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Ask The Doc

posted November 28th, 2015 by
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Gary Kubat, DVM / Veterinary Emergency & Critical Care Hospital BluePearl Oklahoma City

 

Q: I live near a location where the emergency sirens blow every Wednesday at noon. My Lab puppy, who has never heard this sound before, has started running outside and howling when he hears the noise.  Why does he do this, and are the sirens hurting his hearing?

A: Ahhh… another great mystery of canine behavior that can only have a definitive answer when we learn to speak “dog” (and they learn to speak back). We may be disappointed in the canine’s answer as it is probably not as interesting or mysterious as it appears.

The general consensus is that the sirens are interpreted by your pet as another canine howling; hence, the natural response is to answer back in the instinctual language that is heard. This same reasoning could also apply to barking as it is heard progressing through a neighborhood. The howling may communicate a location, sex, dominance status—we simply do not know for certain, but it is likely not complicated.

Perhaps some dogs just enjoy the vocalizing! Someday a behavioral researcher with the time and funding may find a way to conduct fMRI tests on howling dogs to see which parts of the brain are activated and functioning just prior to the initiation of the vocal response; then we might have some insight into the reason.

It is unlikely that the sirens are causing discomfort. Observe dogs that are howling; they do not exhibit the expected signs of pain or fear. They do not try to run or hide; they do not tuck their tails or lower their ears or heads.  Just as your dog, some try to run toward the sound outside rather than away.

Two of the greatest and most enjoyable sounds in nature are the howling of a wolf and, for those of us in Oklahoma, the howling-yapping of a pack of coyotes in response to sirens (it certainly serves to locate the pack!).

Meanwhile, here is another pack behavior to ponder. Why do some municipalities test storm sirens on Wednesday and others do it on Saturday? And who picked noon as the time?

 

Q: My dog has “hot spots” no matter what time of the year. I can’t clear them up. Any suggestions?

A: Hot Spots (more expensive-sounding synonyms are:  acute moist dermatitis, pyotraumatic dermatitis, or just moist eczema) are always initially a problem of self-trauma. A focal itch or inflammation is scratched and rubbed until the skin becomes even more inflamed. This induces more itching, initiating a self-traumatizing progressive cycle. The lesion can become very large even in a few hours.  At this point the lesion is painful to touch, and many dogs will require sedation just to clip and clean the wound to allow topical treatment.

The location of the lesion is often a clue as to the cause of the originating itch or lesion. For example, if the lesion is located on the hips or rear limbs, the prime suspect is flea infestation. You may only see one flea, but that is enough to start the problem. If the lesion is on the side of the face below the ear, the original problem may be an ear infection that resulted in the dog scratching at the ear area.

The hot spot skin lesion needs to be treated, but the initiating factor needs to be identified.  Dogs do not spontaneously self-traumatize (exceptions exist: see acral lick dermatitis or lick granuloma).  Other causes include staph skin infections; skin fungal infections; allergies, topical or inhaled, that result in skin itching; and many other factors.

Another common denominator is a moist environment, especially with a long-haired breed. The skin stays wet, becomes inflamed and itches, resulting in the scratch/rub response. Some dogs that drool heavily develop hot spots on the lower jaw as a result of constant excessive moisture. I once had a patient presented because the owner thought the dog had been struck by lightning, when in fact the dog had multiple hot spots all on one side of its body.

The dog had spent long periods of time in its dog house (with wet straw bedding) during a recent rainy spell of several days. The long-haired dog simply never dried out, and dermatitis developed, which the dog then self-traumatized. Another potential complication during the warmer months is an infestation of the lesion with fly larva or myiasis. The hot spots’ lesions are oozing serum and often smell strongly necrotic, attracting the flies. This is often a problem with older, arthritic or obese dogs that are not mobile enough to keep the flies off the lesion.

The treatments of the skin lesion include topical ointments with antibiotics and corticosteroids for the inflammation (after the lesion is clipped, cleaned and dried). Topical antiseptics may also help, as well as antihistamines. I usually dispense the topical medication as a spray since most patients are too painful in the area to allow application of an ointment. I also like to apply a topical anesthetic, such as lidocaine ointment, or an injectable anesthetic, such as Marcaine, for an instant although brief relief from the itching to break the cycle. Treating the actual lesion is relatively easy and usually responds well within a few days.

