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November/December 2013 | $4.95 | www.petsmagazine.ca
Reaching Out to the
HOMELESS AND THEIR PETS
SENIOR PET CARE • Mobility Aids • Managing Aches & Pains • Cognitive Function …and more!
Are Nutraceuticals Right for
PLUS: Older Hearts Meet Their Match • A Vet’s First Patient Lives On
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Contents NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2013
EXPLORING THE HUMAN-ANIMAL BOND SINCE 1983
• VOL. 30 NO.6
THE NATURAL PATH As in human health, nutraceuticals abound in veterinary care — but not all are created equal.
26 PETS Marketplace 28 Joyful Tails 30 Paws for Reflection
Guide to Senior Pet Care 12
KEEPING PETS HEALTHY IN THEIR SENIOR YEARS With regular veterinary care and maintenance, old age doesn’t have to stop them from living life to the fullest.
MAKING LIFE EASIER FOR THE SENIOR PET Although it can be hard to witness our pets aging, there are things pet parents can use to make things a little easier on their senior companions.
18 THE BRAIN DRAIN Cognitive decline is a normal part of the aging process, but proper stimulation and diet can slow its progression.
20 CONTROLLING THE ACHES AND PAINS OF AGE Many medications have been developed to safely deal with chronic pain in both dogs and cats.
STAYING MOBILE Assistive devices give mobility back to seniors and injured pets in need.
BACKYARD HAZARD SERIES: RACCOON ROUNDWORM Baylisascaris procyonis eggs take two to four weeks before reaching a stage at which they become infective, but once they are, they can be very hard to kill.
NUTRITIONAL ADVANCES FOR DEGENERATIVE JOINT DISEASE Chances are by the time you begin to notice signs of DJD, it has been a problem for your cat or dog for some time. Thankfully, there are many treatment options available for both dogs and cats.
21 ADOPTING AN OLDER PET Pet owners often forget the trouble involved with raising a pet from infancy, and overlook the countless mature dogs awaiting adoption from shelters and rescue organizations.
22 INCIDENCE OF CONSTIPATION INCREASES WITH AGE What causes it — and what you can do to prevent it.
23 SENIOR PET DIET 101 They are what they eat — what you should be feeding your pets.
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PETS M A G A Z I N E WWW.PETSMAGAZINE.CA NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2013 VOL.30, NO.6
SIMMONS PUBLISHING LTD.
Creating a Lifetime of Pet Memories
John Simmons email@example.com
Brad Hussey firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Tzerelshtein markintoshdesign.com Linda Simmons email@example.com
EDITORIAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE
have wonderful memories of the many animals that have been part of my life. It seems that we always had a dog and or a cat living with us when I was growing up. Most of my friends had pets, as well. One of my favourites was a
big old Bloodhound named Major. Though it’s been many years, I can still envision him running across the yard to play — ears flapping, tongue hanging out and drool flying about. No matter how hard I tried, I could never get out of his way and he always seemed to run me over. My friend said it was because he could not see past his flapping ears, but I think he was just a big, playful
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
puppy at heart who was unaware of his size and strength. Believe me, he was strong. Major was a gentle but powerful giant. In the winter we used to harness him to a toboggan, and he would pull both my friend and me (each roughly 12 years old) as though we were light as feathers. Sledding behind Major was tremendously fun for us,
To subscribe to PETS, contact Linda Simmons Toll Free: 877-738-7624 or visit us on the Web at:
and Major seemed to enjoy it as well. He would run — and we would laugh. When he
had had enough, he would run up a snow bank, knock us off the sled and run home.
Canadian 1 year: $23.00 (plus applicable taxes)
Major always decided when the game was over.
1 year U.S.: $30.00 (U.S.); Single Copy: $4.95
I’m sure each of us has many memories of the pets we have known and loved in our
lives, and it’s to them that we dedicate this issue of PETS Magazine. In the spirit of longevity, we focus this time on the unique needs of senior pets. The golden years should
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be a special time for our pets, and with the right preventive health efforts, ongoing veterinary care and continuous TLC, most pets can live long lives relatively free of illness and injury — while bringing us joy and tremendous memories to last a lifetime. I hope this issue provides the tools and knowledge you need to cater to the special requirements of your senior pet. As with us, being old is not a disease for our pets — when we are healthy, it can be a period in life that is as enjoyable and engaging as youth. Enjoy
John Simmons Publisher
Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to: Simmons Publishing Ltd. 32 Foster Crescent Whitby, Ontario L1R 1W1 (905) 665-9669: Fax (905) 665-9249 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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T R A C K S
Keepsakes Celebrate the Charm of Pets
Mark Poulin’s whimsical, adorable jewelry is the perfect gift for the dog lovers in your life. Angel Dog (pictured) is a sweet memorial for animal friends or a reminder that all dogs go to heaven. Check out his wide range of dog, cat, rabbit, bird and turtle jewelry. Tiny charms are available as necklaces, bracelets and earrings. Sterling charms are created from Mark’s original drawings and handmade in his company’s California studio. markpoulin.com (510) 450-0400 • firstname.lastname@example.org
Book Captures Spirit, Beauty of Senior Dogs
Gandhi once said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way that its animals are treated.” How people regard older animals is especially revealing. Beautiful Old Dogs is a heartfelt, emotional, passionate tribute to old dogs. It will inspire many readers to get involved in senior dog rescue and adoption, as it honours our senior best friends and explores their current state of care and custody in an informative appendix. This book features the exquisite photography of the late Garry Gross, a noted fashion photographer during the 1960s, 70s and 80s who, after becoming a highly successful dog trainer in New York City, turned his camera lens toward dogs. Gross, along with Victoria Stilwell from Animal Planet’s It’s Me or the Dog, founded Dog Trainers of New York in 2002, and became devoted to highlighting the plight and value of senior dogs. “The older the better,” Gross said. “Dogs with soul in their eyes.” David Tabatsky has collected Gross’s photographs here, and carefully curated an accompanying selection of moving, insightful, funny and uplifting essays and short pieces by a range of writers, with contributions from Anna Quindlen, Ally Sheedy, Christopher Durang, Doris Day, Dean Koontz, Marlo Thomas and many more. Available via major booksellers in November.
