Featured Articles

Is My Dog Sick?

posted Oct 18, 2013, 6:59 PM by L Mentzer   [ updated Nov 15, 2014, 11:08 AM by Lucas Mentzer ]

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Is Your Dog Sick?

If your dog exhibits the following symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately:

•    In distress with Vomiting or diarrhea
•    Swollen abdomen
•    Labored breathing
•    Collapse, loss of consciousness or seizures
•    Bleeding
•    Symptoms of acute pain, such as crying out, whining or whimpering
If your dog exhibits these symptoms for more than 2 days, contact your pet's doctor
•    Lethargy or general weakness
•    Excessive thirst
•    Frequent or inappropriate urination (e.g., wetting the bed, or accidents in the house)
•     Frequent panting

When in doubt, talk to your veterinarian.

When Pet Owners Should Take Their Dog to the Veterinarian

Identifying the signs of sickness in a dog can be challenging, even for the most vigilant pet owners. Since a sick dog is unable to verbally communicate what hurts, pet owners must pay close attention to identify the signs of illness. Subtle changes in behavior or appetite may be symptomatic of an underlying health problem. While dogs cannot verbally tell us when they are sick, they use physical symptoms and behavior changes to communicate.

Determining when a trip to the doctor is warranted can be challenging. One of the most common symptoms of illness is vomiting or diarrhea. Dogs, however, may vomit on occasion without actually being ill. Eating food too quickly or drinking water too fast can cause vomiting, although the dog will feel much better afterwards. So how can a vigilant pet owner tell when a dog actually needs veterinary care?  Profuse vomiting, bloody vomiting, lethargy or anorexia concurrent with vomiting all require immediate medical intervention.  Vomiting or diarrhea for more than 24 hours is a sign that a pet needs veterinary care. Vomiting or diarrhea for an extended period may be symptomatic of many things, including pancreatitis, infections, ingestion of foreign material,  accidental poisoning, or parasites, all of which require urgent veterinary care.

Dog owners should also be alert for signs of lethargy. If a normally active dog suddenly loses interest in playing fetch or no longer runs across the room, this may be a sign of illness. A long run at the park may cause exhaustion, but if a pet owner cannot identify a specific cause, then contact a veterinarian. Lethargy can be symptomatic of hundreds of disorders, one example is  heart disease, which requires veterinary care. Pet owners should also look for a change in exercise tolerance and unexplained weakness. A loss in consciousness, difficulty breathing, bleeding, or seizures always requires immediate emergency care for all animals.

Pet owners should also be on the lookout for the following symptoms: poor appetite, lameness, weakness, frequent urination, excessive scratching or licking, nasal discharge, constipation, an unusual bump, or excessive thirst. If these symptoms occur for more than two days, pet owners should contact their veterinarian.

In general, it is better to be proactive about veterinary care than to wait. In the wild, animals instinctively mask symptoms of illness so they will not appear weak to predators or be shunned by their own kind. Consequently, a dog will instinctively try to hide any health problems. Prompt care thanks to a vigilant pet owner can make a big difference for a dog's health.  If you question whether a visit to the doctor is needed, please call and discuss it with your veterinarian.

Source:

American Animal Hospital Association, “Urinary Tract Infections.” 2013.

Vomiting Versus Regurgitation

posted Oct 18, 2013, 6:59 PM by L Mentzer   [ updated Nov 15, 2014, 11:10 AM by Lucas Mentzer ]

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What Is That?

It is important to differentiate between vomiting and regurgitation.  

Vomiting is a dynamic process, with the dog actively using its stomach muscles.

The material produced by vomiting will look digested.
Regurgitation is a passive process, the dog appears to just burp up contents.
The material produced does not appear digested.

Talk to your veterinarian if you have any questions or notice continued vomiting or regurgitation from your dog.

When you come home to find a mess on the floor, it is easy to assume that the dog vomited. Vomiting is very common in dogs, as they often eat weird things! There are actually many other causes of vomiting, including parasites, kidney disease, liver problems, pancreatitis, and food allergies. Overall, there are probably at least 101 causes of vomiting.  

When you take your dog to the veterinarian, the doctor will ask questions and determine if the dog is truly vomiting, or if the dog really has regurgitation, because they have different causes. You will be asked if you saw the process and what the mess looked like.

Vomit

Vomiting has many causes, but results in the stomach ejecting its contents through the mouth. Very active vomiting can also cause intestinal fluid to be brought up. When vomiting, a dog will often precede the act by retching, actively using the abdominal muscles, to force the contents up and out of the body. The process is often strenuous and dynamic.

The vomitus, meaning the material that was vomited up, comes from the stomach or intestines, and therefore contains a lots of fluid. The fluid may be a range of colors, from clear, to white foamy, yellow, green, brown, or even red if there is fresh blood.  Blood that has been in the stomach longer will become digested, and look like coffee grounds when vomited up.

