A wealth of resources for general pet health and wellness.

Why Do Cats Need Regular Pet Sitting Visits?

Contrary to popular belief, cats ARE social animals. While they may not be greeting you at the door with a wagging tail, they do enjoy the companionship of their human servants (US!) Learn more about how cats benefit from regular cat sitting visits.

Colorado Canine Orthopedics & Rehab

I visited my friends at Colorado Canine Orthopedics & Rehab (and brought my human, Susan, to take lots of fun photos!) Read more to find out what services they offer, and why I give them 4 PAWS UP!

Could Your Home Pass a Pet Safety Test?

Our goal at PlayTime Pet Sitters & Dog Walkers is to keep your pets healthy and safe, whether in your care or ours. Check off your pet safety list with our following lists of common household dangers. 

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Coping with Fireworks

Some pets are calm little souls and barely flinch at a startling crash or bang. Others find them unbearable. New Year’s Eve is infamous for clamorous sounds, none of which rattle your pets quite like fireworks. Though the raucousness of welcoming in the New Year can be difficult to avoid, there are ways to help your […]

Fish Need Love & Attention Too!

A common disease that is seen in many pet fish is called Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, also known as Ich. Ich is caused by a protozoan organism that is currently one of the most common parasites to infect fish.

Ferret Health

Cunning and persistent, lively and gregarious, ferrets have become popular household pets. But owning a pet ferret is not always fun and games. They require just as much care and attention as a dog or a cat, as well as proper diet and adequate housing.

Common Health Concerns

Not everybody wants or needs a pedigree dog. That’s one of the reasons why mixed breed dogs have always been (and most likely will remain) so popular among dog lovers. These dogs are truly one-of-a-kind with individual markings, personalities and qualities all their own.

Arthritis & Obesity


When It Hurts to Move: Helping Your Arthritic Dog Cut the Fat

Jenifer Merchant-Sullivan

Sheba, a Labrador retriever/shepherd mix, started “filling out” when she was just two years old, but it wasn’t until she hit midlife that her owner realized the seriousness of Sheba’s gradual but continuous weight gain.

At age seven, Sheba suffered a painful ligament tear in her knee, an injury brought on by her unhealthy size. In five years, she had ballooned to 35 pounds over her ideal weight.

Surgery to repair the ligament was successful — albeit expensive — but Sheba’s owner knew her dog had to shed some pounds to relieve arthritis pain and prevent the ligament in her other knee from tearing.

Unfortunately, cases like Sheba’s are fairly common said Ernie Ward, DVM, founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP). A 2007 study done by APOP showed that approximately 43% of dogs — 32 million — were overweight or obese.

Like Sheba, many obese dogs suffer from joint pain that is made worse, or even caused by, the extra pounds. And that can make owners wonder if they’re facing a catch-22: Weight loss will ease their dog’s pain, but because of the pain, their dog just can’t move around enough to lose the weight. Right?

Yes and no. Although painful dogs are understandably reluctant to play a vigorous game of seek-and-destroy the tennis ball — or even amble around the block — Ward said that by combining pain management with low-impact exercises and a strict diet, these dogs can lose the weight they need to.

Sheba is proof. Under Ward’s care, she lost those 35 pounds in six months and has more energy and vitality than ever. Ward also said that Sheba is no longer at risk for obesity-related conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and even some forms of cancer.

“Unfortunately, it took a crisis for this to happen,” said Ward, “But now the dog is in better shape than she has been in years.”

That’s great, but how?

Ask the Experts
Before putting your dog on a treadmill, meet with your veterinarian. A weight loss program for any dog should be done under the care of a veterinarian, and this is even more important if your dog has an underlying issue such as arthritis.

Your veterinarian will assess your dog’s body condition and might want to test for diseases that cause weight gain, such as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease.

You and your veterinarian can then work together to create a safe diet and exercise plan that matches your dog’s needs and limitations. The doctor might also refer you to a veterinary nutritionist.

