Our feline friends live an average of 12-18 years, while some live into their 20s. Senior and geriatric cats need some special considerations regarding their daily care. Here are some tips to help keep your elderly companion happy, healthy, and comfortable well into their golden years.
A cat’s nutritional needs change throughout their lifetime. Older felines need less calories since it doesn’t take much energy to sleep an average of 20 hours a day. Senior cat food usually contains increased fiber as well as vitamins and essential fatty acids. Prescription foods formulated for specific health conditions are available with restricted or added ingredients that support the nutritional needs of the patient.
Most common diseases in older cats:
Dental Disease- Cats can get painful holes in their teeth, broken teeth, gum disease and oral tumors that significantly affect their quality of life.
Felines are notorious for not drinking enough water. Dehydration can lead to or exacerbate chronic medical conditions such as kidney failure. Some cats can be finicky and require fresh, clean water. Adding in a water fountain can encourage them to drink. Canned food contains more moisture and can be added to their diet to increase water intake.
The pain of arthritis can limit geriatric cat’s movements. It may become difficult to jump up on counters and tables or even manage stairs. The location of their food, water, and litter box may need to change. Keep it on the level of your house that they frequent most or provide one on each level. If they have neck or spinal issues, have bowls raised to shoulder level. The height of the sides of their litter box can affect their ability to move in and out freely. Finding a shorter, wider litter box can decrease the likelihood of inappropriate elimination.
Senior cats can lose the ability to fully retract their claws due to arthritis, injury, or infection. Keeping the nails trimmed can reduce the instances of getting caught in carpet. Cut any loose strings or loops on carpet or rugs. If unable to use a scratching surface, the nails may grow too long and penetrate the paw pad.
There are products on the market that can help ease your cat’s arthritis pain. Many of them contain Glucosamine, Chondroitin, and Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Prescription pain medications may be prescribed by your cat’s veterinarian. Feline patients should have cat specific medications and supplements as they are more sensitive and metabolize drugs differently.
Elder felines may need a little assistance in the grooming department. Arthritis, obesity, and other conditions can inhibit cats from reaching certain spots for grooming. Often mats develop on the lower back, abdomen, and around the rear end. You may need to assist by combing or brushing these areas. They also may need help bathing their rear ends. Using a baby wipe or wet wash cloth, gently wipe their rectums. Longer haired cats may need to be trimmed to keep tidy.
Increase Visit frequency
Since problems can sneak up quickly, it may be necessary to bring your senior cat to the vet more frequently for physical exams. Keeping a close eye on their normal behaviors at home and noting any deviations can help expose issues sooner. Blood work may be recommended by your cat’s veterinarian as they are excellent at hiding illness. Catching a disease in early stages can increase the success of treatment, improve quality of life, and extend their life expectancy.
Behaviors to Monitor:
Changes in appetite
Weight loss or gain
Urination & Defecation- amounts and locations
Stiffness, difficulty jumping up or with stairs
Poor coat, decreased grooming
You cat’s annual physical exam is an opportune time to discuss any concerns with your veterinarian. It can be helpful to make a list of behavior changes to address. Give us a call at 444-5797 to schedule an appointment.
As we continue to develop wild territory into human habitat, it is no wonder that instances of confrontation with predators are on the rise. Predators have become more accustomed to living in close proximity to humans which can be dangerous for both parties. Spring is the time of year we see an increase in attacks by coyotes and wolves on domestic pets. January through April is breeding and whelping season for these predators. They tend to be more aggressive, defensive, territorial and hungry. They aren’t picky when it comes to their prey. Fluffy bunny vs fluffy Pomeranian, squirrel or Shih Tzu; food is food.
Bears can also be dangerous this time of year. They are waking up from winter hibernation and emerging from their dens. They can be groggy, grumpy, and hungry. A dog is no match for the large, powerful claws of a bear. Given the bear’s disoriented, post-hibernation state, they may not run away but rather stand their ground. Mama bears may also have cubs to protect; never come between a mama and her cub.
Here are some tips on how to protect your pet from predator attacks:
Monitor pets when they are outside; do not leave them outside by themselves. Keep pets on a leash when walking, especially in wooded areas. Bring outdoor cats in at night. Avoid the twilight hours since predators are more active at these times. Know the area you are walking in. Check for sign such as tracks or scat.