Of course, there could be many other things in the vomitus depending on what was eaten. There could be dog food, which will look like it is starting to digest rather than its original form. Non-food material may look digested, or it may look like the original form depending on whether the  material can be digested. Objects like metal, plastic, and many fabrics cannot be digested.

Regurgitation

Regurgitation, on the other hand, comes from problems in the esophagus, the tube that leads from the mouth to the stomach. A dog that is regurgitating will just burp up  material. There is no active movement from the abdominal muscles pressing on the stomach.   

Since the food or other material does not make it to the stomach, it is not digested;  food will look much like it did when it was eaten. Sometimes there can be water in the material that is regurgitated if the problem is a megesophagus. This is a disease where the esophagus is not a straight tube, but becomes flaccid and dilates. Things that are ingested may just sit in this dilated area, not reaching the stomach, and will be regurgitated later.  Often, there can be fluid with food that is regurgitated.

Diseases of the esophagus include ulcers, inflammation, foreign bodies stuck inside the esophagus, tumors, and megesophagus. This is why it is important to know if that mess on the floor is caused by vomiting, or by regurgitation.

Canine Hip Dysplasia: Causes & Treatment

posted Oct 18, 2013, 6:58 PM by L Mentzer   [ updated Nov 15, 2014, 11:11 AM by Lucas Mentzer ]


“My dog has hip dysplasia;  what should I do?”

If your dog has been diagnosed with hip dysplasia, talk to your veterinarian about the different treatment options that are available.

•    If your young dog qualifies for a TPO, early surgical intervention can restore joint function and reduce degenerative damage to the joint.

•    For more advanced cases, an FHO or surgery for an artificial hip may be needed.  

•    Talk to your veterinarian about which painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications are right for your pet.

•    Ask about physical therapy, cold laser therapy, and acupuncture.

•    Low-impact exercises, like swimming, will help your pet stay active without stressing the hip joint.

Canine hip dysplasia is the abnormal formation of the hip joint and one of the leading causes of rear leg lameness in dogs. Hip dysplasia is most prevalent in larger breed dogs, especially German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Saint Bernards and Rottweilers. On the other hand, hip dysplasia is uncommon in the Doberman, Great Dane, and Greyhound. The condition can occur in small and medium sized dogs as well, for instance, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Pug, and the Sussex and Clumber Spaniel. This condition affects male and female dogs equally. With hip dysplasia being a common condition in dogs, it is important that dog owners understand the symptoms, causes and treatment options.

Hip dysplasia is caused primarily by genetics, although other factors also play a role. Studies have shown that feeding a puppy too much of a high-calorie diet can cause the puppy to grow too quickly, which then increases the risk for hip problems.

The earliest symptoms can occur between four months and one year, although the signs may not be apparent until the dog is middle-aged or older. These symptoms include pain when walking, a swaying gait or limp, “bunny hopping” when running, and, most commonly, difficulty getting up due to pain in the hindquarters. Hip dysplasia is not an “all or nothing” condition, but occurs on a spectrum determined by the amount of hip dysfunction.

In a normal hip joint, the head of the femur (thigh bone) fits snugly into the socket.  Dogs with mild dysplasia have a mild separation between the ball and hip socket. Dogs with moderate dysplasia will have more separation, which causes wear and tear leading to degenerative arthritis. Dogs classified as severely dysplastic have a full separation of the femur from the hip socket which leads to severe arthritis.

Diagnosing hip dysplasia requires x-rays of the hips; this almost always requires sedation or anesthesia for proper positioning.  This can be done by your veterinarian.  There are three methods of getting the hip x-rays:  OFA, Penn-Hip, and DLS. These are just different methods of positioning and measuring. With OFA and Penn-Hip you can also send the hip films to a radiologist for an official evaluation and certification. People who want to breed their dog often do this; if you breed two dogs with good hips you are more likely to get puppies with good hips. OFA will evaluate your dog at any age, but the dog needs to be at least 24 months of age to be certified.  DLS is a new system recently developed by Cornell University.

Treatment for hip dysplasia depends on the severity of the disease, the age of the dog, and what expense the owner is willing to incur. Some young dogs may be helped by a surgery called a triple pelvic osteotomy (TPO). Especially in small to medium dogs, another effective surgical option is an FHO (femoral head ostectomy) where the head of the femur is removed. On the other hand, the dog with a  severely arthritic hip may be helped only by surgery to implant an artificial hip.  Most cases will need pain meds, anti-inflammatory drugs, and glucosamine. Other treatment modalities are laser therapy, physical therapy, water treadmill, and acupuncture.

