supplemental feeding only.

Read the ingredients list...
You should recognize the majority of what’s listed on the package or can, and a protein like chicken or fish... not a carb such as rice... should come first. Too many carbs (and calories) can lead to obesity, particularly in cats. In fact, putting a diabetic car on a high-protein, low-carb diet may even reverse diabetes. Senior-specialized canned foods tent to have a higher protein content and more water, which helps stave off dehydration in senior animals. (When pets develop arthritis, they’re less likely to up and drink from their bowls.) As a result of chronic dehydration, animals can also develop urinary crystals, kidney disease, and other conditions that require a vet’s care.

Spice up his dish...
Some experts believe sprinkling ¼ tsp of ground turmeric... a spice used in curry... on your pet's food may inhibit tumor growth in animals diagnosed with cancer. You can also try combining turmeric with plain yogurt—which helps to restore important intestinal bacteria for digestion, immune function and overall health... and offer the mixture to him as a treat. Apple slices may also do furry bodies good: Research from the Chinese University of Hong Kong shows that the antioxidants in apples can extend an animal's lifespan by 10%.

Keep calories in check...
The portion guidelines on pet food bags are formulated for active, unspayed, or unneutered adults. That means if your indoor cat is on the sedentary side and is spayed or neutered, you might be overfeeding him by 30%. Older animals also tend to have slower metabolisms. As few as 10 extra kibbles a day can lead to a pound of weight gain per year for cats and small dogs, and those added pounds can cause or worsen arthritis. When pets slim down to their target weight, they can often come off their costly pain medications.

Plus, being overweight can cause life-shortening health issues. Thinner animals are at lower risk for heart disease, diabetes, and obesity-related cancers.

Let's see those pearly whites...
Brushing your pet's teeth can be tricky, but it's worth the effort: An estimated 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of gum disease by age three, according to the American Veterinary Dental Society. Plus, plaque control helps stave off infection, inflammation... and the need for expensive professional dental work.

  • HOW OFTEN - Try for daily, but at least a few times per week.
  • TOOLS TO USE -  Clean the outer surfaces of your pet's teeth with water and a pet-specific toothbrush. Or try wrapping your fingertip with wet gauze, for a less invasive approach.
  • THE BEST TECHNIQUE - Ease your pet into the experience by gently brushing his muzzle. Move closer until you can slip the brush under his lip. Do this several times until he's comfortable with the toothbrush.
  • TRICK OF THE TRADE - If he puts up a fuss, try a chicken-flavored toothpaste, found at pet-supply stores. But don't ever use human toothpaste, as it can be toxic to animals.
  • IF ALL ELSE FAILS - Add a liquid tartar remover, which is safe for animals to ingest, to your pet's water bowl.

Sharpen their minds...
Just as with humans, fresh experiences are the key to keeping your pet's mind agile. When exposed to new things, your pet's brain secretes a chemical that stimulates cell growth, helping to reduce mental decline.

For Dogs - Instead of walking the same route with your dog every day, mix it up so he has a chance to take in new sights, sounds, and smells. Take him to a park or a dog run, so he can make new friends. Also, let him roam somewhere with a variety of smells, like the beach.

For Cats - No pricey toys required! Throw a paper towel tube on the floor for your cat to play with. Keeping felines curious helps them hold onto their mental faculties longer or hang a bird feeder in front of an accessible window so your indoor kitty can play predator.

Read more:  Senior Dogs - Older Pets - Woman's Day