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DIABETES in Dogs & Cats

Guide to

SENIOR PETS FINDING A HOME with PetSmart Charities Canada PLUS: Are Pets a Good Holiday Present? • Coping with Cancer


Contents NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2012

EXPLORING THE HUMAN-ANIMAL BOND SINCE 1983

• VOL. 29 NO.6

FEATURES

DEPARTMENTS

10

4

Publisher’s Message

6

Making Tracks

THE BASICS OF DIABETES MELLITUS IN DOGS AND CATS To understand how this disease is diagnosed and treated, it is important to understand the body’s normal function and how diabetes affects it, the different types of diabetes and what predisposes our pets to developing this condition.

26 PETS Marketplace 28 The Healthy Bond 29 Pet Projects 30 Paws for Reflection

Guide to SENIOR PETS

Page 12

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22

Senior dogs can be the perfect pet for many people, but they are often overlooked because we assume they have nothing to offer us but medical bills. This is far from the truth! Here’s what to expect from life with a senior dog.

When people think of aging pets, loss of vision and hearing often come to mind. Although other signs of aging can and do occur, vision and hearing loss are probably the most easily identifiable and commonly expected by pet parents.

Can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

16

Cats in their “golden years”

The average lifespan for indoor cats is almost 17 years. This means for about half of their life span, they are senior citizens. Preventive healthcare and an annual visit to the veterinarian are essential. Here are some common health conditions to look for in your aging cat.

17

Managing kitty’s chronic kidney disease

Chronic kidney disease affects about one to three per cent of all geriatric cats— placing it among the top five diagnoses for an older cat that presents for weight loss with increased drinking and urination. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be a death sentence.

20

Glaucoma: Seeing human diseases affect our pets

Coping with sight and hearing loss

23

Canine cognitive dysfunction

“Doggie dementia” is a disorder similar to dementia in people, and includes certain medications, environmental changes, and changes in diet.

24

Pets on wheels Some injures can lead to paralysis and drive our pets to a dead-end. Fortunately, there are now options for pets that can make their lives go on wheels again. Literally.

25

Pet rehab for osteoarthritis Check out five common rehabilitation practices used by certified veterinary rehabilitation practitioners in dogs and cats suffering from this common disease.

Identifying and managing a common disorder in both people and pets.

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2012

PETS

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PUBLISHER’S MESSAGE

PETS M A G A Z I N E WWW.PETSMAGAZINE.CA NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2012 VOL.29, NO.6

SIMMONS PUBLISHING LTD.

Our words are our bond y Bailey is living proof that, even in their senior years, our companions can live long happy lives that greatly enhance our own, regardless of any limitations they may have. I have written about my constant companion many times over the years, and as a regular reader you will recall he is blind, deaf and arthritic. He will be 14 in March of 2013. I believe this will be quite a milestone. Like you and your furry family member, Bailey and I have a very special bond. If you have a pet who you feel may be is suffering as a result of similar limitations, take heart in knowing that Bailey is doing very well and your pet may as well. On Page 22 you’ll find an article addressing the issue of impaired sight and sound issue of aging pets. I think it is an article you will enjoy if your pet’s hearing or sight might be limited. PETS Magazine has been “Exploring the Human-Animal Bond” for nearly 30 years, and we are proud of our rich history and our relationship with the animal health care community. We strive to provide information that is in keeping with sound veterinary practices. The information in PETS Magazine is intended to inform, but not to replace or interfere with the advice of your pet’s health care provider. In all cases, your veterinary team is the first place to seek advice for the care of your pet. PETS Magazine has covered the entire life cycle of our companions over the six issues we published this year. We kicked off the year with Puppies and Kittens, we discussed both cats and dogs at all stages of their life cycles, and we are ending the year with this wonderful look at the care and nurturing of our special seniors. Whether you are a cat person or dog person, there is something in every issue to help, inform, inspire or entertain you. Please continue to provide your feedback. We are encouraged by your comments, and we often provide stories based on the interest expressed by you. Chances are you picked PETS Magazine up at your veterinary clinic. If so, please let your pet’s health care team know what you think of the magazine and that you appreciate them sharing the magazine with you. As always, I hope you enjoy this issue of PETS Magazine. On behalf of the PETS’ team, happy holidays and a very happy new year!

M

John Simmons Publisher PETS Magazine john.simmons@petsmagazine.ca

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Publisher

John Simmons john.simmons@petsmagazine.ca

Managing Editor

Brad Hussey brad.hussey@petsmagazine.ca

Designer

Billing/Administration Circulation

Mark Tzerelshtein markintoshdesign.com Linda Simmons linda.simmons@petsmagazine.ca

EDITORIAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE Dr. Mike Bondar, Westside Animal Hospital, Toronto, ON Kristina Cooper, RVT, Cooper Kennels, Ancaster, ON Dr. Dieter Kohlmaier, Westoak Animal Hospital, Oakville, ON Dr. Darren Low, Kennedy Animal Hospital, Sydney, NS Kerry Vinson, Animal Behavior Professional, Roseneath, ON Dr. Christina McRae, King Street Cat Hospital, Whitby, ON Dr. Cliff Redford, Wellington Vet Clinic, Markham, ON PETS Magazine is published six times a year by Simmons Publishing Ltd. ISSN: 0831-2621 To subscribe to PETS, contact Linda Simmons Toll Free: 877-738-7624 or visit us on the Web at:

www.petsmagazine.ca Subscription Rates: Canadian 1 year: $23.00 (plus applicable taxes) 1 year U.S.: $30.00 (U.S.); Single Copy: $4.95 GST#857545362

Publications Mail Agreement #41305514

Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to: Simmons Publishing Ltd. 32 Foster Crescent Whitby, Ontario L1R 1W1 (905) 665-9669: Fax (905) 665-9249 E-mail: circulation@petsmagazine.ca

Contents of PETS Magazine are copyrighted and may not be reproduced without the written consent of Simmons Publishing Ltd. The publisher shall not be liable for any of the views expressed by the authors of articles or letters published in PETS Magazine, nor shall these opinions necessarily reflect those of the publisher. Printed in Canada.


T R A C K S

Cuddle’n Carry Shirt cuddles and carries

Tips on how to care for your aging pet By Dr. Amy Dicke P&G Pet Care Veterinarian

«

M A K I N G

«

Be conscious of weight—As your pet ages it is important to be mindful of their changing nutritional needs. As mature adults (or young seniors) our pets are often overweight from inactivity and a reduction in metabolism. A diet reduced in fat and calories, as compared to regular adult maintenance food, and with added L-carnitine may be beneficial in helping these pets reach a desirable weight. As dogs and cats reach more advanced senior years underweight, rather than overweight conditions can become more common. This is especially true for those pets greater than 11 years old and for large breed dogs 9 years and older.

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Maintain their bone and joint health—During your pet’s aging process, cartilage between joints often deteriorates. It is important to ensure your pet is receiving optimal levels of vitamins, minerals and other nutrientsthat will supply the building blocks of cartilage and bone and nutritionally promote their healthy function.

‘Money tips for caring pet owners’ helps stretch the vetcare dollar while ensuring a pet’s continued good health

«

Unlike other pet carriers, the Cuddle`n Carry Shirt, with its cozy, built-in, front pouch provides a warm, comfortable, caring mode of transportation that strengthens the bond between you and your pet while doubling as a comfy sweatshirt.  The Cuddle’n Carry allows your pet to change position freely, pop their head out to view the world or pull their head back in for a snooze.  All small animals that love to hide and enjoy being held will love the Cuddle`n Carry Shirt—small breed dogs, cats, kittens, ferrets and more.  It is also a great tool for fostering litters of kittens and puppies.  Unlike a shoulder bag, pet carrier or carry sack, which puts uneven stress on one side of the body, the Cuddle`n Carry Shirt allows your pet’s weight to be evenly distributed throughout the garment.  Machine washable/dryable. Fits any pet under 10 lbs.  Comes in black, blue and camel. www.cinderooz.com

Monitor their muscle mass—As like humans, protein is the building block of muscle so it is important for maintaining muscle tissues, muscle strength and mobility. In order to preserve strong muscles for your healthy aging furry friend, it is essential to maintain the protein level in their diet. By doing so, you are feeding your pet a diet with optimal protein levels for muscle maintenance and this will in turn help them stay physically active longer—and promote a healthy, happy lifestyle.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has assembled expert advice and simple steps that will help pet owners save money while still protecting their pet’s health. The recommendations make up the AVMA’s “Money tips for caring pet owners,” which is available for free on the association’s website (www.avma.org). The tips cover everything from choosing a veterinarian to the importance of regular veterinary exams and vaccinations, and how to be smart about buying and administering pet medications. Special attention is also paid to pet nutrition. “Cutting costs is part of our daily lives in today’s economy. Everyone is trying to save money, including pet owners. But a penny saved can turn out to be pound foolish when it comes to pet health,” says AVMA President Dr. Doug Aspros. “Cutting corners isn’t good for your pet’s health. It might save you a few dollars in the short run, but it could cost you and your pet much more in the long term.” One of the biggest things pet owners can do to save money is to make regular veterinary visits part of their family routine. “Providing pets with regular preventive care is the key to a healthy and long life for your pet, and it can save you hundreds—or even thousands—of dollars by identifying problems earlier, when they may be easier to treat and less expensive to solve,” said Dr. Aspros.

