GENERAL PET ARTICLES

Overweight Pets – Obesity

Obesity is an increasing health concern for dogs and cats. Just as in people, being overweight contributes to a large number of diseases in pets. The problem can be metabolic, such as with hypothyroidism, but most often is a result of one problem: more calories eaten than expended throughout the day. Indoor pets are especially at risk for being overweight because of reduced activity. This is the...

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Obesity is an increasing health concern for dogs and cats. Just as in people, being overweight contributes to a large number of diseases in pets. The problem can be metabolic, such as with hypothyroidism, but most often is a result of one problem: more calories eaten than expended throughout the day. Indoor pets are especially at risk for being overweight because of reduced activity. This is the obvious contributing factor as an obese animal is never seen in the feral population of canines and felines.

When an animal (or human) consumes any type of food, it is broken down into simple sugars in the digestive tract. These simple sugars are readily available to provide instant energy to cells and organs including the heart and the brain. Extra energy (glucose) that is not needed by the body is converted by the liver into fat to be utilized when food is scarce. The problem in house pets is that food is never scarce. No one likes to see their beloved pet go hungry. Fat is continually accumulated which begins to cause problems elsewhere in the body.

The body was designed to carry a certain amount of fat to provide energy between meals. Canines in the wild, like wolves and coyotes, go long stretches between meals. Therefore storing some fat is a healthy and necessary function. Feral cats on the other hand, eat small meals of protein throughout the day and do not store much fat at all. In fact, this characteristic of felines makes them susceptible to a specific liver problem if they are allowed to become obese and for some reason stop eating. Cats were not designed to burn fat stores efficiently, and instead the liver becomes clogged with fat leading to failure (hepatic lipidosis).

Some connections between obesity and disease are easy to realize. Joints can be over-burdened by carrying too much weight and develop arthritis, an inflammatory reaction that causes pain. Furthermore, the dog or cat can rupture a cruciate ligament in the knee from being overloaded. Overweight pets are more likely to develop a herniated disc in the spine which can cause a great deal of pain or even paralysis.

Other obesity related problems are less obvious, but equally as devastating. Excess body fat can contribute to becoming diabetic. Diabetes is a serious disease that causes blood sugar levels to soar uncontrollably leading to all sorts of ill effects. Overweight pets are more susceptible to heat stroke because dogs and cats do not sweat to cool themselves, and the fat acts as an insulating blanket over the body. Respiratory problems and heart disease are caused by and complicated by obesity. Overweight pets are also at increased risk during anesthetic and surgical procedures.

Overall, obesity reduces quality of life and shortens lifespan. One Purina study showed that dogs with ideal body conditions live on average 15% longer than obese pets.

Feeding regimens are the first place to start when addressing obesity. Two or three small meals a day, rather than free-choice feeding (keeping a full bowl), allows the body to utilize calories more efficiently and store less fat. Feeding a balanced, nutritious diet formulated for a dog or a cat of a specific age and activity level is equally important. The amount to feed depends on the metabolism of the individual. Table scraps tend to be high in fats and salt. They are often given in addition to the pet’s regular diet that already contains an adequate number of calories for energy.

The other way to prevent obesity is to increase a pet’s activity levels. This can be difficult with an already obese dog or cat because their stamina may be decreased. They may already suffer from the side effects of being overweight. Consult a veterinarian about how much activity is appropriate for your pet. As weight comes off, you will see a considerable change in the dog or cat’s attitude and energy levels. What was once thought of as an old lazy pet can regain the pep of a young healthy animal.

It is important to not cause weight loss too quickly. Starvation is not the answer to obesity. Cats cannot metabolize fat rapidly without serious ill-effects. Check with a veterinarian to establish an ideal weight and timeline for weight loss.

Our pets will thank us for helping them maintain an ideal body weight. They will live longer and happier lives as a result.

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Pain Management

It seems obvious to control pain after surgery, an injury, or during a painful illness like pancreatitis. But in fact, the practice of pain management has not always been widespread in veterinary medicine. The acknowledgement that our pets do indeed experience emotions like pain was not always a popular belief. Even in human medicine, pain is often under-treated. It is proven that untreated pain...

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It seems obvious to control pain after surgery, an injury, or during a painful illness like pancreatitis. But in fact, the practice of pain management has not always been widespread in veterinary medicine. The acknowledgement that our pets do indeed experience emotions like pain was not always a popular belief. Even in human medicine, pain is often under-treated. It is proven that untreated pain suppresses the immune system, delays healing, and prolongs recovery from surgery. It is our greatest responsibility as the caretakers of our pets to alleviate suffering, and there are fortunately many options available to ensure that we are successful.

Pain can be articulated by people. However in pets, it must be observed and measured. There are several pain scales that veterinarians can use to anticipate and measure pain. Dogs and cats exhibit pain differently than people except in the case of acute, excruciating pain where vocalizing occurs. Being pack animals, dogs tend to keep a low profile, staying away from others including human family members. They may refuse food and be defensive, cowering and growling or snapping in anticipation of discomfort. Cats will also hide and guard their wounds, and both dogs and cats may over-groom a tender area. Pain is also measured by empirical methods, assuming that an animal would feel the equivalent of a human after experiencing surgery, trauma, or an illness. Increased blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate may also be used as indicators of pain.

Treatment for pain depends completely on the source and severity of discomfort. Medications, physical therapy, alternative therapies such as acupuncture, and other palliative measures can all be used alone or in combination. Multi-modal approaches to pain control tend to be the most effective.

For minor pain, heat and compression can give relief. Cold increases the perception of pain. Range of motion exercises can keep an arthritic animal limber and strong. There are specialists in physical therapy that utilize tools like water treadmills to increase flexibility and avoid muscle wasting caused by chronic pain.

Medications that alleviate pain are called analgesics. There are different categories of analgesics which have different mechanisms of action. Drugs are used for moderate to severe forms of pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are useful for conditions like arthritis where pain relief is best achieved when inflammation in the joints is controlled. Opiates are reserved for severe pain, like after major surgery. They are usually not given long term because of the potential for side effects on the GI tract like constipation. Opiate drugs come in oral, injectable, and transdermal forms. Local anesthetics can be injected into the tissues around a surgical incision to completely numb the site. Just as in humans, epidurals can be given by injecting an opiate directly into the spinal canal, completely blocking the nerve pathways for entire regions of the body.

Pain should be assumed, predicted, and preemptively controlled in our pets. Because we can not tell an animal “this is going to hurt a bit”, even minor pain can affect their health and wellbeing significantly.

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Pemphigus Foliaceus

Pemphigus is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s own normal defenses inappropriately attack one of the layers of the skin. There are several subtypes of this disease, each of which involves a different layer of cells being damaged. Pemphigus foliaceus is the most common form diagnosed in dogs and cats. It is characterized by pustular crusty lesions that occur on the face, ears, feet,...

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Pemphigus is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s own normal defenses inappropriately attack one of the layers of the skin. There are several subtypes of this disease, each of which involves a different layer of cells being damaged. Pemphigus foliaceus is the most common form diagnosed in dogs and cats. It is characterized by pustular crusty lesions that occur on the face, ears, feet, clawbeds, footpads, and often becomes generalized. Pruritus (itching) and pain are variable. Pemphigus most often occurs without warning or explanation; however, it can be a side effect of certain medications or a result of unchecked chronic skin disease.

