Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Tips

Here are a few tips so that you and your pets can have a happy holiday--without a trip to the emergency room at the animal hospital.

Though it’s tempting to share Thanksgiving delicacies with your pets, the best thing you can do for your cat or dog is simply to continue feeding them their regular diet. Giving your pet tasty table scraps can result in serious gastrointestinal issue ranging from mild vomiting and diarrhea to severe, life-threatening pancreatitis.

If you simply can’t resist sharing Thanksgiving dinner with your furry family members, please limit it to a few pieces of turkey meat only. Avoid side dishes because these may be high in fat. Onions, garlic, grapes, and raisins are actually toxic to pets, so these are to be avoided too. Absolutely do NOT give your dog bones to chew on: The marrow is extremely fatty and will almost always result in a nasty case of pancreatitis.
Advise houseguests to keep chewing gum and medications out of reach from the furry paws and teeth of any nosy pets. Sugarless gum containing Xylitol can cause liver failure and low blood sugar, both of which can be life threatening. If your pet does get into any medications be sure to note the type, the quantity and the strength and bring your pet in to the hospital or call ASPCA Animal Poison Control immediately.

After a big Thanksgiving meal, when you and your family head outside for a walk, don’t forget to bring the pups along too. It’s the perfect time to spend a little time together and get in some extra exercise.

I know you’ll do your best to keep your pets safe and healthy on Thanksgiving, but if any of the above scenarios do happen, I will be seeing emergencies at the hospital on Friday. Hopefully there won’t be too many patients who overindulged on Thursday and wake up with an upset stomach.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Friendship Hospital for Animals!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Urinary obstruction in cats

Linus, a six-year-old neutered male cat was brought in when his owner noticed him making multiple trips to the litter box. He would position himself as if trying to urinate but nothing would come out. While he did this, he cried, which his owner thought was unusual behavior.

On presentation Linus was moderately dehydrated, slightly depressed and his heart rate was lower than I would have liked at 180 beats per minute. During abdominal palpation I was able to feel a very large, hard bladder and determined that he had a urinary obstruction. After quickly placing an intravenous catheter we collected blood to check his electrolyte status.

The potassium in his blood was dangerously high, which can lead to cardiac arrhythmias and rapidly result in death. We started Linus on IV fluids and gave him a medication to help lower his potassium. Because he was unable to urinate, the waste products normally excreted in urine were building up and making him feel sick.

I performed a cystocentesis which involves sticking a needle into his bladder to remove the urine and relieve some of his discomfort. Because urinary obstruction is very painful for kitties, Linus was also given pain medication. X-rays showed he had stones in his bladder causing the obstruction. In male cats (and also male dogs), the urethra is very narrow, so it’s easy for things to get stuck in it. Stones are not the only cause of urinary obstructions in cats; mucus plugs, inflammatory cells, and crystals can also a blockage.

I used an injectable anesthetic agent to sedate Linus so a urinary catheter could be passed. This was necessary for many reasons. First, he needed to be able to empty his bladder. We also needed to start him on intravenous fluids to flush out his system. This would decrease the dangerously high levels of potassium and waste products he had been unable to eliminate. And finally, given Linus’s current state, he was at an increased risk for general anesthesia, so I wanted to stabilize him before going to surgery.

The next morning, Linus went to surgery to have the stones removed via a cystotomy. He was sent home the next day. Analysis revealed that his stones were struvite. This was great news, because this type of urolith responds very well to diet change and has a low level of recurrence. Linus started his new prescription diet and his owners report he is like a new cat at home.

Urinary obstruction is incredibly common and can quickly become fatal, so it’s important for all owners of male cats to be aware of the condition and its symptoms. If you ever notice your cat making multiple trips to the litter box, straining to urinate and vocalizing, please bring him in immediately.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Toby's Bladder Stones

Toby is a five-year-old Yorkie whose owner noticed he had blood tinged urine after he had an "accident" in the house. Toby's owner immediately brought him into Friendship on emergency. besides being worried about the bloody urine, she was also alarmed that Toby had peed in the house, since he had never done this before. I assured her he most likely had a urinary tract infection, and submitted urine for analysis and culture. I then sent him home with a broad-spectrum antibiotic. Though the urinalysis results would be available the same day, we would need to wait three to five days for the culture to come back.

I had the urinalysis results back an hour later. There weer some inflammatory cells, which you can see with an infection, but no bacteria present. I advised Toby's owner to monitor his closely; if the signs continued and the culture was negative, Toby might have bladder stones, also known as uroliths. It was very important that she make sure he was able to pass urine. Since male dogs and cats have a narrow urethra compared with females, stones have a tendency to get stuck in this area. This creates a urinary blockage and requires emergent treatment.

