About 35 years ago veterinarians started seeing cats that were losing weight but had voracious appetites. The cats were all over 8 years old and were in good health otherwise. Veterinarians performed thorough physical examinations, blood tests, stool analysis and radiographic examinations and all results were negative. In the past, cats with these signs had either worms or diabetes. The diagnosis to this new condition was elusive.
Then one day an astute veterinarian was carefully feeling the neck of a cat and he felt a small lump right were the thyroid gland is. Could this be the source of the new constellation of symptoms? A simple thyroid test was run, and to everyone’s surprise the levels were elevated, and a new disease in cats was discovered. It is called hyperthyroidism.
Luckily hyperthyroidism is usually caused by a benign tumor of the thyroid gland. No one knows why this condition suddenly occurred. There are many theories, but iodine levels in the food have been implicated.
In 1979, I remember a professor in veterinary college showing me how to feel for enlarged thyroid glands in cats. When I graduated and went into practice I was so excited when I saw my first case. I gathered all of my colleagues and was thrilled to teach them about this new condition. Unfortunately hyperthyroidism does much more to the body than cause an excessive appetite and weight loss. The thyroid helps control the metabolism and high levels of thyroid hormone can cause high blood pressure, heart disease and kidney disease. Left untreated, hyperthyroidism will cause problems that lead to death.
In the early days, treatment consisted of giving medication three times daily. Eventually a surgical procedure to remove the affected thyroid gland was perfected. Unfortunately, both methods of treatment had side effects. Not all cats could tolerate the medication and sometimes fatal blood or liver problems occurred. The surgery was difficult because surgeons had to preserve the tiny parathyroid gland which sits on the thyroid. If all of the parathyroid tissue was lost during surgery cats lose the ability to control their calcium levels. Low calcium causes seizures and even death.
In recent years radioactive iodine treatment has been developed. An injection is given and the radioactive iodine travels to the thyroid gland and destroys all of the tissue. The only disadvantage of this treatment is that the treatment has to be done in a specialized facility and cats have to be hospitalized isolated away from you for three to five days. Recently a new food has been developed to treat hyperthyroidism. The food has low iodine levels and therefore lowers the amount of thyroid hormone the body can make. Some veterinarians question the long term safety of this food. We will watch the research carefully and after a few years we will know if the new food is the best treatment for hyperthyroidism.
For cat owners, it’s important to take your cat to your veterinarian yearly for checkups. Your veterinarian can feel for an enlarged thyroid gland and take a blood test for high thyroid levels. It’s important for you to observe any changes in your cats eating habits or weight. Cats that develop hyperthyroidism can lead normal lives and have a normal lifespan if treated early.
First I will tell you that blogging about having a puppy and having the time to blog about having a puppy, or doing anything else for that matter while training a puppy, is challenging. That cute, portable butterball of a puppy can grow over night into a furniture chomping, rug wetting piranha! And just as an older human sibling might resent a newcomer, so it can be with the four legged variety. However, having said that, our 4-month-old golden retriever, Ben has admittedly brought laughter and love into our home.
My older dog, Tucker-age 6, (Ben’s real dad) was never this mischievous as a puppy, so I wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of chaos brought upon our home. But determined to do what is necessary to train little (27 pounds!) Ben, I am proud to say I have now mastered many death-defying feats such as: gate opening and closing, gate hopping, shoe warden, bathroom patrol, and meal-time negotiator. Ben eats three times a day but he acts as if we are starving him – the poor thing. I know this because, despite what the vet says is the right amount of food, he bee-lines for Tucker’s food the millisecond he finishes his own dish. My solution was to feed Tucker upstairs at the same time I place Ben’s dish down. I encourage him to use the outside for the bathroom and he is getting the hang of it pretty much. I crate him after lunch for his nap which he goes in willingly.
Tucker, happily has warmed up to Ben and plays with him a couple of times a day. As for the gates, I have two long gates which protect my living room from any more offenses and, of course, when he does have an accident in there, I use NOse Offense right away and it does the trick!
I also keep a vigilant eye on all shoes left on the floor which I readily place on counters or in closets. I have dog toys everywhere and have kept after him whenever he chooses something else to chew like my: carpets, my son’s Rainbow sandals(albeit too late), towels, furniture legs and basically anything he can get his mouth around. One of my saving graces has been the limitless supply of sticks from my yard. He can spend half an hour ripping a piece of a maple branch to smithereens. My reward for all this hard work are Ben’s kisses and the look of love in his eyes when I play with him. He only wants to be adored and paid attention to. He loves eating and loves being clean. I love keeping him washed and have trained him well by getting him used to the shower from the start. My daughter has slowly begun to take over some of my jobs and I have happily passed the baton to her. She now feeds Ben breakfast and dinner, brushes him, plays with him, crates him at night and gets him (and herself) up and out in the morning. She also made her first attempt at bathing him the other night but A WORD OF CAUTION…when your young teenage daughter offers to give your new puppy a bath…MAKE SURE SHE ISN’T SITTING IN THE TUB WITH HIM! Oh well…gotta keep on laughing…Until next time…
It’s NOse Offense appreciation week!
