Monthly Archives

November 2015

Celebrating Senior Pets

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There is something so special about older dogs and cats; something so endearing and soul-full. They just melt our hearts. We have spent so many years together with them, getting used to their quirks and silly ways and them with ours.  They have been there with us through so much and now it is time for us to be there for them in their golden years.

So what are the needs of our senior pets and what can we do to give them the best and longest life possible?

1) Diet:  Good nutrition is always important, but nutritional needs do change as our pets pass through different life stages.  As metabolism slows and senior pets tend to be less active than their younger counterparts, caloric needs decrease.  It is important that our pets maintain an ideal body weight to avoid excess strain and pressure on their joints.  Some senior diets have added ingredients to aid in joint health and mobility such as glucosamine, chondriotin, omega three fatty acids and green lipped muscle.  These ingredients when present in therapeutic levels can decrease the clinical signs of arthritis and improve your pet’s comfort.  A senior diet should be of high quality, lower calorie and have added benefit to aid in joint health.  However, if your pet has another illness or condition, they may already be on a prescription diet that is best suited to them.  Be sure to ask your veterinarian what diet would be best for your senior pet.

2) Exercise:  Although our senior pets may not be catching fly frisbees in the air as they once did, daily exercise is still important to their health and wellbeing.  As the aging process can cause painful arthritic change in your pet’s joints.  It is so important to maintain muscle mass in order to support the weakened joints.  Daily exercise can help prevent this.  Whatever your pet is up for; a romp in the dog park or a slow steady stroll or chasing a laser pointer again and again; you will both be better for it!

3) Pain control:  It will happen to the best of us, arthritis (inflammation of the joints) will affect us all.  It is a slow steady ache that is progressive over time.  It mainly affects our middle to older age pets, causing them to slow down and be less active.  It often gets mistaken for aging alone and can be hard to detect.  Signs of arthritis can be slowing on walks, reluctance to do stairs, sitting on the floor instead of their favorite chair, stiffness after getting up from rest and pacing or circling prior to lying down.  Although changes on x ray can show arthritic changes, there is no test for arthritis.  If you are concerned that your pet may be painful, talk to your veterinarian.  A two week trial can be beneficial in helping to determine if you can improve your pets comfort and mobility.  An active pet is a happy pet and a comfortable pet can be an active pet.

4)  Regular checkups:  Our pet’s age more rapidly than we do and it is important to be preventative about their health. Both dogs and cats can be very good at hiding the early signs of disease, making it hard for us as their caregivers to realize that they are ill.  Often by the time we have noticed the weight loss or other clinical signs, they are in the later stages of an ailment that we might have been able to slow down or treat had we known earlier.  Regular check ups for our senior pets are essential in maintaining their health and picking up on the early signs of disease, helping your pet to live a longer and better quality life.

5)  Love em and spoil em!  Our senior pets are our most loyal and loving of family members.  Their world revolves around our comings and goings…..and the odd tasty morsel.  Take the time to love them, cuddle with them and let them know how special they are to us.  They deserve it!!



Frodo’s Tale

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This is the story of one of our favorite seniors, Frodo written by his mom.  Thank you Luana for sharing his “tail”.

Frodo is my 13+ year old pure bred Chocolate Labrador Retriever. He is a loving, wonderful, gentle old soul whose registered name is Jaunenoir’s Frodo Baggins, after the dear character in the Tolkien books.

Frodo has survived 2 bouts of cancer and a case of Lyme disease, and is still sparky and as happy as ever today.

When Frodo was 8,  Dr. Downer found a small lump on his back leg, the size of a grape, above his left foot, during an examination for a torn toenail.  Since Frodo had a number of “fatty deposits” starting to accumulate on his body, as Labs do as they age, we decided to have this one tested, as well as several others on his body.  The back leg lump came back as a mast cell tumor, which is histamine based cancer tumor. We scheduled surgery without a second thought and Dr. Morris removed the lump on the leg, as well as two other tiny lumps on his right side.  The back leg lump came back as Grade 1, and they were able to remove it with clean margins, so no further treatment was needed and Frodo recovered well and returned to his normal self in no time, after a month of rest and TLC.

When Frodo was 11 (and after 3 healthy years), I found a small raised red lump on his right ear, just near the base where it attached to his head. It was painful to the touch for Frodo. Dr. Lyons had the lump tested, and it came back as another mast cell tumor.  While the lump was small, because of its location on the ear lap and so close to his head, she suggested we see a canine oncologist to explore options for removal.  We saw the oncologist, and they recommended removing the entire ear flap and surrounding area.  We were unsure whether to proceed with surgery, given Frodo’s age (his health was otherwise great). We had to weigh the risk of the lump growing rapidly and being itchy and painful, as mast cell tumors can do and potentially spreading internally, reducing not only his remaining lifespan, but the quality of those remaining months or years, with the risks and costs associated with surgery, and potential chemotherapy.  It was a difficult decision, given that Lab’s generally live to an average age of around 12 years old. We decided to proceed with the surgery, in order to prevent Frodo from having to live his remaining days with a potentially painful and growing tumor on his head, but we opted for no chemotherapy afterwards, regardless of the what grade the tumor came back as. The surgery was the most intervention we would do for him at his advanced age, and we chose to do it in order to maximize his comfort in his final year(s).  We also requested that the margins be the minimum size, in order to save as much of the ear flap as possible.  I remember weeping as I handed his leash off to the vet staff at the clinic, while Frodo was looking at me saying “What’s up mom, I feel fine, where am I going? Why are you sad? What now? “.  To make things worse, this all happened in the week before Christmas.  We scheduled the surgery for January 6th, and just prior to it, we had a photographer friend take pictures of Frodo so we could remember his beautiful head and soft velvety Lab ears before the right one got partially removed. We had no idea what he would look like after surgery, and there was always a risk they would open him up and make a decision to remove the whole ear flap or potentially more of his head and face.

The surgeon did an amazing job – Frodo came out with only a small portion of his ear flap missing! Once the hair grew in, you could hardly even notice!!!  It far surpassed our expectations! The tumor did get graded a high Grade 2, so while they recommended chemotherapy, we declined and took Frodo home and gave him lots of love, and treats, and hoped for the best.

frodo post surgery Frodo after his surgery.

It has been almost 2 years now and Frodo is happy and as healthy as he can be at 13.  He is a little/lot heavier and slower, and sleeps a lot, but still goes out with his dogwalker every day. He has many friends at  the High Park off leash area.  He still perks up and investigates the sound of anything that might resemble food or treats being opened. And he will always sneak in a big wet kiss any chance he can get! He has a lot of real estate on our main floor (2 orthopedic dog beds) since he doesn’t climb our stairs anymore, and his daily supplement regime of vitamins, fish powders and oils, etc. keeps us busy.  I think the fresh salmon skin we give him every week is extending his life!  We love him to bits and every day with him is a blessing.