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Addison's disease is a disease that can affect any dog. Standard Poodles, Rottweilers, Great Danes and several other breeds, however, seem to have a higher incidence of affliction. The disease occurs when injury or disease of the adrenal gland causes a deficiency in the gland's ability to produce normal amounts of cortisone (steroid) or the mineral-regulating hormone called aldosterone.
As a result, various symptoms can develop, such as weakness and gastrointestinal disorders. Diagnosis can be made by measuring electrolyte levels or through specific adrenal gland function tests (ACTH stimulation test). Treatment consists of hormone replacement therapy using one of several different drugs, depending on the animal's response. The drugs may be administered in injectable or pill form. Treatment is usually lifelong, but once regulated, the dog can live a normal life.
Arthritis is inflammation of any joint within the body. The inflammation can have many causes. The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis which can be due to wear and tear on joints from over use, aging, injury, or from an unstable joint (e.g. cruciate ligament rupture of the knee). The chronic form of this disease is called degenerative joint disease (DJD). It is estimated that 20% of dogs older than one year of age have some form of DJD. Other causes of the inflammation can be infectious. Septic arthritis is caused by a bacterial or fungal infection. Lyme disease or Ehrlichia infection can also cause arthritis. Auto-immune diseases (aka immune-mediated diseases) such as Lupus can cause swollen, painful, inflamed joints. Neoplasia, or types of cancer, within joints can cause discomfort that appears like arthritis.
Treatment for arthritis should be directed to the inciting cause if possible. Surgery may be needed to stabilize a joint. DJD may be treated with NSAID's (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories), pain medication such as Tramadol, cartilage protective agents such as glucosamine or Adequan, acupuncture, or as a last resort, steroids. It is not recommended to use NSAID's developed for people (Tylenol, advil) as those are highly likely to cause ulcers in dogs, and most NSAID's can't be used in cats. We recommend talking with your veterinarian as to which treatment option will be best for your pet.
Dogs and cats can have a wide variety of behavior issues, depending on the individual animal and their environment. Each individual pet is different in the reasons for the behavioral problem and how an owner should approach and resolve the situation.
Our canine friends often exhibit behavioral issues involving tail chasing, chewing, biting, scooting, aggression, inappropriate urination/defecation, and obsession-compulsion disorders.
Biting and aggression issues can sometimes be curbed while your pet is still a puppy, teaching him/her at an early age that biting is not an allowable behavior. The most important component in training young puppies is that everyone in the household is consistent with discipline. When biting ensues, immediately stop the action and distract the puppy with an appropriate toy. If biting or aggression starts in an adult dog, behavioral modification may be necessary. Consult with your veterinarian about training techniques or possible referral to a behavioral specialist.
Inappropriate urination and defecation in puppies are often associated with housetraining. Crate training is a great way to teach your pet when to use the restroom. It is recommended that puppies have multiple walks during the day and are not locked up for more than 6-8 hours at a time. If your puppy receives more frequent walks, he/she will learn the appropriate time to use the bathroom outside. Inappropriate urination in older dogs can occur for several reasons. Urinary tract infections can cause your dog to use the bathroom inside due to the inflammation and irritation of the urinary system. Urinary incontinence can also be an underlying concern in older dogs. Consult with your veterinarian to see if the cause of inappropriate urination/defecation can be identified.
Scooting in dogs is most often attributed to anal gland issues. There are two glands around a dog's rectum that are similar to scent glands in a skunk. They accumulate a substance that is very pungent, and typically it is expressed when the pet defecates. They can also be emptied if the animal is frightened, such as during thunderstorms or fireworks. In animals that don't release this material normally, the glands can fill up and cause irritation. Dogs will often begin scooting on the floor to try and express these glands through stimulation. Your veterinarian can express these glands safely and bring your dog comfort if you believe this may be a problem at home.
Obsessive/compulsive or separation anxiety disorders are not uncommon in dogs. As always, each dog is different in the appropriate method of treatment. Sometimes a behavior specialist can help change these behaviors. However, medication may be warranted to help your dog. There are several therapies you can do at home to help promote good behavior in your pet. Your veterinarian can go over these steps with you.
Common feline behavior issues include cord chewing, attacking, anorexia, and inappropriate urination/defecation.
Cats will often chew cords and strings while they are young. Luckily, most cats will grow out of this phase. Frequently, kittens will chew due to being inquisitive. Some things you can try at home include putting cayenne pepper or bitter apple spray onto any exposed cords or strings. You can also try covering up exposed cords with rugs, mats, or wide tape. Make sure your cat also has plenty of appropriate toys available with which to play. You can often alternate toys every several days old toys can sometimes seem new if they've been missing for a while! If your cat still chews on cords, make sure he/she is always supervised when in the house. When left alone, leave your cat in a room without cords or strings. As a last resort, a squirt bottle can be used to deter your kitten when he/she starts chewing.
Kittens and cats will often ‘attack' people when walking by, or bite when contently lying in your lap. Cats can nip or nibble when they're happy, especially if their threshold for stimulation is very low. However, you can learn the signs of your individual cat when he/she is overstimulated, especially when sitting in your lap. If your cat is contently resting and purring, keep an eye out for any muscle tensing or tail twitching. When this occurs, discontinue petting and resume only when those signs have stopped. If your cat is attacking you as you walk by, it is often due to a predatory-play behavior. Cats instinctively attack moving targets outside, and you may be the only option within the house. You can help correct this by providing feather toys or balls in the house. You can also curb the behavior with water bottle spraying at the moment it occurs. Spaying and neutering at a young age can help with these issues as well.
