“Mikey,” a 9-year-old Labrador, refuses to go down the short set of steps to the yard. Instead, he stays inside and urinates and defecates near the back door. 

“Jester,” a 14-year-old Siamese cat, no longer runs to the kitchen at the sound of the can opener. He sleeps during the day and spends most nights howling outside his owner’s bedroom door.

“Ginny,” a 12-year-old Cocker Spaniel, spends hours staring at the wall and has no interest in retrieving her favorite toy.

What do these three senior pets have in common? They may be suffering the usual effects of aging: arthritis for “Mikey;” hearing loss for “Jester;” and blindness for “Ginny” — or they may all have Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome.

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) is the result of degenerative brain aging that leads to lost or reduced memory, ability to learn, attention span, and understanding. For comparison, CDS is thought to be similar to Alzheimer’s Disease.

What are the signs? Typical behavior in pets with Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome are divided into categories labeled DISH.

  • Disorientation: the pet wanders, seems lost or confused and may not recognize familiar people; doesn’t respond to his name; he may get “stuck” in corners or behind furniture; he may stare into space or at walls
  • Interaction changes: the pet may walk away while being petted, doesn’t greet her owners, and seems aloof or detached
  • Sleep and activity changes: the pet may sleep more during the day, but stay awake at night, and no longer wants to play; he may wander or pace and have less purposeful activity
  • Housesoiling: the pet doesn’t signal the need to go out and has accidents in the house

    Is he lost in thought – or just lost?

What’s next? The veterinarian will check your pet for other medical issues that may be related to aging, such as arthritis, loss of vision or hearing, incontinence, or a disease process (kidney disease or diabetes, for example.) Some symptoms may be the result of medications that the pet is taking. Changes in the pet’s environment can also cause behavioral problems. Of course, a pet can have age-related problems at the same time he is experiencing the effects of brain aging.

Is there a cure for Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome? There is no cure, but nutritional and medical intervention can slow the progression of the disorder and return some cognitive function.

What are the options? Treatment may consist of a diet change. For instance, Hill’s Pet Nutrition has formulated its b/d Diet to address brain aging through the use of antioxidants that protect brain cells from destructive free radicals. [Learn more about free radicals here.]

Another option is Anipryl, a prescription drug that enhances dopamine production, allowing brain cells to better communicate with each other. Anipryl is not right for every dog, though, and certain endocrine function tests must be performed first, to determine suitability. Also, Anipryl is not recommended to treat aggression in dogs.

For cats, mental stimulation can help with cognitive function. Keep your cat busy climbing, exploring, searching for treats, and using its natural hunting instincts.

Where do I start? If you suspect your pet has Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, schedule a physical exam for her. Keep a journal of the pet’s behavior leading up to the visit. Contact us and ask to receive a Behavior History Form to help track your pet’s activity. Bring the form with you to your pet’s appointment.

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Resources:
“Brain Health and Behavioral Changes in Dogs,” a Hill’s Pet Nutrition publication;
Anipryl brochure, a Pfizer Animal Health publication;
“Senior Pet Care and Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome,” by David Merrick and Dr. Gary Landsberg

A version of this post originally appeared on Sept. 5, 2012.

Service dogs are life-savers for the people who depend on them.

Woman and dog seated at table

Can you train a dog to change someone’s life?
[Photo by Cottonbro via Pexels]

Have you ever wondered where guide dogs and service dogs come from? The answer is: homes like yours!

Before heading off to their new job of assisting people with disabilities ranging from impaired vision to autism to physical limitations, puppies must be extensively trained and socialized. People just like you raise these pups with professional guidance from organizations such as Leader Dogs for the Blind and Service Dogs of Virginia.

Trainers take on this task expecting a bittersweet ending: saying “good-bye” to the graduate pup, but knowing that it will make a difference in someone’s life.

