Concord Animal Hospital’s tips to keep your older cat happy & healthy
A cat is considered a senior once they’re 10 years old, but don’t fear senior status! Age isn’t a disease and your senior kitty could have many more years ahead of them. We have many healthy feline patients living into their 20’s. The oldest cat on record lived to be 38!
The needs of your cat change as they age but we’re here to help keep your cat happy and healthy. Follow these five tips and, as always, never be afraid to reach out with questions or concerns.
Regular veterinary care and great care at home can give your senior cat many more years with you and your family. As always, call 978-369-3503 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. No question is silly or concern too small. We’re so proud to partner with you on the healthcare of your super senior!
Concord Animal Hospital slices through the hype
Americans are increasingly concerned with where their food comes from and achieving the right nutritional balance for a longer, happier and healthier life. And of course, that includes finding the best food for their furry family members!
In an effort to improve their pets’ health, many pet moms and dads are turning to alternative diets such as grain-free pet food. And they're willing to spend big money to make sure their pet is getting the best! According to the New York Times, grain free diets accounted for nearly $2.8 billion in 2017, up from $1 billion in 2011. Owners are looking for the very best for their pets and many are replacing grains such as corn, rice and wheat traditionally found in dog food with alternatives such as chickpeas, lentils and sweet potatoes.
The most at-risk population for malmourishment are growing pets, such as puppies and kittens, cautions Dr. McCullough. "It's critical to discuss your young pet's nutritional needs before trying alternative diets."
Wild dogs only live three-to-five-years due to malnutrition, parasites, and a myriad of other diseases and maladies from which we diligently protect our pets. Their lifestyle and lifespan isn’t what should aspire to for our pets!" says Dr. Rhea McCullough, CAH veterinarian.
Veterinarians Urge Caution
In some cases, such as pets with a grain allergy, a grain-free diet is the right choice. But according to CAH veterinarian Dr. McCullough, “for the vast majority of dogs, grains are part of a balanced diet. Far more dogs are allergic to specific proteins than to grain, so very few dogs need to be on a grain-free diet. A veterinarian should be the one to diagnose a grain sensitivity or allergy and work with you on the right nutrition plan"
The veterinary community is beginning to see negative effects of grain-free diets among house pets. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issues several reports warning pet owners of reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating certain pet foods containing peas, lentils and other legume seeds or potatoes as main ingredients. DCM is a disease of a dog’s heart muscle that leads to an enlarged heart and can result in congestive heart failure. DCM, which can be severe and even fatal, used to mostly impact breeds genetically prone to the disease, such as Great Danes, Newfoundlands and Irish Wolfhounds.
Concerning to the veterinary community is that many recent cases reported to the FDA include breeds not typically at risk for DCM, including Golden and Labrador Retrievers, a Shih Tzu, Miniature Schnauzers, as well as mixed breeds. In many of these cases, dogs were fed diets that included potatoes or multiple legumes such as peas or lentils. It is not yet know whether the increase in these alternative ingredients is driving the new DCM cases or if it’s the absence of grain, but the FDA is looking into the cause and we have our ears pricked up.
"This is heart-breaking for us, since we know pet owners are only trying to do what’s best for their pets,” says Dr. McCullough. "Many of these grain-free foods are quite expensive but a higher price doesn't guarantee higher quality. Unfortunately some companies are capitalizing are capitalizing on the grain-free trend. Pet food isn't regulated, so they're able to sell grain-free food with little to no research on benefits to or impact on your pet's health."
Your pet’s health and happiness depend on proper nutrition
An undernourished pet is at risk for serious health issues. Dr Lisa Freedman, veterinary nutritionist and a professor at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University note that “in the last few years I’ve seen more cases of nutritional deficiencies due to people feeding unconventional diets, such as unbalanced home-prepared diets, raw diets, vegetarian diets, and boutique commercial pet foods.”
You can dramatically improve your pet’s quality of life and life expectancy—not to mention, avoid additional veterinary bills—when you help your cat or dog achieve the right nutritional balance. So what can you do?
We love that pet owners are willing to go the extra mile for their pets. You want what’s best for your pet and so do we. We look forward to partnering with you to channel your love and dedication into foods and care that will support a happy and healthy life for your pet!
