Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Understanding Canine Vestibular Syndrome

The vestibular system is the sensory system that provides the brain with information about spatial orientation and movement. Using the information from the vestibular system, the brain then tells the eyes and extremities how they should move. A healthy vestibular system is essential for an animal's sense of balance. Canine vestibular syndrome is a disorder of the vestibular system that usually affects older dogs, but can sometimes occur in middle aged dogs as well. Dogs with a history of chronic ear infections may have an increased chance of developing vestibular syndrome.

The symptoms include a sudden loss of balance, head tilt, nystagmus (eyes moving side to side, or up and down), and dysfunction in the facial nerves. It can be heartbreaking for an owner to see their dog with these symptoms. Fortunately, the condition often resolves within a few weeks. Other conditions such as stroke, tumors on the cerebellum, head trauma, inner ear infection, meningioencephalitis, or other problems can cause similar symptoms, so it is important to bring the dog to a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis.

Dogs with vestibular disease will need assistance with feeding and mobility until the symptoms subside. If the dog is unable to stand on its own, a towel can be used as a sling to hold up the rear of the dog, as shown in the picture below.

Massaging the neck of vestibular patients has been shown to be helpful as there are acupressure points in this area that may speed recovery time when activated. Some owners even elect to bring their dog to physical therapy to help with recovery.

Should your dog develop vestibular syndrome, we are here for you at VACC to help with the recovery process.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Calming Clothing for Anxious Pets

The weather is getting warmer and summer will soon be here. For many pets summer can be a scary season filled with thunderstorms and fireworks. Often pet owners will turn to medication to combat noise-induced anxiety, but in the case of a storm, the thunder may be over by the time the medication starts to work.

Fortunately, there is an alternative. A shirt that uses constant, gentle pressure to relieve anxiety has helped many dogs and cats cope with fearful situations. The Thundershirt, and the Anxiety Wrap are two widely available brands that both use the same calming pressure to help anxious pets. Both brands are comparably priced and have been shown to be effective for more than 80% of dogs.

In addition to helping with noise related anxiety, these shirts can also be used to treat separation anxiety, travel anxiety, leash pulling, veterinary visit fear, and more. Most animal behaviorists recommend that owners acclimate their pets to the shirt before attempting to use it during the fearful event. One suggestion is to offer food to the pet, using the shirt as a "dish". This will help to create a positive association with the shirt. The next step of the acclimation process is to put the shirt on the pet during a stress-free part of the day, such as mealtime. Once the pet has adjusted to wearing the shirt, it can be used during any anxiety causing situation.

Some pets will still require medication in addition to the pressure wrap, but many are sufficiently calmed with the pressure wrap alone. Remember to always consult your veterinarian before altering any of your pet's medication doses.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


What is Toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis is an example of a disease that can be transmitted between animals and humans, also known as a zoonotic disease. The disease is caused by the single-celled parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that as many as 60 million people in the United States are infected with this parasite. Fortunately, most Toxoplasma gondii infections are kept under control by the immune system, provided that the infected person is otherwise healthy. People with compromised immune systems and children under 5 are particularly at risk of developing more serious symptoms and should seek medical treatment if toxoplasmosis is suspected. Women who are pregnant should also be especially cautious because toxoplasmosis can be dangerous to the unborn fetus.

As illustrated in the diagram below, the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis is commonly carried by cats, rodents, and other animals. Cats can become infected by eating infected rodents, or undercooked meat that is infected.

Humans can also become infected by eating undercooked meat. Additional hazards include accidental ingestion of cat feces (from the litter box or garden soil), blood transfusion, or organ transplant.

How Can I Avoid Toxoplasmosis?

To avoid toxoplasmosis, make sure to wash your hands with soap and warm water after handling raw meat or cleaning your cat's litter box. It is also important to wash your hands well after gardening, and to make sure fresh vegetables are thoroughly washed before consuming them. Avoid eating undercooked meat, and do not feed undercooked meat to your cat. Keep cats and other animals out of children's play areas. If you have a sandbox outside, keep it covered when not in use. Clean the litter box daily as Toxoplasma gondii does not become infectious until 1 to 5 days after it is shed in the cat's feces. If you are pregnant or immunocompromised do not clean the litter box. If no one else is available to do the chore, wear disposable gloves and wash your hands well with soap and warm water. It is also a good idea to keep your cat inside and avoid holding new cats or kittens if you are at higher risk for toxoplasmosis.

Will Toxoplasma Make My Cat Sick?

Like humans, most cats do not show symptoms following an infection with Toxoplasma gondii. If your cat becomes infected, the parasite will be shed in your cat's feces for a few weeks, after which time the infection should resolve on its own. If your cat is already infected with another disease such as feline leukemia, feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) it will be at greater risk of developing more serious symptoms of toxoplasmosis. These cats should be kept indoors to avoid a concurrent Toxoplasma infection. If you are concerned about your cat's health, see your veterinarian, or come see us here at Veterinary Associates of Cape Cod

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Veterinary Rehabilitation

Here at Veterinary Associates of Cape Cod we are lucky enough to be just minutes away from a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner. Rehabilitation is an important part of the healing process after an injury or surgery. In fact, animals receiving rehabilitation have been shown to heal faster than animals left to heal on their own. Rehabilitation can also restore function to the injured area and decrease pain.

In conjunction with visits to the pet's primary care veterinarian, rehabilitation can be used to treat a wide variety of conditions, some of which are listed below:

  • Osteoarthritis

  • Obesity

  • Vestibular disorders

  • Hip or elbow dysplasia

  • Cruciate injuries

  • Back injuries

  • Fractures

  • Tendon, nerve, or muscle injuries

  • Patellar luxation
If your pet has any of the above conditions or has trouble getting up or lying down, you may want to consider seeing a rehabilitation practitioner.

If you choose rehabilitation for your pet, the rehabilitation specialist will decide which treatments will be best for your pet's recovery. Often these treatments will be similar to those used in human rehabilitation, such as therapeutic massage, acupuncture, passive range of motion and stretching exercises, or thermotherapy. Your rehabilitation practitioner may also use a specialized piece of equipment during your pet's rehabilitation. These types of treatments can include therapeutic ultrasound, neuromuscular or transcutaneous electrical stimulation, and pulsed magnetic therapy. Many pets also benefit from hydrotherapy because as they swim, they can exercise their muscles without putting too much strain on their joints. In addition to a hydrotherapy pool, veterinary rehabilitation facilities frequently have an underwater treadmill (like the one in the picture below) that provides the pet with low-impact exercise.

If you would like more information on bringing your pet to a veterinary rehabilitation practitioner, speak with your veterinarian or come see us here at Veterinary Associates of Cape Cod.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Dealing With the Loss of a Pet

Unfortunately, all pet owners eventually have to confront the loss of a pet. This is never an easy time, and many people have a hard time dealing with the feelings that emerge. It is important to remember that grieving for a lost pet is just as normal and essential as grieving for a lost friend or family member. It is natural for someone experiencing the loss of a pet to go through one or more of the stages of grief including denial, anger, guilt, depression, bargaining, and acceptance.

All people cope with loss in their own way, but many find it helpful to hold a funeral ceremony with family and close friends. There are also other ways to express the grief associated with the loss of a pet, including hanging memorial wind chimes, or creating a paw imprint in clay. Additional resources are available on our website. There you will find ideas on helping children cope and hospice care, as well as more information on the grieving process. Check out this article featuring our very own Dr. Burns for even more tips.

Allowing ourselves the time to grieve is the most basic thing we can do to get through this difficult part of life.