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Updated: 5 min 46 sec ago

Rehabilitation: Renewal for Stiff and Achy Pets

Fri, 04/07/2017 - 11:50

Image: Dog In Sling Rusty just wasn’t herself any more. At 10 years of age, the once-active Sheltie lagged behind on walks. She was reluctant to jump onto the bed and couch. And she refused to sit, even when her favorite treat was dangled above her. When pain medications alone didn’t improve the situation, her veterinarian recommended adding rehabilitation.

Rehabilitation gives the opportunity of maximizing return to function, even for patients with permanent impairments,” according to Dr. Julia Tomlinson, a board-certified specialist in rehabilitation and sports medicine and president-elect of the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation, who treated Rusty after she was referred from her primary veterinarian.

As rehabilitation increasingly becomes part of the therapeutic mix, some general practice veterinarians now offer a few services, and a growing number of specialty practices are popping up, staffed by board-certified veterinary specialists who have advanced training in sports medicine and rehabilitation.

Like physical therapy in humans, rehabilitation helps restore mobility and function by focusing noninvasive therapies on muscles, bones, joints, and the tissues associated with them, such as ligaments, tendons, and nerves. Although pain medication is often an important part of therapy, Dr. Tomlinson points out that rehabilitation itself can also help to reduce pain for many pets.Clinic Therapy With HomeworkWhen examined by a veterinarian, Rusty was stiff and painful in her lower back and pelvis, and her muscles would spasm when those areas were manipulated. At the Twin Cities Animal Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine Clinic in Minnesota, she underwent laser therapy and joint mobilization and manipulation to help improve limb movement. Her pet parents were taught gentle traction techniques to perform at home with her.

“Within 2 weeks, she was feeling much better, managing a full walk with enthusiasm, and getting on the bed again,” reports Dr. Tomlinson. At that point, Rusty was prescribed at-home exercises to bolster her flexibility and strengthen her rear legs and core muscles.

“Owners often think all treatments have to be done in the clinic,” says Dr. Tomlinson. “They underestimate what can be done at home with our guidance.” That perception, along with another misconception — that rehabilitation is always expensive — often prevents pet parents from pursuing rehabilitation. “In fact, it can be one of the least expensive of all veterinary specialties,” she says.
Help For A Wide Range Of ConditionsWhen combined with appropriate medical treatment, including effective management of pain and inflammation, rehabilitation can help pets recover from injuries or surgery, such as a cruciate ligament or spinal repair. Pets with other conditions that aren’t amenable to surgery, including osteoarthritis and obesity, may also benefit from therapy. “Research shows that dogs lost more weight with diet and in-clinic exercise therapy than with diet and at-home exercise alone,” says Dr. Tomlinson. “Therapeutic exercise also helps to prevent loss of lean body mass, or muscle, in the face of calorie restriction.”

Rehabilitation specialists often practice sports medicine as well, which applies athletic conditioning to help maintain fitness or prevent injury in sporting or working dogs. And small animal rehabilitation isn’t just for canines. “We see cats mostly for spinal pain and stiffness, some for diseases of the nervous system and hip arthritis, and some for orthoses, or braces,” says Dr. Tomlinson.Finding The Right TherapistIt may be tempting to assume that anyone, such as a technician trained in human massage or physical therapy, can provide rehabilitation for pets, but that’s not the case. “Not all people who advertise as animal rehabilitation therapists are adequately qualified,” warns Dr. Tomlinson. “The patient needs a veterinary diagnosis,” she adds, stressing the importance of working with veterinarians who have specific training.

That’s why you’ll want to first schedule a visit with your veterinarian: to make sure your pet gets a proper diagnosis and ultimately works with someone who will help you reach the goals you and your veterinary team set together to help alleviate your pet’s pain, restore function, and improve her quality of life.

Working with the right therapist certainly paid off for Rusty. “Two years on, she’s still getting on the couch and bed, loving walks, and having no pain issues,” says Dr. Tomlinson, who now sees Rusty only every 3 months.
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of HealthyPet magazine.

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Bulbs, Corms, Tubers and Rhizomes: What Potential Toxins Are Lurking Below the Soil?

