Did you know that dogs and cats are “technically” considered seniors after the age of eight years old? In giant breed dogs- it is even earlier often after six years of age. Since pets are living much longer, we see many animals experience one or more of these age related issues in their golden years.
As people age, our vision and hearing worsen; the same goes for senior pets. We do see vision changes manifest themselves as hesitancy to use the stairs in the dark, hugging the wall when walking up a dark hallway, reluctance to go outside unless the light is on etc. If vision is present but limited- using nightlights or outside lighting can help to minimize the hesitancy as much as possible and provide the best vision possible. Some pets do lose their vision completely. This can happen for a number of reasons from cataracts and glaucoma to retinal degeneration/detachment. If vision issues occur, an exam is needed to determine the cause and treat the underlying issues. While blindness sounds very scary to us, dogs and cats often do extremely well even unable to see. They are able to rely on their sense of touch, sound and smell to navigate their familiar environment with minimal problems.
Hearing issues can also happen as pets age. Just like people, the tiny bones and fibers within the ear needed for hearing tend to wear down with time. Hearing loss is often a gradual change, but if it appears suddenly, an exam is needed to look into that ear canal for further problems such as ear infections. With gradual hearing loss, some animals can hear certain pitches but not all. Trying different whistles of different pitches, clapping vs yelling their name, banging pots and pans are all different ways that you can get their attention when they may not be able to hear clearly. ALWAYS, keep any pet on leash when hearing loss is suspected as they may wander away and not be able to hear you calling.
Does your dog have “doggy breath”? Dental disease often happens as pets age. They accumulate more tartar on their teeth, losing the pearly whites that were present during their earlier days. The brown tartar on their teeth is comprised of bacteria- creating smell and risk. A dog or cat that has tartar on their teeth is at a greater risk for heart disease and kidney disease as they are constantly being exposed to bacteria. A dental cleaning is highly recommended to minimize their risks of further disease. As long as they are otherwise healthy, a senior pet is not at any more risk of anesthesia than any other patient. We recommend doing bloodwork prior to the procedure to make sure there are no unforeseen diseases affecting the main organs that process the anesthesia such as the liver and kidneys.
One of the most common problems seen in senior pets is arthritis. In a retrospective study, radiologists reviewed x-rays taken of pets, both dogs and cats, over the age of 9 years of age. These x-rays were taken for different reasons, often not limping. On these films, over 80% of the aged population has signs on x-ray of arthritis. Arthritic changes that are seen in the home often include limping, stiffness upon rising from a long rest period, missing a jump or “double” jumping to make the same height of a jump. These are all signs that there are changes occurring within one or more joints. There are both supplements and medications which can be used for comfort of the joints. We can decide together the best course of action to get your pet comfortable.
Another way to minimize arthritis is the appropriate diet and weight management. Keeping a senior pet of a normal body weight decreases the pressure and pain of each joint be that the elbows, spine, hips or knees. Senior formulas are lower in calories than adult and puppy. Senior diets or specialized weight formulas often have glucosamine and other additives to decrease joint inflammation. Senior food is also specially formulated to have the correct balance of fat, calories and protein. Older patients often have a decrease in kidney function which limits their ability to process dietary protein. Keeping a lower level of dietary protein is one way to protect the kidneys from further damage.
To discuss any of the above issues or other concerns you may have about your senior pet, give us a call and schedule your beloved pet’s exam today.
As a people who love and live with dogs, unfortunately dog bites are something many people experience at some point in their lives. Over 50% of the victims of dog bites are children. Often children are bitten by dogs due to circumstances that could have been prevented with a little training. Any dog can bite under the right circumstances, especially when frightened. Teaching children the following tips can help to decrease their chances of being involved in a dog bite:
For additional dog bite related resources, visit AVMA.org
Dr. Leah Thies
How many times have you thought about skipping your yearly trip to the vet? Our cat never goes outside or our dog seems perfectly fine. I don’t need to take them in- right? Wrong. Having your pet examined annually is a crucial part of keeping your pet living comfortably for as long as we can.
