Thursday, January 31, 2008

What You Can Catch From Your Pet!

Dogs, cats and small mammals such as rabbits or guinea pigs are popular companions for many people, often sharing their home environment. Being in such close contact, it is perhaps inevitable that sometimes disease is transmitted from pets to their owners. Though the diseases discussed in this article can affect any person, immunocompromised people such as infants, the elderly or those who are HIV+ need to be extra careful. This article looks at skin diseases of dogs and cats that can present a risk to their owners.

Actually, considering the large number of people interacting closely with small animals on a daily basis, the overall risk of contracting disease from a pet with skin disease is remarkably low. In general, keeping pets clean, free from parasites and healthy, as well as good personal and household hygiene such as proper hand washing, will minimize the risk of catching a disease from your pet. However, people belonging to risk categories (the immunosuppressed) need more specific advice.

The increase in pet travel, and the occurrence of breeders sourcing stock from overseas, has made the risk of exposure to new diseases a little greater. The most common skin diseases transmissible to humans that occur in dogs and cats are sarcoptic mange (scabies), cheyletiellosis (mite infestation), fleas and dermatophytosis (ringworm). In general, young and newly acquired animals, especially those from animal shelters, are most likely to be affected by these diseases. Below we look at each of these diseases more closely.

Flea Infestation

Since the reservoir of fleas is predominantly in the environment, and jump onto the human from there, one might argue that this is not strictly transmitted from the animal. However, it is introduced into the household by the animal and therefore falls into this category.

The flea will readily feed on humans and can cause a marked hypersensitivity reaction in some individuals. In addition, fleas can transmit other diseases, such as cat scratch disease (Bartonella henselae), tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum) and plague (Yersinia pestis). Regular flea control with veterinary recommended spot on treatments will keep the environmental population of fleas low, and minimize the risk of bites.

Sarcoptic Mange (Scabies)

This is caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei, and can affect a number of species. Different strains of the mite do tend to prefer different species, and the most common one which affects dogs and foxes only has an estimated 20 per cent chance of transmission to humans.

Prolonged skin to skin contact is the main route of transmission, with the disease presenting as an itchy rash with small red spots. Usually, disease in the human will clear up of its own accord, once the dog has been treated appropriately with a medicated shampoo or spot on drug. Occasionally, humans may need their own treatment though. It is very important to treat all in contact dogs as well. Unlike fleas, these mites do not tend to survive for long in the environment so reinfection is rare once the dog has been treated.


This can be caught from dogs, cats and small mammals such as rabbits or guinea pigs. Mites can survive in the environment for several days. Humans are only transiently infected, and develop itchy spots. Appropriate treatment of the affected animal, and the in contact animals, resolves the problem.

Dermatophytosis (Ringworm)

This is actually a type of fungus, not a worm as the name suggests. The most common type in dogs and cats is Microsporum canis. Transmission is often by direct contact, but spores can remain infective in the environment for many months. Dogs and cats may be carriers of the disease without showing any signs of it themselves, while acting as a source of infection for their owners.

In dogs and cats, infections with ringworm usually resolve by themselves given time, unless the animal is immunocompromised (e.g. on steroids). However, treatment is recommended so that the risk of transmission to humans is lessened. Dogs and cats are usually treated with a topical solution of itraconazole, while affected humans are usually prescribed an anti fungal cream to apply to affected areas.

Otodectic Mange (Ear Mites)

These mites cause ear infections in dogs, cats and ferrets. They can, rarely, affect skin outside of the ear, and this has been reported sometimes in humans. It is however rare, and easily controlled by treating the affected animal with a certain acaricidal spot on drug (e.g. selamectin, moxidectin) or topical ear drops.

Malassezia Dermatitis

These are yeasts often found on normal skin in dogs, cats, humans and other species. Skin disease occurs as a reaction to the yeasts overgrowth and the hosts reaction to it. Transmission to humans has only ever been documented in immunocompromised people, and the risk of infection is low.

Staphylococcal Infections

Staphylococcal pyoderma (bacterial skin infection) is common in dogs, but not in cats. It often occurs secondary to another disease and usually involves the bacterium Staphylococcus intermedius. Contrast this to humans, where the main cause of bacterial skin infection is Staphylococcus aureus, and it is clear that the risk of transmission to humans is very low.

Mycobacterial Infections

Tuberculosis poses a risk to human health. The bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium bovis can infect both cats and humans, and pass between them. The disease presents as nodules, draining tracts or non healing wounds, or as respiratory disease. Urgent medical and veterinary attention should be sought, though the incidence of pets passing it to their owners is very low.

Feline Poxvirus Infection

Cats get cowpox infections by being bitten by voles and wood mice. Hence it is only outdoor cats that are affected, namely those that hunt. Many affected cats do not show any signs of disease. Transmission to humans is rare, and can cause painful skin nodules.

What can immunocompromised people do to minimize the risk to them?

Firstly, a risk assessment should be carried out. Good communication is essential between the medical and veterinary professionals involved. The goal is to maintain disease free status in the pet, whilst practicing thorough hygiene measures by the person. Being immunocompromised does not mean you cannot have a pet, but the following points should be taken into consideration:

1. If acquiring a pet, make sure it is a healthy one, vet checked and not from a source rife with diseases.

2. Safe feeding practices

3. Avoid your pet coming into contact with contaminated material from other animals (e.g. feces)

4. Vaccination annually

5. Good worming control (every 3 months in adult dogs and cats)

6. Good flea prevention (usually monthly for spot ons)

7. Good dental care (brushing your pets teeth, dental chews to keep teeth clean)

8. Regular general health checks by your veterinarian

Author bio: Matthew Homfray is one of the online veterinarians at FREE pet Q&A service Televets. Visit them today at

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Legg Calve Perthes Disease in Dogs


General Information

Avascular necrosis of the femoral head is a disease of the hip joints of miniature and toy breeds of dogs, most often in Poodles, Yorkies, Lakeland terriers, west Highland white terriers, Jack Russell terriers and miniature pinchers just to name a few. It develops between 4 and 12 months of age. The blood supply to the neck of the femur is inadequate, leading to bone destruction in the hip joint, resulting in a roughened, irregular joint surface. Moving the rear legs causes pain, and the leg muscles weaken and shrink from insufficient use. Occasionally the limbs actually shorten. One or both rear legs may be affected. If only one leg is involved, the dog usually refuses to bear any weight on that limb.

Avascular necrosis is hereditary and probably results from breeding for small body size. This selective breeding produces dogs that mature more rapidly, and the early effects of hormones on the developing hips may cause the disease. Some researchers also believe that injury to the developing hips may cause the condition. If the condition is not treated, the dog may develop severe arthritis in later life. Usually, lameness is so severe that treatment is mandatory.

Clinical signs

Lameness and pain on movement of the affected leg. Pain can be localised to the hip joint on examination.


Xrays of the hips will show bone destruction of the femoral neck on the affected side.

Important Points in Treatment

Medical treatment: This is designed to relieve pain and discomfort during recovery in mild cases. NSAID painkillers are the treatment of choice. Joint supplements such as glucosamine are also beneficial.

Surgical treatment: 'Excision arthroplasty', or 'femoral head and neck excision', is the surgical removal of the ball portion (femoral head) of the ball and socket hip joint. Crucial to the outcome is also the successful removal of the neck portion. It is used to treat moderate to severe cases. A "false joint" of fibrous tissue then forms. This often increases both comfort and mobility. Mild exercise is advisable immediately after surgery, but keep your pet restrained on a leash.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

'Slipped Discs' in Dogs

The bones of the backbone that protect the spinal cord are called vertebrae. Discs between these vertebrae act as "shock absorbers". A disc is composed of a pulpy, jelly-like center surrounded by hard fibrous tissue.

Sudden trauma can result in injury to the disc causing it to bulge or even rupture. When this happens, the disc (or disc contents) is forced out of its normal position and pushes against the spinal cord causing pressure on the cord and nerves. This causes pain, weakness, incoordination, and possibly paralysis of the legs, bladder, and rectum. Other clinical signs are rigid or splinted abdomen, pain when picked up, reluctance to move or jump up, hunched posture, lowered head and neck, and loss of urine or bowel control. Signs may develop gradually or suddenly. Disc protrusion against the spinal cord can also result from a deterioration of the disc as the pet ages or arthritic changes within the bone itself.

Disc disease can occur anywhere along the spinal canal. "Pinched nerves" in the neck area are usually very painful and may cause front leg lameness. The pet often is presented with a reluctance to move the head up and down, usually keeping the head tucked low to the ground. Lesions further down the spinal column cause varying signs depending upon the particular nerves compressed by the involved disc. All four legs can be affected in severe cases.

