*More Divine Pet Care Tips coming soon!
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Senior Pet Care: Longevity Amid Prevention and Early Detection
9:27 pm pst
By Karen Lee Lopez
In June 2005, we lost our beautiful, 13-year-old German Shepherd mix, Baby Zoe, to complications stemming
from diabetes. She had cataracts in both eyes and was almost fully blind. We adopted Baby when I was 15 years old and my single-parent
household had limited financial means. We also knew very little about veterinary medicine at the time so Baby's diabetes
was further complicated by the fact that she was never spayed. I did everything imaginable to treat her condition and make
her comfortable. I had one of the best veterinary hospitals in NYC attending her and invested thousands of dollars but we
exhausted every medical possibility and there was nothing more we could do - it was too late. Losing Baby was one of the most
heartwrenching experiences in my life. Had we had the veterinary knowledge we have today, she may have lived to be 101.
Although many of us would like nothing more than to have our pets stay forever young, the reality, in the absence
of discovering the fountain of youth, is that our pets will inescapably age faster than us. This is why it is crucial that
we, as pet parents, take preventative measures to ensure our pets' health and detect probable or existing health issues
early. In order for us to successfully accomplish this, we need to understand our pets' natural aging process; learn
the signs and symptoms commonly associated with diseases specific to their species, breed, and gender; and the simple measures
we can take to prevent and detect these diseases before it's too late.
Normal Aging in
Cats & Dogs
As long as I can remember, pet owners have held the belief that every cat or dog
year is equivalent to seven human years and that hair graying is always a sign of aging. My adolescent-like, spayed, seven-year-old
Chihuahua mix, Rosie, started graying on her muzzle at age two so needless to say, experts do not consider this criteria for
aging cats and dogs an exact science; for example, a seven-year-old cat, according to PetEducation.com, an on-line expert pet education website, is generally considered to be 45 years old and a small, seven-year-old dog, is
generally considered to be 44 years old. According to PetEducation.com, cats, whose lifespans are generally longer than dogs,
are generally "considered to be senior when they are 8-10 years of age" and generally considered to be geriatric
when they are over 12 years of age. The age of a dog, on the other hand, is largely influenced by the size of the dog so a
seven-year-old 91 lb dog can be considered to be 56 years old not 44. In light of this, the belief that smaller dog breeds
have longer lifespans than larger dog breeds generally remains true.
Humans, cats, and dogs share similar signs
of aging. The following is a list of some normal signs of aging in cats and dogs: gray, thin, and dull hair; brittle nails;
thinner and drier skin; calluses (senior dogs); hardened foot pads and mammary glands; skin cysts and benign tumors (more
common in senior dogs); cataracts, nuclear sclerosis (cloudy eyes often confused with cataracts), and glaucoma; hearing, sight,
and smell loss; constipation; decreased heart, lung, liver, and kidney function due to aging organs; increased infection due
to decreased immune system function; weight gain (common in senior dogs due to slower metabolism) or loss (common in senior
cats due to decreased ability to absorb fats); decreased mobility or physical activity due to aging joints and loss of muscle
and bone mass; prostate enlargement (common in unneutered males); and stress and temperature intolerance.
