Is your dog slow to get up in the morning? Will your cat not jump onto high surfaces like it used to? These are the first signs of arthritis, or inflammation in their joints. Long before noticeable limping, these subtle signs are present and causing your pet discomfort. Normal wear and tear from an active life will cause these changes, and any injuries or slight abnormalities in skeletal structure will make it even worse. Pets are good at hiding pain, and we have to be on the lookout for it so we can catch problems early. There are a variety of treatments available, and our goal is to make your pet's quality of life the best possible. Oftentimes we will need to take x-rays to evaluate the nature of the problem, so a proper course of action can be planned. There are different ways to tackle the problem, and it is important for us to work with you and your pet in developing a plan that will best address their problems.
Body Condition Scoring your Pets
The importance of your pet maintaining an ideal weight was discussed in the last post. In this article we would like to give you the tools to evaluate your pets' weight at home. This is valuable to monitor how an exercise and food change is progressing, a spot check as your puppy or kitten grows, and to keep tabs on your older pet as they slow down. We use something called body condition scoring. We look at both the profile (side) view, and down on your pet from above. There are some characteristics that we look for to evaluate where they rank on the scale. On the side view, the dogs' abdomen should be thinner, or go up, from the chest. From the top view, the abdomen should again be smaller than the chest, which is seen as a waist. The hindquarters should be wider than the abdomen using this top view. When you touch your pet, use your fingertips just behind the front legs on either side of the chest, and you should be able to feel the ribs easily under the skin while moving your hands back and forth a bit. If you have to dig a little, there is too much padding! However, you should not be able to see the ribs. The charts below are a good reference to see where your pet ranks on the scale. A score of 5 is ideal. Cats' looks are a little bit different, but still a great way to track progress. On the profile view, cats should have a relatively straight line along the lower edge of the abdomen from just above the elbow to just above the knee. From the top view they should also be fairly straight on either side of the body with just a slight waist. If your kitty is "pear shaped" on this view, you know you have some work ahead of you. Likewise on the profile view if the belly is lower than the chest, your cat is packing an extra pound or two. Or if your cat is too thin, that is not good either, and may be a sign of disease.
Paying attention to your pets weight and keeping it in the "ideal" range will help them to live a more active and longer life with you. Which is really whhi
Chubby Pets = More Problems
None of us likes to hear much about being overweight, and the same holds true about hearing that our pets are overweight. Similar to people, pets who carry around extra weight are more likely to have certain problems or diseases develop over time. Dogs and cats will have higher incidences of arthritis when they are overweight, just because their bodies aren't made for carrying around the extra pounds. The added wear and tear accelerates loss of cartilage and puts extra pressure on joints. When carrying those additional pounds, pets are less likely to exercise and have shorter endurance when they do. And it becomes a vicious cycle where it is quite difficult to lose the extra weight. Cats who are overweight are much more likely to develop Diabetes. This is a life threatening condition and requires special food and twice daily insulin injections to treat. These fat cats are also at a higher risk of developing Hepatic Lipidosis. This is a condition caused by a decrease in eating, like being sick for another reason and losing their appetite, being lost without access to food, or a sudden diet. The liver tries to mobilize fat stores to feed the hungry body, and becomes overwhelmed by fat, unable to perform it's other duties and the cat becomes gravely ill. This condition is treated by force feeding or placing a stomach tube, and not all cats will survive.
In dogs, being overweight predisposes them to certain types of tumors, called lipomas or liposarcomas. These can be invasive, and most require surgery to remove. Heart Disease is also a common problem brought on by extra pounds. The heart has to work harder and fight the increased pressure in the vessels, which leads to valvular problems and the heart muscle being overworked and enlarging. Pulmonary distress is a problem as well. Too much fat compresses the chest and takes up space that the lungs should be using. The trachea can also be under pressure, and they may cough and be short of breath becasue of this. Dogs can suffer from Diabetes as well as cats due to being overweight. The fat cells are less sensitive to the effects of insulin, and more and more insulin in required to lower blood glucose, until their body cannot do the job alone. These dogs are also difficult to treat, requiring insulin injections and often other therapies as well.
So when we bring up the subject of weight in the exam room, know that we are doing our job by looking out for your pet's health. We care about their quality of life and longevity, and know that extra weight will shorten the time you will spend together. Teaming up, we can work out a plan for weight loss and diet change to restore your pet's ideal weight and avoid some of these major medical issues.
Stay tuned for the next post where we will discuss body condition scoring, and you can determine where your pet ranks!
The Holidays and Your Pet
The holidays are a fun and busy time for all of us, and most of us don't really think about what this time of year means for our pets. All the new decorations, wrappings, candy and feasts bring with them special challenges for the animals in your house.
