Archive for the ‘Other Pets’ Category

How to Disinfect Your Home Without Harming Your Pet

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

By Dr. Karen Becker for Mercola

STORY AT-A-GLANCE

  • Since the COVID-19 pandemic, some people are more concerned than ever about keeping their spaces clean, but some may forget to read and heed warning labels on cleaners
  • The Pet Poison Helpline reported a 100% increase in phone traffic from panicked pet owners due to pets inhaling, ingesting or having skin contact with common but poisonous household cleaners
  • Bleach and ammonia are common cleaners that are potentially lethal to pets, but mixing them with other substances can make them even worse
  • Experts say highly reactive chemicals may be effective in killing bacteria and viruses, but that’s also what makes them respond to others, creating new toxic chemicals
  • While large dogs may also be affected, small dogs and cats are much closer to the source of toxins on the floor after cleaning, disinfecting or deodorizing, and may be increasingly harmed over time

Since the first warnings of the dangers of COVID-19 emerged, the U.S. has been inundated with advice from doctors, scientists and government officials regarding how people should behave to avoid contamination.

Besides the handwashing, social distancing and mask wearing that humans have been advised to practice, it only makes sense for pet owners to think about how to protect their pets’ sensitive skin, organs and nasal passages if you’re using harsh cleaners in your home.

But some have forgotten to read and heed the warning labels on cleaning and sanitizing agents, and pets as well as humans have been harmed because of it. Remember, a dog’s sense of smell is thousands of times greater than a human’s, and their chemical sensitivity potentially much greater (they don’t shower regularly to remove the accumulated chemicals).

In fact, since the first reports of what’s been termed a pandemic, Pet Poison Helpline has reported a 100% increase in phone traffic from panicked pet owners due to exposure to common household products that ended up injuring a vulnerable pet, from cats and dogs to birds, reptiles and numerous other exotic species.

Sadly, that can happen more easily than some people may think, especially when it comes to bleach, hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes, observed Bluefield Daily Telegraph, based in West Virginia. According to Ahna Brutlag, DVM, a senior veterinary toxicologist:

“People are very concerned about their families during this COVID-19 crisis. That includes their pets. When we started receiving calls from panicked pet parents regarding possible poisonings related to COVID-19 cleaning fears, we felt we needed to educate the pet loving community on the safest way to do it.”1

Everybody wants their home to be clean, but harsh and even toxic chemicals are being used on a more frequent basis in more households, and accidents do happen. For example, someone with an open jug of bleach on the floor next to their washing machine might not realize how easy it would be to knock over.

Brutlag says if a dog or cat walks through the spilled substance, it could cause skin irritation since it can be absorbed so easily into their paw pads. But if the animal licked its paws while self grooming, the chemical’s contact with their delicate internal organs could lead to stomach irritation, diarrhea, vomiting and worse.

Some Cleaners Are Harsh, but Mixing Them Can Be Deadly

Bleach is potentially toxic on its own, but mixing it with many other cleaners can create noxious fumes. Potentially deadly combinations include bleach with ammonia, which creates chlorine gas; bleach with vinegar, which creates a chlorine gas so toxic it was used in World War I; and bleach with rubbing alcohol, says Vy Dong, professor at the University of California Irvine and head of the Dong Research Group.2

Alexander Lu from Dong Research Group notes that bleach is comprised of “highly reactive chemicals that make it effective at killing bacteria and viruses, but its high reactivity is also what makes it respond to other chemicals, which can result in new toxic chemicals.”3

While both toilet bowl cleaner and bleach are commonly used in the bathroom, they can be a lethal combination due to the fumes created. Use one or the other, and again, make sure you have good ventilation and that your pet isn’t in the room. Dong had this to say about various chemical combinations:

“Molecules are like people with their own personalities and how they behave depends on who they are around … unless you understand the personalities of all the molecules in your bottle, don’t try this at home.”4

They may seem tame in comparison, but even a combination of hydrogen peroxide and vinegar forms a chemical called peracetic acid, which is corrosive enough to break down surfaces, as well as being toxic.

Hand sanitizer can become a hazard because of its high alcohol content, Brutlag says. If an animal should swallow enough of it, symptoms could arise in as little as a half hour, necessitating a call to either the animal’s veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline.

Rubbing alcohol, especially concentrated alcohol levels from 70% to 99%, may be good for cleaning, but mixed with bleach it turns into chloroform, which can cause unconsciousness, and chloroacetone, another tear gas. Both are described as “toxic and dangerous.”5


Many Cleaners Are Potentially Dangerous

Steps you can take to avoid problems include placing your dog in his crate (and your cat in a closed room) while using chemical-based cleaning products on your floors, bathrooms or laundry. But some might use such cleaners on the cages themselves. The ASPCA notes that it’s the dilution of bleach in water that’s important:

“Pet parents are often curious about the risks associated with cleaning their pets’ cages and toys with bleach. The bottom line is this: cleaning your pet’s cage or toy with a properly diluted bleach solution, followed by a thorough rinsing and airing out, is not expected to cause harm. If the odor of bleach seems overwhelming, open windows and use fans to air the room.”6

One reason pets are so susceptible to chemical odors is because their systems are more sensitive, so the level of exposure for them is much higher than it is for humans. Even if you have a large dog — and especially if you have a cat or small dog — they’re much closer to the source of the toxins that are on the floor. Breathing them constantly would be not only unpleasant, but increasingly harmful over time.

Other substances many homeowners with pets wouldn’t think twice about using include carpet deodorizers that are shaken or sprayed on and left to sit for a period of time before vacuuming. Pets can easily walk through the room and inhale it or get it on their paws, and ingest it secondarily to grooming.

One way to protect both you and your pets is to make sure you thoroughly wipe down any surface with pure water after using conventional disinfectants. I use a medical-grade colloidal silver product around my house (proven to address aggressive viruses and bacteria) to safely address bacteria and viruses without risk to me or my furry family members.

If you opt for conventional chemical cleaning agents with poison control warnings on the label, make sure you (and your pets) have plenty of ventilation. Further:

“While we’re stuck at home trying to sanitize everything in sight, it might be tempting to get creative with mixing household chemicals to try to get your home as clean as possible. However, mixing household cleaners can be dangerous due to the chemical makeup of the unique cleaners … It’s highly recommended to stick to using one household cleaner at a time per surface to avoid mixing chemicals.”7

Better yet, opt for only natural cleaning products in your home, here’s a link to a Facebook Live I did about effective and non-toxic household cleaning products you can feel good about using around animals.

If you are still using conventional chemical cleaning products and notice changes in your pets, don’t hesitate to call the Pet Poison Helpline8 at 800-213-6680, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, for information regarding potential poisoning of all animal species.

