Friday, March 29, 2013

Managing your cat's litter box, by Dr. Erika

amigo hiding out in the litterbox - _MG_8885.JPG

Inappropriate urination, now termed “periura” by veterinary professionals, is one of the most frustrating and disgusting problems cat owners may face with their indoor cat. For varied reasons, cats may turn to a different substrate on which to urinate, leaving that litter box untouched for a more preferable place to relieve themselves. Many times it is on your bed, in the bathtub, a spot behind the couch, or for the really special cat, right on the floor in front of you. What do these spots have in common, you may ask? They are likely cleaner, quieter, better smelling places to do business than the litter box. Perhaps an aggressor cat is preventing a more subservient cat from using the litter box, or those stray cats you feed are upsetting your indoor cat. Whatever the reason, it can be difficult to correct.

Checking Out the LitterboxBefore initiating any of the suggestions or hints below, please take your cat to see the veterinarian. There may be an underlying medical problem causing the cat to drink more water or urinate more frequently, such as diabetes; hyperthyroidism; osteoarthritis; kidney disease or infection; bladder infection, bladder stones or crystals; tumor or Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disorder. Allow your veterinarian to do diagnostics such as blood work, urinalysis, urine culture and x-rays. All of these in combination can form a complete picture of health for your cat and help discern a medical problem from a behavioral problem.
  1. Find and clean all soiled areas with an odor eliminator. Examples include: Nature’s Miracle (; WeeCleaner (; or Urine Off ( Follow labeled directions carefully. A good way to find soiled areas is with a black light, which can be purchased at most pet stores or retail stores. Keep in mind that many bodily fluids, such as vomit and blood, may show up with black light. Cover the soiled areas with heavy plastic, aluminum foil, food and water bowls, or a heavily scented item such as potpourri to keep your cat from revisiting the area.

  2. DO NOT rub your cat’s face in a soiled area; this may lead to human injury and it does not work. Only punish when you see your cat "in the act": squatting, scratching, circling, or actively urinating. Use a foghorn, water pistol, coins in a can, or abrupt clapping to disrupt the behavior, then immediately show your cat the litter box 3. Never use physical punishment!

  3. Make your litter box attractive. Who would want to use a porta-potty in the middle of the summer if there is a cleaner and better smelling alternative? This means scooping the litter box daily or even twice daily. No exceptions.

  4. Dump all litter and start fresh once a week, or more often if necessary. Wash the litter box thoroughly once a week with an unscented cleaner such as ivory soap. Avoid ammonia-based products. Cats are very picky about scent, and that lavender soap that smells good to you is likely offensive to your cat. You only need an inch or two of litter in the box; no need to go overboard and create the Sahara Desert.

  5. Give your cat options. A good rule of thumb is one more litter box than the number of cats you own (i.e. if you have 3 cats, have a minimum of 4 litter boxes).

  6. Place litter boxes in low traffic, quiet places. Cats love serenity when using the facilities. A dryer buzzer going off when a cat is doing his business can cause immediate aversion to the litter box!

  7. Show your cat the new, clean litter box and praise him for smelling it, scratching in it, or using it.

  8. Try different types of substances in the litter box. Most cats prefer unscented, clumping cat litter that feels like sand 1,2. When trying to ferret out what substrate your cat prefers, give them a selection, such as unscented non-clumping, unscented clumping, sand, sterilized dirt, sawdust, pine litter, or recycled newspaper litter. Keep track of which litter box your cat uses the most and use that substrate.

  9. Do not use deterrents around or in a litter box. This means don’t waste your money on “litter catcher mats” that go underneath the box, and try not to use plastic liners inside the box. Cats do not want to feel an odd sensation on their sensitive paws. Likewise, do not buy scented powders or odor eliminators to sprinkle in the box. These items are attractive to people, but not to cats.

