Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Trick or Treat! - Biscuits Only Please

Most people already know that chocolate is toxic to dogs, however with Halloween just around the corner, the temptation for our canine friends to nose through the candy bowls and trick or treat bags may be too much to resist. Here are a few important things to understand about chocolate and your dog.

Chocolate is toxic to dogs because it contains an alkaloid called theobromine. This alkaloid is similar to caffeine and can act as a diuretic, heart stimulant, blood vessel dilator, and smooth muscle relaxant. While chocolate ingestion is rarely fatal, it can cause significant illness due to the theobromine. The amount of toxic theobromine in chocolate depends on the type of chocolate. Cooking or Baking chocolate along with high quality dark chocolate contain much more theobromine per gram versus regular milk chocolate.

For example, a small dog weighing five pounds would only have to eat 2 ounces of baking chocolate to become ill, whereas a big dog weighing fifty pounds would have to eat 20 ounces. For milk chocolate, a five pound dog would need to eat fifteen ounces and a fifty pound dog would have to eat 40 ounces.

Even if you think your dog only ate a small amount of chocolate it's still very important to have them seen by a veterinarian right away. The sooner the doctor sees your dog, the sooner they can induce vomiting and the less likely your dog is to feel any toxic effects. Clinical signs from chocolate toxicity can take up to 12 hours to develop, so even if your dog seems fine a few hours later, he or she may not be out of the woods yet. Once the theobromine is absorbed into the body it can remain for up to 24 hours causing damage. Clinical signs include vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst and urination, panting or restlessness, muscle spasms and occasionally seizures. In older dogs with a preexisting heart condition, consuming large amounts of chocolate can result in cardiac arrest.

Treatment for chocolate toxicity is based on the amount and type of chocolate ingested. If treated early, your veterinarian can induce vomiting and that may be all that is necessary. Often they will administer activated charcoal to block the absorption of the theobromine. Intravenous fluids may also be given to help dilute and promote excretion of the theobromine. All dogs who have ingested chocolate should be closely monitored for the first 24 hours for any signs of an irregular heart rhythm.

Households with children may find it especially challenging to keep their dogs from getting into the Halloween candy. If you suspect your dog has ingested chocolate, no matter what amount, you should always have him or her seen right away. Inducing vomiting early on is far easier on you and your dog than having to deal with the complications that may occur from chocolate toxicity. Halloween should be a safe and fun time for everyone, and the staff here at VACC would like to wish you all a very Happy Halloween.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Oral Education

When it comes to our patients teeth, we have a wide variety of responses from clients. There are some people who have never even looked at their cat or dog's teeth, some people who are very diligent about dental care, and some that are anywhere in between. Just like in people, we are discovering that good dental care is important to the health and happiness of your pet.

Believe it or not the most common canine disease is periodontal disease. Periodontal disease occurs when an accumulation of tartar and calculus build up on the tooth causing the surrounding tissue to become inflamed. This contributes to gum recession, exposing sensitive, unprotected tooth surfaces. If this goes untreated, the infection will eventually spread to the tooth socket causing it to become loose and fall out. Sometimes the infection can be so bad that it will cause an abscess to form. Tooth root abscesses are painful and often times are associated with a fever and lethargy. They must be drained and the tooth must be extracted in order to treat an abscess.

While loose teeth and tooth root abscesses can happen in cats, they also have their own special tooth problem called a Feline Oral Resorbtive Lesion (FORL). This occurs when certain cells responsible for normal tooth formation actually start reabsorbing the tooth itself. FORL's can be very painful, especially in advanced cases. Treatment usually involves amputating the crown of the tooth and allowing the root to be reabsorbed completely on it's own.

Prevention of tartar and calculus is tricky. The best way to prevent tartar build up is to brush your pets teeth, and there are a few important things to note. First and foremost is the toothbrush. Many pet stores and veterinary clinics sell pet toothbrushes, all of which may work fine depending on your pet. One option many of our clients prefer is the finger brush. It's a small brush that fits over your finger and allows easier access to the back teeth. If, for whatever reason, you decide not to use a finger brush you can use a regular human toothbrush, just make SURE that it is a soft bristle brush.

