Pet Care For All Stages of Life

Oct 24, 2019   Tracey Aston   Health & Wellness

From the tiniest ball of fluff to the greying muzzle of a faithful companion, pets have differing needs throughout their lifetimes.

Puppies and kittens get the most nutritional value from nursing off their mothers.  After leaving their mother, puppies and kittens will still be growing and will require proper nutrition specially formulated with extra vitamins, minerals and nutrients for their needs. Young pets should stay on puppy and kitten food until at least 1 year of age, with the exception of larger breed dogs and cats, who should remain on their diet until their growth plates are finished growing at a year and half to 2 years of age. Similar to human babies, puppies and kittens will still require rest periods during the day. Young pets will start to become curious about the world around them and will need to be exposed to various things around the home and outdoors and proper social interaction. Always be aware, everything that a young pet learns at this stage will be carried with them the rest of their lives. Basic training can begin as soon as you bring your new pet home with simple commands such as stay, leave it and sit.  Young pets will have boundless energy which must be channeled into proper mental stimulation games and daily exercise. Young pets shouldn't be taken on extremely long walks or engage in jumping or rough play, as their bones, tendons, ligaments and joints are still growing. Pets will do most of their growing between 6 months and a year. They will now have their adult teeth. It's common for larger breeds to grow taller first and then put on muscle. 

While most believe a pet reaches adulthood at age 1, most breeds aren't fully matured until around 2 years old. At this age, the pet is considered fully grown and independent. 

Adult pets are in their stride! They can go on hikes, compete in obedience and agility training, and play with family members.  

To keep pets healthy through their adult years, a well-balanced and nutritional diet is needed. Go easy on the treats, as overweight pets can develop diabetes, heart problems and joint issues later in life. Always provide fresh, clean water in an easily accessible location.  As cats are not big drinkers, feline friends should be given wet food at least once a day, as it provides the water values needed for their kidney and urinary tract health. Our article Nutritional Wellness for Cats provides more information on the nutritional needs of cats. 

Depending on the breed, adult pets can have a ton of energy! It's imperative to provide the right amount of exercise for your pet. Daily walks for dogs and toys for both cats and dogs are a great way to keep a pet exercised and at their proper weight. Both dogs and cats can benefit from indoor agility exercise and mental stimulation games. Pets require both physical and mental stimulation to keep them healthy and have all of their needs met.  Walks and outdoor play time, being allowed to sniff and engage their minds provides physical benefits. Mental stimulation toys, games and puzzles will challenge a pet mentally to keep them healthy and sharp.  30 minutes of mental stimulation is the equivalent of an hour of physical exercise. An unexercised and bored pet can get into things, leading to behavioral problems, such as chewing, scratching furniture, digging and excess barking.

Pets, yes even cats, can be easily trained to learn new tricks or play new games. Never punish a pet with physical force, or demean the pet in any way. Our article Positive Reinforcement vs Aversive Training details the way aversive training can actually have a detrimental effect on a pet's mental and emotional wellbeing. 

Pets should be groomed, bathed, nails clipped, and teeth brushed to keep them healthy and smelling pleasant. Good grooming habits aren't just for looks, though, matted fur can lead to varied skin issues and infections and long nails can get caught on things, broken, and can throw off a pet's gait, leading to joint problems. 

Depending on the breed, a pet will start their senior years as early as 7! At this age, a pet should be seeing their vet for wellness checks twice a year. As your pet ages, ailments can come on much faster and even be hidden.  It's always important to feed your pet a quality food but it's even more important for senior pets as they may be starting to slow down a little and won't be burning the calories they used to in their youth.  A healthy, quality diet will also ensure your pet is at a healthy weight. Overweight dogs have a higher incidence of diseases such as diabetes and heart disease and the extra weight can be a serious detriment to arthritic pets. 

Senior pets still require exercise! They may not bolt around the yard after their favorite ball like they used to but they will still enjoy a nice leisurely walk, stopping to allow them to smell engages their minds. Be willing to make adjustments to their exercise based on their abilities.

Your senior pets don't want to spend their lives in bed, and they still want to be with you! Thankfully, there are now numerous and varied assistive devices available to your senior pet if they are having mobility issues. Assistive devices, such as ramps, steps, orthopedic beds, slings and harnesses can help your pet maintain their lifestyle while still keeping them comfortable and safe. Always make sure to read the instructions carefully to avoid injury to yourself and/or your pet.

Regardless of the stage of life, your pet will always require care, devotion, and companionship. Providing ongoing wellness at every stage of life keeps your pet healthy and with you as long as possible. 

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