  10. Use the largest litter pan you can find, and offer boxes with lids or no lids. A good alternative is a large plastic storage bin with low sides, such as “under-the-bed” storage boxes. Let’s face it, many of us have fat cats who need lots of room to scratch and circle before making a deposit. If your cat is older and may be suffering from osteoarthritis, make a cut out in the side of the box so he can walk straight in.

  11. Yes, you are going to have litter everywhere. Keep a small hand vacuum near the litter box to clean up stray litter. Cats do not use an automatic litter box that scoops and dumps litter into a neat little storage bin in the wild. Many of the fancy litter boxes on the market are designed for people and convenience, and not the target audience.

  12. Keep your cat confined to a room with the new litter box, food and water, and lots of enrichment until he learns to consistently use the new box. The reintroduce him to areas in the house slowly once he can prove to you he can use the box and not your duvet.

  13. If one of your cats is deemed the aggressor cat and is blocking your meek and mild cat from using the box, place a breakaway collar with a bell on the bully cat so the other cat knows when he is being stalked.

  14. Medications may be used temporarily to help modify a cat’s behavior (such as fluoxetine, clomipramine or amitriptyline), but medications generally only work with a vigorous behavior modification program.

  15. Give your cats room. If you don’t have a big place, give your cats vertical options such as cat towers or perches.

  16. Stop feeding stray cats. Likely, these cats are spraying and posturing, creating conflict for your indoor cat and making him upset.
In conclusion, keep your options open, keep the boxes clean, and keep your cat happy!


1. Borchelt PL. Cat elimination behavior problems. Vet Clin North Am Small Animal Pract 1991; 21: 257-261.
2. Neilson JC. Pearl vs. clumping litter preference in a population of shelter cats (abstract). In: Abstracts from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior. Boston, Mass: 2001: 14.
3. Landsberg G. et al. Handout: Protocol for cats with Elimination Disorders. Handbook of Behavior Problems of the Dog and Cat. Edinburgh, 2003

Written by Erika McDivitt, DVM
Dr. Erika serves the greater Jacksonville area.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Canine Anal Gland, by Dr. Jennifer Hawthorne

It’s something that most people don’t really want to think about, and for many pets, anal glands pose no problems. For other pets, however, anal glands can be a source of discomfort, pain, or infection, and for owners, they can be a smelly mess.

So what is an anal gland? Both dogs and cats have them. They are small glands that sit just inside the anus, not visible from the outside. They typically sit in about the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions, with some variations, if you are looking at your dog’s anus from behind. Anal glands fill with a smelly fluid that has a very distinct odor. With the passage of normal firm stools, most dogs anal glands are expressed to the outside through a small opening in each gland. The odor helps dogs identify themselves and each other (hence why dogs tend to sniff each other’s rear end). For a pet owner, the odor is far from pleasant. Some dogs will express their glands in situations of fear or stress/ struggle. Some dogs have difficulty expressing their anal glands on their own, sometimes because they have softer stools, but sometimes there are other reasons. In general smaller dogs tend to have more problems with anal glands, as well as dogs that are obese, but any dog can have problems with them.

Common anal gland problems are difficulty expressing them, which leads to discomfort for the pet, anal gland impaction, infection, abscessation, and rupture. Signs that your pet is having a problem include scooting his or her rear on the floor, licking and biting at their rear end, and acting uncomfortable when sitting or posturing to defecate. Also, some owners will notice a fishy smell or find brown leakage on furniture or the dog’s bed. While not all dogs have these problems, most dogs need to have their anal glands expressed every so often, while others need it done regularly. Pet owners can learn to do this at home, but many people prefer their groomer, bather, or veterinarian to do it. Normal anal gland fluid can vary from pet to pet, but typically it is light brown to darker brown and relatively thin in consistency. Some dogs will have very thick secretions and are more likely to end up with impaction problems.

