Changing Seasons and Your Senior Pet

How to Help Your Senior Pet Handle the Changing Seasons

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The changing seasons affect everyone differently, but the switch from balmy summer weather to frigid temperatures can really do a number on your senior pet. Here are four ways to help your furry pal easily handle the changing seasons.

1: Give him a heated bed

When the winter wind seems to blow right through your bones, nothing feels better than curling up with a heated blanket. Give your pet the same luxury by placing a pet-friendly heating mat on their bed and putting the bed in an area of your home that is free from drafts. Check your pet’s heating pad regularly to ensure it remains in working order and does not create any hot spots.

2: Bundle up your senior pet when heading outdoors

Many pets experience decreased muscle mass as they age, so they have less natural insulation to protect them from the elements. Additionally, older pets are less capable of maintaining their body temperature, so help them out with proper cold-weather gear. Fit your pet with a waterproof jacket or vest, and protect their paws from snow, ice, and ice-melting chemicals with booties.

3: Create an easily accessible bathroom area for her

Decreased mobility makes it challenging for your senior pet to hurdle snow drifts to find the perfect spot to do their business, so design an easily accessible bathroom for them. Keep it clear of snow and ice, and consider installing a square of fake grass or using pee pads to encourage your pet to eliminate in that spot.

4: Spend plenty of time interacting with your senior pet

Pets can experience the wintertime blues, too, especially if they are not getting enough exercise and mental stimulation. Make a point of playing new games or teaching your senior pet new tricks throughout the winter while you’re both stuck indoors to help prevent boredom and stave off cognitive dysfunction.

Although your senior pet may be entering their golden years, that doesn’t mean they don’t have plenty of life left. Schedule an appointment with our team to discuss ways to help your senior pet live their best life.

Thanksgiving Safety Tips

How to Prepare a Pet-Safe Thanksgiving Feast

An overloaded table filled with your favorite dishes is one of Thanksgiving’s highlights. While you are drooling over a heaping plate, so is your pet. However, many popular Thanksgiving foods are dangerous for pets. Follow these Thanksgiving safety tips, and let your pet join the feast by preparing a special, safe Thanksgiving plate just for them with the following foods:

  • Turkey — Many pets have their eyes on the prize: a turkey drumstick. But the tasty turkey leg can cause the most problems, from the skin to the bones. The higher fat content in dark meat and the fatty, seasoned skin can cause stomach upset and possibly pancreatitis in your pet. And the bones can splinter when crunched, piercing the gastrointestinal tract, or forming a blockage that requires emergency surgery. Instead of giving your pet a turkey leg to gnaw on, offer a few morsels of skinless, boneless, unseasoned turkey breast.
  • Mashed Sweet Potatoes — Regular mashed potatoes loaded with butter, chives, garlic, and sour cream can lead to serious health issues. Topping buttery mashed potatoes with gravy can trigger a case of pancreatitis. At the same time, ingredients from the Allium family—chives, garlic, leeks, and onions—can cause red blood cell destruction and anemia. Swap out rich mashed potatoes for plain, mashed sweet potatoes, which are a great source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
  • Biscuits — Unbaked yeast dough left out to rise can cause stomach bloating, gastrointestinal obstruction, and alcohol poisoning, all of which can require emergency treatment, so give your pet a cooked biscuit treat to enjoy instead.
  • Fruit — Many sweet treats contain ingredients that are toxic to pets, such as raisins, currants, chocolate, or xylitol. Offer your pet small bites of safe, fresh fruits, like apples, bananas, and berries, for a sweet snack instead.

Thanksgiving is a time to spend with family and friends, not in an emergency veterinary hospital. However, if your furry pal runs into trouble—or runs off with the turkey—contact our team for help.

Halloween Safety Tips

5 Pet Safety Tips to Take the Horror Out of Halloween

As October 31 approaches, you may be planning all sorts of spooky activities to celebrate Halloween. If you include your pet in the festivities, ensure you do so safely by following our team’s top five Halloween pet safety tips.

1: Avoid sharing candy bags with your pet

Sorting through the loot after an excellent night of trick-or-treating is one of the holiday’s highlights for children. However, keep your furry pal’s nose—and jaws—out of your kid’s candy bag or the bowl of candy you bought to hand out to trick-or-treaters. Not only are many treats dangerous for pets, but the wrappers themselves can cause gastrointestinal obstruction. Place your candy bowl well out of your pet’s reach between each ring of your doorbell, and ensure your children don’t leave their candy or wrappers lying around within paw’s reach.