The need for protective gear is an unfortunate reality for some situations. If you search the internet you will find multiple products available.
Kevlar neck collar with spikes
Puncture resistant Kevlar vest
Having a fenced in yard can protect your pet from many dangers. Unfortunately, predators can be very determined when hungry and will climb or dig their way in. It is recommended that fences be at least 6 foot tall, buried 18 inches in the ground, and even have rollers at top.
Predators often attack in the dark. Keeping your yard well-lit can help deter predators from getting too close. Motion detecting lights are helpful to scare off unsuspecting wildlife.
Eliminate all sources of food. Do not feed deer, squirrels, and rabbits. Attracting the prey will attract the predators. Remove all garbage or keep it in animal proof containers. Cover compost piles. Do not leave out dog or cat food. Clean your grill. Remove any roadkill near your property. Remove excess fruit from fruit trees.
Remove their hiding spots by keeping your yard clean, trees and shrubs trimmed, and having an obvious barrier from woods to lawn. Cleaning up your yard and removing the pet feces will reduce the scent that can attract predators.
Females in heat
Females are especially at risk during their heat cycle. They emit scent and pheromones that draw willing males for miles. Be sure to keep a watchful eye during this time. If not planning to breed, have the female spayed to eliminate the heat cycle.
There has been much debate in the use of bells on hunting dogs. Some hunters believe that it deters predators while others argue that it acts as a “dinner bell” attracting them. Use whistles, horns, or other non-natural noise makers to let predators know that humans and not wild canines are present.
Other Important Things to Note:
Vaccines- Keep pets up to date on vaccines. Wild animals carry preventable diseases such as Rabies, Distemper, Parvo, and Leptospirosis.
Don’t Run- It is important that you do not try to run away. This activates the predator instinct to chase. Instead, back away slowly, yell or make loud noises, wave your arms, and throw things at it.
Spread the Word- Share sightings and information with your friends & neighbors so they can be vigilant for their own pets and follow the deterrent recommendations as well.
DNR- Report nuisance or strange acting animals to the Department of Natural Resources. They are responsible for keeping track of the level of conflict and managing the species. They use the data to create or change laws and regulations regarding hunting and trapping.
DNR website statement on Coyotes:
The DNR does not trap, shoot, or relocate coyotes; it is the responsibility of the landowner.
Wolves in Minnesota can only be killed in defense of human life. Only agents of the government are authorized to take wolves if pets or livestock are threatened, attacked or killed. Protect evidence and report depredation incidents to a DNR or conservation officer.
As dog lovers, we love to meet and say “Hello” to every dog we see. However, we often unknowingly greet dogs the wrong way. We habitually set dogs up for failure with our over-excited, over-bearing, rude (in doggy etiquette) greetings. Greeting the proper way can help with most behavior issues dogs have when it comes to meeting new people or even old friends. Read on to learn how to help with jumping, excited/submissive urination, and fear or anxiety with people.
This is one of the most common, obvious, and annoying behavioral issues dogs demonstrate when it comes to greeting. One simple way to help this behavior for both owners and strangers is to ignore the excitement. Not the dog, the excited behavior. This is not meant to hurt their feelings, but to make sure it is understood they will not get attention or affection using excitement and invading our personal space. Uncontrolled excitement can also lead anxiety and frustration. We should be quiet and calm when approaching dogs that are excited. Wait until the dog has calmed down, then give affection in a calm manner, with little to no talking. Think of when two polite and well-behaved dogs meet each other. They approach and sniff each other quietly with no jumping or noise until they mutually agree to move on, socialize, or give cues to play.
Some dogs urinate when greeted. There are different causes for this including excessive excitement, fear, or submission. Fortunately, the best way to prevent this from happening is the same no matter what the cause; don’t talk to them and don’t initiate eye contact. Ignore the excitement or fear behavior until they are more comfortable. When you do approach or give attention, do it calmly to avoid sending them right back into the undesirable state. This simple step will go a long way in preventing unwanted urination when greeting.
Fear & Anxiety
A happy-go-lucky dog may jump on you. On the other hand, fearful dogs may run the opposite way, cower, bark, shut down in fear, or even show fear aggression as a response. As much as we may want to talk to and pet them to show we mean no harm, this is often too much pressure for fearful dogs. They want time and space, and to not feel pressure to be touched. Not all fearful dogs will walk away when they don’t want to be approached. Some will shut down and freeze even if they are physically able to move away. If we approach or talk to a dog in this state they may urinate, growl, bark, or snap/bite. This is clear communication they are not ready to be touched and these signals are often ignored.
