Canine Whipworm Infection

What are whipworms?Whipworms are intestinal parasites. They are about 1/4-inch long and live in the cecum and colon of the dog, where they cause severe irritation to the lining of those organs. This results in watery, bloody diarrhea, weight loss and general debilitation. Whipworms are one of the most pathogenic (harmful) worms found in dogs, but are quite rare in our area. How did my dog get whipworms?Whipworms pass microscopic eggs in the stool. These eggs are very resistant to drying and heat, so they can remain viable in the dog's environment for years. As they mature, they are able to reinfect the dog within 10 to 60 days. When the eggs are swallowed, they return to the lower intestinal tract to complete the life cycle. How is whipworm infection diagnosed?Whipworms are diagnosed with a microscopic examination of the stool. However, multiple samples are often required because these parasites pass small numbers of eggs on an irregular basis. Any dog with chronic diarrhea can be reasonably suspected to have whipworms, regardless of several negative stool examinations. Because of this, it is an accepted practice to treat for whipworms based on assumption of infection. Response to treatment is an indication that whipworms were present but could not be detected on fecal examination. How are whipworms treated?There are several effective drugs available to treat whipworms. Two treatments are needed at a three- to four-week interval, but because reinfection is such a problem, it is advisable to treat again every three to four months. Alternatively, you may put your dog on a heartworm prevention product that defends against whipworms after the initial treatment. Whipworms are not nearly as common now because of widespread use of these types of products. Can I get whipworms from my dog?No. Whipworms are not infectious to people. See Feline Whipworm Infection
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Canine Vomiting

What causes vomiting?Vomiting is not a disease; rather, it is a symptom of many different diseases. Many cases of vomiting are self-limiting after a few days. Less commonly, vomiting may result from a serious illness, such as cancer. Even vomiting caused by mild illnesses may become fatal if treatment to prevent severe fluid and nutrient loss is not started soon enough. How serious is vomiting in dogs?Severity depends on how sick the dog has become as a consequence of the vomiting. When the dog is systemically ill (i.e., more than one body system is involved), some of the following may be noted:DiarrheaDehydrationLoss of appetiteAbdominal painHigh feverLethargyBloody vomit What types of tests are performed to find the cause?If vomiting is associated with several of the above signs, a series of tests may be performed. These diagnostic tests include radiography (X-rays) with or without barium, blood tests, stool cultures, biopsies of the intestinal tract and exploratory abdominal surgery. Once the diagnosis is known, treatment may include special medications and/or diets or surgery. If your dog does not appear systemically ill from vomiting, the cause may be less serious. Some minor causes of vomiting include stomach or intestinal viruses, intestinal parasites and dietary indiscretions (such as eating garbage or other offensive or irritating materials). A minimal number of tests are performed to rule out certain parasites and infections. These cases may be treated with drugs to control the motility of the intestinal tract or relieve inflammation in the intestinal tract, as well as a restricted diet for a few days. This approach allows the body's healing mechanisms to correct the problem. We expect to see improvement within two to four days. If this does not occur, a change in medication or further tests may be performed to better understand the problem. See Feline Vomiting
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Canine Tapeworm Infection

What are tapeworms?The most common tapeworm affecting dogs and cats is called dipylidium caninum. This parasite attaches to the small intestinal wall by hook-like mouth parts. Though tapeworms are actually made up of many small segments—each measuring about 1/8-inch long—adult tapeworms may reach up to eight inches in length. As the adult matures, the individual segments break off from the main body of the tapeworm and pass into the dog’s feces.Occasionally, the mobile segments can be seen crawling near the anus or on the surface of a fresh bowel movement. These segments look like grains of rice and contain tapeworm eggs, which are released into the environment when the segment dries. The dried segments are small (about 1/16-inch long), hard and golden in color. These dried segments can sometimes be seen stuck to the hair around the dog's anus.A less commonly found tapeworm, called echinococcus, also occurs in dogs.How did my dog get tapeworms?In order for a dog to become infected with tapeworms, he/she must ingest a flea that contains tapeworm eggs. This process begins when tapeworm eggs are swallowed by flea larvae (an immature stage of the flea). Contact between flea larvae and tapeworm eggs is thought to occur most frequently in contaminated bedding or carpet. Next, the dog chews or licks his/her skin as a flea bites and the flea is then swallowed. As the flea is digested within the dog’s intestine, the tapeworm hatches and anchors itself to the intestinal lining.A dog becomes infected with echinococcus when he/she eats a small mammal, usually a rodent, that contains the worm. Foxes and coyotes (and the wild rodents upon which they prey) are important in the life cycle of this parasite.What kind of problems do tapeworms cause for the dog?Tapeworms are not highly pathogenic (harmful) to your dog, but may cause debilitation and weight loss when they occur in large numbers. Occasionally, the dog may scoot or drag his/her anus across the ground or carpet because the segments are irritating to the skin in this area. The adult worm is generally not seen, but the white segments which break away from the tapeworm and pass outside the body rarely fail to get an owner's attention! Occasionally, a tapeworm will release its attachment in the intestines and move into the stomach. This irritates the stomach, causing the dog to vomit the worm. When this happens, a worm several inches in length will be seen.How is tapeworm infection diagnosed?An infection with dipylidium is usually diagnosed when the white, mobile segments are seen crawling on your dog or in the stool. Tapeworms are not usually detected by the routine fecal examination performed by the veterinarian. Because of this, veterinarians depend on the owner to notify them of possible tapeworm infection in the dog.Echinococcus infections are harder to diagnose because the segments are small and not readily seen. How are tapeworms treated?Treatment is simple and very effective. A deworming medication that kills the tapeworms is given, either orally or by injection. It causes the tapeworm to dissolve within the intestines. Since the worm is usually digested before it passes, it is not visible in your dog's stool. These drugs should not cause vomiting, diarrhea or any other adverse side effects. Flea control is very important in the management and prevention of tapeworm infection. Flea control involves treatment of your dog, as well as the indoor and outdoor environment where the dog resides. If the dog lives in a flea-infested environment, reinfection with tapeworms may occur in as little as two weeks. Because the medication that treats tapeworm infection is so effective, return of the tapeworms is almost always due to reinfection from the environment. How can I tell tapeworms from pinworms?Tapeworms and pinworms look very similar. However, contrary to popular belief, pinworms do not infect dogs or cats. Any worm segments seen associated with dogs are due to tapeworms. Children who get pinworms do not get them from dogs or cats. Are canine tapeworms infectious to people?Yes, although infection is not common or likely. A flea must be ingested for humans to become infected with the most common canine tapeworms. Most reported cases have involved children. The most effective way to prevent human infection is through aggressive and thorough flea control. The risk for infection with this tapeworm in humans is quite small, but does exist. Echinococcus tapeworms are of more concern. These tapeworms cause a very serious disease when humans become infected. Hunters and trappers in the North Central region of the United States and the South Central region of Canada may be at risk for infection if strict hygiene is not observed. Rodent control and good hygiene are important in preventing the spread of this disease to humans. As with the more common tapeworm, infection with echinococcus is infrequent but possible. What can be done to control tapeworm infection in dogs and prevent human infection?Effective flea control is key.Prompt deworming should be given when parasites are detected and periodic deworming may be appropriate for pets at high risk for reinfection.All pet feces should be disposed of promptly, especially in yards, playgrounds and public parks.Strict hygiene is important, especially for children. Do not allow children to play in potentially contaminated environments. See Feline Tapeworm Infection
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Seizures in Dogs

What is a seizure?Seizures are one of the most frequently seen neurological problems in dogs. A seizure is also known as a convulsion or fit. It may have all or any combination of the following:Loss or derangement of consciousnessContractions of all the muscles in the bodyChanges in mental awareness from non-responsiveness to hallucinationsInvoluntary urination, defecation or salivationBehavioral changes, including non-recognition of owner, viciousness, pacing and running in circles What are the three phases of a seizure?Seizures consist of three components.The pre-ictal phase, or aura, is a period of altered behavior in which the dog may hide, appear nervous or seek out the owner. He/she may be restless, nervous, whining, shaking or salivating. This may last a few seconds to a few hours. The ictal phase is the seizure itself and lasts from a few seconds to about five minutes. During this period, all of the muscles of the body contract strongly. The dog usually falls on his/her side and seems paralyzed while shaking. The head will be drawn backward. Urination, defecation and salivation often occur. If it is not over within five minutes, the dog is said to be in status epilepticus or prolonged seizure.During the post-ictal phase, there is confusion, disorientation, salivation, pacing, restlessness and/or temporary blindness. There is no direct correlation between the severity of the seizure and the duration of the post-ictal phase. Is the dog in trouble during a seizure?Despite the dramatic signs of a seizure, the dog feels no pain, only bewilderment. Dogs do not swallow their tongues. If you put your fingers into the dog's mouth, you will do no benefit to your pet and will run a high risk of getting bitten. The important thing is to keep the dog from falling and hurting him/herself. As long as he/she is on the floor or ground, there is little chance of harm occurring.If seizures continue for longer than a few minutes, the body temperature begins to rise. If hyperthermia develops secondary to a seizure, another set of problems may have to be addressed. What causes seizures?There are many causes of seizures. Epilepsy is the most common and of least consequence to the dog. The other extreme includes severe diseases, such as brain tumors. Fortunately, most are due to epilepsy. Now that the seizure is over, can anything be done to understand why it happened?When a seizure occurs, we begin by taking a thorough history, concentrating on possible exposure to poisonous or hallucinogenic substances or history of head trauma. We also perform a physical examination, a basic battery of blood tests and an electrocardiogram (EKG) if heart disease is suspected. These tests rule out disorders of the liver, kidneys, heart, electrolytes and blood sugar level.  If these tests are normal and there is no exposure to poison or recent trauma, further diagnostics may be performed depending on the severity and frequency of the seizures. Occasional seizures are of less concern than seizures that become more severe and frequent. In the instance of frequent or severe seizures, a spinal fluid tap and fluid analysis may be performed. Depending on availability, specialized imaging of the head with a CAT scan or MRI might also be performed. Fortunately, these additional tests are usually not needed. What can be done to prevent future seizures?We generally prescribe one to two weeks of anticonvulsant therapy after a seizure; if the dog does not have any more seizures during that time, the anticonvulsants are gradually discontinued. The next treatment is determined by how long it takes for another seizure to occur, which could take days, months or years. At some point, many dogs have seizures frequently enough to justify continuous anticonvulsant therapy. Since that means that medication must be given every 12 to 24 hours for the rest of the dog's life, we do not recommend it until seizures occur about every 30 days or unless they last more than five minutes. It is important to avoid sudden discontinuation of any anticonvulsant medication. Even normal dogs may be induced to seizure if placed on anticonvulsant medication and then abruptly withdrawn from it. Your veterinarian can outline a schedule for discontinuing the medication. Could other drugs be tried to treat or prevent seizures?Some dogs with seizures are known to have non-suppurative meningoencephalitis. This is a disease that causes inflammation in the brain and surrounding tissues. The illness is not caused by infection, but usually responds well to corticosteriods. Therefore, these may be tried when an anticonvulsant is not effective. The only way to make a confirmed diagnosis of non-suppurative meningoencephalitis is with an autopsy.  What is status epilepticus?Status epilepticus bears special note. It is characterized by a seizure that lasts more than five minutes. When it occurs, the dog's life is endangered. Unless intravenous medication is given promptly, the patient may die. If this occurs, you should seek treatment by a veterinarian immediately. See Seizures in Cats
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Canine Roundworm Infection

What are roundworms?As the name implies, these are worms that have round bodies. On average, they are about three to five inches long. They live in the dog's intestines and consume partially digested food. Unlike hookworms, they do not attach to the intestinal wall; rather, they literally swim in their food. Sometimes called ascarids, roundworms pass tiny eggs into the dog's stool. Like hookworm eggs, these must be found with a microscope. How did my dog get roundworms?A mother dog who has had roundworms at any time in the past can transmit them to her puppies before birth. This is true even if the mother tests negative for roundworms because the larvae (immature worms) encyst in the mother's muscle tissue and are not detected by our tests for adult worms. Another major source of roundworm infection for puppies is the mother's milk. Roundworm larvae may be present in the mother's mammary glands and milk throughout the nursing period. Both puppies and adult dogs may become infected by swallowing roundworm eggs, which contain infective larvae. The larvae hatch out in the dog's stomach and small intestine and migrate through the muscle, liver and lungs. After several weeks, the larvae make their way back to the intestine to mature. When these worms begin to reproduce, new eggs will pass in the dog's stool and the life cycle of the parasite is completed. Roundworm eggs passed in one dog's stool may be infectious to other dogs. Interestingly, a large number of other animal species have been found to harbor roundworms and represent potential sources of infection for dogs as well. These include cockroaches, earthworms, chickens and rodents. What kinds of problems do roundworms cause for my dog?Roundworms are not highly pathogenic (harmful) to adult dogs, but large numbers can cause weight loss and a pot-bellied appearance in puppies or otherwise weak dogs. Decreased appetite, vomiting or diarrhea will be observed on occasion. Puppies sometimes die with serious roundworm infections. How is roundworm infection diagnosed?Roundworms are diagnosed by a microscopic examination of the dog's stool. These worms pass a moderate number of eggs, so examination of more than one stool sample may be necessary to find them. Occasionally, mature worms can be found in the dog's stool or vomit. How are roundworms treated?Treatment is quite simple. Several very safe and effective drugs are available to kill roundworms in the intestine. Some of these drugs temporarily anesthetize the worms so that they pass out of the dog with a normal bowel movement. The live or dead worms are found in the stool. Because of their large size, they are easily seen. At least two or three treatments are needed and are typically performed at two- to four-week intervals.However, none of these treatments will kill the immature forms of the worm or the migrating larvae. The eggs are highly resistant to common disinfectants and even to harsh environmental conditions. Therefore, removal of the dog's stool is the most effective means of preventing reinfection. A one percent solution of household bleach can be used to remove the sticky outer coating of the eggs, making it easier to rinse them away. This will not kill the eggs, however. Remember the obvious limitations about where bleach may be safely applied. Are canine roundworms infectious to people?Yes. The roundworms of both dogs and cats pose a health risk for humans. As many as 10,000 cases of roundworm infection in humans have been reported in a single year. Children, in particular, are at risk for health problems should they become infected.A variety of organs may be affected as the larvae migrate through the body. In suitable environments, the eggs may remain infective to humans (and dogs) for years. What can be done to control roundworm infection in dogs and to prevent human infection?Pregnant bitches should be dewormed in late pregnancy to reduce potential contamination of the environment for newborn puppies.All new puppies should be treated by two to three weeks of age. To effectively break the roundworm life cycle, puppies should be dewormed on the schedule recommended by your veterinarian.Prompt deworming should be given when any parasites are detected. Periodic deworming may also be appropriate for dogs at high risk for reinfection. Adult dogs remain susceptible to reinfection with roundworms throughout their lives.Dogs with predatory habits should have a fecal examination several times a year. Rodent control is desirable since rodents may serve as a source of roundworm infection for dogs.Prompt disposal of all dog feces is important, especially in yards, playgrounds and public parks.Strict hygiene is especially important for children. Do not allow children to play in potentially contaminated environments.Most heartworm prevention products contain a drug that will prevent roundworm infections. However, these products will not kill the adult roundworms so they must be treated separately if present. See Feline Roundworm Infection
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Canine Ringworm Infection

What is ringworm?Ringworm is a skin disease caused by a fungus. Because the lesions are often circular, it was once thought to be caused by a worm curling up in the tissue, but this disease actually has nothing to do with worms! Instead, ringworm is an infection in the dead layer of the skin, hair and nails. The fungus is able to utilize this dead tissue, called keratin, as a source of nutrition. Ringworm is also known as dermatophytosis. Four different species of fungi can cause dermatophytosis in dogs.  What are the clinical signs?The fungi that cause ringworm live in hair follicles and cause the hair shafts to break off at the skin line. This usually results in round patches of hair loss. As the fungus multiplies, the lesions may become irregularly shaped and spread over the dog's body. The incubation period is 10 to 12 days. This means that exposure to the fungus and establishment of infection occurs 10 to 12 days before any lesions occur. How is ringworm diagnosed?Canine ringworm can be diagnosed by four different methods. In some cases, more than one technique is used.Identification of typical "ringworm" lesions on the skin: This is the least accurate method since other skin diseases may have the same appearance.Examination of the hair under a microscope: Some of the fungal elements, such as spores, can visualized with this technique.Fluorescence of infected hairs under a special light: This screening test is useful because Microsporum canis will sometimes fluoresce as a bright apple green color under ultraviolet light. However, failure to fluoresce does not eliminate ringworm as a potential diagnosis.Culture of the hair: This method is the most accurate way to diagnose canine ringworm infection. After some hair is plucked from a lesion on the skin, it is placed on a special gel (culture media) to watch for fungus growth. The color of the gel will also change from yellow to red as the fungus grows. These cultures are checked daily. Most dogs with ringworm will have a positive culture within 10 days, but in rare cases, growth may not occur for 14 to 21 days. How is it transmitted?Transmission occurs by direct contact between infected and non-infected individuals. It may be passed from dogs to cats and vice versa. It may also be passed from dogs or cats to humans and vice versa. If your child has ringworm, he/she may have acquired it from your pet or from another child at school. Adult humans usually are resistant to infection unless there is a break in the skin, but children are quite susceptible. If you or your family members have suspicious skin lesions, see your family physician. Transmission may also occur from the infected environment. The fungal spores may live in bedding or carpet for several months. They may be killed with a dilution of one pint chlorine bleach per gallon of water where it is feasible to use it. How is it treated?There are several means of treatment. The specific method(s) chosen for your dog will depend on the severity of the infection, how many pets are involved, if there are children in the household and how difficult it will be to disinfect your pets' environment. These include:Griseofulvin: This antifungal medication is concentrated deep in the hair follicles, where it can reach the site of active fungal growth. Griseofulvin should be given daily. Dogs with active lesions should receive the tablets for a minimum of 30 days. At that time, your dog should be rechecked to be sure the infection is adequately treated. These tablets are not absorbed from the stomach unless there is fat in the stomach at the time they are given. This can be accomplished by feeding a high-fat diet, such as a rich canned dog food or a small amount of fat trimmings from meats (often available at the meat departments of local grocery stores upon request) or by allowing the dog to drink some rich cream. This is the most important part of treatment. If you are not successful in giving the tablets, please call us for help. If you are aware of fat consumption having caused a problem for your dog in the past or if your dog has had an episode of pancreatitis, bring this to our attention immediately.Topical antifungal medication: Apply one of these products to the affected areas once daily for 10 days. Do not risk getting it in your dog's eyes by treating lesions very near the eye.Baths using an antifungal shampoo: A bath should be given three times on an every other day schedule. Bathe exposed but unaffected pets once. These baths are important in getting the spores off the hairs so they do not drop into the environment and result in re-exposure. A lather should be formed and left on for five to 10 minutes before rinsing. Be aware that antifungal shampoos alone cannot be expected to provide a cure but are useful in the overall treatment plan.Lime sulfur dip: This should be done twice weekly for the first two weeks, then once weekly for four to six weeks. Lime sulfur dip should also be applied to other pets (dogs or cats) in the household to prevent them from being affected. If they develop ringworm lesions, they should begin on griseofulvin. Use gloves when applying the dip. This is an effective form of treatment, but the dip has an objectionable odor and can tarnish jewelry.Shaving of the dog's hair: This will remove the infected hair. We recommend this only when the infection is extensive. A total clipping of the dog’s hair coat used to be considered standard practice. In some cases, this may still be advantageous; however, it may not be necessary in every case. Some studies have suggested that clipping may cause microscopic nicks in the skin and serve to further inoculate ringworm into the skin. Also, clipper blades can spread the fungus between dogs. Clipping is most likely to be of help with long-haired dogs and in households where more than one pet is infected. What should I expect from treatment?Treatment will not produce immediate results. The areas of hair loss will get larger before they begin to get smaller. Within one to two weeks, the hair loss should stop, there should be no new areas of hair loss and the crusty appearance of the skin should subside. If any of these do not occur within two weeks, your dog should be rechecked. How long will my dog be contagious?Infected pets remain contagious for about three weeks if aggressive treatment is used. Contagion will last longer if only minimal measures are taken or if you are not faithful with the prescribed approach. Minimizing exposure to other dogs or cats and to your family members is recommended during this period. I have heard that some dogs are never cured. Is this true?When treatment is completed, ringworm should be cured. Although a carrier state can exist, this usually occurs because treatment is not long enough or aggressive enough or because there is some underlying disease compromising the immune system. See Feline Ringworm Infection
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Recommended Preventative Care for Dogs

