How Can You Tell if Your Pet is in Pain?

August 30th, 2019 by Heaven At Home Staff

September is Animal Pain Awareness month.

Our companion animals often instinctively hide their pain. It’s a habit that has evolved as a survival mechanism to prevent predators from targeting them.

“Pain in dogs and cats can be difficult to measure,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Hospice, which provides palliative and euthanasia services throughout West Michigan.

“The clues can be subtle. Your dog may be reluctant to climb stairs or show decreased activity, or may simply stop initiating play,” she said. “In the case of cats, a reluctance to jump up onto surfaces is a sign of discomfort.”

The International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM) was created to educate vets and pet parents alike in the expanding field of pain prevention, management and treatment.

According to IVAPM, the most common signs of pain in your pet are:

  • Decreased activity – Take notice if your pet is not playing as much as usual
  • Not going up or down stairs – This could be an early sign of osteoarthritis
  • Difficulty standing after lying down – is a sign of osteoarthritis
  • Over grooming or licking a particular area – can be a sign of referred pain
  • Decreased appetite – this can signal mouth pain
  • Reluctance to jump up onto surfaces – this especially applies to cats
  • Behavior changes – such as growling at fellow companion animals or withdrawal

Pain Management Options:

There are a variety of complementary treatment options depending on the source of pain, including physiotherapy, cold laser, acupuncture and nutritional supplements. In addition, there are many types of medication that can help manage your pet’s pain and improve their quality of life. Some examples are:

  • NSAIDs – There are special NSAIDs designed for dogs that interfere with the body’s production of inflammatory molecules and are often prescribed for mild to moderate pain.
  • Opioids – Just like humans, pets may be prescribed opioids to address severe pain from arthritis or advanced cancer.
  • Corticosteroids – Cortisone and synthetic cortisone-like drugs such as prednisone are potent anti-inflammatory medications that can deliver dramatic relief, though not without side effects.
  • Gabapentin – Is a popular choice for managing chronic neuropathic pain.

Don’t let your pet needlessly suffer. Be observant for signs of pain and talk to your vet.

One Year Later: Michigan Dog Flu Epidemic

August 23rd, 2019 by Heaven At Home Staff

By this time last summer, Michigan was amidst a rapid spread of Canine Influenza, three years after an outbreak of new strain H3N2 in Chicago. In Grand Rapids, some doggie daycares closed and mounted mass vaccination efforts while pet parents sidelined social opportunities for 10-30 days to confine the spread. Meanwhile, confirmed cases of CIV spread across the US, with approximately 20% of affected pets contracting the severe, life-threatening form.

What can we expect this year?

“It will depend on how many pet parents vaccinated their pets. This is a new strain of avian origin so pets who’ve not previously been exposed are at risk. There’s no natural immunity to Dog Flu,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven At Home Pet Hospice.

In her line of palliative work, “Dog Flu” is a serious — and possibly deadly –complication for senior pets who have other health ailments and compromised immune systems. In these companion animals, fevers can range from 104ºF to 106ºF and may show clinical signs of pneumonia, such as increased respiratory rates and effort.

“Vaccination should be considered for dogs with heart or respiratory conditions, dogs that travel or show, and those that have extensive contact with other dogs,” she said.

Signs of Dog Flu to Watch for:

“Dog Flu” symptoms are very similar to Bordetella and other viruses. Testing is tricky because there is a 3-day window for active testing before antibodies are produced. Watch your pet for these signs:

  • High Fever (103ºF)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Cough, which may be dry or may bring up sputum
  • Runny nose with clear secretions at first, but may later change to thick yellow or pink-tinged color

How does it Spread?

Dogs who are boarded, go to daycare or visit grooming facilities where there is close contact with other dogs are at highest risk. The virus spreads through direct contact, through the air from a cough or sneeze, and from contaminated objects like water bowls or human hands. How to Prevent Dog Flu Vaccines are now available for both strains of CIV, and are given in a series of 2 shots 2-4 weeks apart. The vaccine may not all together prevent an infection, but will reduce the severity and duration of clinical illness.

Compassionate home care for your companions!
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