When I called Toby's owner four days later with the negative culture results, she informed me that the bloody urine and accidents had not resolved with antibiotics. I had Toby come in immediately for an x-ray to see if any stones were present in his bladder. Sure enough, he had multiple bright white objects in his bladder consistent with uroliths. Luckily he was not obstructed and immediately surgery was not required.

Toby's owners had two options at this point. We could try switching his diet to see if the stones would dissolve. Alternatively, we could take him to surgery, remove the stones and submit them for analysis. His owners decided to go forward with surgery. I performed a cystotomy, entering the abdomen and making an incision in the bladder to remove the stones. Toby sailed through surgery and was able to go home the next day.

A few weeks later, the results of the stone analysis revealed that Toby had calcium oxalate stones. This was not great news, as this type of stone has a very high frequency of recurrence. Fifty percent of patients will have stones return within three years of initial diagnosis.

We started Toby on a prescription diet to alter the acidity of his urine and switched him from dry food to canned food. Thanks to its increased moisture content canned food would ideally create a more dilute urine. Toby's owners were instructed to take him out more frequently to prevent urine from sitting in his bladder too long.
Calcium oxalate stones are extremely frustrating for owners and veterinarians, give the high rate of recurrence and relatively ineffective means of prevention. The good news is that so far Toby hasn't had any more bladder stone episodes -- and he is very pleased with his new food.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

H1N1 concerns

I am speaking with WAMU this morning about the kitty in Iowa that tested positive for H1N1 and concerns for infection in our pet animals. The quick facts on this are the cat developed upper respiratory signs after two humans in the house were sick with flu like symptoms. Confirmation of infection with H1N1 was confirmed and the cat has since made a full recovery. It is believed that the cat was infected by the people in the house and not the other way around.

We have long known that many viruses can pass between people and animals so this event is not wholly unexpected. The important things to keep in mind are that this is an isolated incident and extensive testing by the World health Organization has determined that infection in other species does not indicate that the H1N1 virus has mutated to a more virulent form.

In order to keep your own animals healthy you should continue to practice good hygiene such as washing hands frequently, covering your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing and perhaps you should avoid sneezing in your cats face. It is also a good idea not to snuggle with your animals if you are not feeling well. If your cat or dog does develop flu-like symptoms see your veterinarian immediately. There are many viruses that cause similarly clinical signs to influenza and most respond to simple supportive care.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fox 5 at Friendship!

We had a great time this morning with Holly Morris and Fox 5. In case you missed anything or would like some more information I have everything posted below:

Winter care for your pets:
Watch it on Fox 5
Winter Dangers Post
Canine Influenza Post
A Case of Pneumonia Post

Dental tips:
Watch it on Fox 5
Dental Disease Post
Kitty Cavities Post

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Winter dangers

This Wednesday Fox 5’s Holly Morris will be spending the morning at Friendship starting bright and early at 6 am. Among the many awesome things we will be showing Holly around the hospital, I will be giving some tips on keeping your pets healthy and safe this winter. Here are my top 5 cold weather dangers for dogs and cats:

1) Warm car engines: many people let their cats outside which is not a good idea on many levels but once it gets cold kitties really put themselves at risk for death by seeking shelter in a parked car. In an effort to warm up during a cold night cats will crawl up under the hood of a car and curl up on the warm engine block. This does not end well when you come out the next morning and fire up your car to head off for work. Luckily this is easy to avoid by keeping your kitties inside during the chilly months.

2) Antifreeze: this common chemical has a sweet taste so dogs and cats are actually attracted to it. If you are unaware your pet was exposed, by the time clinical signs become apparent it is often too late for treatment. The other nasty thing about antifreeze is that a tiny amount is all it takes to cause irreversible damage resulting in death. Avoid this by monitoring your pets at all times and keeping cats indoors.

3) Salting for snow and ice: many of the chemicals used to keep sidewalks and roads safe can be toxic to dogs and cats. This is can be avoided by cleaning paws after a walk so they don’t lick the chemicals off once you get home. If you will be salting your own property consider using Safe Paw Ice Melter to keep paws safe.

4) Rodenticide: another common toxicity to be aware of for both dogs and cats. The cold weather drives rats and mice into our homes and without question this is undesirable. In an effort to get rid of these unwanted visitors many people will put out poison. Keep this in mind, rodenticides don’t just kill rodents, they will kill any mammal that ingests it. Most rat poison is formulated to be tasty, attracting both rodents and our pets. If you must put a rodenticide in your house or on your property make sure your animals can’t get to it, remembering that the crafty rodent often will move the poison. Also warfarin based products are best since these are at least treatable if caught in time.

5) Freezing temperatures: I think this shouldn’t need to be said but keep your pets inside when it gets cold. If the thermostat dips below 40 degrees Fahrenheit bring outside dogs in and don’t let the kitty out for the night. Animals are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia just like us so please protect them.

Hopefully these pointers will be helpful during the upcoming winter months. Please tune in to Fox 5 tomorrow morning to check out all the exciting things happening at Friendship.