Category: Routine Health (page 2 of 3)

Scratching the Surface of Skin Disease

Scratching the Surface of Skin Disease

Previously, we discussed the top 5 visit reasons that pets get seen at their veterinarians.  Well, we didn’t talk about skin issues but a top 6 list doesn’t sound as cool and the integumentary system has so many facets, it deserves a post of it’s own.  When I was in Florida, I would call it a dermatologist’s dream job because of the number of skin problems.  So why are we veterinarians seeing your cat or dog for skin problems?

hair loss on the head

hair loss on the head

By far, allergies are the most common causes for skin issues in dogs & cats.  Allergy issues themselves are a humongous area of possibilities so we’ll summarize it here.  The three main causes of allergies are environmental, food, and fleas.  When it comes to the environment, it could be year round or seasonal.  The offending allergen could be as common as grass, weeds, house dust mites, or in one rare case I remember – human dander.  Yeah, this dog was allergic to his people!  Sometimes these can be managed by keeping pets away from the cause, through the use of antihistamines or other medications, or in some cases the use of hyposensitization injections.

chewing on the foot

chewing on the foot

The number one thing I hear when I bring up food allergies is always “but he/she has been eating the same food for years!”  Yes, that may be so but over time, your pet has become sensitized to something in the food that is making then scratch, lose hair, or develop skin sores.  Most often, it is the protein source – not grains – and the best way to establish this diagnosis is to do a hypoallergenic food trial.  Typically, the gold standard is going to be a veterinary prescribed diet that is hydrolyzed protein meaning it has been cut down molecularly so the body doesn’t recognize it.  The other option is a novel protein diet, meaning a protein the patient hasn’t eaten before and this could be a certain type of fish, venison, or even kangaroo meat.  The most important aspect is that your pet does not get ANYTHING else to eat for 8-12 weeks, including treats unless suggested by your veterinarian.colored flea

The evil flea…causes of so many problems.  They are the easiest thing to rule out in terms of skin problems and usually the least costly to fix.  During warmer months (though at any time of the year), you should keep your pets on a flea control medication from your veterinarian.  Trust me when I say over the counter meds don’t work and may cause more problems, as noted by a recent CBC Marketplace report.  Newer to Canada are chewable flea control products (NexGard & Bravecto) which can help pets who don’t tolerate or whose family doesn’t want to use topical spot-on products.

Severe skin changes from yeast infection

Severe skin changes from yeast infection

Aside from everything above, we can see superficial rashes or skin infections (pyoderma) which can be treated with medicated shampoos or in some cases oral antibiotics.  Sometimes when these infections are not treated promptly and the pet scratches too much at the area, it can develop into a hot spot – a large inflamed moist infected area which can be painful.  In younger pets, mange mites can be a common finding and can manifest as either scabs around the head (primarily scabies in cats) or small areas of hair loss in multiple places (typically demodex in dogs).  To clear up some confusion, ringworm is not actually a worm but a fungus that can cause crusty skin and hair loss and is also contagious to people.

Redness and crusting in a painful ear

Redness and crusting in a painful ear

Ear problems are often grouped in with skin problems.  Most ear problems can be traced to a mixed infection of yeast & bacteria but your veterinary team can do an ear swab to help decipher the cause.  Ear mites are also notorious especially in young animals and can be spread to all the pets in the house.  If too much head shaking goes on, then a swelling of the ear flap can occur – this is a hematoma and can be mildly uncomfortable.  Previously, surgery was always recommended to fix these after addressing the underlying problem but lately I’ve had good success with draining them.  When it comes to ears, only use a labeled pet ear cleaner and preferably one that also acts as a drying agent.  This means no mineral oil, no peroxide, no alcohol, no water….just an ear cleaner that is labeled for pets.

Tumor on the head

Tumor on the head

These are just the basics of many common skin problems that can be seen in pets; believe me, we could spend a few weeks talking about all of them.  There are also immune system conditions such as lupus and we can also see some specific breed related conditions.  Most skin problems will present with similar signs – itching, hair loss, body odor, and redness.  We haven’t mentioned skin lumps but my colleague Dr. Sue Ettinger has launched a campaign called “See Something, Do Something” and the basic premise is that if you see a lump present for longer than a month and it’s the size of a pea or larger, get it checked out.  As a last note, I want to add that you should never give any medications without first consulting your veterinarian.  Now what are you waiting for?  Go check out your pet’s coat & skin and maybe it’s time for that bath.