With a rainy spring behind us, we’re pumped for warm weather! At Concord Animal Hospital, we know that means it’s time to prepare our clients with pet health and safety advice apropos to the coming hazy, hot, and humid season.
What Is the Biggest Warm Weather Danger for Pets?
As the thermometer starts to climb, the biggest danger posed by the warm weather for pets is hyperthermia, or heat stroke.
Activities you might normally do at other times of year--an exuberant session at the dog park with an active pup, taking a longer walk than usual with an older or overweight pet, or leaving your four-legged friend in your car while you do a few quick errands--can put them at serious risk for heat stroke.
What Are the Risks of Heat Stroke for Your Pet?
Damage from heat stroke can range from impacted eyes or GI tract, to brain damage and death.
Dogs considered at higher risk for heat stroke include:
Time is of the essence and mortality rates in dogs with heat stroke are a lot lower when their owners cool them before they arrive at the hospital."
How Can You Help a Pet with Heat Stroke?
With the risk of heat stroke especially in dogs on the rise, Concord Animal Hospital’s Katherine Wilson sat down with Dr. Caleb Murphy, Emergency Clinician at BluePearl Specialty Hospital in Waltham to get his suggestions for first aid steps you can take to save your dog’s life.
BluePearl is a 24-hour emergency veterinary hospital and one of the emergency hospitals we suggest to our patients for urgent medical assistance when our office is closed.
Katherine: Can you describe what happens to a pet suffering from heat stroke?
Dr. Murphy: Heat stroke, also called hyperthermia, is a failure to regulate the body’s temperature. A pet suffering from heat stroke is having an inflammatory response which leads to multi-organ dysfunction.
This overheating can be a result of the pet’s own activity or metabolism or heat gained from the environment, such as on a hot day or in a warm car.
Katherine: How does hyperthermia effect a dog?
Dr. Murphy: Dogs lose 70% of their body heat through the skin. But when the air temperature is higher than their body temperature, dogs also lose heat through evaporation from their respiratory tract via panting.
If they are suffering from hyperthermia, your dog will begin panting excessively to maximize heat loss. Internally, blood will increasingly circulate to the skin at the cost of blood flow to the internal organs, which has the potential to cause long term damage.
Katherine: What can a dog owner do if they think their dog is suffering from hyperthermia?
Dr. Murphy: A lot! Time is of the essence and mortality rates in dogs with heat stroke are a lot lower when their owners cool them before they arrive at the hospital.
In one study, mortality rates were 50% in dogs in the total sample, but 100% of dogs that were cooled by their owners before being admitted to the hospital and brought in to a hospital within 90 minutes of exposure survived.*
If you think your dog is suffering from heat stroke, you need to get to your veterinarian immediately.
Before you go, wet the dog with cold water with a hose or in a bath or sink. I advise against putting wet towels on the dog, because the towels will quickly become warm and prevent the transfer of heat away from the dog’s body. If you have ice packs, place them in your dog’s armpits and around the belly after placing your dog in the car.
Turn the air conditioner on high or roll down the windows and call the vet to let them know you’re coming in while you are on the way.
Stay Safe in the Heat
When the sun is shining, we all want to enjoy the warm weather with our pets! By making seasonal adjustments to our activities, we can help prevent overheating and heat stroke in our pets.
Doing things such as always bringing a water bottle and putting out fresh water for your pet, avoiding walks during the hottest times of day, and leaving your pet at home and not in your car when you go out to shop will go a long way to keeping your pet safe.
And if your dog exhibits any of the symptoms of heat stroke noted above:
Special thanks to Dr. Murphy and BluePearl for contributing to our efforts to keep our patients happy and healthy!
*Heat Stroke in Dogs, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. Journal of Internal Veterinary Medicine. 2006.
What Kind of Ticks Are in Our Area?
There are three main types of ticks in the Concord, Massachusetts area:
How Can I Keep My Dog Safe from Tick-Borne Diseases?
Our veterinarians at Concord Animal Hospital strongly recommend using tick preventatives such as Bravecto or Simparica. Some clients double-up with a chewable preventative and a repellent collar. Talk to one of our veterinarians to determine the best product for your pet given their health history, potential exposure to ticks and lifestyle. Use your preventative all year long!
Please use a tick preventative year-round!
Frost and freezing temps DO NOT kill ticks. Ticks are dormant but come back to life in only 40 degrees - a high often achieved even in the coldest months. Our veterinarians see plenty of dogs with tick-borne illnesses throughout the winter.
