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Atopic dermatitis, also known as canine atopy, is a hypersensitivity, or over-reaction, to commonplace substances in the environment. These allergens may include plant pollens, house dust mites, mold spores, etc.
Signs that you may have an atopic dog include excessive scratching, chewing, licking, or rubbing areas of the body such as their paws, face, and rear end. They may also have recurrent skin, ear, and anal gland infections and inflammation. The extreme itching and scratching may cause hair loss and reddening/thickening of the skin. In some cases, secondary factors such as parasites, fleas, bacterial or yeast infections can worsen the level of itching. It is important to treat all factors that may be contributing to the problem.
Your veterinarian should easily be able to diagnose atopic dermatitis, although it may be necessary to eliminate other health concerns first. Once diagnosed, though, allergy tests will necessary to identify what the dog is allergic to. One form of testing is called serologic allergy testing. With this form, a blood sample is drawn and sent to a laboratory where the protein levels (antibodies) to the allergens are measured. Many factors, however, can affect the results, making blood allergy testing the lesser preferred method. At this point, your veterinarian may refer you to a veterinary dermatologist. A dermatologist would most likely recommend an intradermal allergy test. During this testing method, the fur is clipped on one side of the chest and small amounts of common allergens are injected into the skin. Then the skin is observed for a reaction to the allergens. This method is more accurate, but it typically requires a mild sedative to relax the dog during the test.
Once the allergies have been determined, a plan for treatment may be formed. Of course, it is best to avoid all allergens, but this may be nearly impossible because they are most likely in the dog’s daily environment. Regular bathing can help remove the allergens from the skin, along with a hypoallergenic cream rinse or spray after the bath. Another form of treatment is allergen-specific immunotherapy. This involves giving a series of diluted allergens based on what the animal is allergic to. Dogs may become less sensitive to their allergens, but it takes time and is necessary to try for several months so it can take effect. When effective, immunotherapy is usually continued life-long and can be given less frequently over time. Medications, such as antihistamines and steroids may help tremendously, although some side-effects may be seen. Just like humans, every animal is different, so not all medications will work for all dogs. Different types may need to be tried to find what works for you pet. Make sure to consult your veterinarian before administering any type of medication.
With the necessary testing and treatment, atopic dermatitis can be managed and your dog will return to his or her content, happy self!
Most people have heard the term “anemia”, either referred to in humans or animals. Anemia is a condition that occurs when the number of red blood cells in the body falls below the normal values, or they function improperly. The red blood cells serve the function of carrying oxygen to the cells in the body and picking up carbon dioxide. Therefore, when any anemic conditions arise, it is very serious and often life-threatening as the body is not able to carry adequate oxygen or remove waste products. One of the most common diseases of anemia in dogs and cats is IMHA.
Immune mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA), also referred to as autoimmune hemolytic anemia, is an immune system disease in which the body attacks and destroys its own red blood cells. Meanwhile, the body is still producing red blood cells in the bone marrow, but once they are released into circulation, the immune system again destroys them. This disease can be diagnosed in both dogs and cats, and in two different forms: primary and secondary. With primary IMHA, the immune system will mistakenly produce antibodies that will attack its own red blood cells. With secondary IMHA, the surface of the red blood cell is modified by an underlying disease, drug, or toxin and the immune system identifies it as foreign and destroys it. When too many of the red blood cells are destroyed and not replaced quickly enough, the animal will become anemic. This secondary form can be caused by several conditions, such as: cancer, infection, blood parasites, drug reactions, snake bites, chemicals/toxins, bee stings, or allergic reactions.
Symptoms of either form of IMHA may include: pale gums, lethargy, shallow or rapid breathing, rapid pulse, lack of appetite, weight loss, black/tarry stools, or eating dirt. Symptoms may vary depending on the underlying cause, and in mild or early stages of the disease, no signs may present at all.