Based upon the severity of clinical signs, your pet may respond to medical treatment alone or surgery may be required. Medical treatment involves strict cage rest, anti-inflammatory and pain medication and sometimes muscle relaxants. Surgery is performed to relieve pressure, provide stabilization, and to help prevent future episodes of pain. Pets with disc disease will usually have recurrent episodes, especially if the pet is overweight or does a lot of jumping.
Diet modification is also highly recommended.

If your pet should start showing any of the above signs, IMMEDIATE treatment is crucial. If your usual vet is not open, take your pet to the nearest emergency clinic.

Diagnosis is usually based upon history, physical exam, x-rays and possibly myelography (injecting contrast medium into the intervertebral space, and then taking xrays). Predisposed breeds are Dachshunds, Shih Tzus, Pekignese, Welsh Corgis, German Shepherd Dogs and Beagles. However, any breed can be affected.


Depending upon the severity of disease, your pet may need to be hospitalized or can be treated at home. Complete recovery may take weeks to months.

Your pet needs to have STRICT CAGE REST for a number of weeks. This means that you need to keep your pet in a large cage or small bathroom. Carry your pet outside to use the bathroom. Absolutely no stairs or steps. Excessive movement can cause further injury to the spinal cord.
When picking your pet up, protect the back and try to keep it straight. Some pets may be so painful that they will need to be muzzled before you try to move them.

Make sure that your pet is able to urinate and that he can empty his bladder. Some pets may need help with this. DO NOT attempt to express your pet’s bladder without directions from your veterinarian. A urinary catheter may need to be inserted.

Recumbent pets will need to have a thick layer of blankets/padding to lay on. Try to alternate sides every 4-8 hours.

Give all oral medications as directed. It is very important that you do not combine anti-inflammatory medications unless directed to do so by your veterinarian.

We recommend putting your pet on a nutritional supplement to help prevent/delay arthritis build up.

Do not allow your pet to become overweight and try to discourage jumping.
Notify your veterinarian if your pets condition worsens or if you should have any questions or concerns.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Reverse Sneeze Syndrome in Dogs

Reverse sneeze syndrome is characterized by a series of rapid, loud, forced inhalations through the nostrils, lasting anywhere from 10 seconds to 2 minutes. Attacks occur on a sporadic, unpredictable basis.

Dogs usually have the head extended forward and stand still during the episode. Affected dogs appear completely normal before and after the attack. There is no loss of consciousness or collapse, though sometimes the appearance of the dog is upsetting to owners. Many dogs have these attacks throughout their lives.

The exact cause of reverse sneezing is unknown, but it may be associated with sinusitis and other respiratory disorders.

Many believe affected dogs are consciously removing mucus form the nasal passages. In fact, many dogs swallow at the end of the attack. Whatever the cause, the condition is usually not serious.

If the condition appears suddenly in an older dog or if episodes become more severe or frequent, the nasal passages and throat should be examined.

Important points in treatment:

Treatment is not necessary when the episodes occur infrequently on a random basis.

Home treatments that have been reported to be successful include massaging the throat, blowing in the nose, rapidly and lightly compressing the chest.

Sometimes antihistamines will help with frequency or severity of the attacks.

Notify your veterinarian if any of the following occur:

The severity or frequency of your pets attacks changes.

Your pet develops a nasal discharge or a cough.

Your pets general health changes.

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Hypocalcaemia in Dogs

Hypocalcemia is a condition in which the calcium level is too low in the bloodstream. It is also sometimes called “Eclampsia” or “Milk Fever.”

It can occur in any dog or cat but is most commonly seen in small breed dogs that are either pregnant or nursing a litter. The problem is caused by the increased demands of pregnancy or nursing a litter, which require high levels of calcium. As the puppies grow inside the mother, the mother’s body must supply calcium through her bloodstream for the bone growth of the puppies. After birth, the calcium is supplied through the milk for the puppies’ nutrition. As each day passes, and the puppies grow, more milk (and therefore more calcium) is required.

If the female has a large litter, it increases the demands for milk production and calcium for the puppies. This condition occurs when the calcium level of the blood is decreased below the minimum levels needed for the health of the female.

Early signs of this condition include nervousness, panting, shivering and muscle tremors. If not treated at this early stage, the condition progresses to seizures — and eventually death. Prompt treatment of this condition is required to prevent death.

Hypocalcemia often recurs in later pregnancies, often on subsequent times much quicker than the first time. If a bitch has had it before and is therefore of known susceptibility to it, then it may occur in late pregnancy, before the birth of the puppies has occurred. IT IS IMPORTANT TO SPAY THESE PETS AFTER THE FIRST EPISODE FOR THE WELL BEING OF YOUR PET!

Initial treatment of this condition requires IV Calcium to replace what is needed by the female. Follow-up doses of calcium and other drugs are often required.

Please follow the below instructions:

Give all medications as directed.

Feed HIGH QUALITY PUPPY FOOD to the bitch (this is higher in calcium than normal adult dog food).

Allow only LIMITED FEEDINGS (3-4 times each day). Supplement the puppies with an artificial milk replacement product. Remember that as the puppies grow, they will require more milk. If the female is allowed to nurse too much, the chances of the condition recurring increase greatly.

Spay the female as SOON as the puppies are weaned.

Notify your veterinarian if any of the following signs are observed:

Staggering, muscle tremors, excessive panting, or seizures

Refusal to eat or vomiting

Breasts become hard, painful, or swollen

Any other condition you feel is abnormal for your pet

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Leptospirosis in Dogs

Leptospira is a gram negative spirochete bacteria that is very common in certain parts of the United States. There are over 250 different serovars (subtypes) and it is a zoonotic (meaning that people can contract it) disease. There has been increased prevalence of Leptospira disease since 1983 due to urbanization of rural areas, increasing contact between dogs and wildlife.

Leptospira penetrates through the mucosal membranes—eyes, conjunctiva, mouth, any breaks in the skin. After disseminating in the blood, leptospira tends to target the liver and kidneys but can also go to other organs in the body such as the spleen and central nervous system (CNS).

A reservoir host is an animal that harbors the organism with no clinical signs of disease. The organism is shed in high quantities in the urine. Dogs, rats, pigs, cattle, raccoons, deer, skunks, possums and small rodents (mice) can all serve as reservoir hosts for the different serovars. Man and dog can be an incidental host, in which clinical disease occurs, but the organism is not shed in high quantities.

Leptospira generally targets adult animals one to six years of age, but all ages can be affected. Dogs who are most commonly infected are those who are outdoors with exposure to surface water, dogs over 15 pounds, males, hounds, and hunting, working, or herding breeds. However, all dogs are susceptible. If a house or apartment has a problem with mice or rats, dogs and humans that live there are at risk of exposure.

Environmental risk factors include rural areas; housing developments that encroach on areas previously inhabited only by wildlife, leading to greater exposure of dogs to this organism; and areas with poor drainage or that frequently flood.

Leptospirosis can cause kidney failure, inflammation/toxicity of the liver (hepatitis), inflammation of the blood vessels (vasculitis) causing hemorrhage, inflammation of muscle tissue (myositis and myalgia), inflammation in the eye (uveitis) causing blindness, inflammation in the nervous system (meningitis), abortion in food animals and immune mediated illness with chronic disease.

The most common route of disease transmission is indirect, by contact with stagnant or slow moving water contaminated by urine . Wildlife urinate in a small pond or lake that people and dogs swim in. Leptospira organisms are able to survive for long periods in surface water. Transmission can also occur by direct contact with infected urine; bacteria enter through damaged skin or mucous membranes.

Prevalence of the disease varies markedly and usually correlates with rainfall and warm weather. Incidental host infections can be either sporadic or epidemic. The organism can live for long periods of time in warm water. Freezing will kill it. It is endemic in the wildlife population with infection rates as high as 30-40 percent.

In dogs, the incubation period (time from exposure to signs of clinical disease) varies between 3 and 20 days; therefore, this is the relevant period of exposure that must be considered. The most common signs of disease early on are anorexia, lethargy, vomiting and fever. Also seen are weight loss, increased drinking and urinating (polydipsia/polyuria), diarrhea, abdominal/lumbar pain, icterus/jaundice, stiffness/reluctance to walk (myalgia), enlarged kidneys (renomegaly), small areas of hemorrhage (petechia) or sometimes severe hemorrhage, and low platelet count (thrombocytopenia).

Diagnosis can be made from several different types of diagnostic tests with the most common test involving serology. Treatment involves supportive care and antibiotics. Dogs that recover are carriers of the disease and still shed the organisms when they go home.

Prognosis depends upon how early treatment begins. Diagnosis of this disease can sometimes be difficult if the patient is seen early in the disease before increases in kidney and liver values occur and the symptoms are vague. Even after treatment with antibiotics, liver or kidney disease may still develop. Up to 25% of infected dogs will not survive the initial infection. Thirty-three to 40% of infected dogs will develop chronic renal failure.

