GENERAL PET ARTICLES

General Pet Articles

You love your pet and want what’s best for them, and we share that same goal! To help manage your animal companion’s lifestyle and keep them as happy and healthy as possible, we’ve gathered a collection of helpful pet articles that cover everything from health tips to diet and exercise to interesting stories designed to educate and entertain. Please feel free to browse our library of topics and refer back to this resource as often as you’d like.

Administering Ear Medications

Ear infections are common in dogs and cats. Opportunistic bacteria and yeast can quickly invade an ear canal that becomes inflamed by allergies,...

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Ear infections are common in dogs and cats. Opportunistic bacteria and yeast can quickly invade an ear canal that becomes inflamed by allergies, excess moisture, and changes in pH. Swimming and bathing are often triggers that encourage growth of microorganisms in the ear canal. Symptoms of an ear infection include odor and discharge from the ear canal, scratching below the ear flaps, rubbing the face and head on the ground or carpet, and shaking or flapping the ears. Ear infections may become chronic and very difficult to heal if not treated effectively.

When your veterinarian suspects an ear infection, he or she may take swabs to make cytology slides for inspection under a microscope. The doctor may send samples to a laboratory for culture and sensitivity testing. These tests will help to determine what kinds of organisms have invaded the ear and which medication is indicated to fight the infection.

When the veterinarian prescribes a topical treatment such as an ointment or an ear wash solution, it is very important to administer the medications properly in order to facilitate healing.

The dog and cat ear has a very similar anatomy to a human ear with a few differences. The ear flap, or pinna, is the external part of the ear and is covered by hair. The hair can trap dirt and moisture that can be the source of bacteria and yeast. An opening at the base of the inside of the pinna leads to the middle ear canal. This canal runs vertically down the side of the head and turns ninety degrees toward the brain. The tympanic membrane (ear drum) is found at the end of the middle ear canal, and behind it is the inner ear. Infection can invade one or more of these three parts of the ear.

Treatment with an ear wash solution starts by lifting the ear pinna vertically so that the canal opening is visible. Flood the ear canal completely with the wash taking care to avoid getting any solution in your pet’s eyes. You may need to have a helper gently restrain the pet’s head. Using your free hand, grasp around the vertical canal on the side of the pet’s head. It will feel like a tube under the skin. Gently collapse the canal between your thumb and fingers. Use a downward milking action to work the ear wash into the horizontal ear canal. Repeat this action for at least one minute. Then reverse the direction to work the solution out of the ear and into a cotton ball or a wash cloth. If the ear is painful, you may have to start slow and increase your effort over a couple of days. The medication will reduce the inflammation and pain over time. Allow the pet to shake any excess solution out of the ear – you will want to do this outside or in a bathtub.

Administering an ear ointment is much the same, except your veterinarian will tell you a specific amount to apply into the ear canal or onto the ear pinna itself. It is very important to massage the ointment into the horizontal canal in order to treat the infection.

Treatment will usually last 10 days to 2 weeks, and you should always follow up with the doctor to see if the infection is completely gone. More chronic ear infections will require longer treatment times.

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Adrenal Gland Disease – Cushing’s

ushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism) is a condition where too much cortisol exists in the body. Long term exposure to increased levels of cortisol leads to many deteriorative effects on all parts...

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ushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism) is a condition where too much cortisol exists in the body. Long term exposure to increased levels of cortisol leads to many deteriorative effects on all parts of the body. Cushing’s is generally a dog disease, occurring in cats only very rarely.

Cortisol is a normal hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It is produced rapidly in times of stress to prepare the body to conserve sodium and water. Cortisol triggers the metabolism of fat stores in the body as well. A small gland at the base of the brain called the pituitary gland produces ACTH when cortisol levels fall. ACTH signals the adrenals to pump out more cortisol.

There are three origins of Cushing’s disease: pituitary-dependent, adrenal-dependent, and iatrogenic Cushing’s. Pituitary-dependent suggests that the pituitary gland is responsible for the disease. This type of Cushing’s accounts for 85% of the cases in dogs and is caused by a small, generally benign tumor of the pituitary. The tumor itself overproduces ACTH, causing the adrenal glands to enlarge and constantly make cortisol. The other 15% of Cushing’s cases are due to a tumor of the adrenal glands. The tumor produces excess cortisol despite ACTH levels being normal. These cases are referred to as adrenal-dependent, and the tumor is sometimes malignant. Iatrogenic Cushing’s is caused by the overuse of synthetic cortisol – cortisone, which is the active chemical found in prednisone, dexamethasone, triamcinalone, and other commonly prescribed corticosteroid drugs. The overuse of these medications, while unintentional or even necessary to produce quality of life in very ill patients, causes equally serious side effects. Tapering off of the drugs can reverse the disease in some cases, but suddenly stopping the cortisone can be life threatening.

Symptoms of Cushing’s disease may be vague, mild, and multi-systemic at first, progressing into a classical appearance as the disease becomes more advanced. Symptoms may be attributed to old-age or senility. Increased thirst and urination, accidents in the house, and urinary tract infections occur in almost all Cushing’s patients. A well behaved indoor dog may begin to knock over trash cans and beg for food as they develop an insatiable appetite. Skin infections and hair-loss (alopecia) become more frequent or severe, and wounds may not heal. A bizarre condition called calcinosis cutis causes calcium to deposit in the skin leaving raised, rock-like formations anywhere on the body. Also, muscle will atrophy (shrink) and fat will accumulate in the abdomen giving the dog a pot-bellied appearance. Diabetic patients’ blood glucose will become impossible to regulate despite insulin therapy. More than 80% of cats with Cushing’s develop concurrent diabetes mellitus.

Testing for Cushing’s disease is not always straight forward. A number of laboratory tests may be run and re-run to diagnose the disease. Treatment is never begun on a pet until hyperadrenocorticism has been confirmed, as the treatment would be harmful to a non-Cushinoid animal. The type of Cushing’s must be known as well, because treatment is entirely different for each type. In most dogs, a liver enzyme called serum-alkaline phosphatase (SAP) will be elevated in the presence of high cortisol levels. Recent dosing of drugs containing cortisone will also cause this liver function test to rise, and a high SAP is not diagnostic by itself. A screening test called a urine cortisol creatinine ratio can rule out Cushing’s but cannot confirm the disease.

A low-dose dexamethasone suppression cortisol assay is usually the first disease-specific test performed on an animal suspected of having Cushing’s. A very small dose of cortisone given IV should suppress the pituitary gland’s ACTH production within 8 hours. If a pituitary tumor exists, then ACTH levels will remain elevated, causing the adrenals to continue to over-produce cortisol. Pituitary-dependent disease would be confirmed in this scenario. If this test returns equivocal or gray-zone results, an ACTH stimulation test is run. When a calculated dose of ACTH is given to the patient, an expected rise in cortisol occurs. If the cortisol elevates above a predicted level, then Cushing’s disease is diagnosed, but the type of Cushing’s is not determined. A high-dose dexamethasone suppression test can then be performed to classify the location of the tumor. A large dose of dexamethasone will suppress the pituitary’s ACTH production despite the existence of a pituitary tumor; however, adrenal tumors will continue to pump out cortisol since they are not ACTH dependent.