The real problem and solution is to identify the inciting cause, especially in your case of repeated episodes at all times of the year. Frankly, in Oklahoma, your problem is flea infestation until proven otherwise. If not fleas, then we proceed through the culprit list based on logically identifying the most likely cause. A skin allergy may be only seasonal, but if it is induced by household items (smoke, carpets, foods, straw in the dog house), it could be a problem year-round.

Some cases will require a skin biopsy to determine if a bacterial infection (pyoderma) or other disorder exists. If your pet is experiencing repeated year-round hot spots you need to be prepared to spend some time and effort with your veterinarian to resolve the problem.

 

Q: My dog got pancreatitis and almost died. It was really touch and go, and it was scary. What exactly is pancreatitis, and how does a pet owner prevent this?

A: First, let’s determine what exactly is a pancreas? It is an abdominal organ closely associated with the duodenum and liver that produces and secretes chemical enzymes that assist in digesting food. It also secretes insulin, associated with the most common diabetes. Amazingly, it does this without harming or digesting itself… normally. Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas that develops when the normal protective mechanisms of the organ are overwhelmed by pancreatic enzymes, resulting in autodigestion.

What is the cause? Anecdotally, most veterinarians (myself included) will blame a dietary indiscretion of a high-fat diet (often table foods) as the inciting cause most of the time. In truth, the actual causal agent of pancreatitis is frequently unknown. What we do know are a whole lot of related risk factors associated with pancreatitis and pancreatitis patients.

Certainly, ingestion of high-fat foods is on that list. But we have all heard the story of how the same dog has eaten the same table food many times without a problem, and the other dogs in the household ate the same thing and are having no problem. Pancreatitis is more common in obese animals (that probably eat more table food anyway, which is why they are obese). Hyperlipidemia (high levels of fats/lipids in the blood even when fasting) is associated with increasing frequency of pancreatitis.

The miniature Schnauzer is a breed often associated with hyperlipidemia and pancreatitis. But pancreatitis can also cause hyperlipidemia. Pancreatitis can also cause diabetes, at least transiently.  Diabetes is also associated with hyperlipidemia, and it is not unusual for a miniature Schnauzer to be diagnosed diabetic. Which came first? Isn’t this complicated? There is more…

Some commonly used drugs have been associated with pancreatitis, including furosemide, a diuretic often used in cardiac dysfunction; if the heart is not functioning well, the pancreas may suffer from hypoperfusion or poor blood supply, which leads to pancreatitis as well). Potassium bromide, an anti-seizure medication, has been associated with a higher frequency of pancreatitis. Hyperlipidemia has been associated with seizures.

Now suppose you have an older, overweight, diabetic, hyperlipidemic miniature Schnauzer taking potassium bromide for occasional seizures, and on furosemide for mild heart disease. How do you prevent pancreatitis? Well, at the very least, be extremely careful with diet. The bacon fat can find some other use.  Also, consider pet insurance.

If your pet is diagnosed with pancreatitis, it will usually be treated in-hospital at least during the acute phase. It was once believed that all oral stimulation and food should be withheld to avoid stimulating the pancreas to secrete enzymes, but current thinking is to provide oral nutritional support as soon as nausea can be improved. IV fluid support, antiemetics, antibiotics, and narcotic pain medications are usually the basis of treatment. Complications can involve the liver-bile duct system, sepsis, or in severe progressive necrotizing pancreatitis, surgery may be required to address the peritonitis (inflamed or infected abdominal cavity). Other complications can include pulmonary failure, kidney failure and blood coagulation problems.  While most patients do recover, pancreatitis is not usually a 24 to 48 hour recovery.  Expect your pet to be in-hospital for several days, and if complications do develop, the prognosis for recovery is reduced.

Although in some cases it may be unrealistic to completely prevent pancreatitis, you can certainly reduce the risk by eliminating associated risk factors as much as possible and adhering to very strict dietary control. You should work closely with your veterinarian to identify the risk factors you have the power to change. Specially developed prescription-only diets are very beneficial also.