Leptospira bratislava and L. icterohemorrhagia were the leading serovars causing disease in the mid 1970’s. Since the mid 1990’s, Leptospira grippotyphosa and L. pomona are the leading infectious causes of acute renal failure in dogs.

Prevention in animals:

Avoid exposure
Isolate suspected cases in the hospital
Quarantine carriers (shedders) in the home or kennel

Owners of infected pets need to wear gloves and masks when cleaning cages and handling bodily fluids/waste. Do not hose down cages of infected animals because it can aerosolize the organism.

Vaccination of dogs for leptospirosis has been a controversial issue for the past several years. Early vaccines protected against strains bratislava and canicola. However, there is no cross protection between the various serovars in vaccines. It was also suspected that older leptospira vaccines caused a large number of vaccines reactions. It has been determined that it was the cellular debris in the vaccine (contaminants) and not the leptospira which caused the reaction.
Fort Dodge’s vaccine, Duramune Max 5-CvK/4L, is a killed vaccine that protects against the four most common serovars: L. grippotyphosa, L. pomona, L. icterohemorrhagia, and L. cannicola. This newer vaccine incorporates state of the art sub-unit technology. This involves separating the surface immunogens from the extraneous cellular debris and reducing the level of contaminants in the vaccine; thereby reducing the potential for adverse reactions while maintaining immunogenicity.

Efficacy studies with the vaccine demonstrated a 90% reduction in clinical signs in the vaccinated animals compared to control animals (those exposed to disease with no prior vaccination). All vaccinated animals were able to clear the infection before it could cause disease. Vaccination with the new Fort Dodge vaccine also prevented clinical shedding by infected dogs.

Numerous safety studies demonstrated less than 1.1% incidence of adverse effects (vaccine reactions) from vaccination. Adverse reactions can include injection site pain and swelling less than 24 hours duration, pruritis (itching) at the injection site immediately, lethargy for one day, increased thirst and anaphylaxis (shock). Banfield Veterinary Hospitals performed their own safety study involving 144, 387 doses of Duramune Max5-CvK/4L to their patients. They estimated less than 0.27% reaction rate over all with 0.01% rate of anaphylaxis. Of those patients that had reactions, small breeds did have a slightly higher reaction rate of 1% compared to 0.25% with large and mixed breed dogs. Interestingly enough, their rabies vaccination (brand not stated) had a slightly higher reaction rate than did the leptospira vaccine. Vaccination with DHPPC (again, brand used not stated) produced the same percentage of reactions as did those vaccinated for leptospira.

Who should be vaccinated? It is recommended that all dogs be vaccinated because of the zoonotic potential of the disease. We strongly recommend that all dogs used for hunting and working, dogs taken camping, dogs living in rural/farm areas, and dogs with access to ponds, lakes, or drainage ditches be vaccinated. Dogs housed where there are problems with rodents, raccoons and wildlife exposure should also be vaccinated.

Vaccines protecting against viral diseases, such as Parvovirus and Distemper virus, are given once every three years after an initial puppy series and a booster vaccination one year later. However, Leptospira is a bacterin, not a virus, and it needs to be given more frequently. Leptospira vaccine initially should be given two times at three weeks apart and then annually. Those dogs that receieved the older leptospira vaccines should still receive the two boosters of the newer vaccine because of the added serovars.

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Article donated by the Claws & Paws Veterinary Hospital. For further information visit

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Pacemakers in Dogs

Many people know someone who has had a pacemaker implanted for a cardiac rhythm disturbance. Like so many treatments, this has now made the switch from human to veterinary medicine and pacemakers are widely available for implantation into dogs that would otherwise be reliant on less effective drugs.

What is a pacemaker?

A pacemaker is an electronic device for use in certain cases of heart disease to assume the functions of the natural cardiac pacemaker. The first pacemaker to be implanted in a human was in 1957, the first dog to have a pacemaker fitted was in 1968. Since then, the implantation technique has developed so that a pacemaker can now be implanted by feeding it up a peripheral vein to the heart, rather than via open chest surgery.

When is a pacemaker required?

Pacemakers are useful in the treatment of a slower than usual heart rate (bradyarrhythmia) that causes symptoms in the patient. These types of rhythm disturbances are poorly responsive to drugs.

The 2 most common types of bradyarrhythmia in dogs are:

1) Third-Degree Atrioventricular Block
2) Sick Sinus Syndrome

Dogs with either of these conditions usually have a history of a slow heart rate, exercise intolerance, lethargy and sometimes collapse (syncope). Some dogs with third-degree atrioventricular block may already have signs of congestive heart failure, such as fluid in the abdomen (ascites) and fluid between the lungs and chest wall (pleural effusion).

What is required for diagnosis?

A complete baseline blood profile, including hematology and biochemistry, should always be conducted to rule out concurrent disease.

Chest xrays often show an enlarged heart, and are useful to rule out primary respiratory disease.

Ultrasound is used to assess the contractility of the heart muscle, the dimensions of the heart chambers and the function of the valves.

The most important of all diagnostic tests is electrocardiography (ecg). This measures the electrical pulses in the heart itself, so is the most useful for studying rhythm disturbances.

How is a pacemaker fitted?

The dog is put under general anesthetic, taking care to maintain circulation and ventilation as best possible during the procedure. Sometimes a temporary pacemaker is placed via a leg vein, from induction of anesthesia until the permanent one is implanted.

The permanent pacemaker is fitted via a lead in the right jugular vein in the dogs neck. The lead is passed all the way down into the right ventricle of the heart. Once in place, the lead is connected to the pulse generator and the heart is paced as necessary. A pulse generator is implanted under the skin on the right side of the neck. Once implanted, the pacemaker can be interrogated to find out information about sensing and pacing thresholds. The heart rate can be set according to the heart disease present.

Is there much postoperative care?

A bandage is placed around the neck for 7 days following surgery. Dogs should be kept calm for the 48hrs following surgery, the anti anxiety drug acepromazine is sometimes prescribed for this purpose. Antibiotics and painkillers are given for a week or so after the implantation.

What about longer term aftercare?

Aftercare of pacemaker dogs is vital. Animals must be kept quiet for 28 days after implantation to allow the lead to become imbedded in the heart wall. If the lead becomes dislodged the pacemaker with fail, with potentially disastrous results.

Regular follow up appointments with the cardiologist are very important. Stitches are removed 10 days after the procedure, with further appointments at 4 week intervals for several months.


Whilst for many uninsured pets pacemakers might not be affordable, technological advances mean they are becoming cheaper and more widely available. Although implantation is considered a high risk procedure, complications rates are low and the severity of the disease means it is the treatment of choice.

Pacemakers allow many dogs to return to their normal day to day activities, and most of them can enjoy a relatively normal life expectancy.

Author bio: Matthew Homfray is an online pet advisor at FREE pet Q&A service Televets. Visit them at and ask your question today!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Aural Hematomas in Dogs & Cats

Aural hematoma is an accumulation of blood between the cartilage and skin of the ear flap. It is caused by damage to the cartilage from vigorous repeated head shaking or scratching at the ears with the back feet. Occasionally, the damage results from the ear striking a sharp edge during head shaking. Aural hematomas can occur in both dogs and cats, but are more common in dogs.

The most common underlying causes of head shaking are ear infections, ear mites and fleas.

Important Points in Treatment

If a dog or cat is very relaxed and easy to handle, the fluid can sometimes be drained via a needle and syringe, without and sedative or anesthetic. Sedation is usually advised to do the job properly and with minimum stress. Once the fluid has been drained, a steroid (dexamethasone) is injected into the space where the fluid had accumulated. This technique only has approximately a 50% success rate though - half of these animals will refill their hematoma again, and need surgery.

Those animals whose ears fill up again after simple drainage and a steroid injection, require surgery. Surgery is performed under general anesthesia, and involves cutting away a strip of tissue on the inside of the ear flap, and placing stitches to close the gap between the cartilage and the skin, eliminating the space so that it cannot fill up. The stitches are removed 10-14 days later.

Treatment of ear infections and/or ear mites is necessary to allow healing and prevent recurrence of the conditions that caused the hematoma in the first place. The opportunity is used while the animal is sedated or under anesthetic to examine the ear canal closely with an otoscope, and the ear is flushed out to visualise the ear drum.

Post surgery or after simple drainage, the pet is given medication to help prevent recurrence. This usually consists of antibiotic ointment to put into the affected ear canal daily, for at least a week.

Instructions for care of incisions, drain tubes and/or suture

Notify your veterinarian if any of the following occur:

Your pet exhibits discomfort by rubbing or pawing at its ears or by shaking its head.

Fluid continues to accumulate under the skin of the ear.

