Veterinary Medicine in Sofia Bulgaria
- Practicing for the entrance exam for the veterinary University in Sofia
- Why Your Dog or Cat Might Be Scooting Across the Floor
Anal Sac Disease- What do to when your pet scoots!
Both dogs and cats have anal sacs that may become impacted or infected if not emptying properly. This causes itching, scooting, bad odor and sometimes pain, too. Severe cases may abscess and rupture. Learn the signs of anal sac problems and how to keep your pet comfortable and scoot-free.
A pet “scooting” — or dragging the hind end on the carpet, grass, or your favorite rug — is something many people have witnessed at one time or another. More common in mid- to smaller-sized dogs, but occasionally, it’s seen in larger dogs or cats. Scooting is also common in overweight pets.
Why do pets scoot?
Most often is it because their anal sacs are bothering them. Anal sacs should empty regularly (and unnoticed) with normal bowel movements. If they don’t, they may become impacted, infected (abscessed) and possibly rupture.
There are other possible causes for scooting or anal discomfort: a perianal tumor that is infected or bothersome, irritation from diarrhea, parasites, matted hair. A scooting pet should be examined by your vet to rule out these potential problems. Most often, it is an inflammation, infection, or impaction of the anal sacs.
What are anal sacs, anyway?
Anal sacs collect the oily secretion of the glandular tissue that lines the sacs (also called Anal Glands). The sacs are located between the external and internal muscular rings of the anus. Viewed from behind, the sacs would sit at approximately the 8 o’clock and 4 o’clock positions, below the anus.
What purpose do they serve?
The sacs secrete an oily substance that is thought by many to be a means of territorial marking or communication between dogs and cats. The exact “purpose” isn’t known for sure. Skunks also have this type of gland, and they use the secretion for defense.
What happens to the anal sacs to make a pet want to scoot?
There are several answers to this question. Inflammation (irritation), infection, impaction (plugged up with thick or gritty secretion) and even tumors in the sacs can cause the discomfort leading to the scooting behavior. Cats most commonly suffer from impaction, which can lead to an abscess quickly.
How are the sacs emptied?
Normally a bowel movement is sufficient to express the sacs. However, if the animal is sick, i.e. with loose stool or diarrhea, the sacs to not get emptied as they normally would. Dietary changes that cause a temporarily looser stool than normal can also be a cause.
Animals that are overweight have less muscle tone and sometimes additional fat tissue in the way of proper emptying of the sacs. Skin infections and seborrhea may delay sac emptying as well.
My animal is scooting — what should I do?
The first thing to do is to make an appointment with your vet. Ruling out other potential causes for scooting is the first step. Some animals may get the anal sacs emptied by scooting, grooming themselves, etc., but left untreated, a simple irritation can lead to infection, impaction, and ultimately abscessation and rupture! Better safe than sorry. Anal sac infections are very painful for the pet, and more difficult/uncomfortable/expensive to treat in later stages.
How are anal sacs emptied?
There are basically two methods — external and internal anal sac expression.
External expression is accomplished pushing gently on the skin over the sacs in an upward motion toward the anus, to empty the contents of the sacs (make sure to have a tissue at the ready!)
Internal expression requires a latex glove and inserting an index finger just inside the anal sphincter to aid in pushing out the contents of the sac with thumb pushing on the outside of the sac. The pet should be properly restrained to avoid injury to the pet and the person.
It is best to have your veterinarian to show you the proper technique for safe restraint and proper anal sac emptying.
How often do the sacs need to be emptied?
In the best case, never. They should take care of themselves. Your pet’s mileage may vary, however, as some pets have recurrent problems with anal sacs not emptying properly. Routine emptying when not necessary is not recommended — the expression may disturb the normal balance, leading to inflammation or infection.
This is a recurring problem for my pet. I can’t afford to go to the vet every time.
Some pets do seem predisposed to having anal sac problems. If this is the case with your pet, speak to your vet about learning how to empty the anal sacs at home to prevent problems.
For some pets with recurring problems, surgery to remove the sacs is indicated. Your vet will also want to rule out possible underlying problems, such as anal sac cancer. Cancer is much less common than uncomplicated anal sac problems, but it’s something to be aware of in persistent problem cases.
Keeping your pet at an optimal weight will help. Some pets are also helped by adding some fiber to the diet to help bulk up the stools. Your veterinarian will be able to help you with available options for diet, too.
Zoonotic Diseases and How They Are Spread
Anthrax – Veterinary and human information about this much-talked about zoonotic disease.
A zoonosis is a disease that animals have that can be naturally transmitted to humans. These diseases may be spread by viruses, bacteria, parasites, or fungi. The form and severity of the disease may be different in humans than it is in animals. It may be mild or even produce no symptoms in an animal but produce serious disease in humans, and the opposite is also true for some zoonotic diseases.
How Zoonotic Diseases Are Spread
The infectious agents that cause zoonotic diseases are spread in many different ways.
Here are the most common categories:
- Direct contact: You may acquire the germ through physical contact, being bitten or scratched, or coming into contact with urine, feces, or other body fluids from an animal that is infected.
- Indirect contact: The germs may be spread from the animal into the environment, contaminating surfaces, water, or soil. You acquire the germs by contacting what the animal contaminated.
- Vector-borne: Vectors include mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks who deliver the germ when they bite you.
- Foodborne: You are exposed to the germ through eating animal products that are contaminated or foods that are contaminated with an infected animal’s feces.
Examples Of Zoonotic Diseases
Zoonotic diseases have a long history. Ancient Greece and the Bible mention the plague. The number of potential zoonotic diseases today is impressive. You are likely to hear about rabies, ringworm, and Lyme disease, but many other diseases pose a threat to humans.
These are examples of zoonotic diseases and the animals that can transmit them to humans:
- Plague: Plague is caused by the Yersinia pestisbacteria and can be spread by rodents, cats, rabbits, squirrels, and related animals. The bacteria is transmitted by fleas, aerosols, and handling infected animals.
- Cat Scratch Disease: This disease is caused by a bacterium, Bartonella henselae. When scratched by a domestic or feral cat, or possibly when bitten by an infected flea, you can get this illness.
- Hantavirus: Hantavirusis spread through the urine and droppings of infected rodents and can produce a fatal hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.
- Tick Paralysis(various animals affected): The spread of this disease requires the tick to be attached to the human and the tick to release venom. This disease is classified under a broader definition of zoonotic diseases.
Who Is at Risk For Zoonotic Disease?
Any human in contact with an infected animal or disease vector is at risk. A vectoris a disease carrier such as an insect or rodent that spreads the disease from an infected animal to an uninfected human. Disease incidence varies greatly with the region. You are at more or less risk for specific zoonotic diseases depending on your location.
Some humans are more at risk than others:
- Infants and small children are at risk due to immature immune systems and poor hygiene, such as placing their hands in their mouths.
- Pregnant women are at risk because their immune systems are more susceptible and there are additional hazards to the fetus.
- Elderly people are at risk because their immune systems may be impaired.
- Immunocompromised people, such as those undergoing cancer therapy and HIV/AIDS patients are at increased risk.
- Veterinarians and other animal healthcare workers have more exposure to animals and therefore are at a higher risk.
Diagnosing Zoonotic Diseases
When a veterinarian sees or suspects a zoonotic disease, it is the responsibility of the veterinarian to alert the owner of the potential for disease spread to humans. Veterinarians cannot offer a diagnosis or treatment for humans but must urge the owner to contact their human physician for consultation.
- Aspirin and Your Dog: Only With Vet Approval
Aspirin – Can you give a pet aspirin? Read the answer to this common question.
When your dog is in pain, you naturally want to help by providing medication to make it go away. However, providing your pet with human medications (like aspirin and acetaminophen) can cause more problems than it can cure. Avoid giving your dog pain relievers unless recommended by your veterinarian.
It’s important not to just give your dog a drug because they’re not acting normal. Even if your dog is in pain, you may not know what exactly is causing the problem.
To get to the root of the issue, you want to bring your dog to the vet. This will help clarify exactly what’s going on and where the pain is coming from.
Aspirin and Your Dog
Although aspirin is sometimes used for dogs, it’s often for specifically easing the pain of arthritis. Even then, it’s only provided with caution and veterinary supervision. This is because drugs that contain acetaminophen (like Tylenol) are very toxic to pets, and are potentially fatal to both dogs and other animals, like cats.
Aspirin, in particular, is placed in a class of drugs called NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Dogs are extremely sensitive to the gastrointestinal effects of NSAIDs, which includes pain, bleeding, and ulceration, among other side effects. Interestingly, coated aspirin helps with gastrointestinal effects, and may be recommended by a vet. At the end of the day, however, aspirin is tricky with pets and can cause many issues.
In fact, aspirin can cause birth defects, so it should especially never be given to animals that are pregnant.
Finally, aspirin also interacts with several other drugs, like cortisone, digoxin, several antibiotics, phenobarbital, and furosemide (Lasix). It’s a good practice to check in with your veterinarian regarding what’s going on with your pet and what the best drug is, before trying to do a quick fix with a pain-reliever.
Drugs for Dogs and Cats
Canine NSAID drugs such as Rimadyl, Deramaxx, and Previcox can be good alternatives to aspirin for canine arthritis. Similarly, Glucosamine/chondroitin supplements, such as Cosequin, can also ease the pain for arthritic pets. Plus, they can be used alone or with NSAIDs and other therapies.
Before using these medications, see a veterinarian who can evaluate your pet for pain level, overall health, and bloodwork (which will allow your vet to see liver and kidney indications).
If your pet is showing any signs of illness, consult a veterinarian as quickly as possible. As with any drug, it’s imperative that you only give it to your dog under the advice and supervision of your veterinarian.
When to See a Vet
If you suspect that your pet has gotten into a poison or overdosed, call your veterinarian or national hotline immediately. You can call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) or Pet Poison Helpline (1-800-222-1222), for instance.
