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It can be difficult to get our pets to take needed medications. One of the most common techniques for hiding pills is burying the medicine in a dollop of peanut butter. Peanut butter can do an amazing job at hiding the flavor of offensive tablets and capsules. However, not all peanut butters are safe for animal consumption. Recently, several peanut butter companies have been using the low calorie sweetener, xylitol, as an additive/flavor enhancer in their products. Xylitol is a sugar-like molecule that mirrors the actions of sugar in the digestive tract. It is used most commonly in toothpastes and sugar-free gums. Not only does xylitol have a sweet taste and fewer calories than sugar, it also has been shown to inhibit the growth of cavity causing bacteria in the mouth. While xylitol has been shown to be safe for human consumption, it is deadly to our canine companions. In dogs, xylitol fools the body into thinking that it has just consumed large amounts of sugar. As a result, the body releases a huge volume of insulin to lower the total blood glucose. The resulting flood of insulin can be ten times greater than what is actually needed and, consequently, the dog’s blood sugar levels plummet. The extreme hypoglycemia that follows the insulin release is life threatening to dogs. Xylitol can produce lethal side effects less than an hour after being consumed.
As a general rule I always advise owners to avoid feeding food for human consumption to their pets. There are many foods that we can eat that are toxic to dogs. However, I acknowledge that there are some occasions when many owners feel the need to treat their pets with a little snack from the human pantry. If you must give your dog a human treat, be sure to educate yourself on what is safe and what is toxic and be extra sure to read the labels on the food that you give your pets. Just one teaspoon of peanut butter made with xylitol can be enough to kill your beloved pet. Some of the signs of xylitol exposure are vomiting, seizures, weakness, unsteadiness, tremors, loss of consciousness, and death. If you suspect that your dog has eaten anything with xylitol such as gum, toothpaste, or certain brands of peanut butter, please call our office immediately. Whenever possible switch out your dog’s “human food” treats for something labeled specifically for use in dogs.
How do I know if my Cat (or Dog) has Kidney Disease?
As our pets get older, natural aging will, over time, cause our internal organs not to function as efficiently as before. This is certainly true with Kidney function over time. As the kidneys become less efficient, the filtering of blood waste products is less efficient. These waste products can build up and act as toxins to the body. A challenge in the diagnosis of early kidney disease has always been a frustrating dilemma for clinicians, since rarely do our pets show any indication of a problem until the kidney malfunction has progressed far from the “early” stage to a more late-stage kidney disease.
An owner that is observing their pet for increased urination or increased thirst as an indicator of kidney problems must realize that those external signs typically occur when the disease has progressed far from the early stages!
As a clinician, the normal kidney values observed on a serum blood test also will not indicate a kidney problem until almost two-thirds of the kidney function has been compromised! This amount of kidney malfunction is close to being critical in some cases if the pet has been exposed to a toxin as the cause of kidney disease.
We use the analysis of the urine also as a means to help indicate the possibility of kidney disease. The urine specific gravity (its concentration), and a test called the U/P:C ratio, which detects a certain metabolite called creatinine compared to protein, can help indicate kidney disease. Since creatinine can be influenced by factors other than kidney disease, we always have to interpret the results compared with other lab results and usually need to repeat the testing over time to monitor trends.
Currently we have an additional blood test (other than creatinine), that will now help detect kidney disease at an earlier stage. This blood biomarker called SDMA has shown to be an accurate and precise test for early changes in kidney function. The goal of our diagnostics has always been to detect an abnormality early, so that appropriate intervention can occur earlier in the stage of the disease! We now have that ability to detect the early changes in kidney function even if your dog or cat is acting normal and even if the other “standard” blood values are still in normal range. Call our office to have your beloved senior pet checked today!
If you walk into the average pet store you will find that there is a wide variety of animals available to pet owners today. A pet store carries more than just dogs and cats. They also carry animals like: chameleons, tortoises, cockatiels, parakeets, boas, pythons, toads, hamsters, ferrets, guinea pigs, hermit crabs, fish and much more. With such a variety available to the general public, the number of households owning “exotic” pets has continued to climb throughout the United States. The number of veterinary clinics that caters to exotic pets, however, has not increased at a comparable rate. As a result, many exotic animal owners have not been able to seek regular medical attention for their unconventional pets.
