Animal Health Foundation Blog

Archive for the ‘Medical Issues’ Category

Household Substances That Can Harm Your Pet

Friday, April 2nd, 2021

From foods, medications, household cleaners and plants.  This article covers it all from Dr. Karen Becker

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Money’s Top Picks for Best Pet Insurance of 2021

Tuesday, March 16th, 2021

Pet insurance helps pay for your pet’s medical care, with many policies covering up to 90 percent of your vet bill — assuming your pet’s procedure wasn’t excluded from coverage or didn’t surpass your annual expense cap.

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Heartworm Preventative – Year Round or Not?

Friday, February 26th, 2021

Paraphrased from Dr. Judy Morgan:

Mosquitoes are the main way that heartworms are transmitted.  There are 3 stages.  The first 2 (L1 and L2 larvae) require temperatures above 80 F (27 C) for a minimum of two weeks to reach L3. That is the infection stage. So. while most veterinarians recommend year-round administration of heartworm preventative, it may only be required seasonally in some areas.

Since there are a lot of variables, Dr. Morgan wrote a blog to “…try and help you decide what kind of heartworm preventative may be recommended for your pet”.

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Column: Are you giving your pets supplements to ward off COVID? Don’t bother

Friday, February 26th, 2021

From the Los Angeles Times

The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked a boom in consumption of dietary supplements, with one recent report estimating 12% growth in sales last year.

 

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Study upends understanding about joint injuries

Thursday, October 15th, 2020

From the Cornell University “Chronicle”

An injury to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) can lead to severe osteoarthritis in both animal and human patients. Now, a new interdisciplinary study on the protein that lubricates our joints says that lubricant may actually be a precursor of joint disease.

The paper, published Oct. 7 in Scientific Reports, is the first that investigates the role of a protein, known as lubricin, in ACL-type injuries in dogs. It may also have larger implications for similar injuries in humans as well as the potential for treatments and therapeutics.

“Lubricin is crucial for normal joint function and the lubrication of cartilage,” said Heidi Reesink, Ph.D. ’16, the Harry M. Zweig Assistant Professor in Equine Health at the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) and senior author on the paper. “We know that if a person or animal doesn’t make that protein, they will develop devastating joint disease affecting all the major weight-bearing joints.”

Lubricin is universal to mammals, including humans, though there is conflicting data regarding its role in joint injuries. Reesink’s study found that, in canine patients that had suffered a ligament tear in the knee, lubricin increased within the joint – the opposite of conventional assumptions in medicine. “The dogma in this field has been that lubricin decreases in joint disease,” Reesink said.

In three canine patients that had a joint injury, lubricin dramatically increased in the time between their initial injury but before any signs of arthritis in their X-rays.

“This indicates that the presence of increased lubricin might actually be a biomarker for predicting future osteoarthritis,” said Reesink. “We also saw increased lubricin in dogs months to years after they injured their ACLs, suggesting that lubricin might be an indicator of ongoing joint instability.”

Reesink said increased lubricin could consequently be a signal for clinicians to intervene or try a different treatment approach.

Reesink and her collaborators laid the groundwork for this new study by completing a systematic review of the literature surrounding lubricin in both human and veterinary medicine. The review waspublished this summer in the journal Osteoarthritis and Cartilage.

The overall finding of the review: There is no unified consensus on how lubricin is altered in other domestic veterinary species and in human joint injury, demonstrating the need for further study – which Reesink’s new paper has done.

“In looking at horses and dogs, we’re seeing the same pattern,” she said. “The strongest piece of data would be to show it in humans as well.”

Reesink and her collaborators worked with the Cornell Veterinary Biobank to obtain samples. The biobank supports CVM researchers as well as scientists across the globe, using biological samples collected from both ill and healthy animals at the Cornell University Hospital for Animals (CUHA). The samples are processed, catalogued and provided to researchers, which accelerates biomedical research.

Among the motivators for this study, said Reesink, is that a large number of cases in the small animal orthopedic section at CUHA is knee ligament injury, which is common in dogs.

“We can help both animals and humans by potentially coming up with better diagnostics, by more fully understanding how these molecules work and designing therapies beneficial to both, by taking advantage of these naturally occurring cases and improving orthopedic care,” Reesink said.

