Looking for an Old Friend? It May Be Time to Adopt a Senior Pet

While every life stage has its own unique advantages, a pet’s golden years are likely to be some of the best. They graduated from housebreaking long ago, they know exactly what makes them happy and comfortable, and they provide a calming, supportive presence to any household lucky enough to have them. 

There are loads of other reasons to adopt a senior pet, and your friends at Animal Medical Hospital & 24 Hour Urgent Care have a few we can share from experience.

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What to Make of Lumps and Bumps on Your Pet’s Skin

When you find something abnormal on your beloved pet, it can be an anxiety-ridden moment. Is that a tick? A wart? Cancer? Or was it always there?

When it comes to lumps and bumps on your pet’s skin, Animal Medical Hospital & 24 Hour Urgent Care doesn’t expect you to have all the answers, that’s why we’re here!  

You can rely on us to help you know when to call us, when to relax, and what to do when it comes to pet lumps and bumps.

The Possibilities are Endless

There are many causes of lumps and bumps on the skin. We commonly see lesions caused by:

  • Bacterial infections
  • Parasites
  • Granuloma formation (reaction to foreign objects)
  • Abscesses
  • Benign tumors like warts and lipomas (fatty growths)
  • Cysts
  • Neoplasia

Even to the trained eye of our veterinary staff, it isn’t always possible to know which it might be just by looking.

When we see a pet with a new lump or bump, the affected area is assessed for location, size, shape, and physical characteristics. This helps to determine the most likely diagnosis and record the spot in the medical record.

Many times a test called a fine needle aspirate (FNA) will be recommended. In this procedure a small needle is introduced into the lump or bump to obtain a microscopic sample of cells in the area. This can help us to identify infection, inflammation, and may even reveal cancerous cells.

A FNA only yields a small, focal sample however, so it does not always give us an exact answer, nor can it rule out cancer entirely. A surgical biopsy (histopathology) is often recommended if a lump or bump is worrisome based on characteristics or FNA. Sometimes surgical excision and biopsy is warranted for seemingly benign growths as well due to excessive size or location in an irritating or cumbersome area.

Histopathology helps to give us more information about what the growth was, if it is likely to come back, if it was all successfully removed, and what other treatments might be needed. It can also help to give a more accurate prognosis.

Lumps and Bumps and When to Worry

It can be very hard to know which lumps and bumps are ominous and which are harmless, even to a trained eye. Of course, if you rushed your pet in for every tiny blemish, we would be seeing a lot of you. So when do you need to get your pet in and when can it wait?

We recommend examining your pet as soon as possible if:

  • The lesion is growing, changing, or spreading
  • The lump/bump is painful or firm
  • The skin is red or irritated
  • The bumps if bleeding or has discharge
  • Your pet has a history of cancer
  • Your pet is a high-risk breed (short coated breeds such as boxers, pugs, and pit bulls are prone to skin cancer)

It is never wrong for us to examine a new lump or bump. While they are not all an emergency, they all should be looked at in a timely fashion. Some seemingly innocuous growths can be serious, and when it comes to cancer time is essential.

Give us a call to make an appointment if you have any doubts at all about whether something should wait. No matter what the lump or bump turns out to be, acting quickly often helps us to deliver the best prognosis and get your pet back to normal as soon as possible.

Worst Day Ever: Helping Kids Cope with Pet Loss

Children have the capacity to feel things very deeply. When they’re joyful, it’s as if there’s a bottomless well of goodness. When they’re scared, their fear can be all-consuming. But when they’re heart-broken over the death of a pet, it can feel like the end of the world.

Without a doubt, kids form very strong attachments to family pets, and this is often their first experience with death. Understandably, they’ll require lots of help dealing with pet loss and moving through the stages of grief.

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Lifetime Health With Routine Pet Wellness Exams

pet wellness examsThe needs of a bouncy, playful, young animal are very different from an aging one, right? That’s why there are age-appropriate food options and developmentally-appropriate activities. Similarly, pet wellness exams are designed to follow – and support – an animal’s path throughout life. Their aim is to cover all relevant topics at hand, prevent disease, and nurture lifelong health and wellbeing.