Pemphigus can be masked by concurrent skin problems such as flea allergy dermatitis, mange, and atopy (inhalant allergies). Also, the lesions are very susceptible to secondary bacterial infection. They may improve with antibiotic therapy but will not resolve until the underlying disease is treated.

A skin biopsy must be performed in order to confirm Pemphigus foliaceus. A local anesthetic and mild sedative may be used, or a general anesthetic may be administered to obtain a more representative sample. The tissue is then analyzed by a pathologist who will confirm the disease and its subtype.

Pemphigus is treated with high dose corticosteroid therapy. Steroids suppress the immune system and stop the inappropriate attack on the skin cells. Because of the drugs’ suppressive effect on the entire immune system and the subsequent potential for side effects, confirmation of this disease with a skin biopsy is very important before beginning treatment. Side effects from high dose steroids include excessive thirst and urination, increased appetite and weight gain, panting, and iatrogenic adrenal gland suppression (medication-induced Cushing’s disease).

Alternative drug therapies for patients who cannot tolerate high dose steroids, or for those who do not respond to corticosteroids alone, include azathioprine, chlorambucil, or cyclosporine. Each of these medications suppresses the immune system and has side effects of its own. Blood counts may need to be monitored to check for bone marrow suppression. These medications can take several weeks to take full effect.

Pemphigus carries a fair to guarded prognosis. Some animals respond well to treatment, and some can take weeks or months before symptoms totally resolve. A lot depends on whether the medications are tolerated and side effects are manageable. Generally, patients are gradually tapered off of medication after the skin is completely healed.

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Rat Poison (Rodenticides)

Rat poison is a common toxin found around homes and businesses that pets may accidentally ingest. It is a bait-type poison, meaning it is flavored and scented to attract rodents; it also unfortunately attracts pets. Traditional rodenticides are made of concentrated anticoagulant chemicals such as brodifacoum, warfarin, bromadiolone, and diphacinone. These chemicals when ingested cause an...

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Rat poison is a common toxin found around homes and businesses that pets may accidentally ingest. It is a bait-type poison, meaning it is flavored and scented to attract rodents; it also unfortunately attracts pets. Traditional rodenticides are made of concentrated anticoagulant chemicals such as brodifacoum, warfarin, bromadiolone, and diphacinone. These chemicals when ingested cause an inability in the blood to clot. After a pet consumes this poison, even the smallest injury may lead to uncontrolled bleeding. Fortunately, there is an antidote available for poisons containing these ingredients, but exposure must be recognized before a significant loss of blood – or anemia – occurs. It may take several days after ingesting rat poison before any ill effects are seen. Other rodenticides may contain strychnine, bromethalin, vitamin D analogues, and zinc phosphide to which there is no antidote available. Treating exposure to these toxins is more difficult. It is important to take the package label with you to the veterinarian, when possible, if accidental ingestion is suspected or known.

Rat poisons containing anticoagulant chemicals interfere with the body’s re-use or recycling of vitamin K. Vitamin K is the activator of clotting factors that cause platelet cells in the bloodstream to clump together and form clots when bleeding occurs. After vitamin K is utilized in clotting activity, it is released and recycled for later use. Anticoagulants inhibit this recycling process; therefore vitamin K becomes depleted after an initial activation of clotting factors. This is the reason that it may take several days for vitamin K reserves to become depleted to the point that visible bleeding symptoms may occur.

The treatment for anticoagulant rat poison ingestion involves both the administration of an antidote to prevent bleeding tendencies and measures to correct any anemia or hemorrhage (active bleeding) already caused by the toxin.

The antidote for anticoagulant rodenticide is supplementation of vitamin K. It may take the body several weeks to metabolize and excrete the poison; therefore vitamin K must be re-supplied as it is continually used up by normal clotting activity. Generally, pets are given vitamin K for at least one month following exposure to these types of toxins. The veterinarian may give an initial antidotal injection to ensure rapid restoration of vitamin K stores, followed by a prescription of oral vitamin K that the owner will administer at home. *(Over-the-counter human vitamin K products do not contain a therapeutic level effective at combating the rodenticide; they often contain other vitamins or neutraceutical ingredients and should not be given to pets suspected of rat poison exposure.)

Treatment will also involve correcting any blood loss that has already occurred as a result of exposure to the rat poison. Bleeding can occur anywhere outside or even inside the body. It is common for blood to pool in the lungs and in the abdomen. Specific treatments for these scenarios will be instituted. The pet may receive supplemental oxygen and diuretic drugs to remove excess fluid from the lungs to assist in respiration. If a significant amount of blood-loss has occurred, the pet may become anemic. Anemia is a reduced number of red blood cells in the bloodstream. The body will be responding by generating new cells in the bone marrow; however, if anemia is life-threatening, a blood transfusion may be necessary.

If the package label can be identified, it should be taken along with the pet in case of suspected or known rodenticide exposure. This information can help the doctor to determine an appropriate course of treatment and predict the prognosis.

If rodenticides must be used around the home, it is safest to use the anticoagulant types listed previously as there is an antidote available in case of accidental ingestion by pets – or even children.

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Roundworms

Roundworms are very common intestinal parasites that infect dogs, cats, and people. They are about the diameter of thin spaghetti and can reach 4 to 6 inches long. There are several ways that dogs can become infected with roundworms because of their variable lifecycle. In cats, the parasite’s lifecycle is less complex but equally effective at infecting its host.

Adult roundworms live in the...

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Roundworms are very common intestinal parasites that infect dogs, cats, and people. They are about the diameter of thin spaghetti and can reach 4 to 6 inches long. There are several ways that dogs can become infected with roundworms because of their variable lifecycle. In cats, the parasite’s lifecycle is less complex but equally effective at infecting its host.

Adult roundworms live in the intestines and pass eggs which exit the body in the stool. The eggs remain in the environment for at least one month before microscopic larvae begin to form inside the eggs. At this point, they may be ingested by a dog or a cat, signaling the larvae to emerge from the eggs and invade the intestines of the new host. However, the larvae-occupied eggs may also be ingested by another animal such as a rodent. If this occurs, the larvae will hatch, but they will migrate out of the intestines and into other organs. There they form cysts which wait to be consumed by a dog when it kills its prey. Some roundworm larvae will encyst in the dog’s liver indefinitely, until they are signaled by a female dog’s pregnancy to migrate into the uterus and infect the litter of pups. Roundworm larvae also migrate through lung tissue in order to be coughed up and swallowed to complete their lifecycle. Heavy roundworm infections can lead to severe pneumonia.

Roundworms cause diarrhea. Sometimes, a pet may have such a burden of worms that they will vomit up the worms, horrifying the owner. Puppies and kittens will typically have a pot-bellied appearance and will often be flatulent.

Roundworm eggs are detected by the veterinarian who performs a fecal flotation. The eggs are floated in a salt solution and observed under the microscope. De-worming is repeated on a three to four week interval. As the adult worms are killed, migrating larvae will re-enter the intestines from the lung tissues and re-infect the animal. Be sure not to miss the follow up de-worming. Stools should be removed from the environment to prevent re-infection. Hand washing is essential, and gloves are recommended while handling soiled bedding, etc.

