Pancreatitis in Pets

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Symptoms of pancreatitis include abdominal pain, vomiting, lethargy, and loss of appetite.

Pancreatitis is an increasingly common diagnosed digestive condition in dogs and cats. Causes of pancreatitis include dietary indiscretion or a history of fatty food exposure, infection, trauma, or a history of anesthesia or surgery.  In many pets, pancreatitis may occur for unknown reasons.

Symptoms of pancreatitis include abdominal pain, vomiting, lethargy, and loss of appetite. Pancreatitis may either be acute or chronic in nature, and in some cases diabetes may occur. Diagnosis of pancreatitis includes a full medical workup, including CBC/chemistry, urine analysis and abdominal x rays. In some cases, abdominal ultrasound is needed to define the extent of disease, and to differentiate from other causes of clinical symptoms. The definitive test in dogs is the measurement of a canine specific lipase test, known as a PLI test, which can often be done at the veterinary office. In cats there is also a specific PLI test, but results may take several days to get back

Treatment of pancreatitis involves withholding food for several hours, while IV fluids, antibiotics and injectable pain medications are used. Bland diets are gradually introduced once initial vomiting is under control. Long-term prevention of future relapses involves being consistent with diet, and avoiding feeding pets excessively fatty or greasy table foods.

False Pregnancy in Dogs

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False pregnancies may be seen immediately after the dog's heat cycle

A very common hormonal state seen with intact female dogs is the occurrence of false pregnancies. This will be a time when the intact bitch will often show physical and behavioral changes of being pregnant, even though she has not been actually bred. This may occur when progesterone hormone blood levels are elevated during the diestrus phase of her cycle. During this time the bitch may experience appetite changes, as well as act more withdrawn at times. She will often gather nesting materials from around the house, just as she would if she were actually pregnant. The mammary glands may develop, often becoming engorged with milk, even though there are no puppies waiting to be nursed. Since the average bitch will come into heat or season approximately every 6 months, false pregnancies may be seen immediately following these bleeding periods and may occur several times in the pet’s life until she is either bred and has a litter, or is spayed.

Can Pets Get West Nile Virus?

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Most pets show no signs of infection with West Nile virus

It is possible for dogs and/or cats to become infected with West Nile virus by being bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus. A relatively small number of West Nile virus infected dogs and cats have been reported to the Center for Disease Control. In fact, experimentally infected dogs show no symptoms after infection with West Nile virus.  Some infected cats showed mild, nonspecific symptoms during the first week of infection; usually only a slight fever and lethargy.

Because most pets show no to minimal signs, there is no specific treatment for West Nile virus infection in dogs and cats, and full recovery is expected. There is no documented evidence of dog or cat to person transmission of West Nile Virus. The best prevention is to practice good mosquito control, including using topical products like K-9 Advantix (for dogs only) or topical Revolution in dogs and cats.

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.

The Worm That’s Not a Worm: Ringworm

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Very young or very old pets are more at risk for ringworm.

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog about the variety of different worms that affect pets and their treatment. A day or two later I received a phone call from one of our regular customers who wanted to let me know that although he appreciated my informative blog which discussed roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, and whipworms, he was not too happy that I left out ringworms. I paused for a few seconds and proceeded to explain to our loyal customer that the term “ringworm” is not a parasitic worm at all, but is actually caused by a fungal infection. The fungi live in the follicles and generally create a circular area that does not have hair growing in it; the infection typically looks like a small red, sometimes itchy “ring.”

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Diabetes in Pets

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Being overweight is a risk factor for developing diabetes

Diabetes is one of the more common hormonal disorders seen in feline and canine medicine. Symptoms of diabetes usually include some combination of the following symptoms: Increased thirst/urination (with sometimes inappropriate urination), as well as increased appetite in conjunction with usually weight loss. Risk factors for diabetes include particularly overweight pets, and especially those pets on too high a processed carbohydrate rich dry diet.

While diabetes may occur in pets of any age, it is most commonly seen in middle-aged and older animals. Diagnosis is usually made through a combination of blood work documenting a high blood sugar, as well as elevated sugar measured on a urine analysis. While an occasional pet may be able to be controlled through oral medication, most diabetic animals will typically need some form of injectable insulin in order to lower blood sugar levels and control symptoms. There are many insulin formulations on the market today, including Humulin N, as well as Protamine zinc insulin, which are favorites amongst many veterinarians.

Typically vets will measure serial blood sugars throughout the day periodically to make sure that diabetes control is adequate. While it is always ideal to maintain sugars between 100 and 250, in many cases we simply hope to stabilize symptoms, as well as the weight of the animal. We will also often recommend low-carbohydrate diets. Although many veterinarians will recommend processed prescription diets, I prefer natural ones such as Wysong Epigen or diets such as Evo by Natura.  In the ideal situation, I even prefer that animal guardians consider proper home-made diets, which I find best control the symptoms.

