Pet Medical Conditions

We know it’s upsetting when your pet is diagnosed with an acute or chronic condition. However, with proactive veterinary intervention, most disease can be managed long-term to provide your pet a high quality of life during and after treatment.

Below is a list of some of the most common conditions your pet may suffer from, including causes, symptoms, treatment, and prevention. For more information, you can also visit the Veterinary Information Network’s collection of articles written by veterinarians addressing a comprehensive list of Dog Diseases and Conditions and Cat Diseases and Conditions.


Coping with an itchy pet can be an extremely frustrating experience for pet owners and can truly test the limits of the human-animal bond. Persistent scratching and chewing can also result in open wounds to the skin and pain to your pet. The following information is intended to help provide pet owners with a basic understanding of the most common underlying causes of itching and allergies in small animals.

Itching in pets can involve not only scratching but also chewing, licking, and rubbing. The two most common causes of itching are external parasites, such as fleas or mites, and environmental allergies.


Environmental allergies are a common cause of skin and ear conditions in pets. People with allergies usually have “hay fever” (watery eyes, runny nose, and sneezing) or asthma. However, pets with allergies rarely have respiratory signs from their allergies and instead usually have red, itchy skin, hair loss, or recurring skin or ear infections.

Flea Allergy
Flea allergic dermatitis is the most common skin disease in cats and dogs. In a flea-allergic patient, 100% flea control is essential to remaining symptom-free. You can learn more about this allergy on our “Flea Allergy Dermatitis” page.

“But doctor, I never see fleas on my pet.” You may not see them, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there! Flea allergy is caused by the flea’s saliva, and it only takes a few bites to cause a problem. Also, an itchy pet often scratches so much that adult fleas are hard to find because they are removed from the body.

“If fleas are the problem, why is my pet still itchy in the winter?” In warm climates and inside our homes, fleas may survive in low numbers year-round. Because flea allergy is so common, many veterinarians recommend instituting complete flea control before proceeding with tests for itching. For most allergic pets, year-round flea treatment is an important part of reducing itch.

Food Allergy
Some pets develop hypersensitivities to foods. Various food proteins, carbohydrates, or even preservatives or dyes can all be potential food allergens. There is currently no accurate blood or skin test to determine if your pet has a food allergy. Instead, food allergies are diagnosed via a food trial. During a food trial, your veterinarian will place your pet on a carefully selected prescription or homemade hypoallergenic diet for several weeks and monitor your pet closely for any change in symptoms. If allergy symptoms resolve during this trial, a food “challenge” is performed by feeding your pet their former diet and watching for a return of symptoms. If symptoms return after reverting to the original diet, a food allergy is confirmed.

Atopic Dermatitis
Atopic dermatitis is an allergy that occurs in response to a variety of normally harmless irritants, such as plant pollens, house dust mites, and other environmental allergens. Common symptoms include skin or ear inflammation. Diagnosis is made based on the results of intradermal skin testing or by in vitro blood testing. Evaluating the results of these tests helps us compile a list of allergens for a “vaccine” (allergen specific immunotherapy) to decrease the pet’s sensitivity.

Secondary Infections
Allergies are often the underlying cause of recurring skin and ear infections. Bacterial and yeast infections, though secondary to the allergy, can increase your pet’s level of itching. Long-term treatment with antibiotics and anti-yeast medications is commonly required, along with medicated bathing.


Many patients will not be particularly itchy in between flare-ups. For some patients, treating flare-ups may be the only therapy needed, and there will be other patients who require therapy throughout their allergy season or throughout the year to prevent extreme symptoms from developing.

Steroids tend to be useful as the first line of defense against itchy skin, and are useful for acute flare-ups as well as for long-term management of atopic dermatitis. Cyclosporine, a modulator of the immune response that has been helpful in both human and non-human organ transplant patients, can be used for long-term management but not acute flare-ups. Apoquel is a new medication that is the only one on the market approved to treat environmental allergies. It is best used for itch relief and blocking itch symptoms, and is very popular as it works fast. Antihistamines have been popular for many years for pets, and they may be helpful in combination with other products.

Treating Secondary Infections
Patients that have been itching extensively often develop skin infections secondary to the cause of the allergies. These infections involve bacteria and/or yeast at the site(s) of the itchiest area(s) on the body. These organisms live naturally in the skin, but when the skin is irritated they can enter the inner tissue layers and proliferate. These infections tend to recur, and they are often the cause of the recurrence of itch symptoms in a patient who was previously controlled.

Hyposensitization (Allergen Specific Immunotherapy)
Hyposensitization, more commonly known as allergy shots, is by far the treatment of choice for environmental allergies. In hyposensitization, the patient is injected with small amounts of allergens on a regular basis. As time passes, the amounts of allergens increase and injections are given at longer intervals. The selection of allergens is made based on the results of either an intradermal skin test, a blood test, or a combination of both. The younger the pet is when this treatment begins, the more likely it is to provide long-term relief.

Because hyposensitization causes actual changes to the immune system, some pets are eventually able to go off all treatment and are no longer allergic. Most pets experience at least enough improvement to require fewer regular treatments.

Canine Atopic Dermatitis Immunotherapeutic (Cytopoint®) Injections
This is a new treatment that uses vaccine technology to eliminate one of the main mediators of itch sensation. The injections provides relief from itching for 1 month in 80 percent of dogs and show effectiveness usually within 24 hours of the injection. For many dogs, relief of itch stops the vicious cycle of itch/infection. Again, any infections still need treatment but the sensation of itch is usually controlled.

Removing Allergens From The Environment
Bathing the pet weekly to remove allergens from the fur may be helpful in reducing allergen exposure plus tepid water is soothing to itchy skin. There are also many therapeutic moisturizing shampoos that can be used to restore the skin’s natural barrier or to assist in general itch relief.
Some other tips to decrease environmental allergens include: Avoid stuffed toys, and wash bedding regularly. This minimizes dust mite exposure. Also, remove the pet from the area when vacuuming or dusting. Use air-conditioning or another air filter system in your home, minimize houseplants, and keep pets away from the lawn while it is being mowed.

Omega 3 Fatty Acid Supplements
These products are not analogous to adding dietary oil to the pet’s food, such as olive oil, coconut oil, corn oil etc. Instead, these special fatty acids act as medications, disrupting the production of inflammatory chemicals within the skin. By using these supplements, it may be possible to postpone the need for steroids/cortisones or reduce the dose of steroid needed to control symptoms. It takes a good 6 weeks to build up enough omega 3 fatty acids in the body to see a difference.

Solid Flea Control
Allergies are additive. This means that when a patient has multiple allergies, each allergy alone may not be enough to cause itching but the allergies all active together probably will. Consequently, taking away one of the active allergies may be enough to resolve the itching. Flea bite allergy is extremely common. We now have so many effective products available that there is no reason for an animal to contend with a flea bite allergy. This simple bit of therapy may be enough to bring the pet below her itch threshold without having to contend with any of the therapies listed above.

Can allergies be cured?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for allergies, and they are often a life-long problem. However, there are many ways to control allergies long-term and improve the quality of life for both you and your pet.


Cartilage is a slippery substance which acts as a buffer or “cushion” between the bones in a joint. It allows the bones to move over or around each other without pain. Arthritis occurs when the cartilage within a joint becomes damaged. Eventually an arthritic joint becomes inflamed and painful. There are over 100 different types of arthritis recognized in humans. In pets, the most common form is osteoarthritis, sometimes called degenerative joint disease. Other types include rheumatoid arthritis and septic arthritis, which is caused by joint infection.

Arthritis commonly affects older and middle-aged pets. However, the condition is not limited to these age groups and younger animals can also suffer from the disease. When arthritis eventually causes changes to the joint which result in pain, we often see changes in the animal’s behavior – the primary symptoms of the disease. Because arthritis commonly develops with age, pet owners sometimes confuse changes in their animal’s behavior with normal age-related changes (such as a decrease in play), whereas in fact, the animal might be suffering from quite severe (and treatable!) arthritic pain.


Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It is essentially caused by daily wear-and-tear of the joint, but can also occur as a result of injury. Osteoarthritis begins as a disruption of the cartilage; ultimately, this causes the bones in the joint to erode into each other. The condition may start with minor pain when your pet is active, and it can develop into continuous chronic pain which might even occur when the animal is resting. Osteoarthritis typically affects the weight-bearing joints, but can affect both large and small joints of the body. Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis is most commonly a disease of elderly pets. Osteoarthritis cannot be cured, but the condition can be prevented from worsening. Physiotherapy to strengthen muscles and joints can be helpful. Pain medications may be required. For some pets, weight loss can reduce the stress on joints, thereby reducing the development of osteoarthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the body’s own immune system starts to attack body tissues. The attack is quite general and affects not only the joint but also many other parts of the body. This condition causes damage to the joint lining and cartilage. Eventually, this results in erosion of the opposing bones of the joint. Like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis cannot be cured. Drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis include corticosteroids to treat inflammation as well as long-term pain management.


Symptoms of arthritis may not be particularly obvious in the early stages of the disease, but become apparent as pain in the joint increases. Symptoms may be particularly difficult to notice in cats as they tend to hide signs of injury or weakness. A limping animal with arthritis may favor one or more of their limbs, or have a distinct limp. The severity and type of limp will depend on the joint(s) that are affected. Limping is often more pronounced immediately after the animal wakes up from sleeping, and may become less pronounced as the animal begins moving about.

Reduced mobility
Because of the pain caused by arthritis, affected animals may become reluctant to move in ways with which they previously had no difficulty. For instance, arthritic cats might stop jumping up to high areas for sleeping, or may stop using litter trays with high sides. Dogs may not be able to sit so easily, jump in and out of cars, or get up and down stairs.

Abnormal posture
Arthritis can also affect various parts of the spine. This often results in an abnormal posture with a hunched back, a sore neck, or lameness in one or both hind legs.

Reduced activity
Animals with arthritis become tired more easily. For dogs, walks may become shorter and your pet may spend more time sleeping or resting.

Abnormal grooming
Pets with arthritis often lick, chew or bite the painful areas of their body. If this becomes severe, it may cause baldness or inflamed skin over the affected area. Conversely, your pet may reduce its grooming because the movements are painful.

Changes in temperament
As with any condition that causes pain, your pet may become irritable if arthritis develops, causing them to bite, snap or vocalize when handled. It may be necessary to revise your petting or handling so that it does not cause discomfort for your pet.

Muscle atrophy
Muscle atrophy is a decrease in the mass of muscles. This decrease can be partial, or a complete wasting away. Arthritic pets can develop muscle atrophy due to inactivity. Atrophied muscles in the legs will give your pet the appearance of having legs that are thinner than normal.


Some cat breeds are more susceptible to arthritis than others. Hip dysplasia (abnormal development of the hip joints) is seen especially in Maine Coons, Persians, Siamese, and other breeds. Patella luxation (dislocation of the knee cap) is more common in Abyssinian and Devon Rex breeds. In dogs, the larger breeds such as Labradors, Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Alaskan Malamutes are more susceptible to hip dysplasia than smaller breeds.

Injury or trauma
Fractures, dislocations, and other joint injuries can cause abnormal joint conformation and irregular future development. This can result in secondary osteoarthritis.

There is no evidence that obesity causes arthritis. However, it can make an existing condition significantly worse by putting extra pressure on already-strained joints.


Arthritis affects one in every five adult dogs in the U.S. It is one of the most common sources of chronic pain that veterinarians treat. In dogs, the joints most commonly affected by arthritis are:

 knee (stifle)
 wrist (carpus)
 ankle (hock)
 spine (inter-vertebral joints)

A study in 2002 concluded that 90% of cats over 12 years of age had evidence of degenerative joint disease. In cats, the joints most commonly affected are:

 ankle (tarsi)


A veterinarian will be able to diagnose whether your pet has arthritis. They will perform a physical examination on your pet and may take x-rays. Occasionally, it might be necessary to take blood or joint-fluid samples to investigate possible joint infections.