If the anal glands become too full it can lead to an abscess (swelling of the gland) which can lead to the gland rupturing on the outside of the anus (the above picture shows and abscessed gland that is about the rupture). Some owners do not realize the pet is having an issue until the gland ruptures and they find blood on the pet or the floor, etc. This needs to be treated by your veterinarian with antibiotics, flushing of the wound and often pain/ anti- inflammatory medications. Some pets have chronic problems with glands leading to fistulas. Anal glands can be removed surgically, but it is only recommended in extreme cases due to the difficulty of the surgery and possibility of complications.

Another less common issue with anal glands is an anal sac carcinoma, which is a malignant cancer. This is why it is important to have them checked if any symptoms of discomfort are present, although some animals with this cancer do not exhibit the typical symptoms.

To help prevent problems with the anal gland, have them checked by your veterinarian if you notice any of the above symptoms. Normally, if you take your pet to be bathed or groomed they will express the glands at that time. Cats also have anal glands, although they do not tend to have as many problems with them as dogs do. Cats can develop impaction, abscess and infection though, so it is important to monitor them for any symptoms, which could potentially include defecation outside of the litter box.

Written by Dr. Jennifer Hawthorne

Jennifer Hawthorne, DVM
Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice and In-Home Euthanasia

Dr. Jennifer helps families in the Mecklenburg, Cabarrus and Iredell counties including Charlotte, Concord, Kannapolis, Huntersville, Mooresville and more. Click here to read Dr. Jennifer's biography.

Friday, March 22, 2013

That Coughing Cat, Part Two: Feline Heartworm Disease, by Dr. Laura Theobald

Heartworm disease is typically thought of as a disease affecting dogs, however cats can also be infected with heartworms. It is transmitted by mosquitoes and is reported in all of the continental United States.

Cats can show symptoms with as few as one to three adult heartworms living in the heart. These signs include coughing, difficulty breathing, vomiting, lethargy, anorexia (decreased appetite), and weight loss. There can also be acute episodes of shock and respiratory distress, as well as sudden death. On physical exam, there can sometimes be a heart murmur noted.

Diagnosis in cats is difficult when compared to dogs as the standard in-hospital testing (antigen test) that is used for dogs is not always accurate in cats. This is because cats tend to have only a few worms. A send-out test to the reference laboratory (antibody test) may be more useful, but a negative result still does not rule out heartworms. Other helpful diagnostics include radiographs (x-rays), echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart), complete blood count (CBC), internal organ function testing (chemistry), and fecal exam (to rule out parasites that can live in the lungs and cause coughing).

Prevention is the same as that used in dogs and includes monthly oral medications such as heartgard or trifexis, or topical solutions such as advantage multi or revolution. A six month injection called Proheart is available in dogs, but a similar product is not available in cats at this time.

Though dogs can undergo risky heartworm treatment (a series of two to three injections of a drug called immiticide to kill the heartworms in the span of a month or two), no such treatment is available in cats. Treatment is limited to monthly use of preventive medications to prevent further infestation and shorten the life of the heartworm. Supportive care includes bronchodilators to help pets breathe easier and steroids to reduce inflammation.

Written by Dr. Laura Theobald
Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice

Dr. Theobald works with Dr. Hawthorne helping families in the Charlotte North Carolina region. For more information - please see their profile page. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

That Coughing Cat, part 1: Feline Asthma, by Dr. Laura Theobald

Feline asthma, also known as feline bronchial disease, allergic bronchitis, allergic airway disease, or allergic asthma, is thought to be the result of an allergic reaction that causes spasms in the bronchi and prompts airway inflammation and swelling. This causes restricted airflow with subsequent respiratory distress. It is characterized by recurrent episodes of bronchoconstriction, cough, and possibly difficulty breathing.

 Affected cats are generally diagnosed between two and eight years of age, though can be at any age. Females are twice as likely to be diagnosed as males, and Siamese and Himalayan breeds seem to be far more commonly affected.

