Tag: dogs (page 1 of 7)

Cognitive Dysfunction & Your Dog

What is Cognitive Dysfunction?

One of the saddest things you may experience in your life is seeing someone you know who was so full of life, so vibrant, so smart…all of the sudden just seem to not be able to think clearly anymore.  Imagine if this was your dog.  Yes, what we see in people such as senility, Alzheimer’s disease, or “sundowners syndrome” can also be seen in dogs (and possibly in cats but much less understood).  The entire cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) has been an emerging area of understanding in the last several years.  While senior pets may show signs that could be attributed to medical issues, those potential diseases should be ruled out before coming to the conclusion of what is considered to be a behavioral problem.

Studies have shown that starting around 6-7 years of age, dogs may start showing signs.  Oftentimes, these go unnoticed until the condition has progressed to severe levels.  Signs can include greater attention seeking to seeming to want to interact less with family, increased anxiety levels in situations that used to not bother them, and becoming less responsive when called or given a command.  And these are the harder ones to note sometimes but also may not be as concerning in the mind of the family.  Signs more likely to get attention are soiling in the house, restlessness at night (stay up all night and sleep in the daytime), or pacing constantly.

What can we do to help?

cognitive dysfunction enrichment

Jennifer & Keltie rally obedience practice

The sooner signs are noted or addressed, the better chance we have of helping a dog’s quality of life.  Much like we encourage enrichment for cats or exotic pets, dogs can benefit from such activities as scent detection, competitive obedience, or agility – activities that help them think and positively stimulate their brains.  Sometimes just playing and interacting with your dog can be a good start.  It’s important to keep in mind any medical or physical limitations, especially as your pup ages.  Adding in toys can always be a good idea especially puzzles or toys that dispense food to keep then thinking and engaged.

Further treatment to help alleviate signs can be found with some medications but their effects may be variable from patient to patient.  Medications and supplements should be discussed with your veterinarian to determine what might work best for your particular dog and what the proper dosages are.  Senior pet diets supplemented with fatty acids, antioxidants, and medium chain triglycerides can also be beneficial.  There is a lot of exciting research and new tools to help these patients coming in the near future.

Due to our ability to better recognize these problems and the tendency for the earliest signs to start at middle to early senior years, it truly is important to have your pet checked out at least once a year.  There may be something we can work on together to help you and your dog live in harmony while working through cognitive dysfunction.  Have you noted any changes or signs mentioned above in your dog?  If so, what have you done that seems to help?

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

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Brush like a Dog Dentist!

Guest Post by Dr. Jennifer Weeks-Llera

Before dental cleaning

Dental disease is one of the most common things I see during annual physical examinations of dogs.  Many people are surprised at the amount of tartar and gingivitis that has developed in their dogs mouth since their last visit and they are not familiar with the importance of home care that can be done to prevent this dental disease.  Daily control of plaque before it becomes mineralized to form tartar is the most important factor for a healthy mouth.  As plaque builds up, periodontal disease will develop which can lead to pain and loss of teeth.  Bad teeth will cause chronic infection and inflammation that can have negative effects on a pet’s overall health.  So what steps can you take to keep your dog’s mouth healthy?  The key to prevention of plaque and tartar is home care.

Just as for our own teeth, daily brushing is one of the best things that can be done to prevent plaque development on your dog’s teeth.  Frequently, I hear clients comment that their dog gets his/her teeth brushed every 6 weeks or so by the groomer and they can’t believe how the teeth could be so dirty.  If we think about this in comparison to our own dental health, this would be the equivalent of you only getting your teeth brushed when you go for a haircut.  So how frequently should you brush your dogs teeth?  Brushing three times a week can be adequate to maintain teeth and gums that are healthy, however daily brushing is needed if gingivitis is already present.

When should you start brushing your dogs teeth?

Start early!  As young as 8-12 weeks of age is a great time to start brushing your puppy’s teeth.  Even though the puppy will eventually loose the deciduous, or baby, teeth as their permanent teeth erupt, getting them used to having their teeth brushed is an important first step in dental home care.  When you notice that your puppy is beginning to loose their baby teeth (usually around 14 weeks of age), it is a good idea to stop brushing the teeth brushing for a little while until their permanent teeth have erupted as their mouth may be a bit sore as they are teething.

