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Humanimals
44 Rankeilor Street
Dunedin South, New Zealand, 9012

reception@humanimals.co.nz
www.humanimals.co.nz
Phone: 03 456 2345
Contents of this newsletter

01  How to keep a senior pet happy

02  Dental care for senior pets

03  Case study: Canine Vestibular Disease

04  Why you should adopt an older pet

05  Euthaniasia and how to know when it's time

01 How to keep a senior pet happy

Senior pets are special. They are loyal and loving and in most cases, will have been through a number of major life events with you. The senior years can creep up on our fury friends and most people aren’t even aware that dogs and cats are classified as senior when they reach 8 years of age!

We think it’s important you are aware of some of the things you can do to help keep your senior pet happy and healthy so here are our top tips:

Feed an appropriate diet
As our pets age, their nutritional requirements change. Older animals don't cope well with excessive nutrients or particular deficiencies. Protein levels in their diet are important, as is their calorie intake. Being the correct weight can have a huge impact on their quality of life and mobility. We recommend you feed your senior friend a complete and balanced premium food suitable for a mature pet. Please ask us for a specific diet recommendation.

Keep an eye out for changes at home
You know your pet better than anyone, so keeping an eye out for any changes is a critical habit to develop. Fluctuations in weight, appetite, thirst and urination can be an indication that there’s something amiss. The presence of a cough, a change in sleeping habits, stiff joints and accidents around the house can also ring alarm bells. Get in the habit of running your hands over your pet every week to feel for any new lumps or bumps. If you find anything new or unusual, arrange a check with us as soon as possible. And don't be tempted to put changes down to 'just getting old'.

Arrange twice-yearly health checks
An average year for your pet can be equivalent to 6-8 years for humans, so it should be no surprise that many changes can occur to your pet's health over 12 months. More regular health checks are absolutely essential for your ageing pet, even if you don’t notice any changes at home. A check-up at least every 6 months will help us monitor your pet and allow us to perform any necessary blood and urine tests or further imaging. Prevention of disease and early management is always ideal. Our aim is to help your pet live a happier and more comfortable life.

Phone us if you have any questions about your senior pet, we are here to give you the best advice.

02 Dental care for senior pets

It is very common for us to see an older pet with dental disease but many people can be reluctant to pursue a dental procedure as they are worried about their senior pet having to undergo an anaesthetic.

As our pets age, they may not be as good at fighting off bacterial and viral diseases as they once were so this is the time when good dental health is absolutely essential. Untreated, dental disease can also lead to other problems such as heart disease and kidney disease, not to mention cause your pet considerable pain.

It’s not uncommon for senior pets to have worn-down teeth or be missing the odd tooth and this can potentially affect their ability to chew and digest their food. They may also have painful gingivitis or exposure of the sensitive parts of the teeth secondary to dental disease. Given that our pets can be very good at hiding pain, many owners put the subtle changes of dental disease, such as being a bit quieter than usual or a reduced appetite down to 'just getting old'.

Veterinary anaesthetics are equivalent to those used in human medicine and are very safe. In order to provide your senior pet with the safest anaesthetic possible, prior to the procedure, we may recommend a blood and urine test to check the overall health of your pet and tailor the anaesthetic protocol accordingly. Your pet may also go on an intravenous drip to help protect their kidneys (if their blood pressure happens to drop during the procedure) and this will also allow them to recover from the anaesthetic faster.

Regular dental checks along with a whole-body examination will help reduce the likelihood of dental issues and ensure your pet is happy and comfortable, something every pet deserves in their old age. 

We are always happy to discuss any questions you might have about your pet’s health.

03 Case study: Canine Vestibular Disease

Toby is a 12-year-old german shorthaired pointer who went to bed as normal one evening only to wake the next morning unable to stand. It was as if Toby had suddenly lost his balance altogether. He appeared to have a head tilt and his eyes were ‘jerking’ irregularly.

His owners were understandably very distressed. His decline was so rapid and they felt something very sinister was at play. They prepared themselves for the worst.

Examination of Toby revealed he was most likely suffering from signs of Canine Vestibular Disease (also referred to as ‘old dog disease’).

The vestibular system is located in the brain but has components in the inner ear and middle ear too. It is basically in charge of maintaining normal balance but if it’s not well, things can go haywire!

What causes vestibular disease?

Middle or inner ear infections, drugs that are toxic to the ear, trauma or injury, tumours, and hypothyroidism can all cause vestibular symptoms. Thankfully Toby had none of these and when no specific cause is found, the condition is called ‘idiopathic vestibular syndrome’.

Toby was given a drug to help reduce any nausea he was suffering from his loss of balance. He also needed to be supported to stand over the next few days but thankfully improved rapidly (another characteristic of the idiopathic form of the disease).

What is Toby’s prognosis?

The symptoms of the disease are most severe in the first 24-48 hours. Most patients improve over a 2-3 week period as was the case for Toby. If he had failed to improve or deteriorated even further, we would have recommended further diagnostic testing (such as an MRI) to see if there was a hidden underlying cause.

We are always here to answer any questions you might have about the health of your pet.

04 Why you should adopt an older pet

If you've been thinking about getting a new pet have you considered adopting an older animal? There are plenty of positives when it comes to giving an older pet a home and a great companion is just one of them!

Here are three good reasons why an older pet can be a good choice:

1. You know what you are getting when it comes to size and temperament plus they are also generally more mellow, relaxed and independent.

2. Senior pets are mostly toilet-trained which means you can relax a bit when it comes to potty-training and the state of your carpet!

3. You are giving a pet a second chance at finding a forever home. You might be surprised at how these pets seem to know how lucky they are, and turn out to be fantastic pets and life-long companions.

We can point you in the right direction when it comes to adopting any pet - ask us for more information.

05 Euthaniasia and how to know when it's time

The end of your pet’s life is a topic that’s hard to think about but it's an important one and something we as veterinarians navigate every day.

Making a decision about when it's appropriate to euthanise a pet can be one of the most difficult times of your life. Most of us hope we never have to make the decision and it would be nice if all of our pets passed away peacefully in their sleep at the right time, but the reality is that this is not always the case. Most of the time we have to make that decision for them because if we don’t, their last moments may be distressing and painful and this is not the end that any pet owner wants.

There is never a 'right' or a 'wrong' decision and you know your pet better than anyone. We are here to support you through the process and always here to answer any questions you might have. Sometimes just talking about euthanasia can help you be better prepared for it. Even talking about whether you will bury or cremate your pet can help you feel more prepared for when the time comes.

We as humans are a voice for animals and euthanasia can relieve pain and suffering. In the end, this is the greatest gift we can give our pets.

Please reach out to us if you wish to talk through euthanasia and your pet.