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Pets and Seniors: Avoiding Painful Separation

posted December 29th, 2015 by
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Seniors and Pets

Pets and Seniors

 

Last Updated: April 2, 2013 Pets and Seniors

By Steve Duno

For generations, pets have been a part of the fabric of our lives, keeping us company and providing us with steadfast, loyal devotion. Most of us have felt their unconditional love, and the sheer joy that comes from having a best friend who accepts us for who we are, faults and all, in an uncomplicated, mutually satisfying intimacy. Pets just make people feel happy.

Enjoyed by over half the households in the country, pet ownership is especially common amongst seniors, who, often living on their own, find the company of a good cat, dog, bird, or other pet to be of great comfort. The bond they develop with their pets can be deep-seated; indeed, the elderly’s closest confidants often walk on four legs rather than two.

THE TRAUMA OF PET SEPARATION

When the decision is made to move an elderly loved one to an assisted living facility, the fate of that strong pet/owner bond can become a major issue for the senior. “What on earth will happen to my friend?” is sometimes their biggest concern, often even above and beyond their own welfare. And some seniors, though relieved by the surrender of caring for a pet, can become remorseful over it; ironically this can mirror the mindset of their own families, who too may feel guilty over the senior’s move to the assisted-living environment.

The deteriorating health of our elderly, besides being the major motivator for a move to an assisted- living facility, can also adversely affect their pets. No longer able to go for regular walks, seniors aren’t able to properly exercise their dogs, or attend to basic pet needs such as feeding, cleaning up, and taking the pet in for a veterinary checkup. Those without the ability to drive or use transit can no longer get to the store for pet food and other supplies. And if the pet is a large, healthy dog, the senior might even get hurt trying to manage or control it. Though smaller pets such as cats or birds pose less of a problem, the ability to care for them properly is still diminished, often to the detriment of the pet. Clearly, when fading health becomes an issue, the pet/owner bond suffers.

THE BENEFITS OF PET OWNERSHIP

Despite the elderly pet lover’s diminishing capacity to care for his or her pet, studies show the health benefits of regular contact with an animal to be significant, especially for the aged. Contact with a dog, cat, or other pet has been clinically shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and to reduce the incidence of depression as related to failing health and fading autonomy. Pets help reduce boredom and feelings of hopelessness, and instill in the owner a sense of purpose born from being accountable for the welfare of an animal. Fewer doctor visits are reported, and aerobic activity levels tend to rise. In addition, caring for the pet becomes an “events calendar” of sorts for the senior, who without the pet would have precious little to do during the day. The pet provides a sense of obligation and duty, acts as a social catalyst, and gives the elderly owner someone to talk to and confide in. For all pet owners, but especially those in failing health, a pet can literally add years of health and happiness.

DEGREES OF PET SEPARATION

The good news is that most seniors today need not be denied the company of a pet, even when relocated into an assisted-care facility. First, as per federal housing laws, publicly-run facilities cannot prohibit pet ownership by residents,provided they are able to care for the pet. This would allow the pet/owner relationship to continue as long as the pet is adequately trained and socialized, and does not pose a threat to other patients. Though private facilities need not abide by these same federal laws, many still do allow pet ownership on varying levels. Staff and family providing elder care support can assist the patient when needed, with feeding, walking, and other pet-related duties. Patients with a good degree of autonomy are often fully able to care for a pet, especially when the living arrangement closely mirrors a normal home environment.

“Many homes allow pets on the premises,” says Michelle Cobey, spokesperson for the Delta Society, a Bellevue, Washington volunteer organization that helps incorporate pets into the lives of the ill, elderly, or disabled. “But sometimes it can be difficult to manage without help from the staff, or from volunteer case workers.” Cobey’s organization specializes in sending volunteers and their well-mannered pets into managed-care facilities, and in helping the elderly care for any resident pets on hand.

Resident pets don’t always work out well though, especially when the senior in question has a dog evidencing territorial behavior. If the resident does not properly socialize the dog with other patients, the animal can become overly-protective and guarded. This is especially common with the dog of an elderly owner, as it can sense its master’s failing health, and often compensates with increasing protectiveness.

