Pet Advice

Tips For Keeping Your Geriatric Dog Happy

Most dog owners are familiar with the term “senior” when it comes to describing their pet’s age, but as dogs are living longer thanks to advancements in veterinary medicine, a new term, “geriatric” is being used to classify older dogs. For the body sizes of 25#, 50#, and 100# in dogs, pets are considered geriatric at the ages of 13 years, 11, years, and 9 years respectively. Special considerations must be thought of to keep our geriatric pets healthy and comfortable as they advance in age.

Just as in humans, vision and hearing begin to decline in geriatric dogs. You may find that you dog does not greet you as regularly when you arrive home or is hesitant to move in dimly lit rooms. Leaving the furniture arranged as your pet is accustomed and keeping lamps on to light their paths at night is one way to help prevent falls and bruises from reduced vision. A gentle pat to wake your sleeping companion when you arrive home would be a kind way to say hello rather than trying to shout their name to come greet you.

The embarrassment of urine leakage is also something that geriatric dogs face as their urinary sphincter begins to weaken with age. One way of managing this is with a drug called Proin that helps to tighten urinary sphincter tone. This drug must be used cautiously in geriatric pets due to potential side effects, so an organ screening would need to be performed prior to or shortly after beginning the medication and then periodically throughout your dog’s life.

Finally, difficulty with rising from a sitting position and stiff joints are a very common problem in geriatric pets, even the littler ones. Joint supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are the first line of defense against arthritis by keeping cartilage and joint fluid healthy. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs provide relief of arthritis pain and inflammation. Adding non-slip rugs help with slipping issues and re-usable bags can have their sides trimmed away to make a flat sling that can be placed under the lower back so that you have handles to help larger dogs with rising. Give us a call to describe this better or stop by and we’ll show you how.


Protecting Your Dog From Diseases

Did you know that many of your pet’s risk of diseases can be in your own back yard, your favorite pet store, or even the dog park you take your pet to?

Something as innocent as allowing your puppy to play in a puddle of water, playing fetch with your dog at the river, letting your pet play in a wooded area, and most importantly taking your dog to the dog park can pose health risks to your dog. These are the most dangerous places for your pet if they are not vaccinated regularly and kept on a monthly heartworm and intestinal parasite preventive.

One of the most common parasites many pet owners are unaware that their pet can get is Giardia. This parasite leads to symptoms of abdominal pain, weight loss, and most commonly diarrhea that is excessively smelly. Most owners are not aware of the fact that letting their precious fur baby drink from the puddled rain water or any standing water in the yard puts their pet at risk for this disease. The Giardia can even be transmissible to owners that do not follow proper hygiene rules. The best way to prevent your pet from getting this organism is not allowing them to drink from any standing water and to provide a fresh clean water bowl every day.

Two other common conditions are Leptospirosis and Lyme’s Disease. These can cause irreversible damage to your pet’s health. Lyme’s Disease is transmitted by a species of ticks. Most people are not aware of the damage something so small can cause. Leptospirosis , commonly referred to as Lepto, is transmitted by wild animals such as possums, raccoons, rats, and squirrels. It is commonly found in the soil and once again it lives in the waters that your pet plays in and drinks from. With the continual urban sprawl, there is even risk for backyard pets that are frequent diggers. Vaccinations are available to prevent against Leptospirosis and Lyme’s Disease. Although we cannot protect your pet from all dangerous things, we can, as their advocate, inform you of the risks they may be exposed to and help you to protect them from the things mentioned.


Dangerous foods for your dog

As our pets age, they may begin to show different dietary preferences. Some reasons include painful teeth, stress associated with cognitive decline, or dietary sensitivity. Caution needs to be exercised when attempting to entice our dogs or cats to eat a meal.

Foods to avoid due to known toxicity include grapes, onions, and chocolate. These can cause internal organ failure or even worse, death. A less well known danger to our pets is offering them fatty foods such as bar-b-que, marbled red meats like steaks, and foods high in saturated fats. Pancreatitis can develop with ingestion of these foods requiring intensive care and hospitalization.

As an alternative to the previously mentioned foods, I advise offering a bland diet such as boiled chicken breast and rice if your pet appears to have an upset stomach. Lean hamburger meat is another alternative protein source. Cottage cheese and oregano can both be added as a top dress on food to entice your dog or cat to eat. Low sodium chicken broth can be used to make gravy too.

Ultimately, the goal will be to continue to feed your dog or cat a nutritious commercially prepared dog or cat food that supplies all of the required vitamins and minerals your pet needs for good health.