Cats love to play, and the bright shiny ornaments hanging from the tree are almost irresistible. They will bat and grab the ornaments, especially the low ones, so plan ahead and put the soft, non-breakable ones down there. Your fragile family heirlooms should be placed much higher and out of reach on the tree, or displayed safely somewhere else. Tinsel poses a special risk as well. Both dogs and cats are attracted to the shiny stuff, and because of it's static electricity it sticks well to noses. Most animals will then try to lick it off, and end up eating it. For cats, even one strand can be a problem and get wound up in the intestines. The ribbons that so many pretty packages are decorated with pose another risk to cats. Some love to chew on them, and can end up ingesting them. Long stringy things eaten by cats are a major cause of intestinal obstruction. So keep both the tinsel and ribbons out of their reach!
Any gifts of food wrapped up under the tree are easy for dogs to sniff out. Whatever is in there is not likely dog food, plus all the packaging that may or may not be consumed with the food can lead to trouble. Sausages and cheese are high fat foods, and can induce pancreatitis, a dangerous and life threatening disease of dogs(and cats). Chocolates are another common offender, and in addition to being high fat, contains theobromine, the ingredient that can be toxic to animals. It may not be polite, but it is wise to ask if any gifts are perishables or could be something your pet might eat, before putting them under the tree.
We all like to give treats to our pets, but think twice before giving them handouts from the holiday table. So many things we eat this time of year are not good for our pets. Anything high in fat, particularly animal fat, can induce pancreatitis. This is a life-threatening inflammation of the pancreas, a digestive juice secreting organ. Each year we treat lots of animals for this condition, and each year many die from this horrible disease. Also, keep the poultry bones, and any other small bones, safely out of your pets' reach. These can be pretty rough on the inside of their digestive tract, or even get stuck and puncture a hole in them. If you feel the urge to give your pet a snack, keep some kitty treats or dog biscuits at the ready.
So remember to keep your pets safe this holiday season, so they are around next Christmas as well! Happy Holidays!
Birth of a calf
Why should you have your cattle pregnancy checked? This question can be answered by asking a few more simple questions: Do you know what your costs are to feed each cow through the winter? What price do you get when selling a calf? Or, how much do you spend on a replacement heifer? If you know these numbers, you know the value of pregnancy testing. An open cow is an expense versus an investment.
By having your cows checked for pregnancy, you can make management decisions in the fall before feeding expensive hay through the winter. If a cow is open after bull exposure all summer, she probably isn't one you want to keep in your herd. Not only is she eating the same amount of food as the others, but she likely has a fertility issue that you don't want to support. Cows that are difficult to get pregnant or have trouble maintaining a pregnancy are a problem in your herd. Fertility is a heritable trait, and you want animals that reliably come in pregnant, year after year. By knowing their pregnancy status after several months of bull exposure, you can decide what to do with the cows that are open, or aren't in the calving window you are planning on.
Around here, most cows are bred to calve in the spring. Which means fall is the time for pregnancy checking. Another reason to have your cows go through the chute is the opportunity to vaccinate and deworm. After coming in from being on pasture all summer is a great time to get rid of the intestinal parasites your cows may have picked up. They will maintain their weight more easily and have a better haircoat without worms. Take this opportunity to booster their vaccines as well. By doing this, you are reminding her body of the diseases you previously vaccinated for, and her calf will benefit from this through the colostrum. Always read vaccine labels before vaccinating any cows, but especially pregnant ones.
Knowledge is power, and in this case, money!
When you go to the doctor (especially after a certain age) what is one thing it seems they always want to do? Bloodwork. Before any procedure, if you aren't feeling well, and sometimes just because it has been a year. Well, your pets are no different. Labwork helps us identify anything that may be out of the ordinary on the INside of your pet. We can check liver function, kidney function, electrolyte balance, protein levels, number of red blood cells and white blood cells, just to name a few. What we especially like to know, is if there is anything we need to know BEFORE we anesthetize your pet for any procedure. We offer bloodwork in our clinic, and can usually have the results in about 30 minutes. We can do this the morning of surgery or dental cleaning, and have the results before we even sedate your dog or cat. This helps us know if anything in our protocols should be changed, or maybe even cancelled due to abnormalities in your pet's internal systems. I can think of 2 specific incidences where there was a vastly different outcome because of knowing lab results prior to anesthesia.
