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Tripawd Talk Radio: Dr. Alex’s Best Tips on Caring for Animal Amputees

From the earliest days of the Tripawds Nation, we’ve tried our best to be a global community. Most of what we share about caring for animal amputees began with information from U.S.-based veterinarians, but we think it’s time to broaden our perspective on Tripawd care worldwide. There’s no better time than the present, so we’re kicking things off in a Tripawd Talk Radio conversation with a Tripawd dad, New Zealand’s Dr. Alex Avery of OurPetsHealth.com

New Zealand Vet Dr. Alex Shares Best Tips on Caring for Animal Amputees

Animal Amputees

Learn about Tripawd Life in New Zealand

Dr. Alex is a veterinary surgeon and co-founder of one of the internet’s best pet health resources. His informative and easy to understand dog and cat care videos and articles tackle topics like “How to Keep your Pet Pain Free (and find a vet who will help!)” to “CBD Oil for Dogs: seizures, pain and cancer miracle cure?

In this episode of Tripawd Talk Radio, Dr. Avery shares his best tips to care for a Tripawd (and any pet, really) by tackling topics including:

  • Best tips to help a Tripawd enjoy life
  • How to get your cat or dog eating after surgery
  • What to look for (and avoid) in pet supplements
  • Managing arthritis pain in Tripawd cats and dogs 
  • and the Caregiver Placebo Effect that helps or hurts our pets

We know you’ll enjoy this fun conversation with Dr. Alex! Download the podcast or read the transcript below for his best tips on caring for a Tripawd, and any pet!

Best Pet Health Tips for Tripawds from Dr. Alex Avery

Intro: Thank you for tuning in to Tripawd Talk Radio where we’re spreading the word that it’s better to hop on three legs than limp on four, hosted by Jim and Rene and Wyatt Ray of the Tripawds Blogs Community at Tripawds.com. Curios talks for canine amputees and their people.

Jim: Hello and thank you for listening to Tripawd Talk Radio. Today, we are having a conversation with Dr. Alex Avery, a veterinary surgeon and founder of one of the internet’s best pet health resources, OurPetsHealth.com. Through fun videos, blogs, and photographs, Dr. Alex is dedicated to enriching the lives of pets by empowering pet parents with accurate, helpful information about preventative healthcare, illness, and other situations faced by pets.

Dr. Alex graduated from vet school at the University of Bristol in the UK in 2006 and has since helped companion animals everywhere live healthier lives in both UK and New Zealand where he is currently practicing. Please stay tune for our fascinating chat with Dr. Alex about topics near and dear to every member of the Tripawds community including boosting appetite after surgery, proper pain management, understanding pet health supplements, and more. We’ve got a lot to cover so let’s get started.

Welcome to Tripawd Talk, Dr. Avery.

Dr. Alex Avery: Thanks so much for that amazing intro. It’s great to be invited and I’m looking forward to yeah, our discussion today.

Rene: Dr. Alex, hi. It’s Rene here. It is so nice to finally meet you. I have been a fan of your website for quite some time now. I’ve been following your very active presence on social media and I just want to say thank you. You’re doing so much to educate pet parents like us. I just – I don’t know how you find the time to do it. You have a great website.

Dr. Alex: Yeah. It definitely takes a lot of work because you will be well aware and I think the more websites like Tripawds and mine are out there providing great information, the better the health of our pets can be. So yeah, that’s great. The people are enjoying it.

Rene: Thank you. It’s an honor to hear you say that because we are all about accurate information and putting in a stop to a lot of the not so accurate information that gets spread around the internet. And that’s one reason why your website caught my eye. Just the information you provided is excellent. It’s easy to digest. It’s really great.

So I first – I was drawn to your website because here’s this vet in New Zealand and he is telling people around the world what we all need to hear about our dogs and cats and I would just love to get your perspective on animal amputees in New Zealand and the UK because as you know, most of the Tripawds’ audience, the good majority of our members are based in the States but we have a growing number of people from other countries and we’re learning all the time from vets like you. So, can you just share with us your experience that you’ve had with Tripawds and the countries where you worked?

