Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tear Stains in Dogs

It is common to see Shih Tzu dogs, as well as Pugs and Miniature Poodles, with tear-stained faces.  This condition relates to inherited anomalies of facial structure.  The consequence is impaired drainage of tears through the tear ducts.  Instead, tears spill down the face.  Iron in tears stains the hair and the constant wetness results in infections, dermatitis and pain.
            Facial staining can be helped by restructuring the face about the eyes through two-step surgery.  Initially, a small wedge of skin is removed at the medial canthus.  As the edges are sutured together openings of the upper and lower tear ducts are repositioned closer to each other forming a tiny lake where tears collect.  The second surgery is correction of the entropion of the lower eyelid which typically has closed the opening of the ventral tear duct.  By turning the eyelid outward the duct opens and tears flow away from the eye in the tear ducts and staining of facial hair is reduced as is infection and dermatitis.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Low back pain in a dog

The tail didn’t wag-couldn’t or wouldn’t, I wasn’t sure.  He stood there, tail drooping, looking at me with soft brown eyes that seemed to say, “please be gentle”.  He was big, a German Shepherd-cross breed dog that weighed close to 100 pounds.  His tail hadn’t swept the owner’s collectibles off the coffee table for several months.  Recently, she had spoken with me about the dog’s difficulty getting to stand on his hind feet.  I thought he might have cauda-equina compression syndrome, which would cause him pain on standing.  But now that he had come into the hospital it was clear his tail was also affected.   On rectal examination he showed pain when upward pressure was applied to the sacrum.  The spinal cord ends near the end of the lumbar spine and only nerves extend onward. The lumbosacral junction (where the spine attaches to the pelvis) had excessive flexibility and on radiographs there appeared to be new bone deposited in the spinal canal.  This was pressing the terminal spinal nerves against the roof of the spinal canal at the lumbosacral junction.  The dog could have been treated with an anti-inflammatory drug and pain would have been somewhat relieved but still he would suffer and eventually become disabled.
Instead, a dorsal laminectomy was performed.  His back muscles were separated over the lumbosacral junction and the tops of the last lumbar and first sacral vertebrae were carefully cut away with a rongeur to expose underlying nerves so that they were no longer crushed between the underlying new bone deposits and the top of the spinal canal.  The dog was placed in a recovery kennel.  When I checked on him at 10:00 that evening he still lay half asleep, but the next morning when I came in to visit him he jumped up, tail wagging gaily as he bounded out of the kennel.  His pain was gone and he can expect to live out a normal happy life.
Most dogs with cauda-equina compression syndrome require six to eight weeks to recover from surgery.  But the surgery is justified because in most cases it provides dogs prompt permanent relief from intractable back pain.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cats and Bats!

“Louise, you were right to be concerned when your cats killed a bat.  Fortunately, our records show Calico, Blackie, and Daisy are current on their rabies vaccinations.  If they were bitten by the bat or even if they ate it they should be protected”.
            Rabies in cats is a greater problem in the country than rabies in dogs.  More people are bitten by rapid cats than by rapid dogs perhaps because they tend to befriend and cuddle small, warm, soft animals, i.e. cats and kittens. 
            Although it has not been shown that rabies is spread among cats by biting each other it is well known they can contract rabies from bat and skunk bites.  Both bats and skunks are reservoirs for the infection in the wild.  People can also be infected with rabies by bats and skunks and for that reason should leave these animals alone, for when infected they can survive for long periods with the virus in their tissues and can infect other animals or people months after they themselves have been infected.
            I have worked with rabid animals, but not in the Imperial Valley.  Early in the disease, affected animals seem to have difficulty seeing well or may be a little uncoordinated when moving.  They behave apprehensively as if realizing something is wrong that they do not understand and not knowing what to do, they may seek human comfort and become inordinately affectionate.  As the disease progresses their alarm mounts, they become fearful and may want to hide.  Then, within hours or days affected animals become very depressed or vicious, attacking objects, humans, or animals that move.
            To avoid exposure to rabies people should be skeptical of any abrupt change of attitude in their pets.  As a rule stray animals should be left alone.  Children should be especially careful and avoid them.  If one thinks he or she has an animal with rabies, they can call their veterinarian for advice.
            Vaccination against rabies is the best prevention, although annual vaccination of dogs is required by law, vaccination of cats is even more advisable.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Seizures In Your Pet

