Cognitive Dysfunction and Aging in Dogs

Nobody likes seeing their pets get older. You may find that they sleep more, are less active, and have more difficulty walking up the stairs. They may also have trouble sleeping at night, which most of the time means, that you, as an owner, are ALSO not getting a good night’s sleep. If occurring long-term, this issue can be very distressing and can affect the bond between you and your pet.

As pets get older, it is a good idea to have twice yearly check-ups in order to ensure that they are happy and healthy. At Norwalk Animal Hospital, we offer a “Senior Profile” work-up which includes an exam, basic bloodwork (complete blood count and chemistry), a thyroid test, and a urinalysis. This will evaluate your pet’s blood cells, electrolytes, and organ function. If requested, this can be combined with abdominal and chest x-rays and/or an abdominal ultrasound in order to increase the likelihood that possible issues are caught early.

With advanced age, dogs can develop cognitive dysfunction, which is a slowly progressive disorder similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans. Symptoms can include restlessness, changes in sleeping habits, anxiety, disorientation, and/or incontinence. It is always important to have your pet evaluated by a veterinarian to rule out possible medical reasons for symptoms such as these. If nothing medical or behavioral can be found, often managing the symptoms with medication and diet change is enough to keep pets comfortable.

Goals of treatment are to slow the progression and improve cognitive function as well as to relieve any pain and stress that may be associated. Treatment options include:

  • Avoiding events that may cause your pet distress.
  • Avoiding punishment when your pet does something unfavorable and rewarding them for good elimination behavior.
  • Keeping your pet contained to a small room or area of the house without stairs so that they cannot injure themselves.
  • Placing them on a regular feeding schedule and a diet high in antioxidants and fatty acids, such as Purina Pro Plan “Bright Mind” or Hills b/d to promote cognitive health.
  • With the assistance of your primary veterinarian, adding melatonin or anti-anxiety medication to your pet’s routine can help improve their sleep cycle and quality of life.
  • Encouraging mentally stimulating activities, such as treat balls, puzzles, and interactive exercises can help slow progression.

If diet change is contraindicated for your pet, the addition of supplements and antioxidants, such as omega-3 fatty acids, may have a protective effect and improve behavioral function. If pets are maintained on medications long-term, it is important to have them checked at least twice a year to be sure liver and kidney function is not being compromised.

If you believe your pet may be struggling with cognitive dysfunction, please consult your primary veterinarian or make an appointment with Norwalk Animal Hospital today to learn what you can do to help them.

Help! One of My “K9s” is Loose!

Dental Health MonthFebruary is dental month! Have you been considering having your pet’s teeth cleaned but are hesitant to schedule it? Well this happens to be the best month to do so because every dental procedure (including extractions) done at Norwalk Animal Hospital this month will have a 10% discount applied!

**This discount also applies throughout the year if a dental procedure is scheduled within one month of recommendation. **

Periodontal disease, although a very common finding on most physical examinations, is often more prevalent in smaller dogs, cats, and older animals. Since animals can’t brush their teeth daily like humans, calculus builds up over the years, entraps bacteria, and causes inflammation of the gum tissue, or gingivitis. Typically, the smaller the animal, the more crowded the oral cavity and the more likely they are to develop dental disease; however, it can be seen in animals of all ages and sizes.

Periodontal disease can be difficult to assess in your own pets since many animals are not amenable to having their mouths opened, especially if they are uncomfortable. The first thing you may notice is a bad smell coming from their mouths, drooling, or decreased appetite. Teaching animals to enjoy having their teeth brushed (especially at a young age) is an important step to preventing dental disease and being able to evaluate your pet’s mouth regularly. Finding a specific toothpaste flavor that your animal enjoys can make them think of daily brushing as a treat! Pet-friendly toothpaste and brushes are available at Norwalk Animal Hospital.

Here are some tips for teaching your pet to enjoy having their teeth brushed. Be sure to give them plenty of praise during each step!

  1. Place some pet-friendly toothpaste on your finger and have your pet lick it off to make sure they enjoy the flavor.
  2. Using a finger, get your pet used to the sensation of having the toothpaste rubbed on their gums.
  3. Place some toothpaste on a finger brush or toothbrush and allow your pet to lick the paste off it.
  4. Introduce the brush into your pet’s mouth while moving it in a circular motion against their teeth.
  5. Teaching your pet a command, such as “Brush,” before doing the deed can help increase responsiveness and make it more exciting for the pet.

