7+ and still going strong?
Working with practical and pro-active owners, our aim at Thameswood is to ‘make life better’ and with an ever increasing older generation it is becoming more important.
Advances in veterinary medicine means we have a wider range of therapies and medications to treat conditions such as arthritis and cognitive function. But with simple and practical advice on changes that can be made at home and things to look out it means conditions can be monitored and managed in their early stages rather than having to visit the vet with a dog or cat with multiple health issues.
So below is a general overview for your cat or dog and some practical advice that may help. Don’t forget that our FREE 7+ Clinics are also available to all clients. More information about these can be found at the bottom of these notes or here.
These notes relate to both dogs & cats.
General body condition
As your pet gets older you have to spend more time on grooming. Skin can often get drier as your pet ages and this can cause dandruff; try massage to increase circulation and nutrients to the skin on a regular basis.
Often older pets do not groom themselves as well due to habit, bad teeth or flexibility so you have to help with regular brushing and cleaning. Regular checks will help to prevent eye and ear infections, cystitis, anal gland problems etc
Checks that can be carried out at home include checking their eyes daily, ensuring they are clean and there are no changes or excessive or coloured discharge. Ear cleaning at least once a week, checking their bottoms and their genital area to maintain them clean.
You don’t need to use any antiseptic wipes just clean water or a dilute dog shampoo solution. Unhealthy skin can lead to infections, itchiness, smells and general discomfort.
Nails seem to grow quicker and often uneven as gait changes to compensate for stiff joints or slower more sedate walks so grooming is very important to keep your pet not only healthy but comfortable. Long nails can cause excessive licking of feet and discomfort walking.
Very often hair appears to shed more as grooming is not as regular and excess protein is used up. Dry skin can be helped or made stronger by ensuring a good senior diet is being fed or possibly a food supplement such as a light oil eg Viacutan is added to the food on a daily basis or even in a shampoo such as -Dermocanis.
A good balanced gentle shampoo is all that is needed for bathing not a medicated shampoo. Our nurses can bathe, de matt and groom your pet if going to the groomer is not suitable or stressful.
Lumps and bumps invariably occur as we all get older and it is important to ensure they are periodically checked, often they are harmless unless they are changing or growing. Any lumps that are a concern do not necessarily require surgical removal as the vet can take a fine needle aspirate during a consult and look at the cells under a microscope in our lab and give you results in 24 hours.
Happily we have through better care and nutrition increased the average life span of most pets and although this is great we are now often seeing `older age` problems such as loss of cognitive function. This is an area that as vets we are very concerned about.
It should not be enough that your pet eats, sleeps and goes for the occasional walk if his quality of life is poor.
We can treat most medical problems but again there is little purpose in this if your pet is confused and miserable.
It is difficult to know if your pet is`losing his marbles` initially and there are certain nutritional supplements that will hopefully delay onset of cognitive dysfunction. Your vet can also prescribe treatments (eg Vivitonin ) and that can initially help and will enhance your pets life for a little longer especially if he or she is otherwise fairly healthy.
Please note that some illnesses that affect or damage the kidneys can cause symptoms of cognitive dysfunction so the vet will recommend a basic blood profile if he suspects this may be the case
Dental care is often the most commonly neglected area of your pet’s health and unfortunately dental decay often goes unnoticed until after a dental is carried out when owners often report a much happier and healthier pet.
Although dentals require anaesthetics the risks involved will be explained to you and will depend on the severity of the dental decay. Chronic infection due to plaque build up in the mouth can lead to damage of the kidneys and liver and either gum disease or bone damage to the jaw.
Being observant and tackling issues early on means less risk to your pet, less cost and a happier life for your pet. Our nurses can guide you through how to check the primary signs of dental issues at home and have ways of showing you how to maintain oral health for even the most reticent of pets.
Realistically you need to plan for your pet to be booked in every 3 years for a routine dental scale and polish. You can plan these around dental offers, when we have yearly promotions.
Although vets have many therapies and medications available for the treatment of arthritis in your pet you can help to try and delay the onset of osteoarthritis by introducing the following into the nutrition of your pet;
- high levels of EPA a fatty acid –helps interrupt cartilage degeneration
- high levels of total omega-3 fatty acids-sooths joints to help your pet move more easily
- high levels of glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate – improves mobility
- We recommend Hills food especially Vet Essentials senior and you are able to buy this high quality brand at COST price (with our Pet Health Club) at the clinic.
K.Laser – Laser therapy, is the use of specific wavelengths of light to create therapeutic effects which include: Improved healing time, pain reduction, increased circulation and decreased swelling.
This is a complimentary treatment which does not involve drugs or surgery and is pain free. A majority of patients exibit greater comfort and mobility within 12-24 hours after a laser treatment.
Remember that there are plenty of ways to keep your pet active even though he may suffer from arthritis and in act it is even more important that he has regular short periods of activity:
Shorter more frequent walks or walks with a big break in the middle
Swimming is very therapeutic and if the river/pond /lake/sea is too cold book your pet into the nearest
hydrotherapy pool for a leisure swim as a treat!
