Acute Moist Dermatitis
Acute Moist Dermatitis (often called Hot Spots) are bacterial infections that form underneath the fur. They are usually red, raw, irritated, and very itchy. Hot spots are an extremely common condition, particularly for dogs in warm and humid weather. In this article, we will examine the nature, causes, and treatment of hot spots.
Hot spots are itchy, red, moist lesions under the skin which result from licking or scratching. They can manifest in a single area—often very large—or several lesions on different parts of the body. A hot spot develops when the P.H. of the skin changes, causing skin infection and the resulting itch-scratch cycle. In other words, moisture or humidity forms under the skin, which causes a favorable environment for bacteria.
This bacterial infection is very itchy and uncomfortable for your dog, which leads to your dog scratching. However, this reaction only makes the problem worse. Scratching leads to more infection and more itching, which leads to even more scratching as the infected area(s) grow larger and redder.
There are many underlying causes for hot spots. These include allergies, biting or itching from fleas, clipper burns from grooming, or and humidity or moisture under the fur. Identifying the cause of the hot spot is the key to preventing them from forming in the future. If a hot spot is caused by an underlying allergic condition, addressing that allergy will prevent future occurrences.
- A member of the veterinary team will very gently clip the fur away from the lesion, allowing the area to breathe and remove any excess humidity or moisture under the skin. After the lesion is clipped, a thorough cleaning will be performed with an antibacterial surgical scrub.
- The area is dried and allowed to air out. An E-collar is critical to help prevent your pet from licking, and if needed, a soft T-shirt can be added to help protect from scratching. This way, when your pet goes to scratch the area, they will instead hit the hanging portion of the T-shirt.
- Antibiotics are an important part of treating hot spots to eliminate the resulting infection on the skin. Your veterinarian will help choose the right antibiotic for your pet.
- Depending on the particular case, your veterinarian may recommend pain or itch relief medication to help your pet feel more comfortable during the healing process.
Anorexia in Dogs
Whether it’s hiding our trash in the closet. Putting our food just a little out of reach, or making sure we don’t leave the groceries out for too long, we take all sorts of measures to hide anything that might pose a health risk to our canine companions. Some dogs will put just about anything in their mouths that crosses their paths. However, in some cases, we notice that our dogs are not showing as much enthusiasm to eat when food is put in front of them. It can be quite distressing for a pet owner to watch your furry friend turn his nose or walk away from his food bowl. It is important to note any unusual habits your dog exhibits when it comes to his appetite and water consumption.
If you are concerned that your dog is eating less than the guidelines proscribed by your dog’s food bag, be aware that these are estimates. Many healthy dogs eat 30%-40% less than what is suggested on the packaging label. Exercise and lifestyle also play a role in appetite, weight gain, and weight loss. However, if your variations in food consumption and weight do not fall within the normal range and your pet is anorexic, a more serious underlying disease may be present.
Appetite loss in your dog is often a red flag, indicating that they are suffering from a medical condition, especially if they experience other symptoms in conjunction with their anorexia. Any anorexic dog should be seen promptly by your veterinarian, and a careful history should be taken. Please note any vomiting, diarrhea, or possible foreign objects ingested, as well as levels of water consumption. There are many reasons for anorexia in our pets, including upset stomachs, to Tick borne disease, even kidney failure, untreated diabetes, and cancer.
A detailed account of your dog’s medical history, combined with the correct diagnostic approach, will yield the best path to a diagnosis and, ultimately, treatment for your pet. Depending on the specifics of each occurrence, bloodwork and radiographs may be recommended. Alternatively, symptomatic treatment including anti-nausea medication, antacids, or antibiotics may be appropriate where an infectious cause is suspected.
Bad Breath in Pets
Morning breath, garlic breath, or forgetting to brush your teeth after a meal—no matter the reason, we have all been there.
We, as humans, typically follow a daily hygienic routine when it comes to dental care. But what does it mean when our pets have bad breath? If you notice that your furry friend’s breath is not the usual canine/feline smell but instead a new, more unpleasant odor, your pet may be experiencing some Health-Related Problems. Of course, your pet’s breath is not supposed to be minty-fresh, but there is a difference between what is normal to your animal versus a bad smell.
Bad breath in your pet is usually a red flag that excessive bacteria is thriving in your pet’s mouth — a common symptom of periodontal disease and other diseases of the mouth. The surface area on your pet’s teeth is prone to tartar and plaque build-up. The bacterium will eventually make its way to the gum line and below to cause further damage to your pet’s mouth and other organs.
In this health-related problem, immediate treatment for this disease helps resolve halitosis (bad breath). The most recommended and beneficial treatment for your furry friend is to bring them to one of our veterinarians for an examination and mouth evaluation.
Halitosis is not only an indication of periodontal disease but also a warning of large-scale medical problems in the mouth, gastrointestinal tract, internal organs, or respiratory system. Bad breath is also linked to Diabetes, as well as disease of the kidneys.
• Bad breath
• Bleeding or red/inflamed gums
• Difficulty chewing or eating
• Rubbing face on the floor, pawing at the face
• Anti-social behavior
• Weight loss
We recommend that your pet be seen by your veterinarian as soon as possible if they have been experiencing bad breath. Your veterinarian will ask for a short medical history, including the dental care routine at home. A physical examination, bloodwork, and an oral examination (sometimes under sedation if the pain is present) are the first steps to formulating a treatment care plan for your pet’s teeth.
After the treatment of the dental disease, providing the proper dental care at home can extend the health of the teeth for your pet. Our veterinarians can provide you with a comprehensive plan based on your individual pet’s needs; this may include brushing, chews, rinses, routine rechecks, and more.
Blindness in pets
Do you think your dog doesn’t see so well? Have you noticed your dog bumping into things at night? Did you know that dogs and cats can lose their vision? Numerous diseases and conditions can lead to reduced vision and blindness in dogs and cats.
Dogs and cats see things a little differently than we do as humans. There are perception differences, color differences, and perspective differences. For example, ever stop and picture the world as a dog or cat sees things? What would you do to get this picture? I bet you would bend down to the level of a dog and cat! Dogs and cats see the world from only a few feet off the ground.
Tall grass, bushes, and benches can obstruct a dog’s view from this point of view. Dogs and cats also hunted and foraged in the wild for food in the day and at night. For these reasons, they have adopted different mechanisms that enable them to see the world a little differently than us.
Despite the old myth, dogs and cats do see color, although perhaps a little differently than we do. Dog’s color palette tends to focus more on yellow and purple/blue with a bit less ability to see red. Additionally, dogs and cats tend to have a broader visual range than we do, but with more focus/clarity off-center than directly in the middle. Cats and dogs also have better night vision than we do because the back of their eyes has a hyperreflective area called the fundus.
Although these adaptations allow certain improvements or differences from humans, they are still susceptible to ocular disease. While there are too many ocular diseases to discuss all of them in this article, it may be helpful to break them down into three distinct categories: The inability of sufficient light to reach the back of the eye, the inability of the retina to process these images, or an inability of the brain to decipher the signals sent to generate an image in the brain.
Cataracts are one diagnosis that may interfere with light transmission to the eye. Cataracts are a hardening of the lens capsule which the light passes through on its way to the back of the eye. An example of retinal disease is retinal detachment, which most commonly affects cats with high blood pressure. Finally, central brain disease may interfere with the ability to translate signals into images.
While the eyes may be functioning quite well, the brain is unable to process the images sent. Other ocular diseases include diseases of the cornea or external structures like the conjunctiva or sclera, or the eyelids. These disorders include corneal ulcers, entropion, dry eye, cherry eye, and many others.
Regardless of the cause, if you suspect your pet is losing their vision, a veterinarian should evaluate them immediately. Some ocular diseases can progress rapidly, leading to vision loss or even loss of your pet’s eye! When you visit your veterinarian, they take a complete history. To determine when you noticed a problem, what you observe. If changes are noted between day and night and if any other diseases or conditions have been diagnosed, which may contribute to ocular dysfunction. After a thorough history, appropriate tests will be recommended to help determine where and why you are noticing a problem.
For external problems involving the cornea, your veterinarian may place a special stain on the eye to help identify ulcers, which are scratches on the surface of the cornea. For intra-ocular disease, an ophthalmoscope, special lenses, and lights may be used to help look into your pet’s eyes past the exterior structures. Fortunately, all of these are readily available at most veterinary hospitals and are inexpensive tests to perform.
Bulldog Health Issues
Bulldogs—they sure are cute! They are also very lovable and affectionate pets. From the English Bulldog to the Frenchie, bulldogs come in many sizes. Originally bred for “bull-baiting,” today’s Bulldogs are loving family members and wonderful pets. Unfortunately, they are prone to develop certain medical conditions and diseases. Following are common disorders that every Bulldog owner or someone thinking of adopting a Bulldog should be aware of.
Common Brachycephalic dogs include Bulldogs, Frenchies, Pugs, Boston Terrier & Pekinese. As all bullie owners know, they have shorter faces with broad, short-length heads. This is what causes the characteristic snorty sound we all have come to recognize with these breeds. It also predisposes them to a condition called Brachycephalic Airway Disease.
The disease has four main components:
- Stenotic Nares (Narrowed Nostrils)
- Hypoplastic Trachea (Shortened wind-pipe)
- Everted Laryngeal Saccules
- Elongated Soft Palate
Brachycephalic dogs are more likely to develop respiratory problems and are prone to heatstroke—their inefficient breathing results in extra work and resulting inflammation to the airway. A brachycephalic dog may have difficulty breathing in severe cases and require a permanent tracheostomy (hole in the throat for breathing).
Due to the breed’s facial structure, certain eye problems are more common. These include irritation from abnormal hairs that contact the eye, causing irritation, eyelids that roll inward, or a nasal fold of the skin that irritates the eye. Additionally, a genetic condition called KCS (Dry Eye) may result in yellow, pus-like eye discharge and, over time, scarring of the corneas.
Ever notice the skin folds of the face on Bulldogs and related breeds? Humidity and moisture can easily get trapped between the folds, and bacteria and yeast infections are prone to occur. Dogs with skin-fold dermatitis may have a mal-odor from the folds of their skin with moist, yellow discharge, redness, and inflammation.
Bulldogs are just one of many breeds predisposed to allergies and ear infections. When pets get ear infections, their ears may be painful, red, and have a discharge. You may notice your pet shaking their head, scratching at their ears, or rubbing their heads on the carpet. 83% of dogs who frequently lick their front feet have some form of underlying allergy.
From ear infections to trouble breathing, eye problems, and skin problems, I know this paints a scary picture of adopting a Bulldog. While almost all Bulldogs will have some form of diseases discussed, many cases are milder in appearance. Bulldog owners should watch their pet’s weight to help prevent fat from pushing on their trachea, making it harder for them to breathe. Care should also be taken on hot days to prevent heat stroke. Ear infections and allergies can often be managed with proper diagnosis and treatment. Skin-fold dermatitis is usually manageable with medicated wipes and shampoos. Bulldogs are not a “set it and forget it” type of dog, and they do require maintenance and some trips to the veterinarian. However, they are extremely loving dogs and are beloved by their owners.
Canine Atopic Dermatitis
Is your dog licking its paws, scratching at its ears, and shaking its head? Canine Atopic Dermatitis (allergies) is an extremely common problem that affects almost all dog breeds. It can severely impact your dog’s quality of life while untreated. However, the condition is manageable. In the following article, I will discuss canine allergies and treatment options to help reduce your Dog’s Scratching.
Did you know that 83% of dogs who lick at both front feet have some form of an allergy? In veterinary medicine, there are three general types of allergies: seasonal, environmental, and food. When most of us hear the word “allergies,” seasonal allergies are what come to mind. There are hundreds of different things dogs can be allergic to, from grass, pollen, molds, trees, and even dust mites.
Seasonal allergies tend to start in the spring and improve as winter approaches. Environmental allergies include things in your house that may be causing your dog to be itchy. These allergies do not improve over the winter and tend to be constant throughout the year. The third form of allergy is an allergy to foods. In today’s veterinary medicine, this is considered an allergy to the protein source in your dog’s food, not the brand. Most commonly, chicken and beef are thought to be the inciting factor. Finally, a subcategory of allergies called Flea Allergic Dermatitis will be in a different article.
Diagnosis of canine atopic dermatitis centers around intradermal skin testing, the same form of testing done on people who are thought to be allergic. Skin testing is a short procedure where different allergens are placed under the skin. Reactions at the site where the specific allergen was placed are then graded. Dogs can have multiple allergies at the same time.
Allergies in dogs tend to follow certain fur patterns, which can aid your veterinarian in coming to suspect that this is the cause for your pet’s itch. Allergies tend to start under the age of 3 and respond to steroid treatments. Concurrent Ear Infections can also be present, and no evidence of fleas present. Secondary fungal or bacterial infections may be present, creating a smell similar to “bread rising,” and redness and swelling may be present.
Fortunately, there are numerous treatment options available. Injections can treat a dog’s allergy after a dermatologist consultation; this is the only known “cure” for canine atopic dermatitis, but it is not always successful. Many oral medications are both safe and highly effective. Steroids, Apoquel, and antihistamines are all commonly used to help pets relieve their itch. Additionally, a fairly new treatment called Cytopoint injections has been approved for canine allergies. A single Cytopoint injection can last from 4 to 8 weeks, and there are very few side effects or complications known.
With all of these treatment options, your veterinarian has numerous tools at their disposal to help your dog stop itching. If you suspect your dog has an allergy, we recommend making an appointment with your veterinarian. After a brief history, your vet may obtain an ear sample and skin sample to analyze for secondary yeast or bacteria. Your veterinarian will then have the information needed to discuss the most appropriate treatment options for your dog. Allergies are a manageable disease in dogs, and with a little bit of help, your dog can get back to running, jumping, and playing instead of scratching, rolling, and shaking.
Cannabis Products for Dogs
Cannabis products have recently become widely available to US populations for both recreational and medicinal use. This occurrence has raised many important questions regarding the effects of cannabis on dogs. Some questions are related to the accidental exposure of dogs to recreational products, while others have focused on the intentional use of cannabinoids to treat disease.
The accidental exposure of dogs to recreational products results in toxicity at low doses of recreational products. Dogs, especially younger ones, are thought to have many times the human sensitivity to THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol).
Dogs ingesting THC-containing products rarely die but often require medical care for delayed onset ataxia, urinary incontinence, hypothermia, vomiting, and blood pressure abnormalities. The toxic effects of THC in dogs also extend to synthetic THC-like molecules.
The intentional use of CBD (cannabidiol) products has often been a source of discussion. It is generally thought that CBD has fewer risks and less toxicity than THC in dogs. In humans, the FDA has approved a CBD-containing product. Human clinical trials have demonstrated that CBD may help treat the pain associated with osteoarthritis and refractory epilepsy.
Some people have wondered if CBD could be useful for treating arthritis, Seizure Disorders, or anxiety in dogs because of promising clinical trials in humans. There are some important reasons why giving CBD product to dogs might be a bad idea:
- Clinical Trials: Many products that are not harmful and not toxic also lack efficacy or depend upon placebo effects for their benefits. Placebo effects are profound in people but are unlikely to improve your pet’s quality of life. Generally speaking, double-blinded, peer-reviewed clinical trials are needed to prove efficacy in animals.