When choosing a toothpaste, make sure you get an enzymatic toothpaste that is OK if swallowed. Any good pet toothpaste will advertise this on their label. Do NOT use human toothpaste as it is not intended to be ingested and also contains sodium, which may cause problems in some pets.

Having said this, you might find that your pet has no interest in having their teeth brushed. If that is the case you will need to consult with your veterinarian on scheduling a regular periodontal procedure. How often your pet's teeth are cleaned will depend on how dirty they get. Some patients may need to have their teeth cleaned every year, while others may go two, three, or even five years without needing a dental procedure. We don't know why some pets have chronic teeth problems and some seem to have none at all. Genetics is considered a contributing factor to chronic periodontal disease, but there may be other factors that we just haven't discovered yet.

For all dental procedures, patients must be anesthetized. No cat or dog, no matter how good they are, will simply lay on a table and allow their teeth to be scaled, probed, and extracted without sedation. In older pets, blood work should be performed to check the liver and kidney values as well as a complete blood count. While undergoing a dental procedure, the veterinarian may discover a tooth that looks like it might have a rotten root, but he or she can't be sure. In this case the doctor will take a dental x-ray determine the integrity of the tooth's root or roots. If the roots look OK on x-ray, he or she will most likely inject an antibiotic gel into the area surrounding the tooth. This will help to slow the tooth decay. If the roots do not look good, the doctor will then go ahead and do an extraction. Pain medication is administered for any extraction in the form of a local anesthetic as well as an injectable medication. Your veterinarian will also prescribe pain medication to take home as well as antibiotics to help prevent an infection.

An important step also performed during the dental procedure is a complete oral exam. Your veterinarian will not only examine your pets teeth, but do a thorough examination of their gums and mouth. Small growths can form in the mouth and cause problems for your pet. Sometimes these can be benign or malignant, but it is important to check because otherwise it might not be found. If you feel a bump on your dog's leg, you can ask your vet about it. But how many of us would know if a bump was forming in their mouth? An oral exam can make sure your pet's mouth is free of anything that may cause problems, benign or malignant.

Taking care of our pets teeth is an important step in keeping them healthy and happy. Many pets may suffer from aches and pains due to their teeth that can be easily fixed. Keeping their teeth clean can also help prevent diseases such as tonsillitis, pharyngitis, as well as kidney, liver, and heart problems. If you have more questions about periodontal disease or care for your pets teeth, contact your veterinarian or give us a call at 508-394-3566.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

To Breed or not to Breed

Owning a new pet is exciting and fun. Many clients coming into our clinic are so happy with their new pet they decide they want to breed him or her. If one adorable puppy is so much fun, imagine a whole bunch of them! However, there is much more that goes into breeding than meets the eye, and if you're truly serious about breeding, there are some important things that you should know.

First and foremost you must consider care for the mother and the puppies or kittens. Breeding requires a lot of time and money. Making sure the mother is properly dewormed is important as she can pass on intestinal parasites to her offspring. Nutrition and diet must be monitored for both the mother and her babies. Making sure the mother has the proper vaccinations and is given a thorough exam by her veterinarian before breeding is vital to the care of your pet. The breeder is responsible for making sure neither parent has any physical conditions they could potentially pass onto their offspring.

Any good breeder will tell you that home care for puppies is a lot of work. Remember that none of the puppies will be house trained when they are born, and kittens will not be litter box trained. Just like children, the older and more mobile they get the more things they can get into and cause trouble.

Many people rely on the breeder to do the first round of shots for the puppies or kittens. They will also rely on the breeder to have a fecal sample submitted to make sure they are free of intestinal parasites. The cost for each puppy or kitten to have an exam, vaccines, and a fecal screen will grow exponentially with each animal.