Pigs as Pets – What You’re Not Being Told

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020

From : https://healthypets.mercola.com/

STORY AT-A-GLANCE – By Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

  • Breeders may label their pigs mini in comparison to farm pigs, which may reach 1,000 to 2,000 pounds, but so-called teacup and micro pigs will typically reach 100-plus pounds
  • There’s no such thing as a micro pig; breeders may tell new owners to underfeed piglets to stunt their growth and keep them small
  • Some so-called micro pigs are actually commercial breeds originally intended for food and may even reach 500 pounds
  • It’s estimated that 90% of pigs adopted as pets in the U.S. end up being taken to a rescue when they become too large for their owners to handle
  • If you understand that even a “micro pig” will grow into a large animal that can easily weigh over 100 pounds, and you have the adequate space and necessary resources, adopting a pig in need of a home may be right for you

At first glance, micro or teacup pigs, which are said to be small versions of their farmyard counterparts, seem like a perfect pet. They’re undoubtedly adorable and have above-average intelligence when it comes to barnyard animals. Pigs can make excellent companions and may even be trained to go for walks, do tricks and use a litterbox or go potty outdoors.

This allure has made pigs popular pets in the U.S., especially because breeders often promise that the micro pigs will stay small. Fast-forward a few years later, however, and the owners find themselves with a pig that has kept growing and growing.

Unable to adequately handle and care for an animal that weighs hundreds of pounds, many owners surrender their “micro” pigs to rescue organizations, which are feeling the strain of the micro pig myth.

Speaking with The Guardian, Kevin Kersley, who breeds knee-height KuneKune pigs, calls micro pigs a “fallacy,” stating, “Unscrupulous people tend to breed the runts of the litter to try to decrease the size of the pig, but genetically the original size is built into the offspring, even though its parents may be small.”1

Micro Pigs Are a Myth

The idea that your tiny piglet is going to stay small or only grow to the size of a small dog is one of the greatest misconceptions surrounding pigs as pets. The California Potbellied Pig Association (CPPA) explained:

“A 60 lb. mature pig is actually very rare, despite long standing myths to the contrary. Also be aware that 100 lbs. to 150 lbs. weight is only achieved with a strict diet. A 300 lb. potbellied pig is not uncommon if it is overfed, and a 300 lb. pig could be very difficult to transport, and it will probably suffer many health problems.”2

Pig Inn Heaven, a U.K.-based pig sanctuary, explains, “A micro pig is a piglet, then it grows.”3 Sadly, breeders may even tell new owners to feed their “micro pig” only a small amount of food in order to keep it small. One woman was feeding her micro pig one-half cup of food twice a day at the breeder’s instruction, only to find it raiding the pantry and trash can. A veterinarian told her the pig was actually starving.

Further, the pig, which was supposed to grow to be only 12 inches tall, ended up reaching 20 inches tall and 180 pounds, at which point she was brought to a pig rescue, Lil’ Orphan Hammies, in California.

The problem has gotten so bad that the North American Potbellied Pig Association estimated that 90% of pigs adopted as pets in the U.S. end up being taken to a rescue.4 Sue Parkinson of Lil’ Oprhan Hammies told CBS News, “There are not enough homes out there anymore. These pigs are in big trouble.”5

Pet Pig Problems

There are other common problems with owning a pig as a pet, such as where to find veterinary care. Most cat and dog veterinarians don’t treat pigs, which may be considered farm animals, not pets. As such, you’ll need to find a veterinarian who specializes in such animals, which means you may need to travel some distance and be able to transport your very large pig for regular veterinary care.

What’s more, owning a pig may not be legal where you live, and if it is, there may be size or number restrictions. Before adding a potbellied pig to your family, check out your local (city and county) ordinances to avoid potential heartbreak.

Remember, too, that pigs are herd animals and should be adopted in pairs or more. “Never keep a pig on its own, that’s just downright cruel,” Kersley told The Guardian.6 He also recommends keeping pigs outdoors in a paddock or garden, not in your house.

Pigs are highly intelligent and inquisitive and require a great deal of mental stimulation. They can get into trouble if you don’t have a safe area from them to scamper, dig, root, forage and roam in. Likewise, without an outlet for play, exercise and emotional health, pet pigs may become depressed, destructive or aggressive. CPPA also pointed out:

“Understand that pigs are different than cats or dogs — the bonding time is different, the way they show affection is different and the engagement you will have with them is different — it’s super rewarding but it’s different.”7

Can Pigs Ever Make Good Pets?

Pigs are wonderful animals and can make great pets if you’re prepared for their size and special needs. You should not assume that any pig you adopt will stay mini. Breeders may label their pigs mini in comparison to farm pigs, which may reach 1,000 to 2,000 pounds, but so-called teacup and micro pigs will typically reach 100-plus pounds.

Those that don’t may have been underfed to stunt their growth,8 and some micro pigs are actually commercial breeds originally intended for food, and may even reach 500 pounds.9 If you’re thinking you can adopt a tiny pig that will be content to live in your apartment like a cat or small dog, a pig is definitely not the right pet for you.

However, if you understand that even a “micro pig” will grow into a large animal that can easily weigh over 100 pounds, adopting a pig in need of a home may be right for you. In this case, basic requirements of pig ownership include:10

At least 0.5 acres of land (in an area where pig ownership is legal) Outdoor housing or a shed for your pig
Access to a farm veterinarian Regular grooming, including trimming of hooves and tusks
An area of mud for your pig to wallow in Optimal food, grass for grazing, fresh fruit and vegetables
Fresh water daily Regular exercise for your pig
Spending time with the daily, as pigs are social creatures Appropriate fencing

 

Pet-friendly fabrics and flooring make decorating a breeze for dog and cat lovers

Tuesday, February 25th, 2020

Pet Connection

by Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

By Kim Campbell Thornton  –  Andrews McMeel Syndication

 

We’re in the market for a new sofa, and my friend Tamela Klisura, an interior designer, is urging me to get one in a light neutral shade instead of the colorful patterns that I love — in part because they hide pet hair so well.

“It’ll get dirty,” I argued. Dogs will be napping on it all the time, after all.

Tamela, who has three dogs herself, pooh-poohed that.

“They have performance fabrics now that clean up really easily,” she says.

She’s right. You don’t have to buy furnishings that are the same color as your pug or Labrador’s fur — or the Holstein cow pattern I’d need for my chestnut-and-white cavaliers. If you’re considering buying new furniture, reupholstering what you have or putting down new flooring, you have a lot of options to help keep your home looking and smelling clean, even if you have multiple dogs and cats.

Many fabrics and carpets these days are made to withstand odors and stains from spills, dog drool, pet accidents or animals who simply need a bath, thanks to a moisture barrier that keeps liquids and other messes on the fabric’s surface instead of soaking in. They can even be safely disinfected with a product that knocks out pathogens including E. coli, salmonella, MRSA, parvovirus and canine distemper virus.

“Those Crypton fabrics are made for a variety of high use and abuse,” says commercial architect Heather E. Lewis of Animal Arts, a firm that designs veterinary hospitals, shelters and other facilities. “What I have seen as an architect is an explosion in the number of cleanable fabrics that are used in health care, and those fabrics are also appropriate for use in a home.”

Flooring and carpets are also more pet-friendly, thanks to advances in materials. Vinyl, for one, has come a long way. Rosemary George replaced her wood floors with commercial-grade vinyl. “It looks just like wood but holds up better and is impervious to accidents,” she says. Melissa Frieze Karolak has vinyl planks in her basement, “luxury” vinyl in one bathroom and old-fashioned linoleum in the laundry area. “I like them all, and so far they have held up well to our two dogs and three cats,” she says.