“It usually works out better to have one resident-shared pet at the facility than to have many individually cared-for pets, especially dogs,” says Ron Baker, administrator at the North Creek Health and Rehabilitation Center in Bothell, Washington. “That way you avoid territorial issues that can lead to injury or trauma.” Baker adds that pet care volunteers are always welcome at his facility, to bring in pets or help with ones at the center.

PET SEPARATION ALTERNATIVES

If the senior cannot adequately care for a resident pet, family members can bring the animal into the facility for regular visits, rules permitting. Or, volunteer organizations such as the Delta Society, Pets On Wheels, Therapy Dogs International, or dozens of others can be called upon to send their legions of volunteers to facilities all across the nation, bringing with them friendly dogs or cats to delight both residents and staff. Trained to help seniors, children, hospital patients, and the cognitively impaired to enjoy interaction with gentle, loving pets, these volunteer visits are often the highlight of a pet-loving resident’s entire week.

In some cases, when the family or senior is unwilling or unable to care for a pet, it may have to be surrendered to a shelter for placement with another family. This pet separation can be devastating or liberating to the pet lover, depending upon the outcome. With a well-funded “no-kill” shelter in charge of placement, though, most healthy adult dogs have a good chance at finding a new home, especially if the pet is well-behaved and sweet. National organizations like the SPCA and the Humane Society, as well as countless quality regional shelters can all help with the difficult task of finding the appropriate home for a good pet whose owner can no longer care for it.

“Often it’s a last-minute decision made not by the elderly resident, but by the family,” says Judith Piper, director of Old Dog Haven in Arlington, Washington, dedicated to finding homes for older dogs often surrendered up by the elderly. “Often I find the physical and mental condition of these dogs mirrors the condition of the elderly owner, who might be suffering from reduced cognitive capacity. A dog’s poor hygiene and worsening physical and behavioral state is often a clue to the owner’s inability to care for it. Families can get a good feel for their loved one’s state of mind by noticing any health or behavior problems in their pets.” Piper adds that, if a family or resident plans to surrender a pet up for adoption, it is essential to provide the shelter with pertinent veterinary records, especially if the pet is old.

If the pet is being cared for in a managed care facility by a resident, certain practices can be taken to make caring for the pet easier. With a cat for instance, the litter box needn’t be located on the floor, where it might be difficult for the senior to access. Better to locate it at waist height on a counter, where the resident can easily attend to it. For walking a dog, residents can use a halter-type collar instead of a traditional neck collar, to prevent pulling on leash. The halter collar fits on the pet’s face like the bridle of a horse, and makes leash control nearly effortless. The same goes for a bird cage; place it at the appropriate height and location so the resident can access it easily. All food, litter, and pet supplies should be easily accessible and light enough not to cause strain. Buying smaller bags of food and litter can prevent muscle strains and back injuries. And for medical concerns, consider having a mobile veterinary service visit the facility, instead of requiring the senior or a family member to make a trip.

With proper family help, institutional elder care support, and volunteer assistance, our elderly loved ones need not deny themselves the elixir of the pet/owner bond. It can continue on, helping to motivate and inspire them for years to come, providing the love and good cheer they so deserve.

Veteran pet behaviorist and authorSteve Dunolives in Seattle with his family and an ever-changing assortment of rescued pets, and has authored seventeen books and numerous articles for magazines and the Internet.

RELATED RESOURCES

Find Pet-Friendly Senior Living Communities

Assisted Living Checklist

PAAS 2015

posted December 29th, 2015 by
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Looking Back

2015 has been a year of firsts for PAAS.

Header

PAAS opened our doors on April 17th 2015.  By May 17th it was clear we needed to implement a plan B in order to save the homeless dogs and cats in our area.Plan B was transport out-of-state.  Thanks to Denver Dumb Friends League, Boulder Valley Humane Society and Cheyenne Animal Welfare 255+ dogs have found new homes.  Cats – – we’re still working on a solution – – it may be The Netherlands!!!

Miss Ruby is first on the video – she was our first rescue (pregnant – sick – malnourished).  Her puppies quickly found homes in Wyoming.  Miss Ruby now lives the life of luxury in Enid, OK.  Our fantastic volunteers, Tom & Vicki, established the Richardson Birthing Center – the go-to place for all our pregnant dogs.

