Monthly Archives: March 2010

Cancer: Warning Signs

It is estimated that 25% of all dogs and cats die of some form of cancer. As medical research advances in the diagnostic and therapeutic fields, animals and people are living longer. With this longevity comes an increase risk of cancer. As with any disease, the earlier it is caught and diagnosed, the greater the chance of a successful treatment. Here are some of the more commons signs to look for:  1. A lump or swelling in or below the skin that becomes “active”. This means if it starts to grow, change color, spread, ooze, bleed, or the pet is bothered by it. 2. Sleeping a lot and weakness can be cause by anemia that will show up with pale gums in the more advanced stages. The early stages will show up in a blood sample. 3. Swollen lymph nodes. The nodes all over the body will enlarge with infectious diseases as well with lymphatic cancer such as lymphoma. 4. Coughing and/or gagging that does not resolve easily. 5. Unexplained lameness. 6. Lack of appetite or difficulty swallowing and/or chewing.  7. Vomiting or diarrhea. 8. Severe weight loss that goes unexplained. 9. Swollen belly.  All of the above are symptoms that should to be explored. Not all of them absolutely mean there is cancer, but your veterinarian can differentiate between them by running tests. These tests may include a physical exam, blood samples, x-rays, biopsy, and sometimes ultrasound. It is important to determine if your pet has a treatable disease or a non-treatable disease. Veterinarians are trained to treat both.

Infectious Canine Hepatitis (ICH)

This is the 5th in a series of articles on pet diseases. Infectious Canine Hepatitis is a highly contagious viral disease affecting the liver, kidneys, lymph nodes, eyes, and other organs. If not caught in the early stages it can be fatal. It is spread among dogs and wild animals such as foxes, wolves and coyotes by direct contact, saliva, feces, urine, and even contaminated objects.  Fleas, ticks and mosquitoes can also spread this virus. Fortunately, ICH is NOT related to the human form of hepatitis. Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment or cure for ICH, only supportive care which includes antibiotics, intravenous fluids and even blood transfusions. Dogs with healthy immune systems can sometimes fight the virus by producing antibodies, but the ICH virus can remain in the kidneys and be shed in the urine for up to nine months, posing a threat to other dogs. All dogs are susceptible, especially the unvaccinated ones, and veterinarians are taught to recommend vaccination against this dreaded disease. Most veterinarians routinely use vaccines that include the ICH viral component when they vaccinate against other diseases such as Distemper and Parvo.

Your Dog Can Get Sunburned

Most people do not realize that their dog can get sunburned just like we can, and with the same kind of long term consequences. Canine solar dermatitis or chronic sun damage to the skin is not just limited to hot sunny climates. It frequently appears just like other skin diseases that dogs get, such as pyoderma and allergic dermatitis, and if left untreated skin cancers can develop. Solar dermatitis most commonly affects the unpigmented areas of the skin and white haired dogs, especially the shorthaired breeds. Dalmatians, Bull Terriers, Boxers, Whippets and Chihuahuas are examples. The dorsal (upper) area of the nose is particularly sensitive. The best advice is to avoid sun exposure, especially between 9:00 am and 3:00 pm when the UV radiation is strongest. A high SPF sunscreen that is safe for babies is recommended as well for dogs, just as wearing a T-shirt during high exposure times is. A dog sun suit is even available at www.designerdogwear.com for those fashion conscious pet owners. In most cases you can differentiate between allergies and solar dermatitis yourself, as solar dermatitis rarely causes scratching, but watch out for secondary infections that can occur.

Lyme Disease Ticks Spread by Birds

It has just been discovered by Yale researchers that birds can spread this serious disease. Ticks are the primary vector for spreading Lyme Disease to dogs, horses, people , and other animals. The ticks acquire the disease-causing bacteria by feeding on infected rodents and deer.  But now, the latest evidence points to common birds, such as robins and blue jays, are also reservoirs of this disease, and they can carry ticks long distances right into your own backyard. Lyme Disease is on the increase on Long Island and the rest of the country. Some suspect Global Warming. We had over 100 positive cases in dogs in the Locust Valley/Glen Cove area in the last 2 years. Lyme Disease can be a very complex and serious disease if not caught early. It can result in painful lameness, chronic joint problems, serious kidney disease and neurological problems. The most effective way to protect your dog is by vaccination. The vaccine induces the body to produce antibodies against the bacteria in the tick and locks the bacteria inside the tick. So the vaccine actually works within the tick, not the dog. These are unique vaccines known as Recombinant vaccines, and are considered “genetically engineered wonders of modern science.” They contain only a single protein which practically eliminates all adverse reactions.  Monthly applications of tick/flea products are recommended also. These products kill ticks within 24 hours which is less time that the tick needs to transmit the disease to the dog or human.  Daily brushing and combing are not enough as the tick is so small it is usually missed. It is no larger than the dot at the end of this article. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations.
Tick size .