People can become infected by roundworms by accidental ingestion of contaminated soil. Children are especially at risk. Infection of people by roundworms is usually mild or undetected, but can cause permanent damage if it leads to ocular or visceral larval migrans. These conditions are caused by the larvae migrating through the eyes and organs. While rare, ocular larval migrans can lead to blindness.

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Safe Anesthesia for Your Pet

To administer a general anesthetic is to render a patient completely unconscious in order to perform surgery or examinations which require the patient to be totally immobilized.

Significant advances in medicine and technology have reduced the risk for your pet receiving a general anesthetic. While there is always a risk involved, screening for underlying blood and organ disorders, improved...

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To administer a general anesthetic is to render a patient completely unconscious in order to perform surgery or examinations which require the patient to be totally immobilized.

Significant advances in medicine and technology have reduced the risk for your pet receiving a general anesthetic. While there is always a risk involved, screening for underlying blood and organ disorders, improved monitoring equipment, and shorter-acting induction and maintenance drugs have all improved the safety of anesthesia.

The first way the veterinarian minimizes the potential for injury to the patient is by determining whether there are any health problems that may complicate anesthesia. Abnormal findings on a general physical exam, temperature, and heart rate can reveal illness. Blood is drawn, and a chemistry panel is performed to check for anemia, liver and kidney dysfunction, and electrolyte imbalance. Blood pressure and electrocardiogram (ECG) are assessed before induction of anesthesia to detect abnormalities.

Anesthetic agents cause a drop in blood pressure which can reduce tissue-oxygen perfusion. Intravenous fluids are administered through a catheter to maintain blood pressure and prevent damage to the kidneys and other organs. In the case of an emergency, life saving drugs can be administered through the IV catheter.

An endotracheal tube is passed through the mouth into the wind pipe to provide an airway and connect the patient to a gas anesthetic machine. In general, gas anesthetics like Isoflurane and Sevoflurane are safer than injectable anesthetics. Only a small percentage of the gas is metabolized by the liver, making recovery time very rapid. Injectable drugs take the body longer to eliminate, except in the case of reversible anesthetics like medetomidine.

Monitoring devices have greatly improved the safety of anesthesia as well. Pulse oximetry and end tidal CO2 monitors verify adequate ventilation of the patient. ECG detects heart arrhythmias that can signal serious trouble during surgery. Blood pressure measurements ensure adequate tissue perfusion. And, trained technicians constantly monitor vital signs and report to the surgeon any unexpected changes.

The specific anesthetic protocol is at the discretion of the veterinarian. They are very well equipped to keep your pet healthy and safe during anesthesia. While anesthetic complications do occur, they are becoming rarer since the health of the patient is first assessed, safer drugs are available, and careful monitoring of vital signs using better technology is possible.

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Sebaceous Cysts

Just like people, as animals age they seem to get “bumpier”. It is important to have each new lump and bump you find on your pet checked by the veterinarian to rule out a cancerous growth. Some animals have a tendency to grow benign masses as well. One such mass is called a sebaceous cyst. Rather than a solid growth of tissue, it is instead a fluid-filled sac under the skin that resembles a...

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Just like people, as animals age they seem to get “bumpier”. It is important to have each new lump and bump you find on your pet checked by the veterinarian to rule out a cancerous growth. Some animals have a tendency to grow benign masses as well. One such mass is called a sebaceous cyst. Rather than a solid growth of tissue, it is instead a fluid-filled sac under the skin that resembles a tumor. In most cases, sebaceous cysts are harmless and do not require treatment.

All mammals possess sebaceous glands. These glands produce a viscous, oily substance called sebum that lubricates and waterproofs the skin and hair. The glands’ ducts drain into the hair follicles and then onto the surface of the skin. A cyst forms when the sebum flow is occluded for some reason. The gland continues to secrete sebum into a sac that is formed under the obstruction. Sebaceous cysts are quite common in dogs and are one of the few benign masses that may show up on cats occasionally. They are not the same as a sebaceous tumor however, which have a wart-like appearance and have a tendency to become inflamed and ulcerated.

Most of the time, a sebaceous cyst will grow until the gland ceases to produce sebum due to back-pressure. It may be sensitive to the touch, and may become so hard that it feels like a solid mass. Occasionally, the skin covering the cyst will lose blood supply from being over-stretched, and it will devitalize and rupture. The oily sebum and sloughed skin cells are a feast for bacteria, and the draining cyst can become infected. An infected sebaceous cyst will have to be treated topically. There is no blood supply into the cyst to carry oral antibiotics. Matted hair must be clipped away, and the open cyst must be cleaned in order to prevent a subsequent abscess.

After an infected cyst finally heals – which can take several weeks – the entire process can recur. Sebaceous cysts that are prone to this cycle should be surgically removed. This should ideally be performed before the cyst ruptures and becomes infected. Very small cysts might be removed with a local anesthetic, but usually a general anesthetic will be required.

There are other types of fluid-filled cysts that can be safely drained with a needle and syringe. This is usually impossible with a sebaceous cyst as the sebum is too thick to aspirate. A needle with a large enough bore to draw out the sebum could create a significant puncture wound that could introduce bacteria. If the cyst becomes infected, it will require treatment and eventual removal anyway. It is generally recommended to surgically remove a problematic sebaceous cyst, and leave a dormant one alone.

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Seborrhea

Flaky skin due to seborrhea is very common in pets. The term seborrhea refers to an increased production or a change in the quality of sebum, an oily lubricant and waterproofing substance secreted from the sebaceous glands in the skin. There are three main classifications of this skin condition with numerous causes. Seborrhea sicca, or dry seborrhea, is identified by dry flaky skin. Seborrhea...

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Flaky skin due to seborrhea is very common in pets. The term seborrhea refers to an increased production or a change in the quality of sebum, an oily lubricant and waterproofing substance secreted from the sebaceous glands in the skin. There are three main classifications of this skin condition with numerous causes. Seborrhea sicca, or dry seborrhea, is identified by dry flaky skin. Seborrhea oleosa is characterized by flaky skin with an oily, malodorous coat. Seborrheic dermatitis refers to either of the first two types along with inflammation of the skin and itchiness.

Seborrhea in general can be a primary or secondary skin disease. Primary causes would be genetic in nature. Some pets may inherit a hyperkeratinization problem of the skin, causing a rapid turnover of skin cells made apparent by profuse scaliness. In the vast majority of cases however, seborrhea is secondary to inhalant or contact allergies, infections of the skin, endocrine disorders, or ectoparasite infestation, i.e.: fleas, ticks, and mange mites. Bacteria and Malassezia yeast thrive in the presence of excess sebum and are very common contributors to seborrhea. In any case, seborrhea is the symptom, and the underlying cause must be diagnosed.

A small amount of skin flaking is normal in puppies and kittens, and young animals will do a bit of scratching as well. As long as the skin is not red and inflamed or the coat greasy and malodorous, there is generally no cause for concern. All pets should be routinely checked for fleas and ticks as a precaution.

In addition to a complete physical examination, the veterinarian may request blood work on a seborrheic animal to rule out metabolic or endocrine causes of the symptoms. Two very common causes of seborrhea in adult and geriatric dogs are hypothyroidism and hyperadrenocorticism. A reduction in the amount of circulating thyroid hormone, or an overproduction of cortisol, leaves the skin susceptible to numerous disorders including seborrhea. Allergy testing, desensitization therapy, and hypoallergenic feeding trials may help to identify a hypersensitivity to an inhalant, contact, or food allergen such as mold, pollen, or certain dietary ingredients.

