Laser Therapy for Pets: Not Just for Dr. Evil

Veterinarian laser therapyIf you can’t say the word “laser” without making the quotation gesture, you aren’t alone. The word itself evokes thoughts of science fiction and futuristic capabilities.

Animal Family Veterinary Care Center is happy to let you know that laser therapy is part of real life here at our hospital. Laser therapy for pets is becoming more and more common and isn’t scary at all. Who knows, maybe you have a pet who could benefit?

Continue…

The Ugly Truth About Heartworm Disease

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We talk a lot about Heartworm infection. We urge to you keep your pet on preventives and to test for evidence of heartworm infection year after year after year. The problem is, what we really need to talk about is Heartworm Disease. It is the shadow in the room that both frightens and motivates us. Continue…

Dental Scaling Without Anesthesia??????

The following is a reprint of a statement provided by the American Veterinary Dental Council:

In the United States and Canada, only licensed veterinarians can practice veterinary medicine. Veterinary medicine includes veterinary surgery, medicine and dentistry. Anyone providing dental services other than a licensed veterinarian, or a supervised and trained veterinary technician, is practicing veterinary medicine without a license and is subject to criminal charges.

This page addresses dental scaling procedures performed on pets without anesthesia, often by individuals untrained in veterinary dental techniques. Although the term Anesthesia-Free Dentistry has been used in this context, AVDC prefers to use the more accurate term Non-Professional Dental Scaling (NPDS) to describe this combination.

Owners of pets naturally are concerned when anesthesia is required for their pet. However, performing NPDS on an unanesthetized pet is inappropriate for the following reasons:

1. Dental tartar is firmly adhered to the surface of the teeth. Scaling to remove tartar is accomplished using ultrasonic and sonic power scalers, plus hand instruments that must have a sharp working edge to be used effectively. Even slight head movement by the patient could result in injury to the oral tissues of the patient, and the operator may be bitten when the patient reacts.

2. Professional dental scaling includes scaling the surfaces of the teeth both above and below the gingival margin (gum line), followed by dental polishing. The most critical part of a dental scaling procedure is scaling the tooth surfaces that are within the gingival pocket (the subgingival space between the gum and the root), where periodontal disease is active. Because the patient cooperates, dental scaling of human teeth performed by a professional trained in the procedures can be completed successfully without anesthesia. However, access to the sub
gingival area of every tooth is impossible in an unanesthetized canine or feline patient. Removal of dental tartar on the visible surfaces of the teeth has little effect on a pet’s health, and provides a false sense of accomplishment. The effect is purely cosmetic.

3. Inhalation anesthesia using a cuffed endotracheal tube provides three important advantages… the cooperation of the patient with a procedure it does not understand, elimination of pain resulting from examination and treatment of affected dental tissues during the procedure, and protection of the airway and lungs from accidental aspiration.

4. A complete oral examination, which is an important part of a professional dental scaling procedure, is not possible in an unanesthetized patient. The surfaces of the teeth facing the tongue cannot be examined, and areas of disease and discomfort are likely to be missed.

Safe use of an anesthetic or sedative in a dog or cat requires evaluation of the general health and size of the patient to determine the appropriate drug and dose, and continual monitoring of the patient.

Veterinarians are trained in all of these procedures. Prescribing or administering anesthetic or sedative drugs by a non-veterinarian can be very dangerous, and is illegal. Although anesthesia will never be 100% risk-free, modern anesthetic and patient evaluation techniques used in veterinary hospitals minimize the risks, and millions of dental scaling procedures are safely performed each year in veterinary hospitals.

For more information on why AVDC does not recomemnd Non-anesthetic (Anesthesia-free) Dentistry, click this link:

To minimize the need for professional dental scaling procedures and to maintain optimal oral health, AVDC recommends daily dental home care from an early age in dogs and cats. This should include brushing or use of other effective techniques to retard accumulation of dental plaque, such as dental diets and chew materials. This, combined with periodic examination of the patient by a veterinarian and with dental scaling under anesthesia when indicated, will optimize life-long oral health for dogs and cats. For information on effective oral hygiene products for dogs and cats, visit the Veterinary Oral Health Council web site (www.VOHC.org).

For general information on performance of dental procedures on veterinary patients, read the AVDC Position Statement on Veterinary Dental Healthcare Providers.

Animal Family Introduces Box Turtles

 

We have a variety of educational pets at Animal Family Veterinary Care Center.  Miracle, our turtle was hatched in 1999.  That makes her young by Box Turtle standards.  They can live up to 75 years or more.  It may surprise you to learn that turtles have very distinct personalities.   Miracle is very social and loves interacting with people.  Even though Miracle is quite social, many box turtles are not.  Fortunately, Box turtles rarely bite and then it’s only when they mistake a finger for food.