The owner, doctor and technician’s conversations about things at home can lend clues to a potential body part that needs closer examination. Is there a limp, a lump, a change in odor, itching/scratching, lethargy, changes in appetite or water consumption? Even before the exam begins- has there been a change in weight? All of these questions provide pieces to the puzzle that we are putting together during the appointment.
Exams are done systematically on all body parts. Early diagnosis of all problems can result in a more easily treatable condition. Infections of the ears can come on quickly and be severe, or may start slowly and not show any sign of irritation. We can help get pets comfortable far more rapidly if treated early in the course of disease.
Dental disease, fractured teeth, or items stuck in the mouth have all been found on routine exams. Seeking treatment for early stage dental disease can preserve teeth before the disease worsens further and extractions are needed. Dental disease also predisposes the body to unwanted bacteria in the bloodstream that can set animals up for heart and kidney disease.
Heart changes are sometimes very difficult to diagnose by just visibly looking at a pet. A history and physical examination with a stethoscope will be able to pick up on changes to the heart before the animal is showing distress.
Lumps and bumps, skin disease and parasites such as fleas and ticks are found each and every day in the exam room on a pet of an unsuspecting owner. We can again take corrective measures to get your friend feeling like themselves in no time!
Senior pets often need blood work to look for potential changes to an organ's function. This can guide dietary decisions or even medication decisions that allow you’re pet to live as long and comfortably as possible.
As you can see, the above reasons are all important reasons to schedule your annual (or more often) exam. The sooner we catch a potential problem, the faster we can address and make changes to keep your friend happy and healthy!
If you've ever lost your pet, you know that terrible feeling at the pit of your stomach that you'll never see them again. Microchipping is the best way to make sure your pet makes their way back home.
If your pet is already microchipped is it up to date? Have you moved, do you have a new phone number? August 15th is National Check the Chip Day. Please review our commonly asked questions on Microchipping your pet and if you have not had your pet Microchipped, call today to schedule! Take advantage of our Microchip special during the week of August 13-17th, for $34.99 (HomeAgain Microchip registration and enrollment included)
Not sure where your pet’s chip is registered?
Visit the AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool at petmicrochiplookup.org.
To update your pet’s registration, you’ll need your pet’s microchip number.
If you haven’t already created an account with the manufacturer, you’ll need to do that as well so you can access the registration in the future to update the information. Make sure all of the information, particularly your phone number(s) and address, is correct.
Can I track where my pet goes if they are microchipped?
No, the microchip is not a tracking device. Only your veterinarian or a location with a universal scanner can scan your pet’s microchip.
Learn more about what a Microchip is and how it can be the best way to make sure your pet makes their way back home.
What is a Microchip?
A microchip is a permanent identification that can be placed just under the skin of your pet. If your pet gets lost and is taken to an animal shelter or veterinarian, they will scan the microchip to read its unique dog or cat ID code. Each ID code is unique to their owner's name, address and contact information so you can easily be contacted when the pet is found. The best part, is it's affordable!
How is it implanted?
It may sound "high-tech," but dog and cat microchipping is a simple procedure. A veterinarian simply injects the microchip (which is about the size of a grain of rice) beneath the surface of your pet's skin between the shoulder blades. The process only takes a few seconds and is similar to a routine shot. Bonus: No anesthetic is required!
Cancer does not discriminate between the species that it invades; dogs and cats are just as much at risk for developing cancers as people. Maggie, an eight year old Labrador retriever, was one of our patients to be diagnosed with a high grade Mast Cell tumor. Because of the aggressive nature of her tumor, she was seen by the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine surgical team for surgery to remove as much of her tumor tissue as possible. At that time, it was recommended that Maggie undergo a three month course of chemotherapy for the best chances at remission. Chemotherapy in people often makes them tired, nauseous, possibly lose hair or weight, as well as a whole host of other unpleasant side effects. Luckily for our pets, they do not often have these side effects. Most dogs and cats never lose large patches of hair and with the new anti-nausea medications vomiting is quite rare.
