Thursday, Jan. 4th 2018

Senior Dog Facts, and Upcoming Events

Upcoming Events: 

Dr Leonard will be out of the office Friday, January 26 for a dog show.  Our next Canine Massage date is January 19, and one on February 23.  Call us at 816-331-1868 if you’d like to make an appointment for your dog to receive massage—they love it!  It’s great for old stiff dogs, active performance dogs, and pretty much any dog.


Senior Dog Facts and Senior Moments: 

Here at Whole Health Pet Center, we see a large percentage of older pets due to our numerous holistic treatments for pain, arthritis, etc.  Many of our clients have questions about their pet as they age, regarding changes in behavior and care.  Veterinarians often now characterize older pets into two categories.  Senior pets are those over about 7 years of age, but still in reasonably good health.  Geriatric pets are those that act “old”, often with behavior or health changes that have significantly altered their lives.  This article is about those geriatric pets, dogs in particular. 

Signs of cognitive dysfunction (senility) in older dogs fit the acronym DISHA.
  1. Disorientation: staring aimlessly, staring at walls, losing their balance and falling
  2. Interactions: interacting differently with people or other pets in the home
  3. Sleep: no longer sleeping through the night, restlessness or frequent waking
  4. House soiling: losing house breaking skills, failing to alert the owner of the need to go outside, incontinence
  5. Activity level changes: restlessness, agitation, separation anxiety, failure to groom, changes in appetite

Treatment of these problems depends on whether there is a medical problem contributing, or if it’s a true primary behavioral problem, or cognitive dysfunction.  If your pet is exhibiting changes such as those above, your veterinarian will first want to do bloodwork and evaluate the urine to rule out or begin treatment of any medical problems.  Your pet should also be evaluated and treated for any pain such as from arthritis which usually involves a combination of medications, supplements, and other care such as chiropractic, acupuncture, and cold laser treatments.  

Once medical issues are addressed, any remaining behavior changes can be treated.  In some cases, treats and other training techniques can redirect or encourage desirable behaviors.  Desensitization and counter-conditioning are tools used by trainers and behaviorists to reduce fears of loud noises, being alone, or other scary stimuli but aren’t always easy to use in senior pets due to their loss of sight, hearing, and thinking skills.  Be sure to not punish your older pet for these changes as this may increase their level of anxiety and make the situation worse.

Often, we encourage owners of geriatric pets to think of their older pet as they would a new pet.  They may no longer be the “old Fido”, but we can treat them like a new pet that we have to learn about and help them integrate into the family.  Learn their new habits and preferences, their preferred feeding and elimination schedule, and change management to suit these.  If they are aggressive to other pets around their food, feed them in an area isolated from other pets.  Take them outside more frequently to help with house soiling issues, or retrain to use a pad or papers indoors.  Time their medications, exercise,  and supplements in a way that encourages longer sleeping times at night.

Sometimes supplements or medications can help the pet with different behavioral problems.  Anti-anxiety drugs, pain medications, SAMe, Omega-3 fatty acids, melatonin, and more can help alter their behaviors to something more manageable. Pets on medications for anxiety should particularly have liver tests done at least twice a year. SAMe (S-adenosyl-methionine) is often recommended for senior dogs with signs of senility.  A drug called Anipryl is also often recommended for this purpose, but can interact with other medications so should be used with caution.  Melatonin properly dosed and timed may be beneficial for helping correct altered sleeping cycles.    Before starting any new supplement or medication, be sure to check with your vet to be sure it is safe for your pet and won’t interact unfavorably with any other things your pet may be taking. Many of our clients have asked about CBD oil for anxiety or pain.  While there appears to be some clinical evidence that it may help at least with those two issues, because of laws regarding marijuana there has been no research on safety or effectiveness in dogs.  The actual oil appears to be safe, although marijuana toxicity can be a problem in pets if not refined to make CBD oil.  Our general recommendation is to consult with a vet about its use, but as long as there are no contra-indications in your pet’s current treatment it is probably OK to try to see if you get favorable results.  Just don’t use whole marijuana. We often suggest with any new medication or supplement to change only one thing at a time so you can evaluate if it is helping or not.  If after several weeks on a supplement you can then wean them off gradually to see if you see a change that indicates if it was helping or not.  If you felt they were better on it, you can add it back to their schedule.  However, before trying this with a prescribed medication, check with your vet to see if this is advisable.



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Whole Health Pet Center
18011 E St. Rte 58
Raymore, MO 64083

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