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Does Your Pet Have Arthritis?

It’s not uncommon for pets to develop arthritis during their lives, especially when they’re middle-aged to older. Sometimes it’s just a mild case, often unnoticeable to the pet owners, whereas other times the problem is more debilitating, severely affecting the pet’s quality of life and/or causing complete lameness. The majority of cases, however, fall somewhere in the middle. The time during which arthritis begins to develop can vary greatly and depends on your pet’s breed. Dogs are more prone to developing arthritis than cats, with the larger dog breeds being more vulnerable than their smaller counterparts.

Dog with Arthritis - Nashville TN - 5 Points Animal Hospital

Arthritis and Your Pets

The most common signs of arthritis in your pets are:

  • Stiffness – Your pets might commonly greet you at the door when you get home, however, they might do it more slowly and with less exuberance as their symptoms worsen.
  • Limping – Pets that could once run and romp with relative ease can become noticeably hobbled.
  • Favoring a particular limb – This will be especially noticeable after your pet has been sleeping. It can also be difficult for your pet to get settled for a nap or sleeping easily.
  • Difficulty getting up from a resting position – Laying still for a long while can make muscles stiffer, worsening low grade pain significantly.
  • Reluctance to jump up or climb on anything – Pets that used to climb up on the furniture or cats that used to sit atop the refrigerator now begin to show a reluctance to do so, preferring to rest on lower surfaces.
  • Noticeable pain – Your pets may struggle to get around because of the pain. Minimizing and/or managing the pain is the primary course of action here (a well-padded or heated bed can work wonders for your pet’s achy joints).

Managing Your Pet’s Arthritis

Because of the higher costs involved with many surgeries, pain management is many times the only realistic option for many pet owners. Medical treatment for arthritis has greatly improved in recent years. Through a proper diet, exercise regimen, supplements, anti-inflammatories, and pain relief, you may be able to decrease the progression of your pet’s arthritis. Pain management is a multifaceted endeavor, enhanced significantly by the following recommendations:

  • Weight Management: Ensuring that your pet isn’t overweight can take some unnecessary stress off of their joints. Helping your pet lose weight until their recommended weight is reached, and then keeping it there, may be the most important thing an owner can do for a pet (this can also prove to be the most difficult part of the process). You have control over what they eat!
  • Exercise: This is phase 2. Exercise will provide your pet with better range of motion and will build muscle, thereby reducing the wear and tear on the joints. Leash walking (or walking on a treadmill if you have one), swimming, slow jogging, and simply going up and down the stairs are superb low-impact exercises for your pets. It’s best to consult with your vet regarding an appropriate exercise program for your pet, as each case is different.

Many pets suffer through chronic, low-grade pain and discomfort for far too long through no fault of their owners. You may be totally unaware of your pet’s struggles until the symptoms become glaringly obvious. Because your pet can’t communicate with words, you are their primary health advocate. The professional staff at 5 Points Animal Hospital understand that not all pets or their owners are the same. As such, we strive to provide customized health and wellness plans to fit your budget and lifestyle. Please contact us at 615-750-2377 for all your pet health care needs. We look forward to hearing from you!

Keeping Cats from Jumping on Places Like Counters and Tables

It’s part of your cat’s inherent nature to seek out elevated vantage points from which to observe their surroundings. Counters, tables and the tops of cabinets are ideal and common places to survey their territory, and they provide adequate protection from enemies (e.g. other pets and the vacuum cleaner). Cats might also be drawn to kitchen counters and dinner tables because they’ve learned that they run a good chance at finding a tasty crumb or two from your most recent meal.

Cat on the Table - Nashville TN - 5 Points Animal

Why should I worry with keeping my cat off the counter?

There are many good reasons why your cat should stay off the counter. Cats spend a fair amount of time each day in their litter box, scratching around and covering up their waste. Although they frequently “wash” their paws with their tongues, it’s likely that some traces of urine and feces will remain on their paws, ultimately to be deposited on your countertops and tabletops in molecular concentrations. This is certainly an unpleasant thought if you’re about to prepare or serve food.

While on your counters and tables, cats may pause to lick the butter or steal nibbles (or whole pieces) of food that you may have left lying around. It can be pretty annoying to come into the kitchen to find that your cooling thick-sliced bacon strips have been dragged to the floor as fodder for your cat. In addition, not everything your cat steals will be good for him or her (some things—like chicken bones—could be out-and-out harmful).

How can I get my cat to stay off the counter without resorting to cruel and unusual punishment?

There are several things you can do to keep your beloved cat where you feel he or she belongs:

  • Make sure your cat has other places to climb, thereby making your counters a little less attractive. A climbing frame stationed near a window may divert some attention from the counters (hanging a bird feeder somewhere outside the same window is a sure-fire way to keep your cat watching for hours).
  • Avoid leaving food items lying around on the counter. Always clean up properly by putting unused food away (a clean counter is a less enticing location for your cat). A cat that finds even the smallest morsel of food on your counter once will seemingly always return to this same location for what might seem like forever.
  • Make the surface uncomfortable for your cat to walk on. This sounds simple enough, right? This can be done by using plastic carpet runners with the points up, or using some double-sided tape (you can attach the tape to a thick plastic sheet cut to the size and shape you want to prevent you from having to stick it directly to the countertop). The end result is a surface that isn’t appealing to your cat.

