Neutering: Not Just Doggie Birth Control

December 4, 2013

dog at vetDexter, a new dachshund patient of mine, was in last week for another round of puppy shots. He will soon be six months old and it was time for me to discuss the next step in his preventive health care plan: neutering.

Neutering meets the guidelines
The American Veterinary Medical Association has developed guidelines for responsible pet ownership. One of the guidelines obligates pet owners to control their pet’s reproduction through spaying and neutering; subsequently helping to control pet overpopulation in their community. Neutering is the common term for castration of a male dog or cat and spaying refers to removal of the ovaries and uterus, or in some cases just the uterus or ovaries, of a female pet.

Lifesaving responsibility
Pet overpopulation is a serious issue in the United States today. According to the Humane Society of the United States, over four million unwanted pets are destroyed annually. For every puppy or kitten prevented by neutering an adult pet, there is one less homeless and unwanted puppy or kitten euthanized in an animal shelter.

The traditional surgery
Surgical removal of the testicles is the current standard of care for neutering in both dogs and cats. This surgery renders a male dog or cat unable to reproduce and also removes the major source of the male hormone, testosterone. Removing the source of testosterone eliminates mating behavior in males and also plays a role in eliminating other unwanted behaviors. In both the dog and cat, neutering involves a small skin incision through which the testicles are removed. Cats typically go home the same day, but dogs may stay overnight to recover from anesthesia and for incisional monitoring.

A new method
The New York Times Well Blog recently reported on a new method of non-surgical, chemical castration, called Zeuterin. Zeuterin neutering uses zinc gluconate and arginine injected into a dog’s testicles as a less invasive method of castration. Dogs still produce a small amount of testosterone, but are unable to sire a litter of puppies. Veterinarians must be trained to use the Zeuterin method of neutering, but especially for shelters and rescue groups, the method has great appeal.

My recommendation
Dexter’s owners were concerned about the surgery. They asked if he could just have a vasectomy instead of the traditional neutering surgery. Because my job is to make the best medical recommendations for the specific health concerns of each of one my patients, I recommended the traditional surgery for Dexter. It provides him with the greatest number of health benefits. The surgery prevents unwanted litters of puppies and also prevents prostatic disease, testosterone-induced tumors and behaviors linked to testosterone production. Because a vasectomy or Zeuterin neutering are methods of birth control only, they do not offer the added advantage of decreased levels of testosterone on behavior and disease.


World AIDS Day 2013: Pet Ownership and AIDS Patients

November 27, 2013

World AIDS Day LogoThis Sunday, December 1 is World AIDS Day. This special day is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died from the disease. World AIDS Day became the first ever global health day, with the first one held in 1988. Since we at The AMC are all about pets, today’s blog focuses on pet ownership for immunocompromised individuals such as AIDS patients.

Pets are “pawsitive”
AIDS patients and indeed all immunocompromised patients are at greater risk for acquiring infections from their pets. Yet, many believe the positive benefits of pet ownership outweigh the risks of infection. The health benefits of pet ownership are well known. People with pets exercise more, especially those with dogs. Pets lower your blood pressure and speed recovery from cardiovascular disease. Pets also increase human social interactions and decrease feelings of isolation in pet owners.

In a 2008 article, Dr. Russell Steele, a specialist in infectious diseases at the Ochsner Clinic in New Orleans, asks and answers the question “Should immunocompromised patients have pets?” Since his answer to the question is yes, Dr. Steele recommends a two pronged approach to pet ownership for immunocompromised individuals:

  1. Careful selection of the pet
  2. Frequent health monitoring of pets

Pet selection

  • Choose an adult pet with a known health history. Puppies, kittens and pets without any health information are more likely to pose a risk for infectious diseases such as Campylobacter diarrhea or bite injuries.
  • Select an indoor pet. Indoor pets have less exposure to wild animals and other sources of infectious diseases.
  • Choose a cat that tests negative for feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus. Since these are the feline versions of AIDS, infected cats may harbor infections which can be transmitted to humans. 
  • Avoid pet birds, reptiles and rodents. These make wonderful pets for some, but the diseases they can transmit to immunocompromised patients cannot be prevented by vaccination like many of the diseases transmitted by dogs and cats. 

Healthcare and monitoring

  • Tell your veterinarian about your immunocompromised status. Details are not important. Just knowing a patient is immunocompromised is enough for me to better manage your pet’s healthcare.
  • If your pet is not neutered, talk to your veterinarian about neutering. Neutered pets are less likely to roam and bring home infectious diseases.
  • Have your pet examined by a veterinarian at least once a year.
  • Follow your veterinarian’s recommendation regarding vaccinations and fecal analysis.
  • Ask about preventive medications to keep yourself and your pet free from diseases transmitted by fleas and ticks.
  • Feed a cooked diet. Raw pet food may contain microorganisms which can make you and your pet sick.

For more information about keeping yourself healthy if you have a pet, read the Centers for Disease Control’s FAQ on pets and HIV/AIDS. Note the first line of this document says “You do not have to give up your pet.”


Flu Season 2013 is Upon Us

November 20, 2013

sick dogInfluenza was in the news and on my mind last week. First a new strain of avian influenza was reported to have infected humans. Then, I got my annual flu shot and finally reader comments on an article about canine influenza clearly showed the article was misconstrued by its readers, making me think it was time to write the hard facts about influenza.

Not like avian influenza
Canine influenza is significantly different than avian influenza. Compared to avian influenza virus, the canine influenza virus is relatively new. It was identified in 2004 by researchers in Florida who were studying an outbreak of respiratory disease and pneumonia in greyhounds. Based on research published, the virus appears to have emerged in racing greyhounds in approximately 1999. Subsequently, all dogs, greyhound or not, have been shown to be susceptible to infection by the canine influenza virus. But don’t worry, Fido’s virus does not appear to affect you or the family parrot.

Not like human influenza
Canine influenza is also very different than the human flu virus. I (and millions of other Americans) get a flu shot in the fall because flu infections predictably spike in the fall and peter out in the spring, only to return again in the fall. Canine influenza is non-seasonal, occurring anytime of the year. Check with your veterinarian to see if your dog is at risk for the flu and should be vaccinated against it.

Flu virus similarities
Flu viruses are usually contagious and spread rapidly in a susceptible population. Children typically bring the flu home from school and infect their parents. Dogs tend to contract the flu in places where there are many dogs in close contact. In a dog’s world, places of close contact include puppy kindergarten, dog parks, doggie day care, shelters and boarding kennels. If your dog visits any of these types of facilities, check on their vaccination policy.