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M A K I N G

Is Your Ad in MarketPlace? Call John Simmons

1-905-666-0258 Cats get smarter treats

«

New treat toy for busy buddies

Thousands of dogs are sick or dying across North America and it’s been going on for years, according to CBC’s awardwinning Marketplace. No one can say what, exactly, made the dogs sick, but owners say their dogs got sick after they were fed a popular chicken jerky treat. Marketplace’s Tom Harrington looked into the unregulated business of pet food—a business worth $50 billion a year—and uncovered some disturbing details that Canadian pet owners need to know. The segment “Fighting for Fido” aired September 28th, and can be viewed at www.cbc.ca/player.

«

Animal Aid USA and Take Action announced today the formation of a strategic partnership to lobby against the use of gas chambers to euthanize shelter animals across the U.S. The partnership combines forces from both organizations to provide considerable leverage in the growing effort to outlaw the use of gas chambers in at least 38 hold-out states. Led by Animal Aid USA co-founders Prince Lorenzo Borghese and Karen Talbot, and Take Action co-founder Chrissi Roberts, the newly formed coalition also asked for supporters in gas chamber states to start building awareness by educating others in their communities about the cruelty of gas chamber euthanasia. Borghese, Talbot and Roberts encouraged animal advocates to raise their voices, attend community meetings, coordinate outreach efforts and contact their local and state lawmakers to ban the practice in their communities. Roberts says that her Take Action organization has been working tirelessly to rally the anti-gas chamber movement, making the alliance with Animal Aid USA a natural one for both organizations. “Take Action is thrilled to partner with Animal Aid USA,” Roberts says. “We see this as an important step in our efforts to galvanize the entire anti-gas chamber movement and have our two organizations’ supporters come together in a unified effort. “To date, Take Action has seen so many groups working on this issue independently, and while we applaud their efforts, we hope this is the first of many alliances that will bring focus to our energies in a more integrated way.” Borghese echoed Roberts’s sentiments, calling theirs an ideal alliance for strengthening the cause and reinforcing the need for awareness-building, education and coordinated efforts to end the practice of gas chamber euthanasia in every corner of the U.S. “It’s a fact that most Americans aren’t aware that pets are being killed in gas chambers daily,” Borghese says. “When they are made aware, they are shocked and want it to stop. “Our job is to raise awareness to this cruel method of slaughter because with awareness comes power. Combining Animal Aid USA and Take Action creates the perfect team to spread such awareness and put an end to the gas chamber once and for all.” www.animalaidusa.org, www.takeaction-bananimalgaschambers.com

Suspicious dog treats: CBC’s Marketplace investigates a deadly mystery

«

«

Taking action against gas chamber euthanasia

T R A C K S

PetSafe has introduced the new Busy Buddy Biscuit Basket treat holding toy and companion Busy Sticks treats. The Busy Buddy line of dog toys and treats is designed for longer-lasting playtime. Each Busy Buddy toy is created with a unique experience in mind, to help redirect potentially destructive behaviour into positive playtime. To use, simply load a Busy Stick treat into the Biscuit Basket and let the fun begin! If you’d like treats to come out faster, the Treat Meter prongs can be trimmed to make it easier for your dog to be rewarded. Each Biscuit Basket toy includes three Busy Sticks treats. Busy Sticks treat refills are also sold separately in eight-piece packs. For more information about PetSafe and Busy Buddy, visit www.petsafe.net or find them on Facebook www.Facebook.com/PetSafeBrand.

Feline Greenies Smartbites Treats feature a dual-textured crunchy outside and creamy inside that cats find irresistible. The health-specific formulas are offered in naturally flavoured salmon, chicken and tuna; they are less than two calories per piece and are nutritionally complete and balanced. They feature a variety of naturally derived ingredients that have been researched and developed to deliver a specific benefit. www.greenies.com.

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T R A C K S

«

Collars, not cruelty, in the fight against rabies

Onset of flu season raises concerns about human-to-pet transmission

Just over one year since the launch of the Collars Not Cruelty campaign and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) is proving that compassion and vaccination works—to protect dogs, safeguard communities and stop rabies. Around the world, people and dogs live together. In some communities, however, that bond is being tested. Every year more than 55,000 people die from rabies—a 100% preventable disease. Twenty million dogs are also brutally killed every year and fear of rabies is often used as the excuse. That’s 38 dogs killed every minute. People think it will stop rabies. It doesn’t. “When confronted with the problem of this fast-spreading disease, governments sometimes turn to what they believe is the only way to wipe out rabies: wipe out the dog population,” said Ray Mitchell, International Director of Campaigns, WSPA. Through the Collars Not Cruelty campaign, WSPA works with local partners and authorities to stop the killing of dogs and instead set up vaccination clinics. The dogs are vaccinated against rabies and given a bright red collar so the community knows these dogs are safe; preventing them from being killed and protecting everyone from rabies. With the help of supporters and policymakers, WSPA is creating a world where collars, not cruelty, are winning the fight against rabies and where dogs and humans can live side-by-side once again. — www.wspa.ca

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M A K I N G

As flu season approaches, people who get sick may not realize they can pass the flu not only to other humans, but possibly to other animals, including pets such as cats, dogs and ferrets. This concept, called “reverse zoonosis,” is still poorly understood but has raised concern among some scientists and veterinarians, who want to raise awareness and prevent further flu transmission to pets. It’s well known that new strains of influenza can evolve from animal populations such as pigs and birds and ultimately move into human populations, including the most recent influenza pandemic strain, H1N1. It’s less appreciated, experts say, that humans appear to have passed the H1N1 flu to cats and other animals, some of which have died of respiratory illness. There are only a handful of known cases of this phenomenon and the public health implications of reverse zoonosis of flu remain to be determined. But as a concern for veterinarians, it has raised troubling questions and so far, few answers. Veterinary researchers at Oregon State University and Iowa State University are working to find more cases of this type of disease transmission and better understand any risks they pose to people and pets. “We worry a lot about zoonoses, the transmission of diseases from animals to people,” said Christiane Loehr, an associate professor in the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine. “But most people don’t realize that humans can also pass diseases to animals, and this raises questions and concerns about mutations, new viral forms and evolving diseases that may potentially be zoonotic. And, of course, there is concern about the health of the animals.” The researchers are surveying flu transmission to household cat and dog populations, and suggest that people with influenza-like illness distance themselves from their pets. If a pet experiences respiratory disease or other illness following household exposure to someone with the influenza-like illness, the scientists encourage them to take the pet to a veterinarian for testing and treatment. The first recorded, probable case of fatal human-to-cat transmission of the pandemic H1N1 flu virus occurred in Oregon in 2009, Loehr said. In that instance, a pet owner became severely ill with the flu and had to be hospitalized. While she was still in the hospital, her cat—an indoor cat with no exposure to other sick people, homes or wildlife—also died of pneumonia caused by an H1N1 infection. Since then, researchers have identified a total of 13 cats and one dog with pandemic H1N1 infection in 2011 and 2012 that appeared to have come from humans. Pet ferrets have also been shown to be infected, and some died. All of the animals’ symptoms were similar to that of humans - they rapidly develop severe respiratory disease, stop eating and some die. Serological studies suggest there is far more exposure to flu virus in cats and dogs than previously known. “It’s reasonable to assume there are many more cases of this than we know about, and we want to learn more,” Loehr said. “Any time you have infection of a virus into a new species, it’s a concern, a black box of uncertainty. We don’t know for sure what the implications might be, but we do think this deserves more attention.” Natural and experimental transmission of the H3N2 influenza virus from dogs to cats in South Korea showed the potential for flu viruses to be transmitted among various animal species, Loehr said. It’s unknown if an infected cat or other pet could pass influenza back to humans. The primary concern in “reverse zoonosis,” as in evolving flu viruses in more traditional hosts such as birds and swine, is that in any new movement of a virus from one species to another, the virus might mutate into a more virulent, harmful or easily transmissible form. “All viruses can mutate, but the influenza virus raises special concern because it can change whole segments of its viral sequence fairly easily,” Loehr said. “In terms of hosts and mutations, who’s to say that the cat couldn’t be the new pig? We’d just like to know more about this.” — OSU College of Veterinary Medicine

