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Pet Health: Dog Alzheimer’s

Posted on: January 26th, 2011 by

An old dog with pet insurance displays symptoms of Alzheimers.Dr. Fiona is a guest veterinarian blogger for pet insurance provider, Pets Best.

It is an unfortunate fact that our pets age faster than we do. Even with pet insurance and the best care, Fido will likely reach his or her senior years before you, or will eventually surpass you.

In addition to common medical problems such as dental disease and arthritis, canine cognitive dysfunction is also a common occurrence in senior dogs. Recognizing its symptoms can allow you to help your dog to age gracefully.

Dementia is taken from the Latin roots ‘de’ meaning without, and ‘ment’ meaning mind, literally a lack of mind. Older dogs and cats, for that matter, can absolutely suffer from this debilitating syndrome just like older people. The accepted term in veterinary medicine is Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, or CDS. It refers to the gradual onset of behavioral changes that cannot be explained by other illness, medical conditions, or sensory or motor impairment. Many experts liken the disease to Alzheimer’s disease in people.

The progression of clinical signs can be so gradual that often owners don’t recognize it is happening. The many behavior changes that manifest in this disease include disorientation and confusion; pets will wander, stare, or get ‘lost’ in familiar places. There may be a change in learning, or a change in previously learned behaviors, such as being house trained; a dog with CDS might start house soiling. There may be a change in your pet’s activity, s/he might be much less active, or might engage in repetitive behaviors like barking. There may be a change in sleeping patterns, including restlessness and irritability. There may be a decrease in your dog’s responsiveness to your voice, or other stimuli, which can appear as ‘selective hearing.’

Many older dogs suffer from this syndrome. Some studies suggest two thirds of dogs over the age of 11 show at least one sign of CDS. About half of owners with dogs older than 8 reported their dogs showed at least one clinical sign of CDS in one survey by Pfizer animal health. Only 17% reported these to their veterinarian. There have been no differences in susceptibility and dogs seem equally affected regardless of breed or whether they are spayed or neutered.

The reason behind CDS isn’t precisely understood, but we know that the brain atrophies, just like an unused muscle, as the animal ages. Research has demonstrated the formation of plaques, made up of a neurotoxic protein, can form in an older animal’s brain. This seems to compromise the brain’s function. In addition, neurotransmitters are altered during aging, making them less effective.

There are some things you can do to help prevent this disease from occurring, and even to help reverse some of the clinical signs as they occur. Be mindful of these changes; report them to your veterinarian. Enrich your older dog’s environment by providing new toys and play games with them. You might add a younger dog to the household to keep your older dog active. Take the dog new places and encourage them to be social. In one laboratory study, environmental enrichment over a two year period was demonstrated to be an effective tool for learning tasks.

There has been some promise of certain prescription medications, as well as a diet rich in antioxidants for helping pets with CDS. If you are concerned that your dog might be suffering from doggie Alzheimer’s, or if you have any other questions for your veterinarian, contact him or her for more information.

A Little Secret About Pomeranian Tulah

Posted on: January 25th, 2011 by

Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m a practicing veterinarian at Idaho Veterinary Hospital.

If you have been watching my videos, you have seen that Tulah is my model. I wanted to point out that Tulah has a handicap. She only has three legs, but she doesn’t mind. She is missing the hind leg. She was hit by a car, and a Good Samaritan brought her to me and nobody claimed her. She does great on her three legs.

You may have a situation with your own dog where something needs to be removed; a leg, an eye, or even just teeth. Sometimes we get really worried about how our dogs are going to do with that type of procedure.

Dogs are really resilient and typically they’ll do great, especially with something that’s cosmetic. Most dogs will surprise you by how well they adapt.

Spaying and neutering: SNIP helps put an end to killing healthy animals

Posted on: January 25th, 2011 by

Diane Ayres of SNIP holds two small dogs.
By: Diane Ayres
SNIP for Pets Best Insurance

Imagine the day when no healthy animals are killed in shelters. This goal can be accomplished in our life time. There are four very important elements to this solution.

High volume spaying and neutering, adoption , education and working together toward our common goal. Today we will introduce an organization that is aggressively tackling the spaying and neutering portion.

According to the Humane Society of the United States 4 million dogs and cats are killed each year in the United States. That’s an alarming 10,959 a day or 457 an hour. The reason is because there are just not enough homes for all these animals. The producing of puppies and kittens must halt to stop the killing. The only way to stop the production is by spaying and neutering both females and males.

Spay Neuter Idaho Pets (SNIP) is an all volunteer 501 c3 non-profit animal welfare group. Collaborating with the Idaho Humane Society Auxiliary and the Idaho Humane Society, SNIP was instrumental in creating the SPOT low cost spay and neuter programs at the Idaho Human Society in Boise, Idaho in early 2008.