As of September 2019, only two such trials have been performed in dogs (none in cats). One study showed mild subjective improvement in some dogs’ arthritis pain under treatment for arthritis with medications and fish oil. The other clinical trial failed to demonstrate any improvement in epileptic dogs given CBD. No studies have examined the treatment of any anxiety or behavioral disorder in dogs.
- Purity Concerns: The only FDA-approved product is currently prohibitively expensive for use in dogs. Non-FDA-approved products may or may not contain CBD, THC, or other compounds such as cortisol like steroids in unregulated doses. There is an over-the-counter product (Vet CBD) that credibly claims to have a 20:1 ratio of CBD to THC that is verified by independent third-party testing.
- Legality Concerns: Federal regulations do not currently allow for the use of any cannabis product in animals. Certainly, dogs can, and do, have a variety of illnesses associated with arthritic pain, epilepsy, poor appetite, glaucoma, anxiety, and nighttime awakening. Happily, we have safe and effective FDA-approved medications for these diseases of dogs and cats.
If your canine or feline companion is suffering from one of these conditions, please contact a World of Animals’ veterinarian rather than administering an unknown amount of an unregulated supplement. Accurate diagnosis and proven treatments usually result in better medical outcomes for all pet diseases.
Congestive Heart Failure
To understand Heart Disease, it’s helpful to use an analogy. We can think of the heart as a pump similar to a pool’s motor. However, instead of circulating water to remove leaves from the pool, the heart pumps blood to circulate around our bodies. That blood fuels our cells with the oxygen needed to carry out each cell’s individual function. Without this oxygen, animal cells cease to perform the functions essential for life.
When pets go into congestive heart failure, a disease or defect in the heart prevents it from meeting the body’s circulatory demands. As a result, the blood which should be traveling forward throughout the body backs up into the organs from which the blood flowed immediately before moving back to the heart. These organs are the lungs and liver; the last place blood travels before returning to the heart for another cycle around the body. The result is congestion and a failure to meet the body’s oxygen demands.
There are many causes of congestive heart failure, and it’s best to think of this more as a “state of being” than the disease which causes it. Pets can go in and out of congestive heart failure many times as medications are initiated, dosages are changed, or a disease state progresses. There is always an underlying disease state which causes this condition. The most common cause of heart failure is valvular disease or an age-related defect in the valves that separate the heart’s chambers.
When pets go into congestive heart failure, you may notice the two most common signs are lethargy and coughing. Dogs that normally go for a walk may seem tired part of the way through and may lay down on the grass instead of continuing their walk.
When you take your pet to the veterinarian, they may detect an abnormal sound of blood flowing through the heart, called a murmur. X-Rays will likely be suggested to help your vet visualize changes to the size and shape of the heart, as well as the fluid which is backing up into the organs. Bloodwork may also help show organ function, helping to evaluate the safety and type of medication prescribed. Fortunately, there are medications that can get dogs and cats out of congestive heart failure for some time. While these medications do not correct the underlying abnormality, they improve the heart’s ability to function by increasing its ability to contract and remove excess fluid from the body. Many times, these medications can greatly improve your pet’s symptoms.
Coughing In Cats
When we think about coughing, we often think about irritation in the back of our throats or trying to relieve ourselves from a mucous discharge from accumulating. Coughing is a protective mechanism to stop the accumulation of secretions and possible foreign materials inside the respiratory tract.
Those who have witnessed our cats cough have a slightly disturbing experience, mostly due to the retching and agitation they display during this reflex. But have you ever noticed your cat coughing relentlessly? If you are a cat owner and have observed your cat coughing incessantly, this could be a possible symptom of respiratory or cardiovascular disease.
Coughing is both an involuntary and voluntary response—we don’t have to think about activating it. Its purpose as an automatic reaction is to help keep the pharynx and airways free of foreign bodies and secretions. Coughing is not a disease but may be associated with an underlying medical problem.
When a cat coughs, it usually is triggered by an irritation or inflammation in the bronchi or trachea. There are many reasons why a cat may cough, some more concerning than others:
• Upper Respiratory Tract Infections
• Feline Bronchitis (Asthma)
• Parasitic lung diseases
• Foreign bodies in the respiratory tract
• Heart Disease
When you bring your cat to the veterinarian for evaluation visitation, your veterinarian or technician will ask for a brief medical history and when you initially started noticing your cat’s coughing. There may be some clues that can help indicate why your cat is coughing:
A viral respiratory infection may cause
- Coughing with sneezing.
- A cough accompanied by wheezing could be associated with bronchial and asthma conditions.
- A cough associated with weight loss could be an indication of a parasitic disease or cancer.
- Coughing and increased respiratory rate and effort may indicate a heart issue.
After a complete physical examination and carefully sculpting your cat’s heart and lungs, your veterinarian may suggest radiographs (X-rays), so we can visualize what is happening inside your cat’s chest. Radiographs can help identify fluid in your cat’s lungs, evidence of asthma, heart disease, and more.
Depending on the specific cause of your cat’s cough, there are medications and environmental changes that may help ease your cat’s cough and the stress associated with it. When a serious underlying medical condition is present, it may require in-hospital treatment to stabilize your pet before he can come back home. If feline bronchitis is diagnosed, an inhaler can help alleviate your pet’s symptoms.
For more serious conditions, like heart disease, oral medications may be necessary to improve cardiac function and help the body remove excess fluids. Whatever the cause of your cat’s cough, scheduling an appointment with a World of Animals Veterinarian is the first step towards getting them on the road to recovery.
Cushing’s Disease in Cats
Hyperadrenocorticism, or Cushing’s disease, is a condition in which the adrenal glands overproduce and secrete the hormone cortisol. The endocrine system is a collective system of glands that helps produce and secrete hormones in the body. Within this intricate system are the adrenal glands.
These organs are located near the kidneys and help produce hormones that help regulate bodily functions, such as cortisol. Cortisol is a chemical that is responsible for handling stress, control weight, and keeping blood sugar regulated, and also helps to reduce inflammation.
When a pet’s body produces too much of this hormone, it can cause serious health concerns that could lead to more life-threatening scenarios. Although this is an uncommon disease for cats to contract, senior-aged cats, predisposed breeds, or any underlying medical condition can increase your cat’s susceptibility to the disease.
Not all symptoms related to this endocrine disorder are apparent in every cat; warning signs are more difficult to spot during the earliest stage of development. When a cat develops Cushing’s disease, it is usually in concurrence with diabetes. Here is an overview of the most commonly observed symptoms seen in infected cats:
- Excessive Urination
- Weight gain
- Increased Thirst
- Distended abdomen
- Hair Loss
In healthy cats, the brain’s pituitary gland creates the hormone adrenocorticotropic (ACTH), which helps to stimulate the adrenal glands to secrete cortisol into the bloodstream, which in turn aids in maintaining bodily systems such as the metabolism, nervous system, immune system, and kidneys. When there is a benign or cancerous tumor in the pituitary or adrenal gland, excess glucocorticoid is being secreted.
There are three forms of Cushing’s disease; adrenal-based hyperadrenocorticism, pituitary-dependent hyperadrenocorticism, and iatrogenic hyperadrenocorticism;
- Adrenal-based hyperadrenocorticism: This condition develops when an adrenal tumor causes an overproduction of glucocorticoids.
- Pituitary-dependent hyperadrenocorticism occurs as a result of the overproduction of ACTH by the pituitary gland.
- Iatrogenic hyperadrenocorticism develops if a cat has been prescribed excessive amounts of steroid medication for a prolonged time.
If you suspect your cat has Cushing’s disease, please call to schedule an appointment at your nearest World of Animals Hospital. Blood tests can confirm the condition, and your veterinarian can discuss treatment options.
Deafness in Pets
We all know that our bodies start to lose some biological functions we take for granted in our earlier years with growing age. One example of this is the ability to hear. In humans, hearing loss is often associated with environmental exposure to loud sounds. Like us, pets can also suffer from hearing loss. There are many possible causes for hearing loss in dogs and cats, ranging from genetic conditions and infections to nerve damage and even cancer.
By about two weeks of age, the ear canals of puppies and kittens begin to open, and they can start to hear for the first time. By about eight weeks of age, the hearing mechanism matures. When a genetic abnormality results in incomplete development of these structures, deafness can result. Congenital deafness has been linked to certain breeds and coat colors of dogs and cats:
- Dominant Merle or Dapple Genes of the Collie, Dachshund, Great Dane, and Shetland Sheepdog. It is important to note that Merle or Dapple does not refer to a specific color but rather a coat pattern described as mottled or patchy. Blue or odd-colored eyes are also a feature of Merle of Dapple Colored dogs.
(Radlinksy MC, Mason DE: Diseases of the Ear. Ettinger SJ, Feldman EC (eds): Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 6th ed. St. Louis, Elsevier Saunders 2005 pp. 1184-1185)
- Jack Russell Terriers with a white coating
(Famula TR; Cargill EJ; Strain GM: Heritability and complex segregation analysis of deafness in Jack Russell Terriers. BMC Vet Res 2007 Vol 3 (1) pp. 31.)
- Dogs of any breed can be affected by deafness. For a complete list, follow this link to the Louisiana State Veterinary School’s website.
- Cats—An increased risk of deafness is associated with white-coated cats and even more common in white-coated cats with blue irises.
There are many reasons why our pets may become deaf over time. Some of these causes include severe Ear Infections, which affect the middle or inner ear, substances toxic to the ear canal, traumatic injury to the ear, and cancer. Sometimes a benign (not cancerous) growth or polyp inside of an ear may cause temporary hearing loss, although hearing may return once the tumor is removed. Also, foreign bodies inside the ear canal may cause temporary or permanent deafness.
As a pet owner, there are several physical symptoms that your pet may display if they are suffering from hearing loss. These include:
- Unresponsiveness to name/ everyday sounds
- Unresponsiveness to squeaky toys
- Being a loud sleeper
- Meowing or barking loudly
- Not hearing your footsteps when you come in close
- Puppies or kittens playing more aggressively (because they cannot hear their littermates cry if in pain)
- Being formerly afraid of thunderstorms, but no longer is so, as a dog or cat gets older
Hearing loss itself is often not a life-threatening condition. However, it can result in life-threatening scenarios, which is why it is important to bring him or her in for a physical examination. When you first come in for an appointment, one of our veterinarians will ask for a brief history of when you started to notice the onset of symptoms, followed by any potential causes you may have noted at home.
Our veterinarians will then perform a complete physical examination. Look inside your pet’s ears with an otoscope, and if an infection is suspected, get a sample from your pet’s ears for evaluation under a microscope. If an advanced infection is suspected, a culture and sensitivity may be recommended to find the correct antibiotics needed.
Congenital deafness, unfortunately, is irreversible; however, if our vet diagnosis the hearing damage due to an active ear infection or a growth in the ear, medications or surgical procedures can help resolve the deafness.
Fortunately, dogs and cats with hearing loss can still live wonderful, happy lives, albeit with a few restrictions. Dogs with hearing loss may be more reactive to other dogs or stimuli since they may not hear them approach without warning if they come from the side.
Diabetes in Dogs
When we think of the disease diabetes, we most commonly associate it with humans. Diabetes, however, is a chronic disease which can affect dogs and cats, as well as other animals. In dogs, the disease typically cannot be cured, only managed. However, with proper management, some cats can go into remission.
Diabetes mellitus (sweet) is the most common diabetic condition that our veterinarians see in dogs. This metabolic disease affects the glucose-insulin connection. When a dog eats his food, the digestive system helps breaks down the meal into numerous components, with one of these being glucose (a simple sugar used for energy).
When glucose is extracted from the digested food, it is then carried into the dog’s cells by insulin (a pancreatic hormone). When a dog’s body is compromised with this disease, his or her metabolic system cannot produce insulin or have it function to its normal capacity, which increases his or her blood sugar level.
Two types of diabetes are found in dogs, which can be responsible for this glucose-insulin inhibition. One being insulin-deficiency (the most common type of diabetes). This is where the dog’s body does not produce enough insulin.
If your dog is suffering from this form of diabetes, it means that the pancreas is either damaged or not functioning adequately. Management of this disease usually requires twice-daily injections as a way to make up for the missing amount of insulin that a healthy dog’s body would normally produce.
Insulin-resistance is the second form of diabetes found in dogs. During this condition, the pancreas produces a small amount of insulin, but the dog’s metabolic system is not effectively using the insulin.
There are early warning signs of this disease that your dog may exhibit if they are suffering from this chronic condition:
- Excessive thirst/ increase in water consumption
- Frequent urination
- Weight loss
- Increase in appetite
In more advanced stages of this disease, signs and symptoms can become more obvious, including such indicators as:
- Loss of appetite
- Behavioral change
If these symptoms are left unchecked and undiagnosed, more life-threatening conditions can occur. Long-term effects of diabetes include:
- Enlarged liver
- Kidney failure
Bringing in your furry friend to one of our experienced veterinarians can be your best option in properly diagnosing your dog. Simple tests will be conducted, including blood and urine tests, indicating an excessive amount of glucose in your dog’s body. The blood tests can also help determine if high liver enzymes and electrolyte imbalances are present.
Diarrhea is a common presenting complaint at any veterinary office. Chances are, at some point, your dog or cat has had a bout of diarrhea. Diarrhea can vary from loose, soft, semi-formed stool to completely loose and runny. In some cases, you may even note blood or mucus in it. In more severe forms, diarrhea can present as black and tarry in nature. Knowing what conditions are more commonly associated with diarrhea will help set your mind at ease and allow a better history of clinical symptoms when you visit the veterinary office.
Since there are so many causes of diarrhea, it helps to make classifications based on where the diarrhea is most likely originating. Symptoms of small bowel (small intestinal) diarrhea are characterized as mildly more frequent than normal eliminations, larger amounts, and sometimes associated with the passing of excess gas (flatulence).
Dogs with small bowel diarrhea may vomit, and in cases of chronic diarrhea, may have weight loss. This contrasts with symptoms of large bowel (colon) diarrhea, which may include increased frequency/urgency, straining, or even blood or mucus presence. There is a 3rd category of diarrhea, extra-GI, in which the problem originates outside of the GI tract. Diarrhea presents as secondary to that disease state.
There are a wide variety of causes for diarrhea in dogs. To help make this complicated subject a little more straightforward, it helps to divide these causes into categories. The first of these is dietary indiscretion or intolerance. Sometimes, dogs will eat things they shouldn’t have from the trash or outside.
Some dogs with sensitive stomachs can get diarrhea simply from switching to a new food too quickly or getting a new bag of dog treats; this is a very common cause, and treatment for it is simple; a bland Diet and some medication, and your dog will be back to normal quickly.
While dealing with diarrhea from edible but unhealthy foods is a straightforward matter, things that dogs like to eat are not always edible! Rocks, socks, peach pits, corn cobs, crayons, money, batteries—the list goes on and on.