Pawdcast Keeps You Informed
Rayne Clinical Nutrition Canada has introduced a new line of whole foods in both wet and dry formulas, available only through your veterinarian. The company’s philosophy is to make dedicated veterinary products formulated by experts, using whole food ingredients whenever possible, while operating in an open and transparent way. The new line consists of cooked/frozen products, including diets to aid in diagnosis of allergies and maintenance formulas, unique peel-andserve shelf-stable wet diets and dry diets for healthy pets and to help prevent and manage certain medical conditions. www.raynecanada.ca
Does your workplace offer pet health insurance? More and more businesses are adding that nugget to their company benefits, and it is indeed becoming one of the fastest-growing benefits offered to Canadian employees. One in three Fortune 500 companies, for example, is now offering pet insurance. Here in Canada, the number of leading businesses doing it has grown to over 600 — and that list includes BlackBerry, Hewlett-Packard and Scotiabank. In the United States, the number of companies adding pet health insurance benefits is in the thousands. “Adding pet coverage to a flex benefits toolkit is a great way for companies to differentiate themselves from their competitors,” says Sean Dexter, the director of sales for Winnipeg-based Petsecure. “Our company does it and it is widely popular with our staff.” Nick Kidd, the national director of personal lines at Aon, agrees. Aon is a global leader in risk management, insurance, reinsurance and is also a human resources provider. According to Kidd, “Canadians are becoming increasingly aware of the value of pet health insurance, so the expectations of company benefit programs are changing. For us, products like this have been a great recruitment and engagement tool.” Providers like Petsecure, for example, help to keep dogs and cats protected against accidents or illness. They cover the insurance basics for dogs and cats, as well as offer unique perks, such as dental care, alternative treatments and behavioural therapy. These services protect pet owners financially in the unfortunate circumstance that their furry friend requires medical assistance. To find out if pet insurance is included in your employee benefits package, check with your plan administrator or human resources department. If pet health insurance is not part of your package, consider contacting an insurance broker. — www.newscanada.com
Whole Foods Rayne Supreme
Employers Increasingly Offering Pet Insurance Benefits
M A K I N G
Every two weeks the Ontario SPCA releases a podcast discussing the latest hot topics in the animal welfare world. The Animals’ Voice Pawdcast focuses on many topics, including vaccinating your pet, volunteering at the Ontario SPCA, feral cat programs and more. Episodes range from 10 to 20 minutes in length. For more information call 888-668-7722 or visit www.ontariospca.ca. Listen now at https://soundcloud.com/ospca.
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T R A C K S
Every year, poison control centres across Canada receive calls from parents concerned about the possible poisoning of their children. While most calls relate to medication and household cleaners, some involve pesticides used to control rats or mice (rodenticides). Since mouse and rat bait can look like cereal or pet food, children and pets may accidentally eat it. To reduce the risk of accidental poisoning from traps baited with rodenticides, Health Canada has introduced new measures that came into effect January 2013. All rodenticides sold to consumers must come with a pre-packaged ready-to-use bait station designed to be tamper-resistant to children and pets. Also, certain high toxicity rodenticides can only be used by licensed pest control professionals. To reduce the need for rodenticides, the following tips will help prevent rat and mouse problems in your home: • Repair any exterior cracks or holes that could provide access — mice can squeeze through cracks as small as a dime, rats the size of a quarter. • Apply metal weather-stripping under exterior access doors and weather-strip windows. • Cover dryer vents, attic vents and soffits with fine-mesh metal screening. • Avoid providing potential hiding places for rodents by cutting back vegetation and tall grass that is up against the house, placing woodpiles well away from the house, and cleaning up any clutter around the house and in the garage. • Avoid putting fatty or oily food waste (such as eggs or milk products) in your garden composter. • Secure garbage in containers with tight-fitting lids. • Eliminate water sources like leaky taps, open drains and sweating pipes as some rats are attracted to damp areas. • Indoors, keep your kitchen clean and store dry food in metal or glass containers. Always carefully read all label instructions before purchasing and using rodenticides or any other pesticide product. More information on this topic is available from Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency. Consult the pest note on “Rats and Mice” at www.healthycanadians.gc.ca, call 1-800-267-6315 toll-free, or e-mail email@example.com. – www.newscanada.com
Primping your Pet for the “Pawfect” Holiday Photo Our holiday snapshots and portraits are never complete without the family pet, so why not take that extra step to help your cat or dog look fabulously festive for their seasonal snapshot? To get your pet looking picture-pawfect, Purina is partnering with master groomer Cheryl McNaughten to offer the following insider techniques:
PRIMP MY PAWS • Be sure to always de-mat your dog before washing him or her; if you wash a matted dog the fur tends to “felt” and get worse. • Brush out your pet’s hair as you blow dry their coat (always on a low setting) to give even the curliest poodle a straight hairdo. • Use all-natural and pet friendly styling products to help shape your pooch’s hair into a desired style. MAKE ME SPARKLE For those more daring pets and pet owners, McNaughten recommends adding some doggie dazzle including: • Festive frosted tips — dogs with lighter hair can be dyed using powdered drink crystals to add colour. Never use permanent or real hair dyes. • Consider holiday nails — paint your dog’s paws a festive green and red. Be sure to use natural, pet-friendly nail polish in case your pooch bites his nails. • Permanent holiday décor — shave a holiday shape like a star into your dog’s fur. • If your pet doesn’t have the patience for beautification, consider a festive accessory like reindeer antlers or a red ribbon for that added holiday touch. Now that your four-legged friend is fancy and looking fabulous, it’s time for them to make their mark. This year, Canadians are invited to submit their favourite pet photos to www.wonderfurwinter.ca. The dogs and cats with the most votes have the chance to be featured on the Purina Wonderfur Winter holiday treats package next year. — www.newscanada.com
Adjustable Pet Gate Opens Possibilities
New Rules for Mouse and Rat Pesticides Protect Children and Pets
M A K I N G
Richell’s Premium Plus Freestanding Pet Gate with Door is great for small to medium dogs. It includes a walk-through lockable gate door and adjustable side panels. It fits doorway and hallway openings from 34” to 63” wide, plus the specially designed door opens in both directions and includes an upper/lower locking system to allow free movement and extra security. www.richellusa.com
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THE NATURAL PATH AS IN HUMAN HEALTH, NUTRACEUTICALS ABOUND IN VETERINARY CARE — BUT NOT ALL ARE CREATED EQUAL By Dr. Andrea Smith BSc, DVM, CCRP(C) ver the past decade, the use of supplements, or nutraceuticals, in veterinary medicine has dramatically increased. As people have become more focused on preventive medicine and natural products for their own health, they have turned to their veterinarians to find similar products to help their beloved furry companions live longer and healthier lives. A nutraceutical is defined as any product isolated from food, which has physiological benefits or protection against chronic disease. There are numerous nutraceuticals currently available in the veterinary market. This article will focus on some of the most commonly prescribed nutraceuticals by veterinarians.
GLUCOSAMINE & CHONDROITIN SULFATE These two products are by far the most commonly used nutraceuticals in veterinary medicine. Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are found naturally in healthy joint cartilage and are used to help support joint health. Glucosamine is commonly combined with chondroitin sulfate in many commercially available veterinary products. The combination has been clinically proven to be effective in reducing pain, improving joint function and halting or reversing joint degeneration in patients with mild to moderate osteoarthritis. These products can be given as a single supplement or can be found in several veterinary prescription diets for joint health. OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS Omega-3 fatty acids are derived from marine life and possess anti-inflammatory properties. Omega-3s have been found to be beneficial in a large range of
conditions, including allergic skin disease, arthritis, chronic kidney disease and hypertriglyceridemia (high fat levels in the blood). In addition, the National Research Council has recently recognized omega-3 fatty acids as an essential nutrient for dogs and cats. When using omega-3 fatty acids, it is generally beneficial to use veterinary products due to the large amount that dogs and cats require. LYSINE Lysine, or L-lysine, is a common amino acid that has been found to have anti-viral properties. The anti-viral mechanism is currently unknown; however, it has been found to be beneficial in cats infected with the herpes virus. It is commonly prescribed to cats suffering from secondary upper respiratory signs associated with the virus, including sneezing, rhinitis (inflammation of nasal tissue) and conjunctivitis (eye infection). Lysine is commercially available in several forms, including powders, pastes and liquid formulations. MILK THISTLE & SAME Milk thistle and SAMe are different products that are commonly used by veterinarians to help support liver health and function. Milk thistle has been used by humans for over 2,000 years and is derived from a European medicinal plant that contains silymarin. Its anti-oxidant properties help support liver function by stabilizing liver cell membranes, altering cholesterol metabolism and scavenging harmful free radicals. Milk thistle is commonly found in combination with other liver protective supplements. SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) is a naturally occurring molecule produced in all living cells and is essential in metabolism. Studies have found that
SAMe has both liver protective and anti-oxidant properties in both dogs and cats, and can be beneficial in a variety of liver and biliary conditions. CRANBERRY Cranberries have been associated with the prevention of urinary tract infections (UTIs) in humans for more than 100 years. Initially, the protective mechanism was unknown; however, recent studies have found that a sugar found in cranberry extract interferes with the ability of bacteria to bind with the bladder wall. Cranberry extract can help prevent or aid in the management of chronic UTIs. It is important to note that cranberry extract has only clinically been found effective in patients infected with E. coli bacteria. A urine culture and sensitivity would be required to determine the bacterial species responsible for an animal’s UTI. Unlike traditional prescription medications, veterinary nutraceuticals are poorly regulated in many countries, including Canada and the United States. Recent studies have revealed that many commercially available products may contain impurities and may actually not even contain the necessary active ingredients. It is important to always consult with your veterinarian prior to starting your pet on any nutraceutical. Your veterinarian is trained to help assess products for their quality, safety and effectiveness, and will help guide you in selecting the best product for your beloved companion. Dr. Andrea Smith BSc, DVM, CCRP (candidate) is an associate veterinarian with the Ontario Veterinary Group (www.ovg.ca) who practices at the MacKay Animal Clinic in Whitby, ON.
