Pet Education

Canine Articles

Canine Anemia

Bone marrow produces red blood cells and releases them into the blood. These red blood cells transport oxygen throughout your dog's body, which allows its entire body to function properly. After around 8 weeks, the body removes the old blood cells from the bloodstream and creates new ones. Anemia is a reduced number of red blood cells in your pet's blood. An anemic dog will either remove too many cells or not produce enough new ones.

Anemia is not a disease on its own, but a result of another disease.

CAUSES:

  • Kidney damage that prevents bone marrow from producing more red blood cells
  • Blood does not clot properly
  • Excessive parasites in or on the body (whipworms, hookworms, ticks or fleas)
  • Any injury that causes excessive bleeding
  • Tumors of the intestinal tract (urinary bladder, kidneys or spleen)
  • Pet's body damaging or removing cells

SIGNS:

The most obvious symptom is pale pink or white gums. If you notice pale gums, you must have a blood test done as soon as possible.
Other signs include:

  • Lack of energy and depression
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Increased breathing rate (your pet is trying to get more oxygen)

DIAGNOSIS:

Your veterinarian will begin with:

  • Reviewing the medical history
  • Physical exam

Then the veterinarian will perform different blood tests:

  • PCV (Packed Cell Volume): Checks the ratio of red blood cells to the rest of the blood. In a healthy pet, 25% to 45% percent of the blood will be red blood cells. If less than 25% is red blood cells, the animal is anemic
  • CBC (Complete blood count): Measures the total amount of red and white blood cells in the body
  • Blood smear: Your veterinarian will use a microscope to study a sample of your pet's blood, checking the amount, size, and shape of red blood cells. Veterinarians will also check for parasites that might cause destruction of red blood cells.

Other tests:

  • Bone marrow biopsy: Checks if the bone marrow is functioning and creating enough red blood cells
  • Fecal parasite exam: Shows if there are parasites in the intestinal tract that might be causing blood loss

TREATMENT:

Treatment will consist of either medications or surgery, depending on the cause of anemia.

If the anemia is life threatening, your dog will need an immediate blood transfusion, which will temporarily stabilize them. This allows your veterinarian to determine the cause of the anemia, and begin the appropriate treatment.

PREVENTION:

There are a variety of causes for anemia, and most of them are preventable. The best thing to do is to ensure your dog is up to date on all preventives, especially for fleas, ticks and internal parasites.

PROGNOSIS:

The prognosis depends on the medical problem that is causing the anemia. If you catch the anemia early and your dog is in overall good health, there is a good prognosis for recovery. Sometimes, a more severe disease, such as cancer, causes anemia, and it could be life threatening.

Canine Arthritis

Arthritis is a condition where one or more joints become swollen or inflamed, leading to pain. It can affect the hips, elbows, knees, and neck, and virtually any other joint.

There are two types of arthritis:

  • Primary - Rheumatoid Arthritis: this is a progressive and uncommon disease where the immune system attacks healthy joints.
  • Secondary - Osteoarthritis: the cartilage around a joint gets damaged, so new bone forms around the joint. This has no cartilage protecting it, and causes stiffness and pain.

CAUSES:

While arthritis normally affects older dogs, and worsens with age, dogs of any age can have it.

Primary:

  • Old age
  • Injury
  • Auto-immune diseases (the immune system attacks its own body)

Secondary:

  • Old age
  • Injury
  • Disease: hip dysplasia, ligament rupture, joint infection
  • Obesity

SIGNS:

  • Painful joints
  • Swollen joints
  • Joint stiffness
  • Lameness, taking longer to get to its feet, unable to jump or climb
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression

DIAGNOSIS:

In order to properly diagnose your dog with arthritis, your veterinarian will begin with the following:

  • Review of medical history
  • Physical exam: flexing the joints and listening for abnormal joint sounds, as well as looking for swelling or heat in your dog's limbs

You veterinarian may also perform the following tests:

  • CBC blood test(complete blood count): measures the total amount of red and white blood cells in the body
  • X-rays of the affected areas: to determine the type of arthritis
  • Joint Tap: draining and studying joint fluid

TREATMENT:

The course of treatment depends mainly on what is causing the disease:

  • Infection: antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications
  • Obesity: diet change

If treatments are not helping the pain:

  • Surgery: fragments of cartilage or bone in the joint can be removed to decrease swelling, and in extremely painful cases, the affected joint may be removed
  • Dietary supplements: stimulates new cartilage growth in the joints and can alleviate some discomfort
  • Veterinarian-developed exercise routine: too much exercise for an arthritic dog can cause severe pain; however, too little exercise will make your dog's joints even stiffer
  • Medications: long-term steroids and anti-inflammatory use may alleviate the symptoms

PREVENTION:

There is no known prevention.

