Monday, August 25, 2008

Help my dog eats poop!

Why does my dog eat poop?

Sometimes we don't know why a particular dog starts eating poop, but certain conditions can trigger the behavior. Since some of these indicate a dog who needs help, you'll want to consider them as possibilities for what is going on with your dog.

1. A dog with a physical problem that causes excessive hunger, pain, or other sensations may resort to eating feces. If your adult dog who has not previously had this habit suddenly develops it, take the dog to your veterinarian for a check-up.

2. A dog who is not getting enough to eat or is going too long between meals may eat feces. Your veterinarian can help you evaluate the dog's weight and can suggest a feeding schedule and amount. Sometimes it takes experimentation to see what works best for a particular dog.

3. A dog with intestinal parasites or other condition that creates blood or other fecal changes may eat feces. One dog may eat the feces of another dog who is shedding something like this in the stools. A fresh fecal specimen to your veterinarian for evaluation can detect some of these problems.

4. Sometimes a change of diet helps. There doesn't seem to be any one food that is right for all dogs, and your dog may need something different than you're currently feeding. Be sure to make any changes of diet gradual, mixing the new food in with the old over a period of several days or weeks, to give the dog's intestines time to adjust and avoid diarrhea from the change.

5. Some dogs develop a mental connection that they will be punished if their humans find them in the same room with feces. Dogs react to this fearful situation in various ways, and one way is to eat the feces so it will not be there to make the human angry. This is one of many reasons not to use punishment when housetraining a dog.

6. Boredom can cause dogs to do all sorts of things, including eat feces. Interesting toys that have treats inside them for the dog to get out can help with lots of boredom-based problems.

7. Dogs may do just about any wild thing when suffering from separation anxiety. If that is the problem, this won't be the only symptom, and you'll want to help your dog work through the separation anxiety.

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My cat may have bladder infection

Hello...I hope that you can help me.

I have two cats which are indoor only. They are both males, ages 9 & 10 (approx.)

all of a sudden the older one went in his litter box and peed a little, then jumped on a sofa in our sun room and peed a little. (Thank goodness we have a blanket/sheet on all sofas so we don't have too much fur on them. He then went on the sofa in the Living Room and did the same.

An hour later my husband saw him jump on the sofa down in our TV room and do it again.

Can you please tell me why he all of a sudden is doing this? Is it possibly a bladder infection?

I am hoping that you can help as we took these two cats in from outdoors and can NOT pick them up to take to a vet.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to read your response

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Hypocalcaemia in Dogs

Hypocalcemia is a condition in which the calcium level is too low in the bloodstream. It is also sometimes called “Eclampsia” or “Milk Fever.”

It can occur in any dog or cat but is most commonly seen in small breed dogs that are either pregnant or nursing a litter. The problem is caused by the increased demands of pregnancy or nursing a litter, which require high levels of calcium. As the puppies grow inside the mother, the mother’s body must supply calcium through her bloodstream for the bone growth of the puppies. After birth, the calcium is supplied through the milk for the puppies’ nutrition. As each day passes, and the puppies grow, more milk (and therefore more calcium) is required.

If the female has a large litter, it increases the demands for milk production and calcium for the puppies. This condition occurs when the calcium level of the blood is decreased below the minimum levels needed for the health of the female.

Early signs of this condition include nervousness, panting, shivering and muscle tremors. If not treated at this early stage, the condition progresses to seizures — and eventually death. Prompt treatment of this condition is required to prevent death.

Hypocalcemia often recurs in later pregnancies, often on subsequent times much quicker than the first time. If a bitch has had it before and is therefore of known susceptibility to it, then it may occur in late pregnancy, before the birth of the puppies has occurred. IT IS IMPORTANT TO SPAY THESE PETS AFTER THE FIRST EPISODE FOR THE WELL BEING OF YOUR PET!

Initial treatment of this condition requires IV Calcium to replace what is needed by the female. Follow-up doses of calcium and other drugs are often required.

Please follow the below instructions:

Give all medications as directed.

Feed HIGH QUALITY PUPPY FOOD to the bitch (this is higher in calcium than normal adult dog food).

Allow only LIMITED FEEDINGS (3-4 times each day). Supplement the puppies with an artificial milk replacement product. Remember that as the puppies grow, they will require more milk. If the female is allowed to nurse too much, the chances of the condition recurring increase greatly.

Spay the female as SOON as the puppies are weaned.

Notify your veterinarian if any of the following signs are observed:

Staggering, muscle tremors, excessive panting, or seizures

Refusal to eat or vomiting

Breasts become hard, painful, or swollen

Any other condition you feel is abnormal for your pet

This article has been kindly donated by the Claws and Paws Veterinary Hospital. For further information about this clinic visit

'Slipped Discs' in Dogs

The bones of the backbone that protect the spinal cord are called vertebrae. Discs between these vertebrae act as "shock absorbers". A disc is composed of a pulpy, jelly-like center surrounded by hard fibrous tissue.

Sudden trauma can result in injury to the disc causing it to bulge or even rupture. When this happens, the disc (or disc contents) is forced out of its normal position and pushes against the spinal cord causing pressure on the cord and nerves. This causes pain, weakness, incoordination, and possibly paralysis of the legs, bladder, and rectum. Other clinical signs are rigid or splinted abdomen, pain when picked up, reluctance to move or jump up, hunched posture, lowered head and neck, and loss of urine or bowel control. Signs may develop gradually or suddenly. Disc protrusion against the spinal cord can also result from a deterioration of the disc as the pet ages or arthritic changes within the bone itself.

Disc disease can occur anywhere along the spinal canal. "Pinched nerves" in the neck area are usually very painful and may cause front leg lameness. The pet often is presented with a reluctance to move the head up and down, usually keeping the head tucked low to the ground. Lesions further down the spinal column cause varying signs depending upon the particular nerves compressed by the involved disc. All four legs can be affected in severe cases.

Based upon the severity of clinical signs, your pet may respond to medical treatment alone or surgery may be required. Medical treatment involves strict cage rest, anti-inflammatory and pain medication and sometimes muscle relaxants. Surgery is performed to relieve pressure, provide stabilization, and to help prevent future episodes of pain. Pets with disc disease will usually have recurrent episodes, especially if the pet is overweight or does a lot of jumping. Diet modification is also highly recommended.

If your pet should start showing any of the above signs, IMMEDIATE treatment is crucial. If your usual vet is not open, take your pet to the nearest emergency clinic.

Diagnosis is usually based upon history, physical exam, x-rays and possibly myelography (injecting contrast medium into the intervertebral space, and then taking xrays). Predisposed breeds are Dachshunds, Shih Tzus, Pekignese, Welsh Corgis, German Shepherd Dogs and Beagles. However, any breed can be affected.


Depending upon the severity of disease, your pet may need to be hospitalized or can be treated at home. Complete recovery may take weeks to months.

Your pet needs to have STRICT CAGE REST for a number of weeks. This means that you need to keep your pet in a large cage or small bathroom. Carry your pet outside to use the bathroom. Absolutely no stairs or steps. Excessive movement can cause further injury to the spinal cord.

When picking your pet up, protect the back and try to keep it straight. Some pets may be so painful that they will need to be muzzled before you try to move them.

Make sure that your pet is able to urinate and that he can empty his bladder. Some pets may need help with this. DO NOT attempt to express your pet’s bladder without directions from your veterinarian. A urinary catheter may need to be inserted.

Recumbent pets will need to have a thick layer of blankets/padding to lay on. Try to alternate sides every 4-8 hours.

Give all oral medications as directed. It is very important that you do not combine anti-inflammatory medications unless directed to do so by your veterinarian.

We recommend putting your pet on a nutritional supplement to help prevent/delay arthritis build up.

Do not allow your pet to become overweight and try to discourage jumping.

Notify your veterinarian if your pets condition worsens or if you should have any questions or concerns.

This article was donated by the Claws & Paws Veterinary Hospital. For further information visit

Introducing Super Pug!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Heat Stroke

Dogs don’t sweat the way people do in order to cool the body down during extreme temperatures. They cool off by panting; the air cools the mucous membranes and blood vessels in their mouth and tongue. Extreme cases of heat stroke lead to the disruption of the dog’s internal cooling mechanism, and they quickly go into cardiovascular shock, which is life-threatening.

Cars are the worst culprit. Even windows left open do not always provide the air flow needed, and the hothouse effect is very rapid! If you absolutely must leave your dog in the car, park only in the shade with windows open (so that they cannot jump out), and NEVER for more than 7 - 10 minutes. They must have access to cool, clean water at all times and be able to avoid direct heat by providing shade if outdoors, or a fan if left in an apartment during the hottest part of the day. Puppies and older dogs are more susceptible to heat stroke. If you suspect your pet has heat stroke, this is an emergency situation and should be treated by your veterinarian immediately.

Some of the signs to watch for include:
1) unusual sluggishness or unresponsiveness
2) pale or dark red gums, sometimes with a dry feel
3) erratic breathing



Immediate correction of hyperthermia:

Monitor your pets temperature with a rectal thermometer. The normal temperature for a dog is around 38.5°C or 101°F. Dogs suffering from heat stroke often present with body temperatures around 105ºF.

Spray with water or immerse in water before transporting to veterinary facility
Stop cooling procedures when temperature reaches 103°F, to avoid hypothermia.