This is the sad story of a seizuring Chihuahua dog that died because of brain damage.  Several weeks ago a midnight call came from a lady that said her little dog had a seizure several weeks ago and had recovered from it.  However, this day the dog had begun having seizures at noon which continued almost constantly since they started.
            My first reaction was, this is bad!  When seizuring becomes constant permanent brain damage will occur unless the seizures are promptly stopped.  It might be hopeless but I had to try to relieve the little dog’s suffering.
            Sure enough, when the dog arrived 15 minutes later it was in status epilepticus, a constant seizuring state.  It was immediately injected with two drugs that are used as anesthetics.  The dog promptly stopped seizuring and was hospitalized for observation for the remainder of the night.  The next morning it was clear the seizuring had resulted in permanent brain damage!  The dog was now blind.  It could stand and walk but when it blundered into a corner of the cage it could not get out of the corner.   It just remained standing in the corner.  It could not eat or drink but was sent home with the admonition that further care would be futile.  He died two days later.
            Seizuring can be a sign of serious brain disease.  If your pet has a seizure contact your veterinarian promptly for advice on how to proceed.  If the pet has more than one seizure in an hour it should be placed on medication to prevent further episodes.  Letting the seizures continue without control in the hope that they will stop without care creates the risk of permanent brain damage.  Also, please be aware that syncope, fainting, as occurs with some heart conditions, can be confused with seizuring but requires different treatment.  Let your veterinarian help you and your pet differentiate between the two conditions.  

Monday, July 11, 2011

Ear Mites!

Crystal, a girl of the backstreets, was a pretty cat.  Several months ago she had a liaison with Horatio.  Her owner wasn’t aware of the clandestine relationship.  Really, there was nothing to tell. Two months later Crystal started scratching her ears.  There was dark- brown, cruddy exudate in them.  When I looked there were tiny white bugs crawling around in her ears.  Ear mites!  I heard of a veterinarian that put some ear mites in his own ears just to experience what a cat goes through with these pests.  They nearly drove him nuts as they crawled around.  These mites spend much of their life crawling around on a cat’s body where ear treatment doesn’t work.  Therefore, treatment in the ears must have a prolonged effect to kill the mites when they periodically visit the ear canals.  We see a lot of cats with mites, treat them, and send home drops to be administered when the cat starts to scratching again.  This is about once a month for indoor-outdoor cats where exposure to feral cats causing re-infestation can occur.  Strictly indoor cats are usually free of mites after two treatments.  But, all cats in the house must be treated.  If not, any untreated cat will be a source of re=infestation of all the others.
Another condition in cats that is clinically similar to ear mite infestation is due to a polyp growing in the ear chambers.  This can be confused with infection or mites and requires surgery for a cure.
Ear problems are very common in dogs.  But mites are rare.  I have only seen one case of ear mites and that was in a pup.  Yeast infections in the ears of dogs are very frequently encountered.  They cause dark brown to black exudate to form in the ears that is similar to that seen with cats that have ear mites.  However, treatment is very different for mites and yeast infections.  If yeast infection of dogs is not treated properly it can result in rupture of the ear drum leading to middle ear infection which is a serious, difficult problem to treat.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Spleenic Torsion