Common Senior Cat & Dog Diseases and Associated Signs & Symptoms (the following diseases may affect cats & dogs):
- Periodontal/Gum Disease: Halitosis or bad breath;
gingivitis or swelling, reddening, and/or bleeding of gums; drooling; difficulty eating or swallowing food leading to weight
- Kidney Disease (Chronic Renal Failure or CRF most common in cats): Increased thirst and urination,
inappropriate elimination, appetite and weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy
- Hyperthyroidism: Increased
thirst, urination, inappropriate elimination, heart rate, respirations, appetite, activity; weight loss; vomiting
(mammary/breast cancer common in unspayed females): Abnormal masses/lumps and/or lesions; appetite and weight loss;
labored breathing; difficulty eliminating; lethargy
- Diabetes Mellitus (common in obese cats & dogs):
Increased thirst and urination, inappropriate elimination, decreased or increased appetite leading to weight loss or gain,
vomiting, lethargy, abnormal gait or walk (walking on hocks)
Difficulty standing up or rising, climbing, and/or jumping; joint stiffness; limping or lameness; muscle loss and
limb weakness; inappropriate elimination; pain
- Cataracts (common in dogs with diabetes): Cloudy
eyes, reduced vision
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Diarrhea, frequent defecation, blood or mucus in
stool, vomiting, weight loss
- Hypothryroidism: Weight gain or obesity, hair loss and dry skin, lethargy
- Prostate Disease (common in unneutered males): Urinary incontinence (involuntary urination or leaking
of urine), increased urination, straining to urinate and defecate, blood tinged urine, constipation, abnormal gait
are many other common diseases and conditions such as obesity, heart disease, and Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome or CDS (similar
to Alzheimer's) that affect cats and dogs.
Simple Measures Pet Parents can take
to Prevent & Detect Senior Cat & Dog Diseases Early:
- If you have a senior or geriatric pet, visit
your veterinarian at least once a year for a complete exam including laboratory testing (some or all tests may be performed
in-house) and thorough dental examination.
- Spay and neuter (preferably in kittenhood or puppyhood).
deworm, and administer heartworm and flea/tick preventatives according to your veterinarian's recommendations.
proper and adequate nutrition including dietary supplements if necessary (consider elevating food and water bowl for senior
- Provide proper and adequate behavioral or environmental enrichment (mental and physical stimulation) in the
form of exercise and play.
- Perform routine grooming such as brushing/combing, tooth brushing, nail trimming, and
check for abnormalities like lumps and lesions.
- Provide proper and adequate shelter and bedding and reduce or eliminate
exposure to harmful cleaning and disinfecting products and other potential environmental pollutants (consider investing in
- Monitor food and water intake and elimination.
- Hire in-home pet care
providers with professional veterinary experience like Divine Pet Care to care for your pet while you are at work or on vacation.
- Set aside savings for medical expenses and invest in pet medical insurance.
It's no secret that
pet care can be expensive; nevertheless, taking our pets' health for granted will inevitably proove to be even more expensive.
As pet parents, we need to educate ourselves about our pets' natural aging process; the signs and symptoms commonly associated
with diseases specific to our pets' species, breed, and gender; and follow the forementioned measures in an attempt to
prevent and detect these diseases early. In doing so, we will discover that longevity is feasible for our pets amid prevention
and early detection.
In loving memory of my Baby Zoe.
Please contact Divine Pet Care at
858-397-8338 if you are in need of medical pet care assistance, pet sitting, dog walking, basic grooming, pooper scooping, or
pet taxi and pet errand service.
Pet Care Services 101 (A MUST READ FOR PET PARENTS!!!)
9:00 pm pst
By Karen Lee Lopez
When on the hunt for pet care services it's easy to get bogged down by
the plethora of "seemingly" similar services offered across San Diego County but don't be fooled, there are vast
differences between pet care services and you'll need to do your homework before opening your wallet and leaving your furry
loved one with just anyone!
Pet Sitting/Dog Walking Services = In-your-pet's-home day and/or overnight
- Pet sitter/dog walker travels to your home
- Generally more economical
pet receives undivided attention and you can request the same pet sitter/dog walker
- Rates determined by length
of time selected to care for your pet (15-20 min, 30 min, 45 min, 60 min visits and 12 hour overnights are the most common)
and generally include feeding, play, dog walking, administration of minor medications, minor indoor/outdoor pooper scooping,
and misc. house care like trash to curb, mail pick-up, and plant watering
- Rates vary between companies and individuals
so a 30 min visit or dog walk, for example, ranges from $15-$25 and a 12 hour overnight ranges from $55-$85 with or without
a midday visit
- Most pet sitting companies or individuals offer strictly dog walking visits but not all dog walking
companies or individuals offer strictly pet sitting visits.
- Most pet sitting companies include dog walking in their
basic overnight rates so an evening and morning dog walk is usually included.
