Chemistry may remind you of your least favorite subject in school, or it might sound like a science experiment. To your veterinarian, a “Chemistry Panel” can provide a LOT of valuable information! Here are a few common lab tests that might be recommended by your veterinarian, and why they are important to the health of your pet.
— Some bloodwork is useful for finding new diseases, and some bloodwork is needed for monitoring medications and chronic diseases.
— A fresh blood sample is required for this test
— from this panel we can catch infection, anemia, and other conditions. It is also very helpful to know trends in these values from year to year!
— A fresh blood sample is required for this test
— Luckily, heartworms are highly preventable. It takes 6 months from the time of the mosquito bite for the test to be positive, which is one reason why yearly heartworm testing is the best way to catch an infection.
— a heartworm test is recommended prior to starting heartworm preventative and annually to assess for prevention failure.
— A fresh blood sample is required for this test
— pets who are losing weight, having diarrhea, or vomiting may need to have a stool sample checked.
— A fresh stool sample is recommended for this test
— A fresh urine sample is required for this test
— There are several ways to go about collecting a sample. Your veterinarian can discuss these options with you!
— a hyperthyroid cat will lose weight rapidly, and can have secondary complications such as heart disease.
— a hypothyroid dog will gain weight, and can have secondary complications such as panting, skin disease, and muscle weakness.
— A fresh blood sample is required for this test
The tests listed above are our most frequently requested tests. Other tests may be indicated, but are not routinely run on each patient. Lab work can sound intimidating, but is an important part of routine health care for our cats and dogs!
In my previous posts, I have given some information relevant to pet owners. My intention has been to give information that pet owners would find useful, and interesting. I hope that this post will be as informative as the previous posts, possibly even more so. I’m going to tackle the sensitive subject of the cost of pet ownership. I recently read an article from CNBC. This article makes reference to a report from the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals. This report says that an astounding 98% of people underestimate the lifetime cost of pet ownership. As a collective whole, veterinary clinic team members recognize the financial constraints of pet owners. In order to combat this problem, we need to be prepared.
New Pet care– spay/neuter, puppy vaccines, microchip
Routine care– annual physical exams, annual vaccinations, heartworm preventative, flea and tick preventative, heartworm testing, and diagnostic monitoring profiles
Sick pet care– vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, mild musculoskeletal injuries
Emergency pet care– foreign body surgery, severe GI disease, hit by a car, toxin ingestion, laceration repair, bloat (GDV), anemia (low blood volume),
Orthopedic concerns– ACL tear (Knee injury), fracture, neck/back injury, hip dysplasia
Chronic health concerns– diabetes, hyperthyroidism, Cushing’s disease, Addison’s disease, renal failure, heart failure, arthritis, ears
Allergies– deserving of a category to themselves! This may involve medications, diet changes, and frequent medications for skin infections.
— to name just a FEW!
Certainly not all pets will develop all of these diseases, but when an emergency or a chronic illness arises, it’s good to be prepared.
The report from People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals also states that 93% of people said the decision to own a pet made them happier! We know you love your pet. We don’t really like talking about money, and we certainly don’t like asking for it. As members of a veterinary care staff, we consider ourselves a team, and we want to include you in the team. You, as the owner, caregiver, and all around pet parent are the most important member of the team, and we don’t want to leave you behind. We care about each member of the family, both two legged and four legged!
Blastomycosis. Chances are, you’ve never heard of it.
If you have heard of it, you know this little yeast organism is a foe that should not be underestimated!
Blastomycosis, commonly called Blasto, is a fungal organism that is found in the soil in the east-central USA. Like most fungi, it likes cool, moist, dark conditions.
People and Pets are susceptible to Blasto. Dogs are most commonly affected, as they are the most likely to have noses down in the dirt. However, people can pick up Blasto as well! Fungal organisms are inhaled, and convert to the yeast form at body temperatures. Blasto is NOT directly contagious between pets, or between pets and people.
This organism has some favorite locations in the body.
— Pulmonary: when the lungs are affected, the organism causes multiple lesions throughout the lungs. Cough, fever, difficulty breathing, and lethargy are the most common complaints. A severely affected patient will likely need hospitalization, treatment is long, and the prognosis is guarded.