If any of the above-mentioned symptoms are noticed, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible. Your vet may recommend a series of tests to diagnose your pet’s condition, as well as rule out others. Tests may include a complete blood count to identify anemia, followed by a reticulocyte count to identify if the body is making new red blood cells. Other tests to find or rule out underlying conditions may include: a blood film, blood chemistry, electrolyte tests, urine tests, fecal analysis, and/or radiographs or ultrasounds.
Once your veterinarian has a confirmed diagnosis of IMHA and any underlying conditions that may be present, a plan for treatment may be formed. Treatment of IMHA will depend on the severity of the disease. In serious cases, an animal may need intensive care, but in milder cases they may be treated as an outpatient. Treatment will often include drugs and close monitoring of the animal’s vital signs and lab values, meaning more blood tests may be performed as treatment goes on.
IMHA should be taken very seriously and treated as soon as possible. Contact your veterinarian today if you’re concerned about anemia in your pet!
Hyperthyroidism is very rare in dogs but fairly common in cats. Also called thyrotoxicosis, hyperthyroidism is caused by an increase in production of T3 and T4 (thyroid hormones) from an enlarged thyroid gland in a cat’s neck region. In most cases, this is caused by an adenoma, a non-cancerous tumor. Thyroid hormones affect nearly all of the organs in the body; therefore secondary problems often occur with hyperthyroidism.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism may be subtle at first but become more severe as the disease progresses. The most common signs are weight loss and increased appetite, thirst, and urination. You may also see vomiting, diarrhea, and a greasy, matted hair coat. If hyperthyroidism is suspected, your veterinarian will conduct a physical exam of the cat’s neck region to check for an enlarged thyroid gland. It is then likely he or she will order a blood chemistry panel and an analysis of thyroid hormone levels.
There are four treatment options for feline hyperthyroidism, each having their own advantages and disadvantages and usually chosen based upon the patient’s overall health status, the owner’s ability to medicate the cat regularly, and financial considerations. The four options include: medication, radioactive iodine therapy, surgery, and dietary therapy.
Anti-thyroid medications are reasonably inexpensive and allow either short-term or long-term control of the disease. However, life-long treatment of twice-daily medications will be required and some side-effects may be seen, including vomiting, anorexia, fever, anemia, and lethargy.
Radioactive iodine therapy is a highly-recommended treatment, as it is a procedure that often cures hyperthyroidism. During treatment, radioactive iodine is administered as an injection and quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. The iodine is taken up by the thyroid gland and the emitted radiation destroys abnormal thyroid tissue without damaging the surrounding tissue. Most cats will have normal hormone levels within one to two weeks of treatment. The disadvantage here is that this treatment is only permitted at facilities specially licensed to use radioisotopes; therefore not all veterinary clinics offer this treatment option.
Surgery consists of the surgical removal of the thyroid glands, likely producing a permanent cure in most cats, eliminating the need for long-term medication. The down-side is that it is more invasive and puts older cats at a higher risk as they undergo anesthesia. Due to these reasons, it is a less likely choice for most owners.
Dietary therapy is used to limit the amount of iodine in the diet. Although prescription cat food is easily attained through most veterinary clinic, this tends to be more of a last resort for cats that are not candidates for other treatment options. Long-term iodine restriction is concerning due to the effects on overall health and the possibility that such a diet may backfire and worsen the disease. Research on this subject is presently ongoing.
If left untreated, hyperthyroidism may cause heart disease and high blood pressure. If you suspect thyroid disease in your cat, contact your veterinarian right away. They will be happy to discuss your cat’s health and all treatment options with you to make sure the best route is chosen for YOUR pet.
Cats can get acne too?? That’s right; we humans aren’t the only ones! Some cats will only get acne one time in their life, while others may have a life-long struggle with it. Feline acne doesn’t seem to have any preference for age, gender or breed either. (Boy, it is a lot like human acne isn’t it?!) Understanding what it is and how to treat it will make things easier on both you and your feline friend.