Sometimes it’s hard to know when there’s a real emergency. Whenever you’re in doubt, you can always call your veterinarian’s office to get feedback on whether or not your pet needs to come in for a visit. Certain things can be managed at home, like minor injuries, but larger symptoms like lumps, shortness of breath, and vision problems require a trip to the vet.
How to Administer Medicine
You can give your dog about 5-10mg of human aspirin per pound of body weight, according to fidosavvy.com. Simply give your dog this dosage twice a day (once per 12 hours). It’s very important that you get the dosage right, especially for younger and smaller dogs. This is because they’re unable to metabolize pain medications as well as older dogs can. Additionally, their liver and kidneys are immature which means their dosage is often much lower than that of an adult dog.
Since it’s not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it’s best to get approval and the right dosage from your veterinarian first. Overdoses on this type of medicine can, unfortunately, be fatal. Plus, your vet might be able to recommend some alternative medicines like Carprofen.
Side Effects to Watch For
If a vet advises you to give your pet aspirin, you’ll want to keep an eye out for any side effects.
Look for signs of vomiting, diarrhea, mucosal erosion, ulceration, and a black or tarry stool. Any of these symptoms are very serious and should be immediately discussed with your vet. At the same time, you’ll want to stop providing any more aspirin to your dog.
Your dog can also experience an overdose, which can show in the following ways:
- No appetite
- Throwing up
- Watery stool
- Acid-based abnormalities
- Teaching the Recall Command to Your Dog
Bugs & Benadryl® – Learn what an insect bite/sting allergic reaction looks like in a dog (photos), and a viewer’s account of using Benadryl® to counteract an allergic reaction in her dog.
Teaching your dog to come to you when called is an essential part of proper dog training. Often called a “recall,” coming when called is one of the most important basic dog commands you can teach your dog. Training your dog the recall cue can help you keep him under control while allowing him some off-leash freedom. Once this cue is mastered, you can protect him from a potentially dangerous situation by calling him to you.
You can teach a recall to a young puppy as soon as he learns his name.
Training your dog to come when called is fairly simple, but it takes some dogs longer than others to learn. Your dog’s ability to learn the recall command largely depends on his attention span and vulnerability to distraction. It’s important that you work on training regularly and use valuable rewards. Plan to train your dog in short training sessions (5-15 minutes) at least three times a week or as much as twice daily. In the beginning, use a favorite toy or your dog’s favorite training treats. Start in an area with minimal distractions at a time when your dog is most likely to focus on you. If using treats, hold training sessions when your dog is hungry.
How to Train Your Dog to Come When Called
- Start indoors at the end of your dog’s six-foot leash.
- Hold up a toy or treat, then say his name followed by “come” in a clear, excited tone.
- If necessary, make movements such as tapping your knees and stepping backwards.
- As soon as your dog comes to you, give him the reward, then praise him lavishly (but try not to cause overexcitement).
- Repeat 5 to 6 times, gradually moving to different areas of your home, including outdoors.
- As your dog improves, move to areas with more distractions.
- Gradually increase the distance between you and your dog. You may wish to use a long lead (10 feet or more).
- Once your dog has mastered the recall while on the long leash, practice it without any leash, but only indoors or in a fenced-in area.
- Slowly phase out the toy or treat rewards, but keep rewarding with much praise. It’s important that your dog learns to come to you without food or toy rewards. In the real world, you may need him to come, but not have anything to give him except praise.
Tips on Training the Recall Command
- Neveruse the recall command with an angry or frustrated tone in your voice.
- Do not call your dog to you for negative things such as punishment, baths, or medications. Go get him for these things.
- If your dog does not come to you at first, you may need to decrease the distance between you and your dog. You may also need to make the reward more valuable (squeaky toy, stinky treats) lightly tug on the leash to encourage him.
- It’s important to show your dog that coming to you is a very positive thing. Remember to keep an upbeat, excited tone to your voice, no matter how frustrated you get. If you get too frustrated, it’s better to end the training session.
- If your dog tries to run away from you, do not run after him as this only turns it into a game. Try turning the game around by calling his name and running away from him. He may then run after you in play. If so, reward him with praise when he gets to you.
- Once your dog has mastered this basic recall, move on to teach an emergency recall, which is to be used in very dire situations.
Understanding Why Chocolate Is Toxic for Dogs
Chocolate Toxicity- How much is too much?
While recent studies have shown that chocolate is beneficial for human health, chocolate can be toxic—and sometimes fatal—for your dogs and cats. Chocolate is made from the fruit of the cacao tree. It contains theobromine, a member of a drug class called methylxanthines. Theobromine has a bitter flavor and gives dark chocolate its bitter taste.
Of all pets, dogs are most commonly affected by chocolate toxicity.
They have a sweet tooth and a superior nose that makes them skilled at finding chocolate. Cats and other pet species are also susceptible to the toxic effects of chocolate. However, cats are less likely to eat a large portion of chocolates because they are unable to taste sweetness.
What Makes Chocolate Toxic for Dogs
The reason chocolate is not toxic for humans but is for dogs is related to the lengthy time it takes dogs to metabolize one of the components of chocolate—theobromine, which is a diuretic, heart stimulant and vasodilator. The amount of theobromine in chocolate is so small that the risk of poisoning in humans is almost non-existent. However, domestic animals metabolize theobromine much more slowly than humans, and they are smaller than humans. A dog that eats a generous portion of chocolate can become a victim of theobromine poisoning, which can be fatal.
Theobromine functions as a stimulant for the central nervous system and as a stimulant for the cardiovascular system.
Symptoms of Theobromine Poisoning in Dogs
If you know or suspect your dog has eaten any chocolate, watch for these symptoms. If they appear, call your vet.
- Nausea and vomiting
- Increased urination
If the theobromine poisoning isn’t recognized and treated, the animal’s condition could deteriorate and the following occur:
- Cardiac arrhythmias
- Internal bleeding
- Heart attack
Why Chocolate Isn’t Toxic to Humans
Humans break down and excrete theobromine much more efficiently than dogs. The half-life of theobromine in a dog is long—approximately 17.5 hours.
Some Chocolates Are More Toxic Than Others
Unsweetened baker’s chocolate contains eight to 10 times the amount of theobromine as milk chocolate contains. Semi-sweet chocolate falls roughly in between the two for theobromine content. White chocolate contains theobromine, but in such small amounts that theobromine poisoning is unlikely.
Quick Guide to Theobromine Levels in Types of Chocolate
From The Merck Veterinary Manual, here are approximate theobromine levels of different types of chocolate:
- Dry cocoa powder – 800 mg/oz
- Unsweetened (baker’s) chocolate – 450 mg/oz
- Cocoa bean mulch – 255 mg/oz
- Semi-sweet chocolate and sweet dark chocolate -150-160 mg/oz
- Milk chocolate – 44 to 64 mg/oz
- White chocolate contains an insignificant source of methylxanthines
- Dental Care Questions
Dental Health- Do pets need their teeth cleaned? Yes! Learn about pet dental health, and how to keep your pet’s teeth healthy.
Healthy Mouth = Healthier Life
Each year, February is designated as Pet Dental Health month. Various organizations, including the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the American Veterinary Dental Society promote pet dental health awareness campaigns.
February isn’t the only time to think about good oral health though.
Keeping your pet’s teeth and gums in good shape has many health benefits in addition to the sparkling fresh breath. Now is the time to schedule that checkup for your pet to ensure the best dental health possible.
My pet has bad breath. Are bad teeth and gums the cause?
Most likely, yes. However, it is very important to schedule a visit to the veterinarian. In rare cases, some diseases or situations can cause bad breath in the absence of, or in addition to, tooth/gum disease.
Conditions such as kidney failure, diabetes, nasal or facial skin infections, oral cancers, or situations where the animal is ingesting feces or other materials, can cause bad breath with or without periodontal disease.
What actually causes the bad breath when tooth/gum disease is present?
Bad breath, medically known as “halitosis,” results from the bacterial infection of the gums (gingiva) and supporting tissues seen with periodontal disease (periodontal = occurring around a tooth).
What is the difference between plaque and tartar?
Plaque is a colony of bacteria, mixed with saliva, blood cell, and other bacterial components. Plaque often leads to tooth and gum disease. Dental tartar, or calculus, occurs when plaque becomes mineralized (hard) and firmly adheres to the tooth enamel then erodes the gingival tissue.
What can happen if my pet’s teeth aren’t cleaned?
Both plaque and tartar damage the teeth and gums. Disease starts with the gums (gingiva). They become inflamed – red, swollen, and sore. The gums finally separate from the teeth, creating pockets where more bacteria, plaque, and tartar build up. This in turn causes more damage, and finally tooth and bone loss.
This affects the whole body, too. Bacteria from these inflamed oral areas can enter the bloodstream and affect major body organs. The liver, kidneys, heart, and lungs are most commonly affected. Antibiotics are used prior to and after a dental cleaning to prevent bacterial spread through the blood stream.
But my pet is only 3 years old. Isn’t this an “old dog/cat disease”?
No – dental disease is not just for senior pets. Each pet has individual factors- age, diet, dental anatomy – that play a role in the development of dental plaque and tartar.
My pet doesn’t seem like s/he is in any pain. Do they experience oral pain?
They may not verbalize or complain like a human would, but animals most likely feel pain with periodontal disease. The pain levels may be low, or very noticeable, and it varies with each animal. Obvious signs of oral pain may include: “chattering” teeth while eating or grooming, drooling, crying out, and refusing to eat.
Please see this informative article by a veterinary dental specialist, Ben H. Colmery III, DVM, “Pet Dental Care – Does it Hurt”?
My pet lost a tooth the other day. S/he seems fine. Do I need to do anything?
Yes – please see your veterinarian as soon as possible to check the pocket and other teeth. Exposed tissue can be very painful and are open to infection.
My Vet has recommended a dental for my pet. What should l expect?