PROGNOSIS:

There is no cure for arthritis, but your veterinarian can give you treatment options so you dog can live a comfortable life. You should pay attention to your dog's movements, as catching arthritis early leaves more options for your dog to live comfortably.

Canine Dental Disease

Dental disease is a common disease found in more than two thirds of dogs over 3 years old.

Left untreated, bacteria builds up on the teeth. This advances to gingivitis--inflammation of the gums. Gingivitis develops into periodontal disease--inflammation of the bone and ligaments that support the teeth. If teeth are loose or infected, your pet is experiencing pain.

As the disease progresses, your dog will have tooth loss. The bacteria also can enter the bloodstream, and infect other organs.

Dental disease is treatable and can be prevented. You must provide your dog with good dental care (at home and by your veterinarian) for it to have good dental health.

CAUSES:

Dental disease starts with a build-up of brown or tan plaque. It is crucial to provide your dog with good dental care.

SIGNS:

  • Drooling
  • Yellowed teeth with tartar accumulation
  • Bad breath
  • Painful mouth
  • Red, inflamed gums
  • Not wanting to chew on toys
  • Dropping food from mouth
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Pawing at face
  • Rubbing face on ground
  • Colored nasal discharge

DIAGNOSIS:

  • Exam of your dog's teeth and gums
  • Dental x-rays
  • Blood tests

TREATMENT:

Your dog will need anesthesia for cleaning procedures. Your veterinarian will perform:

  • Blood tests: to ensure liver and kidneys are functioning well enough for anesthesia
  • Dental cleaning: ultrasonic scaling and polishing tools will remove plaque and tartar
  • Dental Surgery: removal of badly affected teeth
  • Medication: oral antibiotics

You won't be able to remove the plaque and tartar yourself because:

  • You can only remove tartar above the gum line. There still may be tartar below the gum line, which will continue causing problems
  • It's unsafe to clean the inner parts of the teeth while your dog is conscious.
  • Using dental instruments may scratch their teeth, which will cause further damage. Your veterinarian will polish the scratches to prevent this

PREVENTION:

  • Annual oral exams
  • Brush your dog's teeth daily with toothpaste made for pets only! Human toothpaste contains ingredients that are poison for pets. Your veterinarian will instruct you how to brush your dog's teeth. It is crucial to brush their teeth daily, as plaque and tartar can build up just six hours after a cleaning
  • Your veterinarian can prescribe a dental diet to remove plaque as your dog chews
  • You can add certain gels and liquids to their drinking water
  • Give your dog special chew toys which are designed to reduce tartar

PROGNOSIS:

If you take care to give your dog proper veterinary oral care and continue the care at home, they will have healthy teeth and gums, and avoid dental disease.

Canine Diabetes

Diabetes is a pancreatic disorder. There are two types:

  • Type 1 diabetes: the body does not produce enough insulin, or the body does not respond to insulin correctly. All canine patients require insulin injections.
  • Type 2 diabetes: Your dog needs insulin in order to absorb glucose and convert it into energy. Untreated, your dog's health will gradually decline and end in an early death.

CAUSES:

Diabetes is common in dogs that have the following combined factors:

  • Overweight
  • Female
  • Unspayed
  • 6 to 9 years in age

SIGNS:

Initial signs include:

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Vomiting and dehydration
  • Increased appetite with weight loss
  • Hind-limb weakness: walking with hocks touching the ground (nervous system damage)
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Cataracts

Advanced signs for untreated diabetes include:

  • Enlarged liver
  • Susceptibility to infection
  • Neurological problems
  • Anorexia, coma, death

DIAGNOSIS:

To diagnose your dog with diabetes, your veterinarian will review medical history and signs. The veterinarian will also perform blood and urine tests to check glucose levels.