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

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Five Common Reasons Pets Visit Veterinarians

Five Common Reasons Pets Visit Veterinarians

It’s the new year! 2015 has arrived and it’s time for New Year’s resolutions…not just for you but for your pets!  Thinkinghappy-new-year-cat about the most common reasons I see pets, it’s a good idea to share these points so that your pet can have a happy & healthy year.  There are some things you can do yourself to help your pet reach these goals.

Reason #1: Bad Breath/Teeth Issues

dog breathEveryone knows what doggy breath is…but what can you do about it?  I’m definitely an advocate for tooth brushing and you should start your pet when they are young to at least get them used to the idea and the feeling.  You’ll want to use an enzymatic pet toothpaste as human toothpastes can damage the enamel of your pets’ teeth.  You can find this at most pet stores but also your veterinarian where they often have a free sample to try the flavor and can show you some proper techniques or tips.  It’s also best to use a real child’s sizewebmd_photo_of_brushing_dogs_teeth2 soft bristled toothbrush.  When it comes to dental cleanings, yes it can be expensive because your pet needs an anesthetic.  It’s better to have a prophylactic cleaning done before the teeth get so bad that extractions are required.

Reason #2: Limping

Typically limited to dogs, this can also be a problem for cats.  Very commonly, the problem can be traced back to a sprain/strain and may recover with time.  As pets live longer, we are seeing more cases of limping dogarthritis which can be addressed from an early age by starting your pet on a glucosamine supplement.  Other medications, along with keeping them at a good body weight, can also help alleviate discomfort.  Under no circumstances should you give ibuprofen or Tylenol (acetaminophen) as they can be fatal.  Another common cause of limping can be a torn ACL (cruciate) ligament in the knee.  If your pet starts to limping, you should certainly have them checked out if the signs last more than a day but until your appointment, be sure to keep them on a leash so they don’t over-do it and make things worse.  But be kind and if they are still limping after 24 hours or crying out, get them in to be seen as soon as possible because they are likely in pain.

Reason #3: Urinary Issues

So you’ve got an adult dog or cat who is past the housebreaking or litter training phase…and then they decide to startblocked_cat urinating on the laundry, the kitchen floor, or in the sink.  Or maybe it’s that you’ve been seeing blood in the urine with your dog or your cat is making frequent trips to the litterbox.  In almost every case, this is a sign of a problem and is going to mean a trip to your veterinarian.  For infections, females are predisposed and for bladder crystals or stones, issues are more problematic for males.  To try and help stave these things off, it helps to do a couple of things.  First off, it’s always a great idea to keep your pet at an ideal body weight as obesity has been shown to make these problems worse.  Secondly, with females, if they have an inverted vulva (again worsened by obesity), it can be beneficial to keep the skin folds clean using baby wipes or just a soft cloth and making sure the folds are dried out.  Third, particularly with male cats, I recommend feeding some canned food (in addition to dry) to help urine production and to also keep it more dilute so that they can do their best to prevent accumulation of crystals.

Reason #4: Gastro-intestinal Problems

upset stomach dogThis is a broad category I’ll touch on briefly that includes vomiting, diarrhea, and not eating.  I see many pets being rushed in if they miss one meal or have 1 episode of vomiting or diarrhea.  It’s good that you as an owner are concerned about your pets health.  What I don’t want to see is pets that have been waiting 4-5 days before being seen.  If you ever see blood in the stool or vomit, they should be seen right away.  If your pets doesn’t want to eat dinner one night, you could tempt them with a small amount of boiled chicken and rice or maybe a small amount of tuna for cats.  You can lower the risk of vomiting and diarrhea by sticking to a regular diet and avoiding table food.  Pepto Bismol should never be given to cats due to toxicity issues and it won’t solve every problem with your dog’s intestinal system.  Pancreatitis, parvovirus, and foreign bodies are both life threatening and delaying treatment can only make things worse for your pet.  Bottom line, if they still won’t eat, are lethargic, vomiting or having diarrhea for more than 24 hours, then it’s time for a check up.

