Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Beloved pets haven’t lived this long in a dog’s age

Pets are living longer than ever, thanks to diligent owners and medical advances. “There’s no question that longevity is connected to quality of health care,” said Dr. Lisa Moses, head of the pain management service at MSPCA Angell Animal Medical Center in Jamaica Plain.

“It is true for humans and it is true for animals. When the patient can’t talk, you are dependent on the caretaker to tell you what is wrong and seek help. People used to bring their animals to the ER, where the diseases were really far advanced.

I think people are doing a better job of finding out when dogs are sick earlier.”Typically, the larger the dog the shorter the life expectancy. Big dogs like Great Danes are well into their twilight years by age 7, where toy-size dogs live an average of 12 to 14 years.

Felines are considered senior once they hit age 10. “I see a lot of animals where they are long into their teens. I have lots of dog patients who are above 16,” Moses said. While improvements in nutrition helps, Moses said genetics is the biggest contributor to long life.

Take Milo, a 19, yes, 19-year-old Labrador mix. Milo continues to amaze his owner, Teresa Hill of Cambridge. While most dogs of Milo’s size die at 13 or 14, this playful pup still enjoys mischief and mayhem. He rode in Hill’s sailboat until a few years ago. “He was the Houdini of dogs,” Hill said.

Now he prefers the comfort of his new dog bed in front of the fireplace, she said. Like any senior, he has some health issues - he’s deaf and has his share of pains - but Hill takes him to acupuncture and water therapy sessions to ease the aches.

“He’s infirm, but he’s perfectly cheerful and he’s completely there and he loves the snow. We built a ramp for him so he can go up and down the stairs. When he saw the snow he leaped the deck into the snow and landed flat,” Hill said.

Hill’s cat Buzz, Milo’s buddy, lived to be 21 years old.

Then there’s Brownie, a 34-year-old thoroughbred/quarter horse from Whitman.

“It is hard to believe that someday soon, hopefully later, he won’t be there. I can’t even fathom it. I’m going to need therapy ... I grew up with him. We did everything together,” said Brownie’s owner, Jennifer Kruzel.

Horses are considered senior once they pass the 20-year-old mark. But that didn’t stop Brownie - he was still dazzling judges in the show ring at age 30.What’s the secret?

Dr. Daniela Bedenice, a specialist in large animal medicine at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, said aging animals are not unlike aging humans.

“My personal opinion is the more active you keep your horse, keeping your horse physically and mentally active, will improve joint mobility,” Bedenice said.Brownie is now retired from showing, but is still used to help a child with special needs several times a week.“We tried to officially retire him, and he didn’t like not being involved,” said Kruzel.“Genes come into a part of it, but Brownie, never in his life, was hungry, or cold. He had never worked too hard when he wasn’t in shape for it,” Kruzel said.


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