As we all think about getting into our swim suits this summer, perhaps the question on our minds is- oops- how can I lose a little weight? In addition to saying no to that next ice cream cone, swimming is often the answer for many people when they think about how to lose a few extra pounds. Guess what? For dogs, it is often the same (minus the ice cream!)
When Dianne brought her chocolate Labrador Retriever, Molly, in to see Dr Atton, she was 114 lbs and overweight. Dr Atton told Dianne that Molly needed to lose weight, and he meant it! It was hard work and took a lot of perseverance, canned pumpkin, and string beans, but after a year Molly reached her goal weight. Her favorite exercise is power walking!
Weekly weigh- ins are an important part of any weight loss program, and Molly was no exception! During one of the many trips Dianne made with Molly to weigh in, she saw a beautiful yellow lab named Jake in the lobby with his owner. Dianne commented on how handsome he was, and after he and his owner left, she learned that he was looking for a new home. After many days of discussion, Dianne and her husband decided to adopt Jake.
Like Molly, Jake was overweight, but now Dianne was an expert in doggy weight loss! Jake was put on a diet, and it was discovered that his favorite exercise is swimming!
Why is swimming a good option for weight loss in dogs?
Swimming is a great form of aerobic exercise and is good for dogs both young and old. “Swimming is potentially a year round opportunity for exercise for dogs with joint or back problems”, says Dr. Atton of Felton Veterinary Hospital, “and, just like with humans, many muscle groups are utilized so it’s truly a whole body exercise and many dogs absolutely love it!”
How can you tell if your dog needs to lose weight?
There are standards in veterinary care for how to tell if your pet is too thin, an ideal weight, or overweight. Your veterinarian can help you to determine your pet’s body condition and will likely use a chart similar to the one shown below.
It is important to have your veterinarian guide you in a weight loss plan that is tailored to your pet’s nutritional needs, along with a monitoring/ follow up program to monitor and maintain progress in a healthy way.
Where can I swim my dog in the Santa Cruz area?
There are a few areas that are well known, and some not so well known, where dogs are allowed to swim in Santa Cruz County. For fitness, a swimming pool is often preferred. For fun, here are some ideas!
Mitchell’s Cove State Beach – is the only beach in Santa Cruz where dogs are allowed off leash, and only before 10:00 am and after 4:00 pm.
It’s State Beach – Dogs are allowed on leash only and this commonly referred to “Dog” beach.
Hidden Beach- Aptos
Beer Can Beach- Aptos
Antonelli Pond – Delaware
Want more ideas for where to take your dog in Santa Cruz County? Check out this great blog with lots of good info on on-leash and off-leash fun with your dog.
Does your dog hike or run with you in grassy open areas? Or do they love to go sniffing in overgrown areas in your yard or neighborhood? Uh oh, foxtail season is HERE. Here’s how to recognize, and more importantly, prevent these nasty weeds from hurting your dog.
What is a foxtail?
A foxtail is a grass-like weed that blooms every spring and releases barbed seed heads. These barbs can work their way into any part of your dog’s body- including eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and even directly into the skin. Because of their barbed nature they tend to be very difficult to remove, and even worse, they can travel beyond sight very quickly.
Where does foxtail grass grow?
If you’re out and about with your dog you’ve probably seen this weed growing everywhere. It can be found in grassy areas, in yards, and even in the sidewalk cracks! Because of heavy rains this winter, foxtails are on the rise this season due to the heavy rains this past winter.
Why are they dangerous?
The danger of foxtails goes beyond simple irritation. The seed heads don’t break down in the body, so an embedded foxtail can lead to a serious infection for your dog. Like an arrow, they only travel one way – deeper into your pet’s body – and don’t come out on their own. If caught early they are relatively easy for your vet to remove. But if left untreated they can cause infection, and in serious cases, can travel through the body to your pet’s internal organs and even cause death.
How do I tell if my pet has a foxtail?
Foxtails are most commonly found in the nose, ears, eye, or between the toes, but can enter the body anywhere. Here are the most common symptoms to look for.
Nose: Nasal discharge and/or sudden onset of violent sneezing can indicate a foxtail in the nose.
Ear: If your pet is shaking his head, tilting it to the side, or scratching at the ear incessantly this could be an indication of a foxtail in the ear canal. They are usually so deep that you can’t see them and your veterinarian needs to take a look with a special scope.
Eyes: Discharge, redness, squinting, and swelling all could indicate a foxtail in the eye.
Feet: Foxtails love your pet’s feet and can get lodged in between toes in particular. If you notice limping, swelling, discharge or tenderness of the feet, a foxtail could be the problem.
Outfox the foxtails- tips for prevention
What can you do during foxtail season to make sure these nasty weeds don’t prevent your outdoor fun? Examine your pet’s coat after outdoor time, especially if you have gone walking in open fields. Check your pet’s face and ears carefully, as well as their mouth, paws, and in between toes. Brush your pet as necessary, paying special attention to feathery, thick, or curly fur. Use tweezers to remove any foxtails you can easily get to, but remember that foxtails won’t come out on their own, so if you see any deeply embedded or if the area is red or swollen, call your veterinarian right away.
If you have what we lovingly refer to as a “foxtail magnet,” consider trimming your pet’s fur during foxtail season, and keep your dog out of overgrown, grassy areas.
Our own adorable foxtail magnet is Bugsy!
Bugsy is a lovable 2 yr old Staffordshire Terrier mix who came in to see us not once, but TWICE within 2 weeks for the removal of foxtails from his tonsils. Ouch! His owners Chelsea and David brought him in the first time after a night of intermittent gagging.
In order to see what was going on and provide Bugsy with a calm, non-threatening experience, Dr Keil sedated him with a safe anesthetic. She then used a special scope to get a good look at what was going on. She found green foxtails embedded in his tonsils, along with tons of redness, swelling, and bleeding. Poor guy! Dr Keil removed the foxtails, Bugsy recovered well from the sedative, and he was then sent home feeling much better. Needless to say, after this event, Chelsea & David removed all foxtails from their yard!
But our little Bugsy was not to be deterred! Two weeks later, he escaped from his yard. He was found in a neighbor’s yard eating foxtails! This time Chelsea and David did not wait for symptoms and brought him right in for sedation and scoping. Once again, fearless Dr Keil sedated and scoped to get a look. Again we found foxtails in addition to spiny oak leaves . Double ouch! Once again the plants were removed and Bugsy recovered well.
No more escaping for Bugsy, and hopefully, no more foxtails in the throat.
Our pets love us unconditionally and provide us (their humans) with companionship, love, fun, and exercise. Our pets are good for us in so many ways – mentally, emotionally, and it’s been proven over and over that even our physical health benefits from our relationships with our pet companions.
Senior Pets (defined as seven years or older for most dogs and cats, and 6 years in larger dog breeds) can experience many of the same problems seen in older people – such as:
• Heart Disease
• Kidney and Urinary Tract disease
• Liver Disease
• Joint or Bone disease
Your pet’s health in later years is not entirely under your control but with a regular health examination and simple diagnostic tests, many of the problems associated with aging can be spotted even before symptoms show.
The cornerstone of preventative care is a once-a-year, or ideally twice-a year health examination for your senior pet. During these visits, your veterinarian can review other preventative care strategies such as good nutrition, parasite control, and maintaining a healthy weight and an active lifestyle.
Due to improved veterinary care and dietary habits, pets are living longer now than they have ever before. There are many medication, supplement, and diet changes that can benefit your pet for senior issues including: Liver and kidney disease, cardiovascular and respiratory disease, diabetes, thyroid diseases, obesity, cognitive dysfunction (pet senility), and more. One result of this is that pets, along with their human companions and veterinarians, are faced with a whole new set of age-related conditions. In recent years there has been extensive research on the problems facing older pets and how to best address their special needs. Next week we will explore some ideas to do this!
What on Earth is the Vestibular Apparatus?
In a nutshell, the vestibular apparatus is the neurological equipment responsible for perceiving your body’s orientation relative to the earth (determining if you are upside down, standing up straight, falling etc.), which inform your eyes and extremities how they should move accordingly.
The vestibular apparatus allows us to walk, even run, on uneven ground without falling, helps us know when we need to right ourselves, and allows our eyes to follow moving objects without becoming dizzy.
There are two sets of receptors involved: one to detect rotational acceleration (tumbling or turning) and one to detect linear acceleration and gravity (falling and letting us know which direction is up and which is down). Both receptors are located in the middle ear.
Rotation is detected using the three semicircular canals as shown above. These canals contain fluid called endolymph, which moves as your head rotates. Tiny neurological hair cells project into this fluid and are stimulated by the flow. These hair cells are part of sensory nerves that carry the appropriate message to the cerebellum (part of the brain that coordinates locomotion) and to four vestibular nuclei in the brain stem.
Up and down orientation stems from small weighted bodies called otoliths, which are located within the utricle and saccule of the middle ear. These small otoliths move with gravity within a gelatinous medium, stimulating small hair cells as they move similar to the situation described above.
From these centers, instructions are carried by nerve cells to the legs, neck, and eye muscles so that we may orient ourselves immediately. The information about being upside down (or in some other abnormal orientation) is also sent to the hypothalamus (an area of the brain) so that we can become consciously aware of our position. The information is also sent to the reticular formation (another area of the brain – a sort of a volume control on our state of wakefulness. In this way, if we are asleep and start to fall, the vestibular stimulations would wake us up. This is also why rolling an anesthetized animal from side to side is used to hasten anesthetic recovery).
The Signs of Vestibular Disease
If there is trouble in the vestibular apparatus, then you may not properly perceive your orientation. To put it more simply, you won’t know which way is up, whether or not you are standing up straight or slanted, and you’ll feel dizzy.
The following are signs of vestibular disease:
- Ataxia (lack of coordination without weakness or involuntary spasms – in other words, stumbling and staggering around).
- Motion sickness.
- Nystagmus (back and forth or rotational eye movements. The movements will be slower in one direction. This is the side where the neurologic lesion is likely to be; however, nystagmus is named according to the direction of the fast component – i.e. there may be left nystagmus but the lesion is probably on the right side of the vestibular apparatus.)
- Circling (usually toward the side of the lesion).
- Head tilt (usually toward the side of the lesion).
- Falling to one side (usually toward the side of the lesion).
- Trouble with other nerves controlling the head and face.
Causes of Vestibular Disease
The most common causes of vestibular disease are:
- Middle ear infection
- Brain lesion
- Idiopathic (unknown)
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What Happens in Heartworm Disease
By Wendy C. Brooks DVM, DABVP
Heartworm Disease vs. Heartworm Infection
Before reviewing the clinical signs seen in heartworm disease, an important distinction must be made between heartworm disease and heartworm infection. Heartworm infection by definition means the host animal (generally a dog) is parasitized by at least one life stage of the heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis). Dogs with heartworms in their bodies do not necessarily have adult worms in their hearts; they may have larval heartworms in their skin only. Dogs with heartworms in their bodies are not necessarily sick, either. Dogs with only larvae of one stage or another are not sick and it is controversial how dangerous it is for a dog to have only one or two adult heartworms. These dogs are certainly infected but they do not have heartworm disease.
On the other hand, dogs with heartworm disease are sick. They not only have the infection but they have any of the problems listed below because of it. Fortunately, heartworm disease is both treatable and preventable. Further sections of this web page explain both treatment and prevention; we will now discuss the damage heartworms can do to a dog’s body.
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Fleas: Know your Enemy
Despite numerous technological advances, fleas continue to represent a potentially lethal plague upon our pets. Current products are effective so there is little reason for this; the problem seems to be one of understanding.
There are over 1900 flea species in the world. Pet owners are concerned with only one: Ctenocephalides felis, the cat flea. This is the flea that we find on our pets (cats, dogs, rabbits, and other species) in 99.9% of cases and in order to understand how to control the damage caused by this tiny little animal, you should learn all you can about it.
What Kind of Damage Can Fleas Cause?
It would be a grave mistake to think of the flea as simply a nuisance. A heavy flea burden is lethal, especially to smaller or younger animals. The cat flea is not at all selective about its host and has been known to kill dairy calves through heavy infestation. Conditions brought about via flea infestation include:
• Flea Allergic Dermatitis (fleas do not make animals itchy unless there a flea bite allergy)
• Flea Anemia
• Feline Infectious Anemia (a life-threatening blood parasite carried by fleas)
• Cat Scratch Fever/Bartonellosis (does not make the cat sick but the infected cat can make a person sick)
• Common Tapeworm infection (not harmful but cosmetically unappealing)
Fleas can kill pets.
This is so important that we will say it again: Most people have no idea that fleas can kill. On some level, it is obvious that fleas are blood-sucking insects but most people never put it together that enough fleas can cause a slow but still life-threatening blood loss. This is especially a problem for elderly cats who are allowed to go outside. These animals do not groom well and are often debilitated by other diseases. The last thing a geriatric pet needs to worry about is a lethal flea infestation and it is important that these animals be well protected.
Also consider that in about 90% of cases where an owner thinks the pet does not have fleas, a veterinarian finds obvious fleas when a flea comb is used. Despite the TV commercials, the educational pamphlets, the common nature of the parasite, there are still some significant awareness problems and a multitude of misconceptions.
For more info go to veterinarypartner.com
* Diabetes Mellitus Center
What is Diabetes Mellitus?
In order to understand the problems involved in diabetes mellitus, it is necessary to understand something of the normal body’s metabolism.
The pancreas is nestled along the stomach and small intestine. It secretes digestive enzymes into the small intestine but it also secretes hormones into the bloodstream to regulate blood sugar.
The cells of the body require a sugar known as glucose for food and they depend on the bloodstream to bring glucose to them. They cannot, however, absorb and utilize glucose without a hormone known as insulin. This hormone, insulin, is produced by the pancreas. Insulin is like a key that unlocks the door to separate cells from the sugars in our bloodstream.
Glucose comes from the diet. When an animal goes without food, the body must break down fat, stored starches, and protein to supply calories for the hungry cells. Proteins and starches may be converted into glucose. Fat, however, requires different processing that can lead to the production of ketones rather than glucose. Ketones are another type of fuel that the body can use in a pinch but the detection of ketones indicates that something wrong is happening in the patient’s metabolism. Ketones may therefore be detected in the urine of starving animals because of massive fat mobilization is required for ketone formation. Ketones can also be detected in diabetic ketoacidosis, a severe complication of unregulated diabetes so it is helpful to periodically monitor for ketones in a diabetic patient’s urine. The point is, for now, that in times of extreme fat burning (such as in starvation), ketones are a byproduct.
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Periodontal Disease in Pets
More than 85% of dogs and cats older than four years have periodontal concerns. There are four periodontal types of tissue: the gingiva (gum), cementum, periodontal ligament, and alveolar supporting bone.
Periodontal disease starts when plaque forms; plaque is a transparent adhesive fluid composed of mucin, sloughed epithelial cells and aerobic, and gram positive cocci. Plaque starts forming two days after dental cleaning. If the plaque is not removed, mineral salts in the food can precipitate to form hard dental calculus. The calculus is irritating to the gingival tissue, changing the pH of the mouth and allowing bacteria to survive subgingivally. By-products of these bacteria “eat away” at the tooth’s support structures, eventually causing the tooth to be lost in some cases.
There are two common grading systems commonly used to classify the degree of periodontal disease. The mobility index evaluates the looseness of the tooth. With Class I mobility, the tooth moves slightly. Class II is when a tooth moves less than the distance of its crown width. With Class III mobility the tooth moves a distance greater than its crown width. Class III teeth have lost more than 50% of their support and in most cases should be extracted.
Periodontal disease can also be staged:
Stage 1 gingivitis
Stage 2 early periodontitis-less than 25% support loss
Stage 3 established periodontitis- between 25%-50% support loss
Stage 4 advanced periodontitis- greater than 50% support loss
When periodontal disease is not treated, subgingival bacteria can continue to reproduce, creating deeper periodontal pockets through bone destruction.
Eventually, this progression can cause tooth loss and other internal medicine problems.
Imagine a giant tooth sitting in a 10-foot garbage can containing mud and industrial waste. Continue to pretend it is your job to clean the tooth and you are only supplied with equipment 5 feet long. What happens? The top is cleaned and the bottom is allowed to remain in the toxic waste until it eats through the can. How can you solve this problem? Try opening the side of the can to clean the waste out in order to save the tooth. That is the essence of periodontal surgery.
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Cancer is the most common natural cause of death in dogs in the United States and Canada. And while the diagnosis is one that every pet lover dreads, the fact is that canine cancer is more treatable than ever before. Even better: Veterinarians now know more about what steps can be taken to help prevent the dreaded disease.
To reduce the risk of cancer in your pet:
- Adopt a healthy dog who fits into your lifestyle. If you’re considering a purebred dog, know that cancer hits some breeds more than others. Do your homework before deciding on a breed, and work with a reputable breeder who is aware of the health problems of the breed and is working to reduce those problems. Because of the breed-specific health problems in purebred dogs, some believe it’s better to bring a mixed-breed into your home. (Although there’s no guarantee that a mixed-breed dog won’t be stricken with cancer, of course.) Shelters and rescue groups will be happy to help you find your best pet, no matter your choice.
- Make sure your dog has good nutrition, weight-management and plenty of exercise. Help your dog to maintain a fit body for life. A fit dog will have a wasplike waist and a tucked-in abdomen.
- Feed your dog a high-quality diet made by a reputable company or a home-prepared diet prepared with the help of your veterinarian. Start with the amount of food recommended for your dog and adjust accordingly with how your pet’s body responds. Cut down on extra calories by substituting baby carrots as treats or by adding volume to meals with green beans.
- Consider adding omega-3 fatty acids (also known as n-3, found in fish oils and other sources) to potentially to reduce the risk of developing cancer. Add regular exercise, and you and your dog will benefit with greater health and a closer, more vibrant relationship.
- Spay or neuter your dog early in life. Spaying and neutering have been shown to be an effective method of preventing cancer. Spaying has a significant effect of preventing breast cancer if it is done before a dog goes into her first heat cycle.
- Choose clean living for your dog. Eliminate exposure to environmental carcinogens such as pesticides, coal or kerosene heaters, herbicides, passive tobacco smoke, asbestos, radiation and strong electromagnetic fields. Each one of these factors has been suggested to increase the risk of cancer in your dog (and in you).
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Degenerative joint disease is the number one cause of chronic pain in dogs and cats. The condition is the result of long-term stresses on a joint, either resulting from an old injury or from natural development of a poorly conformed joint. While surgery may be able to help in some situations, most of the time the degeneration of the joint cannot be reversed and treatment focuses on preventing progression of damage. Numerous products are available; some are best combined with others and some cannot be combined. What we do know is that arthritis pain is best addressed by what is called a multi-modal approach, meaning that several approaches combined yield better results than any single therapy. Here, we focus on medications.
Medications for arthritis pain are divided into two groups: Slow-acting drugs and fast-acting (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and cortisone-type drugs).
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