Canine medical issues

Melting Down — Hyperthermia in our Pets

I felt this way this week!

I felt this way this week!

I thought this would be an appropriate topic for this week since I felt like I was melting the day Simpsonville was without power. I also had firsthand observation on the day that I locked Rocket and I out of the clinic — it has been a hard couple of weeks.

I know that quite a few of my clients and friends work, compete or just enjoy their pets outside in the summer but we all need to know some basic information on how our pets can overheat and what to do in that situation. This information should help you recognize the signs of heat distress.

Hyperthermia is increased temperature in our pets. Our pets are unable to dissipate heat well so they pant to help with that problem. We also know that they will “sweat” a little through their feet but not enough to help. If your pet’s temperature is too high for too long it can cause severe organ injury and failure. Working and competing pets can have temperatures up to 108 degrees but it should return to normal quickly.

Risks for heat injury can include such things as rapid changes in air temperature (cool one day then hot the next), high temperatures, high humidity, rough terrain, conditioning of the pet and handler, weight of the pet, structure of the pet, medical issues of the pet and the type of work the pet does. Structural and medical issues include such things as a short nose/face, hypothyroidism, and obesity to name a few.

Your pet will give some warning signs that he is overheating but you must be aware and watching for them. These signs can include such things as: excessive panting that can become harsh or noisy, flattening and curling of the tongue (tongue can look “spade” like), looking for shade, being calmer than normal, wanting to sit or lie down, weakness and collapse or death.

There is talk about doing “heat acclimation” in pets and this can be achieved somewhat by exposing the pet gradually to the increasing temperatures. Acclimation will not work well if the pet is just exposed to the heat but they must be “worked” in it also. The recommendation is that it takes at least 2 weeks to acclimatize them to the temperatures but we must also keep them in top physical condition for it to work the best.

Prevention is the best cure so watch your pet carefully and if any signs are noted try the following suggestions:

  • Maintain hydration — water is the best but you may need to carry water because taste may vary by location and if your pet won’t drink it, it can’t help them
  • Lots of rest in shaded areas, good ventilation, away from the activity and interaction of others
  • If your pet wears a muzzle — remove it whenever possible
  • Cooling mats and vests appear to be helpful but as a cooling technique after working

If your pet should overheat, you need to cool them down to 103 as quickly as possible so apply water to their body. If not able to get them totally wet try cooling the head, neck and abdomen at the very least. Once you have them wet try fanning them while getting them to the veterinarian as quickly as possible. Make sure that your veterinarian does blood work because the effects of hyperthermia can last for days. Your pet’s temperature may not regulate properly for a few days so closely monitor it yourself.

Hyperthermia is a very scary situation and we all need to keep a close eye on not only our pets but ourselves. Have a great summer and be safe!


Sweet Poison — Xylitol

The chemical formula of xylitol -- a toxic sweetner for our pets

The chemical formula of xylitol — a toxic sweetener for our pets

If you are not a chemist, this may not make sense to you but it can be deadly for your pet.  Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol that is found normally in fruits and vegetables but in very small amounts. The problem is that xylitol is found lots of food stuff that we don’t think about along with a lot of medications. Xylitol is sold in bulk for baking and can be a huge issue in that respect.

Xylitol can cause a drop in blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and can cause liver necrosis in pets.

Xylitol is used as a sugar substitute in gum, mints, toothpaste and even nontoxic amounts can be found in pet dental products. The Pet Poison Helpline notes that the cases of dogs becoming severely intoxicated after eating homemade breads, cookies and cakes that are sweetened with xylitol.

Xylitol is considered a “proprietary ingredient” which means that companies do not have to list it on the label so if your pet appears to have any symptoms of poisoning please call the Pet Poison Helpline and they can tell you if the product has xylitol. The Pet Poison Helpline number is 800-213-6680.

Products that contain xylitol include over the counter medications, prescription medications, vitamins and supplements along with ice cream products, candy, puddings, syrups and jams. A good rule to follow is do not give your pet any “human” foods or medications.

Xylitol poisoning is dose dependent — small amounts can cause hypoglycemia while large amounts can affect the liver. As little as one piece of gum can cause hypoglycemia in a 10 pound dog.

Signs of xylitol poisoning include:

  • vomiting
  • weakness
  • incoordination
  • coma
  • seizures
  • death

These signs can develop within 15-30 minutes of consumption so you need to act quickly. There is no known antidote but IV fluids, supplementation, blood work, and hospitalization. Prognosis is good if your pet is treated before the signs are seen but prognosis is poor if liver signs develop.

Like we have all heard in the past — “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Let’s keep our pets safe!

Have a safe day and get your pets indoors!

