Blog Archives

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

Planning For Your (Dog’s or Cat’s) Health Care

This is an article I got from Sasha’s vet.  I put dog and cat in brackets because I think this could apply to both, even though the article says Dog’s health care.  Please read on:

Before adopting a dog, take a moment to consider the amount of care your pet will require and your ability to provide that care. Too often a cute face and wagging tail inspires individuals to bring home dogs without really considering the amount of time and financial resources required to raise healthy and happy dogs. As a result, animal shelters fill and pets do not receive the care they deserve.

Budget

Before adopting, look at your household budget. Dogs should have a yearly check-up at the veterinarian and get the required vaccines. Don’t forget the daily expense of pet food, medications, toys, and other supplies. Keep in mind, the bigger the animal, the higher the cost. Before you settle on adopting a St. Bernard or Great Dane, consider the quantity of food the animal will require and how much room your budget has to accommodate your new pet’s appetite. Remember to calculate your pet’s average expenses into your monthly budget as well as a reserve emergency savings for any accidents or unexpected trips to the veterinarian. If you don’t have emergency savings available, pet insurance might be a responsible option; the monthly cost will be consistent and most of your pet’s veterinary care will be covered. You can check on-line to compare the dozen pet health insurance companies. Be sure to ask about exclusions or what is not covered. You can always contact your veterinary office for information about the specific cost of care.

Veterinary Appointments

Regular veterinary appointments are necessary for your dog’s welfare. When bringing a new puppy or dog home, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible to screen your pet for any unknown conditions and to make sure all vaccinations are up to date. Your veterinarian will also help you select the best food for your dog, answer any questions you might have about making your home safe for your dog, and help you to provide the best care for your pet throughout its different stages of life.

Planning Ahead

Planning for a dog’s future is often overlooked, but should always be taken into consideration. If you have a dog at home, carry a pet emergency notification card in your wallet. If something prevents you from returning home, an emergency contact will be notified that your pet is in need of care in your absence. Establish either a formal or informal agreement with a trusted individual who will be able to care for your pet in your absence. Be sure this individual will have the time and financial resources which your pet needs. Keep a pet folder with all of your pet’s information (medications, food, habits/behavior, and veterinary records) and instructions with your other important documents.

Your Dog’s First Visit to the Veterinarian

During your pet’s appointment, your veterinarian will likely ask you a few common questions. Consider these questions before you arrive to ensure an efficient check up.

1. How long have you had your pet?

2. Where did you adopt him or her?

3. What vaccinations has your pet had? When?

4. What do you feed your pet?

5. Is your pet drinking more or less water than usual?

6. Has your pet lost or gained weight?

7. Has your pet displayed any odd behavior or symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, or vomiting?

8. Does your pet go outside?

9. Has your pet ever suffered any serious medical condition?

Contact your veterinarian to schedule a health screening for your pet. Be sure to ask your veterinarian when you should schedule your pet’s next appointment.

Sources:

American Veterinary Medical Association

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

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.

 

Dogs and Chocolate Poisoning

With Halloween just over, most of us will have some candy left over, or our children have trick-or-treated and got some great loot!  I know we like to share our food and sometimes even candy with our furry friends, sharing chocolate can be toxic and even worse, deadly for our dogs.

The scary thing is, it doesn’t take much to poison a dog, just 0.7 ounces per pound of body weight of milk chocolate, 0.3 ounces per pound of body weight of semi-sweet chocolate and baking chocolate is the worst at 0.1 ounces per pound of body weight is enough to do serious damage.

Some of the symptoms of chocolate poisoning are:

  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • increased body temperature
  • rapid breathing
  • muscle rigidity
  • seizures

If you suspect your dog is suffering from this, do not delay, call your emergency vet and get there immediately.

It is important to note that there is NO antidote to chocolate toxicity.

For more information, please see this article.

Does Your Cat Need Vaccines

This is a great and thought-provoking article my vet shared with me.  I hope it helps those out there who are deciding on whether or not to vaccinate your cat:

 

As a pet owner, you may have heard conflicting information about the importance of pet vaccinations. Once your kitten matures to adulthood, it’s natural to wonder if regular vaccinations are vital for your pet’s well being – or if they unnecessarily put your cat at risk for cancerous tumors.

“No other medical development has been as successful as vaccination in controlling deadly diseases in companion animals,” says cat veterinarian Dr. Arnold Plotnick.
However, Plotnick and other leading veterinarians acknowledge that some vaccinations have been linked to the development of sarcoma, a type of cancer that occurs in places where the vaccines are frequently injected. Research suggested that aluminum salts, which were added to the killed-virus vaccine to enhance the vaccine’s efficacy, may have been responsible for the tumor development.