If you are interested in raising and training a pup for an assistance organization – even if you already have a pet of your own – click the links above. You can learn more about where to acquire a pup, who pays the vet bills, and even fill out an application online.

Canine Companions for Independence has been providing assistance dogs, free of charge, to people in need since 1975. CCI assistance dogs help disabled people live more independently — in a sense, acting as the person’s extra set of hands.

The assistance dogs are trained to retrieve items, turn lights on and off, open doors, shut drawers, help with clothing, and more. CCI dogs can also be trained to help the non-hearing, assist disabled veterans, and work in healthcare or education facilities.

[CCI dogs are not trained for health/medical alerting, guiding the blind, etc. More information can be found on the FAQ page.]

You may not ever need a CCI assistance dog, but if you’d like to be involved with their program, check out www.cci.org/GiveADogAJob. You’ll find options for donating funds, raising a puppy, and participating in Dog Fest Walk’N Roll.

What is That in the Litterbox? Dealing With Diarrhea in Cats

Cat staring at camera

Is your cat trying to tell you something? (Photo by Immortal Shots, via Pexels)

By Morris Animal Foundation

Cats’ fastidious behavior when it comes to poop makes it easy to clean up, but also can mask changes in stool that would signal a potential health problem. Although diarrhea is less of a problem in cats than dogs, there are some similarities between the two species when it comes to underlying causes – as well as a few differences.

As a rule, veterinarians divide diarrhea into two broad categories based on where in the intestinal tract the diarrhea originates – small bowel (originating in the small intestine) and large bowel (originating in the large intestine). Although unpleasant, paying attention to stool quality of your pet can give your family veterinarian valuable clues to point them toward a diagnosis and best treatment.

Characteristics of small-bowel diarrhea include:
*Large volume
*Usually watery
*Frequency might or might not be increased

Diseases that cause small-bowel diarrhea in cats include intestinal viruses, intestinal parasites, cancer, hyperthyroidism and chronic enteropathy (inflammatory bowel disease)

Characteristics of large-bowel diarrhea include:
*Small volume
*Usually semi-formed or cow-patty consistency
*Increased frequency of defecation with straining
*Often contains mucus

Diseases that cause large-bowel diarrhea include stress colitis, intestinal parasites and megacolon (more on this condition later).

Sometimes, we can see characteristics of both small- and large-bowel diarrhea in a cat. This can occur when a disease process involves both the small and large bowel. We also can see this pattern when a patient starts with small-bowel diarrhea that causes secondary irritation of the large bowel.

Blood in the stool can be noted in both small- and large-bowel diarrhea.

Blood in the stool can take several forms:
*Digested blood from the stomach or small intestine results in black, tarry stools. This can be a challenge to diagnose in cats since their stools tend to normally be dark in color.

*Fresh streaks of blood mixed in the stool or coating the stool usually indicate a large-bowel problem

Concurrent vomiting is more common with small intestinal diseases although some studies suggest that vomiting occurs in 30% of cats suffering from large-bowel problems.

Hyperthyroidism in cats frequently causes diarrhea and can be easily overlooked in a diagnostic work-up for diarrhea. Many routine bloodwork panels for cats have a screening test for this disease.

Another disease seen almost exclusively in cats is megacolon. This disease begins when cats become constipated. The large intestine stretches but loses tone which leads to more constipation. Cats will often leak a little loose stool around the hard feces which can be interpreted by a cat owner as diarrhea. Megacolon is easily diagnosed on a physical examination and via X-ray.

If your cat has diarrhea, call your family veterinarian for guidance. In some cases, the loose stools will resolve without treatment. Your family veterinarian is the best person to help decide if and when further diagnostics or treatment is needed.

Morris Animal Foundation has funded more than 50 studies and invested $1.2 million dollars in studies focused on gastrointestinal tract problems. We’re on the cutting edge of gastrointestinal research, from the use of probiotics to studies looking at the gut microbiome. Check out all our studies and learn how you can help cats everywhere have longer, healthier lives.