The most common symptom is coughing, which can sometimes be mistaken for gagging, hairballs, etc. by owners when it first starts. Other symptoms include labored breathing, increased respiratory rate, lethargy, and wheezing. Cats may suddenly require emergency treatment, even during their first noticed episode.

Diagnosis is confirmed with radiographs (x-rays) looking for lesions in the lungs consistent with inflammation of the airways. Other diagnostics that may be helpful include a complete blood count (CBC), internal organ function tests (chemistry), heartworm antibody testing, and fecal testing (to rule out parasites that can live in the lungs).

Cats that have been diagnosed with asthma need to live in an environment that helps to minimize triggers of episodes. This includes using dust-free litters such as newspaper, wheat or corn based litters (or consider toilet-training to be a good option to eliminate the need for litter entirely). Activities that produce smoke, such as cigarettes or wood-burning fireplaces, should be avoided. Stressful situations should be avoided if at all possible, including strenuous exercise. Obese cats would benefit from weight reduction. There is also some evidence that food allergies can be a trigger, as well as pollen, mold and mildew.

Medical treatment is limited to a few classes of drugs. The first are bronchodilators (drugs that increase the airways); these include terbutaline, theophylline, and albuterol orally or through inhalation. The second class is steroids, which can be given orally at home or via injection during an emergency. There are also steroid inhalers. Therapy is generally started with oral medications and eventually upgraded to inhalers if pets has breakthrough incidents with oral medications or begins to have chronic side effects from oral medications.

Prognosis can be good for long periods of time with medical therapy, however asthma does tend to be a progressive syndrome that is rarely cured. Episodes of acute bronchoconstriction can occur and may be life-threatening if not treated immediately.

Written by Dr. Laura Theobald
Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice

Dr. Theobald works with Dr. Hawthorne helping families in the Charlotte North Carolina region. For more information - please see their profile page. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ringworm is not a worm, by Dr. Dana

Ringworm is not a worm.

Well, then, what is it?

Ringworm is the common name for a skin infection caused by a group of fungi; it is not caused by a worm at all. The fungi feed on skin cells and/or hair. In people it causes round, red lesions with a ring of scale around the edges and normal healing skin in the center. Due to the itchy nature and appearance, people once believed it was a worm living in the skin. The fungi responsible are called dermatophytes, “dermato” meaning skin and “phytes” meaning plants. The correct term for ringworm is really dermatophytosis. In animals, ringworm frequently looks like a dry, grey, scaly patch but can also mimic any other skin lesion and have any appearance, and it is usually not itchy.

How did my pet (or my kids) get ringworm?

The spores of dermatophyte fungi are extremely hardy and they can live for years. There are several species of dermatophyte fungi. Different species of fungi come from different kinds of animals or from soil. The fungus can only invade skin that is irritated or abraded; it cannot infect healthy intact skin. This means that freshly shaved, scraped, or scratched skin is especially vulnerable. So, kids with scraped knees, and grownups gardening without gloves, or anyone with dry skin are all very attractive to the fungi.

Infected animals (including people) shed spores into the environment as infected hairs break off and skin flakes off. Some animals are carriers, which means their skin is infected but shows no visible lesions and they can infect others. Ringworm patients undergoing treatment commonly fit in this category towards the end of their care; the skin is still dropping spores but the visible signs of infection have cleared up.

Some people are at greater risk of becoming more seriously infected than others. The fungus takes advantage of people with reduced immune function. This puts young animals and children, elderly people and pets, people who are immune compromised: HIV+, on chemotherapy, steroids like prednisone, or organ anti-rejection medication, as well as highly stressed or significantly ill people and animals are at higher risk.

If you do not already have ringworm at the time your pet is diagnosed, you probably will not get it. Some people become immune to the different strains of ringworm once infected.

How do you diagnose ringworm?

Ringworm lesions on animal skin are rarely the classic ring-shape as in people. Pets are usually not itchy like people either. Some testing is necessary to determine if it is ringworm.

