Caring for your Senior Pet

For many pet lovers, watching our companions grow older is a comforting, rewarding experience. Hard to believe the same bundle of energy tearing around the yard so many years ago is now the calm and kind old friend curled at our feet.

Old age itself is not a disease but we are aware that certain diseases can be age related. Older pets need more extensive examinations, more often. This is why we recommend having senior check-ups for your older pets.

A properly formulated diet will have a significant impact on the health of a senior pet and our health care teams are trained to advise you on the best nutrition for your companion.

The approach to your senior pet is that of a pet care partnership combining your observations at home with an examination. Typically most of the diseases we are keeping an eye out for in senior pets are controllable with simple diet changes and/or medications.

 

What to look out for

As your pet's owner, you are in the best position to look out for the early warning signs of aging and age related diseases. Here are some of the signs that can indicate change and require action:

  • Change in appetite
  • Discomfort on rising or after exercise
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Loss of housetraining6737182_s
  • Excessive drinking and/or urination
  • Bad breath, plaque, or bleeding gums
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Persistent cough
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Appearance of lumps and bumps

 

What we can do for your pet

At the senior check-up vets are identifying subtle changes in body function. If there are abnormalities detected in initial testing, further investigation or more frequent testing may be recommended.

What should your Senior Check Include?

  • Wellness overview - a chance for you to tell your veterinarian any changes of behaviour or physical appearance you have noticed. Use our checklist as a reminder of the changes you should be looking out for.
  • Hands on physical examination - your veterinarian will palpate or feel your pet's musculoskeletal system, abdomen, and head and neck areas for abnormalities. A stethoscope will be used to listen to your pet's heart and lungs. Your pet's eyes, ears, and mouth will also be checked for age-related problems, such as cataracts, dental problems, and ear canal disorders.
  • Diagnostic tests - such as blood work, urinalysis and possibly x-rays (based on your veterinarian's recommendations).

 

Ongoing monitoring allows your veterinarian to ensure they have the correct combination of treatment in place for your pet. As well as assisting you to provide the best lifestyle and home environment possible.

The aim of the Senior Program is to make the life of your furry companion long and healthy. We take pleasure in helping you to achieve this.

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For additional questions or to book your Senior Pet in for a health check please contact your local Best for Pet veterinarian.

http://bestforpet.com.au/our-clinics/


The Joys of Owning a Cat

According to the Australian Veterinary Associate, almost a quarter of Australian households have a cat – more than 2.5 million in total. Whether you’re a young family, a professional, retiree or teenager, a cat can make a fabulous pet.

So what are the benefits of owning a cat?

Physical benefits

  • Better cardiovascular health. Cats can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and even cholesterol.
  • Improved general health. Data shows that cat owners make fewer trips to doctor.

Social benefits

  • Companionship. Cats can be great companions, particularly for young children, the elderly and people who live alone.
  • Improved mental health. Cat owners suffer from less depression and are able to cope with grief, stress and loss better than non-cat owners. Just by looking at you cat, you can increase the amount of Oxytocin in the brain – the “feel good” chemical that improves general feelings of wellbeing.

Benefits for Kids

  • Allergy resistance. Exposure to cats early in infancy is known to strengthen a child’s immune system and reduce the risk of allergies in adulthood.
  • Increased responsibility. Children who have cats, particularly those who are actively involved in feeding and grooming their cats, learn great skills in taking on responsibility.
  • Emotional development. Developing love and affection for a cat is known to improve children’s self-esteem, autonomy and empathy for others.
  • Social Development. Children and teenagers who own cats interact better with classmates, have better self esteem and report less loneliness. They are also less restless than their non-cat owning friends.

INTRODUCING A NEW KITTEN INTO THE HOME.

Kittens can make wonderful pets. They’re playful, tenacious and very inquisitive. Like any animal, they have their quirks and it can take them a little while to adjust to their new home. Here are five tips to make you’re kitten’s arrival into your family as smooth as possible.

Vaccinate and Desex

Before bringing your kitten home, it’s important he or she receives relevant health checks, flea treatment, vaccinations and desexing. You will also need to schedule a few booster vaccinations in their first year.

Kitten-proof the house.

To properly kitten-proof the house, you need to think like a kitten!

  • Find all small spaces a kitten might get into and fill the gaps with a block of wood or a towel
  • Remove poisonous plants such as lilies
  • Keeps cupboards closed and toilet lids down
  • Remove immediate dangers such as electrical cords.

 Prioritise food, comfort and warmth!

  • Kittens need extra protein for muscle and tissue development, fat for fatty acids and plenty of calories to keep up with their active lifestyle.
  • Cats are very clean animals and will instinctively want to bury their waste. It’s important their litter tray is separate from their living area and that it’s cleaned daily.
  • Mirror the kitten’s litter environment by creating a warm and safe home. Whether it’s a cat bed or a cardboard box with a blanket, your cat needs a place that's free from damp, draft and noise.

Take it slowly

Keep your kitten inside for at least two weeks, slowly introducing him or her to different rooms of the house. Introduce family members slowly too and when you do finally venture outside, start with short supervised stints in a contained area.

