Senior Dog & Cat Tips

Heartworm Prevention is Vital

March 1st, 2021 by Heaven At Home Staff

It’s tempting to skip heartworm medication during winters in Michigan when infectious mosquitoes seem a distant memory. It’s also hard to remember to restart preventative treatment before our wily weather teases us with unseasonal warmth.

Foregoing year-round prevention is like playing Russian roulette with your canine companion’s heart.

“Mosquito species are constantly changing and adapting to cold climates and some species successfully overwinter indoors as well. Year-round prevention is the safest, and is recommended by the American Heartworm Society,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice.

“The consequences of skipping prevention can be fatal.”

Heartworm disease is complex, and causes lasting damage to the heart, lungs, kidney, liver and arteries even if your pet survives.

Timeline:

Transmission begins when an infected mosquito carrying microscopic larvae, called microfilaria, feeds on your dog. The microfilaria mature into “infective stage” larvae over 10-14 days. In as few as 51 days, immature heartworm larvae can molt into an adult stage, which cannot be effectively eliminated by preventives. Within 6 months, fully adult heartworms will grow to be a foot long and will begin multiplying, wreaking havoc on the cardiovascular system. Mature heartworms can live for 5 to 7 years.

The resulting damage can affect the dog’s health and quality of life – if he or she survives — long after the parasites are gone.

Symptoms:

By the time your dog shows symptoms, damage has already begun. In early stages, you may notice a chronic cough, fatigue, decreased appetite and weight loss, with a swollen abdomen in later stages.

Severe cardiovascular collapse, called caval syndrome, may follow and is marked by a sudden onset of labored breathing, pale gums, and dark bloody or coffee-colored urine. Without prompt surgical removal of the heartworm blockage, few dogs survive.

If caught in time through annual testing, it can still be expensive and painstaking to treat. Dogs undergoing treatment must have their activity level severely restricted for 6-8 weeks to avoid sudden circulatory blockages from dead parasite fragments.

While cats are a less hospitable environment for heartworms, they also cannot be treated if infected. Immature worms can cause heartworm-associated respiratory disease in felines.

In each case, prevention is by far the best option, via monthly pills, monthly topicals or a six-month injectable product.

Don’t risk missing a dose in this high-stakes disease. The best protection is to treat your fur-friends year-round.


Helping Your Senior Cat with Kidney Disease

February 1st, 2021 by Heaven At Home Staff

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is a leading cause of death in more than half of cats over 15 years old.

“A diagnosis of kidney disease sounds ominous, but can be managed. With the right diet, supplements, hydration and new medications being developed, it’s possible to keep senior kitties comfortable and extend their lives,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice. Read the rest of this entry »


Space Age Pet Pain & Mood Management

January 1st, 2021 by Heaven At Home Staff

Throughout the ages, the mysterious forces of electricity and magnetism have been thought to possess healing powers. While it might sound a little “Sci-Fido,” current research in targeted Pulse Electro Magnetic Fields (tPEMF) is producing new treatment options with promising results for cats and dogs.

“tPEMF, when administered correctly, is a great way to give an senior cat or dog non-invasive and non-pharmaceutical pain relief through the reduction of inflammation,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice. Read the rest of this entry »


Life-Enriching Gifts for Your Senior Pet

December 1st, 2020 by Heaven At Home Staff

The holiday season is upon us in this year “like no other” and there’s a good chance your bond with your fur-friend has been strengthened from all the quality time you’ve spent together. Pay it back with holiday gifts that will improve the quality of your senior pet’s life. Read the rest of this entry »


Holiday Manners for Pets Who’ve Gone “Wild”

November 11th, 2020 by Heaven At Home Staff

After months of working in your pajamas, it’s easy to forget “fashion BC” (Before COVID). It might be just as hard for your pet to remember his or her “manners BC” for the holidays.

Joyous Jumpers

Let’s face it – your heart is jumping for joy to see a long-lost loved one. Will Fido remember them too? Behavior research suggests yes. While dogs don’t excel at traditional long-term memory, they do possess “associative” memory. A pro-social dog with a fond association of your guests might forget the “no jumping” rule.