Inappropriate urination and defecation in cats can be due to multiple reasons. Such things include: wrong size/type litter box, litter aversion, litter box location aversion, not enough litter boxes in the house, dirty litter box, urinary tract infection, or territorial behavior. Cats can have preferences to types and kinds of litter boxes and litter. If you have a covered litter box and he/she isn't using it, try using an open litter box. Different brands and types of litters have different scents and textures. Your cat may prefer one over another. If the litter box is located near a heavy traffic area in the house, your cat may not feel secure enough to use it. Try placing the litter boxes in quiet areas, away from loud noises (televisions, washing machines, etc). If you have two or more stories in your residence, try placing boxes on each story. If you have multiple cats in the house, the rule of thumb is to have one more litter box than number of cats. So if you have 3 cats, you need a minimum of 4 boxes. This allows each cat to have his/her own box without ever getting trapped. Territorial issues can make one cat afraid of a particular litter box. Make sure the litter boxes are cleaned at least once daily. We don't like using dirty bathrooms...why would our cats?? Urinary tract infections can cause irritation and inflammation which lead to inappropriate urination. This often develops as small urine puddles in multiple sites through your house. Consult with your veterinarian regarding any inappropriate urination/defecation problem, as many of them can be treated with changes in the litter or litter box, or with medication if needed.
Bloat & Gastric Torsion is a serious condition, and your pet should be rushed to the emergency room if this occurs. This condition occurs when the stomach twists on its supporting ligaments and the contents begin to release gas pressure. Frequently, a dog will present with sudden acute pain and/or collapse. Dogs who experience such an attack are very susceptible to another, which is usually more severe. This is one case where immediate veterinary care is needed, normally requiring abdominal surgery to prevent a recurrence.
Certain breeds of dogs with deep chests and narrow waists, such as hounds, Great Danes, Bouvier des Flandres, or Doberman Pinschers are more susceptible to a syndrome of gastric torsion and bloat.
Parvovirus is a dangerous virus, spread via feces, that attacks dogs' intestinal tracts. It can cause severe bloody diarrhea, vomiting, electrolyte imbalances, severe dehydration, a buildup of toxins and bacteria in the bloodstream, and eventually death. It most commonly affects dogs under the age of 2 years old. When puppies under 12 weeks old are infected, the virus can damage the heart muscle and cause lifelong cardiac problems. Parvovirus is extremely contagious and can be transmitted by any person, animal, or object that comes in contact with a infected dog's feces. All dogs are at risk, but unvaccinated puppies are the most susceptible. The virus can survive extreme heat and cold for long periods of time, and may remain alive on a surface long after the feces has been removed. If you think you've walked through an infected area, use a solution of one part bleach to thirty parts water to clean the soles of your shoes and areas frequented by other dogs and on the soles of your shoes.
There are many ways you can protect your dog from parvovirus. Veterinarians recommend multiple vaccinations for growing puppies. As dogs get older, their immunity is maintained with annual booster shots. If your dog experiences vomiting, severe diarrhea, depression, or loss of appetite, see your veterinarian as soon as possible. Though there are presently no drugs to kill the virus, there are treatments proven to control its symptoms. Often treatment involves hospitalization with intravenous fluids, antibiotics, anti-emetics and regular measurements of blood cell counts to monitor progression of disease. However, even with proper care, there is no guarantee that the puppy will survive.
Parvovirus is known worldwide and causes disease in many different species of animals. Different strains of virus only infect certain types of animals. For example, the Canine Parvovirus will not infect and does not cause disease in cats. Feline Parvovirus, a different strain of virus, causes a different type of disease known as Feline Distemper.
Car/motion sickness usually begins very shortly after starting the car ride. The dog will begin to drool and then vomit. It's not serious, but certainly not something that we like to clean up!
To solve the problem, first try acclimating the dog to car rides. Do this by simply putting him in the car for a few minutes each day without going anywhere. Then, try just going down the driveway and back. Next, try to drive around the block. Gradually build up the distance and time the dog rides in the car. Sometimes this will help to decrease the dog's anxiety over riding in the car and may help to decrease vomiting.
If this does not seem to help, consult with your veterinarian about types of medications that could be useful. Some types of medications are over-the-counter and may work with your dog. They are usually given 30-60 minutes before departing, and the most common side effect is drowsiness. If these medications are ineffective, there are prescription medications that we can try with your pet. It is always recommended to not feed your dog 2 hours before traveling to help decrease nausea.
Canine Cushing's disease, or hyperadrenocorticism, is caused by a hyperactive adrenal gland that pumps too many steroids and other hormones into the bloodstream. It can be caused by a growth in the adrenal gland or of the pituitary gland. Cushing's disease can cause the overproduction of any one or multiple hormones. Because of this, the symptoms of the disease can vary widely, and they can be extremely subtle. In dogs, Cushing's disease will often cause the overproduction of hormones called glucocorticoids, which are steroids. This will cause some of a dog's muscle to break down, giving him a thin-legged, potbellied look. This condition can also hurt a dog's ability to concentrate urine, making him drink a lot and produce a lot of urine. The steroids can suppress the immune system, as well, so dogs can sometimes get secondary infections, fatique easily, or develop exercise intolerance. The pancreas can be affected, causing vomiting, hyperglycemia, and often diarrhea. Other symptoms include hair loss, calcified lumps under the skin, increased appetite, panting, and high blood pressure.
Unfortunately, Cushing's disease can be difficult to diagnose and there is no one test to confirm its presence. Frequently, your veterinarian will perform several blood tests and urine tests. Treatment can vary based on the general health of your dog and the severity of the disease. Treatment options include removal of the growth (in the case of an adrenal tumor) or oral medications to slow down production of the adrenal gland.
Fortunately, Cushing's disease itself is rarely life threatening. We really are more concerned with the animal's quality of life and maintaining a comfortable life for your dog. If you have any questions or concerns and believe your dog may be exhibiting these symptoms, feel free to give us a call.
Your Sugar Hill Animal Hospital veterinarians are very involved with dental health in our dogs and cats. We strongly encourage regular dental cleaning and polishing to help extend the life of your pets' teeth.
