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Dogs & Dementia: What You Need to Know

Recognizing Canine Cognitive Disorder

Improvements in diets and veterinary care mean that most pets are living longer than ever, so it’s important to adapt diet and care to their particular needs at each stage of life. In addition, we’re also more likely to see more serious age-related health conditions arise. Senior pets require increased attention including more trips to the vet, possible changes in diet, and in some cases, changes in their home environment. However, some age-related conditions such as Canine Cognitive Disorder, also known as Dog Alzheimer’s, will require lifelong therapy along with frequent veterinary care and support to manage.

Causes of Dementia in Dogs

If you’ve ever cared for an elderly loved one, you know that memory issues and confusion are common, but these symptoms can also indicate a bigger underlying health issue. It is the same for dogs. Most dogs are considered seniors around the age of seven. Larger breeds of dogs tend to have shorter lifespans, so they reach senior status earlier than some smaller breeds. As we age, the brain gradually atrophies and cells begin to die, eventually impacting brain function, memory, and mood. Small strokes may also play a role.

While the exact causes of Canine Cognitive Disorder are not fully understood, it’s likely that the same health conditions that trigger Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia in people are at work in aging pets as well. Although the initial symptoms of canine cognitive disorder are mild, they will gradually worsen over time, which is known as “cognitive decline.” In a senior or geriatric pet, any change can be serious, so it’s important to talk to your veterinarian at the first sign of a problem to ensure your pet maintains their quality of life.

Dog Alzheimer’s Symptoms

Clinical signs of cognitive dysfunction are found in nearly one in three dogs over the age of 11. By the age of 16, nearly all dogs will display at least one sign. Some dogs with dementia will begin to display aggression, most likely due to confusion and fear. The most common symptoms of dementia in dogs that you need to know include:

  • Disorientation/confusion
  • Anxiety/restlessness
  • Extreme irritability
  • Decreased desire to play
  • Excessive licking
  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Forgetting previously learned training or house rules
  • Slow to learn new tasks
  • Unable to follow familiar routes
  • Excessive barking or howling
  • Lack of self-grooming
  • Fecal and urinary incontinence
  • Changes in sleep cycle

Diagnosing Canine Cognitive Disorder

If you observe any of these or other behavioral changes in your dog, notify your vet immediately. A full veterinary physical exam, along with blood tests, ultrasounds, or other diagnostic tools can help your vet determine what may be happening with your pet. From there, a treatment plan can be formulated to meet your pet’s needs to help slow the cognitive decline and keep them as healthy and happy as possible during their senior years.

Caring for Dogs with Alzheimer’s

As scary as it is, a diagnosis of Canine Cognitive Disorder is not an immediate death sentence. There are many steps you can take to help slow cognitive decline including maintaining a healthy and stimulating environment for your pet and sticking to a regular daily routine of exercise, meals, and playtime. Your veterinarian can recommend a balanced diet that includes key supplements such as antioxidants, vitamins E and C, selenium, flavonoids, beta carotene, carotenoids, omega-3, or carnitine, which can help improve and support your dog’s cognitive function. At night, keep your dog in a small, familiar area for their comfort and safety. Night lights and orthopedic foam beds can help keep them comfortable and calm, so they can get adequate rest during the nighttime hours. Potty pads nearby or located near the door can help prevent accidents when your pup can’t wait to go out, or you’re asleep.

Ultimately, the life expectancy of a dog with Canine Cognitive Disorder or dementia is hard to predict. If the dog is otherwise healthy, dementia will gradually diminish the pet’s quality of life which can be a matter of months or years. Work with your veterinarian to monitor your dog’s quality of life, partnering with them to keep your senior dog comfortable, happy, and as healthy as possible throughout your journey together!

Need a good vet for your pet? Visit to find one near you!

[DISCLAIMER] Not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding the medical condition of your pet. If you think your pet has a medical emergency, call or visit your veterinarian or your local veterinary emergency hospital immediately.

4th of July: Fireworks Safety for Pets

How to Keep Pets Calm and Safe During Fireworks

The 4th of July is a time for being outdoors, enjoying barbecues, red, white, and blue, and of course, fireworks. The biggest problem? Pets and fireworks don’t mix. Cats and dogs have very keen senses of hearing, so they’re naturally predisposed to be scared of loud noises. In fact, most pets are terrified of the thundering booms, bangs, and crackles of fireworks, and the light flashes simply add to the panic and distress pets are feeling. That’s why the 5th of July is the busiest day of the year for most animal shelters. The staff will spend their day trying to find the owners of companion animals that fled or escaped their homes, only to be found exhausted, disoriented, or even injured. With a little preparation the night before the 4th of July, you can keep pets calm during fireworks.