We’re busy, we’re saving lives and we’re so grateful for all the financial support – –

Watch the video – – support our mission – – help us save lives.

http://tinyurl.com/zmqzrmw                Donate Now

Kay Stout, Director   PAAS Vinita  [email protected]  918-256-7227

How Pet Therapy Has Changed Assisted Living

posted December 27th, 2015 by
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Pet Therapy

Pet Therapy in Senior Living

from a place for mom

By Mary Park Byrne

Last Updated: January 12, 2015

It doesn’t take a scientist to know that pets make humans feel good; anyone who’s ever stroked a dog’s fur or felt a cat’s thrumming purr knows this. Science can, however, tell us how and why pets can be therapeutic. Just 15 minutes bonding with an animal sets off a chemical chain reaction in the brain, lowering levels of the fight-or-flight hormone cortisol and increasing production of the feel-good hormone serotonin. The result: heart rate, blood pressure and stress levels immediately drop. Over the long term, pet and human interactions can lower cholesterol levels, fight depression and may even help protect against heart disease and stroke. This is why pets for the elderly can be so beneficial.

PET CARE & SENIOR LIVING

One of the biggest concerns of allowing seniors to bring their beloved pets to assisted living communities is that the program needs to ensure the pets’ well-being. Duvall, Washington veterinarian, Dr. Kevin Sievers, comments on the importance of the pets’ needs: “Humans benefit greatly from the companionship of a pet. An animal in the life of a senior can give them new meaning and improve their well-being, so it is important for seniors to have a pet in their living environment. I also think it’s very important to remember the health needs of the pets. Seniors can forget to properly medicate or even feed their pets. Senior living communities need to be able to help their residents care for their pets to ensure the health and happiness of both the seniors and their pets.” So the key to an overall healthy relationship for both the senior and the pet is to have a pet friendly assisted living community that can ensure proper care for the pet, if the owner is not capable.

Fortunately, many senior living communities are on board with this service and even have a Pet Care Coordinator at their communities to help make sure all the pets are well cared for and are up-to-date on vaccines and veterinary care. This ensures the pets are groomed, fed, walked and happy when they otherwise wouldn’t be if the senior is not able to perform these responsibilities.

PET THERAPY’S AMAZING IMPACT ON QUALITY OF LIFE

For seniors, the benefits of a furry companion can be life-changing. Walking a dog is great cardiovascular exercise, but just the simple act of caring for a pet-petting, brushing, feeding-provides both mild activity and a means to stay engaged with the world. Pets can make the elderly feel needed, and that feeling can translate into a greater sense of purpose and self-worth. During what can be a lonely time of life, the unconditional love of a cherished dog or cat can be a bridge to more socialization with others, lowered stress, mental stimulation and a renewed interest in life.

In the past, a move to a nursing home or retirement community meant giving up this important bond with the animal world. While many retirement communities, assisted living facilities and nursing homes still don’t allow pets, it’s great that many of these assisted living communities have decided to integrate pets into their communities, as the pet therapy benefits to the elderly is overwhelming.

“We don’t just let them in,” says Steve Winner, co-founder of Silverado Senior Living with a chuckle, “we require them. Pets are an integral part of what we do.” From the start, Silverado has embraced the power of pets and pet therapy for the elderly to make happier lives for those affected by dementia.

Assisted living communities in the Silverado network not only have dogs, cats and fish on site, but also miniature horses, llamas, chinchillas, and even baby kangaroos. “We ask senior residents to help us care for them,” says Winner. “The responsibility of caring for other living beings builds self-esteem.”

Pets are not only beneficial to their owners, but have also proven to have positive effects on other senior residents at assisted living facilities. “Sometimes new residents can be withdrawn and not very communicative, and it’s the first interaction with an animal that draws them out,” says Winner. “They’re pulled out of their shell by the pets.”

PET THERAPY’S IMPACT ON SUNDOWNERS SYNDROME & DEMENTIA

Pet therapy for the elderly has also proven to be a powerful tool for what’s known as “Sundowners Syndrome” evening periods of increased agitation and confusion in those with Alzheimer’s. Animals’ non-verbal communication and profound acceptance can be soothing for those with difficulty using language; some may even connect with memories of their own treasured pets.