Over 85% of dogs and cats have some type of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease simply means that the gums and bone that hold the teeth in place are being destroyed by oral bacteria. This preventable disease is the number one diagnosed disease in our pets, yet many animals suffer needlessly. This condition begins with accumulation of plaque along the gum line of the teeth. Plaque is a combination of bacteria, saliva, and sugars that adhere to the teeth. Minutes after brushing, a thin layer of plaque begins to develop. Over time, this plaque thickens and hardens, thus becoming tartar. As plaque accumulates, the gums are pushed away from the tooth, allowing more plaque to adhere. Eventually, the supporting structures of the tooth (bone, tissue, periodontal ligament) are destroyed, and the tooth becomes mobile and it will either fall out on its own or need to be extracted. Signs of periodontal disease are bad breath (halitosis), a reluctance to eat, chewing on one side of the mouth, dropping food, pawing at the face or rubbing the face on the floor, drooling, becoming head shy, and painful mouth/face. Infected tooth roots can also occur, and signs of this include the list above as well as swelling of the face and/or rupture. Many of these problems can be prevented by regular cleaning at home and routine cleaning by your veterinarian.
If you believe your pet may be experiencing a dental issue, bring him/her in for an exam as soon as possible. Early detection is very important in saving a tooth. Also, begin a dental care regimen at home. Brushing your pet's teeth daily is very important. We also recommend using a specially formulated dental rinse, dental chews and food (Science Diet T/D). If you have any questions or concerns regarding your pet's dental health, feel free to call us at any time.
Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a lifelong condition in cats and dogs that develops due to a pancreatic insufficiency in producing insulin. Insulin is a hormone that transports glucose (sugar) into body cells. When there is an insufficient amount of insulin in the body, the glucose builds up within the blood stream and causes the clinical signs you see in your pet.
Common symptoms include weakness, weight loss, change in appetite or behavior, increased thirst and increased urination. Inappropriate urination can occur due to the increased amount of urine accumulation in the bladder, and it can also be due to urinary tract infections that ensue due to glucose accumulation in the urine. Urinary tract infections are more common in diabetic patients than in normal pets.
Your veterinarian will often obtain a history of your pet's clinical symptoms, along with blood work and urinalysis results to see if diabetes mellitus is suspect. Blood work often reveals an elevated glucose level, and urinalysis shows an increased amount of glucose in the urine due to spilling over from the bloodstream. Signs of urinary tract infections may also be present.
Once the diagnosis has been made, a treatment plan for your pet will be developed. Frequently, the first permanent change involves putting your pet on a diet high in fiber and low in protein. Dogs have Type I DM and require insulin injections. Based on blood work results and glucose curves, your veterinarian can determine the best insulin type and how often your dog will require injections. They often require twice daily injections. Cats often have Type II DM. Insulin injections are used initially, but up to 70% of cats can be maintained on a special diet without needing injections. There is no ultimate cure for DM, but we can help make sure your pet maintains a happy, comfortable life!
Ear infections (otitis externa) are very common in dogs and cats. There are some breeds that are predisposed to developing this condition oftentimes, these dogs have heavy, floppy ears that are notorious for maintaining moisture in the ear canals. Also, dogs that have a lot of hair in their ear canals can be predisposed to ear infections. A dark, humid, hair-laden ear canal is the perfect environment for bacteria or yeast to grow. Common symptoms your pet may exhibit at home include head shaking, ear scratching, head tilting, or shyness when pet near the ears. Your veterinarian will usually get a sample of the debris in the ear canals and look at them underneath a microscrope. With the use of special stains, the bacteria and yeast can easily be identified. When an infection is diagnosed, the first big step toward resolving the infection is cleaning the ear thoroughly. Your veterinarian has cleansers that can be used in the clinic, as well as sent home with you to use regularly, and this will help clean the ear and maintain an appropriate pH within the ears. Different cleansers are available based on your own pet's infection. An important part of the ear exam includes looking at the ear drum. Your veterinarian will do this with the use of an otoscope similar to a physician. The eardrum needs to be evaluated for any swelling, rupture, or inflammation.
Treatments for ear infections include different medications based on the existing infection, as well as the state of the ear canal and ear drum. Topical ear drops are used either once or twice daily for a minimum of two weeks. Cleaning the ears at home regularly is also highly recommended. Oral antibiotics or antifungals may be necessary based on the extent of the ear infection. Cats with ear infections are treated similarly to dogs with topical medications and cleansers. Some dogs that have recurrent ear infections may require a surgical procedure to open up the ear canal to help improve air flow. Your veterinarian will go over this procedure with you should it become an option with your pet.
Dogs and cats of all sizes and breeds are susceptible to fleas. Other mammals in the wild also carry these pests. Fleas can withstand even the cold weather by living on pets, wild animals, and in buildings. There are four stages to the flea life cycle. Eggs are laid by an adult female flea which is on a host. The eggs roll off into the environment and after a few days they mature into larvae. Larvae survive by eating eat flea feces, flea egg shells, organic debris, and other flea larvae. They can crawl and move as far as six inches per day. After a few days, and once conditions are conducive, larvae mature into pupae. Pupae have very thick shells and are very resistant to environmental conditions. After a few days, and once the pupae detect a host is present, they mature into adult fleas that hop on another host.
There are many types of flea treatments. Unfortunately, there is no one drug or chemical that can kill all four stages of the flea. There are several types of good products to kill adult fleas: Frontline, Advantage, Comfortis, Capstar, and Revolution. Older products of various formulations of synthetic pyrethrins are also available, some of which are highly toxic to cats. Always read the package labeling to ensure you are using the correct dosage for your pet, and if you have any questions, always consult with your veterinarian. Be very careful with flea shampoos and make sure you always rinse thoroughly. Cats are diligent with grooming after baths, and licking the ingredients off their fur can be detrimental. Your veterinarian will discuss with you the best flea preventative options for your pet based on his environment and activity.Fleas should be prevented as they carry diseases such as tapeworms, Cat Scratch Fever (Bartonella), and bubonic plague. Fleas are also the number one allergen in dogs and cats and can cause severe skin problems.