Dr. Avery: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I guess to start with, I’ve actually had my own Tripawd as well. Stella who is a wee little kitten we ended up adopting who was brought into the clinic and she had some really serious injuries in her front legs. So I’m kind of aware of some of the issues both from an owner’s perspective as well as from a vet’s perspective. And I guess a lot of the problems that developed that result in amputation I mean they’re going to be the same in the world over. And I wouldn’t say it was a common thing but it’s definitely something that we see on a reasonably regular basis.

Stella Avery, the Trikitty

The big reasons I guess that we would end up amputating a leg would be more along the serious trauma side of thing rather than the cancer, the cancer aspect which we don’t necessarily see so much of. And I think it’s something that a lot of people will accept as an option more readily after a traumatic event, be that a broken leg or some really severe skin injuries, degloving injuries, red traffic accidents, that kind of thing. I think people are a lot more accepting of the need to amputate compared to tumors. Yeah, so I guess that’s my experience.

But I think generally, owners will be more than happy with that option after kind of discussing the different aspects of the disease in the case of cancer or the different options, surgical options in the case of traumatic injuries. And some people come to that decision very easily. Others understandably, it takes a lot of thinking, wondering what life is going to be like after that big surgery. It’s a lot to get our heads around as an owner and there are often lots of questions that need asking and I wouldn’t say guarantees to be given but that that could have guarantees that the quality of life is at forefront of our decision-making.

Ultimately, the vast majority of people do end up opting for that amputation when it’s appropriate after appropriate questions and support to help them make that decision.

Rene: That is really great to hear. So it does sound like there is a growing acceptance that yeah, it is OK for an animal to be happy on three legs. They can enjoy life. I’m curious, what about larger breeds of dogs? Is that something that people are afraid of doing or are they accepting like say, a Great Dane losing a leg?

Dr. Avery: Yes. I think there probably is a degree of – greater degree of caution in our big dogs. I mean a lot of them might have – certainly, when it comes to cancer and that kind of thing, they might have arthritis – arthritic changes already. And I guess it’s the case of it’s not a decision that is going to be appropriate for absolutely every single individual. So it’s assessing the pros, the likely kind of comfortable, active lifestyle kind of after that surgery or if a patient is already and really struggling on that leg then it might not be the best decision going forward.

So yeah, I think there is a concern with bigger dogs especially there’s I think an increasing awareness of arthritis and all that kind of thing as our pets aged. That message is getting out there and yeah, that’s something that I guess is a concern for some people. But we’ve always got to think of what’s the alternative and sometimes the alternative is to call things a day and to euthanize our pets and that maybe that that is appropriate depending on the problem. But equally, amputation in my opinion and in my experience often at leads to a great quality of life and a great on-going quality of life afterwards.

Rene: That is great to hear. It’s – and it’s cats and dogs the same in the world over.

Dr. Avery: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

Rene: They face the same challenges and so do their parents. That’s really great to hear. So let’s talk about amputation recovery because I’m sure you’ve seen your fair share of them.

Dr. Avery: Yeah, absolutely.

Rene: What – so some of the common problems that we see, I’m sure your clients see as well, but it includes dealing with a lack of appetite. The animal does now want to eat when they’re on pain medication and trying to heal. And then that brings up the subject of pain medications during recovery. Can you share your best tips that you give your clients for managing appetite and pain management after surgery?

Dr. Avery: Yeah. So I mean pain management is a huge topic, isn’t it? And I think if we look back at the kind of dog distant days in the past where we thought as a whole that cats didn’t really need painkillers after surgery and dogs, well, they can have short or a couple of tablets. And they just get on with it.

Thankfully, we’re in a situation where we got a lot …

Rene: Scary.