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THE BASICS OF

DIABETES MELLITUS

IN DOGS AND CATS By Christina Miller, CAHT, RLAT, BSc

J

PHYSIOLOGY OF DM The body’s cells use glucose (a sugar) for energy. The bloodstream carries glucose to all cells from the digestive system, but cells cannot use glucose without insulin present. Insulin is a hormone, produced by specialized cells in the pancreas (beta cells). DM is basically a deficiency of insulin. The insulin deficiency can be absolute (the body does not produce enough insulin), or relative (the body does not produce enough insulin, insulin secretion is delayed, or the cells that use insulin are not responding appropriately to the hormone’s signal). In an animal with DM, cells throughout the body are deprived of energy because the absence of insulin’s effect prevents them from using glucose that is in the animal’s bloodstream. The

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body is tricked into thinking that it is starving, as even though there is enough glucose to provide energy, it is not usable. To provide energy and prevent its cells from starving to death, the body will start to break down its protein, carbohydrate and fat reserves as alternate sources of energy (causing the animal to lose weight from both its fat stores and its muscles, clinically referred to as cachexia). When these emergency energy stores are broken down, they produce by-products called

ketones that are not typically found at very high levels in the blood; high blood ketones can eventually lead to life-threatening complications. The result of these interactions is a large amount of leftover glucose in the bloodstream (referred to as hyperglycemia). In a healthy animal, glucose is not found in the urine because the kidneys are able to “filter” and reclaim it, sending it back to the bloodstream to be used. In a hyperglycemic animal, the kidneys are overwhelmed and

WWW.PETSMAGAZINE.CA

Photo: Depositphotos.com

ust as in humans, diabetes mellitus (DM) can occur in our canine and feline companions. It is a treatable disease, but requires time and dedication from both the pet owner and the veterinary team. To understand how this disease is diagnosed and treated, it is important to understand the body’s normal function and how diabetes affects it, the different types of diabetes and what predisposes our pets to developing this condition.


excess glucose ends up in the urine. Glucose will draw more water into the urine before it leaves the kidney tubules by osmosis1, so the animal produces a large amount of urine (polyuria, meaning large volumes of urine that is often accompanied by the frequent need to urinate). Losing this water could cause the animal to become dehydrated, so untreated diabetic animals tend to drink very large amounts of water (this behaviour is called polydipsia). Thus, the main clinical signs of DM are: • Polyphagia (excessive eating or hunger), because the body thinks that it is starving. • Polyuria (excessive production of urine), because more urine is being produced since glucose draws more water into the kidney tubules. • Polydipsia (excessive thirst or drinking), because the body is losing water to the glucose-rich urine. • Cachexia (weight loss), because the body starts to break down its fat, carbohydrate and protein stores to combat “starvation.” It is important to note that this set of clinical signs is not unique to DM, but they are nearly always present in a diabetic animal. TYPES OF DM As described above, there are several ways that the body may have an insulin dysfunction. There are several types of diabetes mellitus: Type 1 is an insulin-dependent DM. Here, the body produces very little to no insulin due to an irreversible loss or destruction of cells in the pancreas that make insulin, resulting in an absolute deficiency of insulin. This condition is eventually fatal without insulin treatment. This condition is the most common for diabetic dogs, but can also occur in cats. Type 2 is a non-insulin-dependent DM. This is a relative insulin deficiency,

where the body’s insulin secretion is delayed or impaired, or there is insulin resistance in the cells that need the hormone to use glucose. Type 2 DM is the most common form seen in cats. Type 3 is secondary to another disease or condition. Treating the primary problem may resolve the disease in early stages, although if left untreated, the patient may develop type I DM. Note that this category is quite broad in definition and there are many potential causes. Gestational diabetes is a specific subgroup of type 3 DM that can occur in fertile bitches. Bitches that are pregnant or in diestrus (the “final” stage of the estrous cycle) experience elevated levels of the female reproductive hormone progesterone, which can cause insulin resistance. Progesterone also stimulates the mammary glands to produce growth hormone, which is an insulin antagonist that may cause a greater resistance to insulin. Note that this form of diabetes is very rare in cats, as progesterone does not stimulate growth hormone production in this species. WHAT CAUSES DM? There are a variety of conditions that may cause or predispose an animal to develop DM: Genetic susceptibility, immunological disorders, pancreatitis, predisposing diseases and use of certain drugs. It is very possible that genetics can play a role in the development of diabetes, as there are known breed predilections in dogs (Keeshond, Puli, Miniature Pinscher, Cairn Terrier, Samoyed, Tibetan Terrier, Yorkshire Terrier). There are no breed predilections in cats. In dogs, the disease in generally considered to be autoimmune (immunemediated processes cause destruction of cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, resulting in type 1 DM). Pancreatitis (chronic or acute) is thought to be a common cause of DM

in cats and dogs, although it is not completely understood whether pancreatitis is always the precursor to DM, or vice versa. Pancreatitis may be the most common cause of DM in cats. Pancreatic amyloidosis, an abnormal deposition of proteins in the pancreas, has been implicated as a potential cause of type 2 DM (however, its causes are not well understood). Type 2 DM is the most common form presented in cats. This type of diabetes, depending on the cause and how early treatment is initiated, may be reversible. Obesity is a significant risk factor for the development of type 2 DM, as insulin resistance can occur in obese animals. This is probably the most preventable cause of diabetes in our pet dogs and cats, as obesity is avoided with proper diet, food portions and exercise. HOW IS DM DIAGNOSED? Although your veterinarian may suspect DM based on your pet’s symptoms, blood work and urinalysis are required to confirm the diagnosis. Blood work is necessary to reveal hyperglycemia, and to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms. For example, kidney disease will also present with excessive thirst and urine production, and hyperthyroidism will present with a ravenous appetite and weight loss; both of these conditions may be found in an older feline patient, so blood work is important to determine the exact problem so that it may be treated appropriately. An analysis of your pet’s urine will confirm glucosuria, and also help rule out other conditions that may have similar clinical signs. NEXT ISSUE: Treating and managing diabetes in pets. Christina Miller is a senior veterinary technician at The Animal Health Clinic in Montreal, QC.

1

Osmosis: The process by which solvent (liquid) molecules will pass through a selectively permeable membrane into a region of higher solute (dissolved molecule) concentration, in order to equalize the concentration in both regions. Basically, in two compartments where one has a higher concentration of a dissolved substance, the liquid part of the solution moves through the membrane to make both concentrations equal.

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SENIOR PETS Photo: Depositphotos.com

Guide to


Guide to SENIOR PETS

CAN’T TEACH AN OLD DOG NEW TRICKS? By Kristin Crestejo

W

Photo: Depositphotos.com

hat do you think of when I describe a dog that has lower energy, won’t need hours of time put into him or her every day and gives you more love then you could imagine? A senior! Senior dogs can be the perfect pet for many people, but they are often overlooked because we assume they have nothing to offer us but medical bills. This is far from the truth, and really not very fair to the dogs. Yes, some older dogs come with certain medical conditions that require medication or physical therapy, but many younger dogs—and even puppies—can require medication, as well. We tend to overlook an older dog perhaps because they aren’t jumping everywhere trying to get our attention, or because we are biased against them. Senior dogs enjoy fresh air, but they prefer a quick outing to mark their territory, sniff some scents and go back in to spend quality time with you and the family—then, quietly lying at your feet, just enjoying life. These dogs have lived the energetic part of their life and are now comfortably sitting back and soaking in life in around them. They still have that loving energy everyone loves in a dog—when you come home from work the bum still wiggles from side to side, and a big smile awaits you while they lean against your legs for a better angle for that back scratch. Talk to your local shelters about adopting a senior pet. If you think they are right for you, there are a few things to consider.