Ticks are wingless insects that survive on the blood of hosts. They are transmitted by physical contact (they cannot jump like fleas do). Ticks are important vectors of a number of diseases. Hard ticks can transmit diseases such as relapsing fever, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and several forms of ehrlichiosis. There are several products that can help control ticks. Your veterinarian can discuss these products with you and choose the best one for your pet.
Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV) is a life threatening, acute condition that requires immediate medical attention. Certain breeds are more prone to this condition: Boxers, Great Danes, Standard Poodles, Saint Bernards, Irish Setters, Dobermans, Weimaraners and Gordon Setters. These breeds are considered deep-chested (large chest and narrow waist) but any similarly shaped dog can be at risk.
Diagnosis of GDV is made based on physical examination, history and abdominal x-rays. Often GDV happens when a pet eats a large meal and then becomes very active. Initially the dog may become restless, try to vomit or retch continuously but is unable to produce any vomit. This is because the stomach has twisted, preventing anything from entering and exiting the digestive system. The pressure inside the stomach starts to increase and the dog may salivate and pant excessively. As the patient's condition progresses they become lethargic, have a swollen stomach and eventually collapse. If not treated, the internal organs can be damaged and without timely treatment this condition is fatal.
The goals of treatment are to reduce the pressure in the stomach and return the stomach to its normal position. During the surgery, the stomach and internal organs are examined for damage and then the stomach is attached to the body wall to prevent a reoccurrence.
Prophylactic surgical tacking of the stomach is sometimes advised in breeds predisposed to GDV. Other preventative measures include restriction of exercise before and after meals, feeding twice a day instead of once a day, and elevating food/water bowls.
Heartworm disease is caused by a parasite known as Dirofilaria immitis and it is transmitted by mosquitoes. The mosquito injects a microscopic larvae which grows into an adult worm six to eighteen inches long inside the heart of the affected dog.
The worms can cause mild symptoms, such as coughing, but with time, more severe symptoms such as congestive heart failure, weight loss, fluid build up in the abdomen, fainting spells, anemia, collapse, and death usually occur.
We have several medications which can prevent heartworm if given as directed. There are oral medications which need to be given monthly, and some also help protect against some intestinal parasites. There are also topical liquid preventatives that are applied onto the skin. Many veterinarians are now recommending monthly heartworms preventative in cats also.
The American Heartworm Society says it is important to check all dogs annually by doing a blood test, even dogs that have been on preventative. Many people are not totally compliant about giving the medication on time, and no medication is perfect. If a dog is heartworm positive and it is given a dose of preventative, there can be a reaction that is detrimental to the dog, even deadly.
Heartworms in cats is anywhere from 10% to 50% of the canine rate. Heartworm disease in cats is different than in dogs. Cats usually test negative on the routine blood test done in the hospital, the worms are smaller, and usually do not produce microfilaria (which are like baby heartworms) that circulate in the bloodstream. Veterinarians have to do different tests, sometimes more than one, to diagnose heartworms in cats.
The symptoms in cats are different also. Cats usually have a cough, signs of asthma, or frequently vomit. Cats can die acutely. The treatment for adult heartworms in dogs is expensive and potentially harmful to the dog. Treatment involves three injections of a parasiticide, conducted over a two month period, and also involves strict confinement for 4-6 months. This is why it is much better to just prevent them in the first place. There is not a treatment for adult heartworms in cats.
For more information, please visit the American Heartworm Society at http://www.heartwormsociety.org
Hip dysplasia is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. It is a congenital disease that can cause lameness and painful arthritis. Normal anatomy of the hip joint involves the "socket" within the pelvis (aka acetabulum) and the "ball" of the femur (aka head). The distribution of weight when a dog is standing should go from the hip down the length of the femur and minimize pressure on the cartilage within the joint. Hip dysplasia is usually diagnosed by your veterinarian with xrays in combination with physical examination signs. Radiographs show abnormal borders of the ball and socket, indicating arthritis and bony changes. We can also see abnormal "seating" of the femur within the hip joint. Abnormal anatomy contributes to the change in function of this joint, thus causing the physical problems we see. Hip dysplasia can often be diagnosed as early as 18 months of age. It can range from mild to severely crippling. In dogs that are severely affected, surgical options are available. Total hip replacements are possible at orthopedic specialists or universities for larger breed dogs. A femoral head osteotomy (FHO) can be performed in smaller to medium breed dogs. Your veterinarian will discuss the differences in these procedures should your dog need one of them. Symptomatic therapy for dogs with hip dysplasia includes non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) and/or further pain medications such as tramadol. Exercise restriction is also recommended to help prevent further damage to the joints.
Hyperthyroidism is most commonly seen in middle to older age cats and is caused by an overproduction of the thyroid hormone, typically due to a tumor on the glands. Symptoms include weight loss (despite ravenous appetite), vomiting, behavioral changes, dull haircoat, and facial scratching. This disease can often be diagnosed with a blood test that looks at the thyroid hormone baseline.
There are three basic methods of treatment: radioactive iodine, surgery, or a medication called methimazole (Tapazole). For most cats, the best treatment is radioactive iodine. In 97% of the cases, it is a one-time treatment. The biggest disadvantage is that the treatment needs to be done at a special facility, and the cat needs to be hospitalized for usually 7 to 10 days due to emission of radioactivity. In the past, surgery was a common treatment, but it is performed less frequently as the problem seems to recur on the other gland. Treating with Tapazole is also common, but has the disadvantage that it is life long and the cat needs blood tests to monitor the thyroid level and to check for adverse effects. Tapazole is offered in an oral pill form or in a gel that is applied to the flap of the ear. It is often administered twice daily, but some borderline cats are maintained once daily. It is recommended that blood levels are checked every few weeks until stable, and then rechecked every 6 months forward.