Prognosis for diabetes is usually excellent for control, but rare for cure of the disease, except in certain cats who sometimes will spontaneously resolve on their own. Pets must be monitored closely for the development of diabetic complications, including secondary urinary and other infections which often need to be managed in order to optimally control the disease.

Jaundice in Pets

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There can be many causes of jaundice in pets.

A common symptom of often a serious and severe chronic disease is when a pet presents with jaundice. Jaundice is defined as a yellowing of the mucous membranes of the body, most often apparent on the skin, the whites (sclera) of the eyes, and often in the mouth or gums of affected animals. The presence of jaundice may indicate a severe liver or pancreatic problem, while in other pets it may be part of the clinical signs associated with a blood disorder where the pet is destroying its own red blood cells. Many pets with jaundice apparent on the mucous membranes will also have a yellowing of the urine as well.

Causes of jaundice are quite varied, and may be triggered by toxic causes, viruses, an imbalanced immune system, and even tumors. Any pet with jaundice noted on a physical exam should have a complete medical workup including a full CBC/chemistry blood work, urine analysis, as well as x-rays and ultrasound to look for underlying causes.  Treatment of jaundice in pets will depend upon the specific cause, and the prognosis will depend upon the results of this complete medical workup.

Megaesophagus in Pets

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There are many possible causes of megaesophagus, from genetic in young puppies, to acquired cases in adult pets.

Megaesophagus is a fairly common developmental, as well as acquired, abnormality of the esophagus, where the striated muscle of the esophagus fails to contract and function adequately leading to varying symptoms of regurgitation and reflux. Most commonly, this regurgitation occurs within a short period of eating and/or drinking. It is important to differentiate active retching and vomiting from the more passive process of regurgitation due to esophageal disease.

There are many possible causes of this disease from genetic in young puppies, to acquired cases in adult pets. Some conditions such as hypothyroidism, Myasthenia gravis, and Addison’s disease may cause megaesophagus secondarily. In other cases, trauma or viral infections may be involved. In the vast majority of acquired cases of megaesophagus, however, we do not determine any underlying causes.

Diagnosis of megaesophagus is usually made by x-rays, with sometimes barium studies being helpful in confirming the diagnosis. Treatment may consist of feeding pets from elevated surfaces, as well as symptomatic medications to help promote the forward flow of food including drugs like Metoclopromide, Famotidine, and Prilosec. Prognosis for this disease will be determined by whether an underlying disease process can be identified and treated. However, given that most cases have no underlying causes found, prognosis for a healthy life is often guarded. Many pets will suffer from serious complications such as aspiration pneumonia, which is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in seriously affected pets.

Feline Herpes Virus

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Feline herpes virus is most common in young cats and kittens

Feline herpes virus is one of the more common causes of upper respiratory symptoms in cats of all ages. It is especially common in young cats and kittens in cattery or shelter situations, as well as in those outdoor and often stressed stray cats. Symptoms of feline herpes virus include varying degrees of eye discharge, sneezing and coughing. In severe cases, inflammation of the cornea may occur with sometimes severe ulceration of the cornea with eye spasms and pain being very prominent. In many cases, other viruses including feline leukemia or feline immunodeficiency virus may also occur at the same time, as well as the common development of secondary bacterial infections.

Many veterinarians will often treat with oral or injectable antibiotics to prevent these secondary bacterial infections, as well as topical antibiotics. However, because of the viral nature of this disease, topical antiviral eye drops such as Idoxuridine drops are often indicated, as well as oral viral immune stimulants such as Vetri-DMG liquid and Transfer Factor, which I have found helpful in many cases. Other immune boosting herbs such as echinacea and goldenseal may also be helpful in some cases as well.

In my experience and opinion, I have not found the vaccination for feline herpes viral infection helpful in preventing disease. At best, it may help lessen the severity, but even then I have not found this vaccination that helpful in clinical practice. While most cats will overcome this infection on their own with supportive care, other cats may remain chronic carriers for life, and may be at risk for relapsing or persistent infections of the eyes or airways, particularly under periods of immune or emotional stress.

Campylobacteriosis in Dogs

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Up to 50% of healthy dogs may carry this bacteria in their digestive tract

Campylobacteriosis in dogs is a bacterial infection of the digestive tract most commonly affecting puppies under 6 months of age. In fact, up to 50% of healthy dogs may carry this bacteria in their digestive tract shedding it in the feces when under immune or emotional stress. Campylobacter is most commonly transmitted by ingesting contaminated feces, food or water, and is most often seen in a kennel or crowded situation.

Symptoms of the disease include vomiting, fever, straining to have a bowel movement, as well as loss of appetite. Definitive diagnosis is only possible by special stool cultures done at an outside laboratory. Treatment of Campylobacter involves either IV or oral fluid therapy, as well as appropriate antibiotic therapy to treat the bacterial overgrowth in affected animals. With early diagnosis and treatment prognosis is usually excellent.