Posts Tagged ‘pets’

“Alzheimer’s” in Pets

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

Many older adults benefit from the friendship of a companion pet. Like people, pets are living longer these days which may help to explain why an Alzheimer’s-like syndrome (called cognitive dysfunction, or CD, in animals) is receiving growing attention from veterinarians and scientists. Writing for USA Weekend, Steve Dale recently reported on the issue:

Veterinary behaviorist Gary Landsberg of Ontario, Canada, is conducting research on CD in cats. Carl Cottman, director of Alzheimer’s Disease Research at University of California-Irvine, has investigated the disorder in both people and dogs. These researchers and other leaders in the field have learned that social interaction, physical exercise, enrichment (e.g., lifelong learning) and good diet appear to contribute to cognitive health in pets as well as in people.

Below are signs that CD may be present in a pet:

  • Disorientation/confusion;
  • Change in social interaction (e.g., withdrawal);
  • Sleeping disturbances;
  • Soiling in the house.
  • However, such problems could be caused by certain medical conditions like declining vision or diabetes, so veterinarians seek to exclude other medical explanations before settling on a diagnosis of CD. In some cases, CD and one or more additional health problems may be present.

    The experts agree that both cats and dogs should be given regular physical exercise. One of the best steps (pun intended) canine lovers can take is to walk their dogs. Moderate exercise is good for the heart and good for the brain — and that applies to the pet and to his or her human companion alike.


    Narrow Arrow Escape

    Friday, May 6th, 2011 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    It’s no secret among senior fitness professionals that many older adult exercise participants are devoted pet lovers. Some older individuals care for their own furry friends, some financially support animal rescue organizations, and others volunteer their time and energy. Therefore, you may wish to share the following inspirational story with your clients:

    Yes, Virginia: There really is a cat with nine lives, and he owes all of them to a concerned citizen, veterinarians from Ocala and the University of Florida, a generous benefactor — and a whole lot of luck.

    After an arrow penetrated the chest of a stray cat in Marion County in mid-March, a concerned citizen from Dunnellon contacted Sheltering Hands, a local cat rescue group, for help. The citizen and her neighbors knew the cat to be friendly with children, not feral, but did not know who owned him.

    “Law enforcement authorities and Marion County Animal Services had been contacted early on, but were unable to trap the cat because the width of the arrow would not allow him to enter a standard trap,” said Dr. Kathleen Fleck, a veterinarian who works part time with Brick City Cat Hospital in Ocala and volunteers with Sheltering Hands. “By this time, he was too scared to come to anyone willingly. He wandered the neighborhood this way for nearly a week.”

    The Dunnellon newspaper even ran a small article about his predicament, and at that point, the concerned citizen contacted Sheltering Hands.

    “One of our dedicated volunteers obtained access to a very large dog trap and spent two days coaxing him into it,” Fleck said. “When he arrived at Brick City Cat Hospital, he was quite septic and it was determined that without immediate surgery to remove the arrow from his chest, he would surely die.”

    Fleck said a benefactor, who wishes to remain anonymous, stepped forward to assist with the cost of transporting the cat — now known as “Arrow” — to the UF Small Animal Hospital. The trip proved to be quite dramatic.

    “He tried twice to go into respiratory arrest and had to be on oxygen support in the back seat of my truck with my technician doing the bagging (to supply oxygen) during the entire 45-minute trip,” Fleck recalled.

    Arrow arrived at UF the morning of March 12 in critical condition, requiring
    ventilation with oxygen through an endotracheal tube.

    “Fluid and air were drained off his chest, and he then received fluids and medications to stabilize his blood pressure,” said Dr. Jordan Nickell, an intern with the UF Small Animal Hospital’s emergency service.

    A CT scan revealed that the arrow had passed right through his chest between his
    heart and diaphragm, fortunately missing the cat’s major blood vessels and many other vital structures, UF veterinarians said.

    Dr. Stanley Kim and Dr. Laura Cuddy performed surgery to remove the arrow and treat the severe infection in the cat’s chest. Parts of Arrow’s lung lobes were removed because of damage from the injury, and the cat remained hospitalized under Cuddy’s care for another week while infected fluid was drained from his chest and he received antibiotics and pain medications.

    Arrow’s condition improved and he was discharged from UF on March 18 to a volunteer, who transported him back to Fleck.