Although arthritis cannot be cured, there are treatments available that can ease the pain for your pet. The solution to keeping arthritic pets comfortable is not to limit their activity but to manage their pain. Initially, treatment for pain may need to be aggressive, especially if the pet has been inactive for a long time.

Exercise is important for treating arthritis as it maintains strength in the muscles, tendons and ligaments surrounding the joints. If these supportive tissues become weak or loose, they can worsen arthritis. Exercise stimulates the production of joint-fluid which lubricates the joint and nourishes the cartilage. Exercise also keeps pets from becoming obese, as extra weight increases the loading on joints and makes movement even more painful.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) and opioid derivatives can be used in the treatment of arthritis.

Several diets or dietary supplements are available for pets with arthritis. These contain essential fatty acids to reduce inflammation and glycosaminoglycans, the ‘building blocks’ of cartilage.

Additional treatments
Acupuncture, water therapy, and low-level laser therapy have also been used effectively in the treatment of arthritis in pets.

Brachycephalic Syndrome

Most people are not familiar with the term brachycephalic, but if you own a Pug, Boston Terrier, Pekingese, Boxer, Bulldog, Shih Tzu, or any other breed with a pushed-in nose or short face, you should become familiar with this word.

Brachycephalic dogs have been bred so as to possess a normal lower jaw that is in proportion to their body size, and a compressed upper jaw. In producing this cosmetic appearance, we have compromised these animals in many important ways, and you as an owner must be familiar with the needs of your pet.


The Respiratory System and Brachycephalic Airway Obstruction Syndrome
Brachycephalic breeds make a lot of snorting respiratory sounds simply because of the way their throats and faces are shaped. These sounds are generated from a combination of several anatomic deformities described below. These deformities occur to varying degrees of severity. Most brachycephalic dogs are not hampered by their anatomy on a day-to-day basis, but they do have limitations that must be recognized. Severely affected individuals may require surgical intervention.

Stenotic Nares
This is a fancy name for narrowed nostrils. The brachycephalic dog’s respiratory passage begins with very small, often slit-like, nasal openings for breathing. This leads to a great deal of open-mouth breathing and panting as the nasal breathing route is limited by its small opening. In selecting a puppy for adoption, it is a good idea to look at the nostril sizes on each member of the litter and look for the widest opening. Stenotic nares can be surgically corrected after five months of age.

Enlarged Tongue
The brachycephalic dog’s tongue can be particularly thick and large, which contributes to the overall airway obstruction. The French and English bulldogs seem particularly predisposed to this issue.

Elongated Soft Palate
It is difficult to fit the soft tissues of the canine mouth and throat into the brachycephalic pet’s short face. As a result, the soft palate, which separates the nasal passage from the oral cavity, flaps loosely down into the throat, creating snorting sounds. Virtually all brachycephalic pets suffer from this, but actual respiratory distress is rare except in English Bulldogs, which tend to have more severe symptoms in almost every aspect of brachycephalic syndrome. Excess barking or panting may lead to swelling in the throat that can, in turn, lead to trouble. The soft palate can be surgically trimmed.

Tracheal Stenosis
The trachea is also known as the windpipe. The brachycephalic dog’s windpipe may be dangerously narrowed in places. This condition creates tremendous anesthetic risk and should be ruled out by chest radiographs prior to any surgical procedures, as anesthetic safety depends on the accurate placement of a tube in the windpipe to secure air passage. If the trachea is too small, intubation may not be possible, and it is important to know this in advance of any planned procedure. The English bulldog is particularly predisposed to this anatomical defect.


Everted Laryngeal Saccules
The normal larynx has two small pockets called ventricles or saccules. When a dog has increased effort to breathe, over time these little pockets will actually turn inside out inside the throat. When this occurs, it obstructs the throat. This condition can be corrected surgically; however, in many cases, it resolves on its own after the stenotic nares are corrected, so surgery is generally only performed in severe situations. The pug is especially predisposed to this deformity.

Heat Stress, Excitement, and Exercise
Because of all these upper respiratory obstructions, the brachycephalic dog pants inefficiently. A dog with a more conventional face and throat is able to pass air quickly over the tongue through panting. Saliva evaporates from the tongue as air is passed across it, and the blood circulating through the tongue is efficiently cooled and circulated back to the rest of the body.
In the brachycephalic dog, so much extra work is required to move the same amount of air that the airways become inflamed and swollen. This leads to a more severe obstruction, distress, and makes brachycephalic dogs the most likely candidates for heat stroke.

Altogether, the upper airways of the brachycephalic dog compromise the ability to take in air. Under normal conditions the compromise is not great enough to cause a problem; however, an owner should take care not to let the dog become grossly overweight or get too hot in the summer. It is important to be aware of what degree of snorting and sputtering is usual for your pet, and what degree is cause for concern. Brachycephalic syndrome can be progressive if it is not corrected at an early stage. Severely affected dogs can experience collapse of the larynx and require a permanent tracheostomy (a hole in the throat for breathing).

Gastrointestinal Tract
There appears to be a constellation of stomach and swallowing issues that correlates with respiratory obstruction. In brachycephalic breeds, the esophagus experiences reflux of stomach contents backwards, which generates pain and inflammation. Compounding this problem is retention of food in the stomach for prolonged periods. Pooling of food in the stomach creates a sensation of nausea and increases the potential for vomiting and/or stomach acid reflux. The English bulldog seems particularly predisposed to GI complications in this way.

GI issues sound like they are separate from the respiratory syndrome, but in fact the reflux, regurgitation, and even herniation of part of the stomach into the chest cavity stems from the extreme inhalation efforts made against the upper airway due to the brachycephalic head. Medications are helpful for intestinal issues, as is weight control, but often correction of the respiratory obstruction also corrects the intestinal problems.

Eye Problems
With most of the nasal bones compacted, brachycephalic dogs tend to have trouble with the way their eyes sit in their heads. The eye sockets are shallow, making the eyeballs especially prominent and vulnerable. Often a nasal fold of skin rubs on the eyeball, or there are eyelashes rubbing on the eye.

Sometimes, the eyes are so prominent that the lids cannot close all the way over them. This will lead to irritation and drying of the center of the eye unless surgical correction is performed. If you cannot tell by watching your pet blink, watch as your pet sleeps to be sure the eyelids close all the way. If the eyelids cannot protect the eyes, blinding pigmentary changes will form where the eyes become irritated.

Nasal Fold Irritation
Many brachycephalic pets have a fold of skin between the nose and eyes. This skin fold may need regular cleaning as it tends to collect oil and moisture, but it can also be prominent enough to rub on the actual eyeball. Chronic irritation will show as a pigmented area on the eye surface, especially on the side nearest the nose. This is hard to see without a bright light, but if it is noted, a search for the cause is warranted. Depending on the location of the pigmentation, surgery may be recommended.

Entropion (Turned-In Eyelids)
The shortened face leads to rolling of the eyelids in such a way that the eyelashes or even haired skin can rub the eye. This is not only uncomfortable but will damage the eye. Some dogs have eyelids that droop or turn out in one area, but turn inward in another area (usually the corner of the eye). Surgical correction may be needed to protect the eye and restore comfort.

Dry Eye
Brachycephalic breeds tend to get more than their share of tear production problems. In this situation, inadequate tears are produced so a thick, goopy, yellow eye discharge results. In response to the irritation, the eye becomes pigmented and can become blind if treatment is not instituted. This condition is treatable with medication, so it is important to recognize it before it progresses to a point where vision is lost and the goal is simply restoring comfort.

Risk of Proptosis
Recognize the prominence of the eyes on brachycephalic pets: the bony eye sockets are very shallow. This means that any blow to the back of the head, even a fairly minor one, can cause an eye to pop from its socket and require surgical replacement or even removal of the eye. This can also occur as a result of too much pulling against the leash if the pet is wearing a collar around the neck. Because of this, owners may wish to consider the use of a harness instead. Traumatic proptosis is frequently blinding to the eye.

Other Concerns
The normal dog has 42 teeth in the mouth. The brachycephalic dog also has 42 teeth, but a lot less space to fit them in. This means that the teeth will be crowded and will grow in at odd angles which, in turn, traps food debris and leads to periodontal disease at a far younger age than in non-brachycephalic animals. The earlier you begin using home dental care products, the longer you will be able to postpone full dentistry under general anesthesia.

Altogether, the brachycephalic breeds show plenty of personality and intelligence just as all dogs do, but because of their specific needs, their owners need extra knowledge. If you have any questions about your brachycephalic pet, don’t hesitate to contact us.


Neoplasia is the uncontrolled, abnormal growth of cells or tissues in the body prior to a lump or abnormal growth developing. Once developed, the abnormal growth is called a neoplasm or tumor. Tumors can be benign or malignant.

Benign and Malignant Tumors
A benign tumor is a mass of cells that lacks the ability to invade neighboring tissue or spread throughout the body. Benign tumors typically have an outer fibrous sheath of connective tissue and grow more slowly than malignant tumors.

Malignant tumors usually grow more aggressively, invading the tissues surrounding them, and they can also metastasize, spreading throughout the body. The actual swelling or appearance of a neoplasm is often described as a “tumor” or “mass”. The word “cancer” is often used instead of neoplasia, but only malignant neoplasms are true cancers.


Cancer is common in pets, and as with humans, the incidence increases with age.

Approximately 32% of all cats over 10 years of age will die from some type of cancer. Most feline cancers occur in cats 10 to 15 years of age – although lymphoma is an exception that occurs most often in young cats. Cats commonly develop skin tumors; 25% of all feline cancers are skin cancers, with 50% to 65% of them being malignant. The next most common type of feline cancer is breast cancer (17%). Interestingly, approximately 10% of all feline tumors are found in the mouth.

It has been estimated that almost 50% of deaths in dogs over 10 years of age are cancer-related, and approximately 25% of all dogs will die from cancer. Overall, the incidence of cancer is three times greater in female dogs compared to males. This difference is due to the much high rate of mammary cancer in females. The incidence of cancer in pure-bred dogs is substantially higher. For example, one in five Golden Retrievers is diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma and is likely to die from it. Other breeds in which cancer is more common include the Boxer, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Greyhounds, and many of the giant dog breeds.


The cause of most cancerous diseases is not known. Prevention is therefore difficult, and early detection is the best way to manage cancer. Cancer is a “multi-factorial” disease, which means it has no known single cause. Hereditary and environmental factors have both been identified as risk factors contributing to the development of cancer in pets.


Physical examination and a pet’s medical history may lead a veterinarian to suspect neoplasia. Additional tests, such as x-rays, ultrasound examination, and bloodwork may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis. In some cases, taking a tissue sample (biopsy) from the neoplasm for microscopic examination may also be necessary. This examination can help determine whether the neoplasm is benign or malignant. Additional tissue samples from other organs such as the lymph nodes may be necessary to determine the rate and extent of spread of a malignant neoplasm.


Skin cancer (melanoma) is common in older dogs, although developing tumors are usually benign. Cats also develop skin cancer tumors, most of which are malignant. If you find a lump on your pet, your veterinarian should be consulted to determine whether it is of concern.

Mammary Gland (Breast)
Both cats and dogs can develop mammary cancer. In dogs, mammary cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer, accounting for 70% of all cancer cases. In dogs, 50% of all breast tumors are malignant, whereas in cats, more than 85% of breast tumors are malignant. Spaying your female pet before she is 12 months old will greatly reduce the risk of this type of cancer.

Head and Neck
Cancer of the mouth is common in dogs but less common in cats. Symptoms include tumors on the gums, bleeding, bad breath, or difficulty eating. Because many swellings in these areas are malignant, early and aggressive treatment is essential. Cancer may also develop inside the nose, which can cause bleeding from the nose, breathing difficulty, or facial swelling. These symptoms should be checked by your veterinarian.

Lymphoma is a common form of cancer in dogs and cats, characterized by swelling of one or several lymph nodes in the body. In cats, one cause of lymphoma can be the contagious feline leukemia virus.

Testicular cancer is rare in cats. It is more common in dogs, especially those with retained testicles, i.e. testicles that did not descend correctly during maturation and may remain located in the abdomen, or between the abdomen and scrotum.