Rosey, an 11-year-old Labrador Retriever was brought to the hospital because she was depressed and had not eaten for 3 days.  She walked slowly with her head held low and showed no interest in her surroundings at the hospital.  On examination, her heartbeat was exceptionally rapid, about 200 beats per minute.  The abdomen was slightly distended and in it I could feel a large, firm tumor that I thought might be the spleen.  The spleen is an organ that blood flows through to be cleansed of defective blood cells and infectious agents.  With a hypodermic needle I pierced the body wall and removed a small amount of the tumor’s content.  Surprise!  All I got was a syringe full of dead and degenerated blood cells.  Whatever the tumor was, it was trapping and holding blood cells, not letting them return to the body’s circulation.  A blood count showed Rosey was anemic.  She had lost 70% of her circulating blood cells, enough so that resulting anemia put her at risk of dying.  It was assumed Rosey’s health problem was related to the abdominal tumor that must be removed.  But as anemic as she was she might not survive the operation.  So, we collected 400ml of blood from Bridger, the in-house blood donor, and while it was flowing into Rosey we opened her abdomen and found the abdominal tumor was, in fact, the spleen which had rotated in the abdomen.  Its blood vessels had been twisted, thus blood could flow into the spleen but not out.  The spleen was removed.  It weighed more than 1000 grams about 10 times more than normal. Rosey recovered and again is a happy healthy dog.
 Spleenic torsion is an unusual disease in dogs.  Success in this case was related to sampling the spleen and knowing its content before surgery.  If I had corrected the torsion instead of removing the spleen the dead-cell content in the spleen would have drained into the circulatory system and killed the dog.  Administration of blood during surgery saved time allowing us to proceed without first stabilizing the dog medically.

"Photo Attributed to emildom74 via

Monday, May 30, 2011

Birthing difficulty

Once upon a time, when the world was young, I had a ranch practice in northern Montana.  It was a wonderful time and place for a young man.  Streams were filled with trout, pheasants were in every field, ducks in all the ponds, and every rancher had lovely daughters.  But delivering calves was my livelihood.  Laboring cows taught me a lesson germane to today’s small animal practice.  If a fetus is not positioned in the birth canal it will not be born, nor will the dam strain to deliver it.  The problem is uterine inertia for the uterus will not constrict and start the fetus into the pelvis.  In most cases intravenous administration of calcium will correct the problem.  The uterus can then constrict placing the fetus where it can be expelled normally.  But not always!
            Jessica, a four pound Maltese female had delivered one pup.  Then everything stopped!  For an hour she did not deliver any more pups.  Didn’t even try!  And yet her belly was still distended.  She remained pregnant.  I could palpate a pup out of position in the anterior abdomen.  This seemed to be typical uterine interia so I injected calcium and sent her home.  Often these cases will deliver a pup during the car ride home but not this time, nor during the ensuing hour.  She had to be returned for a caesarian section.  One has to get fetuses out of the abdomen or they will die, start to decompose in the abdomen, and the rotten material will kill the dam.  On reexamination the pup had not been moved.  It was no nearer to the pelvis then when the dog was initially examined.  During surgery I found the wall of the uterus surrounding the remaining pup had ruptured spilling the pup into the abdominal cavity and making it impossible for the pup to be properly positioned.  Why the rupture occurred I don’t know.  Perhaps it was due to incoordination of uterine contractions.  Both pup and mom survived surgery.
            Rarely did I find a cow with uterine rupture and the calf lying free in the abdominal cavity.  If one did surgery in time the cow might live but usually the calf was dead.

"Photo Attributed to S. Fulljames via

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Urinary blockage in a cat

Jack was in last week.  He needed vaccinations and his teeth cleaned.  I hadn’t seen him for a while, but for an old cat, he’s 18 now, he was sleek and vigorous.
     He wasn’t always this way.  One cold winter evening five years ago his owner brought him to me.  She thought he was dead but wanted to be certain.  At the time he was an indoor-outdoor cat and had been missing for several days.  When he came home his owner found his lifeless body on her back porch.  As she gently laid him on the exam table a quick glance convinced me it was time for condolences.  As the comforting words formed in my mind I saw just the slightest hint of a movement of his chest.  Could it be he was still alive?  If so, there surely wasn’t any time so spare.  The examination was hasty.  His heart was beating slowly and the pulse was so weak I could barely feel it.  There were no eye reflexes.  Body temperature was so low the mercury didn’t budge from the bulb.  His belly held a clue; the bladder was grossly distended with urine.  Quickly I performed a cystocentesis and drained the bladder of thick brownish urine.  He had feline urologic syndrome.  The urethra was plugged with exudates and crystals so he couldn’t void.  Metabolic waste products had backed up and accumulated in his blood and he had gone into a coma.  A blood sample showed an extremely high level of urea, confirming that he had uremic poisoning, complicating his condition.
     Jack was catheterized so urine would flow freely.  Intravenous fluids were given to flush the poisons from his system and we put him on a heating pad to warm him.  Amazingly, in an hour he was stirring, six hours later he sat up on his sternum and in two days he went home.  Now in his waning years, he lives the good life indoors.  Perhaps, because it is so easy to become the caretaker of a cat some people view them as expendable.  But not his owner, he has been her valued friend for many years.  A relationship that has grown over time, especially since his close encounter with death.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A case of canine Pancreatitis