Wed, 04/05/2017 - 16:08

Image: hyacinth plant ThinkstockPhotos-655458988 335 Springtime flowers are beautiful, but some are potentially dangerous to our pets. The "bulb" plants can be toxic. Botanically speaking, flower bulbs come in many forms: true bulbs, corms, tubers, tuberous roots and rhizomes. With some bulb plants, only the part below the ground is problematic; with others, it is the whole plant. The plants discussed in this article are toxic to both dogs and cats unless otherwise specified (some are toxic only to cats), but keep in mind that just about any plant material, even grass, can cause mild stomach upset if eaten and a pet is sensitive to it.True BulbsMost true bulbs have a papery skin and look similar to an onion. These are plants like daffodils (Narcissus sp.), tulips (Tulipa sp.), hyacinths (Hyacinthus sp., Muscari sp.) and snowdrops (Galanthus sp.). These plants contain compounds that are irritating to the gastrointestinal tract. Ingestion of the leaves, stems and flowers (i.e., the above-ground parts) may cause mild stomach upset, while ingesting the bulbs can cause bloody vomiting and diarrhea.

Lilies (Lilium sp.) are true bulbs without the papery skin. All parts of the lily are potentially deadly to cats, as they can cause vomiting and kidney failure. Examples include Easter lily (Lilium longiflorum), Oriental lily (Lilium orientalis) and Japanese lily (Lilium speciosum). CormsCorms look very similar to true bulbs but are missing the onion-like rings when cut open. Corms are a bulb-like organ that stores the food needed to produce the flower. Common corm plants include: crocosmia (Crocosmia sp.), gladiolus (Gladiolus sp.), freesia (Freesia sp.) and crocus (Crocus sp.). With ingestion of the above-ground parts of these plants, mild gastrointestinal upset can be seen. The corms are more irritating than the above-ground parts and can cause bloody vomiting and diarrhea. TubersThe tuber plant pet owners may be most familiar with is the potato. Tubers are just enlarged underground stems. Common flowers that grow from tubers include: tuberous begonias (Begonia tuberhybrida), cyclamen (Cyclamen sp.) and anemones (Anemone sp.).

Tuberous begonias contain soluble calcium oxalate crystals with the highest amounts being found in the tuber. In dogs and cats, these crystals can cause vomiting and drooling if ingested. Grazing animals (horses, cattle, etc.) can potentially eat enough to cause kidney failure and death.

Cyclamen plants contain terpenoid saponins. These are soap-like compounds that can cause stomach upset in dogs and cats. Large ingestions of tubers from these plants by grazing animals can cause heart rhythm abnormalities, seizures and death.

Anemones contain protoanemonin throughout the plant including the tuber, which is a blistering compound that can cause pain and sores in the mouth if ingested. Tuberous RootsTuberous roots are enlarged specialized roots that store food for the growing season. Examples of tuberous root plants are dahlias (Dahlia sp.), daylilies (Hemerocallis sp.) and sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas).

Dahlias and sweet potatoes are considered to be nontoxic, but remember just about any plant material can cause mild stomach upset if eaten.

Daylilies are edible for people, but deadly for cats. All parts of the plant can cause vomiting and kidney failure. RhizomesRhizomes are specialized stems that grow sideways underground, and some are used for food storage for the plant. Common rhizome plants include: iris (Iris sp.), lily of the valley (Convallaria sp.), canna (Canna sp.) and ginger (Zingiber officinale).

Irises contain gastrointestinal irritants that can cause burning in the mouth, gagging, vomiting and diarrhea.

Lilies of the valley are highly toxic plants and contain cardenolides that affect the heart. Ingestion of the plant (even water from the vase) can cause vomiting, low blood pressure, irregular heart rate, seizures and death.

Cannas and ginger are considered to be nontoxic, but again keep in mind that any plant material can cause mild stomach upset.

Whether you are planting bulbs in your yard, forcing them inside or cutting them for bouquets, make sure your pets do not have access to the plants. Prevention is important, especially for bulbs. Make sure to store them in safe places. It is also important to keep the labels that contain the Latin names, just in case your pets do decide to sample some of the plant.

Call your veterinarian if you suspect your pet has eaten any of the potentially toxic plants listed here or is exhibiting gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting or diarrhea.

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5 Things I Didn’t Learn in Vet School

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 17:23

Image: Dog Having Ear Checked Learning in veterinary school is a lot like trying to take a sip of water from an open fire hydrant. With the sheer volume of coursework, covering everything from biochemistry, dermatology and ophthalmology to dentistry and neurology — not to mention learning all the parasite life cycles for chickens, goats, horses, cattle, dogs, cats and pigs, it’s no wonder some things may get lost along the way.