Source:

Baker Institute for Animal Health, Cornell University
 

Pets Can Have Allergies?

posted Oct 18, 2013, 6:57 PM by L Mentzer   [ updated Nov 15, 2014, 11:12 AM by Lucas Mentzer ]

Pet Food Allergies
“Does my pet have food allergies?”

If your pet has the following symptoms, he or she may have food allergies:

•Itching, scratching, biting the skin
•Licking feet
•Scratching rear                    •Chronic vomiting
•Chronic soft stool
•Excess gas

If you suspect that your pet has a food allergy, talk to your veterinarian. Food allergies may even lead to weight loss.

Identifying food allergies in your pet can be a difficult, but necessary, process. Your veterinarian will work with you to replace your pet’s current diet with alternate protein and carbohydrates sources.

Managing Food Allergies in Pets with an Elimination Diet

Food allergies are the third most common allergy that affects dogs and cats, outranked only by fleabites and inhaled allergens (e.g., pollen). Allergies to common food ingredients are also on the rise and now account for at least 30% of all allergy cases. Unfortunately for many pets, the most common food allergens are also the most common pet food ingredients. Consequently, as a pet owner, identifying and isolating the trigger for a pet’s food allergy can be difficult.

The first step in diagnosing a food allergy is to recognize the symptoms. Common food allergy symptoms including excessive itching and scratching. Dogs with a food allergy commonly lick their feet, scoot their rear end in an attempt to scratch it, or have ear problems. Cats have a wider variety of skin symptoms, almost any pattern of hair loss or scabs can be a sign of an allergy. Food allergies can also cause gastrointestinal problems such as chronic vomiting or soft stools. If a pet suffers from recurring gas or diarrhea, a food allergy may be the cause. Symptoms of a food allergy may slowly build over time as a pet’s immune system mounts an increasingly greater response. It may be several months before hair loss, coat deterioration and skin lesions occur.

Food allergies have a genetic basis, although environmental factors can also have an impact. Recent research suggests that different environmental factors in early puppyhood or kittenhood may increase the chance that the immune system overreacts to certain food substances. However, a genetic predisposition for this overreaction must first occur for an allergy to develop. Dogs are most commonly allergic to beef, chicken, and wheat. The most common allergens in cats are fish and dairy. However, any pet can be allergic to any ingredient they have eaten in the past.

An elimination diet is the most effective way to determine a food allergen as there is no valid blood or intradermal skin test for food allergies. A veterinarian will recommend a “novel” diet that is entirely different from a pet’s regular food. All protein and carbohydrate sources must be swapped out and fed for a length of time to see if the symptoms disappear or at least lessen. The dog or cat must consume nothing but the novel diet for 8 to 10 weeks. During this time, allergy symptoms should gradually disappear.

Next, owners can gradually reintroduce elements of the past diet one ingredient at a time. One ingredient should be introduced and then monitored for one to two weeks. If symptoms return, this ingredient can be confirmed as at least one source for the food allergy. Talk to your veterinarian before beginning an elimination diet.

Sources:
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, “Food Allergies.”

 

Cancer in Pocket Pets

posted Oct 18, 2013, 6:56 PM by L Mentzer   [ updated Nov 15, 2014, 11:12 AM by Lucas Mentzer ]

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Signs and Symptoms

Early diagnosis is important for successful treatment and improving your pet’s quality of life. Look for these symptoms:

•    Change in physical appearance, such as a change in posture or attitude
•    Abnormal swelling
•    Sores that do not heal
•    Loss of appetite/weight loss
•    Bleeding or unusual discharge
•    Persistent lameness or stiffness
•    Difficulty eating
•    Disorientation, seizures or collapse

If you recognize one or more of these symptoms in your pet, talk to you veterinarian. Your veterinarian may recommend diagnostic tests to confirm the presence of a tumor and create a customized treatment plan for your pet.

A tumor (also known as neoplasm) is an abnormal growth of cells; this growth may be either benign or malignant. Benign tumors do not spread throughout the body and often have a limited impact on a pet’s overall health. Malignant tumors can develop in one location, such as a hormone-producing gland, and then spread to other body parts. Treatment and prognosis for malignant tumors depends on the type of cancer, where the tumor is located, and at what stage it is diagnosed.

Pancreatic tumors are one of the most common diseases affecting ferrets. Insulinoma is a tumor in the pancreas that causes excess secretion of insulin; this affects the body’s ability to regulate blood glucose level. Excess insulin causes hypoglycemia, which causes weakness and can cause other symptoms including disorientation, seizures, collapse, and partial paralysis of the hind legs.

Tumors are common for many pocket pets, including hamsters and gerbils. For example, hamsters are frequently diagnosed with benign tumors in the adrenal gland or lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system that can affect many organs. Tumors are common in a gerbil’s ventral marking glands and appear as sores. Skin tumors may appear as large masses along different parts of a gerbil’s body, including the ears and feet. Tumors affecting the internal organs are more difficult to identify in the early stages since obvious physical symptoms are not present.