Dogs are often more willing to having their teeth brushed when compared to cats. Do not be discouraged if this cannot be done at home or if it causes too much stress for your pet.

Dental procedures must be completed under general anesthesia to be done accurately and allows us to better evaluate the extent of periodontal disease and treat it accordingly. At Norwalk Animal Hospital, every animal is closely monitored by trained veterinary technicians during procedures that require sedation or anesthesia.

When teeth are broken, the center of the tooth, or “pulp,” is often exposed which promotes bacteria to build-up and that tooth to die. Discoloration can sometimes, but not always, be a sign that a tooth is dead as well. Unassessed periodontal disease can sometimes lead to abscess formation of tooth roots and increased discomfort for the animal. Dental x-rays are routinely taken of mobile and fractured teeth to help evaluate the jaw bone and allows us to decide whether the tooth needs to be removed to promote future oral health.

Cats tend to develop resorptive lesions, which means that their body tries to absorb teeth. The gingiva, or gum tissue, surrounding the tooth is typically very red and irritated and is often very painful when probed. It is unclear what causes these lesions but tooth extraction, or crown amputation (removing the part of the tooth above the gum line) is curative. However, cats that present with these lesions at one point in their life will often develop more in the future. Dogs can develop these lesions as well, however, it occurs much less often.

Please contact Norwalk Animal Hospital today to schedule your pet’s dental procedure!

Getting Fit for the PAWsome New Year

Happy New Year! January is the month of new beginnings and my resolution is to eat healthier and exercise more often. Nutrition and exercise play an important role in keeping humans healthy, however, the same goes for our pets. In this day and age, it is very common to have an animal that is a little too “fluffy” for their own good. We have all struggled with having to resist constantly rewarding those cute faces with treats. However, obesity can predispose pets to a multitude of health issues that may shorten their life span, including arthritis, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Obesity occurs when calorie intake exceeds daily calorie requirements. Recommendations listed on the back of food bags are not always accurate to determine how much to feed your animal, especially if they are overweight. The amount of food fed daily should be based on the animal’s resting energy requirement which is defined as the amount of calories needed for the body to function during rest, as well as how active they are, age, and whether they are neutered (fixed) or intact. Naturally, very active animals require more calories daily, compared to those that would rather be napping on the couch. We at Norwalk Animal Hospital can easily calculate how many calories your pet should be eating in a day based on your animal’s lifestyle and body condition score, or BCS.

Typically, if requested during an exam, a veterinarian can assign your pet a body condition score on a scale of one through nine, with one being severely thin and nine being very overweight. A BCS is assessed based on how easily ribs are felt, amount of fat present over the lumbar area and base of the tail, abdominal distension, and whether they have an abdominal tuck (waist). An ideal body condition score lies between four and five. See the attached BCS charts to determine where your pet lies (http://files.dvm360.com/alfresco_images/DVM360//2013/11/11/e6de1dfa-3e57-4b1d-bd43-b9ebbdd9bf86/article-716837.pdf).

Have a pet that is overweight? Not to fear! Cutting out treats from a dog’s diet and increasing their exercise can often help. Your vet may even recommend cutting down on the amount of food fed by 25% if the pet is not typically very active. There are also low fat dog food options available to help get them into fighting shape. Offering vegetables (carrots, green beans, cucumbers, or broccoli), or pieces of kibble as treats are also good low calorie options when done in moderation. That way, we can reward our pets without negatively impacting their progress. These recommendations may not be appropriate for all animals so be sure to consult with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet. When transitioning to a new diet, it is recommended to do so slowly (over about 7 days) to avoid gastrointestinal upset. At Norwalk Animal Hospital we offer a variety of well-balanced prescription diets to make it more convenient for our clients.

Do you find it hard to get your pet up and moving when they would rather lounge on the couch? Let us do the work for you! Norwalk Animal Hospital offers underwater treadmill sessions, often used for rehabilitation post-surgery, but can also be suggested to help patients lose weight and build muscle. If interested, we would be happy to set up an exercise plan for your pet at times convenient for you!