The first was about 14 years ago while practicing in Arizona. The clinic had a young white purebred puppy come in to be neutered. He was anesthetized and his surgery seemed to go fine. He was sent home that afternoon still a little groggy. The owners called the next day and he was not feeling well and was vomiting. They were told it was likely the anesthesia making him naseous and to keep an eye on him. The next day was no better, and he returned to the clinic. He was treated with fluids to help rehydrate him, and sent home. Finally a few days later he seemed to be feeling better. One month down the road he ate something he shouldn't have, and vomiting had to be induced. At the time, salt was recommended, and he vomited up the offending candy. For the next several days he vomited off and on and felt terrible. Finally he seemed to turn the corner and improve. Two weeks later the owners brought him back to the clinic because he was laying around all the time and drinking and peeing a lot. Bloodwork was done then, and that 7 month old puppy was in kidney failure!! He lived about one more month and then had to be euthanized.
The second case was just a couple months ago. A young female mixed breed dog came in to be spayed. We did some pre-anesthetic labwork and found very elevated liver enzymes. This little dog's liver was working too hard and had something wrong with it. Instead of going ahead with the spay, we performed some additional bloodwork that we sent into the lab. She went home just as happy and perky as when she came in, and all we did that day was draw blood.
The biggest difference between these two cases was the labwork that was or was not done before the surgery. In the first case, we went ahead with anesthesia which compromised the already ailing kidneys and in all liklihood hastened the progression of his kidney failure. The second case has yet to play out to the end, but by knowing what was going on inside, we avoided doing any harm to the puppy. Pre-anesthetic labwork is an amazing and valuable tool to the pet, the owner, and the veterinarian. That is why we recommend it with any surgery.
Allergies in Pets
Frequent are the days we get questions about certain behaviors in dogs and cats that we nod about and think, ahh... allergies. The signs of allergies in pets are different than they are in people, but if you know what to look for they definitely have signs! Most contact allergies(like to plants, pollens, dust mites) are displayed by your pet scratching at his ears, licking his feet, or scooting on his bottom. Sometimes they may develop rashes on the abdomen or inside of the legs. Ear infections are common in pets with allergies, as are discolored feet from all the licking going on.
Allergies can be seasonal in pets, just like people. When this is the case, we know it is an environmental allergy. Dogs' allergies typically get worse with age, and may progress from seasonal to year-round.
Allergies are the result of an overactive immune system, which is responding to things which are normal in the environment. This response leads to inflammation, which causes the signs mentioned above. Because this is an immune system related issue, it can be genetic, and be passed on from parents to offspring. We also see an increased incidence of allergies in certain breeds, typically those breeds that are or have been quite popular and were bred in great numbers at the height of popularity. Golden Retrievers are one of the breeds with an increased rate of allergies.
Sometimes other health problems can look like allergies. For instance, dogs with hypothyroidism are much more likely to display signs that appear allergy related, because of the effects of thyroid hormone on skin. Correcting the underlying problem and then re-evaluating the allergies is the best way to go. This is why a thorough checkover is important before a diagnosis can be made.
Pets can also have food allergies, which are a bit harder to pinpoint. Oftentimes this will present as vomiting frequently, a poor hair coat, diarrhea or soft stools, or maybe just a thin animal. Sometimes owners will change the food and the signs will stop for awhile, and then start again after the pet has been on the new food for some time.
In the past few years there have been great advances in the field of allergy testing. Now we can send in a blood sample and get a pretty good idea of what your pet is allergic to. Especially with food allergies, this test is quite accurate. Once we have the results from the allergy test, we can proceed in a couple different ways. If it is an environmental allergy, hyposensitization therapy is answer. This is a form of treatment where a solution is made of the allergens your pet reacted to, and it is given as an injection over a period of time. Typically at the start of treatment the injections are more frequent, and then taper off somewhat as the treatment continues. Most animals respond very well to this treatment, and within a couple months the signs of allergies lessen and disappear. If the allergy test results show a food allergy, we have a different route of treatment. Depending on what exactly your pet is allergic to, there are several different foods available. There are limited ingredient foods, like duck and potato or venison and pea, where the idea is to avoid the specific ingredients your pet has problems with. And then there are some animals that are allergic to most ingredients and need a food where all the proteins are broken down to such a small size that the body cannot recognize them. These are called hydrolized protein diets, and are not allergenic at all.
Allergies can take many different forms and your pet may give you a variety of clues. If you have hayfever, keep an eye on your pet for some of these signs. If you see them, it is probably time for a visit to the vet!
Interestingly, when we used to do skin testing, about 1/3 of dogs were allergic to human dander. Hmmm...