Regular preventative care is essential to promoting the long-term health and well-being of your pet. At The Drake Center, we recommend:Annual fecal exam for screening of intestinal parasitesMany intestinal parasites can be detected with a microscopic examination of a small stool sample. An annual fecal exam allows for rapid diagnosis and treatment if parasites are present. Most dogs with parasites have normal stool.Annual heartworm infection testingHeartworms are parasites that live in a dog’s heart or pulmonary arteries. An annual blood test is recommended to ensure your pet is not infected.Annual Bordetella (kennel cough) vaccineThis intra-nasal vaccine should be administered to puppies and boostered regularly in adult dogs. The vaccine may need to be given every six months for dogs that frequent boarding or daycare facilities.Annual Leptospirosis vaccineAnnual boosters of the Leptospirosis vaccine will keep your dog immune to this re-emerging disease. Lepto is transmitted by wildlife, including rats, and can be fatal to dogs and humans.Distemper vaccine every three yearsThis vaccine should initially be administered in a series to puppies at one year of age. Revaccination should occur every three years.Parvovirus vaccine every three yearsThe canine parvovirus vaccine should initially be administered in a series to puppies prior at one year of age. Revaccination should occur every three years. Parvo is a severe and often fatal intestinal virus.Rabies vaccine every three yearsThis vaccination is required by law in California for all dogs. Revaccination should occur every three years.Regular blood work and urine screening testsWe recommend one blood panel and urine screening test on each pet before six months of age and then every one to two years as needed. We recommend annual labs for all dogs over eight years of age.Monthly flea and internal parasite controlWe recommend Sentinel for life. This will protect your dog against fleas, intestinal parasites and heartworms. Adulticide flea control may be used as needed. Tick control should also be used for pets that frequent hiking trails or other wooded areas.Regular home dental careDaily brushing is recommended for the health and maintenance of your dog’s teeth. In addition, a thorough COHAT dental cleaning is recommended for most pets by three to four years of age.
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Rabies in Dogs

.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; } What is rabies? Rabies is a disease caused by a virus that attacks the brain. It can affect any warm-blooded animal, including dogs and humans. It is almost always fatal. What are the signs? There are three stages of the disease. The first is the “prodromal” phase, in which there is a marked change in temperament. The quiet dog becomes agitated and the active dog becomes nervous or shy. Other signs include dilated pupils, excessive drooling and snapping at imaginary objects. After two or three days, the second phase begins. This is called the “excitatory” phase, meaning there is an exaggerated response to any stimulus. Dogs may experience bizarre changes in appetite, including eating or swallowing sticks, stones and other objects. The dog may roam aimlessly, inflict trauma upon him/herself and have a change in voice. He/she will often demonstrate vicious, aggressive behavior, even towards his/her owner. Seizures may also occur. The third phase is called the “dumb” phase, in which the dog becomes extremely depressed. His/her mouth may gape open with the tongue protruding. A progressive paralysis sets in resulting in total body paralysis. What happens next? Ultimately, the dog dies. Although a few, rare dogs have survived rabies, these are clearly exceptional cases. How do I know if a dog has rabies? There are a number of diseases that can cause some of the signs of rabies and a few conditions can be very similar. Confirmation of rabies can only be made with special tests performed on brain tissue. This requires that the dog be euthanized and the brain be sent to a special diagnostic laboratory. Can I contract rabies? Yes. Rabies is transmitted by the bite of a rabid animal to another mammal. If you are bitten by any animal you do not know, immediately wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water. Try to establish the owner of the animal and whether the pet is currently vaccinated for rabies. In any case, seek the advice of your physician. Post-exposure rabies treatment with serum or vaccination may be recommended. This is very successful when done quickly. Which wild animals are most likely to carry rabies? All mammals can catch rabies, but some are more susceptible than others. Foxes, skunks, raccoons and bats are particularly prone to rabies. One should also be very careful if any wild animal seems overly approachable or aggressive. Should I get my dog vaccinated? Absolutely. Rabies vaccines are very safe and effective. Vaccination is recommended for all dogs and required by law in many states, including California. Vaccination for rabies is usually performed at three to four months of age, and then every one to three years thereafter(depending on the vaccine and local laws).
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Puppies: Recommendations for New Owners

Congratulations on your new puppy! Owning a dog can be an extremely rewarding experience, but it also requires a great deal of responsibility. We hope this document will give you the information you need to live a healthy and fulfilling life together. First, let us say how grateful we are that you have chosen The Drake Center to aid in your puppy's care. If you have questions concerning his/her health, please feel free to call us at (760) 456-9556. Our entire professional staff are available to help. What type of play should I expect from a puppy? Stimulating play is important during the first week. Stalking and pouncing are important play behaviors in puppies and are necessary for proper muscular development. If given a sufficient outlet for these behaviors with toys, your puppy will be less likely to use family members for these activities. The best toys are lightweight and movable and always under supervision. Any toy that is small enough to be swallowed should be avoided. What are some tips for successful puppy training? Train early, practice often and socialize, socialize, socialize. Stick with positive reinforcement training. Reward behaviors you want repeated and manage your puppy's environment in order to prevent opportunities for unwanted behavior. Remove reinforcement to stop or decrease behavior. Teach alternative behaviors for behaviors you want to change. Finally, find a trainer both you and your puppy like. When should my puppy be vaccinated? We have the ability to prevent many canine illnesses—including fatal diseases—through the use of vaccines. In order to be effective, these vaccines must be given as a series of injections. Ideally, the vaccines are given every three weeks until the puppy reaches four months of age. However, this schedule may vary depending on several factors. The routine vaccination schedule will protect your puppy from several diseases, including distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza virus, parvovirus and rabies. Optional vaccinations also may be appropriate for certain dogs. Your puppy should receive a kennel cough (bordetella) vaccine if a trip to a boarding kennel is likely or if the dog will be placed in a puppy training class. We also strongly recommend vaccination for leptospirosis, a re-emerging disease that is potentially fatal to both dogs and humans. Why does my puppy need more than one vaccination? When a puppy nurses his/her mother, he/she receives a temporary form of immunity through the mother's milk. This immunity is in the form of proteins called antibodies. For about 24 to 48 hours after birth, the puppy's intestine allows absorption of these antibodies directly into the blood stream. This immunity is of benefit during the first few weeks of the puppy's life, but eventually the immunity fails and the puppy must be able to make his/her own long-lasting defense against disease. Vaccinations are used for this purpose. As long as the mother's antibodies are present, vaccinations do not have a chance to stimulate the puppy’s immune system. The mother's antibodies interfere by neutralizing the vaccine. Many factors determine when the puppy will be able to respond to the vaccinations. These include the level of immunity in the mother dog, how many of the antibodies have been absorbed and the number of vaccines given to the puppy. Since we do not know when an individual puppy will lose the short-term immunity, we give a series of vaccinations. We hope that at least two of these will fall in the window of time when the puppy has lost immunity from its mother but has not yet been exposed to disease. A single vaccination, even if effective, is not likely to stimulate long-term immunity. The rabies vaccine is an exception to this, since one injection given at the proper time is enough to produce long-term immunity. Do all puppies have worms? Intestinal parasites are common in puppies. Puppies can become infected with parasites before they are born or later through the mother's milk. The microscopic examination of a stool sample will usually help us to determine the presence of intestinal parasites. We recommend this exam for all puppies. Even if we do not get a stool sample, we recommend the use of a deworming product that is safe and effective against several common worms in the dog. We do this because our deworming medication has no side effects and because worms do not pass eggs every day, so the stool sample we have may not detect worms that are really present. Deworming is done immediately and repeated in about three weeks. It is important to repeat this treatment because the deworming medication only kills adult worms. Within three to four weeks, the larval stages will have become adults and will need to be treated. Dogs remain susceptible to reinfection with hookworms and roundworms; therefore, periodic deworming throughout the dog's life may be recommended for dogs that go outdoors. Tapeworms are the most common intestinal parasite of dogs. The eggs of the tapeworm live inside fleas. Puppies become infected with these worms when fleas are accidentally ingested upon licking or chewing the skin. The flea is digested within the dog's intestine and the tapeworm hatches, anchoring itself to the intestinal lining. Therefore, exposure to fleas may result in a new infection that can occur in as little as two weeks. Dogs infected with tapeworms will pass small segments of the worms in their stool. These segments are white in color and look like grains of rice. They are about 1/8-inch long and may be seen crawling on the surface of the stool. They may also stick to the hair under the tail. If this occurs, the worms will dry out, shrink to about half their size and become golden in color. Tapeworm segments do not pass every day or in every stool sample; therefore, inspection of several consecutive bowel movements may be needed to find them. We may examine a stool sample in our office and not find them, but you may find them the next day. If you find them at any time, please notify us so we may provide the appropriate treatment. What about heartworms? Heartworms are important parasites, especially in certain climates. They can live in your dog's heart and cause major damage to the heart and lungs. Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes, so your dog does not have to be in contact with another dog to be exposed. Fortunately, we have medication that will protect your dog from heartworms. These drugs are safe and very effective if given regularly. One product is a daily chewable tablet that your dog should eat like a treat. Two other products are oral tablets that are given only once monthly. We recommend the product that is most likely to be given on a regular basis. It is important to note that having a long hair coat or staying primarily indoors does not protect a dog against heartworm infection. Heartworm preventatives are dosed according to your dog's weight. As the weight increases, the dosage should also increase. Please note the dosing instructions on the package, but keep in mind that these products are very safe. You could overdose your dog by two or three times the recommended dose without causing harm. Therefore, it is always better to overdose rather than underdose. What should I feed my puppy? Diet is extremely important in the growing months of a dog's life and there are two important criteria that should be met when selecting food for your puppy. We recommend a NAME-BRAND FOOD made by a national dog food company (not a generic or local brand) as well as a formula MADE FOR PUPPIES. This should be fed until your puppy is about 12 to 18 months of age, depending on his/her size. We recommend that you only buy food with an Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) certification. Usually, you can find this information very easily on the label. AAFCO is an organization that oversees the entire pet food industry. It does not endorse any particular food, but it will certify that the food has met the minimum requirements for nutrition. Most of the commercial pet foods will have the AAFCO label, whereas generic brands often do not. In Canada, look for foods approved by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA). Feeding a dry, canned or semi-moist form of dog food is acceptable. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Dry food is the most inexpensive and preferred brands of dry food are just as nutritious as other forms. As a rule, most veterinarians will recommend dry food for your puppy. Semi-moist and canned foods are considerably more expensive than dry food. They often are more appealing to the dog's taste; however, they are not more nutritious. If you feed a very tasty food, you are running the risk of creating a dog with a finicky appetite. In addition, many semi-moist foods are high in sugar. Table food is not recommended. Because human food is generally very tasty, dogs will often begin to hold out for these special treats and not eat the well-balanced dog food. If you choose to give your puppy table food, be sure that at least 90 percent of his/her diet is good quality commercial puppy food. We enjoy a variety of things to eat in our diet. However, most dogs actually prefer not to change from one food to another unless they are trained to do so. Do not feel guilty if your dog is happy to just eat one food day after day, week after week. Commercials for dog food can be very misleading. If you watch carefully, you will notice that most commercials promote dog food on one basis—taste. Nutrition is rarely mentioned. Most "gourmet" foods are marketed to appeal to owners who want the best for their dogs; however, these diets do not offer the dog any nutritional advantage over a good quality dry food and they are far more expensive. If your dog eats a gourmet food for a long period of time, he/she will likely not be happy with any other foods. Therefore, if your dog needs a special diet due to a health problem later in life, he/she will probably be very unlikely to accept it. How often should I feed my puppy? There are several “right” ways to feed a puppy. The most popular method is commonly called "meal feeding." This means that the puppy is fed at specific times of the day. A measured amount of food should be offered four times per day for five- to 12-week-old puppies. What is not eaten within 30 minutes should be taken up. If the food is eaten within three to four minutes, the quantity is probably not sufficient. Puppies fed in this manner generally begin to cut themselves out of one of those meals by three to four months of age and perhaps another one again later. If a meal is ignored for several days, it should be discontinued. “Free feeding” means that food is available at all times. This works especially well with dry foods for some dogs. Other dogs may overeat and become obese. If there are signs of weight gain after the puppy's optimal weight is reached, this method of feeding should be discontinued. How do I housetrain my new puppy? Housetraining should begin as soon as your puppy enters the new home. How long the training must continue depends on the puppy and on you. It is important to remember that your dog wants to please you, but a puppy's memory is short, so your patience is key. A home with a poorly-trained puppy is not a happy home for you or your dog. Make a box for your puppy's bed. It should be open at one end and slightly larger than the puppy. If the bed is too large, the puppy may defecate or urinate in a corner rather than go outside. If the bed is smaller, the puppy will do his/her business outside rather than soil the bed. Enclose the bed in a small area, such as a laundry room. Cover this area with newspapers to be used at night or whenever your pup is left unsupervised. The secret to housetraining is a scent post. A scent post is created when your puppy has an accident. The challenge is to locate the scent post in a desired place. To create a scent post, leave wet paper or a smear of stool from the last accident on clean paper in the desired place and coax or scoot the puppy to that area. The same is true of an outside scent post. This should be done without paper and in an unused place in the yard. This will solve the "minefield" problem. First thing in the morning, the puppy should be scooted to the scent post. This is so he/she can learn his/her way to the door and the scent post. Let the puppy sniff about. The moment he/she has eliminated, pat him/her on the head and immediately bring him/her into the house. Do not let the puppy play. The elimination period and play period should be separate in the puppy's routine. The puppy should then be fed. In a short while, the puppy will become uneasy and walk in circles sniffing at the floor. The puppy should then be scooted and coaxed to the scent post as quickly as possible. This routine should be repeated every hour or two throughout the day, especially after meals and naps. When the puppy is taken out to play, it is wise to leave the house by another door and avoid taking him/her near the scent post. Never play with your pup until after he/she has been taken out and has eliminated. There will, of course, be some accidents in the house. Never let one of these slip by unnoticed. If you catch your puppy "in the act," clap your hands to interrupt him/her, then calmly pick up your puppy and place him/her in the appropriate elimination location. Scrub the area thoroughly until all odor is gone. Sprinkle the area with vinegar or even treats. Dogs don't like to eliminate where they eat! Positive reinforcement of proper urine and bowel habits is just as important as proper discipline. When your puppy urinates or defecates in the correct place, spend several minutes stroking and praising him/her. How do I ensure that my puppy is well socialized? The socialization period for dogs is between four and 12 weeks of age. During that time, the puppy is very impressionable to social influences. If the puppy has good experiences with men, women, children, cats and other dogs, he/she is likely to accept them throughout life. If the experiences are absent or unpleasant, the puppy may become apprehensive or adverse to any of these people or animals. Therefore, during the period of socialization, we encourage you to expose your dog to as many types of social events and influences as possible. What can be done about fleas on my puppy? Fleas may not stay on your puppy for long; occasionally, they will jump off and seek another host. Therefore, it is important to kill fleas on your new puppy before they can become established in your house. Many of the flea control products that are safe on adult dogs are not safe for puppies less than four months of age. Be sure that any flea product you use is labeled safe for puppies. If you use a flea spray, your puppy should be sprayed lightly. This trick to spraying a puppy will make the outcome safer and more successful: When a puppy is sprayed, the fleas tend to run away from the insecticide. If you spray the body first, many fleas will run to the head where they are very difficult to kill. The best method is to spray a cotton ball then use that to wipe the flea spray onto the puppy’s face, from the nose to the level of the ears. This will keep you from getting spray in the eyes and will cause the fleas to run toward the body. Wait about two minutes, then spray the back of the head and the body. Leave the spray on for about three minutes, then wipe off the excess. This will permit you to kill the most fleas while putting the least amount of insecticide on the puppy. For long-term flea control in puppes, we recommend using one of four products on a monthly basis. All are safe to use in puppies over eight weeks of age. Sentinel is a combination of long-term flea protection and an antiparasitic medication that prevents heart, whip, round and hookworms. It is available in a monthly flavored tablet and is our primary recommendation for all dogs. Program is an insect growth inhibitor that kills fleas in the egg and larvae stage, helping to prevent mature fleas. It is available in a monthly tablet. Revolution is a monthly topical treatment that prevents adult fleas and ear mites, as well as round, hook and heartworms. Parastar is another monthly topical that kills adult fleas and prevents development of immature flea stages like eggs and larvae. My puppy seems to be constantly chewing. Why does this occur? For many owners, chewing is an undesirable characteristic in a puppy, but it is a perfectly normal behavior. The puppy’s baby teeth are present by about four weeks of age. These teeth begin to fall out at four months of age and are replaced by the adult teeth by about six months of age. Therefore, chewing is a behavior that you can expect until about six or seven months of age. It is important that you do what you can to direct your puppy’s chewing toward acceptable objects. You should provide items such as rawhide or nylon chew bones so other objects are spared. My puppy has episodes of hiccupping and a strange odor to his/her breath. Are these normal? Yes. Many puppies experience episodes of hiccupping that may last several minutes. This is normal and will not last but a few weeks or months. All puppies have a characteristic odor to their breath that is commonly called “puppy breath.” It is also normal and will last only until the puppy matures. Can I trim my puppy's nails? Puppies have very sharp nails. They can be trimmed with your regular fingernail clippers or with nail trimmers made for dogs and cats. If you take too much off the nail, you will get into the blood vessel or quick, causing bleeding and pain. If this happens, neither you nor your dog will want to do this again. Therefore, a few points are helpful: If your dog has clear or white nails, you can see the pink of the quick through the nail. Avoid the pink area and you should be out of the quick. If your dog has black nails, you will not be able to see the quick, so only cut a very small amount of the nail at a time until the dog begins to get sensitive. The sensitivity will usually occur before you are into the blood vessel. With black nails, it is likely that you will get too close on at least one nail. If your dog has some clear and some black nails, use the average clear nail as a guide for cutting the black ones. When cutting nails, use sharp trimmers. Dull trimmers tend to crush the nail and cause pain even if you are not in the quick. You should always have styptic powder available. If you have cut into the puppy's quick, this powder will help to stop the bleeding. Styptic powder is sold in pet stores under several trade names, but it will be labeled for use in trimming nails. What are ear mites? Ear mites are tiny parasites that live in the ear canal of dogs and cats. The most common sign of ear mite infection is scratching of the ears. Sometimes the ears will appear dirty because of a black material in the ear canal. This material is sometimes shaken out. The instrument we use for examining the ear canals, an otoscope, has the necessary magnification to allow us to see the mites. Sometimes, we can find the mites by taking a small amount of the black material from the ear canal and examining it with a microscope. Although they may leave the ear canal for short periods of time, ear mites spend the vast majority of their lives within the protection of this canal. Transmission generally requires direct ear-to-ear contact. Ear mites are common in litters of puppies in which the mother has ear mites. Ear infections may also cause the production of a dark discharge in the ear canals. It is important that we examine your puppy to be sure the black material is due to ear mites and not infection. Why should I have my female dog spayed? Spaying offers several advantages. The female's heat periods result in about two to three weeks of vaginal bleeding. This can be quite annoying if your dog is kept indoors. Male dogs are attracted to this from blocks away and, in fact, seem to come out of the woodwork to find her. Your dog will have a heat period about every six months, and in many cases, despite your best efforts, the female will become pregnant. Spaying is the removal of the uterus and the ovaries. Therefore, heat periods no longer occur and unplanned litters of puppies are prevented. It has also been proven that as the unspayed female gets older, she has an increased chance of developing breast cancer and uterine infections. Spaying your dog before she has any heat periods will virtually eliminate this possibility. If you do not plan to breed your dog, we strongly recommend that she be spayed before her first heat period. This can be done anytime after she is four months old. Why should I have my male dog neutered? Neutering offers several advantages. Male dogs attracted to a female dog in heat will go through many avenues to find her. Male dogs are also more aggressive and likely to fight, especially with other male dogs. Neutering is the removal of the testicles. As male dogs age, the prostate gland frequently enlarges and causes difficulty urinating and defecating. Intact males are also often more prone to developing infections (prostatitis) or cancer (prostatic adenocarcinoma). Neutering will greatly reduce the incidence of these diseases. This surgery can be performed any time after the dog is four months old. If I choose to breed my female dog, when should that be done? If you plan to breed your dog, she should have at least one or two heat periods first. This will allow her to physically mature, allowing her to be a better mother. We do not recommend breeding after five years of age unless she has been bred prior to that age. Having her first litter after five years of age increases the risk of problems during the pregnancy and/or delivery. Once your dog has had her last litter, she should be spayed to prevent the reproductive problems older dogs often develop. Can you recommend something for pet identification? The latest in pet retrieval and identification is microchipping. This tiny device is implanted with a needle, so the process is much like getting an injection. Our scanner, as well as scanners at humane societies and animal shelters across the country, can detect these chips. A national registry permits the return of microchipped pets throughout the United States and Canada. Are there any emergency tips that I should know? Listed below are some common emergency situations you should be aware of. Hit by car: Let your dog stand up by him/herself. If he/she cannot, transfer him/her to a hard board for transporting. Apply pressure to wounds with soft gauze. Keep your dog warm to prevent shock. An injured dog may bite, even people that he/she knows very well. Use caution for the safety of both you and your dog. Seek medical attention immediately. Overheating: If you suspect your dog has collapsed from heat stress, begin by treating him/her with a cool water bath, fans, cold compresses or ice packs. Seek medical attention immediately. Minor burns: Treat with cool water and seek medical attention.
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Canine Parvovirus Infection