New radio program focuses on pet health

posted March 15th, 2014 by
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A new weekly short radio series will focus on animal health. OSU Center for Veterinary Health Sciences, KOSU and the Kirkpatrick Foundation have partnered to create Vet Met Moment which airs Wednesdays at 1:20 p.m. and Sundays at 6:40 a.m. on Uniquely Oklahoma KOSU, 91.7 in Oklahoma City, 88.3 in Stillwater, 107.5 in Tulsa and KOSU.org.

“Public radio listeners love their pets and they love to be informed,” said Kelly Burley, KOSU Director.  “This program will be a great way for Uniquely Oklahoma KOSU to bring these two things together.”

According to the press release:

The launch of the program comes at a time when pet ownership continues to climb.  The American Pet Products Association estimates the population of pets includes 95 million cats and 83 million dogs in homes nationwide.  According to its 2013-14 annual survey, 68 percent of households own a pet, up from 56 percent in 1988, the year of its first survey.   As the pet-as-family member bond grows, so does the need for information about how to keep pets safe and healthy.  

“Our goal is to engage the audience around the powerful bond between animals and humans,” said Dr. Lesa Staubus, Clinical Assistant Professor in the center’s Veterinary Medical Hospital and host of the program. “Each week, we’ll touch on a subject that is important to animal health and hope to give listeners information that will promote excellent animal care.”

-Lauren Cavagnolo, [email protected]

How do you get your pets to take their pills?

posted January 22nd, 2014 by
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As my pets age and begin to accumulate health problems, convincing them to take their meds has become as difficult as getting my toddler to take hers.

Yoda in particular, has become quite sneaky with his heart pills. I’m not sure how he does it, but he will spit it back out. This sometimes happens as much as an hour after I have given it to him. The pill is so tiny I would have thought it would have just dissolved in that time… I just have no idea how he manages to do that.

And since he must take said pill twice a day, and since I don’t want the wrong animal (or toddler or infant) accidentally ingesting the pills he spits out, this has become quite the conundrum in my house.

Needless to say, I’ve done a lot of experimenting with the quickest and most efficient way to get him to just swallow his pill. And American Singles seem to do the trick.

Yes, those yucky, bright orange squares of cheese are just sticky enough that he has no choice but to swallow his pill. And since he seems to love this plastic version of cheese, he doesn’t seem to mind. I think it’s kind of gross, but I don’t have to eat it.

So there you have it, my trick to getting my pets to take their pills. What tricks work for your pets? Leave a comment below.

- Lauren Cavagnolo, [email protected]

Dental Dangers

posted January 14th, 2013 by
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by Kiley Roberson

Is your pet’s smile making him sick? The truth is that more than 85% of pets over age 3 suffer from some sort of dental disease. Tartar buildup on your pet’s teeth means bacteria, and bacteria leads to infections. Many pets develop heart disease or kidney disease as a result of harboring harmful bacteria in their mouths over time.

Veterinarians, like Dr. Heather Owen at Animal Acupuncture, are constantly reminding clients to provide annual dental exams and cleanings for their pets followed by care at home. “Smaller pets may need to have their teeth cleaned every six months,” Owen explains. “Larger pets need a cleaning every year. I tell people to flip their lip; if there is tartar, they need to be cleaned.”

Still, pet owners are reluctant to follow these recommendations. Some don’t like the idea of using anesthesia to put their pets to sleep during dental procedures because they think it’s dangerous. That’s why many groomers have started offering Anesthesia-Free Pet Dentistry (AFPD).

Marketing brochures show calm dogs sitting on the laps of “pet dental hygienists” who gently scrape tartar off the pets’ teeth. For anyone who has a senior pet or anyone who has lost a pet under anesthesia, this idea might seem to be right on target. But, Owen says, don’t be fooled.

“Don’t do it,” Owen warns. “You can pay a groomer to brush your pet’s teeth and check for bacteria if you want, but they are not educated in veterinary dentistry nor are they trained. This is a money making trend in the industry, and that is it.”

Veterinarians use ultrasonic scalers and sharp dental instruments for cleanings. This is one reason a general anesthetic is needed. Beyond keeping the patient from moving, heavy sedation or general anesthesia allows a more thorough procedure of the entire mouth and hard to see areas. Sedation also helps keep the pets from inhaling the bacteria as it is scraped from their teeth, which could make them very sick.