Exotic animals require regular veterinary check ups just like any other pet. It isn’t just dogs and cats that need vaccines, wellness exams and blood work. Guinea pigs are prone to upper respiratory infections as well as urinary tract infections. Snakes can have retained scales over their eyes called spectacles that can lead to infection and blindness. Turtles are prone to vitamin A deficiency which can lead to skeletal deformities, conjunctivitis, and ear infections. No matter what exotic pet you have there are diseases and husbandry problems that are specific to each one.
Exotic animals often hide signs of disease until they are completely overwhelmed by the illness. Oftentimes the best time for intervention with most exotic animals is early on in the disease process when signs of disease may not be obvious to most owners. That is why I recommend that every pet owner bring their animals to the veterinarian at least once a year for a physical exam and necessary vaccines. This way we can catch illness or injury before it becomes a debilitating problem for you pet.
We often do not think about Rabies until there is an “incident” with a bite wound with ourselves or one of our pets. In Spring and Summer our pets are often spending more time out of doors and therefore the risk for exposure can be greater. The following are some important guidelines provided by the Virginia Dept of Health. If you have any questions or concerns, please call our office at 943-7577.
Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. It kills almost any mammal (humans included) that gets sick from it. The rabies virus is mainly in the saliva and brain of rabid animals. It can be transmitted through a bite or by getting saliva or brain tissue in a wound or in the eye or mouth.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP CONTROL RABIES:
For more information, contact your local health department.
The warm weather is here and our pets are spending more time out of doors. You are already taking precautions against flea and ticks and you are keeping your pet vaccinated against many diseases. Now, however, is also the time that we begin to see snakebites in pets! Since snakes can live almost anywhere, your own backyard could be a potential habitat for poisonous snakes! With human development encroaching on rural areas, many of the snakes’ normal environments may be pushed to new regions.
A dog in its own backyard may see the snake as an invader and try to remove the snake from its territory. The snake, in defending itself, can unleash a large amount of toxin into your pet from its bite. The severity of the envenomation depends on the type of snake, the venom dose and the general health of the pet. Most dogs will be bitten in and around the face. This the most frequently part of the body to swell up. The toxins, however, do more than just cause swelling. Depending on the type of poisonous snake, pit viper or coral snake, the type of poison and what it does to the body will be different. Coral snakes release a neurotoxin, while rattlesnakes will release a toxin that affects the coagulation (clotting) of blood and causes the destruction of red blood cells and other tissue.
What’s a pet owner to do?!! If you know that your area, or areas where you walk your dog, may have snakes, it is best to keep your dog on a controllable leash. Walk less at night since the snakes tend to be nocturnal and keep dogs away from things that may be hiding places for snakes like logs, rocks and bushes.
If your dog is bitten, DO NOT attempt outdated first aid measures such as applying a tourniquet or making a cut to remove the venom with suction. Your best bet is to get your dog to the nearest emergency clinic - the faster the better! While some bites from coral snakes may take a few hours to show symptoms, a rattlesnake bite can cause signs within the first 30 minutes. Many dogs will need intravenous fluids, antibiotics, pain medication and, in some cases, oxygen. If available, your pet should also receive antivenom. Due to the expense, many clinics will not keep antivenom in stock, but emergency clinics will have this available. Antivenom usually costs between $500 - $1,000 per vial and a severely bitten dog may require several vials within the first few hours of treatment. Needless to say preventing the snakebite in the first place is the best course of action for you and your dog!
It’s that time of year where the warm weather and the growing grasses and the blooming flowers, all tell us that Spring Time is here! Our pets want to enjoy this time as much as we do but, with this Spring weather, there comes the threat of ticks and allergies!
Ticks are seen throughout the entire nation, and can be found on pets in the country and in urban areas. Ticks are a main concern for veterinarians and pet owners alike because they can transmit infectious disease to both pets and humans! Ticks require a bloodmeal in order to grow and reproduce. As they obtain this meal from a pet or human, the ticks secrete saliva which, in turn, harbors the infectious agents that we commonly diagnose. You must take care when removing the tick so that the blood and saliva do not contaminate your hands. The entire tick must be removed from your pet so that the infectious agents do not continue to be transmitted. Prevention of a tick bite is much safer than trying to remove ticks after they attach. We can prescribe safe, effective and appropriate medications for your pet’s size and weight.
