Caring for Senior Pets

Pets Provide Better Human Health
and Wellness and Reduce
Healthcare Costs

As the North American Pet Health Insurance Association celebrates National Pet Health Insurance Month, the association shares the positive impact of pets on human healthcare.

(Pittsburgh, PA): The North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA) has raised awareness of the value of pets, and pet health insurance, by designating September as National Pet Health Insurance Month.

Pet health insurance provides a financial safety net for pet owners, and often gives them the ability to provide a higher level of care to their ill or injured pets. Every day, pet health insurance spares pet owners the excruciating decision to limit veterinary care for beloved pets, or even to euthanize them, due to economic limitations.

As pet owners consider health insurance for their pets, they might think of it in the context of their own health. Research shows that humans with a puppy, kitten, dog, or cat in their home enjoy a measurable improvement in health, and in fact spend less on their own healthcare.

Documented studies on human health suggest that pet ownership bestows the following benefits:

--Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
--Higher survival rates from heart attacks
--Significantly lower use of general practitioner services
--Reduced risk of asthma and allergic rhinitis in children exposed to pet allergens during the first year of their life
--Better physical and psychological well-being for seniors

According to the research by the Delta Society and others, there is not a significant social or economic difference between people who do or do not have a pet that adequately explains the differences in health outcome, leading to the conclusion that pet ownership itself is the primary cause of the positive benefits.

The Delta Society is a human services organization dedicated to improving people's health and well-being. The mission of Delta Society is to help lead the world in advancing human health and well-being through positive interactions with animals.

“At a time in which our society is looking for treatment alternatives to complement western medicine, research is consistently demonstrating that pets can have a profound impact on people’s physical and emotional health. Delta Society has focused on this single concept since 1977. We are excited to see more healthcare professionals and other leaders embracing the fact that pets can be a cost-effective approach to improving people’s health while enriching their lives,” stated Lawrence Norvell, President and CEO of Delta Society.

According to NAPHIA Executive Director Loran Hickton, "As the human healthcare debate continues, some have asked, ‘why provide pet insurance when so many humans do not have health coverage?’ First, we know that the uncertainty of the current economy makes pet insurance critically important for the financial well-being of all pet owners. Many pet owners simply don't have the disposable income to cover emergencies or even routine pet health care, and each day, pets face economic euthanasia. In addition to financial benefits, now more than ever it is essential to share the human health benefits of pet ownership. Our pets are part of our families; they make a difference and contribute to better health and lower human healthcare costs. To people without pets this may be hard to understand, but most pet owners corroborate the research that indicates having a pet improves life and a sense of wellness and health!”

During September, NAPHIA is sponsoring a nationwide contest to select pet health insurance customers’ favorite veterinary practices from over 20,000 across North America. Pet owners are posting pictures of their pets, along with a story, at the NAPHIA website. The contest highlights the care and recovery of pets for whom pet health insurance helped to provide needed care. There are prizes for the pet owner, an educational grant provided to the veterinary care provider, and a donation to the pet shelter or rescue group of the winner’s choice. The National Pet Health Insurance Month contest page is

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About pets in the United States

Research shows that pets are truly regarded as members of the American family. About 60% of U.S. households have at least one dog, cat, bird, or other companion animal. Many have more than one. There are more than 72 million pet dogs in the U.S. and nearly 82 million pet cats. Projected 2009 pet expenditures for North America are over $45 billion, of which $25 billion will be spent on veterinary related care.

About The North American Pet Health Insurance Association

Founded in 2007, the North American Pet Health Insurance Association is committed to educating and promoting the values and benefits of pet health insurance to North American pet owners, the general public, and the veterinary industry. September is National Pet Health Insurance Month. Pet parents can enter their stories, pictures and favorite veterinary practices for special prizes and an educational grant for the veterinary care provider. To learn more, visit our website at

About Delta Society

Delta Society was founded in 1977 by a human psychologist and veterinarians who observed in their own practices that pets had a positive effect on their human patients. They started the organization to fund some of the first credible research proving that animals have a profound impact on people’s health by lowering their blood pressure, reducing stress and anxiety levels, stimulating the release of endorphins which make people feel good, and so much more. Today, Delta Society is an international non-profit organization focused on building awareness and empowering people to interact with companion, therapy, and service animals as a way to improve their own health and well-being, as well as the health of others in their community. To learn more, visit their website at