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Guide to SENIOR PETS

OLDER DOGS ARE IN MANY WAYS EASIER TO TRAIN. THE MAIN REASON IS THAT THEY HAVE AN ATTENTION SPAN THAT LASTS LONGER THAN A COUPLE MINUTES AND ARE USUALLY MORE PRAISE-DRIVEN THAN PUPPIES.


Guide to SENIOR PETS WHAT TO EXPECT WITH A SENIOR DOG: Decreased energy levels—They may have been able to run miles in their early years but with many seniors this energy level diminishes. Joint problems—This is extremely common for most, if not all older dogs and the age can range from five years to 10 years before you start to see a limp or slower pace in their step. Arthritis and hip dysplasia (in large breeds) are the two most common ailments you’ll find in older pets. Obesity—The dog’s metabolism is much slower than before and his activity levels decrease as well, whether it’s due to lack of interest, fatigue or even a medical condition. Remember to feed your dog a senior diet (after the age of eight) and decrease the amount that suits your dog’s lifestyle. Behaviour change—Some dogs can become less tolerant with normal activities, which can be linked to medical problems, such as pain or fatigue. Some dogs can become more tolerant and easy going as they age—it really depends on the individual personality of the dog. CAN YOU TEACH AN OLD DOG NEW TRICKS? Of course you can! Whoever suggested oth-

erwise obviously didn’t know how to train a dog. Older dogs are in many ways easier to train. The main reason is that they have an attention span that lasts longer than a couple minutes and are usually more praise-driven than puppies. Puppies haven’t experienced the world and they are so eager and ambitious that they don’t remember they have owners, while an older dog has spent its years checking out the world and has little interest in much else beyond his or her family. IF YOU’RE BRINGING A SENIOR INTO YOUR LIFE, START OFF ON THE RIGHT PAW! Take time off work for one week to help the dog adjust to their new environment. It’s very hard for a dog to have left his family (whether it was a move, illness or other issue that a family could no longer keep him). If someone is at home for the dog in the first week, it will help prevent accidents in the house (it’s a new home and they don’t automatically know where to do their business) while preventing separation anxiety. You can begin leaving the dog alone for very short periods of time, and once the dog is comfortable, you can start increasing your separation time.

IF YOU ALREADY HAVE A SENIOR DOG… Train him! Just because dogs are older does not mean they can’t learn anything new. Many dogs strive for training their entire life; they constantly want to be challenged, and it’s good for them. You just have to find the right reinforcement (value system) for the individual dog. He may not have ever seen a ball in his life, and couldn’t care less about fetching, but he may love a certain type of food that can motivate him to ditch the old habit and pick up a new—and better—behaviour. You may come across a behaviour that is hard to break in any dog, and it can be harder to stop in an older pet mainly because they’ve been practicing it for a longer period of time. This doesn’t mean you can’t fix it—it just means it will take a bit longer and a possibly a little more one-on-one time with you. Whether you’re planning on adopting an older dog or if you already have one in your household, make sure you are providing them with the best care possible. Just because they’re old, doesn’t mean they’re forgotten! Kristin Crestejo, ABCDT, is head trainer and behaviour consultant at Modern Canine Training in Langley, BC. www.moderncaninetraining.com

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Guide to SENIOR PETS

CATS IN THEIR

“GOLDEN YEARS” Source: The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association

Photo: Dreamstime.com

ARTHRITIS Our cool kitties are good at hiding pain, so even those with quite extensive bony changes in their joints on X-ray may not show obvious signs of discomfort or lameness. Subtle behaviour changes are the hallmark of diagnosis. These include less jumping up, or not jumping anymore, slower on stairs, sleeping more and in unusual places, reduced activity, withdrawal and irritability. Personality changes may be noted. Assessment and treatment for arthritis can provide early provision of comfort for the aging cat and dramatically improve the cat’s quality of life.

T

he average lifespan for indoor cats is almost 17 years. This means for about half of their life span, they are senior citizens. Because cats hide their health problems and show subtle signs of illness, preventive healthcare is key in their “golden years” and an annual visit to the veterinarian is essential. Below are some common health conditions in an aging cat.

CHRONIC KIDNEY PROBLEMS Most senior cats eventually develop poorly functioning kidneys. The end stage of this progressive degenerative process is kidney failure. Early signs of kidney problems can include decreased appetite, increased drinking, increased urine output, dilute-looking urine, weight loss and muscle wasting. Signs

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of this problem are often noticed quite late in the disease process. Routine blood tests, urine testing and blood pressure checks allow early recognition so medical management can be done to slow the progression of the disease. HYPERTHYROIDISM Signs of hyperthyroidism vary, but frequently weight loss and muscle wasting in spite of an excellent appetite are first noticed. Other signs may include vomiting and diarrhea, hair-coat and nail changes, heart problems, behavioural changes and hyperactivity. Wellness bloodwork should be carried out annually in order to diagnose this condition in the early stages of the disease. Hyperthyroidism is an easily treated condition using radioactive iodine, medication or dietary management.

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2012

SENILITY Abnormal senile—like behaviour in older cats—can sometimes be minimized using medication and other management tools. Recognition of the difference between normal aging changes, and abnormal behavioural issues in the senior years should be established with the help of your veterinary team. VACCINES Even older indoor cats should still receive vaccines to provide protection from infectious diseases, including rabies. Since bats will sometimes get into the house or cats, being cats, may escape outside, rabies vaccines are critical for all cats in order to protect both the cat and the public. In most municipalities it is mandatory to have your cat vaccinated for rabies. The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association is working with Care for Cats in their vision to increase the value of owned, homeless and feral cats in Canadian communities. Visit careforcats.ca for more information.

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Guide to

Bailey. Photo: Robin Thrasher

SENIOR PETS

MANAGING

KITTY’S CHRONIC KIDNEY DISEASE

By Robyn Thrasher

W

hen my cat Bailey was first diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD), she was only five years old. At the time, I didn’t know very much about the condition. I truly thought it was over for her and had prepared to say goodbye. Fortunately, my precious Bailey lived a long and happy life for another 13 years. It’s unknown what initially caused Bailey’s kidney damage, but with the appropriate man-

agement strategies recommended by my veterinarian, I was able to keep her relatively stable for all of those years. My experience with her and the education I’ve received as a student at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) have taught me that a diagnosis of CKD doesn’t always mean a death sentence. A fairly prevalent disease, CKD affects about 1% to 3% of all geriatric cats. “It’s among the top

five diagnoses—if not the most common diagnosis—for an older cat that presents for weight loss with increased drinking and urination,” says Dr. Elisabeth Snead, a WCVM small animal internal medicine specialist. About 66% of cats diagnosed with CKD succumb to the disease once they’re over 10 years of age. The Maine coon, Abyssinian, Siamese, Russian Blue and Burmese breeds seem to have a predisposition for the disease.

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Guide to SENIOR PETS

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NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2012

Itty Bitty. Photo courtesy of Wendy Donaldson.