TREATMENT:

Most veterinarians will agree that diabetes is not curable, but can be controlled by:

  • Change in diet:
    High in protein and low in carbohydrates: controls blood sugar and promotes weight loss in obese dogs. Obese dogs have a hard time processing insulin, making their diabetes more difficult to control 
    Spread calorie intake out over a few meals rather than all at once

  • Insulin injections:
    Insulin is used to keep the dog's blood glucose levels under control. You will be able to learn to give injections, as the insulin needles are tiny. Giving an injection is usually easier than giving a pill.
    The amount and frequency of insulin injections will be determined by your veterinarian
    Follow-up visits: the dosage will be reevaluated with further blood testing

Be aware of behavioral changes that signal:

  • Not enough insulin: extra drinking, eating and urination
  • Too much insulin: confusion, stumbling and shivering

Dogs with diabetes must eat regularly to guard against insulin overdose, but be careful to control the amount of food your cat eats to prevent obesity. Daily insulin injections will be required, and frequent visits to your veterinarian are needed to monitor your pets condition.

PREVENTION:

Proper weight management can reduce the development of diabetes.

PROGNOSIS:

The prognosis for a diabetic dog depends on your commitment to treat the disease, good communication between you and your veterinarian, and good control of the blood glucose with appropriate diet and dose of insulin.

With a strict diet, insulin and exercise, your dog can be happy and live a healthy life, even with diabetes.

Canine Kidney Failure

Acute Kidney (Renal) Failure
Chronic Kidney (Renal) Failure

Kidneys have many functions:

  • Balance chemicals in the blood
  • Filter out waste from the blood as urine
  • Regulate blood pressure
  • Regulate calcium
  • Stimulate red blood cell production
  • Conserve water

The kidney's filtering system is made of thousands of microscopic tubes called nephrons. A kidney can still function if some nephrons are damaged and stop working. However, if they stop working too suddenly for the good nephrons to compensate or if most of the nephrons stop working, kidney failure occurs.

The immediate risk of failing kidneys is that they cannot clear the blood of dangerous toxins.

There are 2 types of kidney failure:

  • Acute kidney (renal) failure (ARF): a sudden loss of function. This occurs so suddenly that the functioning nephrons don't have time to compensate. Acute kidney failure is often reversible if diagnosed in the early stages and treated aggressively.
  • Chronic kidney (renal) failure: A loss of function that occurs gradually over months or years. The kidneys lose their ability to filter the blood of wastes. CRF can lead to total kidney failure.

CAUSES:

There are many ways for the nephrons to become damaged:

Acute:

  • Ingestion of harmful substances such as antifreeze and rat poison
  • Cancer
  • Heart failure
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Clotting disorders
  • Intestinal disease
  • Dehydration
  • Bacterial infection (bacteria invade the urinary tract and travel to the kidneys)
  • Certain medications (some antibiotics and chemotherapy drugs)

Chronic:

  • Autoimmune diseases (the immune system attacks the body's organs)
  • Cysts in the kidneys which grow and destroy tissues
  • Genetics

SIGNS:

When the kidneys are not removing wastes from the body, your dog will show many signs:

  • Depression
  • Dehydration
  • Excess thirst
  • Lack of appetite and weight loss
  • Vomiting (may contain blood)
  • Diarrhea (may contain blood)
  • Weakness
  • Foul-smelling breath
  • Seizures

Some additional signs:

Acute:

  • Stiff-legged gait and arched back (a sign of painful kidneys)
  • Frequent or no urination

Chronic:

  • Chronic disease progresses over a period of years and can go unnoticed. When signs finally appear, the disease is already advanced. But with proper treatment, some dogs with chronic kidney failure live comfortably for years after diagnosis.
  • Increased urination
  • Bleeding or bruising easily

DIAGNOSIS:

Your veterinarian may perform the following:

  • Blood tests: high levels of urea and creatinine in the blood can indicate kidney failure
  • Urinalysis: with healthy kidneys, urine is concentrated and doesn't contain blood or protein
  • X-rays, ultrasounds
  • Kidney biopsies

TREATMENT:

Acute (Aggressive action must be taken):

  • Hospitalization
  • Intravenous fluid therapy to remove the toxins in the blood
  • Medications

Chronic:

  • If the kidneys are severely damaged, medical treatment will not be able to reverse the condition. But with early diagnosis and aggressive treatment, many dogs will resume a normal lifestyle for a while.
  • Hospitalization
  • Intravenous fluid therapy to remove the toxins in the blood
  • Medications

There are more intense treatment options available:
Dialysis (artificial blood filtering): very expensive and requires several hours of treatment a few times a week

Home treatment for Chronic Failure:

  • Make sure your dog always has access to fresh water
  • Maintain a stress-free daily routine to encourage eating and drinking
  • Dietary management: restrict the amount of protein your dog eats. This will decrease the amount of waste in their blood stream, and relieve the workload of their kidneys

PREVENTION:

Kidney failure can develop naturally as the kidneys wear our. Since this happens with age, there is no real preventative measure; it can only be treated.

Ingestion of even a small amount of antifreeze can lead to acute kidney failure and death. It's more common with outdoor pets that are more often exposed to antifreeze.

PROGNOSIS:

Acute: ARF is a life-threatening condition, with a guarded prognosis. The prognosis is better if infection was the cause, rather than a toxic substance. The long-term prognosis for recovery depends on the amount of kidney damage that has occurred, because kidney tissue cannot re-grow.
Your veterinarian will do blood and urine tests during treatment to see how well the kidneys are responding. If there is a positive change within the first 48-72 hours of therapy, there is a good prognosis. If there is no change, the prognosis is poor.

Chronic:
Most cases of CRF progress slowly. Therefore, with proper management, your dog can have a good quality of life for several years.

Feline Articles

Feline Arthritis

Arthritis is a condition where one or more joints become swollen or inflamed. It can affect the hips, elbows, knees, and neck.

There are two types of arthritis:

  • Primary - Rheumatoid Arthritis: this is a progressive and uncommon disease where the immune system attacks healthy joints
  • Secondary - Osteoarthritis: the cartilage around a joint gets damaged, so new bone forms around the joint. This has no cartilage protecting it, and causes stiffness and pain

CAUSES:

While arthritis normally affects older cats, and worsens with age, cats of any age can have it.

Primary:

  • Old age
  • Injury
  • Auto-immune diseases (the immune system attacks its own body)

Secondary:

  • Old age
  • Injury
  • Disease: hip dysplasia, ligament rupture, joint infection
  • Obesity

SIGNS:

  • Painful joints
  • Swollen joints
  • Joint stiffness
  • Lameness, taking longer to get to its feet, unable to jump or climb
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression

DIAGNOSIS:

In order to properly diagnose your cat with arthritis, your veterinarian will begin with the following:

  • Review of medical history
  • Physical exam: flexing the joints and listening for abnormal joint sounds, as well as looking for swelling or heat in your cat's limbs

You veterinarian may also perform the following tests:

  • CBC blood test(complete blood count): measures the total amount of red and white blood cells in the body
  • X-rays of the affected areas: to determine the type of arthritis
  • Joint Tap: draining and studying joint fluid

TREATMENT:

  • The course of treatment depends mainly on what is causing the disease.
  • Infection: antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications
  • Obesity: diet change

If treatments are not helping the pain:

  • Surgery: fragments of cartilage or bone in the joint can be removed to decrease swelling, and in extremely painful cases, the affected joint may be removed
  • Dietary supplements: stimulates new cartilage growth in the joints and can alleviate some discomfort
  • Veterinarian-developed exercise routine: too much exercise for an arthritic cat can cause severe pain; however, too little exercise will make your cat's joints even stiffer
  • Medications: long-term steroids and anti-inflammatory use may alleviate the symptoms

PREVENTION:

There is no known prevention.

PROGNOSIS:

There is no cure for arthritis, but your veterinarian can give you treatment options so you cat can live a comfortable life. You should pay attention to your cat's movements, as catching arthritis early leaves more options for your cat to live comfortably.