These “foreign bodies” will sometimes pass through the intestines and end up in your dog’s bowels. While there, they can become an obstruction or even perforate the bowel. In this case, radiographs are necessary to evaluate the severity of the problem, so treatment—possibly including surgery—can be performed.
GI bacterial changes are another common cause of diarrhea in dogs. Some examples include Campylobacter, Clostridium, E. Coli, and less commonly Salmonella. In cases where bacteria is suspected, antibiotics may help relieve your pet’s diarrhea.
Viruses also may be responsible for causing diarrhea. In particular, parvo-enteric virus or “parvo.” This virus most commonly attacks young dogs (under 2 yrs) or the elderly, although any dog can be infected. Parvo is a catastrophic disease resulting in diarrhea, vomiting, not eating, and lethargy. Fortunately, a vaccine is available, which, when given appropriately, is 99% effective at preventing your dog from acquiring this disease.
Another possibility we often consider worms or other intestinal parasites. There are many worms and GI parasites that commonly infect dogs. Roundworms, whipworms, tapeworms, hookworms, coccidia, and giardia are among the most common parasites we see.
For cases where GI parasites are suspected, a routine fecal sample and test can help diagnose them. Treatment depends on which type of parasite is present. Once the parasites are detected, medication can be prescribed, which will eliminate them.
Unfortunately, there are some cases where the cause of diarrhea is more sinister, and treatment is often difficult; this is the category reserved for sick dogs with more serious underlying diseases. Many diseases can result in diarrhea, including intestinal masses, inflammatory bowel disease, certain systemic diseases and conditions, and many more.
Dogs who are systemically ill will likely have other signs, including anorexia, weight loss, or lethargy. Your veterinarian is best equipped to help diagnose if your dog has a more serious underlying disease.
Many diarrhea cases are manageable with good supportive care with the aid of your veterinarian. In those cases, preventing dehydration, antibiotics, and dietary modifications are likely to result in a good clinical outcome and resolution of clinical signs. If a GI parasite is suspected, a fecal examination will help diagnose the type of worm or parasite present and the most effective medications to eliminate it.
When a more serious underlying disease state is suspected, your veterinarian may suggest blood work, radiographs, ultrasound examination, or other diagnostics tests to help make the correct diagnosis. In severe cases, hospitalization may be required to ensure your dog is stable and provide intravenous medications and fluid therapy, or even surgery if an obstruction is present.
The cause of diarrhea can vary from mild signs and disease to severe or even life-threatening illness. Providing a proper history and bringing a fecal sample to your veterinarian are the first steps towards getting your pet feeling better again.
Dry Eye in Canines
Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS), or dry eye, is a condition that affects the aqueous portion of a dog’s tear film, resulting in dry, red, irritated eyes. There are many causes of dry eye in dogs, but all require treatment to prevent pain and ongoing damage to your pet’s eyes.
Many factors can cause KCS, and in it, either or both eyes may be affected. The most common cause of dry eye is an immune-mediated disease; this means that for unknown reasons, your dog’s body has decided to attack the nictitans and lacrimal glands in your dog’s eyelid, destroying the portion of the glands that produce tears.
Other suspected causes of KCS include endocrine diseases (hypothyroid disease, diabetes), drug reactions, infections, trauma to the eyelid, or previous surgical removal of these glands of the eye. There is also a neurogenic form of the disease, which can occur as a secondary result of trauma, which affects the nerves leading to the eyelid, or, more rarely, cancer.
KCS is a fairly common disease affecting dogs’ eyes, with certain breeds predisposed. The English Bulldog, West Highland White Terrier, American Cocker Spaniel, Lhasa Apso, Shih Tzu, Pug, Miniature Schnauzer, and Yorkshire Terrier all appear to be predisposed to develop dry eye.
Dogs with dry eyes will likely have evidence of irritation and inflammation to their eyes. You may note that one or both eyes are red and painful. Many times, an accompanying mucoid discharge will be present. Secondary complications from dry eye may result in corneal ulcers and even corneal ruptures. Please note that it is very easy to confuse these symptoms with other ocular diseases.
When you take your dog to the veterinarian, a history will be taken; this should include when you first noticed symptoms, if your dog is squinting more frequently or pawing at his eyes, and if any other problems have been noticed at home. Your veterinarian will then perform a comprehensive examination before moving on to an ocular exam.
During that examination, first, a small white strip of paper may be applied to your dog’s eye. This is called a Schirmer Tear Test and is a measure of tear production. Dogs with dry eyes will produce less than 15 mm of tears in a one-minute test. Following a tear test, a yellow dye may be placed in your dog’s eye to evaluate for a corneal ulcer, which can occur secondary to KCS.
If a diagnosis of KCS is made, ophthalmic treatment will be started to help control the condition. Fortunately, many dogs respond to one of several medications, which can be placed in the eye 1-2 times daily. While these medications are often not a cure, they can effectively help the eye start making tears again. If a secondary bacterial infection is also suspected, ophthalmic antibiotics may also be prescribed. In rare cases, surgical management could be considered when ophthalmic treatment has been unsuccessful.
If you suspect your dog has a dry eye, it is crucial to make an appointment with your veterinarian to evaluate your dog’s eyes. KCS is a disease that can advance quickly, leading to corneal ulcers and ruptures if not diagnosed and appropriately managed.
Ear infections are very common in dogs and cats. They are some of the most common conditions we see in veterinary medicine. Ear infections cause redness and swelling and can lead to damage to the ear canal, hearing loss, and other problems; they also hurt!
Have you noticed your dog scratching at his ears or shaking his head? Is he or she rubbing his head on the carpet? These are all common signs your pet has an ear infection.
Ear infections in our dogs and cats tend to have certain characteristic signs. Redness, pain, and discharge are common. As mentioned above, rubbing their ears on the carpet, shaking their heads, or scratching at the ears are all common signs of an ear infection. Pets may also have a bad odor coming from one or both ears.
While ear infections are very common, they are never normal. There is always an underlying issue that causes the ear infection. There are many primary causes, secondary causes, and perpetuating factors.
There are many underlying causes of ear infections in pets. Allergies are an extremely common cause, and often these patients will lick their paws frequently. Allergies can be environmental, household, or food-based. In cases of food allergies, we usually suspect the protein source (chicken or beef) is the inciting cause and not a specific brand. A dietary trial with a new protein source (one your pet has never had) for 12 weeks can help identify if food is the inciting cause. While “grain-free” is quite popular among dog food manufacturers, most veterinarians do not believe grain is a common source of allergies to pets.
Other underlying causes of ear infections in pets include a hypothyroid disease in dogs and ear mites in kittens. Hypothyroid dogs are often overweight, lethargic, have poor skin coats, and may have a history of vomiting. Ear mites are often a cause of ear infections in kittens and often result in a “coffee ground” appearance to the debris inside your kitten’s ears. Ear mites are itchy, and your kitten will likely shake his back leg when you rub his ears.
While treating an ear infection may seem fairly straightforward, finding the ear infection cause is the key to preventing it from returning. Dogs with allergic skin disease can take medications to help control their allergy, and food trials can be performed if an underlying food allergy is suspected.
Additional testing is also recommended when appropriate to help identify any underlying endocrine disease which may be contributing to the ear infection. Finally, evaluation with an otoscope will allow your veterinarian to check the eardrum to ensure it is intact and no evidence of inner ear disease is present.
After obtaining a history and a thorough physical examination, a sample will likely be taken from your pet’s ear and stained before being placed under a microscope. Your veterinarian will look for bacteria, yeast, and cellularity to determine what medications are most likely to be successful in treating the infection.
In many cases, a liquid flush and an ointment will be dispensed, which will help remove excess debris from the ears, eliminate yeast and bacteria, and reduce the pain caused by infection. Which medications are appropriate depends to a large degree on what your veterinarian sees under a microscope.
It is crucial to clear the ear infection completely. Your veterinarian may recommend a re-check examination to look at another sample following treatment to ensure the entire infection is no longer present. Partially clearing an infection can result in repeated ear infections, leading to more resistant, difficult-to-eliminate bacteria.
Ethylene Glycol Toxicity
When the winter season makes its debut on the East Coast, snowflakes, frigid air, and blustery winds accompany its unveiling. As a necessary precaution to prepare their cars for the cold weather ahead, people use antifreeze (ethylene glycol) to prevent their radiators from freezing.
Ethylene glycol is an odorless, colorless, sweet liquid that makes up nearly 95% of car antifreeze and can cause poisoning in pets. This type of poisoning typically occurs when antifreeze drips from a car radiator or if it is spilled onto the ground when being transferred to the car engine.
Your pet may then lick the spillage off of the floor or lick their paws off after running through the antifreeze puddle, ingesting the toxin into their bodies. There is a very small range of margin of toxicity in the case of ethylene glycol ingestion; in other words, a tiny dosage of this organic compound can result in fatal toxicity.
When dogs and cats are exposed to antifreeze, it is essential that they immediately receive treatment.
Stage 1: Within 30 minutes of ingestion, animals can exhibit symptoms that look similar to those of alcohol poisoning. Signs of walking drunk, lethargy, vomiting, excessive urination, seizing, and excessive thirst are all initial ethylene glycol poisoning symptoms.
Stage 2: This stage occurs within 12-24 hours after exposure to the toxin, where symptoms seem to have resolved, giving owners the impression that their pet is improving. This form of apparent improvement is only a pretense that hides what is occurring in your pet’s body; in fact, severe internal damage is occurring.
Stage 3: 12-72 hours after ingestion, the kidneys start failing. Symptoms include diarrhea, dehydration, vomiting, and depression followed by death.
Your pet must seek immediate treatment from an Emergency Veterinary Center for quick ethylene glycol testing and treatment with a special antidote. If you believe your pet has been exposed to antifreeze, please call your veterinarian immediately for help in finding an emergency facility.
Feline Leukemia & Feline Immunodeficiency
Cats are sometimes born with Feline Leukemia or Feline Immunodeficiency or can contract either of them at any time after birth, through means of intimate contact with infected cats (Felv) or bite wounds (FIV). Neither of these diseases can be cured. Testing is recommended for all cats six weeks and older when they are first brought into a household. Given knowledge of your cat’s feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus status, we can help you make informed choices to manage your cat’s health.
These illnesses may remain dormant, not causing any medical issues until years after birth or infection. Therefore, we recommend that every sick cat is tested for both diseases, even if they have previously been tested. Common signs of the disease include anemia and difficulty fighting off even relatively minor further infections (as these viruses attack the cat’s immune system).
Knowing a cat’s feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus status can help us make recommendations regarding your cat’s health management. Neither virus is curable. Both can cause various clinical signs, most commonly anemia or inability to fight off even simple infections due to a compromised immune system.
Vaccinations which prevent new infection are available for feline leukemia. We consider vaccination against feline leukemia “optional” for owners of indoor cats, and due to the many dangers which outdoor living can pose, we recommend all cats live strictly indoors.
Owners of cats who go outside. Including; by occasionally escaping or in “my yard only”, need to understand that they have an outdoor cat. It is incredibly easy and common for cats to escape from their owner’s yard and return before the owner can tell the difference. Yet this short period is still enough to expose your cat to feline immunodeficiency potentially. However, if you choose to let your cat go outside, we strongly recommend he or she receive a vaccine for feline leukemia.
While a vaccine for FIV currently exists, it is not recommended and currently unavailable in North America. While scientists continue to develop a safe, effective vaccine for FIV, current recommendations are to limit your cat’s exposure to other cats that may be infected. FIV positive cats can be co-housed with FIV negative cats, provided that they live in a “stable” environment where the cats do not fight with each other or create puncture wounds that may transmit the disease.
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease
Is your cat straining to urinate, urinating outside of the litter box, licking at his private area constantly? If so, your cat may have a condition called Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD). Cats with FLUTD may also have blood in their urine and can even lose the ability to urinate altogether.
It turns out that all problems with the bladder, urethra, and lower urinary tract manifest themselves with either the same or similar clinical signs in cats. These include urinating in small amounts, straining to urinate, blood in the urine, licking, and urinating outside of the Litter Box.
Several known causes for these clinical signs include urinary tract infection, bladder stones (Urolithiasis), injury or trauma, even cancer. Additionally, some cats, especially males, will display these symptoms even where testing does not demonstrate their cause. In medicine, we call this idiopathic or “unknown cause.”
It is extremely important to note that some male cats who present with these symptoms will progress to being completely obstructed. In veterinary medicine, we call this being “blocked.” Blocked cats are a medical emergency! If the obstruction is not treated, quickly toxins that build up in the body along with excess potassium will result in life-threatening disease and death.
Blocked cats will have a firm/hard bladder and will not be able to eliminate any urine, despite constant straining. If you suspect your cat has a urinary obstruction, you must seek veterinary care immediately.
If your cat is straining to urinate, but you notice at least some urine coming out, a veterinarian will help. During your appointment, a nurse will obtain a thorough history followed by a physical examination by your vet, who may recommend testing to rule out bladder stones or an infection. These tests can include a urinalysis, urine culture, and radiographs.
Many bladder stones are easily viewable on an x-ray and can be fairly easily identified. If these tests result in a diagnosis, treatment with antibiotics or special diets may be recommended. If these tests come back negative, your veterinarian will most likely suspect this condition’s idiopathic form as described above.
Treatment for idiopathic feline lower urinary disease centers around three key principles: Dilate the urethra to make it easier to urinate, encourage the elimination of sediment in the bladder by increasing water consumption and resulting urination, and relieving pain. Veterinarians have several key medications at their disposal to help achieve these goals.
Urethral dilators and pain medications will likely be dispensed, along with some form of fluid therapy, to increase urination. The addition of a water fountain to encourage drinking may also help. Finally, prescription diets are available for urinary conditions. The objective of these therapies is to balance the PH in your pet’s urine. Which left untreated creates an unfavorable environment for stones or sediment to form. In some cases, these diets can even dissolve stones!
Foreign Body Obstruction
Squeaky toys, socks, even corn on the cob can all pose a risk of foreign body obstructions in dogs. While some dogs can pass these objects on in their stool, other dogs will become obstructed. This causes both damage to the intestines and a life-threatening condition.
We all know some dogs are “keen” on getting into things they shouldn’t. There are a lot of both man-made and natural substances that can get stuck in the G.I tract. Some of the more common items in dogs include socks, balls, the centers of squeaky toys, and even corn on the cob. Cats like to eat strings, yarn, rubber bands, and other linear objects like cords from curtains.
In some cases, a dog or cat may pass or defecate the foreign body; in other cases, the object becomes lodged or stuck in the stomach or small intestines, causing a life-threatening condition. This occurs for two reasons.
First, damage to the G.I tract can cause adhesion and scarring. If a foreign body causes a perforation, bacteria from the G.I tract will be spread into the abdomen, causing a condition known as sepsis or a systemic body infection. It is also important to note that some objects can stay in the stomach for several months before shifting positions and getting lodged in a place that causes an obstruction.
