Monday, December 20, 2010

Aflatoxins: What Are They & How They Hurt Your Pet

*Press Release & List of Affected Foods*

What is an Aflatoxin?

Aflatoxins are compounds produced by various fungi that grow on crops in the field or while in storage. Crops such as corn, rice, wheat, oats, sweet potatoes and peas are used as ingredients in many pet foods and therefore aflatoxins can contaminate them. Commercial grains are screened routinely for aflatoxins but as you can imagine not every single grain can be screened (for example one moldy orange in a large bag may not be spotted when you purchase it from the store).

How do aflatoxins cause my pet to be sick?

Dogs and cats are very sensitive to aflatoxin. A dose as low as 0.5 mg/kg can be lethal. The disease has only been reported to clinically affect dogs, but that does not mean that cats are not susceptible. Aflatoxins are easily absorbed by the small intestines. Once in the blood stream they bind to proteins, those that are unbound go to the liver and other tissues. The breakdown of the aflatoxin produces the product that is highly reactive and causes the damage we see. It causes death of liver and kidney cells.

What are the signs of aflatoxicosis?

In most cases pets have been exposed to the toxin for weeks to months and then suddenly become sick. The most common early signs you may note if your pet is affected include refusing to eat, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy. Some pets may die unexpectedly without ever showing signs. Later in the disease pets may develop a yellow color to their gums and skin (icterus), fresh blood in the stool or vomit, black tarry stools (intestinal bleeding), bloody nose, bruises on the skin or gums.

How is aflatoxicosis diagnosed?

Your veterinarian will run blood and urine tests to check for liver and kidney damage. Other tests may include clotting times and stool analysis. A liver biopsy may be obtained. Make sure to bring the bag of dog/cat food being fed. A sample may be submitted for testing; although many times the bag that was the culprit was consumed before the pet showed any signs.

What is the treatment?

Unfortunately there is not special antidote for aflatoxins. Treatment consists of supportive care until the toxin is cleared from the body. Medications given include liver protectant medications such as vitamins and antioxidants, blood and plasma transfusions for the bleeding problems, medications for the intestinal system and fluids to help keep good blood flow to the kidneys and liver.

In most affected pets signs do not show up quickly. Usually large amounts of contaminated food have been consumed and the pet will most likely succumb to the disease. Pets that have ingested small amounts may survive with appropriate supportive care.

It is important to remember that many other diseases may cause similar signs and your veterinarian will want to make sure other diseases are not responsible for the signs. If you note these signs and your dog or cat has been fed a recalled food call your veterinarian immediately!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Feral Cats & Their Management

Because a 140 character tweet isn't enough...

A study was recently published by the University of Nebraska regarding Feral Cats and Their Management.

I agree with the article that feral cats cause damage to local wildlife and promote the spread of disease, how severe it is I don't know. I DO NOT agree with many of the articles proposed solutions.

While it is important to make the public aware of risks of feral cats populations it is also important to present solutions that do not involve instructing a person on shooting cats as "an efficient method to reduce populations." The study itself presents a table on the first page categorizing feral cats as not tame. How would they ever expect a non tame cat to hold still in order to properly "aim shots between the eyes." This is asking for a slow painful death and therefore not a humane death.

Finally, they also say "Body-gripping traps (160 and 220 Conibear®) and snares can be used to quickly kill feral cats." I googled pictures and these traps don't look too humane to me either.

There are a few feral cats in my neighborhood. I have captured some cats in the past and taken them in to my hospital to spay and neuter them and re-release them. While I know that this does not prevent them from hunting local wildlife or spreading disease at least it does prevent them from worsening the feral cat population.

There are many issues to deal with regarding the feral cat population but promoting shooting and trapping as effective types of control is not a solution in my opinion.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Trick or Treat? Halloween Pet Dangers

Halloween is just around the corner. This means another time when you will be distracted or kids will be around with plenty of treats and toys for your dog and cat to get into. Before you hold any special celebration here are a few tips on things to keep an eye on.

Glow Sticks / Jewelry

I have seen a few of these cases, mostly involving curious cats. The solution usually only causes extreme salivation and erratic behavior all due to the severely unpleasant taste of the product. If you can, carefully rine out your cats mouth or provide canned food or tuna water to help dilute the liquid and improve the taste. This can be difficult to do as the cat may not want to stay still and the danger of being too aggressive with the rinse and accidentally sending the solution into the wind pipe and lungs. You may need to take the cat to your veterinarian to be sedated and have the mouth rinsed. The product can be deadly but only in large quantities as an 8 pound cat that ingests the entire contents of one necklace would consume less than one-tenth the deadly dose. In most cases due to the severely unpleasant taste means that most of the liquid will remain in the necklace. Do remember to wash off any product remaining on your cats fur/paws as they will come into contact with it while grooming themselves and lead to a repeat episode!

Trick or Treaters/Noises/Doorbells/Guests in Costumes

If you know your dog or cat is not good with people or noises it may be best to keep them in a quiet part of the house. This will also prevent unexpected treat giving to your pets. If there will be candles around make sure they are not able to be knocked down by a wagging tail or a curious cat. Difficult to avoid this? Having them board for the night may be the next best step for their safety and your peace of mind.


Bakers chocolate is the worst, milk chocolate may or may not be ok depending on the amount your dog ate and white chocolate is most likely ok. Sings of toxicosis include tremors, nervousness, vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate, and in severe cases, seizures and death. Call your veterinarian or the ASPCA poison control if you suspect an ingestion.

Sugar-Free products

If the package has Xylitol listed make sure to keep them away from pets and be VERY concerned if they got into it. Even a tiny amount of a Xylitol containing product can be deadly (read previous post) and you should seek emergency care as soon as you know there was exposure. Most likely your veterinarian will give a medication to make your pet vomit in hopes of decreasing the amount of product left in the stomach for your pet to absorb. A deadly drop in blood sugar levels or even liver failure can occur.


Some of the items may be seen as an attractive new toy for your dog or cat. These could potentially be ingested and cause a trip to the surgery room because of an item causing an intestinal obstruction. If you are putting a costume on your pet make sure that there are no tight fitting straps that may cause circulation problems. Do not allow your pet to be unsupervised while in costume as they may decide to chew it off and potentially swallow pieces of it. Finally, make sure all pieces of the costume are removed, especially any tight fitting bands that could cut off circulation and cause severe swelling of a leg, tail, ear etc.

Outdoor Safety

Make sure to keep your pet on leash and close to you at all times. Unexpected noises or costumes my frighten your pet causing them to react unpexctedly by biting or trying to run away. Having a short leash will allow for better control. Keep a reflective collar, leash or vest on your pet and make sure they have a dog tag and microchip in case they were able to get away.

By following these tips and putting a little extra thought before involving your pets in any Halloween Festivity a great time should be had by all. Next up Thanksgiving and the Holiday Season!

