Don’t let your dog gain those extra holiday pounds

Did you know that the average person gains 10 pounds over the holiday season?

It’s a time for celebration and often that means yummy, yummy, yummy food.  And often we are too busy getting ready for the holidays that we don’t make time for exercise.  Add to that the fact that the days are short and getting colder, and we just don’t want to be as active as we were a couple of months ago.  The simple equation is:

More calorie intake (yummy holiday food) + Less calorie burning (less exercise) = Weight gain

Our furry friends tend to follow our trends, too.  Our indoor dogs that spend lots of time with us tend to sit on the couch when we sit on the couch, and play outside when we play outside.  If we take a walk, they want to come too.  If we make yummy food, we share yummy food.  If we diet, we measure out our dog’s food, too.  So it’s natural for our furry buddies to gain weight when we gain weight, and lose weight when we lose weight.

Another thing to remember is that the more active we are, the more energy we have and the more we crave activity.  The converse is also true.  The more couch time that we have, the more unlikely we will feel like going for a walk.  The same is true for our furry Little Fat Pugfriends. They say that it takes 3 weeks to form good habits, which means that those of us that have already gotten under the spell of cold weather inactivity will need to work hard for a few weeks to get back into good exercise habits.

The good news is that we do not have to wait for the weight gain to happen and the New Year to come along for change.  We can avoid the weight gain from the start!  And you and your furry friend will look awesome in your Christmas sweaters!  This is a win/win!

So let’s sum up our strategies for keeping our pooches trim (I’m talking about pets🙂

  1. Get outside and take a walk!  Or walk inside your home for a certain number of steps or a certain amount of time every day.  (Get this approved by your doctor if you need to!)  Five minutes of activity beats zero any day.  If you run, try running with your puppy.  If you can’t walk, sit on your favorite recliner and play fetch with your pooch inside the home.  Make it work for you.
  2. Set manageable goals.  If you don’t currently exercise, start with five or ten minutes a day and work up to thirty minutes a day.  Keep goals that you can see yourself doing practically every day, as a habit.
  3. Measure your pet’s food.  Keep track of what your pet eats.  Like us, pets tend to eat more than they should if it tastes good.  They look to us, their human caretakers, to notice when they are eating too much and to cut back when necessary.  Some pets need not only limitations on how much they eat, but also a low-calorie diet to maintain weight.  If you need help, talk to your veterinarian for guidelines specific to your furry loved one.
  4. Indoor cats need exercise and food limitations too.  Most indoor cats do not need more than 1/2 cup per day of a regular dry diet.  They also need time to run around and play.  This can happen with a laser pointer, playing fetch with small pieces of paper, cat toys like plastic balls and bells, and other ways to keep them active.
  5. Spend time with your friend every day.  Make the effort to spend 20-30 minutes a day playing with and exercising your pet.  This will enrich their life and yours, too. 🙂

 

Red Eyes in Dogs and Cats

One of the most common phone calls that we receive often starts, “I need to bring my furry friend in to see the doctor.  He is squinting his eye and it’s really watery and seems painful.”

A red, sore eye can come about from a long list of ailments.  Puppies often play hard and get scratched on the surface of the eye (the cornea), which results in redness, swelling and pain.  Kittens commonly have viruses that cause inflammation in the eye, which can result in secondary bacterial infections and sometimes runny noses and sneezing as well.  Older dogs can get diabetes and glaucoma, which also results in a painful, red eye.  Another common ailment is a “cherry eye”, which is a tear gland that is displaced up and over the eyelid (see the first picture above).

This is a short list of just a few of the eye issues that we see come in the door, and each one involves a very different cause.  Here’s a few things to remember about eyes.

  1.  All eye issues should be seen as soon as possible.  While many of these conditions are not an emergency, they do need to be seen in a timely manner as they can go from bad to worse within a few days.  Some conditions (if uncontrolled) can result in the loss of the eye.
  2. An eye issue may be a sign of an underlying problem.  Diabetes mellitus, nerve issues, cardiovascular disease, viruses, bacteria, fungi, Lyme disease…any of these ailments can cause ocular disease and may need additional testing and treatment to address them properly.
  3. Eye treatments often need to be given multiple times a day, in the form of eye drops or ointment.  This requires dedication to treat from you, the owner, and may require that more than one person be available (one to hold and one to give the dog the drops).  Your veterinarian and staff can help to show you how to best hold your furry friend for these treatments.
  4. Some eye treatments require an E-collar, or neck cone, to keep the pet from rubbing or scratching the eye.  We hate these too!  But often eyes that are sick and also painful, and easy to rub and scratch
  5. Surgery is required to correct some ailments.  Cherry eyes and rolled-in eyelids come to mind.  Also…some eyes get to the point that they cannot be saved and act as a source of pain and infection for the pet.  At this point, surgical removal of the eye may be the best way to manage the patient.
  6. Some eye diseases require referral to diagnose and/or manage.  Pets sometimes need ophthalmologists too!  Many primary care veterinarians do not have the more sophisticated tools or the specialty experience that a dedicated ophthalmologist has, and will refer you to them when necessary (just as your human family doctor would refer you if necessary).

