Senior Awareness Season
Senior Pet Care (FAQ)
Due to improved veterinary care and dietary habits, pets are living longer now than they ever have before. One consequence of this is that pets, along with their owners and veterinarians, are faced with a whole new set of age-related conditions. In recent years there has been extensive research on the problems facing older pets and how their owners and veterinarians can best handle their special needs.
Q: When does a pet become “old”?
A: It varies, but cats and small dogs are generally considered geriatric at the age of 7. Larger breed dogs tend to have shorter life spans and are considered geriatric when they are approximately 6 years of age. Owners tend to want to think of their pet’s age in human terms. While it is not as simple as “1 human year = X cat/dog years”, there are calculations that can help put a pet’s age in human terms:
Age: Human Equivalents for Older Pets
|Cat years||Human years|
|Dog years||Human years (*dog size lbs)|
|7||Small – Medium: 44-47|
|Large – Very large: 50-56|
|10||Small – Medium: 56-60|
|Large – Very large: 66-78|
|15||Small – Medium: 76-83|
|Large – Very large: 93-115|
|20||Small – Medium: 96-105|
|*Small: 0-20 lbs; Medium: 21-50 lbs; Large: 51-90 lbs; Very large: >90 lbs|
The oldest recorded age of a cat is 34 years. The oldest recorded age of a dog is 29 years.
Q: What kinds of health problems can affect older pets?
A: Geriatric pets can develop many of the same problems seen in older people, such as
- Heart Disease
- Kidney/Urinary Tract Disease
- Liver Disease
- Joint or Bone Disease
Q: I know my pet is getting older. How do I help them stay happy and healthy for as long as possible?
A: Talk to your veterinarian about how to care for your older pet and be prepared for possible age-related health issues. Senior pets require increased attention, including more frequent visits to the veterinarian, possible changes in diet, and in some cases alterations to their home environment. Here are some basic considerations when caring for older pets:
Older Pet Care Considerations
|Area of concern||Description|
|Increased veterinary care||Geriatric pets should have semi-annual veterinary visits instead of annual visits so signs of illness or other problems can be detected early and treated. Senior pet exams are similar to those for younger pets, but are more in depth, and may include dental care, possible bloodwork, and specific checks for physical signs of diseases that are more likey in older pets.|
|Diet and nutrition||Geriatric pets often need foods that are more readily digested, and have different calorie levels and ingredients, and anti-aging nutrients|
|Weight control||Weight gain in geriatric dogs increases the risk of health problems, whereas weight loss is a bigger concern for geriatric cats.|
|Parasite control||Older pets’ immune systems are not as healthy as those of younger animals; as a result, they can’t fight off diseases or heal as fast as younger pets|
|Maintaining mobility||As with older people, keeping older pets mobile through appropriate exercise helps keep them healthier and more mobile.|
|Vaccination||Your pet’s vaccination needs may change with age. Talk to your veterinarian about a vaccination program for your geriatric pet.|
|Mental health||Pets can show signs of senility. Stimulating them through interactions can help keep them mentally active. If any changes in your pet’s behavior are noticed, please consult your veterinarian.|
|Environmental considerations||Older pets may need changes in their lifestyle, such as sleeping areas to avoid stairs, more time indoors, etc. Disabled pets have special needs which can be discussed with your veterinarian|
|Reproductive diseases||Non-neutered/non-spayed geriatric pets are at higher risk of mammary, testicular, and prostate cancers.|
Q: My older pet is exhibiting changes in behavior. What’s going on?
A: Before any medical signs become apparent, behavioral changes can serve as important indicators that something is changing in an older pet, which may be due to medical or other reasons. As your pet’s owner, you serve a critical role in detecting early signs of disease because you interact and care for your pet on a daily basis and are familiar with your pet’s behavior and routines. If your pet is showing any change in behavior or other warning signs of disease, contact your veterinarian and provide them with a list of the changes you have observed in your pet. Sometimes, the changes may seem contradictory – such as an older pet that has symptoms of hearing loss but also seems more sensitive to strange sounds.