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Guide to SENIOR PET CARE
KEEPING PETS HEALTHY IN THEIR
SENIOR YEARS By Melissa Cavanagh
s my 15-year-old dog has grown older, I’ve noticed some common signs of an aging animal. Sparky is a bit slower, and he now favours a nice nap over a long walk. He’s developed arthritis in his hind legs and has needed more than one tooth to be removed. But although Sparky looks a bit disheveled, he’s still just as loving and content as he was as a youngster. Just like an elderly human, older pets begin to feel and show their age. Slowing down is normal for a geriatric pet, but with regular veterinary care and maintenance, old age doesn’t have to stop your pet from living life to the fullest. A geriatric animal is one that’s considered to be in the last 25% of its lifespan. This number ranges from animal to animal — a large dog will be different from a small dog or a cat — so geriatric care generally begins when a pet reaches seven to 10 years of age. “We tend to see changes [in older pets] that are not necessarily normal but are very common,” says Dr. Jordan Woodsworth, wellness veterinarian at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM). As Woodsworth explains, many older pets develop arthritis that causes them to be stiff and sore — especially in the mornings before they move around. Owners may notice their pets eating more or less of their food than usual. As well, their pets’ coats may tend to be dry and show more signs of dandruff. Woodsworth adds that some older dogs and cats develop cognitive dysfunction — similar to dementia in people. “These pets will be a little confused and sometimes they’ll get lost in a house they’ve lived in for years. Those are signs for owners to
watch out for because early on we want to rule out other causes of behaviour change and if cognitive dysfunction is the diagnosis, there are things we can do to help slow the progession.” The same advice goes for other old age changes: older pets are more prone to developing disease, but many of these illnesses can be treated or at least controlled if caught early enough. That’s why it’s extremely important for pet owners to bring their pet to a veterinarian for regular checkups at all stages of life. “A lot of the diseases that affect senior ani-
mals are due to progression of less serious conditions often seen in younger animals,” says Woodsworth. “Senior health is often dictated by how we manage animals in their younger years.” Focusing on proper management and disease prevention when animals are younger will hopefully help them be healthier during their older years. “Genetics always play a factor, but we definitely try and focus as much as possible on preventing chronic disease — if we can — in the younger years.”
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Guide to SENIOR PET CARE So what can pet owners expect when they bring an older animal to their veterinarian for a checkup? “We try to be thorough and vigilant at every life stage, but we really focus on the details when we conduct physical exams on older pets,” says Woodsworth. During the physical exam, the veterinarians will feel all the pet’s joints, check its central nervous system, look into its eyes for evidence of problems such as cataracts, check its teeth, skin and coat as well as its nails and keep an eye open for any lumps and bumps. Frequent health checks are the best way to ensure that your pet is healthy and happy long into its senior years. Similar to recommendations for elderly humans, regular blood work is often recommended for aging animals. Once a pet reaches the age of seven to 10 years, blood samples may be taken on a yearly basis. “Once animals reach that geriatric phase — the last 25% of their lifespan — we start to recommend checkups and blood work every six months.” Even if your elderly pet seems healthy, it’s still important to have them regularly checked by a veterinarian. “Animals are pretty stoic with pain, so they don’t tend to show a lot of clinical signs,” says Woodsworth. “Sometimes it’ll just be something as simple as a behaviour change so owners might notice the pet is spending less time with the family or that they are more grumpy than usual. These are important changes as they can often signal a bigger problem that we can detect with thorough examination and workup.” But just because your pet is slowing down doesn’t mean you need to completely overhaul their lifestyle: “It’s really important to keep older pets active,” says Woodsworth. “The best thing we can do for their health is to keep them active and maintain a routine for them into their senior years.” Here are some tips from wellness veterinarian Dr. Jordan Woodsworth about some of the most common health problems that affect your pets: ARTHRITIS Many pets will show no direct symptoms when they begin to develop arthritis. What you may notice is slight changes in their behaviour: dogs might avoid going up and
down the stairs or cats may have bathroom accidents because they can’t climb in and out of the litter box. Some animals may show obvious limping, but it depends on the animal and the severity and location of the condition. Many different types of therapies are available. If there’s a structural problem, surgery may be a solution. Otherwise, veterinarians may prescribe a combination of supplements and nutraceuticals or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Veterinarians recommend focusing on maintaining mobility and exercise at an appropriate intensity and rate. For example, low-impact exercise, such as swimming, may benefit your pet. It may also help to modify your pet’s lifestyle: moving a litter box from the basement to the ground floor will mean that your elderly cat doesn’t have to climb stairs. DENTAL DISEASE Dental disease can occur at every life stage, but it’s often most severe in older animals that have not had good dental care or preventive maintenance throughout their life. You may notice signs such as smelly breath and drooling. Your pet may also drop its food and leave blood on chew toys. Some animals may not show any pain, but instead, they may exhibit some behavioural symptoms, such as crankiness or a reluctance to interact. To combat severe dental disease, the veterinary team will perform a thorough examination and assessment under general anesthetic. Once a treatment plan is reached, the teeth are thoroughly cleaned and further work is done on damaged teeth, extracting severely affected teeth where necessary. The best way to combat dental disease is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. The most effective tools are regular cleanings at the vet and regular brushing at home. Other helpful tools are dental treats and special foods that help clean your pets’ teeth as they chew. These measures can help prevent or delay the need for major dental work and extractions later in life. DIABETES Diabetes can be seen in any age of animal, but it often develops in obese pets. By ensuring that your pets maintain healthy weights throughout their lives, you can help prevent your animals from developing diabetes and other weight-
related illnesses as they grow older. Dogs tend to develop type I diabetes, which is related to a lack of insulin. This condition is often secondary to pancreatic damage from causes such as pancreatitis. Type I diabetes can be genetically based or caused by your pet’s lifestyle habits, such as eating high fat foods or getting into garbage. Cats more often develop type II diabetes, an insulin resistance that is similar to what occurs in adult humans. This is often linked to obesity, but there can be other diseases that play a part such as infections, bladder disease and dental disease. The most noticeable signs of diabetes are increased drinking and urination — often accompanied by an increased appetite and weight loss. But these symptoms can also be indicative of other diseases, such as Cushing’s disease or hyperthyroidism. To confirm a diagnosis, veterinarians will perform blood work and a urinalysis in addition to a physical examination. Untreated diabetes can be very dangerous. If you suspect that your animal may be diabetic, have it examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible. VACCINATIONS When it comes to vaccinations, most veterinarians broadly recommend that vaccines should be given as appropriate for the individual animal in terms of lifestyle and risk. As for geriatric pets, there are differing opinions about whether aging animals should be vaccinated more or less often than their younger counterparts. If animals are already immunocompromised with diseases such as feline leukemia virus or cancer, the choice of vaccine must be considered very seriously. Your best option is to discuss your pet’s vaccination schedule with your veterinarian. The need for vaccination and the types of vaccines required comes down to the individual animal, and it should be addressed on a pet-by-pet basis. Melissa Cavanagh of Winnipeg, MB, is a second-year veterinary student and was the WCVM’s research communications intern for the summer of 2013. Reprinted with permission of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine’s Companion Animal Health Fund (www.cahf.usask.ca).
