Senior Pet Health Month Wrap Up

Jake with ball As October approaches, I thought it would be fun to share some of the great articles that have been written on senior pets this month. Here are some of my finds:

Over at the Daley's Dog Years blog (tips, tales and tools for senior dog life), here's a senior dog book review “Good Old Dog” Guide Focuses On Your Senior Dog’s Health And Happiness.

There are a number of articles over at the Senior Dog Books website. Here's one on how laser treatment can be used to treat pain in senior dogs: Cold Laser Therapy for Dogs- Dr. Brian Pryor

Edie at Will My Dog Hate Me?, wrote a great post about adopting an older dog Needing to Be Needed: How A Less Adoptable Dog Changed My Life 

My friend Roxanne writes about life with her fearful dog Lilly. Lilly has been going through some recent health issues with a lump - read the ups and downs (and ups) as they happen at Champion of My Heart

Christine from the Raising Ruby blog writes a very touching story about her soulmate Kiva and the introduction of a younger dog training to be a service dog into their household Old Dog

I know I have missed some other great posts and I'm sure there are some great books on senior dogs and cats - feel free to share in the comments. Can't have too many.

Related Posts:
September is Senior Pet Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: Top 5 good things about old dogs
Guest Post: Senior Pet Health Tips
Claim Example: hyperadrenocorticism or Cushings Disease in 9 year old dog
Guest Post: Letting Her Lead by Christine Gillow
Senior Pet Health Month Wrap Up

Guest Post: Letting Her Lead by Christine Gillow

We're big fans of Christine Gillow over at her blog Raising Ruby. She wrote a lovely post about her older dog Kiva interacting with her service puppy trainee, which I loved, so she kindly agreed to write a shorter companion piece to share with the Embrace readers. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did when I first read it.

The other day, my friend Tamara tweeted a touching little story that I was lucky enough to catch:

"Saw something special on my way to work this am—an elderly golden retriever walking with her mom. Mom was very patient with her slow walk. I thought, now that is a lovely relationship."

The vignette made me smile. My friend's words immediately brought to mind the relationship I have with my old dog, Kiva, and how willingly she adjusts her stride to mine.

Kivaroo4 Kiva was 11 years old when I made the decision to raise a service puppy. I chose an organization that partners service dogs with mobility-related disabled individuals, and the puppy raising commitment is significant: a bouncy, two-month-old retriever mix is placed in your arms and burrows her way into your home, life, and heart until she’s 18 months old and leaves for advanced training. During that first year and a half, the main goal in raising a service puppy is socialization, so the puppy accompanies her raiser literally everywhere—restaurants, shopping malls, supermarkets, sporting events, the car wash, the dry cleaners—whenever you look down, an inquisitive little black jellybean nose is pointed back up at you. At least you hope it’s pointed back up at you. Sometimes you find it buried in the lingerie rack at Macy’s.

I had debated for months about bringing a service puppy into my one-senior-dog household. Kiva is tolerant, very well socialized, and she's met hundreds of other dogs in her lifetime without issue, but she had never shared her home with one. I wanted very much to be a service puppy raiser, but I worried if my aging dog could accept a willful toddler taking over her space. If they did bond, would Kiva have trouble with the loss when it was time for the puppy to move on? Would she feel threatened or jealous of all the attention I'd need to devote to raising and training a service puppy? Was I asking too much of my precious old girl?

I worried constantly in the weeks leading up to the puppy’s arrival. I should have known that I didn’t have to. As soon as our service puppy, Ruby, arrived, Kiva accepted the puppy without reservation, scattering my shadowy doubts to the breeze like dandelions. She always turns my worries into wishes and makes them all come true.

Kivaroo3 I happily took Ruby with me to the all the shops, I taught her to sit, stand, and to come when I called. But Kiva nurtured Ruby in her own way, guiding with her gentle nature and the experience of age. She imparted a calmness into the puppy that only a dog can convey to another. Kiva’s invaluable lessons will serve Ruby well as she becomes a service dog whose actions are careful and deliberate.

Throughout that year and a half, Kiva gave me as many gifts as she gave Ruby. She accepted Ruby with a level of patience I can only ever try to live up to. She let me delight in the whole experience, enjoying it with me. And the morning after Ruby left us to move on to advanced training, Kiva glanced around the bedroom for a moment or two...then flipped a toy in the air and never questioned me.

These days, at 13 years old, Kiva needs me to walk a little more slowly with her, too. But no matter how long it takes her to get me there, she still always leads me where I need to go.

Christine Gillow lives in Colorado with her husband Jeff, and Kiva, a former NY ASPCA puppy who is as happy on a mountain trail as she is on the couch. Enjoy more of their service puppy adventures at

Related Posts:
September is Senior Pet Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: Top 5 good things about old dogs
Guest Post: Senior Pet Health Tips
Claim Example: hyperadrenocorticism or Cushings Disease in 9 year old dog
Guest Post: Letting Her Lead by Christine Gillow

Embrace wins NorthCoast99 Award second year in a row

NC99-Winner The reason why we get such great customer reviews is because of our Embracers.