What is parvo?Canine parvovirus (CPV) infection is a relatively new disease that first struck the canine population in 1978. Because of the severity of the disease and its rapid spread, CPV has aroused a great deal of public interest. The virus that causes the infection is very similar to feline distemper and the two diseases are almost identical. Therefore, it has been speculated that the canine virus is a mutation of the feline virus. However, that has never been proven. How does a dog get CPV?The causative agent of CPV disease, as the name infers, is a virus. The main source of this virus is the feces of infected dogs. The stool of an infected dog can have a high concentration of viral particles. Susceptible animals become infected by ingesting the virus. Subsequently, the virus is carried to the intestine, where it invades the intestinal wall and causes inflammation. Unlike most other viruses, CPV is stable in the environment and is resistant to the effects of heat, detergents and alcohol. CPV has been recovered from dog feces even after three months at room temperature. Due to its stability, the virus is easily transmitted via the hair or feet of infected dogs, as well as contaminated shoes, clothing and other objects. Direct contact between dogs is not required to spread the virus. Dogs that become infected and show clinical signs will usually become ill within seven to 10 days of the initial infection. How does this disease affect the dog?The clinical manifestations of CPV disease are somewhat variable, but generally take the form of severe vomiting and diarrhea. The diarrhea may or may not contain blood. Additionally, affected dogs often exhibit a lack of appetite, depression and fever. It is important to note that many dogs may not show every clinical sign. Vomiting and diarrhea are the most common signs, and vomiting usually begins first. Parvo may affect dogs of all ages, but is most common in dogs less than one year of age. Young puppies less than five months of age are often the most severely affected and the most difficult to treat. How is it diagnosed?The clinical signs of CPV infection can mimic other diseases causing vomiting and diarrhea, making it difficult to diagnose. The positive confirmation of CPV infection requires the demonstration of the virus in the stool or the detection of anti-CPV antibodies in the blood serum. Occasionally, a dog will have the infection but test negative for virus in the stool. Fortunately, this is not a common occurrence. A tentative diagnosis is often based on the presence of a reduced white blood cell count, also known as leukopenia. If further confirmation is needed, stool or blood can be submitted to a veterinary laboratory for more tests. However, the absence of a leukopenia does not always mean that the dog cannot have CPV infection.  Can it be treated successfully?There is no treatment to kill the virus once it infects the dog. However, the virus does not directly cause death; rather, it causes loss of the lining of the intestinal tract. This results in severe dehydration, electrolyte (sodium and potassium) imbalances and infection in the bloodstream (septicemia). When the bacteria that normally live in the intestinal tract are able to get into the blood stream, it becomes more likely that the animal will die. The first step in treatment is to correct dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. This requires the administration of intravenous fluids containing electrolytes. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs are given to prevent or control septicemia. Antispasmodic drugs are used to inhibit the diarrhea and vomiting that perpetuate these problems. What is the survival rate?Most dogs with CPV infection recover if aggressive treatment is used and if therapy is begun before severe septicemia and dehydration occur.For reasons not fully understood, some breeds—most notably the Rottweiler—have a much higher fatality rate than other breeds. Can parvo be prevented?The best method of protecting your dog against CPV infection is proper vaccination. Puppies receive a parvo vaccination as part of their multiple-agent vaccine given at eight, 12 and 16 weeks of age. In some situations, veterinarians will give the vaccine on two-week intervals and an additional booster at 18 to 20 weeks of age. After the puppy series of vaccinations, all dogs should be boostered at least once a year. Dogs in high exposure situations (kennels, dog shows, field trials, etc.) may be better protected with a booster every six months. Pregnant bitches should be boostered within two weeks of whelping in order to transfer protective antibodies to her puppies. The final decision about a proper vaccination schedule should be made by your veterinarian. Is there a way to kill the virus in the environment?The stability of CPV in the environment makes it important to properly disinfect contaminated areas. This is best accomplished by cleaning food bowls, water bowls and other contaminated items with a solution of 1/2 cup chlorine bleach per gallon of water. It is important that chlorine bleach be used because most "virucidal" disinfectants will not kill canine parvovirus. Does parvovirus pose a health risk for me? How about for my cats?At the present time, there is no evidence to indicate that CPV is transmissible to cats or humans.
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Osteoarthritis

What is arthritis?The term arthritis literally means joint (arthr-) inflammation (-itis). It is a general term that describes a variety of diseases that are characterized by inflammation within the joint. This inflammation results in chronic degeneration of joint cartilage and the adjacent bone. Since joint cartilage serves a vital function in the lubrication and cushioning between bones, these disorders uniformly result in progressive joint pain and stiffness.  Are there different types of arthritis?Yes, there are many different types of arthritis. For example, septic arthritis is caused by infection, immune-mediated arthritides are caused by joint destruction secondary to another infection in the body (e.g., Lyme disease) and autoimmune arthritis occurs when the body's immune system specifically attacks its own joints. By far, the most common form of arthritis is associated with trauma to the joints. This type of arthritis is more specifically known as osteoarthritis (OA) or degenerative joint disease (DJD). What causes osteoarthritis?OA is caused by single or repetitive trauma to a joint. Joints that are unstable, misaligned or contain foreign material are exposed to repetitive trauma. Common joint conditions associated with these types of repetitive trauma include stifles (knees) with ruptured cruciate ligaments or patellar luxations, hip and elbow dysplasia, and cartilage or bone fragments within a joint (e.g., osteochrondritis dissecans or OCD). How common is OA?OA affects over 8 million dogs in the U.S., which is nearly one in every five dogs. While cats are much more resistant to developing and being affected by OA than dogs, they can also suffer from the disease.  Which conditions predispose pets to developing arthritis?Dogs commonly develop OA. Some breeds are genetically predisposed to anatomic abnormalities that lead to the progression of OA. For example, dogs that are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, like Labradors, are predisposed to developing arthritis at those joints. Older pets of any breed are the most likely to develop arthritis. Studies show that 27 percent of dogs between the ages of eight and 10 and 35 percent of dogs between the ages of 11 and 13 experience OA.  Additionally, large breed and overweight pets are prone to developing OA. One study showed that 45 percent of dogs weighing 50 pounds or more developed OA at some point in their lives. A previous trauma affecting a joint or the bones around a joint may also lead to progression of OA. This form of OA is one of the more common forms seen in cats. How do I know if my pet has arthritis?Common signs of OA include limping, muscle atrophy, stiffness (especially after sleeping), falling behind on walks, reluctance to climb stairs or jump into a car, repeated licking over a joint, stiffness hours after exercise, personality changes and even loss of appetite. Typically, the symptoms of OA are exacerbated by cold or damp weather and after sleeping or lying on the ground.  If my pet has these signs, does that mean he/she has OA?Not necessarily. There are many other disorders that can mimic the signs of OA. Some common examples include other types of arthritis, tumors, fractures, soft tissue trauma, spinal pain (especially Cauda Equina Syndrome, which is often associated with arthritic changes at the spine), neurologic abnormalities and ligament, muscle or tendon injuries. A physical exam and additional testing will likely be needed to differentiate between OA and these other conditions. What might my veterinarian notice on physical exam?During an orthopedic examination, your veterinarian will look to identify common signs of an arthritic joint. These signs include crepitus (a grinding sensation within the joint), decreased range of motion, effusion (swelling within joint), fibrosis (thickened joint capsule), pain, instability, limping and muscle atrophy (wasting). Frequently, a mild sedating pain reliever may be necessary to examine a dog for these abnormalities.  Will anything else be necessary to diagnose OA?Many diagnostic tests can be used to diagnose arthritis and to determine the underlying cause of the disease. At a minimum, your veterinarian will need radiographs (X-rays) for diagnosis. It is important to realize that the severity of changes on a radiograph do not necessarily correlate with the degree of lameness or pain your pet is experiencing.     Is there a cure for OA?Medical treatment for OA has greatly improved in the last several years thanks to the introduction and approval of several new drugs and supplements. At this time, there is no cure for this debilitating condition, but there is much you can do to control the pain, make your pet comfortable and perhaps slow down the progression of the disease. Can non-medical treatments help?Yes. Many simple changes can be made to help your pet, including maintaining an optimal body weight, providing adequate bedding and warmth (especially while sleeping), massage, physical therapy and improving the convenience of daily activities, such as providing raised food and water bowls or ramps for car travel. Controlled activity is also important to minimize problems and discomfort. The goal here is to restrict the amount of exercise and joint trauma but still allow enough movement to maintain or increase muscle strength. Moderate daily exercise is very important. Swimming and leash walking are the safest forms of low-impact exercise. Remember, your pet should not be extremely sore after moderate exercise. If your pet overexerts him/herself, a few days of rest will allow the discomfort to resolve. What kind of medical treatment is available?The most important aspect of medical treatment is to control the pain associated with OA. Often, we can achieve this with a variety of pain relievers and joint supplements, such as chondroprotectives and omega-3 fatty acids, that effectively limit the pain of arthritis and may also potentially slow the progression of the disease. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are frequently used for chronic pain control in dogs. Opioids, opioid-like medications and corticosteroids also have a role in controlling the discomfort associated with OA.  Corticosteroids are not ideal for chronic use, however, due to the potential for serious side effects.   What are NSAIDs?NSAIDs are anti-inflammatory pain relievers. Common types used in dogs include buffered aspirin, Rimadyl, Etogesic, Meloxicam and Deramaxx.As with all medications, there are potential side effects associated with the use of NSAIDs. The most common problems are related to gastrointestinal upset, liver toxicity and kidney toxicity. Fortunately, the side effects are relatively rare and with monitoring, serious problems can often be avoided simply by stopping the medication.  The newer COX-2-specific inhibitors (e.g., Deramaxx) have even fewer side effects. Signs of these side effects include a decrease in appetite, vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, increased thirst and urination or blood in the urine. If any of these signs are observed (usually within the first two weeks of starting a new prescription), the medication should be stopped immediately and your veterinarian must be informed. A blood panel will likely be recommended to evaluate for toxicity.  In an effort to avoid these problems, we suggest having bloodwork and urine analyses performed before and after initiating NSAID therapy. Bloodwork and exams should also be performed every three to six months when an NSAID is used chronically to prevent problems from developing. What are chondroprotective agents?Chondroprotectives are part of a general class of supplements called nutraceuticals. These supplements are designed to stimulate the production of cartilage while inhibiting its degeneration. Some may also have the ability to reduce joint pain. Glucosamine and chondroitin are the most common chondroprotectives, but many others also exist (e.g., MSM, perna mussel, manganese and vitamin C). While there is some debate about the effectiveness of oral glucosamine and chondroitin supplements (such as Dasuquin), many pets appear to benefit from these medications. Injectable chondroprotective agents (such as Adequan) may also be used to help pets suffering from arthritis. Clinical studies report decreased pain and increased range of motion with the treatment.  What is Dasuquin?Dasuquin is a brand of oral dietary supplement that contains glucosamine, chondroitin, and avocado/soybean unsaponifiables (ASU). The glucosamine acts as a building block of cartilage while chondroitin blocks the enzymes that break the connective tissue down. The ASU appears to promote cartilage repair. Dasuquin is an extremely safe supplement with mild gastrointestinal upset as the most common side effect. It is typically started at a high loading dose for four to six weeks and eventually weaned to daily or every other day administration.  Are all glucosamine and chondroitin supplements the same?No. While there are many glucosamine and chondroitin supplements on the market, Dasuquin (and its predecessor, Cosequin) are some of the only ones that have been clinically proven to be safe and effective in your pet. Dasuquin is produced under stringent quality standards and is composed of pure molecules that are smaller in size than other formulas. These smaller molecules indicate a higher bioavailability, meaning more medication is absorbed into the body and joints than most other brands. Since dietary supplements are not held to the same quality standards as drugs, many brands will use substandard ingredients and there is often great variation in the amount of the substance that is actually in each individual tablet. In fact, a recent study showed that 80 percent of other brands do not meet label claims for concentrations of glucosamine and/or chondroitin.  While many pet foods now claim to contain glucosamine and chondroitin, the process of manufacturing commercial foods is likely to degrade these molecules. In addition, the amounts listed on the labels indicate that large volumes of food would need to be ingested to provide the recommended amounts of glucosamine and chondroitin. A glucosamine and chondroitin supplement should be considered for any pet suffering from arthritis or who is predisposed to developing arthritis. Dasuquin appears to be one of the most effective supplements to slow the progression of OA in your pet. What is Adequan?Adequan is an injectable chondroprotective agent that contains polysulfated glycosaminoglycan. This product has been shown to reduce joint pain, stimulate the production of cartilage and inhibit cartilage destruction, making it one of the few products that not only reduces pain but also has the ability to reverse the changes that are caused by OA. Rarely seen side effects include mild gastrointestinal upset and inflammation or pain at the injection site.  Typically, treatment with Adequan consists of twice-weekly injections for four weeks followed by monthly injections as maintenance. We usually train owners how to give the injections under the skin at home (similar to giving an insulin injection to a diabetic pet), which reduces the need for frequent visits to the veterinary office. Many pets that required NSAID pain relievers for their daily comfort have been weaned off daily medication after receiving Adequan.  What is Hill’s Prescription Diet j/d?One of the more exciting recent advances in the treatment of arthritis is based on the study of omega-3 fatty acids. These dietary fats have been shown to provide anti-inflammatory effects for the body and are used in the treatment of a variety of disorders, ranging from arthritis to brain disease. Hill’s Prescription Diet j/d is a specially formulated food that provides a tremendous amount of omega-3 fatty acids and much lower levels of omega-6 fatty acids that are inexpensive to produce but actually have some pro-inflammatory effects in the cells of the body.  While some dogs will develop mild stomach upset on this diet, pets that are slowly transitioned to the new food over a period of one to two weeks typically do not have any problems. It is important to realize that in order to be effective, the diet should not be mixed with other foods, as that would alter the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in the diet and the body. This diet has been shown to reduce pain in dogs with arthritis in as little as 21 days. The diet is also designed to help maintain a healthy body weight in arthritic pets.  Similar to the use of Adequan, we have found that many dogs on this diet no longer need consistent NSAID medication to control arthritis pain. Are there surgical treatments for arthritis?Depending on the underlying cause of OA, surgery or arthroscopy may play a key role in slowing the progression of the disease. This is especially true when surgery can be used to stabilize a joint, correct a misaligned joint or remove foreign material from a joint. Your veterinarian may recommend surgery if it will be helpful in your pet’s underlying disease. Occasionally, surgery will be recommended to remove a source of chronic pain with severe OA that is not responsive to other medical treatments. Examples include joint replacement (currently only available for hips), joint fusion, joint removal and even amputation. Are there any other treatment options?Under guided supervision, alternative therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractics, physical therapy and homeopathy may also play important roles in the treatment of arthritis. Acupuncture appears to be particularly effective in treating certain arthritis-related conditions of the spine. How do I know if the treatments are working?Since there is no cure for OA, it is unrealistic to expect an arthritic pet to return to a completely normal level of function with no pain and no activity restrictions. Instead, we should expect to see improvement in the signs that can be attributed to arthritis.  By monitoring pain, attitude, activity level and appetite, you can help your veterinarian evaluate the effectiveness of your pet’s treatment regime. It is important to realize that the treatment plan may need to be modified as your pet ages or if signs change. Follow-up visits can be helpful in allowing for effective adjustments to your pet’s individualized arthritis therapy plan.
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Obesity in Dogs