 

My furry friend has a lump!

Usually when we find these mysterious lumps on our furry friends, it’s when we are giving them their nightly rub-down.  And then we worry because they surprise us and often we don’t know what we are dealing with.  Sometimes these lumps are small and don’t seem to bother our pet at all.  Other times, they seem to come up quickly and appear to itch or are painful.  They can even leak blood or other fluid or may be hot to the touch.

What should do you do in this situation?

  1. Think about how long you have noticed the lump and make a good assessment of how it is (or is not) affecting your pet.  A good history can really help your veterinarian figure out what it could be.
  2. Call your veterinarian and make an appointment to have it looked at.

What do veterinarians typically do in this situation?

  1. Get a good history from you, the pet owner.  Check the pet’s records for previous health issues (if any).
  2. Get a good physical exam of the pet, including body weight and examination of eyes, mouth, ear, chest, lymph nodes and abdomen.
  3. Examine the lump.  This often includes both a visual inspection and an examination of the cells inside the mass.  Sometimes this means inserting a needle into the mass or taking a biopsy.
  4. At times we find it necessary to remove a mass entirely.  In this case, it is best to submit the mass to a pathology laboratory for further assessment.  This will allow for a definitive diagnosis, which can help us develop a future treatment plan as well as let us know whether or not we totally removed the offending lump.

What could it be?

“Lumps” can be many different things — ranging from infections to foreign bodies (imagine a thorn stuck in the skin and resulting swelling) to tumors (both cancer and non-cancer).  Diagnosis can be difficult because often these can look very similar to each other!  A good sample of tissue (biopsy) or cells (fine needle aspirate) or even submission of the entire mass is the best way to know for sure.

 

 

 

What’s up with my dog? He is drinking way too much water!

Sometimes it happens all of a sudden, and sometimes it comes on slowly over months.  One day you realize that you’ve filled your pup’s water bowl three times in one day, when in the past one bowl was enough to get him through a whole 24 hour period.  Or maybe you realize it after stepping in a puddle of urine in the house three times in one week — and your furry friend hasn’t had accidents since he was a pup.  Then you realize that he’s been

dog-drinking-water

dogchannel.com

drinking a lot more and can’t make it outside in time to go potty.

 

Has this happened to you?  We hear this story frequently here at the clinic, especially with middle-aged to older dogs and cats.  When this scenario comes up, your veterinarian needs information.  A good history is often half of the diagnosis in these cases, and a good physical exam along with urine and blood testing is often warranted to figure out the other half.

Common diseases in the dog that cause excessive drinking and urination include diabetes mellitus and steroid hormone imbalance.  Diabetes can also cause other symptoms, such as weight loss, cataracts (loss of vision), poor hair coat, flaky skin, vomiting and urinary tract infections.  Steroid imbalances can be an excess of hormone (Cushing’s disease) or a lack of hormone (Addison’s disease).  These can cause symptoms such as a pot-bellied appearance, thin stretchy skin, hair loss, increased panting and increased appetite.

The confusing thing is that sometimes these diseases can look very much the same and need bloodwork and urinalysis to distinguish between them.  Steroid diseases often need specialized bloodwork above this to confirm a diagnosis.  And (for extra fun) some dogs will have both diseases at the same time.

And there are always other causes for these symptoms that aren’t diabetes or steroid related.  This is where your observational skills at home and your veterinarian’s skill at exams and interpreting bloodwork will be really helpful.

The good news is, all of the above diseases have treatments available that have seen lots of good results in pets worldwide.  Once we get to the bottom of the cause, then we can start treating and resolve the problem.

Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs

This morning sure felt crisp!  There’s no doubt about it, autumn is here in West Central Indiana, and my brain is starting to think about leaves turning and pumpkins and harvest.  Meanwhile my stomach is thinking about candy corn and caramel apples and gobs of Halloween chocolates.  And yummy pumpkin lattes (they totally live up to the hype!!  You should try one.  Get me one, too.)tim-burton-jack-o-lantern

My Labrador retriever, Hank, loves this time of year, too.  He just can’t wait until Halloween night, when he can sneak a piece of chocolate or two (or twelve) from the kids’ trick-or-treat bags.

Many owners know that chocolate is toxic to dogs, but we also know that many dogs eat an M&M here and there and live to tell about it.  So when do we worry?  When do you call your veterinarian?

Chocolate toxicity is one of the top 20 poisons that we see in our canine friends.  It is a combination of caffeine and a chemical called theobromine that causes the problem.  Dogs are very sensitive to these (more-so than humans), and owners will see a hyper, easily excitable dog.  This excitability can progress to seizures, increased heart rate, vomiting and even death.