The Night Before the 4th of July

Don’t lose your pet in a fireworks panic. Be prepared. Take a few minutes to create a safe sanctuary for your pets; one that’s away from exterior doors and windows. Keep all windows and doors closed, and draperies and shades drawn. Include a few favorite toys and a familiar blanket or bed for your pet in a sheltered area of the room. Playing soft music can also help soothe your pet’s nerves. For very anxious cats and dogs, try a Thundershirt or a snug-fitting harness. For pets that cannot be soothed naturally, a sedative type medication may be necessary – speak to your veterinarian to discuss options. 

How to Find a Lost Pet With a Microchip

Fireworks are just one reason why it’s so important for all pets to be microchipped. A microchip is a form of permanent ID for a pet that can’t get lost like a collar or tags. Lost pets that have a microchip are far more likely to find their family than animals that are unchipped. For more on the benefits of microchips, see our blog. Of course, if the owner’s information registered to the chip is out of date, the microchip isn’t much help. Make sure your pet’s chip registry and collar tags are up to date and have all the most recent address and contact information. Not sure how? Read on.

How to Update a Dog’s Microchip

Lots of rescues in the area routinely microchip their pets prior to adoption. When adopting a pet from a shelter, you should be provided the chip information, the specific chip number along with any relevant health history records. It’s important to contact the corresponding registry to update your contact information accordingly. Not sure which pet chip registry site was used to register your pet? If you have your pet’s microchip number but have forgotten where you registered your contact information, you may find the original registry here. Call the phone number listed or visit the appropriate registry website to have the information updated. If you don’t have the microchip number, ask your vet to check your pet’s record or have them scan your pet for the chip number and any other information. 

Have a lost pet or need to find a specific pet rescue or shelter? There are many around the Valley, from large organizations like the Maricopa County Animal Control, Arizona Humane Society, and Arizona Animal Welfare League to smaller rescues dedicated to a particular breed or pet type. Google or Yelp can be helpful in searching for local pet shelters and rescues. Social media pages such as Straydar and Lost Dogs of Phoenix can also be helpful for locating a lost pet.

Happy 4th of July from your AZPV family! Be safe, remember to maintain social distance from others, and have fun.

[DISCLAIMER] Not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding the medical condition of your pet. If you think your pet has a medical emergency, call or visit your veterinarian or your local veterinary emergency hospital immediately.

National Insurance Awareness Day: Pet Edition

What Is a Good Pet Insurance?

Whether it’s our cars, homes, or families, we always want to protect the things that we care about and value the most. National Insurance Awareness Day falls on June 28, so many people will be reevaluating insurance plans to be sure the coverage continues to meet the needs of the policyholder. While searching for the best insurance plans for yourself and your loved ones, it can be all too easy to overlook pets and their healthcare needs in the process. Unfortunately, our furry friends do age, get sick, and can get injured as well. Happily, there is pet insurance!

Is Pet Insurance Worth It?

Adopting a quality insurance plan for your pet can help with your pet’s overall care throughout the years, from routine checkups to major injuries and chronic problems. Without insurance, everyday vet bills can stack up throughout your furry friend’s life. But if your pet gets sick or injured, undergoes extensive surgery, or needs intensive care, covering the bill can be a stressful situation.

Opting to have an insurance plan for your beloved pet can help eliminate unnecessary stress when handling your pet’s medical bills. While not every insurance plan is made equal, many will cover your needs and provide more return for your money.

What Is a Good Pet Insurance?

When trying to decide on the best insurance plan for your pet, it’s essential to look at many factors, as well as read the fine print. Searching for the right policy can be a time-consuming process. However, taking the time to review each plan thoroughly will not only help your furry friend in the long-run, but it’ll also help your wallet.

When looking over your options, try to find a plan that does not significantly hike up prices as your pet ages. Many plans may appear affordable while your pet is young. Still, the premiums can rise exponentially as your pet ages, making them difficult to afford when they’re older.

Also, you must fully understand what is and is not covered, so you aren’t thrown off by any unexpected costs down the road. You can opt-out of coverage for less-costly care –– such as wellness exams and preventative care –– in favor of coverage for more significant unexpected expenses.

How to Decide if Pet Insurance is Right for You

The bottom line is that insurance can be costly. Deciding on an insurance plan or shouldering the expenses alone can be a difficult decision to make. By paying monthly for insurance, you’re giving yourself a financial cushion in case your furry friend ever needs intensive and expensive care. Without insurance, you run the risk of facing hefty bills should your beloved pet ever become seriously ill, injured, or develop a chronic problem. 

