Category: Geriatric Pets (page 1 of 2)

Senior Pet Care – How You Can Help

senior pet dogPeople everyday are getting a new puppy, kitten, or other pet to join their family.  And yes, most of the time these new additions are just in their first few months of a long life.  For a few of these pets, we as veterinarians will see them for their initial vaccines, adoption exams, maybe a spay or neuter surgery.  Some of them will make annual visits for a check up while others we may not see for several years once they are much older or only if they are sick.  It’s these senior pets that we often can make the most difference in their quality of life.

I cannot stress enough the importance of an annual examination, or in the case of pets with chronic illnesses every 6 months.  This should start from the time they are young adult animals until their final days.  Early detection of a condition can save lives and keep pets healthier for longer.  Who wouldn’t want their furry kid to have a happy life for as long as possible?  That’s the first step you can do to help your pets with the aid of your veterinarian.  Yet, there are somethings you can do yourself or that you should pay special attention to help them out in their golden years.

buzby toe grips

www.toegrips.com

Mobility issues can be quite difficult to overcome but can make a significant improvement in how a pet feels.  Signs can be obvious from a noticeable limp to more subtle signs such as dragging a foot, difficulty with stairs, or a decreased appetite.  While some patients will benefit from supportive medications, the most important thing you can do is to keep them at a healthy weight!  If you have slippery floors, you should look at adding some area rugs or another idea is a product called Dr. Buzby’s Toe Grips.  These grips fit onto the nails on your dog and help them in getting traction so they can walk around better.  Another quick tip: If you’ve got stairs, consider a ramp.

cytology from a lump aspiration

cytology from a lump aspiration

Lumps and bumps are often seen as a part of growing old.  Sometimes these lumps can be benign but that means there’s also a potential chance for them to be malignant.  The tendency for many people tends to be watching the lump to see if it changes in size, color, temperature, or texture.  The problem is when those lumps grow in areas such as the legs which make it difficult to remove them entirely or not without a higher risk of complications.  Another risk if is the pet chews on the lumps or if they burst.  Let’s be honest for a moment…when someone tells me the lump wasn’t there yesterday, that can only be the truth less than 20% of the time.  So as my colleague Dr. Sue Cancer Vet says, “Why wait? Aspirate!”  Basically, if a lump is there for more than a month and is larger than a pea, you should get it checked out before it’s too late.

from dogs-looking-like-people.tumblr.com

from dogs-looking-like-people.tumblr.com

Much like people, senior pets can show signs changes in their behavior similar to Alzheimers disease in people.  In cats & dogs, we call this cognitive dysfunction.  There are no definitively effective treatments unfortunately but there are some things that can help.  In particular, some specialty prescription diets can help protect the brain from free radicals which can lead to oxidation of cells in the brain.  Hence, the idea of antioxidants can help to reduce this damage by blocking the reactions.  Something else to consider would be to go against the adage of “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” and work/play with them to give their brains something to be challenged by.  Studies show that for people doing activities like crossword puzzles that encourage thought processes can delay or help fight the onset these changes so maybe there’s some hope that it could work for pets too.  Some ideas to work on are scent or food detection (think the object is under one of three bowls sleight of hand trick) or even reinforcing previously learned behaviors or tricks.

corneal disease

corneal disease

Other changes that you might notice might be with their eyes.  Some eye conditions may affect vision but could possibly be painful as well.  For some breeds such as brachycephalics (pugs, pekingese, shih tzus), they will often develop a condition called dry eye which while not necessarily painful, can be uncomfortable and cause a pigmentation of the cornea.  If they are going blind, just don’t rearrange the furniture.  Moving to the back end of the pet, incontinence is often over-represented as a presenting complaint when pets arrive at the clinic.  Yes, they may be leaking urine but in reality, the odds of a urinary tract infection, kidney disease, or diabetes creating urine overflow are much more likely.

Your pets aren’t “just getting old.”  While they are aging, they are living longer than they did 20 years ago and that means we’ll see more health problems.  There are many facets to the care of your senior pet.  You are their biggest advocate and need to be the watchdog over their health.  By noticing subtle changes and having them addressed as soon as possible, you can keep things from getting worse and making treatment less difficult & more promising.  A general rule of thumb is a check up every 6-12 months.  Senior pets are just like our older relatives, treasured companions that are still full of love; so be sure to take care of them!

Disclaimer: All blog posts may contain opinions which are my own and may not reflect those of any current or former employers.

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“Wag the Tail”

“Wag the Tail”

Hey, it’s Charlie.   I’ve taken over dad’s blog again to tell you something important.   Actually, grand-dad told Ryan Charlie st patrick daysomething about “wagging the tail” and between the two of us, we think we’ve figured it out.   But since I’m so personable and a great story teller, dad is letting me share it with you.   Oh wait, dad says he’s going to help me tell it to make sure we all understand if I get confused or distracted.