Give artificial respiration support if required.

Don't let a fear of heat stroke stop you from enjoying the great outdoors with your pet, but please be aware of the danger. A little caution goes a long way, even just providing access to water and shade at all times will prevent your pet from developing this condition.

This article was donated by the Columbia Animal Hospital. For further information visit

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Lung Cancer in Cats

Quick Facts at a Glance:

Average age of onset is 10 years with a range of 6-18 years Poorly-defined lesion on chest radiographs Most commonly occurs in mid-caudal lung field Low grade cough is typically first symptom Often misdiagnosed as asthma in early stages Cytology (needle sample) from trans-thoracic aspirate often reveals numerous inflammatory cells Surgery in early stage of disease can result in long-term survival Surgery in later stage of disease is associated with a greater than 80% mortality rate.

What are the clinical signs?

In the early stages of primary lung tumor, the feline patient may be present to the family veterinarian with a history of an occasional cough and/or occasional wheezing. Weight loss typically has not yet occurred. The pet is still eating well, and often remains active. X-rays are indicated at this stage and would raise the suspicion of a primary lung tumor. Unfortunately, because these symptoms are also consistent with asthma or other airway disease, x-rays are typically not performed until the later stages of disease. Treatment with prednisone with or without antibiotics is often initiated resulting in temporary alleviation of symptoms. Each course of treatment with prednisone and antibiotics is less effective at controlling symptoms than the cycle before. Ultimately the patient experiences significant weight loss, becomes persistently lethargic, has increased respiratory rate and stops eating. Surgical intervention (thoracotomy) is these advanced cases is associated with an extremely high post-operative decline and death resulting from a combination of emaciation (wasting away from lack of nourishment), hypothermia, hypoventilation, hypotension (low blood pressure), inadequate pain control, poor oxygenation, heinz body anemia (disorder of the red blood cells), DIC (disseminated intravascular coagulation or inability to clot blood) and associated thromboembolic (blood clots that break loose in the bloodstream, causing blockage) episodes and finally multi-organ failure. This disastrous combination of systemic events results invariably in death within days to weeks following surgery.

How does is appear on x-rays?

In the early stages of disease, radiographic changes most often consist of a moderate, ill-defined interstitial and peribronchiolar pattern generally confined to the mid caudal lung field. Inflammatory airway disease such as asthma generally affects the lungs more uniformly than what is found with primary lung tumor. Less often, the tumor will be well delineated and therefore more readily diagnosed as a mass.

In the later stages of disease, the interstitial and peribronchiolar pattern in the mid-caudal lung field is more extensive and may involve more than one lung lobe. It typically remains ill defined and therefore often is misdiagnosed as an inflammatory or infectious condition.

How beneficial is a trans-thoracic aspirate and cytology?

The difficulty in achieving a diagnosis in these patients is further compounded by the marked inflammatory infiltrate (large areas with abundant inflammatory cells) associated with these tumors. Trans-thoracic aspirate for cytology allows confirmation of a diagnosis in less than 50% of patients because tumor cells are masked by a marked infiltrate of these inflammatory cells. This cytologic finding often further supports the clinician's erroneous diagnosis of inflammatory or infectious disease. When a cytologic diagnosis is possible, carcinoma (adenocarcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma) is confirmed.

Should surgery be performed?

Surgery remains the treatment of choice for primary lung tumor. However, stage of disease is important in predicting the surgical outcome. When the patient is in good general condition, has experienced minimal weight loss, is still active and eating well, surgical intervention is indicated and has an excellent chance of resulting in a successful surgical outcome. When the patient is emaciated (very thin), not eating, lethargic and very obviously breathing harder, death rate post surgery is extremely high and therefore surgery is not advised.

What about chemotherapy?

Very little is known about the benefit of chemotherapy in patients with primary lung cancer. By the time a definitive diagnosis is made, it is often too late for surgery as the disease is very extensive, and the patient is already debilitated. Treatment with chemotherapy at this stage is very unrewarding. There is rationale for intervening with chemotherapy at a less advanced stage, if the patient is still eating but the disease is too diffuse for surgery. Chemotherapy drugs that hold promise in this situation include carboplatin, mitoxantrone and gemcitabine.

This cancer can spread to the digits!

Primary subungual (under the toenail) tumors and nail bed infections are extremely rare in cats. Painful swelling of the digits (toes) in cats is most often associated with an unusual phenomenon of metastasis (spread) to this location. While the patient may present for lameness and swelling of the digit of one foot, careful physical examination invariable reveals swelling of other digits of the same of other feet. Carcionomas of a variety of histogenic origins have been associated with this phenomenon; however, primary lung tumors are among the most common to metastasize to the digits. When painful swelling of multiple digits is found, chest x-rays are indicated to rule out lung neoplasia (cancer).

©This information sheet was donated by Dr. Robyn Elmslie of the Veterinary Referral Center of Colorado. To find out more about this hospital go to

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Moon Blindness in Horses

This article will serve to provide information about the wide range of causes, methods of treatment and means of handling equine recurrent uveitis, commonly referred to as moon blindness. The disease is unique to each animal, so this information can only give you questions to ask, and things for which to look. The specific treatment plan will have to be designed for your horse's particular case by a veterinarian.


Equine recurrent uveitis, sometimes known as moon blindness, is a disease of the horse's eye that can be caused by many different things - bacteria, virus, parasites, or trauma.

Signs that an eye is in distress include redness, swelling, pus, pupil constriction in the dark, cloudiness, squinting, and photophobia. Uveitis is often diagnosed as something far less serious and valuable treatment time is lost. If not treated aggressively from the onset, there is less chance of saving sight in one or both eyes. Unfortunately, even with very aggressive treatment, some eyes cannot be saved, but in other cases the disease can be halted or at least slowed down.

When the uveitis first starts, if the original cause can be determined then additional treatment may be used depending on the cause. The usual short term treatment includes atropine to dilate the eye, followed by either a steroid or antibiotic. Treatment must be prescribed by a veterinarian because if a steroid is used when the eye is ulcerated, blindness can result. Bute, banamine or aspirin are used as anti-inflammatory agents along with the other medications.
After the original episode has been successfully treated, the inflammation and signs will disappear and the eye may appear to be normal or almost normal. At sometime in the future, if it is recurrent uveitis, a set of circumstances will cause the eye to have another episode. The circumstances can be internal; external such as wind, dust, pollen; stress of any kind; or due to stopping the anti-inflammatory medicine prematurely. With recurrent uveitis, the episodes continue to occur. Each one lasts a little longer and each time the eye loses a little more sight.
Long term maintenance treatment will often include aspirin, bute or banamine on a regular basis in an attempt to keep the inflammation from starting. Many horses wear fly masks to cut down on thy light and owners are also using dietary supplements to help build up the horse.
Dealing with a partially or totally blind horse takes some extra care and thought by the owner. The section on Dealing with your Horse on a Daily Basis goes into detail and includes suggestions from owners who have dealt with this disease.


Also known as Moon Blindness or Periodic Ophthalmia, Equine Recurrent Uveitis is the most common cause of blindness in horses. Unlike many diseases, it does not have one single cause and for this reason has baffled researchers. Once started it may cause blindness if its progression can not be halted. Fortunately, while the causes cannot be foreseen or eradicated, its progression can in many cases be slowed or stopped by fast, aggressive and consistent care.

Historically, moon blindness was felt to be tied to the cycle of the moon. There was also a theory that it occurred most often in white horses, horses with white around their eyes or appaloosas. In the Nelson Survey (1994), of 68 horses with uveitis, 22 were chestnut, 14 bay and only 2 were white. In the same survey there were 17 Quarter Horses, followed by 15 Appaloosas, and 9 Arabians (Nelson, 1995), so the disease strikes all colors and breeds.
A study of 372 cases recently reported in JAVMA was held in the Genesee River Valley of Western New York State. It dealt with the association of leptospirosis and breed with uveitis and blindness in horses. According to their findings, "The Appaloosa breed was over-represented in the population with uveitis, supporting recent reports of a predilection for uveitis in that breed over other breeds. Rate of vision loss also was higher in Appaloosas than that observed for other breeds, suggesting that Appaloosas have a poor prognosis for vision if uveitis develops." (Dwyer et al, 1995). The statistics from the Nelson survey were similar: 12 of the 15 Appaloosas (80%) had blindness in one (5) or two (7) eyes, as opposed to 44% of the Arabians and 35% of the Quarter Horses. In addition, none of the Arabians and only 1 Quarter Horse was blind in two eyes, but 7 of the Appaloosas were blind in two eyes.

Uveitis is an immune-mediated disease. "Impairment of the normal blood-aqueous barrier in the iris and ciliary body vasculature owing to inflammation is the underlying cause of the clinical signs." (Kern, 1987). In very simplified terms, "the blood is fighting the disease and the interior eye, while the eye is fighting the disease and trying to protect itself from being digested by the body's own blood." (Scott, 1993). In the resulting battle, the eye becomes inflamed and can also become ulcerated.


