Posted by Arnold Plotnick, DVM on 12/18/2007 in Scratching Post Articles
Cats are living longer and better quality lives than ever before, thanks to improved nutrition, veterinary care and educated owners. This increased longevity means that more owners will be faced with the special demands and problems that become apparent with geriatric cats. Understanding aging is the first step in providing the best possible care to your cat in her golden years.
First, realize that aging itself is not a disease – it is simply a stage of life. Increasing age causes a gradual decline in the body’s ability to repair itself, maintain normal body functions and adapt to the stresses and changes in the environment. Many changes occur. For example, metabolism changes, so less food is required. Older cats, in general, have a more sedentary life style, so weight gain and obesity are common problems.
Changes in a cat’s environment or routine may actually contribute to behavioral changes or even illness. With time, cats begin to have a gradual decline in their hearing, sense of smell, vision and taste. Older cats tend to sleep more and have more difficulty being roused. Metabolic and endocrine problems, organ dysfunction and cancer are all seen with increased frequency in the elderly cat.
Proper care, nutrition, medical attention and a safe, stimulating environment are important factors that can improve a cat’s quality of life and longevity dramatically. Genetics also plays a part. Siamese tend to have longer life expectancies, but Persians usually have shorter life expectancies.
Cats reach senior status by age 7 or 8 – the perfect time to begin a geriatric health plan so that disorders can be detected early enough to provide medical or surgical intervention.
A complete geriatric health plan includes these eight veterinary procedures and tests:
A complete medical history. Some veterinarians have specific geriatric health history questionnaires that can be filled out by the owner. Any problems or concerns that owners have about their pet should be discussed.
A complete physical examination. Eyes and ears are examined for signs of infection or allergies. The mouth, gums and teeth are evaluated, with dental disease and gingivitis being common findings. Lymph nodes and the thyroid gland are evaluated for enlargement. The skin and quality of the hair coat are observed. Skin tumors or swellings are noted. A poor hair coat or a lack of grooming may be signs of allergies, parasites, infections or systemic illness. The heart and lungs are evaluated with the stethoscope and any abnormalities or murmurs are noted. The abdomen is palpated for any masses or organ enlargements. Finally, the general body condition and weight are recorded.
Complete blood count. In geriatric cats, anemia is common. It may be necessary to determine if the anemia is acute, chronic or related to a cancer.
Biochemical profile. Information about the liver, kidneys, blood sugar, and electrolytes is obtained through this important test.
Thyroid testing. Hyperthyroidism is a very common problem in older cats. The most common signs of hyperthyroidism are increased appetite and weight loss. The disorder is very treatable, and in most cases is easily diagnosed through this simple blood test.
Urinalysis. Analysis of the urine can help detect underlying urinary tract infection, kidney problems and diabetes. If necessary, a urine culture may be recommended.
Fecal examination. Since gastrointestinal parasites may be more debilitating in geriatric animals, a yearly fecal exam is recommended.
FIV and FeLV (feline leukemia virus) testing. Both of these viral diseases may cause suppression of the immune system and can contribute to many other systemic illnesses. Cats who have previously tested negative and have had no possible exposure to other cats may not need this test.
The proper diet is very important in the care of a geriatric cat. There is no “best” food to feed a geriatric cat as the choice depends on the specific problems or nutritional requirements of the particular cat. Consult your veterinarian.
Final senior strategy: enroll your cat in a geriatric wellness program at your veterinary clinic so you can maximize the chances of detecting disorders early, allow for appropriate treatment and promote the health and longevity of your cat.
By Arnold Plotnick, DVM, board-certified in feline medicine and internal medicine. He operates the Manhattan Cat Specialists practice in New York City and can be reached through his website: www.manhattancats.com.
According to the FDA’s website, The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has established rules and regulations that must be followed for animal feed.