Once a diagnosis is made and the disease is classified, treatment can be instituted. The traditional drug for pituitary-dependent Cushing’s disease is Mitotane (Lysodren). This drug would be very harmful to a non-Cushinoid animal, as it selectively destroys the cortisol secreting cells of the adrenal glands reducing their ability to produce the hormone. Cortisol levels must be monitored closely during the induction phase of treatment with Lysodren. The main concern is that too much of the adrenal gland will be destroyed causing the opposite disease to Cushing’s: Addison’s Disease (hypoadrenocorticism). Usually antidotal prednisone is prescribed to the patient in case of a reaction to Lysodren. A maintenance dosing of Lysodren is typically once or twice a week, and the drug is inexpensive.

Ketaconazole is a safer but less effective alternative treatment to Lysodren. It inhibits enzymes necessary for cortisol synthesis rather than destroying the adrenal gland. It is not possible to cause Addison’s disease with Ketaconazole. This drug may be expensive, and it must be given twice a day; however, compared to the cost of ongoing testing with Lysodren treatment, the increased cost of Ketoconazole may be inconsequential. Some dogs do not respond effectively to treatment with this drug, and side effects include vomiting and diarrhea.

L-Deprenyl (Anipryl) is another safe alternative treatment for pituitary-dependent Cushing’s Disease. However, its effectiveness is up for debate. It is expensive, and is dosed daily. At best, improvement in symptoms is seen in some patients, but because of its mode of activity, blood tests do not confirm resolution of the disease.

Treatment for adrenal-dependent Cushing’s disease depends on whether the adrenal tumor is benign or malignant. Surgery is the treatment of choice to remove the adrenal tumor, but should be performed by a specialist as this surgery is especially risky. High doses of Lysodren can be used to treat adrenal tumors, but the incidence of serious side effects can be much higher. An Addisonian crisis can be fatal.

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Anemia

Anemia is defined as a decrease in the number of red blood cells (erythrocytes) in circulation in the blood stream. Red blood cells are comprised of hemoglobin, an iron-rich protein that delivers...

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Anemia is defined as a decrease in the number of red blood cells (erythrocytes) in circulation in the blood stream. Red blood cells are comprised of hemoglobin, an iron-rich protein that delivers oxygen to tissues and organs. Symptoms of anemia may be mild to life threatening depending on the degree of red blood cell depletion. Acute blood loss from trauma, immune-mediated destruction of cells, kidney failure, blood parasites, and bone marrow disease are a few of the numerous causes. Treatment options depend entirely upon the severity and the mechanism responsible for the anemia.

Red blood cells make up the majority of the cells found in circulation. Red cell measurement is performed in several ways. First, the packed-cell volume (PCV) is the percentage of whole blood that is made up of cells, with a normal value of around 35 – 55%, depending on the species and breed. Below this range is considered anemia, and less than 12% is considered life threatening. Absolute red cell count is an estimated number of cells per volume of whole blood. Normal canine and feline blood contains more than five million cells in every microliter (1/1,000,000th of 1 liter). Other tests that determine red blood cell health, but not quantity, include MCV – mean corpuscular volume (size of the cell) and MCHC – mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (amount of hemoglobin bound to the cell).

When anemia is discovered, it is categorized as either regenerative or non-regenerative. The bone marrow should respond to anemia by producing more red blood cells; therefore, an increase in the number of immature cells called reticulocytes should be seen on lab results. If there are more than sixty thousand reticulocytes per microliter, the anemia would be considered regenerative. Otherwise, the anemia is called non-regenerative, and a cause for the bone marrow suppression should be pursued. Non-regenerative anemia is usually more difficult to treat and is progressive if it is not reversed.

Treatment for acute blood loss may include a blood transfusion. Whole blood or packed red cells are given intravenously to correct the anemia, giving the body time to regenerate its own cells.

A synthetic hormone called Epogen (erythropoietin) can be used to stimulate the bone marrow to produce red blood cells. Erythropoietin is produced by the kidneys; therefore in chronic renal failure, Epogen may be supplemented to correct anemia. Antibodies form in response to the Epogen injections however, making repeated injections less and less effective as the renal failure progresses.

In IMHA (immune-mediated hemolytic anemia), the body destroys its own red blood cells for some reason. The treatment for IMHA includes immunosuppressive drugs like prednisone and azathioprine (Imuran). These medications stop the immune system from attacking the red blood cells. Maintenance dosing of steroid is almost always necessary to prevent recurrence of the anemia.

The prognosis for a pet diagnosed as anemic depends on the degree of anemia, whether or not the bone marrow is capable and actively producing new cells, and the underlying disease process that caused the initial blood loss. In general, regenerative anemias are more easily treated than non-regenerative forms. The prognosis of the causative disease process will directly determine the outcome.

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Avoiding Heat Stroke

Heat stroke occurs when a dog or cat’s internal regulatory mechanisms cannot maintain a normal core temperature of 101 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit. When the core temperature rises above 105 degrees,...

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Heat stroke occurs when a dog or cat’s internal regulatory mechanisms cannot maintain a normal core temperature of 101 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit. When the core temperature rises above 105 degrees, all body systems begin failing rapidly. This situation is truly an emergency and requires a pet owner’s quick intervention to expedite cooling and prevent permanent organ damage or death. Heatstroke can occur in all breeds with brachycephalic (pug-nosed), and long hair breeds being especially vulnerable. Obese animals are also more prone to overheating. It is not uncommon to see heatstroke patients in the veterinary hospital during the spring before temperatures soar into the 90’s and 100’s. High humidity allows heat to transfer through the skin more easily. Leaving a pet in an unventilated automobile is a very common cause of heatstroke. The temperature inside a closed car will reach 102 degrees in 10 minutes on a beautiful 85 degree day. In 30 minutes, the car will reach 120 degrees or more inside.

An animal suffering from heatstroke may be standing listless or lying on its side unresponsive. It will be hyperventilating (very rapid panting) and have thick ropey saliva hanging from the tongue and mouth. The gum tissue and lips will however be tacky and dry. The gum color will be blood red early in heatstroke and turn grey-blue as shock sets in. Seizures occur as the brain overheats and cascades of physiological breakdowns occur. If it is possible to take a rectal temperature, it may read 106 or higher. The pet must be cooled quickly and taken to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

 

It would seem logical that icy cold water would be the best choice to cool the pet rapidly, but it will actually cause capillaries at the surface of the skin to close. The circulation is already compromised during heatstroke, and cooler blood will not return to the core as quickly if very cold water is used. Instead, room temperature water is more effective. Concentrate on the trunk and the head. Do not try to force an animal in heatstroke to drink water; it will only aspirate into the lungs while panting, or cause vomiting which leads to further electrolyte loss. Take a rectal temperature often, and stop cooling when the thermometer reads 103 degrees. It will continue to drop. Because the body’s regulating mechanisms are not functioning properly, it is very easy to cause hypothermia (sub normal core temperature) if cooling is continued too long. Towel the excess water from the coat and allow the pet to air-dry.