2: Check your pet’s costume fit

While many pets prefer to wear their birthday suits on Halloween, your furry pal may enjoy donning a festive costume. When outfitting your pet, check the costume’s fit to ensure it does not slip over their eyes, restrict breathing, or limit movement. Also, check for parts that can be chewed off, such as ties, zippers, and other dangling pieces.

3: Limit spooky encounters

Although you may enjoy setting up your yard as a haunted attraction, your pet may become too frightened to go outside to do their business. Minimize eerie sounds, motion-activated monsters, and flashing lights to avoid scaring your pet.

4: Keep your pet indoors after dark

Most of the holiday’s mischief-making happens at night, so get your pet’s daily walk in well before dark. When letting your dog out one last time before bed, walk outside with them, and take a bright flashlight so you can keep a close eye on them.

5: Microchip your pet

With the front door constantly opening, your pet has an increased chance of slipping out in the costumed chaos. Double-check that their microchip’s registration information is current so you can be contacted if they dart out the door. If your pet hasn’t been microchipped already, call us to schedule an appointment.

Halloween can be a frightening holiday, so our team is here to help if your furry pal encounters a scary situation. Give us a call to schedule an appointment.

National Pet Obesity Awareness Day

How to Evaluate Your Pet’s Body Condition Score

National Pet Obesity Awareness Day falls on October 12, but you should pay attention to your pet’s weight all year long. More than half of the nation’s cats and dogs are considered overweight or obese, which can lead to serious health issues. Overweight pets are at an increased risk for developing heart disease, respiratory problems, skin issues, osteoarthritis, endocrine disease, and some cancers. Keep your furry pal in fine shape by learning how to judge their body condition score.

Step 1: Look at your pet from above

First, have your pet stand up and position themselves in a straight line. Look down at your pet’s waistline. Ideally, your pet should have an hourglass shape so that their abdomen dips inward between the end of the ribcage and the hips. You may need to run your hands along your pet’s sides to feel their waist if they are especially furry. If your pet’s waist appears to form more of a rectangle shape, they are too heavy.

Step 2: Run your hands over your pet’s ribs

In short-haired pets, you may be able to see their ribs. Their ribs, spine, and hips should not obviously protrude, but you should be able to see the faint outlines of these bones. Additionally, you can feel for your pet’s ribs under a thick coat. The ribs should be palpable without an excess fat layer covering them. If you have to push hard to feel your pet’s ribs, it’s time to contact your veterinarian and schedule a nutritional consultation and evaluation.

Step 3: Evaluate your pet from the side

Lastly, look at your pet from the side. Do they have a tucked-up abdomen, or does it pooch downward? You should be able to follow the line of the abdomen up into the hindquarters rather than seeing it flow straight across or sag down.

Now that you know how to evaluate your pet’s body condition score, do so periodically to ensure they maintain an ideal condition and weight. If you are struggling to help your four-legged friend lose weight, schedule a nutritional consultation and evaluation with our team.

How to Spot Signs of Pain in Your Pet

Pets are masters at hiding any vulnerabilities, so it can be tough to tell when they are in pain. September is Animal Pain Awareness Month, so do your pet a favor and learn the following common signs of pain to get them help when they need it.

1: Your pet is slowing down or acting lethargic

Pets commonly “slow down” as they age, and many pet owners chalk it up to normal aging changes. However, slowing down, exercising less, and appearing lethargic can be signs of pain. Older pets who slow down typically are affected by osteoarthritis and show their pain through decreased activity.

2: Your pet is avoiding interaction

If a pet is in pain, they won’t want to spend much time with their family. Cats, in particular, will hide, while a dog may lie in their bed and refuse to be touched or participate in playtime.

3: Your pet’s mood or behavior has changed

Pain can make pets irritable and grumpy, especially if they are touched on sensitive areas, like hips, legs, and the lower back. If your pet growls, hisses, or snaps at you when you pet them, they may be in pain.

4: Your pet is not eating as much

While some pets will eat no matter how much pain they feel—think your stereotypical
Labrador—others will turn up their noses at their normal meal. They may be tempted by home-cooked meals or canned food, but their appetite will continue to decrease until their pain is managed.

5: Your pet’s respiratory rate has increased

A pet will often breathe faster when they are uncomfortable. They may pant heavily, even while at rest, or they may take short, shallow breaths. Any change in your pet’s breathing is cause for a veterinary exam.

Signs of pain in pets can be vague and subtle, making them difficult to detect. If you think your pet is in pain, don’t delay. Contact our team to schedule an appointment for a diagnosis and treatment.

Back-to-School Time for Pets: 3 Transition Tips

Making the switch from summer to school can be rough for all family members, four-legged ones included. To help make the back-to-school transition easier for your pet, give the following tips a try.