Choosing a puppy
When deciding on a new puppy for you or your family, there are many factors to take into consideration. The first is the role the new dog will play in your life. Will it be a working dog? A companion? A kid's dog? Will it be indoors or out? What size dog do you want- small, medium, large? How about hair coat- short hair, long, shedder or not? Will it need to be groomed or brushed, and who is going to do that? How active do you want your new pet to be- chasing cows, a running partner, or a couch partner to watch TV? These are important factors to take into consideration before deciding on a breed of dog. If it is going to be a working dog, that narrows it down a bit based on the job you expect it to do, but chances are you will still have multiple breeds to choose from. If you are just looking for a buddy, breed won't be as important, and you could check your local shelter. If you plan on getting the puppy from a breeder, there is a whole new set of questions to ask! As a rule, breeders charge more money for the puppies, and you expect a more consistent puppy. It is ideal to be able to meet the parents of the litter, and if that is possible, take the opportunity. You will also want to know if the parents have had any certifications- like for eyes, hips or other joints. These are great indicators of how likely the puppy is of developing certain problems like hip dysplasia or retinal blindness. Certain breeds have a higher incidence of certain problems than others, so it is important to do some breed research. Unless you plan to show your new dog, you don't necessarily need registration papers. And don't assume registered dogs equal quality dogs, the AKC (American Kennel Club) has breed standards that may not be based on the health of the animal. The temperament of the parents and the puppy is important, based on your plans for the new dog. If you want a good hunter or herding dog, you wouldn't want to pick a timid puppy. If there are children in the house, bring them with you to meet the puppies and make sure the puppy is interested in the kids and not afraid of them. Another factor to consider is the longevity of the dog. Smaller dogs and certain breeds tend to live to a ripe old age, and it pays to consider where you plan on being in 10, even 15 or more years from now.
All this time and planning before hand will definitely pay off in the future, as you bond with your new puppy and forge a new life together. You will be glad you took the time to find the right dog to fit in your life!
Here are some resources to help narrow your choices: The Eukanuba Breedmatch, The Animal Planet dog breed selector, Select Smart, and the Dog Breed Info Center.
Rabies In Our Animals
It seems like a good time to talk about Rabies, with the increasing number of wildlife exposures we have seen lately. Rabies is a viral disease transmitted by mammals to other mammals via bodily secretions. The most common means of transmission is through saliva, by which exposure is usually through a bite wound. It is recommended that all pets be vaccinated for Rabies, and livestock as well in endemic areas(where there are a significant number of rabid animals each year). Rabies vaccination is important for your pet because if an unvaccinated animal contracts rabies it is always fatal- your pet will die from it. There is also the public health concern, anyone exposed to an animal with rabies must receive the post-exposure vaccination series. This is a painful series of shots usually given in the abdomen. Animal health workers and veterinarians should receive the pre-exposure vaccine series early in their careers, and have titers monitored periodically over the years. This means if we are exposed, we just receive a booster vaccine vs. the whole series.
If your pet is bitten by a wild animal or another animal, they are potentially at risk for exposure. If the wild animal can be caught or killed, the health department will perform testing on the head to confirm the Rabies status of the animal. If the animal is not available to be tested, and your pet is vaccinated, the sheriff will put your pet under quarantine. This quarantine can be at home or at an approved facility, is up to the sheriff and dependent on the facilities available. This quarantine usually lasts 10 days, but may be adjusted under different circumstances. If your animal is not vaccinated for Rabies and is bitten by a wild animal, again the sheriff becomes involved, but this time the pet can be euthanized and tested for rabies or put under a strict quarantine that can last up to 180 days. By law, we as veterinarians are required to report any suspected wild animal bites we see in pets.
It is definitely in your pets' best interest to be vaccinated against Rabies as soon as possible in life, which is at four months of age. Both cats and dogs should be vaccinated. The first Rabies vaccine is good for one year, and subsequent vaccines are good for three years in Colorado. In some states with a higher incidence of rabies the vaccine is only valid legally for one year. Here on the western slope, we do not have terrestrial Rabies- which is to say it is not an endemic disease in our walking wild animals. Bat Rabies does exist, however. On the eastern slope, terrestrial Rabies is a concern. Many of you may remember the Rabies outbreak near Black Forest last summer which affected several people and animals, and was eventually linked to a horse that had been bitten by a skunk. In conclusion, protect your pets, use caution around wild animals, and contact us if you have any questions or concerns. You can also watch the following video produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association for more information.
Caseous Lymphadenitis (CL) is a disease caused by the Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis organism. It causes abscessing in lymph nodes, which then rupture and spread the disease in the environment. This is a serious management issue in sheep and goat production, and until now the only vaccine available was licensed for sheep only. Texas Vet Labs has come out with a new vaccine for goats, which is conditionally approved on a state by state basis, and is available in Colorado . This means that now there are options for protecting your animals, especially if you have any that travel to shows, or buy and sell animals and frequently have animals coming and going.