Second, a true GI obstructed patient will be unable to digest food and defecate. Or will only be able to defecate the small amount of material that can pass by the obstruction. As a result, a state of malnutrition will occur, causing a patient to be unable to metabolize food and gain the energy needed from it. Over relatively short periods, the patient will lose weight and become emaciated.
Dogs and cats with GI tract obstruction will likely have symptoms of vomiting, not defecating, or only defecating in small amounts. They may Lose Appetite eating only the most enticing things or not at all. Over just a week to a few weeks, they can lose a significant amount of weight.
If you think your dog or cat may have eaten something that could cause a GI obstruction, it is very important to schedule an appointment with your Veterinarian right away. Your veterinarian will obtain a history, and it is very important to mention if you think your pet ate something they shouldn’t have and what that object or thing is. Your veterinarian will then perform a thorough physical examination, and when possible, attempt to feel your pet’s GI tract from the outside, palpating for any foreign objects.
If a foreign body is suspected, radiographs are the first diagnostic test often recommended. X-rays can detect foreign objects made of metal or mineral (calcium bones, for example) but cannot see all things a patient could ingest. However, in many cases, x-rays may reveal an “obstructive pattern”, meaning dilated intestines that appear due to the obstruction. If radiographs are suspicious but not fully diagnostic, an ultrasound is recommended, which is an even more sensitive test.
If a foreign body is diagnosed, surgery will likely be recommended to remove it, especially when it appears unlikely that the obstruction will pass on its own. In these cases, exploratory surgery is recommended to remove the foreign body. With removal, many patients will do well and will return to full function shortly after surgery.
As always, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you think your pet is prone to getting into things they shouldn’t, taking great care to avoid the opportunity for your dog or cat to eat something is of paramount importance.
Some measures which can help include keeping your laundry in a closed closet and off the floor; keeping pets away from children’s toys and tempting items like hair bands and pencils; taking trash containing food (peach pits, corn on the cob, chicken bones) directly to an outdoor trash can, and generally pet-proofing your home.
We are all familiar with the scene in Jurassic Park where Dr. Ian Malcolm famously states, “When you gotta go, you gotta go,” right when Donald Gennaro bolts towards the bathroom after the T-Rex escapes her pen. Although most of us have never quite reached that extreme of a situation as adults, we can all relate to the pain-aching discomfort of having to “hold it in.” Like you can’t cross your legs forever, your canine companion needs frequent walks to urinate. But how much is too much? Is your dog urinating more frequently than he used to?
There are numerous diseases that can result in a dog drinking an abnormally large amount of water and, as a result, needing to urinate more frequently or in larger amounts.
The medical term for increased drinking and urinating in larger amounts is called “polyuria/polydipsia”. For a dog, excessive drinking is defined as consuming over 100 milliliters for every kilogram of weight per day. For a 22 lb dog, this would amount to 1 liter of water per day. Since what comes in, minus what is used, must go out, this results in increased amounts of urination.
Numerous medical causes can result in polyuria/polydipsia. Because there are so many, perhaps it is helpful to break down the list by body system:
Endocrine diseases including Diabetes and Cushing’s disease, are often thought of most commonly. The most common form of diabetes (mellitus) is caused by a pancreatic deficiency where too little insulin is produced, resulting in the inability to drive carbohydrates/sugars into the cells. When properly regulated with diet and insulin supplementation, excessive thirst and urination will improve, and your dog will revert to more normal levels.
There is a less common form of diabetes (central/insipidus) where the body’s production of a hormone called anti-diuretic hormone is low. When this hormone produced in a gland in the brain is low, the result is increased thirst and urination. With medication, this can also be controlled.
Besides endocrine causes, diseases of the liver or kidney can cause increased thirst and drinking. When the kidneys or liver are not functioning normally, excessive body waste products or the inability to eliminate these waste products can drive the body to dilute them by signaling an increased demand for water.
Certain infectious causes can also result in increased thirst. A pyometra or uterine infection or an infection in the kidneys can also drive increased thirst and resulting urination. Some diseases also cause increased calcium levels in the blood, including hyperparathyroidism disease or certain cancers. Finally, other electrolyte disturbances resulting in lower potassium levels can be the inciting cause of increased thirst and urination.
There is another category of increased thirst referred to as Psychogenic Polydipsia. While this condition is not fully understood, dogs with it will have a psychological drive to drink excessive amounts of water.
A few important points. If you do suspect your dog is drinking excessively, do not limit their water intake. Their bodies’ demand for water can be essential in preventing a disease-related crisis. It is also important to make certain to let your dog out more frequently to accommodate the increased burden placed on their bladders while “holding in” their urine, waiting for you to let them out or take them for a walk so they can urinate. Finally, pollakiuria (urinating more frequently in smaller amounts) is a separate medical complaint and the causes of pollakiuria will be discussed in a different article.
If you think your dog is drinking more and, as a result, urinating larger amounts, it is important to schedule an appointment with one of our veterinary hospitals. During your appointment, our veterinary team will obtain a thorough history, including how long the condition has existed, any perceived weight loss, difficulty urinating, and the number of times urinating, as well as ask about other changes you may have noted at home.
Bloodwork, urinalysis, and other tests may be recommended to investigate the cause of polyuria/polydipsia. Fortunately, some of the causes of increased thirst and urination are medically treatable when caught early.
Glaucoma in dogs
Glaucoma is an ocular condition that causes damage to your pet’s eyes and vision; it can be subdivided into primary and secondary forms. All forms of glaucoma are caused by inadequate drainage of a fluid inside a pet’s eye called Aqueous Humor; this results in an increased intraocular fluid build-up inside of the eye, causing pain. It can also cause permanent blindness.
Glaucoma most commonly affects purebred dogs, and in cases of primary glaucoma, a genetic cause has been suspected. However, all dogs can develop the disease. Some breeds predisposed include the Cocker Spaniel, Chow Chow, Shar-Pei, Basset Hound, Shiba Inu, and Shih Tzu. Primary Glaucoma develops from an anatomical variation, which results in decreased drainage of Aqueous Humor, resulting in the build-up of fluid inside the eye. Secondary Glaucoma develops when an obstruction inside the eye prevents this fluid from draining.
Glaucoma symptoms include vision loss, increased squinting, redness to the white part of your dog’s eye, protrusion of the eye, and dilation of the pupil. Over time, other changes can occur, including cataract formation. It is important to note that if only one eye is affected, vision loss may not be noticed, while when both eyes are affected, blindness may be observed.
If you notice any abnormalities in your dog’s eye that you believe might demonstrate the initial stages of Glaucoma, you should immediately bring him or her in. During your dog’s physical examination, your veterinarian will test the intraocular pressure inside of your dog’s eye. Variations in pressure between both eyes and absolute increases in pressure can reliably predict if glaucoma is present.
The objective of treatment is to restore normal eye pressure and decrease associated pain. If left untreated, glaucoma can cause permanent vision loss and blindness. When intraocular pressures are above 50 mmHg, treatment must be started as quickly as possible to reduce the chance of permanent blindness. Treatment for glaucoma varies based on the cause (primary vs. secondary) and level of vision present in your dog’s eye.
In some cases, surgical correction may be recommended to correct the underlying cause. Other issues can be managed medically with topical medications, which reduce intraocular pressure. If you suspect your dog has Glaucoma, please schedule an examination with a member of our veterinary team as soon as possible.
Grape toxicity in dogs
Yes, grapes (and raisins) are toxic to dogs. And while we aren’t exactly sure what causes the toxicity in them, we know they can cause kidney failure. Toxicity has been noted with ingestion of 0.7oz/kg of grapes and 0.11oz/kg of raisins. However, toxic doses have been recently changing, with lower amounts suggested to cause toxicity.
Oddly enough, there is no specific test to diagnose grape toxicity. Most cases are diagnosed based on history, possible exposure to grapes/raisins, and lab work results showing an acute kidney injury. The kidney values can soar shortly after exposure or up to 24 hours after ingestion.
The most common sign a dog exhibits with grape toxicity is vomiting. And in many cases, the grapes will be found in the vomitus. Other symptoms that present within the first 24 hours of ingestion are: diarrhea, not eating, pain in the Abdomen, increased salivation, dehydration, and lethargy. Within 1-5 days after ingestion, possible signs include increased drinking, Increased Urination, staggering, weakness, swelling in the legs, and trembling. As toxicity and kidney damage progresses, dogs may stop urinating completely.
If you suspect your dog may have eaten grapes, you should immediately take them to your veterinarian. If the ingestion is recent, your veterinarian can induce vomiting to get the grapes out of your pet’s system and prevent further damage. Even if you don’t know when the ingestion occurred, it is still recommended that you take your pet to the veterinarian to be assessed and given appropriate treatment as needed. If caught early, aggressive fluid therapy, medication, and close monitoring could prevent your pet from succumbing to the potentially fatal consequences of grape ingestion.
Hyperthyroid Disease in Cats
Hyperthyroid disease is the most common endocrine disease seen in older cats. Fortunately, it can be diagnosed with routine blood work, and it is a manageable disease. Hyperthyroid cats tend to display certain telltale warning signs which indicate that they may be affected by the disease.
Hyperthyroid cats tend to have a ravenous appetite. Despite this, they continuously lose weight. If it seems like you are filling the food bowl more and more often than in the past, but your cat is getting thinner, they may have hyperthyroid disease. Furthermore, cats are fastidiously clean creatures. In contrast, hyperthyroid cats may have unkempt hair coats. Hyperthyroid cats also tend to vomit more frequently and may eliminate outside of the litter box. Finally, some hyperthyroid cats will be more vocal, especially during the night.
If your cat is getting older and displaying all or some of those signs, testing and treatment are imperative. When left untreated, hyperthyroid disease is fatal. Treatment can also alleviate the clinical signs you are noticing at home. To diagnose hyperthyroid disease, routine blood work that looks at thyroid hormone levels in the blood (T4) will tell your veterinarian if your cat has the disease. Hyperthyroid cats will have elevated T4 levels.
There are many treatment options for hyperthyroid disease. The most common medication distributed is called Methimazole, which comes as a liquid or a tablet. Methimazole helps prevent the thyroid gland from overproducing thyroid hormones. Most cats start on an initial dose, and blood work is reviewed one month later. Since each cat will respond to the medication differently, rechecking blood work can help your veterinarian make adjustments to your cat’s dose. Monitoring of weight changes, appetite, and energy levels is also recommended.
Some cats will not tolerate being given a pill or a liquid twice daily (you would know if you have one of these cats). For these patients, other treatment options are available. There is a prescription diet that contains no iodine (Y/D) and may be used as a treatment for hyperthyroid disease. Cats on the Y/D diet cannot eat anything else, but cats who do not have the disease do not need a strictly iodine-free diet. Some additional treatments that may be considered include a paste applied to the inside ear flap (transdermal) and even radiation therapy to the thyroid gland. Most cats who undergo radiation therapy will no longer require daily treatment, but special care is required for handling their litter for several weeks after the treatment has concluded.
Untreated hyperthyroid disease will ultimately cause heart disease and cardiac failure. For this reason, it is important that all cats who develop the disease be diagnosed and managed; this is also a key reason for having your senior cat’s blood values checked routinely once a year. If you suspect your cat has hyperthyroid disease, we recommend calling a member of our Veterinary Hospital who can help schedule an appointment for your cat to be evaluated by a veterinarian and tested for hyperthyroid disease. With a few blood tests and one of many available treatment options, hyperthyroid cats can continue to live long and happy lives.
Increased thirst in dogs
We all know how exercise, running errands, or a hot summer’s day can help strike up a thirst. Your dog responds the same way when they run around the yard or play outside. You may feel a bit concerned if you notice that your dog starts to drink excessively or drink more than he or she normally does.
As a dog owner, you should be aware of when your pup finishes an entire water bowl in one sitting or drinks water every time you offer. Polydipsia (drinking excessive amounts of water) may be a symptom of an underlying medical problem. Behavioral displays of frequent urination or starting to drink from the toilet are red flags that your pup can be suffering from potential disease.
Before you begin to worry, some causes could explain your dog’s increased thirst that does not stem from an underlying medical condition or disease. As a way to rule out more life-threatening conditions, you should first ask yourself a few questions.
Have I increased the amount of activity I give my dog? Exercising your pup more frequently or letting him outdoors more often than before could be an explanation for why your pup has become thirstier.
- Has there been an increase in temperature? Weather is an external factor that plays a part in water consumption, especially on hot and humid days.
- Does your dog take any new medications? As we know, many side effects can occur when taking a medication; dry mouth and thirst can be some of them. In particular, Steroids are known to cause increased thirst and accompanying urination.
- How old is your dog? Active and playful puppies may drink a little more water than adults.
If you find that none of the above pertain to your pet, there may be an underlying medical condition or disease. You should have your dog seen by a Veterinarian as soon as possible and for him or her to receive a thorough physical examination and diagnostics to look for an underlying cause.
Several medical conditions associate with polydipsia in dogs. To name a few:
Diabetes is the most common disease in dogs that causes an increase in water intake. This type of thirst results from high blood glucose levels and your dog’s body’s attempt to decrease this concentration. In rare cases, central diabetes causes a depletion of the ADH hormone, resulting in profound drinking and urination.
When your dog is suffering from kidney failure, his or her kidneys are no longer able to remove waste from the body in the concentration of urine. This will then cause a response of increased water drinking by your pet.
In the case of liver failure, your dog’s body is no longer able to filter toxins from the bloodstream. An increase in water intake is a measure to prevent these toxins from accumulating in the body.
This disease is caused by a benign or cancerous growth on your dog’s pituitary or adrenal glands. The overproduction of steroids results in increased urination.
Kneecap Dislocation (Luxating Patella)
The patella is also known as the kneecap. A groove at the end of the femur called the femoral groove allows the patella to move up and down when the knee joint is bent back and forth. The patella is also responsible for guiding the movement of the quadriceps muscle and protecting the knee joint.
For some dogs, the patellar groove’s ridges are not prominent enough to allow for normal movements because of malformation of this groove or trauma to the knee. In dogs with patellar grooves that are too shallow, the patella will luxate (jump out of the groove) sideways, often to the inside; this is called a medially luxating patella.
Luxating patellas are very common in small-breed dogs. This prevalence in smaller breeds is due to years of selective breeding, shrinking their ancestors’ large skeletal structure down to the size of breeds we have today, such as Pomeranians, Shih Tzu’s, and chihuahuas. This decrease in size comes with changes in the shapes of bones, such as the ones involved in the kneecap’s proper functioning. However, larger breeds can also experience luxating patellas. Obesity can also contribute to the condition.
If left uncorrected, the patellar ridges can wear down, and the groove may become even more shallow. As this happens, the frequency and severity of lameness will also increase. Arthritis may prematurely affect the joint, causing swelling and impaired mobility. Early diagnosis and treatment are important to prevent the development of complications with the joint.
Most dogs who are diagnosed with luxating patellas show signs of this condition. Symptoms of a luxating patella include:
- Intermittent lameness, especially in the hind end.
- Abruptly stopping and crying out in pain when they are running; this may be followed by sudden lameness.