What is obesity?Obesity is defined as being overweight by 15 to 20 percent of an ideal body weight. Up to 44 percent of the pet population in North America is obese, making this condition the most common nutritional disorder among dogs. How do I know if my dog is overweight?In humans, published charts may be helpful in determining the ideal weight for a specific body size. Since our pets vary dramatically in body size and shape, charts are not as useful. Instead, we visually grade pets using a Body Condition Score (BCS). What is a body condition score (BCS)?The BCS is a somewhat subjective rating used to standardize the level of an animal’s weight. Pets are scored from 1 to 9 out of 9, with 5/9 being an ideal body weight. For example, a very thin dog (1/9) would have visible ribs, spine and hip bones. A very obese dog (9/9) would have a layer of fat over his/her ribs, fat deposits in front of the hips and near the neck and a distended abdomen. A dog at an ideal body weight (5/9) would have ribs that are easily felt without pushing through a layer of fat, an abdomen that is tucked up when viewed from the side and a visible last rib. Why is my dog overweight?Pets become overweight when they consume more calories than they use. These excess calories are stored in the body as fat. The number of fat cells a dog has is determined when he/she is a puppy. Each individual cell can become larger or smaller, depending upon the amount of fat that is stored within the cell. Once fat cells are formed, they are permanent. For this reason, dogs that become overweight as puppies have more trouble maintaining or losing weight and are more likely to be obese in adulthood. Thus, it is very important to prevent obesity at an early age. Could there be a medical explanation for my dog's weight gain?The most common medical cause for obesity in dogs is hypothyroidism. A full blood panel with a thyroid level and other confirmatory tests are required to diagnose this disorder. If an overweight dog with hypothyroidism is not treated for the disorder, it will make losing weight very difficult and predispose him/her to other hypothyroidism-related illnesses. Can my dog be predisposed to obesity?There are a variety of non-medical factors that have been shown to predispose animals to obesity. These include early-onset obesity, old age, overweight owners, a sedentary lifestyle (especially common for indoor dogs), competition for food and a free-fed diet (as opposed to meal-fed). Females are typically more prone to obesity than males and genetics can also be a factor, especially for Labrador retrievers, beagles, dachshunds and shelties. What are the health risks of an overweight pet?Overweight pets are at risk for a variety of health problems, including skin infections, high blood pressure, heart disease, immune suppression, diabetes mellitus, orthopedic and arthritic disorders and some forms of cancer. Increased surgical and anesthetic risk may also occur.  What are the benefits of weight reduction?Weight loss will help improve the quality of your pet’s life for multiple reasons. It can decrease the stress on joints (especially important for pets with arthritis), help facilitate examination and surgical procedures, improve cardiovascular function, enhance athleticism and reduce or eliminate the need for certain medications required to manage medical disorders. In addition, a recent study has shown that dogs maintained at their ideal body weight for life lived almost two years longer than moderately obese dogs. Plus, they will feel much better! How can I help my dog lose weight?In order for a pet to lose weight, any underlying medical conditions must be treated or ruled out. If there are no underlying problems, then the key to losing weight goes back to the basics, meaning your dog must utilize more calories than he/she consumes. When trying to lose weight, the goal is to lose fat while retaining lean muscle mass. A safe, effective weight-loss program involves three components:Increasing the amount of exercise your dog receivesModifying the way you feed your dogRestricting the calories your dog consumes How much exercise does my dog need?You must take an active role in exercising your pet if you want him/her to lose weight. If your dog is not used to activity, you will need to gradually increase the amount of exercise he/she receives. Begin exercising for 10 minutes multiple times per week and increase the activity until you reach at least 30 minutes daily. Exercising your dog for at least 15 minutes twice daily will help him/her expend energy, increase his/her metabolic rate and retain lean body mass. Exercising dogs may consist of a brisk walk, playing ball, swimming or a number of other activities.  How should I change my feeding strategy?All meals and treats should be fed only in your dog’s bowl. This will help prevent overfeeding since it requires more effort from you and your family. You should also separate your dog from the kitchen or other areas where food is prepared or eaten to eliminate the temptation to give “people food.” Separating the dog from other household animals while feeding can reduce competitive eating and food sharing as well. Ideally, your dog should eat two or more small meals throughout the day to reduce hunger and begging. How can I get my dog to consume fewer calories?Cutting down on snacks and/or treats is the first step to reducing energy intake. When your dog begs, you should respond by petting, exercising or playing. If you do feed treats, be sure to use them sparingly. When treats are used, reduce your dog's regular meals to compensate for the extra calories. Only low-calorie treats or healthy alternatives such as fruits or vegetables (no grapes or raisins) should be given.When beginning a weight loss program, your dog's diet should be very consistent. How much food should I feed my dog?The amount of food you should feed will vary greatly depending upon the caloric density of the specific food that you are feeding. The number of calories your dog utilizes is based on the daily energy requirement for your pet and the amount of exercise he/she receives. It will be very important that you use a measuring cup to accurately determine the portions you feed.  Are all diet pet foods the same?While most diet foods are based on similar principals (less fat, fewer calories and more fiber), not all foods are created equal. There is a wide range of caloric restriction between diet dog foods. Your veterinarian will be able to recommend a specific diet that will best fit your pet’s dietary requirements. This choice may vary based on other concurrent medical issues affecting your dog. For most obese but otherwise healthy pets, Hill’s Prescription Diet r/d and Eukanuba Restricted-Calorie Formula are the most effective diet foods to be used in a weight-loss program. It is important to remember that while a low-calorie diet will help your pet maintain a healthy weight, it will not help him/her lose weight initially. Caloric intake, as discussed above, is a critical component to effective weight loss. Why does my dog always seem hungry on a restricted diet?This is a common issue, especially at the start of a weight-loss program. In order to lose weight, it is necessary to feed fewer calories than your dog needs to maintain his/her current weight. As a result, your dog will likely feel hungry. However, it is important to resist the temptation to feed more food or treats. You can try to reduce this problem by feeding your dog multiple small meals per day. This method will also help to increase your pet’s metabolic rate. Hill’s Prescription Diet r/d and Eukanuba Restricted-Calorie Formula are designed to help dogs lose weight without making them feel deprived of food. These diets are low in calories and fat but maintain high-quality proteins and normal fiber levels that will help your dog to feel "full." How long will it take my dog to reach his/her ideal body weight?The exact time it will take your pet to lose weight will depend on how much weight your dog has to lose and how much exercise he/she receives. As a guideline, dogs can safely lose 2 to 4 percent of their body weight per week until they are at their desired weight. During the diet period, your dog’s weight should be checked every two to four weeks. You may come by the hospital to have your pet weighed during this time. How do I maintain my dog's ideal body weight once it is reached?Since obesity creates a predisposition for gaining weight, your dog will likely need to be kept on a diet food to maintain his/her ideal body weight. When appropriate, a change in the diet itself or the daily amount may be recommended. It is very important to feed your pet the correct amount of food to maintain his/her ideal body weight.  See Obesity in Cats
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Canine Neutering and Spaying

Why should I have my female dog spayed?Spaying is the removal of the uterus and ovaries. This offers several advantages. Spayed females will no longer have heat periods, will no longer attract male dogs and will no longer be able to become pregnant. Intact male dogs will go to great lengths to mate with females who are in heat, and despite your best efforts, accidents often happen. It has also been proven that as the unspayed female gets older, she has an increased chance of developing breast cancer and uterine infections. Spaying your dog before she has any heat periods will virtually eliminate this possibility. If you do not plan to breed your dog, we strongly recommend that she is spayed before her first heat. Why should I have my male dog neutered?Neutering is the removal of the testicles. This offers several advantages. Intact male dogs are more likely to roam in search of females. They are also more aggressive and likely to fight, especially with other male dogs. However, neutering will not calm down a hyperactive dog or change his personality. As male dogs age, the prostate gland frequently enlarges and causes difficulty urinating and defecating. They are also often more prone to developing infections (prostatitis) or cancer (prostatic adenocarcinoma). Neutering will greatly reduce the incidence of these diseases. These surgeries can be performed any time after four months of age. All dogs over 40 pounds should have a hip radiograph to screen for hip dysplasia at the time of surgical altering. Is anesthesia safe for my dog?We are very confident in the safety of all our anesthetic procedures. We use anesthetics that have minimal cardiovascular side effects compared to other commonly used drugs. All dogs are intubated and placed on oxygen. We use only isoflurane as our inhalant anesthetic. We take no chances with your dog's safety. All patients are monitored by a skilled technician for the length of the procedure and post-operative recovery period. An EKG monitor is used to assess the dog's heart rate and rhythm and a pulse oximeter is used to assess the oxygenation of the blood while he/she is under anesthesia. Finally, we feel strongly that management of pain during and after the procedure will decrease your pet’s stress level, contributing to a calmer and more rapid recovery. Can you recommend something for pet identification?The latest in pet retrieval and identification is microchipping. Many owners elect to have this done at the same time as the spay or neuter. The chip is implanted with a needle, so the process is much like getting an injection. Our scanner, as well as scanners at humane societies and animal shelters across the country, can detect these chips. A national registry permits the return of microchipped pets throughout the United States and Canada. See Feline Neutering and Spaying
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Canine Mast Cell Tumor

What is a mast cell?A normal mast cell is part of the immunologic defense system against invading organisms. These cells help fight against parasites and are found in tissues that interface with the external world such as the skin, respiratory system or intestinal tract. They do not circulate through the body. The mast cell possesses granules that are released against the parasite and signal other immune cells that there is a problem. Sometimes mast cells are stimulated by antigens that are of similar shape or size as parasitic antigens. These "next best" antigens are usually pollen proteins and the result is an allergy. Instead of killing an invading parasite, the mast cell’s biochemicals produce local redness, itch, swelling and other symptoms we associate with allergic reactions. And the mast cell tumor?The mast cell can form a tumor made of many mast cells that release their toxic granules, creating allergic symptoms such as redness, swelling or itching. Mast cell tumors are especially common in dogs, accounting for approximately one skin tumor in every five dogs. Boxers are at an especially high risk, as are related breeds, like the English bulldog and Boston terrier. Also at higher than average risk are the Shar Pei, Labrador retriever, golden retriever, schnauzer and cocker spaniel. Most mast cell tumors arise in the skin, but technically they can arise anywhere that mast cells are found. It is not unusual for an owner to notice a sudden change in the size of the growth or that the growth has become itchy or bothersome to the dog. Diagnosis can often be made with a needle aspirate, in which the doctor collects cells from the tumor with a needle and examines them under a microscope. The granules have distinct staining characteristics and can be recognized easily. An actual tissue biopsy, however, is needed to grade the tumor, as grading is crucial to determining prognosis. How is the mast cell tumor graded? Once the mass has been submitted for biopsy, it can be graded. The grade is a reflection of the malignant characteristics of the cells under the microscope. These characteristics generally correlate to the behavior of the tumor. Grade I is benign, grade III is malignant, and grade II has the flexibility to go either way.Grade I tumors: This is the best type of mast cell tumor to have. While it may tend to be larger and more locally invasive, it tends not to spread beyond its place in the skin. Surgery should be curative, if completely excised with wide margins. If the grade I mast cell tumor is not completely excised, it will grow back in time; it is best to get it all and be done with it as quickly as possible. About half of all mast cell tumors are grade I tumors and can be cured with surgery alone.Grade II tumors: The behavior of this type of tumor is somewhat unpredictable. Recent studies have shown that radiation therapy administered to the site of the tumor can cure greater than 80 percent of patients as long as the tumor has not already shown distant spread.Grade III tumors: This is the worst type of mast cell tumor to have. Grade III tumors account for approximately 25 percent of all mast cell tumors and they behave very invasively and aggressively. If only surgical excision is attempted without supplementary chemotherapy, a mean survival time of four to five months can be expected. What kind of testing is necessary?Basic bloodwork: A basic blood panel is part of this evaluation process and should be obtained at this point if it has not already. This will show any limitations to kidney or liver function, which is necessary to know prior to surgery. Bloodwork will also show if there are circulating mast cells in the blood or if there is anemia that might be related to the tumor.Local lymph node aspiration: The lymph nodes near the site of the tumor are sometimes aspirated if they are found to be large or the doctor wants to see if tumor cells have potentially spread.Aspiration of the spleen: The spleen is an organ of the lymphatic system. The presence of a tumor in the deeper lymphatic organs, such as the spleen and abdominal lymph nodes, can be assessed for the presence of mast cells. If the doctor feels an enlarged spleen or if the dog is having any systemic signs, X-rays and/or ultrasound imaging with splenic aspiration may be recommended.Radiographs (X-rays): While the mast cell tumor does not spread to the lungs the way other tumors do, there are many lymph nodes in the chest and it is helpful to radiograph the chest to assess the size of these lymph nodes and help determine the extent of tumor spread. How are mast cell tumors treated?Therapy for mast cell tumors consists of surgery, and potentially, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy. Which combination of the above is chosen depends on the extent of spread and malignant characteristics of the tumor.Grade I: Complete surgical excision is curative, but deep and extensive margins are needed. The location of the tumor on the body can prohibit these wide surgical margins. If the margins are clean, the tumor should be completely removed, but it is still a good idea to keep an eye on the area in the future.Grade II: Surgical excision is recommended, again with wide margins. If wide margins are not achieved (for either a grade I or II mast cell tumor), or if the pathologist believes the tumor is more aggressive, then radiation therapy should be considered.Grade III: Surgical excision with chemotherapy is recommended. Depending on the location, radiation may also be considered.Other medications to consider: Antihistamines such as Benadryl ® and Pepcid AC ® can help alleviate unpleasant secondary symptoms of mast cell tumors. What are the potential complications?Mast cell tumors can potentially be slower to heal post-operatively and suture sites have more potential to break down. See Feline Mast Cell Tumor
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Lick Granuloma

What is a lick granuloma?A lick granuloma is an open sore on the skin caused by and perpetuated by constant licking. It is generally located on one of the legs, especially near a joint. Typically, the hair will be licked off and the area will be either raw and weeping or thickened and scar-like. Lick granulomas usually begin with an itching or tingling sensation on the leg. The dog responds to the sensation by licking, which may serve to further increase the itching or tingling. Very shortly, a vicious cycle develops, creating a habit much like a child sucking his/her thumb. Even if the problem that initiated the itching or tingling sensation is gone, the habit of licking continues. Are there certain breeds that are more likely to do this?Yes. German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Great Danes, Labrador Retrievers and Irish Setters do this more often than other breeds, though it is possible in any breed. In addition, male dogs are twice as likely to do this than female dogs. Why does a dog do this?Agreement has not been reached on the answer to this question. There are three common problems in dogs with lick granulomas:There is always some underlying issue that caused the pet to start licking, such as allergies, arthritis or anxiety.There is always a behavioral component in the dog exhibiting compulsive licking.There is always a bacterial component which exacerbates the itching and can be very stubborn to treat. Unless all three components of the condition are addressed, the treatment often ends in failure. In addition, the licking is often episodic and may need repeated rounds of treatment. How are lick granulomas diagnosed and differentiated from other skin disorders?In most cases, the diagnosis is made based on the appearance and location of the lesion and the fact that the dog has a compulsion to lick the area. We will frequently perform a skin scrape to rule out mites and a skin cytology to evaluate for infection. However, certain skin tumors, parasites and embedded foreign bodies can create lesions that look very similar. Therefore, if the diagnosis is in doubt or if the dog does not respond well to initial treatment, fungal cultures, radiographs (X-rays) and biopsies may be recommended. How are lick granulomas treated?The approach to treatment generally begins by trying to eliminate potential medical and psychological factors. Dogs respond best with combination drug therapy and treatment of the underlying condition, if it can be uncovered. Boredom and stress are important issues that should be addressed. It is also important to consider underlying conditions that may be causing pain or an underlying allergy. Amitriptyline is recommended in combination with hydrocodone to help break the compulsive component of the cycle and relieve pain. All dogs have secondary bacterial infections within the lick granuloma. Long-term antibiotic therapy for six to eight weeks is necessary, but long-standing, scarred lesions can require four to six months of antibiotic therapy. There is a fairly good success rate with this combination treatment. The medications are gradually weaned down one at a time once the lesion is gone. Remember, however, this disease can be episodic and treatment may need to be repeated down the road.
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Leptospirosis

.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; } Featured Quote: Even small dogs that are mostly indoor, when they go outside and they just step in the urine that rats have dropped around and lick their paws, or if it goes in through a cut on their foot or something, they can get exposed to leptospirosis that way. Video Transcript: Today we're gonna talk about leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that dogs can pick up from being exposed to water that is infected with the leptospirokete, which is a bacterium. It's transmitted by the urine of wild animals. Included in the wild animals are rats. Everybody that lives in southern California has a population of rats either in their yard or very nearby. I would say most of us do unless you live in a high-rise. The problem is that these rats will urinate just about anywhere. Even small dogs that are mostly indoor, when they go outside and they just step in the urine that rats have dropped around and lick their paws, or if it goes in through a cut on their foot or something, they can get exposed to leptospirosis that way. Also we know that just for dogs that are out hiking in streams and areas where wildlife are urinating, and are near the water, that's the other way that dogs can be exposed. What happens is you get exposed to this and within about three to five days the dogs are gonna be showing flu-like symptoms. They could be achy, sore, have fever, they can even show lamenesses. Just in general, they're not feeling well. Leptospirosis can cause kidney and liver failure pretty quickly. One of the scariest things about is that it's a zoonotic disease, so that humans can actually contract it from their pets, if you're exposed to the urine from your dog. Sounds kinda odd, but it actually can happen just by you cleaning up urine. If your dog starts to have kidney failure it'll urinate excessive amounts, and then that's when owners quite often will wind up being exposed to it. We really do recommend that those dogs that are in high exposure situations be vaccinated for leptospirosis. It's a series of two vaccines, the first year at one, annual after that. There have unfortunate been an increase in incidents in our area. A lot of it we think is just due to the increases moisture from all the rain we've had. It seems like every time that happens, there is an increase is the number of cases of leptospirosis. It'd be a good thing to talk to one of our veterinarians about next time you're in. What is leptospirosis?Leptospirosis is a disease that can affect a dog's blood, liver or kidneys. It is caused by spiral-shaped bacteria. How do dogs acquire the infection?The bacteria are carried mainly by rats and other rodents, but infected dogs can also act as a source of the infection. Ingestion of infected urine is the most common means of transmission, but some forms of the bacteria can also penetrate damaged or very thin skin. The incubation period (from infection to onset of clinical signs) is usually four to 12 days. What are the signs of leptospirosis?Many infections go undetected, while other cases can be life-threatening. There are three main forms of the disease: hemorrhagic (relating to the blood), icteric (relating to the liver) and renal (relating to the kidney). In the hemorrhagic disease, dogs will experience early high fever with lethargy and loss of appetite. Multiple small hemorrhages occur in the mouth and on the whites of the eyes. Bloody diarrhea and vomiting may occur. This form is often fatal. The icterus form begins much like the hemorrhagic form and many of the signs are the same. It differs in the presence of a yellow color (jaundice) in the mouth and whites of the eyes. In severe cases in dogs with white hair, the skin will turn yellow. The renal form causes kidney failure. These dogs are very lethargic, anorectic and may experience vomiting. The mouth may have a very offensive odor and ulcers often develop on the tongue. This form may be fatal, and even recovered dogs often have chronic kidney disease. How common is leptospirosis?This disease is not common in North America because of widespread use of vaccines to prevent it. However, stray or unvaccinated dogs can be infected. What is the treatment?Antibiotics are reasonably effective if they are begun promptly. However, these dogs are so sick that hospitalization and intensive nursing care, including intravenous fluids, are necessary. How can leptospirosis be prevented?The vaccine for leptospirosis is generally part of a routine vaccination program. Annual boosters are needed to maintain proper immunity. Can the vaccine cause reactions?Of all canine vaccinations, leptospirosis is the most likely to cause a reaction. This usually results in lethargy for several days and possibly loss of appetite. However, these dogs do recover and are then protected against the disease.
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Kidney Disease in Dogs