In the veterinary realm, Reesink’s team plans to do a follow-up longitudinal study in dogs, examining multiple time points in a patient’s injury, treatment and recovery process. They also hope to draw similar connections in human ACL and other orthopedic injuries.

Currently, Reesink is examining parallel samples from both the Cornell Veterinary Biobank and the Hospital for Special Surgery, using funding from a pilot grant from the Weill Cornell Medicine Clinical and Translational Science Center.

CVM authors on the paper include Dr. Bethany Cummings, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences; professors and small animal surgeons Dr. Kei Hayashi, Dr. Ursula Krotscheck and Rory Todhunter, Ph.D. ’92; and Dr. Philippa Johnson, assistant professor in the section of diagnostic imaging. Co-lead authors are David Gludish, a combined D.V.M. and Ph.D. student, and Yuyan Wang, a doctoral student in the College of Engineering.

Melanie Greaver Cordova is managing editor at the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Making sense of genetic disease in dogs and cats

Thursday, October 15th, 2020

From Journal of the American Veternary Medical Association (JAVMA)

Making sense of genetic disease in dogs and cats

Published on October 14, 2020

Understanding genetic disease in mixed-breed and purebred dogs and cats can bring about more effective treatments and better client service, says clinical geneticist and general practitioner Dr. Jerold Bell.

French bulldog

“If we understand the genetic background of our patients, we’re better positioned to prevent, to mitigate, or to alter the expression of genetic disease, allowing our patients to be healthier in their lifetimes as well as to breed healthier dogs and cats,” Dr. Bell said.

An adjunct professor at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, Dr. Bell spoke about genetic diseases during the AVMA Virtual Convention 2020 this August. In addition to his teaching duties, Dr. Bell works as a solo practitioner, and he sees “dogs and cats all day long and sees genetic disease in our patients all day long.”

He explained that common genetic disorders are caused by ancient disease liability genes that preceded breed formation. Since these mutations occurred long before the separation of breeds, these diseases are seen across all breeds and in mixed breeds.

The most common hereditary diseases in dogs are allergies, followed by hip and elbow dysplasia; inherited cancers such as lymphoma, hemangiosarcoma, mast cell tumor, and osteosarcoma; patella luxation; nonstruvite bladder stones; hypothyroidism; mitral valve disease; inflammatory bowel disease; diabetes mellitus; retained testicles; and umbilical hernias.

In cats, the most prevalent genetic diseases are inflammatory cystitis, then feline urological syndrome, diabetes mellitus, lymphoplasmocytic gingivostomatitis, nonstruvite bladder stones, allergies, eosinophilic skin disease, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Disease is not a function of homozygosity, which happens when identical DNA sequences for a particular gene are inherited from both biological parents, nor is it a consequence of inbreeding. Rather, Dr. Bell explained, hereditary diseases are a result of the accumulation and propagation of specific disease liability genes. Breed-related deleterious genes accumulate in various ways, including direct selection for disease-associated phenotypes, linkage to selected traits, carriage by popular sires, genetic drift, and—most importantly—the absence of selection against deleterious phenotypes.

“If we don’t select for healthy parents to produce offspring, then we have no expectation of health in those offspring,” Dr. Bell said. “Not selecting for health is selecting for disease, and we need to understand that and pass that on to our breeder clients.”

On the topic of disease and extreme phenotypes, Dr. Bell said brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome is frequently diagnosed at veterinary clinics on account of the popularity of certain brachycephalic dog breeds, namely Pugs, French Bulldogs, and Bulldogs. Most breed standards do not call for the expression of extreme phenotypes, he said, nor do they select for the most extreme size or the most extreme brachycephalic trait.

“Moderation away from extremes that cause disease should be the guiding principle in breeding,” Dr. Bell noted, and in judging dog shows.

Common genetic diseases seen in mixed-breed dogs and cats occur randomly because of dispersed ancient liability genes, according to Dr. Bell. Uncommon and breed-specific recessive or complexly inherited disease is far less likely to occur in mixed-breed individuals.

Dr. Bell said designer-bred dogs and cats often have inherited diseases common in random-bred populations. They can also inherit disease liability genes shared by the parent breeds or parent species. “So if you’re breeding short-statured breeds together, it wouldn’t be surprising to see patellar luxation, or in smaller toy size breeds, to see mitral valve disease,” he said.