Feline Asthma

Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the lungs and lower airways. The airways become thick and mucus production increases, which constricts the airways. This makes it difficult for the cat to breathe.

CAUSES:

Asthma sometimes develops spontaneously, for no known reason. Other times, it is an allergic reaction from inhaled irritants (cigarette smoke, dust, perfume etc.).

SIGNS:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shallow, rapid breathing
  • Open-mouth breathing

Asthma can turn into a respiratory crisis. Sudden breathing difficulty due to narrowing of the airway can be life threatening. If you notice any of the above signs, call your veterinarian immediately.

DIAGNOSIS:

Your veterinarian will perform the following tests:

  • Physical exam: wheezes may be heard
  • Chest X-rays: to check for a constricted airway
  • Tracheal wash: sterile fluid is flushed in and out of the airways, and then the cells and debris are examined under a microscope

TREATMENT:

Most veterinarians will recommend the following treatments for cats with asthma:

  • Remove irritants: do not allow contact with cigarette smoke or perfume, and purchase dust free cat litter
  • Corticosteroids: oral or injected medication to decrease inflammation, which is the cause of the constricted airways
  • Inhaled steroids: inhaled steroids may be prescribed to prevent continued inflammation without the side effects of oral or injected steroids

PREVENTION:

  • Keep your cat away from cigarette smoke, incense, scented candles and perfume
  • Use dust free cat litter (recycled newspaper or wheat litter)
  • Open windows in rooms when using strong cleaners, and remove the cat from the room until the smell goes away
  • Remove the cat from any home undergoing construction or painting

PROGNOSIS:

Cats with asthma usually need lifelong medical treatment. Your veterinarian will probably try to reduce doses gradually.

As asthma is a chronic condition, complete control may not be possible, but with the proper treatment, your cat can enjoy a good quality of life.

Feline Dental Disease

Dental disease is a common disease found in more than two thirds of cats over 3 years old.

Left untreated, bacteria builds up on the teeth. This advances to gingivitis--inflammation of the gums. Gingivitis develops into periodontal disease--inflammation of the bone and ligaments that support the teeth.

As the disease progresses, your cat will have tooth loss. The bacteria also can enter the bloodstream, and infect other organs.

Dental disease is treatable and can be prevented. You must provide your cat with good dental care (at home and by your veterinarian) for it to have good dental health.

CAUSES:

Dental disease starts with a build-up of brown or tan plaque. It is crucial to provide your cat with good dental care.

SIGNS:

  • Drooling
  • Bad breath
  • Painful mouth
  • Red, inflamed gums
  • Not wanting to chew on toys
  • Dropping food from mouth
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Pawing at face
  • Rubbing face on ground
  • Colored nasal discharge

DIAGNOSIS:

  • Exam of your cat's teeth and gums
  • Dental x-rays
  • Blood tests

TREATMENT:

Your pet will need anesthesia for cleaning procedures. Your veterinarian will perform:

  • Blood tests: to ensure liver and kidneys are functioning well enough for anesthesia
  • Dental cleaning: ultrasonic scaling and polishing tools will remove plaque and tartar
  • Dental Surgery: removal of badly affected teeth
  • Medication: oral antibiotics

You won't be able to remove the plaque and tartar yourself because:

  • You can only remove tartar above the gum line. There still may be tartar below the gum line, which will continue causing problems
  • It's unsafe to clean the inner parts of the teeth while your cat is conscious.
  • Using dental instruments may scratch their teeth, which will cause further damage. Your veterinarian will polish the scratches to prevent this

PREVENTION:

  • Annual oral exams
  • Brush your cat's teeth daily with toothpaste made for pets only! Human toothpaste contains ingredients that are poison for pets. Your veterinarian will instruct you how to brush your cat's teeth. It is crucial to brush their teeth daily, as plaque and tartar can build up just six hours after a cleaning
  • Your veterinarian can prescribe a dental diet to remove plaque as your cat chews
  • You can add certain gels and liquids to your pet's drinking water
  • Give your cat special chew toys which are designed to reduce tartar

PROGNOSIS:

If you take care to give your cat proper veterinary oral care and continue the care at home, they will have healthy teeth and gums, and avoid dental disease.

