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Assisted Living For Animals: Senior Pet Tips From Kingsbrook Animal Hospital

At Kingsbrook Animal Hospital, we know our furry companions are more than just pets—they’re family members! Our animals live, sleep, eat, and play right alongside us, and they age with us as well. Just as aging can pose obstacles for humans, becoming a “senior” pet comes with some challenges too. Below, we’ll look at some of the common changes we see in our senior patients, and discuss what we can do at home (and at KAH!) to help make them more comfortable.

KAH technician Nora with her dog, Sam.

KAH technician Nora with her dog, Sam. Sam is almost 9 years old, and eats Hill’s j/d to help with her bones and joints!

One of the biggest changes we notice in senior pets is in their skeletal systems. Older bones and joints just don’t move like they used to, and patients may suffer from arthritis, hip dysplasia, or even a narrowing of the space between the bones of the spine. This can make getting up or lying down uncomfortable. Dogs may not want to jump up on the bed anymore or may have difficulty getting into the car; cats may spend less time on the top of the couch or in the window sills, preferring to nap in a sunbeam on the floor instead. To help with these problems, a joint supplement like Dasuquin® can help the pet’s body repair cartilage to reduce arthritis pain. Hills Prescription Diets offers j/d, a diet with glucosamine, chondriotin, and omega-3 fatty acids added in to help support aging joints.  Orthopedic foam beds are comfortable and provide good cushioning for achy pets. Stairs and ramps are available to make transitions in height easier on elderly pets. It’s also important to provide regular low-intensity exercise to keep pets mobile and active. Being sedentary increases stiffness in joints, and becoming overweight puts more stress on any patient’s bones.

KAH technician Lainey gently reassures Fuji as he wakes up from anesthesia.

KAH technician Lainey gently reassures Fuji   as he wakes up from anesthesia.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or pain medications can be prescribed by a veterinarian for long-term use in uncomfortable patients.

Another issue is hearing and vision loss. Aging pets often lose some of their hearing–which means it is harder to get their attention, but easier to startle them. Most pets will still respond to loud hand-claps or vibrations in the floor, but it’s best to approach deaf or partially-deaf pets slowly and gently to avoid a fear response. Dogs, especially, seem to lose some low-light vision and some depth perception as they get older. For these pets, steps and stairs become harder to navigate. Leaving lights on at night or teaching an older dog to begin sleeping downstairs can help to minimize falls and anxiety.

Even cats can go for walks! Make sure any pet that goes outdoors is receiving preventative medications for fleas, ticks, and heartworms.

Even cats can go for walks! Make sure any pet that goes outdoors is receiving preventative medications for fleas, ticks, and heartworms.

Some pets will experience cognitive dysfunction or dementia as they age, which can manifest with symptoms much like Alzheimer’s disease in humans. These pets can become anxious, may stare into space or wander in circles, and sometimes will vocalize randomly and repeatedly. Occasionally, there may even be a break in house- or litterbox-training. Purina ProPlan (Bright Minds) and Hills Prescription Diets (B/D) both offer diets that can help with these symptoms, and there are many medications available with a veterinary prescription that will make pets with cognitive dysfunction more comfortable. Keeping pets engaged and stimulated with walks, playtime, and new activities will reduce some stress and anxiety. Providing extra potty breaks for dogs or extra litterboxes for cats can also help to mitigate some of these changes.

I feel better now, Mommy! Thanks!


Hi my name is Tiffani, and I’m a 14 year old shepherd mix.  Several years ago, I tore the cruciate ligament in one of my knees (the same type of injury that football players are always getting.) I had surgery to fix my knee, but it was also discovered that I also had arthritis in my hips!  My Mom took me to Kingsbrook so I could get some relief for my poor knee & hips!

The first thing the doctors did was put me on a diet to keep me trim.  Any extra weight I was carrying around was just making my joints hurt more.  The diet they put me on is a new diet that has lots of Omega 3 fatty acids that help fight inflammation.  They told me that dogs on this food alone often feel as good as if they were on pain medicine.
But that wasn’t good enough for my mom!  She wanted me as comfortable as possible.  I also get a supplement called Dasuquin that helps protect the cartilage in my joints and a pain pill called Rimadyl every day (they even taste like a yummy treat, so I don’t mind taking them!)  Another thing my Mommy does for me is give me injections of another supplement called Adequan.  This also helps protect my cartilage and keeps my joints lubricated.  
Oh!  I almost for got the best part!  Part of my treatment is lots of walks with my Mommy.  Not only do I enjoy my special time with her, but it helps build muscle mass to keep me going.   I’m feeling so much better thanks to my Mommy & the doctors and staff at Kingsbrook!
Love,
Tiffani