Category Archives: Health

New Uses For Animal DNA

Very interesting article that was sent to me by Isis’ vet.  Please read on:

Advances in science have enabled the decoding of several animals’ DNA. Knowing the genome of a species has enabled medical professionals to detect some diseases that have a genetic basis. But it also has other uses, even in the criminal justice system.

The Veterinary Genetics Laboratory Forensic Unit at the University of California, Davis is the first accredited crime lab dedicated to animal DNA profiling. There are three main types of cases: where an animal is a victim, where the animal is the perpetrator, and where the animal is a witness.

DNA can be used to confirm the ownership of an animal that has been stolen or to identify the remains of a lost pet.  Tissue samples can be compared to items that would have the animals DNA on it, such as brushes, bedding, or food and water bowls.

When an animal is suspected of being the perpetrator, samples from the victim may lead to the culprit. Collection of samples from bite wounds, or clothing if the victim is a person, can be studied to determine what species performed the attack, and even to determine which individual is guilty.

Cases where animals are a witness are usually human crimes. Animal DNA can link a suspect with a crime scene or a victim. Transfer of DNA from saliva, blood, hair, stool, or urine can occur during the commission of a crime.  The UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Lab has been involved in solving or proving several serious crimes. One was a kidnapping and domestic abuse case in West Virginia where they analyzed hair from around a drill bit and blood on a hammer owned by the suspect and matched them to two puppies belonging to the victim. Another case in Texas involved a serial rapist who rolled in dog feces during an attack. The victim owned three dogs, and they matched the stool found on the suspect to the victim’s chihuahua.  He was found guilty after lab personnel testified.

In a triple murder case in Indiana in 2000, a suspect denied he had ever been at the location of the murders. An examination showed that he had a very small amount of dog feces on a shoe. The UC Davis lab was able match this to the only dog on the property where the slayings occurred. The killer is now serving life in prison.

The use of DNA is opening up a whole new field of science, just one aspect is its use in the criminal justice system. The UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Lab is still in the process of informing criminal investigators of their capability of analyzing any type of animal DNA. Who knows how many cases can be solved now?

Another goal of the UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Lab is to help eliminate dog fighting. It has come together with the ASPCA, a Missouri humane society, and the Louisiana SPCA, to form the Canine CODIS (Combined DNA Index System).  This is the first ever database dedicated to collecting DNA profiles from dogs that are seized during dog fighting investigations, as well as blood samples from suspected venues. The DNA is used to identify relationships between dogs, and thereby allow officials to expand their investigations to those who breed and train dogs for fighting.

Catnip: Why Cats Love It

Here is an article that Isis vet shared with me.  Enjoy!

Few things stimulate a cat’s pleasure faster than catnip. Exposure to this simple herb can reveal a new side to their feline personality. Many cats will go crazy at the smell of this plant.

Catnip has a reputation of being a feline drug and many cat owners wonder if it is safe to give it to their pet. Giving catnip in small doses does no harm. Using it as a treat can be quite good for your cat’s emotional health. It relieves stress and can help them get rid of nervous energy.

What Is Catnip?

Catnip is a type of mint plant found  in many countries throughout the world. It can grow up to three feet high and has many branches filled with purple flowers and heart shaped leaves.

The catnip plant has an aromatic oil called nepetalactone. When cats smell this compound, it triggers the part of the feline brain that responds to happy pheromones. This is why cats react the way they do.

Many cats seem to go crazy when they smell catnip by rolling, rubbing and running around. Eating catnip seems to produce the opposite effect. Cats often become mellow when they ingest the plant. This response to catnip usually lasts up to 10 minutes before the cat loses interest.

Catnip as a Training Tool

Creative cat owners can use catnip as a reward or incentive to promote good behavior in their felines. Rubbing dried catnip on a scratching post or cat tree can entice your cat to go there when they need to sharpen their claws instead of tearing your couch to shreds.

Lacing a cat toy with some catnip can be beneficial for inducing an indoor cat to exercise. It will encourage them to be more active and play and prevent obesity. These cat toys should be stored in an airtight container when not in use, so the catnip stays fresh longer.