Wood's Light Fluorescence: Microsporum canis, the most common ringworm fungus, will fluoresce (glow) apple green in approximately 50% of cases. Fluorescence is easy to perform and may provide a strong clue that there are dermatophytes on the skin. Further testing is usually indicated to confirm diagnosis especially if it is not fluorescing.

Microscopic Examination: Your veterinarian may wish to examine some hairs for microscopic spores. If spores can be seen on damaged hairs then the diagnosis of ringworm is confirmed. Spores are difficult to see, so many veterinarians skip this step.

Fungal Culture: With this test, some hairs and skin scales are placed on a culture medium to try and grow one of the ringworm fungi. The advantage of this test is that it can confirm ringworm but and it tells us which species of fungus is there. Knowing the identity of the fungus may help determine the source of infection. The disadvantag is that fungi require at least 10 days to grow out.

Also, this is the only test that is helpful in determining if animal is a carrier. The other tests require an apparent skin lesion to test. A pet with no apparent lesions can be combed over its whole body, and the fur and skin that are removed can be cultured. Carrier animals are usually cats. When there is a pet with ringworm in the home, all other pets should be tested.

Biopsy: Sometimes the lesions on the skin are so uncharacteristic that a skin biopsy is done to obtain a diagnosis. Fungal spores are quite clear in these samples and the diagnosis may be ruled in or out.


Depending on the outcome of preliminary tests and how your pet appears, or if there are multiple pets or people affected, your veterinarian may begin ringworm treatment right away before the culture or biopsy results are completed.

Commitment is the key to success especially if you have more than one pet. Infected animals are constantly shedding spores into the environment (your house) thus disinfection is just as important as treatment of the affected pet. Ideally all pets should be cultured. Limiting access of the pet(s) to one area of the home makes it easier to reduce the area needing repeated disinfection.

Infected pets often require oral medication, which should be supplemented with topical treatment to prevent further environmental contamination. Localized lesions might get away with topical treatment only.

There are several medications being used to treat ringworm. The medications can be expensive, and have significant potential to cause birth defects in pregnant pets. Pregnant owners should speak with their doctor regarding their pet. Treatment with medication typically is continued for 6 to 8 weeks and should not be discontinued until the pet cultures negative. Stopping when the pet simply looks well visually frequently leads to recurrence of the disease.

Griseofulvin must be given with a fatty meal in order for an effective dose to be absorbed by the pet. Persian cats and young kittens are felt to be sensitive to its side effects, which usually are limited to nausea but can include liver disease and serious white blood cell damage. Cats infected with FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) commonly develop life-threatening blood cell changes and should never be exposed to this medication. Despite the side effects, which can be severe for some individuals, griseofulvin is less expensive than itraconazole and is often used in multipet situations.

Itraconazole is highly effective in the treatment of ringworm but is available in capsules that are too strong for our smaller pets. This means that a compounding pharmacy must make it into a more useful size. Nausea is a side effect for this medication and it is more expensive than griseofulvin.

Terbinafine and Fluconazole are both less expensive than the above medications and less likely to have side effects so more veterinarians are starting to use these drugs.

Topical treatment for ringworm and disinfecting the environment:

We also would like to reduce contamination of the environment. This means actually killing the fungus on the pet so that the hairs dropped will not be infectious. Killing the fungus on the pet means topical therapy. Lime Sulfur Dips are recommended usually twice a week and can be performed either by the hospital or sometimes the veterinarian let’s you do it at home. If you attempt this kind of dipping at home, you should expect:
  • Lime sulfur will stain clothing and jewelry, and metal bathroom fixtures 
  • Lime sulfur will cause temporary yellowing of fur 
  • Lime sulfur smells strongly of rotten eggs The dip is mixed according to the label instructions and is not rinsed off at the end of the bath. The pet should be towel dried.
Miconazole (a topical antifungal) and chlorhexidine (a disinfectant) work together when combating ringworm. They are available as a combination rinse as well as shampoo. The rinse, which is allowed to dry on the pet, is effective in killing ringworm spores though lime sulfur seemed associated with faster cure.