If your pet has a lot of periodontal disease, your vet will likely prescribe antibiotics for a few days prior to the dental. This will reduce the infection in the mouth and the spread of bacteria via the bloodstream. Pets need to be anesthetized for a full dental cleaning. Scaling tartar can be done while awake, but for a thorough oral exam and cleaning, animals must be anesthetized. Scaling tartar on an awake animal, without polishing the teeth, leaves a rough surface to the tooth, predisposing the tooth for more plaque and tartar accumulation, quicker.
Most vets strongly urge pre-anesthetic blood work to ensure that everything else is OK with your pet.
Your pet will be anesthetized, any medications or fluids will be administered, and the vet or veterinary technician will scale the teeth, examine the gums (and any pockets), extract diseased teeth*, and polish the teeth.
The equipment used on your pet’s teeth is much like you would find in a human dental office.
*There are other options – such as root canals, crowns, etc. Please speak with your veterinarian about these options, or seek a referral to a veterinary dental specialist.
How can I care for my pet’s teeth at home?
It is important to use products specifically designed for dogs and cats. Do not use human toothpaste on your pet’s teeth. Products are available for cats and for ]dogs. Your veterinarian or veterinary technician can show you the proper techniques for your pet. Some animals do well with a toothbrush, some do not. Other products include finger swabs, tooth ‘cloths’, and mouth rinses. Talk to your vet about what type of product would work best for your pet. Ideally, the teeth should be brushed daily, as with humans. Even once every few days will be a big help.
It is important to watch the treats, too. The soft, gummy treats can be especially bad for the teeth – they are soft, sticky, and full of sugar. Treats such as raw carrots for dogs are a much healthier choice. There are many “dental treats” on the market now to reduce plaque and tartar buildup.
Icky Things Pets Eat: What Is Dietary Indiscretion?
- Dietary Indiscretion- Why do dogs (and cats) eat the things they do? We may never know all the answers to this seemingly simple question. Probably because it smelled good, they were hungry, or just plain curious. Is it something you should be concerned about? Maybe.
- Just when you think you are taking the best possible care of your pets, they find something icky to chew on! Why do dogs and cats eat the things they do? We may never know all the answers to this seemingly simple question. Maybe it smelled good, maybe they were hungry, or maybe they were just plain curious.
- While it can certainly make you wonder, there is a term to describe our pets’ propensity to eat things they shouldn’t. Veterinarians call it a dietary indiscretion. While that’s a nice technical term, you probably want to know if it’s something you should be concerned about. The answer depends on what your furry friend has eaten.
· Dealing With Dietary Indiscretion
- When you let your dog or cat out into the yard, there are many potential things for them to eat. The first thing you need to assess is if the item was organic or something that is potentially toxic, plastic, or otherwise harmful.
- Organic materials include things such as a dead animal, manure, and other naturally occurring things that can be found outdoors. It is possible that these things were left by cats or other dogs who may leave their “hunted prize” where your pet has access to it. If you live in a rural area, it might also have been left by coyotes, raccoons, possums, or other wild animals.
- Plastic or potentially toxic items may also have some appeal to your curious pet. Some of these may be found in your yard, or in your neighbors, though none of them are good for your dog or cat to ingest.
- Among the possible things you might find are household cleaners, fertilizers, and other substances such as antifreeze, snail bait, and other pesticides. Discarded chemical containers, cocoa mulch, blood meal, and similar things should be stored safely away from pets at all times as well.
· Organic Snacks
- If you found that your pet had a snack of organic material such as fecal or rotting matter, dead animals, or the like, call your vet to discuss what you found or know about the ingestion. Watch your pet closely for any listlessness, vomiting, diarrhea, or lack of appetite. Be sure to call your vet immediately if you observe anything out of the ordinary.
· Toxin Ingestion or Exposure
- Call your veterinarian immediatelyif your pet ingested anything that is possibly toxic. Some toxins, such as antifreeze, are immediately life-threatening, while others take time for signs to develop.
- Call your veterinarian or poison control center for advice. There are pet-specific poison control centers such as the National Animal Poison Control Centerand Pet Poison Helpline that will be able to assist you or your veterinarian with the case.
· Inanimate Objects
- There is also the possibility that your pet has eaten the most unlikely of inanimate objects. These include items that don’t always sound tasty: sprinkler heads, socks, rocks, balls, and so on. Call your veterinarian as soon as it happens to touch base and determine the best course of action because each case is different.
- While some items aren’t an immediate emergency, others, such as a sharp object, are. Possible problems include obstruction or perforation of the stomach or intestine, chronic metal poisoning due to ingested particles being digested and retracted within the body, and rectal tears.
The Life Cycle of the Flea
- Be Free of Fleas – Part IFlea life cycle.
Fleas. They make pets’ lives miserable, and humans begin to itch just at the thought of them. Vets are often asked what pill, drug, dip, collar, or shampoo works the best to get rid of these persistent parasites. The answer is there is no single method or insecticide that will completely eradicate (or at least control) a flea problem.
There are many hundreds of species of fleas. Collectively, all of the species of fleas are categorized under the order name of Siphonaptera.
The cat flea, Ctenocephalides felix, is the most commonly found flea in the US and infests cats, dogs, humans, and other mammalian and avian hosts.
Fleas thrive in warm, moist environments and climates. The main flea food is blood from the host animal. Host animals are many species—cats, dogs, humans, etc. Fleas primarily utilize mammalian hosts (about 95%). Fleas can also infest avian species (about 5%). Flea saliva, like other biting skin parasites, contains an ingredient that softens, or “digests” the host’s skin for easier penetration and feeding. The saliva of fleas is irritating and allergenic and the cause of all the itching, scratching, and other signs seen with flea allergy dermatitis, or FAD.
Fleas have four main stages in their life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The total flea life cycle can range from a couple weeks to several months, depending on environmental conditions.
The adult flea is very flat side to side. There are hair-like bristles on the flea body and legs to aid in their navigation through pet hair. Fleas have 3 pairs of legs, the hindmost pair designed for jumping. Fleas are well known for their jumping abilities.
Adult fleas prefer to live on the animal and their diet consists of blood meals courtesy of the host animal.
The female flea lays white, roundish eggs. The adult female flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day, 500-600 eggs over several months.
The eggs are not sticky (like some parasites), and they usually fall off of the animal into the carpet, bedding, floorboards, and soil. When the flea egg hatches varies—anywhere from two days to a few weeks, depending on environmental conditions. The larva emerges from the egg using a chitin tooth, a hard spine on the top of the head that disappears as the flea matures.
(plural = larvae)
The larval stage actually has three developmental stages during this stage. Larvae are about 1/4″ (6.35 mm) long, and semi-transparent white. They have small hairs along their body and actively move. They eat the feces of adult fleas (which is mostly dried blood) and other organic debris found in the carpet, bedding, and soil. Depending on the amount of food present and the environmental conditions, the larval stage lasts about 5 to 18 days (longer in some cases) then the larva spins a silken cocoon and pupates.
(plural = pupae)
The pupa is the last stage before adult. The adult flea can emerge from the cocoon as early as 3 to 5 days, or it can stay in the cocoon for a year or more, waiting for the right time to emerge.
When is the right time? (Never, say pet lovers everywhere!) Stimuli such as warm ambient temperatures, high humidity, even the vibrations and carbon dioxide emitted from a passing animal will cause the flea to emerge from the cocoon faster. This brings us back to the adult flea.
The entire life cycle is quite variable, as evidenced by the variability in each life stage progression. As mentioned above, the cycle can be as short as two weeks or as long as two years. That is why it is so important to remain vigilant, even when a flea problem is thought to be under control! The duration of flea season varies with location.
Flea Control on Your Pet
This is where most pet owners focus first—getting those fleas off of the beloved pet. The constant scratching, biting, and licking are bothersome on their own, and it is not healthy for the animal’s skin, either.
Flea allergy dermatitis, or FAD, is a common reason for veterinary visits all year-round in some areas.
A mistake seen all too often is the “more is better” approach that some people take. More is NOT better when it comes to chemicals or medications. Following package directions is essential when using over the counter products and medications. Only buy products that are labeled for use on the species you will be using them on (dog, cat, etc.). Cats, in particular, are very sensitive to drugs and chemicals—be sure to read all labels carefully.
Even when labels are read and instructions are followed, adverse reactions to flea product can happen. Call your vet immediately. Other resources are animal poison control center and adverse drug reporting hotlines.
Shampoos and Dips
A shampoo, or “flea bath” is a good first attack on fleas for the pet that has large numbers of fleas visible on its body. Cats can be difficult to bathe. It is important to know how to properly use the medicated shampoo to effectively rid your pet of fleas. It is also important to realize that a flea shampoo is not intended for lasting control. Many people are surprised when they see fleas and it was “only a week ago” that the pet had a flea bath. Shampoos are only effective for a day or less. They leave little residual chemical on the animal when properly used.
Flea dips are strong chemical rinses to rid animals not only of fleas but mites and ticks as well. I do not recommend dips unless absolutely necessary, as in the case of a mite infestation. Dips last approximately 1 to 2 weeks. That is a lot of chemical residue to leave on an animal. Flea shampoos and dips are effective for adult fleas.
Flea collars work one of two ways—by emitting a toxic (to fleas, anyway) gas, and by being absorbed into the animal’s subcutaneous fat layer. The toxic gas is usually only effective in the immediate area of the head and neck. This type of collar is best used in the vacuum cleaner bags to kill any fleas vacuumed up.
The collars that absorb into the subcutaneous fat are much more effective. Ask your vet what collars they carry. Collars are not for all pets—particularly cats that roam outside.
Flea collars are effective for adult fleas. Some collars have an IGR, or Insect Growth Regulator, to prevent flea egg and flea larval development as well.
Flea Powders and Sprays
Flea powders and sprays offer short-term (2 to 3 day) protection from fleas, and with some products, ticks, and mites too. Powders and sprays have fallen out of favor recently with the newer spot-on treatments that are available.