Continuing Education

So you called to make an appointment with your veterinarian and you were told he/she was at a continuing education meeting. Great timing, the dog just started vomiting and having diarrhea again or you woke up to your cat straining in the litter box unable to urinate. You end up making an appointment with one of the other doctors or have to be seen at the other clinic in town. You ask yourself, why does my veterinarian need to go to a meeting? Didnt they go to school already? Is there a problem with their license?

Well, beleive it or not various hours of continuing education are required by law to keep a veterinary license current. Your veterinarian fulfills this requirement by a combination of methods including reading current journal articles on specific topics, going to a local or out of town meeting to attend lectures on specific topics or via an interactive webinar.

For each of these, an expert in the field of that specific topic discusses ways to diagnose or treat the problem being discussed. These experts may be involved in research or have great experience on the topic presented and can share information on a new test or treatment available that is not yet widely known.

Just this past week I spent 3 days listening to experts discussing Liver Diseases, Feline Infectious Diseases and Gastrointestinal Diseases. It wasnt for fun that I stayed for the late-night talk that ended at 8:30 pm discussing liver copper -storage diseases in dogs. There was a case in the hospital that was just diagnosed with this disease and some valuable treatement tips were given during the meeting not yet avaialble in any book or journal! I immediately e-mailed these cutting edge tips to the doctors that stayed at the hospital so they could make sure we had the best chance of helping a very sick Labrador recover.

So the next time you wonder why your veterinarian is not available because of a meeting think about the new information being gained that may allow Fluffy to live a longer, more comfortable and healthier life.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Humane Euthanasia

Unfortunately a time may come when our beloved pet is suffering from disease and a decision about humane euthanasia must be made. The disease may be one that requires extensive hospital visits, at home treatments and expenses which you may not be able to provide for physically, mentally or financially. The disease may be one in which the pet is unlikely to make a recovery no matter how dedicated you are to your pet. When this time occurs it requires the owner and veterinarian to have a frank conversation about humane euthanasia.

Euthanasia is an option that allows one to make the decision to end a pet’s pain and suffering. Your veterinarian may bring up euthanasia as an option during certain situations as they serve as an advocate for your pet. The veterinary oath states “I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health, the relief of animal suffering…” As hard as the decision can be for both the owner and the veterinarian, it is the kindest thing that can be done in the final stage of a life. Sometimes the decision needs to be made due to an unexpected emergency that has occurred (a pet that ingested a toxin or one hit by a car). Other times the owners know that their pet is fighting a chronic disease (kidney failure, heart failure, cancer) and that the time will come when the disease becomes too advanced.


Owners frequently ask when the right time to perform the procedure is and how will they know when that time comes. This varies from person to person and I tell owners to pick a few things that their pets love to do. For some pets it’s eating and going for their walks, for others it’s the car ride and playing with other pets in the house and for some it’s having free roam of the house and jumping on and off of furniture. Other things to keep in mind are pets that are no longer able to get up and walk on their own and are urinating and defecating on themselves. I ask owners when their pets stop doing the things they love to do, appear to be in constant pain or are soiling themselves, it’s a sign that their quality of life has deteriorated and most likely the right time has come.

I had to make the tough decision myself a few years back. When my dog stopped barking at the mailman, no longer wanted to eat as much and she stopped going on her walks and was in pain every time she moved, I knew then she was not enjoying her life anymore. As much as we would like to hold on for our own reasons it is important to realize that our beloved pets are suffering and it is now the chance for us to give back to them for all the unconditional love they have given us. It’s a final gift we can provide them.


The euthanasia solution used is actually an anesthetic, which makes it a pain-free procedure. To be present during the procedure or not is a personal decision. Some owners want to comfort their pets during their final minutes. Others prefer to say good-bye and not have the procedure be their final memory or feel that they would be too emotionally upset which would just upset their pet more. Some owners, while not present for the procedure, would like to view the body and spend some time visiting afterwards.

Sometimes the procedure can be planned ahead of time and be performed at home where the pet may be more comfortable. If your veterinarian does not perform house calls they may be able to provide the contact information of one that does. The procedure may have to be performed in the hospital for a pet that is not stable enough to be transported back home.

If a pet is anxious or painful a tranquilizer or pain medication may be given before the euthanasia solution. Sometimes a catheter is pre-placed in the vein to allow for easier administration. The anesthetic agent is given at a very high dose that not only causes an almost instant loss of consciousness and loss of pain but also within seconds to minutes causes the heart and lungs stop functioning. Since the pet is not conscious, they do not feel anything. Most times, the animal passes away very quickly and peacefully. The veterinarian listens with the stethoscope for absence of a heartbeat.

The eyes will remain open in most cases. Sometimes there is a last few breaths, one large gasp or a vocalization that occurs during or shortly after the procedure. These all occur due to the respiratory muscles shutting down and it is important to remember that this is not the pet fighting the anesthesia or feeling any pain, as they are pain-free and unconscious once the solution is given. Other natural reactions that occur include complete muscle relaxation causing the loss of urinary and bowel control causing urination and defecation to occur. Final release of chemicals in nerve endings may cause occasional muscle twitching.


Some owners wish to take the body home to bury it (please check your local and state laws regarding this). Others wish to have their pets buried in a cemetary or privately cremated and have the ashes returned to them in an urn. Your veterinarian can help arrange for this. Finally, some owners do not want their pets ashes returned. In these cases the pets are still cremated as a group with other pets and the ashes disposed of appropriately. If you are unsure of your decision at the time, your veterinarian will most likely be able to hold the body in their morgue for a specified amount of time to allow you to time to make a decision.


After the procedure is performed it may be best to have someone drive you home and spend some time with you. Should you need additional support after the loss of your pet there are a variety of free hotlines you can call. The lines are staffed by volunteers which are usually veterinary students. If you have any questions regarding the process of euthanasia or need support afterwards please speak with your veterinarian or visit the following web-site from the Cornell Veterinary School full of various resources which you may find helpful before and after euthanizing your pet.

Remember that euthanasia is emotional for the veterinarian and staff as well, regardless of how long they have known you or your pet. James Herriot stated the view of most veterinarians in All Things Wise and Wonderful:

"Like all vets I hated doing this, painless though it was, but to me there has always been a comfort in the knowledge that the last thing these helpless animals knew was the sound of a friendly voice and the touch of a gentle hand."

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Preparing your pet for the new baby

Recently I’ve learned that a few clients (as well as a very good friend of mine) will be welcoming a new baby into their home, congrats again to all! With all the planning going on it may be easy to forget that at some point the pet and new baby need to be introduced. How will you do this?