Regardless of the method(s) you choose to employ, always remember that your cat’s safety is your #1 priority. Always try to provide your cat with plenty of space, including appropriate vertical space for climbing and jumping. Be consistent with your chosen method and give it time. Some cats can take up to three weeks to fully get the message! It can be a tough journey (especially for you), but 5 Points Animal Hospital is always here for you. Please feel free to contact us whenever questions or concerns arise. We’re just a phone call away!

Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?

Most dog owners have probably seen their canine companions grazing on grass at one point or another. A few theories exist to explain this seemingly odd behavior, though no answer is definitive. It’s important to note that it is perfectly normal for your dog to eat grass; most experts believe that this isn’t something dog owners need to worry about. Some breeds even include it as part of their daily routine. And others tend to eat the green stuff when they aren’t feeling well. The trick is identifying the reasoning behind your dog’s sudden affinity for grass.

Dog Eating Grass - Nashville TN - 5 Points Animal

Getting to the Root of the Problem

Gastrointestinal Issues

Any dog will seek out some natural relief for a gassy or upset stomach, and grass, it just so happens, does the trick. When ingested, the blades of grass tickle your dog’s throat and stomach lining, thereby causing Fido to throw up, especially when the grass has been gulped down instead of merely chewed on. A sick pooch will usually eat grass in much larger bites before vomiting. Although not a dietary staple or necessity, dogs may nibble on grass or chew on it for a while, and not vomit. While some dogs simply enjoy the taste of grass, others eat it as a means of adding a little roughage to their usual diet. It’s impossible to definitively know a dog’s intentions, however.

Nutritional Issues

Whatever your dog’s reason for eating grass, most experts see no harm in letting them munch away. As a matter of fact, the grass contains some essential elements that your four-legged friend may actually crave, especially if your pet has been on a strictly commercial diet. If dogs eat grass on a regular basis, this can indicate some type of dietary imbalance, though this may be difficult to determine. Once you see them eating grass (or any of your houseplants for that matter), it may be time to try introducing natural herbs or dog-safe vegetables into their diet. Some dog owners put their pet on a high-fiber diet or include cooked green vegetables with meals. In certain instances, this seems to diminish their affinity for grass.

Possible Concerns

For the most part, eating grass is not an unusual or alarming behavior and most pet owners shouldn’t be concerned by it. Grass from well-manicured lawns can contain fertilizers and pesticides, however, which can be toxic to your dog. People who have pets that like to eat grass should avoid chemicals on their lawns that can be harmful to them, or keep them inside until such chemicals naturally wear off. Anyone with a grass-hungry pooch should be careful when walking your pet near well-manicured lawns and prevent the dog from eating grass from them.

If you see your dog’s eating grass as a new behavior, especially if it’s accompanied by frequent vomiting, you may want to bring your four-legged friend in to see our friendly faces at 5 Points Animal Hospital for a checkup, as any type of sudden or dramatic change in behavior, including grass-eating, can be a sign of a health issue that might require veterinary treatment.

May is Allergy Awareness Month

If your pet seems particularly itchy lately, you may wonder whether she’s suffering from allergies. Many pet owners aren’t aware their dog or cat can also be miserable with seasonal allergies in the spring and summer months. Excessive scratching is the most common sign of an allergic condition in your pets, but it’s not the only sign; of course, itching can also indicate any number of other problems, so leave the exact diagnosis to your vet. However, by considering your pet’s signs and symptoms, you can get a good idea whether he or she is being impacted by food and/or environmental allergies.

Allergy Awareness Month - Nashville TN - 5 Points Animal

Food Allergies and Your Pets

Food allergies are caused by the immune system’s hypersensitivity to a protein in a food. They can manifest as either dermatological or gastrointestinal problems—this type of allergy only accounts for about 10% of pet allergies. Beef, dairy, wheat, egg, chicken, lamb and soy are the most common food allergens in dogs, in this order; common culprits in cats include beef, dairy and fish. Hypersensitivity to a food can develop at any age, even to something your cat or dog has eaten without issue for years. Typical signs and symptoms of a food allergy in pets include rash, hives and itching, especially on the face, limbs, sides of the body and anal region. Respiratory symptoms are sometimes seen, too. Diarrhea, vomiting and other gastrointestinal distress may also occur.