No matter how wonderful your dog is, there is no guarantee that his or her puppies will have the same temperament and intelligence as your dog. In fact, it is rare that puppies are identical to either parent. Often it is up to the environment the dog or cat is raised and how they are trained that determines what their personality will be. It is the responsibility of the breeder to make sure each puppy or kitten has a loving home where they can live a happy and healthy life.

Breeding your dog or cat can be a wonderfully rewarding experience, but it must be a labor of love. We generally recommend against breeding to people who are inexperienced or have financial concerns. If you do decide to breed your dog or cat, talk to your vet. They can discuss your options and help you come to the best decision for you and your pet.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Scoop on Zoonotic Disease & Your Cat

What is a Zoonotic Disease?

Zoonotic disease or zoonoses are terms used to describe an infection or disease that can be transmitted from an animal to a human being.

Am I at risk for contracting a zoonotic disease from my cat?

Current evidence supports the fact that pets pose a minimal zoonotic risk to their human companions. Cats kept indoor are exposed to fewer diseases that could be transmitted to humans. Your risk may be slightly higher if you fall into one of the following groups:

People with compromised immune systems from disease or medications:

  • People with HIV/AIDS

  • People on chemotherapy or receiving radiation therapy

  • People who are elderly or have chronic diseases

  • People born with congenital immune deficiencies

  • People who have received organ or bone marrow transplants

  • Pregnant women (a fetus's immune system is not fully developed, and the pregnant women's immune system is altered so that she won't regect the fetus)

If you fall into one of these categories, it doesn't mean you have to give up your pet! It simply means that you should take some basic precautions such as not contacting your cat's feces directly, monitoring for any signs of illness in your cat and washing your hands after extensive handling of your cat.

It is important to keep in mind that numerous studies prove that the benefits of having a pet far outweigh the risks. Sharing your home with a pet is often just what your doctor ordered!

The most common zoonotic diseases of cats include:

  • Ringworm

  • Toxoplasmosis

  • Salmonellosis

  • Campylobacter infection

  • Giardia infection

  • Crptosporidium infection

  • Roundworms

What can I do to reduce the risk of contracting a disease from my cat?

Proper litter box cleaning is the most effective way to reduce the risk of contracting a disease from your cat. Here are simple guidelines you should follow if you call into a risk category:

Place your litter box away from the kitchen and other areas where you prepare or store food If possible, have someone who is not at risk to clean the litterbox. Otherwise, clean the litter box daily, since the organism that causes Toxoplasmosis takes at least twenty-four hours to become infectious. Use disposable litter box liners and change them each time you clean the litter box. Don't dump the litter. If you dump litter, you could potentially aerosolize an infectious agent and inhale it. Be sure to slowly pour the litter or simply twist and close the litter box liner.

Clean the litter box at least twice a month with hot water, letting the hot water stand in the box for at least five minutes. This simple cleaning technique will kill the Toxoplasma organism.

Wear disposable gloves and discard them after each use. Thoroughly wash your hands after cleaning the litter box.

In addition to Toxoplasmosis, is there anything else I can get from my cat's feces?

Cats can occasionally be the source for intestinal aliments including some bacterial infections (Salmonella and camplobacter) and some intestinal parasites (Giardia, Cryptosporidium, and Roundworms.) These diseases can be spread to people by direct contact with the feces of an infected cat. Many other animals also carry these infections. Salmonella and Campylobacter are most often spread through undercooked meat or improperly prepared food.

How can I prevent my cat from getting bacterial infections and intestinal parasites?

Preventing these diseases is easier than you think. Some simple guidelines to keep your cat healthy are:

  • Feed your cat a high quality commercial cat food.

  • If you must feed your cat meat, poultry, or eggs, cook them well.

  • Wash hands thoroughly after handling raw meat.

  • Keep your cat indoors and prevent it from hunting.

  • Keep your cat away from other cats and have any new cats examined by your veterinarian before exposing them to existing cats.

If you are concerned about you or your cat contracting any parasites or bacterial please always consult your Physician and/or Veterinarian.

This information was written by: Ernest Ward, DVM