They have strict guidelines that pet food manufacturers must follow, requiring that all labels on dog food ingredients follow one of the four product naming rules. Use these guideline when choosing a healthy dog food for your pet:
•The 95% Rule. This rule applies when the “meat” ingredient is listed first in the food’s name. Some examples may include Beef Dog Food, Lamb and Rice, Duck and Potato, etc. The rule states that the product must contain at least 95% of the named meat ingredient on the label, excluding preservatives or water. For example, if the product was named “Duck and Potato”, the product would have to consist of at least 95% duck. This rule mainly applies to wet dog food.
•The 25% or “Dinner” Rule. This rule applies when a descriptive phrase follows the “meat” ingredient. Examples of this include: Lamb Dinner, Beef and Turkey Entree, or Salmon Formula. The product must contain at least 25% of the named meat ingredient but no more than 95% of the ingredient.
•The 3% or “With” Rule. This rule states that any food label that contains “with” in the description must contain no less than 3% of the meat ingredient listed. Common examples include Made with Chicken and Dog Food with Beef.
•The “Flavor” Rule. If the label has the word “flavor” in the same font size and color as the ingredient name, the manufacturer is not required to put a certain amount of the ingredient in the food. In fact, the ingredient can be any form of the meat listed, which can include the actual meat, any by product of the meat, or the broth of the meat.
The key to maintaining the health of your pet, is choosing healthy dog food. Look closely look at the labels and compare brands of food. Not all dog food is created equal.
Q & A With Pet Expert Arden Moore
Q. I’m about to adopt a pair of young cats from the local shelter. They are just a year or two old and are littermates. I don’t want my cats to get fat from overeating. Should I just keep a big bowl of kibble available to them all the time or feed them twice a day?
A. Welcome to the Great Feline Food Debate. There are pros and cons to both free feeding and scheduling specific mealtimes. Many cats, whether they live as solo cats or part of a multi-cat household, seem to fare well with free feeding. They eat what they need and stop before becoming obese. Unlike dogs, who tend to bolt down whatever food is put in front of them, cats are more comfortable nibbling 10 to 20 times a day.
In your situation, I would first check with the animal shelter officials as to how these sibling felines were fed. Ask if they ate twice a day or had food available all day long, and inquire whether there were any incidents of one cat bullying or nudging the other from food bowls.
Keep tabs on your new cats’ eating habits and weigh them regularly. If they seem to maintain their weight, then free feeding is a good option. Just be sure to clean the bowls regularly – daily if you feed canned food.
Some cats, however, view free feeding as a 24-hour all-you-can-eat buffet and stuff themselves with kibble until their bellies drag on the floor. They just can’t say no to chow. Consider this startling fact: an extra three pounds on a nine-pound cat is the equivalent of adding a whopping 40 pounds to a 120-pound person. Added weight puts both cats and people at added health risk.
For cases in which one cat eats too much and one eats too little, scheduling specific mealtimes is recommended. This allows you to have better control over your cats’ diets. To prevent the pudgy cat from gobbling up all the food, feed him in a separate room. Then, after a designated time, around 15 minutes or so, pick up the food bowls. Another option is to feed the slender cat an extra meal at night, while the plumper puss spends the night in a room of his own without any food.
Controlled feeding also works best when a medical problem arises, such as diabetes. Cats with this condition need to have their insulin and blood sugar levels monitored on a daily basis. Feeding small amounts a number of times each day can also help a cat who eats too much food at once and may throw up a short time later.
If you find yourself unable to be at home at specific mealtimes for your cats, consider buying a timed self-feeder. These gadgets dispense controlled portions of kibble at designated times. Putting a couple of golf balls in the food dish will also help to slow down a greedy gobbler, as will spreading out the kibble on a tray or shallow dish.
Confounded by your canine? Frustrated by your feline? Relax. Pet expert Arden Moore is here to deliver the real truth about cats, dogs…and you with her column appropriately called, “Oh Behave!”