Dr. Owen says that Anesthesia-Free Pet Dentistry is not only dangerous, it’s a scam on pet owners. “The biggest danger is causing your pet harm,” Owen says. “Without sedations, we cannot take oral X-rays which are imperative in helping to assess the health of your pet’s teeth.

“We cannot protect their airway, allowing them to inhale massive amounts of bacteria. We could hurt them with the scaler if they unexpectedly move on us, and we cannot extract painful or infected teeth. In essence, it is a waste of your time and money.”

In a veterinary office, dental cleanings are followed by a polishing step that helps remove the microscopic divots from the tooth enamel and creates a smooth healthy surface. Many veterinarians also apply a barrier sealant that helps repel plaque-causing bacteria and has been shown to reduce plaque and tartar accumulation. Neither of these can be done sedation free.

In fact, without anesthesia, only the visible portions of the teeth can be cleaned. Areas under the gum line and the insides of the teeth will still have tartar and bacteria. In time, the teeth will deteriorate and become painful.

Under a safe anesthetic, veterinarians are able to probe all areas of the mouth and use tools to remove plaque and bacteria from under the gum line. This actually stops the disease process. Veterinarians also use X-rays to help find potential problem areas, and you won’t find X-ray equipment at an anesthesia-free dental facility.

If you are concerned about the cost of dentals, use the February dental discount month to help your money go further. Brush your pet’s teeth daily at home. Listen to your veterinarian’s recommendations. They are trained in this area!

The anesthesia used is safe, and the risks are minimal—more so if you have your pet’s teeth cleaned more often (less time under). Be certain to have your veterinarian listen to his or her heart and perform blood work prior to sedating/anesthetizing your pet. Ask your vet to take dental X-rays to examine along with you!

If you know your pet needs a proper dental cleaning, but the thought of general anesthesia frightens you, talk with your veterinarian. “The anesthesia used is very safe, and the risks are minimal,” Owen says. “It’s even better if you have your pet’s teeth cleaned more often, because they are actually under for a shorter amount of time.”

While no anesthetic protocol is 100 percent safe, anesthetic complications are extremely rare. Ask your veterinarian to show you the monitoring equipment and explain how a well-trained staff makes anesthesia as safe as possible.

You can also reduce the need for dental cleanings by using dental home care products designed to remove plaque buildup in between the veterinary visits. The gold standard is to brush your pet’s teeth daily. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and special toothpaste designed for pets. You should never use human toothpaste. If you’re worried your pet might have teeth troubles, here are some signs to look for:

• Bad breath

• Excessive drooling

• Inflamed gums

• Tumors in the gums

• Cysts under the tongue

• Loose teeth

These are signs that your pet may have a problem in his mouth or gastrointestinal system and should be checked by a veterinarian.
Taking good care of your pet’s pearly whites is important to his or her overall health. While anesthesia-free dentistry might sound like a good idea, the truth is the benefits are strictly cosmetic, and risks are dangerous. Keep your pet safe with regular dental cleanings at the vet’s office; that sparkling smile will thank you.

 

Know the ABC’s of Pet CPR

posted May 15th, 2012 by
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by Kiley Roberson

THERE ARE pet spas, pet daycares and many pet stores. But animal lovers want to do more than pamper their pets. They also want to protect them. So, the American Red Cross is offering pet first aid classes that include the ABCs of pet CPR.

“Pets are often our companions and even cared for at the same level as we would our own children,” says Kay­lene Kenner of Red Cross Tulsa. “Of course, do­ing what we can to in­crease their chance of survival during a medi­cal emergency is our re­sponsibility since they depend on us for care.”

Kenner has worked for Tulsa’s Red Cross chapter for six years. She says pet first aid is one of her favor­ite classes that the Red Cross offers. And she’s not alone; a typical class is full of animal lovers, who want to get savvy with safety procedures that could help a pet in distress.

From basic pet owner responsibilities, like spaying, neutering and administer­ing medications to managing breathing or cardiac emergencies and preparing for disasters, pet first aid courses offer infor­mation and advice for pet owners. Topics include managing urgent care situations, such as car accidents; wounds; electri­cal shock; and eye, foot and ear injuries.