The San Diego Humane Society’s Pet-Assisted Therapy Program has noticed how even the most profoundly affected patients have displayed improved appetite, more social interaction and tactile and cognitive stimulation after interactions with pets. “Animals provide unconditional love and emotional support in a way that is unparalleled. Our Pet-Assisted Therapy program brings the joys of animals to people who are otherwise unable to have an animal in their life, such as those living in facilities such as convalescent homes, hospitals, mental health centers, children’s homes and juvenile detention centers,” says Judith Eisenberg, Pet-Assisted Therapy Coordinator for the San Diego Humane Society. “What an animal can give and teach is a powerful source of healing and personal connection.” In this way, pet therapy is an excellent way to provide an extra dimension of happiness to senior citizens.

We encourage you to contact communities individually to learn about their pet policy and find out if there are weight or breed restrictions as well as community pet care programs.

RELATED RESOURCES

Find Pet-Friendly Assisted Living

Pets & Seniors: Avoiding Painful Separation

Merry Christmas

posted December 21st, 2015 by
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Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and a Happy 2016

All of us at TulsaPets Magazine would like to wish each and every one of our readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

Merry Christmas

The Gift of Life

posted December 17th, 2015 by
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Looking Back

The Gift of Life

The spirit of giving is alive and well at the Richardson Birthing and Special Needs Center, a division of PAAS Vinita.   The following stories are written from the heart by Vicki who oversees the birthing center – – she and her husband Tom play key roles in saving the lives of special dogs.  It is truly a gift.

Over the past several years we have taken in, cared for and either adopted out or adopted ourselves, many special needs dogs. Crippled, cancer, very ill, heart disease, failure to thrive pups and kittens. They also need to be considered in the rescue world. When you look into their eyes and they look back, you can see them just asking for help. Let me recap just a few.
Camille, a little 6 yr. old mini doxie, was brought into Second Chance Shelter 3 years ago. She was pregnant, had massive infections on her skin and in her mouth. When it came time to have her pups, she was so weak, she couldn’t do it, so had a c-section. After they were weaned we noticed a nodule in one of her breasts. Removal and biopsy showed cancer, a slow growing one, but cancer never the less. 6 months later it came back and was removed again. 6 months after that, it was back, and the docs remove almost the entire breast. It never recurred after that, but no one was interested in adopting her, so we did. After 3 years of having her, we got a call from one of Tom’s high school friends that her father, actually the preacher that married Tom and I, had been recently widowed, and felt he needed a dog to keep him company. Tom took a couple of fosters we had and at the last minute, threw in Camille. She had done well with us, but was a very needy little girl, and had a difficult time sharing me with the other dogs. It was a match made in heaven. He has had her for 3 months now and adores her and spoils her rotten.
The GiftBubba Henry, a little shih tzu, paralyzed in the back legs, was pulled from a high kill shelter in OKC, on the day he was to be euthanized. He came to us a year ago. We worked with him, but the damage was too bad and we eventually got him a wheel chair. He is very sweet, loving and ours.
Strawberry, a little schnauzer, yorkie mix was stepped on by her mama when she was just a few days old. A young couple took her and raised her with such love and compassion, but financial and time constraints, forced them to look elsewhere for care for her. They knew she had very little quality of life, but were so attached to her they reached out to us to take her, instead of having her euthanized. She was about 7 months old at the time. She was very independent and determined to do what the other dogs did. We had her several months and worked with her legs, built her a wheelchair and she was eventually was adopted to a home where a 14 year old girl wanted a special needs pup. She is fiercely protective of her family now, and goes all over the ranch. Her legs have gotten stronger, and she even herds the goats.
There are many others, but will give just one more example. Little Skipper was brought into PAAS in Vinita. He was an older skipperke. His teeth were rotten, he couldn’t eat and was very weak. First thing they did, was get him to a foster home (us), and get his teeth cleaned. He gradually gained strength and after a month or so, was integrated into our family, running in the yard and laying in the sun. After 3 months a couple contacted the shelter. They saw his picture in the paper and were hoping that it was their little dog, they had been looking for for 3 months. It was and they were happily reunited a week ago.
Would it have been better to euthanize these dogs? This is usually what happens to dogs in these situations. But the wonderful people that adopted these dogs, love them in spite of, or maybe because, they are special.   They see the courage, determination, love and loyalty in their eyes and would not give them up for anything.

