Senior Pets

We love our pets – they bring us joy, companionship, laughter and… sometimes frustration.  And they give us unconditional love.  In return, we care for them and love them back as best we can.

Beep gets a hug during water therapy for arthritis with Tracie

Beep gets a hug during water therapy for arthritis with Tracie

But we hate the thought of our pets becoming “seniors” – just as much if not more than we hate to think of ourselves as seniors!  So it’s only natural that we hesitate to bring our pets in more often than the usual annual exam.

At the clinic, we frequently hear “My 8 year old dog seems perfectly healthy.  He just has some typical old age stuff like trouble getting up from lying down.  Do I really need to bring him in?”

If you were in pain and having trouble getting up, wouldn’t you go to the doctor to see if you could get something to relieve the pain?  And are you sure that it is just “typical old age stuff”?  Better to get it checked out and get some suggestions from Dr. Frank to keep your dog or cat comfortable and pain-free for as long as possible.

Keep in mind that our pets, particularly cats, are very good at hiding any signs of illness, it is their survival instinct.  By the time you are seeing symptoms, the illness or disease has typically been progressing for some time.

Q: “So how often should I bring my 10 year old cat in for an exam?”

Remember, your pets age 5-7 years faster than we do.  So an annual exam is the equivalent of you going to the doctor every 5-7 years.  A lot can happen in 7 years!  Dr. Frank recommends an exam every six months starting at age 7 for dogs and starting at age 10 for cats.  This provides an opportunity for Dr. Frank to see changes that we don’t notice on a daily basis.   It also allows an informative discussion twice a year about ways to prevent common age-related illnesses or diseases.

Sarah at 16

Sarah at 16 years young

Q: “What can the Doctor see that I can’t see?”

At each exam Dr. Frank will do a thorough check of your pet’s eyes, ears, teeth, skin and joints.  He may recommend blood work to monitor organ function such as the kidneys, liver or thyroid glands, as well as answer any questions you may have.  Dr. Frank will also palpate the abdomen, feeling for abnormalities such as enlarged organs, lymph nodes or masses.

Dr. Frank’s experience and expertise at feeling and seeing abnormalities or changes that we may not even notice is invaluable.  Sometimes we don’t notice because it has been such a gradual change.  Sometimes changes are within an internal organ that requires a vet’s training and skill to detect.

Q: “Is there really anything that can be done to prevent illness?”

This is the reason why Dr. Frank chose the name of our clinic to be “Wellness Center” rather than veterinary hospital.  Our goal is to promote wellness, not just diagnose and treat illness.  Preventive care such as diet, supplements, exercise and regular wellness exams are the best way to keep our pets healthy for as long as possible.

There is no blanket prescription for every pet, as each is unique.  But Dr. Frank can discuss the best wellness plan for your cat or dog, helping you to keep your beloved pet healthy and happy for as long as possible.

How Can I Protect My Pet From an Accidental Poisoning?

Next week, March 17th – 23rd, is National Poison Prevention Week.  We want to remind everyone to keep phone numbers for your regular veterinarian, your closest emergency veterinary clinic or hospital and the ASPCA Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) on your refrigerator, kitchen bulletin board or wherever you keep emergency numbers handy for your family.  When you are in the midst of something urgent, you will not want to or may not have time to search for the information.

While Missy naps, Abbey keeps her  company

While Missy naps, Abbey keeps her company

It’s an excellent idea to program those numbers into every family member’s cell phone, with easy to remember speed-dial numbers attached.  Use the same speed-dial numbers on all phones in the household.

That way, if you are not at home and your son or daughter, husband or wife, sister or brother has a pet emergency and they call you in a panic, you can remind them the phone numbers are in their cell phone under “Vet”, “Emergency Vet” and “Pet Poison Control”.  Or quickly tell them what speed-dial number to call.

Dr. Frank also recommends reading the information written by Dr. Marty Becker on poison prevention for pets.  In this article Dr. Becker talks about common household substances that pet owners often do not realize are harmful to their pets.

Dr. Becker wrote, “…While some pet poisonings are a result of something an animal gets into that is a known poison, like a rodenticide, a surprising number of cases come from something intentionally given to an animal by an owner who’s trying to help.

The classic example of the latter is when an elderly cat is given an extra-strength acetaminophen for arthritis. The owner is trying to help, but unfortunately even one capsule of this common human medicine can kill a cat. As for dogs, they can figure out their way into trouble that their owners never envisioned. A few months ago, our neighbors dog answered the question “can dogs eat almonds” with a resounding no of puking all over the carpet. Not to mention, dog ownership difficulties also include opening cabinets to get cleaning products and counter-surfing to reach food items and pill vials.

Take preventive measures. You need to realize that pets are basically like toddlers who can open any childproof container that is not locked up or hidden away, and you should take similar precautions to keep your pets safe and healthy.

  • Keep products such as medications, harmful foods and cleaning products in a secure cabinet above countertop height.
  • Use a kitchen garbage can with a lid.
  • Always read labels, especially on flea and tick products, and on lawn and garden products. Store out of reach in a high cupboard, not under the sink.
  • Be familiar with the plants in and around your home, and have only nontoxic plants.
  • Never give any medication or supplement to your pet unless recommended or approved by your veterinarian. According to the Pharr Road Animal Hospital, many toxic substances aren’t well-known to dog owners. For example, don’t let your dog have significant amounts of raisins or grapes, macadamia nuts, moldy cheese, chocolate, onions, garlic or xylitol-sweetened gum and other candies or baked items.

Recognize the symptoms. Even with preventive measures in place, it is important to know the signs of poisoning. Many (but not all) substances first cause stomach upset, including vomiting and diarrhea. It’s not fun, but vomit must be examined for evidence of chewed packaging, plants, food, pills or other important clues. Many poisonings progress to weakness and depression or nervous stimulation, including tremors and seizures. Pets may stop eating and drinking, or may drink excessive amounts, which could suggest liver or kidney involvement. Rapid or slow breathing, with changes in tongue and gum color — from pink to white, blue or brown — is important.

Get help, fast. If you suspect poisoning, stay calm. Panicking will not help your pet and may waste precious time. If your pet is not showing any serious signs of illness described above, contact your regular veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) to determine if your pet needs to be seen by a vet or if treatment can be given at home.”

If your pet is having difficulty breathing, having seizures, or is bleeding or unconscious, go to your regular veterinarian or emergency clinic immediately. Take any evidence, including chewed containers and labels, and even vomit. This information is key to helping your veterinarian save your pet. Be sure you always have the numbers of your pet’s regular veterinarian, your local veterinary emergency clinic and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center in an easily accessible location. It could save your pet’s life.”

The above quoted information is from a January, 2012 article by Dr. Becker posted on the VetStreet website. 

Additional Resources:
Dr. Frank talks about specific foods and other items to pay attention to in previous posts
Pets and the Holidays
Thanksgiving Tip for your Cats and Dogs
Reminder +

Links to more articles on poisons and poison prevention are on the VetStreet Home page