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Posts Tagged ‘senior health check’

Health Issues in Older Rabbits: Dental Disease

Our older bunnies can suffer with ‘age-related’ conditions the same as other species. One common problem is dental disease, which can present in a number of ways, such as abscesses, malocclusion and tooth root conformation. Malocclusion may occur in an older rabbits due to a tooth root abnormality or missing opposing tooth.

Overgrown teeth in older rabbits is common and can penetrate the gums, cheeks, tongue and lips, which can cause ulcers or even oral abscesses. Rabbit’s teeth are continuously growing around 2-3mm a week. Therefore it is best to keep the diet as natural as possible to grind down their cheek teeth effectively. If your rabbit is not eating properly or losing weight, we recommend they are checked for abnormal dentition.

During November, we are offering free health checks for rabbits over the age of 7 years. These clinics are available with one of our veterinary nurses, at our Walnut Tree, Stoke Road and Willen branches. Call our reception team today to book an appointment for your rabbit.
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Health Issues in Older Dogs: Osteoarthritis

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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Health Issues in Older Rabbits: Obesity

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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Health Issues in Older Cats: Arthritis

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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Health Issues in Older Dogs: Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

Ever walked into a room and wondered why you went in there in the first place? I know I have, and at 50 years old it seems to happen more and more! This is part of normal ageing, along with creaky knees and my silver fox hair. Not every person (or dog) ages the same way & sometimes we see changes that are more severe than those of normal “healthy” ageing. One of the more common questions I get asked by the owners of geriatric dogs is “do dogs go senile?” The answer is yes they can, although we call it cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS). Cognition is the mental process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience and the senses, dysfunction simply means it is going wrong!

The age at which a dog becomes geriatric will depend on the individual, and factors such as breed, but is generally about eight years of age. It is important to realise that geriatric dogs will be less active and rest more, this is normal healthy ageing. What we see with CDS are behavioural issues which may affect the pet’s welfare and the human-dog bond.

Possible symptoms include disorientation (sometimes the dog doesn’t seem to know where he is even though he is somewhere familiar) and reduced interaction with the family, which may lead to fear or irritation. Disturbed sleep, for example becoming restless at night and sometimes crying at night for no apparent reason. You may see loss of housetraining and an increase in anxiety levels. In severe cases these changes strongly resemble senile dementia in old people, and can be very distressing for the dog and owner.

What can be done to help? It is important to realise there is no such thing as a cure for CDS. However a number of things can help.
  1. Drugs – the most commonly used drug is Selegiline .This is an enzyme blocker which increases levels of helpful chemicals in the brain such as serotonin and dopamine
  2. Diet- there has been a lot of research into “healthy brain” diets. As the brain ages it becomes less able to use glucose as fuel. By suppling diets that are rich in certain fats called medium chain triglycerides, we can fuel the older brain more efficiently. Also correct levels of Omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins B C & E and other ingredients such as Arginine can improve blood flow to the brain, reduce inflammation and help reduce free radicals which damage the brain.
  3. Enrich the environment – It is important to give plenty of attention and interaction to geriatric pets. Most older dogs will still enjoy walks and play, although maybe not so energetically as they did in their youth. Make sure beds are comfy and warm as older dogs will spend more time in them. Puzzle type dog toys can also be useful just as Sudoku and crosswords are helpful in keeping our human brains active
Remember growing old is a natural process which comes to us all (hopefully) and the vast majority of dogs enjoy their geriatric years despite the occasional “senior moment”. Now where did I put my car keys?
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