Our vets also suggest taking added precautions such keeping your dogs out of long grass or and away from undergrowth. These areas are where dogs like to sniff and explore, but they are also prime hangouts for ticks.
After a walk, the American Kennel Association recommends checking some spot you might forget to look, such as inside ears and between toes, just to make sure your pet didn’t bring any ticks home with them.
Keep a running list of questions on ticks and any
other concerns to ask during your next vet visit!
What Do I Do If I Find a Tick on My Dog?
If you find a tick on your dog, remove it as soon as possible! If it hasn’t attached itself yet, there is no risk of tick-borne illness for your pet. If it has attached, grasp the tick with a pair of tweezers as close to the site of attachment as you can and pull straight back.
If you have found an attached tick, particularly one that is engorged, the MSPCA advises noting the date and time to discuss with your veterinarian.
Continue watching for the following symptoms*:
Concord Animal Hospital is here to help you determine if your pet needs immediate medical care
It's often hard to know when your pet really needs to be seen by a vet when there isn't a clear physical injury. When in doubt, always give us a call at 978-369-3503, WE'RE HERE TO HELP!
In some situations, your pet needs immediate attention. Always call if you're concerned, but call (don't email) right away for the following situations:
Concord Animal Hospital’s 5-step guide and video to brushing your dog or cat’s teeth
February is pet oral health month, so we're bringing back a video we made showing how you (yes, you!) can brush your pet's teeth! Oral health is just as important for our pets as it is for us. Pets can get plaque, tartar, gingivitis and other periodontal diseases too.
According to the American Animal Hospital Association, “diseases of the oral cavity, if left untreated, are often painful and can lead to more serious health problems including heart, lung and kidney disease.”
At Concord Animal Hospital, we frequently hear from pet parents that they have never brushed their pet’s teeth because they don’t know how.
We’re here to help! To get started, follow five simple steps and watch our instructional video.
STEP 1: Make a plan
Identify a place in the house or yard where your dog or cat will feel calm and relaxed. Pick a time of day that you can set aside 5-10 minutes on a regular basis. Dr. McCullough, a veterinarian at Concord Animal Hospital (CAH), recommends you brush your pet’s teeth every day, though every other day is the minimum to keep plaque from becoming tartar.
STEP 2: Get your ducks (and dogs and cats) in a row
What you’ll need:
Some pets take to tooth brushing immediately. Others, especially cats (surprise!), may need more time to ease into full tooth brushing. Work your way up to brushing over a week or two and keep all sessions short – 1-2 minutes will suffice.
Dr. McCullough suggests owners get their pets comfortable by…
STEP 5: Start brushing those choppers: Gently place a toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your pet’s teeth and brush along the gum line in a circular motion.
You can either tuck the toothbrush into their mouth or gently push their lips back so the teeth are visible. You don’t have to worry about the inside of the mouth, the tongue takes good care of removing plaque from the inside-facing sides of the teeth, so focus on the outside.
End the session with a reward – a favorite treat or a lot of attention.
In the beginning a little bit of bleeding may occur. If the bleeding is heavy, stop and try to brush again more gently in a day or two.
WHEN TO TALK TO YOUR VET
If the bleeding continues after gently brushing three times, call us at 978-369-3503 to make an appointment to check your pet’s teeth as this may be a sign of dental disease.
Dr. McCullough also recommends talking to your vet about the right frequency of dental cleanings for your pet and asking for help if your pet isn’t taking to tooth brushing. “Different brushing techniques or drinking water additives might be great options for you and your pet.”
VET TIP: In addition to brushing teeth regularly, encouraging pets to chew rubber toys or large rawhides is also great for teeth. "The trick with any dental treat or chew toy is to get them chewing for a while," says Dr. McCullough. "If they swallow them in two bites then we're not getting the teeth clean. Toys that can be stuffed with treats are a good way to get dogs to chew for longer. Avoid hard bones, antlers and hard plastics that can fracture teeth."
HAVE CONCERNS ABOUT YOUR PET’S ORAL HEALTH? Make an appointment with your veterinarian at Concord Animal Hospital at 978-369-3503.
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Concord Animal Hospital's 5 Tips to Keep Your Pet Healthy This Winter
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