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.

Pets, Kindness and Hugs

Jake and Friends

Jake and Friends

Last week (May 5-11) was both
National Pet Week and
Be Kind to Animals Week.

But there seems to be some confusion as to when people want to honor / celebrate hugging your cat…

Some sources say Hug Your Cat Day is May 3rd, some say May 15th and still others insist it’s May 30th.
Hmmm… how about declaring your personal favorite day in May as Hug Your Cat Day?

National Pet Week (1st week in May)

We strongly believe in the top two goals of National Pet Week and strive to meet those goals every day.  So to us, every week is National Pet Week.

The goals of National Pet Week are to:

1)    Promote responsible pet ownership

2)    Celebrate the human-animal bond

3)    Promote public awareness of veterinary medicine

Be Kind to Animals Week (1st week in May)

American Humane Association’s Be Kind to Animals Week®  has been celebrated every year since 1915.  In this annual tradition, we:

1)    Commemorate the role animals play in our lives

2)    Promote ways to continue to treat animals humanely

3)    Encourage others, especially children, to do the same

We may be a week or so after the official week, but we feel that it’s important for us to do our part to spread the word with both these messages, regardless of the date.

Cosmo and Jackson

Cosmo (cat) and Jackson (donkey)

Here are a few ways to belatedly celebrate Be Kind to Animals Week and National Pet Week (from the American Humane Association’s website).

Take care of your pet

Pets are like children who never grow up.  They need you to help keep them healthy and safe throughout their lives.  Make sure he or she is wearing proper identification.  Take your pet to the veterinarian regularly.  Know what it takes to be a responsible pet owner.

Adopt a pet from a shelter or rescue

Every year, an estimated 3.7 million animals must be euthanized at our nation’s shelters because they could not be adopted into loving homes.  Help animals find a second chance at happiness by considering adopting your next pet from your local shelter or rescue group.

Appreciate wildlife

All animals deserve to be treated humanely — family pets and animals in the wild.  Create an inviting space in your yard and garden for butterflies, hummingbirds and other creatures.  If wildlife comes too close to home, look for ways to coexist with animals or to protect your property humanely.

Report animal abuse

Animal cruelty and abuse is not only tragic for animals, but also an indicator that other forms of abuse such as domestic violence could be happening.  If you see something that looks suspicious — a dog chained in your neighbor’s yard that looks underfed, a child putting a cat in a box and kicking it around the yard — don’t hesitate.  Let someone know.

Is Hugging Two Kitties at once Twice as Good for You?

Is Hugging Two Kitties at once
Twice as Good for You?

Cats and Hugs (May 3rd? …May 15th?
…or is it May 30th?)

We at Harmony say, no worries… Who cares if it’s May 3rd, 15th or 30th?

Most of us now know it’s a proven fact that hugs from animals and giving hugs to animals will lower a person’s blood pressure and can decrease stress in their caregivers.

So we say, “Let’s make every day from now until the end of May Hug Your Cat Day.”  An easy way to form a habit both you and your cat can enjoy for the rest of this month, this year and next year and…

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Additional Resources:

ASPCA FAQ on Reporting Animal Abuse
American Humane Association

National Pet Week

Did you know this week, May 6-12, is National Pet Week?  No?  Neither did we until recently. 

Search and Rescue Category

Buster, a “Bogie” hero

National Pet Week is celebrated throughout the United States and in many parts of the world.
How cool is that?

For you dog lovers — Check out and vote in the 2012 American Humane Association’s Hero Dog Awards.  Nominations were submitted earlier this year and  voting is now through June 30th

The winners and their charity partners will be honored in Hollywood in October. Dogs were entered in eight categories:

  • Law Enforcement and Arson Service
  • Therapy
  • Military
  • Guide
  • Search and Rescue
  • Hearing
  • Emerging Hero. Emerging Hero Dogs are ordinary dogs that do extraordinary things. Put simply, nominees say why their dog is important to them. Why is their dog not just another wet nose in the crowd?

There are many, many wonderful nominees and you can vote every day through June 30th.

