It is going to be a bad summer for pesky bugs. We have numerous rebate coupons and options available for your furry friends this year. Please stop by the clinic or give us a call and we would be glad to go over all the options with you to find the best solution for your family.
Dealing with Older Dog Health Problems
By Lorie Huston, DVM
Senior dogs have different care requirements than those of a younger dog. This fact probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone. But how do you know when your dog is considered to be a senior?
It really depends on the individual dog. In general, giant breed dogs age faster than smaller breed dogs. A Great Dane is considered to be senior by roughly 5-6 years old whereas a Chihuahua would likely only be middle-aged then, and probably not considered a senior until 10-11 years. Large breed dogs fall somewhere in between. A Golden Retriever might be considered senior by 8-10 years of age. Genetics, nutrition, environment; all of these play a role in how fast your dog ages.
VIEW SLIDESHOW: How to Care for Senior Pets
What are some of the things to expect as your dog ages? Your dog may develop arthritis or other degenerative diseases that cause him to slow down. He may not be able to walk as far or play as long. He may tire more easily. He may have difficulty getting up or finding a comfortable position to sleep in. He may become reluctant to go up and down stairs or have difficulty getting into and out of the car.
Without proper care, dental disease can pose a problem, particularly for older pets. You may be surprised to learn that veterinarians find evidence of dental disease in many pets as early as 2-3 years of age. If nothing is done to care for your dog’s mouth, by the time your dog is a senior, he may even have lost some teeth. Dental disease can be painful, causing your dog to avoid or have difficulty eating his meals. This may result in weight loss and an unkempt hair coat.
Dental disease is certainly not the only disease that can lead to weight loss. Senior dogs frequently suffer from kidney disease, liver disease, heart disease and other conditions that may result in weight loss.
On the other hand, some senior dogs may have the opposite problem. Some dogs will become less active with age, essentially becoming couch potatoes, and will gain weight as a result. Obesity in a major health issue in dogs of all ages and senior dogs are no different.
What can you do to help your senior dog? Here are some tips:
Schedule regular visits with your veterinarian. Your dog needs to be examined at least yearly if it appears healthy, as many diseases are hidden and not apparent. Remember it is much cheaper to prevent disease than it is to treat it!
Ask for a body condition evaluation during each vet visit. Body condition is crucial to determining whether your senior dog is overweight, underweight, or at an ideal body weight. In fact, you should also ask your veterinarian to show you how to evaluate your dog's body condition at home.
Feed your older dog a high quality diet. Also, learn to read the dog food label and choose a diet that is appropriate for your dog’s age and lifestyle.
Use food to keep your senior dog at his ideal body weight. Overweight dogs have a higher incidence of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, skin disease, even cancer. Your veterinarian can help you choose an appropriate diet for your dog, especially since overweight dogs must be fed carefully to ensure that all nutrient needs are met while still allowing for weight loss. For instance, specialized diets that are lower in calories as well as those that are high L-carnitine are available for obese or overweight dogs. A diet with a carefully chosen carbohydrate or carbohydrate blend can also help keep your overweight dog feeling satiated.
Consider fortifying your senior dog’s diet with fatty acids such as DHA and EPA. They have been shown to be useful for dogs with mobility issues due to arthritis or other joint diseases. Supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin are also beneficial for senior dogs.
Consider a special diet if your older dog has heart or kidney disease. For example, diets lower in sodium are sometimes advocated for dogs with heart disease, while diets which help control phosphorus, calcium and other electrolyte levels are given to dogs with kidney disease. Your veterinarian can help you choose the best food for your dog based on your dog’s individual situation.
Take care of your dog’s mouth. Brushing your dog’s teeth may seem like a silly idea but it can help keep your dog’s mouth healthy. If you cannot brush, consider dental treats and toys that help keep the teeth clean.
Exercise your senior dog. It can help keep your older dog lean and maintain healthy joints and muscles. However, tailor your dog’s exercise needs to his individual requirements. For a large breed dog, walking around the block is probably just getting started but for a tiny Chihuahua, a brisk walk around the block may be a long trek. If your senior is not used to exercise, start slow and gradually increase the intensity — and only after you’ve consulted a veterinarian. Also, be careful with short-nosed (brachycephalic) dogs on hot days.
Provide plenty of toys to keep your senior dog occupied. Food puzzles, for example, are not only useful for entertainment but for weight loss purposes as well.
Provide your older dog with special accommodations too. For instance, dogs with arthritis might benefit from soft bedding in the form of a special dog bed or towels/blankets on which to sleep. Ramps can be used to make stairs easier to navigate if they cannot be avoided. Even providing carpeting or rugs over hard-surface flooring can help your arthritic dog gain his footing and make it easier for him to get around.