 

The 4th and last chemo treatment

The 4th and last chemo treatment

It all started a few weeks ago.   After my second chemo treatment, strange things began happening including seizures and I was having some collapse type episodes.   One night, I remember dad telling me it was okay to “go” so I knew my illness was wearing on him.   I also didn’t want to eat which is so unlike me.   It was some pretty scary stuff.   A few weeks later after the fourth chemo treatment, I couldn’t walk.   I never had my next scheduled chemo treatment but I heard mom and dad talking about the big sleep.   It was just before a weekend so they wanted to spend some time with me and spoil me rotten.   I wagged my tail and in return got lots of hugs and lots of food I shouldn’t normally eat.

 

"Chemo was exhausting!"

“Chemo was exhausting!”

As that weekend went on, I started getting stronger and getting back to being able to walk.   I felt like that guy in the movie “Rocky” as he’s running on the steps and everyone is cheering for him.   Dad was so happy he told me there was no more chemo!   This was good because I hated the weekly needle pokes and feeling sick.   On the other hand, I got some to take some steroids – I didn’t get the rage and I sure didn’t pack on a lot of muscle but they did make me feel better.   I wagged my tail.

 

Resting with my buddy Taylor

Resting with my buddy Taylor

I had an accident in the house…I blame it on the drugs!   And so did dad.   He didn’t get mad.   He actually hugged me and took me outside.   If only I had known this trick earlier in life…I could have gotten away with a lot more!   The gentleness I’ve experienced only makes me want to do better and to keep on trucking.   I’m not quite ready to stop watching over my family.   Yep, my tail is still wagging.

 

It’s been a few weeks now.   Steroids made me happy and with every thing I did, dad seemed happier too, so much that if he had a tail, he’d probably be wagging it.   Instead, I figured smiles, hugs, and belly rubs are the same expression.   We pets are very perceptive and emotional; can’t you see it in our eyes and feel it in our slobbery kisses?   When our families are happy, we feel good.   When our families are stressed, we also feel anxious.   We feed off of emotions (and cookies!)…

Charlie lost in the bag of Charlee Bear treats

Charlie lost in the bag of Charlee Bear treats

Charlie….hey bud, we’re not done yet.   Oh there he goes…Charlie has lost himself in the bag of Charlee Bear treats again.   It’s Dr. Llera now so I’ll wrap this up for the both of us.   What Charlie & I have learned through this is that when times are tough, you should try to see the silver lining that is there and try to keep a positive mental attitude.   In any alarming situation with your pets, there is always hope.   It may be the hope that everything will turn out alright.   Or it may be the hope that you try your best and that they don’t suffer.   The important thing to remember is to stay strong, give your pet all the love you can, and know that in the end everything will work out.   So what are you waiting for?   Go “wag that tail.”

best friends

 

Disclaimer: Blog posts may be opinions which are my own and do not reflect those of my current or any former employers. 

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Even Pets Have Breasts

Even Pets Have Breasts

October is widely known is Breast Cancer Awareness month for people.  Well, lately it’s also become a month to raise awareness for the risk of breast cancer in pets too!  Yes that’s right, Fluffy and Bella can also get breast cancer.  Unlike women though, your pets can’t check themselves for lumps.

Feline mammary tumor

Feline mammary tumor

Cats & dogs have multiple breasts, or mammary glands, that are aligned in two chains.  Normal swelling can be noted if pregnant or nursing but in any other case, a lump may be abnormal.  After animals have been spayed, they can accumulate fat in these areas and these would be non-concerning lumps.  You can feel along the chain for an abnormal lump that would be at least the size of a small marble.  This is when you should schedule an appointment with your veterinarian, not waiting to see if it goes away.  It can only get worse if you wait until it’s the size of a lemon.

Your veterinarian will start with a general exam then discuss some diagnostics to further evaluate the lump.  Just feeling the lump is often not enough to be able to tell you everything you need to know.  No, we don’t have a mammogram machine in our office.  Our diagnostic plan can include a fine needle aspirate to try and get some cells to look at under the microscope but sometimes this is not sufficient.  Alternatively, we can move forward with chest x-rays to assess for spreading of the tumor and then surgery.  Submitting the whole lump to a pathologist will give us a more certain diagnosis to be able to determine future treatment and prognosis.

Canine incision after removal. Surgery was delayed for months

Canine incision after removal. Surgery was delayed for months

Surprisingly, we have some good statistics when it comes to breast cancer cases in dogs.  It’s a 50-50 chance of the mass being benign.  Unfortunately, in cats, the numbers are 90% malignant and only 10% benign.  Surgery can often involve the removal of the lump and the one next to it, or sometimes the entire mammary chain.  Typically, when your veterinarian is talking about breast cancer in your pet they are focusing on middle aged or senior pets.  You can help your pets by making sure to spay them.  Spaying before their first heat cycle greatly reduces the risk of breast cancer.

So do your pets a favor, check them for breast lumps.  And if you see a lump, don’t wait to see if it goes away…it won’t!

breast cancer dogs

Disclaimer: All blog posts are personally written and my opinion and do not reflect those of current or former employers.

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