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Red Eye in Pets

Red, irritated eyes are common presenting complaints in emergency veterinary medicine. To help narrow down the cause of the redness, at Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital we typically ask pet owners a series of questions, since eye problems can occur for many different reasons. For instance: Did your pet recently run through a field or play with a cat? Has your pet been around other pets? Is your pet having any other problems? Did this redness just start to appear, or has it been around and getting worse over time?

Some causes are more obvious than others. Playing with a cat, playing rough with a dog or running through heavy brush normally indicates trauma (a scratch) and potentially an ulcer on the cornea, the clear covering of the eye. When the cornea is injured, it can cause a large amount of pain and lead to serious complications, and such an event might also result in having a foreign object lodged in the eye.

But there are other causes of eye redness as well. Infections (bacterial, viral and fungal); inflammation of the tissues around or in the eye; increased or decreased pressure of the eye (known as glaucoma, and uveitis, respectively); systemic diseases; autoimmune diseases; decreased tear production; allergies; problems with intraocular structures (such as the iris and the lens); and even cancer can also lead to red eye.

So if your pet has red, irritated, teary eyes, or is squinting, give your primary care veterinarian or Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital a call as soon as possible. We can perform a variety of tests to determine the cause of the irritation and prescribe medications to help your pet feel more comfortable and treat the problem. One important note: Do not allow your pet to scratch at his or her eyes if he/she is suffering from red eye — scratching will only make it worse. You can use an e-collar, otherwise known as “the cone that goes around your pet’s head,” to deter them from scratching. And don’t wait to bring your pet in! Some eye problems can become very serious if left unattended.

© 2011 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Maggots: A Nasty Problem in Pets

It’s that time of year again …

One of the least favorite times of year for most emergency staff is what we in the veterinary community like to refer to as “maggot season.” While most people only think of maggots growing in spoiled food or on things that are no longer alive, maggots can also be a problem in our live pets.

Maggots are fly larvae (an early stage of fly development), and a maggot infestation is called myiasis. When looking for a suitable place to lay their eggs, flies are usually attracted to things with decaying or rotten smells. In our live pets, attractive sites for flies can include infected bite wounds, areas of fur that are matted with urine or feces, skin folds, infected ears, ruptured skin masses, hot spots and surgical incisions, to name a few. After about 1-3 days, the eggs hatch. At first, the maggots will feed on dead skin or debris. But when that food source runs out, they release an enzyme in their saliva that starts digesting healthy skin. The enzyme can cause small holes in the skin, and then the maggots can actually burrow underneath the skin. They can also tunnel into the rectum or vagina of a pet. With time, the maggots can start releasing toxins that can make your pet sick very quickly, leading to fever, lethargy and shock.

So if you find maggots on your pet, get them to a vet immediately, where they will be able to clip and clean the underlying cause and remove the maggots. Some pets might need to be hospitalized and placed on IV fluids overnight, in addition to being started on antibiotics.

One of the biggest problems we’ve run into lately concerning maggots is false information on the Internet about getting rid of them at home — attempting to do so can make our job harder and further complicate your pet’s health. The problem is that the majority of information out there is geared toward killing maggots in food, not on your live pets. Some of the worst recommendations out there include the following — DO NOT ATTEMPT ANY OF THESE MEASURES:

  • Placing gasoline, oil, kerosene or lighter fluid on maggots is not a safe remedy. Besides potentially being a local irritant, if your pet ingests that kind of fluid, they can aspirate some of the material into the lungs.
  • Pouring straight bleach on the maggots is another unwise treatment recommended online — doing so can be very irritating to the eyes and act as an irritant to the lungs as well.
  • Pouring powdered lime on your pet also is not a good idea, since it can cause vomiting, diarrhea and GI tract ulceration.
  • Another very bad idea, placing boiling water on maggots, is something your pet would not appreciate, to say the least. Doing so can cause severe burns.
  • There is also information about using over the counter permethrin products to kill maggots. This would be something I would be very wary of doing on a cat. Cats are very sensitive to permethrins (an insecticide in many over-the-counter flea preventatives), and they can lead to intense muscle tremors and seizures.
  • Finally, using hairspray on the maggots is another unwise tip — doing so probably won’t kill them, and will only serve to give your pet a stiff hairdo.

