Monthly Archives: September 2010

Bladder Stones (Urolithiasis) Part 1

This is a condition frequently seen in dogs and cats and in both males and females. Stones can develop anywhere in the urinary tract: the ureters ( 2 small tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder), the bladder which stores the urine, and the urethra which takes the urine  from the bladder to outside the body. Over 85% of the times,  stones develop in the bladder. (Very rarely do stones develop in the kidney in dogs and cats, called renal calculi.  Humans get renal calculi and not bladder stones.) In dogs and cats, certain minerals can precipitate out of the urine and become a sandy particle,  more can develop and when they cling to each other a calculus (urolith, stone) develops. They can become 3-4” in diameter and can take up to 99% of a bladder. The largest one I every removed was the size of a goose egg and it took up the majority of the bladder. It was in a female standard poodle. Most stones develop as the result of a bladder infection known as cystitis. Diet is involved as the diet influences the ph (level of acidity) and the mineral content of the urine. Water is involved because if the urine is very concentrated from lack of water consumption, more precipitates occur.  And the breed is involved because certain breeds are predisposed to calculi development. These breeds include: Schnauzers, Lhasas, Yorkies, Bichons, Shihtsus, and mini Poodles.  In male dogs and cats, the urethra is long and narrows at the penis where stones can get stuck and cause a complete obstruction. This obstruction must be relieved, urine must flow, or else it can become fatal. The stones can get stuck near the neck of the bladder, or by the prostate as it narrows going through,   midway down the urethra where it curves, or just behind the penis, (dogs have a bone in the penis known as the os penis, and the urethra is very small there). Early signs of bladder stones are the same as cystitis: frequent urination of small quantities, blood in the urine, urinary accidents, and apparent straining to urinate. The worse sign is attempting to urine but nothing comes out.  Occasionally the bladder stones can be felt with gentle palpation of the lower abdomen, and often a urinalysis shows crystals in the urine which are the precursors of calculi, but usually x-rays are taken to confirm the diagnosis.  If  crystals show up in the urinalysis, and even if very small calculi are present, surgery is sometimes avoided by just changing the diet, especially in females. Small stones in males are the most dangerous ones because of the obstruction possibility.

Pet Nutrition: Part 2 Update

It is generally believed that dry pet food rather than canned is better for your pet for several reasons: teeth stay stronger and gums stay healthy because they have to break up the food with their teeth. Usually the dry food is eaten more slowly and mixes better with saliva, so the digestive tract functions more efficiently. Some canned foods are up to 75% moisture (water), which is much less expensive from the tap. Also, dry food is more stable during temperature changes which may occur during shipping from the manufacturer to the store and then to your home. Making a meal from your food is just fine, if the balance of all the essential ingredients are correct, but again it is usually soft. Adding table food to just “flavor” a commercially prepared food is okay, but too much table food again creates an imbalance in the diet which defeats the purpose of feeding a nutritionally completely balanced meal. When changing the diet, always do it slowly. Introduce something new gradually, over a period of 5-7 days, so that the digestive tract adjusts to the change. Dogs and cats have very simple digestive tracts, and they will have much less gastro-intestinal upsets if fed the same food consistently every day. Do not feed your dog bones of any kind, including steak bones as they break off pieces with sharp edges. I have had to operate many times to remove pieces of bones from a dog’s intestine. Cats should not be fed fish with bones because they can perforate the intestines. The amount of food to feed your dog or cat depends on a number of factors; the genetic makeup of your pet and its metabolism, the amount of exercise it receives, the amount of calories being consumed and the quality of the food. The less expensive the pet food, the cheaper the quality of ingredients, the less efficiently it is digested and more waste is produced, and thus the more you have to feed to maintain the proper weight and survive. We all want our pets to thrive, not just survive, and be healthy and happy companions. For more articles, check out my web site at

Mast Cell Tumors (The Great Imposters)

We all have Mast cells circulating through out our circulatory system. Mast cells are produced in the bone marrow and are part of the immune system. They release histamine in response to allergens, parasites, stress, and trauma. These cells are essential for life, but for some unknown reasons they can change and become cancerous. While other tumors can frequently be identified by appearance and location, these cannot. These tumors are devious—they vary in size, shape, color, location and texture. Their size and shape can even change on a daily basis. It is impossible to predict their course as they can spread  to other areas of the skin and occasionally even internally to the spleen, liver and bone marrow. They can cause internal bleeding, gastric ulcers, allergic reactions, or remain the same and do nothing. It is for these reasons they are called The Great Impostors of the tumor world. Only a biopsy will give a definitive diagnosis and sometimes even a prognosis.  It is estimated that 25% of all dogs will die of some form of cancer,  30%+ of all tumors in dogs are skin tumors, and Mast cell tumors account for approximately 20% of  those skin tumors. Mast cell tumors rarely occur in cats and even less so in humans. Most researchers believe there is a genetic involvement as they are more frequently seen in beagles, Boston terriers, boxers, labs, golden retrievers, bulldogs, and bull mastiffs. But, they can and do occur in other breeds. There is no way to prevent them from   developing, but an early diagnosis by needle biopsy, surgical excision, and complete biopsy is a must. The pathologists can then determine the degree of malignancy and what stage the tumor is at.  Based on this information the veterinarian will have a course of therapy to follow and hopefully slow down any possible re-occurrence or spread. Prednisone and antihistamines have been used in the past, but now there is a new chemotherapy drug known as Palladia, that is very promising. Any suspicious skin lesion should be examined by your veterinarian immediately to determine what should be done, if anything. For additional articles, go to my website at


This is the medical term used for a form of dermatitis in which the outer layer of the skin (epidermis) and the oil secreting glands known as sebaceous glands, and part of the hair follicles are over productive. The result is excessive very dry flaky skin (dandruff), or the reverse, a greasy smelly skin caused by the excessive production of a fatty lubricating substance known as sebum. These two forms of the disease are known as: Seborrhea oleosa (greasy) and Seborrhea sicca (dry). They occur more frequently in Westies, Cockers, Springers, Bassets, Dachshunds, Dobermans, German Shepherds and Labradors, but can occur in any breed. When either form occurs in very young dogs under 18 months of age, it is considered to be a Primary seborrhea, an inherited trait. Occasionally, both forms occur in the same dog. When either the sicca or oleosa form occurs later in life, it is considered Secondary to other dermatological disorders. Some of these other diseases can be mange, mites, flea allergy, food allergy, hypothyroidism, and even deficiencies in the diet. Many times a smelly greasy discharge from the ears also show up. Usually an experienced veterinarian can differentiate the causes, but sometimes various tests must be utilized such as blood tests, skin scrapings, skin cultures and even skin biopsies. Both the sicca and oleosa forms are upsetting to the dog owner and are very uncomfortable for the dog. Sometimes intense scratching ensues which often lead to the secondary skin infections and ear infections. These infections are usually caused either by the bacterium known as Staphylococci or a yeast known as Malassezia. The infections are curable but unfortunately the Seborrhea is not. It becomes a chronic treatable condition. Just as in people with dandruff, frequent bathing with the proper shampoo is a must. Skin infections and ear infections are treated with the appropriate antibiotics and scratching must be controlled to prevent secondary infections and self inflicted wounds. Human shampoos must not be used as often the pH or level of acidity is incorrect, which will make the condition worse. Catch it early and seek your veterinarians help.