We cover our face when we sneeze to protect others from our viruses and we wash our hands to prevent transmitting viruses on door knobs and other surfaces. As clever as dogs are, they do neither of these things to prevent transmitting canine influenza to their dog friends. If your dog is coughing or sneezing, keep her away from other dogs until your veterinarian gives the all clear sign.

Be flu safe
Right now, flu activity is low in the United States. To keep track of human flu, check the Centers for Disease Control’s flu map.

Get your flu shot today! If you are sick, who will take care of your dog or cat?


Is My Pet Sick or Just Getting Older?

November 15, 2013
senior dog

Photo: seniordogcareproducts.com

As our pets get older, we expect them to slow down as part of the aging process, but how much slowing down is too much? What signs should pet owners watch out for in their senior pets that may suggest there is more going on than simply normal aging?

What qualifies a pet as a senior pet?
Senior pets can loosely be defined as those in the last 25% of their anticipated lifespan for their species and breed. For example, a cat expected to live 15 years would be considered senior at 11 years of age. What that means to dog and cat owners is 9-11 years of age is the start of your pet’s senior years. One notable exception is giant breeds of dogs who are considered senior a year or two earlier.

Slow motion
Many pet owners assume their pet is slowing down because it is older. Since aging is associated with a variety of illnesses, if you have a senior pet who seems to be slowing down, take him for a complete physical examination. Your pet can’t tell you their joints hurt from arthritis, but your veterinarian can. Never give your dog or cat your arthritis medication as these drugs are extremely toxic to pets. There are medications that can help make your arthritic pet more comfortable and kick their activity level back up a notch.

Forgetfulness
Another behavior change incorrectly attributed to aging is loss of housebreaking/litterbox use. Older cats are especially prone to developing kidney problems, and the accompanying increase in urine production. Couple an increase in urine production with creaky joints that don’t move so well anymore and your cat may act as if he has forgotten where to find the litter box. Placing litterboxes conveniently near your cat’s favorite perch will help overcome this problem. Some creaky cats can no longer climb over the edge of the litter box and will “go” right outside the litterbox. Substituting a box with lower sides or a cut out for easy entry will often resolve this situation. Diabetes and urinary tract infections will also cause what appears to be a loss of housebreaking. All of these reasons may contribute to a lack of litter box use, but the reason may be as simple as not changing the litter often enough to your cat’s liking.

Cognitive dysfunction syndrome
A syndrome is a collection of clinical signs that commonly occur together. Once your veterinarian has determined an illness is not causing your pet to slow down, cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) will be considered. CDS in a decline in brain function in the aging dog exemplified by behavior changes. Dogs with CDS may stand in one place more often, greet the owners less often and have accidents in the house. At the recent Zoobiquity 3 Conference in New York City, Dr. Chad West, one of The AMC’s board certified neurologists, discussed a case of CDS in a dog. The MRI findings in the dog were strikingly similar to the second most common cause of dementia in humans, vascular dementia.

Keeping your pets young
Sadly, there is no fountain of youth for either you or your pet, but there are things pet owners can do to keep their favorite fur baby around as long as possible.

  • Don’t assume changes in your pet’s behavior, activity or appetite are “just old age.” Bring these changes to the attention of your veterinarian.
  • Take your pet for regular veterinary check-ups. The current guidelines recommend annual visits for younger pets and more frequent visits as your pet ages. Early detection of disease can mean all the difference in extending the life of your pet.
  • Keep your pet mentally and physically active. Use feeding toys to challenge your pet to “hunt” for her food. Consider low impact exercises for your dog, such as swimming. Exercise your dog or cat on a regular basis.

Cleaning Up America’s Dirtiest Dog

October 29, 2013
Darcy, 2012 Winner of Wahl's Dirty Dog Contest

Darcy, 2012 Winner of Wahl’s Dirty Dog Contest. Photo courtesy of Wahl.

Last week I got a telephone call from someone asking a novel question: “Is my own dry shampoo safe for my pet?”

My initial reaction was that it sounded ok, but I knew I had to investigate the list of ingredients in dry shampoos. I found there are a wide variety of dry shampoos – some powder based and some aerosol. I would be willing to bet all cats and most dogs would not be happy about being “shampooed” with the aerosol variety and I made a mental note to find some powdered dry shampoos to check on ingredients.

Top ranked dry shampoos for people
Next, I looked at a Vogue ranking of dry shampoos and every one was in a spray bottle! It was impossible to find the ingredients and one product actually said the ingredients were subject change at any time! As a pet owner, that didn’t give me much confidence regarding dry shampoo safety for my pet. Another dry shampoo contained a list of chemicals worthy of the answers on a multiple choice AP chemistry test. Thinking rationally, human dry shampoos are not made to be ingested, and I guarantee you if you put them on your pet they will be! In the end, I cannot recommend human dry shampoos for pets.

Emergency pet shampooing
If you need a clean pet in an emergency situation – your dog smells and you have dinner guests on the way or the cat looks greasy and you have a big date in one hour – I suggest opening the kitchen cabinet. Dry shampoos work by absorbing the oils from your hair. A sprinkle or two of corn starch on your dog, followed by vigorous brushing, may do the trick. No corn starch? Open the bathroom cabinet and try some baby powder on your cat. Keep both cornstarch and baby powder out of your pet’s eyes and nose.

For the do-it-yourselfers, here is a link to a homemade dry shampoo made with all safe ingredients. I find lavender oil included in this recipe to be very calming for dogs who are anxious in the exam room.

Stock your pet cabinet
The easiest solution to getting your pet clean and fresh without a tub bath is to keep a pet-safe dry or waterless shampoo on hand. The Wahl product line is one I use in the clinic to spot clean my messier patients – both dogs and cats.

A quick internet search located many other commercially available dry shampoos made specifically for pets.

Dirty dog search
Got a photo of your dirty dog? Wahl and Petfinder Foundation are sponsoring a contest to find American’s dirtiest dog. Enter your dirty dog photo and you could win a year’s supply of Wahl pet grooming products, a $100 gift card, plus $5,000 and grooming supplies awarded to the animal shelter or rescue group of your choice. Now you and your dirty dog can help America’s shelter pets become clean, happy and more adoptable. Photos must be entered by October 31st.