Kay Stout, Director   PAAS Vinita   [email protected]   918-256-7227     Facebook      Twitter

Training 911

posted December 11th, 2015 by
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20141115c

by Khara Criswell, MA, CPDT-KSA, CNWI

 

Holiday Training Tips To Keep Your Home Jolly And Safe

 

Fresh Water

If your dog is spending some time outdoors, check the water dish. Just because the temperature has dropped, it doesn’t mean your dog is drinking less water. If the temperature drops below 32 degrees, make sure you have chipped away the ice so your pup has a place to drink. Dogs eating snow could pick up dangerous objects or chemicals that may be hidden. Some dogs that eat snow can get an upset stomach and even hypothermia.

 

Warm Place to Stay

Dogs have fur coats, but even in extreme temperature changes a dog can get frost bite. If your pup lives outdoors, provide the pup a heated dog bed and adequate shelter. If you have a small dog or a dog with little or no hair, a sweater will help the dog retain its body heat. If you see your dog lifting its paw more than normal, check the paw. Some dogs’ paws are more sensitive to cold than others.

 

Kong Stuffed with Goodies

During the holidays, we might be too busy to pay as much attention as usual to our pets, so they need some other forms of mental stimulation. Stuffing and freezing a Kong makes for an excellent treat while company is over or during any hectic time. The dog is occupied while you can enjoy your guests or holiday prepping.

 

A Break or Retreat Zone

During the holiday season, your pup can get too much socialization or over-stimulation. Company can be tiring, so make sure your pup has a place to go to decompress away from the action. Start designating an area as the “dog safe zone,” so the pooch can get away, and maybe you too when you need to decompress. Sometimes the break could just be a walk with a familiar friend. One of the best things to train a dog to do is to go to a place/mat.

 

How to Mat Train:

Step 1. With a treat in your hand tell your dog, “go to your mat,” in a cheerful tone of voice and point to her mat.

Step 2. Pause a second or two (one-one thousand, two-one thousand), then lure your dog onto her mat by putting the treat up to her nose and slowly moving it over the mat. If you move your hand too quickly or too far away from her, she may give up and lose interest.

Step 3. As soon as your dog has four paws on the mat, give the treat.

Step 4. Tell your dog, “down/sit.” Give the hand signal or lure her if she needs helps. It is up to you whether you want to make her lie down or sit. If she doesn’t stay on the mat, you can take her to it. When she lies down, give the treat to her. Continue to give treats to keep her on the mat. After a few seconds, tell her “OK/free” and allow her to get up.

Repeat steps 1-4, gradually increasing the amount of time you ask her to stay on the mat. Mat training is great for working at your desk, watching TV, cooking in the kitchen, when guests are visiting (like during the holidays), or any time you need to get your dog out from under foot.

 

Practice

Practice this skill when you can pay attention—such as when you are answering easy emails, not when concentrating on a report due tomorrow, or when preparing a sandwich, not trying a gourmet recipe for the first time. TV commercials are a better practice time than engrossing movies.

As you increase the time the dog spends on her mat, throw in some shorter intervals to keep her motivated. As your dog gets better and better, space out the treats so she gets some for staying on her mat.  Eventually she will stay for no treats at all, but to keep the stay strong, give a verbal praise such as “thank you” or “you’re such a good dog.”

Troubleshooting: If your dog gets up before you release her, tell her “ah-ha” and immediately direct her back to her mat and into a down/sit. Don’t treat her, but make the duration of this down/sit short, so you can release her and repeat the exercise right away and reward for a successful result.

 

Beware of the Dangers

With the cold holiday weather and additional edible delicacies, keep these dangers in mind:

Antifreeze is highly toxic; although it tastes good to pets, it can kill them.

Human foods to keep away from Fido include grapes, raisins, avocados, onions, chocolate, anything coffee-related, macadamia nuts, tomatoes, and seeds from apples, cherries, peaches and similar fruit, and of course bones, which can break apart in the intestines.

Household items such as cleaners, rat and mouse poisons.

Christmas décor can be hazardous, including Christmas berries, Christmas cactus, sap, candles

Christmas Rose, the tree and all its parts (needles, tree water, holly, and mistletoe, tinsel, ornaments and lights). If you have a puppy, start the decorations on the tree higher from the ground than he or she can reach.

 

Call your vet or Animal Poison Control if you feel your pet ingested a toxin at (888) 426-4435. A $65 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card.

Keep these tips in mind to ensure a safe holiday and remember you’re never too young or old to have fun with your pup