Care of the Older Dog – by Gary the Greyhound

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Gary the Greyhound

 

Hello everyone!  Last winter, I wrote a blog about keeping your furry friends safe in the winter.  This time I’d like to write a post about caring for older dogs.  You see I am 11 years old, and that’s considered quite old for a greyhound!  Because I’m a more mature fellow, my owner (Dr. Katie) takes extra steps to keep me healthy.

 

Yearly exam and vaccinations – it’s really important for older fellows such as me to come in at least once a year for a full exam and any recommended vaccinations.   The yearly exam enables Dr. Debbie or Dr. Katie to point out health concerns before they become big health problems.  One big one for me and many other older dogs is dental health.

Routine dental cleanings – Greyhounds, as well as many other breeds, tend to have tartar accumulate on the teeth.  This tartar causes the gums to become inflamed (gingivitis).  Since tartar is basically an accumulation of bacteria with minerals from saliva stuck to the teeth, a dirty mouth is a constant source of bacteria to the blood.  Once in the blood, the bacteria can seed various internal organs like the liver, kidneys, and heart.   So keeping those teeth clean and getting routine (yearly to twice a year) dental cleanings can really help pets live a longer, healthier life!  Brushing your pet’s teeth can really help as well.  We wrote a full length blog post about dental disease (http://www.myzooanimalhospital.com/more-than-a-pretty-smile) that you can read for more information.

Bloodwork – Dr. Katie runs “mature bloodwork” on me every year.  This helps her keep an eye on my organ function. This lets our veterinarians catch small issues before they become big issues!  Sometimes a simple food change is needed to support organ function.

Cognitive changes – Since I’ve gotten older, I’ve started having some issues remembering how an inside dog behaves.  At night I would get lost and forget where my bed was, and I started forgetting that good dogs go potty outside of the house!  Occasionally, I just felt like barking at nothing! To help me out, Dr. Katie installed a night light to help me find my way to my bed.  She also put me on a special food to help with “healthy brain and aging.”  Dr. Katie calls these changes “cognitive dysfunction,” but I don’t know what that means!  All I know is while I’m on the special food, I can remember much more.

Glucosamine  – Since I was once a great athlete (I’m am a retired racing greyhound), my old joints just don’t move like they used to.  Dr. Katie gives me a joint supplement with glucosamine and chondroitin to help protect the cartilage in my old joints.    I may not be as fast as I once was, but I still can run and play as much as I want!

Regular low impact activity –  Another thing my Dr. Katie does to keep me healthy is she takes me on walks.  I’m not much of a runner, but consistent, low-impact activity (ie, walks) keeps my joints lubricated!  I love my walks!

Routine vaccinations – Old dogs like me are not immune to diseases!   As a matter of fact, sometimes as we age our immune system gets a little slowed down too.  That’s why it’s important to vaccinate your old dogs too!  My Zoo’s veterinarians can recommend vaccinations based on your dog’s lifestyle.

Old Dog Safe House – Of course, we old dogs just don’t get around like we used to!  Dr. Katie made some changes to the house to keep me safer.  First of all, she makes sure I never have to walk anywhere in the dark by turning on night lights.   She also put down rugs on the slippery floors so I could keep my feet under me!  If you have stairs in your house, I recommend restricting access by closing doors or by placing a baby gate.  That way your older dog won’t fall down the stairs!  In the winter, she shovels the snow and ice out of my path so I can walk safely.  In the spring and summer, she makes sure that there aren’t any holes in my backyard and keeps the grass mowed so I don’t trip!

Food – Feeding me a high quality diet is probably one of the most important things my owner does for me.  Since I have some “cognitive dysfunction” (or whatever that is), Dr. Katie is feeding me a special, prescription dog food.  Before I started showing signs of forgetfulness, she fed me a Science Diet kibble made for mature (7 years and over) dogs.  Since we may not be able to digest things quite as well, feeding a high quality diet that uses high quality ingredients is very important.  All of the My Zoo Animal Hospital Team feed their own dogs Science Diet.  We would be happy to give your owner specific recommendations during your dog’s wellness exam!

 

I hope these tips help other old dogs live long and healthy lives!  Please give us a call if you have any questions or concerns!  573-875-3647

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More Than a Pretty Smile

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What is Dental Disease?

Dental disease is one of the most common diseases seen in dogs.   Dirty teeth are more than just a cosmetic issue.   Although dogs and cats don’t tend to get cavities like we do, they get plaque and tartar on their teeth.  Plaque is actually a biofilm that develops on teeth as a result of bacterial growth.  As time progresses, the plaque starts to mineralize forming tartar.  As more plaque and tartar accumulate the gums get more and more infected and inflamed.  Once tartar develops, it is very difficult to remove and requires the use of special dentistry instruments.   Plaque and tartar is very irritating to the surrounding gums and causes the tissue around the tooth to become infected and inflamed (called periodontal disease).   Periodontal disease can be very painful, and left untreated can result in teeth falling out.

What are the signs of dental disease?

The most common sign is foul breath.  Other signs of dental disease include a decreased appetite, refusal to eat hard food, losing interest in bones or favorite toys.  Other signs may be more vague.  For example, dental pain can cause a change in the mood.  Your dog or cat may act more “grumpy.”

Does dental disease seriously affect my pets’ health?

Yes! Each gram of tartar can have over a billion bacteria!  The mouth has an excellent blood supply, which means the bacteria is picked up in the blood.   The blood then carries the bacteria to important organs like the liver, kidneys, and heart.   Studies have shown that dogs and cats with bad teeth (severe periodontal disease) have more damage in their liver, kidneys, and heart on a microscopic level.   So a pretty smile for your pets can mean a longer, healthier life!

 

How do we treat and manage dental disease? 

There are many things you can do to prevent the accumulation of plaque and tartar on your pets’ teeth.  Brushing is the best thing you can do, but if this doesn’t suit your lifestyle there are still products that help.  When you pick out treats for your pet, we recommend picking a treat that is on the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s list of approved dental products.  http://www.vohc.org/accepted_products.htm  These products have undergone controlled clinical trials and have been shown to help prevent tartar accumulation.  We carry a number of these products here  at My Zoo Animal Hospital.

Once tartar develops on the teeth, it is strongly adhered to the surface of the tooth.  At this point, we recommend a dental cleaning.  A thorough dental cleaning involves anesthetizing the dog or cat, performing a thorough dental exam, using an ultrasonic scaler and hand scales to remove tartar and plaque, and polishing the teeth.  For information on why this is performed under anesthesia see the American Veterinary Dental College Website:  http://www.avdc.org/dentalscaling.html

 

If you think your dog has dental disease, please schedule an appointment with one of the vets at My Zoo Animal Hospital for an examination and specific recommendations.

We offer 20% off dental cleanings during the month of January.  Schedule your pet’s cleaning early since the schedule books up fast!

 

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