Box turtles get their name from the hinged portion of their shell.  It allows them to pull their legs and head into their shell and close the doors.   This is how they try to protect themselves from predators. Unfortunately, it’s not fool proof.  Crafty birds have learned to drop the turtles from on high to break shells and dogs and raccoons can chew through them.

Box turtles are terrestrial or land based.  That means they spend the bulk of their time on dry land but are usually never too far from a pond.  Pet turtles like a swimming area too.   Unfortunately they aren’t very good at keeping their water clean so it will require daily changing.

Box turtles enjoy a variety of food.  To stay healthy they need a mix of meat, fruits and veggies.  Our Miracle is quite fond of earthworms.  She also likes dog food and meal worms.  We mix in a large variety of greens and fruits as well.  You can buy a commercial turtle food but it should never be the sole source of any turtle’s diet.

Miracle’s home is a glass terrarium that is appointed with rocks, water and cob bedding. Bark or alfalfa pellets may also be used.  Never use sand or cat litter. A minimum size of 36” X 12” is recommended.  

 Heating is a very important part of maintaining a pet turtle’s health.  The ideal is around 85 to 88 degrees F.  Place a heat lamp in one area of the enclosure so your turtle is able to get away from the heat source when they want. Too much heat can be just as deadly as not enough.  Floor heaters and heat rocks are also available but make certain to use them properly. 

Turtles can develop a variety of health problems   Beaks and nails can become overgrown due to lack of foraging and other activities which would wear them down naturally in the wild. Metabolic bone disease and soft shells can develop from either under feeding or a lack of variety in diet.  Remember, a turtle that is fed properly will never develop this problem. Shell rot is another health issue with turtles.  It is caused when bacteria gets between the shell layers either because of damage to the shell or wet, unsanitary conditions.  Turtles can also have internal parasites just like other pets so be sure to have a stool check.  Upper respiratory infections are also common.  They may present with nasal discharge, puffy eyes or both. With severe respiratory distress a turtle may extend its neck and gape.  Obviously any respiratory problems require a visit to the vet as well as a close look at your husbandry. Finally, wounds can occur on the face and legs of your turtle.  If these become infected they will require a trip to the Vet. 

Do turtles carry salmonella?  Yes, some do but not all. Either way, you can greatly minimize your risk by following CDC guidelines.

  • The kitchen sink is for people.  Don’t wash turtle dishes or turtles in it.
  • Clean and disinfect your turtles enclosure regularly
  • Wash your hands after handling your pet
  • No kissing turtles or touching them to your face.
  • Quarantine any new turtles for 6 weeks
  • and, yes, you can have your vet test to see if your turtle is carrying salmonella.

Please visit the CDC site for more complete guidelines.

Hopefully this has wetted your appetite to learn more about turtles.  Remember if you have any more questions, call us or check out our website.

 

Hypothyroidism

The thyroid is the largest of the endocrine glands.   It is shield shaped and located in the neck near the larynx or voice box.  The thyroid’s job is to secrete the hormones which regulate growth and metabolism.  It also acts as a storehouse for iodine.  So when there is a problem with the thyroid gland we will often see significant changes throughout the body systems.

Hypothyroidism is caused by a decrease in the hormones produced by the thyroid gland.  Hypothyroidism is seen in middle aged dogs, generally 7 years of age or older. It is very rare in cats.  It is occurs most often in larger breeds but we see hypothyroid problems in all sizes and breeds of dogs. Thyroid dysfunction in dogs is generally caused by damage or atrophy of the gland itself. It is rare to see hypothyroidism caused by cancer.

Signs:

Our typical thyroid patient is overweight, with thinning hair, dark pigmented, dry skin and a brittle hair coat. Hair loss on the trunk of the pet’s body is frequently seen.   Owner’s may mention that their pet has become less active  and lost muscle tone There may also be an increase in ear infections or the sudden onset of seizures.

Diagnosis and Tests:

Hypothyroidism is trickier to diagnose because other problems can look very similar.  Cushing’s disease, Diabetes and other endocrine related dysfunction can present with many similar symptoms. That is why laboratory tests are crucial when diagnosing and treating thyroid dysfunction.  Complete blood count and serum chemistries help us to rule out other causes and point us in the right direction if the thyroid is involved. Specific tests, such as Free T4 and TSH stimulation tests, target the thyroid hormone levels and provide a definitive diagnosis.  Periodic monitoring of blood thyroid levels will be needed over the lifetime of the pet to make certain therapeutic levels are maintained.