Well, before the new baby even arrives there are many important steps to take to ensure that your pet is on the right track toward being receptive of the new addition to the family. Yes, I know that there are a lot of other worries and concerns that come when preparing for the arrival of a new baby, but preparing your pet should be close to the top of the list and going through this preparation will help the transition go a lot smoother.


You may have heard about a disease called toxoplasmosis that can cause abortion or serious birth defects. Most commonly, this disease is acquired by eating infected, under-cooked meats or unwashed vegetables and not from your cat. This parasite can also be found in feces of an infected cat, but direct transmission by ingesting infectious organisms is less common. Cats get infected by eating raw meat, birds, mice or contaminated soil. Luckily for you the disease is easily avoidable and luckily for your cat it doesn’t mean they have to find a new home or resort to living outside. If your cat has been indoors since a kitten, you don’t have mice and you do not feed a raw food diet you probably have nothing to worry about. If your cat is outdoors and they have previously been infected it is likely good immunity against the parasite has developed and they are less likely to pass the infection in their feces. Second, changing the litter box DAILY is VERY IMPORTANT. It takes 1-5 days for the “eggs” that are passed in the feces to become infective and therefore the chances you become infected if the litter box is cleaned daily are low. Third, in order to become infected you must eat an infective “egg,” so wearing gloves and then washing your hands thoroughly after cleaning the litter box should be a habit. Finally, if someone else cleans the litter box for you DAILY, then you have even less chance of being infected!


There are a few reasons for your pet to visit their veterinarian before the baby arrives. For starters, you will be so pre-occupied with the new baby that you may forget to take your pet in for their important physical examination. You will be glad that you don’t have a veterinary appointment after the baby is born and that you have to go in with both a newborn and a pet!

During this veterinary visit it is important that you bring a fresh stool sample with you (your veterinarian can provide a container and a bag to place it in). This stool sample will be examined for any parasites. Your veterinarian will also administer a de-worming medication. Remember, stool sample tests are not 100% and can give a false negative result (your pet is infected but the test came back negative), this is why your pet should be de-wormed even if the test is negative. Why the stool sample if the pet is going to be treated anyways? The sample will help identify the type of infection, if present. Monthly preventatives can be prescribed to make sure your pet continues to be free of not only some internal parasites, but also external parasites such as fleas, ticks and mange mites.

Vaccinations should be updated as needed. Intact pets should be spayed or neutered. You may ask your veterinarian to refer you to a veterinarian that is specially trained in behavior medicine. This is important if your pet is very anxious or appears fearful. Pets that are not that well trained, nip, pounce or swat may need additional training. The behavior specialist will hold a consultation with you and your pet and test its limits so that you are aware of any additional training that may be necessary and how much longer of a transition period may be needed when introducing your pet to the baby.


If your pet is used to being the center of attention they will definitely feel the effects when your focus and energy shifts to the baby. Gradually begin to accustom your pet for this by spending a little less time each week as it gets closer to delivery time. If the parent to be is very attached to the pet it’s a good idea to transition the role of primary care giver to another family member. This will help them feel less ignored when the parent is occupied with the baby. IF you wait until the baby is around and immediately cut-off attention, ignore or scold your pet they will feel stressed.

To avoid the pet jumping on the baby’s chair, crib or other items apply double stick tape to the items. The sensation will cause your pet to jump off. In the short term it is advisable to have a baby gate to limit access into the baby’s room. A gate that the pets can see through is best as it will allow the pet to hear and see what is occurring while you are in the room. Remember to allow the pet access to the room on occasion to get them used to the scents and sounds of the room.
It is a good idea to simulate some day to day activities that will involve the baby. Place a doll in the stroller and go for a walk with it and your pet to get them used to it. Carry the doll when you are around the house.


Make sure there is someone available to come feed and walk your dog or clean your cats litter while you are away at the hospital. It may be a good idea for someone to bring home a blanket or clothing item that has the baby’s scent before you arrive home from the hospital. Once home, have someone else handle the baby as the dog or cat may be anxious to greet you. Calmly greet them and give them a treat if they are behaving.

Never force your pet to get near the baby. When your pet does come near, make sure you reward any good behavior. You want to associate a good interaction as a positive experience. Try and continue regular routines with your pet so that they don’t feel neglected. Make sure you make a little alone time for you and your pet as well.

I will provide tips on introducing a pet to a baby that is little older and mobile in a future article. Remember, ALWAYS supervise your pets when they have the ability to interact with a baby, NEVER leave them unattended, not even to go grab the phone in the other room or answer the door.
By making the proper adjustments your new baby and pet will be able to safely and happily interact!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

True or False: Is it toxic or not?

Have you ever thought about whether or not common items around the house could be dangerous to your pets? Find the truth about some of the common items here!

My dog ate Marijuana. Its ok as long as I leave lots of food out for the munchies.: False

All parts of the marijuana plant contain THC including hashish and hashish oil. Your dog will probably not die unless they eat too much but clinical signs will start at 1000 times less than the lethal dose. Signs may start as soon as 30 minutes and include disorientation, drunken gait, slow heart rate, tremors, vomiting, low blood pressure and urine dribbling. Treatment includes supportive medications and monitoring of body temperature. Most recover in 24-72 hours.

Macademia nuts are dangerous: True

When ingesting a moderate quantity (about 5 nuts per 10 pounds) you will notice vomiting, weakness and depression starting at about 6 hours after ingestion. If there is not preexisting medical condition the weakness and depression gradually improve over 24 hours.

Swifer WetJets kills dogs: False

This product is mostly water (up to 90%), some propylene glycol and a little isopropyl alcohol. The propylene glycol is not the same as toxic ethylene glycol found in antifreeze and at the concentration in this product it should not be a problem.

Febreze is dangerous for pets: False

Febreze contains water, alcohol, corn-derived odor eliminator and fragrance. Toxicity is not expected with routine use or even with exaggerated exposure!

Tea is a good antidote for sick cats and dogs: False

Tea contains caffeine which is toxic to animals. Tea is 5-10 times more toxic than semisweet chocolate!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Feline Chronic Kidney Disease

Video Link from The Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: Cat owners guide to kidney disease. Includes tests used to diagnose it, what it is, medications used to manage it and instructions on giving fluids under the skin (subcutaneous fluids).

Kidney disease implies that one or both of the kidneys are not working as they should. It can go undetected until the disease is severe enough to cause clinical signs or changes in blood and urine tests. Other terms used include renal or kidney failure. Kidney disease can be acute (recently occurred and may be reversible) or chronic (has been occurring and progressing for a long time and is not reversible). Sometimes it can be a combination where a patient with stable chronic kidney disease has an acute worsening of kidney function, termed acute on chronic kidney disease.