Set up your back-to-school schedule ahead of time

Going from a leisurely wake-up time of 10 a.m. to 6 a.m. is a big adjustment, even for pets who have the entire day to snooze. Instead of abruptly switching the breakfast and walking schedule on the first day of school, ease into a new routine. Wake up a bit earlier each day to help your pet become acclimated to an earlier breakfast time. In addition, ensure they have plenty of time to eat and digest prior to that last walk before you head out the door to school and work. This may mean you need to wake up 15 to 30 minutes before the rest of the household to give your furry pal time to eat and eliminate.

Provide entertainment for your pet while you’re gone

After a summer filled with fun family activities, your pet is likely to become bored when left home alone while the kids are back in school. Provide entertainment to ward off problem behaviors like destructive chewing, excessive barking, or inappropriate elimination. Treat puzzles are a great way to keep your pet occupied for an extended period of time. These puzzles can be used with canned or dry food or a variety of fresh veggies, fruits, and other healthy snacks. You also can purchase interactive toys like a ball launcher that lobs balls down the hallway for your dog to chase or a robotic mouse that tries to outwit your cat. Leaving the TV or radio on can help break the silence, too, or you can hire a pet sitter to spend time with your furry pal.

Incorporate plenty of exercise into your daily routine

Since your family won’t have as much free time, exercise your pet intentionally. A pet who receives plenty of exercise is less likely to find their own mischief throughout the day. Plus, it provides an extra bonding opportunity when you’re short on time.

As kids get physicals and vaccinations before heading back to school, your pet also needs their annual checkup and preventive care. Contact our team to schedule an appointment.

How Do Pet Vaccinations Protect My Pet?

Your Questions Answered

Although you know your pet needs vaccinations yearly, you may not fully understand what they protect against, how they work, and which ones are necessary. Our team answers these common questions about your pet’s vaccines to clear up any confusion.

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Question: How do vaccines work to protect my pet?

Answer: Vaccines are designed to trigger your pet’s protective immune response to prepare them for future immunity against infectious diseases. When your pet is given a vaccine, their body produces antibodies that will reappear when a pathogenic threat reappears.

Question: What vaccinations does my pet need?

Answer: Vaccinations are divided into two categories: core and non-core. Core vaccinations are those that every pet needs, whereas non-core vaccinations are given based on a pet’s lifestyle and exposure risk. Common vaccinations for dogs generally include rabies, distemper, adenovirus-2 (i.e., hepatitis), and parvovirus.

Canine non-core vaccinations include bordetella (i.e., kennel cough), leptospirosis, Lyme disease, parainfluenza, and canine influenza.

For cats, core vaccinations include rabies, calicivirus, panleukopenia, and feline herpesvirus-1.

Feline non-core vaccinations include feline leukemia virus (although all cats should have an initial series) and chlamydophila.

Instead of giving every pet the same set of vaccines, our team will discuss your furry pal’s lifestyle with you to determine what exposure risk they have and which vaccinations would be best.

Question: Why does my pet need vaccinations if they rarely go outside?

Answer: Do you have a house cat who never steps a paw outside? Or, maybe your tiny Chihuahua is trained to use puppy pads, so they rarely venture outdoors. Despite a decreased exposure risk, these pets also need preventive vaccinations. Wildlife can sneak into attics or basements and expose your pet to rabies or other transmissible diseases. You also may need to board your pet in an emergency situation, and boarding facilities require pets to be current on vaccinations to protect not only them but their other pet guests.

Vaccinations cause few, if any, side effects for most pets and generally protect against far worse diseases. Contact our team for questions about which vaccinations would be best for your pet.

Preventive Screenings for Senior Pets

4 Reasons Why Your Senior Pets Need Early Detection Screening Tests

It’s no secret that our pets do not live long enough. Along with a shorter lifespan—in relation to their human family members—come rapid health changes, particularly in their later years. Although young pets can develop health issues seemingly overnight, it is much more common in senior pets. We can closely monitor their health and spot subtle changes by performing regular early detection screening tests during your senior pet’s preventive care appointments. Here are four common conditions we can more successfully treat in older pets with early detection.

1: Osteoarthritis in pets

Although osteoarthritis is commonly associated with senior pets, it can occur in much younger cats and dogs. Through regular screening exams that include a gait evaluation, orthopedic examination, and lifestyle questionnaire, we can determine what course to take to prevent or manage this degenerative joint disease. By proactively preventing osteoarthritis and taking action at the first signs, we can preserve joint cartilage and keep your pet mobile and active.