Most flea powders and sprays are only effective for adult fleas, some offer additional flea protection by inhibiting flea egg and larval development (contain an IGR).
Common brand names include: Advantagetm, Frontline, and Bio-Spot just to name a few. These products are applied between the shoulder blades of the pet and typically last about one month.
Spot-on treatments are effective for adult fleas. Some include ingredients to inhibit the larva from emerging from the flea egg and some are active against larval development as well.
Flea “pills” work by stopping the larva from emerging from the flea egg. Program is also available as an injectable medication for cats. Fleas ingest the blood of animals on these medications, and the female fleas then lay eggs that are unable to hatch. They do NOT kill adult fleas. These medications are essential to break the flea life cycle and stop the flea problem when used in conjunction with flea adulticide treatments.
Flea Control for Your House and Yard
Flea control doesn’t stop after your pet has been taken care of! Only about 10% of the flea population (mainly the adults) are on your pet. The flea eggs, larvae, pupa, and the few adults that reside in the carpeting, bedding, and living areas make up approximately 90% of the flea population. Neglecting this population of fleas will ensure that the flea problem will continue and worsen over time.
- Daily vacuuming- this is very important for picking up adults, eggs, larvae, and pupae before they develop. Putting a flea collar in the vacuum bag and emptying the bag frequently are also important; otherwise, the fleas will hatch, develop, and leave the vacuum to re-infest the living quarters. See: Sharing a ha
- Washall bedding, clothing, and removable furniture covers.
- Apply insecticide- over the counter fogger or by a professional exterminator, such as Orkin. Follow all instructions very carefully, remove all pets, people, and cover all food in the environment before applying insecticide and make sure everything is dry and it is safe to return according to package directions. Take special precautions for pets and children—eating or putting items in their mouth, etc.
What Is Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (HGE) in Dogs?
- Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (HGE)- HGE, or Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis, is a potentially life-threatening diarrheal disease with no known cause. Learn about this disease, and why it is important to seek veterinary care early for a successful recovery.
A sudden case of bloody diarrhea is often the first sign that a dog may have hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE), which causes gastrointestinal bleeding. The disease may also cause vomiting along with other symptoms and it often comes on very quickly.
If you notice blood in your dog’s stool, it is important to contact your veterinarian right away. While this is also a symptom of many different illnesses, it is serious and needs to be treated aggressively. If left untreated, HGE can be fatal. However, with prompt veterinary care, most dogs respond to treatment and recover in a few days.
Signs and Symptoms
The most notable sign seen with HGE is a very sudden onset of bloody diarrhea in a previously healthy dog. It is often a bright red and many people compare it to raspberry jam. You may also notice a foul odor that is anything but normal.
Other common symptoms include vomiting, loss of appetite (anorexia), and a rapid decrease in energy (listlessness or lethargy). Dehydration is usually not seen clinically on initial presentation, but shock can develop quickly without treatment. Likewise, some dogs may develop a fever, though this is not very common.
Because there are many causes of vomiting and diarrhea in dogs, it is always recommended that you call your veterinarian to discuss what is going on. Only your vet can properly advise you if it is a situation that can wait or if it sounds like an emergency.
The exact cause of this disease is unknown, though there are a number of theories. These include an adverse reaction to a change in food, a bacterial infection or a virus, or a reaction to intestinal parasites. Additionally, it’s thought that stress or a hyper disposition can play a role in the development of HGE.
Dogs that have an episode of HGE may be prone to another occurrence. Many dogs never experience HGE.
HGE can affect any breed of dog at any age and it is not more prevalent in males or females. The initial case may occur around 2 to 5 years of age.
There does tend to be a higher percentage of cases in toy and miniature breeds. In particular, Yorkshire terriers, Maltese, and miniature pinschers, schnauzers, and poodles are prone to develop HGE.
HGE is diagnosed primarily by ruling out other causes of a bloody stool. The sudden appearance of bloody diarrhea and a high packed cell volume (PCV) in a previously healthy dog rule in favor of the HGE diagnosis.
Other causes of gastrointestinal bleeding that must be considered as possibilities include gastrointestinal ulcers or cancer, colitis, parvovirus, and coronavirus. Your vet will also want to rule out bacteria such as Campylobacter sp, Salmonella sp, and Clostridium sp, and Escherichia coli.
It is likely that your vet will also check for other health issues such as:
- Warfarin (rat poison) toxicity
- Thrombocytopenia(low platelets)
Treatment and Recovery
If your dog is diagnosed with HGE, it is likely that hospitalization for several days will be necessary. That is because aggressive supportive care is required during treatment and it is not something that can be done at home.
It’s typical for dogs to receive no food or water by mouth for one to four days. Instead, they will receive intravenous (IV) fluid therapy with potassium added to the fluids. Antibiotics are also recommended, delivered either through IV or subcutaneous injection.
Food should be reintroduced slowly. In the event that the HGE is thought to be food related, your vet may also recommend switching to a novel protein (such as chicken, lamb, or cottage cheese) that the dog doesn’t usually eat.
The good news is that with this aggressive care, most dogs recover within a few days. Some dogs can have repeated episodes of HGE. After your dog’s recovery, ask your vet for any recommendations of ways you might be able to reduce the risk of reoccurrence. For example, feeding your dog the same high-quality food rather than switching it periodically may help.
- Dealing With Pet Health Emergencies During Off Hours
- Holiday Emergencies- Tips for when your pet is sick and your vet’s office is closed or on holiday schedule.
- The holidays are a fun, festive and busy time. But as people get busier, pets can sometimes be overlooked — the normal pet routineis often overstretched. Additionally, for those in cold climates, additional physical health stresses may be present for our pets. Whatever the reason, it is particularly worrisome to have a sick pet in the middle of the holiday season.
· Is My Pet Really Sick, or Can It Wait?
- This is an age-old question and one that cannot be answered by an article or discussion forum on the Internet. There is lots of information available to help you identify what may constitute an emergency or what can wait, but ultimately, a visit with your veterinarian, either by phone or by office visit is the only way to be sure.
- Call your veterinarian or emergency referral clinic and ask them if they think your pet needs to be seen. They can often provide pet-specific advice and help you make the decision to make an appointment now or adopt a wait-and-see approach, depending on your pet’s needs.
· What If My Veterinarian’s Office Is Closed?
- No matter what day or time it is, your veterinarian should have an answering service (live help) or recording available to direct you to emergency care information for your pet.
- Some veterinarians take emergency calls themselves, some refer out to a nearby clinic, and some will refer you to an emergency facility.
- Regardless, not calling because you know that the office isn’t open may waste valuable time for your pet’s health and well-being.
· We Have a Local Emergency Facility, But It’s Too Expensive — I Can’t Afford It.
- True, emergency care is usually more expensive. It is a more expensive type of practice to run, employing staff at all hours of the day/night to be available to help pets in need. But, it is often less expensive in the long run to treat a medical condition early on, rather than wait until things get really bad. When left untreated, other problems can occur secondarily to the original problem, leading to more treatment needs, etc.
- Here’s a quick example: your cat is urinating out of the litter box. There are many possible reasons for this behavior, but if your cat is seen by your vet and is determined to have a urinary infection, early treatment can make all the difference in the world.
- If left untreated, the cat could become blocked later on. This usually entails a more involved therapy — unblocking via catheterization plus fluid therapy, leading to a higher expense. Not to mention, if left untreated, a blocked urethra can be a fatal condition in a very short time.
- It is important to note that even with antibiotics, a cat can still become blocked. However, good communication with your veterinarian is the key. It may mean a recheck visit versus an emergency visit.
· Why Do These Things Always Seem to Happen During the Holidays?
- This is probably a combination of things. With hectic schedules, the subtle differences in behavior, attitude, appetite may be overlooked. During the busy times, it is important to observe your pet for anything that seems a little off — is their appetite what it should be? Is your pet urinating/defecating as normal? Is your pet as active as usual?
- Finally, it is important not to greatly change your pet’s dietduring the holidays; no table scraps, chocolate treats, etc. This can be an open invitation to gastric distress. The same goes for pet treats and toys. A lot of the rawhide and pig’s ears type of toys cause intestinal troubles. The dyes and coatings used for these types of toys aren’t the healthiest, either, and can stain carpets.
Hot Spots in Dogs
- Hot Spots- How to keep your dog “cool” when skin irritations flare up.
A hot spot is a localized area of skin inflammation and infection. The infection can be superficial or deep. Other common names for this condition include moist dermatitis and acute moist dermatitis.
What Is the Medical Name for This Condition
Also known as “pyotraumatic dermatitis“, these common skin lesions are usually caused (and made worse) by biting, licking, or scratching. Broken down, “pyo-” refers to “pus”, “-traumatic” refers to the self-inflicted trauma of biting, licking, scratching, and so on, and “dermatitis” means inflammation of the skin.
What Are the Signs of a Hot Spot
Redness, oozing, pain, and itchiness are hallmark signs. Hair loss is commonly present. Sometimes hair can mat over the lesion, obscuring the size and degree of the problem. These lesions can appear suddenly and grow rapidly (hours).
It is common for an owner to notice a small area of inflamed skin in the morning (perhaps an inch or couple centimeters in diameter) and come home from work to be met with a large area the size of the palm of a hand. The dog is usually highly agitated, and will not leave the area alone. Some dogs will even growl or snap if the area is touched.
What Causes a Hot Spot
There is usually an inciting factor to initiate the extreme licking and scratching behavior. Look for fleas, mites, or other external parasites, an insect sting or bite, allergies (food, inhalant, contact), or injury (skin wound, scrape, etc.). Some animals have been known to “start” a hot spot out of boredom or stress-related psychological problems.
What Can I Do to Treat a Hot Spot?
The first thing to do is speak with your veterinarian. Due to the rapidity of spread and possibility of deeper skin infection, it is wise to start treatment with your vet.
- Here are some steps to take at home. Caution is advised: hot spots are often very painful. Use a muzzle if need be, for your protection.