The kidneys are important for daily function as they eliminate the waste the body produces, make sure electrolytes and water balance and they produce a variety of important hormones including one that helps prevent anemia. Luckily the kidney is made with plenty of “back-up” help. 66% of the kidneys must be damaged to lose the ability to concentrate urine and 75% of the kidneys must be damaged to see elevations in levels of wastes the body clears from the blood. This is why people and animals can donate one kidney and continue to live a normal life, as both kidneys are not necessary if they are completely healthy. One disadvantage is that the “back-up” help makes it difficult to detect kidney disease early on.

The goal of identifying kidney disease early is to attempt to slow its progression. How can you tell at home if your cat may have kidney disease? Early on, your cat will appear normal and healthy. Once 66% of the kidneys are damaged, concentration of the urine (a way the body conserves water) is not possible. A sign of this is that your cat begins to drink more water and urinate more often. You may notice that your cat is always at the water bowl or that you fill it more often than usual. You may also notice that your cat is using the litter box more often or that you are scooping the litter box more frequently.

As the disease becomes more advanced your cat will lose weight, have a poor hair coat and may not eat as well. As the kidney damage progresses body wastes are not eliminated properly and they accumulate in the blood and body. This elevation of toxins can be measured with blood work and when these levels are increased the condition is called uremia which literally means urine in the blood. Signs of uremia include loss of appetite, vomiting, ulcers in the mouth, weakness and bad breath due to the accumulation of ammonia.

Other abnormalities that can occur include anemia (the kidney produces a hormone called erythropoietin that is responsible for making red blood cells), and high blood pressure. The anemia makes the weakness and loss of appetite worse. High blood pressure can cause blindness, stroke-like signs such as changes to behavior or seizures, injury to the heart and worsening of the kidney disease itself.

So how can you identify this disease earlier rather than when your cat is sick? This is where the importance of yearly urine and blood tests during your senior cat’s annual visit comes in. A urine sample will show whether the kidneys can concentrate it appropriately (remember loss of this ability is one of the first indicators of kidney disease). If the kidney is damaged enough or there is high blood pressure proteins will also accumulate in the urine and this can be detected as well. Sometimes, urinary tract infections can affect the kidneys and a urine test can also identify if this is present. A complete blood test is important to monitor not only for two main indicators of toxin accumulation in the body (BUN and creatinine) but also to make sure that anemia is not present. A blood test can also identify electrolyte abnormalities which may require special supplements to correct.

Other tests that should be done during your senior cat’s exam should include a blood pressure. Once kidney disease is identified x-rays and ultrasound are needed to evaluate the kidneys. This evaluation is important in identifying possible kidney stones, abnormalities in size and shape of the kidneys.

Although chronic kidney disease is irreversible, for most cats treatment can “assist” the kidneys and allow a good quality of life for months or years. There is no single treatment for kidney disease. Your veterinarian will tailor make a plan for your cat based on the severity of the changes in the blood work and the signs that your cat is experiencing. Treatments include a “kidney friendly” diet, hydration therapy by giving fluids under the skin, supplements and medications to vomiting, nausea, poor appetite and high blood pressure. If your cat becomes anemic injections of the hormone erythropoietin may be recommended.

Your veterinarian will formulate a schedule for exams that will include re-checking blood work, urine tests and blood pressure. This will assist in making adjustments to the treatment plan.

In humans chronic kidney disease is sometimes managed with hemodialysis (where a machine acts like a kidney and cleanses the blood of wastes) or by kidney transplant, both of which are available for cats but usually not a realistic option for the general cat population due to limits in availability, costs and specific criteria to be an ideal candidate. It is important to remember that hemodialysis is not a cure and those receiving kidney transplants require long-term medication administration to try and avoid rejection of the donated kidney.

Remember, just because your cat seems healthy at home, it is important to see your veterinarian at least yearly for younger cats, every 6 months for senior cats (>7 years old) and that blood work and urine tests be performed in senior patients to try and spot changes before your cat is actually sick!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Feline Pancreatitis

Cats can be affected by inflammation of the pancreas known as pancreatitis. The pancreas is an organ in the abdomen located very close to the stomach, intestines and liver. The pancreas has multiple jobs that are very important to every day life. It produces insulin which is necessary for keeping the body’s blood sugar stable and it also produces important products necessary to properly digest food. When the pancreas becomes inflamed, the products that it makes to help digest food in the intestines are activated within the pancreas and the pancreas basically begins to “eat/dissolve” itself.

Usually the cause of pancreatitis in cats is not found. Some causes are believed to include trauma, infection and some medications. In cats chronic pancreatitis is more common in cats, where the acute form occurs more commonly in dogs. Signs of pancreatitis are very nonspecific and can be hard to notice. 80-100% of cats have decreased energy/actvity, 87-97% stop eating and 54% are dehydrated. In contrast to dogs and humans, vomiting (35%) and abdominal pain (25%) are not common signs in cats. Other conditions that occur with pancreatitis include hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD-inflammation of the intestines), diabetes and inflammation/infection of the bile tract and liver.

Abdominal ultrasound is considered more useful that x-rays for the diagnosis of pancreatitis and should be the next test performed if x-rays of the abdomen do not provide a definitive diagnosis. A recently new blood test (fPLI-feline serum pancreatic lipase immunoreactivity) is being used to identify cats with pancreatitis. The only way to definitively diagnose pancreatitis is via biopsy, but this procedure is expensive and requires general anesthesia in patients that may be at higher risk complications. Using a combination of clinical signs, blood tests and ultrasound a strong suspicion that pancreatitis is affecting your cat can be attained.

If a cause for the pancreatitis is found, that cause must be treated. Other treatments are not directly targeted at the pancreatitis but more at helping the cat feel more comfortable and assist in balancing any secondary complications. This consists of providing intravenous fluids via a catheter to provide adequate hydration, electrolytes and blood flow to the pancreas. Medications that provide relief of nausea and vomiting as well as pain medications are given. In severe cases, protein levels drop and blood clots may form which require transfusions of plasma. Cats that have not been eating for a few days and do not begin to eat shortly after treatment is started may require a temporary feeding tube to be able to provide adequate nutrition. Cats that have inflammatory conditions of the liver/gallbladder (cholangiohepatitis) or intestines (IBD) require steroids to decrease the inflammation. If infection of the liver or gallbladder is suspected antibiotics may b administered.

The prognosis is very variable as some cases are more severe than others. Because the pancreatitis in cats is usually chronic, other bouts of pancreatitis will most likely occur at some point in time. If enough pancreatic tissues are damaged secondary complications can occur. One is diabetes as the insulin producing cells are damaged and the second is exocrine pancreatic insufficiency as the cells that make products that assist in digesting food are damaged. Sometimes the inflammation of the pancreas is so severe that the bile duct becomes obstructed.

Because cats hide disease so well, by the time they are showing signs they may already be very sick. It is important to remember that if you notice any non-specific signs such as lethargy or loss of appetite which do not improve after a day or two make sure you see your veterinarian. Pancreatitis may be only one of many possible diseases making your cat sick.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Your cat has a heart murmur, now what?