    “So far, the story is very positive,” Fleck said. “Arrow remains in my foster care under Sheltering Hands and now is weighing in at about 10 pounds. Initially, he weighed less than 8 pounds. He really has had no problems beyond
    the normal healing process.”

    Fleck said Arrow stayed on antibiotics for six weeks, and that other than treatment for internal parasites and vaccines, he has not needed additional treatment.

    “Except for his funky body Mohawk haircut, it would be difficult to appreciate how extensive his injuries were,” Fleck said. “He is a total lover and I am
    hoping he is able to find a perfect forever home in the near future.”

    She added that Sheltering Hands was taking applications from prospective owners, and would be selecting Arrow’s new owner very carefully.

    “We want to do our best to make sure he never has to fight for his life again,” she said. “Thanks to the UF emergency team’s excellent response, Arrow is with us today.”


    Make Your Day!

    Tuesday, September 7th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    Please enjoy your LOL moment of the day — while also being entertained and informed by these three short video clips. Each is only a few minutes long, sheds light on the remarkable workings of the brain, and is sure to bring a smile.

    The first is a World Science Festival presentation called "Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale." Simply by hopping about on stage, McFerrin leads a large unrehearsed audience to sing tunes together quite beautifully. He relies on their long-time familiarity with — that is, learning of — their culture’s predominant pentatonic scale (one that includes five notes an octave). It is believed they can so easily follow McFerrin’s unvoiced cues because their brains have learned to anticipate that particular musical pattern. To view, click on All Together Now.

    On another musical note, meet Snowball the dancing cockatoo! If you’ve already seen him on YouTube, look again with this new insight in mind: At first, neuroscientists thought that surely Snowball must only be trained to boogie. But when he aced controlled testing that kept the tempo changing, they found that he was really listening and following the rhythm. This undermines an earlier view that only human beings possess the neural connections needed to dance in sync with music. For a fun overview of this subject regarding the animal kingdom at large, click on Creatures Great and Small. Get down with Snowball’s full dance routine to a Backstreet Boys hit by clicking Do It, Snowball!


    Cardiac Patients Help Out Lucky Shelter Dogs

    Thursday, July 1st, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    Cardiac Friends is an outstanding program under way in Waukesha, Wisconsin, that enlists heart patients as volunteers to take dogs, who are housed at a local shelter, on regular walks healthful for both the human and canine participants. As reported by HealthDay News, the program is a partnership between the county’s Humane Animal Welfare Society and ProHealth Care (PHC), involving medically approved cardiac patients of PHC’s Waukesha Memorial Hospital.

    These dog walkers have undergone procedures such as angioplasty, stent implantation and open heart surgery. Regular exercise with their canine companions lowers their risk for another cardiac event, helps control cholesterol levels, reduces blood pressure, helps counter depression and provides an opportunity to be needed and to make a difference.

    From a shelter dog’s point of view, getting out of the kennel often to enjoy some physical recreation with a friendly, attentive visitor helps the animal stay mentally and physically fit while waiting for his or her new "forever home."

    At this time, all of the patient-volunteers in the Cardiac Friends program (now approximately one year old) are men in their seventies. They visit the shelter three times per week, for an hour or longer, to get outdoors with their canine buddies, play fetch and walk along an enticing foot-path through an adjacent meadow.

    Shelter coordinator Sara Falk told HealthDay News that the Cardiac Friends volunteers are among her favorites thanks to their reliability and since "… they are taking longer walks than a lot of the other walkers because they have fitness in mind."


    If You — Or Your Fitness Clients — Have a Dog

    Thursday, July 1st, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    Dog ownership is widely acclaimed for older adults who live where dogs are allowed, and who have the desire as well as the mental, physical and financial means to care properly for a canine pet. A dog can provide unconditional love and constant, loyal companionship. The responsibilities of feeding, brushing and otherwise tending to a pet can add meaning to life — and occasions for regular physical activity. Walking one’s dog literally opens the door to fresh air, nature and pleasant social interactions. The American Senior Fitness Association has often published articles in Experience! about the potential emotional and health benefits of adopting a dog.