If you’ve ever wished that you could just throw large rugs into the washing machine, well, now you can. A company called Ruggable makes lightweight rugs that go over a nonskid pad. The low-pile rugs, which come in a variety of styles, sizes, colors and patterns, are stain-resistant and waterproof. When they need to be cleaned, even the 8-by-10-foot size fits in a home washing machine.

“I have Ruggables and love the look, durability and washability,” says Marion Schuller, responding on Facebook to a friend who was considering buying one. “There is little or no padding, but the dogs like them and choose the rug instead of tile.”

Another option is carpet squares made with solid vinyl backing. When vomit, urine or poop accidents happen — and they will — the affected squares can be pulled up and cleaned or replaced altogether.

Wall-to-wall carpets are also made now to resist depredations from dogs and cats. Some are treated to prevent stains from forming after spills or pet potty accidents, prevent urine from penetrating to the pad and resist soiling. They can be good choices for people with asthma or allergies who prefer carpet to hard-surface flooring.

Whether it’s furniture or flooring, homes are being designed around pets. “I think that’s cool and it makes it easier for busy families,” says Lewis, who has kids and pets. “I love to see that.”

AHF Pet Partners at CSUF

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020

From DailyTitan

Titanwell advocates self-care with four-legged friends

Students with AHF Pet Partner Jen McCormick and Moana

A photo of students gather in front of the Titan Wellness patio to de-stress with therapy animals.
(Jiyo Cayabyab / Daily Titan )

Before the full force of the sun shined on campus and thousands of students rushed to their classes, the early risers got the chance to play with some four-legged friends.

Titanwell hosted its monthly Animal Therapy session yesterday at the Student Wellness patio. Animal Therapy gives students a new way to de-stress from the challenges they face at school.

“As students, we get so caught up in being focused on when the next paper is due — when our next exam is — but pet therapy allows us to really take in the moment, live in the moment and just pause,” said Angelika Sann, a social work graduate student.

After signing a liability form, everyone is welcome to spend time with the animals. In order to make the animals feel safe, groups are limited to 2-3 people at a time. Each animal has a handler with them at all times who is happy to answer any questions visitors may have about the animals.

“I believe that it’s a good way to advocate self-care, which is really important for college students,” Tiffany Nguyen said. “It’s our stress reliever because now school is getting harder.”

Titanwell is focused on giving their students and faculty members the best resources they can for mental health, which includes picking the right animal therapy organization to team up with.

Pet Partners and Animal Health Foundation have very high standards. They’re one of the few organizations that are allowed to be around children. So we figured Cal State Fullerton deserves the best,” said Gloria Flores, peer health educator at the wellness center.

Pet Partners is a nonprofit organization with more than 10,000 volunteers that offer animal-assisted therapy to diverse facilities such as hospitals and rehabilitation centers.

The Animal Health Foundation is a charity organization that works together with the California Veterinary Medical Association to improve the health and well-being of animals by supporting and promoting animal-related activities.

People wanting to become Pet Partner volunteers go through a screening process where the AHF assesses the interested applicants. The pet and pet-owner are viewed as a unified “team”; therefore, both must pass the screening process together. The test depends largely on the pet.

Jen McCormick, a therapy animal handler, registered her jet-black mini-rex rabbit, Moana, after being told that Moana would make a good therapy animal.

Before Moana helped the mental health of Titans, her partner saved her from a high-kill shelter. Moana had a mangled leg when Jenn adopted her, but she got help from SomeBunny Rabbit Rescue for an amputation.

“It’s very different from what dogs have to do. The dogs have to know how to sit, stay and leave it. The rabbits have to be calm. This is not normal for a rabbit. Rabbits, because they’re prey animals, they don’t like to be touched or picked up,” McCormick said.

The prey mentality makes rabbits unlikely therapy animals; however, Moana is one of 150 registered rabbits with Pet Partners. Her velvet-soft fur and big, entrancing eyes made her a big hit with students.

The student wellness center introduced animal therapy between 2015 and 2016. The positive reactions from students have motivated the center to provide more animals.

“We like the simplicity of it, so we try to keep it that way but decided to bring more animals because more people were coming,” Flores said.

Student Wellness workers look forward to seeing the students’ reactions with the therapy animals.

“First, [the students] come in and they come out and the reaction to all the animals is really rewarding,” said Sabrina Gonzalez, a peer health educator.

All forms of mental health care are equally important. Even if some methods like animal therapy seem small in comparison to more formal ones, like one-on-one therapy, every step counts.

According to CRC Health, some of the benefits from animal-assisted therapy can include a decrease in feelings of anxiety, loneliness and grief. It can also improve focus and attention, as well as offer an alternative to those who are resistant to other forms of treatment.

“Things like this are very important for us to have access to. I feel like people don’t realize  that even just petting animals is very therapeutic,” said Sarah Stahl, a social work graduate student.

Almost 40% of college students struggle with mental health issues; therefore, they can benefit the most from something as simple as petting animals.

DEMENTIA IN DOGS | COGNITIVE DYSFUNTION SYNDROME

Monday, February 17th, 2020

Unfortunately, just like people, dogs and cats also develop degenerative brain diseases known as canine or feline cognitive dysfunction syndrome. But unlike humans, often the signs a pet is in mental decline go unnoticed until the condition is so advanced there’s little that can be done to turn things around or at least slow the progression of the disease.

Often, even an animal’s veterinarian is unaware there’s a problem because he or she doesn’t see the pet that often and always in a clinical setting vs. at home. In addition, according to Dr. Jeff Nichol, a veterinary behavior specialist in Albuquerque, NM, many DVMs aren’t aware of just how common cognitive dysfunction syndrome is. Vets assume pet parents will tell them when an older dog or cat is experiencing behavior changes, while owners assume the changes are just a natural part of aging.

In a large Australian study published in 2011 on canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD), scientists at the University of Sydney reported that about 14 percent of dogs develop CCD, but less than 2 percent are diagnosed. In addition, the risk of CCD increases with age — over 40 percent of dogs at 15 will have at least one symptom. Researchers also estimate the prevalence of cognitive dysfunction in geriatric dogs at 68 percent.

In a study also published in 2011 on cognitive decline in cats,2 a researcher at the University of Edinburgh, Hospital for Small Animals estimated that a third of all cats between 11 and 14 years of age have age-related cognitive decline. That number increases to 50 percent for cats 15 years and older.

Our blind Jack Russell Terrier of 18 years old started to pee and poo all over the place even though when he got blind, he was able to find his pee/poo area. Initially, we did not think much about it except for the fact that he was getting old and he had trouble locating his usual spot.

We were so wrong. Whenever we left the house for a while, he would be found sitting by the main door quietly for our return. One day, when we opened the door, he was not there. He was pacing in circle. We knew almost immediately this is bad news. So this began our quest to find a holistic approach for Dementia.

REFERENCES

Wendell O. Belfield, DVM
Author of How to Have a Healthier Dog

Jeffrey Feinman, DVM, BA, VMD, CVH
Jeffrey Feinman holds both molecular biology and veterinary degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Jeff was the first dual degree recipient at Penn in the prestigious University Scholar program (which was designed to foster medical scientists).