Seasonal allergies in our pets tend to peak about this time also. Many allergens are inhaled. This means that your dog or cat does not need to be running and rolling in the grass or weeds to suffer from the symptoms of allergies. Pruritis, or “itchy” skin, is the main manifestation of atopic dermatitis or allergies. In our pets, this is often complicated by secondary bacterial or fungal infections which can make the itch even worse. See our Blog from April 8, 2015 for a full description of allergic dermatitis. Since allergies can be life-long, owners must be prepared to “manage” the disease instead of expecting a “cure.” We often need to individualize therapeutic plans for your pet’s specific allergies and for your pet’s skin condition.
Don’t let your pet suffer from Spring Fever, call us to discuss your options!
Could My Pet Have Allergies?
We often hear the question about the possibilities of allergies in pets, and the simple answer is YES. Dogs, cats, birds or other small mammals can all exhibit the clinical signs associated with allergies. Each pet may exhibit different signs and varying degrees of symptoms when allergies begin. Some may be the classical signs, similar to what we are familiar with in humans. At other times, your pet may exhibit much more subtle signs, at least initially.
Allergies can be acute, or in many cases, they can be a chronic life-long issue. Even with those cases that are chronic, there is still hope for relief depending on the source of your pets’ allergies, and depending on the response to various treatments. Some allergies, like insect bites or bee stings can be sudden but also more severe in the symptoms that they cause. Severe reactions, like anaphylaxis may require hospitalization.
More commonly, we deal with chronic allergies, where clinical signs can range from red irritated skin, excessive itching and scratching, licking at paws or biting and chewing at skin, or any number of respiratory symptoms. Allergies can be seasonal, or year-round. Many pets can be allergic to certain ingredients in their food. Allergies also typically begin at a few years of age and, even though there are not any “changes” that you are aware of in the environment, your pet can become itchy. Additionally, even though skin issues are a common complaint of pets that develop allergies, many allergens are actually inhaled. So if your pet has grass allergies, for instance, a neighbor mowing the lawn a few doors away could set of your pets’ symptoms, without you pet ever being in contact with the grass itself.
The most common problems that we encounter with the treatment of allergies are not addressing all the pet’s allergies and not treating for a long enough period of time.
Allergies many times are life-long conditions, and instead of a “cure”, we often talk about “managing” the problem like many chronic conditions.
A second problem, although equally serious, is the additional bacterial dermatitis that arises from a pet scratching or licking excessively. A bacterial or yeast condition on the skin can also cause your pet to scratch and can mimic the same signs as some allergies. This can also make it more difficult to monitor the response allergy treatment. For this reason, rarely is the pet owner going to find a single “magic bullet” that will take care of all of the pet’s problems. Instead we use a multiple treatment regime that will help address the complicating factors that also influence the skin, and its response to treatment, as well as any secondary infections.
Diagnosing the allergens that are setting off the reaction may be helpful in many cases.
This will also allow your pet to be able to receive immunotherapy (allergy shots) that will also help minimize your pet’s reaction to those allergens.
Call us to discuss all your pets’ options when you are faced with the itchy/scratchy pet!
Should I Worry About my Dog’s Red Eyes?
If eye redness or irritation is present and seems to be bothering the dog to the point of squinting or rubbing at the eyes, it is a problem that definitely needs an accurate diagnosis. The first response in some cases is just to observe the problem to see if it will get worse, however, in many eye diseases the difference in saving or losing vision is determined by speed at which the condition is treated. Waiting for an eye condition to resolve on its own could possibly mean the loss of vision for your pet.
Since redness is not a disease all by itself, it is just a clinical manifestation of other underlying problems. Obviously allergies or a simple eye irritation from dust or pollen is not as serious as other medical conditions. It is often impossible for an owner to differentiate between a minor problem and something major. Even a seemingly simple eye irritation could actually be a corneal scratch or corneal abrasion which eventually could cause permanent eye damage.
Secondly, a mild eye irritation could progress very rapidly especially if your pet is rubbing at its eyes, and causes a scratch on the corneal from its paws or nails.
The same holds true for discharge from the eye. Some discharge could be related to allergies or irritation but, as mentioned above, it could indicate a more serious problem that, left untreated, could cause vision loss.