Cancers inside the abdomen are common. Because of their location, they can be difficult to detect and an early diagnosis is unlikely. Symptoms of abdominal cancer include decreased appetite, lethargy, weight loss, and abdominal swelling.

Bone cancers are seen most often in large-breed dogs or dogs older than 7 years; they are rarely seen in cats. The most common sites are the leg bones, near the joints. Symptoms include persistent pain, lameness, and swelling in the affected area.

Non-cancerous conditions
Many of the symptoms we use to diagnose cancer are also common symptoms for non-cancerous conditions. However, any changes you notice still need prompt attention by a veterinarian for correct diagnosis. Cancer is pets is very often treatable, and early detection and diagnosis are critical to getting the best possible treatment.


Different types of cancer will require different individual treatments. This may include one or a combination of therapies such as: surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation, hyperthermia (heating), or cryosurgery (freezing). Your pet’s overall health is, of course, important. Veterinarians may recommend dietary changes or other alterations to your pet’s life to help your pet respond better to the proposed treatment. Be sure to consider all treatment options and their risks and side-effects when deciding on a course of action.

Pain management is an extremely important aspect of cancer treatment. In some cases, depending on the recommended course of treatment, we may refer you to a specialty oncology clinic. Some types of cancer can be cured, but other types can only be managed to decrease the rate they spread to other organs and tissues. In any case, our goal is to prolong your pet’s comfort and quality of life as much as possible. Early detection of a cancer and the type of cancer are often the greatest factors in determining the success of treatment.

Success Rate
The success rate of any treatment is highly dependent on the type and severity of the cancer, as well as the aggressiveness of any treatment being undertaken. Benign tumors are usually easier to treat. Although some neoplasms, especially the more aggressive cancers, cannot be cured, treatment can both prolong and improve your pet’s quality of life.

Depending on the severity, development, and type of cancer, euthanasia may be considered. Before making your decision for treatment or euthanasia, discuss all options available with your veterinarian so that you can make the best choice for your pet and your family.


Research means we are learning more and more about neoplasia. Animals today have a considerably better chance of being successfully treated for neoplasia and cancer than they did just a few years ago. New diagnostic methods, such as improved imaging techniques, can help detect cancer earlier, improving your pet’s chances of receiving an early diagnosis and treatment. New treatments are currently being developed in the hope of providing better treatment success rates with less side-effects.

Canine Influenza Virus (CIV)

Just like people, dogs can be affected by influenza, a highly contagious respiratory infection. There are two strains of canine influenza known to affect dogs internationally: H3N8 broke out around 2004 in Florida and continues to cause sporadic disease, while H3N2, a milder strain first seen in Chicago in 2015, is closely related to an Asian strain first identified in 2006. These viruses are two different strains of Influenza Type A. Canine influenza outbreaks have been noted in California

After exposure to the flu, some dogs will produce enough antibodies that they don’t have any signs of illness. The signs in both flu strains range from fevers, listlessness, coughing, sneezing, and a runny nose to life-threatening complications like pneumonia, but typically a case of the flu is much like a case of kennel cough.


Similar to in humans, the influenza virus can cause a mild form of the disease that generally resolves without complication, as well as a more severe form that is often accompanied by pneumonia and can be life-threatening.

Mild Influenza
Dogs suffering with the mild form of influenza develop a soft, moist cough that persists for 10 to 30 days. They may also be lethargic and have reduced appetite and a fever. Sneezing and discharge from the eyes or nose may be observed. Some dogs have a dry cough similar to the traditional kennel cough. Dogs may also have a thick nasal discharge, which is usually caused by a secondary bacterial infection.

Severe Influenza
Dogs with the severe form of influenza develop high fevers and have clinical signs of pneumonia, such as increased respiratory rate and effort. Pneumonia may be due to a secondary bacterial infection. Fatal cases of pneumonia resulting from infection with influenza have been reported in dogs, but the fatality rate is less than 10 percent. Most dogs recover in two to three weeks.


A dog is most likely to be contagious before showing any signs at all. Influenza viruses do not persist in the environment for very long, but they spread extremely easily between individuals. Transmission generally requires direct contact with an infected and contagious dog’s fresh saliva or nasal secretions. The problem facing proactive treatment is that an infected dog is contagious and able to infect other dogs even before they show any clinical signs; because apparently healthy dogs are transmitting the disease, the prevention of transmission is very difficult.

A dog living in an area where outbreaks are being reported should be considered to have canine flu until proven otherwise. If your dog is from such an area, or there has been mention of canine flu on your local news, and he has a cough (and especially if he’s feeling sick), see your veterinarian.


In a perfect world, there would be a simple test that could be performed to unequivocally diagnose the flu, but that’s not the case. Tests that broadly detect Influenza A virus should effectively detect both H3N8 and H3N2 strains, but more directly targeted tests are still in development.

The tests and treatments your veterinarian will recommend depend on the severity of your pet’s symptoms. For mild cases, the veterinarian might take samples to identify the cause but only treat for your pet’s symptoms. In more severe cases, chest X-rays are often taken to look for pneumonia. Dogs with severe cases may require hospitalization with oxygen and fluid therapy.

Pets are more likely to have severe signs of illness when they are juveniles without a complete immune system, and seniors who may have compromised respiratory systems or concurrent diseases associated with age.


Dogs with mild flu symptoms typically receive supportive care including fluids, cough suppressants, or anti-viral medication depending on their signs and how long the pet has been sick. Severely affected patients usually require antibiotics to prevent or treat pneumonia.

In high-risk cases, antibiotics are given to control secondary infections. A rapid onset of disease (four to six hours) is matched by an equally rapid improvement in clinical signs after treatment begins.


The best preventative of dog flu is limiting or preventing exposure based on lifestyle risk factors. Dogs that are very social (going to day care, dog parks, performance competitions, dog shows, training classes, or boarding kennels) have a much higher risk of contracting the disease. Dogs that spend most of their time at home or rarely come into contact with other dogs have a lower risk. As a general rule, don’t allow your dog to socialize with any dogs that have a cough.

There is now a vaccine that will protect against both H3N2 and H3N8 strains. The initial dose can be given to dogs and puppies over 6 months of age, and a booster vaccine is required two to four weeks after the initial dose. After inoculation, dogs should receive a booster vaccine annually. As with most infectious respiratory disease viruses, the influenza vaccine does not protect completely against or eliminate the virus, but it does reduce how ill your dog can get as well as lessening your dog’s ability to transmit the virus to other dogs.

To decide whether or not your dog should be vaccinated for either strain or for both, talk to your veterinarian about the likelihood of any dog getting either strain in your geographic area. A regular kennel cough vaccination will not prevent influenza.

Can people or cats be infected by dogs?
There is no evidence that people can get H3N8 or H3N2 from their dog. Studies in Asia have shown limited transmission of H3N2 to cats, and sheltered cats in Indiana were also found to have H3N2. The canine vaccine will not work for cats, but cats will benefit from supportive care treatment the same as dogs.

Dental Disease

By three years of age, an average 80% of dogs and cats have developed periodontal disease. Dental health is a critical component of your pet’s overall health and longevity, which is why your pet’s teeth should be checked at least annually by your veterinarian for early signs of a problem.


There are many signs of poor dental health, including bad breath, loose teeth, discoloration, excessive tartar build-up, drooling, bleeding from the mouth, and loss of appetite or loss of weight. You may also notice your pet is more sensitive in the area surrounding the mouth, or that your pet prefers wet food over dry food.


Periodontal disease begins with the accumulation of plaque on the teeth, which then hardens into tartar. Tartar accumulation causes sensitive, sore, and swollen gums as well as gingivitis. At this point your pet is suffering from advanced dental disease. As well as the visible cosmetic problems, advanced dental disease also has an effect on many internal organs. Bad teeth in dogs and cats has been scientifically linked to heart, lung, and kidney problems, which can shorten the life of your pet.

The progression of dental disease is affected by breed and diet. In dogs, smaller breeds tend to experience dental problems at a younger age than their larger counterparts. In cats, mixed breeds do not suffer from dental disease as much as purebreds do. Many years ago, it was believed that animals should always be fed dry food to help keep tartar at bay and prevent dental issues. However, that way of thinking has been replaced, and the Veterinary Dental Society does not consider dry food or canned food to make a difference in developing periodontal disease.


It is recommended that you always try to prevent dental disease from developing, but if your pet is already showing signs of dental issues, a deep cleaning performed by your veterinarian under general anesthesia may be necessary. Under anesthesia, your pet’s teeth will be scaled, polished, and treated with fluoride to help prevent tartar accumulation.

Note: anesthesia-free dental cleanings are considered to be malpractice by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Veterinary Dental College. This is because the process is not able to remove tartar under the gum-line, and it almost always causes extreme stress and pain to your pet. Further, without anesthesia no extractions or tooth repairs can be performed, so your pet may require an additional procedure to complete their oral care.


Home oral hygiene can make a tremendous difference in your pet’s comfort and long-term health. The best thing you can do to improve the health of your pet’s mouth is to brush their teeth daily. It is best to begin this routine when they are young. Unlike in humans, you only need to brush the outside of pet’s teeth – don’t worry about the tops or insides. Even 30 seconds a day can make a huge difference.

If your pet will not tolerate daily brushing, there are also a number of oral hygiene products such as diets, chews, toys, and water additives that can slow the rate of periodontal disease. Any preventative measures you use will help increase your pet’s dental health.

Diabetes - Canine

Diabetes mellitus is a disease caused either by a lack of insulin, or an inadequate response of the body to this hormone. After your dog has eaten, the digestive system breaks down the food into various parts. One of these is carbohydrates, which are further converted into simple sugars such as glucose. Glucose is absorbed from the gut into the blood, where it is transported around the body.

Insulin, which is produced by the pancreas, helps in the process of moving glucose into the cells of the body where it is converted into fuel. If there is insufficient insulin available, or the body responds inadequately to insulin, glucose is unable to enter cells and can build up to high concentrations in the bloodstream. The resulting condition is called hyperglycemia. As a result, an animal may behave as if it is constantly hungry but may also appear malnourished, because the cells are unable absorb glucose.

Damage to the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas can be either temporary or permanent. The damage may be caused by a virus, infection, trauma, some medications (steroids), or even from over-work after excessive sugar or carbohydrate consumption.

Types of Diabetes
Diabetes mellitus is often divided into two types, depending on the origin of the condition:

Type 1
Diabetes mellitus Type 1, sometimes called “juvenile diabetes” or “insulin-dependent diabetes”, is caused by the destruction of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Because the destruction of the cells is not reversible, the animal must be treated long-term with an external source of insulin. Both dogs and cats can suffer from Type 1 diabetes.

Type 2
Diabetes mellitus Type 2, sometimes called “adult-onset diabetes” or “non-insulin-dependent diabetes”, is characterized by high blood sugar. This is due to the body’s resistance and relative lack of insulin. Type 2 diabetes is not found in dogs, but it is found in cats.


There is evidence that canine diabetes has a seasonal connection (similar to that in human Type 1 diabetes). The primary cause of canine diabetes is unknown, however, the major risk factors are thought to include:

Autoimmune disease
Insulin-resistant disorders, ex. Pancreatitis
Certain medications

Approximately 0.2% to 1.0% of dogs develop Type 1 diabetes. The disease typically affects middle-aged (6 to 9 years) and older dogs, especially females that have not been spayed. Some breeds are at greater risk of developing the disease, including Australian Terriers, Poodles, Dachshunds, Standard and Miniature Schnauzers, Samoyeds, and Keeshonds. Other breeds show a lower risk than normal, such as Boxers, English Springer Spaniels, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and Weimaraners. Juvenile diabetes can also occur; Golden Retrievers and Keeshonds are particularly susceptible.