What is kidney disease?Chronic kidney disease, also known as chronic renal failure, is a progressive loss of kidney function over a period of time. By definition, kidney failure is the inability of the kidneys to remove waste products from the blood. Kidney failure does not indicate the inability to make urine. Ironically, most dogs in kidney failure are actually producing large quantities of urine, but the body’s wastes are not being effectively eliminated. Is age a factor of chronic kidney disease?The most common form of chronic kidney failure is the result of aging; it is simply a “wearing out” process. The age of onset is related to the size of the dog. For most small dogs, early signs of kidney disease occur at about 10 to 14 years of age. However, large dogs have a shorter age span and may go into kidney failure as early as seven years of age. What changes are likely to occur in my dog?The kidneys' function is to filter the blood and pull out toxins from the blood stream. When aging causes the filtration process to become inefficient and ineffective, blood flow to the kidneys is increased in an attempt to increase filtration. This results in the production of more urine. To keep the dog from becoming dehydrated due to increased fluid loss in the urine, thirst is increased and more water is consumed. Thus, the early signs of kidney disease are increased water consumption and increased urine production. The clinical signs of more advanced kidney failure include loss of appetite, weight loss, depression, vomiting, diarrhea and very bad breath. Occasionally, ulcers will be found in the mouth. When kidney failure is accompanied by these clinical signs, it is called uremia. How is chronic kidney failure diagnosed?The diagnosis of kidney failure is made by determining the level of two waste products in the blood: blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and blood creatinine. A urinalysis is also needed to complete the study of kidney function. Although BUN and creatinine levels reflect kidney failure, they do not predict it. A dog with marginal kidney function may have normal blood tests. If a dog is stressed with major illness or surgery, the kidneys may fail, sending the blood test values up quickly. Can chronic kidney failure be treated?In some cases, the kidneys are so worn out that they cannot be revived. However, many dogs can live for several months or years with aggressive treatment. Treatment occurs in two phases. The goal of the first phase is to “restart” the kidneys. Large quantities of intravenous fluids are given to “flush out” the kidneys. This flushing process, called diuresis, helps to stimulate the kidney cells to function again. If enough functional kidney cells remain, they may be able to adequately meet the body’s needs for waste removal. Fluid therapy also includes replacement of various electrolytes, especially potassium. Other important aspects of initial treatment include proper nutrition and drugs to control vomiting and diarrhea. What can I expect from this phase of treatment?There are three possible outcomes from the first phase of treatment: The kidneys will resume functioning and continue to function for a few weeks to a few years.  The kidneys will resume functioning during treatment but fail again as soon as treatment stops. Kidney function will not return. Unfortunately, there are no reliable tests that will predict the outcome. If my dog improves, is treatment concluded?No. Your dog's kidneys are still damaged and will never be normal again. Without continued treatment, your dog will soon be back in kidney failure. Therefore, home treatment is vital.  What happens next?The goal of the second phase of treatment is to keep the kidneys functioning as long as possible. This is accomplished with one or more of the following, depending on the situation:A special diet. The ideal diet is low in protein, low in phosphorus and not acidified. This type of diet helps to keep the blood tests as close to normal as possible, which usually makes your dog feel better. Also, once kidney disease is advanced, a decreased protein diet will decrease the workload on the kidneys. We can recommend a commercially prepared food that has the quantity and quality of nutrients your dog needs. A potassium supplement. Potassium is lost when urine production becomes excessive. Low potassium levels have also been shown to further reduce kidney function.  A potassium supplement will replace the nutrient loss and help maintain kidney function. A phosphate binder. Phosphorous is removed from the body by filtering through the kidneys. Once the filtration process is impaired, phosphorous begins to accumulate in the blood. This also contributes to lethargy and poor appetite. Certain drugs will bind excess phosphates in the intestinal tract so they are not absorbed, resulting in lower blood levels of phosphorus.Fluids given at home. Once your dog is stabilized, fluids can be given under the skin (subcutaneously). This serves to continually “restart” the kidneys as their function begins to fail again. This is done once daily to once weekly, depending on the degree of kidney failure. Although this might not sound like something you can do, you will be surprised at how easily the technique can be learned and how well most dogs will tolerate it.A drug for excess stomach acid. Evidence indicates that excess stomach acid causes nausea and can be harmful to your dog’s appetite.  These drugs are usually given only if appetite is improved while they are administered. A drug to regulate the parathyroid gland and calcium levels. Calcium and phosphorus must remain at about a 2:1 ratio in the blood. The increase in blood phosphorus level, as mentioned above, stimulates the parathyroid gland to increase the blood calcium level by removing it from the bones. This can be helpful for the sake of normalizing the calcium:phosphorus ratio, but it can make the bones brittle and easily broken. Calcitriol can be used to reduce the function of the parathyroid gland and to increase calcium absorption from the intestinal tract. This is recommended if there is evidence of abnormal function of the parathyroid gland.A drug to stimulate the bone marrow to produce new red blood cells. The kidneys produce erythropoietin, a hormone that stimulates the bone marrow to make red blood cells. Therefore, many dogs in kidney failure have a low red blood cell count, also known as anemia. Epogen or Procrit, synthetic forms of erythropoietin, will correct anemia in most dogs and is recommended if persistent anemia is present. Unfortunately, the drug cannot be used long-term for some dogs because the immune system recognizes it as "foreign" and will make antibodies (immune proteins) against it.  A drug for high blood pressure. Many dogs with kidney failure have high blood pressure. Blood pressure will normalize for many dogs following hospital treatment, but it remains elevated in others. These drugs are used only if needed.Acupuncture as an adjunctive treatment. We have three certified veterinary acupuncturists on staff who would be happy to consult with you on acupuncture's use in kidney disease. How long can I expect my dog to live?The prognosis for kidney disease is quite variable depending on response to the initial stage of treatment and your ability to perform the follow-up care. We encourage treatment in most situations because many dogs will respond and maintain a good quality of life for up to four years.  See Kidney Disease in Cats
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Kennel Cough

What is kennel cough?Kennel cough is more technically known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis. This term localizes the most common clinical sign, coughing, to the trachea (windpipe) and bronchi (within the lungs). It may be caused by several viruses and bacteria. These include adenovirus type 2, parainfluenza virus and bacterium bordetella bronchiseptica. The infection spreads rapidly from dog to dog in close quarters, such as a boarding kennel. This is the origin of its name. What are the signs, besides coughing?The symptoms of kennel cough are quite variable. They include discharge from the eyes and nose, swollen tonsils, wheezing, lack of appetite and lethargy. Although coughing is usually mild, it may persist for several weeks. What is the treatment?There is no specific treatment for the viruses involved. No drug will kill them, so they must run their course, which may take two to three weeks. Antibiotics are useful against the bacteria involved, although some resistance to certain antibiotics has occurred. Cough suppressants are used to break the self-perpetuating cycle of coughing that occurs. How can I prevent this disease?Most vaccination programs include a vaccine against the parainfluenza virus and bordetella bronchiseptica. These should be administered to puppies and boostered in adults. How effective are these vaccines?Immunity after natural infection with respiratory viruses, like parainfluenza or bacteria like bordetella, is neither solid nor long-lasting. Therefore, a booster just before placing your dog in a boarding kennel is good insurance against the disease. At The Drake Center, we recommend a bordetella vaccine every six months if the dog frequents kennels, dog parks or doggie daycare facilities. How are the bordetella vaccines delivered?Bordetella vaccination is performed either by injection or intranasally. The latter means that the vaccine is dropped into the nostrils. This permits immunity in the membranes of the nose and throat where the viruses and bacteria enter.
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Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs

What is inflammatory bowel disease?Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is not a specific disease. Rather, it is a specific reaction that the stomach or intestines have to chronic irritation. What are the clinical signs of IBD?If the stomach is involved, your dog will have chronic vomiting. If the intestines are involved, chronic diarrhea will occur. This is the most common form. In some dogs, both parts of the digestive tract are involved, so both vomiting and diarrhea occur. If the disease occurs for several weeks to months, weight loss and poor appetite are common. When does IBD generally occur?IBD is most common in middle-aged to older dogs, but it can occur in younger dogs as well. How is IBD diagnosed?The chronic irritation that causes IBD stimulates the body to send cells from the immune system to the affected area. The most commonly found cells are lymphocytes and plasmacytes. Occasionally, eosinophils and neutrophils will be found. Thus, the disease is diagnosed when these cells are identified in abnormal levels in the tissue. A pathologist is responsible for this part of the diagnosis; his/her report usually calls the disease lymphoplasmacytic gastritis (relating to the stomach) or lymphoplasmacytic colitis (relating to the colon). In order to obtain these cells, a biopsy is required. In most cases, an endoscope is passed into the dog’s stomach or colon (while the dog is under anesthesia). A tiny biopsy instrument is passed through the endoscope and used to take small samples of the lining (mucosa) of the affected organ. Is this the only test required for diagnosis?The tissue reaction that occurs in the stomach or colon is diagnosed with a biopsy. However, determining what causes the tissue reaction to occur requires further testing. Tests or treatments should be performed to rule out stomach and intestinal parasites, cancer and infections. Diseases such as diabetes are also considered. In addition, diseases of the kidney, liver and pancreas should also be ruled out. How is IBD treated?The ideal way to treat this problem is to diagnose the underlying disease that is causing the reaction. Sometimes the above mentioned tests will do that and sometimes a cause cannot be found. In the latter situation, the disease is called idiopathic. That means that a disease is present, but there is no known cause. Many cases of IBD are considered idiopathic. Some dogs with IBD respond to a change in diet. This is done in two ways. First, a food is chosen that contains a protein source that the dog has never had, such as duck or fish. If that is not effective, a high-fiber diet is tried. Unfortunately, a true food trial requires that the test diet be fed exclusively for four to six weeks. If dietary therapy is not successful or feasible, drugs are used to suppress the inflammatory reaction. Do corticosteroids cause side effects in dogs?Corticosteroids, like prednisolone, are notorious for causing a variety of side effects in humans. However, this is rarely the case in dogs. To minimize any possible adverse effects, our goal is to use the lowest dose that is effective and to give it on an every other day schedule. It will be necessary to begin therapy with a rather high dose, but once response occurs, the dose is tapered to a minimal level. Does this mean that I will be medicating my dog for the rest of his/her life?Long-term therapy is required for many dogs. Generally, a dog is treated for a few months before prednisolone is discontinued to see if it is still needed. If the signs of vomiting or diarrhea recur, medication is resumed. Are other anti-inflammatory drugs used?Prednisolone is the most effective anti-inflammatory drug with the least side effects. However, it is not effective in all dogs. Sometimes a stronger drug is used initially to gain control of the disease. Then, prednisolone is tried again as a maintenance drug. Could stomach infections be a cause of IBD?Some spiral-shaped bacteria can cause vomiting in dogs. The most common are helicobacter pylori, which have been shown to be the cause of disease (including stomach ulcers) in humans and are also pathogens in dogs. However, they are also found in many normal dogs and humans. Therefore, finding spiral-shaped bacteria on biopsy is not always meaningful. It is considered a pathogen only if an associated inflammation is in the stomach mucosa. What is the prognosis?If a response occurs to diet change, the dog can be maintained on a this diet for the rest of his/her life (as long as it is balanced). If the dog responds to medication for stomach bacteria, a good prognosis is justified. If response occurs to corticosteroids, the long-term prognosis is also good if administration of the drug is feasible. However, if there is no response to diet or corticosteroids, the prognosis is more guarded. At that point, further testing is suggested to see if an underlying disease can be found. See Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Cats
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Canine Hypothyroidism

What is the thyroid gland and what does it do?The thyroid gland is one of the most important glands in the body. It is located in the neck and is composed of two lobes, one on each side of the trachea (windpipe). This gland is controlled by the body’s master gland, the pituitary gland, located at the base of the brain. The thyroid gland regulates the rate of metabolism. If it is hyperfunctional, metabolism speeds up. If it is less functional than normal, metabolism slows down. The latter is the basis for the clinical signs of hypothyroidism. What causes hypothyroidism?Hypothyroidism is almost always caused by one of two diseases: lymphocytic thyroiditis or idiopathic thyroid gland atrophy. The former disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism and is thought to be an immune-mediated disease. This means that the immune system determines that the thyroid is abnormal or foreign and attacks it. It is not known why the immune system does this. Idiopathic thyroid gland atrophy is also poorly understood. In this case, normal thyroid tissue is replaced by fat tissue in what is considered a degenerative disease. These two causes of hypothyroidism account for more than 95 percent of cases. The other five percent are due to uncommon diseases, including cancer of the thyroid gland. What are the clinical signs?When the rate of metabolism slows down, virtually every organ in the body is affected in some manner. Most affected dogs have one or more of several “typical” physical and/or chemical abnormalities. These include:Weight gain without an increase in appetiteLethargy and lack of desire to exerciseCold intolerance (dog gets cold easily)Dry hair coat with excessive sheddingVery thin hair coat to near baldnessIncreased pigmentation in the skinIncreased susceptibility to skin and ear infections How is it diagnosed?The most common method is to test for the T4 level. This is a measurement of the main thyroid hormone in a blood sample. If it is below normal and the correct clinical signs are present, the test is diagnostic. However, testing for the T4 level can be misleading because some dogs that are not hypothyroid may have subnormal levels. This happens when another disease is present or when certain drugs are given. If hypothyroidism is suspected but the T4 level is normal, confirmatory tests can be performed. These are more expensive, so they are not used as first line tests. Can hypothyroidism be treated?Hypothyroidism is treatable, but not curable. It is treated with oral administration of a thyroid replacement hormone. This drug must be given for the rest of the dog’s life. How is the proper dose determined?A standard dose is used initially based on the dog’s weight. However, after about one month of treatment, further testing is done to verify that the thyroid hormone levels are normal. In some dogs, the dose will need to be further adjusted every six to 12 months. What happens if the medication is overdosed?If the medication is overdosed, signs of hyperthyroidism can be seen. These include hyperactivity, lack of sleep, rapid weight loss and an increase in water consumption. If any of these occur, notify us and a proper adjustment can be made.
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Home Dental Care for Dogs

Why should I brush my dog's teeth?Daily removal of plaque is the key to an effective oral hygiene program. Unless your dog’s teeth are brushed daily, plaque will build up at the gum line. Eventually, calculus forms and further irritates the gums, while infection progresses to loosen and destroy the attachment of the tooth. In addition to loose teeth, infection under the gum line can spread to the liver, kidneys and heart. How can I brush my dog’s teeth?Brushing a dog's teeth can be an easy and fun procedure, if approached in an upbeat manner. First, pick a soft-bristled or finger toothbrush. A bristled toothbrush made specifically for dogs is best because they are angled to easily reach the back teeth. You will also need enzymatic toothpaste from your veterinarian. Do not use human toothpaste as it contains detergents that should not be swallowed. Push the toothpaste down in between the bristles. This allows the paste to fully coat the teeth.  Approach your pet in a happy, gentle manner and start slowly. You can begin by using a washcloth to wipe the teeth front and back in the same manner you will be using the brush. Do this twice a day for two weeks. Pair it with something pleasant for your pet, like a treat or play session. After two weeks, you should introduce the toothbrush with only water on the bristles. Start brushing daily for several days. When your dog accepts this brushing, add the toothpaste. Ten short, back and forth motions should be performed before moving the brush to a new location. Give most of your attention to the outside surface of the upper teeth. How often should I have my dog’s teeth cleaned by a veterinarian?It depends on the degree of plaque and calculus accumulation on your dog's teeth. This is influenced by three factors: genetics, diet and home care. Examine your pet’s teeth monthly. Look for an accumulation of yellow or brown material at the area where the tooth meets the gum line, especially over the canine and cheek teeth.  Bacteria are associated with plaque and produce substances that irritate the gum tissues. When treated, this inflammation will resolve. Mild gingivitis may respond well to home oral care, but moderate and severe gingivitis will require cleaning below the gum line under anesthesia. When gingivitis is left untreated, it will progress to periodontal disease, which is non-curable but can be managed with intensive care at home and intermittent dental cleanings under anesthesia. Intervals between teeth cleaning procedures will depend on how often you can brush the teeth at home. If you cannot brush at home, your pet may require multiple cleanings per year. What is best to feed my dog?Hard, dry food will help remove plaque from the teeth. For owners who cannot brush or for animals that have a tendency to build plaque quickly, several diets are approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) to help keep dogs and cat’s teeth clean. These include Hills Prescription Diet Canine t/d, Science Diet Oral Care, Iams Chunk Dental Defense Diet, Eukanuba Adult Maintenance Diet and Heinz Tartar Check dog biscuits. CET chews are also recommended by veterinary dentists and have been shown to be beneficial, though no controlled studies have been performed. CET toothpastes and chews contain enzymes that help kill the bacteria associated with plaque. Which toys should I avoid to protect my pet’s teeth?Chewing on objects harder than the tooth may lead to dental fractures. We do not recommend cow or horse hooves, ice cubes, rocks or real cow bones. These items commonly cause fractures of the upper premolars. Tug-of-war games should not be played, especially in young dogs, to avoid moving the growing teeth into abnormal locations. Throwing your dog a Frisbee can also cause trauma to the teeth, resulting in pulpitis (inflammation of the pulp). Toys that seldom cause harm to teeth include hard rubber balls and toys (like Kongs and Gummabones by Nylabones) and any stuffed cloth toys or pull toys. Any toys or treats that can be chewed or pulled apart (like Cheweez, Greenies, rawhide, stuffed toys or soft rubber toys) should be given only under supervision. Ingesting large pieces of these can cause intestinal upset or blockage. When do I have to start worrying about dental problems with my dog?As soon as puppy teeth emerge, it is time to start brushing. Although these teeth will eventually be replaced, an early introduction to brushing will make home dental care easy for the rest of the dog's life. If you are having difficulty cleaning your dog’s teeth at home, please contact our office at (760) 456-9556. See Home Dental Care for Cats
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Canine Hookworm Infection