— Lymph nodes: Like pulmonary blasto, this is a severe infection requiring an extended treatment period. Usually blasto has affected another area of the body, not just the lymph nodes.
— Eyes: one or both eyes can be affected. Initially, we notice inflammation and a low intraocular pressure, but the inflammation quickly progresses to glaucoma (or high pressure). In many cases, the affected eye loses vision. In some cases, the eye must be removed to bring comfort to the patient.
— Bone: this creative organism is well adapted to cause painful lesions in the bone. It can look like bone cancer, so it is important to distinguish between the two.
— Skin: any non-healing wounds, draining tracts, or unexplained wounds should be suspect for blastomycosis.
Blasto has a very wide variety of clinical signs. Coughing, fever, lethargy, inappetence, vomiting, difficulty breathing, and collapse can all be signs. Enlargement of lymph nodes, squinting/pain in the eyes, oozing skin wounds and lameness may also be noted in some patients. When in doubt, have your pet examined by a veterinarian.
Most commonly Blasto is most commonly diagnosed by looking for a specific byproduct of the organism (antigen) in the urine. This test is run by an outside lab. Blasto can also be seen in needle aspirates of wounds and lesions on the skin in some cases. X-rays should be used as a tool to evaluate lungs for lesions typical of blasto.
Treatment takes a LONG time. The core of treatment is through use of strong anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory medications. Each individual patient will be treated differently based on the body system that is affected by the organism.
Leptospirosis (lepto) is a bacterial organism. It take a unique form, known as a spirochete. This lovely, curly looking bacteria looks beautiful under a microscope, but causes nasty disease in our pets.
Lepto is a zoonotic disease, meaning that it can be transmitted between people and animals. All mammals are susceptible to lepto. Dogs are more susceptible to infection than cats, with cats rarely being infected. Rodents, raccoons, opossums, cattle, and horses are all possible transmitters.
Lepto is transmitted most commonly through urine or through water that has been contaminated with urine. Bite wounds and consumption of infected tissue can also lead to infection. Most commonly the disease is spread through contamination of standing water. Standing water provides a perfect alkaline environment for the organism to flourish. This means pets with access to retention ponds, garden ponds, lakes etc are susceptible. We also consider dogs who like to hunt, kill wild animals, or with exposure to fields that retain enough water to keep soil damp to be at a higher risk.
Initially loss of appetite, lethargy, and nausea may be noticed. Fever, vomiting, joint pain, excessive drinking are noticed soon after. This progresses to fever, kidney failure, and in some cases liver failure. Excessive bleeding (due to low platelet count) and jaundice may also be noticed as liver failure progresses.
The bacteria itself is treated with an antibiotic that is effective against this type of bacteria. However, very often sick pets require intensive care for several days as they combat the kidney and liver complications associated with infection. This often requires GI protectants, IV fluids, symptomatic care for vomiting and nausea, and in severe cases plasma transfusions.
There is a vaccination for Leptospirosis. Your veterinarian will evaluate your pet’s risks and recommended vaccination to those at risk of exposure. Those considered to be at high risk are pets with access to a retention pond, standing water, farm land or backyards that frequently have wet soil due to standing water, and animals who tend to hunt and kill wildlife. Additionally, preventing standing water and discouraging rodent populations in areas that pets have access to can prevent exposure to the bacteria.
The Leptospirosis vaccine has been historically thought to cause a greater incidence of vaccine reactions, which causes many veterinarians to consider it appropriate to separate this vaccine from other vaccines. Although evidence supporting increased risk of lepto vaccine reactions as compared to other vaccines has not been supported, many veterinarians do still consider giving the lepto vaccine separate from other vaccines to be an appropriate standard of care.
Yes. Although some infections in people are self limiting, infection can be severe and even fatal. Veterinary staff are trained to take precautions to disinfect appropriately to prevent spread between pets, and also to prevent spread to humans. Owners who have an infected pet should be careful to wear gloves when handling the pet during the shedding period!
It sounds impossible, but you can making brushing a part of any pet’s routine care. This includes cats! It takes some time and some training, but for many it can be a successful routine!
Brushing removes plaque from teeth, and prevents gingivitis and the buildup of tartar and calculus. One additional, and often overlooked, benefit is that regular brushing allows concerns (such as broken teeth, painful teeth, bad breath, and tumors) to be noticed early. Early detection leads to early treatment!
