Preparing your home for your pet - Ark Veterinary Hospital09/27/2023 02:30PM ● By MERYL SIEGMAN
For those with senior dogs, the journey can be particularly challenging as you adapt to their changing needs. For some expert advice on preparing your home to ensure your pet remains happy and safe, we turned to Andrew Koenitzer, the chief of staff at Ark Veterinary Hospital in Shelburne.
PRIORITIZING QUALITY CARE
Ark Veterinary Hospital prioritizes wellness and preventative medical care while offering a wide range of specialties, including surgery, dermatology, internal medicine, ultrasound, and dentistry. Andrew, who previously worked at a high volume veterinary clinic for a large city, relishes Ark’s client-focused approach. Regardless of an owner’s choice of treatment or financial constraints, Ark’s primary focus is on full-service, comprehensive pet care, from routine vaccinations to surgical procedures.
“I am proud of our clinic. It provides high-quality diagnostic medicine,” he said. “We have a team of veterinarians with diverse specialties and are always trying to move into the future in stride with the ever-changing landscape of medicine. I am trained in ultrasound and a wide range of soft tissue surgery with an interest in oral surgery. We are also excited to announce one of our vets, Dr. Morika Ogawa, finished training and started to offer acupuncture for our chronic pain patients dealing with back or arthritic discomfort.”
He believes this is a great addition to the practice, especially for those animals starting to slow down or show signs of consistent discomfort at home.
Offering a range of treatments for chronic disease from medical, surgical, holistic, or dietary, is also important. Andrew added, “We also have a veterinarian with a special interest in end-of-life and hospice care. Our approach is collaborative, with a shared commitment to providing the best care possible for our clients.” As a result, patients are not assigned to one doctor, but rather to the whole team, to manage their unique individual care.
PREPPING THE HOUSE
Before bringing a new dog into your home, or if you’re adjusting your living space for a senior dog, safety and well-being should be your top priorities. Andrew offers valuable advice on how to create a pet-friendly environment.
“Choose a safe feeding and resting area,” he said. “I recommend a clean, quiet area for your pet’s food and water bowls.” He explained that having a designated space for eating and resting can help your dog feel secure and comfortable.
“For first-time owners,” Andrew said, “make sure you have all the necessary supplies, including bowls, a comfortable bed, grooming tools, toys, a collar with identification tags, a leash, and, if applicable, a crate for training purposes.”
Next, pet-proof your home. Be aware of potential hazards such as pest poisons, toxic cleaning products, and even chewing gum and foods with artificial sweeteners. Make sure foods are not within reach, but rather stored in cupboards. Check that your house plants aren’t dangerous. According to Andrew, the ASPCA provides a helpful list of plants that can be toxic to pets.
“It’s essential to have cleanable surfaces, especially where you are feeding your pet,” Andrew said. He also recommends designing your mudroom to accommodate your dog, providing a place to clean him off before he enters the house.
And finally, stairs and any slick floor surfaces should be covered with rugs, carpet tiles, or even yoga mats so your puppy can keep his feet under him or your senior dog doesn’t slip or fall.
CREATING SAFE OUTDOOR SPACES
Outdoor spaces offer a haven for your dog to play and explore, but they require thoughtful planning, too. Andrew shared insights on maintaining a safe and enjoyable outdoor environment:
FENCED-IN AREAS: Consider fencing in your outdoor space to provide a safe, enclosed area for your dog to roam. The type of fence you choose depends on your dog’s size and temperament. Invisible or electronic fences can be effective, but are best introduced to puppies at least six months of age for proper training and setup.
REGULAR CLEAN-UP: Consistently clean up your outdoor space to prevent parasites and keep it safe for both your pet and family members. Be mindful of what you’re growing in your garden, as some plants, like lilies, can be toxic to pets.
ENRICHMENT OPPORTUNITIES: If your dog has specific behaviors, like digging or repetitive laps, consider making changes in your yard to create an enrichment area. Providing space for these activities such as a digging pit can keep your pet mentally and physically stimulated.
PROVIDING A SAFE ENVIRONMENT FOR SENIOR PETS
Caring for an aging dog presents unique challenges. Andrew offered practical tips for modify- ing your home to the comfort and well-being of your senior companion. “It’s especially import- ant to know your dog’s limits,” he cautioned.
MOBILITY CONSIDERATIONS: Older dogs may experience mobility issues. Ensure your home is accessible by providing good grip on stairs, ramps for easier access, and rugs or carpets to improve your dog’s footing. Introduce baby gates around high-risk areas.
CONSISTENCY IS KEY: Senior dogs often
experience decline in their vision. Dogs
rely on their noses more than their eyes, so maintaining a consistent environment can help them navigate their surroundings. Be cautious of stair-related risks and provide a familiar path. You may not want to rearrange furniture or bring a new piece into your dog’s regular space.
COGNITIVE DYSFUNCTION SYNDROME (CDS): Cognitive decline, similar to Alzheimer’s Disease in humans, can affect older dogs, causing them to exhibit abnormal behaviors. Creating a known and consistent environment can help alleviate confusion. Andrew suggested providing a designated “home base,” such as a supportive bed or a specific area of the home. “And be aware of worsening eyesight when letting your animals out for the last bathroom break at night,” he added.
REGULAR VETERINARY CHECK-UPS
As a cherished member of your family, deserving of the best care and a comfortable home, your dog should have regular veterinary check-ups, Andrew said. “Continual monitoring of your senior dog’s health is essential. Schedule one to two yearly exams and closely monitor his body condition and bloodwork. Maintaining a supportive environment and addressing age-related issues promptly are crucial.” Through this type of ongoing care, the hospital is better able to create the best approach for your animal as well as for you and your home.
Whether you’re welcoming a new pup into your family or adjusting your home for an aging companion, careful planning and attention to your pet’s needs are paramount. With guidance from experts like Andrew Koenitzer and the dedicated team at Ark Veterinary Hospital, you can create a safe and comfortable home that ensures the well-being of your furry friend throughout his life journey.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE ARK VETERINARY HOSPITAL