Diabetes is one of many conditions that cause visible changes in behavior that the owner can detect. Usually, there is a gradual onset of the disease over several weeks. By knowing the signs of diabetes, you will be able to detect the disease earlier and thereby seek an early diagnosis and treatment. If your dog shows any of the following symptoms, speak with your veterinarian about the possibility of diabetes:

Excessive thirst/drinks more water than usual
Urinates more frequently or in greater volumes, or perhaps loses urinary control
Consistently acts hungry but maintains or loses weight
Unusually sweet-smelling or fruity breath
Urinary tract infections
Chronic skin infection
Cloudy or misty eyes


Diabetes is one of many conditions that cause visible changes in behavior which the owner can detect. Usually, there is a gradual onset of the disease over a few weeks. By knowing the signs of diabetes, you will be able to detect the disease earlier and thereby seek an early diagnosis and treatment. The following are indications your dog may have diabetes. If your dog shows any of these, speak with your veterinarian about the possibility of diabetes:
Excessive thirst/drinks more water than usual (polydipsia)
Urinates more frequently or in greater volumes (polyuria) or perhaps loses urinary control
Consistently acts hungry (polyphagia) but maintains or loses weight
Unusually sweet-smelling or fruity breath (from ketone production)
Urinary tract infections
Chronic skin infections
Cloudy or misty eyes

To diagnose diabetes, your veterinarian will initially conduct a test for the presence of glucose and ketones in the urine. If necessary, a blood test will then measure your dog’s blood glucose concentration. A diagnosis of diabetes is confirmed if glucose is present in the urine and also at a persistently high concentration in the blood.

The objective in managing diabetes is to regulate glucose concentrations by avoiding peaks and troughs, and to reduce or eliminate the symptoms of diabetes, such as excessive thirst and urination. With daily insulin injections as well as changes in diet and lifestyle, the disease can be successfully managed. Currently, dogs diagnosed with diabetes and receiving appropriate treatment have the same, or similar, life expectancy as non-diabetic dogs of the same gender and age.

Insulin Treatment
Managing canine diabetes often requires daily insulin injections to restore your dog’s insulin level and control blood glucose concentrations. Each individual diabetic dog’s requirements are different, so you and your veterinarian will need to find the appropriate dose and treatment regimen. Your dog may need to stay at the veterinary clinic for several days so that your dog’s response to treatment can be closely monitored.

The prescribed insulin product may be specifically for diabetic dogs, or it may be a human insulin product. The size of insulin dose will depend on several factors, including the weight of the dog. If your dog needs daily injections, you will have to learn how to do this at home. It can be a daunting task and at first you may feel nervous; this is common, but the process is much easier than you might think. After a while, you will become comfortable administering daily injections without stress to you or your pet.

Monitoring your dog’s blood glucose concentrations long-term is one of the most important pieces of effective management. The method of monitoring will depend on you and your pet, and may include urine glucose strips, ketone test strips, or blood glucose meters. Your veterinarian may adjust your pet’s insulin treatment periodically to address changing body chemistry.

Diet is vitally important in helping to regulate your dog’s diabetes. If your dog is more stable when first diagnosed, the first treatment might be a high-fiber diet to normalize blood glucose levels. Once the levels are stabilized you should aim to feed your dog exactly the same diet every day and at the same time(s) of day.

The ideal diet will have a low fat content, a good-quality protein, complex carbohydrates, and dietary fiber to help slow absorption of glucose from the gut. Your diabetic dog’s insulin injection should be given in conjunction with regular meals – usually just afterwards. This allows increased nutrients in the blood to coincide with peak insulin levels. This will reduce the tendency for your pet’s blood sugar levels to swing too high or too low. Overall, the diet should be palatable, nutritious, and minimize fluctuations in blood glucose. In addition, it should help maintain a healthy weight for your dog. Avoid feeding diabetic dogs treats that are high in glucose.

For diabetic dogs, exercise should be regulated because activity affects blood glucose concentrations. Create a consistent exercise routine to avoid any sudden requirement for energy or glucose.

It is important to get regular veterinary checkups to identify possible changes in your pet’s diabetic condition. Diabetes affects dogs differently over time, and changes may occur even after a long period of stabilization. If diabetes progresses, dogs can develop secondary health concerns such as cataracts and severe urinary tract problems. Ultimately, untreated diabetes can cause coma and death.


Although it is often stated that canine diabetes cannot be cured, in February 2013, Type 1 diabetes in dogs was successfully cured using pioneering gene therapy.

Diabetes - Feline

Diabetes mellitus is a disease caused either by a lack of insulin, or an inadequate response of the body to this hormone. After your cat has eaten, the digestive system breaks down the food into various parts. One of these is carbohydrates, which are further converted into simple sugars such as glucose. Glucose is absorbed from the gut into the blood, where it is transported around the body.

Insulin, which is produced by the pancreas, helps in the process of moving glucose into the cells of the body where it is converted into fuel. If there is insufficient insulin available, or the body responds inadequately to insulin, glucose is unable to enter cells and can build up to high concentrations in the bloodstream. The resulting condition is called hyperglycemia. As a result, an animal may behave as if it is constantly hungry but may also appear malnourished, because the cells are unable absorb glucose.

Damage to the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas can be either temporary or permanent. The damage may be caused by a virus, infection, trauma, some medications (steroids), or even from over-work after excessive sugar or carbohydrate consumption.

Types of Diabetes
Diabetes mellitus is often divided into two types, depending on the origin of the condition:

Type 1
Diabetes mellitus Type 1, sometimes called “juvenile diabetes” or “insulin-dependent diabetes”, is caused by the destruction of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Because the destruction of the cells is not reversible, the animal must be treated long-term with an external source of insulin. Both dogs and cats can suffer from Type 1 diabetes.

Type 2
Diabetes mellitus Type 2, sometimes called “adult-onset diabetes” or “non-insulin-dependent diabetes”, is characterized by high blood sugar. This is due to the body’s resistance and relative lack of insulin. Type 2 diabetes is not found in dogs, but it is found in cats.


Approximately 0.2% to 1.0% of cats develop Type 1 diabetes. Diabetes has been diagnosed in cats of all ages and breeds, and both sexes, both intact and neutered. Older cats, especially neutered males, are more susceptible to the disease. It has been reported that in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, Burmese cats have a higher incidence of diabetes mellitus, but this has not been found in North America.

Key risk factors for diabetes in cats include
Chronic pancreatitis
Metabolic diseases, ex. hyperthyroidism, Cushing’s disease
Physical inactivity
Predominant indoor lifestyle


Diabetes is one of many conditions that cause visible changes in behavior that the owner can detect. Usually, there is a gradual onset of the disease over several weeks. By knowing the signs of diabetes, you will be able to detect the disease earlier and thereby seek an early diagnosis and treatment. The following are indications your cat may have diabetes:

Excessive thirst
Urinating more frequently or in greater volumes
Loss of urinary control
Increased appetite without weight gain
Weight loss
Unusually sweet-smelling or fruity breath
Thinning, dry or dull hair


To diagnose diabetes, your veterinarian will initially conduct a urine test for the presence of glucose, ketones and/or a urinary tract infection. If necessary, a blood test will determine blood glucose concentration and fructosamine concentration. A consistently raised blood glucose concentration could indicate that your cat’s pancreas is not secreting sufficient insulin, or that your cat’s body is behaving as if it is resistant to the insulin being produced. Regardless of the underlying cause, the diagnosis is considered as confirmed when glucose is found at consistently high concentrations in blood and urine.


Because cats can suffer from either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, treatment is individually variable. The objective in managing diabetes is to regulate glucose concentrations by avoiding peaks and troughs in blood sugar, and thus reduce or eliminate your pet’s symptoms such as excessive thirst and urination. Although diabetes cannot yet be cured in cats, the condition can be very successfully managed with daily insulin injections, changes in diet, or medications. The serious chronic complications that afflict humans with diabetes mellitus are uncommon in diabetic cats; once stabilized with proper treatment and home care, diabetic cats can live long, healthy lives.

Insulin Treatment
Managing feline diabetes often requires daily insulin injections to restore your cat’s insulin level and control blood glucose concentrations. Each individual diabetic cat’s requirements are different, so you and your veterinarian will need to work together to find the appropriate dose and treatment regimen. The prescribed insulin product may be specifically for diabetic cats, a human insulin product, or a human oral hypoglycemic medication. The size of the insulin dose will depend on several factors, including the weight of your cat and the progression of the condition.

Some diabetic cats may show signs of clinical remission after several weeks or months of treatment, and they may even cease requiring insulin. However, clinical remission does not mean that the diabetes has been cured. The cat’s diet and lifestyle must still be managed closely, and insulin treatment may still be required in the future.

If your cat needs daily injections, you will have to learn how to do this at home. It can be a daunting task and at first you may feel nervous; this is common, but the process is much easier than you might think. After a while, you will become comfortable administering daily injections without stress to you or your pet.

Oral Hypoglycemic Medications
Healthy diabetic cats can sometimes be successfully treated with glipizide, an orally administered medication that lowers blood glucose. Although glipizide is adequate for controlling the disease in some cats, most will require insulin injections to fully control their diabetes.

Diet is vitally important in helping to regulate your cat’s diabetes. Once the blood glucose levels are stabilized, you should aim to feed your cat exactly the same diet every day and at the same times of day. Cats require large amounts of high-quality protein in their diet; as such, a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet is ideal for a diabetic cat. Overall, the diet should be palatable, nutritious, and minimize fluctuations in blood glucose. In addition, it should help maintain a healthy weight for your cat.

It is important for your diabetic cat to have regular veterinary checkups to identify possible changes in their condition. Diabetes affects cats differently over time, and changes may occur even after a long period of stabilization.


Although it often stated that diabetes cannot be cured, in February 2013, Type 1 diabetes in dogs (not cats) was successfully cured using pioneering gene therapy. It seems only a matter of time before this approach is applied to cats.

Distemper - Canine

Canine distemper is a viral disease related to human measles that affects domestic dogs as well as several species of wildlife including raccoons, wolves, foxes, and skunks. Canine distemper is contagious and has no known cure. In domestic dogs, young puppies and unvaccinated dogs are most susceptible to the disease.


The infective virus is found in secretions from the eyes and nose, and in urine and feces. It can therefore be spread through the air during indirect contact (on bedding, bowls, toys, etc.), or through direct contact with an infected animal. The time between infection and disease is usually 14 to 18 days. However, a fever may occur 3 to 6 days after infection.

Initially, the virus attacks the dog’s tonsils and lymph nodes. It replicates itself in these tissues for approximately 7 days and then attacks the nervous, respiratory, urogenital, and gastrointestinal systems. Initial symptoms of canine distemper include an elevated body temperature, reddened eyes, and watery discharge from the nose and eyes. More developed symptoms include lethargy and decreased appetite. At this stage, coughing, vomiting, and diarrhea may also occur.

In the extreme stages of the disease, the virus affects even more bodily systems, particularly the central nervous system. As a result, the dog may experience seizures or paralysis. Some strains of the virus can also cause an abnormal enlargement or thickening of the foot pads or nose; this symptom gives canine distemper its colloquial name of “hard pad disease”. In animals with weak or compromised immune systems, death can result 2 to 5 weeks after the initial infection.


Unvaccinated dogs that come into contact with an infected animal or its environment (bedding, bowls, toys, etc.) are at great risk of contracting the disease. Dogs whose respiratory or gastrointestinal systems are compromised by a bacterial infection have an increased vulnerability to distemper.

There is also a small chance that if live distemper vaccines are not properly attenuated, or if the incorrect type of vaccine is administered, the disease can be inadvertently transmitted to the animal; however, this is exceedingly rare.


Diagnosis of canine distemper requires biochemical tests and urinalysis. These tests may reveal a reduced number of white blood cells, and blood serology tests may identify positive distemper antibodies produced by the immune system to combat the virus; however, this test cannot distinguish between antibodies that have occurred due to vaccination or instead due to exposure to the virus. Viral antigens (proteins produced by the virus) may be detected in urine or vaginal tests.

Skin associated with hair, mucous membranes, and the epithelium of the foot-pad may be tested for antibodies, and viral antigens may be detected through urinary or vaginal tests. If it is suspected that the infected animal has developed pneumonia, radiographs may be necessary. In advanced cases, brain lesions can be detected by CAT and MRI scans.


