The 5 Best Things About Your Senior Pet

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When we welcome a new puppy or kitten into our family, we are making a commitment that will last the lifetime of that animal. Oftentimes, we focus on how darling that scampering little creature at our feet can be and it seems like they will be that small forever. Then one day we wake up and all of a sudden they are seniors! We take a look at those grey muzzles and wonder, “Where did the time go?” It can be a startling realization. However, caring for a senior pet can offer some of the best years that you could possibly share together. In honour of our Focus on Seniors month, here is a list that celebrates the greatest things about your senior dog or cat!

They are calm. While it is true that animals slow down as they age, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Older dogs and cats no longer have copious amounts of excess energy, and there is no more worrying about the havoc they could wreak on your house while you are out. Chewed shoes and scratched furniture should be a distant memory.

They are wise. A senior pet has had a lifetime of learning experiences. They understand what your expectations are and they are happy to oblige. No more kitties licking the butter dish on the counter, and no more puppies running in the opposite direction when you call them. It is a glorious time!

They are loyal. After spending their entire lives with you, your pet absolutely adores you. And that is an amazing thing. They have grown into a devoted companion, and nothing makes them happier than pleasing you.

They are loving. Gone are the days of craziness, here are the days of cuddles! Your cat or dog no longer flits from place to place in your home looking for the next thing to get into, they are much more than content to settle in and share a snuggle with you. They love nothing more than being near you, for as long as you will let them.

They are gorgeous. As they age, certain physical changes can be expected in your cat or dog. You may notice some grey hairs where there were no grey hairs before. Their eyes may seem duller or cloudy, maybe with some more tearing than before. These are simply indications that your companion is aging, as we all do. But every grey hair, every callous has been earned, and when you look into their face, they are just as perfect as the day you first brought them home.

Your dog or cat may be getting older, but they have spent their lives making yours better. It is time to repay them with love, care and understanding. Take time out of every day to show your senior pet how much you appreciate them and everything they’ve done for you. Our senior pets are gifts, and they should be cherished.

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Senior pet ALERT!!!

Is MY pet a senior?

Probably yes.

Many people don’t realize how early our pets become what’s called a senior. In our society, at the age of 60, we are considered seniors. Although we eat healthy, exercise and maintain our cognitive brain function, many changes may be happening in our own bodies. We may be a little slower getting up in the morning, or feel sore muscles more often. We may be able to not lift as much as previously or feel we need more or less sleep. We may have some slight memory loss or be a little more forgetful. We may have more gum recession or start actually losing teeth. We may find our skin a little thinner and more sensitive to the sun. Our eyesight might be slowly deteriorating and our hearing not as accurate. All of these signs may be subtle but the changes are still there.

So, what do we do?

Well, we go to the dentist twice a year. Have a physical done at the doctor’s office at least yearly. We go to the optometrist yearly. We have yearly blood drawn and reviewed by our doctor. We wear more sunscreen, hats and sunglasses. We watch what we eat and increase our fiber. Lower our sodium, fat and sugar intake. We may even take anti-inflammatories more often for sore muscles and arthritis. i.e. Tylenol, Advil, etc.

So, why is it that we ignore these issues in our pets??

Did you know most cats never even see a veterinarian, except as a young kitten to get fixed and then as an older pet, when problems are so advanced it is hard for us to treat them back to health?

A cat reaches the equivalent to our age 60 by the age of 11!! A dog anywhere from 8 – 11 years of age!! The larger the dog, the quicker they age.

So, what do we do?

We start with feeding them an age appropriate food. Lower calories, lower sodium, less protein and higher fiber.

We exercise them regularly keeping their comfort level in mind. Oakley, 15 years old and pictured below, still goes on 3 walks per day. Although they may be shorter than when he was younger, it is still beneficial to get out and about. Bike rides he tends to sit out. LOL

 

 

We maintain their cognitive function by stimulating the use of their brain with puzzle and treat-releasing toys. Omega fatty acid supplements also help with brain health.

We take care of their oral health. We brush their teeth. Use plaque reducing water additives and other VOHC approved oral health treats.

Friends help you stay young, so, if your dogs gets along with other dogs, be sure to keep up that interaction.

And at the very least, we take them to see the vet yearly.

For any further questions or tips, be sure to call us at Snelgrove Veterinary Services 905-846-3316, visit our website www.snelgrovevet.com and like us on Facebook.

 

The importance of a physical exam

 What are we actually doing?

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Okay, so you bring your pet in for a physical exam and the veterinarian runs their hands over your pet and uses some tools.  What is happening and what kind of things are being discovered?

