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Senior Dog & Cat Tips

Medical Benefits of Red Light Therapy for Dogs

December 1st, 2023 by Ima Admin

As veterinary medicine continues to evolve, innovative treatments are emerging to enhance the comfort of senior companion animals. One such breakthrough is red light therapy, a non-invasive treatment that has shown promising medical benefits for dogs. Backed by research from reputable veterinarian journals, this therapy is shedding light on new ways to alleviate pain, accelerate healing, and improve overall canine health.

“The initial research is promising,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice. Dr. Brush returned recently from the International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care conference, an organization for which she serves as a member of the board of directors. At the conference, hospice veterinarians from across the country studied new ways to manage pain in aging pets.

“Red light therapy, also known as low-level laser therapy (LLLT) or photobiomodulation, has gained recognition for its efficacy in managing various forms of pain in dogs.”
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Navigating Vision and Hearing Loss in Senior Dogs

October 2nd, 2023 by Ima Admin

As our loyal canine companions age, they may encounter challenges such as vision and hearing loss. These conditions can be distressing, but with understanding, patience, and proper care, pet parents can provide their companions with a comfortable and fulfilling life.

“Vision or hearing loss in your dog is not a death sentence. We routinely see senior pets enjoying a high quality of life despite diminished vision or hearing. However, it’s vital to create a system of communication, engagement and comfort to keep your pet happy and safe,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, DVM and founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice. Read the rest of this entry »

Feline Pain Awareness – Part 2 – Senior Cats

September 11th, 2023 by Ima Admin

September is Animal Pain Awareness Month, a campaign by the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM) to help pet parents identify pain in their companion animals. For Heaven at Home Pet Hospice, every month is pain awareness month, because the compassionate management of pain can improve an animal’s quality of life and prevent premature euthanasia.

The practice of pain management in cats can be challenging due to their wily nature.

“Cats are particularly adept at masking injury and illness because they instinctively hide signs of weakness from potential predators. They’re hard-wired for survival,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice. “Unfortunately, as a result, research has shown they are under-treated for painful conditions.”

The Heaven at Home team uses a pain assessment tool developed by a team of researchers at the University of Montreal’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital called the Feline Grimace Scale (FGS). This system of pain identification measures ear position, orbital tightening, muzzle tension, whisker position and head position. Pet parents can be taught to use the FGS at home.

Sources of pain in cats include arthritis, dental problems, urinary tract infections, bone disease, and cancer. There are a wide range of treatments to mitigate pain, including modifications to their environments, medications, monoclonal antibodies, and more.

IVAPM Pain Checklist for Cats

  • Reluctance or difficulty jumping up or down from counters, furniture, etc.
  • Difficulty or avoiding going up or down stairs
  • Restlessness or difficulty finding a comfortable position
  • Vocalizing (purring, or hissing) when touched or moving
  • Decreased appetite
  • Less playful with less desire to interact with people or animals
  • Excessive licking, biting or scratching a body part
  • Sleeping in an unusual position or unusual location
  • Unusual aggression when approached or touched (biting, hissing, ears pinned back)
  • Changes in eye expression (staring, enlarged pupils, vacant look, or squinting)
  • Stopped using or has difficulty getting in or out of litter box
  • Stopped or reduced grooming

If your senior kitty shows any of these signs of pain, it’s time for an evaluation by your routine care veterinarian or a pain management consultation. Your stoic kitty does not need to suffer in silence.

To learn the FPS system, download a guide in the Tools Section.

Animal Pain Awareness – Part I – Senior Dogs

August 1st, 2023 by Ima Admin

Next month, the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM) will begin its annual awareness campaign to help pet parents identify pain in their companion animals. For Heaven at Home Pet Hospice, every month is pain awareness month, because pain management makes the difference between a comfortable quality of life in sunset years and the time to say goodbye.
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Treatment Breakthroughs for Senior Dogs & Cats with Osteoarthritis

June 5th, 2023 by Ima Admin

In the wake of COVID, you’ve likely heard about the benefits of monoclonal antibody therapy. In an effort to reduce pain, improve mobility and quality-of-life, this type of biological therapy has been harnessed to treat dogs and cats suffering from Osteoarthritis (OA).

