Older Pet Spotlight: Seniors Going Strong

Older dog

Older pets deserve the spotlight!  November is Adopt-a-Senior Pet Month so let’s focus on our older friends. We also want to focus on the unique needs of older pets and try to help pet owners that may be struggling, find some solutions.

What Constitutes a Senior Pet? 

Pets have life stages just like people.  Their life stages are a bit shorter in terms of how long they last since pets age a little more quickly than humans.  What makes a pet a senior is really determined by their breed and their life expectancy.  Generally speaking however, a pet can be considered a senior after turning 7 years old.  This is when we start to see some subtle changes and when we start to screen for certain disease processes that show up in later life.

Some of these disease processes can include diabetes, liver disease, thyroid disease, cancer, arthritis, hearing loss and eye problems.  Age is in no way a guarantee that your pet will develop any of these symptoms.  Your pet may stay healthy for a very long time.  Because we see these diseases and ailments in many older animals we do start to screen more vigilantly as your pet ages.

What Changes Should You Look For in Your Older Pet?

Our philosophy at Hill Country Animal Hospital is that we always want to work in concert with pet owners to help provide the best care for their pets.  Because of this, we often screen for health issues based on feedback from owners.  This feedback may include the following changes that have been noticed at home:

  • Drinking more water
  • Urinating more
  • Less active/lethargic
  • Limping or difficulty getting around
  • Increase or decrease in appetite
  • Changes in personality and/or behavior
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • Difficulty hearing
  • Changes in vision or any visible changes to the eyes (especially depending on the breed)
  • New lumps and bumps

We encourage you to seek help for whatever problems you are having with your pets.  Some issues may not seem health-related but we are in the business of helping you care for your pet and may have a solution. Let us know even if your problem is something like my pet is slipping on the floor at home.  If we don’t have an answer we can try to find one or put you in touch with someone else who can help you.

Managing Medication with Older Pets

As our pets age, we often find ourselves managing chronic diseases like arthritis or thyroid disease.  These require daily medication.  If your schedules are anything like ours it can be challenging to know if someone in the family gave your pet his medication.  That is when an item like a pet medication reminder comes in handy.

senior pet medication minder

These can be purchased on Amazon and are very helpful when managing pet medications with a busy schedule.

Maintaining Exercise in the Golden Years

We recommend exercise for all pets from an early age.  Exercise helps maintain overall health by keeping weight in control and keeping muscles strong.  Many times as pets age they develop a bony appearance but haven’t lost as much weight as their appearance leads you to believe.  This change in appearance can be attributed to muscle loss.  Pets lose muscle just as we do if they do not remain active. For this reason, exercise is extremely important.

Don’t try to start a strenuous exercise regimen if you have not always exercised your pet.  If you are just getting started, start slowly and build.  Some exercise is better than none and will provide mental enrichment for your pet as well.

If your older pet acts like he is feeling a bit stiff ask your vet about laser treatments. Laser therapy can help with many conditions and is painless and drug free.

Communicate Your Older Pet Concerns

Remember to always communicate your senior pet concerns with your veterinary team.  Maintaining an open dialogue about your concerns as well as your desires and expectations is helpful for all concerned. Your veterinary team needs to know what your expectations are so that we can tell you whether they are realistic based on what is going on. 

Don’t ever be afraid to share with us what your budget is either.  We will try to formulate treatment plans that fit into your budget.  Remember, it is our job to provide and offer the best diagnostics and treatment that we can provide.  It is your job to let us know what you can afford and then we will adjust our plan to try to do as much as we can while respecting your budget.  This is when communication is paramount.  We are not in the business of judging.  We just want to offer the best care for our patients.

When It Is Time to Say Goodbye

Aging pets bring about the sad realization that we may not have our best friends around forever.  This doesn’t mean that we can’t make sure that the rest of their lives are lived in comfort and happiness.  When this is no longer possible, we will be there for you and your pet at this time too.

This is not an easy process or decision to navigate but rest assured that we will be there for you during this time to help with answers and suggestions.  We have many tools that we can provide to help you know when it’s time to let go.    

We are not going to tell you that you will “just know.”  We will however provide you with quality of life scoring systems and advice that will help you make the necessary decisions.

It’s Not Always Easy but It’s worth It

Caring for older and then geriatric pets is not always easy.  It can be expensive too.  Pet insurance purchased when your pet is young can help the most when they get older.  We consider it an honor and a privilege care for pets from the time they are young until they are senior citizens.  We love watching your pets grow up. 

