Author Archives: Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian

Dr. Michael Dym,  VMD veterinarian

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As a practicing veterinarian, Michael Dym has over 19 years of experience and dedication to enhancing the overall health and well-being of pets. His commitment and passion for pet health continuously drives him to learn more about the art and science of homeopathy through ongoing training and education.

Feline Hyperesthesia

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The cause of feline hyperesthesia is most commonly not known

Otherwise known as rolling skin disease, feline hyperesthesia is believed to be a rare type of seizure disorder in cats. Feline hyperesthesia often occurs as sudden episodes, which may occur frequently throughout the day, or sporadically on a weekly, monthly or less frequent basis.

Symptoms often begin with vocalization and dilated pupils, as well as often a general increase in restless activity. The skin may start twitching and rolling, as well as the cat may begin aggressive behavior that may be directed at the guardian, as well as against itself. I have seen many cats start biting at their own legs or back, as well as biting and attacking the tail. Durations of a feline hyperesthesia episode may vary from seconds to a few minutes, and very often the cat will run through the house in a frightened manner at the conclusion of the episode.

The cause of feline hyperesthesia is most commonly not known, although genetic factors play a role in certain breeds such as in the Burmese, Siamese and Himalayan cats. I have also seen cases of flea and/or food allergies manifest in some cats as feline hyperesthesia syndrome. In these situations, treatment of the flea and/or food allergies may resolve the symptoms. However, in the vast majority of cases, medical management is directed at symptomatically lessening the severity and intensity of these episodes. SSRI drugs including Prozac have been used in many cases, as well as the human drug Gabapentin. Most recently, the anti-anxiety drug Lyrica has also been used in managing cats with feline hyperesthesia.

Pet Reactions to Topical Flea Products

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The most common reactions to topical flea medications experienced by pets are itching and/or irritation at the sight of application

While topical flea products on companion animals have truly revolutionized the war against fleas, the expanded use of these pesticides has also resulted in occasional reactions as well.  Examples of these very effective products include Frontline, Advantage, Revolution and Certifect. Probably the most common reactions experienced by pets are itching and/or irritation at the site of application, including hair loss and excoriation of the underlying skin in certain cases.

Treatment may include application of topical antibiotics and/or cortisone products, as well as considering alternative products should the reactions be severe or recurrent. While topical reactions are not usually very serious, there can also occasionally be more severe systemic reactions that may include lethargy, drooling, digestive upset (vomiting/diarrhea), and even rare neurological reactions such as tremors, hypersensivity to touch,  weak gait, and even seizures. In these latter situations, the animal guardian may consider washing the pet with a mild shampoo.  If the reactions continue, then a veterinary exam and evaluation is recommended. While these reactions are not common, veterinary stabilization may be needed including blood work, and supportive IV fluid therapy and medical support until the reactions subside.

Pets that experience reactions to the topical products may benefit from oral pest control products such as Program, Sentinel, Comfortis and Trifexis.  More natural flea and tick preventative measures should be considered including the use of diatomaceous earth and topical essential oils, as well as natural products such as Wondercide and Cedarcide

Pets and Snake Bites

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Snake encounters can be quite common in dogs and cats during the warmer months

During the warmer months, encounters with snakes can be quite common in dogs and cats. A snake bite is always considered an emergency, even if it is from a non-venomous snake. Symptoms of potential snake bites in pets include single or multiple painful puncture wounds, localized or generalized swelling, bruising and/or bleeding at the site of the snake bites, as well as sometimes pus and/or changes in the surrounding tissue. Shortness of breath and weakness may also occur. In severe cases, organ failure including renal failure may occur.

If you suspect your pet may have had a snake bite, applying cold compresses to the area may be helpful; however, any further treatments, such as bleeding the wound or sucking out venom or using tourniquets around the limb should be avoided until veterinary assessment and evaluation is done. The pet’s activity should be limited. If the bite occurred around the neck, the collar should be immediately removed as well.

There are several prevention tips that can help prevent snake bites during the warmer seasons.  Keeping pets on a leash, especially when walking off of main roads and paths is certainly recommended. Yards should be kept clean of excessive bush growth, as well as kept free of toys and tools that snakes like to hide in. Make sure that there is no spilled food, bird seed or fruit in the areas around the home, which can attract both rodents and snakes.

Inappropriate Elimination in Cats: Causes and Treatments

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A cat that stops using the litterbox should have a full medical workup

One of the most common and frustrating problems facing feline veterinarians is when cats stop using the litterbox to urinate and/or defecate. In fact, inappropriate elimination is one of the most common reasons that feline guardians may give up their cats to adoption or even euthanize their pets in certain circumstances. The problem is even more troublesome in multi-cat homes, where solutions to this problem can be even more difficult to find.

The first step in evaluating a cat that is no longer using the litterbox is to have a full medical exam, as well as diagnostic testing to include possibly urine analysis for urinary tract inflammation/infection, as well as fecal analysis for gastrointestinal parasites. If a pet is middle-age or older, a blood CBC/chemistry and thyroid test may also be indicated. These workups allow for detection of medical problems that may cause inappropriate urination and/or defecation.

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Over-Grooming In Cats

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Over-grooming, or "barbering" is a frustrating skin problem seen in many feline companions

A frustrating skin problem seen in many feline companions is when they over-groom and/or pull their hair out. This may occur on any part of the body, but most commonly occurs on the belly and flank regions. Many times there will be no other primary skin lesions or eruptions, but just the presence of the barbered and shortened hair. Any cat presenting with this condition should have a full skin workup, including possibly skin scrape for mites, evaluation of hairs for external skin parasites including fleas and lice, as well as a thorough dermatologic history to assess for possibly underlying inhalant/contact allergies and/or food allergies.

