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.