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Why Does My Pet Need Senior Wellness Bloodwork?

The Importance of Senior Wellness Bloodwork

 One of the most frequent questions I receive from pet owners is “Doc, why does my dog need bloodwork?  We just did that last year and everything was normal.”  Senior Wellness Bloodwork semi-annually in our pets is an important part of their physical exam.  Animals age much more rapidly than humans, and dramatic changes to bloodwork values can happen in a short period of time.

Senior Wellness Bloodwork allows us to screen for numerous diseases and begin treating them before our pets become ill or debilitated.

Often times our owners do not recognize that the signs their pet is having could be indicative of disease.  Changes in thirst, urination, appetite, activity, coat quality, weight, or mobility could all be early indicators of potentially serious diseases that often go undiagnosed until pets are ill.  An up to date blood panel can also aid your veterinarian in selecting which medications are safest for your pet to use.

What is included in Senior Wellness bloodwork?

  1. A CBC (complete blood count)
    • The CBC evaluates red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Red cell, white cell, and platelet counts can change very rapidly over a period of hours.  Often veterinarians will evaluate the CBC daily in critically ill patients.
      • Red blood cells carry hemoglobin and are responsible for delivery of oxygen to the tissues of the body.
      • White blood cells are an important component of the immune system and are the first line of defenseagainst infections.
      • Platelets are important for allowing the blood to clot normally in response to injuries.
  2. A blood chemistry
    • Provides information on numerous organ systems in the body such as the liver, GI tract, kidneys, and immune system.
      • The liver has several enzymes which can indicate dysfunction such as the Alanine transaminase (ALT), Alkaline Phosphatase (ALKP).  These values can also be affected by toxins and certain medications your pets may take.  Many pets on arthritis medications or seizure medications will have mild liver enzyme elevations that are important to monitor over time.
      • The kidney is assessed by Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) and Creatinine (Crea).  Elevations in these enzymes can indicate dehydration, urinary disease, or kidney dysfunction.  Kidney disease is the number one systemic disease in elderly cats with almost all geriatric cats developing some degree of kidney disease in their lifetime.
  3. Senior Boston TerrierScreening the urine
    • It is important to assess urine concentration.  Low urine concentration can be the very first sign of kidney dysfunction.  The urine can also help indicate diseases such as diabetes and Cushing’s disease which are common in the aging pet population.
  4. T4
    • Assessing the T4, allows your veterinarian to evaluate the thyroid.
      • Elderly cats frequently will have elevated thyroid levels which can predispose to heart disease and blood clots.  Thyroid disease can also mask the signs of kidney disease in older cats.
      • Elderly dogs are prone to low thyroid levels which can predispose to hair loss, skin/ear infections, and weight gain.

 

Semi-annual bloodwork can help your veterinarian to help your pet before illness becomes severe.   Finding diseases before your pet becomes ill allows them the best chance at enjoying a long, healthy life.

 

Visit our Services page for more information about Senior Wellness visits here at Animal Medical Hospital.

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Why Does My Pet Need Fish Oils?

The Little Magic Pill: Fish Oils

Dr. Mari-Ashli Foy

Itchy skin? Achy joints? Kidney disease? Heart disease? What do all 4 of these medical problems have in common? Studies over the years have shown that with this simple addition to your pets diet, there are numerous benefits to be gained.  On the human side of things, we hear all the time about adding essential omega-3 fatty acids to our diet. However, many do not know what these essential fats are why they are important.

 

What are omega-3 fatty acids?

Omega-3 fatty acids are a part of a group of fats known as essential fats. These essential fats are those that are not made by the body and instead must be consumed.  Examples of food that contain omega-3’s include primarily food from the fish family such as salmon, tuna, and trout. The other group of essential fatty acids are known as omega-6’s, can be found in plant oils and nuts like walnuts, flaxseed, and sunflower oil. Most of the pet foods animals consume have more of the omega-6 fatty acids, than omega-3 fatty acids.  To ensure a well balanced diet and help with certain medical conditions, the addition of fish oils have become an important part of veterinarians diet recommendations.

What can these fish oils do for my pet?