As pet owners, our pets bring us so much love that it makes it all worthwhile.  Don’t try to bear the burden of care all by yourself if we can help.  We are going to be making some changes to our website and will be featuring some items that may help you care for your older pets at home, so stay tuned.  Make the most of every day with your pets whether they are babies, adults or seniors!

Animal Shelters Deserve Our Thanks

Animal shelter volunteer

Animal Shelters do really hard work. November 7 – 13 is National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week for 2020. It is the humble opinion of this writer that one week of recognition is not nearly enough for these hard working people. I know how hard they work and we all absolutely need to show them some love!

Not the Dog Catcher Anymore

There was a time when people who worked in animal sheltering were looked upon as nothing more than “dog catchers.” They caught stray pets and took them to the “pound.” While at the pound animals languished in cages until they were euthanized.

Animal sheltering is vastly different now. Animal shelters and their workers provide care and a safe haven for lost, abandoned, sometimes injured and unwanted pets.

Shelters vs. Rescues

Private rescues now take on the task of sheltering right along with actual animal shelters. Government municipalities operate animal shelters and private organizations often operate rescues. Many rescues operate with the use of foster homes.

Foster homes are the most needed commodity. Unfortunately, foster homes are usually in the shortest supply. Foster “parents” care for homeless animals in their homes until the animal is adopted. This benefits future adopters in many ways.

  • Foster homes socialize animals with people and sometimes with other animals.
  • Foster homes provide house training. This would be much more difficult in an animal shelter environment.
  • Being in a foster home also allows them to receive some behavior training.
  • Being in a foster home allows the foster family to learn the likes and dislikes of the pet which they can pass along to the adopter.

All of these things can make for a more successful adoption. Fostering can be a lot of work on the part of foster parent and certainly warrants appreciation. In spite of the work, nothing beats the satisfaction of knowing your foster pet got his forever home because of the work you did!

Who Are These Workers?

Some shelter workers earn a salary to care for the animals in their charge. You may not know that many if not most who care for these animals are volunteers! It may surprise some but people volunteer to make the lives of animals better. This is certainly cause for appreciation and celebration!

Organizations like the Helotes Humane Society consist of mostly volunteers. Volunteers are the only way organizations like these survive.

What Can You Do To Help?

If you want to help, get involved. Being involved and committed is a great way to show your appreciation for the hard work that happens at animal shelters. Call you local animal shelter or visit their website to learn more about volunteer opportunities.

Most animal shelters have opportunities for volunteers that include

  • Fostering animals
  • Helping with fundraisers
  • Helping at public events
  • Picking up donations
  • Sorting donated items
  • Walking/bathing/training dogs
  • Helping at adoption events

If you do not want to volunteer, donate! Donating is another great way to not only show appreciation but also to support the organization.

COVID-19 and Animal Shelters

If you are even considering supporting your local animal shelter or rescue there has never been a better time!

The pandemic affected rescues negatively. Because of the need for social distancing, adoption events did not take place regularly. Fundraising has also been limited because of the pandemic. Now is the time to support and donate to these amazing organizations that do the community’s work with animals.

San Antonio Animal Shelters are Getting Some Help

The city of San Antonio recently passed a law to allow the sale of only rescued dogs and cats at pet stores starting in January 2021. This will allow pet stores to have rescued pets for adoption.

Hopefully this law will help more homeless pets get adopted. If you are looking for a new best friend, please consider rescuing a pet in need. After all, this is also a great way to show your gratitude to all the animal shelter workers and volunteers out there.

I Think My Pet Ate Something Poisonous

Protect your pet from poisonous items around your home

Do you think that could be poisonous?

Have you ever uttered these words wondering if your pet just ate something that could be poisonous?  I think we all have at one time or another.  It is not a good feeling!  The situation is only compounded when your pet ingests something questionable AFTER your veterinarian has closed for the day or on the weekend. 

Does poisonous always equal emergency?

If you suspect your pet could have ingested something poisonous it could very well be an emergency, so the answer is maybe.  During emergencies, time is of the essence so I am going to walk you through what you should do if this ever happens to you.

Become familiar with common pet poisons

First, you should become familiar with some common pet toxins. Our website features an article that contains some of the top pet poisons called in to the ASPCA Pet Poison Control. You can visit that article to learn more about these common but sometimes deadly poisonous items for pets.

