Tag Archives: medicine

Does my dog have arthritis?

Fireplace photo

Arthritis is a common condition in older dogs.  At first, though, owners may not always realise when their dog is suffering.  That’s because dogs tend to hide discomfort and pain from their pack.

Signs that your dog may be suffering from arthritis include:

  • Difficulty sitting or standing
  • Sleeping more
  • Weight gain
  • Reluctance to jump, run, walk or climb stairs
  • Decreased interest in playing or engaging in activities
  • Being less alert
  • Favouring a limb
  • Changes in attitude or behaviour

One day in 2011, Daisy let me know something was wrong.  We were out walking and she slowed down and stopped and the look in her eyes was one of pain.  She had finally let me know that she wasn’t feeling herself.

A series of x-rays confirmed arthritis in her lumbosacral spine and left hip.

Since then, she has responded to rest, conventional treatments, hydrotherapy, and other complementary therapies including my massage and laser treatments.

Quality of life for an arthritis sufferer can be attained – once the owner is aware of the problem!

Hypothermia after surgery involving anaesthetic

A  research team from the Universidad CEU Cardenal Herrera directed by Professor José Ignacio Redondo has published research  in the journal Veterinary Record about the prevalence of hypothermia in dogs after surgery and other diagnostic tests that require anaesthetic. 83.6% of the 1,525 dogs studied presented with the complication, whereas in humans this percentage is between 30 and 60% of cases.

This research supports what many of us have experienced with our own dogs.  For example, when Daisy had a dental cleaning earlier this year, her vet reported to me that her temperature dropped after the surgery and they had extra blankets around her to warm her.  For this and other reasons, I’m glad I use a veterinary practice that is full-service, and I’m not an owner that is focused simply on costs.  (I’ve heard of people shopping around for the lowest cost for a dental; chances are that their pet will not be monitored closely and may not even be given fluids as part of the surgery and recovery.)

The researchers analysed over 1,500 cases of anesthetized animals in the University Clinical Hospitals of the CEU Cardenal Herrera and Cordoba. The variables directly related to hypothermia in dogs registered at the end of an operation include the duration of the pre-anaesthesia and anaesthesia, the physical condition of the animal and, also, their posture during surgery (sternal and dorsal recumbencies showed lower temperatures than lateral recumbency).

Hypothermia is the most common anaesthetic complication in dogs.  The researchers recommend that temperature should be continuously monitored and vets should take preventive measures to avoid heat loss during procedures.

Source:  AlphaGalileo Foundation media statement

When your dog has the runs…

A client rang me this week to say that her dog had a major case of runny poos – the runs – or diarrhea to be exact.  She said her dog was her normal happy self but was going to the toilet regularly with fairly dramatic consequences – would I keep our massage appointment?

My answer was ‘no’ – not advisable – not because I was concerned that I’d have poo all over my massage table but because this dog’s body was telling us something.  Diarrhea is a symptom and not a disorder in itself and the dog’s body was working double-time to rid itself of an irritant.  Her system had enough to handle and a massage would only add to her metabolic load as lactic acid was released by the massage.  She didn’t need that.

My advice was to withhold food for 12 to 24 hours and to keep up the fluids.  Some people add low salt chicken or vegetable stock to the dog’s water bowl to encourage them to drink and keep hydrated, for example.  When food was again on the menu, I suggested replacing half the normal volume of food with cooked pumpkin to add fibre to the diet that the dog could easily tolerate and to keep this up for a few days until the stools returned to a normal consistency.

Other home remedies include a diet of boiled chicken with white rice, for example.

Typically, diarrhea is the result of a digestive indiscretion but it can be the result of poisoning from household or garden chemicals, a symptom of parasites such as hookworm, or a food allergy.  Some worming treatments can also stimulate a bought of diarrhea.

If a dog has additional symptoms such as lethargy, weakness, abdominal pain, blood in the diarrhea, vomiting and fever  then you need to see your veterinarian as soon as possible.   In this case, the dog seemed happy in herself and so that was a sign that she was probably not in danger.

A trip to the vet is a good idea if the diarrhea lasts for more than five days or so.

Diarrhea isn’t any fun for the dog owner or the dog.  Keeping an eye on symptoms is critically important to ensure you do the right thing when your dog has the runs…

Your dog is not a garbage can

This is a garbage can...

This is a garbage can…

...and this is a dog.

…and this is a dog

Please understand the difference this Christmas!

Veterinarians around the world see a surge in cases of pancreatitis each year during the Christmas holiday season.  That’s because our homes are filled with rich, fatty foods that are as tempting to dogs as they are to us.  A single high-fat meal is enough to trigger the problem – and so the well-meaning family members who empty their plate in your dog’s bowl rather than the garbage are often at fault.

Low protein, high fat diets have been known to cause pancreatitis and it is a life-treatening condition. Symptoms of pancreatitis are acute vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite, and in some cases, fever. The dog may have a tucked-up belly and assume a prayer position. The abdominal pain is caused by the release of digestive enzymes into the pancreas and surrounding tissue.

