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8 Out of 10 Pet Owners Didn’t Recognize These Signs of Illness – Will You?

Story at-a-glance
  • In a study of senior dogs and their owners, it was discovered that parents of older dogs often don’t recognize the signs of age-related illness, or don’t consider them to be serious. Eighty percent of owners involved in the study were unaware of at least one significant health concern with their pet. The dogs in the study averaged about eight health issues each.
  • Most traditional veterinarians wait for their patients to become ill before they intervene. This is very likely the reason owners of aging pets fear visiting the vet, and as a result, many older companion animals don’t get regular check-ups.
  • Proactive wellness-oriented veterinarians like Dr. Becker take an entirely different approach. Their goal is to see pets for wellness exams on a regular basis so they can maintain their patients in good health, and catch developing diseases before they become full-blown.
  • Ideally pet owners can team up with a local veterinarian who takes a proactive approach to the health of animals. When your pet’s health is carefully monitored throughout his or her life, it makes vet exams much less daunting as your furry companion gets up in years.
  • There are also many things you can do at home to help your aging pet remain comfortable and in good health.

Aging Pet

By Dr. Becker

Many veterinarians rely entirely on the owners of senior pets to report signs of age-related illness. (I’m not one of them, because my approach is proactive rather than reactive, and my focus is on preventing illness — not waiting until it occurs.) Unfortunately, many pet parents don’t recognize the signs, or consider changes in their dog’s or cat’s health normal if the symptoms seem related to the animal’s advancing age.

In fact, in a study published recently in the Journal of Small Animal Practice1, it was revealed that the vast majority (80 percent) of owners of dogs older than nine years of age were not aware of at least one significant health problem with their pet.

Study Suggests Most Older Dogs Have Unaddressed Health Problems

The study involved veterinary consultations with the owners of 45 senior dogs. The vet sessions consisted of taking a history of the dog’s health and lifestyle, a full physical examination, and urinalysis.

The history taking was standardized so that the owners were asked the same questions about changes they had noticed as their pet aged. A prompted history taking was also completed using open questions, followed by appropriate closed questions. The physical exam evaluated all organ systems, and the urinalysis included a dipstick urine test and specific gravity.

The 45 dogs in the study were discovered to have an average of about eight health issues each, including ear infections, respiratory distress, arthritis, abdominal masses, heart murmurs or arrhythmias, and lung cancer. According to study authors, the dogs’ owners frequently did not recognize or report serious signs of disease, however, they did report symptoms like increased sleeping, hearing or vision loss, stiffness or lameness, “slowing down,” increased cloudiness of the lens of the eye, increased thirst and urination, pain, signs of osteoarthritis, and dental disease.

As a result of the screenings, 29 further diagnostic procedures were ordered including 10 dental procedures, seven medical treatments, two surgeries, and sadly, the euthanasia of two dogs.

How to Conquer Your Fear of Vet Exams for Your Aging Pet

I think it’s normal for owners of beloved older pets to grow more fearful of vet appointments as their dog, cat, or other animal companion ages. The more years on the pet, the more likely a serious health problem will be diagnosed during a veterinary exam. But I think this view is much more prevalent in clients of traditional vet practices, because the conventional veterinary community is trained to wait for full-blown illness before intervening in an animal’s health.

In my proactive wellness-oriented practice and others like it, long-term clients are less fearful when they bring their elderly companions in for checkups because we (the pet parent and I) have worked as a team throughout the animal’s life to address potential health issues as soon as they arise.

My most vibrant, longest-lived patients are those whose owners not only provide a healthy lifestyle for their pets, but also bring them to my clinic for regular wellness exams – especially as they get up in years or if we are managing current medical issues. The frequency and regularity of their visits allows us to get to work on a developing disorder early in its progression, when there is the best chance for an excellent outcome.

We also review the animal’s nutritional, supplement and medication protocols at each visit and make adjustments as necessary. This allows us to, for example, know when the time is right to begin specific supplementation to prevent or slow the progress of age-related changes like loss of vision, osteoarthritis, and mental decline.