Nose Art

Zeus enjoying laser therapy

Zeus enjoying laser therapy

I wrote this article at the beginning of this year when we lost our old boy and then in quick secession our older girl. I didn’t post it at the time because frankly it was too painful. Last week a very special patient crossed over and I want to dedicate this post to him. Zeus, you will be missed.

I got to thinking about my nose art. If you don’t own a dog you won’t have any clue what I am talking about but those who have those paws on their hearts immediately relate.

We have these smeared shadowy marks on anything that can retain an imprint, especially car windows, sliding glass doors, and any shining object within nose reach.

My dog, Polly, was a Picasso when it came to this art form. This art use to drive me crazy to find it on every window reaching to at least toddler size, but then Polly became ill.

She and I went to the specialist every couple of weeks and the paintings on my rear windows became crowded. We lost Polly that summer and our hearts were totally devastated.

I washed the car a week or so after our loss. I shined and cleaned everything; everything except the back windows. Those nose prints that had drove me crazy for years were scattered all over – I couldn’t wipe them off.

My husband noted the area but didn’t comment. For almost two years we rode around in a clean car with nose prints on the back windows.

Eventually we could bring ourselves to clean those windows although I must admit that it was almost like losing her again when we did.

We since then have lost another four legged family member that rode around with my husband. He has been gone for a few months now.

I recently got in my husband’s truck to go somewhere with him. There is nose art on my window – I think it may stay for quite a while. I know it will always stay on my heart and his.

Hold them dear — Dicki


Happy Thanksgiving!

Blessings on your family!

Blessings on your family!

Hey guys!

No long lecture this week just a sincere wish for a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

Be careful in your travels, have fun with your family and be thankful for what you have in your life. Watch the calories — no human food for your four legged friend.  Okay – small lecture — LOL!

I will hold all of you in my thoughts for a great holiday.

See you next week!


Hey guys! It is getting time for Halloween and even though it is a great time to pull pranks, dress up and celebrate we need to make sure that our pets are protected.

Our pets get scared by masks and there are so many people who don’t look normal so they become very anxious.

With the kids coming around knocking on the doors we also need to make sure that our pets are secure in the house — a nice quiet bedroom would be ideal away from the scary people.

Dressing our pets up has become a fad also which is fine as long as the outfit isn’t constricting to your pet. You must also make sure that your pet is very safe around pumpkins, candles or anything that may be knocked over.

Candy is available at every turn during this time of year and pets are very susceptible to vomiting and diarrhea. Chocolate can be toxic for your pet and a lot of the newer “sugar free” candy has xylitol which is deadly for your pet.

Have fun with your pet during the holiday but keep them safe and secure. I went to Bark in the Park this weekend and took some pictures of pets dressed for halloween — enjoy!

Buddy the Boxer

Buddy the Boxer

We did the mash -- we did the monster mash....

We did the mash — we did the monster mash….

Working on the chain gaangg ....

Working on the chain gaangg ….

Doctor, doctor, give me the news!

Doctor, doctor, give me the news!

Weight Loss Wins!

BJ in the underwater treadmill

BJ in the underwater treadmill

Hey everybody! It has been a week — I don’t know about you but I was glad for the weekend.

I wanted to give a big shout out to a pet who is working hard along with his mother, grandmother and rehab vet! BJ started coming in to ARCC because he could not walk in the rear — he was 31.1 pounds and he had a cruciate problem which hurt so he just kind of gave up. He was scooting himself around and when you did stand him up he would collapse so we started him on some home exercise, a diet that his referring vet recommended and underwater treadmill (uwtm) sessions.

BJ wasn’t overly fond of the underwater treadmill but it was a way to safely work on his strength in his legs, help him to lose weight and not hurt the already injured knee joint.

BJ’s mom bought a kiddy pool and the days he wasn’t here with us at ARCC he was home walking in the pool. BJ was on a strict diet and we began to see the weight loss; he still wouldn’t walk but could support himself when he was placed in the standing position.

Over the next few visits the owners reported that he stood up on his own, then he took a couple of steps, and he has steadily increased his walking along with his weight loss.

Last week BJ came in and there was a story of running from grandma and walking all over; I was ecstatic. We weighed BJ and he is now 24.8 pounds! That is astounding and he feels so much better; he still has his mother wrapped around his finger but he is improving daily.

I wanted to let people know that diet, exercise and diligence has led to this pet getting a second chance on life. It’s hard to not overfeed and it is easy to just say that they are old and this is normal for aging pets but it isn’t. We can all be vibrant and lively even to an advanced age.

BJ proves this everyday he comes into the clinic — thanks BJ for reminding us that age is not a disease!

What About Senior Pets?

Senior pet, arthritis, aging, gray face,What exactly is a senior pet? Is my pet a senior pet? These are common questions that we hear in the veterinary profession on a daily basis. Most people know the old rule: 1 dog year is equal to 7 human years. This is mostly true but you do need to take into account the breed of the dog.