Here is our President, Marvin Rembo, donating samples to the Stark County Shelter in Canton, Ohio.
“The Stark County Humane Society is a private, charitable organization. We are not a county agency and we do not receive funding from the United Way. Our continued existence and success depends upon the support of the community through membership fees, gifts, and contributions.”
As the summer winds down, many people seem to be rubbing their eyes and blotting them with tissues. It’s a sad time of the year for many because we know that winter is coming, but these people aren’t crying. They have seasonal allergies and they are struggling with itchy eyes, running noses, and constant sneezing.
Unfortunately our pets are not immune to the affects of allergies and many dogs and cats suffer the way we do. What’s remarkably different in pets is that sneezing and itchy eyes are not typically signs of allergies. Most often pets lick, bite, and scratch their skin when they are allergic. The areas that seem to be the most sensitive are the feet, armpits, face and around the rectum. Sometimes the only manifestation of an allergy is incessant scratching of the ears. The ears can become red, become swollen, develop a discharge and then get infected.
Allergies develop because pollen given off by trees, flowers, grasses and weeds are either inhaled or absorbed by the by the skin and eyes. The body sees the pollen as a foreign substance and uses its immune system to isolate and get rid of the invader. Sometimes the immune system becomes overactive and releases substances such as histamines that cause all of the allergic signs.
Luckily there are many things that you can do to keep your pet comfortable during the allergy season. Your veterinarian will do a physical examination and make sure that other conditions aren’t causing the signs of allergies. Sometimes fleas, mites, and bacterial or fungal infections can cause signs similar to allergies. On occasion infections can be caused by allergies and need to be treated.
If allergy symptoms are seasonal, there are several medications that can be given on a short term basis. By far the most effective treatment is prednisone or other cortisone like drugs. These medications give immediate relief and can safely be used for one or two weeks. We don’t like to use prednisone long term because of side effects. Antihistamines, which help people with allergies, unfortunately do not work as well in animals. Only 18% of dogs respond well to antihistamines, but they are certainly worth a trial if the allergies last longer than a few weeks.
When allergies are manifested for months or even become nonseasonal, a medication called cyclosporine can be given. This medication mutes the allergic response with minimal side effects. One disadvantage of cyclosporine is high cost, especially in large animals.
Sometimes allergies that are difficult to control require allergy testing and the formulation of an allergy vaccine. Either skin testing (scratch test) or a blood test is taken to find what the patient is allergic to. Once the offending allergens are identified an injectable vaccine is made which your veterinarian can teach you to administer.
Recently it has been learned that pollen can be absorbed by the skin and constant exposure can occur when the pollen lands on your pet. An effective way to reduce this type of exposure is bathing. It’s safe to bathe your pet several times each week to help keep him or her comfortable.
Luckily veterinarians have learned so much about allergies in pets, and through different treatment modalities you can keep your best friend comfortable.
I realize I haven’t blogged in a while but that’s because of Ben, the new puppy! OMG in the mornings I race out of bed at about 6:30am to let him out of his crate before he has an accident. Then he goes into zippy mode and races around like he’s insane. He’s like a piranha on four legs at this ungodly hour. So just after I let him out I go make a cup of coffee and sit outside in a fog in my pajamas not caring even a little if the neighbors see me or hear me say “make outside” and “good boy”. Then after this first turbo charged session, he calms down a bit. He really is the cutest little thing except he’s not really so little. At eleven weeks he’s weighing in at 19, yes 19 pounds! I was carrying him around but now i’m trying to train him to just follow me and walk. It’s working, however, it’s hard to get him to yield to Tucker.
Tucker is completely blown away by our new addition. I guess the sweet, docile personality that makes Tucker such a wonderful dog, isn’t helping him establish who is king of the castle. Ben has been chopping on poor Tucker and he just takes it or runs away. Tuck even got out of the electric fence twice (well his collar was off) but gratefully I found him right away playing with a neighbor’s dog. He hasn’t run through the fence in years whether his collar was on or not. Now I won’t let him out if I’m not home and I’ve been praising Tucker and trying to always greet him and give him attention first. I have gated off part of my yard which can be accessed right from my door which has a doggie door opening. Ben learned how to go through the doggie door really fast. I was thinking, wow, he’s really smart although he did chase his tail today for about two whole minutes. What can I say? House training is working and I’d say he’s about 70 percent house trained already.