Karen Becker, DVM
Diplomate American Veterinary Medical Association, American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy

Stephen Tobin, DVM
Holistic veterinarian who provides treatment using homeopathy, herbs, and nutrition. He is a veterinary graduate of the Ludwig Maximillian Universitat in Munich, Germany.

Peter Dobias, DVM
Founder and CEO of Dr. Dobias Healing Solutions Inc. Advanced Professional Course in Veterinary Homeopathy. Homeopathic Master Clinician  (human homeopathy)

Steve Marsden, DVM ND MSOM LAc DiplCH AHG

Shawn Messonnier, DVM

What causes Dementia in Dogs?

At present there is no conclusive cause known although it is believed that certain changes in the brain can contribute. Nerve function is vital to cognitive function and this relies on the chemical reaction of transmission of information across nerve pathways – from structures known as synapses.

Each nerve firing is a message to the body to react, whether this is physical or mental, the nervous system has overriding control of the speed of reactions in the dog.

Although the exact cause of cognitive dysfunction syndrome is currently unknown, genetic factors may predispose an animal to develop the condition.

However age related cognitive decline is not the only condition that causes dementia in dogs. Some other conditions that can cause dementia include:

  • Brain tumors
  • Brain trauma or other acute injury
    encephalitis from various causes
  • Tick-borne diseases
  • Liver abnormalities

Another theory on a contributing factor to dementia is as the dog ages a protein known as beta amyloid accumulates in the brain clustering around the nerves (known as a plaque). The build-up acts as an insulator to the chemical process of the nerve firing and thus prevents or slows the nerve sending the message to the receptors in the body.  As the amount of beta amyloid increases it becomes increasingly difficult for the nerves to work effectively.

Another view related to the nerve action is that decreased dopamine production has been identified in cases of dementia. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and its presence is essential for effective nerve transmission.

Signs and Symptoms of Dementia in Dogs

Signs of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome can be wide ranging, some may appear slowly but others can occur and become an issue for the dog relatively quickly. It is important to talk over the signs with your Vet or Vet nurse as some signs can potentially indicate underlying conditions.

Some of the most common signs are as follows:

  • A blank, lost look in the dogs eyes – they appear distant and unreactive
  • Circling – walking round in a circle continuously
  • Getting lost/stuck in their own home – may get stuck in places around the house
  • Repetitive actions
  • Urinating /Defecating in the house
  • Makes uncharacteristic noises – may whine, pant or bark at inappropriate times
  • Change in sleeping patterns – erratic sleep patterns may be sleeping all day and awake all night , excess sleeping or insomnia
  • Behavioural changes – often due to confusion dogs may become irritable and snappy, even one that was once very placid can withdraw into itself and snap when interrupted.
  • Change in family behaviours – your dog may no longer react to his name or your voice, and may not greet you happily at the door as he has done in the past.

Diagnosis process of Dementia in Dogs

There is no single test which can diagnose canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome. Your veterinarian will base the diagnosis on examination, observations and exclusion of underlying conditions. As your veterinarian carries out a full examination he will take notes on your concerns and what you have noticed at home, he may recommend a blood test and a urine sample. These simple tests will allow the vet to exclude any other conditions often found in senior pets and monitor the function of your dog’s vital organs such as heart, liver and kidneys. You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health to your veterinarian, including the onset and nature of the symptoms and possible incidents that might have precipitated the unusual behaviors or complications.

Your vet will be likely to ask you to return for a review after a few weeks of trying any treatments and will wish to monitor the progression of the symptoms.

Dementia-Like Conditions in Dogs

Conditions that Resemble Dementia

There are also conditions with similar symptoms to dementia. They include hepatic encephalopathy, with its signature symptom of head pressing, and vestibular disorder, a condition of the inner ear and brain.

Head Pressing

Head pressing is most often associated with a liver condition called hepatic encephalopathy, but can be a symptom of other conditions, all of them serious.

In head pressing, the dog presses her head against a wall. This can resemble the behavior of standing in corners or next to walls that dogs with canine cognitive dysfunction perform, but is different in one important way: the dog visibly presses her head against a surface.

Geriatric Vestibular Disorder

Geriatric vestibular disorder is an abnormality of the parts of the brain and inner ear that control balance. The behaviors that dogs suffering from it exhibit can resemble those of a dog with dementia, but there is generally no cognitive decline involved.

Vestibular disorder often has an unknown cause, but can sometimes result from an ear infection, so a vet visit is in order.

Current Available Treatment in Singapore for Dogs diagnosed with Dementia

There is no magic cure for age-related dog dementia, but a number of treatments appear to help slow the process somewhat, and to varying degrees. The following canine cognitive dysfunction treatments have been shown in scientific studies to help. Please check with your veterinarian if you suspect your dog has canine cognitive dysfunction.

Anipryl (U.S. brand name for selegiline)  has been shown to slow the progression of canine cognitive dysfunction. It is a drug that is used to treat Parkinson’s in humans. It is available now for dogs in tablets and chewables. If your vet prescribes it, try to shop around. Its price really varies. The doses for dogs that you can buy on cards are quite expensive. But it can also be purchased in generic tablets quite cheaply.Some prescription drugs commonly used in Europe for canine cognitive dysfunction are nicergoline, propentofylline, and adrafanil. Of these, adrafanil has shown the most promise in studies.

Like all drugs, Anipryl comes with a risk of side effects, including — but not limited to — diarrhea, vomiting, restlessness or hyperactivity, loss of appetite, seizures, staggering and lethargy.

(There is no drug approved for treatment of CDS in cats, although some veterinarians report promising results using L-deprenyl in cats.)

IMPORTANCE OF PROPER NUTRACEUTICALS FOR DEMENTIA DOGS

Choline

The most important and widely used anti-Alzheimer’s drugs are acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, so called because they inhibit the action of acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine molecules (this is a necessary function that can, however, get out of balance). By interfering with the action of this enzyme, the drugs effectively increase the amount of acetylcholine available to the brain’s neurons. In one particular study of reversing clinical signs of cognitive disorder , Choline has shown 82% success in clinical signs reduction over 21 dogs of various breed 10 years of age.

Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo Biloba is a plant extract containing several compounds that may have positive effects on cells within the brain and the body. Ginkgo biloba is thought to have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, to protect cell membranes and to regulate neurotransmitter function. Ginkgo Biloba is widely considered as an “antiaging herb”. It has proved effective in treating Alzheimer’s disease in both people and canine. Ginkgo enhances both long-term and short-term memory in puppies and senior dogs alike.

However, Ginkgo Biloba has very mixed research.

* Rosemary

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) is one of the most economically important species of the family Lamiaceae. Among the most important group of compounds isolated from the plant are the abietane-type phenolic diterpenes that account for most of the antioxidant and many pharmacological activities of the plant. Rosemary diterpenes have also been shown in recent years to inhibit neuronal cell death induced by a variety of agents both in vitro and in vivo.

If you are attempting to use Rosemary Essential Oil, you have to look for 1,8-cineole (Tunisia).