The type of chemotherapy that Maggie was to undergo required a half day stay at the hospital once a week for four weeks, and then every other week for four additional treatments. Maggie’s trips to us involved spending the morning getting her blood drawn, rechecking the previous incision sites and lymph nodes for any changes as well as getting lots of pets and love from doctors and staff. During her stays, she received an anti-nausea medication which helped Maggie not get sick from any of her treatments! With each visit, Maggie had an intravenous catheter placed into her front leg and received her chemotherapy right in our exam room with all of us gathered around on a large fluffy blanket. She always sat so nicely, typically cuddling in and resting her head on Katie’s leg. She knew that following the treatment there would be more treats and pets.
Maggie received all of her treatments on Fridays. When Maggie had progressed through her treatments and moved to every other week, she still wanted to come weekly for her visit. The owner stated that the days Maggie did not need to come, she sat ready and waiting to go! Maggie was able to finish her chemotherapy treatments the first part of June, 2018. She has had her six week follow-up at which time there was no evidence of disease! Maggie is currently in remission and hopefully will be for a very long time.
Is your dog scared or resistant to getting into the car? Talk to us about your pup’s most recent road trip experience. There may be an easy solution to getting you and your pup on the road.
Whether you're at home or away, your life would not be complete without your dog and your dog feels the same way about you. That’s why it’s so hard to leave a dog behind at home or at a kennel. It’s really sad when the only thing preventing you from taking a trip together is something as common as your dog getting carsick.
As many as 1 in 5 dogs suffer from canine motion sickness. Sometimes the vomiting may discourage dog owners like you from taking their dogs on trips or to receive necessary grooming, training or even medical care.
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While preparing for surgery, Harold did vomit a very large amount of carpet. Repeat x-rays showed he did empty his stomach, but had a large quantity remaining within the intestinal tract. We did find a large amount of carpet remaining within his intestinal tract. He required two incisions to completely remove the blockage. The surgery was a success! Due to the intensive nature of any intestinal surgery, Harrold would not be fully out of the woods until he can continue to keep oral medications and food down without showing pain or signs of infection. Harrold excelled at this and was able to be discharged and recover with his family!
What should you do if your pet ingests something they shouldn't? Knowing specific amounts, brands, ingredients and approximate time of ingestion can be of the utmost of importance. Contact us immediately if there is any questions about what to do for the your next steps following an ingestion.
Ahna Brutlag, DVM, MS, DABT, DABVT & Renee Schmid, DVM
During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it is easy to let your guard down when it comes to preventing toxic exposures to your pet. While the holidays bring more challenges to the already difficult winter months, we cannot forget about outdoor toxin concerns frequently seen this time of year. Below is a list of holiday-related decorations, plants and food items that the veterinarians at Pet Poison Helpline recommend keeping away from pets.
Holiday Ornaments and decorations:
When decorating for the season, consider your pets. Holiday decorations such as old-fashioned bubble lights may contain poisonous chemicals. If a pet chews on them, the liquid inside could be dangerous to their health. Methylene chloride, the chemical in older bubble lights, can result in depression, aspiration pneumonia, and irritation to the eyes, skin and gastrointestinal tract. Glass ornaments that shine and shimmer are often an enticing toy for your pet. However, if they were to bite in to, or break one during play, the small glass pieces can lead to lacerations to the skin and mouth, as well as damage to the esophagus and gastrointestinal tract. Homemade dough ornaments pose a risk for causing elevated sodium levels that may lead to severe neurologic abnormalities. If any of these types of tree decorations are being used for your tree, it is recommended to keep them towards the upper portion of the tree, where they are less likely to be accessed by your pet. Many animals develop electrical burns in their mouth from chewing on strands of lights, particularly cats and puppies. It is ideal to minimize dangling light strands to make them less appealing to pets.
Another holiday ornament to avoid is tinsel. If you own a cat, toss the tinsel! What looks like a shiny toy to your cat can prove deadly if ingested. While tinsel itself is not “poisonous,” it can result in a linear foreign body when eaten. A linear foreign body occurs when your pet swallows something “stringy” (like ribbon, yarn, tinsel, etc.), which wraps around the base of the tongue or anchors itself in the stomach, rendering it unable to pass through the intestines. As the intestines contract and move, this string or linear foreign body can slowly saw through the tissue, resulting in severe, potentially life threatening damage to your pet’s intestinal tract. Ultimately, pets run the risk of severe injury to, or rupture of, their intestines and treatment requires costly abdominal surgery. Save your holiday bonus for yourself instead of your pet’s surgery, and keep tinsel, ribbon, yarn, thread, fabric, etc. out of reach!