Hypothyroidism is a common disease in older dogs. It is caused by a decrease in production of the thyroid hormone from the thyroid glands. The most common cause of hypothyroidism is immune destruction of the thyroid gland. It can also be caused by natural atrophy of the gland, neoplasia (primary or metastatic) of the thyroid gland or as a congenital problem. Hypothyroidism is most common in medium to large breeds of dogs that are middle aged (4 to 10 years) but can occur in any dog. Since virtually every cell in the body can be affected by thyroid hormone, reduced levels of thyroid hormone can lead to symptoms in multiple body systems. Most common systems involved are skin, haircoat, weight control, and behavior.
Hypothyroidism is treated with the oral administration of thyroid hormone, usually given twice daily for the life of the dog. Periodic blood testing is recommended; it is important to know if the medication dose is too low or too high. Thyroid supplement is a safe medication but if it is not given in sufficient doses the patient will not be adequately treated. If the dose is too high, the animal may develop excessive water consumption, weight loss, and restlessness. Once a pet is started on thyroid supplementation, it is recommended to check a T4 level in two to three weeks, with the blood draw between 4 to 6 hours after the morning dose. Once the correct dose is found, it is recommended to perform a T4 every six months.
Cats rarely suffer from hypothyroidism naturally. They can develop this disease secondary to destruction of the thyroid glands if they previously suffered from hyperthyroidism and underwent radioactive iodide therapy or medicinal destruction of the glands. However, it is often transient and does not require therapy.
Intestinal parasites are commonly found in the GI tracts of dogs and cats across the country. Worms such as roundworms, whipworms, and hookworms are very common across the United States. They shed their infective eggs in the pet's stool and contaminate the environment; some eggs can live on yards or fields for years. The eggs are ingested by the pet and the life cycle is completed when the worm grow into an adult in the intestine of a new host.
Tapeworms are another very common intestinal parasite of dogs and cats. This parasite is different though, in that it requires transmission through an intermediate host, most commonly a flea. The flea carries the tapeworm egg, and once ingested by the dog or cat, it completes its life cycle. Tapeworm segments are often seen by owners in their pet's stool or around their rear. They look similar to amber colored rice grains. The animal must consume the flea to contract tapeworms. Eating the adult tapeworm or the tapeworm segment will not develop into intestinal parasitism.
Other parasites can live in the intestine that are not worms. Protozoa are also prevalent parasites in the U.S. Giardia and coccidia are protozoa that can be transmitted directly from animals to your pet, or your pet can be exposed from contaminated water. Diagnosis of all of these parasites requires your veterinarian finding either the microscopic parasite or its egg in the stool.
Most all puppies have intestinal parasites when they are born. We commonly deworm all of our puppies at their 6 and 9 week check-ups. We also recommend performing parasite screening tests every 6 months, as recommended by the CDC, to ensure our pets are staying healthy and parasite free. It is also pertinent that all people wash their hands very well after petting their dog near the rear end, or when handling feces. Some of these worms are transmissible to humans. So always wash your hands!!
Leptospirosis is a life-threatening disease caused by a particular bacteria shed in the urine of infected animals. Dogs and cats can be infected through exposure to urine, bite wounds, ingestion of infected flesh, or contact with contaminated soil, water and even bedding. Animals that have been proven to shed the bacteria include deer, squirrels, raccoons, and rodents. Certain environmental conditions harbor the bacteria including streams, creeks, rivers, and standing water pools. Symptoms include lethargy, malaise, vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, fever, joint pain, and excessive drinking. The bacteria then spread throughout the body and localize in the liver and kidneys causing organ inflammation, organ failure, and death. Acute kidney failure is often the cause of the death.
Diagnosis of leptospirosis is often time-consuming and treatment is started while confirmation is pending. Blood tests are submitted to outside laboratories which can take up to 7 days to confirm a diagnosis. Based on patient history, physical exam findings, and blood work results, treatment is usually started. It often involves hospitalization with intravenous fluids, intravenous antibiotics and supportive care. Blood work is often repeated daily to check kidney function to monitor any progress or deterioration.
Leptospirosis can be prevented with proper vaccination. Initial vaccination involves two booster shots, given 2-3 weeks apart. Then the vaccine is given annually (along with the other vaccines). Often times your veterinarian will discuss with you if your dog is an ideal candidate for the vaccine. If you suspect your dog may be exhibiting signs of leptospirosis (or had known exposure), take him/her to a veterinarian immediately so treatment can be started.
Liver disease is a common problem in cats and dogs.
Hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver, develops when a cat does not eat for a prolonged period of time (~7 days). When the body does not have its normal intake of nutrients, it begins utilizing fat storage and mobilizes it to the liver. The liver should normally then process this fat and export it to the rest of the body in a new form. In cats that develop hepatic lipidosis this process is impaired and the rate of fat export from the liver is much slower than the rate of fat intake, resulting in liver fat accumulation. Damage to the liver is caused by swelling of liver cells filled with fatty deposits. Hepatic lipidosis can be identified as primary or secondary. "Secondary" hepatic lipidosis occurs when there is another underlying disease that causes the anorexia. "Primary" hepatic lipidosis is when another underlying disease process cannot be identified. Diagnosis of hepatic lipidosis can be made with patient history, blood work results, abdominal radiographs, and physical exam findings. Treatment often involves supportive care, sometimes involving placement of a feeding tube to introduce proper nutrition to the cat. Reversing the fatty deposits in the liver is done by force-feeding the full caloric requirements to the patient. Prevention is the key to hepatic lipidosis. If you have an overweight cat that suddenly becomes anorexic, see your veterinarian immediately.
