Thursday, August 28, 2014

Frank update

I have put off writing this blog because I didn’t want to jinx anything, but after almost two months I think I am safe saying that Frank is 100% back to normal!  In my post from May 7th I reported that he was on the mend but he really wasn’t back to doing all his normal Frank activities.  After several weeks on Prednisone it was in mid-June I accepted that he still wasn’t himself and decided to move forward with an MRI to make sure there was nothing else going on. 

We headed out to Animal Scan in Virginia and under the exceptional guidance of neurologist extraordinaire Dr. Lauren Talrico, Frank had his MRI.  We found that he had some very mild changes in his spinal cord consistent with intervertebral disk disease (IVDD) and Wobbler’s syndrome.  Dr. Talrico believes that both of these changes are causing him pain in addition to the meningitis that he was initially diagnosed with.  Poor Frank!


Frank helping Dr. Talrico read his MRI

IVDD is a condition in which one or more of the cushions that exists between each vertebra comes into contact with the spinal cord causing an array of clinical signs.  These can range from irritation that results in pain to compression that can lead to weakness and paralysis.  Wobbler’s syndrome is a collection of abnormalities that occur in the cervical spine (neck) that affect how the vertebrae line up with one another.  This is turn can also result in neck pain and spinal cord compression.

Thankfully Frank’s condition was not severe enough to require surgery so we started pain management with pregabalin (also know as Lyrica) and physical therapy.  Unfortunately the underwater treadmill is not yet up and running at Friendship but our wonderful physical therapist Janay gave me several exercises to work on at home with Frank.  One of these exercises was cavaletti work - you can see in the video below how much he enjoys it!

video


I am incredibly relieved and delighted that Frank appears to be pain free off all his medications and is now back to his usual antics.  What has been the most surprising to me is how this situation crept up on us.  For several weeks before we noticed he clearly wasn’t feeling well that he had stopped doing many of his usual adorable Frank activities.  He had all but stopped picking toys up and asking us to play with him.  He would no longer body check my husband to get out the back door so he could accompany him to take out the trash and run around outside.  He used to wrestle with Poppy every day, often times so loud you couldn’t hear the television over their play growling.  For the last few months that he has been back to normal all of these behaviors have returned and I can’t believe that I didn’t pick up that something was off earlier. 


Happy after a swim at the beach


We will always have to keep an extra close eye on his behavior in case one of his three conditions flair up again.  He will never receive another vaccine as this can cause his meningitis to come out of remission.  He can’t roughhouse anymore and we need to continue his physical therapy long term to maintain his muscle conditioning.  Once the underwater treadmill is installed he will be first in line for therapy sessions.  Friendship will also be offering acupuncture soon and this is an excellent therapeutic option for Frank.  I am incredibly thankful that Frank has responded so well to treatment and is back to being his normal, wonderful, lovable self!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Key to a Happier, Healthier Pet: Annual Vet Checkups

Want to know why veterinarians are always reminding you about annual checkups? Because they are one of the easiest things you can do to help keep your cat or dog happy and healthy for many years to come. Unfortunately, it's also something that can easily be forgotten or pushed off for another time.

In fact, according to a recent petMD poll nearly 2 in 10 pet owners hadn't visited their vet for a routine checkup in the past year. Take it from a veterinarian — that's a big deal!

Missing Just One Annual Exam Can Still Be HUGE


The reason the standard recommendation for cats and dogs to visit the veterinarian once a year for a checkup is because missing even one yearly exam for your pet is roughly equivalent to you, a human, not seeing a doctor for five years! These wellness checkups not only allow us to catch certain diseases at their onset, which can prevent them from getting worse, but they also potentially save you money in the long run. That's a definite win-win situation.

Dental disease in both cats and dogs is the perfect example of this.  During your pet’s annual exam your veterinarian will assess their degree of dental disease and recommend yearly dental cleanings. 


Sherman, a 6-year-old Yorkie-Chihuahua mix, came to me for his initial exam shortly after being adopted by his new family at 3 years old. He had moderate tartar with minimal gingivitis, but I didn't notice any obviously diseased teeth. Nevertheless, given the heavy tartar and stinky breath, I recommended a dental cleaning and oral exam to be performed under general anesthesia.

We were shocked to discover during the cleaning that Sherman had severe dental disease and needed to have 13 teeth extracted. That's the funny thing about dental disease — things may not look so bad on the surface, but once you start poking under the gumline the disease may be running rampant and unchecked.

Fortunately, Sherman felt like a new dog after having all of his painful and diseased teeth removed. He now gets annual dental cleanings to minimize bacteria buildup on his teeth and monitor for new disease under the gumline. We also started him on a dental diet to help keep tartar to a minimum to maintain his healthy new smile.

Vet Checkups are Even More Important in Your Pet's Senior Years


Veterinarians often recommend senior dogs and cats undergo yearly baseline bloodwork in order to screen for metabolic abnormalities. Elevations in your pet's liver or kidney values, for example, can indicate one of these organs is compromised and needs to be addressed. Senior cats often have issues with kidney function as they age.

Take Charlie, a 12-year-old kitty that is a patient of mine. During his annual exam Charlie's owner reported that he was doing well at home but perhaps drinking just a bit more than usual. Charlie's physical exam was unremarkable overall, but he had lost just a touch of weight compared to the year prior.

We submitted a chemistry panel, complete blood cell count, thyroid level and urinalysis. This is the standard baseline that I check on all senior cats. The urinalysis is essential to alerting us to diminished kidney function and increased thyroid levels, which are often to blame for weight loss in cats. In Charlie’s case he had dilute urine and very mild elevations in his kidney values on the chemistry panel, an indication that his kidneys were not working well and confirmation he had chronic kidney disease (CKD). 

Had Charlie not come in for an annual exam, the CKD would have gone unmanaged and further complicated his health. Fortunately for Charlie and other cats with CKD, the quality of life can be improved when steps to maintain kidney function are implemented—therapeutic kidney-friendly diet and increased water intake, to name a couple of changes. Charlie's annual exams were also bumped up to every six months so that we could
closely monitor his blood work and blood pressure for unusual changes.

Annual Exams: A Great Way to Answer Your Pet Health, Too


I could write story after story about patients of mine that greatly benefited from a yearly checkup. But these appointments are also the best time to discuss with your veterinarian any concerns you have regarding your pet’s health. It can be something as subtle as tips to help your dog lose a few pounds; which supplements are best for preventing joint disease or diet suggestion to help senior pets ward off dementia. 

By working with your veterinarian during annual wellness checkups, your pet can better stay happy and healthy…so you can love them longer!