What are hookworms?Hookworms are parasites named for the hook-like mouth parts they use to attach to the intestinal wall. They are only about 1/8-inch long and so small in diameter that they are almost invisible to the naked eye. Despite their small size, they suck large amounts of blood from tiny vessels in the intestinal wall. A large number of hookworms can cause anemia. This problem is most common in puppies, but it will occasionally occur in adult dogs. How did my dog get hookworms?Dogs may become infected with hookworms via four different routes: through the mouth, through the skin, through the mother's placenta before birth and through the mother's milk. A dog may become infected when he/she swallows hookworm larvae, or immature worms. The larvae may also penetrate the skin and migrate to the intestine to mature and complete the life cycle. If a pregnant dog has hookworms, the pregnancy may reactivate larvae. These larvae will enter the female's circulation and pass to the puppies through the placental blood flow. Finally, puppies may become infected through the mother's milk. This is considered to be an important route of infection for young dogs. What kinds of problems do hookworms cause for my dog?The most significant problems appear related to intestinal distress and anemia.Blood loss results from the parasites sucking blood from intestinal capillaries. The presence of pale gums, diarrhea or weakness might suggest the need to specifically determine the dog's red blood cell count. Some dogs experience significant weight loss, bloody diarrhea or failure to grow properly with hookworm infection. Skin irritation and itching may also indicate a heavily infested environment. The larvae burrow into the skin and cause the dog a great deal of itching and discomfort. How is hookworm infection diagnosed?Hookworms are diagnosed with a microscopic examination of a small stool sample. Since there are so many eggs produced on a daily basis, they are rather easily detected. One adult female hookworm is reported to produce as many as 20,000 eggs a day. In puppies, large numbers of worms usually must be present before eggs are shed into the stool. For this reason, fecal examination may be less reliable in very young puppies than in adult dogs. How are the hookworms treated?There are several effective drugs that will kill hookworms. These can be given by injection or orally and have few, if any, side effects. However, it is important to note that these drugs only kill the adult hookworms. Therefore, it is necessary to treat again in about two to four weeks to kill any newly-formed adult worms that were larvae at the time of the first treatment. A blood transfusion may be necessary for dogs that experience anemia. Since the dog's environment can be laden with hookworm eggs and larvae, it may be necessary to treat the area with a chemical solution to kill them. Many of these solutions are safe to use on grass. Are canine hookworms infectious to people?Adult hookworms do not infect humans; however, the larvae can burrow into human skin. This causes itching commonly known as ground itch, but the worms do not mature into adults. Direct contact of human skin to moist, hookworm-infested soil is required. Fortunately, this does not occur very often if proper hygiene practices are observed. In rare instances, the hookworms will penetrate into deeper tissues and partially mature in the human intestine. A few reports of hookworm enterocolitis (small and large intestinal inflammation) have occurred. What can be done to control hookworm infection in dogs and to prevent human infection?All pups should be treated at two to three weeks of age.Prompt deworming should be given when parasites are detected; periodic deworming may be appropriate for pets at high risk for reinfection.Prompt disposal of dog feces should occur, especially in yards, playgrounds and public parks.Strict hygiene is important, especially for children. Do not allow children to play in potentially contaminated environments.Nursing females should be treated concurrently with their pups to avoid reactivating infection.Most heartworm prevention products contain a drug that will stave off hookworm infections. However, these products will not kill the adult hookworms, so dogs must be treated for adult hookworms first. See Feline Hookworm Infection
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Canine Heartworm Infection

What are heartworms?Heartworms are parasites that live in a dog’s heart or pulmonary arteries. They are nine to 11 inches long and look like angel hair pasta. Heartworm infection, also known as dirofilariasis, is a serious and potentially fatal disease in dogs. How are heartworms transmitted?Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes. When an infected mosquito bites a dog, it deposits heartworm larvae into the body. The larvae migrate for several months before ending up in the right side of the heart or the pulmonary arteries. Once the parasites mature (about six months from the time they enter the dog's body), they begin to release immature heartworms, known as microfilaria. Microfilaria live in the dog’s blood for about one month and may be ingested by mosquitoes feeding on the dog.  Because of the parasites' life cycle, it is necessary for a dog to be bitten by a mosquito to be infected with heartworms. Heartworms are not transmitted directly from one dog to another nor from a cat directly to a dog.  Where are heartworms found?Canine heartworm infection occurs all over the world. In the United States, it was once limited to the South and Southeast regions; however, the disease has spread and is now found in most U.S. regions and Canada, particularly in areas where mosquitoes are prevalent. It can take a number of years before dogs show outward signs of infection. Consequently, the disease is diagnosed mostly in four- to eight-year-old dogs. Heartworms are seldom diagnosed in a dog under one year of age because the larvae take up to seven months to mature following establishment of infection. What do heartworms do to the dog?Adult worms cause disease by clogging the heart and major blood vessels. They also interfere with the valve action in the heart. By clogging primary vessels, the blood supply to other organs—particularly the lungs, liver and kidneys—is reduced, often resulting in malfunction. Most dogs infected with heartworms do not show any signs of disease for as long as two years, but this is entirely dependent on the severity of infection. Unfortunately, by the time signs are seen, the disease is usually advanced. The signs of heartworm disease depend on the number of adult worms present, the location of the worms, the length of time the worms have been present and the degree of damage to the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys. The most obvious symptoms are a soft, dry, chronic cough, shortness of breath, weakness, nervousness, listlessness and loss of stamina. All of these signs are most noticeable following exercise. Listening to the chest with a stethoscope will often reveal abnormal lung and heart sounds. In advanced cases, congestive heart failure may be apparent and the abdomen and legs will swell from fluid accumulation. Evidence of weight loss, poor condition and anemia may also be noted. Severely infected dogs may die suddenly during a period of exercise or excitement. Microfilariae circulate throughout the body but remain primarily in the small blood vessels. Because they are as wide as the small vessels, microfilariae can easily block the blood flow and deprive cells of nutrients and oxygen. As a result, the lungs and liver are primarily affected. How is heartworm infection diagnosed?In most cases, diagnosis of heartworm infection can be made by a blood test. Further diagnostic procedures are essential, particularly in advanced cases, to determine if the dog can tolerate heartworm treatment. Depending on the case, we will recommend some or all of the following procedures before treatment is started. Serological test for antigens: This test is performed on a blood sample. It is the most widely used test for canine heartworm infection because it can detect antigens produced by adult heartworms. This test will be positive even if the dog does not have any microfilaria in the blood, which occurs about 20 percent of the time. Dogs harboring less than five adult heartworms will not have enough antigens to turn the test positive, so there may be some false negative results in early infections. Because the antigen detected is produced only by the female worm, a pure population of male heartworms will also give a false negative. Therefore, there must be at least five female worms present for the test to be positive.Blood test for microfilariae: This blood sample is examined under a microscope for the presence of microfilariae. If microfilariae are seen, the test is positive. The number of microfilariae seen gives us a general indication of the severity of the infection. However, the microfilariae are seen in greater numbers in the summer months and in the evening, so these variations must be considered. Approximately 20 percent of infected dogs do not test positive because of an acquired immunity to this stage of the heartworm. For this reason, the antigen test is the preferred.  Blood chemistries: Complete blood counts and blood tests for kidney and liver function may give an indirect indication of the presence of heartworm infection. These tests are also performed on heartworm-positive dogs to determine the function of the dog's organs prior to treatment.Radiographs (X-rays): A radiograph of a dog with heartworms will usually show heart enlargement and swelling of the large artery connecting to the lungs. These signs are considered presumptive evidence of heartworm disease. Radiographs may also reveal the condition of the heart, lungs and vessels in infected dogs. This information allows us to predict an increased possibility of complications related to treatment.Electrocardiogram (EKG): An electrocardiogram (EKG) traces the electric currents generated by the heart. It is most useful to determine the presence of abnormal heart rhythms.Echocardiography (sonogram): An echocardiogram allows us to see into the heart chambers and visualize the heartworms. Although somewhat expensive, this procedure can diagnose heartworms when other tests fail. How are dogs treated for heartworms?There is some risk involved in treating dogs with heartworms, although fatalities are rare. In the past, the drug most commonly used to treat heartworm infection contained arsenic. While this treatment was effective for killing heartworms, it often led to toxic reactions and illness in the dog. Today, newer drugs are available that do not have these toxic side effects, and as a result, we are able to successfully treat more than 95 percent of canine heartworm infections. Some dogs with advanced heartworm disease are more difficult to treat. An advanced heartworm infection means that the heartworms have been present long enough to cause substantial damage to the heart, lungs, blood vessels, kidneys and liver. A few of these cases are so far advanced that it is safer to simply treat the organ damage rather than risk treatment to kill the worms. Dogs in this condition are not likely to live more than a few weeks or months.Treatment to kill adult worms: An injectable drug to kill adult heartworms is given for two days. It kills the adult heartworms in the heart and adjacent vessels. Complete rest is essential after treatment as the adult worms die and start to decompose. As the worms break up, they are carried to the lungs, where they lodge in the small blood vessels and are eventually reabsorbed by the body. This can be a dangerous period, so it is absolutely essential that the dog refrains from exercise for one month following treatment. A cough may be noticeable for seven to eight weeks after treatment in many heavily-infected dogs. Prompt treatment is essential if the dog has a significant reaction in the weeks following the initial treatment, although such reactions are uncommon. If a dog shows loss of appetite, shortness of breath, severe coughing, coughing up blood, fever, and/or depression, you should notify a veterinarian immediately. Response to antibiotics, cage rest and supportive care, such as intravenous fluids, is usually good in these cases.Treatment to kill microfilaria: Approximately one month following treatment to kill the adult worms, an infected dog will need to be returned to the hospital for administration of a drug to kill the microfilariae. Seven to 10 days after this treatment, a test will be performed to determine if microfilariae are present. If all the microfilariae have been killed, the treatment is complete. If there are still some present in the blood, treatment for microfilariae is repeated. In some cases, the heartworm infection is "occult," meaning that no microfilariae were present. In this case, a follow-up treatment is not needed.Other treatments: In dogs with severe heartworm infections, it may be necessary to treat with antibiotics, special diets, diuretics to remove fluid accumulations and drugs to improve heart function prior to treatment for the heartworms themselves. Dogs with severe heart disease may need lifetime treatment for the failing heart, even after the heartworms have been killed. This includes the use of diuretics, heart medication and special low-salt, low-protein diets. What is the prognosis?Dog owners are usually pleasantly surprised at the change in their dog following treatment for heartworms, especially if the dog had been showing symptoms. In most cases, the dog has a renewed vigor and vitality as well as improved appetite and weight gain. Are changes made in the treatment protocol for dogs who have severe heartworm infection?Yes. The state of heart failure is taken into consideration and treated as described above. In these cases, we also treat adult heartworms in two stages rather than one. Only one treatment to kill the worms is given initially. This causes the death of only some of the worms. One month later, the full treatment is given to kill the remaining worms. By killing the heartworms in two stages, severe effects on the lungs are much less likely to occur. How can I prevent this from happening again?When a dog has been successfully treated for heartworms, he/she is still at risk for reinfection. Therefore, it is essential to begin a heartworm prevention program. Monthly chewable tablets can be used to prevent heartworm infection. These products are very safe and effective and should be started immediately after treatment is completed. See Feline Heartworm Infection
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Heart Disease in Dogs

Briefly, how does the heart work?The heart has four chambers. The upper chambers are called atria (singular: atrium) and the lower chambers are called ventricles. In addition to the upper and lower chambers, the heart is also considered to have a right and left side. Blood flows from the body into the right atrium. It is stored there briefly before it is pumped into the right ventricle. The right ventricle pumps blood into the lungs, where it receives oxygen. It then flows from the lungs into the left atrium and is held there before going into the left ventricle. The left ventricle contains the largest muscle of the heart, which pumps blood out to all other parts of the body. What is heart disease (cardiomyopathy)?Congestive heart failure is the inability of the heart to provide adequate circulation to meet the body’s needs. Unfortunately, this condition is quite common in dogs. In fact, about 10 percent of all dogs seen in primary care veterinary practices have some form of heart disease. This percentage continues to grow as dogs get older. Up to 75 percent of senior dogs experience some form of heart disease. Heart disease in dogs falls into two categories: congenital and acquired. Congenital heart disease accounts for only about five percent of all canine heart disease and is generally diagnosed when the dog is very young. The vast majority—95 percent—of heart disease cases are acquired. Acquired heart diseases include those that a dog naturally acquires during his/her lifetime, usually as a result of normal wear and tear, infection or injury. What is acquired heart disease?Acquired heart disease is further subdivided into disease with a valvular cause and disease with heart enlargement. About 75 percent of dogs with acquired heart disease are afflicted with mitral valve disease (also known as atrial ventricular valvular insufficiency or AVVI) and dilated cardiomyopathy. The remaining 10 percent of acquired heart disease is caused by a group of other conditions, such as heartworm infection and endocarditis (heart valve infection). What is mitral valve disease?Mitral valve disease, or MVD, is the largest category of heart disease veterinarians see. Within this group, about 10 percent of dogs between the ages of 5 and 8 are affected, as well as 20 to 25 percent of dogs between the ages of 9 and 12 and 30 to 35 percent of dogs over 13. Smaller breeds are more likely to be affected by MVD and certain pure breeds are especially susceptible. These include the Boston terrier, Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Chihuahua, minature pinscher, miniature and toy poodle, Pekingese and Pomeranian. In a case of MVD, the valves of the heart do not seal properly, allowing blood to leak backward into the left atrium. This eventually leads to a heart murmur. The valve leakage increases the load on the heart, which is not able to adequately pump blood to the rest of the body and may become enlarged from the excess blood. MVD is a degenerative progressive disease. What is the mitral valve?Each side of the heart has a valve to keep blood from going backward from the ventricles to the atria. The valve between the left atrium and left ventricle is called the mitral valve. Because of the pressure created when the left ventricle contracts, the mitral valve wears out in many dogs. This wearing out process begins with a small leak that gradually gets more severe. What are the consequences of a leaking mitral valve?The earliest sign of a leaking mitral valve is a heart murmur. This is produced by the turbulence created when some of the blood goes backward through the leaking valve and into the left atrium. This problem is especially common in small breeds of dogs. A murmur does not mean that heart failure is imminent, but as time goes on, the leak may become more severe as more and more blood travels backward into the left atrium. This results in reduced pumping efficiency and, eventually, congestive heart failure. From the time a murmur develops, it may be a few months to several years until heart failure occurs. How will I know if heart disease is present?When the heart is not properly pumping blood, small amounts of fluid can leak out of the capillaries into the air passageways. This fluid collection produces the earliest signs of heart failure. There may be attempts to gag up fluid from the lungs (as if trying to clear the throat), a chronic, hacking cough and lack of stamina when exercised. Does that mean that heart failure will occur soon?Congestive heart failure begins when the body is not able to provide blood with enough oxygen for the tissues. Without adequate oxygen, the body's cells become desperate and trigger a series of responses.Various hormones are released in an attempt to correct the problem. These hormones conserve fluid in an effort to increase blood volume and output of blood and oxygen by the heart. For several months, these compensatory responses help the situation, but eventually, the increased fluid retention becomes a detriment. More and more fluid leaks out of capillaries causing increased gagging and coughing, reduced stamina and increased fluid collection in the abdominal cavity and body tissues. When these symptoms are present, congestive heart failure is likely. What is dilated cardiomyopathy?Dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM, affects the heart muscle itself. The weakening of the heart’s muscle hinders its ability to contract, which means blood is not pumped efficiently throughout the vascular system. The heart becomes flabby and enlarged, which further impairs cardiac output over time. DCM has a quick onset, progresses rapidly and produces dramatic effects. All four chambers become enlarged as the heart muscle stretches and thins out. This stretching also distorts the shape of the heart so that the valve leaflets are too far apart and can no longer close properly.  DCM primarily affects middle-aged dogs. Large and giant breeds are most susceptible to DCM, including the Doberman pinscher, boxer, Great Dane, dalmatian, St. Bernard, Afghan hound, Newfoundland and cocker spaniel. It is important to note that cocker spaniels are susceptible to both DCM and MVD. How common is dilated cardiomyopathy?DCM is not the most common cause of heart failure in dogs in general. However, it is the most common cause of heart failure in large breed dogs. Small breeds are only occasionally affected. The most commonly affected breeds are boxers, Doberman pinschers and Great Danes. Occasionally, medium-sized breeds, notably cocker spaniels and English springer spaniels, are also affected. Are there any signs of heart failure that would be noticeable to me?When the heart is not pumping properly, blood backs up into the vessels of the lungs. Increased pressure within the vessels results in small amounts of fluid leaking out of the capillaries and eventually into the air passageways. This fluid collection in the lungs produces coughing and/or gagging, the most obvious sign of heart failure. Dogs in heart failure also tire very easily from minimal exercise.  My dog seemed to get very ill just in the last day or two. How can this happen?DCM develops over many months or even years. Its effects on blood flow also develop slowly. As heart function declines, the body is able to compensate for several weeks or months. However, at some point in time, the body’s ability to compensate is no longer effective and the animal goes into severe heart failure in what appears to be a matter of hours. Rapid, heavy breathing, a blue tongue, excessive drooling or collapse may be the first signs. What kinds of tests are done to assess the situation?There are several tests that are used. All provide valuable information while determining different aspects of heart function.Auscultation (stethescope). This valuable tool allows us to identify murmurs, their location and intensity, an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) and abnormal sounds within the lungs.Blood and urine tests. These tests do not give direct information about heart function, but they allow us to understand other disorders in the body that may impact heart function and treatment of heart disease.Chest radiographs. X-rays give us the best look at the lungs and the size and shape of the heart. In most cases, DCM causes tremendous enlargement of the heart. These changes are usually very apparent on X-rays.Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). This is an assessment of the electrical activity of the heart. It allows us to determine heart rate and to more accurately identify any arrhythmias that may be present.Ultrasound examination (sonogram or echocardiogram). This examination uses sound waves that bounce off the structures of the heart and create images on a TV-like monitor. Ultrasound exams give the most accurate determination of the size of each heart chamber and permit measurement of the thickness of the heart walls. This is seen on the monitor in real time so the contractions of the heart can be evaluated. In addition, certain measurements can be taken that allow the actual strength of the heart's contraction to be measured. Ultrasound may not be available in all private veterinary practices because of the additional training needed to learn how to perform the examination and because of the cost of the equipment.The combination of all of these tests gives us our best evaluation of the dog and his/her heart function. However, if cost considerations prohibit every test, even two or three will provide valuable information. Is there a treatment for heart failure caused by valvular disease?Yes. Treatment centers on eliminating signs of congestive heart failure. We commonly use drugs, such as diuretics, ACE inhibitors and pimobendan (which helps the heart pump more efficiently), to correct these signs. Is there a treatment for heart failure caused by dilated cardiomyopathy?If a dog has a sudden onset of heart failure, rapid administration of the proper drugs is essential to survival. Treatment is based on a clinical presentation of each individual patient. Commonly used drugs include diuretics, ACE inhibitors and digoxin. In nutritional DCM, specific supplements are prescribed. How much longer will my dog live?There are many factors that must be considered before that question can be answered. The results of the tests are important and the response that occurs within the first few days is another indicator. If a response does not occur within a few hours to days, the prognosis is typically not good. It can be difficult to generate an accurate estimate for life-expectancy when a dog has heart disease because so many variables impact survival. See Heart Disease in Cats
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Canine Ear Infection