No matter your companion animal’s age, I strongly encourage you to find a wellness-oriented holistic or integrative veterinarian in your area (or at least within driving distance) – a DVM who practices a proactive approach to caring for your pet’s health. The two of you, as a team, can then set about taking steps to keep your furry friend healthy, rather than simply waiting in fear for a dreadful diagnosis.

Tips for Helping Your Pet Age Well

No matter your pet’s age, certainly the foundation for good health and vitality is a nutritionally balanced, species-appropriate diet. The food your dog eats either builds up or tears down his health. His body needs an ideal energy source to promote the processes of metabolism, growth and healing. That perfect fuel is a healthy variety of fresh, living food suitable for your carnivorous canine. And pets’ nutritional needs change as they age.

To help with failing eyesight:

  • Bilberries are a rich source of flavonoids with antioxidant properties. When taken in capsule form combined with Vitamin E, they protect the eye tissue of humans and halt lens clouding in 97 percent of people with early-stage cataracts. This herb is safe for dogs, so it’s certainly something that might help and won’t harm your pet.
  • Leave a radio, television or other background noise on when your pet will be home alone. This will give her a reference point, and should also help mute noises that may startle her.
  • Avoid moving furniture around, keep household ‘travel lanes’ clear, and minimize clutter. The easier it is for your pet to navigate through the house, the less likely it is she’ll become disoriented or injure herself. Cover up slippery floors so your pet will feel secure walking on them.
  • Use natural scents like aromatherapy products (I use lavender oil) to ‘mark’ special spots in the house, for example your pet’s water dish.
  • Don’t move your pet’s feeding station around, and if your companion is a cat, don’t move the litter box from place to place. A familiar environment and daily routine are especially important to elderly pets with diminished faculties.

For arthritic pets:

  • Maintaining your dog at a healthy weight and insuring he’s physically active throughout his life will help control arthritis and degenerative joint disease in his later years.
  • Cover slick floors (most tile, linoleum, hard wood) with non-skid rugs or runners to prevent dogs from slipping.
  • Chiropractic adjustments, massage, stretching, aquatic therapy, laser therapy and acupuncture are therapies that can make a world of difference in the mobility of your pet as he ages. Talk with your holistic/integrative vet about supplements you can add to your dog’s diet to help maintain healthy tendons, ligaments, joints and cartilage. Some of these might include:
    • Glucosamine sulfate with MSM and eggshell membrane
    • Omega-3 fats (krill oil)
    • Ubiquinol
    • Supergreen foods like spirulina and astaxanthin
    • Natural anti-inflammatory formulas (herbs, proteolytic enzymes and nutraceuticals)
    • Adequan injections, which can stimulate joint fluid very rapidly in pets with arthritis

To keep your dog mentally sharp:

  • Enrich your dog’s environment with regular exercise, mental stimulation and socialization with other pets and people. In a two-year study of senior beagles, researchers found dogs that engaged in regular physical exercise, playtime with other pups and stimulating toys, did better on cognitive tests and learning new tasks than their less active counterparts.
  • Give your dog a SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) supplement. SAMe is a safe and very effective way to stall or improve mental decline. In one recent study, dogs with age-related cognitive decline given a SAMe supplement for eight weeks showed a 50 percent reduction in mental impairment. Consult your pet’s veterinarian for the right dose size for your dog.
  • Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) have been shown to improve brain energy metabolism and decrease the amyloid protein buildup that results in brain lesions in older dogs. Coconut oil is a rich source of MCTs. I recommend 1/4 teaspoon for every 10 pounds of body weight twice daily for basic MCT support.
  • Other supplements to consider are resveratrol (Japanese Knotweed), which protects against free radical damage and beta-amyloid deposits, ginkgo biloba, and phosphatidylserine – a nutritional supplement that can inhibit age-related cognitive deficits. Again, I recommend you consult a holistic veterinarian for dosing guidance.