So are vaccinations safe – and do your indoor cats, which have little to no contact with other animals, even need to be vaccinated?

According to Plotnick and other leading veterinarians, vaccinations are indeed essential to a pet’s well being. “To not vaccinate our pets is not an option.” Instead, veterinarians must work closely with pet owners to devise a vaccination schedule that best meets a pet’s long-term health needs. Vaccine manufacturers have also stopped putting aluminum salts into vaccines.

Cat vaccinations are divided into two categories: core vaccines that are essential for every cat, and non-core vaccines that may or may not be necessary based on a cat’s lifestyle. For example, vaccines against feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) are non-core vaccines that are generally not recommended for indoor cats.
The rabies vaccine is a core vaccination. Depending on local regulations, this vaccine may be required annually or administered every three years. Some veterinarians prefer the annual version of the vaccine because it is considered safer. “It does not contain substances that some people have linked to vaccine-induced sarcomas,” says Dr. Plotnick.
According to the Humane Society, a veterinarian can also conduct a blood titer test to measure your indoor cat’s rabies antibodies. If the levels are sufficient, your cat may be exempted from revaccination.

If your cat is up to date on core vaccinations, then your cat may be able to receive boosters every three years, rather than every year. Check with your veterinarian to confirm whether your community requires annual rabies vaccination or permits the three-year vaccine.

 

Sources:

Humane Society

CatExperts

Care For Your Pet – Don’t Surf The Net

This is an article I received from Isis vet.  It discusses getting help when your pet is ill, rather than searching the net for answers for the symptoms or ailments that your pet is exhibiting.  It is a great article and well worth the read:

The World Wide Web has opened up communication opportunities between veterinarians and pet owners.  Convenient hand held devices allow pet owners with Web connections to scan, surf, text and email to their heart’s content at any hour of the day.  Or night.  You might think this is convenient for pet owners, brings fast results for pets, is easier on your budget than office visits, and is a smart use of available resources.  But is it?  Think again.

Emailing and texting veterinarians with questions that are pertinent to a pet can be a good thing when the communications are between you and your own family veterinarian.  When your family veterinarian is involved that means more information is involved:  your pet’s past health history, habits, activity levels, behaviors and several prior lab reports.  More information can provide alternatives, choices and additional treatment measures.

Unfortunately, pet owners are more often using the Internet to find information to identify, heal, or cure their pet’s symptoms.  The symptoms, to those not trained in helping pets maintain their health and wellness, may seem minor.  In fact, owners researching solutions via Internet for their pet’s emergencies, injuries and ailments can instead be compromising their health.

“Responsibly surfing (the Web) is fabulous,” says Nancy Kay, veterinarian and author of Speaking for Spot.  But that “does not take the place of a call or visit to your veterinarian,” she reminds pet owners.

“The American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA) saw veterinary visits decline by 21 percent for dogs and by 30 percent for cats,” says veterinarian W. Ron DeHaven and AMVA executive vice president.

“Get(ting) Dr. Google’s Opinion” is Kay’s perspective of the electronic pet care owners are providing for their beloved pets.  Choosing to use the technology owners keep handy is frequently delaying the necessary treatment an ailing pet requires to relieve discomfort or pain, restore its health, or even save its life.

“The biggest thing I see is an increased rate of euthanasia and much sicker animals than I’ve ever seen, meaning people are waiting longer,” says veterinarian Julie Kittams.

Marty Becker, veterinarian and author of Your Dog:  The Owner’s Manual, calls the phenomenon “Vets vs. Net.”  A good veterinarian can quickly and fairly cheaply address many conditions that make a dog or cat miserable, Becker says.  Owners with an itchy-pawed dog chose to let their pet lick and chew constantly for six years before they checked with a veterinarian.  What they believed to be allergies was a “carpet of yeast and staph in his feet.”  Appropriate medications eliminated the itching within 48 hours.

A comatose dog in Becker’s clinic couldn’t be saved after its owners concluded non-stop vomiting was caused by a minor upset stomach.  The piece of carpeting he’d swallowed without their knowledge became lodged in his intestine, causing a rupture and pus-filled abdomen.  “Sometimes hours or minutes matter,” Becker says.

Don’t delay with technology!  Ask your veterinarian to confirm information you learn via Internet.  Check in quickly with your family veterinarian when your pet’s health changes – you could save your pet’s life.