Get the pet to the vet! IV fluid therapy and steps to control shock should be started immediately. Other treatments that may be necessary will depend on the presenting clinical signs, but may include oxygen therapy to improve tissue perfusion of vital organs, antibiotics to prevent sepsis, and electrolyte replacement.

It is always better to prevent heatstroke in the first place. Always provide fresh water and shade, and moving air if possible, to an outdoor pet. Remember that working breeds and enthusiastic dogs will go until they drop. Keep this in mind if jogging with your dog or throwing the Frisbee on a warm humid day. Exercise with your pet early in the morning. Never leave an animal in an unventilated vehicle for any period of time. Partially rolling down the windows in a car will not provide enough ventilation, so it may be best to leave the pet at home during warm seasons of the year. Brachycephalic breeds and obese pets are especially vulnerable to the heat because of their inherent respiratory problems.

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Cesarean Sections (C Sections)

Cesarean Section is a surgical incision made through the abdomen and into the uterus to deliver a puppy or kitten when a natural birth would bring harm to the mother. It is performed under general anesthesia, and it is more commonly necessary on...

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Cesarean Section is a surgical incision made through the abdomen and into the uterus to deliver a puppy or kitten when a natural birth would bring harm to the mother. It is performed under general anesthesia, and it is more commonly necessary on small breed dogs whose pelvic canals are not large enough to deliver a puppy. Generally, animals with larger litters of puppies or kittens are less likely to require a C-Section, because the babies will be smaller in size. Certain breeds of dogs, like brachycephalics – dogs with pushed in faces and dome-like heads, will often require a C-Section. Emergency Cesareans are performed when something goes wrong in natural delivery, such as cessation of contractions, or a fetus lodged in the birth canal.

Normal gestation periods for dogs and cats are 63 to 65 days. If the date of conception is known, an abdominal x-ray one week before whelping (giving birth) should be performed to predict the need for a C-Section. An x-ray will reveal the size of the litter and the size of the babies’ heads.

If a Cesarean Section is planned or becomes necessary, a general anesthetic will be administered. A complete blood count, chemistry panel, and electrolyte panel will be run before anesthesia to discover any underlying illness that may complicate recovery. An intravenous catheter is placed and supportive fluids are given to help prevent dangerous dips in blood pressure that can lead to post-operative organ failure. Blood pressure, EKG, and blood oxygen saturation (pulse oximetry) are monitored carefully during the entire procedure.

Inhalant gas anesthesia is used during c-sections because they are minimally metabolized in the blood stream, and they are quickly “blown off”. Anesthetics can cross the placental barrier, so the unborn babies are susceptible to depressed heart and respiratory rates. After delivery, the newborns will sometimes require stimulants to get them breathing and thriving.

The litter is delivered with the placental sacs and amniotic fluid intact. The surgeon and nursing staff will quickly remove the sac and aspirate the fluid from the babies’ mouths. As soon as the mother recovers from surgery, the litter will begin to nurse. Oral glucose may be given to the newborns in the case that they can not begin nursing immediately.

The incision made in the abdomen to perform a Cesarean Section will be considerably larger than that of a routine spay. Healing time may be delayed because of the stress of pregnancy and nursing. It is also possible to spay the female dog after performing a C-Section, but it is important that she can begin nursing the litter as soon as possible.

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Clostridium Perfringens

There are at least 100 species of the bacterial genus Clostridia that exist in nature, a variety of which are employed commercially in the production of useful compounds like ethanol and acetone....

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There are at least 100 species of the bacterial genus Clostridia that exist in nature, a variety of which are employed commercially in the production of useful compounds like ethanol and acetone. Four species are considered pathogens however, or disease-causing organisms responsible for illness in people and animals. Botulism is a life-threatening paralytic disease that leads to respiratory failure after intoxication by spoiled foods or wounds infected by C. botulinum. Tetanus is also a paralytic disease colloquially named “lock-jaw”, caused by C. tetani. C. difficile is responsible for colitis in people, and C. perfringens is the organism that causes gas gangrene, or “black-leg”. In dogs and cats, Clostridium perfringens is implicated in mild to severe forms of diarrhea. While it is always treated as a causative agent when identified in symptomatic pets, many animals may carry the organism without becoming ill. Clostridium therefore, may be thought of as an opportunistic pathogen in pets, which may become a cause of disease when some other insult has occurred in the digestive tract.

All Clostridia species have several characteristics in common: they are capable of producing toxic substances; they are anaerobic bacteria, meaning they grow in the absence of oxygen; and, they produce endospores which are protective barriers to the stresses of the harsh environments in which they thrive. These attributes make Clostridium an ideal opportunist, as it can be found in many sources of infection, cause significant disease, and may survive antibiotic therapy and exposure to disinfecting chemicals.

C. perfringens can be cultured from the feces of approximately 80% of dogs, healthy or not. Therein lies the problem in diagnosing the organism as the primary cause of diarrhea. As a resistant spore, Clostridium may exist as part of the “normal” bacterial flora in the digestive tract. It is when an overgrowth of this pathogen occurs that the enterotoxins produced by Clostridium cause fluid leakage from the intestinal wall, and thus diarrhea ensues. In some cases, whether because the animal is particularly susceptible or the strain of Clostridium is especially virulent, the diarrhea can become a life-threatening hemorrhagic colitis (bloody, mucousy diarrhea associated with massive protein and fluid losses).

To determine whether Clostridium is responsible for the presenting illness, it must first be identified in the feces of the sick pet. Fortunately, when large numbers of C. perfringens are present, they are easily identified as dark-staining spore-containing bacterial rods under the microscope. In the absence of any other primary cause for diarrhea, such as parasites, intestinal foreign bodies, or metabolic disorders, the presence of Clostridium gives a presumptive diagnosis. Since diarrhea is so common a symptom in many disease processes, a thorough assessment must be performed to rule out other causes. The veterinarian will want to verify that blood work is negative for abnormalities not associated directly with Clostridium infection. Being an opportunistic pathogen, C. perfringens overgrowth may be secondary to an underlying disorder. Furthermore, an animal does not need to be treated for Clostridium unless symptoms are present; microscopic identification of the organism in the healthy patient is not necessarily a justification for treatment.

A better test to determine whether Clostridium is a cause of diarrhea, rather than an incidental finding, is a fecal enterotoxin level. This test measures the amount of toxin found in the feces and must be performed at a reference laboratory. Better still, a DNA test can be used to identify the specific strain of Clostridium perfringens known to be responsible for disease.

In most cases, microscopic identification of the organism in a symptomatic pet will support beginning antibiotic therapy. A history of dietary indiscretion is a common trigger to Clostridial overgrowth. Antibiotics used in C. perfringens infections include a combination of metronidazole and amoxicillin, erythromycin, and tylosin. Response to treatment occurs rapidly as the enterotoxin levels subside, and the bacterial overgrowth is abated. Treatment is usually continued for two to three weeks to avoid antibiotic resistance and relapse of the symptoms.