Another caveat of liver disease includes liver shunts. Both cats and dogs can suffer from liver shunts. This abnormality occurs when a pet's venous blood from the intestine bypasses the liver. In the normal pet, blood vessels pick up nutrients from ingested material in the intestine and carry it to the liver to be processed. In the case of a shunt, an abnormal blood vessel carries this blood around the liver and dumps the nutrients directly into the general circulation. Toxins build up in the bloodstream as a result. The pet can be born with the shunt (congenital) or can develop it later (acquired). Symptoms of a liver shunt include stunted growth, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, unresponsiveness, seizures, disorientation, poor skin and coat, excessive drinking and urination.
The diagnosis is made with blood tests, urinalysis and imaging tests (radiographs and/or ultrasounds). An elevated bile acids test is usually very suggestive for a liver shunt when the values are very high. The gold standard test is nuclear scintigraphy called a technesium scan (or tech scan) that must be done at a referral specialty facility.
Treatment for liver shunts differ based on the severity of the patient. Sometimes medical management alone is sufficient. Medical management includes a low protein diet, antibiotics and lactulose. Surgical repair is commonly done for congenital shunts and again the success is dependent on the location and severity of the shunt.
Luxating patellas is an orthopedic condition where the patellas, or kneecaps, shift out of their normal location within a groove at the knee. This condition commonly occurs in small breed dogs, but can be present in all breeds and in cats. It may affect one or both of the knees. There are four grades of patellar luxation:
Grade I- the kneecap can be manually luxated but the kneecap returns to its normal position when the pressure is released.
Grade II- the kneecap can spontaneously luxate out of position with just normal movement of the knee.
Grade III- the kneecap remains luxated most of the time but can be manually reduced into the normal position.
Grade IV- the patella is permanently luxated and can not be manually repositioned.
Many people are not aware their pet is affected, but a luxating patella can cause pain and discomfort. Owners may see the pet limp on a rear leg, or they may see them shake a rear leg to try to replace the kneecap. Surgery is indicated for any case that is causing lameness or pain.
We recommend microchipping all pets, so that in the event your pet should go missing, we can hopefully reunite them with you. The microchip is about the size of a grain of rice and it is placed just under the skin with a needle. The chip is then read with a microchip scanner that most veterinarians and shelters have on site. Often times, implantation of the microchip can be done during your pet's annual visit, although many young pets are microchipped while they are under anesthesia for spaying and neutering. The microchip contains a serial number that is linked to your personal contact information. We use a company called HomeAgain, and should your pet be lost and taken to a clinic or shelter, the microchip can be scanned. HomeAgain is then called and we can quickly call you to let you know your pet is safe and sound. If you are unsure if your pet may already be microchipped, come into the clinic and let us know. We will be more than happy to scan your pet to check for a microchip free of charge. For further questions or information, feel free to call us at any time.
Excess weight is a serious health problem for dogs and cats. Nearly 50% of pets over 5 years of age are overweight. The two main causes of obesity are too much food and too little exercise. Other factors can include endocrine disease and hormonal influences.Further health issues that can arise due to obesity include heart disease, arthritis, breathing difficulties, and diabetes. Initial treatment is to rule out and treat any medical causes. Reducing caloric intake and increasing exercise can help your pet lose weight. An important step to help your pet lose weight is to change your pet's lifestyle and to start an appropriate diet. Your veterinarian can help determine if your pet is too heavy and provide guidelines for achieving their ideal weight. We can determine the appropriate caloric intake for your pet and can help you monitor your pet's weight. Feel free to stop by the clinic anytime to weigh your pet and we can get them started on a road to a healthier, happier life!
Pancreatitis is a serious and sometimes fatal disease in dogs and cats. It can often be due to feeding table scraps and fattening, greasy foods to our pets. Our dogs and cats are not made to digest our types of foods, thus their bodies respond differently when given these items. Symptoms that you may see at home include lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, and tender when touched on the belly. Diagnosis includes blood work and abdominal ultrasound. We can see an elevated pancreatic enzyme on our blood work that will indicate this disease. Treatment includes hospitalization and supportive care. As with most serious illnesses, early detection is the key and having a veterinarian examine your pet as soon as possible will help in treatment of your pet. Pancreatitis can also occur secondarily due to liver disease and sometimes cancer.
To help prevent our pets from getting pancreatitis, we should all feed them strictly cat or dog food. Make sure the diet you are feeding is an approved diet that will provide your pet with all appropriate nutrients. If at any time you believe your pet may be exhibiting these symptoms, give us a call as soon as possible and we will be happy to help you and your pet!
Ruptured Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL)
Rupture of the ACL (or CCL, cranial cruciate ligament) is the most common knee injury in dogs. It can occur in young, athletic dogs as well as in older, less active dogs. The common presentation is the young athletic dog playing roughly who acutely ruptures the ligament and is non-weight bearing on the affected hind leg. The second presentation is the older, overweight dog with weakened or partially torn ligaments that rupture with a slight misstep. In this patient the lameness may be acute or there may be more subtle chronic lameness related to prolonged joint instability.
Diagnosis includes an orthopedic exam and radiographs conducted by your veterinarian. The orthopedic exam includes manipulation of the knee and appearance of the "cranial drawer" sign (which indicates forward instability off the knee joint). Radiographs will indicate soft tissue swelling, inflammatory changes, and any arthritic changes that have occurred. Frequently, radiographs require sedation in order to properly interpret the images. Dogs with CCL injury often are tense and the leg cannot be fully manipulated. Sedation prevents the dog from tensing the leg muscles and temporarily stabilizing the knee.
Surgical repair is recommended in most cases to help stabilize the knee and prevent further damage of the joint. As there are a few options of surgical repair, your veterinarian can discuss which one would be best suited for your pet. We factor in the age, size, and activity level of your pet to determine which procedure would be best. Rehabilitation time depends on the surgery performed.