Other diagnostic aids include skin scrapings, impression smears, and full-thickness skin biopsies in the worst cases of seborrhea. A skin scraping is used to identify mange mites, and an impression smear will reveal bacteria or yeast under the microscope. These types of infections will dictate the specific course of treatment necessary. Often, along with seborrhea, the pet may have concurrent ear infections or evidence of immune-mediated disease such as pemphigus foliaceus. Considering all of the patient’s presenting symptoms along with dietary history and environmental factors will help to narrow the diagnosis to one or more underlying causes.

If a disease mechanism can be identified, it will be addressed by a specific treatment protocol such as thyroid supplementation, antibiotic or antifungal drugs, treatment for mange mites, et cetera. Otherwise, the seborrhea will be treated symptomatically.

Medicated shampoos and topical agents are designed to remove excess sebum from the skin and kill bacteria and yeast. These can improve the itch and flakiness associated with seborrhea when used regularly. Grooming the coat to a shorter length may facilitate the removal of flakes and scales; this will also allow more oxygen to reach the skin, which will inhibit the overgrowth of microorganisms.

Omega 3 fatty acid supplementation can also help significantly in about 40 to 50% of cases. Fatty acids were once thought to add moisture to dry skin, but their benefit actually results from their potent antioxidant properties. They protect cells from damage and thus slow the rate of cellular sloughing from the skin.

Finally, hypoallergenic foods available only through veterinarians may be beneficial for those pets that have a dietary allergy leading to symptoms of seborrhea. It may take several weeks of restricting the pet’s intake to only one type of food in order to see results. Your veterinarian may prescribe a hypoallergenic diet for your pet as a diagnostic measure for food allergies.

It should be mentioned, that the number one cause of dermatitis in pets (skin disorders in general) is flea infestation. Regular use of a safe flea preventive product prescribed by your veterinarian may avoid a very common cause of seborrhea.

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Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety occurs in both dogs and cats. The emotional stress that separation anxiety causes is equally terrible for the pet and the owner. Dogs can become quite destructive, and both dogs and cats may soil the owner’s belongings. Punishment often reinforces the behavior, and accommodation of the anxiety will also cause the problem to persist. Desensitization is necessary to resolve the...

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Separation anxiety occurs in both dogs and cats. The emotional stress that separation anxiety causes is equally terrible for the pet and the owner. Dogs can become quite destructive, and both dogs and cats may soil the owner’s belongings. Punishment often reinforces the behavior, and accommodation of the anxiety will also cause the problem to persist. Desensitization is necessary to resolve the pet’s reason for panic and reinforce the bond that the owner has with the animal.

Dogs are social animals. Wild canine species such as wolves and coyotes live in packs or groups of family members and friends. The relationships that dogs have with each other establish hierarchy and a sense of protection. As dog owners, we fill this roll and provide the security that the dog craves. It is when the pet feels abandoned that the anxiety and unacceptable behavior occurs. Teaching the dog that the owner will return and the “pack” will be reunited is the key to alleviating stress.

Signs of separation anxiety include hypersalivation or drooling, inappropriate elimination with or without coprophagia, destructive chewing or scratching at exits from the house or crate, and incessant howling and barking. A puppy may seem impossible to housebreak when separation anxiety is a factor. They may have accidents in the crate which goes against the idea that a dog will not soil its den or bedding.

Desensitization will require very short stays alone before anxiety is at a peak and then positive reinforcement with praise and treats for appropriate behavior. This may require that the dog is comfortable sleeping in a crate even when the owner is in the next room. Baby steps are key. An extended time alone may cause the pet to revert to the separation fear. Also, the act of leaving the house should be uneventful. Triggers that induce stress include keys jingling, packing purses and luggage, etc. These signals must be avoided. Never reward inappropriate behavior with consolation. This may become an emotional trigger as well. The crate itself also can become a trigger of stress, and the goal of crate-training is not to lock the dog up every time you leave. It is a tool to teach a schedule that helps the dog establish boundaries.

For dogs with severe separation anxiety, medications are available to curb stressful emotions. They will rarely work alone without a behavior modification regimen. Some dogs respond better to one medication than another, but they include clomipramine, fluoxitine, and amitriptyline. A veterinarian must prescribe these drugs, and they often have withdrawal periods. They should never be stopped “cold-turkey” unless instructed to do so by the doctor. Never-the-less, these anti-anxiety medications can help tremendously when trying to desensitize a dog’s stress triggers.

Consultation with an animal behaviorist is also recommended for severe cases of separation anxiety. It is human nature to anthropomorphize (associate human emotion) dog behavior. An unbiased, outside party can help to analyze what role the owner may be playing to reinforce the anxiety.

Cats with separation anxiety display fewer symptoms other than one very annoying behavior, urinating and defecating on the owner’s personal belongings such as the bed and clothing. There are many health causes of inappropriate elimination in cats, so a medical reason should be ruled out first. Anti-anxiety medications can be the only option at times to resolve cat stress, as the triggers that cause separation anxiety can be subtle or un-apparent to owners.

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Sialocele (Salivary Gland Cyst)

A sialocele, salivary mucocele, or salivary gland cyst occurs when there is an obstruction to the normal flow of saliva from the gland through the salivary duct. Alternately, the gland may rupture and saliva may collect in the tissue space around the gland. Trauma to the duct or gland is thought to be the primary cause of a sialocele; however, the pet’s owner may not always be aware of a specific ...

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A sialocele, salivary mucocele, or salivary gland cyst occurs when there is an obstruction to the normal flow of saliva from the gland through the salivary duct. Alternately, the gland may rupture and saliva may collect in the tissue space around the gland. Trauma to the duct or gland is thought to be the primary cause of a sialocele; however, the pet’s owner may not always be aware of a specific traumatic event occurring. There is no known age or species predilection for a sialocele; however German Shepards, Poodles, and Greyhounds seem to be overly represented.

Salivary glands are usually not easily palpable and are located on the side of the face beneath the ears, under the lower jaw, behind the eyes, and under the tongue. When a sialocele occurs, the fluid contained in the cyst may be aspirated with a fine needle and confirmed to be saliva. Under the microscope, the fluid usually contains no cells unless the cyst has become secondarily infected. In which case, there may be bacteria present as well as inflammatory cells.

Most of the time a sialocele is painless and the animal will be asymptomatic; however, a cyst that occurs at the back of the mouth or under the tongue can lead to difficulty breathing and swallowing. These are referred to as pharyngeal sialoceles and ranulas, respectively. A zygomatic sialocele, affecting the gland behind the eye, may cause the eye to bulge. A sialocele must be differentiated from various tumors that may occur in these areas of the head and oral cavity. Tumors are usually hard and irregular, unlike a sialocele which will be soft and fluid filled.

Draining the sialocele through a needle, or placing a small drain through a surgical opening, may temporarily resolve the accumulation of fluid. Often, the cyst will recur as soon as the opening heals. This may also risk introducing bacteria into the cyst and lead to infection. If the cyst becomes infected, it may abscess, or rupture through the skin and drain foul smelling pus. Most of the time, the affected gland must be removed surgically to permanently correct the problem. The procedure will be performed under a general anesthetic.

