These are some of the most common symptoms veterinarians have to deal with on a daily basis, all year-long. The big question is WHY? But first it is important to know that the scratching/licking syndrome must be controlled or stopped, along with rubbing and pulling hair out, otherwise infection can occur and that complicates the problem. Sometime the infection gets so bad that it becomes more serious than the original problem. There are many ways to help control or even eliminate scratching, licking or rubbing. First of course is to find the cause and then treat it. Dogs and cats mouths and tongues are not sterile and their nails are not either, so prolonged scratching and licking must be stopped. We do this by using steroids, antihistamines, combinations of steroids and histamines, Elizabethan collars, bandages, tranquilizers, and sometimes even anti anxiety drugs, etc. Causes of these symptoms are many and varied and include insect bites, such as fleas, ticks, lice, bees, wasps, etc., mange, yeast infection, cancer, bacterial infections, allergies from direct contact, food allergies, and atopy, which is allergy to airborne substances such as pollen, household dust and mold. Dogs and cats are particularly sensitive to wool, plastic feeding/water bowls, carpet fresh, fabric softeners, weeds, leaves, plants, just to name a few. Even a minor scratch or break in the skin can cause the animal to lick it excessively. This often causes a neuritis (inflamed nerve) which can then develop into chronic licking and a habit. The itch-lick syndrome can become so intense, that breaking the habit (like nail-biting) becomes overwhelming. Boredom, separation anxiety, a change in environment, a new pet, etc., often become an issue and licking occurs. Then infection can set in. Often the cause(s) are not obvious and the veterinarian must do skin scrapings, skin biopsy, laboratory tests, food trials and even allergy testing. This year the ticks are out very early, so please use a preventative. There are many different types. Check with your veterinarian.
Although it is rarely advertised, and very few people know about it, April 24, 2010 is World Veterinary Day. Established in 2001, it is celebrated on the last Saturday of April each year. This years theme is : One World, One Health, which seeks to promote cooperation between the two medical professions: Veterinary and Human Medicine, for the improvement of health around the world. The link between animal and human health has long been known but some interesting recent facts have emerged. Approximately 60% of known infectious diseases are common to humans and animals (domestic or wild). Almost 75% of human diseases that have emerged and diagnosed came from animals. Examples are AIDS, Sars and Ebola. In this climate of terrorism affecting the world, the researchers concluded that 80% of the pathogens that cause disease in humans and animals could potentially be used in germ warfare or bioterrorism. Both the human population and most of the animal population need in their diets milk, eggs or meat. A bioterrorism attack can create a severe shortage that would have a major impact on the growing population of humans around the world. This cooperation between the two medical entities provide a format for all countries, and all researchers to share any and all new information to benefit mankind. People travel from one country to another more than ever, and so can disease causing pathogens. With warmer climates being documented it is a real concern that these same pathogens and the vectors that carry them, such as mosquitoes and ticks, are emerging earlier than ever and arriving in areas that previously were too cold for them. This cooperation between, ideally, all countries, seek to govern human and animal health by sharing knowledge and developing early detection of disease outbreaks.
As of this writing, April 10, 2010, we had 4 positive cases of Anaplasmosis diagnosed by my office, two dogs from Glen Cove and two from Locust Valley. This disease is transmitted by ticks, but it is caused by a bacterium carried by those ticks. In nature, the white-footed mouse is the primary reservoir. The same ticks that carry Lyme disease can, and do, carry this bacterium. Some dogs get both diseases at the same time which can be devastating for the dog and dangerous. Humans can get this disease also from the same ticks, but it is not communicable from dog to human or vice versa. In dogs, the symptoms vary and depend on the length of time from the tick bite. These symptoms may include: high fever, depression, lack of appetite, lameness, swollen joint(s), vomiting and diarrhea, neck pain, loss of balance, and even seizures. Sometimes nose bleeds, blood in the urine and skin bruising become apparent. Two of the four cases had symptoms of lameness and a swollen joint and the other two were found during a routine heartworm/lyme screening. The disease mimics Lyme disease and can only be diagnosed by means of a simple blood test. Most veterinarians use a test that screen these tick diseases and also Heartworm disease. This is very early in the year to see these tick diseases so I felt impelled to let my readers know. We had many cases of Lyme disease diagnosed at my office last year, but these are the first Anaplasmosis cases. If caught early enough it is successfully treated with a month supply of a specific antibiotic. Those dogs with dual infections are treated longer and some may even need a blood transfusion. These diseases are preventable. Have your veterinarian do a blood screening and if ok apply monthly tick/flea preparations to the skin (not the hair), avoid high grass and wooded areas where ticks live. Also give 1x a month prevention heartworm/intestinal parasite pills.
Reported Last month, (March 12, 2010), the New York City Dept. of Health and Hygiene reported that a positive case of rabies was discovered in a cat in NY City. This is the 69th positive case of rabies diagnosed in the 5 boroughs of NYC within the last year. The other 68 cases were in raccoons. Rabies is communicable to animals and people by means of bites, when saliva from infected animals get into open cuts, wounds or even the conjunctiva of the eye. It is fatal in humans, unless treated in the very early stages, and in pets unless vaccinated against it. Cats that go outside are more susceptible because many of them are hunters and many wont back down from a raccoon. The ASPCA reported that rabies is reported in cats more than any other domestic species in the US. Unfortunately, there is no “test” to diagnose the disease in a living animal. The suspected animal has to be euthanized, if caught, and an autopsy performed. Stay away from nocturnal animals, like raccoons, out during the day, and stay away from wild animals showing no fear of humans. Here are some additional suggestions to keep your pet safe: 1. Make sure your dog or cat is up to date on rabies vaccination. 2. Make sure they avoid contact with wild animals, especially feral cats and raccoons. 3. Do not leave your pets unattended outside and feed them indoors. 4. Do not leave food outside. 5. Do not try to manually separate animals that are fighting. 6. Contact your veterinarian if your pet has been bitten by an unknown animal or one with an unknown vaccination history. 7. If your pet was bitten by an unknown animal and is vaccinated, it is still recommended to get it a booster. 8. If you get bitten, immediately wash the wound out with soap and water and go to the nearest emergency room.
Modern veterinary medicine has available to it many, if not all, of the varied diagnostic tools used in modern human medicine. CT Scan and MRI’s are examples. CT stands for computer tomography and is similar to a series of very detailed radiographs taken from all different angles. These images are three dimensional which are very helpful in making a proper diagnosis. It is non-invasive and not painful, but does require anesthesia so the animal does not move during the procedure. It uses ionizing radiation technology to produce the images, and the images are very clear and diagnostic. It is best used on skeletal (bony) areas or dental areas and helps the veterinarian decide if there is a treatable disease present rather than one that is not treatable. MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging, which is a newer technology than CT Scans. It does not use radiation to produce images, but uses magnetic fields instead, and produces greater contrasting images between surrounding tissue and organs. For these reasons it is considered better than a CT Scan. MRI is used primarily to visualize neurological areas like the brain and spinal cord as well as other areas like musculoskeletal and cardiovascular. It is particularly helpful when cancer is suspected. It is not painful or invasive but also requires immobilization and thus anesthesia is used. Once again, it helps the veterinarian decide if there is a treatable or non-treatable disease present in the animal. Both of these tests are expensive and in veterinary medicine are only used when less costly tests are not conclusive.