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All Posts in Category: Diseases

PODCAST: Canine Distemper — Make Sure Your Dog is Vaccinated!

Canine distemper is a very serious, contagious virus found in dogs that attacks the immune system, making them more susceptible to other infections, including bacterial and parasitic infections. Sneezing, coughing, pneumonia, anorexia, fever, vomiting and diarrhea are all potential signs of this disease.

© 2012 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Addison’s Disease in Dogs and Cats

Does your pet have good days and bad, or “waxing and waning of clinical signs,” as we like to call it in the vet world? Does your pet have some lethargic days and some days where he or she just won’t eat? Has your pet experienced any weight loss? Is your pet having gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting or diarrhea, or is your pet urinating more and drinking more water? If these symptoms sound familiar, your pet may have Addison’s Disease, or hypoadrenocorticism, a medical condition in which an animal’s body fails to produce an adequate level of steroids. Addison’s Disease is most often seen in middle-aged female dogs, but can be seen in any dog or cat. With this condition, occasionally your pet’s electrolytes will show up abnormal on in-house blood work — sometimes so abnormal that he or she will require immediate emergency medical attention. Your veterinarian can perform a specific test to evaluate for this disease.

Treatment for Addison’s Disease often includes oral steroids, and sometimes injections. Most patients will need to remain on medication for life, but most pets do very well with proper care and can still enjoy long, happy lives. If you suspect your pet may suffer from this disease, visit your veterinarian as soon as possible for testing.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If your pet is on steroids (including prednisone), it’s important to avoid taking a pet off the medication suddenly and instead to taper the dose down gradually. If your pet has been on steroids over a long period and you suddenly stop the medication, you can actually induce Addison’s disease, and your pet may require emergency medical attention as a result.

© 2011 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Diarrhea…cha cha cha…

No one wants to talk about it, but sometimes our pets get diarrhea. Diarrhea can range in consistency from soft to very watery, and in color from black to brown to bright red and bloody. Your pet may have large amounts of diarrhea, or small amounts with more frequent trips to the bathroom.

Two of the most common causes of diarrhea are parasites and dietary indiscretion, otherwise known as “eating something they’re not supposed to.” However, there are a lot of other causes, including bacterial overgrowths; viral diseases such as parvovirus; abrupt diet changes; food allergies; abnormal digestion and absorption diseases; stress; toxins; drugs; metabolic diseases such as diabetes and Addison’s disease; kidney, liver and pancreatic abnormalities; inflammatory diseases; and in our older patients, cancer. (This is by no means an all-inclusive list, however!)

If your pet has diarrhea, your veterinarian will likely want to start by running a “fecal,” which tests the stool for parasites. When you go to your veterinarian, you can bring a sample of the stool with you, if it is fresh, for them to test. Be sure to wear gloves when handling stool, and wash your hands directly after, as some parasites can be transmitted from pets to people! Depending on the age of your pet and the severity of the diarrhea, other tests that may be run include parvovirus tests and blood work. Chronic diarrhea may require further testing and colonoscopy with biopsy samples.

Treatment for diarrhea depends on its severity, cause and duration. Your veterinarian may put your pet on a bland diet. Parasite infections are often treated with deworming medication. Sometimes your pet will need antibiotics or fluids. For severe cases, your pet may need to be hospitalized and given intravenous fluids and injectable medications.

If your pet has developed diarrhea, bring him/her to your local veterinarian, or to Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital if it is after hours. They can decide on the appropriate treatment to help your pet feel better.

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Canine Distemper: Make Sure Your Dog Is Vaccinated!

Canine distemper is a very serious, contagious virus found in dogs that attacks the immune system, making them more susceptible to other infections, including bacterial and parasitic infections. Sneezing, coughing, pneumonia, anorexia, fever, vomiting and diarrhea are all potential signs of this disease. These signs can be difficult to distinguish from “kennel cough,” a common upper respiratory infection that normally heals quickly without treatment, and parvovirus, a debilitating disease that causes profuse vomiting and diarrhea. Canine distemper, however, can also have neurologic signs, including forceful muscle twitching, seizures, blindness, “chewing gum” fits, incoordination, hypersensitivity, circling and abnormal vocalization. These neurologic signs may be seen in conjunction with other symptoms, and may even be seen weeks or months after apparent recovery! Often these neurologic signs are irreversible, but some may be managed with medication, if they aren’t too severe. The mortality rate of this disease is approximately 50 percent.