Overall, deciding on an insurance plan is a significant financial decision. Through in-depth research and considering your pet’s unique needs, you can find a quality insurance plan that works for your furry friend and your budget.

[DISCLAIMER] Not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding the medical condition of your pet. If you think your pet has a medical emergency, call or visit your veterinarian or your local veterinary emergency hospital immediately.

Canine Parvovirus – Learning how to Prevent is the Key

What Every Pet Parent Needs to Know To Prevent Parvo

Canine parvovirus (CPV), is most commonly referred to as parvo. It’s a very contagious and aggressive virus that causes an infectious gastrointestinal illness (GI), and in some instances can cause lifelong damage to the heart muscle. The most common form of CPV is intestinal, causing many unpleasant and even dangerous symptoms that often require hospitalization and 24-hour monitoring. Parvovirus can also be lethal for your pet.

So where does parvo come from in dogs, and how do you catch it? 

Parvovirus is spread from dog to dog by direct or indirect contact with feces. That means that your dog can get parvo from eating an infected dog’s poop or simply sniffing an infected dog’s hindquarters! Keep pets away from feces, and always pick up and dispose of their poop – it’s good manners, and helps prevent the spread of potential diseases. Make certain your pets are current on all of their shots before they are exposed to other dogs.

How to Prevent Parvo in Puppies

Puppies, adolescent dogs, and canines who are not vaccinated are most susceptible to the virus. Parvo can be especially hard on puppies who haven’t yet been vaccinated because their immune systems haven’t yet fully developed. Make certain your pup is current on all of their shots before they are exposed to other dogs. Puppies need to undergo a series of vaccinations and boosters during their first year of life. Puppy shots usually begin between 6-8 weeks of age to help boost the development of their immune system. Additional vaccines and boosters will be necessary every 3-4 weeks until the puppy reaches 16-20 weeks of age. The vaccine schedule will not be the same for every pup, so consult your veterinarian.

What is the First Symptom of Parvo?

Lethargy is a common base symptom, but it can indicate any number of health issues, so you’ll need to watch for other symptoms. Dogs that are infected with the parvovirus will often experience severe vomiting, loss of appetite, and foul-smelling or bloody diarrhea. If you notice these or other symptoms, seek immediate veterinary care for your pet.

What Do Dog Vaccinations Prevent?

Vaccinations are vitally important to the health of pets. According to the ASPCA:

“Vaccines help prevent many illnesses that affect pets. Vaccinating your pet has long been considered one of the easiest ways to help him live a long, healthy life.”

The core vaccines recommended for dogs include:

  • DHPP Vaccine – This vaccine is used to protect your pet from 4 potentially fatal but preventable diseases (Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza and Parvo).
  • Bordetella Vaccine – Bordetella is one of the more common causes of kennel cough/canine cough (infectious tracheobronchitis). The vaccine is also required by most groomers and boarding facilities.
  • Rabies Vaccine – A vaccine that is required by law due to the risk to people. While rare, rabies can be fatal, so get your dog vaccinated.

Want to know more about core vaccinations and other vaccines that may be recommended for your dog? Visit our blog to learn more.

Now that you understand the importance of preventing parvovirus, here’s how we can help. Each of the AZPetVet locations offer affordable Puppy Vaccination packages. Have an adult dog? Be sure to ask us about our Free Vaccines for Life program which is designed specifically for adult animals. After a one-time enrollment fee, your pet’s core vaccines will be free for the rest of their life. All you must do to keep the benefits going is bring them in for their annual Preventative Care exam! Visit Free Vaccines for Life for more information on our program.

[DISCLAIMER] Not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding the medical condition of your pet. If you think your pet has a medical emergency, call or visit your veterinarian or your local veterinary emergency hospital immediately.

Hidden Desert Dangers For Dogs

Seven Desert Dangers For Dogs

The warmer weather brings out a variety of critters that enjoy basking in the sunshine, including snakes and other creepy crawlies. Since dogs love to sniff around and investigate all sorts of interesting sights and smells during walks, they may be at risk for meeting all sorts of potentially harmful desert dwellers. Here are some of the things you’ll need to watch out for when venturing outside or into the desert with your dog.