- There may be a surcharge for travel,
additional pets ($1-$10 per additional pet is the average depending on pet type), last minute, weekend, late night, early
morning, and holiday service.
- 24/7 service/staffing may be available
- When considering in-your-pet's-home pet
care services, the following are some essential questions you should ask:
- Is the pet sitter/dog walker an employee
or independent contractor/IC?
- If the pet sitter/dog walker is an IC, what sort of animal care training/experience do they have (you should
ask this question whether the pet sitter is an employee or IC) and what sort of ongoing training and supervision do they receive
(remember, an IC is not an employee)?
- Is the pet sitter/dog walker legally city licensed to work in the city
you live in (e.g., San Diego, Poway, Escondido, etc.)? *A pet sitting company can have an "army of pet sitters"
but what good is having an unlicensed/illegal and/or poorly trained/inexperienced and unsupervised pet sitter/dog walker.
the pet sitter/dog walker fully insured or bonded and insured? *If the pet sitter/dog walker is "fully insured"
it usually means they have general liability insurance as well as additional insurance covering loss or theft and property
damage including injury to your pet. According to Pet Sitters Associates, a pet sitting insurance company, "this is broader than most bonds as bonds cover only dishonest acts."
there a surcharge for travel, additional pets, last minute/weekend/late night/early morning, or holiday service?
the pet sitter a member and/or certified through professional pet sitting organizations like Pet Sitters International (PSI) or National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS)?
Boarding Facility/Kennel/Pet Resort/Pet Club/Doggie Day Care/Doggie Day Camp = Out-your-pet's-home
day and/or overnight pet care
- You must drop off and pickup your pet (some daycare/day camp services
offer free pickup and drop-off service)
- Your pet receives shared attention by various facility staff
more expensive than pet sitting/dog walking services (daycare/day camp is generally less expensive than overnight boarding)
determined by size of suite/room/run/cage (caged pet rates are generally based on size and pet type and are generally less
expensive), number of pets, holiday service, and additional services requested such as dog walks (dogs are generally rotated
to an outdoor run/courtyard for a short potty break and are not walked unless service is requested), play, and administration
of medication (these services are generally not included in the basic rates)
- Rates vary but the average rate, for
example, for a single, small, dog suite/room/run/cage is $30 for overnight boarding and $25 for daycare. Cat rates are generally
a bit less expensive.
- When considering out-your-pet's-home pet care services, the following are some essential questions
you should ask:
- Is the facility an inspected and accredited member of Pet Care Services Association (PCSA) formerly known as American Boarding Kennel Association?
- Can you tour the facility (assess
security and safety e.g., enclosures/fencing, staff professionalism, pet supervision, sanitation)?
- Are reservations
- What is the health/vaccination and acceptance policy? *Pets need to be in good health and current on their
vaccinations prior to boarding/daycare. Some boarding/daycare services will not accept unneutered pets.
- Do they
accept dogs with interdog aggression (dogs aggressive toward other dogs)? *Boarding/daycare may not be the best pet care option
in this case however, some professional dog training facilities also offer boarding/daycare. Experienced pet sitters with
strong animal behavior experience are also a good pet care option.
- Do they offer 24/7 service/staffing? *Most
overnight boarding and daycare facilities do not.
- How much animal care experience does the staff have?
there an annual membership fee in addition to basic fees?
- Do they charge for feeding your pet its regular
diet (beware, some boarding facilities do)?
The bottom line when searching for pet care service is
you need to screen pet care services the same way you would a babysitter and you need to choose a service that best matches
your pet's emotional and physical needs. Research pet care services on-line, contact multiple references (testimonials are
not enough), conduct background checks, interview prospective pet sitters/dog walkers or request a tour of boarding/daycare
facilities, and ask for proof of qualifications and credentials. You can also contact the Better Business Bureau (BBB)
to find out about the reputation of pet care services and if there are any complaints against them.
Divine Pet Care: 858-397-8338, email@example.com, PO Box 503595, San Diego, CA 92150 / San Diego, CA 92126