The surgical area appears to be infected (looks inflamed, pus present, foul smell)

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Umbilical Hernias in Puppies & Kittens

General information

An umbilical hernia is the protrusion of abdominal contents beneath the skin at the navel (umbilicus).

The umbilicus is the healed scar (“belly button”) in the mid abdominal area. It marks the opening through which the prenatal blood vessels and other fetal structures passed before birth. After the umbilical cord is cut at birth, the opening rapidly closes. Occasionally, however, it does not close completely, and an opening in the abdominal wall remains.

The danger of a hernia is the potential entrapment of intestines through this opening. If the hernia interferes with the blood supply to the trapped bowel, passage of food through the bowel is blocked. Also, the strangulated tissue dies and releases toxins that may kill the animal.

Hernias can be hereditary and affected animals should not be bred.

Important Points in Treatment

Small hernias: Most small hernias are no danger to your pet’s health. They usually consist of a small amount of abdominal fat poking through the body wall. Some may even close before the animal reaches maturity - therefore, no treatment is necessary. Hernias are easily corrected in female dogs at the time of spaying (ovariohysterectomy), so if there is a small concern with a bitch, surgery is often delayed to coincide with the anesthetic performed for the neutering.

Large hernias: These hernias may be very serious, since a portion of intestine may become entrapped and its blood supply cut off. Immediate surgery is recommended in these cases.
Your pet has an umbilical hernia.

Notify your veterinarian if any of the following occur:

You observe redness and tenderness at the hernia site.

Your pet vomits or shows sudden signs of distress.

Your pet has painful or difficult bowel movements.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Dogs That Eat Poop

General Information

Many dogs develop the unpleasant habit of eating feces (coprophagy). In some animals, it becomes almost compulsive behavior. These pets eat not only their feces, but those of any other animals. Several theories have attempted to explain this behavior. Among the possible causes are boredom, too much confinement, lack of certain enzymes in the digestive system, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and neuroses.

Coprophagy usually does little harm except transmission of intestinal parasites and fecal bacteria, which may cause tonsillitis or intestinal upset. As long as you deworm your dog regularly (every 3 months with most worming tablets is sufficient, though certain brands are monthly), your dog shouldn't get sick from parasites.

Important Points in Treatment

In some pets, nothing seems to stop this behavior. However, here are a few suggestions that may help:

1) Remove the feces from the premises daily. Prevent access to cat litter boxes.

2) Do not confine your dog to an area where it has bowel movements.

3) Provide regular exercise for your pet.

4) There is a supplement which can be added to your pets food to give the feces a bitter taste. For some dogs though, even this is not a deterrent.

One or more laboratory examinations may be required to rule out hidden causes. Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) is one such cause. This is a condition common in German Shepherd dogs where the pancreas fails to produce enough digestive enzymes, so the dog cannot absorb enough nutrients from its diet. This results in weight loss, despite a ravenous appetite. This condition can be tested for by a blood test, and if diagnosed, can be well managed by supplementing the diet with artificial pancreatic enzymes.


- There is blood in your pets stool
- Your pets bowel movements are abnormal (e.g. diarrhea)
- Your pets general health changes (e.g. weight loss)

Matthew Homfray is an online veterinarian at free pet Q&A service Pet advisors are online right now waiting to answer your questions for free.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Kennel Cough in Dogs

Infectious tracheobronchitis is a contagious disease of the upper respiratory tract, which includes the trachea (windpipe) and bronchi (large air passages in the lungs). The tem 'kennel cough' is a non specific term for a contagious upper respiratory tract infection causing a dry, hacking cough.

Sometimes changes in the environment will cause dogs to develop a harsh, throaty cough. Owners often get the impression that their dog has 'got something stuck in his throat'. This is very common when a new pet is obtained, be it from an individual, humane shelter, or pet shop. Kennel cough can also be associated with vacations away from home, weather changes, boarding, or even a visit to the groomer. When away from home, many dogs often do a lot of barking which can cause irritation in the throat, making it more susceptible to bronchitis. The normal healthy body is very resistant to infection, but changes resulting in any form of stress (such as barking) can lower the body’s resistance to disease, allowing bronchitis to develop.

Many viruses and bacteria can be normal inhabitants of the pet’s body causing no problem until stress lowers the resistance. Even though boarding kennels (including ours) do everything possible to keep your pet healthy, there are some factors, such as the stress of barking, we simply cannot control.

The most common sign of kennel cough is a harsh, dry cough that is often followed by gagging and coughing up foamy mucus. Otherwise, the patient appears alert and generally healthy. The disease is very contagious among dogs, but it does not affect people. The disease is usually self-limiting. This means that, unless complications (such as pneumonia) occur, the signs usually disappear in 1-3 weeks.

Antibiotics and/or other supportive treatments can help decrease the clinical signs and length of illness. Ordinarily, no special diet is required. Exercise stimulates coughing and should be severely restricted. Sudden changes in air temperature or pressure on the neck from collars and leashes may also stimulate coughing.

Fortunately, there is a vaccine available for one of the major causes of canine coughing—the so-called “kennel cough.” Bordetella bronchiseptica is a highly contagious bacteria that is one of the major causes of the coughing syndrome. Vaccination is required for all boarding and grooming patients at most kennels and veterinary hospitals.

Vaccination is NO GUARANTEE that bronchitis will not develop, but it does provide some protection. With some Kennel Cough vaccines, 1/20th of dogs getting the vaccines will actually get a very mild version of the disease from the vaccine itself. The vaccine is usually applied intranasally - i.e. squirted up the nose of the dog, where it is absorbed across the nasal mucosa. This can be quite stressful for a nervous dog - and for the vet administering it too!

Should your pet develop a cough after boarding or a visit to the groomer, please understand that it probably is not the fault of the facility, just as it wouldn't be the fault of a bus operator if you were to catch a cold off another passenger who sneezed near you.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Canine Weight Loss Drug

The FDA in the USA approved a drug over a year ago, on 5th January 2007, that claims to be a useful weapon in the fight against canine obesity. Slentrol (dirlotapide), manufactured by Pfizer, is aimed at dogs that are clinically obese rather than those that are just slightly overweight. Could your dog be a candidate for this new drug? Here we look at what Slentrol is and how it works.


Slentrol Oral Solution is indicated for the management of canine obesity. With canine obesity on the increase globally, many veterinarians see it as the most important health issue facing pets today. Though the approval of this drug has been welcomed by the veterinary community, they are also stressing that it must be used together with an appropriate weight loss diet and exercise program to be effective. It is not a cure for obesity, once the dog stops taking the medication, the obesity will return unless lifestyle changes are enforced.


Slentrol is a solution formulated at a concentration of 5 mg/ml of dirlotapide for oral administration to dogs. It can be administered directly into the dogs mouth or on a small amount of food, with a meal or at a different time of the day.

Slentrol is available in 20, 50 and 150 ml bottles.

Slentrol should be stored in its original container at room temperature, 15 to 30 degrees centigrade.

How it works

Dirlotapide is a selective microsomal triglyceride transfer protein inhibitor that blocks the assembly and release of lipoprotein particles into the bloodstream (via the lymphatic system).
The exact mechanism for producing weight loss is not completely understood, according to the FDA, but seems to result from reduced fat absorption and sending a feeling to the dogs brain of being full.If used correctly, Slentrol helps to achieve weight loss of at least 2.8% body weight per month.


Slentrol is given dosed in 2 phases:

1) Weight loss phase
2) Weight management phase

Weight loss phase

The initial dosage of Slentrol is 0.01 ml/kg (0.0045 ml/lb) body weight, administered once daily orally for the first 14 days.

After the first 14 days of treatment, the dose should be doubled to 0.02 ml/kg (0.009 ml/lb) body weight, administered once daily for the next 14 days.In subsequent months of therapy, the recommended dose varies for each individual dog and the dose volume must be specifically calculated each month, based on percent of weight lost during the previous month of therapy.

Dogs should be weighed monthly on accurate weighing scales at your veterinary clinic and the dose volume adjusted every month, as necessary, to maintain a target percent weight loss of at least 0.7% per week.

Weight management phase

A 3 month weight management phase is recommended to successfully maintain the weight loss achieved. During the weight management phase, the veterinarian and the pet owner should together establish the optimal level of food intake and physical exercise required.
When Slentrol is discontinued, the daily amount of food offered and physical activity should be continued as established during the weight management phase. Reverting to previous food intake or exercise levels at this point can contribute to a regain of some or all of the weight loss that has been achieved.

What if my dog is not losing any weight despite after 1 month of therapy?

The dose volume (number of ml administered each day) should be increased by 100%, resulting in an increase of the dose volume to 2 times the dose administered during the previous month. Only perform a 100% dose increase once during treatment after day 14.