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Colitis

Colitis simply means inflammation of the colon. The causes and treatment for colitis may or may not be a simple matter, however. It is a symptom rather than a disease. Diarrhea with mucous and blood are the first indicators of colitis, and it may occur acutely, chronically, or episodically....

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Colitis simply means inflammation of the colon. The causes and treatment for colitis may or may not be a simple matter, however. It is a symptom rather than a disease. Diarrhea with mucous and blood are the first indicators of colitis, and it may occur acutely, chronically, or episodically. Usually, colitis describes diarrhea that is not associated with mal-absorption of nutrients and weight loss.

The colon is the last stop along the digestive tract before stool is eliminated. Its function is to remove water and process fiber. The colon is home to a dense but fragile flora of billions of beneficial bacteria. During inflammation, the delicate balance of certain species of bacteria becomes more weighted to pathogens (harmful bacteria). Pathogens produce toxins and cause excessive cellular sloughing of the intestinal wall, producing the mucous that is associated with colitis. Bleeding can occur which further feeds the harmful bacteria. Red blood is a symptom of colitis, whereas black tarry stools (digested blood) would be indicative of upper GI bleeding.

Diagnosis of colitis is made primarily by history and observation, but discovery of the underlying cause of inflammation is necessary to treat the problem and prevent relapse. If the pet seems otherwise healthy on examination, trial dosing with colon-active medications may be attempted. However, there are some rule-out tests that should be performed on all colitis patients. A fecal flotation test to check for intestinal parasites like Giardia and whipworms is requisite on all diarrhea cases. Next, a fecal cytology is examined under the microscope to look for pathogenic spore-forming bacteria called clostridia. These pathogens produce enterotoxins and large amounts of gas that lead to painful cramping and urgency to defecate.

The sudden onset of colitis (acute colitis) is usually attributable to stress or dietary indiscretion. A history of boarding, separation anxiety, or garbage-rooting may call for a short round of medication like metronidazole or sulfasalazine. These antibiotics also have anti-inflammatory effects on the colon. Beneficial bacteria called probiotics can be given to reestablish the normal flora of the colon. These “good” bacteria can themselves reduce inflammation as in-vitro studies demonstrate. Bland diets low in sugar and fat can also be prescribed to help firm up stools.

In the case of chronic, episodic, or refractory colitis (doesn’t respond to treatment), further diagnostics are warranted. Cats should be tested for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus and Leukemia. Biopsies of the colon wall may be taken with the use of a colonoscopy to diagnose Inflammatory Bowel Disease, a condition where white blood cells invade the lining of the intestine. In this disease, prednisone may be added to antibiotics to treat the autoimmune response that is causing the inflammation. Food allergies can also cause colitis, especially in cats, and novel protein / novel carbohydrate foods may be curative. These types of diets are not available over-the-counter, as their indiscriminant use would introduce new food allergies into the dog and cat population.

The prognosis for colitis is generally good, as long as the underlying cause is discovered and treated.

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Conjunctivitis

The conjunctiva is the normally pink fleshy tissue under the eyelids. When it becomes irritated and inflamed, the condition is called conjunctivitis. The tissue will swell and turn bright red. The...

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The conjunctiva is the normally pink fleshy tissue under the eyelids. When it becomes irritated and inflamed, the condition is called conjunctivitis. The tissue will swell and turn bright red. The sclera (white part of the eyeball) is usually involved and will be blood-shot. Vessels dilate which are not normally apparent when the eye is healthy. Many factors can cause conjunctivitis including allergens (allergic conjunctivitis), chemicals like shampoos, and foreign bodies. Secondary bacterial infection of these delicate tissues is very common.

It is important to have any irritated eye examined by your veterinarian as soon as possible. Conjunctivitis can accompany very serious ailments of the eye such as corneal ulceration (an emergency), KCS (chronic lack of tear production), and glaucoma (increased fluid pressure inside the eye). Never reuse old eye drops or human prescription drops. Medications containing steroids can accelerate certain injuries to the eye leading to permanent damage or blindness. Your veterinarian will perform a complete eye exam which may include a Schirmer tear test, a fluorescein stain uptake test, and tonometry to measure intraocular pressure.

Inflammation of the conjunctiva causes dilation of the vessels that carry oxygen and antibodies to the tissues around the eye. This is what makes the fleshy tissue bright red. Occasionally, the inflammatory response may reduce the body’s ability to fight off bacteria in the eye which leads to secondary infection. Also, the tear ducts may not flow as well; the tears normally wash away contaminants and bacteria. A thick discharge of mucous will result which harbors the bacteria. This mucous should be gently removed with a warm wet gauze sponge, being careful to avoid touching the delicate cornea (the clear covering of the globe). Removing the mucous will help to prevent further infection as well as facilitate treatment of the conjunctivitis with topical ophthalmic medications.

After ruling out other serious problems with the eye, your veterinarian will prescribe an eye drop or ointment. An ointment may be a little more difficult to apply, but it has the benefit of remaining in contact with the tissues for a longer time than a drop. The medication will probably contain one or more antibiotic ingredients to give it a wide spectrum of activity against various bacteria found in the eyes. Culturing the eye is indicated in the case of resistant infections. The medication may also contain a steroid ingredient to help with inflammation. A steroid is indicated to treat allergic conjunctivitis.

Your veterinarian will also schedule one or more rechecks. If the eye looks worse in the meantime, you should alert the doctor immediately. It is important to follow up on any eye problem to avoid more serious problems that may lead to permanent injury or blindness.

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Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids (cortisone and its derivatives) are powerful hormones that control many functions in the body. Synthetic cortisone drugs are used for immune suppression and anti-inflammatory...

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Corticosteroids (cortisone and its derivatives) are powerful hormones that control many functions in the body. Synthetic cortisone drugs are used for immune suppression and anti-inflammatory purposes. Conditions in which a corticosteroid might be prescribed include allergic reactions, autoimmune disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, and adrenal gland diseases. They have many beneficial purposes as well as numerous side effects. Corticosteroids must be used judiciously in order to avoid complications that may arise when they are contraindicated or inappropriately dosed.

Without steroids, we could not treat serious conditions such as anaphylaxis, a life threatening allergic reaction to an allergen or toxin. Nor would we be able to control autoimmune disorders wherein the body’s immune system inappropriately attacks normal cells, organs, and tissues. IMHA (immune mediated hemolytic anemia) is a serious example of an autoimmune disorder. Without steroids, animals with this condition could not survive.

Typical side effects of steroid use include increased thirst and urination, panting, increased susceptibility to infections, and rarely, excitability or nervousness. Mild symptoms are normal and expected. If the side effects seem dramatic, consult your veterinarian.

Steroids can cause stomach irritation, and other drugs that have this potential should be avoided. NSAIDS are never prescribed along with steroids for this reason. Vomiting or black tarry stools are a sign that significant irritation is occurring in the upper GI tract as a result of steroid administration.

