Text Box: 	In my experience, as our pets age I commonly find two factors which significantly impact on their quality of life.  Those two factors are dental disease and arthritis.  Infected, fractured or loose teeth and inflamed gums can cause significant discomfort, terrible breath odor, and can also impact on organ function as bacteria enter the bloodstream at the gumline.  Most of my clients think that since their pets appear to eat normally and in some cases still will chew on bones or toys that they are not in pain.  In my experience, it takes really extreme dental pain in most pets before their appetite begins to be affected.  Most pets with severe dental disease will still eat normally and some may even be willing to chew.  However, once the problem is addressed I often hear comments that “he acts like a puppy again”.  Their overall activity level, sense of well being, and comfort can be greatly improved by dental care.
	By the same token, many older animals, especially medium to larger breeds of dogs, suffer from arthritis as they age.  I would estimate 75% of the pets in my practice carry more weight than they should, which Text Box: causes increased stress on the joints and can accelerate arthritis development.  In larger dogs we often see underlying issues such as hip or elbow dysplasia, and in smaller dogs luxating patellas (kneecaps which slip out of the groove) are a frequent problem which results in arthritic changes.  These changes can range from relatively minor to incapacitating;  in fact, most of our larger breed dogs will die either of cancer or of complications secondary to arthritic changes (i.e,, can no longer get around well enough for basic life functions and are too large for
the owners to carry).  I often hear clients say to me “but I never hear him 
Text Box: The two biggest factors in keeping your older pet comfortable...

Edgewood Animal Clinic

cry, so I didn’t think he was in pain”.  In fact, dogs rarely cry when they are in pain, unless it is a very acute onset, severe pain.  Instead, they move less, pant more, are restless or can’t get comfortable, and may have an elevated heart rate.  With dogs who have arthritic rears, they will often stand with their rear legs slightly forward under their bodies;  if one leg is worse than the other they will often “point” that leg or stand with it slightly forward or behind the other bearing less weight.  Sometimes they will constantly shift weight from side to side.

We have many options available             to help make these pets more     comfortable.  In older pets, we      generally   like to have                  a blood     panel performed prior                  to starting many non-steroidal                  anti-inflammatory drugs, so                  addressing this at the same time                  we are thinking about                  bloodwork prior to dental care                  can kill two birds with one                  stone.  In addition, some over-                 the-counter supplements such as                  glucosamine can help your pet                  to feel better as well.  Ask us                  about arthritis treatment ptions!

Text Box: Stress and indoor cats

                 While we always recommend that our feline patients are safer kept indoors, there is no disputing that indoor only cats have their own set of stresses.  These issues often increase when there are multiple pets in the household and many times are related to territorial issues.  For cats, “stress” is essentially anything that disrupts their normal daily routine or any change in the environment.  We often think of lower urinary tract issues and inflammatory bowel disease as stress related diseases.  Many behavioral problems have their root in stress issues as well.  Frequently my history of cats who present for urinating in inappropriate places (which may be a behavioral issue or may be related to physical problems) have a history of suddenly starting after the owners returned from a trip or had work done in the house– or in other words, after a stress trigger.

                 There are many things we can do to minimize stress for our cats.  Pro-

 

Viding places for them to hide and retreat from other animals can be important.  In some cases, blocking view to outside areas may help if there is something outside (a strange cat or dog) which is acting as the stressor.  In other cases, allowing outside views may actually be of benefit as it can relieve bordom, especially if there is a view of a bird feeder or other interesting, non threatening activity. 

                 Feeding an appropriate diet also may be of benefit.  From a preventative standpoint, canned/wet food diets are lower in carbohydrates and higher in moisture content, which tend to promote more appropriate weight control and better urinary tract health.  For cats who have a history of urinary tract issues or inflammatory bowel disease, other dietary modifications may be in order.

                 Providing appropriately placed and clean litter boxes is also essential, especially in avoiding behavioral issues. 

DON”T BELIEVE THE LITTER WHO SAY THEY NEVER NEED A TOTAL CHANGE.  Even if you scoop daily, a total change at least every 7-10 days is needed.  Multiple boxes that can be accessed without interference from other animals in the household are also vital.  Type of litter also is important to many cats. 

                 Finally, we use a product called Feliway which is a pheromone produce (chemical secreted by cats naturally) which lowers stress and decreases the need to mark territory.  It is available in a diffuser product which plugs in like an air freshener.