Sources:

American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA).

Balas, Monique. Sick pets put owners in financial bind.

Becker, Marty, DVM. Your Dog: The owner’s manual.

Kay, Nancy. Speaking for Spot.

Peters, Sharon L. Dr. Google not always best when pets are ill.

Portland Veterinary Medical Association.

The Pain Scale

We all know when we bring our fur babies to the vet and there is something wrong, our pets let us know, but how do we know what degree of pain they are in?

The pain scale roughly gages the amount of pain your pet is in, while also taking into consideration body temperature, pulse and respiration.

The pain goes from zero (your dog is wagging his/her tail, you can touch them without a reaction) to Grade four (vocalizing, becomes stiff, cannot move).

If you believe your pet is in pain, but is unable to react to the pain (or is prideful as many pets are), it is best to call the vet and discuss the issue over the phone and then get in to see an emergency vet immediately.  When dealing with pain, it is best to have it dealt with immediately, so that your pet does not suffer.

It is probably important to know that if your pet has a Grade two measurement on the pain scale, your vet will discuss the options open to you as far as treatment.  If your pet scores a three on the pain scale, medication is issued immediately.

For more information on the pain scale, and to know what all the grades are, here is the information.

Cats And Heart Disease

I received this article from my vet and thought I would share it with all of you:

Cats are wonderful pets.  In fact, they outnumber dogs as pets in the United States.  It is estimated that 85 to 95 million cats are kept as pets; one-third of all households have at least one feline friend. It is important for cat owners to be aware of a stealthy disease that may affect as much as 15 to 20% of all cats.

Heart disease is one of the more common problems in the cat, and can affect cats of all ages.  Some causes of heart disease may never cause the cat any symptoms; some can cause severe signs, even sudden death.

By far the most common heart disease in the cat is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) accounting for at least 60% of all heart disease in the cat.  This is an excess thickening of the heart muscle walls, so much that it interferes with the pumping action of the heart.  The walls can even get so thick that the ventricle chamber is greatly reduced in size, and therefore only a small amount of blood can be pumped with each contraction.

Cats with mild HCM may never show any symptoms, but more commonly cats with HCM develop one of three scenarios: congestive heart failure, clot formation, or sudden death.  Cats do not cough with congestive heart failure as dogs do; cats in heart failure have a fast respiratory rate and labored breathing. If you study their sides, you can see they are using their abdominal muscles to help them breathe. You may notice they do not want to lie down in a normal manner, they sit sphinx-like and are reluctant to move.

HCM cats are prone to clots.  These form within the heart, and can break off and are swept by the blood stream to other areas of the body. The clots can go anywhere, but most commonly they go down the aorta and lodge where the arteries divide to go into the rear legs.  You will find these cats unable to use their rear legs and crying in pain.  Your veterinarian will be suspicious of such a clot if the rear paws are cold, the femoral pulses are absent, and the pads of the rear feet are pale while the front pads are pink.

Cats with HCM may also die suddenly.  They may act fine one minute, and die within seconds to a couple minutes.  Death can be due to a severe arrhythmia or a clot that affects the brain.

HCM can develop sporadically in any breed or type of cat, but as it does have a genetic basis, certain breeds are prone to this potentially devastating disease.  Maine Coons, American Shorthairs, Ragdolls, and Persians have a much higher incidence than most other breeds, but each of these four breeds has its own genetic variation of HCM.  The Maine Coon and Ragdoll breeders have funded a veterinarian who does genetic research to develop genetic screens for their breeds.  But, unfortunately each test works only for that breed for which it was developed.

Regular examinations are important as your veterinarian will auscultate your cat’s heart (listen with a stethoscope) each time it is seen.  A murmur means more investigation is needed.  A murmur is just a symptom, it is caused by turbulence of blood not flowing in the normal manner.  There are innocent murmurs, which means, there is a murmur but it is not clinically important, and will never cause the cat a problem.  To make HCM even more difficult, one- third of HCM cats do not have any murmur at all.

Other tests that may be done are blood tests, especially a thyroid test, and proBNP, which is a newer test to check for cardiomyopathy.  Blood pressures and chest x-rays may also be done, especially if fluid in the lungs is suspected.  Radiographs (x-rays) of the heart are not useful, as severe heart disease can be present while the heart looks normal, but x-rays are needed to check the lungs.

