Dogs Get Cirrhosis? Cats Get Lung Cancer?

April 9, 2014

cat and dogFrom a medical perspective, we are not that different from our pets. Humans, dogs and cats have many diseases in common and the treatments for these diseases are often strikingly similar. Diabetes in pets is treated with a special diet and insulin injections; radioactive iodine therapy is used to treat feline hyperthyroidism; and dogs with heart disease receive diuretics (water pills) and ACE inhibitors. Despite these similarities, disease in our pets is not always the same as it is in humans.

Dogs Get Cirrhosis?
In people, cirrhosis of the liver is most often associated with alcoholism, or hepatitis virus infection. Since dogs don’t drink (or they shouldn’t) and the hepatitis virus is a human virus which does not infect dogs, how do dogs get cirrhosis? The diagnosis of cirrhosis does not imply a cause and the cause in dogs differs from humans. Cirrhosis is a liver disorder in which the liver loses its normal structure and function as a result of chronic inflammation. Inflammation, in turn, causes replacement of normal liver cells with scar tissue and destroying their function. If enough of the liver is damaged, dogs show signs of liver failure: jaundice, accumulation of abdominal fluid (ascites) and a bleeding tendency. Labrador Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels and West Highland White Terriers are breeds with an increased risk for developing liver inflammation and cirrhosis. The inciting cause of the inflammation in dogs remains a mystery.

Lung Cancer in Nonsmokers?
The number one cause of lung cancer in humans is cigarette smoking. Since pets don’t smoke, why do they get lung cancer? Veterinarians don’t know exactly. Studies evaluating the impact of the home environment on dogs with lung cancer did not find an association with either living in an urban or a rural environment. We know secondhand smoke affects pets, increasing their risk of lymphoma and oral squamous cell carcinoma, but secondhand smoke has not yet been linked to lung cancer in dogs and cats. If you smoke, don’t do so near your pet; better yet, quit.

But What About Heart Attacks?
Heart attacks, a leading cause of sudden death in the United States, occur when the blood flow to the heart is abruptly blocked. Most heart attacks are the result of high cholesterol and blockage of the coronary arteries which supply blood to the heart muscle. Dogs and cats do not develop coronary artery disease as a result of high cholesterol, and thus do not have heart attacks like their human companions. However, since heart attacks often cause sudden death, grieving families frequently blame a heart attack when their pet dies unexpectedly. Heart disease in pets can be a cause of sudden death due to abnormal heart rhythms, ruptured heart valves and bleeding tumors of the heart.

To read more on disease affecting pets and people, read some of our previous blog posts.


Making a Specialist Visit Special

April 2, 2014
A French bulldog is examined by AMC's Ophthalmologist

A French bulldog is examined by AMC’s Ophthalmologist

Your pet needs a second opinion from a board certified veterinary specialist and your veterinarian has helped you set up the appointment with the right specialist. You know this is going to be different than seeing the familiar veterinarian you have trusted with your pet’s care since you brought him home from the shelter in a cardboard carrier. How can you make this nerve-wracking experience efficient and affect the best possible outcome for you and your pet?

Look at a consultation with a veterinary specialist at The Animal Medical Center or another specialty hospital like you do any other meeting. If you are running a meeting at your office, you will be sure the right people are invited to attend the meeting; the meeting will have an agenda agreed upon in advance; it will have a start and stop time and meeting attendees will be assigned tasks to complete after the meeting is over. All of these points also describe your appointment with a veterinary specialist.

The Right Attendees
I am a veterinarian and my job is to take care of sick pets. To me, your pet is a critical participant in the specialist consultation. While your role of transporting your pet to the appointment and being its spokesperson is also crucial, I really need to examine your pet and see first-hand the problems that need correcting. You would be surprised at how many people come to see me without their pet. If you choose to leave your pet at home and fly solo at a consultation with me, I can guarantee one of your tasks after the meeting will be to bring your pet to The AMC for an examination.

Specialist Agenda
A veterinary specialist has been trained to approach patients with a basic agenda:

  • Ask about the past history and review any documentation from the primary care veterinarian
  • Perform a physical examination
  • Make a list of possible diagnoses
  • Create a list of tests to determine which diagnosis is the correct one
  • Interpret the test results once they become available

Pet owners can streamline that agenda by having medical records, x-rays and blood tests sent in advance of the scheduled consultation.

Pet Owner Agenda
Simply put, the pet owner agenda for a specialist consult revolves around one of three issues: making a diagnosis, treating a disease or improving the quality of life. For some pet owners there may be other issues that are equally important, such as having the pet attend a family function. If there is an important issue for you and your pet, be sure to let the specialist know what it is and how you feel this issue might impact the recommended diagnostic and therapeutic plan.

The To-Do List
At the end of the consultation, the specialist or a member of their team will explain the plan for your pet. It might be to give medications or schedule a follow up test at your veterinarian’s office. Following the plan exactly and scheduling tests or treatments on time will help get your pet back on its feet as soon as possible. And having a healthy pet is what makes any visit to the veterinarian’s office special.


Medicine By the Numbers

March 26, 2014
Dr. Ann Hohenhaus

Dr. Ann Hohenhaus

We all rely on numbers to help us make decisions. The stock market is above 16,000; time to sell. Your chance of winning the Powerball Jackpot with a two dollar ticket is one in 175 million, but it’s only two dollars so you buy yet another losing ticket. One in four Americans dies of heart disease every year; more exercise and less butter for you. In my line of work, veterinary medicine, quoting numbers is not nearly as easy.

I have been struggling with a particularly complicated cancer case the past few weeks. After hours of discussion and many more of pondering the options, a clear plan has emerged for this patient. And then the client asked the number one question: “What are the chances my pet will benefit from this procedure?” Having never been much of a math whiz or very successful at gambling, explaining the concept of odds is difficult. The odds of A versus B are calculated from a large group of patients with the same disease. But when I am talking about Fluffy or Fido, it becomes harder to predict the outcome for an individual patient. In some ways it’s a 50-50 coin toss. Your pet gets better or it doesn’t. Because medicine rarely has 100% certainty, no doctor, human or animal, will ever guarantee a 100% chance of success. Even with a 99.9% chance of success, there will be some patients who do not have the desired outcome after the test, treatment or surgery is completed.

An article in last week’s New York Times ‘Science Section’ written by a physician, numbers and their connection to disease appear again. Dr. Abigail Zuger writes about using a reasoned numerical approach (“30 percent of people with your problem of X will develop Y”). Yet, she writes, “many studies (and all casinos and lotteries) illustrate how abysmal is the average person’s understanding of risk when couched in mathematical terms.” Her patients have a hard time grasping the importance of risk factors on their future health or as she calls them “pre-diseases.”

If two medical professionals have difficulty using numbers in their daily practice, then how can people or pet owners make well-informed decisions on healthcare matters?

  1. Preventing disease is much easier (and cheaper) than correcting a problem. If your veterinarian gives you numbers on preventing disease, pay close attention. For example, obesity quadruples your dog’s risk of cruciate ligament rupture. Getting your dog’s weight down saves money two ways – you buy less food and your dog doesn’t need an expensive reconstructive knee surgery.
  2. There are actually some medical conditions that doctors can predict the outcome with reasonable certainty; for example, diabetes. Without administration of insulin, which is deficient in dogs and cats with diabetes, your pet will die of high blood sugar within days.
  3. Since not all diseases come with certainty of outcome like diabetes, think about quality of life. If your pet’s current problem is decreasing their quality of life, consider a treatment to improve it. Keep in mind this is where numbers can become overwhelming and sometimes a decision is made based on your heart rather than your head.

When Life Gives You Lemons, You Need a Buddy

February 20, 2014

gray tabbyTracy and her 14 year old grey tabby, Baller, have experienced a few bumps in the road this past year. In April, Tracy noticed Baller, named after a rap song, was defecating outside his litter box. He also had diarrhea, but he didn’t seem very sick since he was eating well and was his usual playful self. Her neighborhood veterinarian examined Baller and found two pounds of weight loss. Tracy thought she could breathe easier when she heard the blood tests were normal, but an abdominal ultrasound revealed Baller had colon cancer.

Minimally Invasive Testing
Tracy brought Baller to The Animal Medical Center for a consultation with one of our board certified oncologists. Baller’s oncologist, Dr. Maria Camps, explained the most common type of cancer in cats is lymphoma, and recommended a minimally invasive approach to diagnosis since lymphoma is treated with chemotherapy, not surgery. Ultrasonography was used to direct a small needle into the colon tumor and retrieve cells from the tumor. Within hours, Tracy found out she and Baller were facing an uphill battle against lymphoma. The anticipated survival time for a cat with lymphoma treated with chemotherapy is less than one year.

Chemotherapy Helps
Dr. Camps actually gave Tracy so much hope, and Dr. Mollica, Baller’s regular veterinarian and a former AMC intern, was also very supportive. These two veterinarians really gave Tracy that extra oomph she needed to continue Baller’s treatment. Ms. Koch says, “I knew the chemo was working almost immediately. Right after his first treatment he was feeling better again. He is one to make it known when he has issues by hiding under the bed, not eating and not able to use the bathroom. But, it was amazing that right after his first treatment he was back to his normal routine. I thought it [the chemotherapy] would help a bit, but I didn’t realize how much better it would make him feel. He was like a whole new cat, which makes me sad because who knows how long he was feeling bad before he really started to show it.”

About one third of the way through his prescribed course of chemotherapy, and just when Baller’s cancer seemed to be in control, a roadblock obstructed the path to further cancer treatments; Tracy was laid off.

Buddy Fund Helps Out
This is where the Buddy Fund comes in to assist Tracy and Baller. The Buddy Fund, one of AMC’s Community Funds, was established to provide financial support for AMC patients with cancer whose owners could otherwise not afford to treat their four-footed family members. The name of the Buddy Fund has a double meaning. The original donors to the fund had a very special cat named Buddy and the fund acts as a “buddy” to owners of pets with cancer. Baller’s oncologist recommended him for the fund because he was responding exceptionally well to the prescribed course of chemotherapy. Discontinuation of treatment would put him at high risk for relapse of his cancer.

Thanks to the Buddy Fund and its generous supporters, Baller completed his chemotherapy protocol just before Thanksgiving and without missing a single treatment. At his most recent follow up appointment he was given a thumbs up because no tumors were detected during the examination. Going forward, Baller will continue to be monitored for tumor recurrence. As the one year anniversary of his diagnosis approaches, everyone has their fingers crossed for Baller. Tracy looks forward to a time when she is employed again and can be a “buddy” to another deserving cat through a contribution to AMC’s Buddy Fund.


Dog Breeds in the News

February 5, 2014

For pet lovers, there has been exciting news about dog breeds recently. In less than a month, the American Kennel Club (AKC) will introduce three new breeds at the upcoming Westminster Kennel Club (WKC) Dog Show in New York City. The WKC Show, February 8-11, 2014, will allow dogs of any breed or no breed at all to enter their new agility competition, which will be held on Saturday before the big show. Finally, both The Animal Medical Center and Pets Best Insurance announced their top ten dog breeds, based on the number of pets we care for and they insure.

rat terrier

Rat Terrier

Old Dogs, New Club
The Portuguese Podengo PequenoChinook and Rat Terrier are new only to the AKC dog show ring. One of the most ancient of dog breeds, the Portugese Podengo Pequeno, came to Portugal from Asia Minor around 1000 B.C. This lively hound is related to other ancient breeds such as the Pharaoh Hound and the Basenji. The Rat Terrier is a home grown breed developed early in the 19th century from European terriers imported by immigrants to the United States. The Chinook is another American breed, most famous as the State Dog of New Hampshire, where the breed was developed. For more on these new AKC breeds, listen to David Frei, the voice of Westminster, on NPR. 

And the Top Dog is…
A comparison of the top ten breeds seen at The AMC, insured by Pets Best Insurance and holding AKC registrations shows some interesting trends:

top 10 dog breeds 2013

The Labrador Retriever, Dachshund and Yorkshire Terrier made all three top ten lists. The mixed breed dog topped both The AMC and Pets Best lists. No surprise here, since AKC does not include mixed breed dogs in their registration. Also on two of the three lists were several small breed dogs, such as the Chihuahua, Shih Tzu and the Maltese Terrier, possibly influenced by the dogs of Paris Hilton or Halle Berry. The ever steady German Shepherd Dog and the much maligned Pit Bull Terrier also made two of the three lists. Unique to the AMC list were the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and the Pomeranian, probably reflecting apartment dwellers selection of a small dog.

Seeing Fewer Spots
Breed popularity comes and goes with popular culture. The movie 101 Dalmations sparked a national craze for the spotted dogs. In 2005, the Dalmatian ranked number 47 in the list of dog breeds seen at The AMC. This past year, Dalmatians dropped in the ranking to 100 as dog owners fell in love with different breeds, for example the French Bulldog.

A Rising Star Among the Breeds
According to Pets Best Insurance, a number of breeds have gained popularity in recent years. In their database, the French Bulldog has seen the most dramatic rise. In 2006, the French Bulldog was the 55th most popular dog breed enrolled with Pets Best. By 2013, this small, muscular pooch soared up the list to become the 19th most popular breed. While Pets Best insures pets nationwide, The AMC’s New York City-based practice reflects the same meteoric rise in the popularity of the French Bulldog. In 2005, Frenchies ranked 30th and our veterinarians cared for 120 individual Frenchies. In 2013, the number of these dogs seen at The AMC has increased 2.5 times to 275 individual dogs.

See More Dog Breeds and Visit the AMC Booth
Like we do every year, The AMC will have a booth in the benching area of the WKC Show on February 10th and 11th. We would love to have you stop by and visit us. You can find us in Booth 16 at Piers 92/94, right alongside the Hudson River at 55th Street and 12th Avenue.

This year, AMC veterinarians have a new role at the 138th WKC show, that of Official Show Veterinarian. Several of our veterinarians will be on site at the Piers and Madison Square Garden, which showcases the main ring events, on both nights to triage any emergencies that could arise.

If you are not a fan of purebred dogs, this year there will be mixes, mutts and Heinz 57 type dogs at the Masters Agility Championship at the WKC Show.

We hope to see you all there!


Dental DOs and DON’Ts

January 31, 2014

dog having teeth brushedBecause February is National Pet Dental Health Month, I spoke to all three of The AMC’s veterinary dentists to get a list of dental DOs and DON’Ts for my readers. A big shout-out to Drs. Dan CarmichaelDjango Martel and Stephen Riback for their help in compiling this list.

Dental DON’Ts – Bones, doggie breath and furry tennis balls
Our three dentists spend much of their time repairing fractured teeth. They blame hard nylon “bones” as a major cause of fractured teeth in dogs. According to Dr. Riback, “Any bone you think might break your tooth if you bit down on it is not one you should give to your dog.”

Don’t tolerate doggie breath in your dog (or cat). Bad breath in your Bassett, Bichon or Burmese is not normal and is very likely a sign of periodontal disease. Stinky breath in your pet means it’s time to schedule a dental cleaning with your pet’s veterinarian.

Although tennis balls are on your dog’s DO list, the tennis ball fur is very abrasive to teeth, making furry tennis balls a DON’T in the mind of veterinary dentists.

Dental DOs – Toothbrushing, VOHC, dental cleaning with anesthesia
Topping the list of dental DOs is daily toothbrushing for your dog and cat. If your pet won’t tolerate brushing, you can use special dental wipes to clean the teeth. DO select oral hygiene products like toothpaste, tartar reducing diets and treats based on the products recommended by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC).

DO choose tartar control products and dental wipes containing hexametaphosphate, a product that research has shown to decrease tartar buildup on teeth.

The final DO is to make a call now for an appointment to see your pet’s veterinarian to discuss a complete dental cleaning while your pet is under general anesthesia.

Veterinary Dental Resources

Follow @amcny on Twitter to be a part of our National Pet Dental Health Month #TweetTooth campaign to promote healthy pet dental hygiene!


Pot for Pets

January 21, 2014
pot for pets image

Photo: Fox News

The New York Times recently announced that via executive action, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will relax the laws governing medical marijuana use in the state. New York State has some of the most restrictive and punitive laws regarding illegal drug usage, hold-overs from the Rockefeller era drug laws of the 1970s, and many feel these changes are long overdue. What does this mean for pets?

Increased Toxicity Cases
Veterinarians in New York State will need to be prepared to treat more dogs with marijuana intoxication if the experience in Colorado holds true here. Colorado is a state where medical marijuana is legal. Veterinarians in Colorado studied the number of dogs experiencing inadvertent toxicity from ingestion of marijuana. These researchers found a four-fold increase in the number of dogs treated for marijuana ingestion over a five year period. The increase paralleled the increase in the number of registered users of medical marijuana in Colorado. Pet Poison Helpline reports an increase in calls about canine marijuana intoxication as well.

Dog OD
Ingestion of marijuana, marijuana containing foods or inhalation of marijuana smoke can affect dogs; they become glassy eyed, uncoordinated, and may be very sleepy. These dogs need intravenous fluids to maintain hydration and warming blankets to maintain their body temperature. Often, dogs intoxicated by marijuana dribble urine. Some dogs become hyperactive. Severely affected dogs may seizure or become comatose requiring ventilator treatment until they regain the ability to breathe. Dogs typically recover in one to three days. Sadly, the study of Colorado cases of marijuana reports the death of two dogs ingesting baked goods made with medical grade tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) butter.

Iguana Intoxication!
Although dogs are the most commonly affected by marijuana intoxication, I found a report of three intoxicated iguanas. The iguanas had clinical signs similar to intoxicated dogs – seizures, stomach upset and one even required antiseizure medication. All three recovered fully.

Veterinary Medical Marijuana
So with marijuana legalized in some states for medicinal purposes, is medical marijuana for Fluffy and Fido next? Despite the obvious risks outlined above, some pet owners have taken marijuana for pets into their own hands.

Currently marijuana belongs to the group of drugs most tightly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Even though I have a license to prescribe some controlled substances, marijuana is not on the list of those I can prescribe. This tight regulation also restricts research with marijuana. Research is needed to help veterinarians understand what conditions the drug helps and how to use the drug safely and efficaciously in veterinary patients. So for now, I don’t know how to appropriately dose THC in my patients and I can’t do it legally.

If your pet inadvertently ingests marijuana or a THC containing product:

1. Keep marijuana and medical marijuana products out of reach of your pets.

2. Call animal poison control if you think your pet has eaten marijuana:

  • ASPCA Animal Poison Control (888) 426-4435
  • Pet Poison Helpline (800) 213-6680

3. Tell the animal ER what your pet ate. Making the ER veterinarians play a guessing game about your pet’s condition can delay appropriate treatment.


CT Versus MRI: Battle of the Big Machines

January 8, 2014

Veterinarians at The Animal Medical Center depend on high tech equipment to make diagnoses and monitor treatment success. Two commonly used pieces of high tech equipment are the CAT scan or CT (Computed Tomography) and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). Often, if I recommend a CT, pet owners will ask if an MRI would be better. I checked with one of AMC’s board certified radiologists, Dr. Anthony Fischetti, to help dispel any myths about which test is the best. He says “both are equally as good, but which test is used depends on the body part being imaged and the type of resolution required to optimally image that body part.”

Big Machines at AMC
Computed tomography was introduced to human medicine in the 1970s. The AMC acquired its first CT scanner about 10 years later and is currently using its third scanner, a high-powered 64-slice CT scanner. Magnetic resonance imaging became commercially available in the 1980s and The AMC installed its first MRI machine in 2002 and upgraded that machine in 2006 for a more powerful model. To give you a comparison of the frequency of use of these tests, in 2007, a total of 73 million CT scans were performed on humans. In 2013, 700 CT scans and 600 MRI exams were performed – just at The AMC!

CT reconstruction of the skull of a dog with a jaw tumor

CT reconstruction of the skull of a dog with a jaw tumor

Starting at the Top
Imaging the head is a particularly good example of why we need both a CT scanner and an MRI machine at The AMC. The brain is composed of soft tissue and the boney skull is clearly hard tissue. When our neurologists want an image of the brain to determine the cause of seizures, they choose an MRI because it produces images with exquisite detail of soft tissues comprising the brain. An MRI can show minute changes in both types of brain tissue, the grey and white matter. But if an internal medicine specialist suspects the cause of a bloody nose to be a tumor in the nasal passages, they choose a CT scan, not only for its speed, but for its ability to show changes in the bones composing the nose and nasal passages. Because computed tomography is part computer, the images it creates are easily manipulated into a variety of views and even three dimensional reconstructions. The image you see to the right shows a reconstruction of the skull of a dog with a jaw tumor.

CT Goes with the Flow
CT scan is a form of x-ray and can detect a special contrast agent when the agent is administered intravenously. Using an intravenous contrast agent during a CT scan (CT angiography) helps veterinarians identify abnormal blood vessels in the liver – a common congenital disorder in small breed dogs – or determine, prior to surgery, if a tumor has breached a major blood vessel. Armed with this information, surgeons can better plan their approach before they get to the operating room.

MRI image of a  heart tumor in a dog using a contrast agent

MRI image of a heart tumor in a dog using a contrast agent

MRI has a Heart
MRI also uses intravenous contrast agents to differentiate various soft tissues in the body. The MRI image you see on the right shows a tumor of the heart in a dog following administration of a contrast agent.

Your Pet and the Big Machines
Here are some tips for pet owners whose pets require a CT scan or MRI:

  1. Expect blood tests and possibly a chest x-ray to be done before the scan. Testing helps veterinarians determine safe anesthetic protocols for your pet.
  2. Unlike when you or I receive an MRI or CT scan, you should anticipate that anesthesia will be administered to your pet. You know how hard it is to get a clear photograph of your wiggly pet. We need them to be perfectly still for imaging so that we can obtain an accurate scan.
  3. Know that it may take up to 24 hours for the radiologist to issue a final report on the scan. Waiting is hard, but reviewing images takes time and should not be rushed.

Clea’s International Healthcare Team: Partnering for Cancer Care

December 18, 2013
Clea

Clea, French fashionista poodle

Last spring, I was contacted by a New York City veterinarian who often refers patients to me for second opinions. This time, his request was a bit different. One of his patients, a French poodle named Clea, was in France and had been diagnosed with melanoma of the tongue by a French veterinary oral surgeon. Clea’s owner wanted her treated with the DNA melanoma vaccine, a treatment not available in France. She and Clea would return to New York City, but she needed a local veterinary oncologist, so I was asked to help. Of course, I said yes.

Transatlantic medical information
Within minutes of saying yes, my email box filled with photos of Clea’s tumor, a biopsy report and photographs of the actual tumor cells under the microscope. Clea’s owner contacted me and arranged two appointments for Clea, one with me and one with our radiation oncologist, Dr. Rachel St-Vincent.

Treatment of melanoma of the oral cavity in a dog involves controlling the oral tumor using surgery or radiation therapy and using a vaccine to induce an immune response against the tumor in hopes of preventing spread of the tumor, especially to the lungs. The vaccine is not available in France, necessitating a trip home for the melanoma vaccine. Clea stayed with friends for eight weeks while she received four treatments of radiation and four doses of melanoma vaccine. When treatment was completed, she returned to France and her French veterinary team.

The French team

Clea's veterinary team

Clea’s veterinary team at Clinique Vétérinaire Advetia (www.advetia.fr)

Even though Clea has both an American and a French team of veterinarians, we all speak the same language – veterinary medicine. The French oral surgeon, Dr. Phillipe Hennet, trained in the United States and holds a certification by the American Veterinary Dental College. When new tumors showed up in Clea’s lungs, he referred Clea to an American trained board certified small animal internal medicine specialist at his clinic, Dr. Suzy Valentin. She and I conferred via email to initiate the next step of treatment.

Back in the USA
Clea was back in New York City a few weeks ago and Dr. Valentin wanted another chest x-ray. Clea arrived at The AMC with a report by a French radiologist (in French) and a CD containing her lung CT scan from a month prior. The AMC has a radiologist, Dr. Alexandre Le Rouxwho happens to be French. Looking for a translator, I took the written report and the images to him. To my surprise, the trail of veterinarians caring for Clea came full circle when Dr. Le Roux announced he knew Clea’s French radiologist!

Treatment success
For older pets like Clea, quality of life is possibly more important than quantity. I think Clea’s international healthcare team has achieved success based on this note from her owner: “So Clea is doing well. She is eating twice a day and loves the beef stew from the restaurant across the street. Dog food is definitely part of her past….”


Holiday Gifts for the Naughty and Nice Pets on Your List

December 11, 2013

cat bunk bedA room with a view
What kitten wouldn’t want to find a bunk bed and playroom under the tree with her name on it? The top bunk is perfect for a perching cat or a cat nap, and the bottom bunk for a game of hide-and-seek with a catnip mouse or jingle ball.

Put some socks in his stocking
Do you have a nice, but mobility-impaired older dog? Put Woodrow Wear Power Paws on all four feet and watch these gripper slippers give traction on slippery tile or wood floors. These stylish dog socks come in a rainbow of colors and holiday designs.

Cat walking vest
Going to Grandma’s for the holiday? In addition to checking to be sure Fluffy’s microchip information is current in the registry, consider a SturdiPet™ walking vest from Sturdi Products. It is attractive and snug fitting and unlike many harnesses for cats, this one really stays on and keeps your cat comfortably restrained while you travel in the car or on the airplane to your holiday destination.

Waist watching
The peek-a-boo pet latch is a gift for your naughty dog. Using this latch on the door of the room where you keep the cat litter box will keep your dog from “snacking” in the cat box. The other use for this clever product is to keep an overweight pet out of the food bowl of a more slender pet.

Holiday hairdo
Everyone, your pet included, wants to look their best and smell nice to ring in 2014. What better way to have a coat that shines like the Times Square ball than to have a gift of dog toiletries under the tree for Sparky. Burt’s Bees, the folks with the beeswax based lip balm, now have a new line of natural pet products. Additionally, Wahl, the sponsors of America’s Dirtiest Dog contest, has cleaned up shelter dogs and can clean up your dog as well!

Rest and relaxation
After all the holiday activities, you and your pet will need some rest. Body Glove Pet will introduce a neoprene mat for use in crates or on hard floors, just after the first of the year. Neoprene is the material in wetsuits, so this product will be sturdy, washable and comfortable for a long winter’s rest.

And something for you too!
Need a calendar for 2014 and want to support a good animal cause? Here are just a few listings of calendars from a variety of animal organizations, including The Animal Medical Center!


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.


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


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!


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
20130809-083115.jpg

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.


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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