How do dogs get canine distemper?
The virus is spread directly from dog to dog, mostly in respiratory fluids (oral and nasal discharge exuded during sneezing and coughing), but it can also be found in other body secretions, including urine. The virus can be shed for 60-90 days after infection; however, shorter shedding periods (1-2 weeks) are more common. Fortunately, this is not a hardy virus and is killed by normal disinfecting methods. It doesn’t last long in warm environments and only lasts for a couple of weeks in near-freezing temperatures (although it can last for years in below-freezing temperatures). The most susceptible dogs to canine distemper are unvaccinated young dogs, although unvaccinated older dogs can also develop neurologic signs. A presumptive diagnosis of canine distemper is often made on clinical signs, but specific diagnosis often requires an outside lab.

Prevention is key
There is no cure for canine distemper. Intensive supportive treatment might be necessary for dogs who contract the disease, but the neurologic signs may be too severe to treat. Dogs that recover from this disease may have lasting neurologic deficits, but recovered dogs do not continue to shed the disease to other dogs.

Vaccination and isolation of symptomatic dogs are key to preventing this disease. Immunity can be long-term, but it is not necessarily lifelong, so periodic vaccinations — even in older dogs — are required. Please contact your primary care veterinarian for their recommended vaccination protocol, and keep your pet healthy!

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Toxoplasmosis: Don’t Kick Out the Cat!

Being a veterinarian, almost 30 years old, and female, I find myself at a point in my life when it seems all of my friends are pregnant. I work with two pregnant veterinarians, my sister-in-law is pregnant, and so are many of my friends. From February to March, I am scheduled to attend an of average one baby shower every other week.

It’s a joyous time for my expecting friends and family, but with their excitement comes trepidation as they learn all about what’s headed their way during the next nine months.

As a veterinarian, I’ve found that once many women realize they are expecting, they seem to become fearful of contracting a disease from their pets and spreading it to their unborn child, as there is a lot of questionable advice out there on this topic. The most common concern I hear about from my expecting cat-lover friends is a protozoan parasite known as Toxoplasma gondii. According to the CDC, it has been estimated that 22.5 percent of the U.S. population 12 years and older have been infected with Toxoplasma, so it’s very common.

People typically become infected with Toxoplasma by one of three routes: via food, animal-to-human contact or mother-to-child transmission. In the first case, Toxoplasma has a tissue form called a bradyzoite that can be transmitted to people who eat undercooked meat (especially pork, lamb and venison). Accidental ingestion of undercooked, contaminated meat can also occur when a person handles the meat but fails to wash his/her hands properly afterward — or uses utensils that have been in contact with contaminated meat.

Second, people can become infected by cats. As we all know, many cats enjoy hunting prey such as rodents, birds and other small animals when they’re outside. Unfortunately, prey can be infected with Toxoplasma, which can then be transmitted to the cat. Once they’ve acquired Toxoplasma, cats then shed the parasite in the oocyst form for just a short period of time, 1-3 weeks after infection. However, it has been shown that even during that short time, a large number of oocysts are shed. Once in the environment for 1-5 days, the oocysts sporulate and at this point are infectious to humans and other mammals.

Not all cats that become infected with Toxoplasma will develop clinical symptoms — some owners, in fact, never notice a change in their cats. When cats are clinically affected and symptomatic, owners may notice one or more of the following signs: fever, loss of appetite, lethargy, and/or neurologic signs (e.g., blindness, incoordination, personality change or circling). These symptoms typically prompt a cat owner to bring their pet to the veterinarian, who will then make a diagnosis based on history, clinical signs, and laboratory tests — including the measurement of antibodies to Toxopasma. If such an infection is found, the parasite is usually treated with an antibiotic known as clindamycin.

The final route of infection — and the one that has my friends avoiding the litter box like the plague — is mother-to-child transmission via the mother’s food ingestion (as discussed above) or by accidental ingestion of a sporulated oocyst after the mother comes in contact with infected cat feces. Unfortunately, toxoplasmosis can have serious effects on an unborn child — and possibly also later on in the course of that child’s development. Up to half of the fetuses who become infected with toxoplasmosis during pregnancy are born prematurely, and congenital toxoplasmosis can damage a baby’s eyes, nervous system, skin and ears. There may or may not be evidence of infection in the baby at birth, and newborns with milder infections may not have symptoms or problems for months or even years. If they are not treated, however, almost all such infected children will develop problems (especially in the eyes) as teenagers.

However, while toxoplasmosis does present serious risks, if you become pregnant you don’t need to send your cat packing! You can minimize the risk by taking a few precautions. Make sure you cook all of your meat thoroughly and wash your hands and utensils/cutting boards after using them. Wear gloves when gardening. Cover outdoor sandboxes (which outdoor cats use as litter boxes). Scoop the litter box daily while wearing gloves, and wash your hands thoroughly afterward. Or, better yet, take this opportunity to let your husband or loved one clean the litter box for you during this nine-month stretch!

Dr. Jessica Hudak

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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