There is no cure for canine distemper, and there are no antiviral drugs effective in treating the disease. Treatment is therefore aimed at alleviating symptoms. For example, intravenous fluids and nutrition may be used to support an animal that has become anorexic, dehydrated, or has diarrhea. Regular clearing of discharge from the eyes and nose may be required. Antibiotics should be used to control the symptoms caused by secondary bacterial infections, and phenobarbital drugs and potassium bromide may be required to control convulsions and seizures. The central nervous system should also be monitored for related neural disturbances.


A dog’s prognosis for surviving canine distemper is dependent on several factors including the strain of the virus and the hardiness of the dog’s immune system. Recovery is possible, although seizures and other fatal nervous system events can occur even 2 to 3 months after recovery. Fully recovered dogs are not infective – once treated, they do not carry or spread the virus.


To prevent canine distemper, ensure your dog is routinely vaccinated and immediately isolated from any infected animals. Newborn puppies have under-developed immune systems and therefore particular care must be taken not to expose them to the virus.

The parvovirus does not survive in the environment for more than a few hours at room temperature, and it is easily destroyed by routine cleaning with disinfectants, detergents, or drying agents. However, it can survive for several weeks in shady environments at temperatures slightly above freezing, and it can also persist longer in serum and tissue debris. In any confirmed case of parvovirus, a thorough disinfection of all areas the pet has traveled is necessary.

Distemper - Feline

Feline Panleukopenia Virus (FPV) is a highly contagious and life-threatening viral disease affecting cats. It is also known as “Feline Infectious Enteritis”, “Feline Distemper”, “Feline Ataxia”, or “Cat Plague”. The virus causing FPV is related to the canine parvovirus as they are in the same genus; however, the feline parvovirus cannot be transmitted between cats and dogs.

The virus primarily attacks the intestinal tract, bone marrow, and stem cells of any developing fetus. Specifically, it attacks the rapidly dividing blood cells in these tissues, making the animal highly susceptible to secondary viral or bacterial infections.

FPV is one of the most significant feline diseases in the non-vaccinated population. The virus is highly resistant and can survive for years in contaminated environments. Vaccination is the best preventative measure for your cat.

Kittens between 2 to 6 months of age, pregnant cats, and immune-compromised cats have the highest risk of developing severe symptoms. In adult cats, FPV generally occurs in a very mild form and the cat may not show any symptoms. Cats that survive an FPV infection develop immunity to any further infection with the virus.


Complete loss of interest in food or water – may hang head over bowl but not drink or eat
Hiding for several days
Tucking feet under the body for extended periods
Resting chin on the floor for extended periods

Diarrhea, often containing blood
Weight Loss
Poor coat condition
Poor balance/coordination
Other neurological symptoms


FPV is transmitted by contact with infected blood, feces or urine. The virus can also be transmitted by fleas that have been feeding from an infected cat, by humans who have not washed their hands between handling cats, by equipment that has been used by an infected cat (bedding, bowls, toys, etc.), or to kittens while in the uterus or through nursing from an infected mom. Because cats tend to go outdoors more during summer, the disease is more likely to be transmitted during this season.

FPV can survive and persist in environments where an infected cat has been for many years. It is therefore extremely important to practice sterile methods of cleaning an infected cat’s environment. Establishments that house large numbers of cats, such as shelters and kennels, may harbor the virus more easily, and thus require extensive sterilization protocol to fully eliminate the virus. Proper human hygiene, including thoroughly washing hands after handling an infected animal, minimizes the possibility of transmitting the infection between healthy and sick animals.


FPV symptoms can be similar to several other diseases including poisoning, pancreatitis, feline leukemia, and feline immunodeficiency virus. It is therefore important to give your veterinarian as much history as possible so that a correct diagnosis can be reached.

Your veterinarian will initially perform a physical examination. If necessary, blood tests and urinalysis will be collected for a complete blood count and biochemistry profile. FPV attacks and kills cells that divide rapidly, such as those produced in the intestine and bone marrow. An infected animal will typically have a blood count that is low in both white and red blood cells, and microscopic examination of feces may reveal remnants of the virus.


Cats infected with FPV are likely to require immediate treatment. Because dehydration is one of the primary symptoms, a major goal is to restore body fluid and electrolyte levels to normal so that the dehydration does not become life-threatening. Because FPV compromises the immune system, your cat may have to take antibiotics to reduce the possibility of secondary bacterial infections.

Your cat will need to be rested during her recovery. Provide a warm and quiet space away from other animals and children, and avoid over-exertion by placing food, water and litter in the recovery area. It is important to isolate the infected cat from any other cats in the house; however, be sure to maintain your own physical contact with your cat, as the probability of your cat’s recovery is increased significantly by receiving affection from you.


If your infected cat is treated quickly and effectively and survives the first 48 hours of treatment, it is likely she will make a full recovery. It may take several weeks for your cat to return to complete normality, but once she has, she will then be immune to FPV and will not transmit the virus again after the initial infection.


Follow your veterinarian’s advice with regard to medical intervention, isolation of your cat, and household disinfection. Closely observe any other cats in your home and neighborhood for signs of illness, and encourage the vaccination of any cats without immunity.

Although household bleach can be effective at disinfecting the FPV virus, destroying and replacing all items associated with an infected cat is the very best way to ensure all traces of the virus have been removed. Remember that although your infected cat will not be susceptible to reinfection, other cats can easily be infected by contaminants that remain.


Newborn kittens have under-developed immune systems and therefore particular care must be taken not to expose them to the virus. To prevent feline distemper, ensure your cat is routinely vaccinated. The initial vaccine for feline distemper should occur when the kitten is 8 to 10 weeks of age, with booster vaccines every 3 to 4 weeks until the kitten is 16 weeks old. After the initial inoculation, the distemper vaccine should be boosted once every one to three years, depending on the number of vaccines your cat has received and the amount of risk they’re at based on their lifestyle.

Ear Mites

“Ear mites” is a term used to describe an infestation of an animal’s ears by a certain species of mite. This is a common parasitic infestation and generally mild in severity. Complications can occur if the animal’s immune system is compromised in some way. In such cases, ear mites can cause hypersensitivity and subsequent irritation of the external and middle ear.

Animals that have an infestation typically scratch excessively at the ears, shake their heads, and even create bald patches from scratching. A serious consequence of prolonged and vigorous shaking of the head is the formation of an aural hematoma, a collection of blood within the tissues of the external ear, usually because trauma to the ear has ruptured a blood vessel. Excessive scratching at the ears can also cause damage to the ear canals or ear drums.

Ear mites can occur in animals of any age, although it is particularly common in young cats and dogs. It is highly contagious and is often transmitted from mothers to newborns after birth. It is also transmitted between animals of different species, although it does not affect humans. The mite can often spread from the ear to other parts of the body.


 Itching and scratching – usually the ears, head and neck
Generalized discomfort, restlessness, or excessive panting
 Frequent shaking of the head

Thick red-brown or black crusts on the inside of the ear
 Bumps in the ear canal which look like coffee grounds
 Scratches and abrasions on the external ear
Crusting or scaly tissue on various areas of the body including the neck, rump, and tail


Diagnosis will require a detailed history of your pet’s health, when the symptoms started, and details of the regular contact your pet has with other animals. Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical exam and, if needed, standard laboratory tests such as a blood panel, urinalysis, or electrolyte test to screen for other diseases.

Skin scrapings will be taken for dermatological analysis, and identification of the mites may require ear swabs to be placed in mineral oil. Your veterinarian will use an otoscope to inspect your pet’s ear canals to assess the severity of the infestation. If your pet is hypersensitive to the mites, a deep examination of the ears can be difficult. In some cases, a diagnosis may be made by observing the animal’s response to proactive medical treatment.


A commercial cleaner should be used to generally clean the insides of ears to remove any debris before beginning topical treatment. If your pet has ear mites, it is likely that you will be provided with medication to apply at home to kill the mites. The parasiticide should be used for 7 to 10 days to eradicate mites and eggs, and a repeat of treatment in approximately 2 weeks is often required. Flea treatments should also be applied to eliminate mites on other sites of the body including the tail.

Infestations are extremely contagious, and all pets in the affected household should be treated and their environment thoroughly cleaned. The mites cannot survive for long periods away from the host, so cleaning the environment thoroughly and treating all pets is usually sufficient to eliminate mites from the home.


Most patients respond very well to treatment. Your veterinarian will schedule a follow up appointment several weeks after therapy begins to swab your pet’s ears and perform a physical exam to assess the effectiveness of the treatment and the need for any follow-up.


Epilepsy is a neurological condition occurring in many animals that causes sudden, uncontrolled, and recurring seizures. Seizures can vary from being brief and nearly undetectable episodes, to long periods of vigorous shaking. These physical attacks often but do not always involve loss of consciousness.


Epilepsy is often an inherited condition and is the most common brain disorder in dogs. The incidence is much higher in some breeds, such as Beagles, English Springer Spaniels, Vizslas, and Shetland Sheepdogs.

Epilepsy in dogs can be idiopathic or symptomatic. Idiopathic epilepsy is a form of epilepsy that does not have an identifiable underlying cause. Symptomatic epilepsy occurs when a cause for the seizure activity can be identified; examples include brain tumors, stroke, or other head trauma.

It is important to note that dogs can also experience reactive seizures, not related to epilepsy, which arise secondarily in response to metabolic problems such as low blood sugar, kidney failure, or liver failure. Pets that have experienced a seizure of any severity should be evaluated by your veterinarian to determine whether your pet is suffering from epilepsy or another condition that causes similar symptoms.

Types of Seizure
There are several types of dog seizures, generally classified as focal (partial or petite mal) seizures or generalized (grand mal) seizures. Focal seizures affect only a small part of the brain, whereas generalized seizures tend to affect both sides of the brain as well as the entire body.

As the frequency and length of seizures increases, so does the probability of damage to the brain. This in turn increases the likelihood that the dog will seize again. Multiple seizures within a 24-hour period may be life threatening.


“Prodome” – This stage precedes the seizure by hours or days and is characterized by changes in the dog’s mood or behavior.
“Aura” – This signals the start of a seizure. The dog may show nervousness, whining, trembling, salivation, restlessness, hiding, and apprehension.
“Ictus” – the actual seizure. This is a period of intense physical activity usually lasting 30 to 90 seconds. The dog may display loss of consciousness, stiffness, teeth gnashing, uncontrolled thrashing of limbs, drooling, whining, foot paddling, urination, and defecation.
“Post Ictus” – This is the stage after the seizure. The dog may eat or drink excessively, seem confused or disoriented, continuously pace, or appear blind or deaf.


Racing heart (tachycardia)
Altered mental state
Weak pulse
Low blood pressure
Muscle contractions
Trembling, shaking, or twitching
Difficulty breathing
Loss of consciousness
Loss of bowel/urinary control
Swelling of the brain


The two most important factors in the diagnosis of epilepsy are the age at initial onset and the seizure pattern, including type and frequency. Younger pets and certain purebreds are typically at a higher risk of severe forms of epilepsy.

Your veterinarian will begin the diagnostic process with routine biochemical testing including a blood cell count, thyroid screen, and urinalysis. Further testing may include MRI, CT scan, CAT scan, spinal tap, and panels for immunosuppressant diseases. These tests may indicate epileptic-related conditions such as low blood sugar, kidney failure, fatty liver or liver failure, or systemic diseases including fungal, viral, and bloodborne pathogens.


Drugs such as corticosteroids and anti-epileptic and anti-convulsant medications can help reduce the frequency or intensity of seizures. The medication used will depend on the type of epilepsy the animal is suffering and will also take into account any other underlying health concerns. Other common medications include barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and potassium bromide. For some animals, surgery may be required to remove brain tumors contributing to the seizures.

Feline Leukemia (FeLV)

Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is an immunocompromising retrovirus that is widespread in the domestic cat population. It is the cause of more feline deaths, directly and indirectly, than any other infectious organism.

FeLV transmission occurs most commonly through close social interaction: contact with saliva from infected cats is a primary mode of transmission, but the virus is also shed in blood, urine, feces, nasal secretions, and milk. Sharing food and water dishes, using the same litterbox, mutual grooming, and bite wounds are all possible methods of transmission.