Most dogs go through puberty in the first year of life and that technically equals about 13 for most humans. Large breed dogs don’t tend to live as long as small breeds and so they reach seniority at an “earlier” age.

Large breed pets such as Great Danes, Wolfhounds, etc. tend to reach senior status at about 6 years of age while small breeds such as Yorkies, Jack Russells, etc. tend to be more along the ages of 8-10 years of age.

Senior pets tend to exhibit signs that can be attributed to the aging process. These signs are such things as:

  • Less energy
  • Stiffness
  • Cloudiness in the eyes (aka nuclear sclerosis)
  • Hearing loss
  • More lumps/bumps
  • Increase in water consumption

Even though these signs may be part of aging, you should never take it for granted that it is “normal”. Always have your pet checked by your local veterinarian because there are things that can be done to help your pet.

Things like increase water consumption could be due to diabetes, liver or kidney disease and could be a hormonal problem. Any lump or bump should be seen because cancer is found in our pets and we wouldn’t want to miss something for not looking.

Plus a decrease in energy or an increase in stiffness could be due to pain so adding in medication along with exercise could make a world of difference to your pet.

Exercise is needed no matter what your age – make sure the exercise is within your pet’s ability and be reasonable about it. Talk with your veterinarian about how much and how often your pet should exercise.

Dental disease is a big problem in our older pets because it can lead to such things as heart and kidney disease. Your pet should have his teeth examined and cleaned by a professional on a regular basis to help avoid those issues.

Best case scenario for your senior pet would be twice a year examinations along with blood work. This allows your veterinarian to track changes and monitor any progress of problems.

Pain should always be dealt with in our senior pets especially since they have correlated longevity of life with pain. Pain can be subtle as not wanting to go on their walks or not spending as much time with the family so be very aware of how your pet acts. Make it a point to discuss pain with your veterinarian at every appointment.

Diet in our senior pets needs to change also because their metabolism is not as fast as previously so fewer calories are needed to maintain health. The amount of food on the market is overwhelming but talk with your veterinarian about which diet should your pet be fed.

Senior pets are a joy but they have some issues that need to be addressed as they age. Age is not a disease but unfortunately, we do see more diseases as we age – keeping a close watch on our pets and having an open dialogue with your veterinarian is the best way to help them through their senior years.

Our Pet’s Pain

No dogs were hurt in the making of this picture -- Rocket says "modeling is exhausting!"

No dogs were hurt in the making of this picture — Rocket says “modeling is exhausting!”

Pain can be a very real condition in our pets because just like us they have very similar neural pathways for conduction, development and controlling pain. As a species, humans are vocal about our pain and we protect it but our pets have the instinct of “survival of the fittest” and they tend to hide pain because someone bigger and stronger will take their place. I know, I know – you have a pet that has never had to defend for itself but that instinct is still there.

It has been found that untreated pain can decrease the quality and quantity of life by prolonging recovery from surgery, illness or injury.

Pain can be classified as either acute or chronic. These different classes of pain are usually treated differently depending on the situation. The classes of pain are also known as adaptive or maladaptive which does not take the notion of time periods into account as much.

Adaptive pain is a normal response to tissue damage whether it is a fracture, bruise, scrape or anything else. The normal response is to release inflammatory components that cause such things as swelling, heat, redness, pain or loss of function of the area. The major component of adaptive pain is inflammation and that can be present in acute or chronic pain states.

Adaptive pain that is not managed can actually cause physical changes in the spinal cord or brain and become maladaptive pain. In maladaptive pain, the central nervous system because so sensitive that it can turn on and spontaneously cause pain. This type of pain becomes very hard to manage.

A lot of owners don’t understand that their pet is in pain because the pet doesn’t whine and cry (like humans) so they miss the signs of a problem. A variety of signs can be present that give you an idea that something may be wrong.

These signs in a dog can include:

  • Sitting or lying differently
  • Stiffness
  • Limping
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Decreased grooming
  • Decreased eating
  • Behavior changes

The signs in a cat can include:

  • Behavior changes
  • Not grooming
  • Not eating
  • Hiding
  • Not jumping up to their favorite spot

The way to help your pet is to first recognize that they may have a problem and get them to your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will do a physical exam, possibly radiographs and blood work depending on what they find.

Pain can be managed in a variety of ways such as NSAIDs, cryotherapy, thermotherapy, rehabilitation, laser therapy, hydrotherapy, weight loss, acupuncture and supplements such as glucosamines. The best way to manage pain is with your veterinarian’s guidance.

You are your pet’s advocate and as such we all need to be vigilant in the fight against pain. If you need any assistance with your pet’s pain management, please be sure and give us a call at ARCC – Animal Rehab & Conditioning Center.

Happy 4th of July!