On a regular basis, Arden will unleash excerpts from her two award-winning books, The Dog Behavior Answer Book (named the top training and behavior book by the Dog Writers Association of America) and The Cat Behavior Answer Book (named the top training and behavior book by the Cat Writers Association). Learn more about Moore, who also hosts a weekly radio show called “Oh Behave!” on Pet Life Radio (www.petliferadio.com) by visiting her Four Legged Life website (www.fourleggedlife.com).
Few things are sadder than when a once-spunky pup starts slowing down and stops jumping up to join you on the couch or bed. Hip dysplasia and arthritis are commonly found in older dogs, especially larger dogs.
Winter months do little to help dog health care or stiff joints to feel any better, as cold air zaps energy and robs us of outdoor playtime and exercise.
According to Texas A&M Veterinary Medicine, some dogs develop hip dysplasia before one year old. Some dogs even undergo surgeries and hip replacements. However, many dogs can see improvement with conservative therapy including joint supplements, pain medication, and rehabilitation, including aqua therapy like swimming and walking on underwater treadmills.
For winter arthritis management, keep these tips in mind:
• Continue walking your dog even in the winter. Drs. Fosters and Smith recommend “moderate exercise that strengthens the gluteal muscles, such as running and swimming.”
• Provide a heated bed that can offer soothing comfort.
• Look into joint supplements. Texas A&M recommends Adequan and Cosequin.
• Talk to your veterinarian about pain medication. According to Drs. Fosters and Smith, Rimadyl, Metacam, EtoGesic, Deramaxx, and Previcox are effective pain killers that assist with inflammation.
• Consider holistic treatments like acupuncture. Many pet insurance companies now cover this type of treatment.
Posted by: H.R.
For Pets Best Insurance
When cooking for the holidays, the smells of turkey and pie will surely appeal to your pets’ nose just as it does your own. Sometimes the tantalizing draw is too much, and even well-mannered dogs sneak a snack when everyone’s back is turned. This could be dangerous to pet health if he grabs the wrong food, or races to clean off the floor after food has been inadvertently dropped.
Fatty foods like turkey skin and nuts, and toxic foods like chocolate and Xylitol, are very dangerous to a dog health care. Because the Holidays often see more pets taken to the veterinarian’s office with digestive upset, which can potentially become a serious pet health condition, it’s the perfect time to take extra precautions. Start with finding the best pet insurance and proper training.
“If your dog has already eaten the hors d’oeuvre tray and has a cheese-eating grin spread across his muzzle, it’s too late for a reprimand,” says dog trainer Dawn Sylvia-Stasiewicz. “Far more effective than a reprimand is to catch him in the act and use the ‘off’ cue, which tells him drop the contraband or back away, and then redirect him to what you want (including a reward),” said Sylvia-Stasiewicz, trainer for Bo Obama, the First Family’s Portuguese Water Dog.
In her book, The Love That Dog Training Program, Sylvia-Stasiewicz and co-author Larry Kay go into detail about teaching your dog the “off” command using positive reinforcement. Start today—you may save a potential trip to the vet.
First, teach your dog that he must sit before he is rewarded, given attention, a treat, or fed.
“It should become your dog’s verbal language of asking please,’ said Sylvia-Stasiewicz.
Then, show your dog one of his favorite treats, and teach him to wait for your queue before he takes it. When he learns “take it,” start teaching “off” by interrupting his lunge for the treat loudly and sharply with the word.
“When your dog backs off and looks at you (often with some puzzlement or concern), then say ‘good, take it’ in a happy voice,” said Sylvia-Stasiewicz. “Repeat this lesson until your dog becomes fluent with both ‘off’ and ‘take it.’”
Part of positive reinforcement is showing your dog that it’s fun to do what you ask. Whenever you give the “off” command, trade what he wanted for something he can have, like a safe treat or a filled Kong toy. With trades, your dog is always rewarded for obeying you, and everyone is happy.
Teach these commands for a safe, happy dinner, and you won’t need to use that dog insurance—just one more thing to be thankful for this year.