Military Category

CWD Dunny

You can read about and vote for Dunny who is nominated in the Military category.  An 8 year old Weimaraner, Dunny served for 1½ years saving lives in Afghanistan as an Explosive Detection Dog (EDD).  As a result of his military service, it is believed that Dunny has PTSD, but has moved into civilian life with grace. 

Or vote for Icey, a little white cutie who helps his hearing-impaired person every day…  Or Buster, the “Bogie” (Beagle body, Boxer head) who is FEMA certified to do search and rescue in large-scale disasters.

Therapy Category

Colonel

In the Therapy category, you can read about Colonel, a dog who helps our military in another way.  The Colonel is a therapy dog who provides comfort, inspiration, motivation, laughter and unconditional love for wounded warriors.

Perhaps the category closest to our hearts in many ways is the Emerging Hero Dogs, where you can read about “ordinary” dogs who are heroes in their families lives, and where you can vote for dogs like Lucas.  Lucas helped a little girl re-gain her self-confidence just by being there for her to rescue and love.

To celebrate the dogs and cats who touch our lives in special ways, Harmony invites you to tell us about a cat or dog hero you know on Harmony’s Facebook page.

Future Feline Heroes

Whether your dog did something considered heroic by the general public, or a beloved tabby cat went out of her way to comfort you during a period of grief or sickness in your life, we invite you to tell us a little about a pet hero close to you.

And a gentle reminder from all of us at Harmony Animal Wellness Center – one of the best ways to honor your pet is to make sure they are healthy with a wellness checkup with your vet. 

Dr. Frank and Tsunami

If your cat or dog hasn’t had his wellness appointment yet this year, National Pet Week is an excellent time to get that taken care of for a healthy, happy summer for you and your pet.

How is Your Pet’s Dental Health?

Do you think “Ew, ick!” when your tabby exhales as he comes close to your face to look in your eyes?  Does your schnauzer-mix have “dog breath”?  Both are good indicators that a dental check-up and cleaning for your pet is a wise idea.

Tasha

February is National Pet Dental Health Month.  We’ve talked about ways you can keep your dog’s teeth as clean as possible at home in our post on Dry Food and Dog Teeth.  Today, Dr. Frank and one of our veterinary technicians answer questions about having a professional dental cleaning for your cat or dog done at your veterinarian’s clinic or hospital – the benefits, how it is done and other questions about dentals.

We love to go to the dentist ourselves, don’t we?  Yep, one of our favorite things to do.  But, admit it – Doesn’t your mouth feel SO much better after the hygienist cleans your teeth?  Exceedingly better than after you brush your teeth, no matter how fancy a toothbrush you have.

Consider giving your pet the gift of fresh breath and super-clean teeth by taking him to your vet for a dental cleaning in February.

Q: What are the benefits of a dental cleaning?

Dr. Frank:  I’d say the top three benefits of a clinic dental cleaning are:

  • Fresher breath!
  • Healthier body by preventing serious disease or illness that can start in the mouth
  • The opportunity for your vet to thoroughly check all of your pet’s teeth, which can save teeth.  This is difficult to do when the pet is awake and can be particularly hard to do with wide-awake cats.

    Melo

Q: What are the risks of not getting a dental cleaning?

Dr. Frank:  Infections in the gums such as gingivitis and periodontal disease (disease affecting the tooth or jaw) can lead to a variety of seemingly unrelated health issues such as liver disease, diabetes, kidney disease or other life-threatening conditions.  And let’s not forget the obvious – undetected problems with the teeth or gums can lead to tooth loss.

Q: What does a dental cleaning entail?

Dr. Frank:  In our clinic, as in most veterinary practices, our veterinary technicians perform dental cleaning procedures.  So we decided to ask Kelsey Pritchett*, one of our technicians, to answer this question.  Any problems the technician finds during the cleaning is brought to my attention.

Kelsey:  Ideally dental cleanings on dogs and cats are preventative maintenance just as with people.  The mouth is the doorway to our internal organs and if it is unhealthy it sets the stage for the rest of the body to follow suit.  A thorough dental cleaning is one way to prevent oral disease that could contribute to other diseases down the road.

A meticulous dental cleaning is done in our practice under general anesthesia. That way we are able to really see all surfaces of the teeth and inspect them well for any signs of disease.