Signs that an episode is beginning can be varied. Uveitis unfortunately is often misdiagnosed as something less severe or in some cases it is totally ignored. It is important that uveitis be diagnosed correctly because lack of or incorrect treatment can have serious consequences.
Equine recurrent uveitis is very painful to the horse. The most common signs are puffy, watering eyes, squinting, and red blood vessels at the sides of the eye and in the lids. Horses will often be photophobic (very sensitive to the sun and often to any light) In some eyes you can notice a white cloudiness or a blue or green tint. Another major sign to look for is a pupil that is constricted when the horse is in the barn or a darkened stall. A constricted pupil indicates that it is in spasm, and is very painful. Immediate treatment is needed to alleviate the spasm.

Other signs may include head shaking, a runny nose, white spots or bleeding in the eye, matter or pus collecting, loss of balance, tripping, running into things or rubbing the eye. In some cases if you look across the surface of the eye you may even see ulcers. They look like little declivities, but usually you will need to stain the eye to see them and the untrained eye can still miss them.

Additional signs that owners in the Nelson Survey mentioned were: stops grazing, decreased appetite, swollen eyes, spookiness, blinking, avoidance of sunshine, and grumpiness.
If signs persist even with treatment, you or your veterinarian may want to consult a veterinary ophthalmologist since this disease can lead to blindness in one or both eyes if not treated aggressively.


The causes can be generally classified as bacterial, viral, parasitic, and traumatic (Schwink, 1992). An additional possible cause is allergies. In the Nelson survey of 68 horses with ERU, 3 thought allergies were the primary cause and an additional 5 listed allergies as a possible cause, but there are no scientific studies to verify this.

It is important to establish a specific diagnosis whenever possible which may require tests such as: blood count; serum biochemical profile; urinalysis; leptospirosis, toxoplasmosis and brucellosis titers; and fecal exam for parasites. "Aqueous humor antibody titer determination may be done simultaneously and is quite useful but aqueous paracentesis requires general anesthesia and poses a significant risk of aggravating uveal inflammation with the procedure itself." (Schwink, op cit p. 564)

The most commonly implicated bacterial infection is leptospirosis. Leptospirosis can cause abortions, still births, decreased milk production, recurrent uveitis and death. The organism enters through the mucous membranes of the host animal, and contamination comes from contacting the urine of the infected animal through water, mud, bedding or food. Cattle and swine can shed leptospires in their urine for over a year and horses may shed for four months (Pinney, 1989; McDonough, 1992). A vaccine for horses has not been approved to date, in part because the volume of the disease in horses is not seen as economically important by pharmaceutical companies.

Leptospira are divided into six major serogroups and these are then further divided into over 500 serovarities. Of these there are seven main ones that are found in horses. These are L. autumnalis, L. bratislava, L. canicola, L. grippotyphosa, L. hardjo, L. icterohemmorhagica and L. pomona. Vaccines have been developed and approved for cattle and swine. The five way vaccines cover all of these serovarities except L. autumnalis and L. bratislava, both of which are found in horses.

Leptospiral bacteria like warm, moist conditions and are found in many animals: cattle, swine, deer, rats, raccoons, fox, skunks and other wildlife. Horses get it from drinking water that has been infected or they may pick it up from grass, hay or grain contaminated by the urine of infected animals. Horses can catch it from other horses, although the majority have most likely contracted it from infected cattle, rats or wildlife. The frustrating thing about leptospirosis and uveitis in horses is that the uveitis may not occur for 18-24 or more months after the leptospirosis infection. In addition, while some horses are very ill with the disease, others may show no obvious signs of infection. Testing for leptospirosis at the time uveitis occurs may confirm that the disease was active at one time but it is too late to do anything about the leptospirosis for that horse. However, understanding how leptospirosis exists and is spread can help you prevent the infection of other horses.

Leptospiria can survive in water for up to 20 days and in manure up to 61 days. It is therefore very important to keep animals from drinking stagnant water, to have good management of manure, and to practice good sanitation. Human hands can spread infection from one animal to another or even to humans. Some precautions you can take include fencing water sources that wildlife can access, draining wet muddy areas where horses are pastured, thoroughly disinfecting stalls and areas where animals who have active leptospirosis have been, and washing hands and clothes when in contact with the disease (Pinney, op cit p. 55). Vaccination of herds or individual animals in areas where leptospirosis is prevalent is also usually recommended although there is still much discussion pro and con for vaccinating horses and there is no approved vaccine for horses at this time.

Signs of leptospirosis include fever, anorexia, conjunctivitis, abnormal milk and or decreased milk production (Pinney, op cit p. 54). Streptomycin and penicillin are used to treat leptospirosis.

Other bacterial infections included Streptococcus equi (streptococcal hypersensitivity hence a connection with strangles), Escherichia coli, Rhodococcus equi and brucellosis.

The major viral infections linked to equine uveitis are respiratory equine herpesvirus and influenza virus. There are other possibilities but it has been difficult to link them directly.

The most common parasite connected with uveitis is onchocerca. Culicoides, a biting midge of the Ceiatopogonidae family, is believed to be the primary transmitter. The adult lives in the connective tissue of the horse's neck and the microfilariae travel throughout the body. The most common signs of it are sores breaking out on the midline of the horse's stomach, base of the mane and withers and uveitis in the horse's eye(s) (French, 1988). Uveitis occurs when there are large quantities of dead microfilariae in the eye. Normally the eye can handle the live ones but the dead give off large amounts of antigens and these cause inflammation in the eye (Schwink, op cit p. 560). Ironically for horse owners, onchocerca can sometimes first be identified by the onset of symptoms following worming with ivermectin. This is one drug that will effectively kill off the young microfilariae, but at the same time by doing its job it can initiate uveitis if a large quantity of the microfilariae are in the eye at the time of worming. After uveitis has started, some owners find that administering bute or banamine several days before and after worming can control the inflammation so that the uveitis does not flare up every time the horse is wormed. This also might indicate that in dealing with abandoned or abused horses who may not have been wormed on a regular basis, consulting a veterinarian regarding the possibility of onchocerca microfilariae in the eye before worming may prevent uveitis in addition to its other problems. A conjunctival biopsy can be used to identify onchocerca microfilariae in the eye, but it does involve using auriculopalpebral nerve block and topical anesthesia. Once the inflammation has quieted, treatment can commence. Diethylcarbamazine and ivermectin are two drugs that are used (Cook, 1983).

Toxoplasma gondii is another parasite known to cause uveitis. "The cat is the definitive host but horses can become infected. Direct cellular damage by mechanical penetration and immune reaction to parasite antigens may lead to uveitis." (Schwink, op cit p. 560) Exposure comes from feed contaminated by infected cat feces. Another possible cause of uveitis is an "immunological reaction to migrating forms of intestinal nematodes, particularly the strongyles." (Ibid).

Trauma to the eye is another cause of uveitis and cataracts. The trauma can be either blunt or intrusive. It may cause a corneal ulcer or fungus may be introduced into the eye if the penetration is by plant foreign material. The ulcer and fungus can be treated. Unfortunately, cataract surgery while an option, is not usually performed on horses because of the cost and possible postoperative problems. Any operation on the eye can instigate additional flare-ups of the uveitis. The horse's eye is so large that it takes much longer to heal than the human eye and it may not heal correctly. Hopefully with all the advancements in human cataract surgery, it will eventually be more of an option for horses. Since horses use monocular vision, even a small cataract can affect the horse's ability to perform.

Allergies were another suspected cause as indicated in the Nelson Survey. Because May and October were the highest months of the onset of the disease in these horses, this indicates that allergies should be considered as a possibility. Pollen and ragweed type allergies as well as spring and fall shots or combinations of shots should be examined as a preventative measure.


Short term treatment usually consists of using atropine to dilate the eye and reduce discomfort due to spasm of the iris. A steroid may also be indicated if the eye is not ulcerated or an antibiotic if the eye is ulcerated. Using steroids in an ulcerated eye can make the condition worse and possibly lead to blindness. Medications can be in ointment or drop form or in some cases a subpalpebral lavage catheter system is used for around the clock medicating. There are many different products used, but you need to be aggressive with the prescribed medication, often 4 times a day, and in some cases around the clock and then cut down the number of treatments per day per the veterinarian's instructions. In addition to the ointments and drops in the eye, bute, aspirin or banamine are used to decrease the inflammation. In some cases, veterinarians will use the atropine for a few days and then stop it so that the pupil can start to constrict again. The idea is to keep the pupil moving so that synechiae, little pieces of protein that form strands in the eye, cannot cause the pupil to fuse in one position. Extended use of 1% atropine or use of 4% atropine can lead to colic due to its effect on gut motility. Flunixin meglumine is sometimes used in acute cases and can quickly bring relief thereby facilitating an examination of the eye. If a fungus has gotten into the eye, additional treatment is needed as well as the above.

In addition to the standard treatments, owners are experimenting with alternative methods such as acupuncture, MSM, vitamins, yucca, apis mullica, bee pollen, clovite, chiropractic, herbs, hot and cold compresses and riboflavin. One owner in the Nelson survey used a hormone implant as it was suspected that the uveitis was tied to the mare's heat cycle and that seemed to help.

Large doses of antibiotics have sometimes helped to stop the progression of the disease. In some cases the antibiotics were given because of the uveitis and in other incidences, it was given for another purpose and the byproduct was an end to or substantial lessening of the episodes of uveitis. Sometimes horses can have an adverse reaction to drugs so it is important to know the side effects and to plan a course of action with your veterinarian.