A greeting with a dog should feel quiet and relaxed. Humans often encourage inappropriate behavior, many times unknowingly. The goal is to promote the correct behavior and set them up to succeed. This helps dogs understand what is expected of them in any situation, whether they are meeting a dog lover or someone who is unsure about or has a fear of dogs. It is our responsibility to be in control of our own dogs. By learning a little bit about canine communication and helping other humans recognize their cues, we help promote well behaved doggy citizens.
Cats tend to be very independent animals, but they are also quite social. It may seem like they are always sleeping; on average 12-16 hours of the day. When awake, felines need some environmental and social enrichment to stimulate their minds and encourage exercise to keep them happy and healthy. We’ve compiled a list of activities and additions to their environment that can help fight obesity, anxiety, and other undesirable behaviors.
Note: Cats are creatures of habit and don’t always appreciate change. It is wise to introduce new items or activities slowly, and one at a time, to determine whether the cat enjoys them or is stressed by them.
Providing your cat with a good view of the outdoors is like giving them a television. Supply them with a special perch next to the window. Offer different “channels” by installing a bird or squirrel feeder, bird bath, or other nature inviting element.
There are so many products on the market, narrowing down one that your cat will actually use and enjoy can be difficult. Different activities and toys appeal to various natural instincts and characteristics. Food motivated cats may like toys or puzzles with treats inside. Cats who enjoy the hunt may like moving toys, wands, balls, etc. Some cats may prefer toys that make noise, crinkle, or squeak. And remember, cats can get bored with their toys, be sure to rotate them occasionally.
Channel your inner crafter; some household items can become DIY toys. Simple things like a cardboard box, paper bag, and paper towel rolls can be entertaining. Try before you buy; borrow toys from your cat owner friends to see if your cat will play with them. If you do buy something that your cat doesn’t end up liking consider donating it to a shelter or rescue.
Enjoy the Outdoors Safely
Cats are safest indoors but getting them outdoors for protected and supervised outings is a great way to both stimulate their mind and promote exercise. Cat specific harnesses are a great way to take them for a leashed walk. Not all cats will walk on a leash, therefore a stroller or backpack may be more their style. If you have the space and ability build them a “Catio”. These outdoor play areas are usually enclosed with fencing or netting to keep cats in and other critters out.
Plants & Herbs
Cats often like to chew on indoor plants. Choose house plants that are not only non-toxic, but ones that cats enjoy and are edible. Plant some cat thyme, rosemary, parsley, mint, oat or wheat grass, or bean sprouts. Catnip is popular, but not all cats enjoy it.
Cats enjoy sitting high upon their thrones and watching over their kingdoms. Give cats an opportunity to climb and provide a higher perch (cat trees, sturdy shelving, etc) to watch the happenings of the household from above. This helps cats feel more secure and safe when they can get away from stresses such as dogs, kids, vacuums, etc.
Scratching posts fill the innate need to sharpen claws, stretch out, and mark their territory. Providing both vertical and horizontal options can help deter cats from using inappropriate items such as your furniture. Placement, texture, and scent are important for cats to use the scratching posts. A product called Feliscratch® from Ceva Animal Health can be applied to surfaces to encourage them to us it as the preferred scratching spot.
Other options are available to deter cats from scratching at the wrong spot. Nail caps, double sided tape, and natural sprays are all helpful alternatives to declawing. Declawing is an amputation of the end of the cat’s toe. It is an elective procedure and is discouraged by most Veterinary Associations due to common complications such as pain, arthritis, lameness, and limb disuse.
The Best Enrichment Available= You
Nothing is better than your time, attention, and love. Enjoy some one-on-one time together with your furry feline friend doing whatever they enjoy.
Take a nap together
Brush or pet them
Play with them
Read to them
Teach them a new tricks
If your cat is having behavioral issues, it may be worth your time to try some environmental enrichment. Boredom can be the cause for mischief and misbehavior. A few new toys, some outdoor time, perfectly placed cat furniture, or structured play time could be the remedy.
After some hot temperatures this summer, your lawn can start to look pretty rough. Your dog’s urine is likely not helping much. Those yellow, burnt looking areas are called “grass scald”. How do you prevent it without harming your dog?