KIDNEYS: THE ULTIMATE MULTI-TASKERS The kidneys are very important, multi-functional organs. Their top responsibility is to filter the blood and remove wastes through the production of urine. The kidneys also play a major role in regulating electrolyte concentrations, hydration, acid-base balance and blood pressure. They also produce several important hormones. Erythropoietin produced by the kidneys is responsible for stimulating red blood cell production by the bone marrow. As well, the kidneys aid in the production of active vitamin D, which is important for bone development and calcium and phosphorus balance in the body. With this list of numerous duties, it’s easy to see why damage to the kidneys can cause a whole host of problems. Kidney disease occurs as a result of any sort of injury to the tissue, whether that may be from physical trauma, an infection, toxin ingestion, inflammation or cancer. Acute kidney disease occurs rapidly over a short period of time and may be reversible, depending on the underlying cause. “With CKD, the decline in kidney function occurs over months to years from repeated insults to the kidney,” explains Snead. CKD isn’t reversible, but it’s possible to medically manage affected cats and slow the progression of the disease while maintaining a good quality of life. Signs of CKD are non-specific and include weight loss with a normal or poor appetite, vomiting, constipation, increased drinking and urination, lethargy and weakness. In advanced stages of the disease, cats may develop ulcers in the mouth, anemia or neurological problems such as seizures. Most of these symptoms are related to the build-up of toxins in the body as well as the reduced ability of the kidneys to maintain hydration. “Some cats can have CKD with little or no obvious signs,” adds Snead. “Since it can be a very silent disease in the early stages, it’s advisable to perform annual blood work for any cat over the age of 10 years. Catching it and treating it early can really help slow its progression.”

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Guide to SENIOR PETS MANAGING ITTY BITTY’S KIDNEY DISEASE Excessive drinking and urination were the first signs that Saskatoon pet owner Wendy Donaldson noticed when her cat, Itty Bitty, was diagnosed with kidney disease. “Itty Bitty always liked her water. She even played in it,” says Donaldson. “But she started drinking so much that I knew something must be wrong with her kidneys.” Itty Bitty, a female black domestic shorthair cat, was diagnosed with CKD by Snead in the spring of 2010. The initial injury to her kidneys was likely due to the ingestion of lilies— plants that are often toxic, especially to cats. The diagnosis of CKD is reached by obtaining a thorough history and performing a physical examination along with routine blood work and urinalysis. “A urinalysis is essential for diagnosis,” says Snead. “Urine is worth its weight in gold and should always be collected in patients that are having blood drawn for any reason as it plays a key role in allowing the kidney function to be assessed.” With Itty Bitty, an ultrasound exam was also done as part of the diagnostic process in order to rule out other causes of kidney disease, such as stones in the urinary tract or cancer of one or both of the kidneys. Devastated by Itty Bitty’s diagnosis, Donaldson was reassured by Snead that it’s possible to slow the progression of CKD with certain therapies. Itty Bitty received intravenous fluids over two days at the WCVM’s Veterinary Medical Centre. Along with medications to control her blood pressure, nausea and vomiting, Itty Bitty was sent home with fluids for her owner to inject daily under the skin. “It’s vitally important that animals with kidney disease are kept hydrated to avoid a uremic crisis,” says Snead. As urea (a nitrogenous substance created from the breakdown of protein) and other waste products normally excreted in urine begin to accumulate in the blood, the outward symptoms of kidney disease become apparent. This is referred to as uremia or a uremic crisis.

“AFTER ITTY BITTY WAS DIAGNOSED, WE DIDN’T THINK SHE WOULD LIVE OUT THE YEAR. BUT WITH DR. SNEAD’S TREATMENT PLAN, WE EXTENDED HER LIFE FOR TWO YEARS.” Another important step towards controlling her cat’s CKD involved Donaldson switching Itty Bitty’s food to a strict, lowerprotein diet. “The rationale is that reduced protein diets result in decreased urea and phosphorus concentrations in the blood, helping to reduce the severity of uremic signs,” explains Snead. She adds that kidney diets encompass a variety of modifications, including limited quantities of phosphorus and salt and enhanced levels of omega-3 fatty acids, fibre and vitamin D. However, not all cats will eat a commercial kidney diet. Sometimes owners need advice on making a suitable homemade diet, or they need advice on how to slowly lower their pet’s protein intake. Other considerations for treating and managing CKD include appetite stimulants, vitamin supplements, antacids to minimize ulcer formation and medications to decrease urea reabsorption. In some cases, blood transfusions and iron supplementation may be necessary to combat anemia. As well, placement of a feeding tube can be helpful for long-term caloric support for persistently anorexic patients who aren’t vomiting. According to Snead, one of the most important therapeutic interventions is phosphorus restriction, which can be accomplished through feeding a reduced protein diet or the administration of enteric phosphate binders— medications that bind phosphate, decreasing its absorption in the intestinal tract. “The goal of supportive and symptomatic therapy is to make the patient feel better and improve their quality of life,” stresses Snead.

MONITORING KEY TO MANAGING CKD The treatment plan for patients with CKD is highly dependent on the stage of kidney disease. Over time, treatments often need to be changed so it’s important to monitor the patient’s disease status through repeat bloodwork, urinalysis and examination. “We visited Dr. Snead every one to two months initially,” says Donaldson. “Once we had Itty Bitty’s treatment figured out, we returned for a recheck every six months.” After eight months of at-home fluid therapy, repeat laboratory tests revealed that Itty Bitty’s CKD was well controlled. “After Itty Bitty was diagnosed, we didn’t think she would live out the year. But with Dr. Snead’s treatment plan, we extended her life for two years,” says Donaldson, who lost 20year-old Itty Bitty in March 2012. “Dr. Snead and the WCVM were wonderful to us,” she adds. “They really helped us with the treatments and any questions. For that, I’m grateful.” While there’s no way to entirely prevent CKD, Snead does offer some suggestions to help reduce the chances of developing the disease. “Maintaining good hydration is key,” she says. “Once your cat is over 10 years of age, increase his or her water intake by adding water to a kibble diet or offering canned food. This will help promote blood flow to the kidneys and preserve kidney function.” Snead also advises keeping cats indoors to help minimize exposure to toxins or trauma. Although CKD often carries a grim prognosis, Donaldson knows firsthand that steps can be taken to decrease the rate of its progression. “It isn’t always a death sentence,” she says. “It’s important to talk to your veterinarian about all your options and don’t give up.” Robyn Thrasher of Edmonton, AB, is a thirdyear veterinary student at the WCVM. Robyn was a WCVM research communications intern as well as a summer student in the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre during the summer of 2012. Reprinted with permission of Vet Topics, news publication for the Western College of Veterinary Medicine’s Companion Animal Health Fund (www.cahf.usask.ca).

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Guide to

Photos: Dreamstime.com

SENIOR PETS

GLAUCOMA:

SEEING HUMAN DISEASES AFFECT OUR PETS By Brookelyn Nitzkin

G

laucoma is a common disease that affects the eyes of generally older individuals. This is caused by a rise in the pressures from within the eye, causing pain, visual deficits and damage. Dr. Ralph Hamor, veterinary ophthalmologist at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana, Ill., reminds us

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that, “When a person is afflicted with this disease, they often visit the doctor’s office with subtle eye deficits. By the time we notice it in our pets, the eye is usually fairly severely damaged.” Dogs are the most common animals afflicted with this disease. Although rare, cats and horses are also subject to glaucoma. Sev-


Guide to SENIOR PETS eral dog breeds are predisposed to some of the problems associated with glaucoma. Cocker spaniels, terrier breeds, poodles, shar-peis, chow-chows and basset hounds are some of the breeds that are most prone, although glaucoma can affect any breed. Although it may affect pets at any age, it is usually diagnosed in middle-aged dogs, approximately four to six years old. Dr. Hamor notes that, “The eye can only respond in a few ways to disease. It gets red, cloudy and painful.” And this disease is no exception to that rule. Intraocular pressures are the pressures that occur within the eye itself. This pressure is kept pretty constant as fluid is created and circulated into the eye. A drainage system drains equal amounts from the eye, leaving the organ at a steady pressure. If the fluid from within the eye can’t escape, as is the case in primary glaucoma, pressures will rise and cause glaucoma. The cause for primary glaucoma is that the drainage system is formed incorrectly or blocked for some reason. Secondary glaucoma occurs when an animal has a normal drainage system, but that drain is blocked. Secondary glaucoma can be due to a number of reasons, among which are chronic inflammation of the eye, a tumour, chronic inflammation or a systemic disease such as a fungus. An important hallmark of glaucoma is that intraocular pressures will start to increase in the eye long before we notice any clinical signs. This is important because, if your pet is around five or six years old, it may be a good idea to have your pet’s eye pressures checked during its yearly physical exam. Treatments for this disease include a myriad of medical and surgical treatments. Secondary