I can't speak for everyone, but for me, it took years in practice, working with pets and their owners, to learn some of the most essential lessons.
Regular Preventive Care Is Incredibly ImportantIn veterinary school, it was all about surgical skills, complex medical cases and heart-stopping emergency room moments. Of course, we learned about infectious diseases, but I learned very little about the incredible importance of preventive care, because there simply wasn’t time.

What I found after I started practicing is that a large percentage of a small-animal veterinarian’s job is preventive care. And with good reason: The long-term health and well-being of my patients depend on it.

Unlike the experiences many vet students have in veterinary school, the pet owner relationships in general practice tend to be long-term: Many veterinarians will see patients from cradle to the grave. When you work with these pets year after year, your focus changes from treating a one-time disease to helping prevent health problems from occurring in the first place. I quickly realized that the way to create a lifetime of wellness is through regular exams and preventive care.

Many pet owners are still under the mistaken assumption that the only reason to take a healthy pet to the veterinarian on a regular basis is for vaccines. While vaccines are a critical part of preventive care, there is so much more to the visit. Among other things, your veterinarian will evaluate your pet’s vital signs; look for any weight changes, signs of pain or mental health issues including aggression and anxiety; assess dental health, nutritional and parasite control needs; and so much more. A regular exam provides a WEALTH of information for the discerning pet owners who want their pets to live healthier lives. Regular exams help your veterinarian identify problems early, and course correct for the best quality of life, as well as reduce the risk of transmissible diseases between animals and people.
Owners Want to Take an Active Role in Their Pets' HealthInterestingly, I did less pet owner education when I first started in practice than I do now. Of course, that was before pet owners had access to the mountain of information available from a split-second Google search. Many times, pet owners have researched their pets' signs on the internet before they come in and are able to ask informed questions, because they want to be more informed about their pets’ health.

At the same time, astute pet owners realize that much of what is available on the internet can be questionable, and they rely on me to steer them true in an ocean of information. I had NO IDEA when I graduated that my clients would rely on me to separate the good from the bad internet information, so they could make more informed decisions about their pets.
It Is a Privilege to Help with Euthanasia In veterinary school, I rarely witnessed euthanasias. The residents usually elected to perform them with the families alone. Obviously, this was not a time for veterinary students to observe, especially during a moment that can literally tear a pet owner’s heart in two. At the time, I could not have comprehended the privilege and responsibility of being part of a beloved pet’s last moments on earth.
When I perform a euthanasia, I care for the pet owner as much as the pet. I walk the owner through the process; I reassure him or her that it is essentially painless for the pet; I comfort, and hug, and hold hands, and connect with grieving people on almost a spiritual level. When I euthanize a pet, I feel like I am a hospice caregiver, providing love while eliminating pain. It is an incredible privilege to be able to provide that kind of care and comfort for my patients and their owners.

Just the other day, I sent a sweet older Shih Tzu over the rainbow bridge in the presence of her family, including a 9-year-old girl who is the same age as my youngest child. Although it was heartbreaking, I felt thankful to be able to act as a liaison between life and death.

I am able to share love and connection with people when they need it most, and I am glad to care for people and pets in this sacred way.
Veterinarians Protect Human Health, TooWhile I went into veterinary medicine to care for the health of animals, I ended up caring for the health of humans as well.

A decent portion of my job as a veterinarian is keeping families safe from diseases that their pets may unknowingly harbor. From ringworm to intestinal parasites and other disease-causing agents, I keep my eyes, ears and other senses tuned for diseases that might affect humans when I see your pet in the clinic. You might not even know it, but your veterinarian is doing the same thing. For example, every time you purchase heartworm preventives from your veterinarian, many of these medications also help protect against internal parasites that can infect humans, especially children.

In Colorado, we have a wealth of zoonotic diseases, which can be spread from animals to humans, including rabies, plague and tularemia. Veterinarians here have to be on the lookout to help protect human health. We also have a large beef industry, and veterinarians are hard at work protecting your food supply, so you don’t get sick from food-borne diseases.
Reducing Pet Stress Leads to Better CareIn veterinary school, we didn’t talk much about the detrimental effects of fear on pets. At the same time, many pets, especially cats, did not receive vital veterinary care, because transporting fearful pets to the vet was stressful. And pet owners were often embarrassed and couldn’t understand why their normally well-behaved pet was out of control.