Keep playtime safe

Kittens love to climb, so anything that’s upright and slightly wobbly are immediate hazards. They also love to chew, so try and remove all things they could potentially choke on, like milk rings, cotton reels and bottle caps.

Safety Note

It’s recommended that children under five don’t interact with kittens. If you have school-aged children, teach them early about the kitten’s happy/angry signs (e.g. purring versus wagging tail).


Moving house with your cat

So you are about to move house and concerned about settling your cats into their new environment? Here's some handy tips on making the transition stress free and as safe as possible for your pet.

Cat owners are often concerned about the best way to settle their cat into a new home. Cats form definite attachments to places and often try to return to their old home, but a few precautions can ensure that your cat will accept their new address.

Packing and moving time

When it is time to move out of the old home make sure that you lock your cat in a secure room or cat carrier before the removalist arrives. Cats do not like change or disruption to their household and will often become uneasy when packing commences and may leave home rather than be in the midst of all the confusion. It is best to lock your cat securely in one room while packing to prevent this. It will also ensure your cat doesn't climb into a packing box, crate or even shipping container for a sleep and get sent off with the household goods!

Transporting your cat

Transport your cat to your new home in a secure cat carrier. Cats can become frightened by a car journey and may attempt to escape.

Releasing your  cat

When you arrive at your new address do not release your cat until all removalists, helpers and visitors have left and your new home is quiet. Before doing so, also check that all doors and windows are closed. If you have an open fireplace screen the chimney as frightened cats have been known to hide in a chimney.

Choose a room which you can dedicate to your cat for a few days. This will become their room until things settle down. Place their litter tray, food and water bowls and a sleeping bed or basket here. When the time is right, restrict your cat to one room and sit quietly with him/her. Your cat will explore every corner of the room and rub itself around the furniture to mark his/her scent and claim it as his/her territory.

If your cat is having trouble, or you know he or she may have trouble settling in, a calming pheromone dispenser may help considerably, please call your local clinic to discuss this.

Outside cats

If your cat is an outside cat, let him/her outside for short periods and stay with them. Do this for a few weeks until you are confident that they have a feeling of attachment to their new home. Cats are very territorial and it may be that a neighbours cat has claimed your new backyard as its territory. Your cat will have to claim this territory as its own so you may experience some hissing and posturing but generally cats will work things out for themselves. If you have ever thought of keeping your cat indoors, now is a good time to do so. Indoor cats generally live healthier and longer lives because they are less exposed to diseases from the cat community, such as FIV (Cat AIDs). If space permits, another option which can be considered is a cat enclosure.


The perfect pets for retirees

Retired and looking for a furry companion? An extra special sidekick to spend your days with?

It’s the time you’ve waited for when bumper-to-bumper in peak hour traffic, packed like a sardine on your daily train commute or when hurriedly eating lunch at your desk or taking minutes in meetings. We’re talking retirement. And it’s finally here. Only there’s just one thing …

When you’re home alone drinking your umpteenth cuppa, you miss mid-morning banter around the water cooler. When you’re out pumping the pavement on an afternoon walk, you miss knocking off on Fridays and after work drinks. You miss the contact, you miss the company and above all, maybe feeling a little lonely…

Problem solved. Insert a furry friend!

There’s no better time than retirement to introduce a four-legged friend into your home, your heart and your spanking new lifestyle. With more time up your sleeve to care for a pet, welcoming one into your home will not only give you a sense of purpose in what can be a daunting new chapter, welcoming a pet into your home ensures you’ll always have a trusty sidekick to share in the newfound memories you’re making.

Choosing a pet for retirement

When choosing a pet for retirement, as with choosing a pet in general, there are a few things to consider so that your pet doesn’t turn into a full-time job you can’t resign from!

  1. Consider how you wish to enjoy your time and find a pet that’s suited to the life you wish to lead. If you’re outdoorsy and active, perhaps a feisty pup that loves to run? If you enjoy reading and afternoon naps, perhaps a lop-eared rabbit who loves to cuddle?
  1. If travelling is an important part of your retirement plan, ensure you introduce a pet into your life that is capable of caring for itself in your absence, such as an aquarium of fish, or is able to easily be cared for by family, friends or local pet boarders, such as a calm breed of cat.
  1. Consider the costs involved in being a pet parent, including vet visits checkups when assessing if the pet you have in mind will meet your budget.
  1. With retirement come relaxation, and to ensure it stays that way, ensure you choose an animal whose upkeep you’re happy to meet. While budgies and birds are manageable for most, it takes a passionate person to take on the maintenance of a merino sheepdog’s mane!

Sharing your new life as a retiree with a pet will be the most pleasurable and rewarding if you take some time to consider your lifestyle, your financial situation and level of commitment prior to bringing them home. As with any relationship, if the one you build with your pet is based on a solid foundation, it will last the test of time and bring a lifetime of happiness.


10 cat myths uncovered

While the myth that cats have nine lives was debunked long ago, there remain a number of old wives’ tales that continue to steer many cat owners in the wrong direction.