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Guide to SENIOR PET CARE
MAKING LIFE EASIER FOR THE THE
SENIOR PET BY KRISTINA COOPER, RVT
to walk on a harness and leash instead of a neck collar. Harnesses don’t put pressure on a potentially already sore neck. It’s a simple solution that can provide more comfort for your pet. BABY GATES To prevent unnecessary accidents for pets that have developed vision loss, consider installing baby gates in areas that can pose a risk, such as stairways. Although pets do a great job over time adjusting to their loss of sight, preventing accidents are key to keeping them safe.
RAISED DISHES For pets with neck stiffness, consider dishes that are designed to sit in a raised holder, making them more accessible. Dogs with stiffness will not need to bend down as far to reach these raised dishes, making eating and drinking a more enjoyable experience.
s pet’s age they fall susceptible to many of the same age-related diseases their human counterparts do. The most common signs of aging include stiffness and pain, loss of vision and loss of hearing. Although it can be hard to witness our pets aging, there are things pet parents to can use to make things a little easier on their senior companions.
ORTHOPEDIC BEDS Pets can become stiff and achy as they age due to the development of degenerative joint disease (see page 17), and making sure they are comfortable is top on the list for most pet owners. Orthopedic pet beds can be purchased at most major pet retailers. Having your pet raised off the floor on a cushioned surface is
easier on their joints. Some beds even have a heating function to help relieve aches and pains. RAMPS For older dogs that enjoy travelling in the car, aging can make it difficult to maneuver in and out of a vehicle. Ramps can be an easy solution to this problem. Foldable ramps can be stored in the trunk for days when your dog is coming along on a road trip, making it easier on them to get in and out of the vehicle (and easier on you by not having to lift them). HARNESSES Degenerative joint disease may affect the neck of pets as they age, too. Some pet owners find their older pets are easier and more comfortable
HAND SIGNALS Hand signals, used to give commands, can be a great way to communicate with pets that have hearing loss. Just because they can no longer hear does not mean they can no longer learn. Using rewards to encourage positive responses to hand signals can be a helpful way of reinforcing this new style of communication between you and your hearing-impaired pets. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Guide to Photos courtecy of Canadian Animal Rehab Services
SENIOR PET CARE
MOBILE By Molly Barber
he field of animal health is always evolving, with more options now available to help companion pets cope with injuries and disabilities. Services such as physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, acupuncture, chiropractic care and massage therapy have become more widely accepted as a means of helping pets through their challenges. One specialized service that can be added to the list is Canadian Animal Rehab Services, which offers custom-made braces and supports for many joint injuries and mobility issues that pets can face. The most common injury seen is the cruciate ligament in the stifle joint (in humans, the equivalent is an ACL injury).There are certain situations when surgical correction is not always an option for the pet, the most common considerations being their age or the presence of other health issues. For the pet owner, this can present a financial hardship, and it’s in these cases that a supportive brace should be considered. Our philosophy is to brace both legs; we are not only taking the strain off the good limb, but offering a form of rehab to the affected limb. This also aids in reducing the incidence of the healthy leg incurring the same injury. Lower-limb injuries (carpus, hock) can also benefit from braces whether they are used in conjunction with surgery, or if surgery is not feasible.
Whether pets are aging, recovering from surgery or dealing with some form of neurological disorder that makes their mobility difficult, there are assistive slings available to help manage their day-to-day activities. Abdominal support is ideal for situations when the pet only requires light assistance i.e., postsurgical recovery by minimizing weight bearing or strain on the repaired limb. Pelvic support is required when the rear-end has instability/balance issues. If a pet’s condition is so advanced that it challenges his or her mobility or strength, consideration should be given to the use of a wheelchair. This mobility device greatly enhances a pet’s quality of life and restores independence. Conditions that would warrant the use of a chair include spinal compression, degenerative myelopathy and disk herniation, which impair the nerve signals controlling the function of the rear legs making the pet’s mobility difficult or even impossible.
A pet’s situation must first be assessed and diagnosed by their attending veterinarian before being referred for these products. Once on site, the pet will be further evaluated to ensure the correct product is matched to their needs and to identify other possible complicating health difficulties they may be experiencing. When one section of the body is affected, pets will compensate and overuse their stronger, more capable side, which results in over-use injuries on these muscles and joints. A properly fitted assistive device will take the strain off these areas and make the pet feel more relaxed to enjoy some activity. All products are custom measured, manufactured and fit to each individual pet, thus allowing us to assist just about any companion animal with their difficulties and return them to an active life (while improving their quality of life). This concept evolved to provide veterinarians with additional choices for their client’s companions. All products are also covered under the various pet insurance plans. Ask your veterinary team today whether or not any of these assistive devices might be of use for your pets. Molly Barber AHT, RMLAT, is the owner of Canadian Animal Rehab Services, and has been providing rehab assistance and custommade products for companion pets since 1998. www.animalrehab.on.ca/1-800-678-9291.
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Guide to SENIOR PET CARE
BACKYARD HAZARD SERIES:
RACCOON ROUNDWORM WHAT MAY BE LURKING IN YOUR YARD WITHOUT YOU EVEN KNOWING IT!
By Kristina Cooper, RVT
HOW IS IT DIAGNOSED? Diagnosis can only be made by taking your pet to the veterinarian. After taking a history, your vet team will want to do a physical and neurological exam while also checking the eyes. A stool sample can also be tested to identify raccoon roundworm eggs.
ith a global movement called the One Health Initiative (www.onehealthinitiative.com) blazing its path, the importance of the relationship between human, animal and environmental health is being evaluated and communicated to increase the public’s awareness of transmissible zoonotic disease (diseases that can be passed from animal to human or vice versa.). The “Backyard Hazards” series of articles focuses on the more common diseases that you or your pet may be at risk of contracting.