What if my dog is still not losing weight after increasing the dose?

If additional dose increases are necessary in the following months, the dose volume should be increased by 50%, resulting in an increase of the dose volume to1.5 times the dose administered the previous month of dosing.

The dose should not exceed a maximum daily dose of 0.2 mL/kg (0.09 mL/lb), based on the dogs current body weight, during any part of treatment.


Prior to starting treatment with Slentrol, all dogs should undergo a thorough history and physical examination by a veterinarian. This should include laboratory tests to screen for underlying conditions that can cause weight gain, such as Cushings syndrome and hypothyroidism.

The safety of Slentrol use in dogs has not been evaluated beyond 1 year.

Safety in breeding, pregnant or lactating dogs has not been established.

Slentrol has not been evaluated in dogs less than 1 year of age.

Slentrol is not recommended for dogs receiving long term corticosteroid therapy or dogs with liver disease.

Slentrol must not be used in cats due to the risk of causing hepatic lipidosis in obese cats.

Slentrol causes serious adverse reactions in humans such as abdominal distention, abdominal pain, diarrhea, flatulence, headache, nausea and vomiting. Keep well out of reach of children.

Adverse Effects

Vomiting / Diarrhea.

Almost 1 in 4 of dogs placed on Slentrol therapy experience occasional episodes of vomiting and diarrhea. In most cases these episodes lasted for one or two days before clearing up. Vomiting occurs most often during the first month of treatment or within a week of a dose increase. If vomiting is severe or lasts longer than 2 days, consult your veterinarian and have your dog examined.


Of course this is the aim of the therapy to an extent, but if during therapy a dogs food consumption is excessively reduced for several consecutive days, stop giving Slentrol until the appetite returns (usually 1-2 days) and then resume dosing at the same volume as before.


Further information for the pet owner

Achieving your weight loss target for your pet requires a great deal of motivation. It is important to maintain an active and on-going line of communication with your veterinarian for the duration of therapy, until the medication has been discontinued and beyond. Above all else, veterinary weighing scales are likely to be far more accurate than your average human bathroom scales, and it is important to get your measurements correct so you can chart your progress and adjust the dose as necessary.

Remember that successful long-term weight management requires changes that extend beyond the period of drug therapy. To maintain the weight lost when treated with Slentrol, the adjustments in dietary management as well as exercise that were begun as part of the overall weight loss program must be continued by the owner after drug therapy is discontinued. The appetite suppression caused by Slentrol only lasts for 1 to 2 days after stopping treatment, so unless food is limited the dog will gain weight again.

Author bio: Matthew Homfray is a veterinarian and online pet advisor at FREE pet Q&A service

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Exercising your Dog

For most people, exercising a dog consists of a trip to the park for a run around. In some cases this might suffice, but responsible owners should be aware of the quantity and quality of exercise that their dog needs to maintain optimum health. Ask yourself the following questions.

1) How often does your dog get exercised?

It does not take a genius to work out that you put on weight if you do not burn off the calories that you ingest. Exercise is extremely important to the health and well being of your dog. Fit dogs are happier, more active, more mobile and less susceptible to health problems such as arthritis, ligament ruptures and heart disease. With such huge individual variation between breeds and ages, we cannot recommend a set amount of exercise that each dog should have, but all dogs require at least one walk a day, with the more athletic ones requiring two.

2) What type of exercise does your dog do?

Whilst a walk or two a day may be perfectly adequate exercise for your dog, there is huge benefit to be had from mixing it up a bit and trying out new activities. Adding variety to a dogs exercise routine provides extra physical and mental challenges that can be both interesting and rewarding for both dog and owner. If your dog has any medical conditions (e.g. heart problem, arthritis) you must consult a veterinary professional before adding any unfamiliar exercises. Here we look at various types of exercise possible.

- Walking & Hiking

The most common form of exercise for dogs. Always have your dog on a lead unless you are in a park or rural area without traffic. Beware the potential existence of other dogs in public places that may be irresponsibly raised and show aggression to your pooch.

- Jogging

Getting your dog to run alongside you and adjust to fluctuations in your speed will require a little training, but if you are a keen jogger it is a great way of exercising your dog. Make sure you choose a pace that is comfortable for your dog, and only attempt jogging if you and your dog are able to walk briskly for 30 minutes without tiring.

- Cycling

This is fantastic if you have access to the countryside where your dog can run safely off the lead. Also great for athletic dogs that need to run greater distances than you do to achieve a proper workout. If you wish to cycle with your dog in urban areas, he or she must have impeccable lead manners and ideally respond to commands such as left and right. Cycling early in the morning when there is less traffic is wise, and avoid busy roads.

- Inline skating

Skating, like cycling, means athletic dogs often get the chance to run to their hearts content. However, since you cannot go on grass and are concrete bound, it is only really suitable with a dog in a park, where you do not have the worry of traffic. Your dog should be taught commands such as slow and stop, and only let off the lead if he or she is ultra obedient. Using a harness rather than a lead affords greater control in this exercise.

- Jump & fetch

Getting your dog to jump and fetch a ball can provide hours of entertainment and is excellent exercise. Make sure the ball is not small enough to be accidentally swallowed. Also synthetic toys such as balls are far safer than sticks, which can fragment in the dogs mouth and get stuck in their throat.

- Frisbee

Playing frisbee is great fun for some dogs, but you need to have a large garden or a park nearby where your dog can run freely off the lead. This is great for the lazy person as you are pretty much stationary while your dog has a full workout. Clearly not all dogs are willing or able to catch the frisbee, so only those breeds that pick up the knack are suitable. Playing frisbee should be avoided in dogs with teeth or mouth problems, and also in dogs with joint problems and those susceptible to cruciate ligament damage.

- Circuit & agility

Those familiar with obedience competitions will be well aware of the fun and satisfaction to be had doing this activity. You and your dog run around a series of obstacles, aiming to pass through each without a problem. Courses often consist of bar jumps (hurdles of varying heights according to the breed), a tunnel (usually about 3 feet long), a ramp and a slalom (5 or more bars in a row). The key when starting out is to reward your dog enthusiastically for doing each obstacle with treats. You should lead him through the obstacle course, teaching him to respond to instructions such as Up!, and body language, for example the outstretched palm of your hand meaning Stop!

- Swimming

Swimming is one of the best exercises there is for both you and your dog, as you are using every muscle in the body. If you are lucky enough to have somewhere where you and your dog are both permitted to swim, and is also safe, then this is a highly beneficial activity. If you are swimming in the sea, make sure a lifeguard is around just in case, and be aware that cold water and current both increase the effort required as more calories are burned. Swimming is particularly beneficial for dogs with arthritis and other joint problems as it builds muscular strength without placing strain on the joints.

- Football

Start the game by kicking the ball slowly along the ground towards your dog, and encourage him to get it. Because the ball is too large to pick up in his or her mouth, it will take him or her some time to realize that it must be pushed with either the nose or the paws. Give praise and encouragement as he or she gets the hang of it. Small breeds can be offered a smaller rubber ball rather than a football. Make sure the ball is not small enough to be swallowed though.

Author Bio: Matthew Homfray is one of the online vets at free pet Q&A service Televets. Visit to ask your pet question today!

Monday, January 7, 2008

A Healthy Diet for Dogs

Every owner these days seems to have their own ideas on what constitutes a healthy balanced diet for their dog. How many of them are reliably imformed though? The following questions are designed to critically assess your dogs diet. Please read them, for your dogs sake.

1) How many times a day do you feed your dog?

There is no set rule for adult dogs but the general consensus is that twice a day is a sensible amount. Some owners feed once a day, some three times a day. How much your dog is fed is far more important than how often really, but it is useful to set guidelines nevertheless. The reason many experts suggest twice a day rather than once a day is that once a day feeding encourages the dog to gorge his or her food as he or she is so hungry, having last had a meal a full 24 hours ago. Eating too quickly can cause reflex regurgitation or vomiting. Also it has been theorized that deep chested large breed dogs are more likely to suffer from a twisted stomach (gastric dilatation and volvulus), a life threatening condition, if they are fed one large meal daily rather than two smaller meals.

Clearly more active dogs will burn far more calories than others but these variables are best reflected in portion size rather than frequency. Some dogs with medical conditions may benefit from multiple meals of smaller portions, for example those recovering from gastroenteritis. Puppies must be fed more often than adult dogs as they have a higher metabolic rate, around 4 times a day from weaning to around 5 months old, then drop down to 3 times a day until 7 months old, then down to twice a day thereafter.

2) Is your dogs diet manufactured specifically for dogs or do you give human food or food from the butchers?