Below are just a few examples of  how omega-3 fatty acids can positively impact the health of your pet.  Always remember to check with your veterinarian before adding fish oils to your pet’s diet. They will be able to advise you on an appropriate dosage based on the amount of omega-6’s and omega-3’s your pet is already consuming. It is imporfoy-2tant that there is an appropriate balance of these two essential fatty acids to provide well rounded coverage.

  1. Inflammatory skin disorders: If you’ve noticed that your furry friend has been scratching more than usual, even with a monthly flea medication, try adding fish oils to his/her treatment regimen. Fish oils help with inflammation caused by allergies and will leave your pet’s coat looking shinier than ever!
  2. Osteoarthritis: Arthritis is a natural part of growing old. Studies have shown consistent use of fish oils in arthritic patients can improve weight bearing and lameness.
  3. Kidney Disease: Protective to the kidneys. Will help with hypertension which is damaging to the kidneys. Additionally, it has been shown to lessen the amount of protein in the urine.
  4. Heart Disease: Reduces the frequency of arrythmias. Decreases inflammation associated with chronic heart disease and heart failure patients.

 

Favorite Brands

  1. Nature Made Fish Oil
  2. Welactin Canine Liquid or Softgel
  3. Welactin Feline Liquid or Softgel

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Is Your Pet Slowing Down?

Is your pet slowing down ? 

Is this normal aging or something else?

We all know that dogs and cats age faster than we do, which sometimes leads us to accept their slowing down with old age without question. Many people wonder if there is something they could do to keep their older pet happier and perkier for longer. Is there something that we may be overlooking?

Common causes of pets ‘slowing down’

There are a number of different reasons that an older dog or cat could lose the pep in their step. The most common causes are osteoarthritis, heart disease, hypothyroidism or other endocrine or metabolic problems. Twice yearly checkups for our pets over 7 years old (over 5 for giant breed dogs) with complete blood cell counts, serum chemistries and a urinalysis can help to detect early problems and take steps to prevent disease.

Is there anything I can really do?

While its true that for some diseases like osteoarthritis and heart disease there is no cure, many therapeutic options are available that could slow the progression of disease, especially if caught early. Special therapeutic diets, nutritional supplementation, weight management and exercise plans are all things that your veterinarian can discuss with you to help your aging pet live a longer, more comfortable life.

Written by : Dr. Lauren Goode, DVM

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NSAIDs – What you need to know!

Dr. Melissa Schupp

Your best pal Lassie comes in from playing outside and you notice she is limping on one of her back legs.  You begin browsing through your medicine cabinet looking for some medication that may relieve her pain.  You see some aspirin, naproxen, ibuprofen and acetaminophen.  You also see an old bottle of carprofen left over from when your other dog had knee surgery.  Naproxen always makes your headache go away quickly so, why not give some to Lassie?  STOP!  Call your veterinarian before you give anything!  Medications meant for you or for another dog may not be right for Lassie and could even hurt her.

With the exception of acetaminophen, the drugs listed above are all nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS).  These medications are used frequently in both people and pets for their pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory and anti-fever effects.   They are often prescribed for animals for arthritis or post-surgical pain.

So what do NSAIDS actually do?  Bear with me while we go through a bit of science.  NSAIDS block an enzyme in the body called cyclooxygenase (COX).  COX stimulates damaged cells to produce substances called prostaglandins which have several functions:

-Protect the stomach lining from the damaging effects of acid

-Helps maintain blood flow to the kidneys

-Supports platelet function

-Contributes to pain, inflammation and fever

When COX is blocked by NSAIDS, pain, inflammation and fever are reduced which is great, but there can also be side effects.  Some of the common side effects seen with NSAID use are vomiting, decreased or absent appetite, decreased activity and diarrhea.  More severe side effects can include stomach and intestinal ulcers, stomach and intestinal perforations (holes in the wall of these organs), kidney failure, liver failure and even death.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved many NSAIDS for use in dogs (carprofen, meloxicam, deracoxib, firocoxib, etodolac and robenacoxib); only two are approved for use in cats (meloxicam and robenacoxib).  This means that those medications have been shown to be safe and effective for use in that species.  NSAIDS that are approved for human use do not have the same effectiveness and particularly the same safety margin if given to your pet.