Dr. Avery: Yeah, it’s horrible to think back, isn’t it? But we didn’t – I guess we didn’t know any better, if you like. But there are so many different options. But there’s no one size fits all solution. So what we give to one patient might be not enough to keep another patient comfortable or it might be too much and cause some of these other problems or be that lack of appetite and a bit sedation or tummy upsets and that kind of thing. So really, it’s not a one size fits all.

I’m a big fan of keeping my patients in the hospice for a few days maybe after any big surgery. Like that’s certainly could be 24 to 36 hours as kind of the minimum just so that I can be sure that the injectable drugs that I’ve given, they’re kind of wearing off where we can see what kind of results all drugs are having so we can get an idea of what our patients going to be like when they get home. So that’s something is to not kind of rush your pet back home. We all want to have them back at home where we can look after them. It’s a less stressful environment for our pets to be in the home environment but it kind of accepting and taking on your vet’s advice and not kind of rush them back.

And then just on-going to work closely with your vet, so if you think your pet is painful, if they’re not moving well, or if they seem overly sedated or if they feel a bit nauseous that maybe they are being sick or something. Just to really keep in close touch with your vet because it might be that an additional painkiller is needed, it might be that there’s a change that needs to be made or dose adjustments, and that kind of thing. So really, just working together and coming up with the best strategy for your individual – yeah, your individual pet.

When it comes to kind of appetite and things, I mean that’s a big thing. It’s a big surgery, isn’t it? There’s no way of closing over the fact that it is a big surgery. It’s not something that you’d expect them to recover overnight. I mean in my experience, it’s amazing how quickly dogs and cats do recover if you think of it – yourself being in that situation, you’d be lying on bed for months probably, wouldn’t you?

Rene: Absolutely.

Dr. Avery: Yeah. So it is amazing. But there are definitely things that we can do from an appetite point of view. We can warm up some food. We can use stronger-smelling food. So a lot of our dogs and our cats especially if they’re really – their appetite is really heavily-involved with the sense of smell. So if they can smell something tasty, that really can kick start things. We can hand-fed, that can help. We can use kind of recovery diets that really high-calorie and palatable. So I would say a mouthful of that is worth two or three mouthfuls of something else. So if they’re taking it a little bit less, they are still getting in a reasonable amount of nutrition.

And I guess going for our cats, one important thing to avoid is something called food aversion. So if you’ve got a sick cat and they don’t want to eat, if you just stick their food in front of them and leave it there then that’s going to just really put them off ever eating that food again potentially. So they just get that real aversion, aversion to what’s in front of them. So just trying warming it up, trying to hand-fed but if they’re not taking it on board and just actually taking all food away for a couple of hours before starting again. You don’t want to be trying it in their face or syringe-feeding them. Ideally, it’s not ideal, if we can get away without doing that. So that’s something to bear in mind for our cats. Yeah, that way.

And I guess another thing that I want to say about pain, pain control, is actually there are lots of other things that we can do as well as drugs. So drugs are fantastic. Painkillers do an amazing job but doing things like having rug stand on slippery floors so that our pets are not falling over. That’s good after any surgery when there’s a degree of imbalance or weakness but certainly adapting to life from three legs does take a little bit of getting used to, building up strength in that other leg, getting used to balancing so we’d want to avoid falls if we can.

We want nice and soft bedding, beds that our pets could easily get into without tripping and falling, maybe ramps going up some stairs or to get into the car, that kind of thing especially with big dogs. We don’t want to be damaging ourselves trying to get up our pet back home. So ramps and that kind of thing are good investments at the very early stages and something that will have use later on as our three-legged pets age. So they’ll become stay useful for a long period of time.

Rene: Yeah, that is a subject we will definitely talk about in a bit but it’s remarkable how much the things that you recommend doing for a new three-legged animal are the same kind of the things we would do for any four-legged animal when they become a senior.

Dr. Avery: Absolutely, yeah. Yeah.

Rene: It’s kind of like practice before you actually get there.