Feline acne is found almost exclusively on the chin when hair follicles around the oil-producing sebaceous glands become clogged. It will start out as blackheads, making the chin look dirty, but may turn into swollen, red lumps that often rupture and drain. When this occurs, it will turn into a mess of crusty scabs, which can be very alarming for a cat-owner that has never seen this condition before. These scabs will often cause itchiness and irritation for the cat, which in turn may aide in the development of bacterial infections. Early diagnosis and treatment is the key to preventing secondary bacterial infections.
Your veterinarian will be able to diagnose feline acne with a physical examination. They may, however, want to perform a skin scraping or bacterial culture to rule out other issues such as mites, mange, or other skin disorders. Your vet may prescribe an antiseptic wash or shampoo and suggest that you perform washes 1-2 times daily while symptoms remain. Antibiotics, either oral or topical, may be necessary to eliminate any infection. Corticosteroids are sometimes prescribed for large amounts of swelling and inflammation.
There has been no proven cause of feline acne, although there are suspicions that poor grooming may be the primary culprit. The chin is where some of a cat’s oil-producing sebaceous glands are located, but is not an area that is easily reached to groom. The extra oil-build up clogs the pores, making it the perfect retreat for the pesky acne. Helping your cat groom its chin by gently washing the area with warm water 1-2 times a week will help to prevent these outbreaks. Shampoos or gels containing benzoyl peroxide may help keep the area clean and dry up existing acne. Similar to humans, stress and a decreased immune system are also thought to be potential suspects. Food dishes may also be a factor. Plastic or dyed dishes may cause allergic reactions as a cat’s chin will often times rest against the edge of the food dish while they eat. Try using shallow glass or metal dishes and wash them daily. If your cat is a bit of a messy eater, wash any food or residue off their chins when they get done eating. Keeping the area as clean as possible will help tremendously.
Make sure to consult your veterinarian before using any products on your cat, as some may be harmful to them. Check your cat’s chin often while giving them their daily pets; they will appreciate the extra loving, acne or not! J
We all like to think of our homes as being safe havens for our pets. We are offering them protection from the dangers of the outside world, right? What some people are not aware of however, are the dangers that lurk INSIDE our homes. Unfortunately, there are several products that we may use on a daily basis that are very dangerous, and sometimes even fatal, to our animals. Make yourself aware of them and impossible for your pets to get to them.
One of the biggest poisons to cats and dogs that you will find in your garage is antifreeze. It contains ethylene glycol, which gives it a sweet taste that some animals find irresistible. Fertilizer and other lawn and garden sprays can also be very toxic. Keep these products in locked metal cabinets or up on high shelves that cannot be accessed by a curious pet. Mouse and rat poisons also seem to be especially attractive to our pets, but are equally as deadly. Consider a different method of rodent extermination if you have pets in and around your home.
Unfortunately, the danger doesn’t stop at the garage door. There are several things found in our kitchens that can be harmful also. Chocolate contains theobromine, which is very toxic, especially to dogs. Baking and dark chocolate have the highest levels and are the most dangerous. Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in sugar free candy and gum that is extremely poisonous to our pets. Other toxic foods include grapes, raisins, onions, macadamia nuts, coffee (caffeine), tobacco and alcohol. Keep these items in high cupboards or locked in childproof cabinets.
Other household items that need to be locked up tight are all medications (both human and animal ones), but especially NSAIDs (Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Advil, Aleve, etc.). Also on the list are batteries, zinc metals (coins), lead products (paint or paint chips), dishwasher and laundry detergents and household cleaners. Use caution even when you are using household cleaners, as they leave behind strong residue that may cause allergic reactions to our pets.
There are several plants that are also toxic to dogs and cats. These include, but are not limited to: lilies, poinsettias and tulips. Visit the ASPCA website for a complete list of toxic plants. Consider removing all toxic plants from your home if you have pets. Better safe than sorry!
Some symptoms of poisoning may show right away, while others may take a few days before you notice anything suspicious. These signs may include vomiting, diarrhea, bloody or black feces, lethargy or weakness, seizures, respiratory stress, increased heart rate, temperature and blood pressure, stomach and intestinal ulcers, and kidney failure. If you notice any of these symptoms, call your veterinarian immediately. If possible, gather up any potential poisoning that is remaining; this may be helpful to your veterinarian.
