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Why do you need to test my pet’s blood?
There are many reasons that we do blood testing (see below).
1) Wellness testing- This is blood testing that is done during the annual exam on patients that are not showing any signs of illness. The goal of wellness testing is to catch diseases or abnormalities in their early stages where intervention can make the biggest difference.
2) Pre-anesthetic testing- Pre-anesthetic blood testing is to screen for any problems that may be going on under the surface that may interfere with anesthesia or surgery. For example, if a pet has low platelets this could indicate a clotting problem.
3) Therapeutic monitoring- Many pets that are on chronic medications need to have their blood tested to make sure the dosage is correct. An example of this is the seizure medication Phenobarbital. Also, patients that are on certain medications need to have their blood checked periodically to check for adverse effects. Some arthritis medications have rare side effects involving the liver and kidneys. If caught early they can be addressed before becoming a problem.
4) Sick pets- This one is pretty self explanatory. Most laboratory samples are sent to an outside lab. Results are returned the next day. For same day surgery and pets that are very sick, bloodwork can be done in house. In this case we usually have the results within an hour.  

What do you do if you find something?
Blood testing is immensely helpful in sick and well pets. Often we can slow down or even correct abnormalities by intervening with diet, supplements and medications. One example is kidney disease. Pets with kidney disease that go on therapeutic diets will have a slowing of the progression of the disease and an increased survival.

What types of testing is done?
There are many tests that we do. I’ll list a few of the more common ones that we do.
-Complete Blood Count: This test looks at red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.
-Chemistry panel: This test evaluates kidneys, liver, blood sugar, blood protein and electrolytes.
-Thyroid Level: Dogs and cats can get disease of the thyroid gland. Dogs get hypothyroid or low thyroid. Cats get hyperthyroid or high thyroid.
-Fructosamine: this test helps diagnose and manage diabetes.
-Blood Parasite testing: In addition to heartworm infection, tick borne infections like Lyme disease can be tested for.

If you pet seems sick or if you would like to get a more thorough picture of your pet’s health contact your vet about having your pet’s blood tested.

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“He never goes outside.” “She looks fine to me.” “Cat’s have 9 lives.” “The whole ordeal is just so stressful for him.” “If she gets sick then we’ll bring her in. Until then it is not worth it.”  And the list goes on. The list that I am referring to is the list of reasons that some cat owners use for not bringing their cats in for annual wellness exams. I know these cat owners love their pets as much as anyone else. And, to be honest, there is some validity to each of these points. Cat’s that don’t go outside are not going to eat out of a dumpster or get run over by a car. And it is stressful taking a cat to the vet. If it’s not broke don’t fix it. Right? We’ll actually no.

While inside cats are at low risk for infections they are not at no risk. Rodents can serve as intermediate hosts for intestinal parasites. This means that if you get mice in your house and your cat kills them and chews on them they could get roundworms. Also if you have houseplants worm eggs can be in the potting soil. Yeah, I know…Pretty Gross. What about fleas? It’s not that common of an occurrence but fleas can hitch a ride on our shoes and infest our house. Then there’s rabies virus. The chances of an indoor cat contracting rabies are pretty low but it is mandated by law in most counties to have pet cats vaccinated. While we are not going to call the cat police on you we do believe that it is a good idea.

And if a pet cat looks ok then he probably is ok. Not necessarily. Cats are great at hiding their illness. It’s a survival mechanism. In the wild if you look weak or sick you may get eaten. And with some of the longer haired breeds of cats it is hard to visualize weight loss under their coat.

Often if illness is detected in its early stages intervention with diet or medication can be quite beneficial. Some examples of diseases and conditions where early intervention is helpful are kidney disease, weight loss, diabetes, thyroid disease and anemia.

Now the stress of coming in can’t be eliminated but it can be reduced. Clinics like Countryside that are Certified as Cat Friendly have undergone specialized training in making the visit as smooth as possible. For more information on cat friendly practices check out: http://catfriendlypractice.catvets.com/uploads/Pages%20from%20CFPCatOwnerTrifoldFINAL.pdf
For more information on preparing for your visit check out: http://www.healthycatsforlife.com/clinic.html

At Countryside we know how important your pet is to you and our goal is to provide you with the information to help your pets live long healthy lives.