Growing Catnip

You can grow your own catnip plants in a home garden. You can buy more mature plants from a nursery or plant the seeds after the last major frost of the season. It is important to put the plant in an area where it has plenty of room to grow. Take steps to protect the growing plant from your cat so they don’t tear it out of the soil before it is fully mature.

Is Catnip Right for Your Cat?

Catnip does not have the same effect on every feline. Some cats don’t care about it at all.

The love of this plant is inherited, so only 50 to 70 percent of cats respond to catnip. Kittens typically ignore it until they are three to six months old.

Catnip is non-toxic but cat owners should use caution in giving it out too often. Some cats exhibit aggressive behavior when exposed to catnip and should not have it under any circumstances.

Consult your veterinarian if you notice problematic behavior when your feline uses catnip.

 

Sources:

“Catnip Confidential,” Veterinary Practice News. February 1, 2012.

FDA Finds Harmful Bacteria In Some Raw Pet Food Samples

This is a short post today.  I will link to the article.  It is an interesting read.  Take the time to read and comment on the article on the site if you wish.  Draw your own conclusions and see where you stand with this issue.

Here is the article.

FDA Issues Jerky Treat for Pets Update

This is NOT a recall on the treats, this is merely an update on the jerky treat situation.  As with anything, I would not trust buying ANY brand of jerky treats for your dog or cat.  Just make them at home with the recipe I posted in this entry: https://furbabiesfurever.wordpress.com/2011/12/02/recipe-friday-chicken-jerky-for-dogs-and-cats/

 

Now onto the update:

October 23, 2013 — The US FDA has issued an update detailing its ongoing investigation of Chinese jerky pet treats. Readers are reminded this is not another recall — only a progress report.

The detailed update includes:
Chicken Jerky Pet Treats

A Brief Summary

The FDA has received about 3000 complaints of illness related to consumption of chicken, duck, or sweet potato jerky treats. Most involve products imported from China.

The reports involve over 3600 dogs, 10 cats and include more than 580 deaths.

The FDA continues to investigate the cause of these illnesses and is working with its partners in the Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network. The Vet-LIRN is a network of animal health laboratories affiliated with the FDA.

The complaints received this far by the FDA include adverse events involving different ages, sizes, and breeds of dogs.

About 60 percent of the reports are for gastrointestinal illness (with or without elevated liver enzymes) and about 30 percent relate to kidney or urinary signs.

The remaining 10 percent of jerky treat cases involve a variety of other signs including:

  • Convulsions
  • Tremors
  • Hives
  • Skin irritation

Potentially Serious Kidney Condition

Of the kidney and urinary cases, about 135 of the case reports have been for a condition known as Fanconi syndrome. Fanconi syndrome is considered a type of kidney disease.

Part of the normal function of the kidney is to filter out waste while retaining nutrients such as glucose, bicarbonate, and amino acids.

With Fanconi syndrome, a part of the kidney called the proximal tubule doesn’t work properly, and these nutrients are lost into the urine instead of being reabsorbed.

Dogs with Fanconi Syndrome usually drink and urinate much more than normal. This can also be a sign of diabetes. Yet Fanconi dogs do not have the elevated blood sugar that is a hallmark of diabetes.

They can also be lethargic and uninterested in eating. Some dogs may have all of these symptoms while others show only some of them. The symptoms may also be mild or severe.

These dogs often improve when they are no longer fed the treats. However, a positive urine test for Fanconi syndrome can still be detected several weeks later.

Not Just Chicken

It’s important to note that the reported illnesses are not limited to jerky treats made from chicken.

The FDA has received complaints about duck and sweet potato jerky treats and related products such as jerky-wrapped rawhide.

It’s known that the reported illnesses and deaths are mostly linked to jerky pet treats sourced from China.

However, pet owners should be aware that manufacturers do not need to list the country of origin for each ingredient used in their products.

What to Do?

Keep in mind, treats are only treats. They’re not a necessary part of a fully balanced diet. So, eliminating them will not harm pets. All the nutrients your pet needs can be found in commercially produced pet food.