The best method for keeping maggots off your pet is preventing them in the first place. During the summer months, if your pet lives outside, make sure they get their fur clipped for the season. Do daily cleaning of any soiled outside bedding. And if your pet has a skin infection, bite wounds or surgical incisions, keep them inside until they are healed. Also, be sure to have all wounds evaluated by a veterinarian!

© 2011 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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PODCAST: Giardia … cha cha cha …

Diarrhea has a number of causes, but one that we’ve seen quite a bit in our patients recently is Giardia, a parasite that is transmitted in stool (Giardia can be transmitted to humans in this way, but people most often get this parasite from contaminated water). Once a pet is infected, it will typically take 5-12 days in dogs and 5-16 days in cats for the parasite to be found in the stool — however, diarrhea can occur before the parasite actually shows up in the stool.

To diagnose Giardia, your veterinarian will need a fresh stool sample from your pet. As this parasite cannot be detected by the naked eye, the doctor will examine the sample under a microscope. Sometimes the test may need to be repeated, as this parasite can shed intermittently — so while an initial test may come up negative, further tests may come up positive. A newer variety of test is the “snap test,” which tests for Giardia proteins in the stool. The snap test does help improve diagnosis; however, while almost all veterinarians have the capability to look at a stool sample under the microscope, the snap test is less readily available, and not all veterinarians will be able to offer it.

© 2011 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis in Dogs — Severe Bloody Diarrhea

Recently we’ve had quite a few cases of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE) at Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. The good news with HGE is that, seeing blood in their dog’s stool, many owners will bring them in immediately, allowing us to start treatment right away, greatly improving the survival rate and minimizing hospitalization time. HGE sometimes can be mistaken for colitis, an inflammation of the colon that presents with mucousy, blood-tinged stool. Patients with colitis — which we also see a lot of at Greenbrier — usually are bright and alert and can be treated as outpatients. Dogs with HGE, however, usually present with lethargy and very bloody, watery or mucoid diarrhea, and in severe cases can present in shock from dehydration. The diarrhea in cases of HGE has often been described as “strawberry jam-like”. Occasionally HGE causes vomiting as well.

The etiology or cause of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis is unknown but is thought to involve any one of the following: allergy, stress, parasites, or bacteria. Small breed dogs are affected most often, but any dog can get HGE. It is believed that when the condition is present, the permeability of the GI tract is increased, allowing protein and plasma to leak into the bowels and causing the dog to become severely dehydrated. The diagnosis usually is made based on the description of the diarrhea and a simple blood test that looks at the levels of protein and red blood cells. A very high level of red blood cells, low levels of protein and very bloody diarrhea is diagnostic for hemorrhagic gastroenteritis.

We treat HGE with high levels of IV fluids. Occasionally, dogs with low protein will need an additional type of IV fluid to boost the protein level. Other treatments might include antibiotics (since one theory holds that hemorrhagic gastroenteritis is caused by Clostridium, a form of bacteria), GI protectants, and antiemetics or antinausea medication. If untreated, HGE can be a life-threatening disease. Once placed on IV fluids, most dogs will need to be hospitalized for 1-3 days and then will be fine. But it is extremely important to seek veterinary care immediately if your dog has a bloody stool.

© 2011 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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PODCAST: Pets and Snake Bites — Act Quickly!

During the warm-weather months, our slithery, venomous snake friends become more active. And snake bites are a very common problem in the summertime. Our pets are very curious creatures and tend to lead with their noses and their front limbs, so that’s where we see the most bites (on the face and front legs). These bites often cause extreme pain, swelling and bruising, and that’s typically what you as an owner will notice first, if you don’t happen to see the snake itself. You may also see puncture marks that may be bleeding or oozing.

