We all love our pets. I have four rescue large rescue dogs and as they get older I find myself carefully monitoring the health. Fortunately for us and the four-legged members of our family, there are great veterinarians in our area who can care for our elderly pets.

How can we make life easier for our senior dog or cat? Here’s some great advice:

Maintain good nutrition to guard against weight gain and preserve muscle.

Continue to play with and exercise your pet with shorter sessions.

Install non-slip surface mats or carpeting particularly if you have a large dog.

Build ramps for stairways or steps to sleeping areas.

Have a low-sided litter box and consider having multiple litter boxes around the house for your cat as it’s estimated that one in three can have arthritis and by 12 years of age 90 percent of cats are affected.

Brush your cat in hard to reach spots as your cat may not be able to reach those areas if suffering with arthritis.

If your pet is experiencing confusion or apparent cognitive changes with no medical explanation, try not to change or remove furniture, maintain a routine feeding, watering and walking schedule, keep commands short and simple and encourage gentle movements. Consider massaging your pet . . . it is beneficial for you also!

All of this advice comes from Dr. Laurel Kaddatz on the Pound Ridge Veterinary Center’s website serving Westchester and Fairview counties’ pets since 1974. He believes there are warning signs that your dog or cat may be ill. He said: “Be conscious of changes in behavior such as being withdrawn, not eating or sleeping more. Look into your pet’s face. Do they appear to be in pain?”

Dr. Marlene Schaefler of New Canaan Veterinary Hospital advises to look for these signs as well: bad breath, increase in drinking or urination, especially if your pet is having accidents, and unexplained or dramatic weight loss. “Dental disease is commonly overlooked by owners and a very underappreciated source of inflammation and pain in older animals. Dogs commonly suffer from arthritis as they get older,” she noted. Dr. Schaefler has worked at the hospital since 1991. She believes that the practice is unique in treating each pet and their owners as individuals. “We try to work with the family to meet their goals for their pet’s health — whether that is basic good health or platinum level care,” she said.

Dr. Dan Hochman of Grove Street Veterinary services notes that the chances for specific types of cancer, liver disease, renal (kidney) disease, etc. increase as an animal ages.

The good news is that all of these illnesses can be treated. However, vets recommend six- eight-month checkups for elderly veterinary patients to detect some of these diseases early in their progression. “This will increase the odds of catching a disease process early, which in turn allows us to provide the patient with the best treatment and most favorable outcomes,” Hochman said.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, U.S. households included 83.2 million dogs and 95.6 million cats. It is clear that we cherish our pets. Making sure they have good veterinary care as they age is probably the most important gift we can give them.

Cathy Kangas of New Canaan, is CEO and founder of PRAI Beauty, a global skin care line sold on home shopping networks. She is a member of the board of directors of the Humane Society of the United States. She can be reached at cathy@praibeauty.com