Why does it happen?
Dog urine can contain a large amount of nitrogen. Nitrogen is commonly found in fertilizer, but too much of it can have negative effect on your lawn. Urine can also be very salty, which can dry out the grass.
A common myth is that female dog urine is worse than males. In fact, it is the way in which they urinate that makes the difference. Squatting down directs the urine in a small area, concentrating the nitrogen. While male dogs tend to urinate up on things and/or spread it out into a larger area, diluting the amount of nitrogen.
“Dilution is the solution to pollution”
This quote is popular in veterinary medicine overall, but definitely works on this subject. Watering heavily in the area your pet does its business will dilute the nitrogen to a level safe for your lawn. This will likely make your grass green and lush.
We strongly recommend treating the environment rather than the dog. This is especially important in breeds prone to urinary issues such as Bichons, Schnauzers, Dalmatians, Yorkshire Terriers, etc. Some of these supplements change the pH of the urine which can lead to urinary crystals or bladder stone formation. If you do use a supplement, be sure to research it thoroughly. Pick one with natural ingredients. Read the reviews from other users.
Since nitrogen is the problem, pick a fertilizer with small amount or no nitrogen. There are many other fertilizer options for your lawn. Organic fertilizers are safer for you and your pets. Besides ready-made commercial products some of the most common compositions include corn gluten meal, cow or poultry manure, compost, earthworm castings, bone meal, and seaweed or kelp. Some lawn care websites recommend pouring a can of beer on the scalded spots to repair them.
Pick A Spot
Your dog can be trained to eliminate in a specific spot in your yard. Products such as pheromone spikes can be placed in the area of your choice which then attracts the dog to do their business there.
Do you get “Cabin Fever” in the winter? Does you dog seem to act up more or get themselves into more trouble during winter? Our pets need exercise and stimulation just like we humans do. Every dog, no matter the breed, needs some form of exercise or stimulation on a regular basis to maintain a healthy weight and mind. If you struggle to find things to do with your dog in the winter, read on for a few suggestions.
Breeds differ in the amount and type of exercise that is best for them. Just like kids and adults, some of the best exercise for physical and mental health is to get yourself outside. It is a good idea to towel off their feet and toes when you come inside to get off any snowballs or sidewalk/road salt that may have gotten on them. You will have a happier, more well-adjusted dog the more they are able to release energy outdoors.
WALK, WALK, WALK. A simple walk is always my go-to form of exercise and the one I would always say to use the most. All dogs need to walk with their “pack” on a regular basis, ideally this would happen daily. This is the best way to give them structured exercise and to maintain a healthy bond with your dog. If your dog is a small breed or you are worried about the cold temperature, there are many options for doggy coats and booties to keep them warm long enough for a good brisk walk.
Running through deep snow is very tiring. If you have a larger, more active breed, there are many activities to do in the snow. Hiking, skijoring, snowshoeing, or even playing fetch in deep snow can be an effective form of exercise. Fetching in deep snow will also fulfill the searching/tracking instinct that many breeds have as they search for their toy.
If you have a small breed or a small yard, a snow maze can be a new and fun activity for both you and your dog. Use a shovel to carve a path through deep snow in your yard. Create a maze your dog can find their way through. You can even hide treats or their favorite toy and turn it into a search mission for added stimulation.
If you are unable to provide enough exercise outdoors, there are some indoor options to consider.
Although walking outdoors is the best form of exercise, you don’t have to go outside to take your dog for a walk. Dogs are able to learn how to walk on a treadmill (always under supervision of course). Some will even ask to go on their treadmill once they learn how! Always start slow and calm and take small steps when training them to walk on the treadmill.
Try some indoor training. Being stuck inside is a great time to teach new tricks or commands. Training is a great way to engage their brain, learning is fantastic mental stimulation. It will also help with obedience and will further seal the bond between dog and owner.
Indoor searching/tracking is another option for indoor activity. You can hide a favorite toy, treats, or even yourself or another family member and challenge them to find the scent.
These are just some of the ways to exercise your dog in the winter. There are many other options but the most important thing is that your dog gets moving, physically and mentally. If you have behavioral or health related questions, your annual exam is a great time to ask your veterinary care team! Call to schedule an appointment 218-444-5797.