Reason #5: Vaccines

Sometimes the only reason I see a pet are when they need “shots” which in some cases might only be every 3 years. feline physical exam That being said, we still do more examinations and vaccinations than anything else.  What I want to stress here is that vaccines are important but not the most important part of these visits.  The actual examination is the most critical part of the visit as it allows us to assess your pet’s total body health and possibly find problems before they become more serious.  It also gives us a chance to discuss the things you should be watching for especially as your pet gets older.  To understand more about the annual exam, visit my previous blog post about it here.

Summary

The one thing missing from this list is skin problems but given the number of facets to that area of the body, it will be addressed as a separate post at a later time.  So start the new year off right and do your part to keep your pet healthy.  Whether it’s brushing their teeth, stopping giving them table food, keeping them clean and at a healthy weight, or just getting a check up even if they aren’t due for a vaccination this year, these are all simple things you can do for them.  And though you think they might resent it, I’m sure they’ll be thankful for not getting sick and having to visit the veterinary clinic later.

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!

The Very Basics of Eyes, Noses & Toenails

The Very Basics of Eyes, Noses & Toenails

Welcome to part 2 of 2 of a collaboration with Miss Edie the Pug.  We’re going to finish up our discussion of simple care things you can do at home to keep your pets healthy by focusing on the eyes, nose, and those pesky toenails this week.

Corneal ulceration with corneal edema

Corneal ulceration with corneal edema

Maybe your pets stares into your soul with those eyes when you get ready to clean their ears or trim their nails.  Those eyes are not something I ever recommend anyone messing with.  They only get one set so it’s best not to self-treat.  Discharge from the eyes could be indicative of an infection or a scratch.  Squinting is often associated with a scratch, which if not treated promptly, can hurt and may be difficult to heal, or in the worst cases can result in permanent damage.  Other things to watch for are swelling of the eye or cloudiness of the cornea.  Get to your vet as soon as possible if this is noted.

Normal dog nose

Normal dog nose

Depigmentation

Depigmentation

Let’s be nosey…  The very front of your fur-baby is one of the few hairless spots (unless you have a Sphyx or other type of exotic breed).  In general, you don’t need to clean the nose but you may see color changes or texture changes on the surface of the nose.  For some dogs, this could be a seasonal change or a breed related condition.  On the other hand though, some conditions involving the immune system will manifest with changes in the nasal appearance so your veterinarianshould be consulted.

Yet, in some breeds such as pugs, bulldogs, & other brachycephalic breeds, we have to deal with folds around the nose. french-bulldog-nasal folds Sometimes these folds will get dirty or retain moisture and can lead to infections so we do recommend cleaning them.  A wash can be obtained from your veterinarian but I have also recommended using baby wipes, a wash cloth with mild dish soap, or if there is more greasy build up you can safely use human acne pads.

Oddly enough, I think more dogs & cats mind getting their nails trimmed than they do ever getting any type off needle or brushing of their coat.  Some of the reason may be the restraint involved while other times they had a bad experience once and the quick, or blood vessel, was clipped causing bleeding & pain.  If nails are left too long, they can catch & break off causing more severe pain, limping, and in the worst case, an infection.  Again, like brushing teeth, I always try to get people to handle the feet of their puppy or kitten to get them used to it.

nailThe clear nails are simple, just don’t cut into the pink part and everything will be okay.  But those black nails?  Those buggers can be a problem.  There are two tips to trimming these.  First, I say make them flush with the bottom of the paw pads; the vessel typically does not extend past that.  Second, start trimming a few millimeters at a time keeping perpendicular to the curve of the nail and if you look at the nail from an end-on perspective, you can start to see concentric rings like a target – STOP!  You’re getting close at that point of the vessel.  Give your dog a treat and maybe one for you (not from the same container though!) and then repeat in about 4-6 weeks.

Hopefully this has been helpful to do some simple things to avoid bigger problems with your pets.  Your veterinary clinic can help you with a demonstration of these things – all you have to do is ask!  But if your pets won’t cooperate, we’ll always be there to help!  If there’s something you want to find out more about, or to hear my opinion on a topic, leave a comment below or over on my Facebook page.  Thanks for reading & sharing!

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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