Posts Tagged ‘geriatric pet care’

Senior Pets – Part 3 of 3

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017

 

Dog patient

One of our very patient patients.

In our three part series of posts on Senior and geriatric pets we focused on:

Part 1: Describing/defining a senior or geriatric pet

Part 2: Important Conditions and Focus Areas for an aging pet

 

 

Now in part 3 of our 3 part posts we will focus on Medical Management / Early Detection and Screening

Medical Management / Early Detection and Screening

Cat patient

Dr. Toncray enjoying a patient.

   Although the list of medical conditions can be very long in our older pets, many of them can be managed successfully. We advise our patient’s caregivers to consider a senior health care plan that will target early detection and treatment.

Early detection will allow for prompt, specific care for your pet that will prevent, delay, or temper an illness, extend life span, promote increased quality of life and extend the human-animal bond.  It begins by defining baseline values for your pet as they move into their senior life stage. This will help set the foundation to provide the best preventive and medical care for the years ahead. It continues with frequent evaluation, therapy and monitoring as medical conditions require.

 

Physical Examinations

Dr. Leslie monitoring the weight of one of our feline patients

   A complete and thorough physical examination will help localize and uncover any problems or suspect areas. Initially annual exams are advised, however, increasing the examination frequency to two times a year as your pet ages will increase the chance of detecting a problem early. We recommend monitoring body weight more frequently, 2-4 times a year. You can come in and use our scale in the waiting area.

 

 

Observations and History

    Dialogue between our doctors and pet owners in this life stage is exceptionally valuable.

older dogs eye issues

Dr. Swindell consulting with a client.

Observations and notations of subtle changes in interactions and day-to-day routines can provide important information and direction for early detection of health issues. Education on what signs to watch for and their significance can heighten detection of early changes.

 

Laboratory and diagnostic testing

Routine diagnostic tests can give additional depth to your pet’s health evaluation

Simple blood test

and can specifically target organ system changes at a significantly earlier time than waiting for abnormal symptoms to present on a physical exam.

These tests may include: complete blood cell counts, serum chemistry panels and a urinalysis. Each pet has a unique set of examination findings and pertinent history which may require more specialized diagnostics that specifically meet their needs.

 

Dr. Richerson listening to the internal sounds of a patient.

 

We understand that the senior/geriatric life stage can be more demanding than the younger adult years. However, by approaching their health care preemptively we can minimize those demands and allow our pets to be happy, active and healthy members of our family for years to come.

cardiatric patient

Dr. Carlson and a patient.

 

 

 

 

It is our pleasure to serve you and your pets. Please do not hesitate to call our offices (708-383-3606) if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your veterinary healthcare team.

 

Senior Pets – part 2 of 3

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

Aging is not a disease

In our first of three posts on Senior Pets, we reported the good news that our pets are living longer and healthier lives. We celebrated our privilege of participating in this change during the 37 years of our practice. We covered the definitions of aging and what this means for our pets.

In this post we address: Important Conditions and  Focus Areas

The conditions below can contribute to illness as well as play a vital role in maintaining optimal quality of life and longevity. All these areas are interconnected physiologically in our senior pets and each pet’s health condition as it ages. We know that because of this each pet requires its own unique treatment plan. Our doctors and staff at CAH can advise and completely review your pet’s needs in order to plan out a specific senior/geriatric health care course with you and your pet.

I. Nutrition and Body Condition

Dietary needs change with age and many common diseases and age-related conditions can benefit from shifts in nutrition as part of prevention and treatment. Overall body condition as well as body weight play critical roles in senior health.

II. Oral/dental health

Dog teeth brushing

Good oral health helps to extend pets’ lives

The mouth, teeth, and gums can be an easy portal of entry for bacteria as well as a source of pain and discomfort if not maintained in the later years of life.

 

 

 

III. Gastrointestinal

The GI tract is highly complex and has many roles in the body. Digestive efficiency and body requirements can shift with age and maintaining optimal health of the entire gastrointestinal system will significantly impact our dog and cats longevity.

Keeping pets flexible

Dr. Swindell examining a patient for orthopedic flexibility.

IV. Orthopedic conditions and mobility

Movement and exercise are essential during the senior years. Addressing health issues such as arthritis and muscle strength will allow your pet to maintain mobility and pain-free movement.

V. Endocrine/ Hormones

One of the most common areas in which our geriatric veterinary patients experience functional changes is in hormone production. Thyroid, adrenal and insulin hormones are the most commonly involved. Fortunately, the majority of these conditions are very responsive to treatment and can be managed successfully. Early detection can make this management less complicated.