    With that in mind, today we want to pass along a critical pet safety guideline for dog lovers. Senior fitness professionals, you may wish to share this information with clients who have beloved canine pets. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a consumer alert stating that bones — small bones, large bones, all bones, any bones — are unsafe for dogs. For a PDF handout of these facts that you can copy and distribute to your senior health-fitness clients, click here.

    As much as we might want to "spoil" our dog by giving him or her a tasty bone to chew on, doing so is dangerous and can cause serious injury or death. Below are ten reasons, recently published by the FDA, why it’s a bad practice to give your dog a bone of any size:

  • Bones can break teeth and require costly veterinary dentistry;
  • Bones can cause bloody mouth and tongue damage;
  • Bones can get caught around a dog’s lower jaw — a painful and traumatic experience for the animal;
  • Bones can get stuck in a dog’s esophagus, which may cause gagging and necessitate veterinary attention;
  • Bones can stick in a dog’s windpipe, interfering with breathing and demanding immediate emergency veterinary care;
  • Bones can get hung up in a dog’s stomach, often requiring surgery or upper gastrointestinal endoscopy;
  • Bones can lodge in a dog’s intestines, causing a blockage that requires surgery;
  • Sharp (chewed up) bone fragments in a dog’s intestines can cause dreadful pain and the need for veterinary services;
  • Severe rectal bleeding from hard-to-pass pieces or splinters of bone is an urgent situation calling for veterinary intervention;
  • Peritonitis — a serious, hard-to-treat infection that can kill a dog — occurs when bone fragments puncture a dog’s stomach or intestines, and requires emergency veterinary care.
  • Following are some related FDA tips for keeping your dog sound:

  • Ask your veterinarian to suggest alternatives to bones (there are products made of materials that are safe and satisfying for dogs to chew);
  • Supervise your dog when he or she is using a chew toy, especially one that is new to your pet;
  • Dispose of bones from your own meals carefully so that your dog cannot get into them;
  • When walking your dog, be alert to the possibility of bones and other hazards lying on the ground, and lead your dog away from such objects;
  • If your dog simply isn’t acting like him or herself, always call your veterinarian at once.
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    Owning a Pet Can Be Healthy

    Thursday, March 18th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    SFA author Jim Evans is a 42-year veteran of the health and fitness industry and an internationally recognized fitness consultant. Today Jim shares a creative idea with a lonely widow seeking to cope with grief and depression.

    DEAR JIM: My health has been going downhill ever since my husband passed away last year after a long illness. I haven’t been handling my grief very well, and I find myself down in the dumps most of the time. My doctor has prescribed an antidepressant which seems to help a little, but I still can’t seem to shake this constant feeling of loneliness. I know you have always said that exercise helps to fight depression, but I really don’t feel up to anything very physical. Is there anything else you can recommend? DEPRESSED IN DULUTH

    DEAR DEPRESSED: I’m sorry for your loss, and I can understand why you don’t feel like engaging in any physical activity while you are still grieving. However, a little bit of exercise can help in your recovery, even if it’s only a daily walk around the block.

    So, let me suggest a different approach to accomplishing the same thing.

    I’d like for you to get up bright and early tomorrow morning, put on your favorite dress, and visit the local animal shelter. Don’t laugh. Okay, go ahead and laugh if you feel like it. Yes, I mean the animal shelter. And, while you are there, I want you to adopt the first dog — or cat — that you fall in love with. I guarantee that you will fall in love with one!

    Why a dog or cat? Because, according to the Centers for Disease Control (, pets can decrease your blood pressure, lower your cholesterol, and diminish your feelings of loneliness. Equally important, they increase your opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities and for socialization.

    You guessed it: If you select a dog, you will have to take that cute little critter for a walk on a regular basis, so you’ll both benefit from some fresh air and exercise. With a pet, you will be responsible for its care and feeding, and you will be rewarded with "unconditional love and acceptance," says Rebecca Johnson, associate professor at the University of Missouri Sinclair School of Nursing, the College of Veterinary Medicine, and director of the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction.

    "Research in this field is providing new evidence on the positive impact pets have in our lives," adds Johnson in a report to UPI’s ArcaMax Publishing (

    You will be saving a life, too. Between three and four million dogs and cats are euthanized each year in the United States simply because too many people give up their pets and too few people adopt from shelters ( You can help an abandoned pet — and, perhaps, yourself at the same time.