These diseases are commonly diagnosed in veterinary and human medicine since they were first discovered in the early 1950’s; however, they are rarely understood. The immune system is the bodies normal defense system to disease. Invaders such as bacteria, viruses and parasites are fought off in our body by the immune system. For some reason, autoimmune diseases occur because of an unnatural overreaction by the body against substances and tissues normally present in our bodies. Normal cells become aggressive and attack themselves. Sometimes the disease affects the entire body (systemic) and sometimes only a portion of it (localized). The medical researchers do not know why it happens but it is believed that something “triggers” the immune system to go wrong. This “trigger” is usually some sort of stress, such as an injury, over exposure to the elements, a toxic substance, poor diet, or anything that “runs the body down”. In both animals and humans, researchers also believe there is a genetic link as certain species, breeds, and families have a predisposition to them. There are many examples of autoimmune diseases in both veterinary and human medicine. One of the more common autoimmune diseases of dogs is Demodectic Mange. Some other diseases that are considered “auto-immune” include Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Auto-Immune Hemolytic Anemia, Thrombocytopenia, Myasthenia Gravis, Pemphigus, Thyroiditis, and Type 1 Diabetes. There are more in animals, but there are over 80 confirmed auto-immune diseases in humans. Nutritional deficiencies also affect the immune system. Diets deficient in Vitamin E or selenium can result in a deficit of necessary immune cells. This is especially true as the body ages. As with any other disease, the earlier it is diagnosed the better the chances of a successful treatment. These “auto-immune” diseases are treatable, but sometimes require treatment for life. Steroids are usually used but their long term use can also cause additional problems. Fortunately, each year new drugs are discovered to treat various auto-immune diseases
“Be prepared” is the best motto. So if you are planning a trip and bringing your dog, bring along a first aid kit and a first aid manual for dogs too, just in case. Remember many human medications are not suitable for your pet and many are dangerous to give. The following are some essential items to bring with you: thermometer, gauze, gauze pads, gauze rolls, cotton, cotton balls, q-tips and vet wrap. Tongue depressors come in handy if a temporary splint has to be made. Bring scissors that have blunt ends and tweezers, especially the special tweezers used for tick removal. Latex gloves to protect your hands and disinfectants like Betadine or Hibitane (Chlorhexidine) and CanineAid, which is a soothing cream to ease discomfort. Pack saline solution or eye wash for cleaning a wound or eyes. If your dog has a history of any ailment, like allergies, bring along some previously prescribed medications you may still have, as well as antihistamine in case your dog gets an insect bite. In the event of accidental ingestion of a toxic substance, foreign body or toy, ipecac or hydrogen peroxide will induce vomiting. Bottled water is essential. Try to discourage drinking lake or stream water as you do not know what is upstream. (Wild animals often defecate and urinate in the water.) A good quality disinfectant soap and antibacterial wipes are also a good idea, not only for your pet, but for you too. Other essential items are doggie shampoo for bathing after swimming, towels, blankets, and grooming supplies. Make sure your dog is up to date on vaccinations, especially Rabies, Distemper/Parvo 5 in 1, Leptospirosis and Lyme and bring proof of it along with a health certificate with you. Many campsites will ask for these documents at the gate and refuse you admission without them. Also make sure your dog is protected against fleas, ticks, heartworm disease and intestinal parasites. Your dog should have proper identification on its collar. For permanent identification consider having a painless ID microchip implanted. Lastly, get the name. address and phone number of the nearest emergency veterinary facility, just in case.
The terms “use before” the following date are stamped on most pharmaceuticals for human and animal use. What actually happens if the drug is used after the expiration date? Can it cause harm, does it help, does the potency change? Does the date really mean at that moment stop using it? Does it gradually spoil? A study was performed and the results were a surprise to many and shocking to others. Here are some of the facts from the medical authorities after several studies were performed: First, the expiration date is required by law, at least in the United States. But, the date only means that the manufacturer guarantees the full potency and safety of the drug up to that date. It does not mean how long the drug is actually good for, or safe to use. Second, the medical authorities state that it is safe to take most drugs after the expiration date. Although some drugs may lose some of their potency over time, maybe as little as 5%, many are good for years after the expiration date. Most drugs degrade very slowly. In fact, many drugs were found to have the same potency for up to ten years after the expiration date. “Do not use” after such and such date is just an advertising ploy. “Manufacturers put expiration dates on for marketing purposes, rather than scientific reasons.” The dates are based on economics. There is no question that expiration dates should be adhered to with certain critical drugs like insulin, nitroglycerin, phenobarbital, statins, liquid antibiotics, etc. But, other drugs like aspirin and other NSAIDS do not lose their potency for years after the listed expiration dates. It is best to seek out advise from your physician or veterinarian. What is also important is where you get your prescriptions filled, and where you buy your over the counter drugs. Stick with name brands and known retailers. Be wary of the online and mail order houses.