Category: Medical & Chronic Health (page 1 of 6)

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. 

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Why Wounds Shouldn’t Wait

The warmer weather has finally arrived.  Dogs and cats are out playing.  Outdoor cats are once again patrolling their territory.  Sometimes that playtime or territorial behavior can end up in somebody getting  a cat or dog bite wound or other type of injury caused by their exploration.  You know what else is back?  Bugs….specifically flies, mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks – but more on this later.

Superficial wounds would classify as scrapes, scratches, abrasions, and bruising.  In many of these cases, they can be addressed at home by basic first aid cleaning.  Yet, if it doesn’t seem to be going well, you should get your pet in to be checked by their veterinarian.  It’s the nasty bite wounds and lacerations that I’m mostly worried about.

dog bite wound

A wound that waited too long

In medicine, we have what is called the “golden period” when discussing wounds.  This is the optimal time period in which we have to clean and repair a wound.  Over the course of history, the length of time has varied between 6-24 hours.  Generally, after this time, wound repair becomes more complicated as the edges have generally dried up or become necrotic.  This is the real reason it’s a bad idea to wait or try to treat these larger or deeper wounds at home.  The longer it takes for a wound to be addressed leads to increased pain, risk of infection, time to heal, and increased costs.

dog bite wound

Drain placement for a pocketed wound

Some wounds might be simple punctures.  Yet, some of those puncture wounds also include pulling away of the skin from the underneath subcutaneous layers.  This creates a pocketing effect where inflammatory fluid can accumulate.  If the hole closes up too quickly and the wound hasn’t been adequately flushed, this is how abscesses are created and drain will need to be placed during a surgical procedure.  The time it may not go exactly this way is bite wounds on the legs which causes a diffuse, painful inflammation around the muscles and nerves – this is one of the most common reasons I see outdoor cats limping.

From Univ. of Florida Entomology Dept

Remember those bugs?  Flies are the worst ones when it comes to wounds as they have no decency!  Some flies may lay eggs in a pet’s wound and when that happens what amounts to an alien horde is going to beam down next.  Once the eggs hatch, you get maggots.  Ick!  While they prevent the wound from healing, they can also lead to further infection and pain.  Maggots need to be cleaned out, in one piece, and the dead tissue needs to be removed followed by additional treatments.  Breaking or crushing maggots could lead to the release of substances that can cause shock, an anaphylactic reaction, or even death.

As you can see, wounds can be a serious matter and in some cases just “waiting to see how they turn out” could lead to further problems.  At a minimum, get it checked out and don’t delay.  Early intervention can prevent bigger problems in the long run!

Disclaimer: All blog posts are my own opinion and do not reflect those of any current or former employers.

You can also find me on Instagram @drryanllera and as always on Facebook & Twitter!

Dear Gord

Guest Author – Mandy Jackson, RVT

Gord megaesophagus fosterI put a dog to sleep yesterday.  He was my foster dog.  He came to me quite ill, and with a disease I knew I couldn’t cure.  Gord had megaesophagus.  What that meant for him was that his esophagus, the “tube” that carries food from your mouth to your stomach, was stretched out like a balloon that has been blown up and deflated dozens of times.  The muscular contractions, called peristalsis, that help move your and waste through your body did not occur in his esophagus.  I described it as though he had something like a pelican pouch in his throat.  When he ate, much of his food and water would collect in this “pouch”, rather than being digested in his stomach and intestines.  He regurgitated a lot of what he was fed.  He came to me emaciated, needing to gain about 35% of his body weight, a daunting task for both of us.  How do you get a dog who can’t maintain his weight to gain 20 pounds?

megaesophagus foster walkMegaesophagus is an awful disease.  To have a beautiful, kind and gentle soul in your home, starving despite your best attempts to feed him is heartbreaking for you, but unquestionably worse for him.  We tried several different textures and consistencies and with the help of a friend who also cared for Gord in her home while I was unavailable, we learned that “meatballs” worked best for him.  I’d roll his food into golf ball sized nuggets and toss them to him one by one, hold him sitting in the begging position and then go for a short walk.  Water was more difficult, but I taught him to drink from a huge rabbit bottle mounted so he had to hold his head up to drink.  After 3 weeks of trial and error I finally felt like we were on the right path.  That maybe, just maybe, he could be managed.  That he could potentially live a “normal” life.  For almost 5 days he gained weight and strength.  He was producing more urine, and it was becoming paler in colour, showing that he was better hydrated than before.  He walked faster on our short travels, not rude enough to pull me, but enthusiastic enough that I could feel a difference in him.  I was so very proud of him.

And then, on Thursday, I went to check on him in his run at work.  To give him his dinner and spend my lunch break walking him.  He had vomited 3 puddles of blood in his kennel.  My heart sank into my feet.  I will not go into more detail here, but it’s most likely that 2 years of poorly managed megaesophagus left his mind and spirit willing to recover, but his body just too damaged, the last 18 hours of his life caused a shocking transformation in his body and spirit.

Deciding to end the life of a foster is a uniquely horrible experience.  He wasn’t really “my” dog, but I had taken responsibility for his life and his care.  He was mine in trust, on loan, my temporary dog. I was only supposed to be a resting place, a bump in his road.  But there he was, getting sicker in front of me and waiting for me to make it better.  Not able to tell me how he felt, what he wanted.  I sat on my couch with his big, blocky, black velvet head in my lap and promised him that I would make it stop.  My beautiful Gord was not Gord anymore.  For the first time since I met him, he was in pain and that was not part of the deal I made with him.  I took him to work, one last sad car ride.  Carried him into the treatment room and gave his care over to 2 of the loveliest people I’ve ever met.  At the end of his life I wasn’t his nurse or his foster mom anymore.  I was just his person, finally.  Gord of No Fixed Address (the horrible nickname I gave him, a joke that started when a friend suggested I adopt him) was at home in my heart.  I climbed up on the table and wrapped myself around him, buried my face in that perfect spot behind every retriever’s ears and held him close.  He went quietly, left this world in the arms of someone who loved him enough to make that call. Gord with bear

Dear Gord,

I’m sorry.

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Mandy Jackson RVT

Mandy Jackson is a registered veterinary technician at the Kingston Veterinary Clinic.  Mandy shares her home with her 2 dogs, Auden and Olivia, and her cat, Floyd Pepper.  When she’s not at work, she co-runs Friends of Willow Rescue (an all-breed rescue), is a busy foster-mom, avid reader and a recent convert to the joys of crocheting.

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