Bacopa

Bacopa is a creeping perennial herb that thrives in wetlands and on muddy shores. Its therapeutic use has its origins in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, where it has been used for its adaptogenic, tranquilizing, and antioxidant properties. Today, modern science is trying to confirm traditional wisdom about Bacopa. In studies conducted in Australia and the U.S., Bacopa improved study subjects’ ability to retain new information — and it also helped them increase their visual processing speed in as little as 3 weeks.

However, there is a side effect that might concern pet owners. Bacopa might slow down the heart beat. This could be a problem in people who already have a slow heart rate.

Gotu Kola

Gotu kola is an herb that is commonly used in Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine.  According to modern studies, gotu kola does offer support for healthy memory function. A study conducted in 1992 by K. Nalini at Kasturba Medical College showed an impressive improvement in memory in rats which were treated with the extract (orally) daily for 14 days before the experiment. The retention of learned behavior in the rats treated with gotu kola was 3 to 60 times better than that in control animals.

However, animals who are known to have liver damage or cancer should not take this drug. Asiaticoside contained in gotu kola has been shown to encourage the growth of tumors in mice.

Asiaticoside contained in gotu kola has been shown to encourage the growth of tumors in mice – See more at: http://www.vitaminsestore.com/gotu-kola-benefits-reviews-side-effects-and-dosage/#sthash.bEGgaBcI.dpuf
Asiaticoside contained in gotu kola has been shown to encourage the growth of tumors in mice – See more at: http://www.vitaminsestore.com/gotu-kola-benefits-reviews-side-effects-and-dosage/#sthash.bEGgaBcI.dpuf

Resveratrol

Resveratrol is part of a group of compounds called polyphenols. They’re thought to act like antioxidants, protecting the body against damage that can put you at higher risk for things like cancer and heart disease.It’s in the skin of red grapes, but you can also find it in peanuts and berries. Manufacturers have tried to capitalize on its powers by selling resveratrol supplements. Most resveratrol capsules sold in the U.S. contain extracts from an Asian plant called Polygonum cuspidatum. Other resveratrol supplements are made from red wine or red grape extracts.

Bottomline, from most research, this supplement has very little use for dogs who have been diganosed with dementia.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has medium chain triglycerides [MCT], which are a good source of energy, in the form of ketone bodies … MCTs are converted in the liver into ketones, which can be used by the brain as fuel; they are a more immediate source of energy than other fats. There are however mixed reviews on whether it really helps in managing dementia in dogs. But given the health benefits of it, there is no risk in giving it.

As a daily supplement, work up to about 1 tsp per 10 lbs of body weight per day. Start with ¼ of this amount to avoid loose stool from the extra oil going through your dog’s digestive system, then increase gradually until you get to the recommended dose.

SAMe

SAMe (S-Adenosyl-Methionine) is an amino acid derivative normally synthesized in the body that may become depleted with sickness or age. Supplementing with SAMe plus folate, trimethylglycine (TMG or betaine), vitamins B6 and B12 appears to be an effective way to overcome this deficiency.

Oral s-Adenosylmethionine, or SAMe, alleviates signs of age-related cognitive decline in dogs as well as humans. According to one double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, SAMe-treated dogs showed significant improvements in activity and awareness of their surroundings without serious adverse effects. How it accomplishes this remains unknown for now.

Omega-3

Omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, has been shown to improve cognitive dysfunction in affected dogs. Interestingly, DHA appears to slow the progression of human dementia and Alzheimer’s disease too.

A study was performed on 142 older dogs with a variety of behavioral abnormalities (disorientation, disrupted sleep patterns, altered interactions with family members, altered activity levels and loss of house training). During the 60-day period, dogs fed a DHA-supplemented food showed significant improvement in every one of these behavior categories. However, it is very important to take note that pet owners should supplement their pet with Vitamin E if they are feeding their dogs with Omega-3.

Wild Blueberry Extracts

The blueberry, already labeled a ‘super fruit’ for its power to potentially lower the risk of heart disease and cancer, also could be another weapon in the war against Alzheimer’s disease. New research being presented today further bolsters this idea, which is being tested by many teams. The fruit is loaded with healthful antioxidants, and these substances could help prevent the devastating effects of this increasingly common form of dementia, scientists report.

“Our new findings corroborate those of previous animal studies and preliminary human studies, adding further support to the notion that blueberries can have a real benefit in improving memory and cognitive function in some older adults,” says Robert Krikorian, Ph.D., leader of the research team. He adds that blueberries’ beneficial effects could be due to flavonoids called anthocyanins, which have been shown to improve animals’ cognition.

Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone found naturally in the body. Melatonin used as medicine is usually made synthetically in a laboratory. It is most commonly available in pill form, but melatonin is also available in forms that can be placed in the cheek or under the tongue. This allows the melatonin to be absorbed directly into the body.

Melatonin is also used for the inability to fall asleep (insomnia); delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS); rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder (RBD); insomnia associated with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); insomnia due to certain high blood pressure medications called beta-blockers; and sleep problems in children with developmental disorders including autism, cerebral palsy, and intellectual disabilities. It is also used as a sleep aid after discontinuing the use of benzodiazepine drugs. But pet owners, take note that Melatonin might increase blood sugar and increase blood pressure.

Turmeric

Turmeric has been used as a spice and a medicine for millennia. Turmeric has been called a super food and a super spice. The health and medical benefits attributed to it include pain reliver, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and cancer-preventative.  It can also lower cholesterol and protect the cardiovascular system.

The anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric is part of the reason it gained such a high standing in traditional Eastern systems of medicine. Since etanercept is an anti-inflammatory, it is not an entirely capricious leap of faith to suppose that anti-inflammatory substances in the spice turmeric should act in ways similar to the pharmaceutical etanercept. In fact, there is mounting clinical evidence that turmeric might protect the brain from the onset as well as the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Acetyl-L-carnitine

Acetyl l-carnitine (ALCAR) is a modified form of carnitine, an amino acid derivative found in red meat, which is readily absorbed throughout the body, including the brain. It is involved in fatty acid metabolism and may improve several aspects of brain health, including mitochondrial function, activity of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, and possibly cognition.

So, how exactly does ALC work? Mind Boosters author Dr. Ray Sahelia believes that Alzheimer’s patients may benefit from ALC in three ways: It is able to travel through the blood-brain barrier, where it then helps form the brain chemical acetylcholine; it keeps mitochondria working efficiently by clearing them of toxic fatty-acid metabolites; and it helps regenerate neurons damaged by free radicals.

But the evidence of it is still weak at this moment of time.

Alpha Lipoic Acid

Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is a synthetic version of lipoic acid, which helps cells make energy. It has antioxidant properties and may reduce inflammation. Oxidative stress and neuronal energy depletion are characteristic hallmarks of Dementia’s disease. It has been hypothesized that, because of this, pro-energetic and antioxidant drugs such as alpha-lipoic acid might delay the onset or slow down the progression of the disease.
Separate research also revealed that alpha lipoic acid, in combination with vitamin E and acetyl-l-carnitine, led to improvements in potential biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease and showed promise for slowing the progression of the disease.