Most pets will need routine dental care performed by a veterinarian. Just like humans need professional cleanings, pets also need general anesthesia to clean the plaque that lies below the gums.
A soft bristled toothbrush or a finger brush. For small pets, a small toothbrush allows for better reach. For some pets just using toothpaste on a gauze square is effective. Use a pet specific toothpaste, many times these are poultry flavored or beef flavored.
You don’t just expect your dog to roll over without some training, and you can’t expect him to think brushing is fun without a little time and work! Training isn’t just for dogs. We can train a cat to allow tooth brushing as well! You can do it! Here’s a step by step!
Set reasonable goals. Brush a minimum of 3 times a week for best prevention of plaque. Brushing daily on tolerant pets is ideal. Don’t start brushing immediately after a dental cleaning, as the teeth and gums will be sore. You will also run the risk of disrupting sutures from any extraction sites.
Treats and chew toys can be helpful in preventing tartar build up. The VOHC (veterinary oral health council) has several approved products. Treats and chews are considered to be secondary to brushing in effectiveness at preventing dental disease, but for some of our pets, these are the best option.
When brushing, you’ll have a prime seat for monitoring your pet’s oral health. Broken teeth, worn teeth, loose teeth, or teeth with exposure of the bifurcation (where the roots split) should be seen by a veterinarian. Lumps should be checked out as soon as possible. Changes in breath are also a good indication that something you can’t see readily is going on in the mouth.
Yeah, your pet needs a healthy lifestyle too. A healthy body condition is very important for total body health and longevity. Consult with a veterinarian to determine if your pet is in a healthy condition, and determine how many Calories your pet needs to consume at each meal. Then buckle down! Encourage light exercise and avoid table scraps. Fatty foods such as beef, pork, chicken skin, and sweets should be avoided. Cut back the number of treats you offer. Substitute green beans in moderation as a healthy snack alternative.
Those pearly whites are important! Dental disease is one of the most common ailments of both cats and dogs. Brushing your pet’s teeth 2-3 times a week can help to prevent build up of dental calculus. Use a VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Committee) approved toothpaste (don’t use your own toothpaste!) and gently brush the teeth and gums. Once dental tartar has built up, there is no substitute for an anesthetized oral exam, x-rays, dental cleaning, and extraction of diseased teeth. Talk to your veterinarian about dental health!
It is so easy to forget flea and tick preventatives and heartworm preventatives, however, these are one of the most important parts of keeping your pet healthy! Pick a day of the month and consistently administer both a flea and tick preventative product AND a heartworm preventative. Most veterinarians do recommend this be done year round! If your pet has been off of heartworm preventative, it will be necessary to perform a heartworm test prior to starting preventative. Heartworm testing requires a few drops of blood, and results are usually available within 10 minutes. Even our feline friends benefit from monthly flea and tick preventatives. Some products for cats are heartworm and intestinal parasite preventatives as well. Fleas, ticks, heartworms, and intestinal parasites are all very common in our area, and a lot of frustration can be saved by remembering the monthly preventatives.
Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Learning new tricks and obedience exercises can be a good way of bonding, and keeps our pets mentally stimulated. For dogs, start simple and build on the tricks. Learning good manners, such as sit and stay, is a great way to transition to some more complicated things! Cats can learn new things too, tricks aren’t just for dogs. If your cat isn’t one who likes to do tricks, try some “environmental enrichments” that encourage hunting behaviors. Food puzzles, food balls, and new toys can keep your cat engaged and mentally stimulated.
What better way to get exercise for you and for your dog? Go for a walk, or two, or three! Resolve to walk your pet frequently. It’s good for you, and it’s good for the dog. Exercise encourages healthy joints, builds muscle, is good for mental stimulation, and is good bonding time. If leash manners are a problem, a dog obedience course may be a good learning opportunity for pets and people.
No Kitty New Year Resolution list is complete without making some resolutions about the all important litter box. Resolve to have at least one litter box per cat, plus one! No cat wants to wait in line. Similarly, no cat wants to use a dirty bathroom. Scoop daily, clean weekly. This is one resolution you shouldn’t pass up!
During the holidays, there are a lot of seasonal household hazards. Here are some safe ways you can share the holiday season… with your pets!