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Expert Advice on Pet Health and Nutrition

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WebMD Expert Discussion: Caring for Senior Cats and Dogs

If you’re more than 40 years old, you might have noticed that your body isn’t what it used to be when you were in your teens. Guess what? Your senior cat or dog is probably experiencing the same thing.

How does your pet’s health change with age? Here are some of the key areas where you should watch for changes and make necessary adjustments to help an older pet, says WebMD guest veterinarian Will Draper, DVM.

Diet: As cats and dogs get older, their kidney and liver function slows down, affecting some of the ability to metabolize protein and other nutrients. A regular checkup at the vet can tell you what changes to make in your pet’s diet as their digestive system ages to keep him healthy.

Activity: Older dogs and cats will slow down a bit; they may not walk as far or romp as much. Check with your vet about a lower carbohydrate or lower fat diet to keep weight within a healthy range.

Environment: Just like people, some older pets can develop arthritis and other mobility problems. Try moving beds, food dishes and litter boxes to the same level of the house to minimize stair climbing. You can also get pet-sized ramps and stairs to help them get onto beds or into cars.

One pet owner recommends resources from the American Association of Feline Practitioners on caring for senior cats. After losing a beloved 18 year-old cat in 2008, she's learned from experience. Her top tip: Weigh your pet regularly at home. Weight loss or gain can be one of the first signs of a significant health problem. Catching it early can help you intervene before a crisis develops.

What measures have you taken to help your elderly pet live longer and stay comfortable? Share your secrets for pet longevity with others in the WebMD Pet Health Community.

Discussion led by William Draper, DVM Guest Expert
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Dr. Will opened Georgia’s first accredited small animal emergency room in 2000. He’s been named Best Vet by Atlanta Magazine since 2004... More

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Pet Health and Nutrition Advice

Veterinarian Will Draper gives tips on the best nutrition and health care for your dog or cat.
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