Wahl photo contest


Lung Disease with a Twist

October 23, 2013
Muneca

Muneca

“I’m sorry, but you need to take your dog to see a cancer specialist.” These are words no pet owner wants to hear, but despite their anguish about their beloved dog’s illness, Muneca’s (a name which means “pretty baby doll” in Spanish) family followed the recommendation of their primary care and emergency room veterinarians and brought the little poodle to be examined by the Oncology Service at The Animal Medical Center. This photo shows what a happy dog she was before her illness.

Muneca’s story starts with a trip to her primary care veterinarian who, using an x-ray, discovered that fluid was accumulating around her lungs. Shortly after seeing her primary care veterinarian, Muneca’s appetite decreased and she had trouble breathing, so she was brought to the to the ER by her owners.

Emergency room visit
The ER doctors found Muneca had a blue tongue. She was not getting any oxygen into her bloodstream because the fluid surrounding her lungs prevented them from expanding. Carefully, the ER doctors administered a light sedative to allow nearly one liter of bloody fluid to be removed from around the lungs of this 25 pound tan poodle. Immediately she was her old self, but the ER doctors again recommended Muneca be examined by an oncologist.

A new diagnosis
Although cancer is a very common cause of fluid accumulation around the lungs, there are other causes. When I saw Muneca, another x-ray was taken to determine if the fluid had returned since it had been removed by the ER doctors. The fluid had returned, but when Dr. Anthony Fischetti, one of The AMC’s board certified radiologists, reviewed the new films with me, he saw something that intrigued him – bubbles of air trapped within the right middle lung lobe. Immediately he became optimistic that Muneca could be saved! The diagnosis was revised to lung lobe torsion.

A lung lobe torsion is a rare disorder seen in dogs, cats and humans. The lung lobe twists around the bronchus, or air tube, and the blood vessels supplying the lung. This traps air and blood in the lung lobe, explaining the bubbles seen on the x-ray and the accumulation of fluid around the lungs. Fluid leaks out of the lung because the blood cannot exit though the twisted vessels.

Muneca recovering after surgery

Muneca recovering after surgery

Major surgery
The treatment for a lung lobe torsion is surgery to remove the twisted lung lobe, but this is a major procedure. In Muneca’s case, The AMC provided more than just the diagnostic and surgical expertise. One of our Community Funds, the Patient Assistance Fund, covered the majority of the cost for Muneca’s surgery. Muneca’s surgeon, Dr. Janet Kovak, entered Muneca’s chest on the right side between the third and fourth ribs and removed the right middle lung lobe, which was swollen and adhered to the diaphragm. Muneca recovered rapidly and was discharged from the hospital to her happy and grateful family two days later. In the second photograph, you see her completely recovered and resting at home in her favorite spot.

A winning team
Muneca is just one patient example of why I love working at The AMC – it’s all about the team. Without The AMC team of specialists, that includes board certified radiologists and surgeons, Muneca would not be healthy once again and home with her family and what’s not to like about that!


National Veterinary Technician Week 2013

October 15, 2013
Christina and a patient in ICU.

Christina and a patient in ICU.

This week, October 13-19, is National Veterinary Technician Week when we honor veterinary technicians or nurses for their role as critical members of the veterinary healthcare team. The technicians at The Animal Medical Center are a unique group in many ways.

A whole lotta’ techs
The AMC employs 75 technicians, each and every one licensed by the State of New York. These critical veterinary team members provide exceptional care to your pets no matter if it is high noon or 3 o’clock in the morning. The lowest number of technicians on duty in the hospital at any time during a 24 hour cycle is at 3 am when there are eight licensed veterinary technicians on the premises. These multi-tasking technicians run lab tests, take x-rays and provide compassionate patient care 24/7.

Trish and a canine patient.

Trish and a canine patient.

Big skill set
Because The AMC is a specialty hospital, our technicians learn specialized skills to support the veterinarians and patients on their team. We have technicians trained to perform hemodialysis, administer chemotherapy, prep patients for surgical procedures and assist in the operating room. Technicians maintain our delicate equipment like endoscopes and cage-side laboratory equipment to keep us ready for any emergency situation. Some of our long term technicians have worked in multiple areas throughout the hospital and have multidisciplinary skills, including care of exotic pets, plus administering radiation treatments or evaluating intraocular pressure and blood pressure!

Frankie assists Dr. Quesenberry with an examination of a swan

Frankie assists Dr. Quesenberry with an examination of a swan

Lifelong learning
Continuing education is required to maintain a veterinary technician license in New York State. To facilitate continuing education credits for our technicians, The AMC sponsors lectures on topics important to technicians, such as diabetes and heatstroke, through our Partners in Practice lecture series, and welcomes the participation of technicians from other veterinary practices as well. On a national level, the numbers of specialty certified technicians is small, but growing. The AMC is leading the pack with some of the first North American Veterinary Technician Academy (NAVTA) certified specialty technicians in the country. We currently have a total of five NAVTA certified technician in emergency critical care and anesthesia. The Tina Santi Flaherty Rehabilitation & Fitness Service has two technicians certified as Canine Rehabilitation Assistants and more in training.

A heartfelt thank you to vet techs everywhere
On behalf of veterinarians and the patients who benefit from the skills and knowledge of our technician team members, thank you for your hard work and dedication. Pets and vets need techs because we can’t do it without you.


Meet the Breeds: Ask a Question

October 9, 2013
Dr. Ann Hohenhaus at the 2013 AKC Meet the Breeds Show

Dr. Ann Hohenhaus at the 2013 AKC Meet the Breeds Show

During the last weekend of September, The Animal Medical Center staffed an information booth at the American Kennel Club’s annual Meet the Breeds Show at New York City’s Jacob Javits Center. I spent several hours answering questions from pet owners on Sunday afternoon. The questions were important ones for all pets, so I decided to share my answers with everyone through The AMC blog.

Are caterpillars toxic?
A concerned dog owner found her dog snacking on the big, furry caterpillars that had invaded the potted plants on her terrace. Certain insects can injure pets if they are venomous, like wasps or bees. Most caterpillars are not venomous and are not listed as toxic on Animal Poison Control or Pet Poison Hotlines‘ websites. Although Survivorman eats caterpillars, the hairs on the skin of certain ones can be very irritating and for me, just thinking about a dog swallowing these hairy little creatures makes me gag. It is best not to let your dog (or cat) eat caterpillars, but consumption of one or two probably carries a low level of risk.

Is a one hour walk a day enough for my older dog?
Just like your doctor recommends you practice a well-rounded fitness routine, your dog needs more than a walk on a nice flat street. The Mayo Clinic recommends exercise include aerobic fitness, muscular fitness, stretching, core exercise and balance training. Challenge your dog by walking up and down hills. Be sure to include games like fetch to encourage your dog to run to increase her heart rate. Don’t forget to include stairs as part of your dog’s routine. For stretching and balance fitness, view The AMC’s exercise tips for dogs.