Treatment:

Once it occurs, Hypothyroidism requires lifelong supplementation to keep hormone levels normal.  The good news is that supplementation is easy, relatively inexpensive and quite successful in managing the disease.  Most of signs will lessen or disappear over time once treatment begins. Some medications such as steroids, sulfonamides and Phenobarbital can interfere with thyroid levels so it is important to always make certain that everyone involved with the treatment of your pet knows what medications they are taking.

We hope this will help you recognize the signs of thyroid dysfunction in your dog. At Animal Family, we try to help by including a screen for Thyroid disease in our Senior Wellness Blood test.  It is our hope that through early detection and treatment we can help to improve the quality of life for your pet.

Hyperthyroid Disease

 

Chances are, if you’ve had a few pets in your lifetime you have probably heard about the thyroid gland at least once.  You may have even had a pet or someone you know that required treatment for thyroid problems.

The thyroid is the largest of the endocrine glands.   It is shield shaped and located in the neck near the larynx or voice box.  The thyroid’s job is to secrete hormones which regulate growth and metabolism.  It also acts as a storehouse for iodine.  So when there is a problem with the thyroid gland we will often see significant changes throughout the body systems.

Cats are our most common hyperthyroid patient. We rarely ever see this problem in dogs.  As they age some cats, typically 6 years of age or older, will develop benign nodules on the thyroid which cause over secretion of thyroid hormones.  Hyperthyroidism caused from a cancerous growth is very rare in cats

Signs

When we see hyperthyroid cats in practice our owners will generally tell us that their pet is losing weight in spite of a ravenous appetite. Some cats may also be experiencing vomiting and diarrhea. Many will have concurrent signs of kidney disease and/or failure. Our typical hyperthyroid cat is thin, a bit cranky, a little unkempt and drinking and urinating more than normal.  When we listen to their heart we frequently note a rapid heart rate and possibly a murmur.  A blood pressure check often shows that the cat is hypertensive. If we palpate the pet’s neck we may feel an enlargement of the thyroid gland.

Tests

Laboratory tests are necessary to diagnose hyperthyroidism.  We need to be especially careful to check for any kidney and heart disease as well, since those problems often occur along with thyroid dysfunction.  Blood chemistry and urinalysis will help us detect signs of kidney disease.   Another blood test looks for a high T4 concentration.  Increased levels of this hormone are responsible for most of the troublesome signs we see. There are additional even more sensitive tests that are available if needed.  We may also suggest radiographs (X-Rays) and an ECG if heart disease is a concern

Treatments

Hyperthyroidism is generally treated in one of three ways.

  1. Anti-thyroid drugs:  Methimazole is the most common drug prescribed for hyperthyroidism.  It can be given orally or applied directly to the skin in a transdermal preparation. Methimazole works by decreasing the amount of hormone produced.  It does not cure the underlying disease and must be given for the rest of your cat’s life.  Other drugs may be prescribed if there is concurrent heart disease.

 

  1. Radioiodine therapy is used to destroy thyroid tissue and is considered the gold standard of treatment.  It is safe for the pet but is not as readily available and does require in-patient treatment. However, most universities are able to perform radioiodine treatment.

 

  1. Thyroidectomy or removal of the thyroid gland itself is another effective treatment.  This method requires hospitalization as well.

 

All of the treatments discussed will require some level of follow up.

Hopefully this will aid you in recognizing hyperthyroid problems in your cat earlier should the disease develop.

 Next week we will discuss Hypothyroid disease.

Davenport, Iowa Veterinary Clinic Lists 10 Reasons People Take Pets to the Humane Society.

 

According to the ASPCA, “approximately 5 million to 7 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year, and approximately 3 million to 4 million are euthanized (60 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats). Shelter intakes are about evenly divided between those animals relinquished by owners and those picked up by animal control. These are national estimates; the percentage of euthanasia may vary from state to state.” 

That is a really sad statistic.  We work closely with many of our local shelters at Animal Family and are always surprised at the quality of the pets we see.  These animals are neither worthless nor dangerous.  In fact, often the opposite is true.  Many are pure bred and almost all are loving, healthy animals who through no fault of their own end up homeless.

