Is it Time?

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Gary and MM

One of the most difficult tasks in my career as a veterinarian is helping an owner decide when it is time to say goodbye to a beloved pet. I decided to share my own experience in this matter in hopes of helping others facing this decision.

Christmas 2007 – I wanted a dog. I really, really wanted a dog. Not just any dog, but MY own dog. I started asking my veterinarian what he thought about different breeds. He suggested that a greyhound of all breeds might be a good choice. Over the next couple of months, I went to every “Meet & Greet” that I could. I lived in Fayetteville, Arkansas at the time. Greyhound Pets of America located in Springfield, MO had a few of these events in Fayetteville, and I attended as many as I could.

May 2008 – My graduation present from my parents was the adoption fee for a retired racing greyhound. I was so excited. I contacted the GPA-Springfield, and irony of ironies…a greyhound had just appeared wandering the streets of Fayetteville. His racing name was Gary, and there was no record of his previous owners. He was emaciated with horrible diarrhea. My veterinarian back in Little Rock helped me get him back to good health.

August 2008 to 2015– My greyhound and I packed up and moved to Missouri for my first year of veterinary school. Over the next 7 years, Gary was my companion as I persevered through difficult classes, got married, completed my clinical, and got my first job as a veterinarian. He greeted us at the door when we brought home our first (biological) child. He lovingly greeted the numerous foster children we’ve taken in over the years as well. He was a gentle and kind dog, and comforted many scared, lonely children.

As all living things must…Gary got old. He stopped enjoying long walks in the park, and instead limped if we walked more than a block. He started losing weight. He forgot his house training. He started getting lost at night – unable to rest in his bed to pace the halls endlessly. I tried a number of things to make him comfortable. Whenever our baby cried, Gary walked to a room to be by himself. Sometimes he slept through greetings. He stopped sleeping in our bedroom. He paced the halls repeatedly. At the same time, he was always so happy when I grabbed his leash. He ate well…some of the time! He still came up to adults for gentle pets. Sometimes he even bounded around the yard like the retired racer he was.

Was it time? He still had good days, with a few bad days mixed in. Maybe I could try a different pain management strategy? Maybe a supplement to help brain function? I’ve heard scientist say that dogs don’t feel embarrassment, but in my opinion…that’s not quite right. Gary was sometimes very embarrassed by his accidents.

In the end, I decided that it was time to euthanize Gary. Here’s the truth. I can do a lot…a whole lot of good. I can help arthritic animals move comfortably. I can aid as organ function starts to decline. I can make animals feel so much better. But I can’t turn back the clock. When a pet reaches Gary’s age, there is sure to be a steady decline. I wanted to put Gary down while he was still Gary. I didn’t want him to have even one day when he didn’t enjoy being a dog.

Are you going through this difficult time? There’s never a right answer to when it’s the “right time.” It’s always a very difficult decision. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

Is my pet …
• Enjoying life?
• Eating/drinking?
• Urinating/defecating normally?
• Suffering or experiencing pain?
• Breathing well?
• Tired more often? Or even withdrawn from daily activity?
• Doing the things my pet loves to do?

Do I still love my pet? Or am I starting to resent him?
Has my family accepted it’s time to say goodbye?
Are there any reasonable, humane treatments that can improve my pet’s quality of life?
Am I able to keep my pet’s and my family’s living environment clean and sanitary?
In Gary’s case, he was just starting to lose enjoyment in life, but still mostly enjoyed it. He didn’t eat consistently. He was having accidents every day. His arthritis was starting to cause muscle loss. He was starting to withdraw from us. With his numerous accidents, my husband and I were struggling to keep the house clean. I had tried a number of treatments, but we were reaching a point that there wasn’t much more I could do for my dog. It was time.

June 18, 2015 –I looked out to see my dog stumble in the yard. His back legs were so weak. I decided that today was the day to say goodbye to my beloved friend. Over my lunch break, I made a house call to my own house. We scratched Gary behind the ears, and loved on him. I had him lay down in his bed. A technician gently restrained him with a big hug, while I gave him an injection. He was asleep in seconds, and passed away within a minute. It was very peaceful. Rest in peace, my dear friend.

Goodbye Gary
If you are struggling with this decision, we are able to help. Schedule an appointment to talk about what we can do to make your pet comfortable, or just to talk through this difficult decision. Our number is 573-875-3647. All of our veterinarians and team members understand what a challenging decision this is, and we want to help as much as we can.

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Greyhounds are Greyt Dogs!

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Gary running

Even at 12 years old, Gary still enjoys a brief run.

 

Here at My Zoo Animal Hospital, our team members own a variety of different breeds of dogs.   We thought it would be fun to write a couple of blog posts about some of these breeds (and a few more).  We’ll start with greyhounds.

 

Greyhounds are elegant, athletic dogs with a slim build.  They range in weight from about 60 to 80 pounds.   Ironically, they can come in any color not just grey!    Greyhounds are considered sighthounds, hounds that hunt using their sense of sight.  In the United States, Greyhounds are known for racing.  They also make great family pets.  They are sprinters.  Greyhounds are NOT endurance runners.