In treating certain diseases with a steroid, it would be harmful to abruptly stop the administration of the medication. In these cases, a maintenance dose of the drug may be prescribed, or the dosage may be tapered slowly over a period of time. Read and follow label directions carefully to avoid recurrence of disease or adverse reactions.

The overuse of steroids can cause symptoms of hyperadrenocorticism (excess production of cortisone). Signs of this include increased susceptibility to infections, muscle wasting, and insatiable thirst and hunger. The medication can suppress the normal production of cortisol (natural form of cortisone) in the body because of the feedback mechanism from high levels of the hormone in the bloodstream. When this occurs, suddenly stopping the steroid can lead to rapid declines in cortisol levels, and an Addisonian crisis can occur. This is the opposite of too much hormone and is often fatal.

Because of the potentially serious side effects from inappropriate steroid use, many people fear these medications. Corticosteroids have a very important role in treating serious diseases, and when dosed properly, they can be invaluable.

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Dental Care & Cleaning

Periodontal disease is one of the most common problems in dogs and cats despite the fact that it is easily preventable. Some statistics show as high as 85% of all pets suffer from some form of oral...

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Periodontal disease is one of the most common problems in dogs and cats despite the fact that it is easily preventable. Some statistics show as high as 85% of all pets suffer from some form of oral disease. Preventive dental exams and cleanings are key to avoiding infection and disease which may progress to other organ systems in the body. Liver, kidney, and heart valve infections are commonly secondary to periodontal disease.

Brushing your pet’s teeth and using oral care products prevent and delay the onset of problems with the teeth and gums. Eventually however, a professional cleaning will be needed to remove plaque and tartar that these measures miss. Ultrasonic scaling followed by high-speed polishing is the most effective method of dental prophylaxis. It is performed under a general anesthetic.

Before anesthesia, blood work is assessed to screen for underlying organ dysfunction which may need to be addressed or may change the anesthetic protocol. Antibiotics are often prescribed before a dental cleaning to prevent systemic infection when bacteria enter the bloodstream through inflamed gum tissue. The pet is intubated with an endotracheal tube after induction of anesthesia. This measure prevents aspiration of water and cleaning solutions into the lungs.

An ultrasonic scaler is a powered scraper attached to a hand piece that removes concrete hard calculus (tartar). The end of the scaler oscillates at around 25 thousand cycles per second. This is so fast that the eye cannot detect the vibration, but tartar is blasted away easily. Tartar is so hard and firmly attached to the tooth enamel that brushing will not remove it. It harbors millions of bacteria that can invade the gums.

A gingival probe is used to measure and explore pockets around the teeth if they have occurred. Loose teeth are extracted at this point. Endodontic procedures (root canals and crowns) are performed only by specialists and referral for these procedures is usually necessary.

After scaling, a high-speed polisher is used to remove microscopic defects in the enamel’s surface. It is the tiny pores in the enamel that gives a foot hold for tartar formation. Polishing can slow new tartar development significantly.

Fluoride treatment is the final step in a professional dental cleaning. Fluoride binds with enamel and strengthens it, preventing tooth decay in the future.

Antibiotics may be continued after a dental prophylaxis for several days to prevent infection

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Administering Eye Medications

Our pets can get eye infections and injuries just like we can, perhaps more often because of their curious nature getting them into trouble at times. ...

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Our pets can get eye infections and injuries just like we can, perhaps more often because of their curious nature getting them into trouble at times. Some breeds are predisposed to eye problems because of their facial anatomy. It is very important to have any irritated eye checked out by the veterinarian because eyes can turn bad very quickly. If a topical ophthalmic (eye medication) is prescribed, it is critical to follow the instructions on the label, apply the medication properly, and have the eye rechecked at the requested intervals.

Having a helper restrain the pet always makes treating eyes easier; however it is possible to administer drops and ointments by yourself if you can’t find an extra set of hands. Eyes are sensitive, and in the case of injury or infection, the pet may be photophobic (turns away from light) and painful. The good news is, after a couple of treatments, the eyes should be much more comfortable.

Always begin with the animal facing away from you. Making eye contact is a dominance display, and some dogs and cats will shy away from you just trying to look into their face. Using one hand, tilt the pet’s head upward. If they seem reluctant, leave the head horizontal with the jaw parallel to the floor. As long as the nose is not pointed at the floor, you will be able to administer the medication. Hold the tube of eye drops or ointment in the other hand between the thumb and index finger. With the palm facing away from you, use the back edge of hand along the pinky-finger to pull the eye open by gently stretching the skin above the eyebrow back toward you. Do not touch the applicator to the eyeball. Squeeze a drop or a thin ribbon of ointment according to the directions onto the eyeball. You can “break off” the ribbon of ointment on the edge of the eyelid as needed. Gently close the eyelids to coat the eye with the medication.

It is very important to repeat the ophthalmic medication as instructed by the veterinarian. In the case of a corneal ulcer (a defect in the clear covering of the globe of the eye), the doctor may have you apply a topical ophthalmic every two hours for the first 24 hours. Corneal ulcers can quickly progress to blindness if not treated aggressively. These patients are referred to as ocular emergencies. If you do not think you are capable of doing this, ask your veterinarian to hospitalize the pet until the dosing regimen is decreased to a frequency you are comfortable with. Work schedules sometimes prevent us from being home to treat our pets adequately when they are ill.

Your pet’s veterinarian may request a recheck. Be sure to follow up as requested. An eye that does not respond to treatment will only become more painful and difficult to treat, and probably more expensive if the condition deteriorates into an ocular emergency.

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Adrenal Gland Diseases – Addison’s

Addison’s Disease (hypoadrenocorticism) is a serious condition in which the adrenal glands do not produce enough cortisol and aldosterone. Diagnosis of Addison’s is often made during a life...

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Addison’s Disease (hypoadrenocorticism) is a serious condition in which the adrenal glands do not produce enough cortisol and aldosterone. Diagnosis of Addison’s is often made during a life threatening crisis, as the symptoms of chronic Addison’s can be mild, vague, and varied. Cortisol and aldosterone are normal gluco- and mineralo- corticoid hormones in the body that regulate sodium and water retention, and fat metabolism during times of stress. An Addison’s animal may not be able to adapt to even minor stress, and during a crisis, electrolyte and water balance will fly out of control leading to heart arrhythmias, shock, and low blood sugar (glucose).

Symptoms of Addison’s begin as listlessness, vomiting, and diarrhea. It is typically a disease of young dogs around 4 to 6 years old but can be diagnosed in animals of any age. It is extremely rare in cats. Female dogs are over represented. Blood tests will usually reveal elevated kidney function tests because of chronic dehydration, and sodium will be low while potassium will be high, normal, or elevated. The ratio of sodium to potassium will generally be less than 27:1. The only definitive test for Addison’s is the ACTH stimulation cortisolassay. An injection of a calculated dose of ACTH is expected to generate a predictable amount of cortisol production by the adrenals. A very low cortisol after the injection is diagnostic for Addison’s Disease.