Your cat seems to be doing great at home and you realize its time for the annual trip to the vet. During the exam, everything seems to be good, except that your veterinarian mentions that a heart murmur is present. You most likely wonder what this finding means for you and your cat as well as what the next steps are in figuring out the cause of the heart murmur. In this article I will discuss the tests necessary when a heart murmur has been identified in your cat by your veterinarian when they are not showing any clinical signs of heart disease (asymptomatic).

Once a murmur has been indentified in your cat, your veterinarian will want to obtain a blood and urine sample. Anemia and hyperthyroidism may be the cause of the heart murmur and are quickly and easily identified with blood tests. A blood pressure should also be obtained, as an elevation may also have secondary effects on the heart.

X-rays (radiographs) of the chest are important as they not only reveal changes to the general size/shape of the heart, but also changes to the lungs and blood vessels. It is important to remember that normal size/shape of the heart on x-rays does not mean that there is no heart disease, it may signal that only minimal changes to the heart have occurred so far. It is also important to remember that changes on the x-rays do not tell you the type of heart disease present.
An electrocardiogram (ECG) of the heart may be obtained as well, especially if abnormal heart beats (an arrhythmia) are noted when the veterinarian is listening to the heart.

New blood tests that measure specific markers in the blood that may indicate the presence of heart disease (cardiac biomarkers) have recently become available. These tests may help strengthen the suspicion of underlying heart disease.
The gold standard (best test) for diagnosing heart disease or excluding serious disease is an ultrasound of the heart (echocardiogram). This special ultrasound is performed by a heart specialist (board certified cardiologist). The ultrasound will reveal if the heart muscles are abnormally thickened, if there is something obstructing the flow of blood, any defects within the heart and the size of the different heart chambers among other things. Of cats with heart disease, the most common form is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). This is thickening of the heart muscle due to an abnormality in the muscle.

Your veterinarian can help you schedule an appointment with a veterinary specialist . Besides performing the special ultrasound of the heart, the veterinary specialist can also obtain any tests that your veterinarian was not able to perform. Make sure that you have any blood tests, x-rays, ECG and a copy of the medical records during your consultation. There is nothing more frustrating for the veterinary specialist (or you) than to not have all the test results needed in order to provide you with the best information as to what is affecting your cat.

Remember, just because your cat has a heart murmur it does not necessarily mean that your cat has severe heart disease. The best news the veterinary heart specialist can give you is that the murmur is not a cause for concern! If the murmur is significant, your cat can receive the proper treatments and have a follow-up plan made to try and stay ahead of any major changes. It is better to find out what is wrong before hand, than be surprised in the middle of the night and have to rush to the emergency room.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Seizures in Pets

You think your pet is having a seizure, what do you do next?

Well, the first step is to remain calm (easier said than done!), look at your watch/clock and keep track of how long the episode lasts. If the seizure is nearing 5 minutes call your veterinarian to alert them that you are on the way. A pet having a seizure for longer than 5 minutes needs immediate medical attention.

Second, take note of exactly what is occurring. Is your pet having exaggerated/violent movements of the legs while laying on its side? Is there a biting action of the mouth? Is foaming noted? Is your pet responsive to your calls? Is there any salivation, urination or defecation? Is only one part of the body moving? If a camera is easily available, recording the episode would be great so your veterinarian can see exactly what is happening.

Here is a video example of a "classic" seizure in a dog.

Here is a video of a lion having a seizure.

Third, move any objects that your pet can bump into out of the way, if they are close to stairs block off access.

Most seizures usually last less than 2 minutes. Your pet will most likely not act normal after the event, this is expected. If this is your pets first seizure call your veterinarian, depending on your pet and the history you provide to your veterinarian they may want you to come in sooner rather than later or they may decide its ok to hold-off on the emergency visit and schedule an appointment. If your pet has a second seizure within 24 hours seek medical attention.

During the visit, your veterinarian will ask you important questions about what your pet was doing before the seizures, if there were any changes in behavior or activity minutes to hours before the seizure, a description of the event, how long the seizure lasted and what occurred after the seizure.

Seizures are divided into 3 categories: diseases outside of the brain that are affecting the brain, diseases within the brain and genetic causes of seizures (idiopathic epilepsy). Dogs may be in any category. Depending on your dogs breed, young dogs usually have idiopathic epilepsy whereas puppies and older dogs usually have a disease within the brain or outside of the brain causing a problem. Idiopathic epilepsy has not been reported for cats and therefore further tests to determine the cause of the seizure is highly recommended.

In order to make sure that there are no diseases outside of the brain that can cause seizures, your veterinarian will run blood and urine tests to check the liver and kidney, ensure that electrolytes such as sodium and calcium are within normal limits, that the blood sugar is not low and that the red blood cell, white blood cell and platelet count is normal. Your veterinarian may also check a blood pressure and obtain x-rays as well.

If all of these tests checks out ok then the seizures are more likely caused by diseases within the brain. At this point your veterinarian may offer a referral for a consultation with a veterinary neurologist, a specialist that is trained to diagnose and treat neurologic problems in animals. Most likely an MRI of the brain and possibly obtaining a sample of spinal fluid to test it for infection and inflammation will be recommended.

What if you can not afford an MRI? If you can not afford an MRI, it is still OK to consult with the neurologist. They will take all the information obtained so far and attempt to deduce the most likely cause of the seizure. Based on this “best guess” certain medications may be recommended. If access to a veterinary neurologist is not available or you do not wish to consult with one, your veterinarian will also make recommendations for your pet based on their “best guess”.

Depending on the cause, it may not be realistic to expect the seizures to stop completely even with treatment. The goal with treatment is to decrease the frequency of seizure activity to what we term an acceptable rate, usually one seizure every 4-8 weeks. Some pets may seizure even less frequently. Different medications may be needed in order to find the most effective one with the least side effects for your pet. Either way, your pet will need follow-up visits and blood tests to make sure their body is handling the medication well and also to check the levels of the medications in the body. Some pets clear the medication faster than others and may need to have the dose increased. Other pets clear it slower and need the dose decreased.

A seizure medication may not be started on your pet right after the first seizure. If there is having one seizure every 4-8 weeks without medication this is as good control as we expect with some medications and your pet won’t have to deal with the side effects.

If your pet is having a seizure, remember to stay calm, watch the clock and your pet. Call your veterinarian to make an appointment or seek emergency care if advised.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Why do puppies and kittens need a series of vaccines?

When a puppy or kitten is born its immune system has not yet matured. Kittens and puppies remain protected from infection because of the transfer of maternal antibodies in special milk from their mother called colostrum. Colostrum is only produced a few days after giving birth and it can only be accepted during the first days after birth before their intestines “close up” and can no longer absorb the antibodies.