Hereditary disease manifests as a result of anatomical mismatch between parent breeds. “We see a lot of this in dental disease, where we see crowding of teeth and malocclusions and misplaced teeth,” Dr. Bell continued. “Even in the musculoskeletal, if you breed two breeds with different body types together, we may see degenerative joint disease and poor joints. All of these things, all need to be monitored.”

Assessing Canine Pain

Tuesday, October 6th, 2020

 

Chronic pain can significantly affect daily living activities in our pets. In a previous blog I posted photos and descriptions to determine pain in cats. Determining pain in dogs can be more difficult, as there can be wide variability between pet owner and veterinarian observations, as well as variability in how dogs express pain. Dogs may act differently at home and in the veterinary exam room.

Currently there are no biomarkers (biochemical or physiologic parameters) that reliably correlate to chronic pain. Physiologic biomarkers, such as blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol levels, have very low specificity because circumstances other than pain such as fear, anxiety, and stress can also affect these markers.

Objective measurements are not widely used in veterinary practice. These might include force plate measurements, computerized gait analysis, and activity monitors. Unfortunately, even if these were utilized widely, they may only give insight into mobility parameters, with no measurement of internal pain. The most common chronic pain condition encountered in dogs and cats is osteoarthritis (OA); other conditions that can cause chronic pain include intervertebral disk disease, chronic pancreatitis, cancer, and other illnesses.

Things to consider when determining pain level in your dog include:

  • Ability to play
  • Appetite
  • Gastrointestinal function
  • Hygiene (ability to maintain cleanliness, urine or stool incontinence)
  • Interaction with family members
  • Presence of pain (flinching when touched, tension in the body, vocalizing)
  • Sleep (increased, decreased, interrupted by pacing or wandering)

One owner assessment questionnaire that has been widely used was developed in Finland by the University of Helsinki researchers. By filling out the questionnaire weekly, a pet owner can determine whether their dog’s mobility is improving or declining from week to week. Another assessment questionnaire has been developed by the canine arthritis association.

A more complete assessment of pain may be made using the BEAP Pain Scale created for pet hospice patients. By assessing appetite, ability and desire to move around, facial expressions, body weight, and vocalizations a pet owner can determine changes in pain scores from week to week.

Determining quality of life can be difficult for pet owners and veterinarians. By using these tools weekly it is possible to document changes in pet comfort that may help make decisions regarding improved pain management to improve quality of life.

There are many treatment options available for pain. Don’t let your pets suffer in silence.

About Dr. Morgan

Angel Fund Supplies Clarity for Dog With Terminal Cancer

Saturday, May 9th, 2020

In the fall of 2017, a young Laguna Niguel family had a sick dog on its hands.  Rikku, a shepard mix, had been in the family for some 13 years and was loved by mom and dad and two young children.

“She had been sick for a few months,” Lindsay, the mother, said in an interview.  (She asked that her last name not be used.)  “We were unsure of the cause.  At first we thought it might be behavioral. But then . . . she started having potty accidents in the house, which was so unusual for her.

“We took her to the vet [Dr. Rachel Tuz at Aliso Niguel Animal Hospital].  After a few visits and really no conclusive idea what the diagnosis was, we shrugged our shoulders and decided, ‘Well, she’s 13 years old and pushing 14, should we even pursue this any further?’

“The doctor had suggested a couple of other tests,” Lindsay said. “At that point, we had run dry on money.”  But Dr. Tuz called and said that Angel Fund might be able to help.  Lindsay successfully submitted an application with the hospital’s help. “They did the tests and found that she had a massive tumor in her bladder.  And it was basically inoperable.  There was nothing we could do about it.

“”We didn’t know what to do next, other than wait it out,” Lindsay said. “The next few months the dog got worse quickly and was losing weight, two pounds or more a month.  And we finally reached the point where Dr. Tuz said that this wasn’t fair to Rikku. She was not able to be in the house because she was having so many accidents.  So we had to choose to put her down.  That was in November.”