Treatment for an Addisonian crisis is rapid IV fluid and sodium replacement. If a low glucose is present, it will be corrected to prevent seizures and coma. Glucocorticoids like dexamethasone are given to prevent shock. Ongoing treatment for Addison’s involves supplementation of corticosteroids. The mineralocorticoids are replaced with the synthetic hormone fludrocortisone (Florinef) or DOCP (Percorten-V). Percorten is usually preferred despite expense because it is only given once a month, compared to Florinef which must be dosed twice daily. Response to Florinef usually declines over time, but supplementation with prednisone is not required because of Florinef’s dual activity. The use of Percorten-V requires additional dosing with prednisone. Electrolytes are monitored to measure the response to treatment with either drug.

Pseudo-Addison’s Disease is a syndrome caused by whipworm infection. It is poorly understood, but causes similar symptoms and electrolyte imbalances just as in Addison’s patients. ACTH tests will be normal however, and deworming is curative.

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Antibiotics

The discovery of antibiotics has greatly extended the lifespan of people and their pets. Without antibiotic therapy, a simple infection could overwhelm the immune system and cause death. Despite this ...

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The discovery of antibiotics has greatly extended the lifespan of people and their pets. Without antibiotic therapy, a simple infection could overwhelm the immune system and cause death. Despite this remarkable medical achievement, bacteria adapt continually to develop resistance to medications, and new generations of antibiotics must be discovered to fight resistant infections. Indiscriminant use of antibiotics accelerates these mutations by allowing bacteria to survive exposure to the drugs. It is critical that we use antibiotics properly in order to prevent the evolution of “super-bugs” for which we would have no cure.

Antibiotics kill bacteria by different mechanisms. It is important that infected tissues become saturated with a therapeutic level of the medication in order to be effective. Not all drugs will reach the same tissue concentration when an equal amount is given by the same route of administration. Therefore, not only is it important to give an antibiotic that will treat a particular bacterial infection, it is equally important that the correct amount be given in order to reach the targeted tissue at a therapeutic level. Because of the way that they are metabolized, some antibiotics do not enter certain body tissues effectively. Bacteria would survive exposure to the low concentration of the drug, allowing them to develop resistance quickly. For the same reason, when an antibiotic is prescribed, it should be continued until the infection is completely resolved. A lapse in dosing can contribute to bacterial resistance.

Antibiotics have no effect on viruses; therefore, they are not prescribed to fight viral infections specifically. In certain cases, they may be prescribed to prevent or treat secondary bacterial infections. The medication should be given as directed and until gone.

There may be special instructions included on the label of a specific oral antibiotic. Some drugs should be given with food to improve absorption, and some others may bind with ingredients in food and should be given on an empty stomach. This is true for all oral medications. Antacids will inhibit absorption of oral antibiotics and should not be given within one hour of dosing. Check with a veterinarian about drug interactions between antibiotics and other drugs. Be sure your vet knows about all the medication your pet takes.

It has been stated before but cannot be stressed enough; always finish an antibiotic that has been prescribed. If symptoms are not completely resolved, the doctor may send another course of medication. If you suspect an adverse reaction to an antibiotic, such as vomiting or diarrhea, notify the veterinarian immediately.

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Bleeding Disorders

Bleeding disorders (coagulopathy) of dogs and cats can be caused by a variety of disease processes, genetic abnormalities, toxicities, and emergency scenarios. The increased tendency to bleed may be...

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Bleeding disorders (coagulopathy) of dogs and cats can be caused by a variety of disease processes, genetic abnormalities, toxicities, and emergency scenarios. The increased tendency to bleed may be mild to life-threatening. Treatment options are determined by the cause of the disorder; they depend on the mechanism responsible and the systems of the body that are affected.

Bleeding normally occurs when there is injury to the body. The blood carries infection-fighting white cells, antibodies, oxygen, and building blocks for repair to the wound. Our pets could not heal without it. But bleeding should stop when it has served its purpose. This is called clotting. Blood clots when tiny cells called platelets are chemically activated to stick together. There is a cascade of chemical clotting factors that must all function correctly to cause this to happen. A deficiency in platelets or clotting factors could cause increased bleeding times.

When bleeding occurs without injury, symptoms like bruising, joint pain, respiratory distress, and anemia can occur. Small purple spots on the skin called petechiae are sometimes the first symptom of a bleeding disorder. Joint pain and stiffness, seizures, or even paralysis occurs when there is bleeding into the joint capsules, brain, and spinal canal. Unexplained nose bleeds (epistaxis), blood in the urine (hematuria), and black tarry stools (melena) can also be signs of a bleeding disorder. Large amounts of blood can seep through vessel walls into the chest and abdomen causing breathing difficulty and a pendulous belly. When a large amount of blood is lost, the pet may become anemic. The mucous membranes like the gums and sclera – the whites of the eyes – may appear pale or ghostly grey. Since blood carries oxygen, an anemic pet will often be lethargic or have reduced stamina during activity. Fainting can occur in severe cases.

Some of the toxins that can cause bleeding disorders include household chemicals like rodenticides (rat poison) and drugs like aspirin, sulfa antibiotics, and heart medications. Von Willebrand’s disease is a heritable deficiency of the clotting factors that occurs in a number of canine breeds. Ticks can carry infectious diseases like Lyme and Ehrlichia that can cause bleeding. Disseminated intravascular coagulopathy (DIC) is a life threatening syndrome that occurs during trauma and severe illness that is very difficult to reverse.

Treating a bleeding disorder involves addressing the underlying pathology, or disease causing the coagulopathy. In cases where there is a known toxin, antidotal drugs are administered. Vitamin K1 (Phytonadione) is the antidote for warfarin and brodifacoum based rat poisons. In immune-mediated thrombocytopenia, where the body attacks its own healthy platelets, corticosteroids like prednisone are given to suppress the immune response. These drugs are usually started at high doses, then titrated (adjusted) to a minimum maintenance dose. Long-term antibiotics are used to fight rickettsial infections (tick borne Lyme and Ehrlichia) that cause bleeding disorders.

When a large amount of blood has been lost, causing a life-threatening anemia, a blood transfusion may be necessary to stabilize the patient. This will give time for the bone marrow to “catch up” in producing new red blood cells. If the underlying disease can be managed, the prognosis will generally be good. Close monitoring of clotting times and red blood cell counts may be needed for chronic bleeding disorders.

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Cherry Eye

Cherry Eye is the common name for a prolapse of the third eyelid gland. It is most often caused by a heritable weakness of the connective tissue that holds the gland under the third eyelid of the...

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Cherry Eye is the common name for a prolapse of the third eyelid gland. It is most often caused by a heritable weakness of the connective tissue that holds the gland under the third eyelid of the eye. Cherry eye is common in smaller breeds under 12 months old. The everted tissue protrudes from the inside corner of the eye and becomes red and inflamed because of environmental irritation and desiccation (drying) of the exposed gland. Secondary infection as a result of the prolapse may cause a mucousy film or discharge from the affected eye. Treatment with anti-inflammatory eye medications may sometimes decrease the swelling, but does not eliminate the cherry eye. Surgery is needed to correct the prolapse and retain normal tear production. Pets with cherry eye will very often develop the problem in both eyes.

