Weight Gain
Keeping your loved one at a healthy weight can be a challenge as they enter their golden years. This certainly can be due to decreased flexibility, and energy levels, but gaining weight is also connected to diet and exercise, just like in humans. If your dog or cat has access to more human food than they did in the past (“Rex can have a hog dog, he’s old!”) or does not eat an appropriately fortified diet, they will gain weight, which can decrease their ability to reach certain body parts for proper grooming.

Why is a healthy fur coat important to animals in our care?

Physical Health
When pets are unable to move as they once did, it can negatively affect many of their body systems, including their skin and fur health. Decubital ulcers (bed/pressure sores) are a common occurrence with animals that have decreased mobility. Lying on the floor or in one spot may cause these, so it is important to rotate your animal if they are unable to do this themselves, or assist them to stand and walk. Also, parasites may find your elderly pet an easy target because they are less likely to chew, scratch, or otherwise disturb the parasites. Incontinent animals (those who may dribble urine or fecal material) are especially vulnerable to maggots (baby house flies) that prefer unsanitary environments. If they have an ulcer or parasites that remain untreated, these areas may become infected and will be an extra challenge to their immune system, which can shorten their life expectancy.

Mental Health
I strongly believe animals have emotions just like we do. They can suffer from low self-esteem and depression. Losing the ability to groom themselves as they once did, especially felines, can have negative effects on their psyche. Mental health is connected to everything we’ve already discussed (flexibility, energy level, weight gain, diet, stimulation, and physical health). Without mental health, quality of life may suffer, which can certainly lead to a shorted life expectancy. Now we know the importance of the what and the why of grooming… but how do we help our loved ones keep happy and healthy in regards to their appearance? Stay on the lookout for the next installment of our 2-part Grooming series to learn more!

-- Michelle Marie Daly, CVT l Veterinary Nurse