Yes, we have a great product. Yes, we have a great website. Yes, we are open and honest. But really, the Embrace Experience is not just a concept, it's the people that make all of that happen.

The way you are treated when you call in. The way we admit to mistakes and how we fix them. The way we love your pets too. All of which come from the Embrace Core Values and the Embracers that live them.

Which is why we work hard to hire great people with inquisitive and sharp minds to be Embracers. We can't do it any other way.

So, when someone else, not our mothers, says we have a great place to work, we love the recognition that others get what we are doing too. Yay!

Just in case you aren't from around here, a NorthCoast 99 Award recognizes the ability to maintain great workplaces that support the attraction, retention, and motivation of Top Performers. We won for the second year in a row and don't plan to stop winning any time soon.

Some interesting facts about the 99 companies that won a NorthCoast 99 award this year.

  • 65% have onsite fitness classes, activities or programs (we have yoga on Mondays)
  • 91% provide new hires with a welcome lunch (each new hire has lunch with their assigned Embrace buddy)
  • 14,599 new employees hired in 2010 (wow, we did a rather modest part of that)
  • 53% of non-management top performers participated in the creation or implementation of a new workplace policy, program or product/service in 2010 (everyone gets to chip in at Embrace)

Claim Example: hyperadrenocorticism or Cushings Disease in 9 year old dog

Lexington-AmyScott-whitelabmix I was doing a quick survey of costly conditions in older dogs (older cat conditions coming soon) and Peggy, a 9 year old mixed breed dog living in Portland, OR, caught my eye.

Peggy has hyperadrenocorticism, also known as Cushings Disease, which is more common in middle-aged and senior dogs. Cushings is a disease where the adrenal gland produces too much cortisol, most often caused by a tumor in the pituitary or adrenal glands. It is suspected to be somewhat genetic as certain breeds such as Miniature Poodles, Dachshunds, Boxers, Boston Terriers, and Beagles are more susceptible to the condition.

The most common clinical signs for Cushings are polydipsia (PD increased thirst), polyuria (PU increased urination), polyphagia (eating too much), heat intolerance, lethargy, potbelly, panting, obesity, muscle weakness, and recurrent urinary tract infections. Have you seen your dog suffering from one of those symptoms?

Peggy has “pituitary dependent” hyperadrenocorticism, and so she is being treated by medication. Her claims since she has started her treatment are as follows:

Vet Visit Diagnosis Claim Amount Covered Amount Paid
2/12/2011 Hyperadrenocorticism, PU/PD $1,246.47 $1,246.47 $597.18
3/25/2011 Hyperadrenocorticism $396.00 $396.00 $316.80
3/15/2011 Ultrasound Abdomen $305.00 $305.00 $244.00
3/28/2011 Drug: Prednisone & Vetoryl $76.20 $76.20 $60.96
4/20/2011 Hyperadrenocorticism $296.00 $296.00 $236.80
4/27/2011 Drug: Vetoryl $72.85 $72.85 $58.28
5/13/2011 Hyperadrenocorticism $407.48 $378.50 $302.80
7/16/2011 Drug: Vetoryl $88.49 $70.50 $56.40
7/29/2011 Hyperadrenocorticism $363.00 $363.00 $290.40
  Total $3,251.49 $3,204.52 $2,163.62

Peggy's policy has a $500 annual deductible, an 80% reimbursement rate, a $10,000 annual maximum and includes the prescription drug coverage. Her policy costs $28.73 a month.

For more details, check out our detail on hyperadrenocorticism (Cushings Disease) in the Embrace Pet Health Center.

Are you coping with a Cushing's dog?

Related Posts:
September is Senior Pet Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: Top 5 good things about old dogs
Guest Post: Senior Pet Health Tips
Claim Example: hyperadrenocorticism or Cushings Disease in 9 year old dog
Guest Post: Letting Her Lead by Christine Gillow

(picture is of another Embraced dog, Lexington - what a cutie!) 

Guest Post: Senior Pet Health Tips

I'm delighted to introduce you to Dr. Patrick Mahaney, a veterinarian and certified veterinary acupuncturist who focuses on integrative veterinary medicine. We recently met at Blogpaws and I loved his fresh approach to veterinary medicine.

Since our theme this month is senior pets, Dr. Mahaney's first guest post discusses his top senior pet health tips, all of which I wholeheartedly agree with, having cared for a senior cat with health issues in recent years. Over to Dr. Mahaney...

IMG_1867 When is your pet considered a senior? No simple answer applies to every cat, dog, or other companion animal, yet I consider pets having achieved seven to nine years of age to have entered the realm of senior living. If you follow the conventional consideration that one pet year equals seven human years, a seven to nine year old pet falls between the ages of 49 to 63.

Some pets show physical signs of aging faster than others due to poor genetics, sub-optimal nutrition, harsh environment, or disease. Other pets gracefully sail from adulthood into the golden years with little obvious decline in youthful vigor as a result of the combination of good genes, healthful diet, temperate environment, and minimal episodes of illness. Inherently, the body’s ability to recover from illness, heal injuries, and fight infectious organisms wanes with time.

