Just as there are lots of products on the market to help people deal with the aches, pains and mobility issues of old age, so there is a good selection of such products for senior dogs and cats, as well. And sometimes just a little common sense by their guardians can ease aging pets’ discomforts.
Take arthritis, which is one of the most common problems for dogs and cats as they age.
“Give ‘em a boost,” says Amy Shojai, a certified animal behavior consultant in Sherman, Texas, and author of “Complete Care for your Aging Cat” and “Complete Care for your Aging Dog” (Cool Gus Publishing, 2010). “Cats love high spots to snooze and lounge, but may not be able to manage the leap. Move a chair or even a cardboard box close to a window or bed to give them a leg up.”
Ramps and stairs make it easier for older pets to access beds, sofas, countertops and window seats. There are folding, carpeted ramps that can go in the car or be easily stored.
Solvit makes a high-traction ramp that attaches to stairs or the lift of an SUV to help arthritic dogs. The collapsible, ultralight design makes it handy for travel or car errands. And at home, carpeted or upholstered portable pet stairs can be positioned wherever a pet needs to go up or down. Look for ones that sit firmly on the ground, with a good wide stair base. Many come in a range of materials to coordinate with your decor.
Pets with hip or back problems might appreciate having their food bowl raised up off the floor. Raised dishes in frames made of metal, wood, plastic or ceramic ease the strain on aging necks. Some can be height-adjusted.
Aging cats might need bigger litter boxes or ones with lower sides for better access and aim, says Louise Murray, vice president of the ASPCA Animal Hospital in New York City.
Shojai suggests “a plastic, low-sided, shirt-box storage container. And add an extra potty or two; ensure at least one is on each side of the house or floor.” (You can find dog and cat diaper pants and pads at www.seniorpeproducts.com if incontinence is a problem.)
“Heating pads and beds soothe achy arthritis and help older pets become more flexible,” says Shojai. “A heating pad slipped underneath the small pet’s regular bed or blanket may do the trick.”
If overheating is the issue, consider the Cool Pet Pad. It’s gel-filled and activated by the animal’s weight, staying cool for three to four hours. You can place it in a crate or car, on the floor, or on a bed to help ease overheating or inflammation.
Memory-foam mattresses and pillows have been a boon to pets. Six inches of foam covered in microfiber and fleece makes a cozy snooze spot in the Great Paw Triple Support Orthopedic Pillow.
Then there’s the Happy Hounds dog bed, capacious enough for large breeds but easily accommodating two or three diminutive friends on a soft, Sherpa-fleece-covered mattress.
For pets having trouble climbing onto anything, including a thick pet bed, a lower-to-the-floor sleep zone may be the answer. Homegoods has less dense yet still comfy dog beds in faux furs.
As for drinking issues, Shojai adds, “Older pets — especially cats — don’t always drink as much water as they should. Pet water fountains that aerate the water make it taste better and encourage water intake. Major pet chains stock several varieties.
And when it comes to the great outdoors, older pets can still enjoy fresh-air outings with the help of some clever transport devices. Shojai says a big beach towel can be employed as a sling to help a dog from a prone position, but she also likes the range of available locomotion assists. Adjustable wheelchairs and body harnesses are available at www.k9carts.com.
Another option: Go for a walk or jog with a pet stroller; many are equipped with weather screens, and some with removable carriers or space for more than one furry friend. (www.theuncommondog.com )