Thursday, January 30, 2014

Pet Health #39- Vomiting and Diarrhea

A wide variety of underlying factors can cause vomiting and/or diarrhea in both dogs and cats.  To narrow down possible causes, look at some important elements in the pet’s history.  These include:

Age- The list of underlying causes in a young, healthy animal is different than the list in an older animal.
Overall health of the animal- Any additional symptoms, such as listlessness or anorexia.
Indoor vs. Outdoor pet- Possible exposure to toxins.
Frequency of vomiting
Presence of blood in vomitus

Potential causes of vomiting and/or diarrhea in puppies/kittens:

1) Foreign Body- This is one of the first things to rule out because puppies and kittens are notorious for eating things that they shouldn’t.
2) Intestinal Parasites- This is a very common cause of diarrhea in young animals.  In addition, a high worm burden will sometimes cause vomiting.
3) Toxin Ingestion- Several house plants will cause vomiting if ingested.  Additional toxins include: chocolate, ethylene glycol, and rat bait.
4) Viral Infection- In a puppy, it is important to rule out the possibility of a viral infection such as Parvovirus or Distemper virus.
5) Diet- An abrupt change in food or if the puppy/kitten eats something outside of their normal diet, especially something high in fat, can cause vomiting.

Potential causes of vomiting and/or diarrhea in older dogs/cats:
1) Stress- Older animals become much more sensitive to changes in their environment.  If the animal has been placed under increased stress in the environment, this can cause vomiting and/or diarrhea.  The diarrhea will often be blood tinged.
2) Food Sensitivity- This can be due to a change in diet or sometimes dogs/cats will develop sensitivity to their regular food as they age.  The most common symptom is chronic unexplained vomiting.
3) Underlying health issue-  In older dogs/cats it is very important to rule out the possibility of an underlying health issue, such as pancreatitis, renal disease, or liver disease.
4) Foreign Body- This includes hairballs for cats.

5) Toxin Ingestion- Several house plants will cause vomiting if ingested.  Additional toxins include: chocolate, ethylene glycol, and rat bait.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Pet Health Tip #38- Allergies in Cats

Just like with dogs, there are several allergens that can cause allergic reactions in cats.  However, the symptoms shown in cats are a little different than in dogs.  Cats are more prone to showing respiratory symptoms, including: runny nose, runny eyes, coughing, and wheezing.  This is because cats are more sensitive to inhaled allergens than dogs.

Food Allergens:  Cats can be allergic to ingredients in commercially available cat foods, such as fish, corn, chicken, wheat, and soy.  Cats with food allergies will often develop dermatitis (inflammation of the skin) around the face and ears.  However, the skin lesions can occur anywhere.  Similar to dogs, diagnosis of food allergies is done by putting the cat on a restricted ingredient diet for several months to see if the skin lesions clear up.

Generalized Allergens:  Several allergens can cause reactions in cats.  These include, dust, mold, pollen, fleas, and cigarette smoke.  Cats who are exposed to cigarette smoke will often develop asthma and have difficulty breathing.  In addition to the respiratory symptoms, cats can also develop localized inflammation of the skin that causes the cat to continuously groom that area.  This is usually on the belly or inside the back legs.  They will often groom themselves to the point of creating severe inflammation of the skin in that area.

Flea allergies cause skin lesions that are referred to as military dermatitis.  These are tiny, scabbed bumps usually located on the face, ears, and rump.

To determine what allergens your cat may be sensitive to, a dermatologist will need to perform intradermal skin testing.  Once you have an idea of what allergens are causing the reactions, you can limit your cat’s exposure to the allergens.  This could include: keeping your cat in a room that is smoke free, treating for fleas, or eliminating possible food allergens from your cat’s diet.  Your cat may also need medications such as oral anti-histamines or steroid injections.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Pet Health Tip #37- Allergies in Dogs

Allergies in dogs can be very frustrating for the owner.  Often the problem is chronic and the best thing you can do is try to control the dog’s reaction to the allergens.  Three types of allergens can affect dogs.  All three types will usually manifest themselves by causing dermatitis (inflammation of the skin).  However, the location, severity, and recurrence of the skin lesions help to narrow down what type of allergen is causing the issue.  Some dogs will also show respiratory symptoms such as runny eyes, coughing, or difficulty breathing.  The three types of allergens are:

Localized (Contact) Allergens:  These are allergens that come into direct contact with the dog’s skin and cause an allergic reaction.  The most common allergens are grass and pollen.  Localized allergens usually cause dermatitis on the dog’s feet or belly.  You will see your dog chewing or licking their feet.  This aggravates and inflames the skin even more, which in turn causes the dog to lick and chew.  It can become a vicious cycle.

The best way to prevent contact allergens is to prevent the contact.  First, make sure the hair on your dog’s feet is clipped short.  The hair can trap the allergen against the skin.  Next, rinse your dog’s feet off when he comes in from being in the grass; or alternatively, have your dog wear booties on his feet when he is outside.  If your dog is severely sensitive to these allergens, then he may require medication, such as anti-histamine or steroid therapy.

Food Allergens:  The most common ingredients in food that dogs are sensitive to are: beef, chicken, pork, wheat, corn, and soy.  However, they can be sensitive to other ingredients as well.  One of the ways to determine if your dog has a food allergy is to note whether or not the skin lesions are present all year round or seasonally.  Due to the fact your dog is exposed to his food all year, these allergies never clear up.  Also, food allergy dermatitis will often cause chronic ear infections because the skin inside the ear is the most sensitive skin on the dog’s body.  Other allergens can cause ear infections, so an ear infection doesn’t guarantee your dog has a food sensitivity, but you would definitely need to rule it out as a possibility.