The experience was wrenching for all the family.  “My husband, Ryan, and I had owned her since we were kids,” Lindsay said.  “It was very hard.  “My son, Finnegan, was very sad.  He still is.  He still talks about her.”  He is five years old.  She and her husband also have a two-year-old daughter, Molly, is two.

The family got a new dog – a puppy – in January.  “We were going to wait but Finnegan kept saying he missed not having a dog,” Lindsay said.  “It’s different, though.  The new dog doesn’t replace the dog you had.  They’re just totally different personalities.”

Angel Fund was “fantastic,” Lindsay said, and she wrote a thank you letter to the fund after receiving the grant.  “They helped us in a serious time of need.  It’s hard when your pet is sick and you feel like you can’t do anything else about it.”

Lindsay had opted to be a stay-at-home mom after her first child was born.  And she and Ryan felt financially overburdened, she said, with a mortgage, two young children and hefty student loans for two college educations.

A Pet Owner’s Guide to Flowers and Plants

Thursday, April 23rd, 2020

BROUGHT TO YOU BY KREMP.COM

We love our pets! The family cat or dog is vital part of our family, and we do everything we can to help ensure that they have what they need. Pet owners need to be certain that they provide the correct food and preventative medical care. While pet safety needs to be a big concern around the house, one of the most common dangers for pets are with the plants and flowers that can be redily found in the home.

Most homes have various types of plants and flowers inside the home. These plants and flowers help brighten up a home and provide a decorative flourish. While the addition of plants and flowers in a home are helpful in making the house attractive, it can also be a danger to pets. Knowing which plants are non-toxic and which plants are toxic to your dog or cat is important for the continued good health of your pet.

There are a number of plants that are commonly found around the home that are toxic to animals. Some of the plants that should be kept away from the family pet include Lilies, Tulips and Azaleas. All of these plants could have an impact on the health of pets if ingested. Therefore, it is important that prevention of potential danger is very important.

If you have a home with pets, and you have flowers and plants, it is imperative to keep an eye out for the possibility of the animal being poisoned. Some of the symptoms that you should look out for include diarrhea, vomiting, weakness and not behaving as normal. If you suspect that your pet may have been accidentally poisoned, it is important to contact your vet as soon as possible. The early the treatment for the poison the better chance of getting them back to health.

To learn more about which plants and flowers are toxic and what to do in the event of a poisoning, please review the following information.

  • Poisonous Plants – Informative web page from Cornell University which provides information on which plants are poisonous to animals.
  • Animal Toxins – Listing of items that are considered poisonous to all animals.
  • Plants Toxic to Animals – Helpful database of plants that are toxic to domesticated animals.
  • Toxic Plants for Pets – In this page you will learn about the plants that animals should avoid.
  • List of Poisonous Plants – Useful article which contains a listing of plants that are toxic to cats and dogs.
  • Pet Safe Gardening – Information from the Animal Health Foundation which offers ideas on having a pet safe garden.
  • Pets and Toxic Plants – This article from UC Davis discusses pets and plants that could be toxic to them.
  • ASPCA Information – Information on plants and flowers that are toxic and non-toxic to pets.
  • Keeping Pets Safe – Article from HGTV which offers ideas on how to keep pets safe from plants and flowers around the home.
  • Safe Indoor House Flowers and Plants – Helpful article from Better Homes and Gardens which provides information on plants and flowers that are safe for pets.
  • Signs of Poisoning – Useful information on how to tell if your dog has been poisoned.
  • Top Dog Poisons – This article informs dog owners about the top potentially harmful items that are poisonous to dogs.
  • Antifreeze Poisoning in Cats – Article which provides general information on how to determine if you cat was poisoned.
  • Poisoned Dog – In this helpful article you will find information and steps to treat a poisoned dog.
  • Treating a Poisoned Cat – Article which lists steps that can be taken to treat a cat suspected of being poisoned.
  • Poison Prevention Tips (PDF) – Publication which lists the top tips on how to keep your pet from being poisoned.
  • Pet Poison Prevention Tips – Information for pet owners on ways to prevent pet poisoning from occurring.
  • Poison Prevention Tips for Pets – Informative information on how to avoid pets being poisoned around the home.
  • Poison Prevention Publication (PDF) – Helpful brochure which provides pet owners with preventative measures to keep poisons away from pets.
  • Poison Control and Prevention – Information on how to keep pets safe from potential poisons.
  • Pets and Poisons – In this article from the American Humane Association you will find information on pet poisoning.
  • Pet First Aid – Red Cross information and class material on learning the basics of pet first aid.
  • Basic Pet First Aid – Useful information for pet owners which provides a basic understanding of first aid.
  • Pesticide Poisoning in Pets – Article which offers information on what to do if your pet is poisoned by pesticides.
  • Poison Information and Resources – Resourceful page with information about pet poisoning.
  • Pets and Poison – Web page which informs pet owners about the dangers around the home for pets.
  • Poison Safety for Pet Owners (PDF) – General information about poison safety from the University of Virginia.
  • Preventing Pet Poisoning – Information about pet poisoning prevention with outdoor pesticides.
  • Pet Poisoning Information – Helpful information about the basics of pet poisoning.
  • Plants and Household Products – Informative fact sheets with information about normal plants and products around the house that can be poisonous to pets.