References’ - American Veterinary Medical Association, The Delta Society, Healthy Reasons to Have a Pet, Compiled List of Some Research Findings The Animal/Human Bond: A Prescription for Good Health. Carson, Lynn. American Journal of Health Education, 2006 Nov‐Dec; 37(6): 361‐365.*Pet ownership and human health: a brief review of evidence and issues June McNicholas, psychologist1, Andrew Gilbey, lecturer2, Ann Rennie, general practitioner3, Sam Ahmedzai, professor of palliative medicine4, Jo-Ann Dono, director3, Elizabeth Ormerod, veterinary surgeon3 1 Croit Cullach, Durnamuck, Dundonnell, Ross-shire, 2 Massey University, New Zealand, 3 Society for Companion Animal Studies, Blue Cross, Burford, Oxon, 4 Royal Hallamshire Hospital, University of Sheffield The Human‐Animal Bond: Health Implications Across the Lifespan. Horowitz, Sala. Alternative & Complementary Therapies, 2008 Oct; 14(5): 251‐256.

Loran Hickton

Executive Director

North American Pet Health Insurance Association

434 Salvini Drive

Pittsburgh, PA 15243

Telephone: 412-319-7730

Fax: 412-319-7731

Cellular Phone: 412-908-9766

Advice Any Kid Would Love to Hear
(but, Sorry, It's for Dogs)
Dr. Fox - Washington Post

Dear Dr. Fox:

Our adorable 3-year-old Lhasa apso itches uncontrollably after baths. Using Virbac Etiderm shampoo, putting one capful of shampoo in a cup of water and using no shampoo have all yielded poor results.

She was given hydroxyzine (25 mg) to take several times a day, but I prefer not to medicate her and especially not that much. Our answer is to not give her baths, but she does get a bit smelly.


How often were you bathing your dog and why?

If she has an oily and smelly coat, you need to look into changing her diet. Healthy dogs on a good diet don't smell and rarely need to be bathed. All they need is good grooming every few days.

Some people are obsessive dog shampooers, which can disrupt the normal, healthy bacterial population "barrier" on their skin. The skin can become hypersensitive and more prone to irritants and infections.

Cut back on the bathing and give your dog a half-teaspoon of fish oil in her food daily. Use aloe vera liquid as a basic shampoo with additional herbs such as German camomile, lavender, nettle and calendula.

Dear Dr. Fox:

We have a 15-month-old female West Highland poodle. We had an ovarian hysterectomy done when she was 6 months old. She is housebroken, and we can leave her up to 10 hours without her relieving herself in the house. She never messes in the house.

Over the past three weeks, something strange has been happening: When she gets off her favorite chair, there is a wet spot and her entire behind is wet. This has happened about three times. She is a healthy dog that plays, runs and eats well.

Carver, Minn.

Your little dog has developed a weakening of the bladder's ability to retain a normal volume of urine, common in spayed dogs.

Incontinence can be associated with cystitis (bacterial or other inflammation of the bladder), which should be checked for by the veterinarian. Factors such as consuming a highly alkaline cereal-based diet, being overweight, under-exercised, under-stimulated and stressed by separation anxiety and boredom can lead to flare-ups of cystitis.

I have found that oral hormone-replacement pills (stilbestrol; diethylstilbestrol) given for seven days in increasing doses, peaking at 0.5 milligram/kilogram on the fourth day and then falling to 0.25 mg, can work well. Often, such course of prescribed veterinary treatment lasts several months, keeping spayed dogs more continent and everyone more content.

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have a 2 1/2 -year-old rescued Persian female cat that has had hyperesthesia syndrome diagnosed. For the past few months, she has received prednisone, 5 mg twice a day when the attacks occur. I have also tried distracting her during minor attacks. Neither method seems to make much difference.

She eats Science Diet Adult Maintenance dry food. She will only eat dry food.

West Fargo, N.D.

Prednisone is not the appropriate treatment for this obsessive-compulsive behavior and is absurd and harmful to use if the cat does not have hyperthyroidism, a primary dermatological problem or a mild epileptic condition.

I would shift your cat onto a raw food such as Darwin's or get Feline Future's Instincts mix, to which you add raw meat. If your cat is addicted to dry food, give her Natura's Evo dry food. Also, give your cat up to 1 teaspoon daily of fish oil in her food. Her dry food is unacceptable.

Give your cat lots of play therapy, the more out-of-self stimulation the better. If improved nutrition does not help, see a feline specialist, who might consider light medication with valerian or Valium.

Inulin, Not Insulin

In an earlier column, I advised giving a dog suffering from severe digestive problems beneficial supplements, including inulin. This was mistyped as "insulin," which I would never advise giving for this kind of problem. Inulin plant fiber -- resistant to digestion in the upper gastrointestinal tract -- reaches the large intestine, where stomach bacteria are fermented, essentially intact. The sugars in inulin serve as food for these beneficial bacteria.