Different interactive games [ask your nurse for suggestions]
Make sure they have comfortable beds –remember how uncomfortable it is when you have a rubbish bed yourself- your pet may need a choice of beds, one he can stretch out flat in and another that he can curl up on. Beds need to be thicker and firmer the bigger your dog is and need to be quieter and warmer if you are a cat!
Sight and hearing
Pets have very acute senses and often can cope with the loss of one of them quite easily as they are cared for by ourselves but sometimes the beginning stages of loss of either sight or hearing causes confusion and anxiety which can manifest itself in many ways from agoraphobia, increased nervousness, aggression and even loss of house training, increased barking or meowing
Loss of sight – how to help:
- Walking on a lead gives reassurance like holding hands
- Using clear vocal commands
- Keeping furnishings in the same place and walks to the same routine
- Using touch signals to reassure
- Getting closer so they can see your face more clearly when giving commands or coming into the house. Approaching them from the front not from behind.
Loss of hearing – how to help;
- Dogs tend to use the lower frequency sound waves first so using a whistle or dog whistles early on so they can start to recognise signals
- Start to use hand and face signals instead of vocal commands
- Always approach your pet from in front
- Don’t go out of sight when out walking stay close
- Use touch to reassure
Weight & Nutrition
As your pet gets older the level of exercise and the type of nutrition required changes. Just as we have to watch our nutrition, checking levels of cholesterol, fat and red meat that we eat, lowering our salt intake etc the same applies to our pets and the correct nutrition will definitely help your pet to live a longer and healthier life.
Thankfully we are lucky that there are already senior diets available for our pet often in the same brand as the one that they have been used to. Again the quality does vary but you can not only prevent early onset of certain problems but can actually alleviate certain conditions with certain high quality brands. Also if you’re pet is suffering a chronic illness such as heart or kidney problems, skin allergies, arthritis etc these too can be managed better with the help of good nutrition
As time goes on it is often quite easy for both us and our pets to very gradually put on a bit of weight and often this is very difficult to address as older pets do not necessarily eat that much and can be restricted due to arthritis. We recommend a tailor made programme using our Bellybusters club where the calories and not necessarily the quantity is restricted or possibly a different type of exercise or walk regime might work eg hydrotherapy swimming. Our Bellybusters club is Free and easy to use
Weight loss is again something you need to be very aware of and remember that any weight loss without any changes in food intake need to be addressed sooner rather than later. You are welcome to come in during any of our opening times and weigh your pet. Often it is difficult to determine weight loss if it is gradual so a weight check at least every 6 months is beneficial.
In the more senior years, nutritional habits can change quite drastically often with days when your pet will not eat or will eat anything but pet food. It is advisable that you keep in touch with your nurse during these times in order to get help on how to still feed a balanced diet or at what point it will cause health problems.
Please remember that unlike humans there is no `menopause` and bitches should continue to have regular seasons and can potentially still get pregnant into old age. Any unusual or absent seasons should be checked. As seasons are followed by a period of hormone changes mimicking a pregnancy then false pregnancies are more common in an older dog. Please talk to your nurse about pyometras as these are potentially fatal and can be difficult to detect.
Regular checks of the teats on your bitch and also your dogs testicles is important as lumps and bumps need to be checked out sooner rather than later.
There are no upper age limits on when your pet can be neutered as long as they are healthy and have been checked by a vet.
Vaccinations are just as important in older age as they are in younger pets (just like in humans). Annual ‘booster’ vaccinations are recommended as with any age pet but in older age the diseases we vaccinate against may change with your pet’s lifestyle which your vet will discuss.
Worming & Fleas
Worming and flea control should again be continued in to your pets later years, especially if you have a multipet house hold or children under the age of 14.
It is important that a safe and effective prescription wormer such as milbemax is used at the correct dose, and should be carried out at least four times a year (every three months)
7+ Drop in Centre
Our 7+ centres have been uniquely designed to help your pet live life to the full in to their senior years. Our main aim at Thameswood has always been to ‘make life better’, we don’t want visits to the vets to always mean tests, anaesthetics and medication which is why we believe preventative health care is key to helping us achieve this aim.
Our 7+ drop in centre’s run Tuesday & Thursday 3pm-5pm, and are run by our specially trained 7+ team of nurses. At your initial appointment you will be introduced to your nurse who will go through any concerns you may have as well as a few additional checks.
They will be on hand to give you advice, specific to your pet and will hopefully begin to develop an understanding of your pet and their routine. They will be on hand for follow up checks, advice over the phone and if they do have concerns and recommend your pet see’s a vet they are able to offer discounted consultations and blood tests.
(NB. Alternate days or times can be booked for registered clients by calling the clinic).
Many factors can affect our pet’s weight including our love for them and the pleasure we get from giving them a tasty treatread more
We can test for vaccine immunity levels if you are worried about over vaccinating your petread more
2-3pm 13th November at our Greenbridge clinic
3-4pm 14th November at our Purton Road clinic
*Spaces are limited so contact us today*