HOW CAN YOUR PET CAN GET RACCOON ROUNDWORM? When a raccoon takes up residence on your property, they will also leave behind feces that can be contaminated with the eggs of raccoon roundworm. Raccoon roundworm is transmitted to pets when they ingest infected waste left behind by raccoons in the environment. The eggs take two to four weeks before reaching a stage at which they become infective, but once they are, they can be very hard to kill. Even if waste is removed, the eggs may be left behind in soil, water and on inanimate objects. HOW CAN PEOPLE GET RACCOON ROUNDWORM? It is rare, but people can get raccoon round-
worm, too. It is more likely to be seen in younger children who are more apt to play in the dirt and risk accidentally ingesting the parasite. Eggs can also be brought into the home on shoes and left behind on the carpet where little ones crawl and play. Adults may also be susceptible if proper hand washing is not done after gardening. WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF INFECTION IN PETS? Once the parasite enters the intestine it can then travel to visceral organs (causing what is called visceral larval migrans), the spinal cord/brain (causing neural larval migrans) and the eye (causing ocular larval migrans). Sometimes no signs are seen at all. However, depending on where the parasite has travelled, raccoon roundworm signs in pets may include: • Signs of lung and heart disease; • Neurological signs like difficulty walking, seizures, confusion, increased sleeping, etc.; and • Decreased vision or blindness.
HOW IS IT PREVENTED? Raccoon roundworm infection can be prevented by eliminating raccoon latrines on your property. Eggs are very hard to completely eliminate, even after the feces is removed. Heat is the only method of killing the eggs as they are resistant to most chemicals. Preventing your pets from eating the feces of other animals and infected birds can help to prevent an infection, along with deworming your pets on a regular basis under your veterinarian’s supervision. 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 email@example.com.
WHAT IS RACOON ROUNDWORM? Raccoon roundworm, also known as Baylisascaris procyonis, is a type of intestinal parasitic worm that is carried by raccoons. Raccoons pick it up by ingesting it while foraging and eating things in the environment that are infected with parasite eggs.
HOW IS IT TREATED? Treatment of raccoon roundworm depends on how it has affected your pet. If it has resulted only in an intestinal issue, a prescription deworming medication will be given. If the parasite has spread elsewhere, steroids may also be a part of the treatment plan.
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NUTRITIONAL ADVANCES FOR DEGENERATIVE JOINT DISEASE Dr. Sandy Valverde and Meghan Hewitt
egenerative joint disease (DJD), also known as osteoarthritis, is a debilitating condition that causes pain and discomfort. It affects pets of any age or size. DJD is a progressive disease characterized by inflammation, gradual breakdown of cartilage and the formation of new bone at the joint. If left untreated, DJD has serious life-altering consequences, such as pain, immobility, behavioural changes and decreased quality of life. Common signs can range from mild to severe, depending on the level of disease progression and which joints are involved. They include: • Decreased activity and stiffness; • Gait alterations; limping, holding a leg up or beginning to ‘slow down’; • Difficulty climbing stairs or jumping; • Loss of muscle mass; • Excessive grooming in the affected area; • Behavioural alterations; and • Cats’ failure to use the litter box. Typically DJD is noticed in older pets; however, young pets can also suffer from this disease. Some of the causes of this disease are repeated trauma or injury, activity and excess weight. Of these, weight is the most easily controlled. Obesity is becoming an epidemic among North American pets. It is estimated that over 50% of cats and dogs in North America are either classified as overweight or obese. DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT Chances are by the time you begin to notice
signs of DJD, it has been a problem for your cat or dog for some time. Pets (especially cats) are very good at hiding pain. Thankfully, there are many treatment options available for cats and dogs suffering from DJD. The number one priority when dealing with an overweight or obese pet who is suffering from joint disease is to get the excess weight off the joint. While significant excess weight is present, any treatment option will not be as successful. The main goals for treatment are to reduce pain and inflammation, improve mobility and joint function and (if possible) slow disease progression. There are a number of options your veterinarian may prescribe to help, including medication. One additional option is nutritional therapy, which is sometimes overlooked when treating DJD. One unique ingredient that has shown some promising effects on joint health is called Green Lipped
Mussel. This ingredient contains active nutrients that are effective in treating joint disorders, including: • Glycosaminoglycans: Building blocks for cartilage and joint fluid, helping to lubricate the joints. • Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA/DHA): Antiinflammatory role within the joint. • Vitamin E and C: Powerful antioxidant vitamins. • Zinc, copper and manganese: Important components for antioxidants; manganese is also required for the synthesis of synovial fluid. In addition to Green Lipped Mussel, glucosamine and chondroitin may offer protective effects on the joint by providing building blocks for cartilage repair and could be beneficial for some pets. If you think your pet is suffering from joint disease, please speak to your veterinarian about some possible treatment options. Dr. Sandy Valverde graduated from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in 1996, and in 2009 became a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist (CCRT) through the Canine Rehabilitation Institute. Currently, Dr. Valverde is a member of the Technical Service team at Royal Canin Canada. Meghan Hewitt is an animal nutritionist with an MSc. in Animal Nutrition and Toxicology by thesis. Currently Meghan works for Royal Canin Canada’s Veterinary division.
SENIOR PET CARE
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Guide to SENIOR PET CARE
THE BRAIN DRAIN
COGNITIVE DECLINE IS A NORMAL PART OF THE AGING PROCESS, BUT PROPER STIMULATION AND DIET CAN SLOW ITS PROGRESSION By Dr. Heather Weese and Meghan Hewitt
Why does cognitive dysfunction occur? There are many factors involved in the agerelated decline in cognitive function. One contributor is the fact that the brain is vulnerable to oxidative stress due to high levels of fats. For the brain to perform its daily tasks it requires a significant level of oxygen. As oxygen is consumed, free radicals are produced within the brain, which can cause cell damage. The body has many mechanisms to deal with free radicals; however, as we age this natural ability begins to decline. This is when signs of aging begin to appear. The good news is that we can slow this process down. Studies have shown that by providing mental stimulation, such as teaching your old dog new tricks or providing new toys for your cat, and with nutritional supplementation with antioxidants and other nutrients, we can improve cognitive function and slow any decline. Nutrition has a large part to play in helping the body cope with the effects of aging. Here are some nutrients that can be supplemented into food to help slow the progression of cognitive dysfunction: • Antioxidants: Nutrients capable of stopping the progression of free radicals. Some commonly used antioxidants are vitamin C and E, taurine, lutein and lycopene.
• Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA DHA): Fatty acids capable of reducing inflammation. • L-tryptophan: An amino acid that supports cognitive function. L-Tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that can help limit anxiety and aid sleep regulation. • Phosphatidylserine: A polyunsaturated fatty acid that has been shown to play a role in helping nerve conduction and aiding cognitive function. Cognitive dysfunction is a normal process of aging, but with proper mental stimulation and nutritional support you can help your pet through this process. If you think your cat or dog is showing signs of cognitive decline, speak to your veterinary team about what can be done. Dr. Heather Weese is a veterinarian with a master’s degree in nutrition. Currently, Heather is a member of the scientific communications team at Royal Canin Canada. Meghan Hewitt is an animal nutritionist with an MSc. in animal nutrition and toxicology by thesis. Meghan works for Royal Canin Canada’s Veterinary division.
ost your keys? Leave something on the stove? As we start to age and our cognitive ability begins to decline, we often start to forget things. Does your cat meow in the middle of the night? Does your dog seem confused? You may not have realized that your pet can also suffer from the same condition. This is known as cognitive dysfunction. As your pets age, there are subtle signs you may notice, such as decreased mobility and vision, and even dental disease. You may also start to see the hallmarks of cognitive dysfunction, which include confusion, sleep disturbances and having accidents around the house. Through innovations in veterinary health care and nutrition, cats and dogs are living longer, and so cognitive dysfunction is becoming more prevalent. In one study, 28% of cats between 11 and 14 years of age, and more than half of cats aged 15 or older, showed behavioural changes associated with cognitive dysfunction. Similarly, 28% of dogs aged 11 and 12 years, and 68% of dogs over 15, demonstrated at least one behavioural disorder. Some of the signs of cognitive decline include: • Inappropriate vocalization; • Disorientation, confusion or restlessness; • Altered relationships with family members and/or other pets; and • Sleep-wake pattern alterations.