- Shave the area. The first treatment for hot spots is to dry them out and get air to the area. Hair loss is a feature of hot spots, but hair can also mat over the inflamed area, covering up a potentially much more severe and large problem.
- Cleansethe area with cool water and a gentle skin cleanser.
- Cool compressthe area 2-4 times a day with a cool wet washcloth.
- Medications- Depending on the severity and size of the hot spot, your veterinarian may prescribe oral antibiotics, topical drying sprays or medications, and/or special shampoos.
- Prevention of licking, biting, scratching -i.e. Elizabethan collar (E-Collar) or similar.
- Additional home remedies that can be used until you can see your vet:
- Topical SpraysWe like Vetericyn because it promotes quick healing does not sting and is completely safe if ingested (if the animal can lick the area).
- Tea bag compresses(black or green tea) to help dry the area out. Tea can be used as a wash or as a compress.
- Domeboro’s (Burow’s) solution(aluminum acetate) – available over-the-counter at pharmacies to help dry the skin out. Can be used as a compress or as a spray.
- Hydrocortisone creams- Some people advocate using a thin film of an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream. I would recommend talking to your vet first. In general, creams and ointments only serve to “gunk up” the area and prevent proper drying if used incorrectly. Also, if the pet licks it, you want to make sure that it isn’t toxic.
Diagnosing Hair Loss and Scratching in Dogs and Cats
- Itching, Scratching, and Hair Loss- Why does my pet itch?
Hair Loss and Scratching
Skin disease is the most common reason dogs and cats visit their veterinarian. Hair loss and scratching are two of the most common manifestations of both canine and feline skin disease.
Many different diseases can cause skin disease, but the skin of the dog or cat can only react to disease in a limited number of ways. As a result, many of the diseases that cause skin problems in dogs and cats also cause similar symptoms and look identical to one another.
In order to be able to successfully diagnose and treat your dog or cat for scratching and hair loss, your veterinarian will likely need to perform some basic laboratory testing.
Start the Search for the Cause of Hair Loss and/or Scratching
Your veterinarian will begin the search for the cause of your dog or cat’s hair loss by asking you some basic questions. These questions will allow your veterinarian to begin to develop a medical history for your pet.
These are some of the questions you should be prepared to answer:
- When did your dog or cat start to lose hair?
- Is your dog or cat itchy?
- Has your dog or cat suffered from similar problems in the past? If so, when?
- Is your dog or cat currently taking any medications? Herbal supplements?
- What is your dog or cat eating?
- Have you noticed symptoms other than scratching or hair loss?
- Are there other pets in your home and, if so, are they experiencing similar problems?
- Are family members noticing any abnormal skin lesions?
The next thing your veterinarian will do is perform a thorough physical examination. Your pet will be examined from head to toe, looking for evidence of parasites (such as fleas, ticks, and lice), skin lesions (such as red spots, scabs, sores) and overall health.
The examination will include the eyes, ears, teeth and other body parts as well. This is because skin disease can sometimes be a manifestation of disease in another part of the body.
The results from the history (survey questions) and physical examination will lead your veterinarian in determining which diseases are most likely causing the hair loss and itching for your dog and cat. The results will also help in determining which diagnostic tests should be performed.
Specific Tests for Skin Disease in the Dog and Cat
If your dog or cat is suffering from skin disease and has been losing hair or scratching, there are several tests your veterinarian may recommend performing. This includes:
- skin scrapings to look for evidence of the mitesthat cause mange
- skin cytologylooking for evidence of yeast and bacterial infections in the skin
- fungal cultures that check for ringworm and other fungal infections
- skin biopsies if skin cancer or other serious skin disease is suspected
In some cases, if your veterinarian suspects that a more systemic disease is causing your dog or cat’s skin disease, a blood screen may be recommended.
- A blood screen usually consists of a complete blood count (CBC) and a chemistry profile.
- The complete blood count looks closely at the red blood cells and white blood cells.
- The blood chemistry profile allows evaluation of kidney function, liver enzymes, protein levels, and electrolyte levels.
- In dogs with skin disease, blood screening may also include tests that evaluate the thyroid function, including total t4, free t4, and/or thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).
Diagnosing Canine and Feline Skin Disease with Flea Control
If your dog or cat is scratching and losing hair, one of the first things your veterinarian will likely recommend is a reliable form of flea control if you are not already using flea control. This is because fleas can be notoriously difficult to find on dogs and cats, even if fleas are the cause of the allergy. And if fleas are not the cause of the initial skin irritation, controlling fleas is still important because fleas are likely to make the original skin problem much worse.
Diagnosing Skin Disease in the Dog or Cat Caused by Food Allergy
If fleas have been treated and ruled out as the cause of the itching, your veterinarian may recommend doing a food trial. A food trial involves feeding your dog or cat a diet containing a protein and a carbohydrate source that he has never eaten before.
Allergy Testing and Immunotherapy (Hyposensitization)
If other causes of hair loss and scratching have been ruled out and your veterinarian is relatively certain that your dog or cat is suffering from atopy (an allergy to something in your pet’s environment), allergy testing may be recommended.
Allergy testing can determine which substances your dog or cat is allergic to and allow immunotherapy, also called hyposensitization. Basically, this involves injecting a solution of the allergen (the substance causing the allergy) on a regular basis into your pet in an attempt to train your pet’s body not to respond abnormally to the allergen.
Lipomas 101: What You Need to Know about Your Pets’ Fatty Tumors
- Lipomas (fatty tumors)- A common lump in dogs, occasionally seen in cats. It is always advisable to have every lump checked out by your vet.
My pet has a lump on her neck. It isn’t hurting her. Should I just watch it for now?
Any and all lumps should be checked out by your veterinarian, regardless of how your pet is acting. Your vet will assess the location, duration, firmness, and size. A needle aspirate may also be taken to look at what type of cells make up the lump.
What is a needle aspirate?
A needle aspirate is when a sterile needle is inserted into the lump and the plunger withdrawn, providing suction to collect cells from the lump. This is not painful, and not usually even noticed by most pets. Your vet will then place the collected cells on a microscope slide, stain them, and take a look under the microscope.
My vet said that my pet has a Lipoma. What is that, and should I be worried?
A Lipoma is a benign fatty lump. They are very common in older, middle-aged dogs. Overweight female dogs are especially prone to developing Lipomas. Certain dog breeds may be at risk, including, but not limited to: Doberman Pinschers, Schnauzers (miniatures), Labrador Retrievers, and mixed breeds. They can also appear in cats and horses, but not as often.
Lipomas are usually just under the skin, but they can be locally invasive, meaning they have meshed with muscle or connective tissue.
Lipomas can also have additional blood or connective tissue as part of the growth. These growths can appear anywhere on the body, but they are most frequently located on the belly (mid-chest and down) and upper legs.
What should I do about a Lipoma – does it need to be surgically removed?
Provided your veterinarian has performed a needle aspirate and is certain that it is indeed a Lipoma, most vets recommend a watch-and-wait approach.
The lump should be checked at regular intervals, to make sure there haven’t been any cellular changes. Large lumps, especially those under a limb or in another location to interfere with movement or function, should be removed as soon as possible.
My pet has had a Lipoma for a year now. A new lump has appeared. Could it be another Lipoma?
Yes, it could. Dogs that form Lipomas are prone to forming more as time goes on. However…each new lump needs to be checked out by your veterinarian (and the “known” lumps rechecked at least annually), as there are other, more serious tumors that can feel like a Lipoma, such as a cutaneous mast cell tumor.
Are Lipomas ever malignant?
Yes, although rare, there is a fatty tumor called a liposarcoma, and that is malignant. Metastasis is rare, but due to their nature (infiltrative) they are difficult to fully remove, and recurrence is common.
Veterinary Q & A – Neutering (Castration) in Dogs and Cats
- Neutering- Learn about this common surgery, also known as castration, and why it is important for the health of your pet.
- First, Some Basic Reproductive Terminology
- Spayed= a female cat or dog who has had both ovaries and uterus surgically removed, and is not capable of producing offspring.
Neutered = a male cat or dog who has had both testicles surgically removed, and is not capable of producing offspring.
- Spayed= a female cat or dog who has had both ovaries and uterus surgically removed, and is not capable of producing offspring.
- Also known as castration. Some refer to “neutered” as a male or female dog that has been surgically altered to render them sterile (testicles removed or ovaries removed, making them not capable of producing offspring).
Related terms:desexed, fixed, altered, castrated
Intact = not spayed or neutered, the animal has reproductive organs capable of producing offspring.
Queen = intact female cat
Tom = intact male cat
Bitch = intact female dog
Dog = intact male dog
- Also known as castration. Some refer to “neutered” as a male or female dog that has been surgically altered to render them sterile (testicles removed or ovaries removed, making them not capable of producing offspring).
- For the purpose of this article, intact male cats and dogs will be referred to as the “pet” or “patient.”
- Is Neutering a Major Surgery?
- No, in the sense that neutering does not enter the abdominal or other body cavities. A general anesthetic is required, however, and there are risks, as with any surgery and anesthesia procedure. Dogs and cats generally recover a bit quicker from neutering than spaying since it is not as invasive as a spay.
- (For more on the actual surgery, see below.)
- Neutering Myths
- Myth #1 – I’ve heard that my pet won’t be as good of a protector of my home and family if neutered (dogs).
Dogs have a natural instinct to protect their home and loved ones. They are also much more inclined to stay home and happy when neutered.
- Myth #1 – I’ve heard that my pet won’t be as good of a protector of my home and family if neutered (dogs).
- It is true that unneutered dogs are often more aggressive and territorial (urine marking, fighting), but these traits should not be confused with loyalty and protection of their home and family.
- Providing a loving environment for your pet, proper health care, and proper training will be the most influential benefit to maintaining a happy pet that fits into your family.
- Myth #2 – I am worried that my pet will become fat and lazy.
Proper nutrition and exercise are what will keep your pet at a healthy weight and level of fitness, not failing to neuter him.