Reduce Calories
You might not realize how frequently you hand your dog a treat or table scrap. To see how much your dog really eats, write down every morsel for several days. You may be surprised.

One of the best ways to cut back the calories is to change the types of treats you use. Ward suggests using carrot sticks or fresh green beans because dogs like their crunchy texture.

Ease Pain
“If they are in pain they won’t exercise,” said Pam Nichols, DVM, CCRP, at AAHA-accredited Animal Care Center in West Bountiful, Utah. “It becomes a vicious cycle. They will go from fat to fatter because they aren’t moving.”

There are many pain relief options available, including heated dog beds, prescription medications, acupuncture, massage, and Reiki. Your veterinarian will help you decide where to start by assessing your dog’s pain and taking into account other factors specific to your pet, such as medications you may be giving for other health concerns.

Walk It Off
If your dog has arthritis pain, too much rest can do as much harm as too little. Daily, low-impact exercise eases joint pain and stiffness and increases flexibility. The resulting weight loss will reduce the pressure on your dog’s joints, and stronger muscles will stabilize and protect them. [Pet sitters are great at helping your pets get the exercise they need!]

Nichols suggests simply increasing the number of steps your dog takes each day. “Take him out to get the mail with you and have him come with you when you go to another room of the house,” she said.

Another way to add a few paces is to change out the food bowl for a food-dispensing toy. Pushing and following the toy will reduce boredom and keep your dog up and moving.

When your dog is ready for longer walks, look for flat terrain and soft surfaces, such as grassy areas or a track.

Hydrotherapy — using water resistance to improve fitness — is another effective option that most dogs enjoy. The water supports the dog, so weight is taken off the joints. A submerged treadmill will keep your dog moving at a safe pace and can be adjusted as your dog’s fitness improves.

With a strict diet, exercise, and veterinary supervision, a dog can safely lose 7% to 9% of his body weight in a month, Ward said.

For more extensive information and helpful tips, visit our friends at Your Dog Advisor

6 Signs of Stress in Dogs

dog-lip-lickingLip Licking – When a dog is anxious, she will often quickly stick out her tongue and lick her lips. It’s usually just a fast, little flick. Watch your dog; this is one of the most common sign.

dog-yawningYawning – This is often mistaken for contentment. The dog is surrounded by kids, and she lets out a big yawn. Isn’t that sweet? Nope, it’s a sign that she’s in over her head and would  appreciate your help.

dog-freezingFreezing – Watch out! Dogs typically freeze right before they snap or bite. That may sound obvious, but one of the scariest things I ever saw was when an owner told me, “Lucy loves to have kids hug her. Look how still she is.” Lucy did not bite, but it was a heart stopping.

dog-half-moon-eyeMoving Slowly –Basically the dog is trying to model the behavior she’d like to see. She’s trying to slow down and calm down in the hopes that everyone else will too.

Dementia in Cats as Well as Dogs – Senility Trend In People Also Occurring In Animals

Thornton Penny, a Shih Tzu-poodle mix, was increasingly forgetful, often coming into a room and then being unable to find her way out. She slept during the day, wandered at night and showed little interest in eating. A visit to her veterinarian, Robin Downing of Windsor, Colo., found no obvious reason such as an ulcer or cancer for Penny’s behavior.

After ruling out health problems that could cause similar signs, Downing suspected that Penny had cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) — what in humans is called senility or Alzheimer’s disease. She recommended a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and other antioxidants and prescribed a drug called selegiline, or Anipryl, which affects attentiveness and the sleep-wake cycle.

“We saw a difference within 30 days,” Downing says. “That medication altered her concentrations of brain chemicals and altered her behavior for the better.”

As dogs and cats live longer — thanks to improved nutrition, better veterinary care and home environments — they’re developing problems of old age that previously were rarely seen in pets simply because they never made it to extreme old age, which is upwards of 20 years for cats and small dogs, and about 12 or 13 years for medium and large dogs.