Chocolate is poisonous to pets
  • Over the counter human medication
  • Human prescription medications
  • Chocolate
  • Mouse and rate poisoning
  • Xylitol
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Vitamin D overdose
  • Onions and garlic
  • Alcohol
  • Caffiene
  • FOR CATS: Lilies (Lilium species)
  • FOR CATS: Spot-on-flea/tick medication (especially over-the-counter brands that contain pyrethrins)
Stargazer lilies are poisonous to cats

Some plants are poisonous too

These toxins represent a small sampling of things that pets ingest that end up to be poisonous.  Some plants are more toxic to cats than dogs or vice versa.  You can find a complete list at the ASPCA Pet Poison Control website. One plant that we have a lot of in the San Antonio area is Sago Palm.  Sago Palms are extremely poisonous to dogs if they ingest any part of the plant.  The seed or “nut” of the plant is the most toxic part of the plant.  Ingestion of this plant can result in liver failure within 2-3 days. 

Sago palms are extremely poisonous to dogs if eaten

Become familiar with the ASPCA Pet Poison Control Website

This list is by no means exhaustive so your best bet is to check the ASPCA Pet Poison Control (APPC) website if you are considering new plants in your house or yard, or using chemicals for your yard or for controlling pests.  You can get quick access to the ASPCA Pet Poison Control website via our app. Visit our website for a link to download our hospital app.

We know it’s poisonous and an emergency, so now what?

Now that you know what things to avoid, let us go back to what to do if you have an emergency with one of these poisons. When your pet ingests something that you think may be poisonous, it is everyone’s first instinct to call your veterinarian.  Your first call should actually be to ASPCA Pet Poison Control. 

Step 1, call the pet poison experts

The ASPCA hotline staffs veterinary technicians, Veterinarians and Veterinary Toxicologists to help you with your emergency.  They have a large database of information (more than almost any veterinary hospital) about commonly ingested items and can advise both you and your veterinarian as to the appropriate course of treatment for your pet.  

Many times even if you call our office, our advice to you will be to call poison control first and start a case.  Because of their expertise we find that working in concert with them gives us the best opportunity to provide life saving care to your pet. So step 1 is to start a case with APPC.

Step 2, call your vet

Step 2 is to call your vet. This is very close second to Step 1. In fact steps 1 and 2 are almost interchangeable but just know that you will probably still have to do both.

Once your pet is at our hospital we can begin treatment. We will outline the treatment plan for your pet as well as let you know what kind of follow on care will be required.

Above all, don’t wait to seek help!

The most important thing you can remember is not to wait when you suspect that your pet may have ingested something poisonous. Seek treatment as soon as you can because in so many cases the sooner we can intervene with treatment, the better. As always, call us with any questions at 210-695-4455.


When The Heat Goes Up, So Does The Danger of Heatstroke

Surviving the Heat

Fun in the heat

We are feeling the heat right now!  July in Texas is sweltering and we know the heat will get worse moving forward.  Hill Country Animal Hospital wants to share some important tips on how to make sure your pets stay safe in the heat this summer.

Summer is a fun time of year! Unfortunately, heat can quickly become dangerous for pets.  The number one danger for pets is heatstroke. 

Why are pets at risk of heatstroke?

Pets do not dissipate heat through sweating, like humans. The main method of ridding heat in pets is panting.  Panting is usually an efficient method of thermoregulation for pets, but it is not as efficient as sweating is for humans. This makes pets at risk for heatstroke.

Did you know that your pet’s coat works to help protect him in the summer too?  In the winter his coat serves as insulation to keep him warm and in the heat it protects him by not allowing him to take on too much heat. 

You do not need to shave your pet for the summer. Just make sure he is well brushed and rid of his winter undercoat. Your pet’s coat will protect him from sun and insects.

Who is at most risk?

Any pet can become a victim to the heat. The pets listed below are at higher risk for developing heat-related problems.

  • Pets who have survived an episode of heat stroke in the past
  • Elderly pets
  • Pets confined to cars or carriers
  • Dogs and cats with short and wide faces (brachycephalic)
  • Pets with a heart or breathing condition
  • Pets without access to water or shade
  • Overweight pets

You should never leave your pet inside a car or carrier without air conditioning. 

Brachycephalic dogs are at a higher risk. Their anatomy prevents them from panting and cooling efficiently. 

Overweight pets are at risk. Their weight interferes with their body’s thermoregulation.  Their weight does not allow them to efficiently radiate heat from their body which allows them to cool down.

What are the signs of a heat stroke?