Take the time to go through your home to make sure all hazardous products are locked up tight. For our furry friends, a safe home is a happy home!
For some pet owners, going out of town (even if it’s just for a short period of time) can be rather stressful. Not only must you make your own travel plans, but you must make sure you have appropriate accommodations for your furry pal(s) also. Some animals may be easy to care for but some may not be; some have health issues, medication needs, or are just anti-social, which can make the process harder. Some animals, especially cats, do not do well when taken out of their normal environment. Knowing or worrying that your pet isn’t happy can certainly put a damper on your vacation.
Finding a comfortable place or someone reliable to care for your pet can ease the stress and make your time away from home much more enjoyable! Pet sitters are quickly becoming a very popular choice. Some will come to your house at specified times of the day to feed, walk, play with, administer medications, or to simply offer companionship. Others will stay at your home for the duration of your time away to provide constant care. When looking for the right kind of pet sitter for your situation, interview the person at your home first so you can observe how they interact with your pet. It is a good idea to ask for references as well. Make sure they are comfortable walking dogs (or multiple dogs if required), giving medications, and cleaning up after the animal. Warn them of any quirky habits your pet may have as well so they are not alarmed at any time.
If a pet sitter is not available in your area, another option is a pet boarding facility. Before choosing one, we advise visiting the facility beforehand. Check and see if the runs or kennels are grouped together or if they’re separated. Your pet may not be as social as others and may need a space of his own. Cleanliness is extremely important; make sure your pet’s area would be cleaned daily. Find out if there is staff on duty 24/7. This is especially important if your animal has any health issues where they need constant monitoring or care. Ask about their vaccination requirements; it’s important to know that the other pets there at the same time yours may be are updated on their vaccinations, as well as your own.
When comparing pet-sitting and pet-boarding and choosing the right accommodations for your pet, it is important to take into consideration your pet’s personality and needs. If you have a healthy, loving, social dog that is happy to see everyone and play with other dogs, then they will likely have no issues at a boarding facility where there are other animals. If you have a cantankerous old cat who likes his own space and no one but you, consider a pet-sitter who can come in at least a couple times a day to feed and check on him. Make sure you look into all your options and choose the best one for your four-legged bestie!
In recognition of February being “Pet Dental Health Month”, let’s talk about your pet’s pearly whites! Some people are unaware that their pets can actually have some of the same dental problems that they may experience. These problems include, but are not limited to: broken teeth and roots, periodontal disease, cysts or tumors in the mouth, abscesses or infected teeth, misalignment of the bite, broken jaw, etc. At your pet’s annual check-up, your veterinarian will perform an oral examination of the mouth. They will look for any abnormalities and check for plaque and tartar build-up. Sometimes radiographs are necessary to evaluate the health of the jaw and tooth roots below the gum line.
Periodontal disease is the most common dental condition in dogs and cats and if your vet finds any indication of it, he or she may recommend a “dental cleaning”. This is a procedure performed under anesthesia and includes the scaling (removal of plaque and tartar) and polishing of the teeth. This is similar to a dental cleaning we have done at our own dentist’s office. Anesthesia is extremely necessary for veterinary dental cleanings because it is important that the animal remain completely still during the procedure, for their own safety as well as the veterinary staff. Anesthesia carries a small degree of risk but is safer now than ever before; the benefits of using it far outweigh the risks in most situations.
As mentioned above, your pet’s teeth should be checked at least once a year. Take your pet in sooner if you notice any of the following: bad breath, broken or loose teeth, retained baby teeth, discolored teeth, abnormal chewing or drooling, reduced appetite, pain or bleeding in the mouth, or swelling in or around the mouth. An animal in pain may not act as they normally do, so if you notice any behavioral changes, you should take them to your veterinarian as soon as possible. Be cautious when attempting to evaluate your pet’s mouth yourself, as an animal in pain may unexpectedly bite.