Smartest Breeds of Dogs

There have been many tests run to determine the intelligence of the various breeds of dogs. The most practical tests determine the adaptability of the dogs to the human environment and how they interact with people under normal everyday living conditions. Tests are also based on their ability to learn various tasks that are important to our needs, such as house breaking, leash training, and responding to voice and hand commands. Understanding of new commands in less than 5 repetitions and obeying the 1st command 95% of the time or better are the two main parameters used in dog intelligence determination. A recent study determined the following list of the top ten breeds. 1. Border Collie  2. Miniature Poodle  3. German Shepherd  4. Golden Retriever  5. Doberman Pinscher  6. Shetland sheepdog  7. Labrador Retriever  8. Papillion  9. Rottweiller  10. Australian Cattle Dog.  However, just because the breed is rated in the top ten, does not mean it is the right breed for you. Other factors to consider should include the age of children living in the house, amount of time you will be able to spend with the dog, how much room you have for exercise inside and outside the home, your experience with raising and training dogs, and your ability to care for the health and well being of a pet, both financially and emotionally.

You Can Catch Something From Your Pet

Pets can transmit certain diseases to you and your family, especially young children, and some adults with certain medical conditions. Some of the more serious ones will be mentioned here and also what precautions can be taken. Giardia is a protozoan parasitic disease transmitted through contaminated water and dirt. Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease spread by contact with urine from an infected animal, including dogs, raccoons, and squirrels, and humans.  Ringworm is a contagious fungus transmitted by contact with the skin or hair of an infected dog or cat. Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease spread by cat feces and contaminated raw meat. Cat scratch fever is a flea-borne infected transmitted a scratch or a bite from an infected cat. Rabies is caused by a virus found in the saliva of infected animals, especially raccoons and bats, and is transmitted by bites, saliva into an eye, or into an open cut or sore. To protect yourself and your family follow these instructions: Wear gloves and wash your hands after gardening, working in soil, preparing raw meat for cooking, and wear gloves when cleaning a litter box. If you are scratched or bitten, immediately wash the area with soap and water and contact your physician. Never handle the stool of any animal without wearing disposable gloves. Wash hands immediately after playing with your pet—-especially young children and infants. Have your pets feces checked for intestinal parasites at least 1 x each year by your veterinarian. For more information about these and more zoonotic diseases, visit www.NPWM.com.

Preanesthetic Testing–Why?

I have been asking my patients what is wrong with them for many years, to no avail–no verbal response. Sometimes they show me by licking a bothersome area, limping, rubbing an eye, coughing, etc., but usually the symptoms are subtle and even the owner does not know what is wrong.  In  veterinary medicine, as in human medicine, we rely heavily on diagnostic testing as well as a physical examination. Today, anesthesia is much safer than years ago and the risks are minimal, but some risks still exist. A veterinarian wants to know if anything is wrong before anesthesia is administered and surgery is performed. By conducting some basic blood tests and performing a physical examination, a veterinarian can minimize those risks even further. Often, the only way to make a definitive diagnosis is with laboratory testing. A perfect example is diabetes. A simple blood test, performed in minutes, is usually diagnostic. In addition, testing frequently identifies many pre-existing conditions that pose a significant health risk to your pet, especially if your pet has a blood clotting abnormality or a systemic problem, like early kidney or liver disease. Even “routine” procedures such as spays and castrations in young dogs could prove to be problematic during surgery if there is an underlying problem nobody knows about.  In pets 7  years old and older a more comprehensive profile before anesthesia is usually required. Some veterinarians have complete laboratory facilities on their premises with licensed technicians and test results are provided very quickly—within 45 minutes, often faster. In general, with preanesthesia testing, we minimize the risk factors that can complicate anesthesia and help ensure the best outcome for your pet.

Neutraceuticals — Are They For Your Pet?