Dr. Avery: Yeah, yeah, exactly. So it’s a big jump in our mind and it’s a big transition and I think those things that we need to be aware of and perhaps hyper aware of with a three-legged dog or cat. But like you said, they’re exactly the same things for senior dog where they are the same concerns that we have. So it’s just being aware of those problems and being aware that they may happen – just happen at slightly younger age or an earlier time potentially. So yeah.

Rene: Yeah, definitely. And arthritis is one of them. And I know I didn’t have this in my question list for you but you are big on arthritis awareness.

Dr. Avery: Yeah, yeah.

Rene: And I love that. I love that about your website because most of us don’t think about that until it’s too late, until the time that it’s so obvious.

Dr. Avery: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a big frustration. Yeah, it’s a big frustration I have as a vet when we get sort of – get a client come in and they’re older dog or they’re older cat. They’re a little bit stiff and sore and they’re clearly sore and they’re clearly struggling but we’re just accepting that as a normal kind of old age change. Old dogs that are a bit stiff getting up in the morning or our cats become a bit withdrawn and a bit matted but yeah, really they are painful and there’s no reason that they should be in pain. So it’s both frustrating when our pets are telling us they’re sore and we are not acting on that information.

Rene: Yeah, exactly. And just because they can’t tell us in our own language doesn’t mean we can’t try to learn theirs because that’s all they have.

Dr. Avery: Yeah, yeah, that’s all they have. But they let us know very clearly if we know what to look for.

Rene: Yeah. And actually, so much of these signs of arthritis are similar to what it looks like when a tripawd has done too much activity whether it’s like right after surgery and they’re recuperating or months or even years later. What are some of the signs we should be aware of that let’s say our new tripawd is getting too much activity for their own good?

Dr. Avery: So I guess if they’re getting too much activity then we’ll often see a stiffness the next day or after they’ve been lying down for a period of time. They might be struggling, struggling to get up. They might be slipping around a bit more unsteady. It can be quite difficult to interpret limping in a three-legged animal obviously. So that can be something that they can be quite a struggle and will be in an individual changes but if you’re aware certainly, after they’ve had their amputation for some time then you’re going to be aware of how they move and just being aware of any changes in that.

But other things, they might just be withdrawn. So if they are worried that they’re going to be hurt if they touch or if they not then they’re going to try and avoid those situations. So our pets are very good at trying to avoid the coming sore or being hurt so they are going to take themselves away. They might – I mean even they might growl or they might hiss in the case of a cat if they’re really sore, that kind of thing. They might start licking over one particular area. So just like we would rub our sore patch, they kind of lick that. So you might notice that they just focus on one area. Yeah, so those kinds of things I guess we want to be – yeah, we want to be aware of.

Rene: And you have a great educational campaign for new subscribers to your website, don’t you about arthritis? Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Dr. Avery: Yeah, absolutely. So I’ve kind of try to breakdown that arthritis is a huge topic obviously and it’s got the whole – what causes it, what are the signs of it, what are the different treatments we can use and it’s certainly not just painkillers and some of the other things. We’ve just discussed kind of changes to their management exercise or supplements that are appropriate, how we monitor it. It’s a huge topic.

So I try to break that down into little kind of free course that just goes through each of those in kind of bite size pieces just to give us an idea of the kinds of things that we should be thinking about and the kinds of questions we should be asking our vets or the kinds of things that we should be expecting our vets to talk to us about just so that we can try and come up with a really individually tailored plan to try and keep our senior pets or our pets with arthritis or whatever just to try and keep them as happy as we can and as pain-free as we can and monitor their progress as they go forward because yeah, it’s a progressive condition, arthritis. It will get worse. But if we react to that, if we know what to look for and we react to it accordingly then there’s no reason that our arthritic patients and our senior patients can’t be pain-free and happy long into their senior years. So yeah, that’s certainly something that I offer. That’s a way yeah, free email course there.

Rene: Yeah, and we will be sure to include a link to that where people can sign up when we blog about this discussion we are having today. I have lots of links from your website I want to share with them. It’s a great website.