In one study of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, those given 600 mg of alpha lipoic daily for 12 months had a stabilization of cognitive function. A follow-up study, which increased the number of patients in the study and extended the observation period to 48 months, the progression of the disease was “dramatically lower” among those taking alpha lipoic acid, compared to those with no treatment or those taking choline-esterase inhibitor drugs.

Phosphatidylserine

Phosphatidylserine is a class of phospholipids found in cell membranes. Its levels and location within the brain can affect important signaling pathways for cell survival and communication. Phosphatidylserine includes two fatty acids that can vary from saturated or monounsaturated to polyunsaturated omega-6 and omega-3 versions like docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Some clinical trials of phosphatidylserine supplements have shown modestly improved cognitive function.

Our bodies need this phospholipid to build brain cell membranes that are fluid enough to release the neurotransmitters acetylcholine and dopamine, but luckily, our brains normally manufacture enough phosphatidylserine (PS) to keep us in top mental order. However, when we reach middle age, our levels of PS begin to decline — an effect that is worsened by deficiencies of other essential fatty acids, folic acid or vitamin B12. Because PS is necessary for effective neurotransmission, PS deficiency is linked to mental impairment, including Alzheimer’s and non-Alzheimer’s dementia, depression and Parkinson’s disease among middle-aged and elderly people.

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Record your pet’s life in a diary

Monday, February 17th, 2020

Pet Connection by Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

A Life in Words

Pet Connection
By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

When you find a diary, are you tempted to read it? Do you keep a diary yourself, under lock and key? Diaries feature in some of the world’s most famous literature, social history, fiction and children’s books: Anne Frank’s “The Diary of a Young Girl.” The diary of Samuel Pepys. “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” “Harriet the Spy.” “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.”

Diaries bring history to life, store secrets, record lives. They can make for fascinating reading. But they can also make for fascinating writing, especially if they focus on your best friend: your dog, cat, bird or other pet. It’s not just in Nancy Drew mysteries that a diary is filled with clues.

Susannah Charleson is a K-9 search and rescue handler and author of “Where the Lost Dogs Go: A Story of Love, Search, and the Power of Reunion.” She spoke last month at the K-9 Sport Scent Work Conference in Palm Springs, California. While her topic was the importance of logs for search and rescue handlers, she also touched on how keeping a log can make a difference in the health, confidence and success of any dog-human team — including the partnership between people and their companion dogs. And there’s no reason to leave out cats, birds, rabbits, horses or other pets. Anyone can benefit from tracing the story of their relationship with an animal.

“I think for pet owners it’s invaluable,” she says. “If you’re doing any kind of training, even just to be a good companion animal, it’s all coming fast — the dog is new, the training is new, how the dog views the world versus how we view the world is completely different.”

When you keep a diary and document the changes you see in your pet and yourself, you are capturing the journey of your developing friendship, as well as making observations that can help you solve behavior problems and identify health issues before they become serious.

Bringing a record to your veterinarian or behaviorist of when a behavior began and how frequently it occurs can be the first step in solving a problem.

Some owners track daily blood sugar curves and insulin doses for diabetic pets, delivery of medication, occurrence of seizures, and pets’ eating habits or weight.

People who participate in dog sports log trials and practice sessions to track their progress.

“Log entries allow you to start seeing a pattern and learning about your dog,” Charleson says. “They assist in self-evaluation. You’ve got all these beautiful signals that can tell you where your strengths and weaknesses are and find areas where you can improve, where your dog can improve and where you can improve together.”

Keeping track of a pet’s life can be done with a paper journal, on computer apps or social media, or on a calendar. I have a pile of calendars that I can’t bear to throw away because they record so many of the events of my dogs’ lives. Supplement diaries with photos and videos.

At the end of a pet’s life, a diary is a way to look back at the journey you and your pet have shared. The memories can help to heal grief and establish a foundation for the next partnership.

“When a career or life ends, logs trace the journey that you and a dog have shared,” Charleson says. “Logs tell a story. They trace the arc of our understanding and our ability as separate entities and together. They’re a history of the earliest days that we might forget. Write it all down. You’ll have a wealth of information to learn from, and at the end of a life, those words may save you.”

Q&A

Do kittens need

socialization?

Q: Do kittens have the same type of socialization period as puppies?

A: They do, but it starts even earlier and doesn’t last as long. My colleague Nicholas Dodman, a veterinary behaviorist and emeritus professor at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, says the social period in kittens is between weeks 2 and 7.

During those early weeks, kittens soak up knowledge of everything around them, that clever kitty brain making new neural connections daily to generate learning and behavior. Kittens who see, hear, smell and experience many different people, animals, sights and sounds during this sensitive period grow up to be sociable, smart and curious.

Young kittens need to have many different positive experiences with children, friendly dogs and cats, people of all ages and appearances, common household sounds such as vacuum cleaners and blenders, car rides, being transported comfortably and safely in a carrier, and visiting the veterinarian. In an ideal world, they haven’t had any bad experiences with those things, and they don’t have preconceived ideas about what to expect from such experiences.

Limiting fear during this impressionable time is also important to a kitten’s development. A normal amount of fear is valuable because it helps kittens to avoid things that might hurt them, but protecting them from aversive experiences can help them to have more fulfilling lives as adult cats because they are more calm in the face of new experiences.

When young kittens encounter these things in a positive way during the socialization period, their brains store the good memories and help the kittens develop resiliency if they later have negative experiences with, say, dogs or scary noises. The neural connections their brains make during this period is how they become well-rounded, adaptable cats.

You can learn more about feline development at FearFreeHappyHomes.com. — Dr. Marty Becker

Do you have a pet question? Send it to askpetconnection@gmail.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.

Pet Loss Bereavement Specialist Certification Course Available

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020
Pet Loss Partners has some exciting news.
They are offering an online Pet Loss Bereavement Specialist Certification Course in response to the many inquiries from people interested in the area of pet loss.
Their goal is to design a course that would give not only information about grief and pet loss but also specific and useable tools for helping grieving pet parents.

Cold Weather Can Kill Your Pet — Follow These Tips

Sunday, January 19th, 2020
from Mercola.com   Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker  January 18, 2020

STORY AT-A-GLANCE

  • Cold weather has arrived, which means it’s time to make sure your four-legged family members stay safe, warm and comfy over the next few months
  • Frigid temps are as hard on pets as they are on people; always keep your pet indoors with you during the winter months
  • Additional tips to help keep dogs and cats safe and healthy this winter include taking them for a veterinary wellness exam and ensuring they get regular exercise

Winter is in full swing, and unfortunately, cold weather can be just as hard on our pets as it is on us — especially dogs and cats left outdoors for any length of time (which I never, ever recommend). Pets left outdoors in cold weather can fall victim to a long list of injuries and illnesses, including hypothermia and frostbite.

The following is a list of things you can do to help keep the furry members of your family warm, safe, and healthy over the next few months.

Tips to Keep Pets Safe and Warm All Winter

Keep them indoors — I recommend keeping cats inside at all times (unless you have a secure outdoor cat enclosure for use during nice weather, or you take him on walks using a harness), but especially during winter. Accompany your dog outdoors for potty walks or to get some exercise. When you get cold enough to go back inside, chances are your dog is also cold.