More severe cases of pancreatitis can develop rapidly and a dog can go into shock – a trip to the emergency veterinary center is essential.

Vets will treat your dog with fluids, antibiotics and pain relief and will withdraw all foods for a number of days to rest the pancreas.   Assuming your dog survives,  its pancreas may be permanently damaged.  In these cases, your dog may develop diabetes mellitus if the islet cells have been destroyed or may develop exocrine pancreatic insufficiency if the acinar cells have been destroyed.

Dogs who have experienced one pancreatitis episode are susceptible to having future attacks that can be anywhere from mild to severe.

The lesson?  Your dog is not a garbage can.  Treats should be served in moderation and carefully monitored by one member of the family to ensure the dog isn’t over-fed.  Avoiding table scraps is always a good idea.

Kissing your dog and the link to gum disease

My mother was never happy when our dog got too close and  managed to lick her on the mouth.   In the Snoopy cartoons, you might remember when Lucy would run around yelling ‘Get the iodine, get the hot water.  I’ve been kissed by a dog.’ 

It turns out that there is need for caution when considering the mouth-to-mouth contact with your dog.

Researchers from Japan have tracked a microbe that is very common in dogs but rare in humans.   In dog owners, 16% of them had the microbe and it appears that they share close contact with their dogs – including kissing.

The researchers also found ten human strains of periodontitis-related bacteria in the dogs’ mouths.  And they found that low levels of contact were enough to transmit mouth bacteria either way.

In considering the research, Dr Paul Maza, of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University, told America’s Fox News:  ‘Many of the different types of bacteria in dogs and cats are the same type of bacteria as in humans. If owners practice oral hygiene on their pets, such as  brushing their teeth, a pet’s mouth can actually be even cleaner than a human mouth.’

Read the full story in the Daily Mail.

New kennel cough vaccine offers dog owners and vets a choice

The US Food and Drug Administration has approved a new kennel cough (bordetella) vaccine made by pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim that is administered orally.

Branded as Bronchi-Shield® ORAL, the vaccine is mixed in the vet’s office and placed in the dog’s mouth  between the dog’s cheek and gum, an area known as the buccal cavity.

For dogs that don’t tolerate the intra-nasal form of vaccination, this form is likely to be an improvement.

Kennel cough has many strains and not all are considered bordetella.   As with other kennel cough vaccinations, the vaccine does not prevent your dog from coming down with bordetella or any of the many infectious respiratory diseases.   However, vaccination may help to reduce the severity of the illness if your dog does contract it and that allows for faster recovery.

Kennels in the United States report that the cost for this form of the vaccine is currently three times the cost of the traditional vaccine.  That’s because the product is new and only one pharmaceutical company is manufacturing it.  The price is likely to reduce over time as the vaccine becomes more widely used.

For more information about Bronchi-Shield® ORAL, visit the product website.

The year of the vet plus one

Thirty-five years ago, on the waiting room wall of our family’s first vet, this passage from the actor and cowboy Will Rogers was mounted in a frame:

 The best doctor in the world is the veterinarian. He can’t ask his patients what is the matter- he’s got to just know.

 What Mr Rogers said still holds true today.  Our veterinarians must have enquiring minds, good social skills (with dogs and people), observation capabilities beyond compare, a good network for researching and diagnosing illnesses, and the dedication to continue learning as new drugs and medical techniques are developed.

Did you know that last year (2011),  marked the 250th anniversary of the veterinary profession? French veterinarian and animal pathology researcher Claude Bourgelat established the world’s first veterinary school in Lyon, France in 1761.  Another school was established several years later in Paris.

I get to witness the rapport between client, dog and vet when I’m allowed to sit in on Gumboot Morrall’s post-surgical examination with Dr Tim Nottage of the Merivale Papanui Veterinary Clinic in Christchurch.  Gumboot  –  ‘Boots’ for short – has had a 1.2 kg tumour removed from his abdomen.  His owner, Min Morrall, tells me that Gumboot is a 10-year old Labrador cross and that she takes all her animals to Dr Tim for care and treatment.  She’s obviously comfortable at this practice as she shares the latest news with the receptionist while waiting for her appointment to begin.

Dr Tim Nottage rewards Gumboot after a successful examination

Dr Tim immediately asks for a progress report from Min, who says that Boots is walking again, although slower than normal.  Whilst he works on Boots to examine the surgical scar and drain the wound, Dr Tim asks various questions of Min.  These range from Boots’ appetite and medication to Min’s opinion on how her dog is doing.  Throughout his exam, Dr Tim murmurs encouraging words to Boots.  Afterwards, he gives Boots a treat which Boots happily accepts before heading for the relative safety of the reception area, clearly happy that his uncomfortable visit is over.

Our veterinarians go through years of education and training to become qualified and then their lifelong journey commences as they learn from their patients as new cases are presented.  Today we are reaping the benefits from a profession established over 250 years ago and the lives of our animals are better for it.   When you are next at your vet’s office, consider the words of Will Rogers and watch a true professional in action!