Seizures are symptoms which can occur with many kinds of diseases. Seizures are common in dogs, but more unusual in cats. They can happen because of diseases outside the brain or inside the brain. Low blood sugar that can happen with an overdose of insulin or with a tumor of the pancreas can cause seizures. They can happen with diseases of the liver or kidneys, as well as toxins. Epilepsy may also cause seizures.
Seizures commonly last only for a few seconds or a couple minutes. Seizures may involve the entire body, or be localized to one part of the body. During a seizure, your pet may lose control of urination and defecation. After the seizure, the pet usually enters the post ictal phase where it is dazed, lethargic, and not able to walk normally. This phase may last for minutes, hours, or days. A pet may have one seizure, and never have another, but most commonly they do recur.
Testing should be done to try and determine the cause of the seizures. Blood testing, urinalysis, and liver function tests are commonly done. An MRI of the brain or a spinal tap may also be needed, and these are usually performed at a referral clinic.
Intravenous medication can be given by a veterinarian to stop a seizure should it be an emergency situation and you can get your pet to us immediately. Oral anti-convulsant medications are usually started if your pet has more than one seizure in a 4-6 week period. Anti- convulsant medicine tends to make seizures less often and less severe, and they do not guarantee that seizures will not occur. Phenobarbitol is the most common anti-convulsant medicine prescribed. When a dog first starts on this medicine, it will act like it is drunk for the first week or so, until it becomes accustomed to the drug. Phenobarbitol is given twice daily, and once it is started, it is usually given for the life of the pet.
Potassium bromide is the second most common anti-convulsant prescribed. It is usually formulated into a liquid and can be administered to the dog by squirting it onto a piece of bread that is fed to the dog once daily. Potassium bromide can be toxic to people, therefore, it is advised to wear gloves when handling this drug.
Vaccinating your dog is a simple procedure that is routinely done by all veterinarians. Vaccinations are safe, effective and well worth the financial commitment. Many diseases that were once considered fatal to dogs are now under control due to the use of modern vaccines. We first vaccinate our puppies at six weeks of age. Vaccines are then given every 3 weeks until the animal is 16 weeks of age. A minimum of two multivalent vaccines (distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, parainfluenza, coronavirus) must be given within a three to four week period after three months of age to properly protect our pet from the diseases. A bordeatella (aka kennel cough) vaccines is given at twelve weeks of age, and it is usually given intranasally. The rabies vaccine is given around 15 to 16 weeks of age.
Distemper is a common, highly contagious and often fatal disease found in dogs. The disease is most often seen in young, unvaccinated dogs, as well as older dogs who have not been vaccinated regularly. Usually the first signs of the disease are fever, lack of appetite, fatigue, and vomiting. These symptoms are usually followed by diarrhea, coughing, thick yellow-green discharge from the nose and eyes, and pneumonia. Eventually the dog may develop convulsions.There is no known medication that destroys the virus. The treatment is aimed at preventing secondary infections and keeping the dog warm and hydrated. Antibiotics are usually given for pneumonia and diarrhea. If the dog manages to recover from distemper, he or she is often left with permanent neurological problems. Proper vaccination begins at six weeks of age. Boosters are then given every three weeks until 16 weeks of age. The vaccine is then given annually to provide proper immunity.
Infectious canine hepatitis is a contagious viral disease that causes liver disease in dogs. Dogs can develop high fevers, anorexia, and diarrhea. Without appropriate treatment, these animals can die within a few hours. Vaccination is effective against this disease. As with distemper, vaccination begins at six weeks of age and continues every three weeks until the dog is four months old. Annual vaccination is recommended for appropriate immunity.
Parvovirus (see Canine Parvovirus above) is a serious, highly contagious viral infection of dogs that causes vomiting and bloody diarrhea. Parvovirus is transmitted through contact with the stool of an infected dog or contaminated environment. Puppies are most susceptible to parvo infection and fatalities are extremely common. Vaccination begins at six weeks of age and occurs every three weeks until the dog is 16 weeks old. In some breeds, we continue vaccination until 20 weeks of age. The vaccine is then given annually to continue protection against this disease.
Canine coronavirus is an acute and highly contagious intestinal disease of dogs. The disease causes depression, vomiting, and diarrhea. The symptoms are similar to canine parvovirus; however the disease is less severe and fatalities are rare. Occasionally, very young or weak puppies, as well as older geriatric dogs, become severely dehydrated and die from the disease. Canine coronavirus is transmitted from the feces of infected dogs to noninfected animals via the oral route. Infected animals can shed the virus for several months after clinical symptoms have disappeared. Asymptomatic dogs shed the virus as well. Symptoms often involve diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration; therefore, veterinary supportive care is required.
Bordatella/Canine Kennel Cough:
Infectious tracheobronchitis (kennel cough) is a contagious disease of the respiratory tract in dogs. The disease is usually caused by a virus (parainfluenza or adenovirus type 2) associated with an infectious bacteria (Bordatella bronchiseptica). Other viruses have been incriminated in the disease along with bacteria-like organisms called mycoplasms. A harsh, dry cough often followed by gagging are the most common signs of kennel cough. Any type of excitement or physical exercise triggers the cough. The dog often coughs so hard that the owner thinks that an object is caught in his throat. Most dogs with the uncomplicated form of kennel cough do not have a fever. As long as the dog appears healthy, is eating well, and the cough is not too severe, a trip to the veterinarian may be delayed. If the cough persists or the dog begins to show other symptoms, a visit to the veterinarian is necessary. The kennel cough vaccine is often given intranasally by your veterinarian. For some dogs that are sensitive with people touching their faces, we do have an injectable form that we occasionally can use.