Finally, a sudden redness of the eye, often associated with discomfort or pain, could possibly be an indicator of Glaucoma. Glaucoma can progress very rapidly, and can even cause blindness in 24 hours!! This is definitely a condition that must be diagnosed and treated early. Since this condition cannot be easily diagnosed by an owner at home, and blindness can occur so fast, getting attention for a “red eye” is imperative.
Why Do I Need to Give Heartworm Preventatives Year-Round?
“There is still snow on the ground, and I haven’t seen any mosquitoes for months, so why am I still giving heartworm prevention to my dog?” We often hear this question, and the simplest answer is that, as we all know, the weather changes quickly and dramatically. Although we may have snow today, we can have 50 degree weather tomorrow. With the wet weather, and with puddles forming everywhere, this is an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are the source for heartworm infections!
As we have stated in many blogs, prevention is usually easier, more economical, and certainly better for your pet than treating a disease after the fact. Heartworm disease is an excellent example; year round prevention can certainly alleviate the ‘heartache’ (pun intended) of trying to treat a dog that is already positive for heartworm. By the time a dog is diagnosed with heartworm disease, it is possible that the parasite has already caused damage to the inner lining of the heart as well as the heart valves! Even though the parasite may be treated, the heart damage often remains!
In addition to preventing dreaded heartworm disease, most heartworm prevention will also offer some protection against certain intestinal parasites. This added benefit of a monthly worming has the advantage also of keeping you pet parasite free, year-round. And yes, pets can pick up intestinal parasites even in the winter months.
If you tend to “forget” to give the monthly heartworm prevention, we can administer a heartworm prevention injection 2x yearly which prevents the mistakes of missing monthly dose at home. Call our office to ask about the 6-month heartworm prevention!
Is it Spring Yet?
Even with another snow storm heading this way, believe it or not SPRING is just around the corner, only weeks away. With SPRING, comes the warmer weather, and with the warmer weather will come another season of fleas and ticks. I am mentioning the potential flea and tick problem now because we often find that people wait until they see the first flea on their dog before “reacting’ to the problem. As with most conditions we discuss on this blog, prevention is easier, simpler and, in most cases, less expensive, than reacting to a problem that already exists!
NOW is the time to start thinking about flea and tick prevention. With the multitude of once-a-month products that are available, it is easy to begin the prevention program before a problem exists and fleas or ticks begin to cause problems on your pet. Administering the medication before SPRING arrives, allows your pet to be protected before the fleas or ticks have a chance to cause an infestation.
For those dog owners concerned about using liquid topical flea and tick medications, there is a safe and effective oral beef-flavored chewable that is available for both flea and tick prevention. Owners with long, thick haired dogs, or those dog owners with children that are unsure about using topical medication, the oral medication is an easy ideal answer. The oral medication is FDA approved, easy to give (flavored), and it doesn’t wash off! It will kill fleas before they have a chance to lay eggs, which with regular use, prevents the dreaded flea infestations! It last for 30 days (minimum).
Whether you chose a topical or the new oral flea prevention, make sure you begin prevention now, yes now, before the ‘season’ begins!
New Chemo Options for Mast Cell Tumors
The first question you may be asking is what is a Mast Cell Tumor?
Mast Cell tumors are growths that develop from cells that normally occur in the skin, respiratory system and digestive system. They are cells that are part of the body’s defense system that will release certain substances that help break down protein in response to a signal triggered by the immune system. A Mast Cell tumor is an abnormal accumulation of these Mast Cells in a certain area.
A Mast Cell tumor can be either a benign growth or it can be a malignancy. Also, since these Mast Cells are part of the skin, they can occur on any part of the body. They can develop with many different sizes, shapes, consistencies and locations. These tumors can also occur in many different breeds and in both sexes. If these tumors develop in areas other than the skin, systemic signs, most noticeably G-I systems of vomiting, or ulcerations can also occur.
Since approximately 20% of all skin tumors in dogs turn out to be Mast Cell tumors and since the variability in appearance is so great, the only way to accurately diagnose and grade the tumor is through a biopsy. Identifying and then grading & staging the tumor is very important when making decisions on how the tumor may affect your dog in the future. This can also help determine whether other tests may be indicated to determine if this “skin” tumor may also be affecting the inside of your pet.