You can report complaints about FDA-regulated pet food products by calling the consumer complaint coordinator in your area.

Or go to http://www.fda.gov/petfoodcomplaints.

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Vomiting vs. Regurgitation

Here is an article from the vet I received and wanted to share:

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.

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.

Lumps and Bumps

Here is an article that Isis’ vet shared with me.  Please read on:

When was the last time your pet visited the veterinarian? If you answered “not in a while,” it is time to book your next appointment. Have you recently discovered a lump or bump on your pet? Don’t let that new discovery go unexamined.  While it may be completely benign, it is essential for your pet’s health to make an appointment with your veterinarian soon after discovery. Ruling out health concerns such as tumors, cysts, and infections will help to keep your pet healthy.

Discovering and Diagnosing Lumps and Bumps

Without regular veterinary visits, subtle illnesses such as pet lumps and bumps can go unnoticed and develop into more serious health concerns such as cancers, arthritic conditions, and infections. When you brush and groom your pet, feel around behind ears, along the neckline, underneath their bellies and along legs and joints for wounds, lumps, and bumps.

Your groomer can help discover things you may miss. Furrier animals can hide lumps and bumps for a long time without anyone noticing until the animal becomes sick. While many pet owners consider grooming a pampering ritual for pets, it could be life-saving, especially when you choose a groomer who works in an environment with a veterinarian on site.

What to Look for on Your Pet

There are many types of masses, but a lipoma is the most common lump found on pets. This soft, round or flat, and painless lump presents just under your pet’s skin and is generally benign, although, rarely a liposarcoma is found. More of a problem though, is that mast cell tumors, a type of skin cancer, can look and feel just like a lipoma.  Because of this, it is always best for your pet’s overall wellness to have these lumps and bumps accurately evaluated and diagnosed.

Occasionally benign masses can grow into other surrounding tissues. While the actual lump itself is not a concern, the tissue it can disrupt sometimes is problematic. The mass may affect the way a limb moves, or an eyelid closes. In some cases lumps must be removed surgically, and removing them early is the key.

Talk to Your Veterinarian

Have you been maintaining your pet’s preventive care visits? If your pet has not been receiving annual examinations, now is the time to do so,  to ensure optimal health for your pet.

While many lumps and bumps are benign, some can present serious health implications for your pet.

Wouldn’t you want to know if something was getting in the way of your pet’s health?

 

Sources:
Goodman Lee, Jessica, “Lumps & Bumps: Team Training Plan.” Veterinary Team Brief, 2013

Nothing Heartwarming About Heartworm

I wanted to share an article Sasha’s vet sent to me:

Heartworm is a long, string-like parasitic worm that has the scientific name Dirofilaria immitis. It earns its common name by living in the host’s heart, lungs, and blood vessels. Heartworm can cause severe lung disease, heart failure, organ damage, and death. It is transmitted only through mosquitoes to a variety of species including dogs, cats, ferrets, wolves, foxes, ferrets, sea lions, and in rare instances, humans. Heartworm can affect any breed of dog or cat.

Heartworm infects animals all over the world. Once inside an animal, a heartworm can live five to seven years, and grow up to twelve inches long. Adult heartworms look like strands of cooked spaghetti.

Mosquitoes spread heartworm to the host animal.  When a mosquito bites the animal, it transmits infected larvae through the bite wound. Once inside an animal, it takes six or seven months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms. These adult heartworms mate and the females release the offspring, called microfilariae, into the host animal’s bloodstream. Mosquitoes then ingest these microfilariae when they bite the infected animal, completing the lifecycle of heartworm.

The parasite lives  inside a mosquito, and develops into infective larvae in 10 to 14 days. Microfilariae cannot become infective larvae without first passing through a mosquito. This means heartworm is spread  only through mosquito bites and not by casual contact.