NOse Offense has been helping me with the other 30 percent. I use it on the carpets, floors and even in the garbage pail. A friend recommended I pick up my area rugs until Ben was trained but since I didn’t really want to live like that I guess I’ll have to have the rugs cleaned when he’s trained. Meanwhile it’s really amazing the way dogs have moods just like we do. Poor Tucker is so completely bummed out that his territory has been invaded. He’s not himself and mopes around when he’s not running away from Ben’s jaws! I gently squeeze Ben’s nose and mouth when he does this and yell “no” but, gee Tucker, man up will ya. My friend’s dog Charlie, (my life saver friend who helps me so much) just gives Ben a growl and maybe a nip and, boy, does Ben back off. But with Tucker it doesn’t work that way, it’s like two siblings. You love them both but it’s exhausting trying to negotiate proper behavior. I also wonder if we waited too long to add a puppy to our home. Tuck’s almost 7. My friend’s dog, Charlie, is only two and likes playing with Ben. Aside from the training part, I have had to puppy-proof the house! Did you know dishwashing detergent is poison?! So is sugarless gum which can be immediately fatal. Also very dangerous is chocolate, especially baking chocolate and many plants. In my garden are azaleas, hydrangeas and rhodedenroms. All poisonous. Fortunately my gated area doesn’t have any of those except for one bush which I gated off. I do allow Ben to chew sticks made of maple or pine which he really likes but mostly I have puppy toys everywhere, giving him lots to chew and avoiding saying no every minute. So life is crazy right now and sometimes I think I should have my head examined but when Ben looks up at me and licks my face and puts his little paws around my neck and then falls asleep on me and I can feel and hear his breathing, I just fall in love all over again. Stay tuned…
Summer is here! Along with some of the fun activities that we do with our pets, come some dangers. One of the most serious conditions that we see in the summer is heat stroke.
Unlike people, dogs and cats do not sweat. While heat stroke is rare in cats, it is seen commonly in dogs. Pets primarily release excess heat through panting. On very hot days, pets that do not have the ability dissipate their heat can develop temperatures in excess of 106 degrees F. Very high temperatures cause metabolic disturbances that could cause body functions to shut down and have catastrophic consequences.
There are several predisposing factors that can lead to heat stroke. First, obesity can lead to heat stroke because overweight dogs do not have the ability expel as much heat through panting as thin dogs. Also brachycephalic dogs, dogs with pushed in faces such as pugs, have naturally occurring upper airway obstructions, which prevents effective heat loss through panting. Some larger dogs develop laryngeal paralysis which also prevents heat loss. Dogs with laryngeal paralysis develop very noisy breathing especially when active.
Signs of heat stroke include panting, drooling, agitation, vomiting and diarrhea early in the course of the disease. Later on severe breathing problems, blue gums and tongue, seizures and collapse can occur.
If you suspect that your pet has heat stroke try to take a rectal temperature. Normal temperatures in dogs and cats are up to 102.8 F. If your pet is in distress and the temperature is above 104 F start treatment immediately. Either immerse your pet in cool water in a bath tub or simply use a garden hose to saturate his coat. Ice water is not good to use because it causes the blood vessels in the skin to constrict which prevents heat loss.
Once you have started the cooling process immediately call your veterinarian. Emergency measures must be taken to prevent severe metabolic problems. Your veterinarian will likely take blood tests and put your dog on intravenous fluids. Several days of hospitalization might be necessary.
One of the most common causes of heat stroke in cats is getting trapped in a clothes dryer. Cats love to crawl into containers, so never turn your dryer on without looking inside.
Awareness of the dangers of high temperatures can help prevent a catastrophe and prevention is the best way to avoid heat stroke. Never leave your dog in a car, even for a few minutes. Heat stroke can happen almost instantaneously even with the windows open. On very hot days, limit outside activity. Keep your pets in a cool room inside your house. Air conditioned rooms are best, but many times a fan will suffice. Have adequate water available and if your pet has to be outdoors, make sure that there is shade available. Watch old, obese pets especially carefully to make sure that they are comfortable. Summertime is a wonderful time of the year – as long as the weather is not too oppressive, you can enjoy it safely with your pet.
I frequently examine dogs with acute hind limb lameness. The typical history is the dog was playing outside and then suddenly cried out in pain. Refusal to put any weight on the limb is common. If the owner waits a few days the dog will start to bare weight on the limb, but continues to be lame.
A thorough physical examination by your veterinarian usually reveals a sensitive knee. Many knees are swollen with fluid, but sometimes there’s no swelling at all. Your veterinarian will feel the knee and check for instability. If there is a type of instability called a cranial drawer sign the diagnosis of a turn cruciate ligament is made.
