Category: Geriatric Pets (page 2 of 2)

Even Pets Have Breasts

Even Pets Have Breasts

October is widely known is Breast Cancer Awareness month for people.  Well, lately it’s also become a month to raise awareness for the risk of breast cancer in pets too!  Yes that’s right, Fluffy and Bella can also get breast cancer.  Unlike women though, your pets can’t check themselves for lumps.

Feline mammary tumor

Feline mammary tumor

Cats & dogs have multiple breasts, or mammary glands, that are aligned in two chains.  Normal swelling can be noted if pregnant or nursing but in any other case, a lump may be abnormal.  After animals have been spayed, they can accumulate fat in these areas and these would be non-concerning lumps.  You can feel along the chain for an abnormal lump that would be at least the size of a small marble.  This is when you should schedule an appointment with your veterinarian, not waiting to see if it goes away.  It can only get worse if you wait until it’s the size of a lemon.

Your veterinarian will start with a general exam then discuss some diagnostics to further evaluate the lump.  Just feeling the lump is often not enough to be able to tell you everything you need to know.  No, we don’t have a mammogram machine in our office.  Our diagnostic plan can include a fine needle aspirate to try and get some cells to look at under the microscope but sometimes this is not sufficient.  Alternatively, we can move forward with chest x-rays to assess for spreading of the tumor and then surgery.  Submitting the whole lump to a pathologist will give us a more certain diagnosis to be able to determine future treatment and prognosis.

Canine incision after removal. Surgery was delayed for months

Canine incision after removal. Surgery was delayed for months

Surprisingly, we have some good statistics when it comes to breast cancer cases in dogs.  It’s a 50-50 chance of the mass being benign.  Unfortunately, in cats, the numbers are 90% malignant and only 10% benign.  Surgery can often involve the removal of the lump and the one next to it, or sometimes the entire mammary chain.  Typically, when your veterinarian is talking about breast cancer in your pet they are focusing on middle aged or senior pets.  You can help your pets by making sure to spay them.  Spaying before their first heat cycle greatly reduces the risk of breast cancer.

So do your pets a favor, check them for breast lumps.  And if you see a lump, don’t wait to see if it goes away…it won’t!

breast cancer dogs

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

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When a “Stroke” Is Not Really a Stroke…It’s Vestibular Disease

When a “Stroke” Is Not Really a Stroke…It’s Vestibular Disease

 

“I think he had a stroke!”  This is one of the most common lines in hear in a veterinary clinic for a not so common condition.  Vestibular disease is something that we can mostly see in dogs but I have seen in a couple of cats.  It can be very scary to a pet owner but in actuality is typically not as bad as they may fear.dizzy face

Have you ever been seasick?  Or sat in a swivel chair spinning around then tried to walk normally afterwards?  If not, try it now…  I’ll bet you’re stumbling all over and probably dizzy as all get out.  Great, now you know what these animals are experiencing.  The human medical condition most closely related would be vertigo.

Vestibular disease occurs when a portion of the middle ear is affected causing this imbalance.  This area of the ear canal is innervated by the vestibulocochlear nerve (cranial nerve VIII) and it is responsible for both hearing and balance.  In some cases, the facial nerve (cranial nerve VII) can also be affected as ear_diagram_petthey are directly adjacent to each other.  This is where some people see a recognizable sign of a stroke, as defined in a human, when the face seems paralyzed or drooping of the lips on one side.  This is not as commonly seen as the other signs.

The visible signs of vestibular disease do tend to cause some alarm because it can be so disturbing.  Ataxia, or stumbling around and being unable to walk is typically the first sign noticed and oftentimes can be severe enough that animals will fall down or be unable to walk.  This is an example of a severe case.  Many patients will also have a head tilt, leaning towards the affected side.  This can be absent if both sides are affected.  Also disturbing is nystagmus, which is the technical name for a repetitive twitching of the eyes – here is a great video examplehead tilt

So why is is not a stroke??  A stroke involves a blood clot being lodged into a vessel preventing flow and oxygenation to an area.  Vestibular disease does not involve blood clots.  In a young dog, we often target a middle ear infection as the cause for this condition.  In an older dog, they could have a brain lesion (inflammation or a tumor) or most commonly we see this in older dogs and we don’t know the reason (we call this idiopathic).

A physical exam will be needed with your veterinarian to help narrow down the cause of the problem.  We will look in the ear to assess the canal and ear drum.  Evaluation of the eyes and their movement can help CatEarExamus determine which side is affected.  In older patients, we will often recommend some baseline blood tests to check for other problems that might be complicating the diagnosis or treatment.  In some cases, we may recommend radiographs (x-rays) of the skull to help evaluate for ear issues related to a structure called the bulla.  If we do suspect a brain lesion, we may refer you to a specialist for more advanced imaging.

There is some good news despite all this!!  The overall outcome for these cases is positive for a large majority of them. For ear infections, we can treat with systemic antibiotics.  For the other causes and ear infections, we treat the patient symptomatically to help control the nausea and motion sickness.  Aside from this, sometimes it just takes good nursing care at home and the tincture of time.  Again, many of these patients do well and recover though in a very few instances a slight head tilt may remain.

Wrapping up here, I just want to say that this condition is not as scary as one might initially think.  It’s still wise to have your veterinarian check your pet over and provide recommendations to help them manage.  Not all cases can be easy to figure out but hopefully I’ve helped you to remove some of fear you might experience if you see this in your pets.

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

Don’t forget to check me out on Facebook, Twitter, and now Pinterest to see more events in my day & more shared info!  And on the right side of my blog you can now subscribe so you can always get the updates when a new post is published!

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