As with all health issues, prevention is key! A commonly asked question in a veterinary clinic is: “Should I be brushing my pet’s teeth?” The answer is YES! Regularly brushing your pet’s teeth is the single most effective thing you can do to keep their teeth and gums healthy. This may reduce the frequency or even eliminate the need for dental cleanings all together. If possible, start brushing your pet’s teeth when they are very young. Getting them accustomed to the activity as puppies and kittens will make the task eventually easier. Most dogs are a little easier to work with than cats, but as with all things, patience and consistency are important.
There are many different products including toothbrushes, toothpaste, chew toys, and dental-specific diets and treats that are marketed to improve dental health in dogs and cats. However, when a product is effective with one animal, it does not always mean it will be effective for another. When considering any of these products, we highly recommend visiting with your veterinarian about them first! And don’t forget to brush, brush, brush! We’d be happy to give you a demonstration at your next dental check up!
If you are a pet owner, one of the first things you should have or should be considering is the spaying or neutering of your pet. Now, don’t get us wrong…we love puppies and kittens just as much as you do and we understand how fun and adorable a new litter of furry, four-legged babies is! There are so many more things to consider along this topic, though. The decision to spay or neuter your pet will have a huge effect on their overall long-term health and welfare.
The first and most obvious reason to spay or neuter is to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. In every community, there are homeless animals, and unfortunately, the majority of them are the puppies and kittens of cherished family pets and even purebreds. Some of these animals may be adopted out from shelters, but tragically, over half of them are euthanized every single year. Spaying and neutering is the ONLY permanent and 100% effective method of birth control for dogs and cats.
Aside from being sure you will not be a contributor to the pet over-population, there are other benefits to spaying and neutering your pet. Medical evidence has indicated that females spayed before their first heat and males that are neutered around 6 months of age are typically healthier. Unspayed female dogs and cats have a greater chance of developing fatal uterine infections, uterine cancer, and other cancers of the reproductive system. Neutering your male pets eliminate their chances of getting testicular cancer and decreases their chance of developing prostate cancer. Both male and female dogs and cats that are left intact are more prone to urinary tract infections. Male cats have increased chances of their urethra becoming “blocked”, which is a life threatening situation. Unaltered pets, especially males, will also have an increased desire to “roam”, exposing them to fights with other animals, getting struck by cars, and other mishaps along the way. Having your pet (your dog) spayed or neutered will not change their fundamental personality, such as their instinct to protect or do their job.
Urine-marking is a prominent (and might we add, very unattractive) characteristic of unneutered dogs and cats. Although males are the more likely “markers”, females may do it also. Neutering your cat between 4-6 months of age is the easiest solution to solving a problem before it has started. Neutering, even in cats that have been “spraying” for a while, solves approximately 90% of all marking issues. It can even help to minimize “howling” and the urge to roam and fight with other males.
We understand that cost is sometimes a factor in one’s decision to spay or neuter their pet. However, when long-term potential costs of an unaltered pet are factored in, the savings that will be afforded by spay/neuter are very clear. If the cost is still an issue, ask your veterinarian about any low-cost spay/neuter clinics in your area.
Your spayed or neutered pet will have a better chance at a longer, healthier, and happier life!
January is here…the start of a new year and new beginnings! It also happens to be “National Train Your Dog Month”! Whether you got a new puppy for the Christmas or you have an older dog that needs a little training, this is a great time to start. There are lots of different methods of training, and trying to figure out what will work for you and your dog can be frustrating. Starting out, stick to the basics and keep it simple; this will make the process more pleasant for both of you!
If you’ve just added a new furry member to your family, start by picking out a good name – something short with a strong consonant at the end that allows them to hear it clearly when said. Then, say it often while petting or playing, always positively, so they learn to associate it with fun things, rather than negative. After they know their name, teach them to “come” by using it: “Come, Fluffy”! When they do, use positive reinforcement such as a treat or lots of praise. After they’ve mastered this first command, move on to “sit” and “stay”. Always remember to let them know when they’re doing something right. Never reward any bad behavior.