1. Arizona Rattlesnake Season:

While not all snakes are dangerous, pet owners need to be prepared for Arizona’s rattlesnake season. An encounter with one of these creatures can be deadly for your furry friend. Always be aware of your surroundings and where you step while on walks or hiking with your beloved pet. If your dog gets bitten by a snake, it’s important to get to an emergency veterinarian immediately! For the best chance of recovery, dogs must be treated for a snake bite within just a couple hours of the bite. Restrict your pet’s movement to slow the venom’s spread, and remove any collars and halters if any swelling is occurring near the head or limbs. Symptoms of snake bites can include:

  • Changes in gum color (Brick Red or Pale)
  • Swelling
  • Weakness
  • Rapid breathing & heart rate
  • Continuous licking of paws
  • Digging at ears
  • Oozing from a puncture wound
  • Collapse from shock

Snake training for dogs can help avoid a snake bite. Phoenix has a lot of frequent hikers and residential areas with lots of desert around. That’s why we recommend you and your pet attend Rattlesnake Avoidance Training with a professional trainer. There are several different methods involved in this type of training, so be sure to ask a lot of questions before you decide on a trainer and training system. We also recommend repeating training annually – as the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

2. Scorpions, scorpions, scorpions!:

Can scorpions hurt dogs? Oh, yes. Out of the more than 1,700 known types of scorpions, about 25 have sufficient amounts of venom to deliver a sting that could be fatal to pets. It’s no surprise that many poisonous scorpions make Arizona their home, including the deadly bark scorpion. During spring and summer months, our hospitals experience an increased number of calls about a dog stung by a scorpion on the nose or a scorpion bite on the dog’s paw. Symptoms of scorpion stings can include pain and localized swelling on the nose, face, paws or legs. Smaller dogs can even experience seizures. If you suspect your dog has been stung by a scorpion, call your veterinarian as soon as possible.

3. Heat Stroke/Hyperthermia:

Heatstroke, or hyperthermia, is a real danger for both pets and people. Unlike humans, cats and dogs have very few sweat glands – they’re located in places such as their feet and noses. Hyperthermia occurs when your pet’s body temperature rises dangerously above normal, putting them at risk for multiple organ failure or death. Early recognition, and treatment of heatstroke, can improve your pet’s chances of making a quick recovery. Seek veterinary care and guidance as soon as possible! Symptoms of heatstroke in dogs can include:

  • Excessive panting/drooling
  • Dehydration
  • Reddened gums
  • Reduced or no urine production
  • Rapid/irregular heart rate
  • Vomiting blood/black, tarry stools
  • Diarrhea
  • Changes in mental status (i.e. confusion and dizziness)
  • Seizures/muscle tremors
  • Wobbly, uncoordinated/drunken gait or movement
  • Unconsciousness/Cardiopulmonary Arrest (heart and breathing stop)

4. Javelinas:

Are javelinas dangerous to dogs? Yes and no. While they can be a nuisance, according to Arizona Game & Fish, they rarely present any significant risk to dogs. Coyotes are a natural predator for javelinas, so they’ll tend to steer clear of you and your dog unless cornered or while trying to protect their young. If you encounter a javelina or a group of them while walking with your dog, immediately turn around and head in another direction.

5. Foxtails & Cactus:

While these native plants are pretty, they can have quite a sting. If your dog comes in contact with a cactus, call your vet or an emergency vet right away for guidance. Foxtail can be quite dangerous to pets, as the barbed seed heads can work their way into your dog’s eyes, ears, mouth, paws or skin. Left untreated, they can cause serious infection.

6. Bugs & Mosquitoes:

Warmer weather also brings out an abundance of bugs, including mosquitoes. To help keep your pet safe, be sure to maintain your pet’s heartworm preventative medicine. Being outside and going on walks increase your pet’s chances of having bugs hitch a ride on them – including fleas and ticks. On top of using medications prescribed by your vet to help prevent fleas and ticks, be sure to regularly check your pup’s body for critters after being outdoors.

7. Cuts, Bites, & Burns:

Noses, paws, and legs are where most cuts, bites, and burns occur in dogs. Remember, the pads on your dog’s feet are NOT the same as shoes, so delicate paw pads can burn and blister very easily. Hiking, running, and other protective shoes that are made just for dogs can help prevent cuts, bites, and burns on tender paw pads that will require veterinary care. 

Finally, during Arizona’s summer months, it’s best to take walks early in the morning when it’s cooler, or later in the evening after the cement or ground has had time to cool down. Remember, if you can’t walk barefoot, then neither should your pet! And if your pet does tangle with one of Arizona’s native snakes, scorpions. or other critters, act quickly and call your veterinarian for help. 

[DISCLAIMER] Not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding the medical condition of your pet. If you think your pet has a medical emergency, call or visit your veterinarian or your local veterinary emergency hospital immediately.