There is a misconception around that human food is higher quality than dog food, and therefore better for them. This is by and large nonsense. Reputable dog foods are formulated after extensive trials by pet food companies to provide the mixture of protein, carbohydrate and fat that suits canine physiology best. Dogs on balanced dog food diets do not get nutritional deficiencies but dogs on human food do. Certain human titbits can play havoc with your dogs digestive tract, chocolate being a prime example.

Your dog need ingest nothing other than a complete dog food and water to have a complete and balanced diet. Remember, dogs do not need variety in their diet! They are perfectly happy having the same boring looking meal every day! So keep it simple and safe, feed your dog either a complete dog food (dry or tinned, dry is better for their teeth) or standard dog biscuits and tinned dog meat together. Of course human leftovers every now and again or a bit of tripe or heart from the butcher is fine, but do not make it the day to day diet.

3) Which is the best dog food to choose?

There are so many different brands of dog food on the market, the best one is basically a matter of opinion. Certainly palatability is a factor, there is no point in purchasing a particular food if your dog cannot stand it, although this is occasionally a necessity in dogs with food allergies, for example. Rather than recommending you a specific brand, we suggest that you choose one which adheres to the criteria below.

Dog foods labeled as complete and balanced must meet standards established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), either by meeting a nutrient profile or by passing a feeding trial. There are now two separate nutrient profiles for dogs - one for growth (puppies) and one for maintenance (adults). Maximum levels of intake of some nutrients have been established for the first time because of the concern that overnutrition, rather than undernutrition, is a bigger problem with many pet foods today. The standards include recommendations on protein, fat, fat soluble vitamins, water soluble vitamins, and mineral content of foods. If you are prepared to get technical, you should choose a food that comes closest to AAFCO recommendations.

In summary, consider the following points.

Choose a food that suits your dogs age, breed and overall health. Most big pet food companies will have different foods for small vs large breeds, and puppies vs adults. Dogs with medical conditions may be recommended special prescription diets.

Choose a food that come closest to AAFCO recommendations.

The ingredients contains the truth about a particular food. Everything else is there only for marketing purposes.

There are no legal and scientific definitions for the terms premium, super premium, quality, or natural.

Use dry matter numbers to evaluate and compare foods.

The source of ingredients (e.g. animal vs vegetable) does not matter, except in the case of food allergies.

Avoid supplementation. All commercial dog foods have more than enough protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals. Too many minerals can lead to severe skeletal problems in growing dogs.

Feeding your dog a good food incorrectly can lead to significant problems. For example, overfeeding puppies can lead to serious skeletal problems. Neutered dogs require portions 20% smaller than unneutered dogs or they will put on weight.

4) How many times a day do you give your dog treats?

It is hard to resist those puppy dog eyes begging you for a little piece of what you are eating. Indeed treats promote a special bond between you and your dog and it gives such pleasure when they have a delicious morsel to savor. The key word is MODERATION. If you are giving your dog regular treats, you must subtract this amount from the portion given at meal time to maintain a appropriate calorie intake. As a rule of thumb the amount of treats should never exceed 10% of your dogs daily food intake. It is far easier to make your dog obedient if you reserve treats for rewarding good behavior rather than just giving them willy nilly, where they become meaningless.

5) What do your dogs treats consist of?

Quality dog treats are usually far healthier and lower in calories than table scraps. Many dogs are fed scraps habitually from the table while families are eating, particularly by children. This only encourages further begging and feeding with often unsuitable high calorie treats which are forgotten about when it comes to measuring the dogs daily portion(s).

Matthew Homfray is one of the online experts at free pet Q&A service Televets. To ask a pet question visit

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Canine Acne

Everyone knows of acne as a human condition suffered by unfortunate teenagers during adolescence, but it is in fact quite common in certain breeds of dog too. The most susceptible breeds are young adult boxers, English bulldogs, Doberman pinschers, Great Danes and Rottweilers. The condition starts at puberty around 5 to 8 months of age. Most dogs improve with age and the condition typically resolves after one year of age, though some dogs can develop chronic acne.

Dogs with canine acne develop multiple comedones (blackheads) on their chin, lips, and muzzle. Plugs of debris made of natural substances such as keratin and sebum block the hair follicles, causing focal swellings which can rupture to form scabs.

Dogs with this condition have swellings, scabs and blackheads on their lips, chin and muzzle. These usually do not bother the dog unless a secondary bacterial skin infection develops. This can cause pain and itching, leading the dog to scratch at his/her face or rub it along the carpet.
Diagnosis is usually straight forward: the characteristic appearance described above, in one of the known susceptible breeds is usually sufficient. Your vet may decide to take a skin biopsy for confirmation, which can be done under sedation, local or general anaesthetic and then sent off to a histopathologist for analysis.


Canine acne cannot really be cured, but can be controlled. Mild cases are usually not treated. The first step is always to rule out other conditions such as demodecosis (a mite infestation), ringworm and puppy strangles. The latter also causes anorexia and depression so if your dog is bright with a good appetite, it is unlikely to be this. Also important is to uncover any predisposing factors such as underlying allergies. Some of the breeds mentioned above, such as Boxers, are particularly susceptible to food allergy. Regular cleaning with anti-acne products (eg benzoyl peroxide) or mild anti-seborrheic shampoos will be required to decrease the bacterial load of the skin and remove cellular debris which could contribute to blocking the pores.

If pustules have ruptured and a secondary bacterial infection develops, your dog will need to take antibiotics for 3 or 4 weeks. Most broad spectrum antibiotics are effective, but to avoid any resistance problems a bacteriology swab is advisable so that a suitable antibiotic can be chosen with certain efficacy against the bacterium in question.

If a dog is scratching at his/her face a lot, an anti-inflammatory drug such as a one off steroid injection is probably indicated to alleviate the discomfort.

Refractory and recurrent cases can sometimes respond to retinoid therapy, similar to the human drug Roaccutane, which essentially stops the sebaceous glands in the skin from producing sebum. This however requires a veterinary specialists consent.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Lick Granulomas in Dogs

Canine Acral Lick Dermatitis, more commonly known as ‘Lick Granuloma’, is one of the most frustrating skin problems there is. What often seems like a simple problem is in fact multifactorial, and therefore attempting to treat it with a single approach are usually doomed to failure. There is usually an underlying cause, plus a secondary bacterial infection, plus an obsessive-compulsive behavioral cycle to deal with.

Lick granulomas are most common in large, active, attention-seeking breeds such as Dobermans, Rottweilers, Labrador retrievers, German Shepherds and Irish Setters. It can however happen in any breed, at any age.

The wound (‘lesion’) develops as a result of the repetitive licking action of the animal. Chronic trauma to the site results in follicular rupture and furunculosis. The lesion is usually single, oval and varies in size from 2-6cm. It is usually found over the carpal (wrist) or metacarpal areas, though can also occur on the back leg. The lesion usually manifests as a raised, firm, hairless nodule or plaque and may have an ulcerated surface.

Almost without exception, lick granulomas are infected. Bacteria from the mouth are seeded in the lesion by the constant licking, which leads to the infection and a perpetuation of the licking cycle. In the early stages at least, the infection is usually by Staphylococcus species.

Identifying the Underlying Cause

Once it has been established that the dog does indeed have a lick granuloma, and not a skin tumor for example (usually obvious by clinical signs, though biopsy is definitive) then the dog must be examined for the presence of other skin, orthopaedic and neurological disease. A full clinical history and physical examination is mandatory. The following approach would be considered a very thorough one; most vets will simply bandage the leg and try a long course of antibiotics – sometimes successfully – but in the interests of those that cannot be fixed by this approach (and many cannot) I shall describe the thorough approach.

Skin tests should include skin-scraping, hair plucking, fine needle aspirates and/or a punch biopsy from a non-ulcerated area. A bacteriology swab should also ideally be taken for culture and sensitivity, to enable optimal antibiotic selection.

Orthopaedic investigation should include survey radiographs (Xrays) of the area, comprising at least 2 views, to look for bony lesions. If the lick granuloma is over a joint, then synovial fluid may be sampled.

For neurological assessment, a thorough knowledge of the nerves innervating the skin is required, and electromyography has been used to identify specific neurological deficits (this is realistically outside the realms of most practitioners).

Treatment of Medical Conditions

Lick granulomas are part infection, part behavioral and part other causes. After screening for underlying disease as described above, the next step is getting rid of any bacterial infection.
Topical antibiotic creams are useless in these cases. They only draw attention to the lesion from the dogs perspective, and perpetuate the licking. Systemic (oral) antibiotics are required, and are needed for a minimum of 3 weeks (and often up to 3 months). The choice of antibiotic is best made following bacterial culture and sensitivity, first line drugs often selected include cefalexin, amoxicillin and clindamycin. If resistance to these is suspected or confirmed, then more expensive antibiotics such as enrofloxacin (Baytril) or marbofloxacin (Marbocyl) can be prescribed.