If your dog is a large breed, chances are he’ll be able to tolerate cold temps and snow much better than a smaller dog. If your pet has a condition like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease or an endocrine disorder, it can compromise his ability to regulate his own body heat.

Pets with a chronic disease and very young and older animals are more vulnerable to the cold than healthy youngsters and adults. Also never leave your pet unattended in a car in cold weather. Hypothermia can be just as deadly as heatstroke.

Let their coats grow — Don’t shave or clip your pet’s coat short during the winter months. A longer coat will keep her warmer. And make sure long-haired pets are brushed and groomed regularly, since matted fur can interfere with their ability to regulate their body temperature.
Make sure they get regular exercise — It’s really important to maintain your pet’s physical condition year-round. If you allow your dog to become a couch potato all winter, you increase his risk of injury when he starts exercising again in the spring. Especially if you live in a location that gets really cold and wet during the winter months, it can be challenging to ensure your dog stays physically active. Some ideas to consider:

  • A hydrotherapy or warm water dog pool
  • An indoor dog park (this is also a great idea for those of you who live in climates where the summers are too hot for strenuous outdoor exercise)
  • Indoor agility or tracking training, or nose work
  • Cross-country skiing

Kitties can actually be easier to keep exercised during bad weather: 10 ways to help your cat exercise.

Provide sweaters for shorthaired, hairless, older, and frail pets — Some pets won’t wear clothing no matter how chilly they are. But if your pet tolerates it well, a sweater can help keep your dog or cat warm, especially when you take her outdoors. But keep in mind that pets lose most of their body heat through the pads of their feet, their ears and their respiratory tract, so there’s a limit to how much warmth a sweater or jacket will provide.

Signs your pet is uncomfortably cold include whining, shivering, appearing anxious, slowing down or stopping, and looking for a warm place to burrow.

Take extra care with senior, arthritic or feeble pets — Cold weather can be especially hard on senior pets and those with degenerative joint disease or another chronic, debilitating condition.

Talk with your integrative veterinarian about physical therapy and other safe, natural methods for improving your pet’s comfort and mobility during cold weather. And make sure your pet has a thick, soft, non-toxic (organic) bed in a warm room for naps and at bedtime.

Take them for a wellness exam — I recommend twice-yearly exams for all pets, and especially seniors, so making one of those visits in the fall or early winter is a good way to ensure your dog or cat is healthy before the cold weather arrives. Your integrative veterinarian will measure muscle mass, joint range of motion, check vital organ function and make a wellness plan for the upcoming cold months.
Make sure ID tags are current and keep pets leashed outdoors — More dogs go missing in the winter months than any other time of year. It’s very easy for your pet to lose his scent and get lost when snow or ice is on the ground, and especially during snowstorms.

Snow accumulation can make it impossible for him to know if he’s in his front yard or standing out on a street or highway. Light-colored dogs with snow on their fur can quickly blend into the background, making them nearly impossible to spot.

Wipe them down after a trip outdoors — Pets who go outside during the winter months can pick up rock salt, ice, antifreeze, and other toxic chemicals on their footpads.

To keep your pets’ paws from becoming chapped and raw, and to prevent ingestion of toxins, thoroughly wipe off their feet, legs, and underside after they’ve been outside in the snow and ice. Also regularly check paws for any signs of injury or bleeding from walking on frozen or snow-packed surfaces.

Be careful near water — If you live near a pond, lake or other inland water source that tends to freeze over during cold weather, take care when letting your pet off the leash. Animals can easily fall through the ice, and it’s very difficult for them to escape on their own, or for humans to rescue them.
Stay alert for outdoor cats — Hopefully you keep your cat inside, but your neighbors may not, or there could be strays or feral cats in the area. Kitties left out in cold temps will sometimes crawl up under the hoods of cars or into the wheel wells. Starting or moving the vehicle can hurt or even kill a cat taking shelter inside a car.

During winter months, it’s a good idea to bang loudly on your car hood before starting the engine as a warning to a cat that might be in or around your vehicle.

Keep them safe from potentially dangerous heat sources — If you use a fireplace or space heater, expect your pet to lie near it for warmth. Keep a close watch to ensure no part of her body comes in contact with flames, heating coils or other hot surfaces. She can easily burn herself or knock a heating unit over and put everyone in the house in danger.
Have your furnace inspected and change your air filter — It’s a good idea to have your heating unit checked for carbon monoxide leaks before winter sets in. Carbon monoxide is odorless and invisible, but it can cause serious health problems in both people and pets. Since your dog or cat very likely spends much more time at home than you do during the winter months, she’s more vulnerable to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Changing your whole house air filter twice a year is a great idea. Most people are shocked to learn how much dust, dirt, allergens, pollen and mold can accumulate in filters over the summer.

Dust mites thrive during the winter months, making your home a ripe environment for year-round misery, in terms of itchy paws and bellies. Providing pets with filtered air is one way to help reduce the allergen load in your house during winter.

The Invisible Emotional Burden of Caring for a Sick Pet

Wednesday, December 18th, 2019
from: https://www.thecut.com/2017/10/the-invisible-emotional-burden-of-caring-for-a-sick-pet.html
Earlier this year, kindergarten teacher Jessica Wiles, 35, found herself faced with a choice: her boyfriend or her dog, Mia. The problem had been brewing for some time: Two years into Wiles’s relationship, Mia was diagnosed with Cushing syndrome, an endocrine disorder that can cause lethargy, weakness, and frequent infections. Wiles began staying home more often to take care of her; as time wore on, she says, her boyfriend became frustrated, accusing her of neglecting him to be with her dog. This past June, he reached a breaking point: “He actually ended the relationship because he said the dog took precedence over him,” Wiles says. “He didn’t understand that it’s not just a piece of property. They are living, breathing things.”

When Wiles told other people about her situation, she says, she was often met with bafflement and scorn rather than sympathy, and questions about why she didn’t just put Mia down. But Cushing, while chronic, is manageable. “I have a problem deciding to kill my dog just because of health issues. I don’t understand the mind-set of, ‘She’s got a health problem, we’re going to put her down,’” Wiles says. “If the dog was suffering, it would be one thing, but she is still interested in life.”

There’s no question, though, that caring for her has made Wiles’s own life more difficult — emotionally, socially, financially. It’s well known that people caring for ill relatives can suffer from caregiver burden, negatively impacting the health and well-being of the caregiver, but the toll of taking care of a sick pet is often minimized or overlooked. According to a new study, that’s a mistake.

“I wouldn’t equate pet caregiving with human, and certainly don’t want to minimize what family caregivers go through,” said lead author Mary Beth Spitznagel, a clinical neuropsychologist at Kent State University, but “we are seeing similar patterns in terms of a greater level of burden, higher level of stress, depressive symptoms, and a lower quality of life.”

Spitznagel, who had previously worked with caregivers of relatives with dementia, says she got the idea for the study while caring for her dog Allo, who had recently been diagnosed with bladder cancer. “It was a daily challenge trying to fix the problems that sprang up.
And that was kind of when I realized the similarity,” she says. “When we see a burdened caregiver, oftentimes the burden is kind of the constant problem solving, because new problems are always emerging when you are caring for someone who is sick.”