Have you tried everything to help your dog lose weight without any luck? Your pet may have hypothyroidism, which means that their thyroid is underactive making it difficult for them to maintain a healthy body weight. Once diagnosed via blood test, this disease can often be managed with thyroid supplementation. If you think your pet may be struggling with this issue, we at Norwalk Animal Hospital would be happy to help you figure it out. A healthy pet is a happy pet!

“Why is that gift box barking?!”- Preparing for a New Furry Family Member

With Christmas right around the corner, the insanity that is holiday shopping has commenced. Kids have their Christmas lists ready to be sent to Santa, and the first item that is noted at the top of the list: A PUPPY. Is the family ready for a new dog or cat? Keep reading to help you decide!

Pets are a huge responsibility for everyone involved, especially the parents who inevitably end up cleaning up after them and taking them to the bathroom when they cry at 3am. However, animals also bring joy, laughter, and companionship into the home and can be an excellent addition to any family.

Two of the biggest things to ask yourself before considering bringing an animal into your family are:

  1. Do I have the time and energy to dedicate to training, playing with, and exercising a dog/cat?
  2. Do I have the funds needed to bring an animal to the vet and keep them healthy?

Environmental Preparation and New Beginnings: Before getting your animal, be sure you are prepared with the appropriate food, a crate (if crate training) or pen, toys to provide enrichment, collar and ID tag, and leash or litter box (if applicable). Before bringing your new pet home, “baby-proofing” the house by moving potentially harmful items out of reach is helpful to avoid incidents. It may take a few days for a pet to acclimate to their new forever home, so isolating them to a small part of the house or apartment can help them become more comfortable with their surroundings. Once they are acclimated, slowly allowing them more freedom to explore their home is encouraged.

Some may think crate training is cruel, however, animals often end up thinking of their crate as a safe haven. Young animals can’t often be trusted to be unsupervised and so when you are at work, running errands, or sleeping, having them in the crate gives you peace of mind that they are safely contained and cannot get into something they aren’t supposed to. When you are available to supervise them, have the crate door open so they have the choice to walk into it if they desire.

It is important to remember that new puppies can’t hold their urine longer than a few hours and require several bathroom breaks throughout the day, so be sure to take them out often and use lots of praise and treats. This positive reinforcement will help them associate the outside grass or pee pads with going to the bathroom and make potty training quicker and easier. Kittens do not often need any encouragement to go to the bathroom in the litterbox, but if inappropriate urination is an issue, products like “Cat Attract” can be used to help attract them to the right spot.

If you already have animals at home, a slow controlled introduction over several days is recommended so they can get used to each other. Having dogs meet for the first time while leashed on a walk can prevent unnecessary conflict. Placing a baby gate, crate, or door between the animals so they can smell each other but not fully interact while in the house is a safe next step. This can then be increased to supervised interaction time and then to free range. The process is similar and extremely important for cats who tend to need more time to adjust.

Vaccinations: Routinely, puppies require three DHPP (aka. Distemper, 4-in-1) boosters 3-4 weeks apart which are typically done at 8, 12, and 16 weeks old. This vaccination is protective against distemper, hepatitis (canine adenovirus), parvovirus, and parainfluenza. Kittens require three FVRCP boosters 3-4 weeks apart, which are typically done at the same ages as the DHPP in puppies. This vaccination is protective against viral rhinotracheitis (herpes virus), calicivirus, and panleukopenia. Also, required by law is the rabies vaccination which is often given at 12 weeks old. Those are known as “core” vaccinations, however, there are several other vaccines available based on lifestyle (Lyme, Lepto, Bordetella, Influenza, etc.). No vaccine is 100% protective, and they are often given to decrease the severity of diseases that puppies and kittens may be exposed to.

Typical new puppy/kitten visits can end up costing several hundreds of dollars based on what is done at the time, so it is important to have money saved for these events and for the unfortunate occasion that your animal develops an illness. Pet insurance is a great investment to cover any unforeseen illnesses animals may develop and it is encouraged to research several companies before making the decision on which one is right for you. Some breeds of dogs and cats are more prone to issues than others so be sure to ask your vet about what breed may be right for you and your family.