- Abnormal hind limb movement, such as skipping
At your pet’s annual physical, your veterinarian will do a complete exam on your dog. This includes an orthopedic exam where we will assess the stability of your dog’s knees. Luxating patellas are graded on a scale from I to IV, where Grade IV is the most advanced. The distinctions between each level are:
No Patellar Luxation Present – The dog’s patella is stable and cannot be manually moved out of the patellar groove.
Grade I – When manual pressure is applied, the dog’s patella does move out of the patellar groove but returns to its normal position as soon as pressure is released. At this grade, the patella does not jump out of place on its own.
Grade II – The patella can be moved manually and may occasionally jump out of place when the dog is walking or running. The patella will return to its normal position spontaneously or with the application of pressure, moving it back.
Grade III – The patella is out of the grooves the majority of the time. It can be manually pushed back into place but quickly jumps out of the grooves as soon as the leg is moved.
Grade IV – The patella is always out of position and cannot be manually pushed back into the correct position. The grooves that are supposed to keep the kneecap in place are worn down and, in some cases, absent.
Three common surgeries correct luxating patellas – Trochlear Modification Surgery, Lateral Imbrication Surgery, and Tibial Crest Transposition Surgery.
Trochlear Modification Surgery involves deepening the groove at the base of the femur the upper bone in the joint) to better guide the knee cap.
Lateral Imbrication Surgery approaches stabilizing the patella by “tying it down” on the outside of the knee to prevent it from slipping inwards.
Tibial Crest Transposition Surgery involves surgically changing the shape of the tibia to improve the patella’s movement.
All of these procedures work well, and the type performed depends on the individual case and the clinician. Depending on the procedure, dogs typically respond quickly after surgery and are usually completely recovered after 30-60 days of rest.
If you suspect your dog has a luxating patella, please call our veterinary hospital and schedule an appointment with one of our veterinarians who will evaluate your pet and discuss the next steps needed to get your best friend the proper treatment.
Labrador Retriever Diseases
In 2019, for the 28th year in a row, the American Kennel Club (AKC) named Labrador Retrievers as the top AKC registered dog breed in America. Labradors generally make excellent family-friendly companions, although they may need more exercise than other dog breeds. As such, the AKC classifies them as sporting dogs.
Labs are smart, loving dogs who generally reach a weight between 50 and 85 pounds and have a life expectancy of 10-12 years. While Labs make great family pets, they are genetically predisposed to certain diseases and conditions.
Hip Dysplasia is a genetically linked disease that results in a malformation of the hip socket and femoral head. It’s useful to think of the hip joint as a “ball and socket.” The femur’s head represents the ball, which should fit like a glove into the “socket” of the hip bone.
In Labradors and other predisposed breeds, a malformation of this joint results in laxity and a poorly fitting “ball and glove.”; this causes excess wear and tear on the joint and ultimately arthritis. While this is considered a genetic disease, other factors, including environment, nutrition, and weight, likely play a role. Labradors are prone to obesity, and exercise may help play an important role in keeping excess weight off and keeping joints healthy.
Signs of Hip Dysplasia include slow getting up, particularly after laying down for an extended period. Walking with a stiff, swaying, or a bunny hopping gait, and reluctance to jump or otherwise play as your dog once did when they were younger, often after exercise. Fortunately, there are many effective treatments for Hip Dysplasia, including medications, supplements, and cold laser therapy. In severe cases of Hip Dysplasia, surgical correction is worth considering.
Perhaps it’s the floppy ears that trap humidity and moisture or a generally increased frequency of allergies, but Labradors are predisposed to ear infections. Signs of an ear infection include red, painful ears, shaking the head, or pawing at the ears frequently. Sometimes dogs will even rub their heads along the carpet. Fortunately, ear infections are usually simply treatable; if signs are noted at home, a trip to your veterinarian is necessary to help diagnose the nature of the infection as well as to prescribe medication to treat.
PRA is a term describing a group of hereditary diseases which cause blindness in dogs. In the Labrador, generalized photoreceptor degeneration has been identified as the form of disease most often treated, and a specific mutation has been discovered. The premature death of the photoreceptor cells in the back of the eye causes PRA. PRA affects both eyes, with vision loss occurring slowly over time.
In many cases, the slow onset of symptoms allows dogs to adjust to their vision loss. The owners may notice their pet has a decreased ability to see first in dim light, or after the furniture has been rearranged in the house. Dogs with PRA will progress to complete blindness. While no specific treatment is available at this time, gene therapy may provide a cure as science continues to work on learning more about this disease.
Like other breeds of dogs, as Labradors get older, generalized arthritis of the elbows or knees can occur as well as ligament tears. Additionally, cancer and heart disease remain leading causes of death for dogs, and Labradors have some genetic predisposition for these diseases. Medications for heart disease are available and can greatly improve clinical signs in patients that are affected.
Given the propensity of disease, if you have recently adopted a Labrador, I recommend scheduling a wellness visit at one of our hospitals. We can establish a baseline for your new pet, make sure all vaccines are up-to-date, and start your dog on proper flea, tick and heartworm prevention.
If you have an older Labrador, a thorough physical examination is recommended to evaluate; your dog’s hips and other joints, listen to your dog’s heart, and discuss common senior testing to identify disease states early in their course. To schedule an appointment, please call one of our veterinary hospitals to speak to a member of our team. With a lot of love and sound veterinary care, we’ll help you keep your dog’s tail wagging and a loved member of your family for years to come.
Leptospirosis In Dogs
Leptospirosis is a serious and potentially fatal disease caused by the bacteria Leptospira. Leptospirosis is zoonotic, and virtually all mammals are susceptible to it, meaning it can pass from dogs to humans. However, in cats, leptospirosis is rare and mild, although research is underway on its potential role in feline renal disease. To date, there are over 200 known serovars or strains of leptospirosis. But only 5 of these are considered the most common.
Leptospirosis is contracted through contact with urine from infected animals; this includes rivers, puddles, lakes, and streams, which may harbor the bacteria. In cities, rat populations urinate on sidewalks, parks, and roads—after raining, puddles that accumulate become potential reservoirs for the bacteria.
Infection occurs when a mucous membrane or wound comes into contact with the urine-contaminated substrate, such as drinking water from an infected puddle. Leptospirosis can be passed from mother to puppy as well. In infected dogs, leptospira settle in the urinary tract and kidneys shed in the urine, causing urine from infected animals to be infectious. In some circumstances, humans can also become infected with leptospirosis.
After the leptospira enters the body, there is an incubation period of 4-20 days in which the animal shows no signs of infection. After this incubation period, leptospira circulates in the blood, spreading and replicating in the liver, kidneys, lungs, urinary tract, and central nervous system.
During this period of infection, clinical signs of infection begin, and antibodies can be detected in the animal. In some animals, the immune system can eventually clear the infection, but it necessitates supportive care and treatment to prevent potentially fatal organ damage in most animals.
Patients infected with leptospirosis often present with clinical signs of kidney damage: lethargy, inappetence, vomiting, abdominal pain, increase in thirst, increase in urination, decrease in urination, or failure to produce urine. Often acute leptospirosis results in kidney and/or liver damage. Other problems that leptospirosis may cause include pancreatitis, anemia, and muscle pain.
Bloodwork and Urinalysis are often done as baseline diagnostics in cases where leptospirosis may be suspected. An ELISA antibody test that detects the presence of leptospirosis antibodies in the patient establishes a diagnosis. Once diagnosed, a combination of antibiotic administration and supportive care is used to treat an infected patient.
Yes! There is a highly effective canine vaccine that protects against leptospirosis in dogs. Upon initial vaccination, the patient must receive a booster 2-4 weeks from the initial vaccination date. After this first set of vaccinations, a booster vaccine must be given annually to maintain efficacy.
If you suspect your dog may have leptospirosis, or you would like to set up a vaccination appointment, please contact our veterinary hospital. It is our objective to help your dog live its happiest, healthiest life.
Lumps and Bumps on dogs
As our dogs get older, it is common for lumps and bumps to form on or under the skin. Are they concerning? Is it cancer? Well, it depends on what type of cells the growth is made of. It is impossible to know with 100% certainty the nature of a growth or tumor without first testing it; this is important enough to repeat: all growths should be tested to determine if they are cancerous or benign.
There are many types of benign growths in dogs: Lipomas, Papillomas, and Keratinizing Acanthomas, to name a few. In more common terms, as dogs get older, they become prone to developing benign tumors of fatty tissue (lipomas), warts on the skin (Papillomas), or cystic lesions with a white to gray, gritty substance inside (Keratinizing Acanthomas).
These lesions are benign, which means they are not cancerous and do not spread to vital organs. However, many of these growths are unsightly to owners or can burst open on their own and become infected. They can pop up just about anywhere on or under the skin. Some tend to appear and gradually enlarge over long periods.
Most times, just keeping a careful eye may be all that is needed, as they are not painful or tend to cause ongoing problems. In cases where these lesions keep opening up, become infected, or restrict movement, surgical removal can be considered.
Also, there are other kinds of benign growths that are worth mentioning. These tend to occur in younger dogs and seem to appear suddenly. Viral Papillomas and Histiocytomas are both benign growths that occur in younger dogs.
Viral Papillomas are contagious growths that appear in the mouth or on the belly, often in dogs that frequent the dog park or other high trafficked areas.
Histiocytomas appear as red, raised, round growths on the skin. Fortunately, both are benign, and both often spontaneously disappear without treatment after a few months.
Unfortunately, dogs can also get cancerous growths, some of which can be very dangerous to your dog. While there are too many types of cancerous skin growths to go over in one article, some of the more common cancerous growths I see are Mast Cell Tumors, Squamous Cell Carcinoma, Malignant Melanomas, and Subcutaneous Lymphoma.
Mast Cells are sometimes referred to as “The Great Imitators” because they can look like other common benign growths. However, their typical appearance is a round, raised, circular growth that appears on your dog. Mast Cells vary in their aggressiveness and can be graded on a scale based on their clinical features. Because these tumors can be great deceivers, it cannot be overstated how important it is that every growth be tested and subsequently diagnosed as either cancerous or benign.
When you take your pet to the veterinarian to get their growths checked out, the veterinarian will ask about your pet’s history. You will be asked about when the growth appeared, whether it has changed over time, and whether it seems to be bothering your pet. Your veterinarian may then take a sample, which can be analyzed under a microscope. There are two ways to do this.
Firstly, a fine needle aspirate is a quick, relatively painless test where cells can be taken from the growth and applied to a microscope slide. Alternatively, biopsy is a slightly more invasive test where either a small piece of tissue or the entire growth is surgically removed and then tested. Biopsies can give more information about the architecture of a growth and may yield more information but are slightly more intrusive. Both tests are very safe.
Based on the appearance of the growth, your veterinarian will decide which test is more appropriate. An aspirate may be taken in some cases, yielding results that recommend further investigation and that surgical removal and a biopsy are indicated. On the other hand, your veterinarian may elect to remove the growth and submit it directly for an evaluation. When a growth is more concerning on appearance, painful, ulcerated, or in any way affecting the quality of your pet’s life, this may be recommended.
If you have noticed a new growth on your dog, or even an old one that you never got checked out, I recommend scheduling an appointment with our veterinary hospital. After a history, physical examination, and proper testing, a diagnosis can be made; this can help identify the nature of the growth and help give you the peace of mind of knowing the nature of that growth.
Lymphoma is a form of cancer of the immune system. Specifically, lymphocytes are a type of white blood cells responsible for fighting infection. When cancer strikes the bone marrow’s lymphoid tissue, thymus, spleen, or lymph nodes, the resulting disease is called multicentric lymphoma. Unfortunately, it is a form of cancer, both fairly common and very deadly in dogs.
Other forms of lymphoma are less common but do exist when cancer starts in the GI tract, eye, skin, central nervous system, or thorax. These are called alimentary, mediastinal, or extra-nodal lymphoma.
The first sign of a problem you may notice is simply a non-painful swelling or lump on your dog. Commonly, owners will notice swelling on their dog’s neck on the sides and under their lower jaw or on the back of their legs behind their knees; this is sometimes accompanied by increased thirst and Urination. Your pet will receive a thorough physical exam, during which the vet will palpate its lymph nodes.
If your veterinarian suspects lymphoma, they will most likely recommend a fine needle aspirate; this is a fairly easy procedure where the vet places a needle into your dog’s lymph node and obtains a sample for evaluation under a microscope.
If the diagnosis is lymphoma, your veterinarian may recommend further testing to differentiate between T and B cell lymphoma and other testing to stage the progression of the disease. Commonly, blood work and ultrasound are performed to help identify how far advanced the disease has become at the time of diagnosis.
Currently, there are two different treatment plans. The first uses a combination of chemotherapy dogs and steroids. Using this protocol, up to 90% of dogs can achieve full remission for some time. A veterinary oncologist will recommend for your dog, and after an initial consultation and staging, treatment is initiated. Treatment of lymphoma will involve repeated trips for both treatment and monitoring.
Routinely, blood work is taken to ensure your pet’s immune system can handle the chemotherapy and ultrasounds to stage the disease’s progression over time. Currently, T Cell Lymphoma’s average survival times are six months, and B cell lymphoma 12 months. Fortunately, dogs tend to tolerate chemotherapy very well, and the hair loss, vomiting, and lethargy seen in humans is much less common, although still possible.
If you decide to put your dog through chemotherapy, and repeated trips to the Oncologists is too much for your dog, even though they are caring, wonderful, Veterinarians, there is another treatment option. Starting higher doses of oral steroids can result in a dramatic improvement in your dog, albeit for a much shorter duration than with combined chemotherapy. However, please note that once oral steroids alone have been started, chemotherapy is no longer successful, and this takes that option off the table moving forward.
If you suspect your dog has lymphoma, we recommend scheduling an appointment with a member of our veterinary team for evaluation, testing, and a more thorough discussion of treatment options.
Mammary Gland Cancer
Mammary Gland Cancer is a common form of cancer in female dogs and cats who have undergone two or more heat cycles before being spayed. It appears as one or many nodules on the underside of your dog or cat near the mammary gland underneath the nipple.
Mammary Gland Adenocarcinoma is the term given for cancer associated with the mammary gland. It is divided into sub-types with either benign or malignant tumors. Benign tumors are unlikely to spread to other tissue, whereas malignant tumors can potentially spread to other areas and tissues. While mammary tumors’ exact appearance can vary, many nodules will feel like hard, irregular growths associated with the mammary gland. They may be red, swollen, and painful, grow, become infected, and rupture, leaking a pus-like, bloody discharge.
Several factors affect the risk of mammary cancer in dogs and cats. Spaying and obesity appear to be two of the most important factors. Dogs spayed before their first heat cycle have less than a 0.5% chance of acquiring mammary cancer, compared to about 8% in intact female dogs. The risks increase with the number of heat cycles. Dogs and cats who have gone into heat twice may have a cancer rate as high as 25%—meaning 1 in every 4! Additionally, breed and genetics may play a role in disease incidence, alongside early-in-life obesity.