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Guide to SENIOR PET CARE
PAINS OF AGE By Sarah Netherton
ith the medical and nutritional advances that have occurred in veterinary medicine, our pets are living longer and healthier lives. However, living longer means more pets are now experiencing problems related to the aging process. A common age-related problem is arthritis and is a condition of great concern to pet owners because of the discomfort it may cause. The good news is that many medications have been developed to safely deal with chronic pain in both dogs and cats. These range from nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (or NSAIDs for short), hyaluronic acid, nutraceuticals and other naturally occurring remedies. The goal is to try and limit the need for medications by ensuring that the joints are not overworked by being forced to carry too much weight or engaging in excessive exercise. Ensure that your pet is in the optimal weight range for a dog of its body size and conformation, and while continued exercise is good, be cautious of taking a dog on forced runs or playing a very long game of fetch. Many dogs are so eager to please their masters, they will literally play fetch until they drop. Bursts of excessive exercise can put an arthritis-prone and out-of-shape dog into super-sore mode so it is best to take it easy and work up gradually in the intensity of exercise. Swimming is an ideal exercise since it allows the muscles to get a work-out without the strain of putting full body weight on the joints. NSAIDs are products we are all familiar with and they can be found in virtually everyone’s medicine cabinet. Examples include acetylsalicylic acid (ASA or Aspirin), acetaminophen (Tylenol), and ibuprofen (Motrin).
For instance ASA in dogs can have tremendous benefits if used properly under veterinary supervision. These medications can also be harmful, especially in cats if used without consulting your veterinarian first, so a word of caution, always discuss the use of any medication with your veterinarian before you administer it to your pet. Good intentions may lead to patient harm. There are also many newer NSAIDs specifically designed for animals that can be used to treat chronic pain. Examples include meloxicam (Metacam) and carprofen (Rimadyl). Like any NSAIDs, there are potential side-effects and every pet should be thoroughly assessed by physical examination and blood tests before these medications are prescribed. There has been a link discovered between Rimadyl and liver disease in certain lines of Labrador retrievers, so these medications may not be suitable for every pet. However, for those pets able to tolerate the newer NSAIDs the results can be very good, with many bed-bound pets responding to the control of pain with significantly increased mobility. Nutraceuticals are naturally-occurring products. Some have been shown to assist in the control of pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. One example is refined fish oils, especially those high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can act as natural anti-inflammatory compounds. Another group of nutraceuticals employs either glucosamine, chondroitin sulphate or both. Both of these active ingredients may support the joint, making movement less painful. There is also a version available for use by injection by your veterinarian. Many different trade names exist
and while they may not be as potent as the NSAIDs, symptoms of pain often subside within four to six weeks and these medications can be given in conjunction with NSAIDs, often reducing the amounts of NSAIDs needed. Other compounds such as unsaponifiable extracts of soybeans and avocado and MSM are often combined in the pet arthritis medications. As for other natural remedies, caution should be exercised as many designed for use in arthritis contain ingredients with NSAIDclass compounds and they may create toxicities when used in conjunction with other arthritis-relief medications. Many different products and solutions exist to provide relief for older pets that suffer from the often debilitating effects of arthritis. Talk to your veterinarian about designing a pain-relief protocol that best suits your pet’s needs. — From the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association
CONTROLLING THE ACHES AND
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SENIOR PET CARE
OLDER PET T
here’s no mistaking it, baby pets are adorable and many grow up to become magnificent companions. Unfortunately pet owners often forget the trouble involved with raising a pet from infancy, and overlook the countless mature dogs awaiting adoption from shelters and rescue organizations. “Consider adopting an older pet if you want to skip the house-training and want an animal that may already be obedience trained,” said Dr. Mark Stickney, Clinical Associate Professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science (CVM). “Another benefit with older pets is that their personality is set when you meet them, and any health issues or special care needs may already be evident.” Within the first week of bringing home an older pet, schedule a visit with your veterinarian to identify any health concerns and to update vaccinations, heartworm prevention and parasite prevention.
“When selecting a pet to bring home make sure their behaviour and activity level will fit into your lifestyle, which is much easier to determine when you meet an older pet,” said Stickney. “For example, a pet that is calm and relaxed for a smaller house versus super-active pets that need room to move around and a large yard. You should also have it meet all of the family to make sure the pet will get along with the children, males and females living in your home.” It is also important to ask the shelter or rescue organization about any known health or behaviour issues, or if the pet has been around other pets before or not. Preparing your home for an older pet is not that much different than a younger one, with a few exceptions that many find easier. “When bringing home any pet, it is important to have things such as the appropriate food, bedding, bowls and the appropriate toys like chew objects for dogs or a scratching tree
for cats,” said Stickney. “It is also essential to have a carpet cleaner around for a few accidents until the pet understands your house’s routine, and to make sure your yard is fenced with no breaks where the pet could escape and get lost. If your pet has arthritis and has trouble moving and jumping, you may need a ramp to help it maneuver steps.” Older pets can also be easier to train because they do not get distracted as easily as puppies. However, if they have already learned certain commands you will need to stick with the same command words and gestures instead of trying to use new commands for the same trick. To view adoption services and to adopt an older pet of your own, check out services such as petfinder.com or visit your local shelter. — College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University/ vetmed.tamu.edu/pettalk.