Treatment of a Behavioral Problem

Many different treatments have been tried in order to break the compulsive behavioral component of lick granulomas. These include:

Corticosteroids (prednisone, medrone)
Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Surgical excision
Cobra venom
Radiation therapy
Electronic collars
Laser treatment

However, no one therapy has been consistently shown to resolve the problem without recurrence. Recent work has suggested that a combination of drugs and behavioral modification is the best approach.

The only drug currently licensed for behavioral therapy in the dog is clomipramine (Clomicalm). The main side effect of this is sedation, and it cannot be given to animals with pre-existing liver or kidney dysfunction. Better drugs for this purpose are the serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs), such as sertraline and fluoxetine. These SRIs have less side effects and can be used long term, but have a slow onset of action so when being trialed, must be given for a minimum of 4-6 weeks before any judgment is made as to efficacy.

Behavioral modification depends on the cause of the stress involved. For fear and anxiety related stress, avoid leaving the dog alone, leave the dog in a favored place (e.g. car) or vary the arrival and departure routine so that the dog doesn’t realize its owner is going out.

For boredom related stress, increase the visual or auditory stimulation by providing new toys, leaving the radio or TV on etc.

For attention-seeking stress, ignore stereotypical behavior to avoid reinforcement, and do not punish the behavior as this may lead to anxiety and complicate matters.

To conclude, lick granulomas are a difficult disease to manage. However, if the veterinarian’s approach is logical, then appropriate investigation, together with antibiotic treatment, behavioral drugs and behavioral modification, can achieve a high degree of clinical resolution if not always a complete cure.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Arthritis & Cats

A joint is a flexible connection between two bones. Its purpose is to allow movement. Some joints are relatively simple and permit only a limited range of movement. Others, such as the hip or the jaw, are quite complex and are designed to enable the two bones to move in several directions.

"Arthritis" means inflammation within the joint. this condition usually results in pain and a degree of lameness. Arthritis is not particularly common in cats, especially when compared with its incidence in humans. For all its apparent familiarity to us, the condition is often poorly understood by cat owners. One particularly common misconception is that Arthritis and Rheumatism are the same thing (Rheumatism is a specific type of Arthritis). An understanding of what Arthritis is, how it develops, and what you can do about it will help you cope with an Arthritic cat.


The severity of the signs varies with the amount of damage to the joint and rate at which damage occurs. Signs should include:

  1. Hot, swollen joint.
  2. Pain - Cat might limp or even refuse to bear weight on the joint.
  3. Stiffness, lameness. The cat might be slow or reluctant to stand up after rest.
  4. A general loss or reduction of normal free function.


The treatment depends to some extent on the cause of the Arthritis. The aim is to minimise further damage and to relieve the pain and inflammation.

When bacterial infection is the cause Antibiotics are used, but it is difficult to get Antibiotics into the joint and therefore to the site of infection. This is because everything that gets into the joint is filtered, purified and modified first. There is no blood within the joint. Instead, there is joint fluid, which is responsible for lubrication and nutrition, because the joint is protected from Antibiotics, infections within a joint can flourish. Although there are ways of overcoming this problem, it is nevertheless difficult to eliminate an infection without surgical intervention, once it has invaded a joint.

The treatment of Arthritis involves controlling the inflammation thus reducing the pain, plus stabilizing the joint if possible. This might involve repair of loose or broken ligaments. Reduction of any excess weight will also help.

There is a range of drugs that can be used. Aspirin is quite effective, but cats have great difficulty in excreting it. It is better and wiser to leave the choice and dose rates of drugs to your Veterinary Surgeon.

If your cat is overweight then it should be put on a pure diet to lose weight. Extra calcium or bonemeal should be added to food, and oils such as vitamin E daily and a little cod liver oil twice a week along with vitamin C may be beneficial. REMEMBER: It is important never to overdose cod liver oil, a quarter of a teaspoon is sufficient. Nutritionally vitamin C, A, D and E supplements are the most beneficial and collagen supplements could be useful.

Glucosamine (An animo sugar, that is a constituent of Heparin and other Polysaccharides) and Chondriton are substances which supposedly help regenerate cartilage.

Homoeopathically: Rhus Tox is the most commonly used remedy and Bryonia and Pulsatilla may also help. For older cats try Arnica.

Herbally: Nettles can be very effective; Alfalfa and Garlic may help.

Ask Online Vets for more Information on Cat Arthritis problems.

Cat Flu

Like people, many cats can develop the sneezing, runny nose, and general lethargy of an upper-respiratory-tract infection. Although the outward signs of a feline upper-respiratory-tract infection resemble the signs of a human cold most of the organisms that infect a cat’s nose and throat have no effect on people. And the opposite is true, human colds will not infect cats.

Feline respiratory infections are very contagious to other nearby cats. Just as a human cold virus can spread quickly through a household or workplace, a feline respiratory infection can to other felines in close proximity. In some cases, the disease can be prevented from spreading by isolation and sanitation of the feeding bowels. The problem is that most respiratory diseases are air borne and also can contaminate and be transmitted on clothing. Therefore, quick recognition and action are necessary prevent the infection from spreading to other household or neighborhood cats.

There are many types of constantly changing viruses causing colds and flu in humans. At the present time veterinarian researchers can trace most of the feline upper-respiratory-tract infections to two known viruses: feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR) and feline calicivirus (FCV). As stated later in the article, there are several different strains of both viruses.

Although both viruses cause similar clinical effects, FVR (also known as feline herpesvirus-1[FHV-1]) usually causes a more severe illness than FCV. A cat suffering from an active FVR infection may sneeze frequently, become lethargic, salivate excessively, and lose its appetite. As the illness progresses, the cat may develop a thick nasal discharge. Some cats also develop conjunctivitis, an inflammation of the membrane that lines the eyelids and parts of the eyeball. FVR infection rarely spreads to the lower respiratory tract (the bronchi and lungs), but when it does, it can cause pneumonia.

FCV infection causes effects similar to FVR infections - although typically milder. Cats suffering from FCV infections often develop painful ulcers on their tongues, lips, or the roofs of their mouths - sometimes with no other sign of respiratory infection. (FVR-infected cats also occasionally develop oral ulcers.) Infrequently, cats with FCV infection may limp (temporarily) due to joint pain and swelling.

Your cat’s immune system may be compromised by a viral respiratory infection. This may allow a secondary bacterial infection to develop and exacerbate the clinical signs of the viral infection. One type of bacteria, Chlamydia psittaci, can cause upper-respiratory-tract infections (sometimes called pneumonitis) even in cats that are not weakened by a respiratory virus. Chlamydia infections are far less common than viral respiratory infections and usually occur as a local outbreak in a cattery or household. A Chlamydia infection can cause sneezing and a runny nose, but it primarily affects the eyes, causing conjunctivitis in first one eye and then the other. In contrast, when FVR or FCV causes conjunctivitis, both eyes are affected simultaneously. Chlamydia is very susceptible to antibiotic ophthalmic drops or ointments.

Most upper respiratory infections run their course in several days. But, veterinary examinations are highly recommended with any sign of a respiratory disease. Treatment of both diseases FVR and FCV is the same. This includes proper rest, good nutrition, and proper nursing care.

Appetite and water intake are two crucial areas owner should pay attention to. An infected cat may lose its appetite because of debility and discomfort brought on by the illness, a decreased sense of smell due to a stuffy nose, or sores in its mouth that make eating painful Owners can try feeding their cat a special food - something the cat really likes or something particularly strong smelling, like sardines, that might arouse the cat’s interest in eating. If a cat stops eating and drinking altogether for a day or more or is eating and drinking poorly for several days, an owner should take the cat in for a veterinary examination. Veterinarians generally try to avoid hospitalizing cats with upper-respiratory-tract infections because they usually eat better and recover faster at home. However, a veterinarian may recommend putting a dehydrated or malnourished cat in the hospital so it can receive injectable fluids or tube feeding for a few days. The veterinarian may also administer antibiotics if there are signs of secondary bacterial infection.

Upper-respiratory-tract infections are rarely fatal, but can be very debilitating. In some cases these infections can be lethal especially to a kitten, an elderly cat, or a cat with an immune system that is already compromised by another disease. Because kittens face such high risks, owners should contact their veterinarian at the first sign of an upper-respiratory illness in a kitten.

Thanks to the availability of vaccinations against FVR and FCV, upper-respiratory-tract infections are no longer the problem they were before the mid-1970s. Because FCV (like many viruses) manifests different strains, veterinarians must vaccinate a cat against several strains of the virus to assure reasonable protection. In contrast, FVR is essentially the same virus wherever it shows up, so one type of vaccine does the trick. Even with vaccination, though, a cat may become infected, but the illness is usually less severe and shorter lived than if the cat were unvaccinated.
Pharmaceutical companies have also developed vaccines that provide limited protection against Chlamydia. But because Chlamydia infections are so uncommon, many veterinarians do not routinely vaccinate against them. Vaccination is probably useful in catteries or households with a history of the disease.