The classes are three to four hours long and are taught by a local volunteer vet­erinarian. The maximum enrollment for the class is 12, and Kenner says they fill up quickly. Real pets aren’t actually allowed in class. Instead, mannequins are used to demonstrate techniques. Each pet man­nequin has a set of simulated lungs to give the student a good sense of how hard to blow and how hard to push when ad­ministering breaths and compressions on the pet. Very often, injured animals are scared and likely to bite. So, the course also teaches pet owners how to devise a makeshift muzzle. In addition to lectures covering topics like capturing and han­dling an injured animal, the day’s instruc­tion also includes video presentations.

The class only covers CPR for dogs and cats, but Kenner says the same prin­cipals can be used on other pets, as well. She also says it’s especially im­portant to know the signs to recog­nize when a pet is ill or in distress.

“Pets, especially cats, will often try to hide signs of illness until the disease or injury is very advanced,” she explains. “I recently lost my two cats, both at age 19. They hid their symptoms from me and because cats are smaller animals, their health conditions deteriorated very quickly. After taking this class I now know the signs to watch out for and can try to intervene as early as possible.”

For pet first aid and CPR, the course costs $70. The courses are offered at var­ious times throughout the year. You can sign up by going to www.redcross.org or by calling 1-800-REDCROSS. If you can’t make it to a class, don’t worry; the Red Cross has an available book, “Pet First Aid.”

“Taking a course like Pet First Aid will give you the tools and techniques to iden­tify and treat such medical emergencies as soon as possible,” says Kenner. “Allow­ing your pet a better chance for survival.”

Learn your ABCs   To find out if a dog, for example, is breathing, watch the rib cage and see if it goes up and down. Also, find the pulse on your dog, which you can locate be­hind the pad on his front or back foot. Then, feel the rib cage just behind the left elbow. If the heart is beating, you should be able to feel it there. That’s called the ABC: Airway, Breathing and Cardiac.

Pet CPR Basics

1.) Cover and seal the pet’s entire mouth and nose with your mouth and gently exhale until you see the chest rise.

2.) Give four or five breaths rapidly; then check to see if your pet is breath­ing without assistance. If he begins to breathe, but the breathing is shal­low and irregular, or if breathing does not begin, continue giving him res­cue breaths at about a rate of 20 to 30 breaths per minute, pausing every 2 to 3 minutes to check for breath­ing and pulse. Continue until you reach the veterinary hospital or for up to 20 minutes. Beyond 20 minutes, there is little chance of reviving your pet.

Proper Prior Planning: A Must

posted September 7th, 2011 by
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View of thunderstorm clouds above water

By Stacy Pettit

Last weekend, I know many of us stayed glued to the TV or near our cell phones to check in with friends and family on the East Coast as Hurricane Irene ferociously drilled the shore. Last week’s storm should serve as a reminder to properly care for those friends and family closer to home – our pets – in the event of a natural disaster. And with Oklahoma already seeing its fair share of disasters in 2011 including blizzards, fires, floods, extreme heat and tornados, the sooner you have a plan in place to keep your pet safe, the better.

            FEMA has declared September as National Preparedness Month so what better time to gather supplies and create a plan in case the unimaginable happens to you and your family? Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Make sure your pets have proper tags and contact information on at all times. This will make it easier for you to find your pet in case you get separated. It is also a good idea to put medical information if your pet needs medicine on the back of their tags.
  2. Much like the kit that you pack for the rest of your family, include three days worth of food and water for your pet along with a first aid kit in a natural disaster safety pack. Other good ideas to include in this pack are food bowls, extra leashes and collars, and an adequate supply of medications that your pet might be on.
  3. Always plan to bring your pet along with you if you must evacuate your home. A pet has a much better chance at survival if he is with his owner. If you are away from home when disaster strikes, talk with a neighbor ahead of time and ask them to check in on your pet if you are not home during a disaster.
  4. Because it is a good idea to take your pet with you if you are evacuated, be sure and have a list of shelters or hotels that allow pets. If it is impossible to bring your pet with you to a shelter, check out possible places to board your animals.

 With such a wide array of possible natural disasters, you must be ready to think on your feet. If you become confused about what to do for your pets in a disaster, the best idea is to treat your pet as part of the family. After all, let’s face it – they are a big part of the family and in the end, if a nightmare hits your home, having that friend there to support you will make the rebuilding process a little easier. 

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