Thursday, July 29, 2010

Senior Pets

Hi my peeps!

Hope you are enjoying your summer. Talking to Milo about his elderly roommate and having one myself, made me think of today's topic - Senior Pets.
With all the advancements in veterinarian medicine, pets live longer lives these days, but not without some challenges. Senior pets not only face issues such as physical, behavioral, and sensory changes, but also have to deal with more health problems. However, aging doesn't have to be a struggle. There are many things our humans can do to make our senior years much more comfortable and pleasant.
First, let's talk about some basic facts. Most cats live longer than dogs. Small dogs usually live longer than large dogs. On the average, a dog's life span is between 10 and 15 years and a cat's life span ranges from 15 to 20 years. There can be extremes on either end. One pet year is approximately the equivalent of five to seven human years. Given these facts, we can assume that a 10 year old pet is approaching his or her senior years. This means visits to the veterinarian for regular checkups should be more frequent, ideally every six months. The exam should include listening to the heart and lungs, body temperature, checking ears and teeth, as well as some tests to establish a base line. After that, tests can be done as needed for re-checks. The tests for a base line are the following:
Complete Blood Count: A count of the red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. This test shows if there is an infection, an anemia, or a blood clotting problem present.
Blood Chemistry: A count of electrolytes, enzymes, and chemical elements in the blood. This test lets us know how well the vital organs are functioning.
Thyroid Test: This tests the function of the thyroids.
Urine Analysis: This test shows if there is anything in the urine that should not be there such as protein, sugar, blood, or bacteria. Presence of any of these can mean kidney problems, diabetes, or infections. It also shows whether the urine is diluted or concentrated which can mean kidney problems or dehydration.
Fecal Analysis: This test shows the presence of parasites or a digestive problem.
Now, let us talk about some of the changes that senior pets can encounter such as physical, behavioral, nutritional, and sensory changes as well as changes in exercise.
Physical changes: The response to infections in elderly pets is decreased which means they have a harder time fighting infections. Also, with old age comes osteoarthritis. That means it's much harder to get up, lie down, walk up stairs, jump up, and walk in general. Walking is much slower than it used to be and it's also harder to climb into the litter box which can have the result of inappropriate eliminations. Grooming becomes a lot harder too and often results in matted fur and an increased amount of dandruff.
Behavioral Changes: Older pets can be a little noisier than they used to be due to hearing loss. As we all know, when someone doesn't hear well, they talk louder. Well, pets do the same thing. That also means they get startled easily when you approach them and they can't hear you. Another problem that can occur in elderly pets is inappropriate elimination, may it be due to arthritis pain, confusion, or a medical problem.
Nutritional Changes: Older pets are less active and their metabolism is much slower. They can easily become obese. Others can have problems with digestion and lose weight. Certain medical problems can affect the appetite and others can call for different diets altogether. Water consumption can be increased because of kidney problems or diabetes and ironically, the same diseases can cause dehydration.
Sensory changes: Hearing loss and cataracts are some of the sensory changes in senior pets. The taste and smell can be affected as well which can result in loss of appetite. Older pets are more sensitive to temperature changes. They can become intolerant to heat or cold.
Change in exercise: It's harder to move when you have osteoarthritis and thus, older pets become more sedentary. Going for a walk or playing with the toy mouse used to be fun but when the bones hurt, it becomes a chore.
As you can see, Bette Davis had a good point when she said: Old age ain't no place for sissies. Nevertheless, there are things that can be done to make the golden years more comfortable for your pet companion and I would like to tell you about them now.
First, I would like to introduce you to a great website that offers many care products for the senior pet. Here you can find anything from piddle pads to wheelchairs and all at a very affordable price. The link to it is: . Check it out, you'll find things on there, you'd never thought existed.
Now, let's talk about what can be done to help with the physical changes in senior pets. Osteoarthritis is very common in aging pets. It turns climbing up stairs, getting into the car, and jumping on the sofa into a chore. There is a great supplement by the name of Glucosamine which can ease the pain, lubricate the joints, and can be mixed with food. Ask your veterinarian for the right dosage. Glucosamine can be found over the counter at any drug store or health food store.
Also, there are many gadgets available such as ramps for the car, steps to put in front of the sofa or bed, and elevated food dishes for the pet with arthritis in the neck. For the ones that have an extremely hard time getting around, slings for assistant walking as well as wheelchairs that can be fitted to the exact size of the pet can offer a great relieve.