Speaking of bad behavior, jumping could be considered one. It seems harmless and cute when they’re little puppies, but as they get older and continue to do this, it won’t be as cute. Believe us, Grandma isn’t going to approve when she comes to visit and little FiFi greets her with dirty paw prints on her nice white slacks! When you come home and your dog greets you by jumping on you, try ignoring them or even turning your back on them until they settle down. Once they do, then turn and give them the attention they’re looking for. Never pet them while they’re in the jumping position; this will only reinforce that bad behavior.
Another behavior that could be placed in the “bad” category is nipping. Again, this is cute when they’re little but if they’re allowed to continue doing it, it can lead to bigger problems down the road. When they’re playfully biting at your hand or pant leg, try trading them for a chew toy or a bone. They’ll enjoy that more anyways. This method can be used for chewing also, when you find them with your favorite pair of shoes.
Remember that dogs “live in the moment”, meaning that two minutes after they’ve done something, they’ve forgotten about it. When they do something naughty, use your chosen training technique right away so they can make the association between the bad behavior and the correction. Consistent repetition is the key in the training process and will reinforce what they are learning. Lastly, always end your training session on a positive note. Let them know they’ve pleased you by giving them a treat, praise, lots of petting or just some play time. This will make them eager to join you again in your next session! Happy New Year and happy training!
The most wonderful time of the year is upon us! Christmas trees are being decorated, lights are being hung, and goodies are being baked! Oh, it’s just wonderful, isn’t it? There’s just one teensy little problem…sometimes we forget about the dangers that all these things impose on our pets. With a little preparation, though, we can have a safe AND festive home for the holidays!
If you’re putting up a real tree this year (mmm…can’t you smell the pine just thinking about it?), make sure your pet is unable to get to the tree water as it may contain fertilizers that could cause an upset stomach. Whether your tree is real or artificial, make sure it is anchored securely so it won’t fall and cause any injuries. Carefully consider the ornaments you use as some may have sharp edges or if accidentally broken may cause injury as well.
Although beautiful, it may be wise to avoid holly, mistletoe, and poinsettias in a home with curious pets. When ingested, these could cause nausea and/or gastrointestinal upset, and in extreme cases even cardiovascular issues. If possible, replace these with artificial plants, or even a pet-safe bouquet of flowers.
If you have a cat in your home, we probably don’t even have to tell you to avoid the tinsel! Kitties seem to love this sparkly new “toy”. Although it can be very humorous to watch them bat it around, if even a small piece is swallowed, it can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting, and possibly surgery. It’s really best to avoid it completely in a home with either cats or dogs.
Electrical wires, batteries, and candles should all be kept out of reach of your pets. A chewed wire can deliver an electrical jolt to a chewer and a punctured battery may cause burns to the mouth and esophagus. Candle glow is beautiful and serene but they can cause burns and even house fires if tipped over. If you do light candles, make sure they are far out of reach and always put them out before you leave the room!
You already know not to feed your pet chocolate or anything sweetened with xylitol – an artificial sweetener that is toxic to animals. Remember, though, that our pets will sometimes go to great lengths to get to food that has been left out on tables or counters. Make sure you and your guests are disposing of used plates, cups and eating utensils and covering any food that is left out for snacking. Secure lids tightly on the garbage cans, also!
If you’re expecting holiday guests, try to give your pets a quiet space of their own to retreat to. Sometimes they can get stressed out with the extra activities around the house. We are used to keeping our homes “pet-proofed”, but that can sometimes be forgotten when your guests come to visit. Suitcases may be left open on the floor, leaving direct access to medications, lotions, perfumes, jewelry, and other potentially hazardous items. Make sure your guests are aware that you have pets in the house and to keep potentially dangerous items in safe places.
Lastly, make sure that during the hustle and bustle of the holidays that you’re keeping your pet in the feeding and exercise routine that they are used to. Just like we like our daily routines, our pets rely on theirs as well.