Monoclonal antibodies, also known as “mAbs,” are proteins made in laboratories that act like the proteins called antibodies in our bodies – and in your pet’s body too. It mimics your pet’s own immune system to target and neutralize a protein called Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) that stimulates pain in pets with OA. Read the rest of this entry »

Developments in Canine Cancer Screening for Senior Dogs

May 1st, 2023 by Ima Admin

Cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs that are beyond middle age. Each year, more than 6.5 million dogs are diagnosed with cancer, and an average of 1 in 3 dogs will have cancer in their lifetime. Half of those will die directly from the disease, according to the National Canine Cancer Foundation.

Two recent breakthroughs in canine cancer screening may help mitigate the premature loss of our beloved companions and give pet parents easier options for more effective treatment. Read the rest of this entry »

Movement Is Medicine for Senior Pets – Part 3: Catercise!

April 3rd, 2023 by Ima Admin

“Catercise” might sound like a great Instagram hashtag, but for felines, the power of play is unparalleled for keeping senior kitties fit.

“Daily short sets of exercise can improve mobility, help manage pain, and keep your kitty’s cognitive function intact,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice. In other words, an engaged kitty is a happy cat.

What if your cat is quite content to be sedentary…lazy even? After all, research shows that older cats sleep up to 20 hours per day! Experts recommend scheduling your catercise routines around peak active hours, typically sun-up and sundown. It also helps to use a quiet room sprayed with feline pheromones. Read the rest of this entry »

Movement Is Medicine for Senior Pets – Part 2: Canine Cavaletti & Core Exercises

March 1st, 2023 by Ima Admin

These exercise tips for senior pets are a continuation of our Movement Is Medicine series to help pet parents engage their companion’s bodies and minds!

“Exercise offers more than physical benefit alone. Senior pets benefit from the emotional and mental engagement,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice.
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Movement is Medicine for Senior Pets – Part 1: Getting Started

February 1st, 2023 by Ima Admin

Humans, canines and felines have more in common than you might think. We know that core strength and exercise offer mental and physical health benefits for senior humans. As the field of geriatric veterinary medicine evolves, we’re learning that the same applies to pets! Benefits in mental health, as well as cognition, result even from physical exercise alone, and specific exercises offer interventions to improve the quality of life for aging pets.

“Research shows that an exercise program that blends flexibility, range of motion, balance, strength and endurance will improve a pet’s quality of life,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice.

Dr. Brush serves on the board of the International Association for Animal Hospice & Palliative Care. The organization supports and shares information from veterinarians specializing in geriatric medicine. One presentation that hit home for her was by Dr. Brooke Loewenstein, DVM, CCRT, and CVAT, an innovator in therapeutic exercise.

To get started on home routines for senior pets, we’ll address these aspects in the next three installments of Pet Tips: Getting Started – Foundation Work, Cavaletti & Canine Core Exercises, and “Catercise” for feline aficionados.

Foundation Work – Canine

Basic Walking: Begin with 5 minutes of leash walking twice daily on flat, easy terrain, and build in 1-minute increments every other day until 15 minutes of walking is achieved twice daily.

Training for Paw Lifts: A fundamental skill you may need to train for is individual paw targeting (IPT) – meaning your dog lifts each of his four paws individually on cue. You can further advance this foot movement to mean to lift and “stick” the foot onto a target – such as your hand, a flat target, or an inflatable – for duration.

Perform 3 paw lifts of 5 seconds with each paw once daily. Increase the hold time by 2-3 seconds every week as tolerated, up to 15 seconds. Once this is achieved, slowly increase to 5 repetitions.

Once you help your pet build these skills, you may need to start training on backing up, side-stepping, and stretches, to eventually work up to a balanced routine like the following:

Sample Goal Routine:

  • Paw Lifts
  • Backing Up

  • Cavaletti exercise
  • Passive and active stretching
  • Unstable surface walking
  • Side stepping
  • Sit-to-stand transitions
  • Figure 8s
  • Indoor “circuits” for bad weather

In the next segment, we’ll discuss how to use or create Cavaletti gear, describe the “Cookie Stretch,” and more! Stay tuned.

10 Tips To Sustain Your Senior Pet’s Quality of Life This Winter

January 3rd, 2023 by Ima Admin

You’ve heard the expression “three-dog-night” — a night so bitterly cold you’d need three dogs in bed to keep you warm. The phrase begs the question: who keeps the warming dogs warm?

“Winter can be really tough on older dogs. They find it hard to regulate their body temperature, and the cold can exacerbate arthritic joints,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice. Here are some tips to keep your senior companion cozy. Read the rest of this entry »