There are two cruciate ligaments in a dog’s knee, the cranial (forward) and caudal (backward) ligaments. They function in stabilizing the knee during activity. The most common injury is a tear of the cranial ligament. The ligament can tear from a traumatic injury such as being hit by a car, but the most common reason for the tear is from degeneration. Just using the leg repeatedly can cause the ligament to fray and just suddenly tear.
It seems that some breeds of dogs are more prone to tearing their ligaments than others. We see torn cruciate ligaments in Labrador retrievers, Rottweilers and Pit Bull Terriers frequently, but we rarely see them in Collies or Greyhounds. There clearly is a hereditary component to this disease.
Treatment of a torn cruciate ligament is complicated. Dogs less than 30 pounds can sometimes return to full function without surgery, but larger dogs always need a surgical procedure. There are many methods to stabilize the joint and the method chosen by the surgeon frequently depends on the size of the dog. The torn ligament is always destroyed so surgeons cannot repair it. Sometimes the surgeon will use strong suture material or even the dog’s own tissue to replace the function of the ligament and prevent the instability. On very large dogs, surgeons do a procedure called a tibial plateau leveling osteotomy to prevent the instability. This is a complicated procedure that changes the angle of the tibia to prevent the drawer motion. Typically the tibia is cut and then reattached with a metal plate to attain stabilization.
After surgery, activity must be strictly curtailed for several weeks and then activity gradually increased over several months. Some form of physical therapy is always helpful to shorten the recuperation.
I think that it is really hard to prevent torn cruciate ligaments. Genetically predisposed dogs should be kept in good physical condition with special attention to obesity. Overweight dogs put more pressure on their knees with every step, and any way to decrease the load on a knee is helpful. Unfortunately dogs that tear a ligament on one knee are prone to tearing their ligaments on the other knee. The good news is that the success rate for surgery is over 90% and most dogs recover enough to live a happy, pain- free life.
The call came late at night…”Do you want to breed Tucker?” Do I want to breed him? Are you kidding? I’ve been trying to breed him for a couple of years, but without any success. So the female (I’ll call her Tess) came over for a visit before she was in heat.
They got along very well…their first date. Well the next month when Tess came over, Tucker was insane with the intoxication of love! It was like he was possessed (it makes us girls understand boys a little better). Tucker romanced and wooed Tess for several days as I, horrified, watched my children look on. I tried to hide the lovers from the kids but it was impossible to keep a low profile. My teenage son ‘locked’ himself in his room, completely mortified. My young daughter just asked “What’s wrong with Tucker?” “Why does he keep whining like that?” I simply answered, “He’s love sick.” I, too, was even a little embarrassed although I didn’t think I would react that way. I kept the two dogs in my sunroom, away from the comings and goings of the rest of the family.
The owner of my new daughter-in-law came to sit with me while we watched the two golden retrievers honeymoon. I learned you have to watch them because the male dog could get hurt if they separate too soon and they should be in the male’s home as he will be more comfortable there (figures, it’s always the male who is considered more!). Anyway, for the most part, it was like a Disney movie. The two of them would walk in my fenced in yard, side by side, with their big feathery tails waving in unison. Then all of a sudden, like someone changed the channel from Nickelodeon to Cinemax, it happened. I called my neighbors and said, “Don’t look out the window” which was code for ‘I’m sorry for the explicit scene in my yard’ and ‘keep the kids away from the windows!’ I guess you might have already gathered that I kept my sense of humor through all this. I didn’t quite know what I was in for, but I did know I wanted (the option) of a puppy of Tucker’s. They ‘tied’ three times which is the point when they keep very still and I was even told you can assure them they are OK and say “good dog” in a soft voice. I called my husband and announced that I’ve become a madame! He was hysterical. So they are supposed to ‘tie’ a few times and have to continue to be watched, but I have to confess, by midnight the second day, I was exhausted! I closed the door to the sunroom and went to bed. When I came back the next morning, the doors to my sunroom had been all chewed and scratched!
I don’t know what went on after midnight when both dogs innocently looked up at me, but my beautiful sunroom reeked to high heaven! The odor was SO bad, I couldn’t stand to be in there. I gathered up all the quilts and towels I had lined the room with but the smell still lingered. Ugh I groaned…what have I done! I quickly ran to get NOse Offense…For Pets and thankfully within minutes the terrible smell in the air and all over my fabrics disappeared! With another successful bond later that day, I resigned myself to the fact that life, real life, is messy (and definitely smelly!).
I also reached a new appreciation for nature. The next day, Tucker’s love was past her season and they just played as friends as if the day before never happened! Amazing. So now it’s about two months later and Tucker is the proud father of four males and two females. All healthy I’ve been told. Their eyes are still closed and sleep by their mother most of the time. I can’t wait to see them this week. Now comes the big question, stud fee (to pay for my damaged french doors) or adopt a new puppy to add to our family? Well, I know how my kids feel…I’ll get back to you on this…