- Myth #2 – I am worried that my pet will become fat and lazy.
- I want to neuter my pet, but I think I’ll wait until it is more convenient for me
- (i.e. when time, money, other activities, etc. permit)
- Just because you own a male pet doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be a responsible pet owner as far as pet pregnancy “accidents” – creating more unwanted puppies or kittens. Even with the best fencing, kennel, and training – it is not a guarantee that your dog won’t escape or…that a female in heat won’t “break in” to meet up with your pet. Cats, of course, are difficult to contain if outside, and they are quite quick at escaping the house when they want to be!
- Pet overpopulationis a HUGE problem in the United States and many countries around the world — don’t contribute to the problem of unwanted puppies and kittens simply due to lack time, interest, funding, etc.
- Speak with your veterinarian if you have financial concerns.
- Non-neutered males have an increased risk of cancer (testicular, perianal, and possibly prostate) over their lifetime.
- Why does my vet want to do pre-surgery blood work on my pet?
- Many veterinarians offer pre-anesthesia screening to their patients, and may have you sign a waiver if you decline these blood tests. Why is this so important? It provides a way to assess kidney and liver function prior to undergoing anesthesia among other things. The liver and kidneys are the primary routes that the anesthetics are broken down and removed from the body. If they aren’t working well, then anesthesia may be more of a risk. There are many anesthetic agents available, and your veterinarian may also use the blood screening information to determine the best anesthetic protocol for your pet.
- What happens during the surgery?
- Your pet will be sedated and anesthetized so he won’t feel any pain or be aware of what is happening. His breathing and heart rate will be closely monitored by the veterinary staff.
- (Note: there is more than one way to neuter an animal – descriptions here are the most common techniques used.)
- Dog:The surgeon makes a small incision just in front (towards the pet’s head) of the scrotum (sac that contains the testicles).
- Each testicle is removed separately, and the blood supply and vas deferens (spermatic cord) are ligated (tied off). The subcutaneous layers are sutured together with an absorbable thread, then the skin is closed with either skin staples, absorbable (hidden) sutures, or sutures that will be visible and need to be removed 10-14 days after surgery. Click here for a pictorial description of the surgery (Warning – surgical photos may not be suitable for all viewers.)
- Cat:Many veterinarians prefer to incise (cut) the scrotum itself in the cat to remove the testicles. Each testicle is removed and ligated as described above, and the two incisions are allowed to heal as an open wound – no sutures. The incisions are very small, and are usually barely noticeable shortly after the surgery.
- My vet said that my pet is cryptorchid. What is that, and will the surgery be different from a “normal” neuter?
Cryptorchidis a medical term meaning literally “hidden testes” (crypt = hidden, orchid refers to the testicle, or testes).
- My vet said that my pet is cryptorchid. What is that, and will the surgery be different from a “normal” neuter?
- This is considered a birth defect – where the testicle doesn’t “migrate” out of the body cavity and into the scrotum like normal during fetal development. Some pets can be “late bloomers” and a testicle not present at birth can descend later, but by 4-6 months of age, if it isn’t there, it won’t likely be.
- It is a heritable trait, so any pets in a breeding program with this condition should be neuteredto not pass on this trait.
- Where is the testicle?
That depends! It can be deep inside the abdomen, similar to where the ovary would be found – by the kidney. It may be anywhere from the kidney area to the bladder. It could also be in the inguinal canal, the passageway from the abdomen to the scrotum.
- Where is the testicle?
- Testicles in the abdomen are not likely to be palpated, but the vet has a good chance of palpating a testicle in the inguinal canal. I say “not likely” to be palpated, because most of the time, the hidden testicle is much smaller than normal, even when in the inguinal canal. This is not always the case — as I remember a geriatric Irish Setter that had been neutered as a pup. Apparently, only the testicle in the scrotum had been removed at the time of neutering, several years before. This dog was presented for difficulty defecating and urinating, with a large abdominal mass. A very large (12″ diameter) testicle was taking over the abdomen! Thankfully, surgery went well, and he could live out his senior years comfortably.
- Moral of the story:cryptorchid dogs should NOT be bred, and must be neutered – since the risk of testicular cancer in an abdominally cryptorchid dog is high.
- How soon will he be “back to normal”?
Most people are surprised at how quickly their pets recover from surgery (certainly much sooner than their human counterparts!) Most pets are up and alert shortly after surgery, and for neuter patients, most are back to their “normal” self by the next day. It is very importantto restrict activity in those pets who are very active and to control excessive licking of the surgical site. It is also important to note that if your pet has already reached puberty (age 5 to 6 months or older), behaviors influenced by hormones will take a month or two to subside. Behaviors include, but are not limited to: fighting, roaming, urine marking and so on. Some of these behaviors are learned in addition to being hormonally influenced, so do not expect complete cessation of undesirable behaviors in all cases post-surgery.
- How soon will he be “back to normal”?
- Neutering prior to pubertywill lessen the occurrence of these behaviors from ever showing up.
Veterinary Q & A: Pancreatitis in Dogs and Cats
- Pancreatitis- Fatty foods and other risk factors for this disease. Find out what to watch for.
What Is the Pancreas, and Why Is It Needed?
The pancreas is a glandular organ that is tucked under the stomach and duodenum, which is the first part of the small intestine – see diagram.
The pancreas has two functions: 1) exocrine – to produce the enzymes needed to digest food, and 2) endocrine – to produce hormones, including the hormone insulin, which facilitates the uptake and storage of glucose (sugar) and amino acids (proteins).
What Happens During a Bout of Pancreatitis?
Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, causing leakage of the digestive enzymes whereby the pancreas literally starts to “digest itself”. Pancreatitis can be acute (sudden) or chronic (happening over a course of time).
Both acute and chronic forms are serious and can be life-threatening, especially the acute form.
What Causes Pancreatitis?
For the majority of cases, the cause is unknown. Pancreatitis can occur in both dogs and cats, but is more common in dogs, especially the acute form. Cats more commonly have the chronic form, and it can be difficult to diagnose.
In dogs, obese middle-aged to older animals have a higher incidence, as do females. Even though exact causes are not known, there are identifiable risk factors. Here are some potential risk factors:
- High-fat meal (trigger for hyperlipidemia)
- Hyperlipidemia (high-fat content in blood)
- Obesity(especially dogs)
- Concurrent disease – i.e. Cushing’s, Diabetes Mellitus
- Contaminated food or water
- Certain drugs and toxins – i.e. some types of diuretics, antibiotics, and organophosphate insecticide
- Bacterial or viral infection
What Are the Signs of Pancreatitis?
The signs can vary from mild gastrointestinal upset to collapse and death.
Most animals present with common gastrointestinal signs of upset, such as:
- Not eating
- Painful abdomen, hunched appearance (more common in dogs
- Fever or below-normal body temperature
- Dehydration, evaluated by noting sunken eyes, dry mouth, and increased skin turgor (skin tents when pinched)
These signs are not specific for pancreatitis and can be seen with many gastrointestinal diseases and conditions. All or some of the signs may be noted in an individual patient with pancreatitis.
Cats can be especially difficult to diagnose due to the vague signs they exhibit with chronic pancreatitis – depression/lethargy and poor appetite are seen with regularity, and gastrointestinal signs of vomiting, diarrhea, and/or pain are seen intermittently.
How Is Pancreatitis Diagnosed?
Your veterinarian will evaluate your pet’s history (i.e. getting into the garbage, eating a lot of food they normally don’t – especially fatty foods, etc.), do a thorough physical examination, and likely do blood tests to rule out other diseases and to check pancreatic enzymes. Radiographs may also be done to rule out a gastric or intestinal foreign body or other GI diseases or conditions.
What Is the Treatment for Pancreatitis?
Treatment for this disease is supportive, meaning that there isn’t usually a direct cause and cure, but supporting the animal while allowing healing.
The veterinary team will take care of the animal’s fluid needs via IV, pain management, and will address any other disease processes (infection, diabetes, etc.) while letting the pancreas heal on its own.
Resting the pancreas and gastrointestinal system is key, and this means no food or water by mouth for 1 to 5 or more days while on IV fluids. This is dependent on the severity of each case, and the animal must be on fluids and other support to survive and heal the pancreas while off of oral food and water.
What About Follow-up Care Post-Recovery, and What Is Involved in the Management of Chronic Pancreatitis?
Your vet will likely prescribe a low-fat, high-fiber diet to aid in your pet’s recovery and to prevent future bouts of pancreatitis. Depending on your pet’s case, the diet recommendations may be for life for optimal health and preventative care.
Parvovirus Infection in Dogs
- Parvovirus- Learn about this potentially deadly disease in dogs, and what you can do to protect your best friend.
Parvo is a common and potentially serious viral disease in dogs. The virus is officially known Parvovirus. The disease caused by this virus is commonly referred to as Parvo. The virus first appeared clinically in 1978, and there was a widespread epidemic in dogs of all ages. Since no dogs had been exposed or vaccinated (the vaccine didn’t exist at the time), dogs of all ages died from the infection.
The virus can “adapt” over time, and other strains of the virus have appeared since then, but properly administered vaccinations are the best protection. Canine Parvovirus is thought to be a mutation from the feline Parvovirus, also known as Feline Distemper virus.
What are the signs seen with Parvovirus infection?
- There are three main manifestations of Parvovirus infection:
- Asymptomatic – No signs are seen. Common in dogs over 1 year old and vaccinated dogs.
- Cardiac – This form of the disease is much less common than the intestinal form due to widespread vaccination. Severe inflammation and necrosis (cell death), of the heart muscle, causes breathing difficulty and death in very young (less than 8 weeks of age) puppies. Older dogs that survive this form have scarring in the heart muscle.