Senior pets often have changes in behavior which can be expressed through inappropriate elimination. It is important to rule out a bladder infection by means of a urine analysis first. Once it is established as a behavioral issue, pets can be restricted to an area where the cleanup is easier, for instance to a room with tile floors. Some kitties have a hard time squatting down all the way and thus, urinate over the rims of the litter box. Puppy Pads or also known as Piddle Pads are of great help when placed around the litter box. The litter box should be in an easily accessible spot and low enough for kitty to climb in despite the aching bones.
Many senior pets, may it be due to arthritis or weakness, don't groom themselves as they used to and end up with matted fur. We can help by brushing them on a regular basis or by shaving the problem areas in long haired dogs and long haired cats. It is also a good idea to check the rear end and clean with baby wipes since it is much harder for the senior pet to reach these areas them self. And since we are talking about cleaning, it's a good idea to check the eyes and ears for discharge and clean them with a moist tissue.
As pets grow older, their nutritional needs change. Since their activity level is not the same as it was when they were younger, many of them become obese when fed the same amount and the same kind of food as in their younger days. As we all know, obesity can lead to diabetes. So we should adjust the food according to their activity level and also read the labels to make sure it's a balanced diet.
An ideal diet for a senior pet should have a moderate amount of protein to help maintain the muscles and minimize the workload of the kidneys. It should have a gentle increase in fiber which helps in regulating bowel movements. Sodium content of the food should be low because too much sodium in the diet can cause hypertension and bladder stones. The diet should be rich in vitamins or at least supplemented with a multivitamin in order to avoid vitamin deficiencies. Fatty acids are another very important part of the senior diet because they are good for the skin and the coat as well as promote heart, kidney, and joint health.
In order to ease the workload on the stomach, it might be a good idea to serve smaller but more frequent meals throughout the day. For the ones that have lost a good amount of teeth over the years, a softer diet is welcome. If your senior pet has an illness that calls for a specific diet,please consult your veterinarian for the appropriate diet.
Please make sure your friend always has plenty of fresh and clean water. Certain diseases increase urination and pets can become dehydrated especially during hot weather. There is a simple test you can do to see if your pet is dehydrated. Pull up the skin at the scruff (that is the area by the neck, in between the shoulder blades) to make a tent. In a well hydrated pet, the skin should go down again right away. If the skin stays up or goes down very slowly, it indicates dehydration.
As pets grow older, they can undergo changes of the sensory systems. Some get cataracts and have a hard time finding their way around the house. In that case, it might be wise to confine them to certain areas in the house and maybe put a child gate up by stairs so they don't fall down. When you walk a dog with cataracts by a street, please put him or her on a leash. It just takes one step off of the sidewalk and your friend could get hit by a car. Cats that have problems with their vision should not be allowed to wander unsupervised.
Hearing loss is another byproduct of old age. Pets often get startled when touched while sleeping or approached from behind. It is wise to let an elderly pet wake up first before you start petting it and also to approach the pet from the front so it can see you.
The sense of taste and smell can be greatly diminished in a senior pet which can lead to a loss of appetite. Sometimes you just have to try different foods and encourage the pet to eat. If all fails, ask your veterinarian about appetite stimulants. They do have side effects when taken over a longer period of time but can work wonders when taken over shorter periods.
Many senior pets are intolerant to cold and heat. So please, don't leave your pet in the car when it is warm outside because it gets a lot warmer in the car. And that actually goes for all pets no matter what age they are. On cool days, you can provide a heating pad at low setting inside the favorite bed.
As old age approaches, senior pets become more sedentary and might not enjoy long walks as they used to. We can help them by taking them on shorter and more frequent walks. The same goes for cats. The feline that used to chase toy mice around the house, naps most of the day now. Nevertheless, I am sure they still enjoy sitting on a warm lap and being the recipient of some gentle scratches under the chin. Exercise can be replaced by extra attention now.
As you can see, there is much that can be done to make the senior years of our beloved pets easier and more enjoyable. However, sometimes problems arise. Pets get sick and display signs. We should not ignore these signs but consult a veterinarian. I would like to give you a list of signs that definitely call for a visit to the doctor. Here they are:
  • Change of water consumption
  • Decrease or increase of appetite
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Change in house breaking
  • Lameness
  • Open sores that are not healing
  • Foul odor from mouth
  • Lethargy
  • Panting and labored breathing during rest
  • Blood in stool or urine
  • Sudden weakness
  • Persistent coughing
  • Seizures

If you see any of these signs in your pet please make an appointment with your veterinarian and have it checked. It is better to be safe than sorry.

