pet medical concerns

Common medical concerns and frequently asked questions.

Vaccines: Veterinary philosophy concerning

Vaccine protocols

has undergone many changes in the last ten to fifteen years.

Most Veterinarians have come to understand that in general vaccines are very safe but are not void of potential serious side effects. Because of this the Veterinarian Society recommends a core of vaccines for all dogs and cats.
  • Core vaccines for dogs includes, distemper, parvo and rabies.
  • Core vaccines for cats include, feline distemper and rabies.
All other vaccines are only recommended if the animals’ life style/exposure warrants protection. Bordetella (kennel cough), leptosporosis, feline leukemia, and K-9 rattlesnake vaccines are only recommended if contact/exposure is likely. Giardia, Corona, FIV and dermatophyte vaccines are not recommended at this time.

My pet has diarrhea.

Many different things can cause

diarrhea in dogs and cats.

It can be as simple as eating something that does not agree with the digestive system, or it can be as severe as potentially fatal viral infection. The doctor will help you formulate a treatment plan after performing a physical exam and taking the history.

Tests such as fecal exam, parvo test, abdominal X-rays and bloodwork will be needed to make a diagnosis. Please bring a fresh fecal sample, if possible, when you bring your pet in.

My pet has been vomiting.
Vomiting is a very common problem. In younger pets, it’s more likely to be caused by eating abnormal material or food that they can not digest. Bones, corn cobs, toys, rocks are among the commonly found foreign bodies causing blockage and severe vomiting. Most patients will need surgery to remove the foreign bodies. Infection is another common cause for vomiting. Parvo-viral infection is a very deadly condition in young puppies. Panleukopenia attacks young kittens, especially outdoor or feral cats. Intestinal parasites can also cause vomiting in severely infected pets.

In large breed dogs, especially deep chested ones, such as German shepherds, setters, GDV (bloat and twisted stomach) is extremely dangerous. It can happen spontaneously and cause death in a matter of hours. If your dog starts panting, pacing, appears uncomfortable, starts vomiting, please take it to a hospital immediately.

In older patients, vomiting is more likely to be caused by internal diseases, such as kidney failure, pancreatitis, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, etc. These internal problems will require different tests to diagnose. The doctor will usually start with a screening blood and urine test and abdominal X-ray and then proceed to possible abdominal ultrasound with or without biopsy depends on the result to the initial tests. Early detection offers better prognosis. Most patients do not become sick until the condition becomes too severe for the body to cope.

To catch things before your pet becomes ill, yearly blood work is recommended to screen for internal disease in older pets.

My pet is not eating.

Anything that makes your pet sick can cause it to stop eating. Pain, toxins, infection, internal disease, cancer, etc. All these can cause a pet to feel too bad to eat. From the medical history and the result of physical exam, the doctor will decide what tests to run first to make a diagnosis. Remember, the longer the condition left untreated, the worse the outcome will be.

So please do not wait until it’s too late to treat.

I felt a lump on the pet.
Depends on information like where the lump is, how big it is, how it feels, how it looks, how long it’s been there. The doctor will be able to decide whether the lump is more likely to be malignant or benign. There are several options to achieve a diagnosis.

Fine needle aspiration is the first option which is to insert a needle into the lump and aspirate to obtain a small amount of cell sample. The advantage is that most pets do not need to be sedated for this procedure and it’s relatively non-painful. The disadvantage is that due to the small sample size, it may not always be possible to make a diagnosis.

The second option is to get a true-cut biopsy sample by performing a minor surgical procedure. Pets will need to be under general anesthesia or heavily sedated with local nerve block depends on the personality of the pet and the location of the lump. The purpose of doing a true-cut biopsy is to determine the nature of the mass first before decide whether surgery is needed, how the surgery should be done, and what kind of prognosis we’re facing.

For lumps that are bleeding or growing rapidly, the best option is to remove them surgically ASAP before things become too difficult to control. The whole sample should be sent to the pathologist to get a diagnosis and prognosis.

My pet is losing hair -- My pet is itchy.
The most common causes include:
  • parasites: fleas, scabies, lice, etc.
  • allergy: either to food or something in the environment
  • infection: bacterial, yeast, or fungal
  • immune mediated disease: an abnormality in the immune system that causes inflammation and self-destruction
  • hormonal imbalance: Cushing’s disease, hypothyroidism, sex hormone imbalance, growth hormone imbalance, etc.
Based on the history and physical exam findings, the doctor will help you formulate a treatment plan to help your pet feel better soon. Usually, infection induced skin problems are easier to treat and cure.