Another treatment which is sometimes used if the original cause of the uveitis is thought to be leptospirosis is to vaccinate with a leptospirosis vaccine. There is a great deal of discussion pro and con on vaccinating for leptospirosis since there has not been a vaccine tested and approved for use on horses. Since uveitis is an immune related disease, some feel that giving the vaccine will cause further episodes of the uveitis. There is growing interest in testing and possibly approving an equine vaccine for use on horses already infected, but there maybe a problem testing it for use on uninfected horses since it is felt that it could cause the first episode of uveitis.

There are areas of the United States where leptospirosis is so prevalent that horses are routinely vaccinated for leptospirosis with seemingly little difficulty. From 1957-1962, horses on two farms near Ithaca, N.Y. were vaccinated. No cases of uveitis occurred during those six years among vaccinated horses. One owner would not agree to vaccination and his horse came down with uveitis 18 months after arrival at the farm (Roberts, 1969). In cases where the vaccine is used after the horse has uveitis, it is also sometimes combined with doses of tetracycline or streptomycin. Here again some believe it to be effective, but there are no definitive studies and one drawback is that tetracycline can cause colic.

In cases where nothing can be done to stop the constant bouts of pain for the horse, and the eye has degenerated, owners have opted to have the eye enucleated or removed. This stops the horse's pain and in many cases, since the sight was probably almost if not totally gone, the horse adjusts well to having one eye. Sometimes the eye lid is just sewn shut but other times a synthetic eye can be inserted. The cosmetic effect is very good. In the Nelson Survey, 4 horses with ERU in only one eye had the diseased eye removed and at the time of the survey, Nov. 1994, the uveitis had not reappeared in the second eye. As of February, 1996, the second eyes had stayed clear and another horse was added to the study. Each horse was a different breed. Hopefully we will be able to keep in touch with these and add others to the study. It is possible that the uveitis would not have spread even with the bad eye intact, but it may provide the incentive for additional research.

Since bright light irritates the eye, most horses wear fly masks outside and some wear them 24 hours a day to keep stall dust, etc. out while the horse is inside. When using a fly mask daily, check to be sure that the guard hairs around the horse's eye are not being curled around back into the eye further irritating it. You may need to trim them. If the horse will tolerate it, a hood with a black plastic bubble over the eye or a fly mask with a blackout eye patch, such as the Guardian Mask, allows the horse to be outside in the daylight while the eye is still dilated. Otherwise, he needs to stay inside when the sun is out. This obviously only works if it is the first eye that is involved. If possible, turnout at night in the summer, and leave the horse in during the day. During the winter, if there is a bright glare from the snow, a fly mask helps to shield the eye from the brightness. It also cuts down the amount of wind directly hitting the eye.

Long term management involves getting a handle on what triggers individual episodes. Unfortunately that can be different at different times but some of the big offenders are: wind, dust, getting chilled, stress of competition, a new pasture mate, losing a pasture mate, ammonia build up in the barn, injury, food, seasons changing, strong sun, severe cold, worming, bugs and flies, shots or going off the anti-inflammatory medicine. The best way to figure out the causes in your horse is to keep a daily log. In the log, note the wind and weather conditions, whether the horse was in or out, medications given, amount of exercise, temperament, and anything out of the ordinary. A booklet that has a month at a glance is great. Develop some abbreviations so it all fits. You will quickly be able to discern patterns and then possibly forestall future episodes. If it is windy or forecast to be windy, a hood with a clear bubble keeps the wind off the eye; wet and rainy, leave him in, etc.

The goal is to keep the inflammation from starting. Long term treatment will often consist of a daily or every other day dose of aspirin. The dose range is "120-240 grains daily to a 500 kg horse" (Schwink, op cit p. 569) and it depends on the horse how much it needs for maintenance. Aspirin comes in tablets, boluses or powder. It is considered to be the easiest NASID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) on the stomach, but can still lead to ulcers in some horses after a time. Some horses may respond better to phenylbutazone (bute) or banamine. It involves experimenting and keeping detailed notes on the horse's progress. If you are using your horse to compete, the medications will have to be discontinued several days prior to the competition.

An additional concern is to keep the horse from rubbing the infected eye so he will do no further damage. Your veterinarian may prescribe an antihistamine or other medication to help stop the itching.

The other way to treat uveitis is to treat the symptoms when they appear. The problem with this is that every time your horse has an episode, it most likely looses some sight and the episodes can get more frequent and more difficult to treat.

In summary, with equine recurrent uveitis, you have to evaluate and then handle each case individually. No two cases are exactly the same. It is very time consuming and can be expensive if ti continually reoccurs, but by being aggressive and diligent you have a chance of saving your horses's vision and can save money in the long run if the disease is successfully halted or at least slowed down.

One thing that can not be stressed enough is that if you feel that something is not right, the medications aren't helping, an episode is lasting too long, etc., trust your instincts and get a second opinion or consult a veterinary ophthalmologist. In the Nelson Survey, of the horses in which the uveitis started in one eye and then spread, it spread to the second in 3-5 months in 41% of the horses. That means you do not have months to experiment or to wait and see what will happen next.


Depending on the extent of the blindness, the horse may have blind spots, or a blind side. If he is blind or almost blind in one eye he will lose his depth perception. He may trip on rises or dips in the path. At the onset of the disease if you haven't already gotten him adjusted to it, start doing everything from both sides; leading, grooming, saddling, and mounting if you can.
Get in the habit of talking to him constantly so he knows where you are. Keep a hand on him while working around him so he can hear and feel where you are. When leading a horse that is blind in one eye, stay on the good side. Your first reaction might be that you will replace the horse's bad eye. The first time he jumps left because of something scary he sees with his good right eye, you will realize the importance of staying on the good side. Most horses will not willingly jump into you, but if they can't see where you are, in their fright you may get stepped on.

Owners who are riding semi or totally blind horses, stress that getting and continually working to keep the trust and confidence of the horse is paramount. Going blind can be very stressful for the horse, especially if it happens quickly. Horses that go blind over a period of years tend to get used to it gradually and may be less bothered. How the horse reacts will depend on his makeup and you must be tuned into his reactions. Dressage lessons have helped a number of riders with cueing and also can help you to straighten the horse if he has become crooked to compensate while loosing sight. Changes in how he deals with you or other horses, his food or the work you are asking of him, can indicate that stress is building and needs to be dealt with before it gets worse. A horse can be fine with blindness for months and then for some reason it becomes poorly tolerated. Watch for signs and get professional help from a trainer to work through the problem before it gets out of control.

Some horses are happy in a field with one other or a small group of horses who get along. The other horses often protect and guide the blind horse. In other cases, a horse who is low in the social order, may be terrified of being in a field with others and may need a paddock or field of his own. If you are putting your horse in a new field, walk him around the perimeter of the field so that he has an idea of his boundaries. Letting his whiskers grow will help him sense when he is near a fence or other obstacle.

Several of the mares in the Nelson survey had given birth to healthy foals with no sign of uveitis. In one case the mare was blind and the owners put a bell on the foal so that the mare could keep track of him. They got along fine. In cases in the Nelson Survey where the mare and her off spring both had uveitis, it was beyond the scope of the survey to determine whether they were both exposed to the same "insult", were susceptible to uveitis genetically or other factors were involved.

Watch for signs that the horse may not be tolerant of strangers or perhaps children and take steps to protect them from too close contact with the horse.

At the first sign of uveitis, start teaching voice commands to your horse if he doesn't know them already: up, down, step (for over logs on the trail), stand and whoa are a few that come in very handy. The added benefit is that if you are trail riding, your horse will become much safer. In a tough situation your horse will be accustomed to listening to you when it's essential. If the horse is blind on one side you must always be ready with the leg on that side. You can never relax and daydream down the trail or even in the ring. You must be aware of what the horse will see on his good side since something scary will cause him to move away regardless of what's on the bad side. On trail rides experiment to discover the number of horses your horse is comfortable with and the position among them he prefers. Some are only comfortable leading and others following. Also when riding, especially on trails, rather than asking the horse to set his head, give a cue and then relax the reins so that he can look around.

Lunging the blind or partially blind horse is fine if he is used to being lunged consistently. If you take a horse who has been cooped up in a darken stall for weeks and put him on a lunge line for some exercise, his reaction may be to let off steam and go tearing around. If you have started him with the bad eye on the inside toward you, you have placed yourself in a potentially dangerous situation. He is feeling good and cantering around but he can not see you. In addition, especially if he is newly blind, he may be off balance on a small circle which could bring his path in toward you.

Some suggestions on lunging would be to start with the good eye toward you, keep the sessions short and only do walk and trot until you are sure he is listening. When he is calm and listening with his good eye in, then switch sides, still keeping to the walk, trot routine. It is imperative that you teach voice commands at the very beginning and not rely on a lunge whip for signalling since you will have a blind side toward you part of the time.

In some respects, the horse is like a recovering human invalid. He will come to a point where he does not want to be babied. Consistency in how you handle him and what you expect is very important. As much as possible, treat the horse as you normally would, if you are going to work or ride, expect him to do what he is supposed to do. If you expect less than he can do, or let him get away with things you will have a very spoiled and dangerous animal on your hands. The horse must still respect your space, listen to you and do what you ask. You in turn need to learn how to ask and how to anticipate what to tell him so that all goes well. There will be times when you let him run into things or trip over things because you didn't think ahead but you will learn, and horses are very forgiving.