Veterinarians typically use a combined vaccine known as FVRCP (feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia) to protect cats from FVR, most strains of FCV, and panleukopenia - a life-threatening systemic infection. Vaccination for kittens usually begins at about 7-8 weeks of age. Kittens receive temporary immunity to many diseases from the antibody-rich colostrum in their mother’s first milk. And during this brief period of temporary "natural" immunity, vaccinations will not have any significant effect as the antibodies in the colostrum will suppress fight against any immunity the vaccine is intended to stimulate. So veterinarians usually wait until kittens are about 6 to 8 weeks old - when their colostrum-induced immunity begins to wear off. Veterinarians provide follow-up vaccinations at 3- to 4- week intervals until kittens are about 14 to 16 weeks old to provide the greatest possible immunity. Adult cats need an annual revaccination for continued protection.

Many cats that have recovered from the outward signs of upper-respiratory-tract infections remain carriers and continue to shed the virus for months or even years afterward. Even cats that have never shown obvious signs of a respiratory infection may sometimes carry FCV or FVR and shed it.

Upper respiratory tract infections (colloquially known as 'cat flu') should not be taken lightly. Recently, we had an adult cat exposed to a virus after the owners visited a shelter and after handling some sick kittens, brought the virus home on their bodies and clothing, infected their cat. This poor creature developed a temperature of 106 degrees (normal temperature is 100-102 degrees) and was extremely ill. After intensive treatment our patient survived, but now has a recurring conjunctivitis and probably is a carrier and will always be susceptible to recurrent bouts of conjunctivitis and respiratory infections. Carriers of FCV persistently shed the virus in their saliva and nasal discharges - both during illness and after outward signs of illness have passed. Carriers of FVR, on the other hand, experience both latent (non shedding) and active (potentially shedding) phases of the infection. After the clinical signs of FVR disappear, a cat may enter a latent phase during which the cat shows no signs of illness and does not shed the virus. However, when stressed (by illness or a change in environment, for example), an FVR carrier may enter an active disease phase during which the virus begins replicating in the cat’s body. In response to this surge in viral activity, the cat may once again show clinical signs, such as sneezing or nasal discharge, or may resume shedding the virus with no outward signs of illness.

If a nursing mother is a latent carrier of the FVR virus, her litter may be threatened to a high risk of infection. The stress of nursing often triggers the return of an active viral stage - at the time the kittens’ colostrum-induced immunity wears off. The virus then quickly spreads to the kittens. An owner who knows a nursing mother has had an FVR (or FCV) infection should consult a veterinarian. The veterinarian may recommend weaning the kittens early and separating them from their mother before they can become infected.

Although feline upper-respiratory-tract infections are highly contagious, both FVR and FCV are short lived in the environment. At common room temperatures and humidity levels, FVR rarely survives beyond 18 hours, and FCV survives only for a few days. A cat can transmit either virus (via water droplets) when it sneezes. But another cat can catch the airborne virus only if the sneezing cat is within approximately a 3-foot distance.

Infection spreads most readily from cat to cat by direct contact or shared contact with feeding dishes or toys. Transmission may also occur by transient contamination on the owners clothes. If an owner isolates a cat known to be infected and makes sure that healthy cat house mates do not share its dishes or playthings, the infection is less likely to spread throughout the household. Washing hands after handling an infected cat and even changing clothing may help defer or eliminate the spread of disease.

Ultimately, the best way to avoid a feline respiratory infection is to vaccinate your cat and kittens. Vaccination is the best protection currently available.

Cats and Taste

It appears, cats have a greater sensitivity to taste than people. They have about twice the number of smell receptors in their nasal passage the humans and have different culinary preferences.

While the nose provides information on the subtleties of odor and flavor, it’s the tongue that does the most of the work of tasting. On the tongue’s surface their are tissues called papillae that hold many microscopic clusters of taste-sensitive cells (taste buds). When your cat eats a mouthful of food, its saliva dissolves some of the chemical components in the food, including salts, acids, and sugars. The taste buds detect these dissolved chemicals and signal the brain by way of three pairs of cranial nerves. Because taste buds on different areas of the tongue vary in their sensitivity to particular types of chemicals, the brain can identify a taste based on the pattern of signals it receives.

Your cat’s tongue has other talents beyond tasting. It also senses texture and temperature and acts as a ladle to pick up liquids and tiny food morsels. As with all animals, during swallowing, muscles at the base of the tongue pull on the hyoid apparatus, a set of small bones in the throat. These bones then shift forward, closing off the windpipe with a flap of tissue called the epiglottis.

The cat’s tongue has a rough surfaced sandpaper texture. This is created by the stiff, curved filiform papillae in the tongue’s center. This rough surface helps cats during grooming. But this textured tongue also aids in feeding. Wild cats use their tongues to remove feathers or fur from their prey and to lick meat from the bones. Oddly enough, the only other domestic animals that have raspy tongues are the vegetarian cow and its relatives.

While we know quite a lot about the structure of the feline tongue, we know considerably less about its tasting abilities. After all, your cat can’t tell you whether it perceives something as sweet, sour, or bitter. Nevertheless, scientists have tried to assess the gustatory sensitivity of cats by training them to discriminate between plain water and water mixed with sugar, salt, or some other substance. The results of these taste tests suggest that cats can detect sour, bitter, and salty tastes, but not sweet ones.

Cats appear to be sensitive to the taste of water itself. While humans generally consider water to be tasteless, cats show a high sensitivity to natural variations in water flavor. This may explain why certain cats are picky in their drinking habits. Some cats will only drink running water from the tap. I know of other cats that will drink only from unmentionable sources!
Do cats have a sweet tooth? Many people say their cats show a district preference for sweet foods like ice cream, cookies, and fruit. The evidence may be misleading. The textures of these foods - called mouth feel - may actually be more important that their taste. For example, the desire for ice cream , may be due to its iciness and creaminess - not its sweetness. It’s also possible that dessert-eating cats are simply mimicking owner food preferences. Unfortunately, owners don’t always set the best example for their cats. Many human foods contribute nothing to feline nutrition and health - and some foods may actually be harmful. Our hospital pet “Cricket” loves cranberry juice, mandarin oranges, cranberry-orange muffins, and of course cat food. Go figure!

As your cat goes about deciding which foods it likes, it weighs several factors. The odor, taste, and feel of a food in the mouth seem important . Cats will often choose foods with lots of meat, a powerful aroma, a high fat content, a combination of soft and crispy textures, and a temperature of about 98 degrees. This is about the temperature of fresh killed mammals.

Cats also prefer variety in their diets. If they have a choice between two equally palatable foods, one familiar and the other unfamiliar, most will eat more of the new stuff - at least for a few days. Eventually, of course, the new stuff becomes as mundane as the old stuff. This feline preference for novel foods probably explains why so many types of cat food on supermarket shelves. It may also account for the “finicky” reputation of cats. But this infamous dietary pickiness may be more fabled than real. Most cats eat heartily even with only one item on their menu - unless they are ill.

Although your cat may prefer variety, there’s a downside to an ever-changing diet. Some cats may suffer indigestion or allergic reactions after eating new foods. And animals with certain medical conditions may need to stay on a prescribed diet. An occasional change of diet is fine for healthy cats.

We recommend feeding the higher quality - and therefore usually higher priced - cat foods. You get what you pay for. The reasoning behind this is simple. Pet foods that are less expensive are inconsistent in their ingredients and probably are using more by-products and less quality protein sources. I definitely would ask your veterinarian for recommendations as to the type of foods they endorse (though beware also, they may have special deals with certain pet food companies and therefore not give you an unbiased view). Feeding dry foods also may help with your pet’s dental needs by cleaning off some of the plaque buildup.

If you’ve ever had such a bad cold that it totally clogged your nose and sinuses and made your favorite curry dinner taste like cardboard, you know that losing your sense of smell and taste can put a real damper on your appetite. The same seems to be true of cats.

If your cat is ill and stops eating, it could suffer serious repercussions from even a mini-hunger strike. Cats that quit eating for several days can become weak and dehydrated, and prolonged fasting can lead to a condition called hepatic lipidosis, a dangerous accumulation of fat in the liver. Therefore, if your pet has not eaten for several days, see your veterinarian immediately.

To assist your sick cat in eating and, after consulting with your veterinarian, you may attempt the following:

Feed a very smelly food, such as sardines, tuna, or liver.

Heat up the food slightly. This will increase the aroma.

Hand feed your cat.

If it still is not eating, seek veterinary attention immediately.