glaucoma is due to some other disease process, which, when cleared up, may solve the glaucoma problem. For primary glaucoma, there are many anti-glaucoma drugs on the market. These drugs are generally good and will extend the vision of your pet. In fact, the medical drugs are the same as those used on humans. Unfortunately, this makes them very expensive and most pets end up requiring surgery anyway. Dr. Hamor explains, “The objective of surgery is to find a way to turn off the faucet because the drain is simply not working.” Trans-scleral lasers or internal lasers can be used to kill fluid-producing cells, which reduces the amount of fluid produced. There are also a number of shunting procedures, which enable fluid to be diverted from the eye through a valve system to the sinuses or behind the eye. “One eye will go first and, through no fault

of the owner or veterinarian, that eye will most likely be in bad shape. The other eye is likely to follow, and if you want to extend the vision span for any real length of time, you will need surgery,” says Dr. Hamor. If your pet is blind as a result of glaucoma or any other eye disease, and it is still in pain from that disease, removal of the eye is a very humane and simple surgery to restore a pain-free life to your pet. Glaucoma is a relatively common disease for pets and humans alike. Fortunately, there are a number of treatments that can be considered for your pet. For more information about glaucoma or treatment options for a pet suffering from this disease, consult your veterinarian. —  University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine: vetmed.illinois.edu/petcolumns

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Guide to SENIOR PETS

COPING WITH

SIGHT AND HEARING LOSS By Kristina Cooper, RVT

W

hen people think of aging pets, loss of vision and hearing often come to mind. Although other signs of aging can and do occur, vision and hearing loss are probably the most easily identifiable and commonly expected by pet parents as their pets age.

SIGNS OF VISION LOSS If your pet is starting to suffer some vision loss, you may notice signs like: • Tripping or stumbling • Bumping into furniture or walls • Lack of eye contact with you, especially when being called (sometimes looking in the opposite direction or like they are trying to find where you are) • A white opaque look to the eye • Pupils that seem abnormally dilated or constricted • Reluctance to go outside • Uneasy in new environments • Not being able to catch a toy they once would have when playing fetch • Vocalizing as if they are lost SIGNS OF HEARING LOSS If your pet is suffering hearing loss, you may notice signs like: • Not coming when called or not following other verbal commands • Not responding to the sounds like they used to (door bell, food going into their bowl etc.) • Being difficult to wake up • Being startled when sleeping and then touched • Excessive vocalization WHAT TO DO IF YOU SUSPECT YOUR PET HAS SIGHT OR HEARING LOSS The first thing to do, if you suspect sight or hearing loss, is to book an examination with your veterinarian. They will assess your pet to determine whether or not the loss of senses is due to the normal aging process, or if there is an underlying medical condition causing the trouble.

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Once your pet is cleared of any existing medical issues, you will want to consider how you can make life easier to manage in their environment. Pets rely a lot on these two senses, but as they diminish with age there are some things you can do as a pet parent to help your pet cope in their environment with these deficits. Here are some ideas: KEEP THINGS IN THEIR PLACE Pets can be creatures of habit. A pet that has suffered sight loss can adjust quite well to their environment by remembering the placement of things in the home (furniture, doorways, their bed, food/water dishes, etc.) and they get used to things being a certain way. Keeping things in their right place will make this easier for your pet. Moving things around on a regular basis will be confusing to a pet that has lost its sight. MAKE SURE FOOD/WATER IS EASILY ACCESSIBLE For a pet that has lost sight, food/water needs to be easily accessible. The location should be easy to get to without having to fight obstacles. CONSIDER BLOCKING OFF STAIRWAYS Pets that have sight loss will have a harder time navigating stairs on their own and may need assistance to prevent tripping and falling, which could lead to other injury. To prevent this consider using something to block stairways, like a baby gate. PROVIDE CLEAR ROUTES OF PASSAGE To make it easier on your pet to move around your home be sure to provide clear routes of passage. Consider toys, shoes and other items that may be lying around and could cause your pet to trip. CONSIDER TEACHING YOUR PET HAND SIGNALS For pets that have lost their ability to hear you may want to replace your verbal commands with hand signals. A local animal trainer could help you out with this.

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2012

DON’T APPROACH TOO QUICKLY Whether your pet has hearing or sight loss you will want to approach them in a calm, slow manner. Pets are very sensitive to the vibrations in their surroundings, but it may take a bit to time for them to start to use this as a new sense. Approaching in a calm, slow manner will minimize the chance of startling your pet. Remind children of this too, it could prevent them from being snapped at. DON’T LEAVE YOUR PET OUTSIDE UNCONFINED All pets should be supervised while outside, especially those that are sight and/or hearing impaired. This will prevent them from wandering off, getting into traffic, falling into swimming pools or ponds, unknowingly crossing the path of other animals that could end in a fight and injury—to name a few. MAKE SURE THEY HAVE I.D. ON AT ALL TIMES It is always a great idea to have identification on your pet at all times, especially if they are hearing and/or sight impaired. If your pet does happen to wander or slip out the gate, they will be able to be quickly returned home to you as their ability to find their way back will be decreased. The reassuring news is that most aging pets that suffer sight or hearing loss often do so gradually, which allows them to adjust to their environments. Although losing senses can require some extra care and consideration, pets can maintain a good quality of life with a few daily living adjustments. Kristina Cooper is a Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) and a member of the Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians (OAVT). She works in a Municipal Animal Shelter and in her family’s dog and cat boarding facility, Cooper Kennels, in Ancaster, ON. (www.cooperkennels.ca). She can be reached by e-mail at krizzteena@hotmail.com.

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Guide to SENIOR PETS

CANINE COGNITIVE DYSFUNCTION L

ike people, dogs are susceptible to the negative effects of aging on the mind and body. Canine cognitive dysfunction or “doggie dementia” is a disorder similar to dementia in people. “Signs for canine cognitive dysfunction include problems with learning, housetraining, awareness of surroundings, and problems with the wake/sleep cycle,” said Dr. Joseph Mankin, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “Dogs may also appear confused, have increased episodes of restlessness and may have less interest in playing or appear irritable.” Mankin says that cognitive dysfunction cases increase with age. About a third of dogs show one or more signs at the age of 11 and most dogs show signs of the dysfunction at the age of 16. At this time, there is no breed predisposition. The only common indicating factor for dogs is the age. If you feel your dog is showing signs of mind degeneration, visit with your veterinarian to learn more about possible diagnosis and treatment plans. “The syndrome is diagnosed based on the patient’s clinical signs and activity/behavioural changes at home,” said Mankin. “There is not

a specific test to diagnose the problem, although changes on advanced imaging of the brain can give some indication.” “Treatment of cognitive dysfunction includes certain medications, environmental changes and changes  in  diet,” explained Mankin. “With this syndrome, there may be an association with the lack of dopamine and there are medications that can increase dopamine activity that can help with a patient’s clinical signs.” Diets high in antioxidants can also be beneficial for your pet’s treatment plan. Hills has a line of diet options. Mankin recommends implementing increased activity among your dog to help slow the degenerative process. “Environmental enrichment in the form of playing with toys, interacting with other dogs and learning new tricks can be effective in lessening the signs of cognitive dysfunction,” added Mankin. There are also no proven preventative measures that an owner can take. The best recommendations are to keep your dog healthy by giving it a balanced diet and continuing its exercise. Canine cognitive dysfunction is a function of the brain aging, and unfortunately most of the time it is inevitable.