Treatment for these tumors usually involves surgery but, depending on the identification of Malignancy/Benign aspect of the tumor, further treatments with radiation therapy or chemotherapy may be indicated.
Newer chemo agents that target Mast Cell tumors with an improved efficacy and with potentially lower side effects have been introduced within the last year or two. Kinavet (a newer medication) is in pill form, and can be given by an owner at home! This helps with decreasing the stress related to visits to the hospital.
If your dog has any suspicious lump on its body, be sure to have the growth identified properly and talk with one of our veterinarians to have proper treatment individualized specifically for your pet.
There has been a lot of news recently regarding distemper found in the wild gray fox population surrounding Waynesboro. As many of your may know, distemper is a viral disease that affects a multitude of animals including dogs, coyotes, foxes, wolves, ferrets, skunks, badgers, wolverines, raccoons and bears as well as Asian elephants, Japanese Macaques, and large wild cats. The wide range of species susceptible to distemper infection creates large natural reservoirs for the disease. This means that if your animal has contact with any wildlife, it is important that you keep current on their vaccinations for both your animal’s safety and also for the benefit of the ecosystem. An infected animal can carry and shed the virus in high numbers for weeks, infecting any animal it comes in contact with.
Distemper isn’t the only disease that can be spread back and forth between pets and wildlife. Rabies, in particular, is a serious concern as it can be carried by any mammal and is always fatal. In the cases of both distemper and rabies, there exist very effective vaccines. Rabies and distemper are both very preventable diseases, all one must do to ensure a safe household is to vaccinate their pets regularly and supervise visits to natural areas. Occurrences like the distemper infected foxes in Waynesboro are very concerning. They can have serious implications to the local wildlife populations and to the pet owners in the affected area. Please do your part to limit the spread and the impact of this disease by vaccinating your pets and keeping them from interacting with wild animals.
Can You Explain What Happens When My Dog Gets a Dental Cleaning?
When you have your dog’s or cat’s teeth cleaned at the veterinarian’s office, it is actually an entire mouth and dental examination as well as dental prophylaxis of the teeth. It is also a cleaning and evaluation of the health of the teeth below the gum line.
We often get “quick” looks inside out pet’s mouths and try to determine the degree of dental plaque and perhaps the bad odor that you have been experiencing from our pet’s mouth.
Often what we can see is similar to looking at the tip of an iceberg. To fully evaluate a pet’s extent of dental tartar, the degree of gingivitis and the presence of periodontal disease, the pet needs to be sedated and, if procedures are to be performed, the pet is under anesthesia. Even a “cooperative” pet must be under anesthesia to safely perform the procedures properly.
Once the degree of dental disease is assessed properly, the actual cleaning and treatment of the dental disease can proceed. The depth of the sulcus (the area around the tooth) in the gums can be measured and documented in order to evaluate the progression of any disease process. Ultrasonic cleaning of the tooth itself, followed by polishing of the crown of the tooth will help slow down the process of plaque development. Finally, if evaluation of the root of the tooth is imperative, x-rays can be performed to reveal pathology that is not evident by simply an oral exam. Cleaning of the teeth, examination of gingiva, cleaning of the teeth below the gumline, flushing of the gingival sulcus, polishing of the teeth and documenting any oral pathology are all part of the dental procedure.
Since the prevention and removal of dental disease can have a direct correlation to the prevention of other diseases throughout the body, keeping your pet’s mouth disease-free, can ultimately lead to a healthier and happier pet! Dental cleaning should be performed on those pets that do not receive any home dental care at a minimum of once a year. Potentially more frequent dental procedures may need to be performed on those pets that are prone to the development of tartar from causes like poor diet, genetics or other abnormalities that allow the tartar to form more rapidly.
Keep you pets Healthy….Keep your pets Happy!
Dr. O is our Board Certified Canine, Feline Dr. Fujiura joined the CEDARCREST team in 2013.
and Avian Specialist and the owner of He moved to Virginia from Washington state where
CEDARCREST Animal Clinic. He also co-writes he gained experience working with various types of
the CAC blog (almost) every other week. animals. He enjoys outdoor activities, spending time
with his pets and, of course, writing for the