The presence of the parasites inside the heart and lungs causes a large degree of inflammation, and can severely interfere with blood flow. This can cause coughing, asthma -like signs, heart failure, weight loss, fluid build-up in the abdomen, or sudden death. If  your pet develops heartworm, your veterinarian will do tests including chest x-rays and blood tests  to determine how seriously it is affected.  Treatment includes doxycycline and an injectable drug named Immiticde ℞ which is derived from arsenic. The treatment takes several months, and can also cause side effects.

For all these reasons,  it is much better to just prevent heartworm in the first place.

What Can I Do to Prevent Heartworm?

Luckily, there are several excellent heartworm preventatives available. Before starting preventative treatment in the dog though, a veterinarian will do a blood test to check for adult heartworms.  If a dog is given the preventative medicine but it already has the infection, there can be a reaction that may be severe, even possibly fatal. So it is mandatory that all dogs be checked for the disease before starting any preventative.   Also, several organizations, including the American Heartworm Society, recommend that dogs be tested annually for heartworm, and remain on the preventative medicine year round.

There are many brands of oral monthly preventatives, two types of topical monthly preventatives, and an injectable medication which is given every six months.   All these medications  are by prescription only.

If you have concerns, make an appointment to speak to your veterinarian about testing, prevention or treatment. Your veterinarian is a local expert at preventing and treating heartworm.

Sources:

American Heartworm Society

Medical Benefits of At Home Grooming For Cats

I really enjoyed this article that Isis’ vet sent to me, so I thought I would pass it along to all my cat parents out there:

 

The condition of your cat’s coat and skin is an important feline health indicator. Healthy coats are shiny and smooth, and healthy skin will be supple and clear. While nutrition and health status will influence a cat’s appearance, regular grooming also has an impact. At-home grooming care, including daily brushing, is an important part of feline wellness care.

While most cats are fastidious groomers and rarely require a bath, regular at home grooming, including daily brushing, is still important. Brushing is especially important for long-haired cats, which are more susceptible to tangles and matted fur. Daily brushing is the best way to remove loose hairs. Daily brushing will also help owners who suffer from allergies as regular grooming reduces the amount of hair and pet dander in the home. For people with mild cat allergies, daily brushing may sufficiently reduce airborne feline allergens, making it possible for these individuals to comfortably share a home with cats.

Regular brushing also helps to reduce the amount of hair that cats naturally swallow through self-grooming. This may reduce  the quantity and severity of hairballs.  If pet owners do choose to bathe their cats, choose shampoos that are specially formulated for felines.  Older or obese pets with mobility restrictions may need additional grooming assistance, including at-home baths, if they are unable to fully groom themselves.

Nails should be checked during weekly grooming sessions and trimmed as needed. Cat nails grow differently than dog’s or people’s nails.  Cats shed their nails like a reptile sheds its skin. As cats age, they use scratching posts less, and the nail caps can build up to the point where the nails curl around and penetrate the pads of the feet. Cat nail clippers can be used to trim nails and prevent this from happening.

During at-home grooming, pet owners should also perform a mini-physical on their cat, evaluating the cat’s skin and coat condition, feeling for any lumps and bumps, or noting any painful areas.  While rubbing a cat’s head or scratching the chin, use the forefingers to gently raise the upper lips, checking for abnormal teeth or red gums.  In addition to being a special bonding time for cats and their owners, a feline health assessment during grooming is critical for older cats who are masters at hiding the symptoms of illness. Early diagnosis of health problems starts with proactive at-home care.

Effective at-home grooming starts with the right products. Talk to your veterinarian about what brush is best for your cat; long-haired cats will need a different brush than short-haired cats.

Once you have the right products, brush your cat on a daily basis. Cats prefer routine, which is why your veterinarian may recommend brushing your cat in conjunction with an evening feeding or right before bedtime. If you will also be bathing your cat, ask your veterinarian which shampoo would be best to use.

Source:

Cornell Feline Health Center, “The Special Needs of the Senior Cat.”

What To Do When Your Pet Goes On The Carpet?

Here is a great article my  furbabies vet sent me that I thought I would share with you:

 

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.

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.

Is My Dog Sick?

Here is an article I received from the veterinarian.  Hope it will help those when deciding to bring their dog to the vet:

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.

 

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.