Since then, due largely to the Fear Free movement and the pioneering work by Dr. Sophia Yin, creating a low-stress handling environment in veterinary hospitals has changed the way many of us practice medicine. By focusing on reducing fear in pets, veterinarians are able to provide more care in a less stressful manner, which helps boost overall animal health.

Veterinarians may even have to consider pet owner fear, because pets often feed off the emotions of their favorite people. While it might seem strange that veterinarians care about both human and animal fear, it’s actually part of the One Health Initiative. This worldwide movement encourages collaboration between human physicians, veterinarians and other scientists involved in health care and the environment to advance research and improve knowledge. Doctors and veterinarians are working together to save millions of lives.

When you think about it, we really are all connected. By reducing fear and improving health care for animals, and caring about the anxiety and health of the pet parent, veterinarians are also enhancing human health. Pretty cool, eh?

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Don't Drink the Water: Blue-Green Algae Can Be Deadly for Dogs and Other Animals

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 16:55

Image: Dog next to lake ThinkstockPhotos-636918222 335 It should be the epitome of pure joy: a dog leaping off the dock and splashing into a lake on a sweltering summer day. But for some dog owners, the scene can quickly turn into tragedy. The culprit: toxic blue-green algae.

“Blue-green algae can cause signs of poisoning in as little as an hour,” according to Justine Lee, DVM, a board-certified criticalist and toxicologist at the Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota. “Death has been reported within just a few hours. Signs of vomiting, collapse, seizures and coma can be almost immediate, and often it's too late to treat by the time the pet gets to a veterinary clinic.”

Although dogs are most commonly affected, blue-green algae can be toxic — and even fatal — to cats, horses, livestock, birds and other wildlife that drink from contaminated ponds or groom themselves after being in the water. For people who water ski or swim in water containing toxic blue-green algae, or who inadvertently swallow the organisms, exposure can also lead to illness and death.

Toxic When the Conditions Are RightDespite their name, blue-green algae aren’t really plants. Although they live in the water and make their own food through photosynthesis, they’re actually microscopic organisms called cyanobacteria that can be found in freshwater lakes and streams, brackish water (a combination of fresh and salt water), marine water and even backyard ponds.

But not all blue-green algae are toxic. The conditions have to be right. This usually occurs in hot weather from mid-summer to fall, when the water temperatures are at their warmest. The combination of sunlight as well as nutrient-rich phosphorus and nitrogen from fertilizer runoff and decaying fish and plants encourage the organisms to grow into toxic colonies, or “blooms.”

That’s when clear water can be transformed into a witch’s brew that resembles pea soup or green paint. The algae may float underneath the water, collect on the surface in an oily film or form a thick scum that can hinder swimmers and boats. As the algae die, they can emit a stench like rotting plants.

Toxins Are Typically SwallowedBecause dogs tend to love all things putrid and stinky, they’re more likely than people to dive into the turbid waters. They can inadvertently swallow blue-green algae, especially when fetching balls, decoys and, in the case of hunting dogs, wild game. And it doesn’t take much to cause a problem — just a few mouthfuls can be harmful.

Signs Can Begin Soon After ExposureBlue-green algae can produce a number of different toxins, including microcystins and anatoxins. The signs in a dog can vary depending on the type and amount of toxin ingested.

Microcystins can cause liver damage, which can lead to weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, a yellowish tint to the skin, bloody or black stools, pale or yellow gums, seizures, and coma. Anatoxins, on the other hand, tend to affect the central nervous system. Signs may include excessive drooling or tearing, muscle tremors, paralysis and difficulty breathing, resulting in a bluish tone to the skin and gums.

According to the CDC, humans can be exposed to cyanobacteria toxins by skin contact, ingestion or inhaling droplets containing the cyanobacteria that have been dispersed into the air. Skin contact with the toxin may result in rashes and inflammation. Inhalation can cause difficulty breathing. Ingestion can lead to cramps, vomiting, diarrhea and neurological signs, such as tingling and numbness, as well as death.

There Is No AntidoteUnfortunately, diagnostic tests for blue-green algae aren’t widely available in veterinary medicine. And there’s no medication that can reverse the toxin once the dog begins to show signs. Because toxic effects can happen quickly, if you suspect your dog has been exposed to blue-green algae, it’s important to seek veterinary help immediately. When in doubt, contact your veterinarian, emergency veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for life-saving advice!

If the dog isn’t showing signs yet, the veterinarian may induce vomiting. Otherwise, the dog may require hospitalization and treatment can include intravenous fluids, medications to help control seizures, anti-vomiting medications, plasma transfusions, oxygen therapy or even mechanical ventilation to help him breathe.

