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All Posts Tagged: Pet Emergencies

Giardia…cha cha cha…

Diarrhea has a number of causes, but one that we saw quite a bit in our patients this summer 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.

Treatment for Giardia involves multiple aspects of your pet’s life. Oral dewormers are given, as with many intestinal parasites. But with Giardia, bathing and hygiene are just as important as medication. This parasite can stick to your pet’s fur, and when the animal licks itself, he or she can be reinfected. You will also need to dispose of all stool immediately, and clean bedding and flooring regularly. Diluted bleach will kill this parasite on floors and in the laundry — however, killing Giardia on surfaces like grass is far more difficult, since it would require killing the plant life as well.

Other preventative measures include wearing gloves when handling stool and always washing your hands after handling stool or playing with your pet. There is a Giardia vaccine available, but this particular vaccine does not prevent infection. Instead it reduces the amount of the parasite shed in the stool, thereby reducing the amount of environmental contamination. This treatment doesn’t usually help animals that have already contracted the parasite, but it may be helpful in kennel situations and with pets that keep getting reinfected.

If your pet has diarrhea, please give your primary care veterinarian or Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital a call as soon as possible. We can help diagnose the cause and get your pet the treatment that he or she needs.

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Congestive Heart Failure in Pets

Congestive heart failure is a condition in which the heart is unable to pump appropriately, causing fluid to back up into the lungs. In this condition, your pet may exhibit exercise intolerance, an increased breathing rate, difficulty breathing, and pale or blue gums. Dogs may also experience coughing. Cats may breathe open-mouthed.

Pets suffering from congestive heart failure may have a history of heart murmur, which is turbulent blood flow in the heart, or gallop rhythm, which is an extra heart sound your vet may hear that may indicate heart disease. Congestive heart failure is often diagnosed with a physical examination, in conjunction with chest X-rays. The specific type of heart disease is diagnosed with an echocardiogram, which is like a sonogram for the heart.

If your pet is diagnosed with congestive heart failure, it is not necessarily a death sentence! The specific prognosis will depend on the severity of the situation, and on the type of heart disease from which the pet suffers. Treatment is aimed at clearing the fluid from the lungs and maintaining oxygen levels, blood pressure and electrolyte levels. The first line of medical therapy often involves diuretics (or “water pills,” as they are often called), which help remove fluid from the lungs. Other medications may be used as well, depending on the type of heart disease. Electrolytes should be monitored with blood tests, as some of these medications can change the electrolyte balance in the body. Some patients need to be hospitalized and kept on oxygen for a period of time while undergoing treatment. Hospital stays can be extended, depending on the severity of the case. While there is no cure for congestive heart failure, many pets do quite well with medical management and can live for several more years.

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Help! My Dog is Having a Seizure!

What is a seizure, and what causes a seizure?
A seizure is any sudden and uncontrolled movement of an animal’s body caused by abnormal brain activity. If you’ve ever seen your pet have a seizure, it can be very frightening. Seizures may be very severe, affecting the entire body, or more mild, affecting only a portion of your pet. During a seizure, your pet may or may not seem conscious or responsive, and could possibly urinate or have a bowel movement.

Seizures have a number of causes, including epilepsy, toxins, low blood sugar and brain tumors. If your pet has recently had or is currently having a seizure, we recommend that you bring your pet into Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital immediately. Our veterinarians can use diagnostic tools to help determine the cause of the seizure and treat the problem.

Diagnosis and treatment at the clinic
When you arrive at the clinic, your pet will be examined immediately, and a thorough neurological exam will be performed. If your pet is actively seizuring, an injection of valium or a muscle relaxer will likely be administered. Once your pet is stable, bloodwork will be recommended to help rule out metabolic disease and any possible toxins.

Some pets that have had a seizure get to go home that same day or night, but we may recommend that your pet stay with us for a longer period of time to monitor for additional seizures. We may also recommend inserting an IV catheter, so that we have access to a vein, should your pet start experiencing another seizure.

Depending on the results of the physical exam, neurological exam and bloodwork, your pet will be treated accordingly. If more advanced imaging diagnostic tools (e.g., CT scan or MRI) are needed, we may refer you to a specialty veterinary practice for further diagnosis.