Cook, Cynthia S., Peiffer, R.L. and Harling, D.E.: Equine Recurrent Uveitis. Equine Vet. J. Suppl., 2:57-60, 1983 Davidson, Michael: Anterior Uveitis, In Robinson, N. E. (ed): Current Therapy in Equine Medicine-3, Philadelphia, W. B. Saunders Company, 1992, 592-595.Dwyer, Ann E., D.V.M., Crockett, R. S., PhD, Kalsow, Carolyn M., PhD: Association of leptospiral seroreactivity and breed with uveitis and blindness in horses: 372 cases (1986-1993). J.'l. V.MA., Vol. 207, No. 10,: 1327-1331. November 15, 1995.
Dziezyc, Joan and Millichanp, Nicholas J.: Cataracts, In Robinson, N. E. (ed.) Current Therapy in Equine Medicine – 3, Philadelphia, W. B. Saunders Company, 1992, 601-602.
French, Dennis D, DVM, Klei, T.M., PhD, et al.: Efficiency of ivermectin in Paste and Injectable Formulations against Microfilariae of Onchocerca Cevicalis and Resolution of Associated Dermatitis in Horses. Am J Vet Res, Vol 49, No. 9:1550-1554, September, 1988.
Glaze, Mary Beth: Red, Painful Eyes (Uveitis), In Robinson, N. E. (ed.): Current Therapy in Equine Medicine, 1st ed. Philadelphia, W. B. Saunders Company, 1983, 3S2-385
Kern, Thomas J.: Intraocular Inflammation, In Robinson, N. E. (ed): Current Therapy in Equine Medicine Medicine-2, Philadelphia, W. B. Saunders Company, 1987, 445-450.
McDonough, Patrick, Dr.: Leptospirosis in Horses - On the Increase?. Veterinary Update, March, 1992:4-5.
Moore, Cecil P.: Corneal Ulceration, In Robinson, N. E. (ed): Current Therapy in Equine Medicine - 3, Philadelphia, W. B. Saunders Company, 1992, 596-599.
Nelson, Mary: Equine Recurrent Uveitis A Survey of 68 Horses in the United States and Canada. February, 1995.
Pinney, Chris C.: Leptospirosis: Prevention/Control in Domestic Livestock, The Southwestern Veterinarian, Vol. 37, No. 1:51-55, 1986.
Roberts, S. J., D.V.M., M.S.: Comments on equine Leptospirosis, J.A. V.M.A., Vol. 155, No. 2: 442-445, 1969.
Schwink, Kay, DVM: Equine Uveitis. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Equine Practice. Philadelphia, W. B. Saunders, Vol. 8, No. 3: 557-573, December, 1992.
Scott, Marshall, DVM, CVA, Moon Blindness. Vet On Call, Horse Illustrated, December, 1993: 12, 14.

© Mary G. Nelson, reproduced with permission.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Training your Parrot: Step Up, Step Down

The Step up and Step down Training is probably the most important part of any Parrots training and all owners should consider doing this as part of homing a new bird.

Step up and down training will benefit both you and your bird in the long run. You will need to keep to a strict regime and be quite strict with your routine.

Of course if your bird already attempts to step and down this will make the training all the easier. I have found that new born hand reared parrots are the easiest to train.

While flying birds may be allowed to land on your shoulder, you should not allow the bird to remain there but tell it to step on to your hand, and carry it around on your hand not your shoulder. Most shoulder birds will reject training, bite their owner and/or be lost as the owner forgets about the bird and walks outdoors with the bird on the shoulder. The bird then flies away.

You should always appear calm and confident throughout any training sessions. This is the key to the bird learning new things from you.

Lesson One

If the cage is portable you can take this, with the bird in it, to the training room and let the bird out. Otherwise you may need to remove the bird from its cage using a towel to catch it in if it is inclined to bit. It is vital that the bird¹s cage is removed from the training room before any training is started. A small spare bedroom makes a good training room. However you must remove anything that the bird may perch on that is hither than your chest height, such as pictures, ornaments and tall furniture. You will need a chair in the room for the bird to perch on and the floor should be carpeted. All perching places should be lower than human chest height, so that YOU always LOOK DOWN ON the bird. Birds should not have free access to your shoulder. Flying birds can land there but must be taken down immediately with the "Step up" command. On no account should any bird be allowed to walk up your arm on to your shoulder. This is simply the bird¹s challenge to your position. You will not be able to train birds that treat you as an inferior. Once in the training room, open the cage door and take the bird out or wait until it comes out, then remove the cage from the room.

The first command is "Step up" which tells the bird to get on to your finger or hand. Put your finger or hand very close to the birds lower belly, gently touching it there and say "Step up." The bird may refuse to step up, or fly to another perch or bite. If it refuses, repeat the command, pushing the bird gently on its lower belly. If it bites, try to show NO REACTION to this and repeat the command immediately.

If the bird goes to the floor, wait a few moments so it is calm, then approach it, place your hand so that you are almost touching it in the same place and repeat the command. If you react to being bitten, this will only stimulate the bird to bite again. The bird has no defence against a person who remains calm and unflustered. Usually after three or four attempts at Step up the bird will step up on to your hand.

When it does, it is vital that you praise the bird enthusiastically. Your TONE of voice is more important than what you actually say. Don't let it stay on you for more than a few seconds. Then say "Go Down" and return the bird to the chair back. Every time the bird obeys a command, you must reward him with something you know it really likes. This can be verbal praise, having a head scratch or even a small food treat. Training should not last more than five minutes can be done twice a day, each day, until the bird is good with taking the commands.

For the first three or four days keep your bird in its cage except for the lessons. When the bird is stepping on and off your hand easily, move on to the next lesson.

The first command is "Step up" which tells the bird to get on to your finger or hand. Put your finger or hand very close to the bird's lower belly, gently touching it there and say "Step up." The bird may refuse to step up, or fly to another perch or bite. If it refuses, repeat the command, pushing the bird gently on its lower belly. If it bites, try to show NO REACTION to this and repeat the command immediately.

If the bird goes to the floor, wait a few moments so it is calm, then approach it, place your hand so that you are almost touching it in the same place and repeat the command. If you react to being bitten, this will only stimulate the bird to bite again. The bird has no defence against a person who remains calm and unflustered. Usually after three or four attempts at Step up the bird will step up on to your hand.

When it does, it is vital that you praise the bird enthusiastically. Your TONE of voice is more important than what you actually say. Don¹t let it stay on you for more than a few seconds. Then say "Go Down" and return the bird to the chair back.

Every time the bird obeys a command, you must reward him with something you know it really likes. This can be verbal praise, having a head scratch or even a small food treat. Training should not last more than five minutes can be done twice a day, each day, until the bird is good with taking the commands. For the first three or four days keep your bird in its cage except for the lessons. When the bird is stepping on and off your hand easily, move on to the next lesson.

Lesson Two

This is the same as lesson one, in the same room, except that there should be two chairs in the room. Tell the bird "Step up" on to your finger/hand, then transfer it from one chair to another. Then when this is established without difficulty, transfer it from the chair, or to the windowsill. All these transfers should be from one piece of furniture to another, in the training room, always to furniture which is lower than your chest. It will help the bird if you touch any new place you are asking the bird to go down on to with your other free hand first, then say "Go down or Step down".

© Paul Hallissey. For further information visit

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

An Introduction to Clicker Training

A clicker is a small plastic device which emits a loud clicking sound when the metal tongue inside it is pressed. It is used as part of the process of training dogs (or cats) and treating their behaviour problems.

Before using the clicker as part of training it must be introduced so that the animal understands what the noise means. The animal is trained to associate the sound of the click with being given a reward (usually food). This uses the same principle of conditioning that Pavlov used to train dogs to salivate when they heard a bell.Once this association has been made the click can be used to indicate to the dog the exact bit of behaviour that we want them to do again.

How is this different from traditional methods?

Dogs and cats are best at understanding reward when it comes within just two seconds of their doing something. Beyond this time and learning is poor or non-existent. The clicker can be used to indicate precisely what is being rewarded, but the reward does not need to be given immediately after the click. There can be a delay of up to a few seconds.

This enables us to train at a distance and to choose a very precise moment to reward.
Clicker training does not depend upon the animal learning a command word before it learns the action. Clicker training can be used to teach quite complicated behaviour that would otherwise be very difficult to achieve.

How to start

Some dogs or cats find the noise of the clicker too loud and alarming so the first step is to introduce it quietly.

• Get a pot containing some small pieces of your pet’s favourite food treats and get the clicker.

• Muffle the clicker at first by sitting on the hand that is holding the clicker. Make a click and watch your pet’s reaction. If he or she looks interested but relaxed, then give a food reward.

• If your pet looks frightened or wants to get away, then you should contact the person who is supervising the treatment of your pet’s problem to ask for extra help.
If your pet was happy with the first click then give several more clicks, each followed by a food reward. Try, if possible, not to reach for the food or hold any in your hand until after you have made the click.