My 7 month old Chihuahua has a pink lump that comes and goes in the corner of his eye. Is this serious?
Without seeing this dog, I can only speculate as to what the problem is. However, I am guessing the dog has a condition veterinarians call “cherry eye.” Cherry eye is the tear gland from the third eyelid, an important source of tears to keep your dog’s eyes moist, and it occurs most commonly in Cocker Spaniels and English Bulldogs. The AMC’s ophthalmologist, Dr. Alexandra van der Woerdt recommends the gland be tacked back into place during a minor surgical procedure to preserve its function. The cause of cherry eye is suspected to be a weakness in the ligament that holds the gland in place.

My dog woke up one morning and couldn’t walk, so I gave him some of my medications and now he’s better. Should I keep giving the pills?
The answer to this question is not about pills but about the need to see your veterinarian to get pet-safe prescriptions. Every year, thousands of dogs and cats are sickened from accidental ingestion or purposeful administration of human medications. Veterinarians do sometimes prescribe human medications for dogs and cats, but you should never give your pet any medications without clearing it through your veterinarian first.


How to Recognize a Sick Cat

October 2, 2013
Abyssinian cat

Abyssinian cat

Cats are the masters of disguise. Here we see a beautiful Abyssinian cat decoratively perched on a pedestal and disguised as a piece of sculpture- that is until she changes her mind and becomes something else!

Although cats in disguise bring enormous enjoyment to our lives, many cat owners are frustrated with their favorite fur person’s Academy Award-winning ability to masquerade as a healthy cat until hospitalization and intensive care are required. Sick cats commonly hide under the bed or in the closet; however, many cat owners mistakenly believe this behavior is simply their cat expressing its feline independence rather than a potential sign of serious illness. Another sick cat behavior frequently mistaken for bad cat behavior is a loss of litter box training.

Common illnesses, common signs
According to Best Pets Insurance, the top five medical claims for insured cats include: chronic kidney diseasehyperthyroidism, allergies, cancer and diabetesThese five diseases make up one-third of all feline claims to Best Pets Insurance. I don’t want to minimize the important impact allergies have on your cat’s quality of life but, in general, allergies are not life threatening and because they manifest on the outside of your cat, allergies are easy to detect. This blog will focus on how to recognize the big four: chronic kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, cancer and diabetes.

Weight loss in all
Many cat diseases look the same, which is one reason it is difficult for cat owners to identify that their cat may be ill. In fact, weight loss is a common clinical sign in cats with chronic kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, cancer and diabetes.

Increased water drinking in most
When I talk to cat owners at an annual physical examination, I ask about water consumption. Increased drinking can result from chronic kidney disease, hyperthyroidism or diabetes. Only occasionally, does cancer cause cats to drink more water.

Hungry all the time in a few
Hyperthyroidism causes metabolic rate to soar. Hyperthyroid cats are hungry all the time to compensate for their increased metabolic rate. Diabetic cats lack insulin, which allows nutrients to enter the cells. Diabetic cats are hungry because their bodies cannot utilize the food they eat. Cats with cancer and kidney disease usually have poor appetites.

Early recognition

  • An annual physical examination by your veterinarian will go a long way to detecting weight loss, which is a common feature of the big four.
  • Collect a urine sample and take it to your cat’s annual physical exam, since abnormalities like sugar in the urine will help diagnose diabetes early.
  • If your pet is showing any of these signs, discuss blood testing with your veterinarian to help identify your cat’s medical condition.

World Rabies Day: September 28, 2013

September 25, 2013

world rabies dayWorld Rabies Day takes place each year on September 28, the anniversary of the death of Louis Pasteur who, with the collaboration of his colleagues, developed the first efficacious rabies vaccine. The promotion of World Rabies Day aims to raise awareness about the impact of rabies on humans and animals, provide information and advice on how to prevent the disease, and inform us of ways individuals and organizations can help eliminate global sources (World Rabies Day website, 2010).

A recent article in the Palm Beach Post sets the tone for this year’s World Rabies Day blog. Four people, trying to help a sick kitten, have been exposed to rabies and have undergone rabies post exposure prophylaxis.

Feline rabies rising
This story helps underscore the importance of rabies vaccination in cats. Depending on the laws in your town and the type of vaccination used, cats may need to be vaccinated for rabies every one, two or three years by your primary care veterinarian. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports feline rabies is on the rise.

For the last three decades, the animal causing the most human exposure to rabies is the cat. According to New York State’s Wadsworth Laboratory, which performs statewide rabies testing, between 2003 and 2009 in New York State, there were about 25-30 feline cases of rabies per year. That number jumped to about 40 cases in 2010-2011, decreased to the usual level in 2012, and hopefully will continue to decrease. The Wadsworth Laboratory also reports cats are the number two animal tested (behind bats) and the number one domestic species tested for rabies. In 2012, 22 New York State cats tested positive for rabies, but no dogs tested positive for the rabies virus. Dog rabies occurs infrequently due to the successful vaccination programs in place.

Veterinarians are concerned the number of feline rabies cases will not decrease, since cats see their doctors less often than dogs see theirs. Fewer veterinary visits mean fewer opportunities to vaccinate cats against rabies, resulting in more unvaccinated cats at risk of developing rabies.

Feral cat reservoir? 
Since feral cats live at the intersection between humans and wild animals, some suggest feral cats serve as a reservoir for rabies. The rabid kitten of the Palm Beach Post article was believed to have come from a feral cat colony. Some colonies of feral cats are managed to facilitate population control and rabies prevention, but the Palm Beach colony was not managed in any way, causing some to call for removal of the entire colony.

Protecting your cat against rabies

  • Vaccination is the best method for preventing rabies. Follow your veterinarian’s recommendations.
  • Keep your cat indoors and away from wild animals that may harbor rabies.
  • Don’t feed wild animals in your yard; you may be attracting trouble and putting your pets and family at risk.

Check out the Worms & Germs Blog for more information about rabies.

 


Gastropexy: Preventing Bloat in Your Dog

September 18, 2013

great dane dogEvery dog owner wants their pet to be as healthy as possible. That’s why veterinarians recommend puppies have a series of shots and dogs receive an annual physical examination. We also prescribe preventive medications like those to protect from heartworms and, as dogs age, more frequent examinations to address geriatric concerns like arthritis and thyroid disease. But in my mind there is more to consider, and in specific cases do, for our favorite furry friends…for example gastropexy.

A different type of stomach stapling
Literally translated from medical terminology, gastropexy describes the surgical attachment of the stomach to the abdominal wall. This is not a weight loss surgery, but a surgery designed to prevent the stomach from slipping out of place and twisting on itself. For families with large breed, deep-chested dogs, this surgery alleviates the worry about a twisted stomach, also called gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) or bloat.

Bloat is a life threatening condition where the stomach becomes distended with gas or food and then twists around itself. The twist blocks blood flow to the stomach and sets off a cascade of events leading to shock and, if not caught early, death. Correction requires emergency surgery to untwist the stomach and then surgeons typically perform a gastropexy to keep the stomach in place.

An ounce of prevention
Research has shown giant and large breed dogs, especially those with deep chests and narrow waists, are at risk for GDV. If a dog bloats and requires surgery to correct the problem, veterinarians recommend a gastropexy to prevent a second occurrence of GDV. Since we know certain breeds are at risk for GDV, I discuss a prophylactic gastropexy with families who have a large or giant breed dog. Prophylactic gastropexy has been shown to decrease mortality from GDV two-fold in Rottweilers and 29-fold in Great Danes. The surgery can easily be combined with spaying or neutering and can also be done non-invasively using laparoscopic techniques.

Research confirms
A recent study in the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association confirms the ability of a gastropexy to prevent recurrence of GDV. Veterinary researchers evaluated dogs that had undergone prophylactic gastropexy due to their breed or dogs that had experienced bloat and required gastropexy. None of the 61 dogs in the study had a recurrence of GDV following gastropexy.

What dog owners can do
If you have a giant or large breed dog, discuss gastropexy with your veterinarian. If your dog has a distended abdomen, unproductive vomiting or retching, go to the nearest animal ER immediately since these signs are typical for dogs with bloat.


The New Dog Virus: Circovirus

September 11, 2013
dog with circovirus

Photo: WRGT-TV FOX 45 News

The internet has been buzzing with talk of an emerging and possibly deadly virus occurring in dogs. Concern about this virus is significant enough that even during a webinar I attended yesterday on using social media in veterinary medicine, dog circovirus received a mention. The Animal Medical Center’s Facebook friends have been discussing the virus and their concerns about their dogs, as well.

Circovirus?
I had actually not heard of the circovirus group until recently, probably because the majority of circoviruses infect birds. Until this new virus was isolated from sick dogs in April, pigs were the only mammal known to be infected with a circovirus, which causes pneumonia, gastrointestinal signs, and systemic inflammation. The genome of a dog circovirus was reported back in 2012, but the authors of that paper do not report where the virus was found or if the virus made dogs sick.

Sick dogs in California
In April of this year, Emerging Infectious Diseases published an article, “Circovirus in Tissues of Dogs with Vasculitis and Hemorrhage.” In California, a young dog, sick with signs of vomiting and bloody diarrhea, died and was autopsied. Tests for typical diseases causing bloody diarrhea, parvovirusSalmonella and Giardia, were negative. Researchers performed additional testing on the tissues, leading to the identification of a strain of dog circovirus. Fecal analysis of samples from both healthy dogs and sick dogs with signs similar to the dog in California found about 10% of fecal samples were positive for circovirus, but many dogs had other pathogens in their stool including coronavirus, Giardia and Salmonella. One common historical feature of these cases was group housing, such as a shelter or boarding kennel.

Sick dogs in Ohio
Last month, an astute veterinarian in Ohio treated several dogs, all with a history of staying at the same boarding kennel, and reported this cluster of cases to the Ohio Department of Agriculture. The dogs had strikingly similar signs to one another and to the dogs reported in Emerging Infectious Diseases: bloody diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, lethargy and inflammation of the blood vessels. One dog had circovirus isolated from a fecal sample, and further testing is underway in one of the dogs that died to determine the cause of death.

Treat with common sense
Medical caution is indicated in this situation. Finding a virus in a sick patient does not automatically determine causality and much more research is necessary before circovirus infection can be added to the list of potential diagnoses for sick dogs. Our friends at the Veterinary Network News urge caution in attributing too many illnesses to this newly found virus.

The unknown can be scary. Since so little is known about dog circovirus, making rational recommendations is a hard task.

  1. Use common sense. Keep your dog away from sick dogs.
  2. Wash your hands after petting someone else’s dog and before you pet your dog.
  3. Report all illnesses to your veterinarian.
  4. Still nervous? Check for updates on the virus on The AMC website. We will recommend if it might be best to forgo the dog park, boarding kennel and doggie day care if the risks become more evident.

Feeding Tubes

September 4, 2013

Nutrition is a critical component of successful medical treatment. Malnourished patients don’t heal as quickly after surgery compared to well-nourished ones. In certain diseases, like chronic kidney disease, feeding a particular diet can be life-saving. For pets with chronic kidney disease, feeding a kidney-friendly diet has been shown by scientific research to slow deterioration of kidney function and prolong survival in both dogs and cats.

To provide adequate nutrition in our patients, veterinarians commonly turn to feeding tubes when our patients won’t eat or can’t eat due to an injury or illness. In those pets, which may be difficult to medicate, we place a feeding tube – not for food, but to help the owner give oral medications to a recalcitrant pet.

E-tube
The most common type of feeding tube used at The AMC (and probably at every other veterinary hospital) is an esophagostomy tube, or e-tube for short. We like it because it can be placed while the pet is under light anesthesia, and placement does not require any special equipment other than a few basic forceps and needle holders found in any surgical pack. These tubes are placed through an incision in the skin and through the thick-walled esophagus. The tube is threaded into the esophagus, but is stopped short of the stomach entrance. The tube is sutured into place and covered by a fashionable, protective collar.

G-tube
Gastrostomy tubes are the second most common feeding tube used at The AMC. These tubes are placed with the patient under general anesthesia. An endoscope is used to inflate the stomach and view the proper location for placement. The tube comes with a sharp, pointy trocar which is pushed through the body wall and then the stomach wall. The tube is secured by an inflatable cuff inside the stomach and a flange on the outside. A bandage covers the insertion site and supports the free end of the tube. If the patient requires a tube on a long-term basis, a short tube may be substituted for the original tube. One of these low profile tubes is shown below.

feeding tube

Good news about feeding tubes
If your veterinarian suggests a feeding tube for your pet, I am sure it will provoke feelings of worry and concern – worry, because your pet is so sick he needs a feeding tube, and concern because you are not sure you can manage such a sick pet at home. The good news is either an e-tube or a g-tube can help your pet maintain weight and receive nutrition essential for recovery. The decision as to which tube to place depends on your pet’s illness and nutritional needs. In a survey of cat owners conducted at The AMC, the cat owners found either tube easy to use and were successful in caring for their cats with either one. The same is true for gastrostomy tubes in dogs.


Traction Control: Tips for Preventing Dogs from Slipping and Sliding

August 28, 2013

puppy runningMany years ago, I dated a gentleman with a sliding dog. As we, dog included, rode down in the elevator to the lobby of his apartment building, the dog started a whole body tremble. Why? The gargantuan lobby with its highly polished marble floor caused the dog to slide and slip on its way outside. In an attempt to counteract the forces of gravity, the dog would curl his toes under searching for traction, while scrabbling his legs as fast as possible, hoping to avoid the inevitable wipeout on the traction-less marble. With that scenario in mind, here are my suggestions for helping dogs who slip and slide while walking.

Make a mat path
If your dog slips on the wood or tile floors in your home, consider using yoga mats on the path he takes to his favorite resting place. You can purchase rolls containing 100 feet of mat, which you can cut with heavy scissors to fit your hall or kitchen floor. With 100 feet of mat, you can easily replace worn or soiled sections. These rolls come in a variety of colors to fit every décor.

Buckle up
Boots are another solution for the sliding dog. The simplest boots are balloon like, reusable and stretch to slip over your dog’s paws. They come in several sizes and colors. Other boots to consider are made from neoprene or breathable nylon. Some are lined and others rain and snow proof, but what is most important is a rubber sole to provide traction on slippery surfaces, with elastic or a Velcro strap to keep them safely on your dog’s paws. Your boot choice depends on whether your dog will wear the boots outside, inside or all the time.

Wax poetic
Originally designed to protect sled dogs’ paw pads against snow and ice, musher’s wax can help add traction for the slipping dog. When applied to the pads, it is a bit sticky and helps prevent your pet’s legs from sliding out from under her. Musher’s wax is 100% natural and will not damage carpets. Musher’s wax also protects pads against sandburn and winter de-icing products.

Grip tight
The latest great thing for the sliding dog is toe grips. These natural rubber cylinders grip the floor when your dog walks and prevents her from slipping on the floor. You can easily apply toe grips yourself by first measuring to find the correct size and then slipping the little cylinders over each toenail using the lubricant provided with the grips. Over time, when the grips wear down, you just apply new ones. The grips do not affect the toenails which still require clipping on a routine basis. The AMC’s Tina Santi Flaherty Rehabilitation & Fitness Service prescribes toe grips. My patient Ruby, who has both arthritis and a bone tumor, is walking much better with her fashionable green toe grips, although physical therapy and control of the pain from her tumor have contributed to her improved ability to walk and rise from sitting.

Do you have a solution for a sliding dog? Post your creative ideas below or on AMC’s Facebook page. The best suggestion posted by September 6 wins an AMC canvas tote bag!


Pet Insurance: FAQ from The AMC

August 21, 2013

Pet-Insurance2The webmaster at The Animal Medical Center fields questions related to pet health from all over the world. Many of the recurrent questions are related to pet health insurance. Here are the answers to a few of the most common pet health insurance questions.

What insurance policies does The AMC accept?
Pet insurance is different than human insurance. My doctor’s office has negotiated contracts with several insurance companies; therefore, she cares for patients who purchase policies from those companies. The contract in pet insurance is between the pet owner who purchases the policy and the pet insurance company. The AMC provides information and invoices to the pet owner, who in turn submits a claim to their pet’s insurance company and is reimbursed for their expenditures by the insurance company.

What will pet insurance cover?
Coverage depends on the company and the details of the policy. Trupanion policies focus on coverage for illness and recovery rather than preventive healthcare. The ASCPA policy, underwritten by the Hartfield Group, has several different levels of care, two of which include coverage for preventive healthcare.

How much do policies cover?
Commonly, policies state they reimburse 80-90% of customary and usual charges for covered services. Each veterinary hospital sets its fees to reflect their costs of operation. If you live in a city where the cost of living is high, ask if the insurance company has higher “customary and usual charges” for calculating your level of reimbursement. Alternatively, ask a prospective insurer what percentage of submitted claims is paid out to pet owners in your area. Healthy Paws reimburses based on the actual veterinary bill as do a couple of other companies. Some companies have annual or lifetime caps on total payments. Others cap payments for specific conditions.

Can I get pet insurance for all my pets?
All companies insure dogs and cats. Insurance for the other members of Noah’s crew, including birds, reptiles, small mammals, marsupials, amphibians, rodents and lagomorphs is available only through VPI, the oldest pet insurance company in the United States.

What about coverage for pre-existing conditions?
Again, this type of coverage varies from policy to policy. For example, some policies exclude genetic conditions, such as elbow dysplasia and hip dysplasia, from coverage. If your dog has already had a cruciate ligament repaired on the left and the right cruciate ligament ruptures, he will not be covered by all policies as some consider cruciate disease to be a bilateral disease. Pets Best seems to be one exception to this exclusion.

Another point to keep in mind: your veterinarian may recommend therapies not covered by your policy. If she does, your claim would be denied. Before you renew your policy, ask if any illnesses reimbursed in the previous policy cycle will be excluded as pre-existing conditions once your renew.

Surprising coverage
I found several interesting features of the policies I reviewed. Pet’s Best lists coverage for some groundbreaking treatments, like stem cell therapy for feline kidney disease. I found a 13 page list of medications covered by one plan, and another with coverage for boarding if you are hospitalized and need to board your pet.

Employee Benefit?
A recent news article highlighted increasing numbers of companies offering pet insurance as an employee benefit. Check with your human resource department before you select a policy for your favorite fur person.

Final word: Read the policy carefully
I found at least one policy that does not cover two common (and costly) problems of older dogs and cats: heart disease and diabetes. Cancer is another group of diseases which are not covered by all policies; although many policies can be upgraded to cover cancer diagnosis and treatment.


Canine Heartworm Update

August 14, 2013

Last week I was a guest on Dr. Frank Adams’ monthly pet show on NYU Langone Medical Center’s “Dr. Radio.” One of the callers asked if heartworm preventative was really necessary in her dogs. She thought (incorrectly) that since she lived in an area where mosquitoes are uncommon, her dogs would be safe against heartworm infection. My answer to her was a resounding “yes” and I added, “Give those pills exactly on time.”

canine heartworm life cycle

Click image to enlarge

Treatment versus prevention
No dog owner would ever miss a dose of heartworm preventative if they knew how difficult and dangerous treating heartworms can be. When a diagnosis of heartworm disease is made, any signs of heart failure must be immediately controlled. After your dog’s heart has been stabilized, veterinarians then administer a drug by injection to kill the adult heartworms. Strict cage rest is instituted to minimize the risk of blood clots which may form in the lungs as a result of dying heartworms. Cage rest continues for at least a month after adult heartworm treatment. Protocols for the treatment of adult heartworms are 90-98% successful and if unsuccessful, your dog will need to be treated a second time. Throughout treatment for adult worms, your dog must be maintained on heartworm preventative in case of another bite by an infected mosquito.

Heartworm review
Mosquitoes transmit heartworms. A bite from an infected mosquito injects heartworm larvae into your dog’s blood stream. Heartworm preventative kills the larvae before they mature. If unchecked by heartworm preventative, the larvae mature in the large blood vessels of the heart and lungs, leading to severe heart and lung compromise.

CAPC changes heartworm recommendations
Last month, the Companion Animal Parasite Council revised its guidelines regarding canine heartworm disease. Council members cited new evidence of resistance of heartworms from the Mississippi Delta region to heartworm preventatives, specifically ivermectin, selamectin, moxidectin and milbemycin oxime, confirming years of speculation about resistance in the veterinary community. At this time, it is not known how widespread heartworm resistance is, but it makes an annual heartworm test even more important than before.

Heartworm prevention tips

  • Year round administration of heartworm medication gives the best protection against heartworms.
  • Giving heartworm medication precisely on time is critical to successful prevention.
  • Place the stickers from the heartworm preventative medication on your calendar to remind you to give the monthly heartworm preventative.
  • Sign up for email or text message reminders on your smartphone from the website of your heartworm preventative manufacturer.
  • Get the reminder app from the website of your heartworm preventative manufacturer.
  • Mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk. Keep your dog indoors during peak mosquito activity.
  • Ask your veterinarian about monthly flea and tick medications that also repel mosquitoes.

International Assistance Dog Week

August 9, 2013
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Dr. Ann Hohenhaus and Cuttie

This week, August 4-10, is International Assistance Dog Week. It is a week dedicated to honoring those dogs who work as therapy and service dogs for the physically and mentally challenged.

The Animal Medical Center and its veterinarians have a special place in our hearts for a very specific type of service dog, guide dogs. Since 1960, The AMC’s Frank V.D. Lloyd Fund for Guide Dogs has provided complimentary, comprehensive medical care for the hard working “eyes” of visually impaired New Yorkers. While the urban environment of NYC provides top flight health care and excellent access to public transportation for the visually impaired, working in an asphalt jungle puts their dogs at risk for orthopedic, traumatic and weather-related injuries. In addition to these occupational hazards, research has shown that cancer also threatens the lives of many guide dogs.

One such dog is Florence, a 12 year old Labrador Retriever who is Kathy’s “eyes.” Florence sees me for a tumor inside her nose. Right now, the tumor causes nose bleeds and the nose bleeds were the tip-off to Kathy that her “eyes” had a problem. Being the veterinarian for a guide dog presents some challenges. I am always mindful of how Kathy will get home if I have to keep her dog for the day or overnight care at the hospital. At the time the tumor was diagnosed, we had a long and serious conversation about management of Florence’s illness. Kathy did not want any treatments that might make Florence sick. Respecting that, we have her pain well managed and Florence continues to work and have a good quality of life.

In addition to recognizing service and therapy dogs, another goal of International Assistance Dog Week is to honor puppy raisers and trainers. Without them, there would be no therapy or assistance dogs to honor this week! The AMC hosts a weekly meet up group of puppy raisers for Guiding Eyes for the Blind in our conference room. To grow up to be a successful seeing-eye dog, puppies in training must experience a wide variety of social situations. Whenever possible, The AMC invites our Guiding Eyes for the Blind puppies in training to AMC sponsored events. These opportunities help puppies learn to cope with a variety of circumstances. The photo above shows Cuttie in my arms at The AMC’s 2009 Top Dog Gala. You can see he is unfazed by the adoring crowd and the photographer’s flashbulb.

Recognizing the importance of therapy dogs, assistance animals and beloved pets, Interim Healthcare has developed a novel program benefiting both service dogs and pets. This corporation provides additional training to caregivers who encounter pets over the course of the 25 million hours of care they provide annually in clients’ homes. Caregivers who understand the importance of pets to their patients help them to live enriched and independent lives. I hope many more healthcare providers will follow their lead.

In addition to honoring the specially trained therapy and service dogs this week, let’s not forget to thank those dogs (and cats) who tirelessly provide companionship and entertainment to the homebound, the elderly and to those of us who are able bodied, but can’t wait to get home from the office to see what our favorite dog or cat has done all day.


Choosing a Veterinary Hospital

July 31, 2013

Exotics1Is there a new puppy in your family? Has the backyard cat installed himself on your family room sofa? Have you inherited grandma’s piano and her parrot? If so, you won’t want to leave the important decision regarding the choice of your new pet’s healthcare provider to chance. Here are some tips for choosing the right veterinarian and veterinary hospital for your pet.

Location, location, location
In Sunday’s New York Times, healthcare reporter Elizabeth Rosenthal, talks about choosing a hospital for your own care. She writes, “Indeed, with thousands of good hospitals across the nation, the best selling point for routine medical care may simply be convenience…” Whether or not you agree with her point of view regarding your personal healthcare, proximity may be a consideration in choosing a primary care veterinarian. A new puppy will need several rounds of vaccines and a spay or neuter surgery requiring transporting the pet to and from the hospital on multiple occasions. But if you have a parrot, the closest veterinary hospital may not have a veterinarian with expertise in avian medicine and you will need to choose a clinic providing bird care, not necessarily the closest clinic.

Proximity plays an even more important role in the selection of an emergency hospital. When your pet is hit by a car and in shock, has serious bleeding or can’t breathe, time is of the essence and the closest animal ER is the best ER for your pet.

Assessing hospital quality
If you personally needed a heart valve replacement, for example, you might look for data on outcome for valve replacement surgery at the various hospitals in your area. In New York State we have the New York State Hospital Report Card. You could also search the doctor ratings on the website of your healthcare provider. Since this type of information is lacking for veterinary hospitals, you might turn to online sources to read the opinion of pet owners who have posted their experiences. I must admit, to me, these online reviews can often seem more like rants and may not provide the objective information you need to guide your pet healthcare decision making process.

A better method of assessing hospital quality would be to look for a hospital accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). Their website also allows you to search for the AAHA accredited hospital nearest you. Choosing an AAHA accredited hospital assures pet owners that the hospital they select has the staff, equipment, medical procedures and facilities that AAHA believes are vital for delivering high-quality pet care. The Animal Medical Center has been AAHA accredited since 1976, and to maintain our accreditation we voluntarily receive triennial evaluations on over 900 standards of small animal hospital care.

Finding the right specialist
The easiest way to find a specialist for your pet is for your primary care veterinarian to recommend one she works with on a regular basis. This will ensure a good line of communication and seamless medical care. If your veterinarian doesn’t have a recommendation:

  • Search the website of the type of specialist you are looking for, e.g. veterinary cardiology, veterinary surgery or veterinary dentistry.
  • For a cutting edge therapy, you might have to travel a good distance to find the specialist your pet needs. Use a scientific search engine like PubMed or Google Scholar. Search for the procedure your pet needs. When the search identifies a particular hospital where the procedure is commonly performed or a veterinarian who is a frequent author of scientific articles on the procedure, focus your search on this clinic or veterinarian. Examples of this type of procedure include repair to a ruptured ligament in the knee or image modulated radiation therapy.

Quick tips on finding the right veterinary hospital

  • Know where the closest animal ER is and keep its address and phone number in your GPS device, cell phone and on the refrigerator list so you are prepared for an emergency.
  • Don’t be afraid to visit potential veterinary hospitals before booking an appointment. Find out if their clinic schedule matches your availability. Ask the receptionist about their preventive healthcare protocols.
  • In case your pet develops an unusual medical condition or requires specialized surgery, ask your trusted primary care veterinarian about the network of specialists they recommend.

Fire Safety for Pets

July 24, 2013

kittyBecause I love all things about animals, I was extra happy to see a pair of recent news stories reporting on two pet heroes, one dog and one cat. Ace, a Cocker Spaniel suffering from cancer, woke up his owner and brother dog in the nick of time to save the rest of the family from a house fire.

In the other story, a cat risked all nine lives to save its family from a fire. Although the cat was called a hero, he or she remains nameless in the story, which in my opinion, was an egregious omission by the writer or the article.

These two pets were not only heroes, but were extremely lucky to get out of a house fire alive. According to PetFireAlert.com, 40,000 American pets die each year in fires. Fire related injuries are well known to the intensive care unit veterinarians at The Animal Medical Center. They treat pets suffering from burned whiskers and paw pads, smoke inhalation and red irritated eyes. I can always tell when there is a fire victim in the hospital by the burnt smell in the hall. It’s heartbreaking to watch the family comfort their singed pet by talking through the Plexiglas door of the animal’s oxygen tent.

Time is of the essence when confronted with a fire. Advanced planning is critical to saving every member of the family, including your pets. Rehearse the role of each family member in an emergency; include in your rehearsal who is responsible for each pet and where they can find the leashes, collars and carriers.

  • Many families with pets also have children. For fun family activities related to fire safety, visit Sparky the dog’s website.
  • Affix a pet safety alert to your windows or apartment door. This alerts first responders to the presence of pets in the home.
  • If your home is monitored for fire or intruders, make sure to keep your pet’s information up to date in their database. In your absence, they can alert firefighters to the presence of pets.
  • Don’t forget to change your smoke detector batteries twice a year. A good time to change them is when you adjust your clocks for Daylight Saving Time in the spring and fall. A smoke detector without batteries is a useless tool for saving lives.

Leaving No [Bladder] Stone Unturned

July 17, 2013

The veterinarians at The Animal Medical Center attended to several canine patients last week – Chompers, Maxie and Theo – all of whom were suffering from bladder stones, technically called cystic calculi. Bladder stones form when the urine contains excess amounts of a substance, usually a mineral, such as calcium or phosphate. The cause of the excess can be due to diet, abnormal metabolism, a genetic defect, or most commonly, a urinary tract infection.

X-rays can be used to find some bladder stones. Below, you can easily see the four stones in poor Chompers’ bladder. His stones were easily found, but that is not always the case. For example, dogs with stones resulting from an abnormal liver blood vessel, or from the a very specific kidney abnormality of Newfoundland dogs, stones require identification through ultrasound testing.

stones1

Chompers has four bladder stones

The second patient, Maxie the Maltese, had several stones identified on an ultrasound performed because she was having accidents in the house. A urine sample was submitted to the lab, which showed an infection. Treatment with antibiotics was given to control the infection, but additional treatment will be necessary to remove the stones.

stones2

Ultrasound image of Maxie’s stones

Theo, a one year old Yorkshire terrier came to The AMC’s ER for blood in his urine. Because abnormal liver blood vessels and bladder stones are common in Yorkies, his surgeon performed an abdominal CT scan to investigate. The scan confirmed a half inch diameter bladder stone and an abnormal liver blood vessel. Both the stone and the abnormal blood vessel were corrected during surgery.

The bright white circle is a bladder stone resulting from a liver abnormality.

The bright white circle is a bladder stone resulting from a liver abnormality

Rock removal
The traditional method of removing bladder stones requires surgery, which is a procedure many general veterinarians routinely perform. Once the bladder is accessed via a skin incision, the bladder is opened and a scoop is used to remove the stones. After closure of the incisions, an x-ray is taken to ensure all stones have been successfully removed.

These days, there are as many methods of stone removal as there are stones in some bladders. Non-surgical methods sound easy, but calculolytic (stone dissolving) diets work for certain stones, called struvite. Urohydropulsion flushes small stones out of the bladder, but will not work if the stones are too large. Another method of non-surgical stone removal is lithotripsy. Bladder stones are pulverized using lasers, allowing the fragments to pass through the urine.

Minimally invasive methods of stone removal can also be used. These procedures require an endoscope which enters the bladder after passing through a skin incision.

Signs your pet may have bladder stones:

  • Accidents in the house
  • Bloody urine
  • Staining to urinate

If you see any of these, have your pet evaluated by your veterinarian immediately, because bladder stones make your pet uncomfortable and there is a risk of a urinary blockage if the stones lodge in the urethra.

All the treatments described above are available at The Animal Medical Center, including the minimally invasive procedures such as lithotripsy. If you suspect your pet may have bladder stones, our veterinarians are on site 24/7 to diagnose and treat your pet.


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