Rabies is a viral disease that affects all warm-blooded animals, including humans. The virus is transmitted through saliva when an affected animal bites a susceptible victim. A rabid animal bites its victim and injects saliva containing the rabies virus. In the newly infected animal, the virus begins to multiply. Virus multiplication occurs in the area surrounding the bite wound. After a period of time, virus particles enter large nerves and travel toward the spinal cord and brain. Once inside the brain, the rabies virus multiplies a second time. As multiplication occurs, viruses pass to the salivary glands. This is particularly important and accounts for the danger associated with saliva. Early symptoms include personality changes. Friendly animals become shy, and reserved animals often become aggressive. Vaccination begins at four months of age and continues annually to prevent disease.
Leptospirosis is a disease caused by a spirochete that is shed in the urine of infected animals (see Leptospirosis above). Leptospirosis is a serious disease and requires veterinary treatment. Intensive care with fluid therapy and high doses of antibiotics are essential. Even after a dog is clinically cured, he can still shed the organisms in the urine. At this point, he becomes a chronic carrier of the disease. Vaccination begins at twelve weeks of age and requires a single booster shot within 2-3 weeks. After that point, annual vaccination is required to properly protect your pet. This vaccine is safe, effective, and can be given with all other annual vaccinations.
CALICIVIRUS: Feline calicivirus and feline herpes virus type I are responsible for 80-90% of infectious feline upper respiratory tract diseases. Most cats are exposed to either or both of these viruses at some time in their lives. Once infected, many cats never completely rid themselves of virus. These "carrier" cats either continuously or intermittently shed the organisms for long periods of time -- perhaps for life -- and serve as a major source of infection to other cats. The currently available vaccines will minimize the severity of upper respiratory infections, although none will prevent disease in all situations. Vaccination is highly recommended for all cats.
Feline panleukopenia (FP) is a highly contagious viral disease of cats caused by the feline parvovirus. Feline distemper should not be confused with canine distemper—although their names are similar, they are caused by different viruses. The feline parvovirus infects and kills cells that are rapidly dividing, such as those in the bone marrow, intestines, and the developing fetus. Infected cats usually develop bloody diarrhea. Because red blood cells and white blood cells are produced in the bone marrow, infected cats develop anemia (due to loss of red blood cells) and are more likely to be infected with other illness (due to the loss of white blood cells, which play critical roles in the immune system). People cannot develop FP if they come in contact with an infected cat because the virus does not infect people. While cats of any age may be infected with the feline parvovirus that causes FP, young kittens, sick cats, and unvaccinated cats are most susceptible. It is most commonly seen in cats 3-5 months of age with about 75% of kittens less than 16 weeks of age likely to die if infected. The vaccines are effective for prevention of FP but they cannot treat or cure an unvaccinated cat once it becomes ill. Vaccines must be given before the cat is exposed and infected. Most young kittens receive their first vaccination between six and eight weeks of age and follow-up vaccines are given until the kitten is around 16 weeks of age. Adult vaccination schedules vary with the age and health of the cat, as well as the risk of FP in the area. Cat owners should consult a veterinarian for advice on a vaccination schedule appropriate for their cats.
FELINE LEUKEMIA: Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is the leading viral killer of cats. The virus is spread from cat-to-cat through bite wounds, through casual contact with infected cats, and from an infected mother cat to her kittens. The individuals most at risk of infection are outdoor cats, indoor/outdoor cats, and cats exposed to such individuals. Cats living in households with FeLV-infected cats or with cats of unknown infection status are also at risk. Indoor-only cats with no exposure to potentially infected cats are extremely unlikely to become infected. FeLV vaccines are recommended for all cats at risk of exposure to the virus.
RABIES: Rabies is an increasing threat to cats. At the present time, the number of reported feline rabies cases in the United States far exceeds that of all other domestic animals. Rabies in cats is also a major public health concern. Because of the routinely fatal outcome of infection in cats, and the potential for human exposure, rabies vaccination is highly recommended for all cats; it is required by law in most areas of the country.
Vertigo/Old Dog Vestibular Disease
Vertigo is a syndrome in the elderly dog, which can be very frightening to the owners. The dog is suddenly afflicted with a balance problem, usually staggering, but occasionally unable to stand, and more rarely actually rolling over and over. There is a tilting of the head to one side and nystagmus, a rhythmic flicking movement of the eyes. Nausea and vomiting may also be present. It is not due to a stroke, as most people assume. It is thought to be due to an abnormal flow of fluid in the semi-circular canals of the inner ear. It is more common in older medium to large breeds of dogs. It is rarely seen in cats. Although the symptoms are alarming and often incapacitating to the dog, the prognosis is good. Improvement of clinical signs usually starts within 48-72 hours and most patients are normal within two to three weeks, even with no treatment. A mild head tilt may persist. Veterinarians should be consulted as the symptoms can also be caused by ear infections, foreign bodies in the ear, or tumors. The vestibular system may need treatment, with motion sickness drugs, or intravenous fluids if the nausea is severe or the dog is unable to eat or drink for a few days.
Xylitol is a white, crystalline sugar alcohol that is used as a sugar substitute sweetener in many products. In the United States, the use of xylitol has grown rapidly over the last few years. It is increasingly found in sugar-free gum, candy, and foods. Xylitol is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. It then acts as a strong promoter of insulin release, which causes profound hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). In dogs, xylitol can also cause liver failure, bleeding, and death. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, weakness, and seizures. One to two pieces of chewing gum can be enough to cause disease in a dog. Dogs that have consumed pieces of gum containing xylitol should be evaluated by a veterinarian immediately. Diagnosis includes knowledge of ingestion and measuring blood glucose levels. If ingestion has occurred within 30-60 minutes, emesis may be attempted to empty the chewing gum from the stomach. If emesis is unsuccessful, activated charcoal is given to help prevent additional absorption of the xylitol by the body. Depending on your dog's glucose level, he/she may require hospitalization with intravenous fluids and glucose replacements in the fluids for 24 hours. Blood work, monitoring liver and glucose values, are then monitoried regularly to ensure normal values.