The darker the chocolate, the higher the concentration of the toxic chemicals.  This means that your dog has to eat less of it to see these effects.  Dark chocolate is the most toxic, and white chocolate the least toxic.

Your best bet is to catch it as early as possible, make note of your dog’s symptoms and a good assessment of how much he ate, and then call your veterinarian for advice.

Sometimes as veterinarians we need to encourage a dog to vomit, or control seizures with anti-seizure drugs, or give oral medications to help protect the stomach or the heart.   Sometimes bloodwork is necessary or even IV fluids to help keep a dog hydrated until the caffeine and theobromine leave his system.

Each case is very individual and most turn out well with the help of your other family doctor!  Here’s to wishing you a safe and happy fall season!

 

 

Red Irritated Eyes in Dogs and Cats

It’s Sunday morning and you wake up with your best furry friend and see that one of his eyes are weepy.  His tail is wagging and he is squinting up at you.  Upon closer inspection, you see that his eye appears red and irritated.  He starts to rub his eye on the bed and then with his paw.  It seems painful and sore.

What do you do in this situation?  Do you get through the day and call your veterinarian first thing in the morning?  Do you call an emergency service today?

There are a variety of reasons that your furry buddy could have an irritated eye.  If he is young and playful, we often see scratches on the cornea (the clear outer surface of the eyeball), or irritated eyes from being ‘nosy’ and brushing eyes against weeds, bushes, etc.  Some dogs get allergies, especially in the spring and fall, that cause irritation.  Fleas can cause the same type of irritation.  Older dogs can get ‘dry eye’, where tear glands do not produce as many tears as they should and the cornea becomes irritated and even infected.  Cats as kittens often have underlying viruses that cause red eyes that can progress over time to serious infections of the eye ball itself.  In this way, eyes can also be a clue to underlying diseases such as diabetes or fungal infections.

A simple call to your local emergency service is likely the best way to start in this situation.  A good description of your pet’s lifestyle, his history, and the look of the eye can go a long way as to the cause of the problem.  Get a good idea too of how your pet is feeling overall before you call.  (Is he eating/drinking?  Urinating/defecating?  Acting tired or listless?  Vomiting or diarrhea?)  If nothing else, a conversation with a professional may be able to determine whether or not your pet needs to go in to see the doctor immediately or if things can likely wait until Monday.

Once your veterinarian gets an opportunity to look at the eye, they will be able to do a physical exam and run some simple diagnostics to determine the problem.  Sometimes bloodwork is necessary to decide whether or not an underlying problem exists.  Typically, even simple eye issues should be seen ASAP for fast healing with minimal long term effects.

The Fight Against Fleas

Halloween is still a month away, but many of our clients have been seeing blood-sucking monsters in their homes for weeks now.  The flea population outdoors is heavy this time of year, and often that means that as your favorite pet moves in and out of the house, the population can be growing inside your home too.

Veterinarians hate fleas for all of the same reasons that pet owners do:  they spread disease, they make pets ill, they trigger allergies and they make pets (and people) itchy and miserable.  And they can be incredibly frustrating to get rid of.Flea in hair

There is a reason that these tiny pests have survived (thrived!!) on this planet for thousands of years.  They are ridiculously small (the body is the size of the tip of your pen), they have a hard protective shell, they lay hundreds of eggs at a time (within hours of landing on your favorite pooch), and their offspring can live as pupae in the soil or in the home for months at a time.  Adult fleas suck blood from the dog, at the same time laying eggs which fall off the dog as he runs through the house.  These eggs hatch over time and develop into pupae (which are incredibly difficult to kill), then larvae, and eventually into adults which use pets as nourishment to start the cycle all over again.

No wonder we are in battle with these parasites.  We have many factors fighting against us:  sheer numbers of pests, cost of control, difficulty in effectively killing the flea, and the fact that our dogs get re-exposed every time they run outside to potty.

So is there any good news in all of this??

We are happy to tell you that as a whole, our profession is now armed with a variety of products that are effective in killing fleas and preventing future infestations.  Flea baths are becoming a thing of the past, and drugs that we give once that last for 3-4 weeks (or even longer!) are the way to go.  We have several oral medications that last from 4 weeks to 3 months.  We also have a collar that kills both fleas and ticks and lasts up to 8 months.

There are so many products out there that many of our clients are overwhelmed with options.  Every family’s situation is different; some dogs take pills, others are better about a liquid applied to the back or a collar.  Some dogs need tick prevention as well as flea control.  Our job is to help you develop a plan of attack to keep your family healthy.  There is nothing that makes us happier than to see your home flea-free for now and for years to come.

If you are in the face of a flea infestation in your home, a dual-attack approach is necessary.  This often means treating all of the dogs and cats in the home every month AND flea bombing the house, too.

Please stop in and see us, we are your resource for flea control!