And so speaking of arthritis and pain management and all that, I’m going to jump ahead real quick to supplements. Pet supplement is a huge topic and boy …

Dr. Avery: Absolutely.

Rene: I know you have a lot to say about it, a lot. So let’s get started on that. Let’s talk about some of your favorite three supplements say for example for cats and dogs and some of your tips for finding high quality supplements, something that we’re not going to throw our money away at. How do we do that?

Dr. Avery: Yeah, so it’s tricky, isn’t it? And like you said, it’s a huge topic. And actually, you could be just completely bombarded and left completely confused when you go to the health shop or whatever. So I’m a big believer in listening to the evidence behind a treatment and that’s with whatever. And there are some things that we’ve got fantastic evidence for. We got some things that actually have been shown not really make any difference at all. And other things where the evidence just isn’t there and it might be that it’s a great supplement but we can’t prove that and we don’t have any proof of that.

So for me, fish oils are a big thing so omega or essential fatty acids are really important. They have been shown time and again to have great anti-inflammatory properties to help our arthritic painful patients. So they are also something that is generally very easy to give. They are pretty palatable. They are not expensive. They are readily available everywhere so that’s something that yeah, is often kind of my go-to first supplement. It also got – as well joints, it has great effects on the skin so it can help with itchy dogs or just the dry, kind of flaky coats, that kind of thing. And kind of talking about senior pets as well, it really does help with brain function and has been shown to help in some cases with senility and dementia and that kind of thing.

Rene: Wow!

Dr. Avery: So yeah, fish oils like I said is number one. We are advised to take them in a lot of cases. So yeah, I think that that’s great. The next thing, certainly thinking of arthritic pets is a therapeutic joint diet. I’ve also got some great evidence behind them. They maybe fall into the same kind of category as our fish oils because they’ve got this added omega fatty acids but they’ve also got other things in them to help keep our pets in a good weight so to help stop them gaining weight and becoming obese, to help them maintain their muscle mass, and burn off any excess fats and that kind of thing. So I’m quite fan of those.

And then I guess at number three is our glucosamine and chondroitin supplements. So they are probably our most common ones that people think about when they think of kind of joint supplements. And I’ll throw in the green-lipped mussel kind of products as well. A lot of those actually come from New Zealand. So yeah, I’m kind of close to that source. But they’re again, they’re a good source of omega fatty acids and glucosamine and chondroitin.

Now, it’s an interesting one. People think of those as often the be-all and end-all with supplements for joint disease. The actual evidence behind them is a little bit mixed. So I think we can be – we can have a moderate level of confidence that they actually do a good job and so they do work.

But I think a lot of the time people really overstate how well they work and how much they do. And I guess going back to kind of my frustration with people with early arthritic pets especially is that oftentimes I’ll say, “Oh yeah, they’re on a glucosamine supplements.” And I’m happy. So I’m doing something and will leave at that rather than saying, “Well actually, they’re not doing everything that they need to be doing and there’s more that can be given.”

Yes, I guess those would be my top three. One that kind of I’m keeping a close eye on and I think a lot of people are is the CBD Oil as well. That’s becoming very popular and it’s becoming more readily available.

Rene: In New Zealand too, huh?

Dr. Avery: No, not in New Zealand. So no, we don’t have that. But being like you say, it’s an international world online so I’m certainly aware of that and that’s something – I had that question asked to me. There’s not a lot of data at the moment. There has just been recently a good study looking at CBD Oil in arthritic dogs. And actually, it’s quite a positive result. So it’s definitely something where a single study doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s the be-all and end-all and that is the answer. But yeah, the results are encouraging. So I guess watch the space and that might be something that we are reaching for more and more as it becomes legal and available in different areas. Maybe that might be my fourth supplement to think about.