Next take your hand out from under your leg and give 20 or so more clicks, each followed by a food reward. Again, if at any time your dog looks unsettled or fearful, then stop and contact your veterinary surgeon or behaviourist. After this introduction your dog or cat should look pleased or excited whenever he or she hears a click.

You are now ready to start training with the clicker, but remember the rules:

• Never give a click without giving a reward.

• Never use the sound of the clicker to get your pet’s attention; you only give a click after he or she has responded to a command.

• Try to avoid handling food until you have given the click. Training works less well if you are fiddling with food all the time because your pet won’t concentrate on what he or she is doing when the next click happens.

The basic method for teaching commands using clicker training is to lure the dog or cat into performing an action, or allow it to happen naturally, and then to selectively click and reward the behaviour that you want to train to a command. Once your pet is doing exactly what you want, you can then give that behaviour a ‘name’ so that your dog or cat knows that this is what you want him to do when he hears that command.

Here is an example for training a “sit” command:

• Sit down with a pot of your pet’s favourite food treats on your lap, along with a clicker.

• Stay still and wait for your dog to sit down.

• Ignore or fend off all behaviour other than sitting.

• When your pet sits down you should click as soon as his backside hits the floor and then give him a food treat.

• If your pet stays sitting then give another click and food treat, otherwise wait until he sits down again.

You should find that the amount of time your pet spends sitting down increases dramatically over the course of the first 10 minutes or so, and that he stops doing all of the other things he was trying in order to get the food from you, such as jumping up or whimpering or running around.

When you know that your pet is sitting down again very reliably and quickly after collecting each treat then you can start to introduce the word ‘sit’:

• As your pet begins to sit down spontaneously say ‘your-pet’s-name, sit’ and then wait. As soon as he sits down give a click and food reward.

• Repeat this 20-30 times and your pet will have made the initial association between the command word ‘sit’ and what he should do to get the food.

You should now practice getting your pet to sit in a number of other situations, giving clicks and rewards for an obedient response.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Seizures in Pets

Seizures are due to abnormal electrical conduction within the brain that results in a loss of consciousness (in most cases), and various physical signs that can be associated with the seizure. These physical signs can manifest as any one of the following:

Falling over to one side
Legs "paddling" or generalized trembling/twitching
Jaw "chomping"
Eyes "rolled back"

Most pets will seem anxious and even seek out the owner prior to the actual seizure, when the above signs can be seen. The actual seizure usually lasts from 30 seconds to 2 - 3 minutes. Afterwards the pet may seem disorientated, or "drunk" in appearance, sometimes behaving blind, stumbling about and being poorly responsive to his/her environment. This last phase of disorientation can last for as little as 10 minutes to several hours.

When your pet has a seizure, be sure to place thick cushions, blanket, etc. between your pet's head and any hard furniture. Be very careful to avoid handling your pet's head directly, since this has often resulted in a biting injury to owner's hands. Your pet is unaware of his/her surroundings when seizuring, and may bite down very hard on your hand and not even realize it. Make sure to pay close attention to what you are witnessing, since your veterinarian will want you to keep a journal of the seizure events. Record in notebook the following:

Date, time and length of the seizure

Time the length of the "disoriented" phase that follows the seizure - document exactly what signs were seen (from above list), was it associated with any events eg: exercise, eating, drinking, etc?

By keeping a journal, it helps you to know how often your pet is seizuring, and whether the seizures are getting longer or more violent. This helps your veterinarian to counsel you on when is the appropriate time to start anticonvulsant medications, or see a neurologist.

The first time your pet has a seizure, most vets will advise you to do nothing. Many seizures are one-off occurrences and in these cases, investigation is not required. If a seizure occurs more than once, then blood work (standard biochemistry to check liver function) is the first diagnostic test done, alongside a thorough general clinical exam and a more specific neurological exam.


When your pet's seizure is going on to 5 minutes in duration. By definition, this is turning into "status epilepticus" which essentially means a constant state of seizure activity, and if the seizures are not stopped, this can lead to life threatening consequences. Status epilepticus can result in a overheating of the body, essentially a "heat stroke". This also can cause some temporary or permanent damage of the brain tissue. Once a seizure is climbing towards 5 minutes, get your pet immediately in the car and start driving to the closest veterinary clinic.

Once an anticonvulsant has been administered, the pet should be monitored for any more seizure activity for at least 24 hrs, usually accomplished through an emergency (24 hr) center.

If your pet has more than one seizure in a 24 hour period, this is considered a "cluster" of seizure activity. You need to seek veterinary care once he or she has the second seizure, since this indicates a rapid succession of seizures, and may require anticonvulsants be started to control these. A "cluster" will often precede "status epilepticus", as indicated above.


Some pets have been known to have one seizure in their lives, while others develop serious repeated seizure activity. With a first time occurrence of seizure activity, we do not yet have a pattern of seizure activity established. Without a pattern, it is impossible to predict future seizure activity. Your pet may never seizure again, or may continue to have seizures. You play an important role in the diagnosis and proper treatment of your pet's seizures, by providing us with an accurate history, and seeking veterinary help when indicated.

This article was donated by the Columbia Animal Hospital. For further information please visit
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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Portosystemic Shunts

Congenital Portal Shunts are due to a defect in the blood circulation around the liver. Instead of blood entering the liver to be detoxified, the liver is bypassed. The liver usually eliminates toxins derived from the gut. With a porto-systemic shunt, there is a bridging between the veins around the liver and so the toxic material bypasses the liver, causing an elevation of ammonia in the circulation.

This defect may be within the liver (intrahepatic) or occur outside of the liver (extrahepatic) - most are single vessels.

Shunts can be congenital (present at birth) or acquired. Acquired shunts can develop subsequent to portal hypertension (high blood pressure); typically they are multiple in nature. This occurs due to a lack of valves in the portal vein, permitting circulatory accommodation through the shunt. Portal hypertension is usually associated with liver scarring or cirrhosis.

The shunt may lead to episodic development of hepatic encephalopathy (seizures or bizarre behavior) associated with ingestion of high protein food, and administration of certain drugs.

Another effect of the shunt is the development of bladder stones due to inability of the liver to metabolise uric acid from the blood.


Nervous system signs include episodic hepatic encephalopathy (seizures).
Gastrointestinal signs are intermittent inappetence; vomiting; diarrhea; pica; drooling in cats.
Urogenital signs bladder stones and or large kidneys


Basis unknown
Breeds predisposed include miniature schnauzers; Irish wolfhounds; Old English sheepdogs; cairn terriers; Yorkshire terriers


Incidence is greatest in purebred dogs and mixed breed cats
Especially common in Yorkshire terriers


Episodic seizures or disorientation (hepatic encephalopathy) may be noted.
Affected cats may drool. This may be initially confused with an upper respiratory infection based on the display of increased salivation.
Initial signs usually noted at initial feeding of puppy or kitten food and stunted growth is common


CNS Signs: Episodic weakness, pacing, disorientation, head pressing, blindness, behavioral changes (aggression, vocalization, hallucinations), seizures, coma
Gastrointestinal Signs: inappetence, vomiting, diarrhea
Urinary Signs: bladder stones
Congenital disease –The pets may have a normal appearance or have stunted stature, hepatic encephalopathy, golden or copper irises in non- blue-eyed and non-Persian cats.


CNS signs -Other rule outs include infectious disorders (e.g., FIP, canine distemper, toxoplasmosis, FeLV-related infections); toxicities (e.g., lead, mushrooms, recreational drugs); hydrocephalus; epilepsy; metabolic disorders (e.g., severe low blood sugar).
Gastrointestinal signs—bowel obstruction; dietary indiscretion; foreign body ingestion; inflammatory bowel disease
Urinary tract signs—bacterial urinary tract infection; stones


Lab Work

CBC/Biochemistry: low BUN, creatinine, glucose, and cholesterol common; liver enzyme activity variable (ALP usually high in young patients owing to bone isoenzyme); bilirubin normal with congenital but may be high with acquired shunts.
Urinalysis: Decreased urine specific gravity (inability of kidneys to work properly) and crystals in the urine.
Total serum bile acids—sensitive indicators; random fasting values may be within normal reference range; 2-hr postprandial (post feeding) values markedly high (usually > 100 mmol/L)
Blood ammonia values—sensitive indicators; less reliable than total serum bile acids because of analytic problems
Ammonia tolerance testing—more reliable than random ammonia values; samples cannot be stored, frozen, or mailed for analysis.


Abdominal Radiography: Small liver, Large kidneys, Bladder stones
Injecting radiographic contrast media into a mesenteric or spleenic vein. This is the test of choice, but is technically difficult.
Abdominal Ultrasonography: Subjective estimation of small liver, hypervascularity, and observation of the shunting vessel. Color-flow Doppler—assists in shunt localization. Intrahepatic shunts are most easily imaged.

Acquired Shunts

Liver size depends on underlying cause.
Abdominal fluid is easily detected.
Ammonium urate calculi (stones) in the kidney or bladder


Eliminate causal factors—dehydration; elevated kidney toxins; gastrointestinal bleeding; high- protein foods; infection (urinary tract, other); treatment with certain drugs

Protein-restricted diet—dogs: dairy and soy protein may perform better than meat and fish proteins; cats: require balanced, meat-based protein.