A soft bristled tooth brush is best used when brushing your dog’s teeth.  It is important never to use human toothpastes as these are not intended to be swallowed.  Pet toothpastes are safe if swallowed and are available in a number of flavours, such as poultry and beef, to increase your pet’s acceptance of them.

pet dental health tooth brushingIt is good to make a daily routine of brushing your dog’s teeth.  Remember to make it fun and rewarding!  As you first introduce your dog to teeth brushing, coat the toothbrush with pet safe toothpaste and allow your pet to simply lick the brush a 4-5 times per day for the first couple of days.  As your pet becomes comfortable with the toothbrush near their mouth, you can gently begin to handle the muzzle and lips and then begin to lift the dog’s lip and rub your finger along the outer surfaces of the teeth and gums.  Once your pet is comfortable with you doing this, you can gradually introduce them to using the toothbrush to brush along these surfaces of the top and bottom teeth.  Brushing the inner, tongue side, of the teeth is less important than the outer surfaces.  Brush the teeth in small, circular motions.  A slight amount of bleeding from the gum line may sometimes occur, but if you notice ongoing or heavy bleeding this may indicate the presence of gum disease.  If this is noticed, it is best to speak with your veterinarian for further recommendations.

Dental Foods & Chews

Although not a substitute for daily teeth brushing, dental diets (such as Hill’s T/D, Royal Canin Dental, Science Diet Dental Care, and Purina DH) have been shown to effectively decrease the plaque and tartar build up on dog’s teeth.  These diets are designed to be fed as an entire meal on a daily basis and, when you are ready to switch your dog from a puppy food onto an adult food, are an excellent adult maintenance diet option.

pet dental health

Another common misconception is that chewing on bones, cow hooves, or antlers can help keep a dog’s teeth clean.  These chew toys are not considered appropriate for dogs as they are very hard and can easily break teeth.  Broken teeth can, in turn, cause the dog pain and lead to the development of tooth root abscesses.  The “knee-cap test” is a good way to help decide if a toy is safe for your dogs teeth.  If a toy is so hard that you wouldn’t want to hit your knee with it, then your dog shouldn’t be chewing on it.  Additionally, softer chew toys are better for puppies as their baby teeth are more fragile than adult dog teeth and they can very easily be fractured.

from VOHC.org

There are many products on the market with claims to improve pet’s dental health that have no research to support these claims.  The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC), which consists of veterinary dentists and dental scientists, was formed to recognize cat and dog products that meet standards to decrease the formation of plaque and tartar.  Products that meet these standards are awarded the VOHC Seal of Acceptance.  A list of these products can be found on the VOHC website.  Some examples of the products that are listed include several dental diets, Greenies, and Healthy Mouth Water Additive.

It is very important to remember that the home care tips discussed in this article are recommended for the PREVENTION of plaque and tartar and are not a treatment for established dental disease.  An essential component of your dog’s dental care includes yearly or semiannual examination by a veterinarian who can identify dental disease early on and provide recommendations on treatment options that are available.  By providing dental home care for your dog, along with guidance from your veterinarian, you can help keep your dog’s breath fresh and their teeth healthy.

 

Dr. Jennifer Weeks-Llera is an associate small animal veterinarian at Richmond Veterinary Clinic in Napanee, Ontario.  She is married to fellow veterinarian, Dr. Ryan Llera.  Together, they own and love 2 dogs, 3 cats, 2 horses, and a rabbit.

Adding a New Pet – 5 Things You Should Know

Adding a New Pet to the Home

Something funny happened last week.  In talking with a client after finishing her pet’s exam, we got to talking about my family of pets…currently numbered at 2 dogs, 3 cats, 2 horses, and 1 rat.  She asked if we were starting a farm and if we were planning on adding another pet to the house.  I told her not now but boy was I wrong!  That night on my deck, I saw the domestic rabbit that had been loose in our yard or the neighbor’s for the past 2 weeks.  We suspected this bunny had gotten loose or dumped and had been trying to catch it.  Long story short, we caught this scared rabbit and took her (yes, we checked!) into our home for the night.  We had checked with our neighbors and the Kingston Community Lost Pets forum but nobody has yet to claim her as their own.  Even after the first hour of her being in my home, my wife was convinced that we should add her to our family.

adding a new petHenrietta is the third animal to join our family in 7 months after Sherman the rat and Rudy, our younger dog.  Not surprisingly, adding all these pets wasn’t an easy transition for the people or the pets.  There are pitfalls that can occur and other aspects that need to be considered when deciding to bring a new pet into the family.