- Intestinal – This virus causes extreme damage to the intestinal tract, causing sloughing of the cells that line the tract. This can leave the patient open to secondary bacterial infection. Most of the affected dogs (85%) are less than one year old and between 6-20 weeks old — before the full set of vaccinations can be given. The death rate from infection is reported to be 16-35% in this age group.*
The intestinal signs include:
- Loss of appetite
- Diarrhea – usually bloody, and very foul-smelling (a characteristic odor, particular to Parvovirus infection)
- Intussusception – when a section of the inflamed intestinal tract telescopes into itself. This is an emergency.
The onset of clinical signs is usually sudden, often 12 hours or less.
The incubation from exposure to seeing the clinical signs varies from 3 to 10 days.
How is Parvovirus infection diagnosed?
This disease is diagnosed by physical examination, signalment (age, vaccination status, breed, etc.), and a fecal Parvo (ELISA) test. Additional diagnostics include blood work and radiographs. Dogs infected with Parvo typically have a low white count. Radiographs help rule out other potential causes of vomiting and diarrhea.
How is Parvovirus infection treated?
There is no treatment specifically for the Parvovirus at this time. Treatment is supportive care, which includes any or all of the following:
- Oral electrolyte fluids- if the case is mild and the animal isn’t vomiting
- Subcutaneous (SQ) or intravenous (IV) fluidsto maintain hydration in the face of the extreme fluid losses from vomiting and diarrhea that are so typical of this disease
- Anti-vomiting/nausea medications- to prevent further damage from vomiting and to keep the patient comfortable as possible.
- Antibiotics- because the virus has the potential to slough the intestinal tract, antibiotics help protect against secondary infection.
- Blood or Plasma transfusions- to replace protein loss, provide antibodies, help with anemia.
Many puppies infected with Parvovirus need to be hospitalized for supportive care. Hospitalization is typically about 5 days, sometimes longer. Surviving the first three days is usually a good sign for long-term survival.
How long does Parvovirus last in the environment?
The Parvovirus family of viruses are particularly long-lived in the environment, lasting anywhere from 1 to 7 months — commonly surviving 5-7 months in an outside environment. Due to the large amounts of virus particles shed in the feces of an infected dog (shedding lasts two weeks or more after exposure) and the longevity of the virus, complete eradication of the virus is often impossible.
How to Disinfect an Area Contaminated by a Dog Infected with Parvovirus
There are many Parvovirus disinfectants on the market, but regular old bleach is still 100% effective against Parvovirus.
The dilution of bleach is one part bleach to 30 parts water. Caution is advised for dyed or colored fabrics or objects.
Do not use a bleach preparation on an animal at any time. The commercial Parvovirus disinfectants have the advantage of better smelling preparations. Check the label for colorfast warnings. See your vet or pet store for the various disinfectants available.
Be sure to keep feces (and any vomitus) picked up in the yard and kennel area as well.
How can I protect my dog from becoming infected?
Vaccination is the key to preventing this disease and protecting your dog. Breeding bitches should be vaccinated before becoming pregnant to ensure that the pups get the best start at immunity. Vaccinations should start at 6 weeks of age, and be boostered at 9, 12, and 16 weeks of age. Some veterinarians also booster at 20 weeks, depending on the breed and Parvovirus risk in your area. Speak with your veterinarian about what vaccination protocol is the best for your pet and your lifestyle.
Some Breeds Are More Susceptible Than Others
Yes, it appears that some breeds, most notably the Rottweiler, Doberman Pinscher, German Shepherds, Pit Bulls, and Labrador Retrievers are at an increased risk for this disease. Conversely, Toy Poodles and Cockers appear to be at a reduced risk of contracting this disease. It is important to remember, however, that any breed can get Parvovirus. Be sure to keep your dog’s vaccinations up to date.
Veterinary Q and A: Poisonings in Pets
Poisonings – Learn how to identify a possible poisoning, and how to keep your pet safe.
Help! My Pet May Have Been Poisoned
Poisons may be eaten, absorbed through the skin, or inhaled. Poisonings can mimic many things. Some poisons act immediately, some take days to appear, potentially making diagnosis difficult.
- What Are Some Common Signs Seen with Poisoning?
- Muscle tremors or seizures
- Vomiting and or diarrhea, sometimes with blood
- Excessive salivation – drooling or foaming
- Redness of skin, ears, eyes
- Mental depression or excitement (may be easily excitable
- Bleeding (as with rat poison ingestion
- Ulceration or blisters of the mouth or skin
- Excessive pawing at the mouth, excessive licking
- Swelling (i.e. of a limb or face, commonly seen with insect bites and stings
- Elevated or depressed body temperature(elevations usually due to increased muscle activity — tremors, seizures)
What Should I Do If I Suspect a Poisoning?
- Call your veterinarian or veterinary emergency clinic immediately. Have the following information ready:
- The exact name of toxin ingested, inhaled, or absorbed.
- Approximately how much of the toxin was ingested
- How long ago you suspect that your pet may have been poisoned
- Approximate weight of your pet
- What signs your pet is showing — vomiting, tremors, salivation, etc., and general observations — such as the color of the gums (capillary refill time), respiratory rate, heart rate, and if possible, body temperature.
If the poison is known, take the box or package with you. Do NOT induce vomiting without consulting your veterinarian or Poison Control center first. Some toxins are caustic, and vomiting will only increase damage.
Some toxins need to be neutralized with activated charcoal, others need to be expelled by vomiting, and still others have antidotes.
Topical toxins need to be rinsed (skin, eye) with copious amounts of water. An excellent resource for emergency poison consultation (in addition to your veterinarian) is your local Poison Control and the National Animal Poison Control Center.
What Are Some Common Household Poisons That I Should Be Aware Of?
Here is a list of common household poisons, in no particular order:
- Antifreeze(Ethylene glycol) Note: there less toxic alternatives available, such as this one.
- Slug/Snail bait
- Prescription medications
- Mouse and Rat poisons
- Some plants(indoor and outdoor), shrubs, and trees (check with your veterinarian for help in finding information on native plants in your area that are toxic to pets)
- Flea and Tick treatments (using more or not following product recommendations is NOT the way to kill more fleas and ticks!)
- Lawn fertilizers, weed killers
- Household cleaners and chemicals
Any Specific Pet Poison-Proofing Tips?
Some of the potential toxins above may seem obvious but think again. Poisons such as rat, slug, snail, mice, and ant baits are baits; they are made to be attractive and tasty, even to the curious pet. Don’t count on how well you hide these baits, either. Make sure that they are safely out of pet’s reach (and that the pet isn’t able to chew through something to get at them).
Medications made for humans may have coatings on them that are tasty to pets, enticing ingestion. Ethylene glycol antifreeze is known to be sweet-tasting, a danger to pets and children.
Unknowingly playing fetch or encouraging your dog to chew on plants or trees that are poisonous could have disastrous effects.
Dogs love to chew…that spray bottle, can, or another container may be viewed as a toy by a curious dog….until the container is punctured and contents leak out
Finally, please carefully read all directions for use of chemicals; those intended for pets and those intended for other purposes (yard, house) and follow directions carefully.
10 Facts about Rabies
- Rabies- Health alert information about this fatal viral disease that is transmissible to humans.
As much as we wish it to be so, this fatal viral disease is not a thing of the past. Every few minutes, someone in the world dies from rabies. Learn 10 facts about rabies here.
Rabies is a Bullet-Shapped Virus
The microscopic shape of this virus is important for two reasons, even if only to serve as a mnemonic (memory aid) about the deadliness of this pathogen.
Rabies, with rare exception, is usually fatal.
This virus travels from the bite wound location along the peripheral nerves to the brain. The animal does not appear sick during this time, called the incubation period. Once the virus reaches the brain, the animal quickly becomes symptomatic and dies fairly quickly after that, usually within 7 days or less.
Rabies is Transmitted Primarily by Saliva
Dog bite wound on the forearm of a woman.
Bite wounds are the mode of transmission for the vast majority of rabies infections. Once the rabies virus reaches the brain, it also replicates in the salivary glands, making transmission easy and possible. Transmission may occur through other routes too, but this is a much more rare occurrence.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC): “Transmission has been rarely documented via other routes such as contamination of mucous membranes (i.e., eyes, nose, mouth), aerosol transmission, and corneal and organ transplantations.”
Rabid Animals May Appear Tame
Squirrel Eating From A Persons Hand
The public image of rabies is that of a “wild” or “ferocious” animal, as depicted in the classic movie, Old Yeller.
While this manifestation of rabies is possible, many animals appear tame, also known as the “dumb” or “paralytic” form of rabies. This may be even more dangerous, as people attempt to care for animals, especially wildlife, who are tamer-than-usual or appear helpless.
Animals found as strays and later found to be rabid, potentially expose many people to this disease.
Sometimes You Don’t Know You Have Been Bitten
Bats are a common reservoir for rabies in the US. They sneak in homes and are small enough to hide in beds and other common areas in the house, avoiding detection. Other times, a family pet may bring in a sick bat or a person may be bit attempting to get a bat out of the house. Sometimes the person is sleeping, unaware of a bite.
According to the CDC, about 6% of bats are rabid. Further, “there are usually only one or two human cases per year. But the most common source of human rabies in the United States is from bats.”
Caution and “bat-proofing” your home and other buildings are recommended.
90% of Rabies Cases in the US are from Wildlife
Boy feeding a vixen, Red Fox. Michaela Walch / Getty Images
Given that the majority of dogs and cats in the US are vaccinated pets, this is not a surprise. The CDC reports: “More than 90% of all animal rabies cases reported to CDC each year occur in wild animals. The main animals that get rabies include raccoons, bats, skunks and foxes.”
The big danger, aside from obviously aggressive wildlife, are baby animals or adults who appear sick, helpless, or tame. Capturing and trying to rescue or rehabilitate them could mean unnecessary exposure to rabies. If you find wildlife that fits these descriptions, it is best to call local animal control authorities to assist.