Possible Behavior Changes in Older Pets
- Increased reaction to sounds
- Increased vocalization
- Decreased interaction w/humans
- Increased irritability
- Decreased response to commands
- Increased aggressive/protective behavior
- Increased anxiety
- House soiling
- Decreased self-hygiene/grooming
- Repetitive activity
- Increased wandering
- Change in sleep cycles
Common Signs of Arthritis in Pets
- Favoring a limb
- Difficulty sitting or standing
- Sleeping more
- Seeming to have stiff or sore joints
- Hesitancy to jump, run or climb stairs
- Weight gain
- Decreased activity or interest in play
- Attitude or behavior changes (including increased irritability)
- Being less alert
Signs of arthritis often are similar to signs of normal aging, so if your pet seems to have any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, the best thing to do is to have your veterinarian examine them, and then advise you as to what treatment plan would be best to help your pet deal with the pain. Arthritis treatments for pets are similar to those for humans, and may include:
- Healthy diet and exercise to help maintain proper weight.
- Working with your veterinarian to find a drug treatment that helps relieve the pain.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS): the most common treatment for arthritis in dogs. These drugs are similar to ibuprofen, aspirin, and other human pain relievers. However, never give a NSAID for people (over-the-counter or prescription) to your pet unless instructed to do so by your veterinarian; some of these drugs (such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen) can be toxic for pets.
- Over-the-counter pet treatments, such as pills or food containing either glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate or Omega fatty acids. Both may help relieve the symptoms of arthritis in dogs.
- A veterinarian-prescribed NSAID and an over-the-counter treatment that together may help decrease pain and disease progression.
- Diets with special supplements may also help decrease the discomfort and increase the joint mobility
Do not give human pain medications to your pet without first consulting your veterinarian. Some human products, including over-the-counter medications, can be fatal for pets.
Changes in the home environment may also help you deal with an older pet who is experiencing stiffness and/or pain. Orthopedic beds, stair steps to help an animal up to higher places (so they don’t have to jump), raised feeding platforms, etc. can help make your arthritic pet’s life more comfortable.
Ticks in Ontario: Autumn is Round 2 for TICKS
Ticks are parasites and, while all parasites are disgusting, the ones that attach and suck blood always seem to have that little extra repulsive quality. Ticks fall into this category and unfortunately they are becoming more prevalent in our area. In addition to their disgusting nature (sorry if we have offended any tick and parasite lovers out there) ticks also have the ability to transmit diseases during the process of sucking blood.
(Are your pets protected this fall against these mean tiny parasites?)
Ticks are closely related to spiders. They are typically small when unfed, (1 to 5 mm in length), and all active stages feed on blood. They cannot fly and do move quite slowly. Ticks usually come in contact with people or animals by positioning themselves on tall grass and bushes. Once they land on a host they can take several hours to find a suitable place on the host to attach and feed. Most tick bites are painless.
Tick Life Cycle
There are two major tick ”blooms”, when ticks emerge from their previous life stage and begin feeding. One bloom occurs in the spring/summer and the other in the late fall. This is when we need to be extra attentive to protect both ourselves and our pets from tick bites and the possible diseases they carry.
Ticks and Disease
Ticks can transmit several diseases (anaplasma, ehrlichia, lyme) but the one that gets the most attention in our area is Lyme disease. Lyme disease is transmitted by the black legged tick or deer tick (Ixodes scapularis). Until recently this tick was primarily seen along western Lake Erie; however, now the blacklegged tick is being found all around Lake Ontario, including the GTA. It is becoming endemic in eastern Ontario, especially in the Kingston area.
Lyme disease can affect both you and your pets, in fact we humans are much more susceptible to the disease than dogs. While a bite by an infected tick will lead to infection in humans 80-90% of the time, only 5-10% of dogs bitten will become infected. Not all ticks are infected with lyme so not every tick bite could cause lyme disease.
There are two other ticks in our area which get less press but can transmit disease. The American dog tick is the most common tick while the brown dog tick is less common but can live indoors.
Tick Bite Prevention
It is important to be vigilant for ticks even in our area. We have seen ticks attached to dogs who have not been outside Mississauga.
As we mentioned earlier, ticks like to locate themselves in long or overgrown grass and in bushy areas so pay special attention if you and your dog like to walk in such areas. Wear socks, pants and long sleeves to protect yourself. Check both you and your dog for ticks after your walk and remove any you find. Brushing your dog after a walk is a way to help remove ticks which are attempting to attach. If you have difficulty removing a tick from your dog call us and we can do it for you.