Compared to participants with healthy pets, study subjects caring for chronic or terminally ill animals scored higher on scales of depression, anxiety and lower on well-being, and a psychometric test called the Zarit Burden Interview used to measure burden in human caregivers (the study authors adapted the test by replacing the word “relative” with “pet”). In itself, the finding that people with sick pets feel more of a burden isn’t surprising — but the intensity of that burden was. “It’s meeting this threshold for what we would consider to be concerning if someone were in a human caregiving relationship,” Spitznagel says.

In humans, a score of 20 or higher on the Zarit — which contains items related to feeling strained about your pet, having your social life suffer, and financial stress — indicates “significant burden.” Caregivers of sick pets scored 25.42 on average, compared to 13.96 for owners of healthy pets.

A few caveats: Participants in the current study were almost exclusively educated, wealthy, white women, with an average age of 48. The skewed sampling is likely a limitation — but “at the same time, this might be exactly who the population is,” Spitznagel says. After all, caregiving in humans typically falls to women, and veterinary care, which typically comes out of pocket, is unaffordable to many. Beyond replicating the results in a more diverse group, Spitznahel adds, the next step in her research would be to investigate the “ramifications of burden and the impact on the pet.”

Pet owners go into more detail, describing serious negative impacts to their finances, mental and physical health, social and employment status, and relationships. Wiles, who works two side jobs to help pay for vet treatments, says she has become physically ill from the stress of caring for Mia, compounded by the fact that she now helps her mother care for her grandmother as well.

Emotionally, caring for Mia and caring for her grandmother didn’t feel very different, Wiles says. “The biggest difference is with my grandma there was someone to relieve me,” Wiles said. “Other family members would come and help, but when it’s a dog people aren’t willing to do that.”

“I felt really trapped, ” said Petra Lee, 40, who at one point last year was caring for blind dog, a dog with allergies, an epileptic dog, and a cat with cancer. “I’ve lost a lot of sleep. There was a point where I was really stressed out just having to function with all this and I was having to take a lot of time off of work. I had a hard time making food for myself.” Lee’s caregiving also caused fights with her ex-girlfriend, she says, although overall her ex was very helpful.

But “the biggest thing for me,” Lee says, “is financial.” She felt a lot of guilt last year when she had to balance caring for her cat against her other animals, and also encountered a lot of people who question her choices. “I think I have a lot of privilege, I can afford it,” Lee explains. “I don’t make a lot of money, but I have pretty good salary. And I don’t have children and my dogs are my life.”

“We have our good days, our bad days, and our horrible days,” says Ana Sakuta, 37, whose dog, Roxy, became paralyzed a few years ago. Surgery fixed the problem — Roxy recovered and things went back to normal for a while. But soon, new issues emerged: Roxy stopped eating, became lethargic, and wouldn’t take her medicine.

At that point, Sakuta, who has been the main caregiver for the dogs, brought up euthanasia to her husband, which caused a fight — an added stressor she didn’t need. “It’s really rough. I’m crying, calling the vet all the time,” Sakuta says. “You try to talk to somebody about it and they don’t understand.” Sakuta has asked others in her family for help looking after Roxy, she says, but people tell her they don’t feel comfortable watching the dog due to the amount of work involved.

Although Spitznagel’s is the first study to formally document pet caregiver burden, veterinary social workers have long been aware of the issue. Susan Cohen, a support group facilitator at the ASPCA, estimates she has counseled thousands of pet owners over the years.
The most common issues she hears are “constant vigilance, isolation, and guilt,” she says, and the never-ending problem solving also take a toll: “They’re trying to decide all the time whether the pet is getting worse or getting better, and they often don’t have anyone to talk to about it,” she explains.

“I am so pleased that that study was done,” Cohen adds, noting that she’s tried to get vets to recognize caregiver burden and set up systems to address it. A few large veterinary practices have counselors on staff and offer support groups, but the practice isn’t widespread, and she often gets pushback about the lack of research.

In the meantime, Cohen works with pet owners to ease the decision-making load as much as possible, helping them establish boundaries and a treatment plan early on. Most people say that they will care for their pet so long as they have the means. “I want to figure out what their limits are,” Cohen says, which often involves naming a dollar amount or cap. Whether it’s money or quality of life, it’s helpful for pet owners to be able to answer one simple, and painful, question: “What are you trading it for?”

When Animals Mourn: Seeing That Grief Is Not Uniquely Human

Thursday, October 31st, 2019
Olaf Kraak/AFP/Getty Images
An elephant at the Emmen, Netherlands, zoo stands at the edge of a ditch in 2009, a day after another elephant fell into the ditch and died.

Eleanor was the matriarch of an elephant family called the First Ladies. One day, elephant researchers in Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve saw that Eleanor was bruised and dragging her trunk on the ground. Soon, she collapsed.

Within minutes, Grace, the matriarch of another elephant family, came near. Using her trunk, she pushed Eleanor back up to a standing position. When Eleanor, greatly weakened now, thudded once again to the ground, Grace became visibly distressed: she vocalized, pushed at the body and refused to leave Eleanor’s side.

How Animals Grieve     by Barbara J. King  Hardcover, 193 pages

The breadth and depth of animal grief is the topic of my book How Animals Grieve, just published. Writing this book often moved me profoundly; through reading the science literature and conducting interviews with experienced animal caretakers, I came to understand at a new, visceral level just how extensively animals feel their lives. Elephants grieve. Great apes (think chimpanzees, bonobos) and cetaceans (such as dolphins) grieve. So do horses and rabbits, cats and dogs, even some birds.

Here at 13.7, I often write about science books. So it’s gratifying to write now about my own, especially this week when it’s the focal point of a story in Time Magazine called “The Mystery of Animal Grief.”

In my work, I define grief as some visible response to death that goes beyond curiosity or exploration to include altered daily routines plus signs of emotional distress. Horses who merely nudge or sniff at the body of a dead companion, for example, can’t be said to be grieving. Horses who stand vigil in a hushed circle, for many hours, at the fresh grave of a lost friend may well be grieving. A horse who refuses food and companionship, becomes listless and won’t follow normal routines for days when her friend dies? Why wouldn’t we see this as grief? (These examples are explained in detail in the book.)

As I’ve mentioned, it’s not only the big-brained “usual suspects” — the apes, elephants and dolphins — who grieve. In this brief video produced at The College of William and Mary (where I teach), I describe what happened when one duck named Harper, rescued by and living contentedly at Farm Sanctuary, witnesses the necessary euthanasia of his best duck friend Kohl. Emotionally, Harper simply cannot recover from his loss.

YouTube

In our own lives, when it hits hard, grief can be a wild and terrible force. In another post to come, I will outline some ways in which I think human mourning and thinking about death differs from the grief of other animals.

For now, I’ll conclude with the same words with which I close my book:

It won’t ease our deepest grief to know that animals love and grieve too. But when our mourning becomes a little less raw… may it bring genuine comfort to know how much we share with other animals? I find hope and solace in [these] stories. May you find hope and solace in them as well.


You can keep up with more of what Barbara is thinking on Twitter: @bjkingape