First of all veterinarians get a lot of information from physical exams.  The physical exam is one of the best diagnostic tools we have to determine whether an animal is sick or well.  Unfortunately, animals can’t talk to us with words so we use what they show us.   We watch how the animal moves around the exam room and assess whether there is pain – sometimes it will materialize in the form of a limp or they may favor one leg over another, sometimes they will hunch their back or be more quiet than usual.

Once we have watched the animal from a distance we start using our hands and tools to examine the animal more closely.   We start by looking at the animal’s eyes and look at the shape and symmetry.  We look to see if there is any discharge present, then look for additional folds in the eyelids or extra hairs that may be bothering the animal.  We also look for ulcerations (scratches on the cornea), inflammation, pigmentation changes, and deposits on the cornea.  We use the ophthalmoscope to look at the retina and see if there is any dilation in the blood vessels, which can be an indication there is an issue with the animal’s blood pressure.  Then we move onto the ears.  Looking at the ears with an otoscope lets us know that the tympanic membrane (ear drum) is intact.  We can tell if an animal is tender just by how they respond to the otoscope being used.  We also use our sense of smell to detect if there is an odor present.  Are the ears red?  If so this can be an indication of an infection or allergies.  We usually need a swab to determine what kind of infection is present.  Next we look at the animals mouth and look at the placement of the teeth.  Is there any rubbing or tooth on tooth contact?  If so then the animal may need corrective dental work to prevent further issues from developing in the future.  We also look for gum inflammation and tartar formation to determine if the animal needs to get their teeth cleaned.  An animal that has the start of dental issues, that receives the dental cleaning that is needed, will help to prevent extractions in the future.  We use our sense of smell again and assess if there is halitosis (bad breath)- a sure sign of dental issues.  We look for loose teeth and retained teeth, again determining what the next best course of treatment will be.

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We feel all the lymph nodes and determine if they are enlarged or painful.  If they are, this can be a sign of infection or neoplasia.  We listen to the heart, checking for signs of a murmur, extra heart beats, skipped beats and then we listen to the lungs, assessing if there are increased sounds that could indicate signs of pneumonia or a lung infection.  Next, we move on to palpating the abdomen, to determine if it is gassy or if there are any masses present.  If the animal is tense or cries out this is an indication of pain and could be a sign of something more serious such as a foreign body or pancreatitis.

Finally we look at the skin and see if it is red or showing signs of inflammation.  We also feel for any lumps or bumps that may be evidence of infection or neoplasia.  Beyond our looking, feeling and smelling, yearly bloodwork can help us determine the condition of your pets organs and give us signs of hidden infections, anemia and more. Urine samples checks will also be recommended to check for diabetes, infections and bladder stones.

As you can see a physical examination is a very detailed diagnostic tool.  A physical examination allows us to assess an animal and determine if it is well or ill.  That is why it is so important that animals receive a physical examination at least yearly  – more frequent examinations allow for the detection of issues before they become more serious. Older animals should really have a full physical examination, including blood work and urine testing, every 6 months. Changes can occur very quickly and early detection is often the key to treatment.

Animals are very good at hiding things – what is your pet hiding from you?

The month of October was National Pit Bull Awareness Month.

What does that mean?

Just like any “Awareness Month” it is educating and helping people to become more knowledgeable of something important.  It could be Breast Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Diabetes, Leukemia, the list goes on and on. All of these things are important, BUT, if one has never experienced a family member or close friend battling one of these horrible diseases, we become oblivious to what goes on around us. We become focused on our own busy lives.

 Awareness Months bring forth the truth about what goes on around us. In hopes that we will participate and help with a worthy cause. It could be volunteering at a function, a 10km walk, support through donations or driving someone who needs treatments. Once gone the distance we no longer need to be reminded by a “month”. We have now incorporated that with our daily living. Never forgetting what that “Awareness” stands for and doing what we can to support a cause.

 I have been blessed by owning two wonderful Pit Bulls, Nikki New and Andy. Both my Pit Bulls were rescues.