We remove the large bulks of tartar and then, with an ultrasonic scaler and a hand scaler, we clean the crown of the tooth.  We then measure the sulcus depth, where the gums meet the tooth, to check for any pockets that can house bacteria.  We make a note of the general condition of the gums and if there are any abnormal teeth.

If there are deep pockets that cannot be remedied or if a tooth is loose which means that the disease process has gone too far for us to save the tooth, we, with the owner’s permission, remove the diseased tooth.

We finish our cleaning by polishing all surfaces of all of the teeth.  This is a very important step in the process as it allows us to smooth out any grooves in the enamel of the teeth to prevent bacteria and tartar build up in those areas.

We make a detailed report of any teeth that were abnormal and what was done about them so that next time we go in to clean the pet’s mouth, we can monitor areas we were previously concerned about.

For additional details, read the full article written by Kelsey.

*Note: You can find information about Kelsey’s training and background on Our Exceptional Staff page.

Dr. Frank:  We put the pet on IV fluids during the procedure to help flush anesthetic out of their system and we give the pet a supportive vitamin cocktail.  We also suggest to our clients the use of plant botanicals after the cleaning to help decrease plaque and tartar buildup.

Q: Some holistic vet clinics advertise they do teeth cleanings with no anesthetic?  Do you do that in your clinic?  If not, why not?

Dr. Frank:  No, we do not.  In our area, this is a 3rd party service which only offers the service at one location per zip code.  It is important to realize that the cleaning is not performed by the your pet’s regular doctor or the doctor’s staff, it is performed by people who may not have seen your pet before.

Although dental cleaning without anesthetic can have some benefits compared to nothing at all, without anesthetic, meticulous checking of each tooth and the gums can be extremely difficult, as mentioned above.

In our practice we have seen a few cases of pets needing teeth extracted within months of having the dental service without anesthetic performed.  In our clinic, if the dog or cat has gingivitis that is not too severe, we can even apply a time-release antibiotic in the gumline, eliminating the need for the owner to give follow-up medication at home.

Q: How often should my pet get his teeth cleaned?

Dr. Frank:  It is important to have your pet’s teeth checked by your vet at least annually, every 6 months for older pets.  I do this (as do most vets) as part of the annual or 6 month wellness exam we encourage our clients to schedule for each pet.  At that exam your vet will recommend a dental cleaning if he or she sees a need.

Whether or not your dog or cat will need a dental annually, semi-annually or not at all depends on a number of factors including breed, diet and genetics.

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Click Here for an AVMA video with instructions on teaching a dog or cat to accept tooth brushing.  The vet also explains the risks of periodontal disease in pets.

Thanksgiving Tip for your Cats and Dogs

Our Pets and the Holidays post mentioned in the letter to our clients is not quite finished.  But here is a tip that particularly pertains to Thanksgiving.

Norma Rae, Jack, Punky and Tsunami

The Thanksgiving turkey or chicken will leave a lot of tantalizing bones.  Please don’t feed them to your pet, no matter how cutely they look at you.

Beware of cooked steak bones, too.  Cooked bones can splinter and small, sharp bones or bone chips can lodge in your pet’s throat, stomach or intestinal tract.

If you’d like to give your pet a Thanksgiving bone treat, please read our post on feeding raw bones.  We also have an additional post on the topic of raw bones.  It contains a few more general tips as well as information for people with multiple dog households.

The most important tip of all — Don’t forget your after meal nap!

Cassie

— Have a Wonderful Thanksgiving —

Your Pet’s Weight – Healthy or Tubby?

Sunday’s unexpectedly warm afternoon in an otherwise much cooler than normal summer here in the Seattle area was a little much for Tucker below, though it doesn’t seem to have bothered Abbey at all. 

Tucker and Abbey

Unlike other parts of the country this summer, our days of very warm weather have been few so far this year.  Hot summer weather can be even more stressful on our cats and dogs if they are overwieght.  Since we control what our pets eat, you’d think it would be simple to keep our pets at a healthy weight. 

But for many people it’s not easy, nor does it feel simple at all.  Continue reading