Increase dietary protein tolerance by concurrent treatment with lactulose (0.5–1 mL/kg PO q8–12h; dose based on production of two to three soft stools daily), metronidazole (7.5 mg/kg PO q8– 12h), and/or neomycin (22 mg/kg PO q12h).

Cleansing enemas with warmed isotonic fluids— until free of feces
Retention enemas—15 mL/kg; with lactulose (1:2 dilution with water) and neomycin (10–15 mg/kg)


Surgical ligation with congenital disease

Goal: total ligation vessel; often only partial ligation can be performed safely and surgical assessment of extent of ligation may be inaccurate.

Hepatic encephalopathy signs must be resolved before surgery. Intrahepatic shunts are most difficult to ligate.

This article was donated by the Columbia Animal Hospital. For further information please visit

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Kidney Disease in Cats

The kidneys are organs which maintain the balance of certain chemicals in your cat's blood, while filtering out the body's waste as urine. The kidneys also help regulate blood pressure, help regulate calcium and phosphorus metabolism, and produce a hormone that stimulates red blood-cell production called erythropoietin. As you can imagine, a malfunctioning kidney can cause many problems.

Let us picture the kidneys filtering mechanism. There are tens of thousands of microscopic funnel shaped tubes called nephrons. These tiny structures are responsible for filtering and reabsorbing the fluids that balance the body. These nephrons are susceptible to damage due to many causes such as poisons, aging, infection, trauma, cancer, auto-immune diseases, and genetic predisposition. If any of these occur the entire nephron stops functioning. Fortunately, due to both the reserve capacity of the kidney and the ability of the nephrons to grow larger, the kidney can still function. If damage to nephrons occurs gradually and the surviving nephrons have enough time to hypertrophy, a kidney can continue to function with as few as 25 percent of its original nephrons.

When the number of functioning nephrons drops below 25 percent or when damage occurs too suddenly for the remaining nephrons to compensate, kidney failure occurs. There are two types of kidney failure. Acute kidney failure is a sudden loss of function that is sometimes but not always reversible. Chronic kidney failure is an irreversible loss of function that occurs gradually over months or years.

Failing kidneys can't adequately clear the blood of certain toxins. These include urea (a nitrogen- containing byproduct of protein metabolism) and creatinine (a chemical byproduct of muscle exertion). As a result, when the kidneys fail, there is an abnormally high levels of these wastes products. Other blood components normally regulated by the kidneys - such as phosphorus, calcium, sodium, potassium, and chloride - may also rise or fall abnormally.

Failing kidneys may also produce extremely dilute urine or urine that contains too much protein. Healthy kidneys produce concentrated urine that is relatively protein-free.

To determine the prognosis of kidney disease, blood and urine tests are performed frequently during treatment to evaluate how well the kidneys are responding. A complete blood count looks at the numbers of red and white blood cells and a blood chemistry panel will examine the levels of waste products and electrolytes, indications of whether the kidneys are functioning properly. It's a good sign if test results swing back toward normal within the first 48 to 72 hours of therapy.

The blood tests will determine if your cat is suffering from anemia (a lower than normal number of red blood cells, RBC). This is significant because it often indicates a drop in erythropoietin, a hormone secreted by the kidneys that stimulates RBC production. The blood chemistries will determine levels of blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine, both are indicators of the amounts of waste products in the blood. Elevations of these levels result from kidney failure.

Urinalysis measures a number of factors, including how well the kidneys are concentrating the urine. In kidney failure, urine becomes dilute. Urine may also be checked for the presence of bacteria, protein, and blood. If the kidneys are normal urine should be concentrated and there should be no blood or protein in the urine.

X-rays, ultrasound and possible kidney biopsies are also very useful in assessing kidney disease.

Acute renal Failure:

The causes of acute renal failure are many. Toxins, antifreeze, cancer, intestinal disease and dehydration are just a few. Management of acute renal failure requires hospitalization, intravenous fluid therapy, and medications to help offset the affects of toxemia associated with renal failure. Intensive therapy is essential to attempt to reverse the process.

One hopes to see positive changes within 48-72 hours of treatment. The prognosis worsens if there is no reduction in the abnormal kidney values.

Chronic renal failure (CRF):

Chronic renal failure is the result of one of several different diseases, including chronic interstitial nephritis, glomerulonephritis, and amyloidosis. Some of these are autoimmune diseases; the body's immune system actually turns on itself and attacks organs and tissues. In addition, pyelonephritis, a bacterial infection that usually starts in the bladder, is often a complicating factor that precipitates CRF.

Other causes such as polycystic kidney disease (PKD) can affect younger cats, especially Himalayans and Persians, and also lead to CRF. Cysts develop in the kidneys and grow, destroying normal tissue.

Renal amyloidosis, is another form of hereditary kidney disease that affect Abyssinian and Somali cats, and may also lead to CRF.

There is no way to prevent or stop chronic renal failure. Cats can only live with one healthy kidney, but because CRF affects both kidneys, over time it is fatal.

Severely affected cats may need hospitalization. They are first rehydrated. This is best done via intravenous fluids, and therefore must be done in a hospital or veterinary clinic. Some clinicians will allow cat owners to give subcutaneous fluids at home, though this is also frowned upon by others. It involves purchasing bags of sterile fluids and injecting the prescribed amount of fluid beneath the cat's skin on a regular basis.

Dietary management is also potentially helpful. A low protein diet is generally recommended. By decreasing the protein intake, waste products of protein digestion in the blood stream decrease. This reduces the work load of the kidneys. Some cats will eat this diet while others will refuse it.

These diets are also low in phosphorus, which is usually retained in the blood stream in cats with CRF. Chronic retention of phosphorus can lead to a mineral imbalance, resulting in calcium being leached out of the bones. Increases in phosphorus also cause severe irritation of the stomach, causing nausea. Decreasing the phosphate in the diet helps to prevent these problems.

Other therapies include:

Administration of antacids such as Alternagel, this acts as a phosphorus binding agent. This will also help control phosphorus levels. This product is available at most pharmacies, located where the antacids are kept.

Calcitriol at a dose of 2.5ug/kg/day is also sometimes recommended to help control phosphorous toxicity. This drug should not be administered if phosphorus levels are over 6.

If urine cultures are positive or on ultrasound there is indication of disease in the kidney pelvis, antibiotics should be administered for 4-6 weeks.

H2 blockers such as pepsid at a dose of 5mg every day, help with the nausea of kidney disease.
If hypertension (high blood pressure) develops amylodipine (Norvasc) is given at a dose of 0.625mg per day.

Epogen or Procrit is an injectable which may help replenish the loss of erythropoiten and help control the anemia. The use of these products is somewhat controversial.

Appetite stimulants-by prescription

Potassium supplements

Kidney Transplant-this procedure is available at about 10 clinics nationwide. Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania in the East offer this procedure. Please consult with your veterinarian for a facility near you. As of this writing the cost is $4,000-$5,000. Kidney transplant recipients need to take medication daily to avoid organ rejection, and there are ethical considerations regarding the donor cat as well.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Geriatric Pets - Optimizing Health

With recent advances in disease detection and treatment, your pet’s senior years can be a healthy and happy time. By sharing life and love with you, your pet has given you a priceless gift. Now that your pet has earned senior status, you have an opportunity to give something in return: the special love and care that can make the golden years happy and healthy.

It is estimated that your pet ages five to seven years for every one of yours, which suggests that health problems in your pet can progress at a faster rate. Therefore, we recommend frequent examinations for our older pets. In this manner, we can help prevent or treat many age-related conditions and enhance your pet’s quality of life. No one knows your pet better than you do, so it’s up to you to report any and all changes to your veterinarian.

As pets age, there is a decline in organ, mental abilities, sensory function and immunity. The following is a short list of the most common problems for aging pets: heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia, dental disease (tooth loss and infections), cataracts, glaucoma, blindness, weight gain or loss, change in appetite, loss of house training, incontinence, changes in sleeping patterns, hearing loss, skin and hair coat problems, increased thirst and urination, decreased immune system, endrocrine dysfunction (thyroid), behavioral changes (due to medical problems or cognitive dysfunction), and cancer.

Physical Examination

A physical examination performed at a minimum of every six months will enable us to detect the presence of small problems or changes in your pet’s health before they can become major health problems. During this physical exam, the veterinarian assesses the following on your pet: cardiovascular system, respiratory system, gastrointestinal system, urinary and reproductive systems, central nervous system, eyes and ears, skin and coat, mouth, teeth, and gums, and a weight assessment. For some patients we will recommend a physical examination every three months.

A thorough physical exam alone is not capable of detecting all possible health problems. It is impossible to obtain and understand a complete picture without also performing other tests. Blood work gives us a means of checking your pet’s internal functions in a non-invasive manner.

Diagnostic Blood Work

Because of our strong commitment to providing the best medicine that we can for your pet, we strongly believe that regular blood testing is important in helping your pet to achieve a long and happy life. Even though our pets may appear to be healthy based on physical appearance and activity, many clinical signs of disease do not develop until late in the disease process. Pets cannot tell us when they do not feel 100% and because of their instinct to protect themselves, many animals will ‘hide’ their illness. A good example of this situation is a cat with kidney disease. This patient may be afflicted with kidney disease for months to years before developing signs of disease because a pet can lose up to 75% of kidney function before clinical signs will develop. Performing blood work will detect early changes in kidney enzymes and allow us to manage this disease process properly—allowing the patient to live a longer and healthier life.