Diagnosis of a food allergy is done by starting a feeding trial.  A feeding trial involves placing your dog on a very restricted diet consisting of ingredients not found in your dog’s normal diet.  There are commercially available foods for this purpose or a home-made meal can also be used.  The feeding trial needs to be conducted for several months to give the dog’s skin time to heal and for all the allergens to be eliminated from the dog’s system.  It is also very important to cut out treats, table scraps, etc. during the feeding trial to eliminate them as the possible source of the allergens.  Once a diagnosis of food sensitivity has been confirmed, you can try reintroducing your dog to different treats and dog foods to determine which specific ingredients your dog is sensitive to.

Generalized Allergens:  There are a variety of allergens that can cause generalized reactions in dogs.  These include: dust, pollen, dander, fleas, molds, cigarette smoke, cleaning solutions, and shampoos.  Dogs with severe generalized reactions are often sensitive to more than one allergen.  These can be difficult to completely control.  Diagnosis is usually done by a dermatologist who runs a skin test to determine sensitivities to common allergens.  Finding out what allergens your dog is sensitive to is key to being able to control the symptoms.  The more you can limit your dog’s exposure to the allergens, the more successful you will be at controlling your dog’s reactions.

Treatment of generalized sensitivity reactions usually involves multiple steps.  The first step is limiting your dog’s exposure to the allergen; second, use of a topical treatment on the inflamed skin, such as medicated shampoos, steroid sprays, etc.; third, giving oral medications, such as fatty acid supplements, anti-histamines, and/or steroids.  Allergy injections may also be needed to help de-sensitize your dog to the offending allergen.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Sandra's Book Club's review of "Dogs Aren't Men"

Review: DOGS AREN’T MEN by Billi Tiner

Dr. Rebecca Miller is a veterinarian with the “heart as big as Texas.” She loves animals. In fact, she always got along better with animals than people. So who needed a man?

“But dogs aren’t men,” her mother emphasized.  In actuality, dogs might be better than men (I think.) Like Rebecca said, “dogs are a lot easier to please. [Dogs don’t] care that I’m plain and old.” (13)

Then came the good doctor, Derrick…literally, out of nowhere! Twice!

On first impression, Derrick was strikingly handsome, but he was also a selfish louse. It was sad that he didn’t recognize the lady he so rudely bumped into. Still, the man did have a soft spot for animals, which you just couldn’t help but love.

Although awkward at first, the attraction between Rebecca and Derrick was evident. I found myself loving Derrick more in those fleeting moments when he let his guard down and revealed a softer side. Unfortunately, like most of us, Rebecca felt that he was “too perfect” for her. Sure, compared to the blonde, big-breasted women he’s so used to, she was tater tots.

Perhaps, at first, there may have been a few too many characters to keep track of with all the customers that kept bringing their pets in; however, I enjoyed the exasperating mother hell bent on getting her daughter hooked up and hitched before the next full moon.

The story was well-crafted with a blend of drama, humor, and tender affection. It is a sweet, contemporary romance you can’t help but enjoy. You’ll want to snuggle up with your pets when you read this.

A great book for animal lovers!

My rating: 4 stars

Visit Sandra's Book Club here

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Pet Health Tip #36- Skin Tumors

Several types of skin tumors can affect dogs.  Most are benign.  However, some skin tumors are malignant.

The benign tumors are usually slow growing, soft, and free moving; meaning that you can grasp them and move them around under the skin.  Benign tumors include: skin tags, warts, moles, and lipomas.  Skin tags, warts, and moles look similar to the ones we get.  They are unsightly, but harmless.  Lipomas are fatty tumors that are very slow growing and soft.  Lipomas are very common in older, overweight dogs.  They typically don’t cause any problems unless they are located in an area that restricts movement; such as under a front limb.

The most common malignant tumors found under the skin are Mast Cell Tumors and Osteosarcomas.  Both of these tumors are usually fast growing, hard, and attached to the tissue under the skin.

Mast Cell tumors are very common and can be found in all breeds.  However, Boxers, Beagles, and Boston Terriers are the breeds most commonly affected.  These tumors can be found anywhere on the body, but are often located on the limbs.  They can change shape and size very rapidly.  Mast Cell tumors are made up of cells the body uses to respond to inflammation and allergies.  These tumors can release high amounts of these cells into the dog’s body and cause damage to the internal organs.  Some Mast Cell tumors remain localized, but others can metastasize to other regions of the body.  It is very important to have Mast Cell tumors removed and sent for a biopsy to determine the malignancy and risk to the dog’s overall health.

Osteosarcomas are bone tumors.  These tumors are highly malignant.  They are most commonly seen at the elbow, wrist, or shoulder.  However, any bone can be affected.  Limping on the affected limb is usually the first symptom.  However, often times the tumor isn’t noticed until it becomes visible.  At the point when it is visible, there is a 90% chance it has already metastasized to another area of the body, usually the lungs.  Treatment of osteosarcoma is very aggressive and usually involves chemotherapy or radiation.

In conclusion, although there are many types of skin tumors that are benign, it is important to have all tumors examined by your veterinarian, so that treatment of malignant tumors can begin as early as possible.