As for finding supplements, that’s – if you decide what you want to give, how do you it’s any good with that choice that you’re making? And I’ve certainly seen investigations where you’ve got a lot of the top brands and they’ll say, glucosamine and chondroitin for example, and will compare the amounts that they claim is in the product to the amount that’s actually there and there’s a huge discrepancy. So it’s really – it’s impossible to know every single product out there.

So as a general rule, I say don’t shop based on price alone. Generally as with most things in life, you get what you pay for. So if something is super cheap then there’s going to be a reason for that. And ask your vet which products they recommend. We certainly only start products that we’re comfortable with or will only make recommendations of products that we’re more comfortable with.

I’d say stick to well-known brands that you already trust. If there’s something that you’re already using that’s a trustworthy, well-known brand then that’s great. And avoid kind of online-only products. It’s one thing buying things online because you can get them cheaper than in the shop. But if it’s only available online, again, I’d have my concerns about the source and claims and all that kind of thing and how it’s processed. So yeah, I guess those would be some tips to think about when you’re deciding which actual product to get.

Rene: Wow! So what about pet versus people supplements? A lot of people say, “Well, I can get fish oil for myself and it costs less than the stuff on the shop at the pet food store so why shouldn’t I just use the ones for humans?” What are your thoughts about that?

Dr. Avery: I think a lot of the time with a lot of supplements, there’s probably very little difference. And the difference might be just that it has got a dog or a cat on the sticker and there’s a bunch of premium for that. We do need to be careful if we’re talking about supplements as a whole. There will be different things that we need to be aware of.

For example, fish oil – human fish oils will contain xylitol which is a sweetener which makes – yeah, which will make it more palatable to us. But xylitol is incredibly toxic to dogs and cats. So we definitely should be avoiding things like that.

Or some fish oils will have added vitamins and actually to such an extent with that, that can be quite dangerous as well. So that really goes back to talking to your vet and seeing which products they recommend because it’s definitely not always the case that one product is the same as the other if we’re talking about just the glucosamine and chondroitin, if that’s all that’s in there or with our fish oils and that’s all that’s in there with no supplement – nothing added. Then it’s probably very little difference.

But yeah, I would always be talking to your vets and I guess if you’re using a pet-specific product then you can be fairly safe in the knowledge that that is likely to be safe if it’s something that is kind of a mainstream and recommended products compared to some of the human ones because like I said, there are so many different brands out there.

So if someone asks me, “Well, what’s this brand like?” In all likelihood, I would not have a clue because there are just so many. I can’t keep track of them all.

Rene: Yeah. And I really love the recommendation to talk to you that because you have your own pets and you are only going to give your pet stuff that you feel comfortable given them. So same for your clients.

Dr. Avery: Absolutely. Yeah, I think we actually put a lot of ourselves into our job. We do our best for our clients and our patients. So it’s really important that we are recommending things that we believe in. And yeah, and very – those cats can be the case in the vast majority of cases. So ultimately, we’ll only have our patient’s best interest at the forefront of our mind. So yeah, that’s where all our recommendations would come from really.

Rene: Very good to know. And as far as the results go, are there like – what kind of timeframe? Let’s say we have a slightly arthritic dog like mine. He is 8 years old, getting up in age and I just started him on a new supplement for arthritis.

Dr. Avery: Yeah.

Rene: How soon could I expect to see results or would other things play into that? Like say, I don’t know, different type of exercise or little – less exercise or something.

Dr. Avery: Yeah, it’s a difficult question. And so, we will often make lots of different changes at the same time so it’s difficult to know which ones is doing – which one is responsible for any improvement that we see. I think with supplements really, we are talking months. It’s going to take two or three months probably to see a significant difference. We might start to see something within a month but yeah, it’s really a long term plan rather than a short term fix with our supplements.

So it’s something – again, that’s not the reason to start things early rather than later because it’s going to be up and running in the system when it’s needed. So yeah, it does take longer. If we’re changing exercise regimes and that kind of thing then we’re going to see the results sooner. It’s still going to take time for muscles to adapt and that kind of thing, wait to come off or what have you. But we’re going to see changes. Yeah, changes sooner. But unless we are giving I guess pharmaceuticals then often changes happen in a – progress is slow and steady rather than really rapid.