It is important to remember that not all dogs will display all the signs of this dysfunction. That is why it is important to take your dog to your veterinarian if it displays any behavioural changes. Your veterinarian can look for common disorders that might explain what is going on with your pet. “If your pet is starting to become confused, having accidents in the house or displaying any behavioural changes, an appointment with your regular veterinarian would be indicated,” said Mankin. “There are several other disease processes that can start with similar clinical signs, so an exam and performing routine blood work is the first step in diagnosing the condition and ruling out other common causes.” If initial test results do not explain the cause for your pet’s abnormal behaviour, or if the results suggest additional information is required, the next step may be to see a specialist like Mankin. Your veterinarian can refer you to a veterinary neurologist whom can help determine what the problem is. The natural aging process can be as painless as possible for your dog if you continue routine checkups with your veterinarian, and continue to be aware of your dog’s habits. — College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University

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Guide to SENIOR PETS

Photo courtesy Handicappedpets.com

PETS ON WHEELS

S

ome injures can lead to paralysis and drive our pets to a dead-end. Fortunately, there are now options for pets that can make their lives go on wheels again. Literally. For animals that have lost use of their legs because of paralysis or a disease, wheelchair devices are now available that can restore lost motion. “A wide variety of devices are now on the market to help companion animals move around, and they work very much like a wheelchair,” said Dr. Alice Blue-McLendon, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Blue-McLendon says a veterinarian can

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take measurements of the animal’s body to be fitted for the wheelchair devices, which are custom-made for that particular pet. The veterinarian can then contact one of several companies that make the wheelchairs, which usually consist of a harness-like device with straps and wheels. There are also several reliable companies on the Internet that will work directly with the clients to make a custom wheelchair. Dogs are the most frequent users of the devices, but they can also be made for cats, ferrets, goats, rabbits and other pets.  Costs vary, depending on the size of the pet. Blue-McLendon says that several medical conditions can cause a pet to need a wheelchair device. One is hind limb paralysis which

can be due to injury, such as being struck by a car or a vertebral disk disease. Another cause is a degenerative condition in which the muscle or bone of the animal’s leg cannot function properly, causing the animal to drag its legs or not move at all. Once the device is fitted to the pet it usually takes several days for the animal to get accustomed to the wheelchair, Blue-McLendon explains. “But animals are quick to adapt, and after a few days, they usually can get around very well with these devices,” she notes. She stresses that it takes a commitment from the pet owner before considering whether to purchase a wheelchair for a pet. “It takes extra time on the owner’s part to take off the device at night because the animals must sleep without them,” Blue-McLendon says. “And many times if the animal is paralyzed it still needs assistance several times a day with urination. Also, since the animal can only use its front legs to get around it tends to get tired more quickly.  So the owner needs to be aware of this, especially if taking the animal out for a long walk or other exercise.” Blue-McLendon adds that once the animal is accustomed to the wheelchair, it can lead a relatively normal life. “These wheelchair-type devices have become quite popular in the last 20 years or so,” she says. “They give your pet an option that it might not have had otherwise—that of regaining much of the mobility it once had.  If the owner is willing to make the commitment, they can be wonderful aids for disabled pets.” — College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University

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PET REHAB

SENIOR PETS

PHYSIOTHERAPY FOR THE LITTLEST ARTHRITIC SENIORS By Andrea Smith

O

steoarthritis is one of the most common degenerative diseases and chronic sources of pain in senior pets. Osteoarthritis, commonly referred to as “wear and tear arthritis,” is caused by the gradual loss and destruction of cartilage and its underlying bone within a joint. The loss of protective cartilage results in joint inflammation, pain and stiffness. A recent study performed by Hills Pet Nutrition estimates that nearly 20% of all dogs, regardless of age, are afflicted with osteoarthritis. Even more concerning, it is estimated that nearly 90% of all cats over the age of 12 have some form of arthritis. There have been many traditional therapies used in veterinary medicine to help alleviate the pain associated with osteoarthritis. These include NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), pain medication, nutraceuticals and diet. One of the newest forms of therapy to emerge over the past decade to help aid arthritic pets is rehabilitation or physiotherapy. Rehabilitation aims to both relieve pain and increase the function of joints, so both dogs and cats can proceed with a better quality of life through their senior years. The following are five common rehabilitation practices used by certified veterinary rehabilitation practitioners in dogs and cats suffering from osteoarthritis:

Cold and Heat Therapy For centuries, thermal agents have been used to aid healing. Cyrotherapy (cold therapy) involves using cold packs to help decrease joint pain and relieve stiffness in joints by decreasing inflammation at the cellular level. Cold therapy is most commonly used to help manage acute flare ups of osteoarthritis and has

been found in studies to decrease the need for pain medication. Thermotherapy (heat therapy), on the other hand, uses heat to decrease tissue tightness and decrease muscle pain. This therapy is most commonly used in combination with stretching as a warm up to exercise.

Aquatic Therapy Aquatic therapy is one of the most beneficial (and fun!) rehabilitation treatments currently available. Water allows active muscle movement with minimal weight bearing on joints and bones due to the natural buoyancy of water. Therapy sessions are generally conducted in underwater treadmills or larger therapeutic pools. Most dogs (and some cats!) will start with short, frequent sessions (one to three minutes) and will gradually work-up to longer sessions, lasting from 20 to 30 minutes. As most underwater treadmills and therapeutic pools are indoors, patients can enjoy aquatic therapy year-round.

Therapeutic Exercises Rehabilitation practitioners use a variety of exercises to help arthritic animals. Some of the many benefits include reducing body weight, improving active pain-free movement, increasing muscle strength and preventing further injury. In addition, there are profound positive psychological effects for the patient, as many of these once active pets have become sedentary due to their osteoarthritis. Common exercises include walking, pole weaving, sit to stand, dancing, weight training, stairs and controlled ball play.

TENS TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) is a device that uses electrical waves to

stimulate specific muscles and nerves. This helps to provide immediate relief, control joint and muscle pain and improve joint function. In turn, this can help to facilitate exercise and increase patient mobility. This therapy is particularly useful in dogs and cats who cannot tolerate pain medication or those that have pre-existing cardiac, liver or kidney disease, which can be a contraindication to medication. TENS units are small and portable, allowing for use at a rehabilitation facility and at home with proper training.

Therapeutic Ultrasound Ultrasound uses high frequency sound waves to stimulate muscles, tendons and ligaments. Therapeutic ultrasound sends heat and pulse waves (or vibrations) deep into the tissue to reduce pain, decrease muscle spasm, increase mobility and decrease muscle stiffness. Unlike thermotherapy, ultrasound can target deeper muscles and tissues that are normally difficult to engage. Ultrasound is most commonly used prior to exercise in patients with osteoarthritis to help reduce deep pain and allow increased movement. If you are concerned that your senior dog or cat is possibly suffering from osteoarthritis, be sure to visit your veterinarian for assessment and referral to a certified veterinary rehabilitation practitioner (CCRP or CCRT). A rehabilitation practitioner will be able to tailor a specific therapeutic plan to your individual pet, enabling them to live out their golden years as pain free and active as possible. Dr. Andrea Smith (BSc, DVM, CCRP Candidate) is a veterinarian for the Ontario Veterinary Group in Toronto and Whitby, ON. Contact www.ovg.ca/mac.aspx, 905-668-8861.

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2012

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OF BRINGING A NEW FRIEND HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS? Why giving a pet as a gift might not be the best idea Dieter Kohlmaier, DVM, owns and operates Westoak Animal Hospital in Oakville, ON. He can be reached at westoakanimalhospital @gmail.com

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he holiday season is fast approaching and one of the common elements involves the giving and receiving of gifts. Some people like to surprise their loved ones with something unique, so they give a puppy or a kitten as a gift. While this may work out well in some circumstances, I don’t recommend it. There are many things to consider before adding a new pet to your family. There has been extensive research into the positive physical and psychological benefits of pet ownership. Not only does owning a pet improve a child’s social development, it has been proven to improve their IQ scores as well. Adult pet owners have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and, subsequently, suffer fewer strokes and heart attacks. For many seniors, pets offer companionship, combat loneliness and keep them both physically and mentally active. Pets are a fabulous addition to any family—when the entire family is ready and an appropriate amount of research has been done before choosing the new pet. Every home is unique and, therefore, you must consider what the best choice is for your family. For example, if you are a newly married couple and both work long hours, perhaps a new puppy isn’t a great idea; however, if you’re a family of four with one spouse who works at home and with children who are old enough to be of assistance, a new puppy may be the right choice. Children love pets, but unfortunately not all pets love young children, especially toddlers. Young children don’t always behave the way we’d like and can be rough or overbearing with pets. Some pets will avoid them, but others may react by biting or scratching the child if they feel threatened or are handled inappropriately. For the very young, perhaps a puppy or kitten aren’t the best pet choices; you may want to consider a mature cat or dog that has been well socialized around children. If your children are older and responsible, then they may be ready for a puppy or kitten. A good way to gauge the readiness of your child would be to pet sit or have them take a friendly neighbourhood dog for some walks. In my experience, it is unwise for parents to buy a pet for their children expecting them to single-handedly take care of the pet. The children