Sometimes antibodies are not transferred either because the puppy did not drink the colostrum or the mother did not have certain antibodies, other times those transferred only last for a short period of time. If an appropriate number of antibodies are transferred there is protection for a longer period of time. However, the maternal antibodies that are transferred do not last forever.

What does this have to do with vaccinations? Well, there is really no way to tell if maternal antibodies were transferred, which were transferred or how long they will last and therefore a vaccination given early will help protect them.

So why not just give one vaccine early and forget about it? If a vaccine is given to a pet that still has maternal antibodies present it will be inactivated and new antibodies will not be made. How long maternal antibodies last in a pet varies with each individual and for specific diseases. We do know that maternal antibodies are gone or have decreased enough to not interfere with vaccines by 16-20 weeks of age. This is why the final booster is usually given at this time when there will be no interference and protection ensured.

So why not just give one vaccine when they are older, when we are pretty sure maternal antibodies will not interfere with vaccines? Again, since there is no easy way to tell if a pet has protection from maternal antibodies at birth or if protection will last until 16-20 weeks of age, waiting to vaccinate until that time puts them at risk of developing dangerous and deadly diseases.

Therefore, vaccinations are given in series every 2-4 weeks until age 16-20 weeks. This is done to protect those that lose maternal antibodies early while ensuring that those that have longer lasting maternal antibodies are protected as well.
What if the pet is older than 16 weeks of age? In this case there is no worry about interference from maternal antibodies, but one booster 2-4 weeks after the initial vaccine is necessary to ensure a better response.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Xylitol Toxicosis In Pets

Xylitol is a commonly used sugar substitute that is as sweet as sugar with only two-thirds its calories. It is frequently found in sugar-free gum, candy, baked goods, desserts, and toothpaste. In people, xylitol is a safe compound with few associated side effects however it may have significant adverse effects in dogs. The ingestion of xylitol has been associated with a severe drop in blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and acute liver failure.

Signs of low blood sugar have been noted as soon as 30 to 60 minutes after ingestion as it is rapidly and almost completely absorbed! Why is there such a drop in blood sugar? Xylitol causes a rapid, significant increase in insulin secretion in dogs and insulin causes the blood sugar to decrease.

Acute liver failure can also become evident up to 72 hours after ingestion. Although there are two thoughts as to how this occurs it is not exactly known how this happens. It is believed that products produced by the liver when breaking down the xylitol cause severe damage. One toxic by-product depletes the liver cells of their energy source while the other reactive product damages the cell membranes, both leading to cell death.

If liver injury occurs after Xylitol ingestion the prognosis is unfortunately poor. A study revealed that 63% of dogs that ate xylitol containing products died despite aggressive medical management. Interestingly, the dose ingested does not equal whether one pet or another will develop liver failure.

If you noticed your pet eat something they weren’t supposed to, look at the ingredients. If xylitol is listed on the product bring the product packaging and your dog to the veterinarian immediately. If your dog recently ate a xylitol containing product your veterinarian can induce vomiting to try and get out as much of the product as possible. The vomiting may not be effective if ingestion was not within the past 30 to 60 minutes as xylitol is quickly absorbed by the body.

Signs of xylitol toxicosis include vomiting, diarrhea, a drunken gait, coma, and seizures. Sings of low blood sugar can occur within 30-60 minutes and if liver failure occurs signs are usually evident within 12 to 72 hours of ingestion.

Dogs have a better prognosis if improvements in blood work abnormalities related to the liver and stabilization of the blood sugar levels occur as well as lack of progression to acute liver failure within 3 days of ingestion.

It is therefore important to make sure that your xylitol containing products be kept away from your pets. It only takes a quick second for your dog to jump on the counter and eat the package of sugar free gum you just purchased. If this occurs call your vet immediately and don’t forget the package on your way out.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Performing a brief monthly at-home exam on your pet

Just as physicians recommend monthly self-examinations for men and women (whether we do perform them or not is another story), I recommend a brief at-home monthly check-up of your pets. This of course DOES NOT replace the more thorough 6-12 month check-ups recommended by your veterinarian (more frequently if your pet has a health problem). The purpose of these brief at home exams is to identify changes in your pet that may require you to see your veterinarian sooner than the previously scheduled check-up.

A great time to do this is before you apply the monthly flea/tick/heartworm preventative medication and it should only takes a few minutes. The more routinely you perform this the easier it will be for you to note when changes do occur.

Just as I start my exams in the office, step back for a moment and just watch your pet. Do they seem to breathing comfortably? Do they appear too thin or overweight? Do they have trouble laying down and getting up? This is a good time to go over and answer the important questions your veterinarian will ask (see previous blog post “10 important questions your veterinarian will ask that you should be prepared to answer”).

I then recommend starting at the face and working your way to the tail. Observe for any discharge or redness of the nose, eyes or ears. If discharge is seen, note which side is affected and the amount and color of the discharge.

Next, if your pet allows, gently lift the lip on each side and note any tartar on the teeth, broken or discolored teeth or changes to the gum color. Healthy gums should be a nice pink color. Bright red gums along the border of tartar covered teeth may signify gingivitis. Some pets have pigmented gums and these changes may be difficult to assess. If you notice pale, blue/purple or yellow gums it is best to call your veterinarian and have your pet assessed further as they may have a serious medical condition.

Next, move your hands along the neck to the shoulders, down each front leg and back up and down the rest of the chest and abdomen finally reaching the back legs. As you do this you should be feeling for any lumps, bumps or painful areas. Three areas to check as you move from head to tail are at the end of the jaw just below the ears, in front of the shoulders, and behind the knees. Major lymph nodes are located in these areas and any changes to their size may indicate inflammation, infection or cancer. You can ask your veterinarian to demonstrate where you should be feeling during your next visit.

If lumps are encountered they are most likely lipomas or "fatty growths" that don’t cause a problem unless they get too large and infiltrate adjacent areas BUT lumps that look and feel like "fatty growths" can also be dangerous cancerous lumps. The only way to tell the difference is to have your veterinarian sample them. This is easily done as we poke the lumps with a needle and apply the cells on a slide (fine needle aspirate). Your veterinarian may look at it under the microscope in their office or send it to the lab so a pathologist can analyze the cells. Obtaining this aspirate is not 100% as only very few cells are sampled, but is a good start in helping decide if this lump should be removed immediately or if it is ok to monitor it for changes in size and appearance. Your veterinarian will note the size and location of the lump in the record to keep track of it during future visits. Sometimes depending on the location, feel and look of the lump it may be recommended to remove a piece of the lump and send it to the pathologist instead of performing an aspirate or after an aspirate.