Michael W. Fox, author of a newsletter and books on animal care, welfare and rights, is a veterinarian with doctoral degrees in medicine and animal behavior. Write to him at United Feature Syndicate, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.

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Animal Safety Tips in Fires
Kyle Odegard -

Residents can help keep their pets safe in fires, and one of the easiest ways is to train cats and smaller dogs to go into animal carriers, said Carla Pusateri, Corvallis Fire Department fire prevention officer.

"Then you can grab the crate and go," Pusateri said. "Another key is to practice that plan, practice how fast you can get the animal in there."

A pillowcase also can be used to quickly scoop up a cat or other animal that might be scared of a pet carrier, said Emily Betts, foster care coordinator for Heartland Humane Society.

The claws don't always have to come out with felines and pet crates, though.

"For cats, if you put some bedding in there and leave some treats in there, it can make it a comfortable place to be," Betts said. "If you get them used to it, it doesn't have to be a problem."

Betts suggested having an emergency pack ready for pets, with food, medications and even kitty litter.

"Have current identification on your pets. If they were in a fire and got out and lost, that way, they'd be reunited with their owners as soon as possible," Betts said. Microchips also can identify pets, as can current photos.

Having someone who can provide a temporary home for pets immediately after an emergency also is helpful, or the animals can be housed at Heartland Humane Society, Betts said.

Pet of the Week:
The Leopard Gecko
By Jamie Buckley - The

Who's this wriggly customer? The leopard gecko is one of the most popular reptiles in captivity. As its name suggests, it is decorated with black spots similar to those of a leopard, and it is mainly creamy or yellowy in colour. All this, of course, provides vital camouflage in the wild, but due to selective breeding in captivity the leopard gecko is now available in all sorts of colours, or morphs.

What's his natural environment? The mountainous deserts and scrubland of Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern Iran. He's a real desert warrior, hunting by night for crickets and suchlike (even mice, so long as they're not too big), then sensibly hiding out under rocks to escape the midday heat. He eats when he can and stores excess food in his tail which can be digested in lean times. His tail is detachable, too.

Sounds like a tall tale? It's true. If the leopard gecko needs to take flight from predators, it will vibrate muscles in its vertebrae that will disengage the tail, leaving just a wriggly stump to distract its would-be assassin while it makes good its escape. A new tail takes about 40 days to grow back. If you are planning on keeping a leopard gecko, please remember: this is not a party trick.

So how does he get on in suburban Britain? By and large very well, as he is relatively easy to keep. He feeds on dried insects, such as crickets and fat, juicy wax worms. You need a 20-gallon vivarium with plenty of heat and moisture at one end of the tank (30C), and places to keep cool at the other end (room temperature). And he needs coarse matter to rub against when he is shedding skin. Males should not be kept together as they do not get along. It is best to install the vivarium first, get the temperature right and put in the right substrate, then introduce the reptile.

What's substrate? It is what leopard geckos use as bedding and shelter, but they also like to nibble at it. A common problem with leopard geckos is that they cannot digest this compound, so it's best to obtain some professional advice on what best to put in the tank. Paper towels or broken bits of slate seem to be least harmful. With reptiles it is best to be clued up on their correct environment before starting out, rather than learning as you go along. Thankfully there are plenty of reputable reptile retailers. Try getting Jonathan Ross to say that.

What's the difference between a gecko and a lizard? Geckos are part of the lizard family, but what marks the leopard out from other geckos is that it has eyelids. Other lizards lick their eyeballs to remove dust, not so the leopard. It blinks.

How do I get hold of a leopard gecko? As always, you should go through an accredited animal breeder. has an excellent reputation and extensive knowledge, as well as a wide range of reptiles for sale. A juvenile leopard gecko will cost upwards of £35, plus about £100 in start-up costs for the vivarium. And Exotic Pets takes great care in delivering the creature, too.

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Drummond: Caring for Senior
Pets Worth the Cost
Tammerlin Drummond - BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

ONE FRIGHTENING morning, my beloved dog Sophie, 11, fell over face first in her food dish. When she tried to stand up, her back legs buckled beneath her.

I rushed her to the veterinarian. After running X-rays and a battery of other expensive tests, the vet proclaimed Sophie a canine invalid. Left elbow and both hips shot. Too old for a replacement.

"Replacement?" I asked incredulously.

The now former vet suggested, without much compassion in my opinion, that I use a towel as a harness under Sophie's stomach to hold her up so she could squat and relieve herself.

