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How to help prevent pain for older pets

Canton veterinarian has advice for managing pain in pets

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CANTON, Mich. – Janet Sayenga no longer lets her 11-year-old rottweiler jump in and out of cars.

Grendel has had arthritis in his shoulders, hips and back for the past four years, and it makes it difficult to get in and out of cars.

"It makes it a lot easier for him for me to help put the front legs up and I boost him from his back, so he doesn't have that extra weight to actually make the jump into the vehicle," Sayenga said.

Dr. Michael Petty is a veterinarian who specializes in pain management. His practice is Arbor Pointe Veterinary Hospital, in Canton.

"As a practice that does a lot of pain medicine, every day I see someone come in struggling to get their dogs out of or into a car," Petty said. "We treat a broad selection of animals and even just large animals having issues getting in and out of cars that aren’t arthritic."

Petty encourages people to consider how their animals get in and out of the car, no matter their age.

"Even for young healthy animals, what's the impact of getting in and out of the car, especially like an SUV and jumping down 3 feet on the hard pavement every day, several times a day for their entire life? I mean, you know, that has wear and tear. That's just not a natural thing for them," Petty said.

Sayenga works with Petty and agrees that younger animals should be taught different ways to get in and out of the car other than just jumping. She suggests showing them to put their front paws up and helping them up from the back.

Petty recommends a ramp or platform, like the Twistep he has for his dog Kiki, to help pets get in and out of the car, however he said people need to teach their animals how to use them.

"Here is the problem. People buy them and the dogs just don't want to get up inside. So you need a harness and you need one with the handle," Petty said. "I use the harness as a guide because if I don't, she is going to try to jump all the way up into the car because she is a young dog."

When getting the pet out of the car, also use the harness to help guide them out of the car and use a ramp or step to keep them from landing directly on the hard pavement.

Sayenga has seen an improvement in Grendel since she changed how he gets in and out of the car.

"If you have any questions about the appropriate way to lift, call your vet, talk to him, get good answers, because there's wrong ways to do it, as well. Sometimes you can cause more issues than help them," Sayenga said.

Petty has other suggestions to help make riding in vehicles easier and safer for pets.

One is the bolster designed to put inside vehicles. He said it can be used one of two ways.

"It can be put in front of bench or bucket seats, and it provides a better platform. Or if it's like my dog, (who) prefers to have a wider space between the seats so that when the seats are down; when both seats are down there is a nice, even platform for her to lay down on. This provides a little bit of extra security when they are in the car is being a flat surface and a fabric surface. They have a little bit more stability," Petty said.

For safety, Petty recommends a seat belt harness.

"This is actually a seat belt harness and it's made by a company called Sleepypod, and the important part about this is it distributes the weight. When you put the seat belt through these two loops and the weight of the dog on the impact is taken across the chest, which is a very safe way to do it. One of the dangers of any harness is sometimes I like to call the 'collars in disguise,' and if you pull on the harness you'll see it actually choke up on the collar portion of it, and this does not. This is a very safe way to move with your dog and it works with any seat belt. There is no special attachment it just needs to go through these two loops," Petty said.

For travel with cats, Petty likes the Sleepypod carrier.

"This is a cat carrier; it's actually made by Sleepypod. These things have actually been crash tested over at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, so it has a local connection. It can be used like a regular cat carrier. It's got a handle on it and everything where you can carry it around. It zips open to get the cat in, but most importantly it can be used to safeguard your cat during travel. It works very easily. You basically put the bottom, the lap belt through here and then the shoulder harness and then it simply buckles into the latch. Tighten it up, and this thing is not going anywhere in a crash. Very, very safe way to transport your cat," Petty said.


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