Once you reach the tail, again if your pet allows it, lift the tail and examine for any discharge, nodules or uneven, bumpy areas around the anus. Tumors involving the anal glands can occur and go unnoticed until it is so large that your pet has trouble defecating and by that time it has most likely spread. In female dogs you can monitor for any discharge from the vulva.

Finally, if your pet is good about laying on its side or back, examine the hairless areas of the belly for any rashes, redness, fleas or mammary growths. Run your hands along their bellies and note any lumps and bumps. In male dogs this is a good time to notice any discharge from the penis.

This simple and quick exam will help you identify any possible changes to your pet’s health earlier, instead of waiting months for the next scheduled exam. Recognizing these changes early may save your pets life, allow for a possible cure or at least be able to start important medications before the disease becomes too advanced. It also helps your pets get used to a part of the more thorough examination that your veterinarian will perform. As always, if you have any concerns about your pet, please call your veterinarian first for further advice before ignoring a problem, misdiagnosing a problem or self-medicating your pet as you may be causing more harm than good!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

10 Important questions your veterinarian will ask that you should be prepared to answer

A visit to your veterinarian doesn’t just involve your pet and the clinic staff; it includes YOU, the most important part of your pet’s health care team. The veterinarian relies on you to identify concerns about your pet’s health just as a pediatrician relies on a child’s parents.

Although you may wonder what the questions we ask have to do with your current concerns, answering them honestly and completely is essential. In fact this process (known as acquiring the history) is one of the most important parts of the visit and may help us identify your pet’s health problem.

If the person taking your pet to the veterinarian will not be able to answer these questions I recommend that you write down the answers to these questions and send them with your pet or provide a phone number where you can be reached so that we may ask these questions.

1. Any coughing, sneezing, vomiting or diarrhea?

You will be asked when does it occur (day or night or at any time), how often, the color of material produced, whether it is improving, worsening or the same.

2. Changes to appetite, water consumption or urination?

Many diseases will cause your pet to eat more or less, drink more and urinate more often. If your pet has not been finishing meals, continuously begs for food, you have been filling the water bowl more often, have noticed urinary accidents in the house (especially at night when you can not take your pet out) or have been scooping more clumps of litter these may be an indication that your pet has a medical condition. Your veterinarian will want to take a urine and blood sample as a start.

3. Are you giving any medications?

It is very important to identify ANY AND ALL medications your pet is currently receiving including preventatives, vitamins and over-the-counter products. Know the name, milligrams, how much and how often you are administering the medication. Sometimes bringing the medication with you is easiest. DO NOT withhold any information as medications your veterinarian prescribes may react with a current one potentially causing serious health problems.

4. Travel History?

Many diseases occur more commonly in specific areas of the country. If you travel to certain areas your pet may be exposed to different diseases. Also, if you are planning on traveling, your veterinarian may suggest certain preventative medications that target not only fleas but also ticks and heartworms.

5. Are there other pets in the house and do they have any medical conditions?

This is important in situations where diseases that are potentially contagious are of concern. Your veterinarian will provide tips on how to monitor your other pets for signs that they are also affected or provide treatment for your other pets.

6. Indoors only? If outdoors are they always supervised or sometimes unsupervised?

We all know that there are certain dangers that come with being outdoors. If your pet is indoors only it may help your veterinarian narrow down why your pet is sick.

7. Previous medical history?

This is a very important question as your pet may be affected by a recurrence of a previous disease or the treatments for one disease may make another disease worse.

8. Are vaccines up to date? Which have been given and when were they last given?

This question is important for many reasons. If your pet has not been properly vaccinated for a specific disease your veterinarian may be more suspicious of what is making your pet sick. Also, certain vaccinations can cause tests for that specific disease to be positive even though your pet does not have that disease.

9. What do you feed your pet and how much? Include treats and table scraps.

What you feed your pet is very important to their health. Certain diets may not be ideal for your pet’s life stage or for certain medical conditions. Also, on occasion, food recalls occur and at certain times these foods may have serious effects on your pet’s health. You or a guest may unknowingly have fed your pet a food item that is toxic to them.

10. Any other changes you have noticed or concerns you may have?

Things you bring up during this period may provide additional insight into what has been going on. Even if you think what you are about to say is unimportant or may make your veterinarian think you are crazy bring it up, you will be surprised how many times this piece of information may be the biggest clue in figuring out what’s wrong with your pet.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Do Microchips Cause Tumors?

There have been various stories warning pet owners of the dangers of implanting a microchip in their dogs or cats. One such concern is the development of a tumor.

Do microchips really cause tumor formation in dogs and cats? Probably yes.

Does this stop me from recommending to my clients that their cats and dogs (and other pets) have microchips implanted for their proper identification? No.

Why not? Well, to date the best data we have is from The British Small Animal Veterinary Association which has been tracking adverse reactions to microchips since 1996. They identified a link between microchips and cancer in two dogs of more than 4 million that have received a microchip. To me, this makes it a very rare event.

How would a microchip cause a tumor to form? It is known that irritation, inflammation, and/or wounds are promoters of tumor development. Therefore, virtually anything that causes a local inflammatory reaction may potentially be responsible for initiation of tumor formation.

What about the reports of tumors developing in lab mice that have microchips placed? It is important to remember that mice and rats in those studies were either inbred strains or strains that have been genetically modified to predispose individual animals to cancer formation, making them very prone to developing tumors. Therefore a direct link between what occurs in mice should not be made with what occurs in our pets.

I have not witnessed a case of a tumor at the site of microchip implantation but I have witnessed many cases of pets being brought to our hospital after being found and MOST have no form of identification. There have been a lucky few that had a microchip which our scanner identified. The owner was called and they were shortly reunited with their pet! It is therefore VERY important to remember to make sure your contact information is current, if you have changed your phone number or address since your pets microchip was placed please call the microchip company to update your information.

Other possible risks of microchip implantation include but are not limited to infection, severe bleeding, migration of the microchip and injury to the spine or other organs from the injection. I have not witnessed these events occur at our hospital.

Having a microchip placed in your pet is not a risk- free procedure, but like any medical procedure one must weigh the possible risks of the procedure with the possible benefits. In this case, the occurrence of lost pets is significantly higher than the reported reactions to microchip implantation and therefore in my opinion the benefits outweigh the risks.

Before having a microchip implanted in your pet (or any other procedure) make sure you have a discussion with your veterinarian about the risks and benefits so that you may make an informed decision. If you do feel any bump, lump or growth on your pet, it is important to make an appointment with your veterinarian to have it evaluated.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The small but dangerous Foxtail (Grass Awn)

At first look you think, what’s the big deal with this little piece of a plant? (Foxtail picture: Well, if your pet has had an encounter with a foxtail you definitely know how much trouble they can cause!