Well I wasn't about to give up on my Jeep co-pilot. She's the loyal friend who has been by my side for the last nine years.

I decided to visit a pet acupuncturist.

Daphne Livoni is a holistic healer with a degree in animal science from UC Davis. For the last seven years, she has been practicing acupuncture on cats and dogs along with some horses.

She uses the needles to relieve everything from arthritic pain to problems with kidney and liver function.

Two years ago when we first visited a Chance to Heal on Grand Avenue in Oakland, Livoni had to carry Sophie up the long flight of stairs to her office. Thanks to once-a-month acupuncture treatments ($60), along with pain pills and Prednisone, Sophie is walking again. Slowly, and with a gimp, but at least she's moving.

"It's beautiful to watch it work on them," Livoni says.

We pet owners spend $43 billion a year on pet health care. Many of us will do just about anything — spend just about anything — to make our dog or cat as comfortable as possible in his or her senior years, regardless of how crazy others think we are.

When Dorian Laird's 14-year-old cat Cornflake was recently diagnosed with cancer, she didn't think twice about putting him on chemotherapy. Cornflake's medical bills take a huge bite out of the substitute teacher's salary. Laird estimates that she has already spent a couple thousand dollars on hospital stays and medications.

It costs $50 for 15 Leukeran chemo pills — with a pharmacy's discount — which last about a month.

"I've had him since he was 8 months old and I love him," Laird said. "He's not ready to check out and I'm not ready to let him go."

But what if you can't afford hundreds upon hundreds of dollars on pet medical bills?

Sophie's current vet, Maureen Dorsey at the Oakland Veterinary Hospital, not long ago had to put down her own dog. She counsels her clients not to feel guilty if they can't afford state-of-the-art vet technology. Just like with older people, just because a procedure exists, it's not necessarily in the best interest of the pet or the owner.

But it's hard to resist the temptation to pull out all the stops.

A whole industry has sprung up around caring for senior dogs and cats. There are special orthopedic beds with harder mattresses for the arthritic who have trouble getting up. There are ramps to help lame dogs get into the car. Not to mention medications such as Rimadyl for doggy arthritis and Anipryl for Doggy Alzheimer's Syndrome.

Other businesses might be suffering in the recession, but industries that cater to the senior pet are going strong.

Candy Harper, owner of Waiterock Kennel in Lafayette, offers a special $8-a-day package that caters to older pets. It includes extra play time, late night potty breaks, and a glucosamine snack.

"We'll also rubber-mat the kennels for these old guys and give them extra bedding," Harper says.

I feel comfortable leaving Sophie there when I'm traveling because I know that she'll get the special attention that senior pets require.

I can already feel some of you reading this and rolling your eyes. It's just a dog, you say. But dogs aren't just dogs—they're members of the family. A reflection of how our lives have evolved as pets have taken on increasing importance in many of our lives.

When my grandmother was dying of lung cancer, Sophie would rest her chin on Nana's knee, carefully avoiding the tubes from the oxygen tank. My grandmother would stroke Sophie's neck with fingers gnarled by arthritis and she would smile contentedly.

After so many years of unwavering devotion, how could I possibly abandon Sophie now that Father Time has come for her?

IIyse Opas has had her dog Sierra for 15 years. It saddens her to watch Sierra's deterioration. She has severe arthritis, she's lost her hearing and has become incontinent.

"It's a labor of love certainly," Opas said. "But these pets give so much to us, it's easy to reciprocate."

Tammerlin Drummond is a columnist for Bay Area News Group. Reach her at To see an audio slideshow on senior pets, visit

How to Treat a Sick Cat
Irene Maria -

I have had so many cats in my life. First of all, I had my own darlings and their kittens every summer. Then I had a cat-hotel for people that wanted to travel on their vacations and could not bring the cat along.

When a cat comes to a cat hotel they are not the cuddely creatures you see at home. They are scared, aware of the other cats there and they sometimes behave really out of caracter. What I always did was to leave them alone for a few days. They started to recognize me as the person that brought food and that talked softly to them. Very seldom did we become close friends but at least they felt more relaxed with me. Some of my tiny guests were out in a big cage to get fresh air every day. I have a feeling that many of them would have loved to stay there all the time.