2: Kidney disease in pets

Many older cats develop kidney disease, although this condition can be difficult to diagnose until roughly three-quarters of kidney function is lost. At that point, blood work changes can be seen; however, a specific kidney function test can be performed on pets to detect earlier changes in the kidneys. Including this test as part of your senior pet’s preventive screenings can help diagnose kidney failure at its earliest—and most treatable—stage.

3: Dental disease in pets

Almost all pets over age 3 suffer from dental disease, and senior pets often have gingivitis and loose and infected teeth. Oral bacteria from dental disease can travel to the heart and kidneys, causing systemic infection. Frequent oral health exams can help us monitor your senior pet’s dental health and prevent infection and pain.

4: Cancer in pets

Various types of cancer that affect bones, blood, skin, or organs can be detected through preventive screening tests before signs and the condition have progressed. The more advanced a cancer is, the more difficult it is to treat, especially if it has had a chance to spread to other body parts or organs.

Has your furry pal reached senior status? It may be time to schedule more frequent wellness visits, including preventive screening tests. Contact our team to schedule an appointment.

Lost Pet? Find Them with 4 Simple Steps

More pets go missing over the July Fourth holiday than at any other time, so if your furry pal is afraid of fireworks, learn how to find them if they take off in a panic. Follow these four steps for the most effective ways to find a lost pet.

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Step 1: Share your pet’s picture on social media

Who isn’t on social media nowadays? Even at work, you likely have a large portion of your network scrolling through Facebook and Instagram. Post the clearest, most recent photo you have of your pet on all of your social media pages. Include a description and the location where they were last seen. Also, share the post in lost pet groups, buy and sell groups, and neighborhood chat pages. Finally, encourage your network to share your post to increase the chances of it being seen by someone who has seen your pet.

Step 2: Contact local animal shelters and veterinary hospitals

If someone picks up a pet on the run, they may take them to an animal shelter or veterinary hospital. Here, they will scan your pet for a microchip and hold them for an owner to reclaim. Contact every shelter and clinic near your home to see if your pet has turned up. Finally, email a picture and description to each facility.

Step 3: Enlist family and friends to comb your neighborhood

Nothing beats a dedicated search party to comb the neighborhood. Go armed with your pet’s favorite treats and toys—think smelly snacks and squeaky toys. Knock on every door, calling your pet’s name as you go. Listen for yelps, whimpers, and cries, as your pet may be hurt or stuck somewhere.

Step 4: Contact your pet’s microchip registration company

Your pet’s microchip registration company may have a service that issues a lost pet poster to the area’s veterinary hospitals and animal shelters. In addition, contacting the company will put out the alert that your pet is missing. Their employees likely will assist you with any available resources they have.

In honor of National Lost Pet Prevention Month, schedule an appointment with our team to have your pet microchipped to help ensure a happy reunion.

Help Cool Your Pet in the Summer Heat

Summertime is full of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, although high temperatures and humidity can make it uncomfortable for your pet. Help your furry pal beat the heat with the following tips to have a cool pet.

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1: Fill up a wading pool for your pet

If you have a swimming pool, your pet may feel uncomfortable in the deep water. Give them a child’s wading pool instead to get their splash on. Fill the pool with a few inches of water, toss in some waterproof or water toys, and let your pet jump in. They’ll have a great time splashing around as they try to catch their floating toys, and they’ll stay cool at the same time, all without you worrying about chlorine or deep water.

2: Freeze “pup-sicles” for your pet

Ice cream is a fantastic way to cool off on a hot day, and, while your pet can’t share your
chocolate sundae with you, they can have their own special “pup-sicles.” Create frozen treats for your pet from their canned food, yogurt, tuna, peanut butter, or a combination of their favorite snacks. Freeze the concoction in a rubber Kong, or use a silicone ice cube tray for smaller treat portions.

3: Use water toys to play with your pet

Some pets love trying to catch running water, so hook up a sprinkler or fill up squirt guns if your pet is the sort who tries to bite the stream from the hose. Be careful to avoid shooting water directly in your pet’s face or eyes, and take a break if they become too excited.

4: Take a walk on the beach

For a fun socialization session that allows your pet to stay cool, head to a pet-friendly beach with your pal. Ensure you bring a beach umbrella for shade and plenty of fresh water because your pet shouldn’t drink from lakes and oceans. Spend a couple of hours letting your pet frolic in the waves with other pets, then head home before your furry pal gets too much sun.

Heatstroke is a serious condition that can quickly turn fatal without treatment. If your pet shows signs of overheating—excessive panting, confusion, staggering while walking—contact our team immediately for emergency care.