We feel that blood work is the most important diagnostic test that we can perform on our older pets. Yes, we do not like to admit it, but most of our pets are senior citizens at seven years of age. Giant breed dogs attain senior citizen status at five to six years of age. Because of rapid aging changes at this stage of your pet’s life, we highly recommend blood work on an annual basis. We can compare current and previous blood results in order to evaluate the process of a disease and its response to therapy. Common diseases include heart disease, liver and kidney disease, arthritis, diabetes, thyroid disease, and dental (tooth) disease.

A normal result on blood work is great! You have not wasted your money. We now have a baseline for how your pet is doing at this time. If future blood work reveals changes then we can tell how long there has been a problem and are assured that we are indeed catching the problem early. Normal blood work results give both of us peace of mind that your pet is doing well.

A CBC (Complete Blood Cell Count) and Comprehensive Blood Serum Chemistry are good screening tests to help detect health problems for your pet.

Complete Blood Cell Count

This test provides information about the various types of blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen to tissues. White blood cells are the body’s primary defense against infection. Platelets are involved in the clotting process. Abnormalities with any of these values help to potentially detect anemia, inflammation, acute or chronic infection, bleeding disorders, blood parasites, dehydration and autoimmune diseases.

Comprehensive Blood Serum Chemistry

This is a series of individual tests that analyzed together give us valuable information concerning the kidneys, liver, pancreas, intestinal tract, and endocrine diseases.

AMYLASE and LIPASE--pancreas
TOTAL PROTEIN and GLOBULIN—immune system, dehydration
GLUCOSE—diabetes, insulin tumor
CHOLESTEROL—hypothyroidism, cushings disease, pancreatitis
CALCIUM—kidney disease, hyperparathyroidism, some tumors
ELECTROLYTES—endocrine diseases, kidney and dehydration

Sometimes other diagnostics may be recommended based upon these results. Some of these involve specialized tests at outside laboratories. Some of the more common diagnostics involve:

Thyroid: Hyperthyroidism is extremely common in older cats. It can cause hypertension, heart disease, and weight loss. Dogs tend to get hypothyroidism which causes weight gain, problems with the hair coat, and other problems.

Urinalysis: This is a common test that will help to detect kidney disease, diabetes, infection, inflammation, and metabolic disorders. Kidney disease is first evident here.

ECG (Electrocardiogram): This enables us to see the electrical activity of the heart. Abnormalities may indicate a serious problem and a chest x-ray or a cardiac ultrasound may be recommended to further diagnose heart disease.

Ultrasound: This is a specialized piece of equipment that allows us to obtain a three dimensional image of your pet’s organs. We can visualize the heart, liver, spleen, kidneys, stomach, intestines, pancreas, adrenal glands and bladder. When diseases of the liver or kidney are detected, the ultrasound can give us a look at the internal structure of these organs and allow for ultrasound guided biopsies to help further identify the cause of the disease. We strongly recommend an ultrasound on all of our cardiac patients, especially cats. Older cats are prone to HCM—Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. This is a disease in which the heart muscle hypertrophies, decreasing the available volume of blood to be moved through the heart. Radiographs will not diagnose this disease; it can only be diagnosed via ultrasound. This disease is fatal without specific and appropriate medical management.

Blood Pressure: Many older cats and dogs become hypertensive, especially with hyperthyroidism and/or kidney disease. This machine works much like the blood pressure monitors in human medicine. The test is quite simple and easy to perform.

X-Rays (Radiographs): These can help to detect problems with the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, bones, soft tissue and intestinal tract. They are used to identify disease and also to monitor progress/response to therapy. X-rays are an essential component in the work up of heart patients.

Glaucoma testing using the Tonopen: Many older pets can have problems with increased intraocular pressure (glaucoma) same as people do. Increases in pressure in the eye will cause pain and also lead to blindness if not detected early and treated appropriately.

Other Considerations

Advances in medical diagnostics and treatment enable us to help your pet be more comfortable and also to prolong his/her life. You and your veterinarian can form a partnership whose goal is to maintain an improved quality of life for your pet as long as we can.

Many older pets suffer from arthritis. This may be presented as lameness, difficulty getting up or climbing stairs, increased irritability, decreased appetite, and overall decrease in activity. New pain management medications help pets with chronic pain have a better quality of life. Nutritional supplements containing Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate help with joint maintenance and repair and are good to use in conjunction with other anti-inflammatory medications. The medication that is best for your individual pet’s needs will be chosen after discussion between you and your veterinarian. Acupuncture is another option for pets with arthritis.

In addition to medications, appropriate nutrition for your pet’s condition will also prolong his/her lifespan. All veterinarians agree that older pets need to be on a high quality diet. Most older pets suffer from obesity. These pets would benefit from increased dietary fiber. Other pets with kidney problems or heart disease may need specialized diets restricting sodium and protein. Skin problems can often be improved by adding omega 3 fatty acids to your pet’s diet. Immunomodulators and antioxidants will often help immune compromised and cancer patients. Some older pets will actually do better with a diet high in carbohydrates and increased protein. Together you and your veterinarian will decide upon an appropriate diet based upon your pet’s individual needs.

Many older pets will suffer from various dental problems: tooth decay and loss, gingivitis, infection and oral tumors. Pain caused by a tooth abscess can cause your pet to have a decreased appetite, be more irritable, and also lead to infection elsewhere in the body. These problems can be treated with antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, teeth cleaning and oral rinses.
Behavioral changes may be an early signal of various medical problems. Many of these can be related to pain from arthritis, dental disease, etc. Cognitive dysfuntion is due to age related changes in the brain. Some symptoms of this are confusion and disorientation, decline in social interactions, changes in the sleep-wake cycle and house soiling.

With detailed information obtained through a physical examination and diagnostics, you and your veterinarian can formulate a plan for keeping your senior pet as healthy as possible. This overall patient assessment will include diet, exercise, and treatment recommendations. Certain medical, nutritional, and behavioral changes could signal a need for special care and diagnostics. With your love and dedication, these can be your best years together!

This article was donated by the Claws & Paws Veterinart Hospital,

Televets is a new free online pet Q&A service. Visit them today and ask your question!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Heat Stroke in Dogs

Dogs don’t sweat the way people do in order to cool the body down during extreme temperatures. They cool off by panting; the air cools the mucous membranes and blood vessels in their mouth and tongue. Extreme cases of heat stroke lead to the disruption of the dog’s internal cooling mechanism, and they quickly go into cardiovascular shock, which is life-threatening.

Cars are the worst culprit. Even windows left open do not always provide the air flow needed, and the hothouse effect is very rapid! If you absolutely must leave your dog in the car, park only in the shade with windows open (so that they cannot jump out), and NEVER for more than 7 - 10 minutes. They must have access to cool, clean water at all times and be able to avoid direct heat by providing shade if outdoors, or a fan if left in an apartment during the hottest part of the day.

Puppies and older dogs are more susceptible to heat stroke. If you suspect your pet has heat stroke, this is an emergency situation and should be treated by your veterinarian immediately.

Some of the signs to watch for include:

1) unusual sluggishness or unresponsiveness
2) pale or dark red gums, sometimes with a dry feel
3) erratic breathing



Immediate correction of hyperthermia:

Monitor your pets temperature with a rectal thermometer. The normal temperature for a dog is around 38.5°C or 101°F. Dogs suffering from heat stroke often present with body temperatures around 105ºF.

Spray with water or immerse in water before transporting to veterinary facility.

Stop cooling procedures when temperature reaches 103°F, to avoid hypothermia.

Give artificial respiration support if required.

Don't let a fear of heat stroke stop you from enjoying the great outdoors with your pet, but please be aware of the danger. A little caution goes a long way, even just providing access to water and shade at all times will prevent your pet from developing this condition.

This article was donated by the Columbia Animal Hospital. For further information visit

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Cheyletiella Mites in Dogs, Cats and Rabbits

Cheyletiella dermatitis is caused by a small mite that lives in the outer layers of the skin of dogs, cats, rabbits and people. Infected animals have an accumulation of dandruff on their backs and occasionally on their necks and heads. Most infested animals scratch and shed hair excessively.

The mite spreads easily from animal to animal by direct contact or sharing contaminated quarters or grooming supplies. People become infested through contact with infested animals.
As the entire life cycle of these mites occurs on the host animal, environmental cleaning is not difficult.

Diagnosis is made by identifying the mite microscopically. The characteristic appearance on examining the pet is one of 'walking dandruff'.

Important Points in Treatment

1. Cheyletiella infestations are easily treated with acaricidal spot-ons such as Revolution, Stronghold or Advocate. They can also be treated effectively with medicated shampoos and insecticidal dips, powders or sprays. The veterinarian will advise you concerning the best product for your pet.

2. During treatment, your pet should be isolated from other animals for 3 weeks.

3. While environmental contamination is not a great problem with Cheyletiella, mites may survive up to 10 days off the host. For this reason, a strong effort should be made to clean the premises thoroughly and spray the area with a good residual insecticide.

This article was donated by the Columbia Animal Hospital. For further information visit

Televets is a new and free online pet Q&A service. Visit them at to ask your question today!