The SPOT clinic opened in April of 2008 and after just a month it was obvious to a handful of volunteers that more low cost spay and neuter programs were needed in the valley to solve the pet overpopulation problem. At this time SNIP was formed with the determination to tackle the pet overpopulation problem head on. By providing low cost spay and neuter programs, education, strong community support and encouraging animal rescue groups and shelters to work together, the problem can be solved in our lifetime.

In just over 2 years SNIP is planning to open the first high quality, high volume, low cost spay and neuter clinic in Idaho. This spay and neuter assistance program will perform a minimum of 35 spays and neuters a day by a paid professional staff. Along with the spaying and neutering services for dogs, domestic and feral cats, low cost vaccines will be available at the time of the surgery. Transportation will be provided for animals if the owners are unable to get to and from the clinic.

SNIP is working with the Humane Alliance team from North Carolina to open this lifesaving clinic the spring of 2011. The Humane Alliance’s team of facilitators has trained and mentored 86 organizations in opening and operating high-volume, high-quality, low-cost spay/neuter clinics all over the country since NSNRT’s (National Spay Neuter Response Team) inception in 2005. These clinics are reducing the killing of healthy animals in shelters by at least 5% a year. Since 2005, more than 1,000,000 companion animals have been surgically sterilized at these new clinics.

Each animal rescue group, each animal shelter, each individual doing what they do to help the animals is an important part of the solution. This is why SNIP believes that together we will end the killing of healthy animals in our lifetime!

The animals thank you.

For more information about SNIP, visit

Pet insurance: Some symptoms seem scarier than they are

Posted on: January 24th, 2011 by

A dog with pet insurance displays odd pet health symptoms.

It seems like every month I’m typing a new symptom into search engines that my dog or cat has displayed. I try to stay on top of cat and dog health care so that I can speak confidently to the vet about what I observe.

There’s nothing better than breathing a sigh of relief when what I thought would surely result in a new dog insurance claim turns out to be nothing.

About once or twice a week, my 10-year-old Catahoula Leopard dog was snorting backwards, seemingly uncontrollably, for up to a minute at a time. I didn’t know if he was having an asthma attack, gasping for breath, choking, or trying to clear himself of post-nasal drip. It didn’t take much searching to find video of other dogs suffering from similar attacks, and find out that this phenomena is called “reverse sneezing,” or “paroxysmal respiration.”

The condition is called reverse sneezing because air is being rapidly pulled in through the nose, the opposite of a sneeze.

“Although it can be alarming to witness a dog having a reverse sneezing episode,” wrote Ernest Ward, DVM, “it is not a harmful condition and there are no ill effects.”

Of course, if a dog does display reverse sneezing too often for comfort, a veterinarian may test for nasal polyps, respiratory issues and collapsing trachea; tests that will likely be covered by pet health insurance, which is why it’s a good idea to ensure you have cat or dog insurance for your pet.

While Dr. Ward claims there is no exact known cause for reverse sneezing, “this problem seems to be exacerbated by allergies and environmental odors such as smoke, potpourri, and perfume.”

Should your pet display any symptoms you are not familliar with, seek the advice of your veterinarian, as Google Video and Pets Best Insurance blog posts should never be substituted for your veterinarian’s expert opinion.

Pet insurance for your indoor dog this winter?

Posted on: January 21st, 2011 by

A dog with pet insurance stays warm in the winter.

We like to think our dogs are resilient in the winter, with their thick fur coats and padded paws. Long haired dogs do have extra protection in the winter, and outdoor dogs grow a fuller coat as the weather cools.

However, that doesn’t mean a domesticated, pampered house pooch can handle extreme elements as well as a fully adapted wild dog or a trained sled dog. While pet insurance companies exist to protect your furry family all year long, even owners who have dog insurance should use common sense during the winter.

“An indicator that it’s too cold for your dog is: if your nose gets cold when you are walking them, that is how cold their feet are getting,” said Rachel Sentes, a former writer for Pet Rescue Magazine in Edmonton, AB, Canada.

Dogs are safer staying home in the winter as opposed to taking car trips, especially if the dog will be left in the vehicle for any period of time. While cars become ovens in the summer as they trap heat, they become refrigerators in the winter, and keeping the car running poses the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning unless the windows are open.

According to Dr. Justine Lee, a Minnesota veterinarian who has worked with Alaskan sled dogs, in certain cases cold winter temperatures can cause added pet health issuse such as stress, which can be taxing on pets.

“If a dog has underlying hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) or a medical condition where he can’t regulate his temperature normally, I wouldn’t recommend it at all,” said Lee of leaving a dog inside a car during the winter.

Lee also warns of possible side effects from breathing in cold air for extended periods of time.

“Some rare dogs have cold-induced asthma/bronchitis, and can’t exercise as well in cold weather,” said Lee, author of It’s a Dog’s Life…But It’s Your Carpet. “Signs would be coughing, shortness of breath, and exercise intolerance.”

When any changes occur in a pet while exposed to harsh elements, having pet insurance for your dog will ensure that your best furry friend can be quickly evaluated, treated, and sent home warm and cozy.