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SENIOR PET CARE
INCIDENCE OF CONSTIPATION
INCREASES WITH AGE C
onstipation can occur in both cats and dogs, particularly as they get older. Constipation occurs when defecation becomes difficult and is of reduced frequency, or is absent (obstipation). When feces stay in the intestines longer than is necessary, too much moisture is absorbed from the stools, causing them to become dry and hard. This makes the stools difficult to expel. As a result, your dog or cat will strain to defecate and may not have a bowel movement for several days. If this condition goes untreated, the lower bowels may eventually become severely and irreversibly stretched, causing them to lose their ability to expel feces. This condition is known as megacolon. There are several possible reasons for constipation. Diet appears to play a significant role. For example, when a cat or dog swallows foreign materials, such as hair, bones, garbage, cloth or rocks, it can lead to constipation. Prolonged lack of exercise, a change in surroundings or a change in daily routine (i.e.,
stress) can lead to constipation problems as well. In these cases, pets may become reluctant to relieve themselves and become constipated. Some medical problems, such as infected anal glands or a fractured hip, can cause painful defecation and result in constipation. Some pets may have an intestinal obstruction or a nerve or muscle disorder. Older pets have less efficient gut motility, which makes them prone to constipation as well. They are also usually less active and are more likely to suffer from chronic low level dehydration (especially those with compromised kidney function). Older pets are most commonly afflicted by constipation. Certain drugs can also cause constipation. Drugs such as antihistamines and motility modifiers (e.g., Immodium™) can cause the intestines to slow down, resulting in constipation. How can constipation be prevented? Regular grooming will prevent excessive hair ingestion and regular exercise will encourage bowel regularity. A newly formulated hairball
prevention diet that is commercially available dissolves hair ingested via daily grooming and is available for your cat through your veterinarian. Access to a frequently cleaned litter box (and in dogs, frequent opportunities to defecate) is important. Lubricant laxatives can also be effective. These usually contain a combination of mineral oil and/or petrolatum along with a flavour base. They soften and lubricate feces and thereby make it easier to expel. The use of psyllium or pumpkin or other soluble fibres is also very effective and widely used. Docusate and other emollient laxatives can be helpful where motility is reduced, as can motility modifiers (prokinetic drugs). As far as foods, pets should avoid bones and should have access to fresh water at all times. Dogs should be fed a moderately high fibre diet. Your veterinarian can advise you which approaches are best suited to your pet. — From the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association
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Guide to SENIOR PET CARE
DIETS 101 By Kristina Cooper, RVT
cause stomach upset in an older adult. Treats geared for seniors are made to be easily digested, helping to decrease the chance of digestive system intolerance, which can lead to vomiting and diarrhea. Providing a high-quality, well-balanced, senior-specific diet will help to slow down the onset and progression of senior diseaserelated illnesses. If your pet is approaching senior citizen status, consult your veterinarian on your options. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
he pet food industry today has provided pet parents with a variety of diets to choose from for all life stages, including the senior years. Cats are considered seniors when they reach about eight to 10 years of age, whereas dogs, depending on their size (larger breed dogs mature earlier than smaller breed dogs), enter their senior years between the ages of five and seven years. Senior diets are formulated to take into account many senior challenges, including your pet’s slower metabolism, decreased activity level, organ dysfunction, degenerative joint disease (DJD) and lack lustre coat, as well as decreased tolerance due to dietary sensitivities. As pets age, their metabolism, which is responsible for converting food to energy used by the body, decreases. Senior pets are often less active as they encounter more agerelated disease, including DJD, which may cause pain (see page 17). Both of these factors can contribute to weight gain, leading to obesity in the senior pet. Senior pet diets take into account their decreased energy requirements. A normal process in the aging pet is the decrease of organ function that occurs over time due to everyday wear and tear on various organ systems. Many aging pets experience a decline in liver and kidney function. Senior diets are made to address this decline, and are comprised of highly digestible nutrients, creating less stress on the liver (which breaks them down) and
the kidneys (which excrete them). Sodium and phosphorus levels are often reduced in senior pet diets to help those with kidney and heart disease. Some diets available today also address cognitive dysfunction in pets, which displays similar signs as Alzheimer’s disease in humans, by providing increased amounts of antioxidants to support brain health. It has been known that supplements, including glucosamine and chondroitin provide relief to pets suffering from DJD. These supplements are now available in many senior pet diets, especially those geared to larger-breed dogs that are more prone to developing these joint changes over time. Also, as pets age, their coats may lose their usual lustre over time, and their skin may appear more flakey and dry. Essential fatty acid (EFA) supplements are now added to pet foods to help maintain a soft, shiny coat and healthy skin throughout your pets golden years. Over time a pet’s digestive system may become more sensitive to certain rich foods, including treats. The cookies and treats that were once enjoyed in a pet’s younger years may
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P E T S
P R O J E C T S
THOSE MOST IN NEED AND THEIR PETS, TOO
elebrating its 10th anniversary in 2013, Community Veterinary Outreach was established in Ottawa, ON, to meet the growing need for integration of veterinary education and care in the community.
are pet owners according to various estimates. In the past 10 years, the group has examined, treated and vaccinated well over 1,800 animals, while witnessing an ever-increasing rise in demand for their services. In 2012–2013 alone, they have treated 222 dogs and 289 cats. “The most common question I am asked is, ‘Should those who are homeless have pets?’” says Dr. Michelle Lem, founder and director of Community Veterinary Outreach. “The greater question is, ‘Should there be people who are homeless?’ If we help the person, we will help the pet. What is amazing is that this is a reciprocal relationship and, when we help the pet, we also have the opportunity to help the person.”
Volunteer veterinarian Dr. Don Caldwell examines a pet in the chapel of the Ottawa Mission. Dr. Caldwell has been volunteering his time at outreach clinics for over 10 years. Photo: Fred Chartrand
The registered charity’s innovative Mission Veterinary Care program was conceived as a way to provide preventive health care to animals of the homeless at the Ottawa Mission; the program is also now operating in Toronto and the Golden Triangle of Ontario (Hamilton, Kitchener and Waterloo). Working from College of Veterinarians of Ontario licensed companion animal mobiles and staffed with volunteers, animals are examined, vaccinated, treated for internal and external parasites and owners receive education and advice on nutrition, dental care, behaviour and the benefits of sterilization. In addition, this veterinary-based organization has found that by offering care for pets, they have been able to engage pet owners in health care, housing and other social services for themselves. There is no shortage of homeless individuals who need their help. It is estimated that the homeless population in the three regions served by Community Veterinary Outreach tops 16,000 people, 10% (or more) of whom
By providing preventive veterinary education and care to the animals of those in need, they can improve not only the health of the animal, but also support the physical and emotional well-being of their owners or guardians, and contribute to protecting public health. Perhaps best of all, volunteers help to maintain a strong and healthy human-animal bond for those to whom that bond may be the most significant relationship in their life. “For our veterinary volunteers, it is a fulfilling experience that often reminds them of why they wanted to become veterinarians — to help people and animals,” Lem says. Community Veterinary Outreach relies on product donation, foundations and individual donations to support their operations. Find out more about how you can help improve the lives of thousands of homeless Ontarians and their pets at www.vetoutreach.org.
LEARN WITH THE PROS AT MINI-VETERINARY SCHOOL Volunteer veterinary assistant Stacey Eccleshall helps hold a patient at a Mission Veterinary Care clinic. Photo: Devin Dobbins
Quotes from actual Community Veterinary Outreach clients: “He (my dog) gives me a reason to live.” “My cat is someone I can rely on — a friend who will always be there for me.” “My dog makes me a better person.”
Community Veterinary Outreach accepts clients on a referral basis from community partnerships that include area shelters, municipal public health, community health centres and mental health organizations. A refined intake process ensures that volunteers are reaching the target population of pet owners who are either homeless, at high risk of becoming homeless or marginally housed.
Community Veterinary Outreach recently launched Mini-Veterinary School events, which follow in the footsteps of the very popular Mini-Medical Schools that are offered across North America. The workshops provide the public with insight into the field of veterinary medicine, promote community outreach by the veterinary community through education on animal health and the humananimal relationship, increase awareness of veterinary medicine as a profession and raise funds for outreach efforts. Mini-Vet School master classes are four-hour lectures/workshops allowing participants to have a more in-depth learning experience on a given topic. These master classes are limited to a maximum of 30 participants, to allow more discussion, interaction and engagement with the speaker(s) and other participants. Find out more at www.vetoutreach.org/mini-vet-school.
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M A R K E T
P L A C E
visit us at www.petsmagazine.ca
POST- SURGERY OR INJURY?