4th of July is great fun but be careful with your pets

4th of July is great fun but be careful with your pets

The 4th of July is a great American holiday — the celebration of the birth of our nation. We eat hot dogs, go to the lake, spend time playing and enjoy loud music along with fireworks.

Our pets do not enjoy the holiday as much as we do because of the loud celebrations. Every year more dogs are lost on the 4th of July than any other day of the year. As a veterinarian, it always amazes me the kind of weird mishaps that seem to happen with this holiday.

Here are some recommendations to keep your pet safe over the holidays:

  1. Have a current picture in case something should happen.
  2. Make sure not to give any “human food” to your pets. It may seem like love but you won’t love the mess that could come with it or the cost of the veterinary bills from those bites of food.
  3. If your pet is afraid of fireworks — don’t take them to the show! If you are at home and they are reacting, take them into a small safe area and play some soft music. There are products to help with the fear of loud noises such as Thundershirts, Stress Away, and other medications that you can get from your veterinarian.
  4. Know the signs of heat stroke — excessive panting, dark or bright red tongue and gums, staggering, vomiting, diarrhea, stupor.
  5. Know that sidewalks and roads can be hotter than you think — put your bare feet on them for a few minutes — if it is too hot for you then it is too hot for your pet.
  6. Make sure your pet has a life jacket on when swimming.
  7. Take frequent breaks with shade, plenty of cool water, and naps.

This is a great time of year for family and friends whether furry or not; so let’s have a safe and happy holiday!

The Big C

001Evil, scourge, blight, corruption, neoplasia, growth, tumor, the Big C — whichever word you use it all means cancer. Cancer is a word that strikes fear into all of us. We have all had a family member whether 2 or 4 legged who has been diagnosed with this horrible disease.

A friend of mine was only 35 when her dog began acting “funny” around her; then one day he jumped on her chest while she was in bed and it hurt enough that she went to the doctor thinking he had cracked her ribs. She found out that she had breast cancer and was in surgery for double mastectomy within days. Her dog saved her life.

My friend went through some terrible times with the chemotherapy and the repeated surgeries but she has been well for a couple of years. Today she goes in for ovarian cancer — she has a much better attitude about it than I do. It sucks!

When my own pet got cancer I didn’t even know it — she was fine and then she suddenly seemed “not quite right”. I am a veterinarian and I have my hands on my pets all the time but I never saw it until it was there. I took her to the oncologist, even though I said I would never do chemotherapy, and when they diagnosed her I just shoved her across the table and told them to do what they could.

Polly supposedly had a “good” cancer — one that we can do something about but she never made it through the chemotherapy.

There have been so many articles, reports and studies about how cancer develops, spreads and how it is caused but we have yet to get a good handle on it. Don’t get me wrong, we have made progress and that is a good thing.

Here are my recommendations for you and your pet:

  • Get annual examinations — personally, after the age of 5 in our pets I think they need twice a year examinations.
  • Get annual blood work — this includes urinalysis, heartworm testing, and a complete blood panel. If your pet begins any type of medication, twice a year blood work is my recommendation.
  • Get annual radiographs (x-rays) — this may be chest one year and hips the next but you can’t find something if you are not looking for it. Radiographs allow your veterinarian to see changes as they are happening and to get a jump on any treatment that may be needed.
  • Feed a good quality diet — there are a ton of diets out there on the market so talk to your veterinarian about your pet’s dietary needs.
  • Keep your pet trim — lose the extra weight since they are looking at a correlation between weight and cancer.
  • Exercise — it may not keep the cancer away but if your pet is strong prior to the problem then their body will be better equipped to fight the disease.
  • Follow your veterinarian’s advice about your pet.
  • If you notice any difference in your pet’s attitude, a swelling, pain, not eating — anything — take your pet in for an examination. The best way to fight cancer is to get the first punches in early.

The above list was recommendations for you and your pet so just insert your name instead of your pet’s and add human doctor instead of veterinarian! Isn’t it fun that we can treat ourselves and our pets the same way!

If your pet should get diagnosed with cancer — talk to an oncologist, talk to a friend, talk to your veterinarian, talk to your family, talk to a spiritual guide but talk. Talk to someone because it is very hard to deal with disease let alone the one that strikes fear into all of our hearts. The hard part is deciding what and how to do what needs to be done — do you go all out or do you make your pet comfortable? I always tell people that you have to do what is right for you and your family.

The best thing you can do is to get a second opinion. If you decide to have the nodule removed then send it off for a pathologist to look at and determine the grading of the disease. Oncology has come a long way with our pets but it is never perfect.

There are a lot of different therapies out there including ketogenic diets, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and others that are making history towards cancer therapy. Let us all hope and pray for the day that we can treat cancer by preventing it.

Kerry — you are in my thoughts and prayers. Good luck today.