How common are ear infections in dogs?Infection of the outer ear, or otitis externa, indicates chronic inflammation of the external ear canal. This type of infection, caused by bacteria or yeast, is one of the most common types of infections seen in dogs. Some breeds seem more prone to ear infections, but they may occur in any breed. What are the symptoms of an ear infection?A dog with an ear infection is very uncomfortable. The ear canals are sensitive and the dog will shake his/her head trying to get the debris and fluid out. Many dogs will also commonly scratch at the ears. As a result, the ears often become red and inflamed and develop an offensive odor. A black or yellowish discharge also commonly occurs. Some dogs do not show any signs of infection. Regardless, all dogs should be treated because thickening, scarring and resistant infections can develop in untreated ears. Don't these symptoms usually suggest ear mites?Ear mite infections generally occur most commonly in puppies. Ear mites in adult dogs occur most frequently after a puppy carrying mites is introduced into the household. Can I pick up my dog's medication without an appointment?There are several kinds of bacteria and at least one type of fungus that can cause an ear infection. Without knowing the kind of infection present, we cannot determine the best drug to treat it. In some cases, the ear infection may be caused by a foreign body, such as a foxtail or tumor in the ear canal. In these cases, treatment with medication alone will not resolve the problem. The dog must also be examined to be sure that the eardrum is intact. Middle ear or inner ear infections can result if the ear drum is ruptured. This determination is made by the veterinarian and must be done in the hospital.Additionally, it is important to note that many ear infections have an underlying cause. Unless the underlying cause is also treated, the infections will become recurrent. The only way to know if an infection has been resolved completely is by looking in the ear and performing an ear cytology (cell study) to look for persistent organisms. How do you determine which drug to use for treatment?First, the ear is examined with an otoscope, which provides magnification and light and allows us to get a good look into the canal. From here, we can determine whether the eardrum is intact or if there is any foreign material in the canal. When a dog is in extreme pain, the exam should be done with sedation or under anesthesia. Some dogs also have such a heavy buildup of debris that sedation is needed to clean the canal and examine it completely.  The next step is to perform an ear cytology, or the examination of a sample of the material from the ear canal, to determine which organisms are causing the infection. Study of the material under the microscope is very important in helping the veterinarian choose the right medication to treat the ear. How are ear infections treated?The results of the otoscopic examination and ear cytology tell us what to do. Sometimes the cytology reveals the presence of more than one type of infection (i.e., bacterial and fungal or two different kinds of bacteria); this situation usually requires the use of multiple medications or a broad-spectrum medication. In some cases, we will want to culture the debris based on the cytology results. If a foreign body or tick is lodged in the ear canal, the dog will be sedated for removal.  An important part of evaluation is the identification of underlying disease. Many dogs with chronic ear infections have allergy problems (food, pollens, fleas) or low thyroid function (hypothyroidism). If an underlying cause is found, it must be diagnosed and treated. If treatment of the underlying disease is not possible, the dog is less likely to have a favorable response to treatment. The dog may also respond temporarily before relapse of the infection occurs (usually when the medication is discontinued).  What is the prognosis?Nearly all ear infections that are properly diagnosed and treated can be cured. However, if an underlying cause remains unidentified and untreated, the outcome will be less favorable. A recheck exam will be needed before the treatment process is completed. This exam is very important because the ears may need to be treated longer. While the dog's symptoms may have resolved because he/she feels so much better, an infection may still be present. It is impossible to determine whether the infection has cleared without rechecking the ears.  For chronic infections, routine care at home is key to keeping the problem under control.  How do I treat my dog at home?It is important to get your dog's medication into the horizontal part of the ear canal. Be aware that the dog’s external ear canal is “L” shaped. The vertical canal connects with the outside of the ear, while the horizontal canal lies deeper in the ear and terminates at the eardrum. The ear canal may be medicated by following these steps:Gently pull the earflap straight up and hold it with one hand.Apply a small amount of medication into the vertical part of the ear canal while continuing to keep the earflap elevated. Hold this position long enough for the medication to run down to the turn between the vertical and horizontal canal.Put one or two fingers behind the earflap at the base. Place your thumb on the opposite side of the base.Massage the ear canal between your finger and thumb. A squishing sound tells you that the medication has gone into the horizontal canal.Release the earflap and let your dog shake his/her head. If the medication contains a wax solvent, debris will be dissolved so it can be shaken out. It is also important to clean your dog's ears regularly. Directions for cleaning the ears are the same as the medication instructions above, except that the ear cleaning solution will need to be wiped out of the canal. A technician will review how to medicate and clean the ears during your appointment. A video tutorial is also available.
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Ear Cleaning Guidelines for Dogs

Regular ear cleanings are vital to the long-term management of chronic allergic-based otitis (inflammation). It is recommended that you evaluate the ears for odor, discharge, pain or redness. If any of these symptoms are present, you should schedule your pet for an exam.  Cleaning your dog’s ears is also vital to managing ear infections. It is important to rinse and remove debris before treating the ears with medication. In order to achieve an effective ear cleaning, you must have control of your pet. For some dogs, it will be necessary to have someone hold him/her to free both of your hands for the cleaning. For uncooperative pets, you may need to hold his/her head and muzzle gently but firmly. You may find that backing him/her up into a corner of the room is helpful. We recommend that you pair each cleaning with something pleasant, like treats or playtime, so that the ear cleaning is not a dreaded chore for you or a fearful experience for your pet. You will need to start with proper ear cleaning supplies. We recommend the use of Virbac EpiOtic Ear Cleanser or Sogeval Oti-Soothe Ear Cleansing Solution. These are non-abrasive, gentle cleaning solutions. We do not recommend the use of alcohol or hydrogen peroxide to clean your pet's ears. These products can cause inflammation to the ear canal and further exacerbate infections. You will also need some 4-inch gauze squares or cotton balls. We do not recommend that pet owners use Q-tips to clean the ears.Hold the earflap with one hand. Pour a generous amount of the recommended cleaning solution directly into the ear canal. Massage the base of the ear canal until you hear a sloshing noise. This means you have put in enough solution. You may allow the dog to shake his/her head, but use caution not to get fluid in your eyes. The dog will often shake out much of the debris.Using the cotton balls or gauze squares, absorb the excess solution from the ear. Placing your index finger behind the absorbent material, you may wipe as deep as you can reach into the ear canal. This will not injure the ear.Repeat the previous steps until the cotton balls or gauze squares come out clean.
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Canine Distemper

What is distemper?Distemper is a highly contagious viral disease of domestic dogs. Some other species, including ferrets, skunks and raccoons, are also affected by this disease. How is the disease spread?The virus is spread primarily by direct contact between a susceptible dog and a dog with the disease. Coughing can spread the virus over short distances. Discharge from the nose is heavily laden with the virus. What are the clinical signs?As with many infections, symptoms can vary from one dog to another. The most common signs are fever, loss of appetite, coughing, seizures and thick, yellow discharge from the nose and eyes. Do other diseases cause similar signs?There are many diseases that cause coughing, fever, loss of appetite or seizures. However, this combination is unique to canine distemper. If the diagnosis is in doubt, a blood test can be performed for confirmation. What is the treatment?As with most viral infections, there is no drug that will kill the virus. Antibiotics are used because many secondary bacterial infections occur. Intravenous fluids, cough suppressants and drugs to control seizures may also be used. Intensive nursing care is essential. This is best accomplished by treating the dog in the hospital. Do dogs completely recover from this disease?Usually, but not always. Some may be left with persistent nervous twitches (chorea) and recurrent seizures. How can I prevent my dog from becoming infected?A very effective vaccine is available to protect dogs against distemper. It is given to puppies (starting as early as five weeks of age) in a series of three to five injections. Annual re-vaccination is strongly recommended. How common is distemper?Distemper is a worldwide disease. Fortunately, vaccines have been very effective in reducing its incidence in dogs that are healthy and well cared for. However, stray dogs can be a source of the virus, as can skunks, ferrets and raccoons. See Feline Distemper
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Canine Diarrhea

What causes diarrhea?Diarrhea is not a disease; rather, it is a symptom of many different diseases. Many mild cases of diarrhea can be resolved quickly with simple treatments. Others are the result of fatal illnesses, like cancer. Even diarrhea caused by mild illnesses may become fatal if treatment to prevent severe fluid and nutrient loss is not started soon enough. How serious is diarrhea in dogs?Severity depends on how sick the dog has become as a consequence of the diarrhea. When the dog is systemically ill (i.e., more than one body system is involved), some of the following may be noted: VomitingDehydrationLoss of appetiteAbdominal painHigh feverLethargyBloody and/or watery diarrhea What types of tests are performed to find the cause?If diarrhea is associated with several of the above signs, a series of tests may be performed. These diagnostic tests include radiography (X-rays) with or without barium, blood tests, stool cultures, biopsies of the intestinal tract and exploratory abdominal surgery. Once the diagnosis is known, treatment may include special medications, diets or surgery. If your dog does not appear systemically ill from diarrhea, the cause may be less serious. Some minor causes of diarrhea include stomach or intestinal viruses, intestinal parasites and dietary indiscretions (such as eating garbage or other offensive or irritating materials). A minimal number of tests are performed to rule out certain parasites and infections. These cases may be treated with drugs to control the motility of the intestinal tract or relieve inflammation in the intestinal tract, as well as a restricted diet for a few days. This approach allows the body's healing mechanisms to correct the problem. We expect to see improvement within two to four days. If this does not occur, a change in medication or further tests may be performed to better understand the problem. See Feline Diarrhea
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Diabetes Mellitus in Dogs

What is diabetes mellitus?There are two forms of diabetes in dogs: diabetes insipidus and diabetes mellitus. Diabetes insipidus is a very rare disorder that results in failure to regulate body water content. Diabetes mellitus is a fairly common disorder and is most often seen in dogs five years of age or older. A congenital (existing at birth) form of this disease can occur in puppies, but this is not common. Diabetes mellitus is a disease of the pancreas. This is a small but vital organ that is located near the stomach. It has two significant populations of cells. One group of cells produces the enzymes necessary for proper digestion. The other group, called beta-cells, produces the hormone insulin. Simply put, diabetes mellitus is a failure of the pancreas to produce adequate amounts of insulin. Why is insulin so important?The role of insulin is much like that of a gatekeeper: It stands at the surface of body cells and opens the door, allowing glucose to leave the blood stream and pass inside the cells. Glucose, or blood sugar, is a vital substance that provides much of the energy needed for life and it must work inside the cells. Without an adequate amount of insulin, glucose is unable to get into the cells. It accumulates in the blood, setting in motion a series of events which can ultimately prove fatal. When insulin is deficient, the cells become starved for a source of energy. In response to this, the body starts breaking down stores of fat and protein to use as alternative energy sources. This causes the dog to eat more, but ultimately results in weight loss. The body tries to eliminate the excess glucose by excreting it in the urine. However, glucose attracts water, so the urine glucose that is excreted also contains large quantities of the body's fluids. This causes the dog to produce a large amount of urine. To avoid dehydration, the dog drinks more and more water. Thus, we have the four classical signs of diabetes:Weight lossIncreased water consumptionRavenous appetite Increased urination How is diabetes mellitus diagnosed?The diagnosis of diabetes mellitus is based on three criteria: the four classical signs, the presence of a persistently high level of glucose in the blood stream and the presence of glucose in the urine. The normal level of glucose in the blood is 80 to 120 mg/dl. It may rise to 250 to 300 mg/dl following a meal. However, diabetes is the only common disease that will cause the blood glucose level to rise above 400 mg/dl. Some diabetic dogs can have a glucose level as high as 800 mg/dl, but most will be in the range of 400-600 mg/dl. To keep the body from losing vital glucose, the kidneys do not allow glucose to be filtered out of the blood stream until an excessive level is reached. This means that dogs with a normal blood glucose level will not have glucose in the urine. Diabetic dogs, however, have excessive amounts of glucose in the blood, so it will be present in the urine. What does a diagnosis of diabetes mean for me and my dog? For the diabetic dog, one reality exists: Blood glucose cannot be normalized without treatment. Even though a dog can go a day or so without treatment and not experience a crisis, treatment should be looked upon as part of the dog's daily routine. Treatment almost always requires some dietary changes and administration of insulin. For the owner, successful treatment depends on financial and personal commitment. When your dog is regulated, the maintenance costs are minimal on a day-to-day basis. The special diet, insulin and syringes are not expensive. However, the financial commitment can be significant during the initial regulation process or in the instance that complications arise.  Initially, your dog may be hospitalized for a few days to deal with the immediate crisis and to begin the regulation process. The "immediate crisis" is only great if your dog is so sick that he/she has stopped eating and drinking for several days. Dogs in this state, called ketoacidosis, may require a week or more of hospitalization with quite a bit of laboratory testing. Otherwise, the initial hospitalization is often unnecessary and the initial insulin injections are given at home. At first, return visits are required every three to seven days to monitor progress. Once the glucose begins to lower, a curve will be recommended to assess how effective the insulin is and how long it is lasting. This is a test in which insulin is injected early in the morning and blood glucose levels are determined every two to four hours throughout the day. The purpose of this test is to determine how long it takes for the blood glucose to reach its lowest level or "peak time." The test is also used to determine how high and low the blood glucose levels are throughout the day. It may take a month or more to achieve good regulation.  We will work with you to try and achieve consistent results, but regulation is not always easy. Inconsistencies in treatment can make regulating your dog especially challenging. It is important that you pay close attention to instructions related to medication administration, diet and home monitoring. Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can occur as a result of incorrect or inconsistent treatment and, if severe, may be fatal. Your personal commitment to treating the dog is very important in maintaining regulation and preventing crises. Most diabetic dogs require insulin injections twice daily. They must be fed the same food in the same amount on the same schedule every day. If you are out of town, your dog must receive proper treatment while you are gone. These factors should be considered carefully when deciding to treat a diabetic dog. What is involved in treatment?Consistency is vital to proper management of the diabetic dog. Your dog needs consistent administration of medication, consistent feeding and a stable, stress-free lifestyle. To best achieve this, it is preferred that your dog live indoors most of the time. Although it is not essential, indoor living removes many uncontrollable variables that can disrupt regulation. The first step in treatment is to alter your dog's diet. Diets that are high in fiber are preferred because they are generally lower in sugar and slower to be digested. This means that the dog does not have to process a large amount of sugar at one time. We recommend Hill's Prescription Diet w/d. Your dog's feeding routine is also important. Some dogs prefer to eat several times per day. This means that food is left in the bowl at all times for free feeding. However, this is not the best way to feed a diabetic dog. The preferred way is to feed twice daily, just before each insulin injection. If your dog is currently eating on a free-fed basis, you may try breaking the diet into separate meals. However, if your dog will not change or if you have several dogs that eat in a free-fed fashion, you may find that this change is not practical. If a two-meals-per-day feeding routine will not work for you, it is still very important that you find some way to accurately measure the amount of food that is consumed. The foundation for regulating blood glucose is the administration of insulin by injection. Many owners are initially fearful of giving insulin injections. If you are experiencing this reaction, consider these points:Insulin does not cause pain when it is injected.The injections are made with very tiny needles that your dog hardly feels.The injections are given just under the skin in areas in which it is almost impossible to cause damage to any vital organ. Please do not decide whether to treat your dog with insulin until we have demonstrated the injection technique. You will be surprised at how easy it is. About Insulin Insulin comes in an airtight bottle that is labeled with the insulin type and the concentration. Before using, mix the contents. It says on the label to roll it gently, not shake it. The reason for this is to prevent foam formation which will make accurate measuring difficult. Some types of insulin used in dogs have a strong tendency to settle out of suspension. If the insulin is not mixed properly, dosing will not be accurate. Therefore, the trick is to roll it enough to mix it without creating foam. When you have finished rolling it, turn the bottle upside down to see if any white powder adheres to the bottle. If so, more rolling is needed. Insulin is a hormone that will lose its effectiveness if exposed to direct sunlight or high temperatures. It should be kept in the refrigerator, but it should not be frozen. It is typically not ruined if left out of the refrigerator for a day or two and not exposed to direct sunlight, although this is not advisable. Insulin is safe as long as it is used as directed, but it should be kept out of the reach of children. Before injecting your dog with the insulin, check that there are no air bubbles in the syringe. If you see an air bubble, draw twice as much insulin into the syringe as you need. Then withdraw the needle from the insulin bottle and tap the barrel of the syringe with your fingernail to make the air bubble rise to the nozzle of the syringe. Gently and slowly expel the air bubble by moving the plunger upward. When this has been done, check that you have the correct amount of insulin in the syringe. The correct dose of insulin can be assured if you measure from the needle end, or "0" on the syringe barrel, to the end of the plunger nearest the needle. Injecting the InsulinHold the syringe in your right hand (switch hands if you are left-handed).Have someone hold your dog while you pick up a fold of skin from somewhere along your dog's back with your free hand.Quickly push the sharp, thin needle through your dog's skin. This should be easy and painless. However, take care to push the needle through only one layer of skin and not into your finger or through both layers of the skin roll. The latter will result in injecting the insulin onto your dog's haircoat or onto the floor. The needle should be directed parallel to the backbone or angled slightly downward.To inject the insulin, place your thumb on the plunger and push it all the way into the syringe barrel.Withdraw the needle from your dog's skin. Immediately place the needle guard over the needle and discard the needle and syringe.Stroke your dog to reward him/her for sitting quietly. Is continual or periodic monitoring needed?It is necessary that your dog's progress be checked on a regular basis. Monitoring is a joint project on which owners and veterinarians must work together. Home MonitoringYour part consists of two forms of monitoring. First, you need to be constantly aware of your dog's appetite, weight, water consumption and urine output. You should be feeding a constant amount of food each day, which will allow you to be aware of days that your dog does not eat the whole meal or is unusually hungry after the feeding. You should weigh your dog at least once monthly. It is best to use the same scale each time.  Also try to develop a way to measure water consumption. The average dog should drink no more than 7-1/2 ounces of water per 10 pounds of body weight in 24 hours. Since this is highly variable from one dog to another depending on weather and amount of exercise, keeping a record of your dog's water consumption for a few weeks will allow you to establish what is normal for your dog. Any significant change in your dog's food intake, weight, water intake or urine output is an indicator that the diabetes is not well controlled. We should see your dog at that time for blood testing. The second method of home monitoring is to determine the presence of glucose in the urine. If your dog is properly regulated, there should be very little glucose present in the urine. There are several ways to detect it. You may purchase urine glucose test strips in any pharmacy. They are designed for use in humans with diabetes, but they will also work in dogs. A fresh urine sample should be collected and tested with the test strip. If a high glucose level is detected, the test should be repeated the next two days. If a high glucose level is present each time, we should see your dog for a blood test. You should keep a small container to catch urine as the dog voids. A large amount of urine is not needed to test for urine glucose; therefore,it is not necessary to catch the entire amount of urine. Because the female dog usually squats to urinate, a shallow pan or saucer may be placed under the hindquarters when she begins to urinate. For male dogs, urine can be collected as soon as the dog lifts the leg to void. Male dogs often urinate small amounts in several different places and most often urinate on vertical objects, such as bushes and trees. Monitoring of BloodA blood glucose level should be performed every three to four months if your dog seems to be well regulated. Testing should also be done if at any time the clinical signs of diabetes are present or if a high glucose level is detected in the urine for two consecutive days. Timing is important when the blood glucose level is determined. Since eating will elevate the blood sugar for several hours, it is best to test the blood at least four to six hours after eating and administration of the insulin.  One alternative test is called a fructosamine test. This test is an average of the blood glucose levels for the last two weeks. It is less influenced by stress and inconsistencies in diet and exercise. For some dogs, this is the preferred test. It does not require fasting and can be performed at any time of the day. We recommend a complete physical exam, a blood panel including a serum fructosamine level and a urinalysis twice yearly on diabetic dogs. This will help ensure your dog is properly regulated and aid us in early detection of metabolic problems which may lead to poor control. The cost for this visit will be approximately $150 to $200, but can be coupled with annual exams and vaccines. Does hypoglycemia occur in dogs?Hypoglycemia means low blood sugar. If a dog's glucose level is below 40 mg/dl, it can be life-threatening.Hypoglycemia occurs when the insulin dose is too high or when too much insulin is given. When the insulin dose is too highAlthough most dogs will require the same dose of insulin for long periods of time, it is possible for the dog's insulin requirements to change. However, the most common causes for change are a reduction in food intake and an increase in exercise or activity. The reason for feeding before the insulin injection is to know when the appetite changes.If your dog does not eat, skip that dose of insulin. If only half of the food is eaten, just give half a dose of insulin. Always remember that it is better for the blood sugar to be too high than too low. When too much insulin is givenThis can occur because the insulin was not properly measured in the syringe or because two doses were given. You may forget that you gave it and repeat it or two people in the family may each give a dose. A chart to record insulin administration will help prevent the dog from being treated twice. The most likely time that a dog will become hypoglycemic is during peak insulin effect (five to eight hours after an insulin injection). When the blood glucose level is only mildly low, the dog will be very tired and unresponsive. Within a few hours, the blood glucose level will rise and your dog will return to normal. Since many dogs sleep a lot during the day, this important sign is easily missed. Watch for it. It is the first sign of impending problems. If you see it, please bring your dog in for blood testing. If your dog is slow to recover from this period of lethargy, you should give him/her syrup or honey (one tablespoon by mouth). If there is no response in 15 minutes, a second dose should be given. If there is still no response, contact us immediately for further instructions. If severe hypoglycemia occurs, a dog will have seizures or lose consciousness. This is an emergency that can only be reversed with intravenous administration of glucose. If it occurs during office hours, come in immediately. If it occurs at night or on the weekend, call our emergency phone number for instructions. See Diabetes Mellitus in Cats
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Cystitis in Dogs