“The older they get, the more signs they get,” says Melissa J. Bain, a veterinarian at the University of California School of Veterinary Medicine in Davis.

Recent research has shown that nearly a third of 11- and 12-year-old dogs and two-thirds of 15- and 16-year-old dogs have significant cognitive impairment. In cats, as many as 80 percent of those over the age of 16 show signs of senility.

Penny will be 19 in June, so she’s at the far end of the age spectrum for dogs. But physically she’s still in reasonably good condition. What’s important for Penny and dogs and cats like her is that diet and medication, as well as control of underlying conditions that contribute to CDS, can often help slow the progress of CDS and improve quality of life.

Signs of senility

The acronym DISH spells out the behaviors often seen in dogs and cats with CDS:

  • Disorientation such as walking aimlessly, staring at walls, getting “stuck” in corners or losing balance and falling, is common.
  • Interactions with people change. The dog or cat that once greeted you at the door and loved being petted now ignores you or even hides under the bed.
  • Sleep habits reverse. Pets that once snored through the night now prowl and yowl — keeping everyone else from getting any shut-eye — then sleep during normal waking hours.
  • House-training goes by the wayside. They seem to forget where the litter box is or how to use the pet door to go outside.

While some of these behaviors can be chalked up to cognitive misfires, others have simpler causes that are treatable with medication or simple environmental changes.

For instance, loss of house-training may be due less to senility than to aching joints.

Coping Tips For Senile Pets…

Here are some steps you can take to help your aging dog or cat:

  • Maintain a routine so your pet eats or goes for walks at the same times every day.
  • Give medication time to work, at least a couple of months.
  • Consider feeding a diet containing high levels of antioxidants.
  • Keep your pet’s brain sharp with play and training. In one study, dogs with CDS that received both an antioxidant-fortified diet and obedience training progressed much more slowly than dogs that received neither.
  • Add more litter boxes, especially if you live in a two-story home. Steps, a ramp or a cut-out your cat can walk through can make it easier for the animal to get in and out of the box.
  • Ask your veterinarian about pain relief for pets with arthritis.

“When they lose their litter-box training, it’s not that there’s anything wrong with their intention,” Gunn-Moore says. “It’s that they can’t get into the box or they can’t crouch their bottom down properly because of arthritis in the hips and knees.”

The same holds true for dogs. A dog with arthritic hips won’t have much incentive to use a pet door that bangs its rear end as it goes out or comes in. Underlying urinary tract infections also can contribute to loss of house-training. Pets with kidney disease or diabetes often have urine that looks sterile under a microscope but may actually be seething with bacteria.

“Unless [vets are] taking a … sample and culturing it, they are missing a lot of urinary tract infections,” Gunn-Moore says. “I’ve had two in the last month with undiagnosed urinary tract infections. Something as simple as the right antibiotics makes such a difference.”

Get their pressure checked High blood pressure is another issue facing older pets. You thought only Grandma Kate got hypertension? Think again. High blood pressure is common in aging pets, especially if they have ailments such as kidney disease or Cushing’s disease, a condition caused by the production of too much adrenal hormone.

How is that linked to senility? Just as in people, hypertension takes a toll on blood vessels in the brain. Many cases of senility in humans are related to chronic high blood pressure, Gunn-Moore says. The good news for animals is that medication can help lower it to safer levels.

The best thing you can do for your older pet is to be alert to changes in behavior. Downing believes that’s why Penny responded so well to medication, becoming more interested in going for walks and interacting more with her owners.

“I think I had a chance to intervene with her earlier than I would have in a typical pet because her owners were so tuned in to her and the subtleties of her behavior,” she says. “They picked up early that something wasn’t quite right.”

by Kim Thornton

Kim Campbell Thornton is an award-winning author who has written many articles and more than a dozen books about dogs and cats. She belongs to the Dog Writers Association of America and is past president of the Cat Writers Association. She shares her home in California with two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and one African ringneck parakeet.