Low appetite or weight loss
Poor coat condition
Enlarged lymph nodes
Persistent fever
Pale or inflamed gums
Infections (skin, bladder, respiratory)
Behavior changes
Neurological conditions including seizure


The most common diagnostic test for FeLV is a blood test. Sometimes, further diagnostics including radiography, bone marrow aspiration, ophthalmoscopy, and specialized antibody tests may be required for complete diagnosis.


There is no cure for FeLV, and treatment generally focuses on overall health as well as symptom management. FeLV cancer (lymphoma) has a good response to therapy, including chemotherapy, glucocorticoids, interferon, Protein A, and supportive treatment. There is currently no effective treatment for the bone marrow form of leukemia, so supportive care such as blood transfusions, prednisone, and anabolic steroids are used frequently.

Although a diagnosis of FeLV can be emotionally devastating, it is important to realize that cats with FeLV ca live normal lives for prolonged periods of time. The prognosis for FeLV-infected cats is highly variable and depends greatly on the specific disease the cat gets during the course of infection and the availability of supportive treatment for secondary infections.

Once a cat has been diagnosed with FeLV, careful monitoring of weight, appetite, activity level, bathroom habits, appearance of mouth and eyes, and close observation of behavior are all important. Any signs of abnormality should prompt an immediate visit to your managing veterinarian.


In general, cats are most vulnerable to the virus as kittens. Kittens and adult cats can be FeLV tested and vaccinated with a recombinant vaccine if they are negative, and booster vaccinations can be used in adult cats if they have a continuing risk of exposure. Leukemia is almost entirely preventable when following this vaccine protocol.

It is important to note that while kittens can be tested for FeLV at any age, the infection in newborn kittens may not be detectable for several weeks or months following birth. Therefore, FeLV retesting during the first six months of life may be necessary to ensure a negative result.

In order to prevent the spread of FeLV in your local community, multi-cat households with FeLV positive cats should be maintained as a closed colony: no new cats should be brought into the household, to prevent the spread of infection to new arrivals. Healthy FeLV-infected cats should be housed indoors only and kept away from other cats to limit the risk of disease transmission.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis

Flea bite hypersensitivity, or flea allergic dermatitis (FAD), is a skin disease that affects many animals, including cats and dogs. It is often considered to be the most common skin disease in pets. The allergy is an immune response to the saliva (or components of the saliva – including antigens, amino acids, aromatic compounds, polypeptides, and phosphorus) injected by fleas when they bite your cat or dog. The bitten animal’s body begins an exaggerated inflammation response to the saliva, which may include a secondary bacterial infection if skin is traumatized.

Flea allergy can develop in your pet at any age, although 61% of flea-allergic dogs develop this allergy between 1 and 3 years of age. It is uncommon for hypersensitivity to develop in young animals less than 6 months of age because they do not yet have a fully developed immune system to mount an inflammatory response.


The most obvious symptom of flea allergy is severe itching of the skin accompanied by scratching and biting. At this stage, the condition is referred to as pruritus; in hypersensitive animals, a reaction can be caused by as few as one or two flea bites a week.

Because of the very small amount of fleas necessary to cause this condition, symptoms often persist even after flea control methods have been used. Symptoms will often occur in episodes, and in general, symptoms worsen with age. Scratching can become habitual and develop into a condition called neurodermatitis, in which affected skin become thick and leathery.

After frequent scratching has become routine, the most notable symptoms are the patchy loss of hair, erythema (redness of the skin), and pustules (pus-filled bumps) or crusts or scabs on the skin. Although any part of the body can be affected by flea bite hypersensitivity, the hind end is more often affected than the front or head of your pet’s body.


One problem with diagnosis of FAD is that it may be difficult to see fleas or flea dirt (flea feces). This is partly because the pet’s scratching has likely removed them. Carefully inspect your pet’s skin by using a flea comb to part the fur. This will enable you to inspect for fleas or flea dirt more readily. There are skin tests available for mites or bacterial skin diseases, and these may be recommended by your veterinarian if fleas cannot be seen directly. The distribution of scratching or lesions on the pet’s body can also assist in diagnosis. Sometimes, the best diagnostic method is to simply to treat for fleas and observe any changes in symptoms.


For animals with flea bite hypersensitivity, it is essential to control the flea population on the animal and in its environment to prevent any reoccurrence. There are numerous commercial applications for killing adult fleas, although these only act for a short period of time and should be repeated as indicated on the product for effective and continuous flea control.

Flea treatment can be topical or oral. Topical treatment is usually applied to a small area on the back of the neck where the animal is unable to lick it. Oral products are also available for both dogs and cats, although some of these can be difficult to administer if your pet is a picky eater.

Shampoos can be especially beneficial for young animals or those with a severe and acute flea infestation. We recommend lathering your pet up and leaving on the shampoo (or blue Dawn Dish soap) for 10-15 minutes to allow the product enough time to suffocate the fleas. However, it is essential that a more long-term product is also used to ensure continuous flea management.

As parasite treatment causes fleas to leave the host pet, the fleas may bite humans or other animals during the process of searching for another host. It is extremely difficult to successfully control fleas long-term if your pet is kept exclusively outdoors. If your pet is allergic to flea bites, they may require steroids or anti-histamines in addition to flea treatment to reduce their sensitivity. Similarly, if a bacterial infection develops from any lesions, your pet may require antibiotics. Your veterinarian may request a follow-up exam to assess the success of treatment.


The most essential factor in successfully controlling or treating fleas is the application of regular flea treatment. This should be done at the frequency recommended by the manufacturer (usually every 30 or 90 days). It takes only one or two bites for an animal that is allergic to fleas to start an inflammation response. Therefore, it is best to be consistent with flea control products and the timing of their application. You should also consider other factors such as how frequently your pet is bathed or swims, and whether you are using topical or oral treatments. Discuss your pet’s lifestyle with your veterinarian to determine the ideal time between applications.

Gastric Torsion/Bloat

Gastric dilatation-volvulus syndrome (GDV) is commonly called “gastric torsion” or “bloat”. The first part of the syndrome’s name refers to expansion of the animal’s stomach due to excessive gas accumulation (dilation). This condition can then be complicated by the stomach twisting around its short axis (volvulus). The stomach can rotate 90-360° around the esophagus, which may block the esophagus and prevent the animal from belching or vomiting to release the excess gasses.

This condition is common in domestic animals, particularly dogs. As a consequence of the gastric twisting, a number of emergency conditions can result. These include increasing distension of the stomach, heightened pressure within the abdomen, and damage to the cardiovascular system. Another consequence is the decreased movement of nutrients through the body via blood, which can result in organ death. In dogs, mortality rates from GDV range from 10 to 60 percent, even with treatment.


Rapid heart beat (tachycardia)
Labored breathing
Weak pulse
Pale mucus membranes (nose, gums, mouth)
 General symptoms of shock

Abdominal pain and distension
Anxious behavior
Excessive drooling
Vomiting to the point of unproductive dry retching


The exact causes of GDV are unknown, although several risk factors have been identified. Large breeds of dog are at higher risk of GDV, especially deep-chested breeds. The five breeds at greatest risk are Great Danes, St. Bernards, Weimaraners, Gordon Setters, and Irish Setters. The lifetime risk for a Great Dane developing bloat has been estimated to be 37 percent. Other breeds at increased risk include German Shepherds and Standard Poodles. Dogs having a parent or sibling with a history of GDV have a higher risk of developing the condition, and the risk of GDV increases with age, although it has been reported in puppies.

There are a variety of environmental factors believed to contribute to GDV, including the ingestion of very large amounts of food or water, ingesting food too quickly, excessive activity after eating, or delays in emptying the gastrointestinal system.


Clinical tests for GDV include urinalysis and blood testing for concentrations of lactate in the plasma. Diagnosis may also include imaging techniques such as x-rays of the abdomen.

Other conditions have symptoms similar to those of GDV, including bacterial infections, gastroenteritis, or overeating by the dog (sometimes called “food bloat”). Diagnostic tests will help determine whether your pet’s GDV symptoms may be the result of another condition.


GDV is an emergency condition: suffering dogs usually need to be hospitalized to receive aggressive treatment, especially if secondary cardiovascular problems are apparent. After the cardiovascular system has been stabilized, the gastric system will be decompressed. The preferred method is intubation, the insertion of a tube through the dog’s mouth and into the stomach. Surgery can then return internal organs (particularly the stomach and spleen) to their normal positions. To prevent the recurrence of GDV, a permanent gastropexy may be required to secure the dog’s stomach to the body wall to prevent future twisting.


After a case of GDV, further treatment is likely to include analgesics and other necessary medications. The dog’s activity should be restricted for approximately 2 weeks, particularly if surgery has been required.


Recurrence of GDV attacks is common, occurring in up to 80 percent of dogs treated medically only, i.e. without surgery. Several steps can be taken to prevent GDV and its recurrence, including avoiding strenuous exercise by the dog after eating and drinking; slowing the dog’s rate of food consumption; and feeding frequent small portions rather than infrequent larger portions.


Giardia are single-celled organisms that are infectious to many types of animals (including humans) all over the world. Their presence in the intestines can cause diarrhea and gastrointestinal upset, though some hosts are symptom-free carriers. Different types of giardia infect different types of animals; it is very rare for giardia from a pet to transmit to a human, and cats and dogs cannot transmit the infection back and forth.


In the environment, giardia can survive in water and soil as long as it is relatively cool and wet. A host animal will accidentally swallow a cyst when drinking from a puddle, toilet, or when licking fur. After infection, it takes 5 to 12 days in dogs or 5 to 16 days in cats for giardia to become apparent in the host’s stool. Diarrhea can precede the shedding of the giardia organism, and this condition is most common in kennel situations where animals are housed in groups.


The most common symptoms of a giardia infection are related to stomach upset, including diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss. Your pet may also experience dehydration and poor coat condition as secondary effects of lack of nutrition due to the gastrointestinal issues.


If your veterinarian suspects a giardia infection, they will request that you bring in a fresh stool sample for analysis. At the lab, giardia organisms can be identified in the stool to provide an accurate diagnosis. It is important to note that giardia organisms are shed intermittently from the host’s body, making it sometimes difficult to detect. Pets may test positive for giardia even though they are cured, or they may test negative even though giardia is present.


A broad spectrum dewormer called fenbendazole (Panacur®) seems to be the most reliable treatment at this time. Metronidazole (Flagyl®) in relatively high doses has been a classical treatment for giardia, but studies show it to only be effective in 67% of cases. For some resistant cases, both medications are used concurrently. Because giardia organisms can stick to the skin and fur of the infected patient and be a source for re-infection, the positive animal should be bathed frequently and paws should be wiped off after any bowel movements.

Can Humans be Infected?
The short answer is only rarely. There is always a possibility of human transmission, but it is not a major concern when treating your pet. To be safe, wear gloves to dispose of animal fecal matter and always thoroughly wash hands before eating.

Environmental Decontamination
Giardia organisms are killed in the environment by freezing temperatures or direct sunlight; as such, many pet areas require the use of a chemical disinfectant. The easiest, most effective disinfectant is bleach diluted 1:10 in water; one study indicates that it requires less than one minute of contact to kill giardia.

Organic matter such as dirt or stool is protective to the cyst, so on a concrete surface basic cleaning should be effected prior to disinfection. Quaternary ammonia compounds can also be used to kill Giardia cysts.

Animals should be thoroughly bathed before being reintroduced into a clean area. A properly chlorinated swimming pool should not be able to become contaminated. As for areas with lawn or plants, decontamination will not be possible without killing the plants and allowing the area to dry out in direct sunlight.


Heartworm is a parasitic roundworm that primarily infects dogs, cats and ferrets, although it can also infect a wide variety of wildlife. It is a potentially fatal parasite, but it is entirely preventable in pets. Humans can theoretically become infected, although this is very rare and does not usually cause illness.

Lifecycle and Transmission
Mosquitoes are the only way that heartworms can be transmitted from animal to animal. When mosquitoes bite an infected animal and ingest their blood, young heartworm larvae enter the mosquito’s digestive system. Within 2 to 6 weeks, the larvae will become infective and can then be transmitted to another animal when the mosquito gets its next meal of blood.