VI. Cardiovascular/Renal/Respiratory

Dopper to analyze a pet's heart murmur

Doppler image of blood flow in a pet’s heart.

These organ systems also have numerous changes as they age. Here too, many of these common conditions can be slowed and managed to maximize the working lifetime of these organs. Often times months to years of quality life can be added to our pet’s life expectancy.

 

 

 

VII. Skin

Healthy skin is important for our seniors and coat quality and changes can be early indicators of health changes. Masses and lumps are common at this life stage and should be discussed and evaluated.

VIII. Mental Health/ cognition/ behavior

Our pets do face behavioral and cognitive/neurological changes as they age. These changes can be addressed in a variety of ways, some through nutrition, environmental changes, and medications.

IX. Sensory

nuclear sclerosis

We illuminated Fluffy’s eye to show her mild lenticular sclerosis.

Changes in the major senses especially eyesight and hearing can require adjustments in environment and lifestyle to prevent injury and anxiety.

 

 

 

X. Environmental Conditions

Older pets will usually need changes in their environment and lifestyle to accommodate their health care needs and still provide and promote safe movement and mental stimulation.

 

 

XI. Pain Management and Pharmacology

Senior health conditions that might have discomfort or pain associated with them should be targeted and treated either temporarily or long term as the condition requires. All drugs must be used with the most current knowledge of  senior/geriatric metabolism to prevent drug related illness or toxicity.

In the third of our three part series on Senior and geriatric pets our next post will focus on:

In our next post, Part 3 of 3, we will focus on: 

Medical Management / Early Detection and Screening. 

It is our pleasure to serve you and your pets. Please do not hesitate to call our offices (708-383-3606) if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your veterinary healthcare team.

 

Senior pets – Part 1 of 3

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

Senior/ Geriatric Pet Health

We are happy to report that our pets are living much longer healthier lives. We’ve been a part of the great changes in veterinary medicine for these 35+ years and continue to keep up with the pace of the advancements.

No matter the life stage – growth, adult, senior/geriatric – we work hard to help you make the best of each of your pet’s stages. We have particularly focused on the senior/geriatric stages . The medical staff at Carlson Animal Hospital can help provide the most current and advanced medical care to help you and your pet navigate this complex life stage.

The senior/geriatric pet 

The exact definition of a senior or geriatric pet varies. Due to differences in species (feline versus canine), breed, and size, there is not an exact year that defines senior or geriatric. One guideline states that pets are seniors if they are in the last 25% of their predicted lifespan for their species and breed. This is when they are at significantly higher risk for numerous health conditions and disorders. The generally accepted veterinary guidelines are:

1) cats and small to medium size dogs are considered senior/geriatric at age 7 years and older

2) larger breed dogs with naturally shorter life spans are considered senior at age 6.

Often the term senior refers to the earlier part of this life stage and geriatric refers to the latter years. Many cat and dog caregivers like to equate their pet’s age with comparable human years and there are several conversion charts and formulas devised to attempt those comparisons.

In addition to the above table the American Veterinary Medical Association lists the oldest recorded age of a cat at 34 years old.The oldest recorded age of a dog at 29 years old. Recent statistics report that between 33% and 50% of all the dogs and cats in the United States are now 7 years of age or older.

Aging

Aging itself is not a disease. There are physiologic changes that occur as the body ages. They involve the gradual and irreversible loss of function of the body’s organ systems as well as any reserve capability they may have.  During the aging process, individual cells and the cell cycles begin to decrease to the point where they stop functioning altogether. Throughout the pet’s lifetime, outside influences/insults from the environment have also been exerting effects on the body systems and its innate genetic programming.

In our next two posts we expand and focus on:

Part 2 of 3: Important Conditions and  Focus Areas

Part 3 of 3: Medical Management / Early Detection and Screening

 

It is our pleasure to serve you and your pets. Please do not hesitate to call our offices (708-383-3606) if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your veterinary healthcare team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Osteoarthritis in our dog and cat companions

Monday, February 27th, 2017

Geriatric pet care

Our canine and feline companions are living long active lives well into their geriatric years. Therefore assessing and treating osteoarthritis is an important part of geriatric pet care. Many pet owners make the comment that they believe arthritis is the cause of stiffness and a slow rising from rest in their pets.  Up to 60% of dogs are diagnosed with the disease based upon radiographic evidence at some time in their life.

As with most medical conditions, treatments for osteoarthritis are specifically targeted to the physiologic processes that cause the disease.  At Carlson Animal Hospital we strive to educate pet owners about the physiologic basis of the treatments we employ. In this blog we will delve into a bit more detail about the disease itself.