What is the secret of keeping your senior pet healthy? Maintenance and promotion of optimal health is multi-factorial and relies on the combination of efforts from the pet guardian (you) and veterinary medical care providers.

As your pet’s health advocate it is vitally important to take an educated and proactive stance in promoting your pet’s optimal vitality regardless of life stage.

Here are my top senior pet health tips.

Schedule Regular Veterinary Physical Examinations

IMG_0610 Senior pets are more prone to periodontal disease, arthritis, cancer and other potentially life threatening ailments affecting the kidneys, liver, and endocrine system (adrenal, thyroid, and other gland). Manifestations of these diseases can be subtle or arise when significant damage has already occurred.

In attempting to prevent the development or worsening of such conditions, it is vital that your senior pet has a physical exam performed by a veterinarian at least every 12 months. Senior pets afflicted by disease should be examined more frequently, such as every 3-6 months. Your veterinarian's physical exam may pick up on findings that otherwise would have gone unnoticed to the untrained eye or hand.

Be prepared to provide your veterinarian with day to day observations of your pet’s food and water consumption, bowel movement and urinary habits, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, sneezing, and sleep and energetic patterns. Additionally, keep a concise record of any supplements, medications, Chinese herbs, or other products regularly used.

Immediately Address Health Concerns

IMG_0088 When an issue regarding your pet’s health occurs or your veterinarian discovers a abnormality, efficiently and safely resolve the issue.

One of the most common diseases I see in clinical practice is periodontal disease (unhealthy teeth, gums, and supporting structures). I am continually dumfounded by pet owners electing to address periodontal disease only when it progresses to the point of oral malodor, lethargy, inappetence, tooth abscesses, or internal organ (heart, lung, kidney, liver, other) damage.

Pet owners should take steps to prevent periodontal disease from occurring by brushing teeth on a daily basis and providing appropriate objects on which a pet can chew to reduce plaque and tartar accumulation.

In cases where preventative measures cannot are insufficient, resolving periodontal disease with an anesthetized dental is the ideal choice. Although non-anesthetic dental cleaning does some good in removing visible accumulation, it does not permit subgingival (under the gumline) scaling, tooth extraction, or evaluation via radiography (xrays), and leaves the airway (trachea) susceptible to bacteria aerosolized during the scaling process.

A pet is never too old to undergo anesthesia, yet they can be too unhealthy. In order to prepare a pet for anesthesia and as part of a routine senior wellness protocol, diagnostic testing should be routinely performed.

Perform Routine Diagnostic Testing

IMG_3070 Although a veterinarian can garner much information from a pet’s history and physical exam, diagnostic testing yields a more accurate representation of overall health. Blood, urine, and fecal testing, radiographs (xrays), ultrasound, and other means may be needed to establish a definitive diagnosis.

I recommend senior pets have baseline blood, urine, and fecal testing at least every 12 months. A minimum database of blood testing and ECG (electrocardiogram), and other case dependent diagnostics should be performed within 24 hours of a planned anesthetic procedure.

The true value of diagnostics lie in early detection of disease processes so that appropriate treatment can occur before progression occurs.

Provide a Whole Food Diet

IMG_0008 I have seen the unfortunate trend of sick or geriatric pets being put on a whole food diet only when a serious diagnosis has been established or when prehension of a commercially available dry food no longer occurs.

I strongly feel that pets should be fed less processed sources of nutrients instead of by-product and contaminant laden, heavily denatured dry and canned foods. In feeding appropriate quantities of whole food sources during the juvenile life stage, many preventable diseases, such obesity, arthritis, and diabetes are less likely to occur during adult and senior years.

Tailor Your Pet’s Environment and Lifestyle to Suit Geriatric Needs

IMG_0151 No longer is your senior pet the nubile puppy or kitten of yesteryear, therefore their ability to navigate the environment through which they once gracefully strode is also compromised. Slippery floors, steep stairs, lofty sleeping quarters, and extremes of heat, cold, dryness, and humidity are a hazardous to an elderly pet.

Enhance your home and yard environment to appropriately suit your senior pet and reduce the likelihood that preventable injury of illness will occur.

Related Posts:
September is Senior Pet Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: Top 5 good things about old dogs
Guest Post: Senior Pet Health Tips
Other posts by Dr. Mahaney

Dr Patrick Mahaney Dr. Mahaney is a veterinarian from the University of Pennsylvania and a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist, having been inspired by his own chronic pain from Intervertebral Disc Disease to provide accupuncture to his veterinary clients. In addition to Dr Mahaney's house call integrative veterinary medicine business, California Pet Acupuncture and Wellness, he sees patients on an in-clinic basis at Veterinary Cancer Group in Culver City, CA.

Dr Mahaney writes a veterinary column (Patrick's Blog) for and contributes to a variety of media, including Perez Hilton's, Fido Friendly, Veterinary Practice News, Healthy Pets and People with Dr Patrick on, and MSNBC Sunday with Alex Witt and Career Day. His first book, The Uncomfortable Vet, will be available in 2012 through Havenhurst Books.

(photos courtesy of Dr Patrick Mahaney)

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