There are two basic approaches to cherry eye surgery. The first is a cosmetic surgery and has fallen out of favor in recent years because of increased incidence of complications that may arise years after the procedure. This technique involves removing the entire gland from the third eyelid. Breeds that are prone to cherry eye are also more likely to develop dry eye (KCS) later in life. By removing one of only two tear glands in the eye, the pet becomes even more susceptible to KCS as it ages. KCS causes significant damage to the eye, so preservation of the gland is preferred. There are two variations of the second approach, but both involve preservation of the third eyelid gland. A permanent suture can be placed to tuck the gland where it belongs. Complications are uncommon but do occur. The suture may come undone and scratch the cornea, and the prolapse may recur, making a second surgery necessary. The newest technique is the most tedious but is recommended by most board-certified ophthalmologists. This surgery removes a wedge of tissue in the third eyelid, creating a pocket in which to tuck the gland. The pocket is sutured closed with tiny absorbable sutures. As the incision heals, the margins tighten and pull the gland back into place. This technique, while superior, also sometimes fails requiring a second surgery.

Post-operative swelling is expected after any eye surgery. An Elizabethan collar is placed around the patient’s neck to prevent rubbing and scratching at the eye. Antibiotic ointment is often prescribed after cherry eye surgery to prevent secondary infection. It is very likely that a pet with a cherry eye will develop one in the other eye.

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Coccidiosis

Coccidia are protozoan parasites that infect the small intestine of dogs and cats. In large numbers, a condition called coccidiosis can cause diarrhea, vomiting, anorexia, lethargy, and death....

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Coccidia are protozoan parasites that infect the small intestine of dogs and cats. In large numbers, a condition called coccidiosis can cause diarrhea, vomiting, anorexia, lethargy, and death. Usually an illness of puppies and kittens, adult animals develop a natural resistance to coccidia and can be silent carriers of the organism.

Coccidia require a fecal to oral transmission. Puppies and kittens are very likely to ingest fecal matter, and subsequently become infected by the cysts that are shed by an infected animal. About two weeks after exposure to coccidia, the susceptible juveniles will begin to exhibit symptoms. Diarrhea may be bloody and mucoid, and in advanced cases, vomiting and dehydration can lead to death.

A test called a fecal flotation is performed by the veterinarian to detect coccidia. Testing may be repeated several times while the pet is less than six months old because of the long incubation period before symptoms occur. Also, after treatment, the fecal flotation may be repeated until no organisms are seen.

Treatment for coccidia does not actually kill the parasites. Instead, Sulfonamide drugs inhibit the reproduction of the organisms, allowing the immune system to clear the infection over time. Treatment will usually last at least two weeks, and may be extended in resistant cases. Very low numbers of cysts that go undetected may remain in the animal, and relapse can occur during times of stress or immune suppression. The two most common drugs used for treating coccidiosis are Sulfamethoxine (Albon) and Trimethoprim-Sulfadiazine (Tribrissen). Side effects from these drugs are rare and associated with long-term dosing, but they can include dry-eye (KCS) which is a serious condition. So, tell your veterinarian is you notice any discharge, redness, or squinting of the eyes.

Adult animals may carry low numbers of coccidia without becoming sick. They should probably be treated until none of the parasites are found on a fecal flotation, as they can continue to be reservoirs of infection for younger animals.

Stools from an infected pet should be removed from the environment to prevent re-infection. Although human coccidiosis is not thought to originate from dogs and cats, people with compromised immune systems should avoid contact with infected animals.

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Common Household Plants Toxic To Dogs & Cats

The following common ornamental and garden plants have been shown to cause systemic toxicity or significant gastrointestinal irritation when ingested by dogs and cats. This list is not meant to be...

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The following common ornamental and garden plants have been shown to cause systemic toxicity or significant gastrointestinal irritation when ingested by dogs and cats. This list is not meant to be all-inclusive; all plants, known to be toxic or not, can cause considerable GI upset (vomiting, ulceration, diarrhea, subsequent dehydration) when consumed in large amounts. Pets that have ingested plant material on this list should be evaluated as soon as possible by your veterinarian and poison control services (ASPCA 1-888-426-4435). Pets that have ingested plants not on the list should be observed for any symptoms and evaluated promptly should any ill-effects occur.

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Corneal Ulcers

Corneal erosion or ulceration is a defect in the clear protective membrane covering the iris and the lens of the eye. It can be caused by physical trauma, a chemical injury, or chronic irritation as...

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Corneal erosion or ulceration is a defect in the clear protective membrane covering the iris and the lens of the eye. It can be caused by physical trauma, a chemical injury, or chronic irritation as occurs in the case of keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS or “dry eye”) or entropion (hereditary inward rolling of the eyelids). Deep ulcers are considered ocular emergencies.

A corneal ulcer is painful. It usually causes photophobia (avoidance of light), squinting, and rubbing / pawing at the eye. There may be a mucousy discharge from the affected eye. Because the barrier provided by the epithelium, or the outer layers of the cornea, is compromised, the eye becomes susceptible to bacterial infection. Left untreated, an ulcer can lead to permanent scarring and vision loss. It is possible that a small ulcer in the cornea could eventually progress to complete eye-loss.

Damage to the cornea is not always obvious to the pet’s owner; symptoms are evidence enough that the eye needs immediate veterinary attention. The doctor will first instill a local anesthetic into the painful eye to alleviate discomfort and facilitate a thorough examination. Then, several tests are performed including a fluorescein stain uptake test. A sterile fluorescent dye is introduced onto the surface of the cornea, then gently rinsed away with saline. A healthy, intact cornea is smooth and non-porous and will not absorb any stain. Any defect in the smooth surface however, no matter how superficial, will retain the fluorescent dye. The eroded area will subsequently glow bright green under a wood’s lamp (black light).

Superficial erosions and minor ulcers usually heal rapidly with some protection from a topical antibiotic eye-drop or ointment. Because the cornea is constantly rinsed by the cleaning action of tears, the medication must be reapplied often. It is critical, especially during the first 48 hours of treatment, to apply the antibiotic as prescribed. This may be as frequent as four or more times a day and should be continued throughout the night as well. The clear cornea normally contains no blood vessels; therefore, systemic antibiotics like those taken orally are ineffective and useless at this stage.

The eye is treated for pain with a topical medication as well. Some medications may cause pupil dilation as an intended effect, and the pet may shy from bright light as a consequence. Also, the tear ducts drain into the nasal cavity and the oral cavity; drooling may be seen for a short time after treatment due to a bitter tasting medication applied in the eye.

The veterinarian will ask for a recheck appointment within 2 days to one week depending on the initial presentation and severity. Routine ulcers will usually resolve in about 7 to 10 days; prolonged healing despite diligent treatment will warrant further testing, a change in medications, or a referral to an ophthalmologist.