It is important to note that only about 50% of mammary tumors in dogs are cancerous. Meaning half are benign and not dangerous and half are malignant/cancerous. In cats, unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of mammary tumors are cancerous. To correctly identify cancerous vs. benign tumors, a biopsy is required, which can be done as a stand-alone test or part of removing the mass or masses. Aspirates or needles placed into the mass to acquire cells are not diagnostic and cannot differentiate malignant vs. benign growths.
Surgery is the main treatment option for pets with mammary cancer without evidence that they have spread to other organs. Single tumors may be removed or the entire mammary chain, depending on a case-by-case evaluation. Routine bloodwork and radiographs are recommended before surgery to identify signs of cancer elsewhere in the body and to assess the surgical risk to the patient. Other treatment options include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and anti-inflammatory medications, which may help limit the inflammation. These may also improve outcomes and limit associated pain. Studies also suggest that the tumor size can predict outcomes, with smaller tumors having better long-term outcomes than larger tumors.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. For this and many other reasons, it is recommended to spay your female dogs and cats before their first heat cycle. While there is a long-standing debate about the correct time to spay your pet, spaying at a young age before the first heat cycle almost eliminates the risk of mammary cancer in your dog or cat. Spaying at about six months of age is the most common veterinary recommendation at this time.
Mange in Dogs
I’m sure many people have heard of the dreaded skin disease, mange. But what is mange, how is it transmitted, and what does it mean for your dog? Mange is a parasitic skin disease caused by one of two parasitic organisms, Demodectic and Sarcoptic Mange. In this article, we will discuss the Sarcoptic form, the official name of this mite is Sarcoptes Scabiei Var Canis. It is only visible under a microscope, so you can’t see it directly on your dogs’ skin.
Sarcoptic Mange is highly contagious and causes severe itching and hair loss. Even a few mites can cause severe clinical signs. The most commonly affected area in a dog are the ear margins, elbows, and ankles (although we call ankles in dogs the tarsus or hocks). In some cases, secondary bacterial infections can coincide, noted as papules or generalized redness.
Unfortunately, Sarcoptes mites can live transiently on humans and cause similar symptoms to the ones seen in dogs! In our area, foxes serve as a primary host for Sarcoptes mites, and the mites can be found in areas where a fox has been present for up to 48 hours. The life cycle of this mite is 21 days or three weeks. Diagnosing Sarcoptic mange centers on two tests. The first, called a pinnal-pedal reflex, involves rubbing the tip of your dog’s ear against the base.
In many cases, when a dog is positive, rubbing of that ear will result in his back leg on the same side making a scratching motion. While this test is not perfectly accurate, it can help give your veterinarian an indication that your dog is infected with these mites. The second test performed by your veterinarian is a skin scraping. By using a surgical blade and scraping your dog’s skin, a sample is acquired, which can be used to look under the microscope to identify the mites present. Finally, since these mites can sometimes be difficult to identify, simply treating your pet may make the most sense.
Fortunately, many available treatments are safe and effective at eliminating the mite from your dog. The treatment options range from oral medication given weekly to certain shampoos; even some commonly used prescription flea/tick preventatives have activity against Sarcoptes mites. Of course, thorough cleaning of the environment, including crates, bedding, and carpets, is also recommended.
If you suspect your dog has been infected with Sarcoptes mites, it’s strongly recommended to schedule an appointment with a member of our veterinary team. Please make sure to note any flea/tick preventatives given to your pets, as well as to mention how many pets you have in your house. If you suspect you have acquired mange, we recommend scheduling an appointment with your regular physician or a human dermatologist, as veterinarians are not legally authorized to diagnose or treat any humans.
Demodicosis is caused by a small, cigar-shaped mite called (Demodex Canis or Injai). Like Sarcoptic Mange, these mites are only visible under a microscope, and they are too small to be seen with the naked eye. Demodex Mites live in the hair follicles, oil glands, and skin of dogs.
Demodex mites are commonly found on healthy dogs with no clinical signs in low numbers. They are usually just a part of the normal flora on a dog’s skin and in their fur. For reasons that are not completely understood, young dogs or dogs with an underlying immune system disorder can develop clinical signs from these mites. Demodex mites are species-specific, meaning that they are not contagious to other species.
Most commonly, puppies are the dogs we see with clinical signs of Demodectic Mange. Circular areas of hair loss, about a quarter in size sometimes seen with additional crusting in a young dog, are the hallmark of recognizing this disorder. In this author’s opinion, dogs with Demodectic Mange are mildly itchy or not itchy at all. Most owners tell me their dog is about a 3 out of 10 itchy; this compares with patients who have Sarcoptic Mange, where owners report their dog is a 10 out of 10 on the itchiness scale!
The specific form of Demodicosis is usually divided into categories to determine when treatment is warranted. Cases are broken down into juvenile vs. adult-onset based on the dog’s age when symptoms appeared. Cases can then be further broken down into a localized vs. generalized form.
In most cases, juvenile dogs with only one area affected who are not itchy are best not treated. Fortunately, the hair loss will resolve naturally as the puppy grows up and their immune system develops. In more severe cases where numerous areas of the body are affected, your veterinarian may elect to begin treatment.
Diagnosis of Demodex requires your veterinarian to perform a skin scrape. This routine test involves scraping your pet’s skin with a surgical blade to acquire a sample. This sample is then looked at under a microscope to identify the small, cigar-shaped mites.
When a skin scraping confirms a diagnosis of Demodicosis, treatment can be instituted. Fortunately, many treatment options are available, ranging from oral, liquid anti-parasitic treatments once daily to weekly dips with a medicated shampoo.
There are also certain prescription oral flea/tick preventatives that have been shown to help clear the mites from dogs’ skin. These treatments are generally very successful, although re-check visits once monthly must demonstrate at least 2 to 3 negative results before treatment should be concluded.
If you think your dog has Demodectic Mange, we recommend scheduling a visit with a member of our veterinary team. Please be sure to mention if other dogs in your house are affected, as well as the type and frequency of flea/tick prevention you give your pets.
Muscle and Bone Disorders in Dogs
Muscular and skeletal disorders are common in dogs, causing pain and limiting mobility for your pet. These disorders often affect your canine’s body movement and function and stem from a problem within a body system often referred to as the musculoskeletal system. Bones, muscles, and joints are all physical components that make up this system, supporting weight, facilitating movement, and protecting vital organs.
The musculoskeletal system also does a lot more. Everything from chewing and swallowing, breathing, urinating, and defecating are responses facilitated by muscle contractions and movement that arise from this system.
Limping is often the first sign noticed by a pet owner that something is wrong. Limping can be graded by severity, ranging from mild to unable to bear weight on an affected limb. Dogs may feel pain and show discomfort when attempting to touch a painful or sore area. There are many causes for limping, minimized function, and pain that range from minor soft injuries to more severe causes, including ligament tears and even cancer.
Like us, limping is a problem for both the young and the old and can occur for various reasons. However, unlike us, our pets cannot tell us what happened, or where it hurts. Your best resource for determining the root of the problem is scheduling an appointment with a veterinarian. Limping is not an easy problem to get to the bottom of in most cases, so getting a trained professional on the case is the best solution.
Limping does not always stem from the foot or leg; some pets may limp due to a spine or neck problem, infections (like Lyme disease), abdominal pain, or even skin issues. There are two types of limps you can identify on your pet, gradual onset and sudden onset.
As their names suggest, a gradual onset limp occurs slowly, whereas a sudden onset limp usually results after an accident or trauma. Distinguishing the type of limp your pet may be experiencing can help your veterinarian narrow down the possible causes of the limp.
A gradual onset limp is usually caused by a chronic condition, such as dysplasia or osteoarthritis. It is crucial for your pet’s health that you make an appointment with one of our vets immediately if they are experiencing a gradual limp. The cause of the limp, such as hip dysplasia or bone cancer, can be treated more effectively the sooner it is caught.
The first thing any limping cat or dog needs to undergo is a thorough Physical Examination to rule out any issues that are not obvious. In some cases, a broken nail may be the underlying issue to the limp, which can be easily overlooked. Broken bones or joint dislocations require immediate examination requiring careful, specific intervention by a veterinarian.
Dogs and cats with sprains, strains, tears, avulsions, and even simple fractures need care to get better in the vast majority of cases. Not only can we offer stabilization and relief from pain, but we can help your pet recover quickly, smoothly, and to the same or higher level of functioning as before.
When we picture a routine day for a dog, what do we think of: running, jumping, playing, chasing balls, frisbees, and squirrels. Even for sedentary dogs, jumping on and off the couch or up and down the stairs is simply part of their routine. Unfortunately, sometimes during normal play, injuries to muscles and other soft tissues can occur. Just like with their human companions, muscle pulls, sprains, and tears can occur. These cases are often milder forms of limping where dogs can still bear weight but have a noticeable limp. Generally, only a single limb is affected at one time.
Just like with humans, dogs have Cruciate Ligaments. These provide stabilization to the lower bones of their rear legs. When a human tears their “ACL” this is what their doctor is referring to. We have modified the term slightly to “CCL” in canines, but the injuries are very similar. Dogs with cruciate tears tend to hold a single rear leg flexed at an angle, often at times unable to bear weight on the affected limb or walk with a severe limp. 50% of dogs who tear a ligament in one hind limb will tear the other leg’s cruciate ligament sometime in the future.
CCL tear or rupture is one of the most common orthopedic problems affecting dogs today. This ligament connects the back of the femur (bone above the knee) with the front of the tibia (bone below the knee). The CCL is responsible for stabilizing the knee joint by keeping the tibia in place beneath the femur.
Unlike humans, untreated CCL tears are nearly always debilitating and often lead to progressive osteoarthritis. The underlying cause of these tears is chronic biomechanical wear and tear. Clinical signs of a CCL tear in your dog may happen suddenly or slowly. Depending on the severity of the injury, a dog’s symptoms may range from being unable to bear weight on the injured leg to having just slight occasional limping.
There are many different surgical correction methods with CCL injuries, but two basic surgical strategies to deal with them.
- Hold the bones in position at the joint with a surgically installed restraint, which will allow near-normal movement of the joint while preventing improper movement. Tough fibrous scar tissue then builds up around the joint to stabilize it long-term. The most common surgical stabilization of this nature is called a lateral suture stabilization.
- Cut the bones and reposition sections of the bones using metal plates or implants to alter the relationship of the bones to each other, changing the tibial plateau angle of the knee joint. The most common surgical procedures to do this are the TPLO (tibial plateau leveling osteotomy) or the TTA (tibial tuberosity advancement).
Depending on certain factors, some veterinarians will recommend the TPLO or TTA for dogs with CCL injuries. However, the cost of the TPLO and TTA surgeries can be prohibitive; thus the lateral suture stabilization is recommended as a more affordable option for the client.
Lateral Suture Stabilization Surgery for Dogs
At World of Animals, we offer the lateral suture extracapsular stabilization for CCL injury. This procedure uses a heavy suture composed of nylon outside of the joint to stabilize the knee joint. The theory behind this surgery is simple. By placing the suture and holding the bones in place at the joint in a way that allows near-normal joint movement; it will provide conditions under which the body can begin to build up permanent scar tissue to provide joint stabilization.
Our veterinarians will consult with you to decide if the lateral suture stabilization is the best solution for your pet. Some dogs who are larger breeds or have high-energy temperament may be better served by the TPLO or TTA surgery. And being that this is major surgery for your pet, our veterinarians will consult with you to determine the best option in your pet’s specific circumstance.
After surgery, it is very important to be careful about proper activity restriction in the post-operative period. Activity must be sufficiently restricted to allow the new supporting scar tissue to slowly develop without being damaged by excessive stresses on the joint. This process takes months and our veterinarians will provide thorough instructions on how to properly rehabilitate your pet in the post-operative period. And keep the re-stabilized knee safe from re-injury before allowing your dog to fully return to normal activity.
Hip Dysplasia in dogs is a common inherited skeletal condition where the Femoral Head (Ball) and Acetabulum (Socket) of the hip do not properly meet one another; this results in laxity of the hip joint and, over time, arthritis. Hip Dysplasia is common in large breed dogs but can also occur, albeit less frequently, in smaller breed dogs and cats.
The hip joint functions as a ball and socket joint. The hallmark of Hip Dysplasia is laxity in this joint. Over time, forces acting on these bones to counteract the instability will lead to small, microscopic fractures and resulting osteoarthritis. It is the most common cause of arthritis in the hipbone of a dog.
There are several overlapping causes which can lead to this impairment, however, genetic predisposition is thought to play the largest role. OFA lists the Bulldog as the highest percentage of dysplastic hips evaluated, followed by the Pug, Dogue de Bordeaux, and Neapolitan Mastiff. Other factors besides genetics that may contribute to hip dysplasia are nutrition, growth rate, exercise, muscle mass, and obesity.
This condition’s symptoms vary and are largely based on the severity of joint laxity, inflammation, and how far along the disease has progressed. Indications of hip dysplasia can include:
- Decreased activity
- Difficulty rising
- Bunny hopping or swaying
- Reluctance to run or jump, especially after exercise
- Loss of muscles in the hind limbs
All dogs suspected of having hip dysplasia should undergo a thorough physical examination by a veterinarian. Your veterinarian can look for certain signs on palpation of the hips, evaluation of your dog’s gait, and overall presentation. After a thorough Physical Examination, your veterinarian will likely recommend radiography, as this remains the hallmark diagnostic tool for both diagnosis and early age screening.
IVDD is a condition caused by compression of the spine, resulting in inflammation and pressure on the spinal cord. IVDD can occur in the neck, thoracic, or lumbar spine; this results in the delay or inability of nerves to send signals to and from the brain. As a result, affected dogs can have symptoms ranging from delayed replacement of their paws (when picked up) to lack of pain and even complete paralysis. Where the condition occurs along the spinal cord will determine which limbs are affected.
IVDD can range in severity from milder forms to emergency/critical situations depending on the cord’s degree of compression. When loss of deep pain and motor are present, it is crucial to get your dog to the hospital as quickly as possible, as surgical intervention is required immediately to relieve this compression. With milder cases, extremely strict rest and medication may be enough to get the inflammation to subside.
A sarcoma is cancer that has originated from a connective tissue stem line. Connective tissue can be conceived as the supporting matrix that holds the body’s tissues together. Bone, blood, cartilage, ligaments, fat, and a few others can all be considered connective tissue. Osteo means relating to the bones. So, a diagnosis of Osteosarcoma is a cancer of the connective tissue type, bone. It is the most common primary cancer of the bone of dogs and cats, although there are others. Osteosarcomas are significantly more common in large and giant breed dogs, although any dog or cat breed can be affected.
There’s a saying in veterinary medicine that Osteosarcomas develop away from the elbow and towards the knee. The most common site is of the lower portion of the radius, just above the joint in humans called the wrist joint. Osteosarcomas also tend to develop at the top of the humerus, close to the shoulder joint and near the knee of a hind limb. While small breed dogs are much less likely to get this form of cancer, it tends to occur on the axial spine when they do.