How will the pets get along (if there are others)?

I think this is probably a larger issue for the already established residents in the home.  They have a routine and a new pet might mess that up.  Cats & dogs may become destructive eating furniture, soiling in the house, or act out of sorts (changes in appetite, less social behavior).  When we adopted Rudy, we had some concerns over whether or not Rudy was going to eat our cat Louie.  As he was a rescue dog, we didn’t know how he would be with cats and those kitties are fast!!  So naturally, Rudy took chase.  Fortunately, we did not experience any other issues.  I suggest a slow introduction of the pets.  New cats can be kept in the bathroom for a few days to allow scents to be traded but it’s also good to monitor for any signs of infectious disease.  New dogs can be kept on leash and sit with you.  It’s helpful to have one person per dog for introductions so that fights can be avoided.  For dogs, consider meeting at a neutral site so that you can minimize territorial issues.  It’s best to not leave pets alone with the new pet as you won’t be able to monitor or control any scuffles that take place.

adding a new pet

True meets Floyd

How will your new pet fit in to the routine?

Even if your pet is the first pet at home, there are some challenges that can be faced; maybe even more so if they are older or from a rescue situation.  Younger pets may experience some separation anxiety when you leave home.  Others will find their way into your bed instead of their own.  Rescue pets may have some habits that you find endearing but others that are frustrating to home life.  Crate training is highly recommended to give your new pet a safe place to stay when you’re not home and a place of their own.  This ensures they have a space where they can have time away from the other pets.  It’s important to spend time with a new pet in order to bond but it’s just as important to let them have some alone time to establish independence.  This is key time to re-bond with your other pets so they do not feel forgotten.  Feeding time can be another issue.  Are your current pet(s) meal fed or free fed?  Free feeding can not only lead to obesity but in an environment with multiple pets can lead to potential fights or food aggression if they feel resources are limited.  For this reason (and many others), I always recommend meal feeding in separate locations.

Who is caring for the new pet?

cat litter memeIf you live on your own, this is a no-brainer.  It’s when you have a family involved that things get more complicated.  Are your kids begging for a pet?  But are they truly old enough and are they going to be the ones responsible for walking or cleaning the litterbox?  Setting guidelines before you add a new pet is important as no matter what happens, that animal is dependent on others for it’s care.  Deciding on socialization or training classes is also important to help avoid unwanted behaviors.  Back to the feeding point; let’s make sure that multiple people aren’t feeding pets and over doing it…your pets most likely won’t admit they’ve already had dinner!

Are costs being considered?

Admit it…aside from giving a cute animal a loving home, you want to spoil them.  Aside from the typical care costs of food, collar, or litterbox, there are toys, beds, treats, etc.  Another aspect when considering care is preparing for veterinary costs.  For kittens & puppies, this can include their initial vaccine series and spaying/neutering.  For senior pets, this might involve semi-annual exams, wellness blood tests, or special needs medications.  It’s also important to prepare for emergencies.  Animals eat strange things.  Sometimes they fight with each other and sometimes injuries happen during playtime.  Nobody wants accidents to happen but they do.  I implore you, be ready to care for your pets and if this will be immensely difficult financially then consider waiting until the time is better.

What about non-traditional pets?

Guida, 24 years old and retired in Florida

Guida, 24 years old

For some people, cats and dogs just don’t do it.  Many other types of animals have become pets over the years including snakes, various lizards, birds, rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, and rats to name a few.  All of these animals are quite different not just in appearance but also in terms of body systems and the care required to keep them healthy.  Many of these exotic pets who present to the veterinary clinic have problems that can be avoided with proper husbandry or care.  Too often, these pets are bought or adopted without proper research beforehand with regards to diet, housing, and environmental enrichment.

It’s a big commitment to expand your family.  Take some time to prepare beforehand and it can make life that much better for everyone involved.  Are you growing your pet family soon?  Do you have anything to add from past experience?  Let us know in the comments!

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

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