What to do if your pet has a seizure
If you’re at home and your pet is having a seizure, and you are unsure whether or not to bring your pet in, please call Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital as soon as possible. If your animal is having a seizure, also be aware of the following recommendations:

  • Protect your pet during and after the seizure. Remove your pet from heights, and keep it away from water.
  • Remove other pets from the area. Sometimes, pets may act aggressively soon after the seizure has ended.
  • Keep your hands away from your pet’s mouth, as your pet may unintentionally bite you during a seizure. Pets do not swallow their tongues during a seizure.
  • Try to determine the length of the seizure, if possible.
  • If the seizure lasts longer than 3 minutes, call Greenbrier or your family veterinarian immediately.
  • If your pet has more than two seizures in a 24-hour period, seek veterinary attention immediately.

Above all, don’t panic! Call us here at Greenbrier, and our doctors and staff will be here to help you and your pet!

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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The Dangers of Summertime 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.

Most dogs love to go for rides in the car. While this is fine in cooler months, the most common cause of heat stroke for dogs is being left in cars during the summertime. Even with the windows cracked or partially down, a car parked in the sun can get up to 140° within minutes — so leaving your pup in the car for even a quick errand is very risky and and can potentially have tragic consequences. Pets riding in the bed of a truck can also develop heat stroke.

Heat stroke can also result from overexertion, and when dogs are confined to concrete runs or chained up without shade or water. Dogs should never be left outdoors without access to shade. And even if a water bowl is left out for them, the bowl can easily be overturned — leaving the dog without water for the rest of the day. Also, plan to make trips to the dog park or exercise with your dog in the morning or evening, rather than during the heat of the day.

Heat stroke is more common in dogs that have a decreased ability to cool themselves. Since a dog’s primary method of cooling itself is panting, overweight dogs; geriatric dogs; dogs with short faces (e.g., Old English bulldogs and pugs); and dogs that have compromised airways or medical conditions like heart disease, laryngeal paralysis or seizure disorders are also at increased risk of developing heat stroke. So it’s very important to keep these dogs in a cool environment.

What are the signs of heat stroke?
Heavy, excessive panting is the first sign, followed by salivation and listlessness. Other signs include vomiting, diarrhea and muscle tremors. And in severe cases, dogs may collapse, lose consciousness, experience seizures or die. The sequence of events can be very rapid, and death can occur within 24 hours, so pets displaying these signs need to be brought in to a veterinary hospital immediately.

What should you do if you suspect heat stroke in your dog?
Call a veterinarian right away, begin cooling your pet, and get them to a veterinary hospital immediately. Before leaving for the hospital, spray your dog down with cool water and place a fan in front of them. You can also place damp cloths on their stomachs or paws. You may also offer them cool water to drink, but some pets will not be able to drink appropriately and may breathe in some of the water. Do not place them in ice or an ice bath, as cooling them too quickly can result in a dangerous condition. Another important thing you can do as an owner is to keep your pet calm — the more stressed he/she gets, the higher his/her temperature may get.

What will happen at the veterinary hospital?
Once the patient is admitted, your dog may need to be cooled and given intravenous fluid therapy and other medications. They will likely need to be hospitalized for several days, as many serious conditions can develop from heat stroke, including bloody diarrhea; heart, liver, kidney and neurologic abnormalities; and bleeding disorders. The most critical time period is the first 24-48 hours after incident. Although pets may still be sick and require treatment after this time period, most that live through this first initial phase will survive.

So this summer, have fun with your pets! But be safe, make sure they have plenty of cool water to drink and plenty of shade and rest, and do not leave them in your car unattended. If you notice any signs of heat stroke in your pet, call your veterinarian or veterinary hospital ASAP!

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Spring Toxins: Cats and Lilies, Dogs and Chocolate

With spring upon us and Easter just behind us, two very common pet toxicities are out in many households: lilies, the number-one cat toxicity, and chocolate, the number-one dog toxicity.

Lily Toxicity in Cats
Lilies can be extremely toxic to cats. The leaves are the most toxic part of the plant, but the stems and flowers are also toxic. Ingestion of even a small amount of the plant can cause severe signs of poisoning. Initially, the cat may vomit, lose its appetite, and or become lethargic or depressed. Without proper veterinary care, these signs will continue to worsen, and the cat will develop kidney failure usually within 36-48 hours. Signs of kidney failure include drinking and urinating more frequently, vomiting, and loss of appetite. Many cats will not survive once they get to this stage, so acting quickly to get them treatment is crucial.