Wilbur is a 7-years-old French bull dog whose vomiting started a week ago. He cried when his abdomen was pressed and he had refused to eat for the past several days.  Also, water consumption had declined.
 He was a very sick dog when brought to the hospital.   Several abnormalities of his serum chemistry profile suggested he might have acute pancreatitis, for the blood study showed dehydration, inflammation, and stress.  He was started on intravenous fluids to rehydrate him and sustain kidney function.  An overnight blood test confirmed the diagnosis of acute pancreatitis.  Next morning all food and water consumption was stopped and drugs were administered to depress stomach-acid production.   Acidic stomach contents passing into the small intestine can aggravate pancreatitis so it must be controlled.   Also, he was given a low dose of antibiotics as insurance against infection in the region of the pancreas.  Intravenous fluid therapy was altered to provide essential energy and protein building blocks to help with healing.  He was maintained on this program for two days.  Then, drugs were dispensed to prevent vomiting and continue reduced gastric acidity and he was sent home. Such treatment would permit him to eat and drink without aggravating the pancreatitis and still facilitate continued healing.  

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Illness of a kitten

“Doctor Howard,” Robin called from the intensive care ward, “he ate, the kitty ate, a little.” 
Mrs. Andrews had found a dying kitten in the alley behind her home the previous day.  When she brought him to the hospital he was so weak he could not stand.  About four weeks old, he was mostly bones, frizzy fur, and fleas.  A Siamese, and quite handsome we thought, in spite of his wretchedness, with black outline of his eyes, nose, and mouth.  On closer examination we found the black markings were flea dirt.  There was no outward sign of infection other than the parasites, but the membranes of the mouth and eyes were almost white because he was so anemic.  I supposed the anemia was due to fleas draining his blood as they fed, which was partially correct.
            Our first order of care was to rid him of the fleas.  JoAnn, knowing the little fellow might be killed by routine flea treatment, dampened a piece of cotton with flea spray and gently rubbed the hair against the lay getting the chemical to the fleas but not on the kitten’s skin.  Then, with a flea comb she and Phyllis removed the poisoned pests.  This took more than an hour. 
            In the meantime, John found the kitten’s blood cells had hemoplasma organisms on them.  These bacteria, spread by fleas, sensitize blood cells which are then destroyed by the spleen faster than the bone marrow can replace them.  We had our diagnosis, but what to do?  While JoAnn bathed, dried and warmed the little tyke, we caught Tazz, the clinic cat, varmint control officer, and donor of blood for ailing kittens.  We transferred six milliliters of his blood into the kitten’s abdominal cavity so it would flow into his circulation giving him essential blood cells, protein and immune factors.  Then, just a tiny bit of antibiotic was injected to start controlling the hemoplamas.
            By this time it was getting late in the day so Robin fed him milk replacer with a dropper and put him to rest in a small cage with an insulated heating pad to warm him.  The next day he was able to stand and, as mentioned earlier, eat.  The day following he was released to Mrs. Andrews’ care with two more weeks of antibiotic treatment.  He recovered and grew to be a handsome cat.  Never cross or arrogant, he seemed to understand that he was in debt for his life.
            When you consider adding a new pet from any source to your household, you should realize that the new animal may be carrying a disease that can spread to resident animals.  To help avoid trouble be sure your existing pets are current on vaccinations, and regardless of how healthy it seems, have the new pet examined by your veterinarian before it is introduced to its new home as Mrs. Andrews did. 

Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Big-Stinky Problem

“Doctor, my cat has a big, stinky problem!  Every-once-in-awhile she will leave a small, really foul-smelling spot somewhere in the house.  What is this and what can be done about it?”
            This problem is more common to dogs than cats, but it is the same in both species.  Animals have a gland on each side of the anus that secretes a smelly material thought to be used for marking territory as the animal defecates or rubs against the ground.  Sometimes these glands spill their contents spontaneously resulting in a spot somewhere in their surroundings and a nauseating odor.  Also, sometimes the glands become blocked this irritates the animal which tries to correct the problem by scooting across the floor.
            Permanent correction of the problem demands surgical removal of the glands by a veterinarian.  It takes a few days to a week for healing to occur and the dog or cat forever remains free of the problem.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Common Household Pain Relievers Could be Harmful to Your Pet

    This is an account of our lab technician John Whitehead’s astute observation.  An old cat had been sick for several days when it was brought to us for treatment.  When first examined I did not know what was wrong, with the cat but John, during the blood count, noticed microscopic bumps on red blood cells.  He identified the bumps as Heinz bodies a degenerative change of red blood cells caused by cats eating onions or being treated with Acetaminophen, the main ingredient in Tylenol, which is often used by people with headaches and other feel-bad conditions.  Heinz bodies results in anemia, illness, and even death.  When John told me of his findings he jogged my memory.  Two weeks earlier an article in a veterinary medical journal reported treating a cat with Acetaminophen poisoning by giving it acetylcysteine.  This was new information to me so right then I ordered an ounce of the chemical just in case it might be needed.
            To keep the cat alive, we had been treating it with intravenous fluids containing nutrients.  Although there was no precedent for doing so we dissolved some acetylcysteine in the intravenous fluids the cat was to receive the following two days.  That old cat gradually improved, recovered, and was sent home.
            A problem veterinarians encounter develops when an owner self-treats a puppy sick with parvovirus infection using Acetaminophen.  This stuff can and does kill pups by injuring the liver and results in sick pups that are difficult for veterinarians to diagnose and treat.  Use of Acetaminophen by owners who treat sick pups themselves may be one reason many of these people think that parvo pups die in spite of treatment.  Actually, most parvo pups survive if properly treated by a veterinarian.
 The point of the story is to urge you to not give sick animals human medicines.  If you do, be sure to tell your veterinarian so he can account for the drug’s toxicity while studying the pet’s illness and can treat it accordingly.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Treatment of Calicivirus Stomatitis in Cats

We have treated three cats in the past six weeks that had calicivirus stomatitis.  They all responded well to treatment, which may be encouraging news for other cats and their caring owners.  The first case was a six-year-old spayed female that lived out of doors.  She had been lethargic, not playing for five days, and eating very little.  Her temperature was normal but there were thick mucous masses on the surface of her eyes, no nasal discharge, but a large ulcer was on the middle of her tongue.  By the fourth day of treatment her eyes were clear, her appetite had returned and she was playing again.  But the tongue ulcer remained.  Treatment was stopped after seven days and the ulcer was healed by day 14.  With antibiotic-based treatment regimens recovery may take two weeks or more if it occurs at all.
            The second cat was very sick.  Temperature 105°.  His eyes were sealed closed with mucous, which also plugged the nostrils inhibiting breathing.  The cat drooled fetid saliva and there were extensive deep ulcers in the mouth.  He lived outdoors and could not eat because of illness and mouth pain.  With seven days of treatment he had almost recovered, drooling had stopped and he was eating.  Two days after treatment ceased clinical illness returned.  Treatment resumed but was limited to every other day. He now appears to have recovered but this may be transitory, dependent upon perpetual medication.   In my experience such dramatic response is unusual.  Most cases become chronic and severely emaciated, for the virus survives in the tissues.  The fact that this cat required prolonged treatment indicates the disease had already become chronic but the treatment limited extent of lesions and made the cat comfortable.  Only time will tell whether or not a cure has been affected. 
The third case was a cat with large open, raw lesions in the angle of the jaw at the rear of the mouth.  The lesions extended forward along the gums almost to the canine teeth.  This poor cat had been afflicted for several years.   In the past I had tried unsuccessfully to treat it with different regimens.   The cat had become quite thin, it could not chew its food, only swallow the kibbles whole.  With one week of treatment the cat was much livelier and crunching its kibbles.  One week without treatment and lassitude and difficulty eating had returned.  But, when treatment was resumed every other day the cat behaved normally again.  The condition is chronic in this cat and continuous low-levels or intermittent treatment may be required for life to control clinical disease.
 Treatment of these cases was the same, how levels of interferon once daily administered in the mouth.   Interferon is a small protein produced in virus infected cells.  It circulates through the body of the infected animal and inhibits virus development.   As a drug interferon is not generally considered an effective treatment against calicivirus infection.  For that matter, there is only one other effective treatment that I am aware of for this disease and it is experimental.  However, in my judgment, these three cats were benefited by interferon treatment.  Their symptoms diminished and their quality of life improved. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Diseases of newborn pups