When in Doubt, Stay OutBefore you take your dog to any body of water, check the local and state swimming advisories to see if there are any blue-green algae warnings. And if the water looks suspicious, it’s better for your dog and your family to stay out.

After all, it’s not easy to determine if algae are poisonous by their visible appearance. “Not even a trained veterinary toxicologist or expert can tell if algae are poisonous by just looking at them — special tests and microscopic evaluation have to be done,” according to Dr. Lee. “As a result, the safest thing to do is to keep your dog away from any pond with algae on the surface.” That advice goes for you, too.

If you notice algae after you or your dog has been in the water, rinse off immediately. “Blue-green algae are one of the few poisons that can kill a dog acutely,” Dr. Lee warns. “If you ever see algae on a pond or lake, make sure to keep your dog (and yourself) away to be safe.”

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Bartonellosis: Another Reason for Pet Owners to Banish Fleas and Ticks

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 16:59
Image: Cat Scratching While you may not be familiar with Bartonella, you’ve probably heard of cat scratch disease, a human condition caused by one form of this bacteria. As the name suggests, people can get this disease from the scratch or bite of an infected cat. But dogs and cats can get sick from these bacteria as well, often from exposure to infected fleas and possibly ticks.
A Risk to Your Family’s Health Although many animals can carry different forms of the bacteria, including dogs, wild canines, cattle and pocket pets, cats appear to be the main source for human infections with Bartonella henselae, the cause of cat scratch disease (or cat scratch fever).

While people usually become infected from the bite or scratch of an infected cat, they may also become infected when the cat licks an open wound. Symptoms in humans may include a fever and enlarged lymph nodes, but young children or immunocompromised people may experience more severe complications.
How Pets Become Infected Exposure to infected flea dirt, or droppings, from the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) is believed to be the main way cats are infected with Bartonella, but ticks and biting flies may also transmit the bacteria. Cats do not appear to become infected through cat bites, scratches, grooming, sharing litter boxes or food dishes. Dogs may acquire Bartonella though contact with fleas or possibly ticks or a cat bite or scratch.

The bacteria survive by living in red blood cells and the cells lining internal organs. In this way, the bacteria can hide from the body’s natural immune system and antibiotics directed against them. The bacteria can also infect other types of cells, such as those in the central nervous system and bone marrow as well as in certain types of white blood cells.
Most Cats Show No Signs of Illness The signs of infection can vary depending on the different species of bacteria. While most cats show no signs of infection, some may have a transient fever, lethargy and decreased appetite. If a cat is positive for feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and is also infected with Bartonella, he may experience inflamed gums and enlarged lymph nodes.

Clinical signs associated with bartonellosis in dogs can include fever, weight loss, decreased appetite, lethargy, coughing, intermittent joint pain and lameness, weakness, skin lesions, enlarged lymph nodes and potentially jaundice (yellowing of the skin).
Diagnosis Can Be Difficult Infected cats may show transient signs or no signs at all, and routine blood work may not reveal any hints to the infection. But when dogs or cats become ill, your veterinarian may recommend special blood tests for Bartonella. Pets that test positive for the infection are generally treated with a four- to six-week course of antibiotics.
Flea and Tick Prevention is a Must Minimizing your pet’s exposure to fleas and ticks is the most important means of reducing transmission of Bartonella as well as other disease-causing organisms carried by these pests. Your veterinarian can recommend an effective product that’s right for your cat or dog.

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5 Things Pet Owners Should Know Before Planting Spring Gardens

Mon, 03/06/2017 - 16:35
For many of us and our pets, the sweet arrival of springtime signifies warmer weather and longer daylight hours — which translates to more time outside! If you have pets and plan to spend time sprucing up your garden this spring, there are a few things you need to know.

Many popular plants, flowers and gardening products can be toxic to cats and dogs. If you think your pet has ingested something toxic in your garden, contact your veterinarian right away. To help ward off potential poisoning problems (and for other advice), check out the gallery below.
EmbeddableSlideshow: What Pet Owners Should Know Before Planting Spring Gardens EMBEDDABLE SLIDESHOWPlanting a Pet-Safe Garden1. Many common plants and flowers are toxic to animals.: 2. Plenty of garden products can be problematic.: 3. Even organic substances can be toxic.: 4. Let your lawn service know you have pets.: 5. You can keep your dog from destroying your hard work!: More on Vetstreet:
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