Filling your house with the smell of nutmeg or pine for the holidays may seem inviting—but if you’re partial to heating your scented oils in a simmer pot, know that they can cause serious harm to your cat; even a few licks can result in severe chemical burns in the mouth, fever, difficulty breathing, and tremors. Dogs aren’t as sensitive, but it’s still better to be safe than sorry—so scent your home with a non-toxic candle kept safely out of kitty’s reach. Dry potpourri may also cause chemical burns in the mouth, and also potential foreign bodies and gastrointestinal upset depending on the size of animal and amount ingested. While candles are often scented with oils, the largest concern with ingestion is a foreign body and potential obstruction. In addition to an upset stomach, surgical removal of the candle may be necessary in severe cases.
Though they have a bad rap, poinsettia plants are only mildly toxic. Far more worrisome are holiday bouquets containing lilies (Lilium spp), holly, or mistletoe. Even bouquets brought into the house by holiday guests should be thoroughly inspected, as lilies are one of the most commonly used. Just one or two bites from a lily can result in kidney failure in cats – even the pollen and water that the plant is in are thought to be poisonous! When in doubt, don’t let these bouquets in a cat-loving household!
Other yuletide plants such as holly berries and mistletoe can also be toxic to pets. When Christmas or English holly is ingested, it can result in severe gastrointestinal upset thanks to the spiny leaves and the potentially toxic substances (including saponins, methylxanthines, and cyanogens). If ingested, most pets smack their lips, drool, and head shake excessively due to the mechanical injury from the spiny leaves. As for mistletoe, most of us hang it high enough so it’s out of reach of our pets – nevertheless, it can also be toxic if ingested. Thankfully, American mistletoe is less toxic than the European varieties. Mild signs of gastrointestinal irritation are seen, although if ingested in large amounts, collapse, hypotension (low blood pressure), ataxia (difficulty walking), seizures and death have also been reported.
Recently, florists have started to use Japanese Yew (Taxus spp.) to make wreaths – all parts of this evergreen except for the flesh of the red aril are very poisonous, as they contain taxines, a cardiotoxin. If ingested, this plant can result in dizziness, an abnormal heart rate (initially elevated, then slowed), hypotension, dilated pupils, coma, and death. As horses are very susceptible to yew poisoning, make sure not to have this around the barn or pasture!
Most people know not to give alcoholic drinks to their pets; however, alcohol poisoning in pets is more common than you think. This is because alcohol can be found in surprising places! Rum-soaked fruitcake, or unbaked dough that contains yeast, result in alcohol poisoning and other problems. Rising dough will expand in the warm, moist environment of the stomach and can result in a bloat, which can then progress to a GDV or gastric-dilitation with volvulus (twisted stomach). Signs of this include vomiting, non-productive retching, distended stomach, an elevated heart rate, and weakness or collapse. Secondly, alcohol from the fermenting yeast is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and affects pets quickly. Ingestion of alcohol can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure, and body temperature. Intoxicated animals can experience seizures and respiratory failure.
With the holiday season comes a delightful variety of baked goods, chocolate confections and other rich, fattening foods. However, it is not wise, and in some cases, quite dangerous, to share these treats with your pets. Keep your pet on his or her regular diet over the holidays and do not let family and friends sneak in treats. Foods that can present problems include:
Ice melts are commonly used around entryways and sidewalks and the containers that are filled with these products are often left within a pet’s reach. There are numerous formulations available, many of which contain salt (sodium chloride), and small exposures typically lead to stomach upset, and dermal and paw pad irritation. Larger ingestion's may quickly cause salt poisoning which can result in a rapid onset of vomiting, excessive thirst and seizures. If your pet has consumed any amount of ice melt, it is important to call for help.
When it comes to the holidays, the best thing a pet owner can do is to become educated on common indoor and outdoor household toxins and pet-proof your environment accordingly. If you think your pet has been poisoned, contact your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline at 800-213-6680, with any questions or concerns.