The most important test to diagnose heart disease is an echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound of the heart, and needs to be performed by a veterinary cardiologist.  With an echo, the internal structure of the heart can be seen, and measurements taken of chamber size, valves of the heart observed for leaks with Doppler, and a diagnosis made.

There is no cure for HCM, but there are various drugs used to try to manage the disease.  Diuretics are used if they have started into failure; also atenolol, diltiazem, and enalapril have been used, although no studies have shown great efficacy.  Plavix, an anti-coagulant, is used if the heart is in the stage where clots are a concern.

There are other heart diseases that occur in cats: heartworm parasites, congenital malformations, restrictive cardiomyopathy, and dilated cardiomyopathy.  The latter problem is much less common in the last decade since cat foods have been supplemented with higher levels of taurine.

In summary, regular examinations are important to keep your feline friend healthy.  Your cat’s doctor will always be mindful of the potential for heart disease, listen for any abnormal sounds, and question you on any symptoms you may be seeing.  Your veterinarian can help your cat stay happy, playful, and as awesome as ever!

References:
http://www.vet.cornell.edu/fhc
http://www.humanesociety.org

Canine Bloat

Just the other night, a friend called me in a panic, thinking that his dog was dead.  He has a purebred German Shepard, and the dog had finished eating and then soon after, he said his dog went down like a brick.  I told him to call the emergency vet and get there ASAP.

After tests and worry and shock, come to find out, his dog was suffering from Bloat.

I briefly mentioned this disease on a post I did back in November, and now that it has come up again, I wanted to go over it more in depth as it can be a scary situation if not treated immediately.

Bloat is also known as Gastric Dilation-Volvulus, (when too much gas or foam builds up in a dog’s stomach) which causes problems when the stomach can twist 90 or 360 degrees.  This creates a “seal” so that the rest of the digestive system is cut off, where the dog cannot get expel the gas or foam, making the stomach enlarge.  Kind of think of it as a balloon stuck in a small space and it keeps on inflating.  That is the pain that the dog goes through when they are unable to purge what is making their stomach essentially expand.

There isn’t that much that is known in preventing Bloat from happening, other than recognizing the possible signs and being educated as to what Bloat actually is and acting fast when the symptoms appear.

While not much is known in the cause, some factors can be when a dog gulps their water, or gulps their food down too fast.  Getting slow feeding bowls can help, feeding them good, healthy food, and using a good water fountain type dish can help.  Larger breed dogs are more at risk than smaller dogs of developing this.

Major symptoms to watch out for are:

  • Stomach distended
  • Nausea and attempting to vomit without being able to
  • Showing severe discomfort
  • Collapsing
  • Excessive drooling

Please read on to find out more about bloat.  Keep watch on your dog when they are eating and drinking and make sure they are not gulping too much air.  If your dog collapses or shows any of the symptoms above, please call your vet or the emergency vet (keep the number on the refrigerator and programmed into your phone).  Time is of the essence in treating bloat.

 

Cats And Hairballs – What You Need To Know

We’ve all heard it from time to time, that dreaded hurking sound that cats make just before regurgitating a lovely hairball onto the carpet, even though the floor is about 2 feet away.  They just have to do it on the carpet (I know I should be nicer, it’s mostly because cats use the carpet because they cannot get a grip on the floor when they start to bring up the hairball).  But when is this a cause for concern and when is it fairly normal?

Cats from time to time will throw up hairballs (they are not coughing them up, they are regurgitating them, they stay in the digestive system until hair is passed either through the bowels or through the mouth, hairballs are not stuck in the lungs as some people may think).

If your cat is throwing up more than once a month, this could mean a disease rather than hairballs.  Some diseases could be: kidney failure, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, and many other ailments, so if this is something that happens often with your cat, a trip to the vet would be in order.

Ways to help combat hairballs would be to brush your cat daily.  Cats spend about 10% of their waking hours grooming themselves, so if you get rid of a decent amount of shedding hair by brushing them daily, you are helping to ease the amount of hair they will swallow.

Sometimes people will use Olive Oil in their food (about a half teaspoon) to get the hair to pass through their digestive system and evacuated through their bowels faster.

You can also use hairball treatments.  These can be given as needed.  When I used them, I would smear a bit on the top of Isis’ paw about two hours after she ate.  You want them to have it on as empty a stomach as possible so that it adheres to the fur stuck in their stomach.

If you want to find out more about how to stop hairballs, this is an article that can help.  The only part I would omit is mentioning that dry kibble especially for hairballs is useful.  That part is not true.  Dry kibble doesn’t really do much for hairballs.