Sialoceles that occur in the mouth may benefit from a procedure called marsupialization. Instead of attempting to remove the affected salivary gland, the walls of the cyst are sutured to an opening created in the oral cavity that allows the cyst to drain continually without obstruction. Occasionally, the opening may seal over and the cyst may recur, requiring further treatment.

A possible side effect of salivary gland removal is the formation of a seroma. The empty void left where the gland used to reside will fill up with serum. This will usually resolve over time but occasionally requires draining as well. If the entire gland is not removed, a sialocele will persist.

Most of time, animals diagnosed with a sialocele are started on antibiotics whether or not there is evidence of infection. Care after surgery is minimal, keeping the incision in the skin clean and dry. An Elizabethan collar may be necessary to avoid scratching or rubbing at the sutures.

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Snake Bites

Despite our deepest fears, snakes are actually quite shy creatures. They prefer to be left alone and are rarely aggressive. Snakes bite only when threatened or injured. Dogs’ persistent curiosity makes them susceptible to snake bites. Hunting and working dogs are most likely to be bitten, as snakes big enough to bite are rarely found in the backyard, much less the living room.

Snake bites should...

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Despite our deepest fears, snakes are actually quite shy creatures. They prefer to be left alone and are rarely aggressive. Snakes bite only when threatened or injured. Dogs’ persistent curiosity makes them susceptible to snake bites. Hunting and working dogs are most likely to be bitten, as snakes big enough to bite are rarely found in the backyard, much less the living room.

Snake bites should be classified as venomous or non-venomous when possible. Taking care to not be bitten yourself, observe the markings and coloring of the snake and the shape of the head and eyes. Venomous snakes have diamond shaped heads and brows that cover a portion of the upper eyeball. Their pupils are vertical slits like cats’ eyes. Non-venomous snakes have rounded heads, round eyeballs, and round pupils.

Bites from non-venomous snakes should be treated the same as puncture wounds. Bacteria from the dog’s skin and the snakes’ mouth are delivered beneath the skin by sharp, needle-like teeth. Because the teeth are so sharp, the skin may seal quickly over the puncture. The bacteria may then reproduce and cause an abscess. It may rupture and drain several days later. A large amount of tissue may slough off that was damaged by the infection. Oral antibiotics are usually prescribed prophylactically for non-venomous snake bites.

Venomous snake bites are a different story. It is important to get treatment for the dog as soon as possible. Try to keep the dog calm, and keep the bite wound below the level of the heart. Do not attempt to remove the venom yourself by any means. Venom from different snakes act differently on the body, so identification of the snake makes it easier to determine the appropriate treatment protocol. Initial treatment is symptomatic. Shock is controlled with rapid IV fluid therapy. Antivenin is a serum that neutralizes venom, but it comes with its own set of risks, so it must be known whether the antivenin will benefit the dog. This will depend upon which type of snake caused the bite. Antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, and pain medications are all indicated. Some venoms cause intravascular coagulation, some cause localized tissue destruction, and some cause neurological effects. The dose of venom determines the severity of illness; therefore, small dogs are more at risk than larger ones because they will receive a higher dose of venom per pound of body weight. In any case, a venomous snake bite is a life-threatening emergency, and veterinary care should be sought immediately.

There is a vaccine available for venomous snake bites. It may be useful for hunting and working dogs. It causes the body to produce antibodies to the venom making the dog somewhat immune. The vaccine appears to be safe, but its efficacy and duration is limited. Even a vaccinated dog should seek medical attention immediately after a bite from a venomous snake.

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Spider & Insect Bites/Stings

 

Spiders, bees, and insects would prefer to be left alone. They usually do not seek out people and pets to bite and sting. People do their best to avoid confrontation with these creatures as well; however, our dogs’ and cats’ curiosity often causes standoffs with stinging and biting fliers and crawlers. Sometimes the bugs just get in the way of exploring noses and paws. In any case, the...

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Spiders, bees, and insects would prefer to be left alone. They usually do not seek out people and pets to bite and sting. People do their best to avoid confrontation with these creatures as well; however, our dogs’ and cats’ curiosity often causes standoffs with stinging and biting fliers and crawlers. Sometimes the bugs just get in the way of exploring noses and paws. In any case, the consequence of a sting or bite from a spider or insect can be mildly annoying to certainly life threatening.

 

Bees and wasps have stingers that inject venom into the skin as a self-defense mechanism. The venom is irritating to local tissue causing swelling and itching, and in large quantities can cause systemic reactions. For mild reactions, antihistamines can help to reduce symptoms. A swollen muzzle is a common consequence of a bee sting on the nose. The swelling can progress to the mucous membranes in the throat leading to breathing difficulty, so treatment is always started prophylactically. Anaphylaxis is a systemic shock response to the toxic effects of venom. Vasodilation causes reduced blood pressure to the organs, and must be reversed with steroids and rapid IV fluid therapy.

 

Crawling insects like scorpions and spiders can pack the same punch as the bees and wasps. In addition to local tissue swelling and the risk of anaphylaxis, spiders like the black widow can cause central nervous system toxicity. Muscle tremors and even paralysis can be caused by the bite of a black widow. The biggest concern is paralysis of the respiratory muscles, leading to death by suffocation. Steroid injections and muscle relaxers are used to prevent this dire consequence. Antivenin is available, although it is usually hard to find in a short period of time, and it is typically so expensive as to be cost-prohibitive. Fortunately, dogs almost always survive black widow bites with supportive therapy from a veterinarian.

 

Some venoms are so toxic to tissues the area around the bite or sting may die and slough off. This is the case with the bite from the brown recluse spider. Antibiotics and topicals are used to prevent secondary bacterial infection of the wound that may increase the amount of eroded tissue and scarring. Many brown recluse bites go unnoticed for several days until the skin and muscle begin to deteriorate to the point that a lesion forms.

 

Bug bites and stings occur especially in the spring and warm spells of autumn, when insects become especially active. It is also during these times that our pets are busy exploring the backyard where these creatures fly and crawl.

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Steps to Pet Adoption

Adopting a pet is a rewarding experience in giving a good home to what will become a loving companion. There are thousands upon thousands of homeless pets in shelters that need adopting. Several things should be considered before choosing a new pet, such as what level of attention and exercise will the pet need, and will the animal be a good fit for a particular lifestyle. Most behavior problems...

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Adopting a pet is a rewarding experience in giving a good home to what will become a loving companion. There are thousands upon thousands of homeless pets in shelters that need adopting. Several things should be considered before choosing a new pet, such as what level of attention and exercise will the pet need, and will the animal be a good fit for a particular lifestyle. Most behavior problems arise from a lack of socialization and training, and boredom. It is never a good idea to give a pet as a gift, as pet ownership requires a lot of responsibility to which the new owner must be dedicated.

First, it should be decided whether to adopt a cat or a dog. Many people think of themselves as either dog people or cat people, but both make excellent companions. Cats are fairly independent and can be left with fresh water and a litter pan while the owner is at work. Dogs will need to be house trained and walked outside every six hours or so. Both will need adequate play time when the owner is home. A person who works long hours might want to consider a cat for a house pet over a dog. If a dog is adopted, the predominant breed of the dog may help determine the level of activity the dog will require. Working and sporting breeds can develop frustrating behavioral problems if not exercised enough. It is important to consider who will take care of the pet while the owner is away on business trips or vacations.