First, become familiar with the signs of heatstroke. Second, pay close attention to your pet’s behavior in the heat.  Third, humidity plays a big role in your pet’s ability to cool down.  The more humid the harder it is for your pet to cool.  Watch for these signs:

  • Confusion, anxious or dazed expression
  • Hot to the touch or increased rectal temperature
  • Seizures
  • Salivation
  • Whining
  • Heavy panting
  • Brick red gums
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Increased heart rate
  • Collapsing, stumbling and falling down
  • Laying down and reluctant to get up

What if your pet falls victim to the heat?

If your pet becomes overheated, cool your pet down by placing cool (not cold), wet towels over his body. Pay special attention to his armpits, stomach and groin area.  DO NOT USE ICE! Cooling MUST be done gradually to avoid shock. You can get first aid tips from the American Veterinary Medical Association here.

You should seek veterinary treatment at the nearest facility immediately!  Visit our website for access to emergency facilities. Do not delay or take a “wait and see” approach.  THIS IS AN EMERGENCY!

Your veterinarian will manage your dog’s heatstroke with intravenous fluids, any medications necessary and will gradually and safely reduce your pet’s temperature.  Laboratory work (blood and urine) will likely be necessary to determine if organ damage has occurred.   

Keep in mind that your pet’s temperature will likely be an indication of the severity of the situation.  Your pet’s normal temperature is 101F to 102F. A temperature of 103F-104F is considered abnormal or hyperthermic. Pets with a temperature of 106F are usually considered to be a heat-related incident and we begin treatment immediately.   Temperatures of 107F-109F can lead to organ failure or death. 

Heatstroke can lead to brain damage, kidney damage or failure, muscle damage, liver damage, bleeding or clotting issues, lung damage, bloody diarrhea, seizures and death.

Take Precautions in the Heat

Being safe in the heat

Never leave your pet in your car, even with the windows cracked or in the shade.  Use air conditioners to keep the environment cool.  Use fans to increase air circulation.

Make sure your pets have access to clean, fresh water at all times. If your pet is outdoors make sure he has access to shade.

Walk your dog in the shade if possible and walk your dogs early in the morning or after 6 pm. If it is not possible to stay in the shade, check the asphalt to make sure it is not too hot for your dog.  If you can press the back of your hand on the asphalt for 7 seconds, it should be comfortable for your dog.

Remember, if your pet is outdoors in the heat, it is up to you to monitor his behavior. Pets don’t really understand that they are becoming too hot. If you see any dangerous symptoms, call us at 210-695-4455. Stay safe and have fun with your pet!

COVID-19 Gave Us New Lives

Covid 19, Coronavirus and Pets

COVID-19 STAY HOME STAY SAFE

COVID-19 and the Coronavirus are on everyone’s mind right now and rightly so.  We want to make sure we provide you with timely and useful information regarding how you and your pet can stay safe and healthy.  Read on to learn more about pets and Coronavirus.

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November is Pet Diabetes Awareness Month

While there are some obvious similarities in human diabetes and diabetes in our pets, we tend to approach treatment a little differently in These are the faces of Diabetespets.  Let’s review and see how much you know about diabetes in pets!

WHAT IS DIABETES?

Diabetes Mellitus occurs when your pet’s body produces too little insulin, stops making insulin completely or has an abnormal response to insulin.  Pets and humans alike need insulin so that our bodies can convert glucose into energy to use as fuel.

If we don’t have enough insulin and we cannot convert glucose in our bodies, glucose then builds up and we become Continue…

Be Prepared and Avoid Disaster

Are You Prepared?

prepared with petsNow is the time to get prepared.  Now is the time to review what it takes to be prepared for disaster.  May 11th was National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day.  Even though the day has passed, we want to help you prepare in the event that you and your pets are ever involved in an evacuation or disaster.  Remember, the key to staying safe is to plan ahead.  DO NOT wait Continue…

Be Kind To Animals

Celebrate Be Kind to Animals Week

Be Kind to Animals Week is May 5 -11 this year and we could not think of a better subject to blog about!  Certainly it seems like common

Kind to animals

sense to be kind to animals but in reality life isn’t always like that.  We (those of us who work here and you, our clients) all share a common love for animals and we can explore ways that we can be kind to animals all year round.

American Humane brought Be Kind to Animals week to light.  This commemoration is the oldest of its kind and is the longest running humane education program in the country. You can check out American Humane here.

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It Is National Pet Dental Health Month

February is National Pet Dental Health Month.  We talk about teeth a lot in veterinary medicine.  The reason is that dental health is important.

Dental health is importantDental health can affect your pet’s quality of life, other internal organs and if neglected Continue…