“A behavior has to be a very well rehearsed with broad contextual understanding in order for your dog to recall it in moments of excitement,” said Kristi Swan, Certified Professional Trainer and owner of A Dog’s Life. “Dogs don’t generalize well.” Read the rest of this entry »


Fear-Free Care for Cats and Dogs

September 28th, 2020 by Heaven At Home Staff

Your pet’s life can be improved by understanding the elements of fear-free handling. Many pet parents are unfamiliar with the science that has led to the relatively new understanding of the permanent emotional damage, behavioral issues, and lack of quality of life that fear and stress may impart on our pets.

A growing body of evidence shows that animals have heightened memory of handling when fearful, which creates a cycle of increased anxiety, and sometimes aggression. Fear and anxiety cause autonomic arousal of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and accompanying release of stress hormones, leading to increased susceptibility to disease secondary to suppression of the immune system.

Dr. Laurie Brush of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice has the opportunity to hear directly from the champion and founder of the Fear-Free movement during the upcoming International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (IAAHPC) annual conference.

“The Fear-Free movement spearheaded by Dr. Marty Becker has revolutionized veterinary care and is especially relevant to my work offering peaceful, pain-free, fear-free palliative care and at home euthanasia services,” Dr. Brush said.

Dr. Becker had an epiphany in 2009 while listening to PHD animal behaviorist Karen Overall describe the permanent damage fear causes in the amygdala – the part of the brain that is home to the fight or flight instinct. She said fear was “the worst thing a social species could experience. “

He realized the traditional pet-handling techniques he was taught as a veterinarian were inducing stress in his fur-clients, from the stress of being put up on a table to the fear pheromone scent detected in urine outside the clinic.

Simple protocols, such as using calming pheromones and offering anxiety-reducing medications, plus using gentle handling down at the animal’s level with a complement of treats, could break the cycle of fear.

He reached out to peers across the country and over the course of six years developed a protocol and certification program that promotes fear-free techniques that “put the treat in treatment.”

Today, 21 of the nation’s 30 veterinary schools require certification in fear-free veterinary techniques to graduate. More than 75,000 veterinarians in the U.S. are certified.

“One man’s vision has altered the quality of life of millions of companion animals,” said Dr. Brush.

If you’d like to learn more about adopting fear-free strategies at home, visit FearFreePets.com for tips.

 


Signs of Pain in Cats & Dogs from the IVAPM

August 31st, 2020 by Heaven At Home Staff

September is Animal Pain Awareness Month, during which time the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management educates pet parents on signs of pain in their companion animals. As providers of pet hospice at home, Heaven at Home would like to take this opportunity to help pet parents ensure that their cats and dogs do not suffer needlessly as they age. Our hospice veterinarians are available for Quality of Life telemedicine consultations to help pet parents evaluate pain in their senior pets.

Can you imagine not being able to tell your doctor that you were in pain? Animals suffer from pain just like we do. Pain comes in many forms: surgical pain, arthritis, and cancer, just to name a few. Acute pain is obvious and distressing. Chronic pain can be subtle, and masked as “getting old” or “slowing down.” Age is not a disease, but pain is. There are many options to treat the various causes of pain in animals including pain medications, physical rehabilitation, and acupuncture. In addition, there are many environmental strategies that can help reduce pain, such as slip-proof and padded flooring, altered-height feeding, ramps, and other supports. Contact us if you’d like assistance identifying and managing pain in your aging pet. Here are some of the key signs to watch for:

Common Signs of Pain in Dogs

  • Decreased social interaction
  • Anxious expression
  • Submissive behavior
  • Refusal to move
  • Whimpering
  • Howling
  • Growling
  • Guarding behavior
  • Aggression; biting
  • Decreased appetite
  • Self-mutilation (chewing)
  • Changes in posture

Common Signs of Pain in Cats

  • Reduced activity
  • Loss of appetite
  • Quiet/loss of curiosity
  • Changes in urinary/defecation habits
  • Hiding
  • Hissing or spitting
  • Lack of agility/jumping
  • Excessive licking/grooming
  • Stiff posture/gait
  • Guarding behavior
  • Stops grooming/matted fur
  • Tail flicking
  • Weight loss

Download or Share this Poster that illustrates Signs of Pain in Pets

(Click on the image to download)


Managing Pet Incontinence In Cats and Dogs

August 30th, 2020 by Heaven At Home Staff

A cute havanese dog in heat is wearing a specialty diaper to absorp the discharge

For many pet owners, the cause of incontinence in their fur family member can be as simple as a highly treatable UTI (urinary tract infection) or the harbinger of serious disease.