There are different places from which to adopt a pet. Shelters or pounds have many animals that were previously stray or unwanted. They may have mutts or purebreds. Purebred rescue groups recruit people who are fond of a particular breed of dog or cat to foster homeless pets until they can be adopted out. There will probably be nominal fees associated with adoption to help counter the costs of feeding and sheltering the animals.

A benefit of pet adoption is the option to obtain either a young or mature pet. With cats, their personalities are not fully revealed until adulthood. Adult dogs may come already housetrained, avoiding the accidents in the house during puppyhood. Some people like to adopt pets with special needs that would not otherwise find a home.

Another consideration to make before adopting a new pet is the financial cost. All pets will require vaccinations, spaying or neutering, and good nutrition. Health problems and emergencies can arise down the road for which the owner will be financially responsible. Talk to a veterinarian about the potential costs of pet ownership. Many pets wind up in shelters for this very reason.

If a family has very young children, it may be best to wait on adopting a new dog or cat. The children should be mature enough to understand right and wrong ways to handle a pet. Waiting a few years may avoid a trip to the emergency room with a bitten finger.

Adopting a pet is a life-enriching experience. Dogs and cats provide unconditional love and companionship to their owners. Consider adoption over purchasing an animal from a breeder or a pet store. There are too many pets already that just need good homes.

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Swine Flu (H1N1 Influenza) in Our Pets?

With all of the recent concern about protecting ourselves and our children from the new H1N1 swine flu, is it possible that we need to protect our pets as well? Perhaps more importantly, can our pets serve as sources of infection to our families?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, there have been almost 25,000 confirmed positive H1N1 tests in people in the...

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With all of the recent concern about protecting ourselves and our children from the new H1N1 swine flu, is it possible that we need to protect our pets as well? Perhaps more importantly, can our pets serve as sources of infection to our families?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, there have been almost 25,000 confirmed positive H1N1 tests in people in the United States during the 2009-2010 flu season to date. In comparison, the first known case of H1N1 flu in a housecat was announced in early November by the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) news website.

From that announcement, ““The 13-year-old indoor cat in Iowa was brought to the Lloyd Veterinary Medical Center at Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, where it tested positive for the H1N1 virus…. “Two of the three members of the family that owns the pet had suffered from influenza-like illness before the cat became ill,” said IDPH Public Health Veterinarian, Dr. Ann Garvey. “This is not completely unexpected, as other strains of influenza have been found in cats in the past.” Both the cat and its owners have recovered from their illnesses.””

The IDPH believes that the swine flu was probably spread from the owners to the cat, rather than vise-versa. Cats have been known to contract the avian flu strain after consuming carcasses of birds that died from the illness. It is therefore not a surprise to see other influenza infections in cats.

There have also been several news reports of pet ferrets contracting the swine flu, apparently from their owners, who were sick before the ferrets showed any signs of illness. According to Nebraska news reports, two of the ferrets died from the disease. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirms one ferret tested positive for 2009 pandemic H1N1 on October 5th in the state of Oregon after exposure to humans with influenza. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) confirmed one ferret death in Nebraska, October 29th, but says the ferret in Oregon cited by the USDA is recovering from the disease.

It is known by veterinarians and researchers that ferrets have very similar respiratory systems to humans; they have been used to study human influenza infections for decades. Therefore, it is not surprising to see H1N1 jump from humans to ferrets.

The Associated Press (AP) reported news of 4 cases of H1N1 in a commercial herd of pigs in Indiana. According to the report, it is the first time swine flu has been seen in pigs raised for consumption in the U.S. The USDA has confirmed 12 test-positive state-fair show pigs, as well as the 4 pigs in Indiana. The AP says that the 4 hogs raised for slaughter, as well as their human handlers have all recovered from the illness.

As for pot-bellied pigs kept as pets, it is assumed that these animals are susceptible to the swine flu like their larger cousins; however, no cases have been documented as of yet.

To date, there have been no confirmed cases of the swine flu in dogs.

In humans, cats, ferrets, and pigs, H1N1 is a respiratory disease. Symptoms typical in people would be similar to the symptoms seen in an infected pet. Coughing, sore throat, fever, aches and pains, lethargy, reduced appetite, and occasionally vomiting and diarrhea are all possibilities. The disease is typically mild, but people with pre-existing health problems may be especially vulnerable. This might be assumed for pets as well. For people in high-risk groups, H1N1 can be fatal. Quoted from their website, the CDC defines “people at high-risk for developing flu-related complications as”:

  • Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old

  • Adults 65 years of age and older

  • Pregnant women

  • People who have medical conditions including:

    • Asthma

    • Neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions [including disorders of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, and muscle such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy (seizure disorders), stroke, intellectual disability (mental retardation), moderate to severe developmental delay, muscular dystrophy, or spinal cord injury].

    • Chronic lung disease (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD] and cystic fibrosis)

    • Heart disease (such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease)

    • Blood disorders (such as sickle cell disease)

    • Endocrine disorders (such as diabetes mellitus)

    • Kidney disorders

    • Liver disorders

    • Metabolic disorders (such as inherited metabolic disorders and mitochondrial disorders)

    • Weakened immune system due to disease or medication (such as people with HIV or AIDS, or cancer, or those on chronic steroids)

What does all of this mean for your family? Well, with the data available, it appears that all of the confirmed cases of H1N1 in house pets have been spread from humans to the animals. There is no documented evidence of a person contracting the illness from their pets. The CDC recommends stringent hygiene and decontamination measures to prevent the spread of flu between people, and the same would hold true to prevent the disease from being transmitted between people and their pets. Below are the CDC recommendations in general:

Get the flu vaccine. Currently, there is not a swine flu vaccine available for dogs, cats, or ferrets; people who receive the human flu vaccine indirectly protect their pets by reducing the chance of exposure to the disease.
Take everyday preventive actions. Cover your nose and mouth, and cough into your elbow if you must cough. Wash your hands often and after exposure to infected people and pets. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers – they work! Avoid close contact with sick people or pets, and stay home if you are sick. Avoid hand to face contact. Separate infected pets from healthy family members and other pets.
Take flu anti-viral drugs if your doctor recommends them. These drugs can reduce the severity and duration of the illness.

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Tapeworms

Tapeworms (Dipylidium caninum and Taenia spp.) are the largest of the intestinal parasites that infect dogs and cats. An adult tapeworm can reach 8 inches in length, although the part of the worm that is observed in stool is only a fraction of an inch. They get their name from being thin and flat. They are well tolerated by the host, so an animal may have tapeworms for years with little or no...

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Tapeworms (Dipylidium caninum and Taenia spp.) are the largest of the intestinal parasites that infect dogs and cats. An adult tapeworm can reach 8 inches in length, although the part of the worm that is observed in stool is only a fraction of an inch. They get their name from being thin and flat. They are well tolerated by the host, so an animal may have tapeworms for years with little or no symptoms.

Tapeworms have a strange but very effective method of finding and infecting a host animal. The adult worm attaches to the intestinal wall and grows a long tail. Tail segments of the worm filled with eggs are passed intermittently in the stool. The segments dry in the environment and rupture. Flea larvae consume the eggs, and the tapeworm begins its larval stage inside the developing flea. Once an adult, the flea finds a host in order to take blood meals. The pestered pet licks and grooms itself and accidentally ingests the flea. Then, inside the animal, the tapeworm emerges and reaches full maturity in the intestine. Tapeworms can also form cysts in the liver of rodents and rabbits that ingest the eggs. A dog or cat that consumes the prey can become infected with the tapeworm cyst that will continue its life inside the primary host.