Give your pets a head start for a healthier, happier and longer life with StemPets and StemEquine – Stem Cell Enhancers for Pets

Book: Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs

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Pet Age

The Nutrient Your Pet Needs More of As They Age: Protein

March 1, 2013 Posted by | Adopt Just One More Pet, Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, animals, Dogs, Dogs, Holistic Pet Health, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, Pet Nutrition, Pets, responsible pet ownership, We Are All God's Creatures | , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

POEM – SENIOR DOG WANTING A FOREVER HOME

POEM – SENIOR DOG WANTING A FOREVER HOME

Too old, too worn, too broken, no way.
Way past his time, he can’t run and play.
Then they shake their heads slowly and go on their way.
A little old man, arthritic and sore,
It seems I am not wanted anymore.
I once had a home, I once had a bed,
A place that was warm, and where I was fed.
Now my muzzle is grey, and my eyes slowly fail.
Who wants a dog so old and so frail?
My family decided I didn’t belong,
I got in their way, my attitude was wrong.
Whatever excuse they made in their head,
Can’t justify how they left me for dead.
Now I sit in this cage, where day after day,
The younger dogs get adopted away.
When I had almost come to the end of my rope,
You saw my face, and I finally had hope.
You saw through the grey, and the legs bent with age,
And felt I still had life beyond this cage.
You took me home, gave me food and a bed,
And shared your own pillow with my poor tired head.
We snuggle and play, and you talk to me low,
You love me so dearly, you want me to know.
I may have lived most of my life with another,
But you outshine them with a love so much stronger.
And I promise to return all the love I can give,
To you, my dear person, as long as I live.
I may be with you for a week, or for years,
We will share many smiles, you will no doubt shed tears.
And when the time comes that God deems I must leave,
I know you will cry and your heart, it will grieve.
And when I arrive at the Bridge, all brand new,
My thoughts and my heart will still be with you.
And I will brag to all who will hear,
Of the person who made my last days so dear.

–  Author – Leslie Whalen, in memory of her dog Tray

One by One, they pass by my cage…

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Magic Beans?

Yesterday I was gone from home for several hours, not the normal few like I usually do with my dogs.  They were all fed and had their morning potty run in the yard but then they were in the house the rest of the day, alone.  They have a water bottle fed bowl and I put down two relief pads for them to use. When I returned they were extremely happy to see me but they were perfect kids while I was gone.  Nothing out of place and the two relief pads were both used, no puddles anywhere in the house. Since the weather had cooled off I decided we could brave the dog park as a treat for being cooped up all day.

As soon as the sun set I loaded them into their car seats and headed to the park.  The dog park we go to had just re-opened after being closed for two weeks for “maintenance.”  The park has two sections, one for the large guys and one for the small fries.  There were about 30 dogs in the large park and no one in the small when we got there, which was a little disappointing to my guys as they like the socialization with their kind.  They soon got over the fact that they were the only ones and romped in the joy of being out on cool grass with scents galore. What was surprising is that my 16 year-old, Lilly, ran and played like a puppy!  She chased and was being chased by my younger dogs and had a great old time doing so.

After a while a young girl brought in her family’s 2 Chihuahuas while her parents took the big dogs into the larger dog section.   One of them was so tiny he couldn’t have been more than 3 lbs.  My biggest dog, Ginger, that I have only had since the beginning of June, ran the fastest I had ever seen her move to get to the little dogs!  Ginger had dental work in mid July and is on a weight loss program using green beans to supplement her half rations of regular food.  She has lost about a pound in the two months that I have had her and her infections have all been cleared up so she is feeling like a new dog.  I didn’t know she could move that fast, I was amazed!  So, here I am at the park with a senior acting like a pup again and a healthy dog moving like one that weighs 5 lbs less than she really is.  Now, we could say it was the fact that they hadn’t been to the park in just over 2 weeks, or the cooler weather, or the fact that they were finally outside, but I want to think there is magic in those green beans they have been eating!

Posted:  Just One More Pet

August 10, 2009 Posted by | Just One More Pet, On The Lighter Side, Pet Health, Pet Nutrition, Pets, responsible pet ownership, Success Stories | , , , , , , | Leave a comment