The 10 most common reasons owners give when surrendering a pet at the Humane Society of Scott County are:

  1. The owner is moving and is not able to take their pet with them
  2. The pet is too active for the owner to handle.
  3. The owner does not have enough time to devote to pet care
  4. The owner has encountered problems with housebreaking
  5. The animal is too expensive to care for.
  6. The animal is too young, too old or has developed health issues.
  7. The owner or a family member is allergic to the pet.
  8. The pet does not get along with another animal in the household.
  9. The pet belonged to a child who no longer lives in the home.
  10. The pet has become pregnant

Do you see a common thread among many of the reasons for pet relinquishment listed above?   How many of these problems could be avoided by a little research and planning before acquiring a pet.  For all the information on specific breeds that is available, it seems that people still jump into pet ownership on impulse.

So, please, before you bring a pet into your life, do your research. Think about your lifestyle, future plans, and overall health.  How busy are you?  Can you even afford a pet at this time?  Do you have the time or interest for training, walks and general health and coat care.  Don’t pick your pet based on looks.  Don’t assume you have to have a puppy and never, ever give a pet as a gift without a thorough discussion with the prospective new owner first.

Next week, we will go over what you need to think about before you add a new pet to your family.

Davenport, Iowa Veterinarian Itching to teach you about Fleas

 

Who hates fleas?  Everybody hates fleas!  Ctenocephalides canis or felis better known as the common flea is not a visitor anyone ever welcomes to their home.  For those of us who have had to deal with a flea infestation- once is definitely enough! Aside from the obvious “yuck” factor, there are a lot of good reasons to avoid this hopping, biting scourge of the insect world.

  1.  Fleas make their living by biting other animals and feeding on their blood.  When fleas bite they inject saliva into the skin of their host which can cause inflammation, itching, allergic dermatitis and hair loss.  Even worse, if the host is small enough or the number of fleas’ large enough, anemia can result from blood loss.
  2. Fleas don’t just bite your pet.  They bite you.  They bite your children.  Everybody gets itchy.
  3. A single female flea can lay up to 50 eggs each day and up to 2000 eggs in her short life time!!!  Of course by the time you discover that your pet has fleas, there are most likely eggs and larva throughout your home.
  4. Fleas act as a transport vehicle for the aptly named “Flea” tapeworm.  Pets ingest fleas as they groom.  Once the flea is in the digestive system, the larva breaks free and finds a home in your pet’s intestines. An adult tapeworm can grow up to 75 cm (29.5 inches).  According to CPAC (Companion Animal Parasite Council), “Infections of children with D. caninum following ingestion of an infected flea are occasionally reported. The disease induced in the child is generally mild, confined to the intestinal tract, and readily treated, but can still be distressing to the family.”
  5. Fleas carry the Plague – the Bubonic Plague.  This is particularly important in the Rocky Mountain States.
  6. Fleas carry Typhus and yes it can be transmitted to humans.  According to Pubmed Health, “Typhus is caused by one of two types of bacteria: Rickettsia typhi or Rickettsia prowazekii.” The form of typhus depends on which type of bacteria causes the infection. Murine typhus occurs in the southeastern and southern United States, often during the summer and fall. It is rarely deadly. Risk factors for murine typhus include:
    1. Exposure to rat fleas or feces
    2. Exposure to other animals such as cats, opossums, raccoons, skunks and rats
  7. Fleas can help to transmit “Cat Scratch” disease from one cat to another.  We humans get Cat Scratch Fever when we are scratched by an infected feline.
  8.  Fleas can transmit  Mycoplasma haemofelis a blood borne parasite that can cause damage to the red calls which results in anemia in your pet.
  9.  Even if your pet never goes outdoors, you can carry fleas into the house on your pants legs. Fleas can survive the winter just fine as long as you continue to heat your home. 
  10. Once there is an established flea infestation, it can be time consuming and expensive to resolve.  Like so many other problems fleas are much easier to prevent than alleviate.

 

I don’t know about you but I’m going to go make sure my dog is up to date on his flea prevention.

How does your pet help you cope?

We’ve known for a while – forever? – that pets can be a real help to people when it comes to dealing with trauma and working out emotional problems, getting through sad times, and so on. This fact has spurred a real expansion of different kinds of pet-therapy programs in a variety of different, from mental-health clinics to prisons.

Theresa Slayton, a licensed clinical social worker from Lafayette, Indiana, provides therapy and counseling to both kids and  adults who are coping with stressful emotional issues. “I’ve had adults, as well as children, who project their feelings on to the dog. Shelly [her dog] can sense that someone will be struggling and will walk over and lay her paw on the person’s lap.”

For more information about animal-assisted therapy, call Theresa Slayton at (765) 449-1759, or visit the Caring Paws website at http://caring-paws.org.