Well my friends, that was a lot of information but I hope it helped to make you feel more comfortable with the thought of your pet companion becoming a senior. And remember what Groucho Marx once said: Anyone can get old. All you have to do is live long enough. So, may all of you and your lovely companions live long enough to reach the golden years and enjoy them as much as you can.

Love and Peace,


Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Hi folks, hope you are enjoying the beautiful weather. I certainly do because I get to go on lots of fun walks and can get my paws wet. Today I will be interviewing my buddy Milo. We go on lots of fun walks and to the dog park together.

Tiny: Hi Milo, good to see you buddy! What breed of dog are you?

Milo: Hi Tiny, my pal, I am an apricot colored Labradoodle.

Tiny: That's cool! Can you tell me more about Labradoodles?

Milo: Labradoodles were first bred in 1970 by Wally Conron. We are a crossbreed between Labrador Retrievers and Standard Poodles and are now considered a recognized breed. We labradoodles are sociable, friendly, non aggressive, and extremely intuitive. Our intelligence and high trainability makes us well suited for guide dogs, therapy dogs, and other assistance dogs. We have a non-allergenic coat that makes us popular among people who have not been able to enjoy pets because of their allergies. Mostly, we are very loving, gentle, good-natured, and life-long soul mates.

Tiny: Wow, that is very interesting. What are your favorite toys and your favorite things to do?

Milo: I am not much of a toy-loving dog but I love going for walks, to the dog park, and even on car rides. I just started helping my people while they do their errands. I wait patiently in the car (on not-too-hot days only) and make sure nobody steals the car while my people go into stores and other buildings. And I also love you, Tiny. You are my best dog-friend. We get along so well and I love to go for walks with you and hang out at the dog park together.

Tiny: Thank you Milo! I love you too, my pal. Now, you live with a feline, just like I do. Can you tell me more about that?

Milo: Trixie is my feline room mate. She is very ancient and wise. Most of the day she relaxes and does not worry about much. We stay often within site of each other, but not in each other's way. She is very different from me. Trixie no longer likes to go for walks and goes outside in the back yard only rarely and for a short amount of time. Her fur is mostly white with some grey spots and she is still very pretty for her old age. Trixie has a thyroid problem and needs medication in gel form that gets rubbed in at the furless part of the ear twice daily. She is very good about it and doesn't complain at all.
Tiny: Well, Trixie sounds like a very nice roomie. That was a great interview, Milo. Thank you so much and I am looking forward to our next adventure together.
Well, all my peeps out there, I hope you enjoyed the interview with Milo as much as I did.
Stay cool until the next time.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Interview with Linus, Feline Advisor for Home Alone