“Many pet parents struggle with incontinence issues, especially with senior dogs and cats. But there are a number of simple things that can be done to help manage incontinence,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice.

In Younger Dogs & Cats

Uncharacteristic bouts of incontinence in young companion animals can signal a wide range of ailments, from urinary tract infections to hormone imbalances. Sometimes incontinence can be caused by endocrine disorders (such as Cushing’s and Addison’s disease) diabetes, kidney or liver disease, polyps or cancerous growths in the urinary tract or prostate and bladder stones.

“A trip to your routine care veterinarian will help rule out serious disease and give you treatment options, such as antibiotics, phenylpropanolamine or hormone therapy,” Dr. Brush said.

However, in cases caused by advancing age or a life-limiting disease, proactive palliative home care can help keep your pet comfortable.

“Incontinence is often a trigger for pet parents to evaluate the pet’s quality of life. But it doesn’t necessarily have to mean an early close to your pet’s life story,” Brush said.

Home Management

The three key goals to successful home-management is keeping your pet comfortable, reducing the cleanup time required, and ensuring that you are providing veterinary oversight for medical interventions that may improve the situation. There are many medications and supplements that can help, whether provided by a home hospice service or your routine care veterinarian.

For Dogs:

  • Use waterless shampoo to keep your pet’s skin clean to avoid urine scald.
  • Use absorbent waterproof bedding that’s easy to change and wash, such as medical supply waterproof pee pads.
  • Use bloomers or belly-band style diapers with disposable inserts.
  • Create a “safe” space where accidents are easy to clean for when you’re away.

Especially For Cats:

  • Use flat litter pans that are easy to access or cut out a lower access.
  • Consider keeping litter pans on a main floor.
  • Ensure good pain management since arthritic pain often prevents use of the litter box.
  • Pursue diagnosis for Feline Cognitive Dysfunction or anxiety.

If you’d like more help managing senior pet incontinence,  contact us for a consultation.

 

 


Dehydration in the Dog Days of Summer

August 1st, 2020 by Heaven At Home Staff

Good hydration is key during the “dog days of summer.” Dogs can become seriously ill – or even die – from losing as little as 10-15% of their body’s water. Dogs need at least an ounce of water per pound of weight daily – more if active. Hot weather makes dogs pant more and sweat through their paws.

“Dehydration can promote urinary tract issues, the formation of kidney stones, and organ failure. It can be a veterinary emergency,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice. “Senior dogs are at a higher risk.”

Symptoms may include lethargy, weakness, labored breathing, an elevated heart rate, and dry, sticky-feeling gums or sunken eyes.

How Can I Tell If My Dog Is Dehydrated?

Your pet’s mucous membranes should be moist. The easiest way to evaluate this is to check their gums. If they are sticky or dry when you run your finger over their gums, your pet may be mildly dehydrated.

If your pet is ill or has other symptoms, you can check further for dehydration by lifting a pinch of skin at the back of your pet’s neck/shoulder area and letting go. The skin should snap quickly back into place. If your pet is severely dehydrated, the skin may stick together, and form a “tent.” In this case, call your veterinarian immediately.

Improving Hydration

 You might think drinking enough water is a simple biological function but in truth there are a number of things that put dogs off their water:

  • Lack of water freshness/dust and debris
  • Water bowl is in a high-traffic area
  • Water bowl is at an uncomfortable height
  • Dog is distracted by play activity and lacks access
  • Dog feels unwell or nauseous, or is in too much discomfort to seek water

During hot weather, keep a water bottle nearby and take frequent H20 breaks during play, but note that deep-chested, large-breed dogs should not consume large volumes of water while highly active to avoid bloat, which can be fatal. Use dog fountains to keep water fresh via circulation. Place raised water bowls in multiple convenient locations. For pets with mild dehydration, encourage drinking by mixing in low-salt, low-fat chicken or beef broth, or a small amount of plain Pedialyte. But if your dog is clearly dehydrated, talk to your vet immediately. Hydration is your dog’s best friend in the dog days of summer!