When cancer affects the bone, it destroys the normal tissue in the process. The results of this are swelling, heat, pain, and loss of function. Sometimes an owner is just taking their dog on a regular walk when they suddenly appear to break their leg with no inciting trauma or injury to cause it. This occurs because the cancer has eaten away the normal bone, leaving the area easily susceptible to fracture. The associated pain and swelling often result in the patient not using the affected leg.
A diagnosis of Osteosarcoma is usually made by taking radiographs (x-rays) of the affected area along with Physical Examination findings. It is a fairly straightforward diagnosis from plain x-ray films. The cancer eating the bone can be seen readily, leaving what we call a “lytic” or “moth-eaten” pattern. Others refer to this pattern as “star-bursts” because it looks how a child might draw rays extending from the sun.
Unfortunately, bone cancer is an aggressive form of disease, and treatment aims to slow its spread and limit or alleviate associated pain. To date, there is no known absolute cure for Osteosarcoma, and by the time a diagnosis is made, at least a few cancer cells have escaped the affected limb. For this reason, sometimes amputation is recommended to relieve pain, suffering and to slow the spread of cancer. Amputation is a recommended treatment, but it will not permanently cure the disease. Other treatment options aimed at slowing the progression of cancer center around chemotherapy options.
The prognosis for patients with Osteosarcoma is poor, with median survival times of around four months reported with amputation. Less than 10% of dogs affected with Osteosarcoma have a one-year or greater survival rate. However, new treatment options are being studied now, which may give us new hope in the fight against this terrible disease. Dr. Nicola Mason at the University of Pennsylvania is working on a new type of treatment. By stimulating the immune system to fight cancer cells directly, Dr. Mason and her team are working on an Osteosarcoma Vaccine to fight the disease once diagnosed. (Source: www.vet.upenn.edu/research/centers-intiatives/mason-immunotherapy-research/therapies-trials/canine-osteosarcoma)
Obesity in pets
Like humans, obesity is a problem for our domestic dogs and cats. Obesity, or the state of being severely overweight, results in excess deposits of fat throughout the body. This increase in fat changes the metabolic demands of your pet, places an increased strain on their hips and other joints, as well as their hearts and other vital organs.
There are several causes of obesity in dogs, ranging from increased caloric intake to system disease states. Obesity is not a disease in and of itself, but it can often lead to various diseases. Cats gaining weight are invariably ingesting more calories than they are burning. Chronically overweight feline patients become predisposed to developing diabetes and arthritis. Overweight cats who stop eating for even short periods may start to “digest” their liver’s fat. This is a serious condition called hepatic lipidosis.
The most common reason for obesity in dogs and cats is increased caloric intake compared to the number of calories they burn. In other words, too much food and not enough exercise. I know too well that many of us have busy schedules, and it seems like there’s always 5 things going on simultaneously. Often, this results in less time for your dog to go out and play in the park or go for that run you’ve meant to take them on, especially in winter. Additionally, dogs and cats require fewer calories than you may realize.
Depending on the breed and size, some dogs’ normal daily caloric needs are only a fraction of the amount needed for a human. As a result, those extra pizza crusts, pieces of deli meat, or other snacks can add up for your dog. Some commercial dog treats can have as many as 150 calories each! For most dogs, that’s a lot of extra calories.
While hypothyroid disease may sometimes contribute to weight gain in a dog, this condition is very uncommon in feline populations.
Your veterinarian will be able to determine your cat’s nutritional disease once she is brought in for a physical exam. The BCS (Body Conditions Score), is on an objective set of standards used to help determine if your pet is the appropriate weight. An ideal BCS score of 5 (out of 9) means that you can visualize your cat’s waist behind their ribs. You can easily feel your cat’s ribs with only a small amount of fat covering them, and that there is a very small “pat pad” on their underside.
This contrasts with cats who are higher on the BCS scale who score a 6,7,8, or 9 (out of 9). These cats will have excess amounts of fat covering their ribs, with higher-scored patients having the most amount of fat. These cats may also have an observable waist, excess fat on their faces and limbs, and a large fat pad noted on their bellies that hangs down.
Fortunately for overweight cats, there are treatments convenient to help shed those excess pounds. Increasing your cat’s activity using a laser pen, a favorite toy, or even going for a walk on a leash can all help to burn those excess calories. Additionally, feeding your cat at set times, rather than free feeding, will help reduce caloric intake. Lower calorie prescription foods are also available to help reduce weight, and eliminating excess treats and “table scraps” can also help.
Try cutting your dog’s food back by about 10% or increasing the amount of exercise they receive. Try cutting that pizza crust into four pieces and only giving your dog 1 or 2 of those instead. Even better, you can substitute high caloric treats for something a little more nutritious.
Some dogs enjoy string beans and snap peas, a few carrots instead of deli meat. Finally, check those treats!! Substituting lower-calorie treats may make a huge caloric difference.
In some cases, dogs are receiving their actual caloric requirements but are still overweight. In those cases, a systemic disease could be the inciting cause. For example, hypothyroid disease can cause obesity in dogs. Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland is underactive. Hypothyroid dogs tend to be overweight and lack the energy to play and run and act as other dogs do. Some dogs with hypothyroid disease will be heat-seeking, have poor skin coats, and be prone to ear infections.
Another condition, Cushing’s disease, causes laxity in the muscles of the abdomen. The result is a “pot-bellied” appearance that can, in some aspects, resemble obesity. If you think your pet is receiving adequate but not excessive nutrition and is still overweight, tests for hypothyroid disease or Cushing’s disease may be appropriate.
Numerous disease states are known to be caused by or made worse by obesity and it is a real threat to our dogs and cats. Obesity is known to have a role in causing some cases of diabetes, for example. Heart disease and tracheal collapse are not caused by obesity but can be significantly harder to control or manage in overweight dogs. Finally, arthritic dogs who are overweight have a double-whammy, as they are both sore and stiff and have more weight to carry around and support.
A word about cats: in my experience, overweight cats are particularly prone to develop diabetes. Diabetes is an endocrine disorder where either not enough insulin is secreted or that insulin cannot be driven into the cells. Obesity is the single greatest preventable risk factor for diabetes in cats. Some cats who are diabetic can go into remission with insulin, special diets, and of course, weight loss.
Obesity is a real problem in our dogs and cats and it does present increased risk factors for many conditions and diseases. If you are concerned about your pet’s weight, please call one of our offices to schedule an appointment with a member of our veterinary hospital. Together, we can review your pet’s diet, calculate and estimate the daily caloric needs for your pet and discuss strategies to help achieve the goals we set together.
In cases where an underlying disease state is suspected that has caused or contributed to your pet’s weight, blood tests may be recommended to help evaluate if those conditions are present. With a little teamwork and motivation, we can get your pet to an ideal, healthy weight and hopefully help keep their tail wagging for years to come.
Osteoarthritis In Dogs
Have you noticed your dog getting up slower in the morning? Is your dog walking stiffer than they used to when they were younger? If so, these symptoms may indicate that your pet is suffering from Degenerative Joint Disease, more commonly referred to as arthritis.
In many cases, dogs with arthritis will have a slow onset of symptoms, gradually declining in ability and function as they age. In the following article, I will discuss arthritis symptoms with a focus on treatments that may help get your dog moving around better and in a lot less pain and discomfort.
Arthritis is a term you are likely familiar with, which refers to inflammation of one joint or multiple joints. The disease occurs when cartilage, which lines our joints, becomes damaged and eroded. In healthy dogs, cartilage acts as a cushion between bones, buffering them from rubbing together. As cartilage starts to degenerate, the cushion protecting the joint and bones are no longer able to protect from the grinding forces as they rub together.
Symptoms of arthritis often develop gradually, and you may not notice signs until the disease progresses. A dog with arthritis may be slow to get up in the morning, walk stiff, have difficulty on stairs, or walk slower than before. You may notice things like your dog having harder times walking around on cold days and maybe more reluctant to jump up on the bed or keep a normal pace while going for a walk. Dogs with arthritis may be overall more stiff, lethargic, and less agile.
Fortunately, there are many available treatment options for osteoarthritis in dogs. Perhaps the most commonly used class of drugs in veterinary medicine is called NSAIDs, and they are often very helpful in reducing inflammation and pain in dogs with arthritis. While NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are commonly used for human ailments as well (Ibuprofen), dog-specific NSAIDs are designed to be much safer for our pets than human ones. Do NOT give a human NSAID to a dog or cat at any time; this can be FATAL!
Dog-specific NSAIDs can make a tremendous difference in dogs with arthritis; please speak with a member of our veterinary team about both the benefits and risks of NSAIDs if you think they may be right for your dog. There are other pain-relieving drugs for dogs with arthritis if your veterinarian does not think that NSAIDs are appropriate for your dog. Some other medications commonly used include Gabapentin and Tramadol.
Laser Therapy is another treatment option gaining favor in human and veterinary medicine. Cold or light laser therapy has been shown to reduce inflammation and the resulting pain. Laser therapy is very reliable and easy to perform. Treatment involves using a laser therapy probe applied over the area of inflammation for several minutes per treatment. Over the course of several treatments, inflammation and resulting pain may decrease, resulting in a happier, less painful pet.
Vitamins and supplements are other areas of focus in veterinary medicine when it comes to arthritis. Glucosamine, Chondroitin, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, and other supplements may help treat or slow the onset or progression of arthritis. There are currently several formulations available in veterinary medicine, and we recommend you speak with your veterinarian about safe supplement options for your dog.
You may think of the pancreas as an organ responsible for producing insulin, the hormone that drives sugar into our cells. This sugar, in turn, gives the cells the energy to carry out their normal functions. The pancreas also has a second responsibility; it creates and secretes digestive enzymes, which help break down food in the intestines. Pancreatitis is a condition where the pancreas becomes inflamed, causing these digestive enzymes to leak out of the pancreas and into the surrounding tissue. In the following article, I will discuss pancreatitis in dogs and cats and the diagnostic and treatment options available.
The pancreas is a unique organ in that it has both endocrine and exocrine function. This means that it both produces hormones and produces substances sent out through ducts in the body rather than through the blood directly. Pancreatitis occurs when an acute insult to the pancreas results in inflammation and disruption to the digestive or glandular activities. This disruption can result in leakage of very caustic digestive enzymes from the pancreas into the surrounding tissues. Pancreatitis is thought to be very painful to affected dogs, although cats may be asymptomatic.
Vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and a painful belly or fever are all classic signs associated with this condition. Affected dogs may be very reluctant to eat or sensitive when being picked up. In some cases, this discomfort may cause lethargy, and your pet may not be as active or playful as usual.
While the exact cause of pancreatitis is unknown, several suspected risk factors may predispose a pet to pancreatitis. One such risk factor occurs when dogs on a regulated diet eat a single, high-fat meal—for example, dogs who live strictly on dog food suddenly and unexpectedly get into the trash. In this scenario, the pet’s pancreas is overwhelmed by the meal’s high-fat content, which leads to inflammation and leakage of enzymes.
There may also be a connection between other pancreatic conditions and the onset of pancreatitis. Diabetes, for example, is a disease of the pancreas that may predispose a pet to an increased risk. Additionally, hypothyroid disease and conditions leading to higher calcium levels in the blood may be linked to pancreatitis. Certain drugs or medications may also increase the risk of developing pancreatitis. Trauma, tumors, and even genetics may also play a role. Miniature Schnauzers have a higher incidence of pancreatitis than other breeds.
To diagnose pancreatitis, certain blood tests or imaging are recommended. Your veterinarian may recommend pancreatic-specific blood tests if they suspect your pet may be affected. X-rays and ultrasounds can also be used to image the pancreas and look for evidence of inflammation or insult. It should be noted that obtaining a diagnosis of pancreatitis by x-ray is more difficult, and studies have shown ultrasound to be a superior method of diagnosis.
Treatment for pancreatitis varies based on the severity of the condition and its underlying cause. Some pancreatitis cases are milder in presentation, and diet modification, pain control, and antibiotics when appropriate may be sufficient to get your pet well again. However, pancreatitis cases can range from mild to life-threatening and severe cases may warrant hospitalization and advanced treatment options to address.
If you think your pet has pancreatitis or is displaying any G.I disease symptoms, please call one of our veterinary hospitals to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors. With the right tests and treatment, many patients with pancreatitis do recover very well and lead happy, healthy lives.
Pyometra (Infection of the Uterus)
A Pyometra is an urgent and serious medical condition in intact female dogs (un-spayed). The term pyometra comes from the Latin “pyo” meaning pus, and “metra” meaning uterus. That’s exactly what a pyometra is, an infected, pus-filled uterus. This is not only as gross as it sounds, but also very serious. However, it is treatable if caught early. By one estimation, as many as 25% of intact female dogs will develop a pyometra during their lifetime.
Given how common and serious this condition is, it is important to note that this condition is 100% preventable by spaying your dog or cat before they occur.
Pyometra tends to occur in dogs 1-3 months after a heat cycle. Many factors play a role in predisposing a dog to develop a pyometra. These include changes in hormones, breed, age, and if a dog is receiving any hormone medications. There are two forms of pyometra, closed and open. An open pyometra results when the cervix is open, whereas a closed pyometra occurs when the cervix is closed.
Patients with open pyometras will have a bloody to pus-like discharge from their vulva; in a closed pyometra, no discharge will be present. Many dogs with a pyometra will drink a lot of water and urinate more frequently. This happens because a common bacteria implicated in causing a pyometra, E. Coli, will cause changes in the kidneys, resulting in increased drinking and urination. Other signs which may be noted at home include lethargy, not eating, and vomiting.
Many tests can help diagnose a pyometra. Radiographs may show an enlarged uterus and cytology of the discharge from the vulva may show rod-shaped bacteria under a microscope along with white blood cells. Additionally, blood work might show elevated white blood cell counts. Finally, ultrasound can be used to visualize the uterus and confirm a diagnosis.
Treatment for pyometra in almost all cases, is the surgical removal of the infected uterus. Great care must be taken to remove the entire uterus intact. While this surgery is similar to a routine spay, it is complicated by the enlarged, infected uterus and the patient’s sickened state. Dogs with a pyometra can be very ill on presentation. Therefore, IV fluids, antibiotics, and other treatments will likely be utilized before, during, and after surgery.
It is important to note that cats are not small dogs. Cats can also develop a pyometra, although some will be chronic and silent with no clinical signs. Cats who show clinical signs sometimes have discharge from the vulva, abdominal distention, decreased appetite and vomiting.
If you think your pet has a pyometra or you are interested in spaying your dog to prevent one, please call one of our veterinary hospitals to schedule an appointment for a consultation. Pyometras can be life-threatening emergencies! Fortunately for many dogs and cats, it is treatable, and it is preventable for all pets. It is said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and that is surely true in this case.
When our pets have seizures, it can be stressful for both pets and their owners! Seizures are a symptom of brain disease, just like coughing can be thought of as a respiratory disease symptom. When seizures arise, the brain has abnormally organized electrical activity that prevents normal brain function. These abnormal electrical events can interfere with almost any important brain function, including movement. The other important functions can also be altered, including regulating normal eliminations, movement, blood circulation, behavior, and perception.