Happy 4th of July to all my peeps. Today I am interviewing Linus, the Feline Advisor for Home Alone. We will be talking about all kinds of feline issues.
Tiny:Hello Linus. Tell us a little about yourself.
Linus: I was born 17 years ago in a feral colony near a very busy street in Petaluma. I lived with my mom and my two sisters. My mom and my one sister were trapped. My mom was spayed and released again. My sister was socialized and adopted. Me and my other sister took three months before we finally went into the trap. By that time we were very afraid of people and would not let them touch us. Our human did a great job with us but we still didn't trust people. Four years ago my sister accidentally got out of the house and disappeared. Now I was the only kitty in the house and I started to let my human pet me and pick me up. And as you know, Tiny, you are my best friend and I like to cuddle with you.
Tiny: Great. Tell us about litter box issues.
Linus: Well, us felines are usually pretty good about using the litter box. However, there can be reasons why we go outside the box at times.
A bladder infection can be a good reason why we go outside the box because that's the only way we can show our human that there is something wrong. So, it's a good idea to bring us to the vet and have the urine checked for bacteria to rule out a bladder infection.
Another reason could be the location of the litter box. It should be easily accessible.
Now, I have to tell you, most of us felines don't like the litter box liners because our nails get caught in them when we try to bury our business. It might be easier for the human to clean the box with a liner but most of my feline fellows hate them.
Also, size does matter. A kitten litter box does not work with an adult cat. The box needs to be bigger than the kitty so we have enough room to fit in and turn around. Otherwise, we might pee or poop over the sides.
Another thing some of my feline buddies don't like is a roof on the box because it keeps the smell and the dust in. And who wants to do their business in a smelly and dusty place?
I also would like to talk about the litter. Most kitties don't like the clay litter since it stays wet for a long time. We like the clumping litter a lot better since the box stays dry. I personally prefer "The World's Best Litter". It is non toxic, all natural, has good odor control and is corn based. That means it clumps like polenta and doesn't require toxic clumping additives.
Tiny: Wow, that was a lot. What can you share with us about water?
Linus: We like a fresh bowl of water every day. Some of us prefer drinking water from the faucet since it tastes fresh. If your human doesn't have time to turn the faucet on and off for you, you can suggest a water fountain that can be purchased at a pet store. It works just as well as the faucet.
Tiny: Personally, I like to drink from the toilet when the lid is up but I am a dog. What are your thoughts on food?
Linus: Some of my buddies like canned food, some like kibbles and that's ok. I am getting up there in age and I am getting a little picky. So I get to eat whatever I like at the moment. The important thing is, it should be served in a clean food dish and the food should be fresh, not stale.
Some of my peeps have health issues and need special diets. It is important to make the change to the special diet gradually because an abrupt change of food can cause diarrhea.
I get a certain amount of canned food twice daily and I free feed on kibbles. Not all kitties are good with the free feeding. Some get a little out of control and end up being obese. That is not good at all since obesity can lead to illnesses such as diabetes. So, if you love your felines, don't overfeed them.
Tiny: Now, your favorite subject, toys.
Linus: Yes, I like to play. Little balls and toy mice are fine when I am by myself but I really like it when my human uses anything hanging from a wand. It's much more fun when she plays with me than when I play alone. And I also enjoy the occasional catnip. It makes me roll around and gets me really happy.
Tiny: Argh, hairballs!
Linus: Kitties get hairballs since they groom themselves and can't digest the hair. They come out in the shape of a sausage the same way they went in. Hairballs can be prevented somewhat by grooming us which gets rid of all the lose hair before we ingest them. Also, hairball remedies are sold by vets or pet stores. They lubricate the hairballs and move them through the system more easily.
Tiny: Maybe you can tell us about those dangerous weapons of yours - nails.
Linus: I love my nails. They grow and grow and can cause serious damage. My human trims them regularly with her finger nail clipper. She says they work better than the ones from the pet store because she has better control with them.
For kitties that don't like pedicures, the vet can apply "Soft Paws". These are little plastic caps that get glued to the nails and have to be re-applied ever so often. They work pretty good and even come in different colors for the lady felines.
It's a good idea to provide a scratching post or pad and if you put a little catnip on it, we might even use it.
For the very determined felines that just can't stop ripping up that very expensive sofa, they can be fooled by putting double sided tape to the preferred scratching site. There are also lots of different sprays available at the pet store but they don't work very well.
As you can see, there are many things that can be done instead of declawing us. Declawing a kitty is like amputating the first joint of the finger or toe. It hurts! We do experience phantom pain and if we ever get out of the house by accident, we have no way of defending ourselves from the neighbor's dog.
Tiny: Well said, Linus. What are your thoughts on spaying and neutering?
Linus: People, spay and neuter your pets! Here are some facts:
* Every year there are 6 to 8 million homeless pets at shelters in the U.S. due to overpopulation.
* Only half of them get adopted. The other half is euthanized.
* Intact male cats mark their territory by spraying strong smelling urine on furniture, curtains, and about every corner in the house.
* Intact female cats can come into heat every two weeks until they are pregnant.
* A cat that is not spayed can have three litters of kittens a year.
* Each litter can have anywhere from 2 to 10 kittens.
* One litter of kittens can result in hundreds and thousands of unwanted pets.
I would like to show you a statistic that explains that.
In the 1st year = 12 offspring
2nd year = 144 offspring
3rd year = 1,728 offspring
4th year = 10,736 offspring
7th year = 370,192 offspring
That shows, cats might not be able to add, but they sure can multiply.
So, please: Prevent a litter. Fix your critter.
Tiny: Thank you Linus, we have learned a lot.
So, people, keep your pets save from the fire works and happy 4th of July!