Environmental Allergies and Your Pets

Environmental allergies are also commonly referred to as seasonal allergies, airborne allergies and inhalant allergies. Exposure to this type of allergen occurs through inhalation. Common irritants include dust mites, mold, mildew, and pollens from grass, trees and weeds. Pollens cause seasonal allergies, while other environmental allergens are problematic year-round. While humans associate environmental and seasonal allergies with hay fever, pets are more likely to develop severe body-wide itching as the primary symptom. Excessive scratching, licking and biting can cause hair loss, injuries and infections. Inflamed ears and ear infections also occur, especially in dogs. Hay fever symptoms, such as puffy or watery eyes, runny or stuffy nose, sneezing and coughing, are occasionally present, too.

Diagnosing and Treating Pet Allergies

The clinical signs observed by your vet provide important clues as to which type of allergy your cat or dog is dealing with. Your ability to accurately report any symptoms your pet has exhibited helps as well. Skin or blood tests that measure the body’s immune response to suspected allergens can confirm the diagnosis of environmental allergies. Food allergies are diagnosed with an elimination diet trial. Your vet will advise you on feeding your pet a limited, hypoallergenic diet, usually for two to three months. Then, suspected foods are gradually reintroduced. You monitor your pet closely, watching for the return of allergic symptoms.

Preventing exposure to allergens is key to managing your cat or dog’s allergies. Prescribed antihistamines or other medicines often help control symptoms, while specially formulated shampoos or other topical therapies minimize itchiness and reduce excessive scratching. Allergy shots, which aim to desensitize your pet to an allergen with repeated exposure to minute quantities via injection, sometimes reduce or eliminate environmental allergies over time. Regardless of your pet’s symptoms, you can rest assured that 5 Points Animal Hospital can provide the absolute best in pet care to ensure your pet’s health and vitality for years to come. For questions of scheduling information, contact us today! We take pride in providing the best care for your pets.

Why Is Your Dog Barking?

Dogs bark. It’s part of their normal and natural communication and behavior. Dogs can bark for appropriate and good reasons, including when strangers approach your home, when they hear an odd noise, or (for particular breeds) when they’re herding. Most of us want our dogs to be “watch dogs” and alert us to anything out of the ordinary. But dogs can also bark at inappropriate times. Many owners complain of their dogs barking excessively. To control barking in our dogs, we must first understand why exactly they’re barking in the first place.

Dog Barking - Nashville TN - 5 Points Animal Hospital

Barking is a mode of communication. Many times, this may be the result of human encouragement. Certain breeds have been bred to bark as part of their watchdog or herding duties. Barking is used to alert or warn others and defend a territory, to seek attention or play, to identify oneself to another dog, and as a response to boredom, excitement, being startled, lonely, anxious, or teased. Consider the following reasons why your dog might be barking:

  • Alert/warning barks are the type of barks some owners encourage. They want their dog to alert them to the presence of a danger or suspicious stranger. Warning barks tend to become more rapid as the intruder approaches. Aggressive barks are low in pitch and may be combined with growls. We need to be able to distinguish warning barks from barks due to fear.
  • Attention-seeking barks are most often used by puppies to get you to focus your attention on them. They can become very insistent and hard to ignore, but ignore them we must!
  • Play/excitement barks are often short and sharp. These barks are common if the dog gets too excited with the game. Often a time-out is in order.
  • Self-identification barking is what you may be hearing when your dog seems to be answering other dogs he hears barking in the neighborhood. It is his way of saying, “I’m over here.”
  • Bored barkers simply need an outlet for their energy and a more stimulating environment.
  • Lonely/anxious barking occurs if your dog is experiencing separation anxiety. The barking can become self-reinforcing as he becomes more stimulated and anxious. Anxious barks tend to get higher in pitch as the dog becomes more upset. This type of barking can be especially annoying to your neighbors.
  • Startle barking occurs in response to an unfamiliar or sudden sound or movement. As with an alert/warning bark, we need to be able to control this type of barking quickly.

As you can see, there are many reasons for barking and most barking is a normal behavior. There are some instances in which barking is considered pathological.

If we want to control barking, we need the dog to obey us and relax. The dog needs to look to her owner for behavior clues. If we can call her, have her lie down (dogs don’t bark as much when lying down) and stay, we are well on the way to solving a nuisance barking problem. Teaching your puppy appropriate behavior from the beginning is far easier than changing behavior that has become a bad habit. Some behavior we may think of as cute in a puppy won’t be cute in an adult dog. It’s best to think ahead to avoid potential problems.

In short, it’ll be a lot more fun for everybody if your dog learns to communicate through a wag of the tail and looking to you for guidance rather than through excessive and relentless barking. At 5 Points Animal Hospital, we have two primary goals when it comes to the care of your pet. Our first goal is to always offer the most advanced and up-to-date diagnostic tools, equipment, and treatment options that are available in veterinary medicine. Our second goal is to always remember that our role as veterinary professionals is to partner with out clients in making informed, compassionate decisions about the health of the pets in our care. With our team, you’re guaranteed compassion, helpful advice, expert care, and top-notch medicine and equipment. We’ll help you keep your pets healthy and happy and show them the love and care that they deserve!

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5 Points Animal Hospital | 1103 Woodland St., Nashville, TN 37206 | Click to Call Us Now