Please bare with us as we try to work on our social media presence. We have lost 2 dear employees that knew how to handle websites & social media sites. They have given us a wonderful start and we will continue to build on all their awesome work. We are in a learning process and want to be available to you. So here is the first novice attempt on any post done on the website.
Congratulations to Marion and Scooter, the proud owners of a brand new Smoker and Grill! Marion's name was entered into our raffle for purchasing Scooter his doses of Bravecto. I'm sure he's very happy for his mom, and grateful she keeps him protected from those pesky little fleas and ticks! :)
Sherri presenting Marion and Scooter with their prize!
The Emergency of the Debilitating fear of Fireworks, Thunderstorms and Other Loud Noises
Please note that while this blog post will be focusing on canine noise phobias, our feline patients can certainly experience similar phobias. If you have a cat that is fearful of loud noises please continue reading as many of the management and treatment options are applicable to cats as well.
The 4th of July is right around the corner and for many dog owners this time of year is not a welcomed celebration of American freedom, instead it is a stressful and sad experience while we watch our dogs who experience noise phobias suffer extreme fear while the rest of country celebrates. Many of us might wish we lived far far away from our neighbors and their love of home fireworks displays or as summer moves in find ourselves living around the weather forecast and stressing over pop up thunderstorms.
Fear is a natural response in the animal kingdom, it is adaptive and aids in survival. Phobias on the other hand are characterized by an excessive out of proportion response to a stimuli that is often debilitating and interrupts the ability to function normally. Phobias can develop for a variety of reasons – genetically predisposed to fear and anxiety, bad experience, fear of sudden noises, punishment while displaying fearful response to a noise stimulus, etc. These excessive emotional responses are characterized by:
Mild- panting, pacing, trembling, attention seeking, vocalization/whining, hypersalivation/drooling, dilated pupils
Moderate - hiding, vomiting, digging/chewing, house soiling, express anal glands, food refusal
Severe - aggression, escape behavior, self-mutilation, cardiac compromise/arrest
Continual exposure to the noise phobia triggers without pharmacologic and behavioral intervention will simply cause the fear and anxiety your dog experiences to worsen and also results in huge physiological cortisol releases which can prolong the effects of the phobia long after the thunderstorm or fireworks have stopped. It is important to note that ~70 percent of dogs with noise phobia also have undiagnosed separation anxiety affecting their quality of life as well.
Management and Behavior Modification
Noise phobias can worsen dramatically with exposure which makes intervention with either anti-anxiety supplements or pharmaceuticals a cornerstone of successful management. As discussed above, these fear responses will increase over time without appropriate intervention, which means that the pop-up storm while you are at work and your dog is at home suffering a panic attack can only serve to make future fear response worse. As a result of our inability to control the weather we at East Shelbyville Animal Clinic recommend to give any prescribed supplements or medications if there is a 20% chance or more of inclement/stormy weather.
There are a variety of over the counter anti-anxiety options available to help dogs and cats with mild noise anxieties or decrease the amount of pharmaceuticals required for pets with severe noise phobias.
1. Composure Pro: Composure Pro is a nutraceutical supplement with a number of ingredients that promote calm: L-Theanine, Colostrum Calming Complex, L- Tryptophan, Thiamine.
2. Melatonin: Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that can help with anxiety, insomnia, and some dermatological conditions in our pets.
3. Anxiety Wraps: Thundershirt and T-Touch Anxiety Wrap
4. HomeoPet Anxiety TFLN (Thunderstorm, Fireworks, Loud Noise)
5. MuttMuffs: Sound dampening ear muffs designed for dogs.
Providing a safe space is important for many pets to start the process of counterconditioning and desensitization. Building a Thnuder Bunker can offer pets a respite space while their world is crashing around them. In our house, the bunker space is the walk-in closet in the master bedroom. It’s dark (no windows) and located in the middle of the house so slightly quieter than some of the other rooms during a storm. Other things that can help improve relaxation in the Thunder Bunker include: white noise, Adaptil diffusers and soft lavender scent, soft classical music such as the Through a Dog’s Ear CD. It is important to establish this space as a place where good things happen prior to using it for thunderstorms. For more information on how to establish a Thunder Bunker Protocol check out this link to trainer John D Visconti, CPDT-KA’s post for The Pet Professional Guild.
Desensitization and Counterconditioning
Desensitization and counterconditioning are behavioral modification approaches to help teach dogs to have different emotional responses to fear inducing stimuli.
Systemic Desensitization is “a treatment for phobias in which the patient is exposed to progressively more anxiety-provoking stimuli and taught relaxation techniques.”
