Author: Dr. Ryan Llera (page 1 of 27)

Pet Cancer – What You Need to Know

pet cancer spaying could have prevented this ovarian tumorEven though November is Pet Cancer Awareness Month, there’s never a bad time to talk about it.  It’s a sad part of any type of medicine and more so when we’re talking about animals.  They can’t tell us how they feel, they don’t have socialized health care, and they can’t take themselves to the veterinarian.

I’ve seen enough cancer cases that it breaks my heart each time, even more so when it could have been addressed early on and prevented more of a challenge to the pet and veterinary team along with costing less.  In many cases, these pets are often euthanized because it’s just gone too far.  In general practice, on average I’d say I see about 1 malignant cancer case every 3-4 weeks.  Malignant equals bad; but sometimes even those benign masses can be problematic.  And yes, sometimes those benign masses can morph into a malignant mass.

Why is this happening?

Pets are living longer, plain and simple.  And while some people are aware of what to look for, we can do better.

What can we do?

pet cancer mammary mass

Your pet needs to be seen by your veterinarian at least once a year, maybe every 6 months even, depending on their health status.  You may be able to find a lump on your dog but there is more that could possibly be seen or detected by your veterinarian as well as determining normal versus abnormal.  An exam is a start and some tests can be done whether simple or more complex.

My friend Dr. Sue Ettinger, DACVIM (yes, animal cancer specialist!) has created a program with a simple mantra – See Something, Do Something.  This is an easy way to remember that if you see a lump, larger than a pea and there for more than a month, it’s time to get it checked out!  A simple needle aspiration can save a life.

Cancer is not a death sentence.  There are so many options out there and animals don’t experience the same side effects of chemo that people do.  Surgery might be curative. Even if you’re not apt to go these routes, we can still help you palliate and keep your pet comfortable.  One of the most important aspects of this is not waiting too long. Lumps start small and then they may grow.  When these lumps grow, they become harder to treat, less chance for a successful outcome, and more expensive.  Act sooner rather than later to give your pet the best chance.

Even though we might only focus on this for a month, there is always time to be aware of potential cancer problems with your pets.  You are your pet’s biggest advocate and your veterinarian is there to help.  We can’t do it alone though so heed this advice and make sure if you have concerns to bring them up to your vet as soon as you think there’s a problem.

Disclaimer: Blog posts may contain some opinions which are my own and may not reflect those of any current or former employers. 

Don’t forget to follow along on Instagram @drryanllera , Facebook , or  Twitter for more pet info and interesting daily happenings!

Tell Me Your Pet’s Secrets

pet historyBeing a veterinarian is a very fun and rewarding career, but it’s also immensely challenging.  The only other job that might come close is being a pediatrician.  Face it, our patients can’t talk…unless we’re watching the Eddie Murphy remake of “Dr. Doolittle” (which was quite enjoyable I might add).  Being completely honest, your pet has secrets and you are the secret keeper.  No, I don’t mean what Rover really thinks of your new party outfit; but rather the all important pet history taking that starts every vet visit.

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.” – Will Rogers

Okay, so there’s some truth to this quote.  We can’t ask our patients what the problem is (and I know some pretty awesome veterinary doctors).  The false part is that we’ve “got to just know.”  Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that.  This is where you come in and why veterinary medicine is a team effort.

A Costly Secret

When we ask you questions at the beginning of the appointment, these details may be quite pertinent to figuring out what the problem is that is plaguing your pet.  There was once a dog I saw that came in for being unable to walk and had some progressive weakness in it’s legs.  It was a young Rottweiler that the owners had assured me had gotten into nothing and had not suffered any trauma.  It was still quite a mystery even after a thorough physical exam.  Her owners authorized some radiographs & blood tests and left her at the hospital for the tests and supportive care.  A few hours later when I called for an update and to go over the results, the owners informed me they had used pure tea tree oil to address a flea problem.  Diagnosis: tea tree oil toxicity which can cause a temporary paralysis type syndrome.  Had this been known earlier, she could have been treated more promptly and for less cost.  No worries though, she recovered and was back to normal within a few days.

Honesty Leads to Success

When you call the hospital before coming in, it allows us to get prepared for taking care of your pet.  But we can only be as ready as the information given to us is complete.  One of the craziest toxicity cases I’ve ever seen involved a dog who had gotten into his owner’s medications…all 9 of them!  How would we know what to treat first without knowing everything involved?  That little dog did fine too especially since his owner admitted to some narcotics in the house.

pet historyBe up front with us.  Be honest.  Veterinarians don’t make a habit or policy of calling the cops on you or telling everyone they know about your pet and their antics.  Don’t be afraid or ashamed to tell us the truth about what might be going on with your pet.  The more information you can give us, the better.  We won’t judge.  So don’t hold back; tell me your pet’s secrets.

Disclaimer: Blog posts may contain some opinions which are my own and may not reflect those of any current or former employers. 

Don’t forget to follow along on Instagram @drryanllera , Facebook , or  Twitter for more pet info and interesting daily happenings!

Cognitive Dysfunction & Your Dog

What is Cognitive Dysfunction?

One of the saddest things you may experience in your life is seeing someone you know who was so full of life, so vibrant, so smart…all of the sudden just seem to not be able to think clearly anymore.  Imagine if this was your dog.  Yes, what we see in people such as senility, Alzheimer’s disease, or “sundowners syndrome” can also be seen in dogs (and possibly in cats but much less understood).  The entire cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) has been an emerging area of understanding in the last several years.  While senior pets may show signs that could be attributed to medical issues, those potential diseases should be ruled out before coming to the conclusion of what is considered to be a behavioral problem.

Studies have shown that starting around 6-7 years of age, dogs may start showing signs.  Oftentimes, these go unnoticed until the condition has progressed to severe levels.  Signs can include greater attention seeking to seeming to want to interact less with family, increased anxiety levels in situations that used to not bother them, and becoming less responsive when called or given a command.  And these are the harder ones to note sometimes but also may not be as concerning in the mind of the family.  Signs more likely to get attention are soiling in the house, restlessness at night (stay up all night and sleep in the daytime), or pacing constantly.

What can we do to help?

cognitive dysfunction enrichment

Jennifer & Keltie rally obedience practice

The sooner signs are noted or addressed, the better chance we have of helping a dog’s quality of life.  Much like we encourage enrichment for cats or exotic pets, dogs can benefit from such activities as scent detection, competitive obedience, or agility – activities that help them think and positively stimulate their brains.  Sometimes just playing and interacting with your dog can be a good start.  It’s important to keep in mind any medical or physical limitations, especially as your pup ages.  Adding in toys can always be a good idea especially puzzles or toys that dispense food to keep then thinking and engaged.

Further treatment to help alleviate signs can be found with some medications but their effects may be variable from patient to patient.  Medications and supplements should be discussed with your veterinarian to determine what might work best for your particular dog and what the proper dosages are.  Senior pet diets supplemented with fatty acids, antioxidants, and medium chain triglycerides can also be beneficial.  There is a lot of exciting research and new tools to help these patients coming in the near future.

Due to our ability to better recognize these problems and the tendency for the earliest signs to start at middle to early senior years, it truly is important to have your pet checked out at least once a year.  There may be something we can work on together to help you and your dog live in harmony while working through cognitive dysfunction.  Have you noted any changes or signs mentioned above in your dog?  If so, what have you done that seems to help?

Disclaimer: Blog posts may contain some opinions which are my own and may not reflect those of any current or former employers. 

Don’t forget to follow along on Instagram @drryanllera , Facebook , or  Twitter for more pet info and interesting daily happenings!

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