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Your Dog Missed A Dose Of Heartworm Medicine…Now What?

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Most monthly heartworm medications offer coverage for heartworm prevention beyond the typical 30 days.

A common question clients often ask is what they should do if they missed a dose of heartworm medicine: Should they have their pet tested first before giving another pill?  The answer to this question is no.  Fortunately, most monthly heartworm medications do offer coverage for heartworm prevention beyond the typical 30 days. The product Sentinel,  for example, is  often effective for 45 days, while Heartgard or Iverhart may be effective for up to 2 months; therefore, animal guardians can simply often resume giving the preventative at the appropriate time the next month.

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Transdermal Medications for Pets

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Transdermal medications are absorbed through the skin

With increasing numbers of oral medications prescribed to our pets, animal guardians are often faced with the difficult task of getting their pets to take all of the prescribed medications. This is especially problematic with smaller dogs and fractious cats. In these cases, animal guardians often end up wearing much of the medications, or spilling them in attempting to get their pets to take them. Even more frustrating is when discreet pets will often not take their medications in treats, cream cheese, peanut butter, and even pill pockets. Because of these circumstances, veterinary pharmacists have developed the use of transdermal medications as an alternative to oral medications in our pets.

Transdermal pet medications are typically applied to the ears or flanks of the animals, and contain a special vehicle which allows for absorption through the skin and into the capillaries and subsequently into the blood stream. These types of medications have been a godsend to many animal guardians. I have especially found this way of administration useful for pain medications in dogs and cats, as well as the thyroid drug Tapazole in cats, which can often be difficult to administer to these older cats.

The jury is still out on whether other topical medications are absorbed as well through the skin as through the oral route, so I still typically reserve my use of transdermal medications to topical opioid pain medications in dogs and cats, as well as Tapazole in hyperthyroid cats.

Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections in Pets

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Recurrent urinary tract infections are common in dogs

Recurrent urinary tract infections are common in dogs and less so in cats, but can be frustrating causes of urinary tract symptoms in our companion animals. Symptoms may include painful or difficult urination, increased frequency of urination, inappropriate urination, as well as bloody urination.

The most common cause of recurrent urinary tract infections in pets is inadequate length of appropriate antimicrobial therapy when treating initial infections. While many veterinarians will dispense 7-10 days of an antibiotic, I find it more helpful to administer antibiotics for 2 to 3 weeks, even in a first time infection to make sure the infection is eradicated. If a flare-up recurs in the future, I will often culture the urine to check for resistant bacterial overgrowth, as well as to help guide my antibiotic therapy. A full exam to check for anatomic problems of the penis or perivaginal area, where often extra skin folds exist, or poor vaginal conformation may be present, which may predispose to relapsing urinary infections. X-rays are also often indicated to rule out urinary tract stones, as well as sometimes ultrasound to assess for any bladder polyps or tumors, especially in older pets.

In cats who have had repeated catheterization for urinary tract blockages, recurrent urinary tract infections are common, as it is in cats who have had perineal urethrostomy surgeries for such blockages. In these cases, periodic urine analyses and urine cultures are indicated to monitor for relapse and to allow us to institute prompt antibiotic therapy when indicated.  In those cases where no predisposing causes can be found in pets with recurrent urinary infections, options include pulse antibiotic therapy the first 5 days of every month, or even low dose chronic evening antibiotic therapy to keep infections in check.

A consultation with a homeopathic vet ( may help address dietary and immune system issues, and will often allow us to strengthen the pet’s health and minimize relapses.

Does Your Pet Need a Biopsy?

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A needle biopsy usually does not require anesthesia or sedation

When growths, tumors, lumps or bumps are found on our pets it is often necessary for veterinarians to perform a biopsy to determine a specific diagnosis. When possible, veterinarians will often try and obtain the biopsy with a needle and syringe in what is known as a needle biopsy. This procedure usually does not require anesthesia or sedation, and is performed by aspirating cells from the growth and examining them on a microscope either directly in the veterinary office or sent to an outside laboratory.

Needle aspiration often allows veterinarians to make tentative diagnoses of tumors such as benign soft fatty tumors known as lipomas, mast cell tumors, as well as malignant lymphomas. In order to make a definitive diagnosis, however, an excisional biopsy either ultrasound guided or at surgery is necessary.  These types of biopsies are often necessary to stage the tumor, as well as provide useful information in guiding treatment.

Fractured Canine Teeth in Dogs

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It is not uncommon for dogs to fracture a canine tooth

It is not uncommon for large breed dogs in particular, to fracture their canine teeth. This will often happen during rough play or possibly when chewing on harder bones or other hard objects including rocks, stones, sticks, etc. Occasionally, blunt trauma to the face and/or dog fights may also be possible causes of the fracture of these sharp teeth in a dog’s mouth. The degree of discomfort of a fractured canine tooth will depend upon how deep into the tooth the fracture goes; if the fracture extends through the pulp and/or root of the tooth, these will typically be more painful.

Treatment of fractured canine teeth may or may not be necessary, as I will often leave the tooth alone if it is not painful and the fracture not deep. In other cases, sedation and complete tooth and root extraction is necessary to prevent secondary infection as well as persistent pain. In these cases, we will often use oral antibiotics for 7-10 days, as well as oral pain medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like Rimadyl or Metacam during this time to reduce swelling and oral discomfort after tooth removal.

In holistic veterinary practice, I find the homeopathic remedies arnica and hypericum in 30c potency given once or twice daily for a few days also helpful in reducing pain naturally in those clients who prefer a more holistic approach.