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There are many causes of vomiting. To help us narrow it down we divide them into three categories: inflammation, foreign body/obstruction and systemic.

Inflammation

A common cause of acute inflammation is dietary. Make sure to tell your vet about anything out of the ordinary that your pet has eaten, any changes in diet or any new treats that may have been introduced. Most cats and dogs are used to eating the same thing every day and if anything new is eaten the digestive system can be overwhelmed and vomiting can result. Unfortunately, our patients cannot tell us everything they may have gotten into so often we have to make the assumption that they ate something that stressed their system out. Dietary sensitivity or intolerance can be a cause of chronic vomiting. This occurs when an animal looses the ability to digest certain nutrients that are in the diet. When this is suspected a dietary trial with a highly digestible diet will be conducted. If the vomiting stops or significantly reduces then the diagnosis is confirmed. Other GI disease such as inflammatory bowel disease and cancer can cause vomiting. Additional diagnostics such as gastroscopy (inserting a fiber optic tube into the stomach via the mouth) and biopsy are necessary to diagnose inflammatory bowel disease and cancer.

Foreign Body/ Obstruction

Let’s face it; some of our pets will eat anything. And, if large enough these objects can cause a mechanical obstruction. Sometimes the diagnosis is easy. The owner saw the pet eat the object and it shows up on an x ray. Sometimes the diagnosis is not so easy. Certain objects that cause obstruction do now show up on x rays. Some examples are plastic bags, dental floss and thread. If nothing is showing up on x ray your veterinarian may recommend doing a barium series. This involves giving the patient a thick white liquid by mouth and taking several x rays over a 6-12 hour period. The liquid shows up on the x ray. If a complete blockage is present then the barium will not pass. This is a great test but it is not 100% sensitive. Sometimes the barium can go around an object. Sometimes the only way to diagnose an obstruction is to do exploratory surgery. When doing exploratory surgery for a suspected obstruction there is always a chance that nothing will be found. It is always better to do an exploratory and find nothing then not do one and miss something. If fact a very wise veterinary surgeon once told me “If you’re not doing negative exploratories then you are not doing enough surgery.” Even if an obstruction is not found, an exploratory is a good opportunity to take biopsies of the liver, stomach and intestines. These biopsies are usually very helpful.

Systemic

These are causes of vomiting that are not in the GI tract. Some examples are kidney disease and some neurologic disorders.

The above is by no means a complete list of the causes of vomiting. If your pet is having a problem with vomiting contact your vet to discuss diagnostic and treatment options.

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Spring is here and so are the thunder storms. Unfortunately many of our pets do not react well to thunderstorms. While some pets could sleep through anything, other pets hear the thunder and just plain panic. The reaction can be anything from being a little clingy to frantically pacing around the house for hours at a time or shaking violently for hours. So what do we do about it? For the most part the problem mainly affects dogs so that is what we will focus on today.

1)      Medication.  This can be a short term and a long term answer.  Some dogs have such extreme anxiety that they truly need to be sedated. The 2 main drugs we use for this are acepromazine and valium. They provide sedation and anti-anxiety effects for about 4-6 hours. The determination about which drug to use is based on the pets age, health status and history. Sometimes a little trial and error needs to be done to find what medication and dosage works best.  The disadvantage to the above treatments is that you have to try to guess when a bad storm is coming and often by the time the medication is given it is too late. A solution to this for dogs that consistently and frequently have storm anxiety is to put them on a daily medication such as an anti-depressant. This way therapeutic blood levels are already present when the storm hits. These medications are usually reserved for severe cases.

2)      Thundershirt. This is an interesting product. The most important thing is that it can do no harm. I’d say that of all the pet owners that have told me about trying it about half had desirable results. It’s worth a shot, especially if it can help you avoid having to put your pet on medication. To read more about the thundershirt check out: http://www.thundershirt.com/?utm_expid=16997785-5&utm_referrer=http%3A%2F%2Ftrainingcenter.thundershirt.com%2F

3)      Behavior Modification. This is another long term solution. Behavior modification can be done with or without medication. The goal is to desensitize the dog to the sounds that trigger the reaction. One technique is to obtain a “sounds of the storm” type cd. Desensitization consists of playing the disc very quietly (so quiet that the dog doesn’t notice it). While playing the disc you engage the dog in a fun activity such as fetch. Over an arbitrary period of time (about 2-4 months) you gradually increase the volume while playing with dog. A good resource for this is Sound Therapy for Pets: http://www.soundtherapy4pets.co.uk/index.html

These are just a few suggestions for managing this problem. Just like any other behavior issue the longer it goes on for the worse it can get. So, early intervention is the key to success. If you think your dog may have storm anxiety contact your veterinarian to discuss treatment options.

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With advances in nutrition and medical care many of our pets are living longer than ever. But with age comes age related diseases such as arthritis. For years we have been using NSAIDS to control pain in our arthritic pets. NSAID stands for non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs. These are drugs that help alleviate pain and inflammation without steroids. In general NSAIDS are safer for long term use than steroids. NSAIDS are not completely safe and need to be used with caution. Some side effects associated with NSAIDS are vomiting, diarrhea and decreased appetite. They can cause bleeding in the GI tract and can be hard on the kidneys and liver. The good news that if used judiciously the side effects can usually be avoided and they can greatly improve the quality of life in our older pets. The following are some guidelines to follow to minimize the side effects and maximize the benefits of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs:

1)      Periodic Blood Testing. Before going on an NSAID for long term use a pet should have bloodwork done to identify any contraindications to giving NSAIDS, such as kidney disease. Also if a pet is going to be taking NSAIDS on a regular basis they should have their blood rechecked 1 month after starting to make sure they are tolerating the medication. After that the blood should be rechecked every 6 months or as directed by their veterinarian. With periodic blood testing abnormalities can be detected and addressed before they become a problem.

2)      Do not give NSAID to your pet if they are not eating or may be dehydrated. When pets are dehydrated they are more susceptible to side effects of these medications. This is especially important in cats.

3)      Use the lowest effective dose. Many arthritic pets are able to take a fraction of the dose of their arthritis meds. This is important because side effects are dose dependant. This means that the less of an NSAID that is given the less of a chance of side effects. Oh yeah, and giving less medication also saves money to. If your pet is taking arthritis medication on a regular basis then talk to your veterinarian about determining the lowest effective dose.

4)      Not all NSAIDS are created equal. While over the counter NSAIDS like Tylenol and Ibuprofen seem innocuous they are not always appropriate for cats and dogs. Tylenol can be deadly for cats and Ibuprofen can cause ulceration and bleeding of the stomach of dogs.

5)      Compliment traditional medical treatments with supplements and other alternative treatments. This is a broad topic that I will expand on at a later date.

When dealing with arthritis in pets it is important to bring your pet in for regular checkups and keep your vet updated on your pet’s progress.  If you feel that the current treatment is not working, then consider trying something else. Because of the high prevalence of arthritis there are many treatment options available and there is always something else to try. If you think your pet has arthritis contact your vet and set up an exam.

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When traveling with your pet it is important to be prepared. If flying contact the airline to see what is required. Airlines often need current health certificates and will have specific requirements for the dimensions of carriers that fit under the seat. It is also important to determine if your pet needs to be sedated for the flight. If you have not given your pet a sedative before, it is a good idea to do a trial at home a few days before traveling to make sure your pet doesn’t have any adverse effects. It is also good to have the contact information of a day practice and an emergency practice at your destination. If you travel to the same location with your pet on a regular basis it is a good idea to bring you pet in for an exam to get established with the veterinary practice. For more information on traveling with your pet check out: https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/Traveling-with-Your-Pet-FAQs.aspx

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For years the health benefits of fish oil supplements in people have been touted but did you know that dogs and cats can benefit from fish oils too? In addition to therapeutic diets and medication, fish oils are helpful in treating skin disease and kidney disease in dogs and cats. The omega-3 fatty acids in cold water fish work as a natural anti inflammatory. With allergic and inflammatory skin disease this means decreased itching and less skin lesions. Fish oil can also help the quality of a dog or cat’s hair coat, especially when the coat is dull, dry or flaky. And for animals with kidney disease, fish oil can help protect the kidneys from damage and can slow down the progression of the disease. It is important when placing a pet on fish oil, or any supplement, to consult with your veterinarian as too little can be ineffective and too much can be harmful. For more information on fish oil supplementation in pets go to: http://www.healthypet.com/blog/post/Something-Fishy.aspx