In Developing Countries, Most Cases are from Rabid Dog Bites
NANJING, CHINA – A sign reading ‘No Entry For Dogs’ is seen outside the Confucius Temple on January 10, 2007 in Nanjing of Jiangsu Province, China. The city launched a campaign to remove stray dogs from its streets. According to state media, China intensified dog control as rabies cases increased in 2006. Rabies killed more people in China than either tuberculosis or AIDS in each of the preceding seven months, the Health Ministry said, prompting a crackdown in the capital and several provinces to control unregistered dogs. In the first nine months of 2006, the health ministry recorded 2,254 rabies infections in people, up 26.69 percent on the same period in 2005. China Photos / Stringer / Getty Images News
Dogs in developing countries, both wild and those kept as pets, are a large reservoir of rabies and a potential source of human infection. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), dogs “are the source of infection in all of the estimated 50 000 human rabies deaths annually in Asia and Africa.”
Millions of dogs are killed each year in countries where this is a problem to help stop the spread of rabies. This is often accomplished by cruel and inhumane methods and does little to fix the larger problem of rabies.
Cathy King Ph.D. DVM, founder of World Vets, an organization to help both animals and people around the world, initially founded her mission to help these dogs and their people. Watch this TEDx talk to hear what Dr. King and World Vets are doing around the world and in the US:
15 Million People Worldwide Receive Post-Exposure Shots Each Year
Post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP for short, is what happens if you have been bitten by, or exposed to, a rabid animal. Or, in some cases, a suspectedrabid animal, if definitive testing is not available.
The PEP for rabies is thorough wound care and a 4-dose vaccination schedule as outlined by the CDC. (PDF) Some cases warrant administration of rabies immunoglobulin. (WHO Rabies fact sheet)
55,000 People Worldwide Die From Rabies Each Year
Veterinarians inject rabies vaccine into a puppy at Bali Welfare Animal Association (BAWA) clinic in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. Sayoga / Contributor / Getty Images News
Or, to put it another way, approximately one human death from rabies occurs every 10 minutes. Most deaths are reported from Africa and Asia with almost 50% of the victims being children under the age of 15. (Source: CDC World Rabies Day)
There are Three Phases of Clinical Rabies
Prodromal period – first 1 to 3 days after the rabies virus reaches the brain. Vague neurologic signs that progress rapidly – Some animals may appear tame, some will drool more. Death usually follows within 10 days due to paralysis.
Excitative stage – next 2 to 3 days. This is the “furious rabies” stage – tame animals suddenly become vicious, attacking humans and other animals as they roam and wander. Some animals will chew and eat odd objects (rocks, sticks, etc.). Paralysis is setting in, and losing the ability to swallow will cause frothing at the mouth.
Paralytic stage – follows excitative stage, or is the main clinical presentation for some animals.
Rabies is (Nearly) Always Fatal
Rabies is diagnosed by examining brain tissue from the deceased patient. There is no way to diagnose rabies definitively before death.
There is no cure for rabies. The success of post-exposure protocols varies with the location of the wound, time lapse from exposure to vaccination, and age and general health of the patient.
Vaccinating for rabies is the best (and only) way at this time to prevent this deadly disease. Animals (dogs, cats, livestock) and humans who work in high-risk jobs for rabies exposure should be vaccinated for rabies. In the US, laws vary by state and municipality, but rabies vaccination is required by law for dogs and cats.
What Is a Sialocele (Salivary Mucocele)?
- Salivary Gland Cyst- Learn about this condition also called sialocele or salivary mucocele.
- A sialocele is a cyst filled with a collection of mucoid saliva in the tissues surrounding a salivary gland. These salivary gland cysts are known as sialocele (or a salivary mucocele). It is the most common salivary disorder in dogs and is noticed by a swelling under their neck or jaw. It can affect cats as well.
- Dogs and cats have four salivary glands. The most commonly affected among them are the large ones under the jaw, called the mandibular salivary glands.
- The sublingual glands located under the tongue can also be affected.The cysts can become quite large and press against the animal’s larynx or trachea, causing them to cough.
- The exact cause of these cysts is often hard to determine. They may be induced by trauma to the gland or ducts or caused by an infection. It’s also possible that they are the result of a growth that obstructs the ducts and causes a rupture. The saliva and mucus then escape into the surrounding tissues.
· Are salivary gland cysts painful?
- When these cysts first occur, your dog or cat may feel pain. However, most animals are presented with a large, non-painful, fluctuant mass under the jaw or tongue. These cysts can become infected which may cause pain and a generalized fever.
- While not always painful, the large size of some masses may also functionally interfere with your pet’s breathing or eating.
· How is this condition diagnosed?
- If you notice swelling below your pet’s muzzle or neck, it is important to get them to a veterinarianfor proper diagnosis and treatment.
- The cause may be sialocele or it may be something else, but in either case, they do need to be examined as soon as possible
- When diagnosing sialocele, the vet will most likely use needle aspiration. During this procedure, a small needle is inserted into the lump and a sample of cells and liquids are removed.
- It is a very useful diagnostic tool for many veterinary situations, including salivary cysts. The characteristic aspirate for sialocele is a clear and sticky or stringy fluid (saliva) that may be tinged with a little blood.
- It is important to look at the sample microscopically, too. This will help your vet rule out other diseases, such as cancer or infection. It also helps differentiate between problems with a salivary gland and another tissue that is in the area such as a swollen lymph node.
· What if surgery is recommended?
- Surgical removal of the damaged gland and duct is the treatment of choice. Some cases can be managed by installing drains and periodically emptying the cyst. Some cysts will resolve on their own, but infection, pain, and critical obstruction of the airways are potential risks if treatment is not utilized.
- Since there are four different salivary glands in different locations, please discuss what would be the best individual treatment option for your pet with your veterinarian.
Veterinary Q & A: Seizures in Pets
- Seizures- How to identify a seizure and what medications are available to control seizures.
My pet just had a seizure, what should I do?
Seizures are frightening to witness. Stay calm. Try to time how long the seizure lasts. The first thing to do is to stay clear. Seizing animals may bite (without knowing it) and trying to hold them down may cause injury. They will not ‘swallow their tongue’ as you may have heard. Keep fingers away from the pet’s mouth.
Remove any objects in the area that can injure the animal.
Call your vet. With the first seizure, the patient receives a full physical exam, blood work up, and is monitored — seizure control medications usually wait at this point. UNLESS the first seizure is a severe cluster seizure (several happening at once) or a continual seizure called Status Epilepticus, this is a medical emergency. If anything is found on physical or blood work that may cause seizures, the underlying conditions will be addressed and treated.
My pet just had a seizure, do I need to start medication?
When to medicate for seizures is usually a decision between the vet and pet owner, but here are some general guidelines and background information on seizures. More on medication for seizure control in a bit.
What causes seizures?
Seizures can be caused by numerous things – poisons, skull injury, brain tumor, viral and bacterial infections, congenital malformations, heat stroke, parasites, fungal infections, low blood sugar (diabetics), and so on.
By doing a physical exam and blood work, most causes can be eliminated.
Idiopathic epilepsy (seizure of unknown origin) is most commonly seen in otherwise healthy animals, between the ages of 1 and 5 years, and may be inherited in certain breeds. Beagles, Keeshonden, Irish Setters, Belgian Tervurens, Siberian Huskies, Springer Spaniels, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds may be genetically predisposed to idiopathic epilepsy.*
Idiopathic epilepsy is diagnosed when other causes of seizures have been ruled out by a physical exam, blood work, and any other necessary work up procedures. Cats do not experience grand mal seizures as often as dogs.
Another type of seizure, where the cat’s skin ripples or the cat appears to frantically groom itself and run off frightened, is called hyperesthesia syndrome. This seen more commonly than the grand mal seizure seen in dogs.
What should I do if my pet experiences seizures?
While observing, the owner should keep a diary of when/where the seizures occur, how long they last, was the animal acting strangely/doing any activity in particular before the seizure, and how long after the seizure did it take for the animal to be ‘normal’. This may provide clues if a pattern is noticed.
There are definite seizure triggers for some animals, and if they can be identified, the number of seizures can be reduced if the trigger (activity, excitement, etc.) can be avoided. One dog I knew had a ‘going-to-the-vet’ seizure trigger. Hard to avoid that one sometimes, but with pre-visit medication, special speedy appointments, the problem was reduced.
Learn more about medications to control seizures.
- Seizures have 3 phases:
Pre-ictal, ictal, post-ictal. “Ictal” means seizure.
- Pre-ictal. The “pre” phase often goes unnoticed, but you may notice an altered state of consciousness or restlessness, lasting for a few seconds or minutes.
- Ictusis the seizure itself, and it may last a few seconds or minutes.
As mentioned above, a continual seizure, Status Epilepticus, is a medical emergency, and the pet should be rushed to the vet for medication to break the seizure and prevent brain and organ damage from hyperthermia (increased body temperature), acidosis (metabolic imbalance), hypoperfusion (reduced blood flow), and hypoxia (reduced oxygen to tissues). All of the above possibilities occur on a much reduced scale for small seizures, too, so control is important.
Post-ictal phaseis the time after the seizure where the animal appears dazed, confused, depressed. The animal may even appear blind – running into walls, etc. Some animals sleep a lot. This typically lasts several minutes but can last hours, depending on the seizure duration and frequency.
When does a pet need medication to control seizures?
The general rule of thumb is more than one seizure every one or two months. The duration and severity of each seizure need to be evaluated, too.
What are common seizure control medications?
The most common medication used for maintenance seizure control is Phenobarbital. Emergency situations usually call for the quick-acting Diazepam (Valium) to get immediate control of the seizure. Potassium Bromide (KBr) is an old anticonvulsant medication, used since the 1800’s, that is used in veterinary medicine, often with positive results. It can be used in conjunction with Phenobarbital (lessening the amount of Phenobarbital that is needed) or it can be used alone. Potassium bromide does take several weeks to reach therapeutic levels in the blood. Phenobarbital takes several days-weeks, too.
During the initial period of Phenobarbital, the animal may appear groggy, this usually goes away with time. If not, your vet should be notified, and the dosage adjusted to maintain a ‘normal’ animal and not have seizures.