Monthly Archives: April 2012

Heart Disease in Animals

Dogs and cats can have a number of different diseases or conditions of the heart that differ from humans in a number of ways. Heart attacks and strokes that are common in people are rare in dogs and cats. Blood pressure elevation can and does occur, but it is rare in animals. Certain breeds of dogs that are very prone to heart disease include: Cavalier King Charles spaniels, miniature poodles, cocker spaniels, miniature schnauzers and dachshunds. One of the early signs of heart disease is a cough, especially at night when the dog or cat is resting. In addition to a cough, other signs of heart disease may include exercise intolerance, panting while resting and labored breathing. More advanced signs may include: distended abdomen, weakness, fainting, restlessness and lack of appetite. A proper examination includes the use of the stethoscope to determine if any murmurs are present as 75% of heart problems that we diagnose are valve related. The stethoscope also picks up irregular heart beats known as arrhythmias, as this can also develop into heart disease. Murmurs in puppies, however can disappear, but not always. Dental disease is a contributing factor in animal heart disease. Bacteria in the mouth can spread by the bloodstream and affect the valves in the heart. The proper diagnosis of heart disease not only includes the stethoscope, but the use of radiographs, EKG, and often an Ultrasound. The medications that we have available today include some older drugs such as Lasix and Enalapril, and a new one known as Vetmedin. Not only do these drugs eliminate the symptoms but they also extend the life and quality of life of those patients with diagnosed heart disease. Weight loss, moderate exercise and of course the proper diet are also very important.There are many special prescription diets on the market formulated specifically for heart disease.

New Technology

It is common knowledge that many advances in veterinary medicine help not only our pets but also humans. It is also common knowledge that the canine species is very special, especially their keen sense of smell. Examples of this is how canines can “sniff out” certain cancers, or low blood sugar in a diabetic person, etc.   Now  Researchers from the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota have just developed an extremely unique method of determining seizures in dogs BEFORE they occur. A small implant that contains electroencephalograph (EEG) capabilities anticipates seizures and notifies the pets’ owner via lights on a vest worn by the patient. It also is being tested on humans and researchers believe it will be available to the public later this year (2012). Seizures have been reported in over 2 million dogs throughout the USA. Being able to pr edict their occurrence will allow the owners to give medication prior to it happening and hopefully prevent it permanently.  Often seizures increase in frequency with stress. This stress surfaces in many dogs with loud sounds, like firecrackers during Memorial Day and July 4th, and many occur without any known reason. Seizures are often diagnosed as “idiopathic epilepsy” as the cause in not known. They are treatable and many times with treatment are avoidable—-but not always. When they do occur they are very upsetting to watch and often difficult for the patient to get over. They can get worse as the dog gets older too. This new implanted device is designed to help dog owners achieve peace of mind by knowing if and when their pet will have a seizure, and will prepare them to treat them using appropriate medications. It is easier on the owner and the dog to prevent a seizure than treat one. Hopefully this technology will work and be readily available for humans too.

How Much Should I Feed My Dog or Cat?

This question is asked regularly. The answer is quite simple: it depends. It depends on the amount of calories in the food, the total amount of calories consumed in a 24 hours period, the amount of calories expended in the same time frame, and of course genetics. Genetics is probably the most important factor. The same is true in humans. Genetics dictates metabolism and exercise affects how the calories are used. Each dog and cat may require a different amount of calories to survive and hopefully thrive. In the last decade all veterinarians in small animal practice are faced with a growing number of dogs and cats with obesity problems. It has been reported that over 50% of all dogs and cats in the U.S. are overweight or obese. A dog or cat is overweight if it is 5% to 19% above its ideal weight, 20% or more indicates obesity. The overall health status of our pets is also directly related to the level of excess weight being carried, the quality of food being fed, and the veterinary care being provided. A deficiency of one or more of these things can result in serious complications. These include: diabetes, osteoarthritis, anterior/posterior cruciate rupture, cardiac disease, liver disease, respiratory conditions, heat and exercise intolerance, skin and hair problems, and diseases preventable by proper veterinary care. Researchers have reported that some cancers are weight related. The guidelines on the packages of pet foods of how much to feed are just guidelines, no more. The amount should be tailored to how the dog or cat is maintaining its weight on that specific food. Certain breeds are more prone to obesity such as Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Beagles and Cocker Spaniels. In cats, the domesticated strays as well as most of the pure breeds can have a weight problem. Note: you never see a fe ral cat, lion, tiger, wolf, etc. that is fat. They are always hunting and get plenty of exercise. So, tailor the type of food and the quantity and quality to how your pet looks. Don’t forget, treats are also full of calories. You should barely see or feel the ribs, and the abdomen should tuck in just behind the last rib. In my experience, the best food for weight reduction on the market is a prescription product made by Purina called OM. It is palatable and most dogs and cats like to eat it.

Warm Winter Consequences

Warmer winters, such as the one we all just had on Long Island, bring “tick infested springs”. There are many reasons: more birds and mice and other rodents survive warmer winters and thus more ticks “hitchhike” on them. Black legged ticks (the one that carry Lyme Disease) do not have any natural predators, so it’s very difficult to control their population explosion during a warm winter. That is why researchers are recommending all year round protection for our pets, rather than stopping in the winter. They claim there is no longer a “tick season”. The CDC in Atlanta reports the number of cases of tick borne diseases diagnosed in animals AND humans in the Northeastern part of USA is increasing. All pet owners should seriously consider using the newer prescription flea and tick prevention products on the market. Too much is at stake, the prescription products work better than the non-prescription products. Fortunately, these prescribed products work well on the pet and in the house for control as well as prevention. Ticks especially carry diseases of human significance as they can cause the same diseases in humans as in dogs and cats. These include: Lyme Disease, Anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis, Babesiosis, and more. Last year (2011 we diagnosed over 70 cases of Lyme Disease and over 5 cases of Anaplasmosis in the Locust Valley and surrounding area. This year we are already diagnosing Lyme Disease and Anaplasmosis. All of these cases could have been prevented. Be aware that birds can also bring ticks onto your property. Most of the topical products that kill fleas and ticks do it quickly. This is especially important as a tick has to be attached to the skin for 24+ hours before transmission of the Lyme Disease bacterium can occur. The products are applied to the skin (not the hair) 1 x each month. The active ingredients are dispersed into the fatty layer under the skin and stored in the oil secreting glands. These products kill the parasites, inactivate the eggs, and kill the immature form of the parasites known as larvae. To clean the house, vacuuming is a must, everywhere, as it sucks up live and dead fleas and ticks, AND their eggs and larvae. The bag should then be placed in the garbage where it will eventually be burned. Treatment of the outdoors with “pet friendly” insecticides still has a place in total flea and tick control, especially with re-occurring infestations. Have your dogs blood tested early this year and start the preventatives right away.