Deep ulcers, indolent ulcers (will not heal), and descemetoceles (read on) are not routine and are indeed ocular emergencies. A descemetocele (pronounced dez-met-o-seal) is an ulcer with the deepest membrane protruding through the opening in the cornea. Descemet’s membrane is the last covering that retains the fluid of the inner chambers of the eye. The pet may be referred immediately to a specialist in ophthalmology, even after-hours, for surgery to save the eye at-risk for blindness.

It should be noted that brachycephalic breeds of dogs and cats are especially predisposed to eye injuries and ailments such as corneal ulcers. Brachycephalics are animals with pushed in muzzles and protruding eyes, such as Pugs, Boston Terriers, Persians, and Himalayans.

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Cruciate Ligament Rupture

Cruciate ligament rupture is an injury to a supportive ligament in the stifle (knee). Sometimes called an ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, it is also referred to as a CCL, or cranial cruciate...

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Cruciate ligament rupture is an injury to a supportive ligament in the stifle (knee). Sometimes called an ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, it is also referred to as a CCL, or cranial cruciate ligament. The rupture can be caused by an acute injury or a chronic degenerative condition. In either case, surgery is the treatment of choice to heal the stifle and prevent arthritic deterioration of the joint.

The cruciate ligament is so named because it crosses the joint. It originates at the back of the femur and attaches to the front of the tibia. In this way, it prevents forward movement of the lower limb independent of the upper limb. The veterinarian can often diagnose a complete cruciate rupture by palpating a “cranial drawer sign” in the stifle. A partial rupture is more often diagnosed by assessing symptoms and, over time, a buttressing or thickening of the bone and joint capsule surrounding the stifle. An MRI or surgical exploration of the joint is the only way to confirm a partial cruciate rupture.

There are two widely used surgical techniques that can be performed to repair the stifle after a cruciate ligament tear. The first method is called an extra-capsular repair. This surgery involves opening of the joint capsule to remove the torn ligament as well as the meniscus (cartilage pad between the bones) if it is damaged. The joint capsule is then sutured closed. Nylon monofilament sutures are then looped behind the fabella bones adjacent to the femur, passed through a hole drilled in the tibial crest, and secured to the tag end using crimp sleeves or surgeon’s knots. This suture mimics the cruciate ligament in its function. Recovery typically requires 10 to 12 weeks of leash only activity and physical therapy such as range of motion exercises. Rarely, the sutures have to be removed months later if they break, however scar tissue that has formed around the bands continue to support the stifle.

The second surgical technique is called a TPLO, or tibial plateau leveling osteotomy. In this method, the joint capsule is opened and the ligament / meniscus are removed just as in the first surgery described. Then an osteotomy (cutting of the bone) of the tibia and rotation of the bone, followed by stabilization using a specially designed plate, is done. This changes the angle of the tibial slope, which alters the mechanics of the stifle to achieve stabilization. Strict exercise restriction is required until radiographs taken 6-8 weeks postoperatively demonstrate adequate healing. Healing in young dogs may occur within 4 weeks whereas in older dogs healing of the osteotomy site may not occur until 12 weeks postoperatively. Restricted activity and physical therapy will be prescribed for approximately 16 weeks. This surgery is almost always performed by a specialist in orthopedics.

Pain medications are used peri-operatively and are sent home after surgery. GAG supplements (chondroitin) and Omega 3 fatty acid supplements are used on a long term basis to support joint health for the life of the pet.

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Diabetes Mellitus Part I – The Disease and Its Effects

Diabetes Mellitus is a fairly common illness found in dogs and cats. Just like in humans, this disease is devastating to the body when left undiagnosed and untreated. Symptoms are often subtle in the ...

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Diabetes Mellitus is a fairly common illness found in dogs and cats. Just like in humans, this disease is devastating to the body when left undiagnosed and untreated. Symptoms are often subtle in the early stages of diabetes, advancing to widespread deterioration in the health of the patient as the disease progresses unchecked.

In diabetic animals, the blood-sugar level – or blood-glucose – is elevated above the normal range. Elevated blood-glucose is called hyperglycemia.

Glucose is the energy source for all cells in the body. All ingested food is eventually broken down into this basic unit of energy. The heart, brain, and all other organs and tissues in the body require glucose to function and survive. It is delivered to the cells by a circulating hormone called insulin. Diabetics may have either or both, a deficiency in the production of insulin – Type I Diabetes, or a resistance to the mechanism of insulin – Type II Diabetes. Type I Diabetes is most common in dogs, and Type II is most common in cats. In either case, glucose is not delivered effectively to the cells, and instead remains in high concentrations in the bloodstream.

The symptoms of diabetes, however subtle or apparent, are caused by both the reduction in the delivery of glucose to the cells and the elevated blood levels of glucose that is unused. Diabetes tends to afflict adult dogs and cats, and since they can not communicate how they are feeling, lethargy is often mistaken for maturity. It would be obvious that something was wrong if a rambunctious puppy or kitten suddenly became lethargic, but a mellow adult dog or cat may seem normal when it is actually energy-deprived. Therefore, lethargy is often overlooked as a first symptom of diabetes.

More noticeably, the cells being starved for glucose causes the animal to feel a constant sensation of hunger. The term used for increased hunger is polyphagia. Despite an increase in food intake, diabetics will begin to lose weight. This is because they are not able to utilize the glucose that is derived from food. Instead, the body begins to burn fat stores in order to survive. Because obesity is a contributing factor in the onset of diabetes, many diabetics will present as overweight patients that exhibit unexplained and sudden weight loss.

The elevated levels of unused glucose in the bloodstream, on the other hand, cause more significant symptoms. Glucose must be dissolved in water in order to be carried within the blood vessels, and the increase in blood-glucose tells the body to retain more water in order to compensate. Increased thirst, and subsequently, increased urination are profound symptoms of diabetes. Increased thirst and urination are referred to as polydipsia and polyuria respectively. Furthermore, when blood-sugar levels reach a threshold, glucose will begin to “spill over” into the urine, becoming food for bacteria. Ascending urinary tract infections are very common in diabetic animals, causing urinary accidents to be a very common symptom. Many diabetic patients are first diagnosed when presented at the veterinary hospital with the complaint of inappropriate urination.

In diabetic dogs, cataract formation occurs in almost all cases, even after treatment is pursued. This does not occur in cats. Cataracts are an opaque plaque that forms on the lens of the eye, impairing vision. Cataract formation in a relatively young dog makes them a suspect for Diabetes Mellitus.

To summarize, symptoms of diabetes may be vague and subtle at first, progressing to an obviously unhealthy appearance of the pet. Lethargy, increased water consumption and urination, weight loss despite an increased appetite, and early cataract formation in dogs are all symptoms that describe a diabetic pet.

Some of the terms that veterinarians use to describe a diabetic pet are:

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Texas West Animal Health

16367 South FM 4,

Santo, TX 76472

Phone. 940-769-2222

Fax. 866-632-3365

Email. texaswestvet@gmail.com