Elective Procedures: As your animal gets older and you put aside any thought of breeding them, the time comes to talk about spaying or neutering. Male dogs are often neutered at 6 months old, but some people elect to wait until 1 year old or later in large breed dogs. Ideally, it is recommended that female dogs are spayed at 6 months old, regardless of what breed they are, to decrease risk of developing uterine or mammary cancer when they get older. A common myth is that spaying and neutering animals “calm” them down, however, this is often patient dependent and may not be true. Both of these procedures require animals to be placed under general anesthesia and often cost several hundred dollars due to the monitoring and high standard of care that revolves around it. At Norwalk Animal Hospital, you can be sure that your animal will be well taken care of and we are always happy to offer pricing before procedures are done.

Having your pet microchipped is encouraged and can be done at any office visit or during any procedure. This provides additional security and peace of mind needed in the unfortunate circumstance that your animal gets lost without identification.

If you have any questions or concerns before purchasing a new animal, please do not hesitate to ask your primary veterinarian or call Norwalk Animal Hospital. Whether adopting from a rescue, breeder, or pet store, animals can be a great addition to any family ready for the responsibility.

Holiday Travel 4-1-1

The holidays are a magical time where family travels from near and far to gather together and celebrate. However, it is not always easy to bring our best friends along for the trip, and accommodations often need to be made. Whether you are boarding your pet, hiring a pet sitter, or traveling with your animal, the following recommendations can help prepare you for what to expect and aid you on how to best take care of your pet during the holidays.

  1. Boarding: Although it can be very hard to leave your pets, boarding them at a veterinary clinic or doggie daycare is sometimes the best option when you need to travel. Many boarding facilities require certain vaccines to be given, so be sure to call ahead and visit your primary care veterinarian before you attend in order to ensure your pet is up to date. Required vaccines often include Rabies, DHPP (aka. Distemper, 4-in-1), and Bordetella (aka. “Kennel Cough”), with some now requiring the canine influenza vaccine. The canine influenza vaccine is a two-booster set given 2-4 weeks apart. A negative fecal sample is also often required to help avoid passing gastrointestinal parasites to other animals. Did you know that we board pets at Norwalk Animal Hospital as well? What better way to have peace of mind that your pet is receiving optimal care while you are gone than having them under the watchful eye of trained veterinarians and technicians? NAH also gives you the option of having services completed while you are away, such as grooming, bathing, exams, vaccinations, surgeries, and more! Call us today to schedule your animal’s next vacation!

 

  1. Pet Sitter: Bringing your animal to a pet sitter’s house is also a viable option when traveling. It is recommended that your pet is wearing a collar and ID tag with your information on it and are up to date on vaccines before attending. Leaving the sitter with information for your pet’s primary care veterinarian in case of emergency is always a good idea. Even better yet, having someone trustworthy come to watch your pet in the comfort of your own home can be a lot less stressful for anxious animals. Be sure to review your pet’s normal daily routine with the sitter so they can best try to stick to it.

 

  1. Driving: When traveling in a car with your pet, it is important that you take several precautions to keep them safe. Keeping cats and dogs in a kennel or crate or connected to a seat belt or harness is helpful to keep them off your lap and safely contained. There are multiple car harnesses and seat belts on the market that have been crash tested and proven to be safe for travel with pets.

 

  • If your pet gets motion sickness while in the car, NAH can help with that as well! Cerenia is a powerful anti-emetic medication helpful for acute vomiting and motion sickness and is available by prescription. Keeping your pet on the floor of your vehicle, as well as keeping the area well ventilated can help too. If your animal gets anxiety from just being in the car, please call us to discuss options to help make the drive more comfortable for them. Lastly, if you are driving long distance, be sure to stop along the way for bathroom breaks and to offer your pet water.
  • Be sure to call ahead to any animal friendly hotels you may be staying at to see what vaccines and paperwork may be required. NAH would be happy to print, e-mail, or fax you or your final destination any vaccination paperwork you may need!

 

  1. Flying – Whether traveling domestic or international, taking your pet on an airplane can be stressful for everyone involved. Although many people are not aware of this, the airline as well as your final destination determines what paperwork, vaccinations, and special services (microchips, etc.) are required for your pet to stay there. Most of these things need to be done in a time sensitive manner as well. Regardless, when flying to a different country, airports ALWAYS require an International Health Certificate for your pets. Did you know our very own Dr. Stecker is USDA Accredited and does International Health Certificates by appointment? If you plan on flying with your pet in the future, please call Norwalk Animal Hospital to discuss what may be needed and be sure to have the following things in mind: Where are you traveling to? When are you traveling? Is your pet microchipped and if yes, the microchip number? If you are a new client, please have your vaccination records faxed to Norwalk Animal Hospital so that we can accurately bring your pet up to date.