The period between the initial infection and the development of the heartworm larvae into adults living in the tissues of your pet usually takes 6 to 7 months. This is known as the “pre-patent period”. In cats, heartworms live for only a month in the vascular system and are seen in only 20% of infected cats (compared to 80 to 90% in dogs). Infected cats are unlikely to transfer the heartworm to another mosquito, in stark contrast to infected dogs.

The larvae introduced by the mosquito grow for 1 to 2 weeks under the skin at the site of the mosquito bite, and then they migrate to muscles in the chest and abdomen. Between 10 to 15 weeks after infection, the larvae enter the blood system where they are transported through the heart to reside in the pulmonary artery of the lungs.

During the next 3 months, the larvae continue their development to become adults. The growing and feeding worms damage the host’s blood vessels, which causes a decrease in the efficiency of the heart to move blood around the body. In severe infections, adult heartworms can migrate to the right side of the heart and even to the large cardiac veins, causing serious lung and heart disease.

At approximately 5 to 7 months post-infection, if both adult females and males are present, they will mate and produce new larvae. The host’s immune system raises a strong response to these microfilariae, which unfortunately can cause damage to additional organs. The lifecycle then continues when a mosquito bites an infected pet and itself becomes infected by the heartworm.

Animals showing signs of illness from adult heartworm infection are said to be suffering from heartworm disease. Death can occur as the result of congestive heart failure. Adult heartworms can have a long lifespan: they may survive for 5 to 7 years in dogs and 2 to 3 years in cats.

Geographical Distribution
At one time, heartworm in the U.S. was confined to the southern states, but it has now spread to nearly all locations where mosquitoes are found. All dogs are susceptible to heartworm infection, and both indoor and outdoor cats can contract the disease. If you plan to visit different areas of the country with your dog or cat, or another country, consult your veterinarian about the risk of heartworm in the area you intend to visit.

Because mosquitoes are the vector of this disease, any animal which comes into contact with mosquitoes should be tested. This also includes pets that might go outside only occasionally.


Dogs with recent or mild heartworm infections may show no signs of illness. However, once the adult worms have developed in the lungs, your dog may cough, have difficulty breathing, become lethargic, or lose his appetite; he may also tire rapidly after only light or moderate exercise.

A quick blood test is used to detect the presence of adult heartworms that have occurred at least 6 months previously; exposure to heartworms can also be detected by antibody tests. To confirm the diagnosis of heart disease and evaluate its severity, your veterinarian may conduct other tests such as chest x-rays, a blood profile, or an echocardiogram to help determine the best course of treatment for your dog.

Symptoms of heart disease in cats are often associated with other diseases, including respiratory distress, gagging, coughing, and vomiting. Symptoms associated with the first stage of heartworm disease, when the heartworms are carried to the pulmonary arteries, are often mistaken for feline asthma or allergic bronchitis, when in fact, they are actually due to a syndrome newly defined as Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease (HARD). Cats may die suddenly from heartworms, although this is very rare.

The diagnosis of heartworm infection in cats is more difficult than in dogs. Several tests may be required to assess the likelihood of heartworm infection and even then, the results may be inconclusive. Usually, both antigen and antibody tests are conducted on cats to increase the probability of detecting heartworms.


As usual with most medical problems, prevention is better than cure. However, if your dog does contract a heartworm infection, treatment is available. Treating dogs for heartworm carries with it a substantial risk, but your dog’s good health and following the instructions of your veterinarian will considerably reduce the possibility of serious complications.

The aim of treating heartworm is to kill both the adult worms and larvae as safely as possible. Successful treatment means there will be heartworms dying inside your dog’s lungs; during treatment, hospitalization may initially be required. Once home, the dog should be rested to decrease the risk of partial or complete blockage of blood flow through the lungs by dead worms. Other medications may be required to reduce the body’s inflammatory reaction to the worms being broken down in the lungs.

At present, there is no effective and safe treatment for heartworm infection in cats. If your veterinarian diagnoses heartworms in your cat, they may also recommend medications to reduce the inflammatory response and the resulting disease. Cats are more resistant hosts to heartworm than dogs, and are often able to rid themselves of the infection naturally. Unfortunately, many cats react severely to the dead worms as they are cleared by the body, which can result in physiological shock, a life-threatening reaction.

Surgical Removal
Removing heartworms by surgery is a high-risk procedure for both dogs and cats. It is typically reserved for only severe cases. However, this approach may be necessary to give your pet the best chances of survival.


Heartworm infection is almost 100% preventable in dogs and cats. There are several heartworm medications available based on your pet’s risk factors and lifestyle.

Preventatives do not kill adult heartworms, and they do not eliminate heartworm infection or prevent signs of heartworm disease if heartworms are already present in the animal’s body. Therefore, it is recommended that a blood test for existing heartworm infection is conducted to assess a pet’s current heartworm status before beginning a prevention program. Additional testing may be necessary in cats to ensure there is no infection during any course of prevention.

Once your pet has started preventative treatment, heartworm tests should be conducted on an annual basis to ensure your pet does not subsequently become infected. Some pets will develop a heartworm infection despite year-round preventative treatment, so conducting regular tests is the most effective way to keep your pet protected.

Hot Spots

A hot spot is a superficial skin infection that results when the normal skin bacteria overrun the skin’s defenses. This is most often caused by the pet chewing or scratching at the site. In the first stages of the formation of a hot spot, also called a pyoderma, the skin becomes moist, inflamed, itchy, and infected. Pus may ooze from damaged skin as bacterial infection sets in. The damaged skin surface will form a tightly-adhered crust, and the pet will lose hair over the infection site. Frequently, pets will show pain when the site is touched.

Hot spots can enlarge rapidly, so early diagnosis – before your pet’s hot spot involves a large area of the body — is important. Both dogs and cats can get hot spots, although pets with dense undercoats are more likely to develop the problem than smooth-coated dogs or cats are. Hot spots are more common during hot, humid weather, but they do occur year-round depending on the inciting cause.


Anything that creates irritation to the skin, causing the pet to chew or scratch at the site, can cause a hot spot. Insect bites, allergies, excess moisture, heavy/dense hair coats, matted hair, and skin scrapes can all be initial culprits. Because dogs and cats naturally have a type of Staph bacterium near the mouth, this type of infection is most commonly found in hot spots.

The location of a hot spot may help your veterinarian determine the underlying cause of the problem. For example, a hot spot over the hip could indicate flea infestation, hip arthritis, or anal gland infection, while a hot spot near an ear could indicate an ear infection, allergy, or dental irritation.


The treatment your veterinarian chooses will depend on how bad the problem is, how much pain the animal is in, how long the problem has been going on, and if the problem is a recurring one. Some pets may get one or two hot spots and then never get another one again, while some pets may have frequent recurrences.

The first step your veterinarian will take is to clip and clean the infected area to determine how much skin is affected and also to allow air to begin drying out the area. Hot spots can be painful, so sedation or anesthesia may be necessary in order to dress the spot properly. In advanced cases, we may need to perform cytology or culture the hot spot to determine the best antibiotic to use during treatment.

Treatment often involves antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, topical medications, steroids to reduce pain and swelling, or e-collars or similar collars to prevent your pet from bothering the infected area further.

Home Care
If a hot spot is small, non-painful, recognized early, and is uncomplicated, it may be possible to begin treatment at home. However, it is important to realize that hot spots can rapidly increase in size, and can be very painful, so it may be safer to have your veterinarian treat your pet.

The main goal of early hot spot treatment is to get the skin dry and clean. Because hair holds moisture in, the hair surrounding the affected area needs to be removed with grooming clippers. The skin can then be cleaned with a wet cloth, or you can get a medicated shampoo or topical spray from your veterinarian. Do not let your pet lick the irritated area, and do not bandage the area so that it can breathe.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a common condition where the hips grow or develop abnormally. This occurs during a puppy’s growing phase, and essentially refers to a poor fit of the “ball and socket” joint of the hip. While the normal hip joint fits together perfectly, dogs with hip dysplasia have a hip joint that does not fit together smoothly, causing the joint to repeatedly slip during movement. The body’s repeated attempts to stabilize the hip joint eventually result in arthritis.

Larger dogs have a much higher risk of hip dysplasia than smaller dogs, and weight can have a significant impact on the severity of the condition. Although hip dysplasia develops during the growth period of young animals, some pets will not be symptomatic until they reach old age. After walking for many years on poorly formed hips, elderly dogs may develop bone spurs, mineralization of the joint capsule, cartilage wear, and inflammation.


Do not expect a dog with dysplasia (or any other chronically painful condition, for that matter!) to cry or whine in pain. Instead, discomfort will be shown through reduced energy or interest in activity, difficulty getting up or lying down, trouble going up or down stairs, and excessive stiffness, especially in the morning or after periods of rest. Dogs may also pant excessively as a sign of pain. In most cases, a characteristic swivel of the hips can be observed from behind. Pets may lose muscle tone in the rear, and you may notice enlargement of the shoulder muscles as your pet compensates for the hind end. Typically stairs are taken in a “bunny hop” fashion, keeping the hips aligned instead of moving each hip independently.


The primary cause of hip dysplasia is genetic, but inheritance of this trait is not a simple matter. Preventing hip dysplasia focuses primarily on not breeding dogs who have the condition, although this approach is difficult in that dogs often do not develop symptoms until well after they have been bred.

Large, stocky dogs are much more likely to develop hip dysplasia than small dogs or leaner, more slender breeds such as sighthounds. Commonly affected breeds include German Shepherds, Mastiffs, Bulldogs, American Staffordshire Terriers, St. Bernards, Retrievers, and Rottweilers. While size is a major contributing factor to this condition, some small dogs such as Pugs and French Bulldogs are also susceptible to inheritance.

Even if a pet has a higher genetic predisposition to hip dysplasia, they must still contend with a variety of other factors including level of exercise at an early age, nutritional factors, hormonal factors including age of neuter, and other environmental situations.


The first step in diagnosis is an examination. Your veterinarian will likely extend your dog’s hind leg backward to check for pain. The dog may be asked to walk around to demonstrate a hip swivel, and your vet may elicit a “pop” of the joint (called an Ortolani sign) as the hip slips to the center of the acetabulum.

A true confirmation of hip dysplasia comes with radiography. The dog must be x-rayed with both legs positioned straight down, and these radiographs are examined for the presence or absence of misalignment or arthritis.


Most patients with hip dysplasia are not treated with surgical intervention; this care is essentially the same as treatment for any other type of arthritis. A combination of healthy diet, maintaining a normal weight, and regular exercise can decrease the load on the hips. Nutritional supplements can be used to help repair cartilage, and a non-steroid anti-inflammatory (NSAID) can be used to address pain and inflammation. Physical therapy and massage are often very effective in preserving mobility, and pets may also benefit from a heated bed.

There are several surgical interventions for hip dysplasia, and it is important to understand which patients will benefit from what surgery. Some surgical procedures are more involved than others, but all will entail an extensive recovery period and considerable cost to the owner. Both hips need not necessarily be treated surgically, as treating one hip is often enough to yield good results. Some surgical procedures your veterinarian might recommend include a femoral head ostectomy (FHO), a triple pelvic osteotomy (TPO), and a total hip replacement. A procedure called a juvenile pubic symphysiodesis can sometimes be performed on puppies younger than five months as a preventative procedure.

Hookworm - Canine

If you are a dog owner, you need to be on the lookout for hookworms. These can be fatal for your dog, especially puppies. The hookworm parasites make their way into the small intestines, sucking blood and causing pain as they go. The problems get worse as the larvae reach the fourth stage, causing anemia and inflammation in the intestine of your dog. Blood will continually seep from the areas where the worms have been active and biting.


The first thing you will notice in your dog is that he is loses his appetite and appears unhealthy. Also the ears, lips and nostril linings will look pale. Hookworms will often make their way into the lungs, which will result in your dog developing a cough. Other symptoms to look for include tarry, dark stool, diarrhea, and constipation. Failure to treat these symptoms can mean a quick death for your pet.