Tapeworms feed on nutrients that pass along the digestive tract, but not enough to cause malnutrition or weight loss. Occasionally, a pet may vomit the entire tapeworm, but usually only the segments are seen passing from the rectum. In fact, because the eggs are encapsulated in a segment, they are usually not seen on a fecal flotation exam performed by the veterinarian. Sometimes an owner may not be aware that a pet has had fleas until tapeworm segments are seen.

De-worming causes the tapeworm to lose its natural protection from digestive enzymes, and so it is digested and not passed when the pet is de-wormed. The medication does not prevent re-infection; it only removes the existing tapeworms. Flea prevention is the only way to prevent subsequent infection.

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The Cryptorchid Pet

Cryptorchidism is a condition where one or both of the testes do not descend into the scrotum in a male animal. In these pets, the testes remain in the abdomen or in the inguinal canal (between the abdomen and the scrotum). Unilateral cryptorchidism, one testicle un-descended, is more common than the bilateral form. A heritable trait, this condition is more common in purebred or inbred dogs than...

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Cryptorchidism is a condition where one or both of the testes do not descend into the scrotum in a male animal. In these pets, the testes remain in the abdomen or in the inguinal canal (between the abdomen and the scrotum). Unilateral cryptorchidism, one testicle un-descended, is more common than the bilateral form. A heritable trait, this condition is more common in purebred or inbred dogs than in mixed breeds. It is assumed that cryptorchidism is heritable in cats. Retained testes are sterile (cannot produce sperm) and have a greater tendency to develop neoplasia (cancer). Cryptorchid pets therefore should not be used for breeding and should be neutered.

Normally, the testes are in the scrotum at birth. They are small and soft, and can be withdrawn into the inguinal canal especially if the pet is frightened. The inguinal rings close around 4 to 6 months of age, which prevent the testes from descending if they have not already. There is no harm in waiting until 6 months to neuter the pet.

One function of the testicle is to produce sperm. Sperm cannot develop at normal core body temperature, and this is why the testes are externalized in the scrotum. Retained testes are sterile and underdeveloped. The descended testicle in the unilateral cryptorchid pet is normal and produces sperm. A bilateral cryptorchid pet cannot usually reproduce, however this should not be assumed if an intact female is present. Retained testes are able to produce sex hormones like testosterone. Cryptorchid pets will continue to show sexual drive, marking behavior, and aggression associated with intact male dogs and cats.

In the case where an animal’s cryptorchid status is unknown, such as an adult dog without a neuter surgery scar, a testosterone stimulation blood test may be performed. A resting blood-testosterone level is measured, followed by an injection of Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone (GnRH), and testosterone is rechecked 1 to 3 hours post injection. An increase in testosterone is diagnostic for cryptorchidism. In cats, penile spines are present in the cryptorchid and intact male, and their presence is a useful diagnostic tool.

Retained testes are more likely to develop neoplastic changes. Sertoli cell tumors produce increased levels of estrogen and may cause feminization of the male. Other signs of hyperestrogenism are symmetrical hair-loss along the back, increase in breast tissue with or without lactation, bone marrow dysfunction, and changes in the prostate gland. Metastasis (spread of cancer to other organs) occurs in about 10 to 40% of Sertoli cell tumors. Castration is curative when performed early in the progression of Sertoli cell tumor formation. Bone marrow suppression (anemia, decreased white blood cell and platelet count) is often irreversible when the effects of the tumor are severe.

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The Importance of Taking Your Pet to the Veterinarian

Preventive medicine and wellness testing has proven to be of great benefit to people and pets. Avoiding disease in the first place is obviously superior to trying to reverse the course of illness when it occurs. Proper nutrition, vaccination strategies, disease screening, and prophylactic care such as dental cleanings are all vital to ensuring good health and longevity. Routine preventive care is ...

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Preventive medicine and wellness testing has proven to be of great benefit to people and pets. Avoiding disease in the first place is obviously superior to trying to reverse the course of illness when it occurs. Proper nutrition, vaccination strategies, disease screening, and prophylactic care such as dental cleanings are all vital to ensuring good health and longevity. Routine preventive care is key to a better quality of life overall.

Disease prevention starts at a very young age. Puppies and kittens are very susceptible to contagious parasites and viruses. They should be tested and treated for worms and protozoa that invade the intestinal tract. Parasites can cause anemia and death in large numbers. Many take weeks to incubate and begin shedding eggs in the stool, so several fecal analyses should be performed during the first 16 weeks of age. Most of the intestinal parasites are not visible in the stool with the naked eye.

Vaccines protect your pet from contagious disease. Around six weeks old, puppies and kittens lose their maternal antibodies that had kept them safe since birth. Vaccinations are started at this age and boostered every three weeks until 12 to 16 weeks old. The immune system is not fully developed until then, so complete protection may not be achieved with the initial vaccines. During adulthood, vaccinations are boostered every one to three years depending on the specific disease risk in your area and the efficacy of the vaccine.

Proper nutrition is very important in all stages of life. A balanced diet that is AAFCO approved (Association of American Feed Control Officials) will provide all the daily requirements of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that your pet needs to stay fit and healthy. Table scraps are not balanced and tend to be high in fat and salt. They only contribute to an overweight, picky eater. Your veterinarian will make recommendations as to the type of food that is best for your dog and cat.

Early detection of illness starts with regular wellness examinations performed by the veterinarian. Your vet may recommend tests that can discover early organ dysfunction or metabolic disorders like Diabetes, Thyroid disease, or Cushing’s disease. Older pets will have their blood pressure checked and may have an ECG performed or an x-ray taken if a heart murmur is detected. Catching a problem before there are any obvious symptoms greatly improves the prognosis and may even be reversible. Symptoms mean there is damage already being done to the body. Be sure to discuss any changes in water consumption, appetite, eliminations, and activity levels with the doctor.

Prophylactic dental care is proven to greatly reduce referred infection from the oral cavity into the heart and major organ systems. As well as teeth brushing, your dog and cat should have a professional dental cleaning before periodontal disease becomes established. Ultrasonic scaling and high-speed polishing of the teeth removes bacteria harboring tartar that leads to infection, pain, and tooth loss.

Continued parasite prevention is important to avoid diseases that are transmitted by fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. Adult pets can carry intestinal parasites without showing any outward symptoms. Mosquitoes transmit heartworms, ticks carry infectious organisms that cause Lyme disease and Ehrlichia, and fleas are thought to be vectors of hemobartonella, a blood parasite that causes anemia in cats. Some of these illnesses are zoonotic or contagious to people. Your veterinarian will prescribe safe, easy to use, monthly preventive medications to keep your pet free of these harmful parasites and protect your family from serious zoonoses.

Keep in mind that a pet ages at a must faster rate than a person. A trip to the vet once a year is the equivalent of a person seeing a doctor about once a decade. Many changes can occur in between wellness exams. Veterinarians are recommending twice a year check ups for dogs and cats. Early detection of disease will greatly reduce the progression of damage being done and improve the outcome of treatment.

