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Posts Tagged ‘geriatric’

Obesity in our older rabbits

When our rabbits become older they lead a slower pace of life, unless we monitor and adjust feeding patterns accordingly, there is a higher risk of pets gaining weight and becoming obese.

Obesity can be a contributing factor in the case of other conditions such as arthritis, heart disease and pododermatiitis.

It can also be dangerous in cases of anorexia as they will metabolise fat which can be lead to hepatic lipidosis.

Rabbits should have a diet of high fibre pellets, add lib grass, hay and greens to prevent obesity and to lose weight.
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How can I increase my cat’s water intake?

As our cats enter their elderly stages of life, they are at more risk of becoming dehydrated, therefore it is important to adapt your house for their needs.

There are some tips on increasing water intake in our cats:
  • Provide multiple water sources around the home.
  • Providing moving water sources (such as fountains)
  • Provide a variety of different cups and bowls
Cats are able to taste water and usually avoid stagnant water, so always ensure that water is fresh. You could try a variety of different waters including spring water, filtered water and tap water. If your cat is reluctant to drink then extra water can be added to their food to prevent dehydration from occurring.
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Arthritis in our older felines

When a cat reaches 11 years of age they are classed as elderly, and it is around this age that they can start to suffer with the various conditions that are associated with older cats. The effects of ageing can be seen through physical changes as well as behavioural changes, and there are certain home care routines that can help improve your cat’s quality of life. Regular checks with your vet are important to identify early disease processes, but what can you do at home to provide that extra bit of comfort?

Arthritis – This is a common condition seen in older felines and can result in chronic pain, often owners will notice that their cat is less reluctant to jump or looks a little stiff when they walk. Most of the time owners just associate this with their pet getting older and do not actually act on it. It is important to remember that when you see your cat is looking stiff or struggling this means that they are in pain. There are pain relief and joint care medications that the vet can prescribe to make your cat more comfortable.



There are also things you can do at home to make your cat more comfortable:
  • Ensure that your cat’s resources (food, water and litter trays) are close by and easily accessible, and provide multiple resources around the house.
  • Make sure that the resources and safe places are on ground level to prevent your cat having to jump. You could provide steps up to the resources, beds or cat flap.
  • Make sure that litter trays have low sides for easy climbing in and out and provide a litter that is soft on the feet pads. Even if your cat usually goes outside to the toilet it is a good idea to provide litter trays in the house for times when they do not feel up to going out. It is important to monitor faecal and urine output and consistency to identify underlying disease processes.
  • Pay close attention to your cats claws. We advise that you check these weekly as elderly cats are less able to retract their claws, this often results in them getting stuck on soft furnishings. They are also at risk of them overgrowing and cutting into their pads as they will be less active.
  • Carpet and mats can provide more comfort for elderly cats walking around, wooden and laminate flooring can be slippery for elderly cats that are less stable on their legs.
  • Cat flaps – If your cat usually uses a cat flap to access outdoors ensure that they can get up to the cat flap ok, providing steps may aid them climbing in and out.
  • Scratching posts – If your cat is suffering from arthritis they may be reluctant to use a vertical scratching post as stretching up high may cause them pain. Horizontal scratching posts can be more comfortable for them.
Read more tips on caring for your older feline here
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Diabetic clinics

Did you know that pets over the age of 8 are more likely to develop diabetes mellitus?

Diabetes mellitus occurs when the pancreas stops producing insulin altogether. Without insulin, the body is unable to convert sugar into usable energy, leaving the blood sugar level dangerously high. The most common signs of diabetes include drinking more, urinating more, weight loss, increased appetite and lethargy. After diagnosis, the condition can be managed at home with twice daily injections.

So how can we help you?
As a part of the Senior Pet Month we are offering free nurse clinics that include a full urine test. This vital test can help detect signs of many problems, including diabetes, in your senior pet.

What happens if your pet is newly diagnosed with diabetes?
We have weekly Diabetic Clinics that run at the Walnut Tree hospital every Thursday with our Veterinary Nurse Megan. These clinics allow us to keep a close eye on your pet’s condition, and we will stay in regular contact with you over the phone to make sure everything is going well.

Diabetes can be a daunting prospect for owners, but we try and make things as easy as possible, providing help and support throughout your pet’s initial diagnosis and long term treatment. Book in for your free Geriatric Clinic with one of our Veterinary Nurses today!
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Osteoarthritis in Dogs

Osteoarthritis is the degeneration of the joint cartilage and bone that leads to inflammation and pain. As in people, it affects our pets and the Royal Veterinary College state that around 38% of dogs are affected. The majority of these dogs will be elderly (often over 8 years old), although arthritis in not confined to just older animals and it can be present in younger pets.