Feline Diabetes

Diabetes is a pancreatic disorder. There are two types:

  • Type 1 diabetes: the body does not produce enough insulin
  • Type 2 diabetes:(more common) the body is unable to use the insulin correctly

Your cat needs insulin in order to absorb glucose and convert it into energy. Untreated, your cat's health will gradually decline and end in an early death.

CAUSES:

Diabetes is common in cats that have the following combined factors:

  • Neutered
  • Overweight
  • Male
  • 10 years or older in age

SIGNS:

Initial signs include:

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Vomiting and dehydration
  • Increased appetite with weight loss
  • Poor coat/lack of grooming: may appear flaky, oily, and unkempt
  • Hind-limb weakness: walking with hocks touching the ground (nervous system damage)
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty breathing

Advanced signs for untreated diabetes include:

  • Enlarged liver
  • Susceptibility to infection
  • Neurological problems

DIAGNOSIS:

To diagnose your cat with diabetes, your veterinarian will review medical history and signs. The veterinarian will also perform blood and urine tests to check glucose levels.

TREATMENT:

Most veterinarians will agree that diabetes is not curable, but can be controlled by:

  • Change in diet:
    High in protein and low in carbohydrates: controls blood sugar and promotes weight loss in obese cats. Obese cats have a hard time processing insulin, making their diabetes more difficult to control
    Spread calorie intake out over a few meals rather than all at once

  • Insulin injections:
    Insulin is used to keep the cat's blood glucose levels under control. You will be able to learn to give injections, as the insulin needles are tiny. Giving an injection is usually easier than giving a pill.
    The amount and frequency of insulin injections will be determined by your veterinarian
    Follow-up visits: the dosage will be reevaluated with further blood testing

Be aware of behavioral changes that signal:

  • Not enough insulin: extra drinking, eating and urination
  • Too much insulin: lethargy, stumbling and shivering

Cats with diabetes must eat regularly to guard against insulin overdose, but be careful to control the amount of food your cat eats to prevent obesity.

PREVENTION:

While there is no way known to prevent type 1 diabetes, proper weight management can reduce the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes.

PROGNOSIS:

The prognosis for a diabetic cat depends on your commitment to treat the disease, good communication between you and your veterinarian, and good control of the blood glucose with appropriate diet and dose of insulin. With a strict diet, insulin and exercise, your cat can be happy and live a healthy life, even with diabetes.

Feline Obesity

Obesity is a very common issue in cats; 25 to 30 percent of cats are obese. This is not just an issue of looks. Obesity causes several diseases, such as diabetes, arthritis, respiratory disease, musculoskeletal disease, liver disease, and urinary disease.

All cats are prone to obesity, but some are more at risk, including:

  • Mixed breeds
  • Spayed or neutered cats (because they are fed the same amount, but don't have enough energy for exercise)
  • 2 to 8 year olds

CAUSE:

  • Too much calorie intake
  • Not enough exercise

SIGNS:

  • Decreased activity
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Extra body fat (on the abdomen, back, limbs, and face)
  • No visible waist
  • Ribs cannot be felt
  • Greasy or flaky hair
  • Heat intolerance

DIAGNOSIS:

Your vet will feel your cat's body, and easily make a diagnosis. She may also perform blood and urine tests to rule out other diseases.

TREATMENT:

To lose weight, your cat must burn more calories than it eats. This consists of:

  • Eating less: Feed your cat strictly measured meals as per your vet
  • Increase in exercise: Provide toys, cat trees, window perches, etc. for your cat to play with. If you get involved, your cat will play and move more. Another idea is to put food in an unusual place, so your cat will have to go look for it. This is especially helpful with very overweight cats that don't have energy for exercise or games.
Healthy weight loss takes time. Make sure you visit your vet often to follow-up on your cat's weight and overall health.

OUTCOME:

Feline obesity can be treated successfully with a proper diet and weight maintenance. Most problems caused by feline obesity will be reversed with weight loss.

Use of a high protein, low carb diet may be beneficial. Diets of 6% carbs are similar to a mouse's body – may help the cat lose weight.