Neutraceuticals can be defined simply as non-drug oral agents that provide substances required for normal body function. The purpose of giving them is to improve health and well being. These substances have characteristics of both drugs and nutrients. They do not treat or cure disease, but instead aid and improve certain body functions and help in the long term care of certain chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis. Today, almost 60% of Americans regularly use these supplements, and now they are becoming more and more commonly used in veterinary medicine, with great success. Pets are living longer and veterinarians are always eager to help owners improve their pets “quality of life”. This is one way of doing so.  An example of a neutraceutical is glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, usually mixed together. Combined with NSAIDS, dogs are now living longer pain-free lives, with improved body functions, and they are also more ambulatory with the advent of neutraceuticals. The down side is that they are not FDA controlled and as such veterinarians have to be  very selective as to which manufacturer/distributor they purchase from.

Pet Health Insurance

Before a comprehensive understanding of pet health insurance plans can be discussed a few simple facts should be mentioned:  1. Each year in the U.S. approximately 6 million dogs and 6 million cats are diagnosed with some form of cance .  2. One out of every 4 dogs will die of cancer.  3. The far majority of claims processed by pet health insurance companies are the result of unexpected accidents or unexpected illness. This number exceeds 82%. They include auto accidents, lacerations, systemic diseases like parvo, allergic reactions, cancer, etc. The list is voluminous. Veterinarians deal routinely with such varied problems and many of them involve expensive laboratory tests, treatment. surgery, even chemo-therapy and/or radiation. Having an insurance plan will simply give you “piece of mind” that your pet will receive the best veterinary care possible, when they need it the most, regardless of personal finances. Today, there are many diverse plans to fit all budgets and some even cover routine vaccinations, spaying, neutering, dental cleanings and flea/tick and heartworm preventatives. Recently, ASPCA became affiliated with a major health insurance provider and endorsed their plans and Purina came out with their own.

The Main Reasons Veterinarians See Pets

 According to a recent study by Pet Insurance Companies, the top 10 reasons clients bring dogs to veterinarians are the following: (1) Skin allergies such as flea bite dermatitis and other causes. (2) Ear infections–usually caused as a result of owners not cleaning. (3) Vomiting–usually from eating improperly. (4) Urinary tract infections. (5) Abnormal skin growths, many of which turn out benign. (6) Skin infections called pyoderma. (7) Muscle and ligament sprains as a result of too strenuous exercise. (8) Osteoarthritis. (9) Diarrhea as the result of eating improperly and/or intestinal parasites. (10) Eye irritations and infections. Cats are brought in because of: (1) Urinary tract infections. (2) Stomach upsets. (3) Kidney disease. (4) Skin allergies such as flea bite dermatitis. (5) Diabetes. (6) Skin infections known as pyoderma. (7) Ear infections caused by mites and wax accumulation. (8) Dental disease. (9) Colitis caused often by eating something improper. (10) Hyperthyroidism. In my opinion, the most common reason to take your pet to the veterinarian should be for routine “Wellness” exams and vaccinations to prevent disease. In human medicine that certainly is the case, especially as we get older. Best to prevent a problem, or catch it early, than wait and possible not be able to treat it successfully.ccording to a recent study by Pet Insurance Companies, the top 10 reasons clients bring dogs to veterinarians are the following: (1) Skin allergies such as flea bite dermatitis and other causes. (2) Ear infections–usually caused as a result of owners not cleaning. (3) Vomiting–usually from eating improperly. (4) Urinary tract infections. (5) Abnormal skin growths, many of which turn out benign. (6) Skin infections called pyoderma. (7) Muscle and ligament sprains as a result of too strenuous exercise. (8) Osteoarthritis. (9) Diarrhea as the result of eating improperly and/or intestinal parasites. (10) Eye irritations and infections. Cats are brought in because of: (1) Urinary tract infections. (2) Stomach upsets. (3) Kidney disease. (4) Skin allergies such as flea bite dermatitis. (5) Diabetes. (6) Skin infections known as pyoderma. (7) Ear infections caused by mites and wax accumulation. (8) Dental disease. (9) Colitis caused often by eating something improper. (10) Hyperthyroidism. In my opinion, the most common reason to take your pet to the veterinarian should be for routine “Wellness” exams and vaccinations to prevent disease. In human medicine that certainly is the case, especially as we get older. Best to prevent a problem, or catch it early, than wait and possible not be able to treat it successfully.