As always, we at Norwalk Animal Hospital are happy to help and assist you with any travel questions or concerns you may have.

Happy Holidays!

Happy Howl-o-ween! – Dr. Wolf’s First Blog Post!

Fall is my absolute favorite time of the year. Apple cider, sweaters, pumpkins, OH MY!
Most of all, many of us here at Norwalk Animal Hospital are huge fans of Halloween. You will often catch us decorating the office and wearing spooky scrubs during the month of October.

Halloween may be all fun and games for us, but it can be terrifying for our animals. Just think about it. Every time that anxiety inducing doorbell rings, the alarm barks go off. Talk about putting the TRICK in Trick or Treat!

There are lots of ways to avoid putting your animals in stressful situations during Halloween.
Here are some tips to help keep your pet safe and calm:

1. Keeping your pet away from the front door avoids accidental escapes and helps decrease visual and auditory stimulus when trick r’ treaters come to visit.
2. Keep calm, act normal, and keep to routine. Believe it or not, your animal can often sense your mood. If the holiday is making you anxious, they are going to feel it too.
3. Try to avoid walking dogs during trick r’ treating hours if you know they are likely to react badly to crowds.
4. If your dog enjoys walks and being social, be watchful that they do not ingest any candy, especially chocolate which can be toxic to dogs, that might have been dropped along the way.
5. Play music or turn on the television to calm dogs and mask scary noises. My dog, Timber, loves classical music!
6. Close the curtains and keep the light on to limit visual stimulation from outside. Having one member of the household sit with the animals in a “soundproof” area such as a basement or bathroom can help as well.
7. Avoid petting and telling your pet that “It’s OK” during scary events, because they are hearing that it is okay to be anxious and bark during these events. Just sitting with them calmly is reward enough.
8. We may think our pet looks adorable in that T-rex costume, however, few dogs actually enjoy dressing up and having unnecessary objects on them can actual heighten anxiety. No one knows your pet better than you, so if your pet looks uncomfortable when you put that pair of bunny ears on them, decide against it.

Remember, it is perfectly fine to ask your veterinarian for help. Some animals are comforted and respond well to a thunder shirt, which is a jacket that wraps snugly around their body. Norwalk Animal Hospital sells these shirts and can help you find the correct fit for your pet. However, sometimes animals have anxiety that is so severe that it requires the help of medication, of which there are several safe options available. Please consult your primary care vet before giving your animals medication.

Sileo is a newer FDA approved medication for the treatment of noise aversion in dogs that comes in an easy to administer tube and is absorbed through the oral mucosa. This medication is known to calm pets without sedating them and has worked well in several of our noise averse patients, especially those that are afraid of thunderstorms. For more information, consult Norwalk Animal Hospital or your primary veterinarian as Sileo may not be recommended for all pets.

Now to end with a TREAT! One of the most common things that come to mind when people think of fall is pumpkins, which when administered correctly can be given to dogs as well. Pumpkin (and pumpkin puree) contains a ton of soluble fiber that can help firm up soft stool, plus, animals tend to love the taste. However, too much can actually cause diarrhea in dogs that cannot tolerate large amounts of fiber, so be sure to ask us at Norwalk Animal Hospital before adding it into your dog’s diet. If you are a big fan of DIY, here is the link to a simple Pumpkin Oat Dog Treat Recipe that my dog, Timber, absolutely loves: https://bakeatmidnite.com/pumpkin-oat-dog-biscuits/

Have a safe and Happy Howl-o-ween!

Promotions and Discounts at Norwalk Animal Hospital

We accept CareCredit! To apply for CareCredit click the link!

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Gift Certificates

Gift certificates are great for birthdays, holidays or just because! Treat your granddog, grandcat, or special furry family member or friend to a grooming, a dental cleaning, a physical rehabilitation treatment or to any service we offer! Gift certificates are available in any amount.

Please give us a call for more details or to purchase one.

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Military Discount

Norwalk Animal Hospital is proud to help out our Military! Discounts are available for Active Duty and Retired military personnel.

Please contact us for more information.

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Norwalk Animal Hospital is now an official distributor of the
Help Em Up Harness!