The appearance of a seizure varies depending on the part of the brain which has abnormal electrical activity. When seizures involve regions of the brain controlling movement, the result is uncoordinated and spastic movements called convulsions. Convulsive seizures are particularly concerning because they can cause dangerous elevations in body temperature or traumatic injury.
Loss of function in other brain regions can cause a wide variety of symptoms. Common symptoms include unconsciousness, uncontrolled urination, or temporary blindness. Sudden behavioral changes such as barking, disorientation, and excitability, can occur before a seizure. These behavioral changes may even arise several hours before seizure onset. A dog or cat may appear and act completely normal between seizure episodes, especially when medicated.
Epilepsy is one of the more common causes of seizures and may be treated with many safe and effective medications. Most epileptic seizure patients will require monitoring of both medication levels and organ function. Effective medication should reduce the severity and the frequency of seizure episodes. Medications are selected based on their efficacy, side effect profile, and cost.
Causes of non-epileptic seizures include many diverse conditions affecting the brain or its function. Metabolic imbalances, cancer, brain infections, head trauma, and toxin exposure can potentially cause seizures. Blood tests can help rule out common causes of non-epileptic seizures. Advanced imaging, such as magnetic resonance (MR) or computed tomography (CT) can help rare cases. Due to the cost of advanced imaging (MR or CT) and spinal fluid analysis, these diagnostics are only recommended if a dog or cat may have treatable, non-epileptic seizures originating primarily from the brain.
If your pet is actively having a seizure, seek emergency medical attention immediately. Avoid handling or going near your pet’s mouth. Unfortunately, animals having a seizure are disoriented; they often bite and may accidentally harm you. If you think that you have seen a seizure-like episode but are not sure, please call a member of our veterinary hospital as soon as possible. Such episodes will usually recur and may be associated with other serious health problems. Isolated, short-duration seizures can often be treated by your veterinarian.
Fortunately, most seizures and their underlying causes are treatable. In contrast, untreated seizures can result in further brain disease or damage to other organs. Treatments for seizures can include anticonvulsants and/or medications for a related illness that affects the brain.
Tail Injuries in dogs
You know how your dog’s tail wags when you come home from work, or you ask them if they would like to go to the P-A-R-K? While this expression of joy and happiness is a sign that your pet is happy, it can also lead to a difficult and painful condition called “Happy Tail.” “Limber Tail” is a term used to describe a different condition in dogs. Limber tail occurs after vigorous or strenuous exercise, often associated with swimming. In the following article, I will discuss Happy Tail and Limber Tail and how to treat or prevent them.
Sometimes when a dog repeatedly wags its tail against a hard substance like a wall or a crate, a wound can form on the very end of the tail. The condition occurs from repetitive trauma to the tip of the tail. Sometimes this can happen after staying in a Kennel or boarding facility if a dog is constantly wagging its tail against the wall or kennel door. The wound that forms can be very deep, painful, and even bleeding. Sometimes people will note blood splattered on their walls, carpets, or bedding when they come home. The bleeding can be severe enough that it can even look like a crime scene!
If a dog has “Happy Tail,” bandaging prevents repeated trauma to the tail while it heals. Additionally, antibiotics treat the secondary infection, and veterinary-approved anti-inflammatories will reduce swelling and pain. Prevention of Happy Tail centers on creating a safe environment for your dog to wag its tail without hitting it against objects or walls. In some cases, a pool noodle is useful in preventing the tail from hitting the wall; however, this can only be used with dogs who will not chew up the pool noodle!
Limber tail is a different condition that affects a dog’s tails. It occurs after strenuous exercise or swimming. The pet’s owner may note that their dog’s tail won’t wag or move and hangs down like it is lifeless. The dog’s tail may be painful when touching it. This condition is thought to occur secondary to a muscle strain or pull, explaining why it is associated with swimming or exercise. Treatment centers of rest and veterinary-approved anti-inflammatory medications to help treat any swelling or pain. Most dogs will completely recover from Limber Tail, although it may recur in the future when swimming or heavy exercising.
Toxic Algae Blooms
Harmful Algae Blooms are caused by an overgrowth of naturally occurring cyanobacteria, which live in fresh, salt, or brackish water. These overgrowth events or algal blooms tend to occur when the water is warm, stagnant and full of nutrients such as fertilizer, farm runoff, or storm drain discharge.
When a cyanobacteria bloom occurs, you cannot necessarily tell by examining the water. That said, such blooms can sometimes cause green, blue, red, or brown water discoloration. Cyanobacteria contaminated waters frequently occur following heavy rainfall and may be associated with dead fish or rotting vegetable odors.
Warm, stagnant bodies of water may be filled with a variety of disease-causing organisms, especially when they are filled by waters draining from cities, fertilized soils, and farm environments. Increasing water temperatures and nutrient content mean suitable conditions for harmful algal blooms in fresh and salt waters. It is best to avoid water that appears scummy, unclear, warm, stagnant, or covered with foam. While cyanobacteria do not directly cause infections, they can make large amounts of toxins called cyanotoxins. These toxins can damage the brain, liver, and skin, resulting in sickness or death. The most commonly affected animals drink or swim in water during or just after an algal bloom. Severe symptoms can occur within an hour of drinking or bathing in contaminated water.
There are no known antidotes to cyanotoxins. The toxins cannot be eliminated by boiling or filtering contaminated water. If you think that your pet has been swimming in contaminated water during an algal bloom, immediately bathe them with clean water. Even licking or grooming themselves after bathing in contaminated water can cause serious illness. Signs associated with cyanobacteria-contaminated water or food consumption may include vomiting, drooling, convulsion, tremor, seizure, or weakness. These signs often occur rapidly – sometimes within an hour of the initial exposure.
Unfortunately, there are no at-home tests for cyanotoxins, which may be difficult to detect. State and local public health agencies often issue red tide/cyanobacteria warnings around common swimming locations if they are known to contain harmful algal blooms. These harmful algal blooms can be prevented by reducing fertilizer use, maintaining sewers/septic systems, or allowing plants, trees, and bivalve muscles to grow near the water’s edge.
Dogs are more susceptible to cyanotoxins than humans because they are attracted to the odor of contaminated waters; this means that dogs are often willing to drink, eat, and bathe in water containing fatal concentrations of toxins. Dogs will sometimes scavenge dead fish, birds, or mats of dead plants following a harmful algal bloom. Any food obtained from contaminated water should also be considered unfit for consumption.
Other animals, including fish, birds, livestock, wildlife, and humans, may be affected. Fish and shellfish from affected areas may be harmful to you or your pet. Because cyanotoxins can cause sudden illness and death, seek immediate medical attention if you or your pet is feeling unwell. More information may be found at https://www.cdc.gov/habs/general.html
Is your dog making a honking, goose-like cough? Collapsing trachea is a disease most commonly seen in older, toy-breed dogs. The disease tends to present as a honking or a goose-like cough, which occurs at first after exercise, excitement, eating or drinking, or when rubbed over the throat/neck.
However, over time the disease can progress to constantly coughing throughout the day and night. The cough is dry, non-productive in nature and may be accompanied by abnormal breathing patterns or exercise intolerance.
Collapsing trachea is a disease of the cartilage that composes the trachea’s rings. The tube carries the air that your pet breathes down the throat and towards your pet’s lungs. Over time, dogs with a collapsing trachea will have these C-shaped rings of cartilage weaken, causing a flattening of the trachea.
The result is often a honking, goose-like cough, which progresses slowly over time. Dogs with collapsing trachea sometimes have other concurrent diseases, including heart disease and laryngeal paralysis, and they may be at a greater risk of acquiring upper airway infections.
While the exact cause of why these cartilage rings weaken and collapse is unknown, several theories exist. Genetic predisposition, nutritional deficiencies, including Glucosamine/Chondroitin, excessive barking, other systemic or upper airway diseases, and even prior trauma or smoke inhalation are all proposed causes.
Several breeds of dogs are especially predisposed to developing a collapsing trachea, including the Yorkshire Terrier, Toy Poodle, Chihuahua, Pomeranian, and Shih Tzu. It is most commonly a disease of middle age to older small breed dogs, although young dogs can also be affected.
A collapsed trachea can be diagnosed with radiography (x-rays). However, an x-ray is a “snapshot in time,” and collapsing tracheas are dynamically changing based on the phase of respiration. For this reason, cases can be missed without other dynamic imaging studies.
Other imaging modalities used to make a diagnosis include fluoroscopy and bronchoscopy. These tests are performed in “real-time,” which means that the motion of the trachea can be observed directly throughout all phases of respiration. They represent the current “gold standard” of testing for collapsing trachea.
While there is no cure for collapsing tracheas, cases can often be medically managed with medications designed to reduce the associated inflammation or suppress the cough reflex. In more advanced cases, surgical placement of a stent can be considered to hold the trachea open. However, side effects and risks should be discussed with a veterinary surgeon before electing for this option.
In many cases, tracheal collapse is not life-threatening but is uncomfortable for your pet. In rare cases, dogs will present with cyanosis, blue discoloration of the gums or tongue. Dogs that are cyanotic will require life-saving care, including oxygen supplementation, until stabilized.
If you suspect your dog has a collapsing trachea, we recommend scheduling an appointment with a member of our veterinary team for a thorough physical examination, and to discuss the testing and treatment options which are most appropriate for your pet.
Upper Respiratory Tract Infections in Kittens
Have you recently adopted or found a stray kitten? Noticed sneezing, goopy eyes, or discharge from the nose? Upper respiratory infections in young cats and kittens are extremely common and, fortunately, often treatable. Many shelter cats are prone to developing these infections, and the viruses responsible for them have even been discovered in the California Mountain Lion population!
While there are five known etiologic agents that cause URIs in cats, they tend to have similar presenting signs. These include sneezing, eye discharge, redness in the eyes, increased squinting/pawing at the eyes, nasal discharge, and in some cases, ulcers in the mouth. Some or all of these signs together form a complex we refer to as Feline Upper Respiratory Tract Infections.
The five agents known to cause this are Herpes Virus, Calici Virus, Chlamydophila, Mycoplasma, and Bordatella, which is the same general category of bacteria known to cause Kennel Cough in dogs and whooping cough in people.
Some of these causes are viral, others bacterial in nature. Symptoms in kittens and cats can range from mild sneezing to severe ocular and nasal discharge, anorexia, and lethargy. In the most extreme form of the condition, severe symptoms, including blindness, severe lethargy, and pneumonia, can result. These can be fatal if left untreated or not caught early enough.
Fortunately, most causes of kitten URIs are mild to moderate in nature and are treatable. Common treatment options include antiviral medications, antibiotics, and ophthalmic antibiotics to fight the eye infection. The specific medications chosen often vary from case to case, depending on the severity of signs noted. It is important to note that while antibiotics are used to treat the secondary bacterial component of the condition in many cases; they do not treat the primary viral cause.
New antiviral medications may be effective in treating the primary viral infection in these cases. Some Veterinarians may also recommend an amino acid called L-Lysine; this may be able to boost your pet’s immune system and has been shown to slow viral replication in laboratory conditions.
Cats and kittens that are still eating, playful, and active tend to do very well with treatment and may completely get over their kitty colds. It should be noted that recurrence can occur, particularly after a known stressor such as moving, loud noises that scare your kitty, or a new neighborhood stray cat outside the window.
Kitten URIs are contagious to other cats and kittens through aerosolized droplets and through contact with clothing or skin containing those droplets on them. Fortunately, kitten URIs are not contagious to humans. It is also possible for adult cats to get URIs, but they are less susceptible to displaying symptoms once a fully competent immune system is developed.
Upset Stomach in Dogs
A very common complaint, which veterinarians hear from dog owners daily, is gastrointestinal upset. This may present itself as vomiting, diarrhea, or both. If your pet is experiencing vomiting and/or diarrhea, we always recommend that you call to make an appointment so one of our veterinarians can examine your pet.
Gastrointestinal upset can be the result of a variety of causes. Sometimes our pets will eat something out of the ordinary, be it a food item, an object such as a toy, or something toxic. This may result in vomiting and diarrhea symptoms, and your pet may require immediate or even emergency treatment.
If your pet ingested a food item that is out of the ordinary, the veterinarian might prescribe medication to relieve vomiting and diarrhea symptoms. However, in more serious cases, such as if the veterinarian believes your pet may have ingested an object, they may take x-rays. Foreign objects in the GI tract can cause an obstruction, and your pet may even require surgery to relieve the obstruction.
A common cause of diarrhea in dogs is an abrupt diet change. If your pet’s diet changes to a different brand or variety without slowly transitioning them, it might result in gastrointestinal upset. It is always recommended that when changing your pet’s diet; you mix the old food with the new food, gradually increasing the portion of the new food each day over the span of 1-2 weeks.
If your pet is experiencing diarrhea because of an abrupt diet change, the veterinarian may prescribe a special prescription dog food that is bland and easily digestible or even medication as treatment.
Another common cause of diarrhea in dogs, especially those not on a monthly heartworm preventative (which also acts as a monthly intestinal dewormer), is GI parasites. This is also a common cause seen in puppies or newly adopted dogs. To diagnose GI parasites in your pet, your veterinarian will run a fecal test on a stool sample. The results of this test will help them choose an appropriate deworming medication for your dog.
Urinary Blockage In Male Cats
Male cats, more than females, have a particularly narrow urethra. When bacteria, mucus, crystals, or even small stones build up in the urethra, it makes it both difficult and sometimes impossible for urine to pass through. This is a true medical emergency, as it is life-threatening! Complete urinary obstructions are fatal if not treated within 24 hours or less.
Signs that your cat is completely or partially blocked include:
- Straining to urinate
- Going in and out of litter box
- Producing small amounts of urine.
- Blood in urine.
- Loss of appetite/vomiting
- Crying / howling when in the litter box.
- Licking genitals
Cats between the ages of 1-10 years old are more prone to blocking factors that can make cats more prone to an obstruction. The average age is approximately four years old.
A cat’s living conditions can also play a big factor. Usually, cats exposed to a lot of stress or lack of a stimulating environment can be causes of urinary health issues. Obese cats or even cats on a dry food-only diet can be at greater risk. Moisture plays a large role in a cat’s diet.
As mentioned above, diets play a huge role in urinary health. Cats are not ones to drink a great deal of water like some other animals. Felines were designed to eat a meat-based, moisture-rich diet.
Some people fear that the urinary tract development would be stunted if they neutered their cat before 9-12 months of age. There is currently no evidence that proves or suggests that early castration is a cause for urinary health issues in cats.
After a cat is treated for a urinary blockage, the main concern is re-obstruction. Some cats are prone to re-obstructing sometime in the future after a first obstruction has occurred. After a cat has 2-3 blockages, it is often recommended to get a “sex change” surgery called Perineal Urethrostomy. This surgery removes the cat’s penis where the urethra is the most narrow, leaving the cat with a wider urethra less likely to become blocked.
The best way to prevent your cat from blocking is by feeding a wet-food-only, specialized prescription diet specifically for urinary issues. Additionally, limiting the amount of stress your cat is exposed to at home and encouraging water intake by adding a pet fountain or other source of additional water intake.