            Weak and stillborn puppies are a common occurrence with Imperial Valley mother dogs.  Owners often claim the cause of death was the mother lying on the young pup.  For the most part this is incorrect.  Most of these pups I have examined were affected by one disease or another.  As such these problems could have been avoided or prevented.
            Several weeks ago a lady brought in a terminally ill three-week-old pup with purulent exudate sealing eyelids of both eyes. She said two litter mates of the pup died shortly after birth.  Cause of this pup’s illness was not readily apparent to me but a scraping of the inflamed conjunctiva showed canine distemper virus in epithelial cells.  I have seen this before: pups being infected with distemper at birth or in the uterus near the termination of pregnancy resulting birth of dead or dying pups.  Had the bitch been given a routine vaccination by a veterinarian a month or so before breeding the chance of her shedding the distemper virus that infected the pups in utero or neonatally would have been greatly reduced.  Note; live virus vaccination very near to conception or during pregnancy can adversely affect the pups before birth.
            There are other diseases causing abortion and neonatal weakness and death that serious dog breeders are advised to prevent if they are seeking healthy litters.  These are venereal diseases transmitted between breeding pairs, canine herpes virus and brucellosis.  Once infected with these diseases dogs can have breeding problems for years.  By having prospective mates tested by a veterinarian a month or so prior to breeding infected brood stock can be identified and avoided.  Thus, valuable breeding stock should be mated only with animals that have tested negative for canine herpes virus and brucellosis.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Canine stroke

A week ago the journal, Science, had a special section on cell metabolism, the chemistry of energy production.  The journal commented that this discipline has been neglected until recently in biology research and medicine.   It has been overshadowed by molecular biology, the complex interrelationships of cell molecules in life’s functions.  The science publication reminded me of a recent stroke case in a Miniature Schnauzer dog where the interplay of both disciplines was involved.
            In stroke cases a clot blocks blood flow to a region of the brain interfering with energy production and function and survival of affected brain cells.  We treat the disease metabolically by giving the dog chemicals to enhance energy production by the stroke-affected cells so they continue to function and survive, but some paralysis may persist.  I think there remains a portion of the stroke-affected zone where more severe metabolic dysfunction has caused cells to release inflammatory molecules that can cause local inflammation that destroys neighboring brain tissue.  These molecules are called cytokines.
             With the Miniature Schnauzer: Recently, another scientific journal, Scientific American, reported that minocycline, an antibiotic, will reduce cytokine production by injured nerve tissue.  In addition to the metabolism-enhancing chemicals, I gave the dog minocycline as part of its treatment regimen.  With recovery, a month later there were no symptoms that it had a stroke. The minocycline may have prevented cytokine-initiated permanent brain-cell damage.  The dog’s disease had been treated both metabolically and molecular biologically.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

What Makes Dr. Howard Different?