© 2011 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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PODCAST: Heat Stroke in Dogs

As the heat and humidity of the summer months are approaching quickly here in Central Virginia, pet owners should be aware of the dangers of heat stroke, one of the more common summer pet emergencies in dogs. Heat stroke is a situation in which a pet’s body temperature has risen way above normal and needs immediate veterinary attention. Unfortunately, our domestic pets don’t sweat the way we do to dissipate excess heat, so they aren’t as efficient at cooling their bodies as we are — and heat stroke can result. The condition can become fatal rapidly if left untreated, but is easily preventable with some common-sense measures.

© 2011 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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PODCAST: Ticks … Suck!

The down-and-dirty about ticks! Since the weather has warmed up this spring, you’ve probably noticed more and more of these awful little critters. You might find them attached to your pet, on your clothes or even attached to your skin. Give our podcast a listen, and learn a little more about the diseases ticks carry — and how to prevent them.

© 2011 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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PODCAST: Common Household Pet Toxins

Our first podcast — and many more to come! This first podcast focuses on common household pet toxins — we’ll identify these toxins and briefly discuss treatments and outcomes. There are some tasty treats that you might never suspect are toxic to your pets.

© 2011 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Laryngeal Paralysis or “Lar Par” in Dogs

The larynx, which is the opening through which outside air flows into a dog’s lungs, allows for vocalization and prevents food inhalation (aspiration) — both of which are important functions. Paralysis of the larynx, otherwise known as laryngeal paralysis or “lar par” for short, means that either one or both of the vocal folds does not fully open during breathing. The condition can occur in cats but is more common in dogs, and specifically in large-breed dogs. It can be hereditary in Bouviers, Huskies, Bull Terriers, Dalmatians and Rotweillers and is also commonly seen (but not necessarily hereditary) in Labs, Goldens, St. Bernards and Newfoundlands.

The first thing you might notice if your dog is suffering from lar par is a change in his or her bark, which might sound more hoarse, because the vocal folds are not moving as they once did. Due to the importance of panting, which is essentially moving air through the larynx, as a cooling function in dogs, you might also find that your dog has exercise intolerance and/or might breathe very noisily or heavily in warm weather. As well, when paralyzed, the larynx might not be able to protect the lungs from aspiration, so your dog may experience coughing, gagging and/or retching. In extreme situations, you may even notice respiratory distress or heat stroke. The clinical signs usually correlate with the degree of paralysis.

To diagnose laryngeal paralysis, your veterinarian will need to do a sedated exam and watch the larynx move as your dog breathes. Because the larynx is so deep in the throat, it is not possible to get a good look at it without sedation. A workup for lar par might also include blood work on thyroid levels, since up to 10 percent of dogs with lar par also have concurrent low thyroid. Chest x-rays may also be taken if your vet suspects aspiration pneumonia, which commonly happens with laryngeal paralysis.

The only treatment for laryngeal paralysis is a surgical procedure to tie back the laryngeal folds. This procedure, actually quite common with race horses, is called a “tie back” and is usually performed by a surgery specialist — so your primary vet may refer you to a specialty practice. The surgery can only be performed on a stable patient, so If your dog has a lar par complication such as pneumonia, he or she will likely be hospitalized until stable enough for anesthesia and surgery. The major risk of the surgery is an increased likelihood of aspiration pneumonia, since the folds will no no longer able to completely close and protect the lungs.

Lar par is a disease that can range in seriousness from minimal clinical signs to severe respiratory distress and even death. If you notice any of the hallmark signs, such as a change in bark, increased respiratory noise, or exercise or heat intolerance, please bring this to the attention of your veterinarian. It is very important to note that dogs with this condition can overheat easily, so they should be kept in an air-conditioned environment and have limited exercise until they can be examined and/or have surgery. The good news is that after tie back surgery, dogs usually do quite well.

© 2011 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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