As animals age, they tend to “slow down” just as people do. There are certain signs to watch for that could indicate a medical problem.
• Increased Thirst usually accompanied by increased urination. A notable change in water intake warrants investigation as it is seen with kidney disease, diabetes, endocrine and electrolyte disorders and other diseases.
• “Lumps and bumps.” Give your pet a good whole-body massage periodically (most dogs love it). Note any growths, “lumps”, or swellings. Often we can determine their origin with a simple in office aspirate. Many will not need further work-up if benign. More aggressive growths often have a better prognosis if caught early.
• Weight changes. Monitor for either weight loss or gain that is unintentional. Weight your pet 3-4 times yearly. You may use our office scale anytime. Often weight loss is the first indication of a medical problem, such as older cats with hyperthyroidism.
• Also monitor for changes in appetite, stool consistency, trouble ambulating and respiratory changes. It is especially important for older pets to be examined at least yearly.
We recommend all cats be kept as INDOOR pets. Outdoor cats are at risk from coyotes, feline leukemia virus, feline AIDS virus, automobiles and many other hazards. Additionally, hunting cats can decimate the local wildlife population.
Do not over-exercise your pet, especially in hot weather. Dogs cannot sweat to loose body heat, and may be at risk for hyperthermia.
Food, Diet & Weight
Many foods that are OK for people are toxic to pets, such as chocolate, grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, onions and anything with the artificial sweetener xylitol.
A general rule for a pet’s proper weight is that you should be able to feel the pet’s ribs relatively easily, but they should not be too prominent. Obesity is a major health concern, contributing to early onset joint disease, diabetes, cardiopulmonary problems, and other health issues. Feel free to use our hospital scale to weigh your pet at any time.
Feed your pet a well-balanced diet as directed by your veterinarian. Most dogs do best if fed twice daily. Raw diets are not recommended due to the potential for infectious disease transmission (such as Salmonella). Cats are not always “self-regulators”, as we see many obese cats if feeding is not controlled.
Grooming, Fleas, Ticks
Most dogs can be bathed monthly using a mild grooming shampoo. Medical conditions may require more frequent bathing and/or special bathing products. Be careful not to get water in the ear canals when bathing.
We recommend outdoor pets to be on a flea and tick control program from at least the end of March until December, and in some cases year round. Winters have been getting milder and we are recently noting more and more pets with occasional ticks during the winter months. Ticks carry several diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichia and Babesia.
The best way to remove a tick is to wet the fur around it, so that you can visualize the tick attachment site better, then grab the tick with blunt tweezers or hemostats where it is attaching to the skin and use gentle traction to pull the tick. Ticks need to attach and feed (they take a blood meal from your pet) for several hours before transmitting diseases, such as Lyme disease, so frequent tick checks are recommended after your pets have been outdoors.
It is important for all dogs to be on heartworm preventative. Cats can develop heartworm infections also, but at a much lower rate than dogs. Preventative is available for cats also.
Heartworm preventative is given monthly. It can also be given up to a week “late” and still be effective. We recommend heartworm preventative be administered year-round as it helps to also prevent some of the more common intestinal worms which are present in the environment all year. That mean one does not have to remember when to start administration. It also solves the problem of stopping too soon in the fall. (Ever year we see mosquitoes into November and December)! As no medication is 100% effective and dosing can be missed (forget to administer, administer, but pet vomits medication unseen, etc.), it is recommended to test yearly. If a dose is missed, just resume the next month. If given continuously, a missed dose should rarely result in infection.
Never give your pet any medication not prescribed without first consulting your veterinarian.
Many medications that are OK for people are dangerous to pets, for example, Tylenol® is highly toxic to cats.
Rabies is endemic in New England. The main reservoirs are raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes. However, it is not limited to these species.
Rabies vaccination is required by law for all dogs and cats in Massachusetts.
If a rabies vaccine expires, the pet is considered unvaccinated in the eyes of the law. Unvaccinated (or vaccine expired) pets that have potential exposure to rabies must have a 6 month quarantine or be euthanized by state law. Potential exposure can be something as common as an outdoor cat coming home with a bite wound or abscess. NEVER LET YOUR PET’S RABIES VACCINE EXPIRE.
Indoor cats must also be vaccinated. Every year we get several calls about bats getting into houses. Also indoor cats can “escape”.
If your pet was sprayed by a skunk, what will stop the smell? We found a solution you can make at home that will do the job.
1 quart - hydrogen peroxide
1/4 cup - baking soda
2 tablespoons - Dawn dishwashing detergent
As you bathe your pet, do not get this solution in pet’s eyes. Also may lighten certain coat colors.
Swimming is great exercise for dogs and many can’t wait to hit the beach. Swimming is used to “re-hab” dogs with orthopedic injuries as it is very good for a low-impact, good, range-of-motion work-out.
• If swimming in salt water, ingestion of too much salt water can result in “salt-poisoning”. Severe neurological signs can result, so limit any ingestion. It is also a good idea to rinse the salt water off with fresh water when possible.
• After swimming in salt or fresh water, dry your pet with a towel. This is especially important for longer-furred pets, such as Golden Retrievers, to prevent “hot spots”.
• Getting water in pets’ ears while swimming can contribute to ear infections (otitis externa). Using a mild, acidifying ear cleaner after swimming can help prevent infections.
Dental problems are very common in dogs and cats. Many pets benefit greatly from regular teeth brushing, use of dental diets, and dental rinses to control halitosis, development of plaque, gingivitis and periodontal disease.
Dogs do not need bones to chew. They can damage their teeth and can also get potentially severe intestinal problems. They can be given safe toys, such as “kong” or other hard rubber toys that will not hurt their teeth and cannot be chewed apart and swallowed.
Info Sheets (click to download PDF)