What makes Dr. Howard different?
Because Dr. Howard is a board certified Veterinary Pathologist, Howard Animal Hospital offers many routine laboratory tests for pet disease conditions.  This means pet owners often can get a diagnosis confirmed while they wait; sometimes such a quick service is essential for prompt and proper treatment of pet illnesses. 
Of course, Howard Animal Hospital has X-ray imaging capabilities using the latest digital technology and surgery.  We also offer routine spay and neutering and biopsies of skin disease are done as are most other soft tissue and dental surgical procedures.  We do evaluate animals that may require orthopedic and arcane soft tissue procedures but because we do not do enough of them to be proficient in these surgeries we refer them to specialists who are trained and equipped for such work.  Boarding is also a service we offer.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Heart Failure in Dogs

Please, don’t disregard early signs!
Most heart failure cases affect old dogs.  Coughing is often the first sign that a dog is developing heart failure.  It may start with the dog having a soft, throat clearing cough barely noticeable a few times a day.  As it progresses the cough becomes more frequent and intense and begins occurring at night or on awakening from sleep.  In later stages of disease coughing becomes violent, persistent, and the dog coughs up white froth.  Coughing is a sign of serious trouble that signifies blood is stagnating in the lungs and its fluid is collection in airways.

Exercise intolerance is another sign of heart failure.  The dog doesn’t want to go on long walks, it walks slowly, or it has to rest during a walk. This also is a sign of serious heart failure.  Because of fluid in lung airways the blood is not well oxygenated, or the pumping action of the heart is compromised.  In either case the dog is not getting enough oxygen to its tissues to perform normally.

If your dog starts to show these signs.  Don’t wait!  Get it to your veterinarian.  A heart check should be part of your dog’s annual exam.  Be sure to ask your veterinarian for one.

With treatment most cases of heart failure can be stopped if diagnosed early enough and the dog can return to a normal active life and live for a long time.  But, your veterinarian will need to know about the signs you have seen.  Then he will have to determine what type of heart disease your dog has and how best to stop degeneration of the heart muscle, improve its pumping capability, and get excess fluid out of the lungs.

Dr. Howard Helps You and Your Pets

Every week we veterinarians are asked to euthanatize several cats or dogs that were beloved by their owners but have become so sick they are a burden to their owners and to themselves.  Often the owners lament having to kill a dear friend.  And, we veterinarians are in sympathy.  More often than not the pet’s condition could have been treated and the animal would have lived several more happy years if only the owner had recognized months earlier that trouble was brewing for the pet.
This infomercial is part of a series I hope pet owners will refer to whenever their pet “is not quite right.”  Perhaps these articles will save or prolong one pet’s life by informing pet owners of the care that will help their animals.  Please check this site regularly to read about the many Care Prevention tips, Signs of Trouble and What To Do topics we will cover to help you and your pet.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Rattlesnake Bites

            About a year ago a man called late one evening to say his two dogs had been struck by a rattlesnake and he wondered if he should bring them in for treatment.  He was in the desert, 50 miles away and the dogs had been vaccinated against snake venom six months previously.  I told him I thought they would be OK until morning.
            When they arrived the next day the dogs’ heads were swollen.  But being protected against venom by vaccination, the dogs were not too much the worse for wear and tear.  This was quite remarkable for the dogs were bitten by a big snake, fang-marks were 1 ¾ inches apart.  Both dogs were treated with a diuretic that limited swelling, removed venom from their tissues and expelled it through the kidneys.  The owner claimed that a week later there was no evidence they had been bitten by a rattlesnake.
            Just the other day the man with his dogs returned for their annual vaccinations and asked if revaccination against snake venom was necessary.  The vaccine manufacturer recommends it be done yearly.  If you think about it, that’s a good idea.  Normally, after vaccination or a snake bite immunity peeks shortly and after a while, say a year, it declines to a low level, possibly too low for immediate protection.  When a snake bites, a dog needs immunity right now not three days after the bite which happens when immunity declines.  Annual revaccination will assure adequate immunity is present when needed.