Disabled Woman Turns to Angel Fund for Help With Dog’s Heart Problem

Tuesday, March 17th, 2020

In 2004, Galina Coleman slipped and fell at work not far from where she lived in Petaluma.  She had five surgeries for the injuries she suffered.  In the wake of that personal catastrophy and disillusioned with her marriage, she got a divorced and moved to Southern California.

Today, estranged from her former husband and two sons, she lives in Aliso Viejo and struggles to pay her bills. She was declared totally disabled in 2006 and lives on a Social Security disability check.

“I’m just really struggling,” she said.  “I’m in affordable housing.  My rent is $1,398 a month, which is ‘very affordable’ here. However, for me it’s just really, really difficult.  I’ve tried to get jobs but it just hasn’t worked out for me.  I have two senior dogs and a senior cat and I know they’re basically at the end of their lives.”

Late last November, her struggles came into clear perspective when Abby, her nearly 14-year-old Dachshund, appeared to be having a digestive issue.  “When I took her to a veterinarian, the doctor discovered a heart murmur. She thought it was pretty serious and prescribed medication for Abby after doing an x-ray,” Galina said.

Later, she took the dog to Dr. Lynn Sanchez, a veterinarian she said she likes and trusts at Garden Grove Dog and Cat Hospital.  Dr. Sanchez recommended an electrocardiogram to get a clearer idea what Abby’s problem was.  But Galina could not handle the cost.  She applied for an Angel Fund grant and was awarded $451, a sum that was matched by the hospital.

Abby got the electrocardiogram in late December – and with it some good news: the murmur was not as bad as originally suspected.  “Dr. Sanchez said that everything looked pretty good and prescribed three medications,” Galina said.  A week later, when she took Abby back for a recheck, two of the medications were discontinued.  “One of them was really hard on her kidneys,” she said, “so I was really glad to get rid of it.”

After another recheck early in January, the dog is continuing to take Vetmedin.  “She’s not in heart failure but has some damage to a mitral valve,” Galina said.

When Galina divorced, she took her animals with her.  “I have tried to help them on a piecemeal basis,” she said. “I’ve had to rely on charity.  They’ve all been in pretty good health but now they are at the point where that’s starting to change [because of their ages].”

Augie, Abby’s brother, is two years younger at 12.  Aurora, her cat, also is 12.  Galina believes that Augie will need a dental treatment soon.

“I’ve been given the blessing of having these animals – they are just truly a blessing for me.  I am their steward and I need to make sure they get whatever is needed to take care of them. I have to do that.

“Had I not been able to do this [echocardiogram], I would either have been giving Abby way too much medication or no medication at all.  It wouldn’t have been good either way.  it was going to be detrimental to her health one way or the other.”

Galina is grateful to Angel Fund.  “They really helped me out,” she said.  “It is a wonderful thing to help people because things can be so expensive.  I think it’s a really great thing for veterinarians to give back.  I admire them for doing that.  I think that’s what we’re all here for – to give back.”

She is thinking about moving with her animals to a place – perhaps New Mexico – where her disability check would go further.  She is 58 years old.

“I have ignored a lot of my life for these dogs.  But, in return, they’ve provided me with something,” she said.  That something is love and support.