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will eventually (hopefully) move out and may not be able to take care of the pet that you once bought for them. So, face reality and make sure you are prepared for the possibility of being the one who walks the dog, scoops the poop or feeds the cat. When buying a pet for a senior consider their ability to care for the pet. If they have mobility issues, a dog is not a great choice because it may not receive the appropriate amount of exercise. Cats often are an excellent choice as they are easier to care for and can be kept in the home year round. They do need to be stimulated and exercised, but this can be easily done from the comfort of a chair. A consideration for anyone getting a new pet is finances. Apart from the cost of buying the new pet, you have to consider the food and veterinary care to keep it healthy for life. Aside from routine healthcare, emergencies may arise (e.g., the kitten ingests some string, the puppy breaks his leg) and you must be financially prepared for these eventualities. For seniors living on fixed incomes, this is something you must factor into the decision-making process. It’s a good idea is to purchase pet insurance to provide coverage for emergencies and/or illness. The time of year is a factor to consider when purchasing a puppy. The best time for a new puppy is spring or summer as the weather is warmer and the days are longer. It is much easier to get your puppy outdoors to house train and socialize with other dogs and people during the warmer months. However, this can be done at other times of the year, especially now that there are many indoor dog training facilities and doggie daycares. After reading this, you may realize that perhaps you should wait a bit before purchasing a puppy for your children. There are many other good options for young children to consider. Small mammals, such as hamsters, gerbils, mice and rats, make excellent pets. For others, fish, reptiles or amphibians may be ideal because they’d rather look and not touch. The take-home message is that you need to put a lot of thought into the purchase of a pet, including ensuring that the intended recipient is ready for it. Getting their buy-in is even better. Remember, pets are for a lifetime, not just for the holidays.

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P E T S

P R O J E C T S

PetSmart Charities Invests

in Canadian Animal Welfare Efforts he college student knew she had to find a way to get her beloved black-and-white cat spayed, or face eviction from her apartment. But she was already struggling to cover the rent, tuition and mounting college expenses, let alone a surgery for her pet. Desperate to do the right thing, she went online and found a new program offered by the Edmonton Humane Society and funded through a $26,000 grant from PetSmart Charities of Canada. The Prevent Another Litter Subsidy Project provides spay and neuter surgeries for cats owned by residents of an underserved community in north central Edmonton. Residents must pay a small application fee and show proof that they meet the government’s low-income threshold. So far, the one-year project that began in early 2012 has attracted a diverse following, including students, families and elderly people living on fixed incomes.  It took the student several weeks to complete the application process, but in the end she was able to give her pet the care and home she deserved. “We’ve had people feeling a tremendous amount of relief because of this program,” said Stephanie McDonald, chief executive officer of Edmonton Humane Society. “Before, they had no options.” PetSmart Charities of Canada has provided more than $3 million in grants to animal welfare organizations nationwide since 1999. In addition to spay/neuter programs, PetSmart Charities helps organizations offer pet adoptions in donated space within PetSmart, Inc. retail stores, saving the lives of 130,000 cats and dogs to date. PetSmart Charities is an independent registered charity in Canada, funded primarily through donations.

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DRAMATIC INCREASE IN GRANTS Since July, PetSmart customers in a growing number of retail stores have had the option to donate to PetSmart Charities at the checkout counter. Because of customers’ generosity, Canadian animal welfare groups can expect to see a dramatic increase in the grant

funding available to them next year, said Susana Della Maddalena, executive director of PetSmart Charities. In preparation, PetSmart Charities recently met with animal welfare leaders from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Winnipeg and Ontario to better understand the challenges they face, especially cat overpopulation.  “We are thrilled to be able to invest more deeply in local animal welfare efforts in Canada,” said Della Maddalena. “Together, we have a real chance of ending pet homelessness.”

NATIONAL ADOPTION WEEKEND In addition to funding local organizations, PetSmart Charities sponsors four National Adoption Weekends annually at PetSmart, Inc. stores in Canada and the United States. These events give thousands of people a chance to fall in love with an adoptable cat or dog. Local animal welfare organizations supply the pets, freeing up valuable shelter space. The next National Adoption Weekend is November 2–4. Potential pet parents also have the option of visiting PetSmart Charities’ cat adoption centres any time that their local PetSmart store is open. Through its National Adoption Weekends and everyday adoptions, PetSmart Charities found homes for more than 400,000 pets in 2011. Johanna Booth, a veterinarian with Toronto Animal Services, calls the adoption centres a “gold commodity” for animal welfare groups coping with an abundance of cats and kittens. In addition to her day job, Booth also coordinates a weekend trap, neuter and release project for free-roaming cats that is funded by PetSmart Charities. “There’s always a sigh of relief when there’s space at the adoption centres or an event at PetSmart,” she said. www.petsmartcharities.org/about/canada.html

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2012

PETS

29


PAW S F O R R E F L ECT I O N

With Darren Low, DVM

STORIES THAT REMIND US OF HOW MUCH WE LOVE THE FOUR-FOOTED MEMBERS OF OUR FAMILIES

AN OPEN HEART

leads to the love of a Pesky puppy Darren Low, DVM, practices companion animal medicine and surgery in Sydney, Nova Scotia, where he lives with his wife, son and 10 four-footed family members. He writes a weekly column for the Cape Breton Post.

30

PETS

hen Kathleen headed to Mexico for a late November surfing vacation with friends, she thought she’d come home with a tan— she never imagined she’d come home with her four-legged soulmate. Nine years ago Kathleen arrived in the tiny fishing village of Pescadero on the Pacific side of Mexico’s Baja California region. A surfer’s dream, Pescadero had a beach that stretched for miles and miles in an almost undiscovered paradise, with ocean currents that produced excellent surf conditions. Besides the local fisher folk, the area was only populated by a few Americans and Canadians. Kathleen deemed it magical at first sight; a magic made radiant by the puppy that started hanging around the surfers. The pup looked hardly more than six weeks old and, with pale golden waves of fur, looked something like a Golden Retriever with the sharp muzzle of a Husky. Kathleen was immediately smitten and noticed the pup had a significant hind-end limp. Closer inspection suggested the leg was broken, but despite the remoteness of the beach, help was close at hand. An American resident who made it her mission to help the many stray dogs of the area already patrolled the beach, and a local veterinarian silhouetted the horizon among those catching a wave. As Kathleen stood with the pup in her arms, ready to pass him over for care, she said, “I hope he finds a home.”  In reply the American said, “I think he already has.” Kathleen laughed at the lady’s remark. She was only on vacation—she couldn’t take a dog home to another country. Plus, Kathleen lived in a small apartment and kept busy hours running her own small business. She had no room in her life for a dog. But, it turned out that she did. The Pescadero resident drove away with the pup and 30 seconds later Kathleen went looking for them. A month later the pup Kathleen named Pescadero, a.k.a. Pesky, a.k.a. Mr. Handsome, was flown from Mexico back to Kathleen’s arms. The veterinarian in Mexico had performed surgery on the leg to repair it and the Good Samaritan resident had organized

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NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2012

Kathleen And Pesky.

Pesky’s flight. For the next eight years the two were just about inseparable.  Although Pesky never loved the beach, he’d go with Kathleen when she surfed and he’d sit by the car and watch. When Kathleen climbed into her car to visit with clients for her business, Pesky climbed in too. Near the anniversary of their meeting, Kathleen felt lumps in Pesky’s neck while petting him.  She called me right away, fearing the worst and it proved to be the worst. Pesky had lymphoma. Kathleen tried everything from chemotherapy to natural healers. She gave up her apartment and stayed with a rotation of friends so she could use the money that would have gone to rent for treatments. She cooked Pesky only organic whole foods. At Christmastime that year, Pesky went into remission. Kathleen celebrated the miracle, but sadly it didn’t last. Pesky’s lymphoma returned and in May he passed away. It’s always hard to lose a loved one, but Kathleen lost more than her best friend. Unmarried and without children, Pesky was her everything. His loss crushed her, but she consoles herself in that she never expected to have Pesky in her life and yet he made her life perfect. Now she just waits to see what other perfect surprises await her in her future.

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PETS MAGAZINE | November/December 2012