An arthritic joint may be stiff to move or have a reduced range of movement and not be able to bend as much as it used to. It may be thickened, and in many cases will be painful. Exercise is often reduced and this can lead to muscle loss and weight gain, both of which are detrimental to the condition.

Arthritis is often a secondary change following an underlying joint condition. A dog may be known to have suffered from a condition such as hip dysplasia or elbow dysplasia from a young age, or to have damaged the cruciate ligament in the knee, but in some cases the arthritis develops without any previously noted disorder.

Once arthritis (also known as degenerative joint disease or “DJD”), develops, treatment is aimed at improving an animals mobility by reducing pain to ultimately improve their quality of life. Animals will not always display any signs to suggest they are in pain, but you may notice they are less keen to go for walks, are uncomfortable or struggle to sit or lie down, are no longer climbing up stairs or onto the sofa! There may be more obvious signs such as yelping if they slip or as they stand up from lying down.

Imaging may be required to assess a painful joint. Radiographs (“X-rays”) may show new bone formation to suggest arthritis or a malformed joint. Some subtle conditions require advanced imaging such as CT or MRI scans, and may even require arthroscopy (a camera looking inside a joint). In older animals, the assessment of a joint during a consultation with a vet may be enough to suggest trialing some treatment.

There are many ways that we can improve the situation for our pets, some of which don’t cost anything!

It is vital that animals are kept to a sensible weight. Sadly, many pets are overweight and this in itself can get worse if animals are less keen to exercise due to arthritic pain. Many animals will feel much more comfortable if their weight can be kept to a sensible target. Our nurses are happy to help with weight reduction programs and offer free nurse clinics at many of our surgeries. An overweight dog with arthritis will be significantly more comfortable once it has lost weight. Try running your fingers along the ribs of your dog, you should be able to comfortably feel each rib without there being a significant fat barrier over them!

Sensible exercise regimes are also beneficial, not only to help them stay lean (or reduce unwanted weight), but will also increase muscle that can help support a damaged joint. You may need to start with slow gentle lead walks several times a day before building up to longer ones. You may even find several short walks a day are more comfortable for your companion than a single long walk. If your pet is coming home more lame, then reduce the amount of exercise you are doing before seeing if you can gradually slowly increase it again in the future.

Hydrotherapy and physiotherapy are both useful aids to improving your pet’s mobility. This can be beneficial after a surgical procedure, as well as for long term management of an arthritic animal. We can advise you on local hydrotherapy and physiotherapy centres. You are likely to need consent from a veterinary surgeon to attend a centre, so you may benefit from an appointment with one of our vets to discuss whether this treatment would be good for your dog. If you have a pet insurance policy, your cover may allow a certain amount of complementary therapy.

Painkillers are often important treatments for animals suffering from osteoarthritis. They may just be required when there is an acute flare up of pain in some cases, but many dogs with arthritis will be more comfortable if they are on long term medication. Most painkillers used in animals are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs). In the vast majority of cases, NSAIDs can be safely used in pets without significant side effects. The benefit nearly always outweighs the potential risks. The most common side-effects seen are usually gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting or diarrhea. There is a low risk of upsetting the liver or kidneys and running blood tests periodically on animals taking NSAIDs is a sensible precaution, especially in older animals that may have geriatric related liver or kidney problems that we would want to avoid making worse. An occasional simple urine test can also be useful to monitor for signs of problems in older animals.

There are other painkillers that we sometimes prescribe that have been used in people for a long time. Some of these are not currently licensed for use in pets so are prescribed “off licence”.

Supplements containing glucosamine, chondroitin and/or essential fatty acids may be helpful in animals with arthritis. It is often worth trialing them for a few months and seeing if they have any beneficial effect. They are not likely to provide an instant response as most of them aim to help support joint cartilage repair.

Some modern treatments are being trialed involving stem cells/regenerative medicine. This generally remains an experimental area, but some orthopaedic specialist centres are providing treatments. There are two main treatments currently available, one involves taking a blood sample and separating platelets that are then infused into a damaged joint. The other involves taking adipose tissue (fat) from the abdomen in one procedure and then this sample is treated to remove stem cells that are injected into a damaged joint at a separate procedure. These treatments may provide an anti-inflammatory response for a period of time when, if beneficial, the treatment can be repeated. Milton Keynes Veterinary Group can offer platelet therapy for clients interested in this area of medicine.

There are some situations when surgery may be recommended. If a dog has severe hip pain then referral for a total hip replacement may be considered. An animal with a ruptured cruciate ligament may benefit from surgery to stabilize the joint. Some animals may be more comfortable after salvage procedures such as fusing a joint that is painful or removing the ball part of the ball and socket hip joint.

Although people and animals can all suffer with painful joints, there are certainly some effective treatments available to help improve activity and happiness!

If you are worried your dog has arthritis, please make an appointment with one of our vets who will be happy to advise you on the best options to help.
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