Rene: So we just need to be on top of it before it gets so bad we need to happen right away.

Dr. Avery: Yeah, absolutely. But it’s difficult to assess our pets as well. There has been – if we think of placebo and ask how do you know something is really working? Well, it’s exactly the same for our pets. It’s something called caregiver placebo and vets are just as guilty of this as owners. We’re really invested into our pet being comfortable, into our pet being healthy.

And so, we give something and we really want it to work and so we see an improvement and I mean like I say, vets are just as guilty. So it’s to try and be subjective, to try and take measure how happy you think they are or on a 1 to 10 scale, how well are they moving, that kind of thing just to see if it’s making a difference. But yeah, it’s challenging especially when the progress is slow over a long period of time.

Rene: Caregiver placebo. Have you talked about that in your blog yet?

Dr. Avery: Yes, I have actually.

Rene: You have. OK. We’re going to point people to that topic because that is a really interesting idea. And that kind of leads us to our last topic here because we have just a few minutes and I wish we have longer. But let’s talk about helping our pets as they age. That is a huge deal. And now that our pets living longer, thanks to great input from vets like you helping us and guiding us through their life with us, talk to us about some of the highlights of the kinds of things you suggest to people about helping their pets age with dignity and just being able to enjoy life.

Dr. Avery: Yes. So I guess quality of life really is the driving factor behind any decisions that we should make with our pet’s care regardless of what age they are but especially if they become older, they become senior and they start to potentially struggle with some of the challenges that brings. So just quality of life just means we need to answer the questions, are they happy, what are they struggling with, how can we help them best cope with whatever challenges that they are facing just so that they can yeah, be full – live full, happy lives and be fully integrated with the family?

So pain is a big thing and we’ve kind of already discussed a lot about that. But just being proactive is really important, being aware of the – being aware of what we are looking for, what changes might happen and jumping on them when they do happen. But we try and keep them. There’s one thing kind of treating conditions as they come along. The other factor is trying to keep them healthy in the first place.

So it’s not rocket science really. It’s kind of keeping a healthy weight. Again, it’s the same as any aged dog. But keeping them a healthy weight is going to make a big difference. And actually for our arthritic dogs, going back to that, I would say one of the biggest treatments that we can give is weight loss. It’s not something unfortunately that’s very easy or that we can give in a pill. But if we can get to a healthy weight, that makes probably more difference than anything else that we can do.

For our senior dogs, we can give them a diet that’s appropriate for their age. So their energy requirements are different. Their protein requirement, their yeah, nutrient requirements are all different. So just giving them an age-appropriate diet, paying attention to dental hygiene, so ideally, that’s something that again that we do throughout their life so that they have nice, clean teeth. They don’t have horrible – these horrible amounts of rotting teeth and we’re in a situation where our pets have got this chronic inflammation going on in their mouth that then knocks – have knocking effects to their kidneys or their liver or their heart and just general body health. So that’s something that’s really important.

Or we’re left in a situation where we’ve got a really senior dog or cat who has already then got kidney disease or diabetes or whatever and we’re left in a situation where we need to anesthetize them and remove teeth because they are causing significant concern. So yeah, that’s something else.

Not ignoring any minor issues. So just like the pain, if there’s something that’s starting to develop then jumping on that, investigating that at the earlier stages rather than leaving it until we get to crisis point. And just really keeping in regular touch with your vet. So we do – we generally recommend annual health checks. Maybe that’s with revaccination, depending on what the schedule is. But that health check is really important.

And senior dogs, there’s certainly an argument for doing every six months if we think that our dog is seven years. Seven years of our life is one year of a dog’s life. So if we think of six monthly checks, that’s only really us going to the doctor every three and a half years. So that doesn’t sound too excessive if we think of it like that. So a lot of change can happen in a relatively short period of time. So that’s something to think about as well.