Nikki New was found in a plastic garbage bag in a dumpster in the middle of February. She was a 7 week old puppy. Yes, disgusting!!! She was brought to Snelgrove Veterinary Services by one of our technicians. When I met Nikki New, she was surprisingly happy, healthy and adorable, of course. She was placed in a special area called Isolation, at the clinic, as we knew nothing about her and did not want to spread any disease. Isolation is just what it sounds like. All by yourself. I passed the doorway several times that day looking in at her. Her little face would pop up looking so cute at me from behind the bars.  I could hear her tail wagging as it hit the side of the cage wall. At closing time, I went in to say good night. Again that cute little face peering at me from behind the bars. She had been quiet all day not uttering a complaint. “Oh dear, such a long night for a little abandoned puppy to stay all alone” I whispered to her. I got a blanket, wrapped her up, jumped into my car, plopped her on my lap and drove home. I was greeted by my husband and my two-year old Border Collie cross named Alex. Before my husband could say anything I quickly said “no worries just fostering”.

All pet lovers know what that means. Lol.

Alex and Nikki New fell in love as soon as they met. Alex decided right away to be Nikki New’s mother. Alex and Nikki New were the best of friends. Playing together and sharing the bed. So that was that.

I now had two dogs.

Nikki New loved all people. But funny enough when visitors came over they would shy away from her. They would instinctively go to Alex. The funny thing was, Alex was the nervous one with new people and Alex was the one I would warn our visitors about. “Give Alex some time to adjust and she will come to you. Nikki New is the friendly one.” I would tell them. Our visitors would approach Nikki New with caution and you could see the tension on their faces. By the end of the visit Nikki New was always a hit. Everyone loved her. “What a wonderful dog” they would say. It was always mentioned it’s not the breed it’s the owner.

This was eighteen years ago!! Yup, see where I am going with this.

 Several years later I met Andy. This is a sadder story. Remember this is all about awareness so, of course, the start of the story is not very nice. I will warn you her pictures are graphic. Again awareness and education is the key.  My Andy was rescued from a terrible place that fought Pit Bulls. Yes, it is true and it really happens close to here. She was only a puppy, not even six months old. She was saved by wonderful, dedicated people who took risks to get her out of a place that would eventually be her demise.  Her face was torn apart. Her eyes swollen shut. Her ears were bitten and scarred. Her legs had punctures and large lacerations. The tip of her tail was raw and bleeding.

Andy was used as a bait dog!!

Ok, so, what is a bait dog you ask? Get your Kleenex ready. I found this definition from Gotta Love Dogs: What is a Bait Dog?  posted by N Gilbert.  If you have the stomach you should read the whole blog by N. Gilbert. A bait dog is basically a punching bag for game (fighting) dogs. Except we all know that dogs don’t punch, they bite and tear. Dog fighters use bait dogs to let their game dogs practice mutilating another dog, without being harmed in the process. To insure their dogs aren’t damaged, they will either use duct tape to tape the bait dog’s mouth shut, or break out their teeth so the bait dog can’t fight back. They tie them to a tree or pole or put them in a pit so they can’t get away from the game dogs. Yes plural because they general unleash several dogs on one bait dog. It makes the game dogs more aggressive.

 Andy went to a loving foster home to heal and recover. Her fosters were very special people and had a soft spot for Pitty’s and an even softer spot for Andy. With everything Andy had been through, she still loved people. Andy would give kisses and wag her poor mangled tail when she was spoken to. When they cleaned her wounds and applied medications, she would lie there, letting them care for her. Never a growl, never a raised lip. She met their other dogs and never once showed aggression. All she wanted to do was be loved and be your friend.

I met Andy ten years ago at the clinic when she was fully recovered. Andy was there to be spayed. I remember everything so clearly just like it was yesterday. I entered reception and there was Andy sitting on the bench with her foster parent. Our eyes met and I said in my girlish tone “Well hello there, look at you”. Andy broke into the biggest smile I had ever seen. She danced her front feet on the bench as if she were playing bongos. I couldn’t help but laugh. I will never forget that day. I was told Andy was looking for a home. Knowing I had a Pitty, they thought I would be the perfect mom. I declined the offer. Two dogs and now a third. I just wasn’t sure about that.

Andy was there all day. She had her surgery and was in the front cage. Yup, I could not miss her every time I went into the treatment room. As soon as I entered the room she would sit up and watch me. We watched each other all day. My goodness she was beautiful and so sweet. My heart was saying yes, my head was saying no. By the end of the day I sheepishly went to Dr. McQueen and said “I love her”. Dr. McQueen laughed the laugh we all know and love and said “take her home”. So I did.  Who,ever listens to their head anyways?