Your pet’s routine dental cleaning

Regular planned dental cleanings allow your pet to maintain a healthy mouth environment which results in a better overall health of your dog or cat. Due to the amount of time necessary to appropriately manage dental disease in our patients, Trusty Vet does not currently perform Dental Cleanings. Dental health is important to your pet and we recommend that you use a veterinary hospital near your home for routine dental cleanings.

Trusty Vet offers a number of dental health products that can delay the progression of dental disease and it can help prolong the time until a dental cleaning is needed.


When should I see a vet?

As our companion dogs and cats enter into their senior years, it becomes even more important for them to visit the veterinarian twice a year. In addition to having a physical exam performed, blood testing is advised twice yearly to monitor for changes with any of your pet’s internal organs. Older pets should visit the veterinarian if you notice any changes in their demeanor. Canine cognitive dysfunction, or senility, is a condition that can be managed with medication. Painful joints can also affect a dog’s or cat’s social behavior and may not be readily evident with limping or reduced jumping.

Just as with the human population, cancer risks increase with advanced age in pets too. If you see any odd lumps or bumps on your pet, they should be evaluated by the veterinarian. The same would apply if it appears that your pet’s abdomen seems more rounded. Appetite changes could be from dental disease that can be remedied with a dental cleaning. Some owners report that their dog or cat seems to have returned to the behavior of their adolescence once their painful mouth is addressed.

Being proactive for your pet’s health will benefit your dog or cat by allowing the veterinarian to provide the best health recommendations. This will help to assure a long and happy relationship between you and your furry family member.


Your Dog and Heartworms

Canine heartworm disease is a potentially fatal and totally preventable disease. Dogs contract heartworms by being bitten by an infected mosquito, which there are plenty of around our parts. Within six months, the heartworm larvae migrate to the heart and mature into adult heartworms that create turbulent blood flow (a heart murmur) and changes in the heart’s blood pressure. Eventually, congestive heart failure can develop or sudden death can occur.

Treatment for canine heartworm disease is a multi-dimensional process. Further diagnostic testing including a full CBC/Chemistry Panel and chest x-rays help determine the severity of the heartworm disease. A larval killing heartworm preventative is given in the hospital so that your dog can be monitored for any shock-like symptoms which can occur in heartworm positive pets. Antibiotics and antihistamines are also often necessary. Three months later, the adult killing heartworm treatment begins and pets are required to be strictly rested for 60 days. Treatment costs generally range between $500-700 at Trusty Vet depending on your dog’s weight.

Heartworm preventions work by killing the larval stage of the worm before it can migrate to the heart. Adverse effects of these heartworm preventatives are minimal and the lifesaving benefit makes them worth their expense. If you purchase these products through a veterinarian’s office, you can even consider them an insurance policy against heartworm disease since the drug manufacturers’ stand behind the effectiveness of their products. There are even reminder email programs that can be used to help you to remember your pet’s monthly dose. So if your pet is not on a preventative, have them heartworm tested today and purchase one immediately.


Vaccinating Your Dog

Attentiveness to vaccine health care reminders allows you as a pet owner to assure protection from multiple diseases for your canine companion. By law, the Rabies vaccine must be administered on a regular basis since the disease is still prevalent in non-domesticated animals, particularly raccoons. Distemper virus and Parvovirus are two diseases that can have fatal outcomes and are easily preventable with vaccine administration.

There are multiple vaccines available for dogs including, but not limited to, Rabies, Distemper, Parvovirus, Leptospirosis, Lyme’s, Bordatella, and Influenza. A veterinary health care professional can explain the risks and benefits of the vaccines and steer you on the best course of preventative care for your dog.

I always recommend vaccines be administered by a trained professional. Veterinarians are confident in the manufacturers they purchase from and know how to properly store vaccines. Most also follow the risk based protocol for vaccinations, meaning that your pet’s lifestyle is analyzed and vaccines are recommended based on exposure risk to diseases.


Cat Vaccines

The vaccine industry for felines has been thorough advancements in the last 20 years. Most specifically, the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) developed guidelines for veterinarians to follow regarding when and where to vaccinate cats. Some vaccines, including Rabies vaccine, are now available non-adjuvanted meaning without a carrying agent that was previously administered in years past and carried the risk of cancer. These non-adjuvanted vaccines are worth the extra expense to assure a safer outcome in vaccinating your cat.