And then another thing for our senior pets is actually their mental engagement and how well they’re interacting with the family, how – what their mental ability is. And that’s something – a drop off that we in a lot of our dogs and cats. So we definitely are recognizing more and more senility and dementia in our own pets. Like you say, they are getting older and they are getting exactly the same challenges that we are getting in our old age.

And so, to try and kind of stimulate their brain function and keep them going and keep them active and that we can use puzzle toys, we can use puzzle feeders like bowls that are full of their food and they have to knock it around to get their food. We can teach them new tricks. So we can teach old dogs new tricks. It might take a little bit longer and they maybe shouldn’t be so complex but just spending time interacting with them, trying to teach them new things is really great.

And then again, knowing the signs of senility and dementia to look out for so that we can jump on that sooner rather later and then just being patient with them. Their eyesight might be going. Their hearing might be going, so just being aware. It might take them longer to respond. Don’t get angry with them. Don’t exclude them because they are seemingly not responding. Just try and keep that engagement with them is really important.

Rene: I couldn’t agree more as I sit here looking at my 9-year-old German Shepherd with his gray face. You know it’s hard because they can’t do those physical things that they used to do and especially for a tripawd. It tends to happen a lot sooner in life.

Dr. Avery: Yeah.

Rene: What we tell people is you have to rethink your activities. It’s not just about walking or throwing a ball now. It’s about a lot more than that. It’s about engaging and communicating with your dog or cat and just doing things that are within their capabilities.

Dr. Avery: Yeah, absolutely.

Rene: And of course, that is the best way to know what those capabilities are.

Dr. Avery: Yeah. But in a way but also we rely so much on what our clients are telling us about their pet because as owners, we know more about what our pet’s life is like than your vet could ever know because they’re getting a tiny snapshot. So yeah, it’s definitely having that discussion. But being aware of the things and like you say, adapting to their needs and adapting your lifestyle to their needs as well, so if you’ve always gone for a run with your dog but they’re not able to do that or they’re struggling with that, it’s not just the case of well, you go for your run and dog stays at home.

It’s a case of adapting your exercise so that they could still have that stimulation of being out. You can still have that companionship. Things just changed so they – yeah, the interaction is maybe different but we are still getting that same relationship, the same stimulation that they deserve really. I mean we should be looking after them in their old age. They give us so much. They bring so much to our lives. It’s our job to kind of repay the favor really.

Rene: Yeah, it is. They don’t ask for much. And it’s the least we can do. Yeah. Well, Dr. Alex, you are a fantastic guest. You have so much insight and we really, really appreciate your being here. I love your website. I plan on spreading the word as much as we can and I just can’t thank you enough for educating all of us pet parents out there. Thanks for being here.

Dr. Avery: Oh, no problem at all. Thanks for everything you do. I mean I’ve certainly – yeah, since I’ve discovered Tripawds, I’ve been pointing people in your direction as well. It’s fantastic for owners to have that resource there and people who have been in that situation because there’s no substitute for experience. So if we can have stories with people who struggled with the same things and a friendlier to who listen to us, that’s so important with challenges that we might face as pet owners.

Rene: Well, thank you. Thank you so much.

Jim: Yes, thank you so much for that, Dr. Alex. This has been very informative. Listeners can learn more about your work and the many resources you offer at OurPetsHealth.com. For many other tips to help pet parents through the entire trripawd journey, please join the discussion at Tripawds.com.

Outro: Until next time on Tripawd Talk Radio. Learn more about canine amputation recovery and find the best gear for three-legged dogs at Tripawds.com.

[End of transcript]

Tripawd Talk Radio

More episodes are at Blog Talk Radio

Although most members live in the U.S., we have many others living all over the world. From Europe to the outback of Australia and everywhere in-between, our shared experiences about veterinary care help us become better parents to our three-legged hero — and more understanding about how animals are cared for in other countries. 

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