When to Worry About Bloat

One caveat about hydrating your pet is taking care not to give a deep-chested dog copious amounts of water during vigorous play, as we mentioned above. That’s because it’s believed to contribute to bloat, also known as gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) complex. Bloat is a medical and surgical emergency that occurs when a dog’s stomach rotates or twists, trapping blood from the hind legs and abdomen from returning to the heart. Blood pools at the back end of the body, reducing the working blood volume and sending the dog into shock.

Dogs with a deep, narrow chest — very tall, rather than wide — suffer the most often from bloat. Great Danes, who have a high height-to-width ratio, are five-to-eight times more likely to bloat than dogs with a low height-to-width ratio. In addition to Great Danes, large- or giant-breed dogs at greatest risk include St. Bernards, Weimaraners, Irish Setters and Gordon Setters, Standard Poodles, and Doberman Pinschers. Males are twice as likely to bloat as females.

Signs of Bloat:

  • An enlargement of the dog’s abdomen
  • Retching
  • Salivation
  • Restlessness
  • An affected dog will feel pain and might whine if you press on his belly

Without treatment, in only an hour or two, your dog will likely go into shock. The heart rate will rise and the pulse will get weaker, leading to death.

Too Much Hydration?

On the other end of the dehydration spectrum is Water Intoxication, which, while rare, can happen. Does your dog “bite” at the water when swimming? Maybe they can fetch a stick in a pool or lake all day — ingesting water each time they do. Or maybe they love to drink from pressurized water like a sprinkler spigot. But the ingestion of too much water can throw their electrolytes out of balance and cause a life-threatening condition.

Symptoms of water intoxication in dogs include lack of coordination, lethargy, nausea, bloating, vomiting, dilated pupils, glazed eyes, light gum color, and excessive salivation. Advanced symptoms include difficulty breathing, collapsing, loss of consciousness, and seizures.

Because water intoxication in dogs can progress so quickly, time is critical. If your dog exhibits these symptoms, get to a veterinarian immediately to run blood work. A low level of electrolytes will confirm the condition. Treatment for water intoxication includes fluids, to put electrolytes back in the system, and sometimes a diuretic.

 

 

 

 


Winning the Senior Pet Olympics

June 19th, 2020 by Heaven At Home Staff

Your loyal companion was there for you during lockdown, entertaining you, relieving your stress, photo-bombing your Zoom meetings… Repay that kindness and nourish your connection even if you’re back in the saddle at work.

“What’s important is that you set aside the time to create DAILY opportunities for engagement – not just “weekend warrior” sessions,” says Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice.

“Aging pets enjoy routine engagement and need dedicated, age-appropriate exercise and sunshine beyond a simple walk.”

Here are just a few great ways you can “up” your pet’s “game.”

  1. Daily Training – Just like an Olympic athlete, dedicated daily training is a must to keep Fido’s cognition firing. Teach old dogs new tricks. Build rewarded commands into daily routines, such as “wait” at meals and “stop/sit/stay/come” during walks or play. Dogs enjoy getting it right.

 

  1. AquaMan’s Best Friend – For arthritic pets, swimming can help keep the muscles moving without stressing the joints. Even wading pools can give your old dog a bit of relief. A trip to a dog pond (eg. Shaggy Pines Dog Park) or the Lake (eg. Kirk Park) or a friendly neighborhood Dog pool (eg. K9 Athletics) offer great opportunities for low impact exercise.

 

  1. Feline Fun – Dog aren’t the only contenders in Senior Olympics. Cats can combat cognitive decline with interactive food dispensing toys and games that trigger the hunter within. Hide treats under egg cartons or get out the flirt pole. High perch climbing equipment and a visually stimulating window (eg. put a bird feeder within view) will help keep Felix feeling spry.

 

  1. Scent-ual Work – Choose a smelly, favorite treat and create a “treat trail” around the yard to get Fido working his or her sniffer. Not only is it an engaging way to deliver goodies (or a meal) – sniffing also relaxes dogs, which may help with separation anxiety.

 

  1. Mighty Kong-Quest – Stuff a Kong with treats such as all-natural peanut butter, bananas, plain yogurt or wet food with kibble and freeze. See if your pet can beat their “Personal Record” for time to Kong-quer! Or leave this engaging treat as a parting gift when you’re away.

They say “old” is a state of mind. Help your pet feel young again with daily attention, movement, and novelty. That’s how you “win” the Senior Pet Olympics!


 
Compassionate home care for your companions!
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