Vaccination protocols vary by practice but it is my recommendation to have all kittens given booster vaccinations every 3-4 weeks beginning at 6 weeks of age and continuing until 12 weeks of age. This allows the kitten to develop its own immunologic response to the vaccine and prevents interference with maternal antibodies. Older kittens need two vaccine boosters given 3-4 weeks apart. An adult one-year old cat needs their annual booster and then vaccines should be administered based on a lifestyle analysis and risk exposure.

I like to administer the Rabies vaccine in the right rear leg close to the ankle (hock), the Leukemia vaccine on the left rear leg, again close to the ankle, and the FVCRP (upper respiratory) vaccine between the shoulder blades. This allows a good distribution of the vaccines so that your cat is not overly painful in one location. It also follows the guidelines set up by AAFP. I always recommend vaccines be administered by a trained professional. Veterinarians are confident in the manufacturers they purchase from and know how to properly store vaccines.


Your Cat's Diet

There are many available formulations of cat food to purchase for your feline friend. The best type of food to feed is a small kibble that you cat chews in his or her back teeth. The harder kibble helps to keep your cat’s oral health at its best and avoids the excessive calories found in canned food. It is also important to maintain your cat on one specific diet as changes in foods can lead to upset stomach or diarrhea.

I prefer that cats are meal fed rather than fed free choice because of obesity problems in the general feline population. Meal feeding allows you to measure how much your cat is eating. It also can be helpful should you have multiple cats in one household and one pet requires a prescription diet.

Many pet owners associate meal time as a display of affection to their cats. I would encourage you to promote active play with toys or a laser light or cuddle time as a replacement to meal time affection. This can help you avoid being awakened earlier and earlier every morning and also maintain your feline companion at a healthy weight to assure a long and full-filling life.


What is the point of blood testing?

Working with animals can be quite a challenge since they are unable to verbalize what may be bothering them. While a physical examination is certainly an integral part of evaluating you pet’s health, the internal organs can have problems that can be present that may go undetected on a physical exam. Your pet’s blood contains cells, proteins, and enzymes that when evaluated individually and in relation to each other can indicate organ dysfunction, infection, hormonal imbalances, or inflammation

The benefit of testing your pet’s blood early in life, prior to the development of disease, is that it allows a normal baseline to be established to compare future test results with. Repeating testing every 6 months (which is comparable to 3 human years) allows for early detection of illness or disease. This can allow us to reverse or delay progression of disease and ultimately lead to a longer life for your companion.

An additional reason for blood testing would be prior to anesthesia to assure that your pet can easily metabolize all of the anesthetic drugs and/or to allow precautions to be taken to allow safer anesthetic procedures.


Your Pet’s Exposure Risk For Diseases

Scientific and technological advancements have led to better protection against diseases across the medical field including veterinary medicine. However, not every dog or cat is susceptible to the multiple diseases that exist. This is why a visit to your veterinarian and a discussion of your pet’s lifestyle is so important. We can help recommend the appropriate vaccinations to protect your dog or cat from infectious diseases.

Every pet needs to be vaccinated for Rabies without question. Every dog needs protection from Distemper and Parvovirus beginning at 6-8 weeks of age to include four puppy booster and annual vaccinations thereafter. Every cat needs protection from fatal upper respiratory and neurologic viruses in the combination FVRCP vaccine beginning from 7-8 weeks of age to include three kitten boosters and annual vaccinations thereafter.

The other vaccinations available related to exposure risk in North Alabama include Feline Leukemia and Bordatella vaccines for cats, and Leptospirosis, Lyme, Influenza, and Bordatella vaccines for dogs. With the exception of the Bordatella vaccine, these vaccines require two initial immunizations followed by annual boosters thereafter to provide appropriate immune response and protection for your dog or cat.


Is Your Itchy Pet Driving You CRAZY????

We all know what time of year it is when we start to see that yellow film on our cars. That’s right, allergy season and that can mean misery not only for you, but also for your pet.

Dogs and cats can certainly exhibit symptoms of allergies such as their owners including eye discharge and sneezing, but more often, they display itching and scratching as a sign of suffering from allergies.

An allergy is the immune system’s excessive response to antigens that the pet is exposed to such as plant pollens, molds, fungi, dust mites, and even human dander. This causes inflammation and irritation of the skin and commonly the development of a secondary skin infection which only makes the inflammation and irritation worse.

Treatment of the infection requires microscopic testing and a round of antibiotics followed by a recheck examination. The underlying allergy can be managed in two ways. The first is immunosuppressive therapy using Atopica or a steroid. The other method is immunomodulation where the pet receives allergy injections to teach the immune system not to respond to the antigen. Both options are reasonable choices and your veterinarian can discuss these and additional therapies to manage the symptoms.