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The Role of Nutrition throughout Various Life Stages

Pets have changing nutritional requirements during development, adulthood, pregnancy and whelping, recovery from illness, and during their senior years. A balanced diet that has appropriate levels of specific ingredients will help to keep your pet fit and healthy throughout its life. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) develops standards for pet food that ensure that all of ...

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Pets have changing nutritional requirements during development, adulthood, pregnancy and whelping, recovery from illness, and during their senior years. A balanced diet that has appropriate levels of specific ingredients will help to keep your pet fit and healthy throughout its life. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) develops standards for pet food that ensure that all of the nutritional needs of pets are met in approved foods. Decades of extensive research and development of dog and cat food has improved the health and extended the lives of our pets significantly.

Differing amounts of essential ingredients will be found in pet foods designed for various life stages, temperaments, and body conditions. Protein is crucial for muscle growth and is the building block of all tissues in the body. Puppies and kittens need increased levels of protein during rapid growth phases. Senior pets on the other hand may have compromised kidney function, and should avoid high levels of protein. Pregnant animals will need the extra protein to deliver a healthy litter and nurse the babies.

Pet foods contain fat for energy. Any fat that is not utilized through activity will be stored by the body as reserves. Growth formulas and diets created for working breeds of dogs will contain high levels of fat that would not be appropriate for sedentary or already overweight animals. Animals that are prone to inflammation of the pancreas, the organ that produces digestive enzymes, should avoid diets rich in fat.

Carbohydrates are simple and complex sugars that provide immediate and residual fuel for cells. All carbohydrates are eventually broken down into glucose, the basic unit of energy for all tissues in the body. Sources of carbohydrates include starches such as rice, corn, and potatoes. A portion of these ingredients that can not be digested is called insoluble fiber. Fiber is important in digestion in that it provides consistency to the stools, preventing constipation. Fiber also slows absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, which may help to regulate glucose levels in diabetic patients. Diabetics are usually fed a high fiber, moderate carbohydrate diet. Fiber also helps provide a sense of fullness after eating even though it contains no usable calories. Weight loss formulas are typically high in fiber.

Other important ingredients found in balanced diets include vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and omega fatty acids. High quality pet food has the advantage of decades of feeding research to ensure that adequate levels of these ingredients are included. Good nutrition is essential to the health of your pet during all stages of life and during recovery from illness.

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Tracheal Collapse

The trachea, or windpipe, is the tube that delivers air from the mouth to the lungs and vice versa. It is surrounded by c-shaped rings of rigid cartilage that are spaced evenly down the entire length of the tube. The rings hold the tube open so that it cannot collapse into itself like a straw in a milkshake. Toy breeds of dogs may inherit a weakness in the rings which make them susceptible to a...

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The trachea, or windpipe, is the tube that delivers air from the mouth to the lungs and vice versa. It is surrounded by c-shaped rings of rigid cartilage that are spaced evenly down the entire length of the tube. The rings hold the tube open so that it cannot collapse into itself like a straw in a milkshake. Toy breeds of dogs may inherit a weakness in the rings which make them susceptible to a collapsed trachea.

The trachea is not meant to change shape during respiration. In a dog with a collapsed trachea however, it may collapse in the upper (cervical) portion of the trachea with inspiration or the lower (intra-thoracic) portion with expiration. This effect causes the sensation that something is lodged in the throat, and a chronic cough develops. The trauma to the trachea during constant coughing increases mucoid secretions that further obstruct the airway. The disease becomes progressive. Chronic oxygen starvation can then lead to heart failure and other secondary consequences.

Factors that exacerbate symptoms of a collapsed trachea are heat and humidity, obesity, heart failure (which can be secondary to collapsed trachea), inhalant allergens like cigarette smoke, respiratory infection, and anxiety. These can increase the coughing and tracheal deformation to the point of suffocation. The dog may pass out from anoxia – lack of oxygen to the brain. In fact, dogs with collapsed trachea may have elevated liver enzyme tests from chronic oxygen deprivation.

Breed predilection and x-rays confirm a diagnosis of a collapsed trachea, and treatment begins with cough suppressants and bronchodilators. Secondary heart failure will be treated with specific drugs, although the health of the heart may improve by controlling the airway disease. A weight loss program should be started for obese dogs. Avoidance of irritants like smoke is very important. As the disease progresses, surgery may be an option. Not all collapsed tracheas can be repaired however. If the weakness in the cartilaginous rings is in the throat, synthetic rings can be sutured in place. If the defect is in the chest, surgery may not be corrective or even possible. Many dogs with a collapsed trachea have a weakness in the walls of the bronchi, the main branches of airway into the lungs. For these pets, symptomatic treatment is the only option.

Because a collapsed trachea is heritable, affected dogs should not be bred.

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Ultrasound Procedures

An ultrasound machine uses sound waves above the limit of human hearing to visualize internal organs and structures within the animal’s body. A handheld transducer is used to direct the sound wave at a specific location and depth under the skin. The sound waves penetrate and reflect off of tissues. The reflected waves are measured by the transducer to create an image on a monitor. Most people are ...

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An ultrasound machine uses sound waves above the limit of human hearing to visualize internal organs and structures within the animal’s body. A handheld transducer is used to direct the sound wave at a specific location and depth under the skin. The sound waves penetrate and reflect off of tissues. The reflected waves are measured by the transducer to create an image on a monitor. Most people are familiar with the black and white images of the human fetus on a sonogram. The ultrasound is a very useful diagnostic tool to assess disease processes involving the heart, liver, spleen, urinary bladder, kidneys, and other organs within the body. It can be used to guide surgical instruments into an organ to collect biopsy specimens. The ultrasound has been used for several decades and has an excellent safety record according to the FDA.

Ultrasound can be performed without administering an anesthetic. This is important in the case of pets that would be high risk candidates for anesthesia. The hair is shaved over the abdomen or thorax depending on the organ system to be assessed. The animal is usually restrained on its side, but ultrasound can be performed on a standing patient. The transducer is lubricated with a gel that enhances contact with the skin and allows the device to slide comfortably.

Situations where an ultrasound machine might be used are numerous. Imaging can be made of the entire urinary tract to diagnose bladder and kidney stones, defects in the bladder wall and ureters, and prostate disease. The machine may have Doppler capabilities that measure blood flow to the liver and kidneys. Ultrasound is used to diagnose tumors and abscesses of the liver, spleen, and pancreas. A procedure called an echocardiogram employs an ultrasound to measure the heart chambers and valves, assessing cardiomyopathy or heart disease. A specialist usually performs advanced ultrasound techniques.

Unlike an X-ray that takes a still image of the body, the ultrasound gives real-time visualization of the organs. Blood flow through arteries and urine production from the kidneys can be seen as it occurs. X-rays produce radiation that carries certain risks with long term exposure. Ultrasound is not associated with the ionizing effects of radiation.

An ultrasound is a powerful tool available to veterinarians that can assist in diagnosing diseases, abscesses, and cancers that would go undetected without exploratory surgery. It is a wonderful advancement in medical technology that allows non-invasive assessment of the internal workings of the body.

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FIND US

Texas West Animal Health

16367 South FM 4,

Santo, TX 76472

Phone. 940-769-2222

Fax. 866-632-3365

Email. texaswestvet@gmail.com