Protection Against Ticks
We have products that work against fleas and ticks, or fleas and heartworm but nothing that is completely effective against all three parasites. Revolution, a topical product which many of you have used, is the best compromise as it does well against fleas and heartworm and has some effect against ticks. However, to obtain good protection against all three parasites two products are required. For ticks and fleas we have a topical agent, (Advantix) and an oral chewable tablet (Nexgard). Both work well against ticks and fleas but require a second medication to protect against heartworm.
Why Ticks Complicate Things
Traditionally we have started heartworm prevention in May or June because the mosquitos which carry the parasite are not infectious until then. However, the first tick bloom is in the early spring and summer before your dog is taking heartworm preventive medication. To completely protect your pet we recommend starting your dog on tick prevention in March or April and then adding heart worm protection the beginning of June.
Should My Dog Be on Tick Preventive?
Knowing your dog’s lifestyle, you might feel that tick protection should definitely be added to your dog’s summer parasite prevention regimen. If so, call us and we will be happy to discuss which medications would be best for your dog(s).
If you are uncertain about the addition of tick preventives, we will be happy to discuss the pros and cons with you to help you decide whether it is appropriate for your situation.
I Have a Cat, Do they Get Ticks?
Ticks can attach to cats who go outdoors. However, because cats are so fastidious in their grooming they usually groom off the tick prior to the tick being able to obtain a blood meal. Most of the tick preventives used for dogs should not be used in cats. If you are concerned about protecting your cat Revolution is an option. As we mentioned it is not a perfect tick preventive but does protect well against fleas and gives some tick protection. We do recommend flea protection for cats who go outdoors.
October is Farley Foundation Fundraiser Month!
Please come and help us support a great cause!
For the entire month of October, we will be introducing weekly themes and you will not want to miss out on any of the SVH fun!
Week 1: Homemade (by our amazing team members) Dog and Cat Treats!
Week 2: Yummy Baked Goods for Humans
Week 3: Balloon Pop (win your choice of prize with donation)
Week 4: Howl-O-Ween Photo Booth
(make a donation and you can have your pet and/or yourself photographed in costume)
What is Farley Foundation?
The Farley Foundation was established by the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA) in 2001, in recognition of the fact that many low income pet owners lack the financial resources to pay for veterinary care that their pets need.
The foundation’s mission is to assist Ontario pet owners in demonstrated financial need by subsidizing the cost of veterinary care for the pets, to help those pets live longer, happier lives.
Ontario veterinarians recognize the special relationship that exists between people and their pets, and the positive impact pets can have on the health and well-being of their owners. This is often particularly true for the elderly or persons with disabilities, who may depend heavily on their pets for companionship. That’s why the Farley Foundation subsidizes the cost of veterinary care for these and other pet owners who cannot otherwise afford such treatment.
The Foundation subsidizes the cost of non-elective veterinary care for pets owned by:
Seniors receiving the Federal Guaranteed Income Supplement GIS);
Disabled individuals receiving the Ontario Disability Support Payment (ODSP) or the Canada Pension Plan – Disability (CPP Disability);
Women at risk of abuse entering registered women’s shelters, and who are participating in the OVMA SafePet Program;
Individuals receiving financial assistance through Ontario Works; and
Facilities catering to seniors who require special care, including supporting housing, retirement homes and long-term care facilities.
Pet Of The Month
Pet of the Month
Newt is a 13 y/o Papillon who has chronic issues with his knee cap. He was born with a condition called luxating patellas; which in essence is a dislocating knee cap.
This condition is common among tiny breed dogs. The groove that is meant to hold the knee cap is too shallow and the knee cap escapes. Patella luxations are graded out of 4, with 1 being minor and 4 being severe. Low grade luxations often need minimal intervention and the animals have good function of the limb. High grade luxations more often require surgical correction, as typically the animal cannot bear weight on the limb.
Newt had low grade luxations his whole life, but one day Newt’s family came home and he was limping on his right hind limb. It was apparent that his luxation had worsened. His knee cap would not stay in place and he couldn’t walk on it. X-rays were negative for a fracture, but there was mild swelling within the knee joint itself. The thought was Newt hurt himself while nobody was home and worsened his luxation.
Newt was scheduled for surgery with a specialist surgeon. The specialist found that Newt had actually torn his cruciate ligament! It is common for a ruptured cruciate to exacerbate a luxating patella. Newts cruciate rupture and luxating patella were dealt with in one surgery.
It is 2 weeks out and Newt is doing great. His family is performing his daily physiotherapy and giving his pain medication.Newt is already bearing weight and wants to run around the backyard. We wish him a speedy recovery.