Counterconditioning is “a technique employed in animal training, and in the treatment of phobias and similar conditions in humans, in which behavior incompatible with a habitual undesirable pattern is induced.”
For pets with noise phobias, systemic desensitization can be very difficult because of our life schedules, the unpredictability of the weather and our friendly neighbors with a love for fireworks. In addition, it is hard to mimic the scenario leading up to and during a thunderstorm (barometric pressure changes, wind, rain, static electricity, lightening etc.) In an effort to aid pet owners with desensitization there are audio CDs of Thunderstorms, Fireworks and City noises produced by Through a Dog’s Ear and Victoria Stillwell.
For more information on how to attempt desensitization successfully check out this wonderful blog post from Elieen and Dogs.
Because desensitization is often so difficult to do well for noise phobic dogs we are often left with focusing on counterconditioning during the actual events to attempt to create a conditioned emotional response which is more pleasant than the fear induced by the stimuli. For more information on how to attempt counterconditioning with noise phobic dogs check out another post from Elieen and Dogs.
It is incredibly important to note that fear is a deep rooted base emotional response. You cannot reinforce fear by comforting your dog. Be calm and relaxed in doing so but don’t hesitate to provide as much comfort as your pet needs.
Why Not Use Acepromazine?
Over the last 10-15 years the veterinary world has progressed significantly in their knowledge of behavioral issues and the medications available to treat them. For a long time the only medication we used for situational anxiety such as noise phobias and car travel was a drug called Acepromazine. Acepromazine is a dissociative anesthetic which can cause profound sedation, altered perceptions and increased noise sensitivity but does nothing to alleviate the fear your pet perceives during phobic events. In fact, continued exposure to the fearful stimuli while under the influence of this pharmaceutical straitjacket often results in increasing the fear our pets experience rather than decreasing it. This increase in fear is often masked by the sedative effects of the drug itself but the internal physiological stress response of the “fight or flight” drive can in excessive cases result in a cardiovascular emergency and at best only serves to strengthen the fear your pet experiences during phobic events.
To learn more about Acepromazine and why it is not an appropriate choice for fearful dogs check out veterinary behaviorist Dr. Karen Overall MA, VMD, PhD, DACVB, CAAB article and her video lecture on Acepromazine here.
What Drugs Work Better?
1. Benzodiazepines (Alprazolam, Clonazapam, Diazapam): This class of drug decreases anxiety and is safe to use in dogs with seizures. They have a relatively short duration of action (4-6 hours) and lack the profound sedative effects of Acepromazine as discussed above.
2. Trazodone: Trazodone is an atypical antidepressant that can be used as a single agent anti-anxiety for events or in combination with other anti-anxiety medications like benzodiazepines.
3. Clonidine: Clonidine is an alpha-2 agonist. This drug class functions by decreasing norepinephrine release which occurs during stressful events.
4. Sileo: Sileo is a new oromucosal gel that is formulated to help diminish noise phobias without sedation. It has a quick onset of action and could be used for emergency pop-up storm scenarios as well.
For dogs with severe noise phobia it may take a combination of situational anti-anxiety drugs or the addition of a daily anti-anxiety medication, such as fluoxetine (Prozac) during thunderstorm season to gain the best results.
Be sure to ask your veterinarian for help deciding the best nutraceutical and pharmacological approach to managing your dog’s fear!
The warm season is upon us here in Kentucky and so too are additional risks for our pets. We all love to get out more and enjoy the sunny weather when the spring rain clouds finally break, but we need to remember to pay special attention to our 4 legged family members during these months to ensure we keep them healthy and safe. The doctors and staff here at East Shelbyville Animal Clinic recommend the following guidelines and safety tips to ensure that you are successful in identifying signs of heat stress and are able to prevent life-threatening emergency situations such as heatstroke.
4. Be aware of how your pet’s structure and age can contribute to the risk for heatstroke.
5. When you do decide to spend time outside on warm days be sure your pet has access to plenty of fresh cool water and shade. If your dog or cat has areas of skin that are poorly coated or pale you may also want to apply pet friendly sunblock to reduce the risk for sun exposure associated skin cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma and hemangiomas.
6. If you have any concerns that the weather may be too warm for your pet, stay indoors.
ESAC is thrilled to announce two exciting new upgrades to our clinic! We are now proud to offer computerized radiography, an innovative new technology that offers the benefit of improved accuracy, as well as the ability to share x-rays almost instantaneously with specialists and owners alike.
We have also implemented some shiny new in-house laboratory equipment which produces results significantly faster - an invaluable benefit for when our furry babies are feeling sick!
We are so excited to be able to utilize these awesome new upgrades to aid our patients and their pet parents in whatever way possible!