There are so many things going on in September that we can’t fit them all on our Facebook header.

Here’s the list, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association:

September is…

*Catalyst Council’s Happy Cat Month
*Animal Pain Awareness Month ​

*National Disaster Preparedness Month
*Pet Sitter Education Month
*National Food Safety Education Month
*National Service Dog Month
*Responsible Dog Ownership Month

National Iguana Awareness Day
September 8

National Pet Memorial Day
September 8
Second Sunday in September

National Teach Ag Day
September 19

National Elephant Appreciation Day
September 22

National Deaf Dog Awareness Week
September 22-28
Last full week of September starting with a Sunday

Sea Otter Awareness Week
September 22-28
Last full week of September starting with a Sunday

National Farm Safety & Health Week
TBA

World Rabies Day
September 28​

Which event is most important to you?

Little Creek Veterinary Clinic will be closed on Friday, September 6th, due to expected hurricane conditions.

As soon as we are able to safely return to the office, we will inspect the building and contents, and determine when to re-open. Much of the decision is dependent, also, on whether or not there is a power outage in our area. 

At this time, it is unknown if we will be open Saturday, Sept. 7th or closed for the weekend.

We will update our website and Facebook page as more information becomes available.

Clients with appointments scheduled for Saturday will be notified of our status, directly, when possible.

Emergencies, call 757-499-5463.

Stay safe!

 

Storm sign

At Little Creek Veterinary Clinic, we are optimistically scheduling patient appointments for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday this week (Sept. 5-7).

However, if Hurricane Dorian arrives on our shores, we will close for safety’s sake, until the storm has passed and we have determined the building and its contents are ready for action.

We will make every effort to reschedule our Thursday, Friday, and Saturday patients, if our clinic must close due to the storm.

Please be aware that some vaccines and medications may be in short supply, due to shipping restrictions and business closings during rough weather. We will notify you if your pet’s appointment will be affected by shortages.

Read our post with links on Disaster Planning here.

Read our posts with links on storm stress in pets here and here.

 

If you or any member of your household is using 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) cream, it is important that the medication is never within reach of your pets.

5-fluorouracil is typically prescribed to treat skin cancers and other skin disorders in people. Its mode of action, which causes cell death, can be fatal to pets that ingest the cream. 

And according to the FDA, a pet may be exposed: 

  • by chewing through the medication packaging (often a tube)
  • when licking their owner who has applied the cream on themselves
  • by coming in contact with 5-FU residue on hands, clothing, carpets, furniture
  • by ingesting residue in cloths or medication applicators
  • when grooming itself after contact with a person who uses 5-FU (more likely in cats).

Time is not on your side:

Within 30 minutes of ingestion, a pet may begin vomiting and exhibiting tremors, ataxia (loss of muscle coordination, trouble walking), and seizures. Death can occur within six hours after exposure.

Treatment may not be available or effective:

Unfortunately, “there is no defined effective treatment for 5-FU toxicosis in dogs and cats,” according to a report in Vetted™ magazine, a professional veterinary publication. Exposure to even a small amount of 5-fluorouracil can be fatal to pets, even with aggressive emergency care.

If you believe your pet has been exposed to any medication intended for humans, immediately contact an animal poison control hotline, such as

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435*    or

Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-764-7661*

*A fee will be applied to your credit card.

And be sure you know the location of the nearest pet emergency hospital. In Hampton Roads, we recommend Bay Beach and BluePearl.

Your best bet is prevention:

If you or someone in your household uses 5-fluorouracil [it may also be packaged as Carac, Efudex, or Fluoroplex], take special care to prevent your pet from any contact, no matter how small, with the drug. When discarding spent tubes, applicators, or anything that has contacted the medication, place the trash bag in an area that is inaccessible by your pets. Laundry that may contain traces of the medication should also be placed out of reach.

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Information for this article is condensed from Vetted™, August 2019, Volume 114, Number 8