A veterinarian with experience treating tumors in small animals and pocket pets can best diagnose the precise health condition affecting your ferret, gerbil or hamster. Your veterinarian will start with a physical examination. Depending on the type of tumor and its location, a variety of different diagnostic tests may be necessary. For example, ultrasound may be used to look for tumors. Needle biopsies,blood tests, or urinalysis may also be necessary for an accurate diagnosis.

If your pet is diagnosed with a tumor, treatment will depend on the type of tumor. In some cases, surgery to remove the tumor may be highly effective at extending your pet’s life, especially if the tumor is not malignant and cancer has not spread. Early diagnosis plays a critical role; any type of tumor is easier to treat when it is detected early. While some forms of aggressive cancers cannot be cured, your pet’s quality of life can be greatly enhanced when detected early. New diagnostic methods are improving early detection and increasing treatment success rate. This is why regular veterinary exams are critical for every pet.

Source:

American Veterinary Medical Association. “Cancer in Animals,” March 2010.

 

What to Do When Your Pet Goes on the Carpet

posted Oct 18, 2013, 6:52 PM by L Mentzer   [ updated Nov 15, 2014, 11:12 AM by Lucas Mentzer ]

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Incontinence in Pets

    Incontinence is also very common in dogs, especially middle -aged to older female dogs. This does not cause pain though, unless there is a secondary UTI.  Incontinence causes the dog to leak urine, usually while lying down or sleeping. A small to medium volume of urine will leak out; the dog may not be aware, or you may see her licking her genital area more than normal.  There are many cases where it is confusing whether the pet is suffering from incontinence or one of the bladder diseases. Your veterinarian can help you and your pet sort through this and decide the correct diagnosis and treatment.

Painful Urination

Straining to urinate, frequent urination, blood in the urine, and accidents in the house are common symptoms that pet owners report to their veterinarian. Many times the signs come on suddenly, as people find urine spots on the floor, often near the door where the dog goes outside. Cat owners may notice that the urine balls in the litter box are smaller than usual, or they may also see urine spots around the house, often in the corners of rooms.  Painful urination has three main causes in dogs and cats.

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

A urinary tract infection (UTI), also commonly called a bladder infection, is by far the most frequent cause of a painful urination. UTI's can occur in both males and females, but infections in females are more numerous because of the shorter urethra (the tube from the bladder to the outside). To diagnose a bladder infection, your veterinarian will obtain a urine sample, collected in a special way so as not contaminate the sample, for a urinalysis and often a urine culture. E.coli is the most common bacteria causing the problem, but Staph, Proteus, Klebsiella, and Pseudomonas can be other types of bacteria causing the infection.  It is believed that pets licking their anal area, then their genital area may be the means of transfer of the bacteria. Pets with extreme weakness or paralysis of the rear legs, diabetic pets, dogs with Cushings, and female dogs with a recessed vaginal opening are prone to UTI's.

Bladder Stones

Bladder stones are the second most common reason for painful urination. There are five main kinds of urinary stones with struvite (magnesium ammonium phosphate) being the most common. Other types of stones are calcium oxalate, urate, silica, and cystine.  Struvite stones commonly form secondary to a bacterial infection. The other  stones  form because of different metabolic problems. Many, but not all, stones will show up on abdominal x-rays.  Ultrasound will usually find the other stones.

Surgical removal is usually the treatment of choice for stones; this can quickly relieve the pain the pet is feeling. The main problem with stones is that they often recur. Some dogs have had multiple surgeries for stone removal. Your veterinarian can help to prevent struvite stones by performing urine cultures to monitor for UTI's. There is also a  special food that may help to prevent struvite stones.  The other types of stones each have their own recommendations for preventing recurrence.   

Bladder Tumors

Bladder tumors are the third most common reason for painful urination.  While not common, they do account for 2% of all cancers in dogs; however, they are less common in cats. The vast majority of bladder tumors are a malignancy called transitional cell carcinoma (TCC).  They occur mostly in older pets. Some breeds have a higher rate of TCC, with Scotties having the highest rate since they are 18 to 20 times more likely than the average dog to have a TCC. Other breeds with a higher incidence are Shelties, Beagles, Westies, and Wire Haired Fox Terrier. These tumors cause discomfort because they obstruct the flow of urine. Detection of the tumor is by ultrasound, diagnosis is by surgery and biopsy.

If your pet is showing signs of urinary discomfort by needing to urinate more frequently than normal and straining, if you're finding urine accidents in the house, or if you see blood in your pet's urine, then consult with your veterinarian. An examination of your pet and diagnostic tests can determine the cause, and your veterinarian will discuss the necessary treatment with you.

 

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