Religious flea control may be all you need to prevent recurrence. However, other conditions may require long term management to control. The treatment will need to be tailored individually and it will need to be modified frequently depends on how your pet responds to it.

My dog has difficulty getting up.

Old dogs (and cats too) get arthritis just like people do. But unlike people, dogs do not complain by crying or whimpering. Most of them just sleep more and try not to move around too much. Many owners do not realize their pets are actually hurting too much to move around.

X-rays are necessary to determine the severity of your pet’s condition. Nowadays, we have a lot more treatment options to offer compared to 10 years ago. In mild cases, glucosamine, chondroitin, and fatty acids may be enough to reduce the inflammation and pain.

In severe cases, it will be necessary to use pain medications. Combining an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, e.g. Carprofen) and an opioid (e.g. Tramadol) provides very good pain control. However, NSAIDs can potentially cause adverse reactions if not used correctly. Vomiting, diarrhea, gastric ulcer and liver failure are among the more common problems. Therefore, pets should have blood work done before starting an NSAID and then repeated at least annually to monitor their liver and kidney functions.

For pets that cannot tolerate NSAIDs or are still painful on NSAIDs, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are other modalities of treatments that are safe and effective.

My pet has bad breath.
We’ve yet to see a dog or a cat brushing its teeth twice a day. It’s no wonder that many pets develop severe dental disease early on. Bad breath is an indication of problem in the oral cavity. Dental disease is the most likely cause. Excessive plaque buildup will lead to gingivitis, periodontitis, and possible tooth root abscess. Severe dental disease can also lead to constant bacteria shedding into the blood stream and cause infection somewhere in the body. So bad teeth are not just a cosmetic concern, it’s a serious condition that needs to be addressed early.

Most pets will start needing dental cleaning from around 6-years old on. Smaller breeds tend to have dental disease much earlier. Depends on the severity of the condition, your pet will need a cleaning about once every 1-2 years. What you can do to help decrease the frequency of dental cleaning is home dental care, such as brushing your pet’s teeth daily, giving dental treats or chews, use dental diet, etc.

My dog's ears smell. -- My dog has been scratching at its ears.
Normal dog ears should be clean, free of discharge and odorless. When there's an infection, you will usually see some of the following signs:

  • red, hot, painful ears
  • stinky strong odor
  • brown or yellow discharge
  • head-shaking or ear scratching.

Your dog should be seen as soon as you detect anything abnormal. The veterinarian will need to use an otoscope to examine your dogs ear canal and ear drum. An ear swab/cytology will tell us what's causing the ear infection.

The more common causes of ear infection include ear mites, bacteria, yeast, allergy and foreign body. The doctor will decide how to treat the infection depending on how severe it is, what causes it, and how your pet responds to therapy. For example, ear mites can be treated with a topical ear drop or a flea medication called Revolution applied on the skin between shoulder blades. If your pet hates getting medication in the ears, then Revolution is the way to go. But if you have more than 1 pet at home, the topical ear drop may be more economical.

In addition to ear medications, the doctor may decide to use an ear cleaner as well. In severe ear infection, there might be a large amount of discharge plugging the ear canal. The ears will need to be cleaned so the topical medication can reach the diseased area. Most dogs do not mind ear cleaning if it's done gently and correctly. But some dog's ears are so painful that they might need to be sedated for the procedure. A different ear cleaner is needed for different types of ear infection. For example, acidic ear cleaner with drying effect is used in controlling yeast infection. However, in bacterial infection (e.g. pseudomonas), T-8 solution can help potentiate the ear medication (e.g. Baytril). Allergy induced ear infection will benefit from ear cleaner or solution that contains a steroid.

Please do NOT apply strong material, such as alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, into the ears. Diseased ears are very sensitive and painful. Your dog will not appreciate having alcohol in its sour ears.

In addition to topical treatment, oral medications are often used to control severe inflammation or allergy related ear infection. Dogs with food allergy induced ear infection will need to be switched to special diet. The doctor will help you formulate a plan to treat and to prevent ear infection from recurring.

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