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December 2012 Ask the Vet

Q: Is it necessary for my senior dog to have senior dog food?

A: Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) does not describe the minimum diet profile for a senior lifestyle as they do for the adult maintenance lifestyle and the condition of growth and reproduction.

A senior type diet is typically described as being less dense in protein and fat with increased carbohydrate and fiber. For an example see Wellness® Complete Health® Super5Mix® Just for Seniors; it has a caloric density of 340 kcal per cup. This may be correct for some senior dogs, while not the first choice for others.  An example would be an old dog of thin body condition.

It is best to choose the diet based on your assessment of optimal body condition and body weight of each individual. Seek the input of your veterinarian concerning senior dog care and routine preventative programs available.

Q: My cat gets UTIs and I can’t figure out why.  Should I switch her food?

A: I would schedule a veterinary appointment to get to the bottom of the problem of chronic urinary tract symptoms; bloody urine, straining to urinate and urinating outside the litter box.  The workup should include a complete urinalysis.  At least one lateral radiograph should be taken as bladder stones are an issue in 20-25% of recurrent cases.  In the meantime feed a grain free, fish based, and moist diet like: canned feline CORE® Grain-Free Salmon, Whitefish & Herring Formula. It contains 192 kcal per 5.5 oz can.

What to Look for When Choosing Pet Insurance

With vet bills on the rise, pet insurance can be a smart investment.  After all, surgeries and broken bones are expensive!

If you’re considering health insurance for your pet, here are a few things to know:

  • If your pet has a pre-existing condition and you want to switch policies, make sure your new policy will cover your pet.  Many policies won’t cover pre-existing conditions, so be sure to ask or read the fine print before you make the switch.
  • Check the age limit. Older pets often won’t be covered past a certain age— usually around 12-14 years old.
  • Consider buying coverage for 3rd party liability. Big dogs in particular can accidentally cause serious damage to property— such as destroying a piece of furniture while visiting someone else.  Having 3rd party protection will give you peace of mind.
  • Some pet insurance providers will cover routine office visits and rabies shots. However, these types of insurance providers that cover routine health costs will likely have higher premiums to cover the cost, and it may end up costing you more than if you paid the veterinarian directly.
  • A good way to decide what insurance is right for you is to compare the cost of the routine care based on your pet’s age against the premiums.  If your pet is young and healthy and the premiums are high with routine visits, you’ll probably save money by simply paying the vet outright and choosing a policy that only covers serious illness or accidents.  It’s worth taking the time to make sure you have the right coverage for your pet.  As with all insurance, you can control the premiums by choosing a higher or lower deductible.
  • If you have a multi-pet household, do some research to find a policy that will accommodate you.  Many times, multiple animals can be added to the same policy— which could end up saving you hundreds of dollars.
  • Find out the payout limit and determine what is best for you.  Some insurance providers cap you at a certain amount. If your bill is $3,000, and your limit is $1,500, that’s only covering half the amount.

What sort of experiences have you had with pet insurance? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

Fun in the Snow with your Dog (activities you can do with your dog outside)

Fun in the snowDoes your dog love playing in the snow? Many cold weather breeds like American Eskimos, Shiba Inus and Huskies are in their element when it snows- but this doesn’t mean that other breeds can’t have fun in the snow as well.

For many dogs, there is nothing better than waking up to a fresh coating of new snow, waiting to be explored. But why let your dog have all the fun? Here are some great ideas for games and activities that you and your dog can do together in the snow:

  • Chasing snowballs— Have a snowball fight! Most dogs love fetch and will delight in chasing either you or the snowball. Form snowballs from soft snow (don’t pack them hard and make sure there are no rocks or twigs), then gently toss them at the dog. Try tossing tighter packed snowballs in the air for the dog to jump at and try to catch. It’s quick, easy and a good workout for both of you!
  • Winter hiking or snowshoeing— If you love being outside in the snow, there’s no reason why your pup can’t come with you. Dogs love new spaces and smells, so take them along the next time you go for a hike or go snowshoeing. Just make sure you bring plenty of water for both of you as you’ll probably work up a sweat.
  • Shovel the driveway— It has to be done, so why not make a game out of it? Your dog might even want to run and chase after the flying snow. Remember, if your driveway is not fenced in, make sure to put your dog on a leash so that he doesn’t get overexcited and run down the street.
  • Create a maze in the snow— When you are finished with the driveway, shovel paths in the snow to create mazes and run through them with your dog. Your dog will love running through the paths!

Remember! Make sure your dog is adequately protected from the elements and stays warm. If you have a short haired or small dog it might be a good idea to buy him a coat or sweater to help him to stay warm while playing in the snow. Also, don’t stay out for too long if the temperature is bitter cold.

Do you have pictures of your dog in the snow? Why not share them on the Wellness Facebook page?