Osteoarthritis and the synovial joints

Osteoarthritis is a chronic, degenerative disease that affects synovial joints.  Synovial joints are articular joints between two bones that are joined by a joint capsule containing fluid and cartilage. The purpose of synovial joints are to allow smooth movement between two bones. The term arthritis, without the osteo prefix, refers to inflammation of a joint of any sort.  Whereas osteoarthritis refers to the chronic degenerative process of cartilage breakdown and associated inflammation.

cat being examined for osteoarthritis

Dr. Swindell examining a feline patient.

Osteoarthritis affects both dogs and cats.   Sometimes the disease is related to aging and sometimes it is not.  Osteoarthritis may also occur secondary to an injury or instability of a joint. A common orthopedic injury in dogs is a rupture of an anterior cruciate ligament (also known as an ACL rupture).

dog hip examination

Dr. Swindell performing a hip exam.

Hip dysplasia is an instability of the hip joint that is often diagnosed earlier in life. These pets will eventually develop osteoarthritis in that joint due to the chronic instability/inflammation.

Physiology of osteoarthritis

Moving on to the physiology of osteoarthritis. We’ve included a definition of a few key terms:

  1. Cartilage– firm, smooth, flexible connective tissue found inside the surface of a joint.
  2. Chondrocyte – a cell that creates the matrix of the cartilage that is found inside cartilage.
  3. Hyaluronate and Chondroitin sulfate – polysaccharides associated with cartilage that are the joint’s shock absorbers.
  4. Inflammatory mediators – signals sent by cells in the body as a response to damage- they cause the body’s protective response, including inflammation. (This is a very simplified discussion of a very complex process!)

The primary pathology of osteoarthritis is cartilage breakdown.  The cartilage becomes weaker, less elastic with less ability to absorb shock.  Small fissures within the cartilage develop propagating a self-perpetuating degenerative process.  Enzymes are produced that degrade the chondroitin, hyaluronate and the collagen of the cartilage further.  As the cartilage is degraded the fluid in the joint secretes inflammatory mediators which cause inflammation inside the joint.  As the osteoarthritis progresses,  osteophytes ( new bone formation) occur around the joint.  These are little outgrowths of bone that occur near where there is damaged cartilage. These osteophytes further create a decreased range of motion and pain.  Osteophytes have sometimes been described as bone spurs.

dog hip with osteoarthritis damage

Model of a normal canine hip joint on the left and a hip joint with osteophytes and chances from osteoarthritis on the right.

Diagnosis includes a physical exam and radiographs (X-rays)

We believe that it is important to diagnose osteoarthritis prior to beginning treatment, especially since the treatment and the disease are frequently chronic.  The initial portion of the diagnosis is based upon a physical examination of the pet.  Joints with osteoarthritis often have a decreased range of motion with associated pain upon careful manipulation.  Radiographs (x-rays)  of the affected joints are advised.  While radiographs will not show us damaged cartilage, they will document the osteophytes that occur in the advanced stages of osteoarthritis, as well as an increase in joint fluid if present,  which is usually associated with inflammation and discomfort. The radiographs below demonstrate a normal canine knee joint on the left.  A radiograph of a knee joint with osteophytes (the osteophytes are noted as small irregularities along the margins of the larger bones surrounding the joint) and osteoarthritis on the right.

dog's knee radiograph

A dog’s normal knee joint – no osteophytes.

dog knee arthritis radiograph

A dog’s arthritic knee joint with osteophytes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Multi-modal treatment

At Carlson Animal Hospital we employ a multi-modal approach to the treatment of osteoarthritis.  This means that we target the disease based on the various physiologic processes you  just learned about in this blog.  We decrease inflammation with medication, we help build and support cartilage with supplements, we incorporate a moderate exercise program and weight loss program.  We can even employ a very safe and effective drug that helps decrease the enzymes that cause the breakdown of chondroitin and collagen.

By using all these tools,  we can actually modify the course of the disease, rather than just decreasing pain and stiffness.  We continually re-assess management options based upon the current research through the medical literature and medical conferences.  Fortunately, we continue to see treatment options which increase the comfort of pets affected by osteoarthritis, and decrease the speed of the process of cartilage breakdown.

Our Doctors would be pleased to speak with you about these treatment options and whether they may be helpful to your four legged family members.

It is our pleasure to serve you and your pets. Please do not hesitate to call our offices if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your veterinary healthcare team.

www.carlsonanimalhospitals.com

Carlson Animal Hospital, Oak Park, IL 708.383.3606