 

Here are some cool facts about greyhounds:

  •  Greyhounds can reach their maximum speed in only 6 strides.  Some of the fastest greyhounds ever recorded ran their races at about 38 miles per hour.   The only animal that can accelerate faster than the greyhound is the cheetah.
  • A typical greyhound race lasts about 30 seconds and covers about 550 yards.
  • Most greyhounds have ear tattoos that can be used to look up their racing history.
  • Greyhounds start race training at around 1 year of age.  They usually retire from racing around 4 – 6 years.  The best racers will often be kept as breeders.   Dogs that do not race well or have health issues are not bred so their genes are not passed down.
  • Greyhounds are usually born in a litter of around 8 puppies (but can be as many as 15).  The puppies are handled regularly and allowed to go out in a fenced pen multiple times a day.    By about 5 to 6 months of age, the greyhounds are introduced to leashes, walking, muzzles, and basic training.  By 1 year of age, they are training for races.  Most dogs run their first race at about 15 to 18 months of age.  However, some greyhounds that don’t do well at the training are retired before ever running a race.
  • Most racing greyhounds run 2 races a week, while the rest of their time is spent resting in kennels.  They are actually not very energetic dogs (more on that later) and are lovingly called “the 40mph couch potato.”

 

Gary is Dr. Katie's 12 year old greyhound.

Gary is Dr. Katie’s greyhound on the day she adopted him in 2008.

GARY’S STORY

Gary the greyhound entered Dr. Katie’s life about 6 years ago.  She had done quite a bit of research about what breed of dog she should adopt before she started veterinary school.   After attending multiple “meet and greets” from a greyhound rescue based out of Missouri, she decided on an older greyhound.   Around the time she turned in her adoption application, Gary just happened to turn up in the small Arkansas town she lived in.  Coincidence?  Or fate? No one knows.  She and Gary have been a team ever since.

 

So what would Dr. Katie and Gary like you to know about life with a retired racer?

  • Greyhounds are wonderful family pets.   They are not highly energetic dogs; they are generally content to sleep on a fluffy bed (or couch) for 18 hours a day.  Gary gets to go run around in our fenced back yard for as long as he wants 4 times a day.  Since Gary is 12 now, he generally only wants to stay out around 5 minutes before he’s ready to resume his nap.  When Dr. Katie lived in an apartment, she took Gary on ½ mile to 1 mile walk (if he wanted to go longer) twice daily and then a few more short potty breaks.
  • Gary has a couple of health issues which are fairly typical of greyhounds.  The biggest issue Gary has is his teeth.  He has to have dental cleanings twice a year to keep his mouth healthy, and all of his teeth are permanently stained.  Gary also requires premium dog food because of his sensitive stomach.
  • Gary is greyt with small animals; he just ignores them.  Not all greyhounds are good with small animals though.
  • Gary doesn’t tend to enjoy the company of small children.  When Dr. Katie has little visitors in her house, Gary usually goes to a bedroom and sleeps away from the children.
  • You can look up a greyhound’s racing history by their name or ear tattoos.  Gary ran 65 races, but only won 1st place in 6.    He retired around the age of 4, spent some time with a greyhound rescue, and was adopted by Dr. Katie when he was 6 years old.  He’s been a wonderful pet ever since!

 

Gary the Greyhound

Gary the greyhound enjoys taking long naps on the couch.

 

If you are interested in adopting a retired racer, there is a greyhound rescue here in Columbia called Rescued Racers (http://rescuedracers.com/).   If you would like to ask Dr. Katie about greyhounds as a pet, feel free to call us at 573-875-3647.

 

HAVE A GREYT DAY!

 

 

 

 

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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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Gary the Greyhound – Avoiding Heat Stroke

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Gary Greyhound Avoiding Heat StrokeHello, y’all. My name is Gary, and I’m an 11YO retired racing greyhound from Arkansas.   Dr. Katie and her husband are my caretakers.  I take my retirement very seriously and rarely run any more. Since I’m no longer used to exercise, my people are very careful not to let me overheat. And boy is it hot!   My time outdoors is always supervised, and my people always call me back inside to the air conditioning once I start to get a little too hot.  They always have fresh water available.  Dr. Katie shared some tips with me to prevent overheating, and I will share them with you too.

  • Pets should NEVER be left in unventilated, enclosed area (ie, a vehicle).  On a hot day like today, the temperature in a car (even with a window slightly cracked) can rapidly soar to over 120 degrees F.  That’s HOT!
  • Strenuous or vigorous exercise should be avoided on a hot day – especially if your dog isn’t used to it.
  • If your pet is an outdoor only pet, provide plenty of fresh water and a shady area.

Dr. Katie says some dogs are more sensitive to the heat than others – old dogs like me, dogs with a short nose (like bulldogs), animals with a long coat, animals with underlying health issues (hyperthyroidism, cancer, heart patients etc).

I asked Dr. Katie what happens when dogs overheat, and she told me they can have what’s called a heat stroke.  When a heat stroke occurs, the core body temperature is so high organs can’t function.   Signs of heat stroke include:

  • Panting
  • Drooling/foaming at the mouth
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dry, tacky gums
  • Behavioral changes – whining, crying, agitation
  • GI upset – vomiting, diarrhea
  • Loss of coordination/tremors/seizures

If these signs are ignored, a dog can continue to weaken, go into a coma, or even die!  Please take steps to prevent this in your furry companion.   If you think your pet is suffering a heat stroke call Dr. Katie or Dr. Debbie at My Zoo Animal Hospital at once!  Take it from this old greyhound, heat stroke is no joking matter!

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