Custom-made braces & wheel chairs address the need for short and long term treatment of joint and spinal injuries and to improve the quality of life for companion animals.
Contact: Molly Barber 1-800-678-9291 WWW.ANIMALREHAB.ON.CA
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visit us at www.petsmagazine.ca
M A R K E T
P L A C E
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J OY F U L TA I LS
With Jennifer Skiff
INSPIRING STORIES OF THE PROFOUND IMPACT DOGS CAN HAVE ON OUR LIVES
HEART TO HEART here’s a passionate movement in the world to end the unnecessary euthanasia of millions of pets every year. It emphasizes spaying and neutering, shelter adoptions and matching people with pets that suit their personality and lifestyle. One of these matchmaking programs is called the Senior for Senior program, and it’s brilliant. The Senior for Senior program pairs a senior animal with a senior person. The thought process behind this is that as we age, our mobility changes and our life expectancy shortens. There are many cats and dogs facing the same situation. These pets are often sedentary and would prefer to watch TV on the couch over going for a long walk. Because they are older and will often require more medical care as they age, shelters often reduce their adoption fees. I adopted a senior two years ago. While Honey is nearly deaf and has only one working eye, she’s all personality. The day I brought her home, I showed her around the house. I introduced her to a comfy dog bed, noted the locations of water bowls, and gently pushed her through the dog door. She hasn’t skipped a beat since. She uses the dog door to let herself outside and still sleeps in that dog bed (when she isn’t in mine). I love senior dogs because they’re relaxed, appreciative and potty trained! I’d like to share with you a story by Joyce Cutten from The Divinity of Dogs: True Stories of Miracles Inspired by Man’s Best Friend. It’s about an older dog who adopted her neighbours, and the spiritual realizations that came with her arrival: “My husband Bill died in September 1996. Prior to his unexpected death, we’d often discussed whether or not communication after death was possible. We had a great rapport with each other in life, which perhaps is only natural after 60 years of togetherness. But he was a complete skeptic about this “life after life” business. On a couple of occasions I suggested to him that, when either of us died, we should try to communicate with the one left behind. He said I was a nut, but agreed to it. Before any of this happened, a family came to live across the road from us. They owned a little Rough
Photo: Jennifer Skiff
Jennifer Skiff is an award-winning television producer, journalist and author of The Divinity of Dogs. She lives in Australia and the U.S. Jennifer is an animal Advocate and a trustee of the Dogs’ Refuge Home in Australia. www.jenniferskiff.com
SENIORS MEET THEIR MATCH WITH OLDER PETS
Haired Terrier named Skye. She was nine years old and, I can tell you, she was no canine beauty. Occasionally, Skye would wander over to our garden with a ball in her mouth and look pleadingly at Bill, inviting him to throw the ball for her to chase. He would oblige, and they became great friends. I would often see her resting with her muzzle on his knee, looking lovingly at him. I think she was lonely. She kindly acknowledged me with a wag of her tail, but it was Bill she adored. Before long, Skye would leave her house in the morning and come to us for the day, playing with Bill as he worked in the garden. She would go back to her house to greet her family upon their return home from work. Without warning, Bill became ill one day and was taken by ambulance to the hospital. Skye immediately camped out on the doormat of the house and refused to leave. She would lift her sad eyes up to mine and then place her nose on her paws, steadily watching me. She knew that Bill had died. Her sad expression told me everything. Skye had ignored me until the day Bill died, but from that day forward she camped out on our doormat and would not leave. On the day of Bill’s funeral, many of our family and friends came back to our house. Each one had to step over my guardian as they entered. My definitive sign from Bill came the first morning after his passing when Skye presented me with a gift — a gum nut from the Eucalyptus tree in the garden, where she and Bill had played their daily game of ball. Every morning after that, Skye would bring me a gift the moment she knew I was up. The gift was always a gum nut or a gum leaf. I felt the gift was from Bill. It was like he was telling me, “I told you I’d give you a sign of my love when I died.” Skye didn’t let a day go by without offering the loving gesture of a gift. She never expected me to throw it for her to chase — it was clearly a gift from Bill through Skye. She took up residence, day and night, on the front mat as my guardian. And that is where she stayed until she died. A few weeks after Bill passed, Skye’s owner took her for a walk on a busy road without a leash, and Skye was hit and killed by a car. I now believe that the love from a dog to a man can extend to man’s other best friend, his wife. I have experienced it. I also know we are blessed in life by people and by pets. I certainly have been.” WWW.PETSMAGAZINE.CA
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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
A BARN CAT LAUNCHES TWO CAREERS
IN HEALTH ack is now every inch a senior. He’s also the only patient I have who is as old as my veterinary career is long. Born in an old barn in Louisbourg, NS, sometime in the spring of 1995, he may have been fated for a short life if it wasn’t for a chance meeting with an inquisitive young boy. It was a Saturday in early June when Kelly, Dennis and their five-year-old son, Noah, headed out for a morning of yard sale visits. Louisbourg was only their third stop, but Noah was already getting bored. He wandered off a little, but Kelly and Dennis could see him poking around the yard behind the roadside tables. They weren’t concerned until Noah started shouting. All kinds of scenarios jumped into Kelly’s and Dennis’ imaginations — most of them suggesting a bandage would be required. Instead, they raced to Noah and found him presenting a little black kitten with crusted eyes and a runny nose. “He’s sick. I need to fix him,” Noah said. Neither Kelly nor Dennis had the heart to tell their small son to put the wheezy kitten back. So, instead of a trunk load of yard sale finds, their treasure that day rode home in the back seat, cuddled in Noah’s arms. When they came through the doors of the veterinary hospital, I had only been a vet for one month. Theirs was my first family affair. I introduced myself to all of them, and told them I was new to the practice. At the time, I wondered if it was my “newness” that had young Noah so focused on everything I was doing with his kitten. Noah studied my hands as we drew a little blood to test Jack for Feline Leukemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, two deadly retroviruses commonly found in cats. Thankfully, Jack tested negative for both. Noah listened closely as I told them Jack looked strong and was in good spirits, so we’d have him feeling great in no time. We’d treat his upper respiratory infection and the few parasites I’d found, and he’d be as good as new. After giving the family Jack’s health record and a bag of kitten food, I waved goodbye and didn’t see
Darren Low, DVM, practices companion animal medicine and surgery in Sydney, NS, where he lives with his wife, son and 10 fourfooted family members. He writes a weekly column for the Cape Breton Post.
them again much over the years, except for Jack’s yearly checkups. But, when I did see Jack, I always saw Noah, too. When age began to creep up on Jack it brought with it many geriatric issues, and Noah became a regular at the hospital, never losing his keen interest. It was Noah who noticed Jack’s discomfort when he developed arthritis in his shoulders and lower back and could no longer jump up on Noah’s bed. Noah agreed to a special mobility diet and periodic pain pill that helped Jack become nimble again. When Jack turned 16 and his weight started to drop excessively despite a good appetite, Noah wasn’t surprised when I showed him blood test results that confirmed Jack had hyperthyroidism. By the time Jack turned 18, Noah was heading off to medical school. He has a few months of studies at Dalhousie’s medical school under his belt now, and he loves it and is doing very well. He can relax knowing I’ve got Jack’s back, but he still Skypes home every day to check on his furry buddy, and to make sure Kelly and Dennis are giving him his pills and watching for changes — because, after all, Jack was his first patient, too.
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