The problem with decontaminating the environment is that few products are effective. Bleach diluted 1:10 with water will kill 80% of fungal spores with one application and any surface that can be bleached should be bleached, with the solution remaining on the cleaned surface for 10 minutes. Vigorous vacuuming and steam cleaning of carpets will help remove spores. Vacuum bags should be discarded. To reduce environmental contamination, infected pets should be confined to one room until they have cultured negative. Most of the time, we perform two cultures during treatment, more if either comes back positive. The rest of the house can be disinfected during this confinement period. The hairs and skin particles from the infected individual literally forms the dust and dirt around the house and are the basis for reinfection. Affected animals should be confined to one room which should be cleaned twice a week. It is recommended to clean all areas thoroughly at least 3 times.

Can ringworm go away by itself?

There have been several studies that showed this fungal infection can eventually resolve on its own. Typically, this takes 4 months, a long time in a home environment for contamination to be occurring continuously. I recommend treatment for this infection rather than waiting for it to go away.

What to change if the ringworm infection doesn’t go away:

After a couple of months of medication and dipping, the outbreak is generally over. If the pet is still culturing positive, then it is time to look for where you may have cut corners (not giving oral medication consistently, not dipping, not treating environment thoroughly, not treating carrier pets), if you use generic itraconazole it might not work, your pet may not be responding to the medication you are using so consider changing the oral medication, or consider that perhaps the pet has a defective immune system. This disease can be tricky to eradicate so work closely with your veterinarian. If you become infected, contact your doctor to receive treatment. Veterinarians are not able to make recommendations for human disease or infection, even if the infection came from your pet.

Written by Dr. Dana

Read more or contact Dr. Dana:
Dana Lewis, DVM
Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice
Raleigh, North Carolina  |

Dr. Dana assists families with Pet Hospice and Euthanasia in the Raleigh North Carolina area (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and the greater Triangle, as well as Wake, Durham, Orange, and Chatham counties. Special arrangements can be made for other surrounding counties and for the Triad area.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Spring Shedding Season is Arriving, by Dr. Laura Devlin Bacon

Shedding season
Photo by Jon
(Click to see original on Flickr)

Spring Shedding Season is arriving in the southeast and will be coming to a location near you over the next few months! Longer days combined with warmer weather will trigger many pets to start shedding their dense winter coats. Shedding can be particularly severe for some pets, particularly those with thick or double coats, such as shepherds. If you happen to have a Poodle or Mexican Hairless, you will fly through this season without so much as a patch of fur in the road. However, if you have a pet who sheds, this article is for you!

If your pets are anything like mine, you may find yourself reaching for your vacuum and pet hair roller frequently over the upcoming months. I know spring is right around the corner when my lab starts forming little hair tufts in her coat and when I can't seem to run the vacuum often enough to keep up with the hair. I had one client tell me this morning that her dog actually enjoys having the vacuum attachment run loving over his coat to grab that loose fur! While I don't recommend this as a method for you to personally employ on your canine or feline companion, I do have a few helpful tips for you that might make shedding a little more bearable.

1.) You are what you eat: For healthy skin and coat, make sure to feed your pet an excellent quality dog food. Avoid foods with artificial colors and preservatives and by-products. Supplements and diets with omega 3 fatty acids can help promote healthy skin and coats.

2.) For dogs, regular shampooing with a mild oatmeal shampoo or a prescription shampoo (for pets with skin conditions) can help remove loose hair and keep your pet smelling clean and fresh.