The transition of introducing Andy went much smoother than expected. Nikki New’s nose was out of joint for a few days. She was the baby and it was time for her to move up in the pack. Not very long after that, the three of them were the best of buds. Alex was still the momma dog. Now she had two to care for.  Andy did not know how to play and needed a bit of house training.  She picked everything up so quickly and was learning how to be “just a dog”. The first time I put a leash on her to take her outside, she cowered. She stood frozen, terrified. I’m sure she was thinking I was taking her out to a bad place. I waited patiently until she felt safe and proceeded slowly. She eventually went out, did her business and rushed back to the safety of her home. It was weeks before Andy would go outside all in one motion. To the door, then straight outside without standing frozen in fear.

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Andy had nightmares!!!

She would start to scream. This was not a moan or muffled bark or those funny sounds our dogs make when they sleep. This was loud, blood curtailing screams. I had never heard anything like this before. She would be in such a deep sleep I had trouble waking her. I would call her name. Then yell her name. Then yell her name and shake her. She would wake, shove her head into my armpit trembling and makes sounds like she was sobbing. All I could do is hold her tight and rub her back. She would stay like that with me for the rest of the night. This happened weekly, then monthly, then barely at all. She still does it occasionally to this day.

 Andy has endured so much in her lifetime. On top of all of this, she has had knee surgery and back surgery. She has high blood pressure and Addison’s disease. She has liver and kidney issues. Andy takes an abundance of medication and makes frequent visits to the clinic for blood testing and monthly injections. Andy never complains. She is always happy to greet you. Eager to share a lick or two and that tail, always going at the speed of light. She is a happy dog and loves her life and her family. She is my shadow and I am never alone when Andy is there.

It saddens me to think I will never own a Pit Bull puppy again. It saddens me that Andy cannot go out in public without a muzzle. She will never experience going to the park and sniffing freely like other dogs. Never go into a pet store with me to shop. Never have a face free to sniff and touch and lick things. Never walk down my parents street when we visit. After all she has been through, I cannot muzzle her. Therefore, she does not go anywhere but her backyard and into homes of family.

I didn’t do anything wrong, yet I am punished. Andy was a victim of a horrendous crime, and she is punished.

 The ban against Pit Bulls was to protect people from people. Not dogs. Yet dogs pay the penalty.  The ban was a bandage or a quick fix to resolve a very serious problem that had gotten way out of hand. Instead of going after these monsters that are called humans. They created an image that our dogs are the monsters. In the big picture it’s all about greed. Greed and money. Dog fighting is illegal and will continue as it has a huge revenue. These poor dogs are beaten so badly it is better for them to fight and be rewarded, then to endure the horrifying abuse. People fight these dogs to the death. The dogs fight only to survive. Pit Bulls are used to protect drug dealers, their drugs, their drug labs, illegal weapons. All which in turn become available to our children. Something is very wrong with this picture don’t you think?

So when the Pit Bull becomes extinct and they will. (That is why the ban was placed). A new power breed will be selected to take its place. Then a new ban will be placed. All this does is create a  vicious circle. Crime, drugs and illegal activities continue. Our beautiful breeds will not. Justice needs to be enforced on these unspeakable crimes. Laws need to be changed with heavier life penalties on these people. Our dogs need to be saved. With all breeds it hold true. It’s not the dog it’s the owner. We keep saying that, but it does not go any further.

Yes, I am a Pit Bull Advocate. They do not have a voice. But we do.

Pit Bull awareness month is now at a close. I hope I have shed a little bit of light and awareness to all. We will try not to look away and stand in silence. Awareness needs to be shared and our animals need to be protected.

Andy has my greatest respect. When I look into her soft brown eyes and wonder, how has she ever survived all of this and still be the most loving and forgiving girl. She keeps her past to herself and only wishes to share kindness and laughter. She has a wonderful sense of humor and loves to make you smile. She cannot help but wag her tail, it never stops. She is truly a special gift. Every day I am so thankful that I was able to save not one but two of these incredible creatures. A very small gesture in the grand picture but I am proud that I could be there for them both.

 Andy is up to eleven years old now. With her multiple health problems it makes me sad to know time is ticking and every day with her now is a blessing. I hope one day I can again enjoy the pitter patter of pitty feet. But sadly I doubt that will ever happen.

If you ever have an opportunity to share and be a voice for those that cannot speak. Do so! I am sure you will have no regrets. The Pit Bulls of the world would be forever grateful.

In Andy’s lifetime she has experienced, lived and shared her life with four wonderful dogs. The first two Alex and NikkiNew who mothered her and taught her how to be a dog. After their passing we adopted Billie and Ralph and she became their leader. She taught them courage and strength. She showed them how to be proud and faithful. Andy has a never-ending compassion for life. Love and loyalty to her family.

She is my rock.

 Thank you so much for your time and reading my blog.

 Donna and Andy.

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