Dogs and cats are not small people!  People, dogs and cats are different species and will absorb, metabolize and react differently to medications.  A medication used for a human may last longer, have a higher absorption rate in the stomach and reach much higher concentrations in the blood stream when given to a dog.  Cats lack an enzyme allowing them to break down NSAIDS making them particularly sensitive.

Let’s look at an example.  Naproxen is a very safe and effective NSAID used in humans.  But just a single dose when given to a dog can cause severe gastrointestinal upset, stomach ulcers, intestinal perforation and kidney failure.  Effective treatment can require many days or even weeks in the hospital and cost thousands of dollars.

So, what should you do?

First, never give any medication to your pet without discussing it with your veterinarian first.  We are too often faced with a well-meaning pet owner who unintentionally caused their pet harm by giving a medication.  It is one of the most devastating problems we face.

Next, always inform your vet of any medications your pet is on – prescribed or not.  Two different NSAIDS or an NSAID and a steroid should never be given at the same time.

Ask your veterinarian about performing baseline blood work prior to starting any long-term NSAID therapy.

Never change the amount or frequency you administer to your pet without first talking to your veterinarian.

Finally, if your pet is on a prescribed NSAID, monitor him for side effects and inform your veterinarian if you see them.

NSAIDS are a very valuable and important part of medical treatment for our pets and for us.  But we must take care to use them safely!  This is not only true for NSAIDS but any medication we choose to give.  Before you reach into the medicine cabinet for a medication for Lassie, please call your veterinarian.  We are here to help you keep your pet healthy and happy for a long, long time!

 

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Arthritis and Your Pet By Dr. Lauren Goode

Ever wonder what people are really talking about when they use the term ‘arthritis’? Arthritis refers to inflammation of the joint. There are different types of arthritis but the most common is degenerative joint disease (DJD). DJD, or osteoarthritis, is a chronic, progressive disease by which the cartilage in the joint that provides a cushion between the bones is broken down. This exposes the underlying bone and causes pain by allowing the bones to rub against each other. The rubbing causes irregular bone growth at the ends of the bone which also contributes to the pain. Cartilage break down can occur secondary to joint instability (due to ligament damage or trauma), disease within a joint, or because of chronic wear and tear on old joints. In dogs, we generally see secondary osteoarthritis because of chronic joint problems like hip dysplasia and knee injuries.

Often, we only begin to talk about arthritis in our pets when they are clearly having trouble getting up, or have a hard time taking the stairs or getting into the car. In cats, we may see that they do not want to jump as high as they used to. When we see these signs our pets are telling us that they are in a significant amount of pain. There can be earlier changes in younger pets that can signify the beginning of osteoarthritis. Generally speaking, the dog that gets sore or stiff after a day at the park, or the cat who’s walking just a little different.

It is important to talk to your veterinarian about any changes that you notice in your pet’s mobility at any age. The most important factors in controlling and slowing down osteoarthritis are weight management, routine exercise and anti-inflammatory medication as needed. Additionally, there are special diets and supplements that can help to prolong the strength of the cartilage in the joints and decrease inflammation. The earlier you take steps to improve joint health, the longer your pet will live an active, comfortable life.

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Arthritis in Pets By Dr Susan Coe

Is your dog a bit slow to get up from lying down?  Is there a reluctance to jump on things that used to be easily managed?  Does your cat need a boost to get up on the sofa or bed?  Is there a general loss of “pep in their step”?

Getting older is not generally the reason these sorts of changes occur.  Our pets suffer from arthritis just like we do.  And it can cause pain as well as affect their quality of life.  Thankfully we can help with a variety of options and a multimodal approach, meaning that several approaches combined may bring better results than a single therapy.  And remember to never give your pet human medication without speaking to your veterinarian.  Certain medications can be toxic to pets, and while you feel that you may be helping them, you may actually be causing more harm.

If you feel that your pet may be developing signs of arthritis, the best thing you can do for them is to get a diagnosis and start therapy as soon as possible.  Please call for an appointment to evaluate and discuss the possibility of arthritis in your pet.

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