The common belief that pets age seven years for every one human year isn’t entirely correct. Dogs and cats actually age the fastest during their first year of life. A one-year-old pet is equivalent to a 20-year-old human. After the first birthday, the rate is approximately four years for every human year. Because of their rapid aging, it isn’t always easy to detect new health issues in your pet. Bringing her in for a bi-annual preventive care exam allows Dr. Palmquist to diagnose common age-related problems early.
Decline of Mental Functioning in Older Pets
One in three companion animals over age 10 has decreased mental functioning. By the time a pet reaches the geriatric stage at age 15, this goes up to 50 percent. While you can’t see what your pet thinks and remembers, you are likely to notice changes in behavior. Your dog who has been housebroken for years starts eliminating indoors or your usually docile cat becomes more aggressive. Because this can be confusing and upsetting for pet owners, they tend to react by punishing the dog or cat.
Your pet doesn’t understand why you’re punishing him and may react by avoiding you. This damages your bond. If you notice a marked change in his behavior, we encourage you to schedule a senior wellness exam as soon as possible.
Common Health Problems in Older Dogs and Cats
Some health conditions are especially common in older pets, regardless of breed. Some of the most prevalent issues for older companion animals include:
- Arthritis: Stiff joints, especially in the hips, can make it difficult for your pet to get around the house.
- Cancer: It may seem like more animals you know have cancer, but this is largely due to pets living longer lives. The incidence of all types of cancer increases in dogs and cats over age 10.
- Diabetes: This often goes hand in hand with obesity and can be managed well with some lifestyle changes.
- Dental disease: This is a widespread problem among pets of all ages, but it becomes especially problematic for older pets. Many already struggle with lack of appetite and may give up on eating when it becomes painful or difficult.
- Heart disease: Cardiomyopathy, which is degeneration of the heart muscles, is particularly common in the senior pet population.
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Our staff recently learned that a dog in this area contracted canine parainfluenza, also known as dog flu. To protect your dog from this contagious upper respiratory infection, it is important to get a vaccine every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), canine parainfluenza is an avian flu that originated in horses and adapted to infect dogs. It is not possible for dogs to transmit the virus to humans.
How Dogs Pick Up the Parainfluenza Virus
Canine parainfluenza is most prevalent in dogs who spend a lot of time in shelters or kennels. However, any unvaccinated dog is at risk of acquiring it. The virus spreads when an uninfected dog has direct contact with respiratory secretions, such as droplets from sneezing or coughing, of an infected dog. Your dog could also pick up the virus through contact with a contaminated object such as a chew toy, equipment, bedding, or pet clothing. If your dog does gets the virus, you need to clean and disinfect all contaminated items and isolate her from other dogs in the community until the symptoms have passed.
Symptoms and Treatment for Canine Parainfluenza
A cough, fever, and runny nose are the most common indicators that your dog has picked up this virus. However, some dogs don’t display any symptoms while others become severely ill and go on to develop pneumonia. If you suspect a respiratory infection in your dog, please schedule an appointment with Grantsburg Animal Hospital or Wild River Veterinary Clinic right away. We will evaluate your dog and let you know if he does indeed have the disease.
Most dogs who test positive for parainfluenza can be successfully treated with medication and comfort care. It is important to keep an eye on your dog to ensure that she remains hydrated and comfortable. Your dog may require an antibiotic if she has developed a secondary bacterial infection in addition to the flu.
Prevention is Best
Just as many people get flu shots annually, dogs should get a yearly vaccine to protect them from this uncomfortable and potentially serious illness. Please contact us with any additional questions or to schedule your dog’s annual parainfluenza vaccine.
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