Most of the time they get into your pet’s ears, nose or eyes and with a little sedation your veterinarian can usually remove them easily. Sometimes they can bury into the skin and end up embedded (usually within a paw) causing inflammation, infection and PAIN! (*Viewer discretion* Picture from a few days ago of foxtail being removed from a paw:

Last week I saw a little dog that was squinting and kept pawing at his eye. It was very inflamed and watery. I put some local anesthesia in his eye, probed around and noticed a thin tan colored object poking under the eyelid. I began to remove it and it kept going and going and going …It was the longest foxtail I have removed! Although it was the longest foxtail I have removed I almost missed it and was amazed as to how it made its way under the eyelid!

Unfortunately for pets, the little barbs on foxtails were designed to help them bury themselves and travel one-way deep into tissues, sometimes traveling internally to a body cavity and setting up an infection. In one unfortunate cat, the foxtail managed to burrow through the skin and travel to its heart causing a deadly infection! (*Viewer discretion* Picture of heart with a foxtail within it: and

Signs that a foxtail may be causing trouble include sudden onset of squinting and/or discharge from an eye, pawing at the face, shaking of the head, pawing at an ear, constant sneezing, nasal discharge, limping or constant licking of a paw. If you notice these signs it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your pet’s veterinarian, especially if you find yourself removing foxtails from your pet’s coat.

If your cats or dogs go outdoors, especially during the summer and fall seasons when grasses begin to dry, be sure to brush them daily and remove all foxtails that you find. Always inspect their ears and paws as they can hide between the toes!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Pet Pool Dangers

I'm sure there are many dog owners out there with pools or those that take their dogs to their friends house who own a pool. Well, just as you have to be careful with kids and pools, you MUST keep a close eye on your dogs as well.

But all dogs know how to swim right? Why would they have trouble if they fell in a swimming pool? Well, for the most part they all know how to swim. The danger actually comes when the pool has steep sides and does not have a shallow area or easy access to get out. This is of most concern in small breed dogs and puppies, they get tired, cant get out and drown.

For those that must know, when water is inhaled the natural coating of the lung surface (surfactant) is compromised and it allows for the air sacs within the lungs (alveoli) to collapse. Collpased lung tissue can't replenish oxygen in your blood or get rid of carbon dioxide that has built up. Many severe metabolic changes occur in the body. Inflammation of the lungs can also occur and the tissue becomes leaky resulting in more fluid building in the lung (edema) and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

Most pool accidents are witnessed but some are not although it is easy to suspect when you find your dog soaking wet and having trouble breathing. Sometimes coughing is noted, they can be in shock, have changes to their behavior and they can even be in a coma. A recent study of fresh water drowning revealed that level of consciousness at admission was not associated with outcome and showed full recovery even of animals presenting in a coma. So call your veterinarian immediately and take your pet in!

Depending on your dogs condition they may be too unstable to do further tests and must be placed in oxygen immediately, sometimes a ventilator is needed if they are not breathing on their own. If stable enough blood samples to check metabolic status and chest radiographs will be obtained. If your pet seems ok, it is recommended to keep your pet hospitalized for at least 24 hours of monitoring as things may worsen and the initial tests may not show the real extent of the damage.

Not too long ago I had the first pool incident of the year. Although the owner did not observe the incident, she found her new puppy wet and having difficulty breathing. Chest radiographs were consistent with what is expected in a near-drowning. He was placed in an oxygen cage as part of his treatment and luckily survived. I saw him just last week to finish his vaccine series and he was doing great!

I had one client bring her puppy in for vaccines and told me that her puppy was playing and fell in the pool. She was swimming around but the tiny little thing couldn't get out. Luckily the owner was there and took her out of the pool. To avoid this, I recommend that my clients who own pools purchase a floating ramp that they can connect at one end of the pool and teach their dog what it is and how to use it. It can save their life, especially for the little ones!

What about just keeping the backyard door closed? Well some have doggie doors for obvious reasons, sometimes the phone rings and we stop watching our pets (and kids), the pool party conversation becomes very interesting or sometimes we don't even realize someone followed us out and we close the door on the way in. I have left my poor dog out only to wonder why the house was so quiet and who was barking outside!

So when it comes to pools be very careful with your dogs access to it when unsupervised and I recommend you make sure they can get out or make adjustments so that they can! Nothing is more sad than an accident that could have been prevented!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Heatstroke causes a severe rise in your pet’s body temperature and occurs due to elevated temperatures in the environment or from performance of strenuous activity. Unfortunately the summer time allows for a combination of the two and an increase in the cases of heatstroke. It can happen as quickly as 30 minutes and is worse in places with increases in humidity, especially if there is no access to shade or breaks to rest and cool down.

Dogs cool off mostly by panting as air contacts the mucous membranes of the upper airways and allow evaporative cooling to occur. With high humidity, the evaporative cooling mechanism is not as effective. Short nosed breeds such as Bull Dogs that suffer from brachiocephalic syndrome (partially opened nares or long soft palates among other things) or dogs suffering from other upper airway problems (such as collapsing tracheas or laryngeal paralysis) are at greater risk for developing heat stroke as their main cooling mechanism is not in top shape.

Signs of heat stroke can include excessive panting, collapse, seizures, excessive salivation, vomiting, and diarrhea and occur after exercising on a hot day or being left in a car even if the windows are cracked.

Permanent and life-threatening damage to organs such as the kidneys, liver, intestines and brain can occur if not treated immediately.

If you suspect your pet is suffering from heat stroke move them into a shaded area, wet them down with COOL water and call your veterinarian immediately to let them know you are on your way. Using COLD water will only make things worse as the outer blood vessels which are helping to cool your pet down will close off. Fans or air conditioning will also help with cooling.

Your veterinarian may need to obtain baseline blood work to evaluate for organ damage, place an IV catheter and administer fluids and other medications as well as hospitalize and monitor your pet. OVERCOOLING can be more harmful than helpful and this is why it is recommended to start the cooling process and go to your veterinarian immediately for careful monitoring and adjustment to treatments as necessary.

Studies reveal that pets that present to their veterinarian soon after are more likely to survive than animals seen later. Pets that survive the first 24-48 hours of hospitalization generally do well.

I have seen cases of heatstroke in dogs left in a car WITH THE WINDOWS OPEN for only a couple of minutes, dogs going about their usual outside play on a hotter than normal day and dogs taken on long runs and hikes.

Be safe this summer and remember that if you are enjoying a nice day out with your pets to allow rest breaks, access to shaded areas, plenty of water and know when to stop! If you have any concerns at all see your veterinarian, it’s always better (and cheaper) to be on the safe side!

For more summer dangers follow my tweets @expertvet and check back for updates to the blog.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Welcome to my blog! I will be posting further information here as a follow-up to my tweets from @expertvet. I am horrified of the things my clients tell me they read online. There is A LOT of misleading information out there for pet owners and have made this blog to provide information you can trust! Follow me on twitter @expertvet