What often happens to animals in large groups is that they develop the flu. Cats are no exception. When they get the cat flu they really are miserable. Quite often they even die from it. They cannot smell or enjoy food. They often have fever and rinning eyes. When a cat gets sick they always want to isolate themselves. Crawl into a hole and stay there. So I have a really strong recommendation: Give your cat vaccination to stop that flu,sometimes more than one shot. Read about the cat flu

The same as for people, the cat needs liquid when they get de-hydrated. When they are sick they need help to get enough. What I did is that I mixed water with a bit of salt and sugar. I brought a small pipette or squirt. I filled it with the water, too the cats head in a firm grip and emptied it in the corner of the mouth. Held the head up and talked softely to the little patient. They started to swollow little by little.

Some of them had to be lured into taking pills for different reasons. That was hard. But I found a way - I crushed the pill and mixed it with butter. Then I took the butter and put it on their paw. They licked it off - and voila - the pill was in the stomach!

When a cat comes home after an operation of any kind, they are groggy and want to be alone. Just leave them to heal. If you think your cat is cold, never put on a little jumper or cover that is stuck. They loose the balance and feel even more uncomfortable. They know what to do to keep warm. If you can find a sheepskin to let the cat use it is perfect.

If the cat gets diarrhoea, feed it cotton cheeze with chopped hard boiled egg and yoghurt or soured milk to drink. They can live a long time on this diet. Add a tiny bit salt to the food. Never give a cat milk or even cream. Boiled fish with nothing added is also ok.

Do not forget to let your cat have access to fresh grass. The cat is always licking the fur and keep it clean and nice. When they do this, some hairs come down into the stomach. They need to eat grass in order to get the fur balls up from their stomach.

Last but not least - get some cat nip! You can grow it yourself but beware, it will be flat. The cats just love cat nip. They go crazy and want to roll in it and on it. They really get high and happy. Some pet shops also sell cat nip in cute toys like socks, rats or just a ball. I recommend that you try this. It is so fun to see the cat smelling it.

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America's Top Quirk?
Pet Worship
BY RODNEY MUHUMUZA - Dtroit Free Press
It's a good sign when, as a foreigner, you are frequently asked to state the most intriguing thing you have noticed about America.

It means that someone cares enough to ask, as people did when I visited Detroit. But goodwill cannot be taken for granted, especially if your response uncharitably slips into territory as beloved in America as pets.

Still, I must take the necessary risk in the name of honesty, including when I was asked what I found to be the most confusing thing I had observed in the five months I have worked in the United States.

"This thing about Americans and their pets," I started, "is just incredible. ... I don't get it."

To be sure, there is nothing puzzling about a nation collectively rejecting all cruelty to animals, or even loving their pets as much as they love their children. What's bewildering, however, is the inconsistency inherent within the sense of royalty Americans bestow on their pets.

I arrived in the United States just days before the White House unveiled the so-called first dog Bo to a frenzied news media, and several weeks before Michael Vick was released from prison, where the footballer had been sent for financing a dog-fighting ring.

The charges against Vick, who has since returned to professional football, had shocked the nation, igniting a storm that set him on the dubious path to become one of America's most hated men.

Only a decadent man could finance the kind of cruelty Vick's operation perpetrated against dogs. But it's certainly not uplifting when people seem unwilling to forgive him after he serves his time and accepts his mistakes.

That's to say nothing of the media coverage the Vick affair garnered, often at the expense of other important stories, sometimes with little regard for other human tragedies.

If it's remarkable that nearly all Americans can unconditionally love their dogs, it's also incredible that there is nothing a once-admired athlete could do to gain the forgiveness of so many Americans.

Even as a troubled economy leaves many people unemployed and drives families to the brink of bankruptcy, it's not hard to see that it's safe to be a pet in America. And one suspects that businesses dealing in dog stuff can't spell the word "recession."

I have seen families carrying their dogs -- beautifully packed in aerated bags -- on flights; heard of a laid-off reporter who left his two dogs with a loving family before decamping to deadly Afghanistan; seen a frivolous cable TV ad in which one company, claiming to love puppies, accuses another of hating them; seen men caressing their dogs as they hurl profanities at their friends; and observed seemingly lonely women walking happy dogs.

These human-canine relationships all seem perfect. Yet they are also glaringly uneven, and I find it an absurd contradiction when someone cheerfully embraces independence but needs a dog's shoulder to cry on when life gets messy.

In a country that's still grappling with notions of race and the human condition, the United States could take several leaps forward if its citizens loved their neighbors -- and spouses -- as they have loved their pets.

Yes, they can.

For the doubters, analyze this: "Do you have children yet?" I asked an American friend, a married man. "No," he told me, "but I have a dog."

Rodney Muhumuza is a Ugandan journalist working at the Kansas City Star as an Alfred Friendly Press Fellow. Contact him by e-mail at

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