What is cystitis?The term "cystitis" literally means inflammation of the urinary bladder. This is a generalized term and applies to any disease that inflames the urinary bladder. What causes cystitis?The most common cause of cystitis in dogs is an infection due to bacteria. However, other common causes include bladder stones, tumors or polyps in the bladder and diverticula. What are the signs of cystitis?The most common sign seen by owners is hematuria (blood in the urine). In addition, many dogs experience discomfort while urinating. They will often spend several minutes passing only a small amount of urine and may urinate more frequently than normal. Symptoms are determined by the specific cause of cystitis. Bacterial infections usually cause hematuria and dysuria (straining to urinate). Bladder stones are often very rough and cause irritation as they rub against the bladder wall, also creating hematuria and dysuria. Tumors or polyps are usually not highly irritating to the bladder, but they can cause bleeding and mild straining to urinate. A diverticulum is a small pouch in the bladder wall that usually causes hematuria and dysuria secondary to the chronic bacterial infection that occurs. Bacteria often reside deep in the diverticulum and are nearly impossible to remove without surgery. How is cystitis diagnosed?A history of hematuria, dysuria and increased frequency of urination is strong evidence of some form of cystitis. When these are seen, several tests are appropriate. The first group of tests include urinalysis, urine culture and bladder palpation (feeling with the fingers). A urinalysis consists of several tests to detect abnormalities in the urine. These are generally adequate to confirm cystitis, but may not provide enough information to determine the exact cause. A urine culture determines whether bacteria are present and which antibiotics are likely to be effective in killing them. This is appropriate because most cases of cystitis are caused by bacteria that may be easily eliminated with antibiotics. Bladder palpation is the first "test" for bladder stones, since many are large enough to be felt by experienced fingers. What is done if cystitis is present, but the culture is negative for bacteria and stones cannot be felt?This scenario occurs about 20 percent of the time. When this happens, it is important that more tests be performed so a diagnosis can be achieved. Radiographs (X-rays) are taken to further evaluate the bladder to detect possible stones, but they are usually not able to visualize tumors, polyps or diverticula.  An ultrasound examination is also useful in evaluating the bladder. This technique uses sound waves to visualize stones as well as detect tumors and polyps. It may also identify other abnormalities of the bladder wall, such as thickening. Both of these tests can be performed without sedation or anesthesia in a cooperative dog.  Contrast radiographs are taken when plain radiographs and an ultrasound examination do not render a diagnosis. The bladder is filled with negative contrast material (usually air), positive contrast material (a special radiographic dye) and a small amount of positive contrast material against negative contrast material (double contrast study). An X-ray is taken each time the bladder is filled. These three procedures permit visualization of otherwise unseen bladder stones, tumors and polyps, diverticula and wall thickening. It is necessary to pass a catheter into the bladder and to distend it with the contrast materials; therefore, general anesthesia is required. Dogs showing other signs of illness, such as fever, poor appetite or lethargy should also be evaluated for systemic diseases and bleeding disorders that may be causing hematuria. Lab work, including a chemistry profile and complete blood count (CBC), should be performed. If a clotting problem is suspected, a bleeding profile is appropriate. How is cystitis treated?Treatment depends on the cause. Bacterial infections are often easily treated with antibiotics. Some bladder stones can be dissolved with special diets; others require surgical removal. Benign bladder polyps can usually be surgically removed, but malignant bladder tumors are difficult to treat successfully. A bladder diverticulum should be removed surgically. See Cystitis in Cats
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Anal Sac Disease in Dogs

What are anal sacs?The anal sacs are located on either side of the anus at the nine o’clock and three o’clock positions. They are positioned just under the skin and connect to the anus through small canals or ducts. Anal sacs produce and store a dark, foul-smelling fluid. These are similar to the glands a skunk uses to scare away its enemies. Although dogs can use these for the same purpose, most dogs live in an environment that has no enemies. Because the sacs are rarely emptied, the fluid builds up, solidifies and becomes an ideal environment in which bacteria can grow. What kinds of problems can occur in the anal sacs?There are three diseases that occur in the anal sacs:When the fluid becomes thick and solidified, the condition is called impaction.When bacteria grow in the anal glands and produce a yellow or bloody pus, the condition is called infection.When the infection builds to create a hot, tender swelling in the gland, the condition is called an abscess. When the abscessed material overflows the sac, the skin over the sac breaks open and the pus drains onto the skin. How will I know if my dog is having problems with his/her anal sacs?Symptoms of anal sac disease are:Scooting or dragging the anal areaExcessive licking under the tailPain near the tail or anusA swollen area on either side of the anusBloody or sticky drainage on either side of the anus How are the various anal sac diseases treated?The treatment for impaction is to express the sacs and clean out the solidified material. For infection, the sacs must be expressed and antibiotics administered to kill the bacteria. If the sacs abscess, the abscess must be surgically drained and antibiotics administered. My dog has had several bouts of anal sac disease. Is there a long-term cure?Many dogs have recurrent anal sac disease. Some factors, like breed and weight, can predispose dogs to these problems. If a dog has several episodes of anal sac disease, the anal sacs can be removed surgically. Because these sacs are virtually unused, there is no loss to the dog. It is the only way to permanently cure the problem. Are there any complications with the surgery?Surgery requires general anesthesia which always carries some degree of risk, whether the patient is a dog or a person. However, modern anesthetics make this risk very minimal for dogs that are otherwise healthy. Some dogs will experience a temporary lack of bowel control. This occurs because the nerves that control the anus are very near the anal sacs and may be damaged during surgery. However, this is almost always a temporary problem that will resolve itself in a few days to a couple of weeks. My dog frequently leaves a foul-smelling drop of liquid on the furniture. Is this related to anal sac disease?Some dogs are born with anal canals that do not close well. These dogs are constantly draining anal sac fluid and leaving a foul-smelling drop wherever they have been. This is another indication for anal sac removal since there does not appear to be any other way to stop this and dogs do not outgrow this problem. See Anal Sac Disease in Cats
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Canine Allergies

What are allergies and how do they affect dogs?Allergies may be defined as the body’s response to foreign proteins. For our purposes, we will consider allergies to be any of the common reactions or responses to pollens, flea bites and some foods that result in itching. Many animals will not exhibit clinical signs until the additive effect of multiple allergens causes them to exceed their threshold. For this reason, we do not always need to eliminate every allergen in order to successfully treat your pet. We need to try to identify and eliminate what we can to drop him/her below the threshold of discomfort. Although this may sound easy, it is often a long, frustrating process before we discover what works for a particular individual. Close communication and follow-up appointments to see how the pet is responding to therapy is essential to success. Is there more than one type of allergy?Yes, there are four known types of allergies in the dog:ContactFleaFoodInhalant  I have been told that my dog is atopic. Is this the same as transdermal allergy?Yes. After flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), atopy is the second most common type of allergy in the dog. It is caused by topical allergens to which the dog’s immune system overreacts. Most dogs (70 percent) begin to show signs between one and three years of age, but can start as early as one month or as late as six years. Most allergies that begin under six months or over six years of age involve food. What exactly causes it?There are a wide variety of allergens that can cause atopy. These are similar to the causes of hay fever or human asthma. When the affected individual is exposed to dust, pollens or molds, they are absorbed through the skin and an allergic response occurs. Certain breeds are more prone to atopy than others, but it can occur in any breed. There also seems to be a genetic predilection. What happens to the dog when this occurs?Atopy in the dog is usually characterized by seasonal, generalized itching. Early on, many owners think their dogs’ behavior is normal, but as the disease progresses the signs become worse. Atopic animals will usually rub, lick, chew, bite or scratch at their feet, muzzle, ears, armpits or groin. This can cause hair loss, redness and thickening and/or darkening of the skin. Saliva will often stain light-colored hair resulting in an orange or reddish-brown color. Some dogs (20 percent) will only show signs associated with chronic ear inflammation and infection. How do you find the cause of my dog’s inhalant allergy?Diagnosis is not easy. It is based on the presence of clinical signs as well as ruling out other causes of itching such as flea allergies, food allergies, parasites or bacterial dermatitis. The itching caused by grass pollen looks the same as itching caused by house dust mites and many molds. In other words, your dog may be allergic to several different things with the end result being the same.  A thorough medical history will help narrow the causes. For example, if the itching occurs in the spring when certain pollen is prevalent, this narrows the field of investigation. I understand my dog will have to have allergy tests to make a diagnosis. Is this true?Approximately 80 percent of allergy diagnoses can be confirmed by allergy testing. There are two types of allergy tests. Skin testing involves injecting a series of antigens under the skin, while serum testing involves taking a blood sample. Serum testing, also called IgE testing, is the method used most commonly at our facility. The blood is evaluated for the presence of immune cells against certain allergens. If the body contains a high number of these IgE antibodies, an allergy to that allergen exists. Once the diagnosis has been made, it is possible to desensitize the dog. This involves the use of specific antigen injections that can be formulated according to the results of the allergy tests. The theory is that the controlled injections of increasing amounts of the offending allergens “reprogram” the dog’s immune system to reduce its response. For most dogs, allergen therapy results in significantly reduced itching and may be completely curative in some (45 to 60 percent). Some improvement is seen in 80 percent of dogs who are treated with allergy injections. Results are usually seen within three to six months, but some animals do not respond for nine to 12 months. If there is no improvement after that, re-evaluation is necessary. If this does not work, what else can be done?Anti-inflammatory drugs including corticosteroids, antihistamines and cyclosporin (or combinations of these) will often alleviate itching. In addition, the use of certain omega fatty acids aid many pets with allergic skin disease. However, these approaches treat only the clinical signs, not the underlying allergy. Finding the right combination of therapies can be frustrating. It is by experimenting with different treatments that the appropriate combination is ultimately discovered. As time goes by, therapies may need to be occasionally altered to keep your pet comfortable. My friend’s dog has an atopy and seems to be helped by regular bathing. Can I try this?Many dogs benefit from weekly bathing with special shampoos or topical sprays. Atopic skin is sensitive and subject to drying, so only hypoallergenic shampoos should be used. Rinsing should be very thorough. You can follow the bath with a remoisturizing rinse or spray. Research shows that some allergens are absorbed through the skin and it is thought that frequent bathing reduces the amount of allergens that the pet absorbs. Some shampoos incorporate omega fatty acids, which may be absorbed through the skin and help reduce itching. Antibiotics or antifungal medication may also be used if there is a secondary bacterial skin infection (pyoderma) or yeast dermatitis. My dog only itches in the spring and I have been told he/she has a seasonal allergy. What does this mean?Seasonal allergies and atopy describe the same type of allergic skin disease. The majority of atopic dogs experience itching during certain seasons when flowers or trees are blooming and producing pollens. Other atopic dogs will have problems year-round. This means the allergen is constantly present. Many dogs with atopy begin with seasonal itching, but continue to develop reactions for progressively longer periods of time. This can result in year-round allergy problems. Treatment recommendations may need to be adjusted as the dog's symptoms change. When my dog’s allergies are bad, he/she seems to have a terrible smell. Is this normal?When allergies occur, the skin produces more sebum, which is an oily material that causes a musty odor. Once the itching and scratching are controlled, the odor and seborrhea (dandruff) also clear up. Another cause of odor is infection. Yeast and bacterial infections in the skin and ears can produce an unpleasant odor and are very common in animals with atopy. See Feline Allergies
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Airline Travel with Your Dog

I’m planning to travel and would like to take my dog with me. What are some of the factors I need to consider before taking him/her on an airplane? Having your dog along for the ride may add enjoyment to your trip, but it's important to keep your dog’s health and safety in mind, so be sure to call the airline well in advance. Familiarize yourself with the airline’s pet requirements so that you can avoid any last minute problems. Here are some basic tips for airline travel with your dog:Take direct flights and try to avoid connections and layovers. This eliminates missed baggage connections and the chance that your dog will be left in extreme weather.Many airlines will allow one pet in coach and one in first class, with some provisions. Some airlines limit the number of pets traveling within the cabin area, so be sure to notify the airline that your dog will be traveling with you. Your dog must be in a standard cage that will fit under the seat and must not disturb your fellow travelers. Obviously, only small dogs qualify for this type of accommodation.Seek the advice of your veterinarian before traveling. Update all vaccinations and take all necessary health papers with you. A health certificate for your dog will be required for all interstate, and many intrastate, flights. If you are traveling to a foreign country, be aware that many countries require a specific health certificate. It may take several days or even weeks for your veterinarian to acquire the appropriate forms, so plan well in advance. You might also inquire about possible requirements to quarantine your dog should you be traveling to a foreign country or an island.If possible, use airlines that hand-carry your dog (inside the carrier) to and from the aircraft. Otherwise, the carrier could simply be placed on a conveyor belt.Do not feed your dog for six hours before the flight, but allow water until flight time. Water should also be available in the carrier. Give the dog fresh water as soon as you arrive at your destination.Avoid the busiest travel times so airline personnel will have extra time to handle your dog.Do not tranquilize your dog without first discussing it with your veterinarian.Make sure the carrier has specific feeding and identification labels permanently attached.Baggage liability limitations may apply to your dog. Check your ticket for liability limits or, better yet, speak directly with the airline. If you are traveling with an economically valuable pet, you may want to purchase additional liability insurance.Be aware that airline travel may pose a risk for dogs with a pre-existing medical problem. For example, you should give serious thought to traveling by plane with a dog who has kidney or heart disease. Also, studies have shown that short-faced breeds of dogs (English Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Pekinese) do not travel well in certain situations. Discuss these issues with your veterinarian prior to travel. What do I need to consider when buying a travel carrier? Your dog's travel carrier will be his/her "home" for much of your trip. It's important to choose the right one. Here are some helpful guidelines:The carrier should be large enough for your dog to stand up and turn around freely.The walls of the carrier should be strong and waterproof. This will prevent crushing and urine leakage.There must be adequate ventilation on at least three sides of the carrier.The carrier must have sturdy handles for baggage personnel to use.The carrier should have a water tray that is accessible from the outside so that water can be added if needed.Cover the bottom of the carrier with an absorbant covering or underpad. You can purchase these at many pharmacies.Pet stores, breeders and kennels usually sell carriers that meet these requirements. Some airlines also sell carriers that they prefer to use. Check with the airline to see if they have other requirements. Try to familiarize your dog with the travel carrier before you leave for your trip. Let your dog play inside with the door both open and closed. This will help eliminate some of your dog's stress during the trip. Is there any other advice that might be useful as I prepare for my trip? By applying a few common sense rules, you can keep your traveling dog safe and sound.Arrange ahead of time to stay in a hotel that allows pets. Many bookstores carry travel guidebooks with this type of information. Make sure that your dog wears a collar with an identification tag securely fastened. It should have your name, address and telephone number on it.Always travel with a leash-harness for your dog. This is more secure than a collar. Familiarize your dog with the harness before the trip. Attach your dog's leash while it is still inside the cage. Outside the cage, a frightened dog can easily run away before you have a chance to secure it.If you leave your dog unattended in lodging rooms, make sure that there is no opportunity for escape. Leave the dog in the cage or in the bathroom. Be sure to inform housekeeping personnel of your dog and ask that they wait until you return before entering the room.Should your pet get lost, contact a local animal control officer. Remember, advance planning is vital to making the trip an enjoyable experience for both you and your dog. See Airline Travel with Your Cat
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