Myth 1. Cats always land on their feet

Fact: Cats instinctively fall feet-first due to their flexible spine and "superior righting reflex". However, this is not to say that a cat can’t be injured in a fall.

 Myth 2. Milk is good for cats

Fact: While cats love milk and will readily lap up a whole saucer, it’s not good for their health. Most cats are lactose intolerant and can’t break down the enzymes in cow’s milk. For a special treat, you can give your cat lactose-free milk occasionally.

Myth 3. Pregnant women should not own cats

Fact: It is true that some cats (especially those who actively hunt) carry a disease called toxoplasmosis, which can harm an unborn baby. Pregnant women can catch the disease from a variety of sources, including through accidentally swallowing the parasite through contact with cat faeces.  However pregnant women can still own cats; they just need to be vigilant about washing their hands after close contact and avoid handling kitty litter. Pregnant women should consult their doctor for a blood test for Toxoplasmosis as most of us have been exposed already and have immunity.

Myth 4. Garlic keeps worms and fleas at bay

Fact: There is no scientific evidence that garlic prevents worms or fleas. In fact, garlic can actually cause anaemia in cats.

Myth 5. Cats eat grass when they’re sick

Fact: Grass is a natural laxative for cats, as it contains enzymes that cats can’t break down. Eating grass in small amounts is a safe and natural way for cats to regurgitate unwanted bones, feathers and furballs in their digestive tracts.

Myth 6. Butter on the paws keeps kitty from getting lost

Fact: If you are moving house, rubbing butter on your cat’s paws will do nothing more than provide a brief distraction. You can also consider using Feliway pheromone diffusers.

Myth 7. Cats can eat dog food

Fact: A regular diet of dog food can be extremely dangerous for your cat as it does not contain essential nutrients that your cat needs, such as taurine and arachidonic acid. Taurine deficiency can lead to blindness and heart disorders, and arachidonic acid can lead to dry, scaly skin. If your cat has a habit of eating the dog’s food, try to feed your cat and dog in separate areas at the same time and remove any leftovers.

Myth 8. Cats must be six months’ old to be desexed

Fact: With modern anaesthetics, most cats can now be safely desexed earlier. Check with your veterinarian about the best time to do this.

Myth 9. A cat with a bell will not catch birds

Fact: Cats are clever animals and learn quickly how to move so the bell doesn’t ring.  Some research suggests cats with bells are actually better at catching prey as they learn to move with more stealth.

Myth 10. Cats don’t need companionship

Fact: This is entirely dependent on the individual cat. Some cats are more independent than others but generally all cats need some companionship.  If you lead a busy lifestyle and spend long hours working it is advisable you have two cats, so they can keep each other company while you are out.


Welcoming an adopted pet into your household

Visiting a shelter, rescue home or a veterinarian to adopt a new pet is an exciting time for any new pet owner. There are so many things to think about when welcoming your new pet into your family, so we have picked five of the most important things to consider:

1. Make sure everyone in the house is prepared for the new pet

Prior to bringing home your new pet, discuss with your family any changes that may need to take place as well as committing to a consistent approach to training, using positive reinforcement and acceptable boundaries and rules for your new addition. This important step will prevent frustration and confusion and will also setup your new addition for success.

Here's a few things you might want to discuss and allocate responsibility to:

  • Feeding times and location - including a daily ‘treat budget' so your new addition stays trim and terrific
  • Exercise and playtime
  • Training (use positive reinforcement and a consistent approach for everyone )
  • Water - daily bowl change
  • Medication or prevention treatment e.g. providing regular doses of flea/ heartworm/ worming treatment
  • At home healthcare - checking teeth and providing dental care such as brushing teeth or feeding dental chews where required, checking ears and eyes and any other problem areas.
  • Grooming (such as brushing and washing)
  • Litter removal and disposal
  • Laundry for clean bedding
  • Veterinary care schedule (for regular check-ups and vaccination boosters)

2. Patience and persistence

When it comes to training and getting to know your pet's new personality and behaviour, patience is the key. It is possible to train an older pet but you will need to be persistent and positive!

3. Pet proof your home

If you are bringing home your first pet, you will quickly learn to be cautious of leaving things lying around the house. A chicken sandwich left on the kitchen counter may soon be your pet's next lunch. We recommend checking your home, garden and shed for potential poisons which could harm your pet. Also, check your fence and gates for escape routes as well as the fence height for dogs that are able to jump.

4. Go slowly when introducing your new pet to friends and family

t can take several weeks for a pet to relax in a new environment. It is a great idea to keep cats in a secluded room with all of his/ her goodies (toys/ scratching post/ litter tray) until he/ she is familiar with their new surroundings. Socialisation is important, but take it slowly for older pets.

5. Consider more than one pet 

In particular cats require exercise, mental stimulation, and social interaction which can be provided by having two cats. Similarly if your dog is left at home whilst you are at work during the day, another pal is a great idea. In saying this, every pet is different and some pets are more than happy to be left at home alone.

Finally, congratulations if you are already on a journey of pet adoption. No doubt your pet will bring you many moments of joy and become your new best friend. If you have any questions about adoption or how to care for your new pet please contact our pet health care team.