3.) Regular brushing will help remove loose hair. The type of brush you choose will depend on your particular pet's coat. Your pet may need a slicker, shedding brush, or a comb to work through mats. Personally, I really love the Furminator for my lab and cats. It is not for breeds with continuous-growing coats, like poodles, and you do need to use it carefully because some pets have very sensitive haircoats and skin, it can be very effective if used properly. I'm always surprised by the amounts of fur that I remove from my pets, but even my cats seem to enjoy the gentle brushings!

4.) Pets with a heavy undercoat or matting may require seasonal grooming to remove mats or to shave the coat.

5.) Lastly, if your pet seems itchy, has fleas or other external parasites such as ticks, or has dander, red spots, or patchy hair loss where you can see the skin, please schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. Hair loss, or poor hair regrowth after shaving, may be due to an underlying medical condition and not due to seasonal shedding.

Unfortunately, there is no magic product or supplement that will end shedding, and be suspicious or products that claim to do so. Perhaps one day we will have a magic cure to end or at least slow the daily hair loss of our furry friends. I often think to myself that the person who comes up with a "cure" for shedding will not only become the richest person in the world but will also enjoy unending appreciation and accolades from pet lovers both near and far.

Written by Dr. Laura Devlin Bacon

Laura Devlin Bacon, DVM DABVP
Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice
Knoxville, Tennessee

Dr. Bacon services the Greater Knoxville Area, including Farragut, Lenoir City, Oak Ridge, Clinton, Luttrell, Maryville, Sevierville, and Dandridge.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Increasing the Quality of Life for Arthritic Dogs and Cats, by Dr. Mary Gardner

Old Dog
Photo by Jonathan Clark
(Click to see original)

Osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease, affects a large number of my older canine and feline patients. The loss of the ability to walk comfortably can burden both the body and the mind.

Below are 8 easy things you can do to make sure your pet is comfortable, not only physically but emotionally as well:

1. Provide good traction: Tile or wood floors can be a slippery obstacle for your pet. The use of rug runners, bath mats or yoga mats can give them a nice ‘runway’ to walk on. Use something that is easy to move (but doesn't slide) and easy to clean.

2. Grooming: Many ‘furry’ dogs have a lot of hair between their toes (I call this "Grinch foot syndrome”) and slide as if they are wearing furry socks. Using human beard trimmers, trim around their pads to help provide better traction.

3. Water/Food Bowls: Make sure your pet’s water and food bowls are in a location they can get to easily. For cats fed on high surfaces, lower the bowls so they don’t have to jump. Multiple water bowls around the house will shorten the distance your pet has to go for a drink.

4. Harnesses: There are many great harnesses on the market that can provide assistance for your pet. Or you can use a beach towel under their abdomen like a sling. You will be surprised how much they appreciate the relief!

5. More bathroom breaks/walks: Going to the bathroom outside becomes a painful chore for an arthritic pet. The discomfort may cause your pet to hold their bowel movements and urine for longer periods or when they do eliminate outside, they don’t go as much as they should. Then when they are back in the house, they need to go unexpectedly. Make an effort to let your dog outside more often and provide an area that is ‘ok’ for them to use in the home in case of an emergency.

6. Lower the Litter Box: Some litter boxes have very high edges requiring your cat to jump inside. Purchasing a litter box with lower sides will allow them to comfortably get into their bathroom. Double check that the litter isn't too deep for your cat, as older cats may struggle with sinking into the sandy surface.

7. Life Enrichment Activities: Just because your pet gets older and has trouble getting around does not mean they don’t want to play with you. Think of games you can play with your pet that do not involve too many painful movements. For example, instead of chasing the tennis ball, hide it somewhere in the house and have them hunt for it. They will enjoy the fun – and so will you!

8. Pain Medication and Anti-Inflammatory Drugs: Last and most important: there are many safe anti-inflammatory and pain medications that allow pets to live more comfortably. Don’t be nervous about starting your pet on prescription medication – it has changed the lives of many pets!

By Dr. Mary Gardner
Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice