May is cancer awareness month!

posted on May 01, 2015 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

Cancer is a disease that touches many of our lives.  Unfortunately, our four legged furry friends are not immune to it either.  According to www.petcancerawareness.org, about 1 in 4 dogs will develop cancer in it’s lifetime, and being the number 1 natural cause of death in older pets, about 50% of dogs over the age of 10 will die of cancer.

Just like in humans, early detection is key.  Symptoms of cancer can vary widely, as cancer can affect almost any system or area of the body.  Things such as vomiting, diarrhea, straining to defecate, weight loss, swelling or weight gain, non-healing sores, pale gums, limping, weakness, lethargy, lumps or bumps, bleeding, or coughing could all indicate a tumor.  It should be noted that many of these signs are very non specific however and may indicate many other illness or issues as well.

For this reason, we recommend yearly to semi-annual examinations in all pets, regardless of whether they are “due for shots”.  A yearly to twice yearly exam allows us to look in your pet’s mouth, feel the skin and subcutaneous layers for masses, check lymph node size, weigh your pet, perform a rectal examination, and palpate the abdomen for internal changes.

We also recommend yearly to semi-annual bloodwork.  Lab tests can help look for anemia, can see changes in white blood cell counts which could indicate lymphoma or leukemia, look for changes in liver or kidney enzymes, checks electrolytes, blood sugar, and blood proteins.  While there is not a test that looks specifically for cancer, these tests can alert us to changes occurring in the body which serve as early indicators that something else is going on.

If we find lumps or bumps or masses, we may recommend a fine needle aspirate or biopsy to collect a sample to test so we know what it is.  If internal changes are found, x-rays and/or ultrasound may be recommended.

If we do diagnose your pet with cancer, surgery to remove it is often the first treatment.  Catching it early means it’s small, and less likely to have spread, both of which increase the chance of success.  Sometimes follow up such as chemotherapy or radiation is recommended as well.

Since cancer is so prevalent in our pets, it is imperative that we find and diagnose it early to offer your pet the best chance at a cure or good quality of life.  If you notice any of the changes above, or your pet develops a new lump or bump, it is always a good idea to have a doctor examine them.  Please give us a call today!

Homegrown Hazards

posted on July 02, 2013 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

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As July rolls around, many of us start to see fresh produce from our gardens.  Who doesn’t enjoy some fresh greens, or watching the fruits of our labors start to ripen into the produce we will pick next month.  While spending time in the garden is good for us, there are some hidden hazards to pets in there.

Many plants in the garden may be potentially poisonous to your pet, and any plant if eaten in large enough amounts can cause issues such as obstructions.  Most toxicities are mild and include gastrointestinal (GI) upset such as vomiting or diarrhea.  However, a few of the ones listed below may be more serious.  If your pet eats something out of your garden and you are not sure if it’s safe or not, please don’t hesitate to contact us.  Please note that this list is not a complete list, just a few of the more common potentially hazardous plants seen in gardens.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a part of the nightshade family, which contains a number of toxic plants.  Green tomatoes, leaves and stems, and flowers can all contain the toxin, though ripe tomatoes tend to have very little toxin left.  Signs of toxicity can include GI upset, increased salivation (drooling), cardiac effects, and nervous system signs including ataxia (walking uncoordinated like a drunk), dilated pupils, confusion, behavior changes, muscle weakness, tremors, and seizures.

Grapes

Grapes have been identified as the cause of acute renal (kidney) failure in dogs.  The exact mechanism is not understood at this time.  It is also not known if grapes are toxic to cats.  Signs can take 24 hours to develop, and may include vomiting, diarrhea, decreased or absent appetite, and changes in urine production.  Bloodwork may be necessary to see what the kidney values are, and fluids and hospitalization may be needed to help support the kidneys.  Often damage to the kidneys is not reversible and this toxicity could be fatal, so prevention is key.  Avoid grapes and raisins for any pets in the house, and keep outdoor pets away from grape vines if present in your yard.

Avocado

Avocados, while possessing a number of health benefits for humans, are actually toxic to pets.  They can cause tissue necrosis (tissue death), and can damage the heart muscles.  They are extremely toxic to pet birds (even a small amount usually is fatal).  Dogs and cats tend to develop GI signs, but may also develop symptoms of cardiac issues such as exercise intolerance, cough, wheezing or difficulty breathing, or collapse.

Rhubarb

Rhubarb is toxic to dogs and cats.  The leaves can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and irritation of the mouth (increased salivation or drooling, pawing at mouth).  The plant also contains something called oxalic acid, which can lead to formation of crystals in the urinary tract, and can cause damage to the kidneys, which, in severe cases, can even lead to kidney failure.  Fluid support for the kidneys is recommended and may require hospitalization.

Onion and Garlic

Onions and garlics both belong to the same family and both can cause negative effects on pets.  These plants can cause red blood cell issues such as hemolysis (break down of red blood cells), Heinz body formations (abnormalities in red blood cell structure), agglutination (clumping of red blood cells), methemoglobinemia (methemoglobin is a form of hemoglobin that is NOT able to carry oxygen, reducing the red blood cell’s ability to function correctly), and hemoglobinuria (red blood cell breakdown products being passed in the urine).  This may look like pale gums, bruising, weakness, difficulty breathing, urinating “blood” (very dark urine), or collapse.  In addition to anemia, pets may develop GI signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, and lack of appetite.  Bloodwork and supportive care such as fluids, supportive feeding, hospitalization, and possibly even blood transfusions may be necessary.

The ASPCA has a good website for checking if plants are toxic and what signs to watch for, and you can always give us or a pet poison helpline a call.  Hopefully together we can help keep pets safe so everyone can enjoy summer!

April showers bring May flowers, fleas, and ticks!

posted on April 02, 2013 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

Fleas and ticks are external parasites that can cause a variety of health issues for our pets.

Fleas can cause general annoyance from itching, while heavier infestations can cause an anemia (low red blood cell count) which may be fatal to young or small pets.  Fleas can also carry diseases such as the plague, cat scratch fever, and can transmit tapeworms.  Pets can also become allergic to fleas, which can lead to secondary skin issues.

Ticks can carry diseases that are much more severe in nature.  Lyme disease is a bacterial infection carried by ticks.  Ehrlichia is a white blood cell parasite.  Anaplasma is a platelet (clotting cell) parasite.  Babesia is a red blood cell parasite in dogs, and Hepatozoonosis is a white blood cell parasite in dogs.  Cytauxzoonosis is a red blood cell parasite in cats.

These many different diseases carried by ticks can cause a variety of signs in our pets.  Polyarthritis (pain in multiple joints) which can present as reluctance to move, difficulty getting up and down stairs, on and off furniture, or standing or laying down, swollen lymph nodes, decreased appetite, dehydration, fever, weakness, muscle loss or wasting, and generalized pain or increased sensitivity are a few of the symptoms.  More include hypothermia, difficulty breathing, edema (buildup of fluids), weight loss, anemia (seen as pale gums), depression, lethargy, enlarged spleen, bounding pulse, vomiting, diarrhea, bruising, bleeding disorders (such as nose bleeds), eye problems such as inflammation, discharge and even blindness, jaundice (yellowing of skin), shock, coma, and in very severe cases, death.

For these reason, we here at Heritage Animal Hospital recommend using flea and tick preventatives such as Frontline® or Revolution®.

Frontline® is a monthly topical flea and tick preventative.  It is poured on the skin between the shoulder blades and is absorbed into the hair follicles and spreads over the entire body through the skin.  This means it is not a systemic medication and will not interfere with other medications or internal organs.  Fleas and ticks do not need to bite the animal to die; fleas will die within about 12 hours of contact, and ticks will die within about 48 hours of contact, which is less than the amount of time they need to feed in order to spread any diseases they carry.

Revolution® is also a monthly topical product, but unlike Frontline®, it is a systemic medication.  Because of this, it offers protection from a few more parasites than Frontline® does, but it should be pointed out that Revolution® for cats does not protect against ticks.  Revolution® for cats protects against fleas, heartworm, ear mites, hookworms, and roundworms.  Revolution® for dogs protects against fleas, ticks, heartworm, ear mites, and sarcoptic mange.

We carry both of these products in our in-house pharmacy.  We offer special rebates directly through the manufacturers of these products, and can offer the guarantees associated with the products which are only valid if purchased from a veterinarian.

For more information on the various diseases caused by fleas and ticks, please visit the Companion Animal Parasite Council at http://www.capcvet.org.  Discuss with your veterinarian today which flea and tick preventative is right for your pet.