Toxicity and kidney failure have been caused by the following lilies:

• Easter Lily Lilium Longiflorum
• Tiger Lily Lilium Tigrinum
• Rubrum Lily Lilium Speciosum
• Japanese Show Lily Lilium Lancifolium
• Day Lily Hemerocallis Species

Precautions cat owners can take include:

• #1: Do not allow your cat to have access to lilies.

• #2: Should your cat ingest lilies, seek veterinary care immediately. The best results for decontamination are if emergency treatment occurs within 6-8 hours of ingestion. The likely course of action might include inducing vomiting in your cat and administering IV fluids to flush the kidneys.

Chocolate Toxicity
While chocolate is toxic to both dogs and cats, most of our chocolate toxicity patients are dogs. Darker and unsweetened chocolate contains more of the toxin theobromide. Toxic doses for a 50-lb. dog would be approximately 48 oz. of milk chocolate, 16 oz. of semisweet chocolate, or 5 oz. of baker’s chocolate (these are approximate doses only — all dogs react differently to chocolate).

Clinical signs of chocolate toxicity usually occur within 1-4 hours after ingestion and include: vomiting; diarrhea; hyperactivity; muscle tremors; elevated heart rate; seizures; and, in severe cases, coma and death. Although there is no antidote to chocolate, the prognosis for survival is usually good with aggressive supportive care initiated within 8 hours of ingestion. Decontamination might include inducing vomiting in your dog/cat, giving your pet activated charcoal to absorb what is left in the GI tract, and IV fluids. So be sure to hide your chocolate from your pets and seek veterinary care as soon as possible should your animal get into your Easter stash.

Happy Spring!!!

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Pets and Antifreeze Poisoning

‘Tis the season for snow and ice, and we’re certainly getting our fair share this year. Besides watching out for wintry hazards on the road, we also need to be very vigilant in observing our pets for signs of antifreeze poisoning.

Antifreeze can sometimes accidentally be spilled onto the ground when it is being poured into a vehicle, resulting in a small — and potentially deadly — puddle in your driveway or street. Antifreeze has a sweet taste to dogs and cats, so they will often lick or drink it right off the ground. Cats may also walk through an antifreeze puddle unintentionally and then lick it off their feet. Even that small amount of antifreeze can be fatal to cats, and just a few tablespoons can be fatal to a medium-sized dogs.

Symptoms of antifreeze poisoning will be obvious very quickly. Your pet may appear drunk/wobbly or unsteady on its feet. You may also observe seizures within 2-3 hours of ingestion. If you suspect your pet may have ingested antifreeze, it is imperative that you seek veterinary attention immediately.

Continued signs of antifreeze poisoning include excessive urinating and drinking, which can occur 1-3 days after ingestion. Antifreeze contains a substance called ethylene glycol that causes extreme kidney failure. Once kidney failure sets in, you may notice your pet urinating less and then, eventually, not at all. Often, a pet may appear to be feeling better a few days before kidney failure becomes critical. Don’t be fooled by this into thinking that your pet may be recovering. If you have any suspicion of antifreeze poisoning, or if you are concerned for the health of your pet, call your veterinarian immediately!

Blood and urine tests are needed to detect the presence of ethylene glycol in your pet’s system. Depending on the time of ingestion, vomiting may be induced. To help prevent kidney failure, IV fluids will need to be administered to your pet for several days.

If your pet has ingested antifreeze within the past 8 hours, a medication called Antizol-Vet (4-MP) may be used to prevent further kidney damage from the by-products of antifreeze. The prognosis for recovery is fair to good if your pet receives this treatment within 8 hours of ingestion, so time is of the essence when treating this kind of poisoning. Multiple doses of the medicine will be required. If it has been longer than 8 hours since ingestion, this medication is not as effective, and the prognosis for survival is poor to grave. Once kidney failure sets in, treatment is very aggressive, but even then survival is not assured.

Prevention of antifreeze poisoning obviously requires keeping antifreeze out of reach of your pets. This type of toxicity is not limited to the wintertime, however, so be sure to take care year-round. Keep all antifreeze containers tightly closed and out of reach of your animals. It is also recommended that you not let your animals out to roam the neighborhood unattended, where they might come upon a wayward puddle of the substance.

When disposing of antifreeze, do not dump it on the ground or in a drain — take it to a proper dump facility for disposal. Check your garage and driveway periodically for antifreeze leaks, and always check for spills after performing an antifreeze fill-up on your car. Clean up spills with towels, then dispose of the towels properly. And ask your local automotive supply store for environmentally-friendly and pet-friendly antifreeze alternatives.

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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