It is mother’s milk that often leads to puppies getting hookworms. The worms often come from contaminated water sources and enter via larval penetration of the skin or ingestion.


You will not be able to see the hookworms with the naked eye, which means a veterinarian will have to diagnose them microscopically via a stool sample. Once the diagnosis has been made, the vet can then decide the best course of treatment. If you find that one or more puppies in the litter have already died, it may be hookworms that were the cause.


Vets will prescribe medication that will either kill or expel the worms. Oftentimes that is enough to take care of the issue, but iron and nutritional supplements may also need to be added to the treatment process. Worm medication should be administered to puppies when they are two weeks old and should continue until they have been weaned. Even then, monthly treatments should continue until all the larvae have been expelled.
Pregnant dogs should be administered treatment two weeks after breeding, with treatment continuing for 2-4 weeks after the puppies are born. This is usually enough to protect the puppies and get rid of any larvae in the intestine.
Depending on the condition of the dog and the severity of the issue, they may have to be hospitalized to receive further treatment. That could be anything from fluid therapy to a blood transfusion and/or supplemental oxygen. Even with the best treatment, sudden death can still occur.


Keeping all areas clean that your dog inhabits is essential. Pay special attention to their drinking bowls and other areas where water accumulates. If you notice any of the aforementioned symptoms in your dog, make sure that he sees a vet ASAP.
Inoculations for hookworms are not available, which means you really need to be vigilant at all times and act quickly when you spot potential symptoms. While hookworm cases in humans are rare, the parasites can get in through the skin, which means you need to be careful when treating your pet.

Hookworm - Feline

Hookworms are nematode parasites that live in the small intestines of their hosts, which include cats, dogs and humans. The two most common species of hookworm that infect cats are Ancylostoma braziliense and Ancylostoma tubaeforme. A third hookworm,Ancylostoma ceylanicum, can also cause infections, although it is extremely similar toA. braziliense and difficult to diagnose as a separate infection.

Hookworms suck blood from the host’s intestinal walls. When present in large numbers, they can produce an iron deficiency anemia. This disease is calledAncylostomiasis. Active worms sometimes leave lesions at the site of the bite which may continue to bleed, again resulting in intestinal blood loss. These infections can be fatal, especially in kittens.


Hookworm eggs survive in warm, sandy soil. Generally, they live for only a few weeks under natural conditions. However, if conditions are suitable, they can hatch to become active larvae as quickly as 5 to 7 days. The eggs die almost immediately on exposure to direct sunlight or desiccation. Infection of the host is by the larvae, not the eggs, and the usual method of infection is through the skin. Once inside the host, they are carried by the vascular system to the lungs and from there, they migrate up the trachea and into the pharynx. This often results in the host coughing, whereupon the larvae are swallowed and pass down the oesophagus to enter the digestive system. They make their way to the small intestine where they hook into the mucosal lining. The larvae begin feeding on the host’s blood and eventually develop into adult worms. The adult worms mate inside the host and the female then lays up to 30,000 eggs/day which pass out in the host’s feces. Hookworms are also sometimes ingested. Again, the larvae migrate into the oesophagus and then to the intestine.
The disease becomes communicable to other cats between 2 to 4 weeks after initial infection.


Hookworm infections are caused either by penetration of the skin by the larvae or ingestion. The eggs are usually found in contaminated water on grass or in the soil, or other contaminated environments. After hatching, the larvae typically migrate into the host through the feet when the cat walks on the infected substrate. Kittens can become infected through their mother’s milk.


When hookworm larvae enter the host cat, they often leave small lesions on the foot pads and between the toes – early symptoms of the disease. Another early symptom is repeated coughing. Because the parasite causes anemia, later symptoms can include dark and tarry feces, diarrhea, or constipation. The linings of the nostrils, lips and ears may be pale due to the anaemia. Infected cats will often have an overall unhealthy appearance and poor appetite. Complications can arise quickly and can be fatal if the cat is not treated immediately. Older cats can sometimes carry a low number of hookworms and show little, if any, symptoms. On the other hand, young cats may become very ill with the same sized parasite burden.


Hookworms are small and cannot be seen with the naked eye. A microscopic examination of a fecal specimen is needed to detect the presence of eggs and confirm the diagnosis. When several kittens within a litter have unexpectedly died, hookworms are a potential cause.


Treatment will depend on the age, weight and condition of the cat. To control the infection, de-worming medications will be prescribed. These either kill the worms or cause them to be expelled. Sometimes, this may not be sufficient for long-term infections. Nutritional and iron supplements may also be necessary.

In severe cases, the cat or kitten may be hospitalized for fluid therapy, blood transfusion and supplemental oxygen. Sudden death may occur – even if the cat receives treatment.

For kittens, treatment should begin at 3 to 4 weeks of age followed by monthly treatments.

With pregnant females, treatment should begin 2 weeks after mating. This should continue until 2 to 4 weeks after the kittens are born. This will kill worms in the small intestine and thereby protect the kittens.


To prevent infections, the cat’s environment should be kept clean. This is particularly important for areas in which the cat sleeps or toilets. Particular attention should be given to areas that might accumulate water such as containers, damp (low-lying) areas and even ponds.

There are no inoculations available for ancylostomiasis infections. Prevention of the disease relies on owners being highly observant and quickly seeking advice if symptoms present themselves. Hookworms can be transmitted to humans, so care should be taken when treating infected cats.


When a house pet develops urinary incontinence, many owners fear the worst. Assumptions that incontinence signifies senility or irreparable age-related change may lead to a delay in medical consultation, relegation of the pet to an outdoor life, or even euthanasia. In reality, urinary incontinence is usually one of easiest problems to solve, so it is crucial that veterinary assistance be sought before an owner’s patience is completely worn out.


Besides having accidents in the house, pet owners may also notice bloody or cloudy urine, straining or whimpering during urination, wanting to be let outside more frequently, licking around the urinary opening, and fever.
Incontinence is involuntary by definition. It is important to differentiate incontinence (involuntary urine leakage) from other outstanding behavioral issues, lack of housetraining, senile loss of training, or territorial marking. Animals urinating in the house voluntarily are not experiencing incontinence, so it is necessary to watch your pet closely to be sure what you are seeing is really incontinence.


Most cases of incontinence are due to an infection of the urinary tract (especially the bladder). Excessive water consumption, whether behavioral or due to a medical condition, can result in incontinence, as can a weak bladder sphincter. Incontinence is rarely caused by injuries to the spine, spinal cord disease, or other internal issues with the development of the urinary tract.


Bladder infections are usually diagnosed by a urinalysis to identify the type(s) of bacteria in the urine. If a bladder infection is the cause of incontinence, most patients show improvement after only a few doses of antibiotics. In some pets, bladder infections can become chronic, although the use of urinalysis can prevent this issue by ensuring the use of the most effective antibiotic. (For more information on this condition, see the page for “Urinary Tract Infection.”)

Sometimes the cause of incontinence is excessive water consumption, in which pets drink so much water that their bladders simply overflow. This could be the result of an underlying condition such as diabetes, Cushing’s syndrome, hyperthyroidism, or kidney failure. To treat this form of incontinence, more extensive diagnostic tests are usually required to determine if there is a medical cause for excessive thirst, or if it is behavioral in origin.

A weak bladder sphincter results in incontinence in up to 20% of female dogs. Factors such as aging, obesity, and reduced sensitivity of neurologic receptors in the sphincter can contribute to this condition. A weak sphincter may be treated symptomatically with one of several medications including estrogens and related hormones (DES), phenylpropanolamine (PPA), common decongestants, and even muscle relaxants and anti-anxiety medications.

Less common causes of incontinence, such as nerve damage to the low spine, may require surgical intervention. Fortunately, these cases are exceedingly rare, and most pets with incontinence make a full recovery.

If all else fails and your pet suffers from chronic incontinence, don’t lose all hope! Diapers are available from a number of companies and are available in both male and female styles, and long-term management is often much easier than owners fear. If you observe your pet having any issues controlling their bathroom breaks, it is best to consult your veterinarian for proactive treatment to prevent any further complications.

Intestinal Parasites (Worms)

While external parasites like fleas and ticks are easy to spot, intestinal parasites are much harder to observe because they live inside your pet’s intestinal tract. While most pet owners will simply refer to this condition as having “worms,” there are a variety of parasites that can inhabit your pet’s gastrointestinal tract and cause problems. Some common species are hookworms, roundworms, and tapeworms.

Intestinal parasites are only occasionally a serious concern in adult animals. However, in young animals, debilitated animals, and those with a weakened immune system are more likely to show clinical symptoms of infestation.


Internal parasites often go undiagnosed for long periods of time because most animals will not be symptomatic. Even when pets do show symptoms, they can be very non-specific (hard to attribute to one cause). The most common signs include:

Diarrhea, sometimes bloody
A swollen abdomen
Weight loss
Occasional coughing/hacking

Owners occasionally notice very small worms (sometimes compared to grains of rice or sesame seeds) in their pet’s stool, surrounding the rectum, and even in vomit. If you observe parasites in or on your pet, contact your veterinarian.


Since dogs infected with intestinal parasites can exhibit no symptoms or subtle symptoms that can be easily overlooked, it is important to include intestinal parasite screening at your pet’s annual exam. Some veterinarians will ask you to bring in a fecal sample for testing, while others will simply treat each pet with a dewormer just in case parasites are present.


Treating intestinal parasites is generally a very simple process. There are a number of deworming medications available, although not all worms respond to the same treatment, and no single dewormer works against all types of parasites. Some treatments are given just once, or followed up by a second treatment in several weeks, while others are given continuously for several days or weeks. The treatment your veterinarian chooses will be based on your pet’s symptoms (if any) and any diagnostics performed.

It is important to note that most non-prescription dewormers sold over the counter are not effective in removing worms from your pet, and they often cause a bevy of side effects not seen with prescription dewormers. If you suspect your pet has intestinal worms, it is best to see your veterinarian before pursing any treatment.


Intestinal parasites are easy to prevent. For example, most monthly heartworm medications also contain a broad dewormer, and monthly flea treatment will prevent your pet from developing tapeworms. If your pet is not already on monthly parasite preventatives, talk to your veterinarian about how you can protect your pets and family from intestinal parasites. Removing feces from your yard or litter box at least weekly can also help prevent parasites from developing.

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough, also called canine infectious respiratory disease or infectious tracheobronchitis, is an infectious form of canine bronchitis characterized by a harsh, hacking cough that many people describe as sounding like something is “stuck in the throat.” This bronchitis may be of brief duration and mild enough to warrant to treatment at all. An uncomplicated kennel cough typically runs its course in one to two weeks and entails frequent fits of coughing from a patient who otherwise appears normal and active.

In some cases, the infectious agents present in the kennel cough complex are more intense and can cause the disease to progress rapidly. Depending on which infectious agents are involved and the strength of the pet’s immune system, kennel cough sometimes develops into life-threatening pneumonia.


Kennel cough is spread when an infected dog’s respiratory secretions (from the eyes, nose, and mouth) become airborne and are inhaled by a health dog. Crowded housing and poor ventilation play important roles in the likelihood of transmission, but kennel cough can also be transmitted on toys, food bowls, bedding, etc.

The incubation period of kennel cough is 2 to 14 days. Dogs are typically sick for 1 to 2 weeks, and infected dogs will continue to shed the virus for 2 to 3 months following infection.


An uncomplicated case of kennel cough will typically resolve on its own. Cough suppressants can improve patient comfort while the infection is resolving. Pets should be clearly improved, if not recovered, after about a week. Failure to resolve often suggests an underlying condition.

Any coughing dog that also has a poor appetite, fever, or listlessness should be evaluated for pneumonia and other complications of a more aggressive disease strain. Kennel cough can activate a previously asymptomatic collapsing trachea, or another disease may be present such as non-infectious bronchitis or congestive heart failure.


Vaccination against kennel cough is extremely safe and effective. The immunization is available as an intranasal treatment, an oral treatment, and a subcutaneous injection. Intranasal vaccines can be given as early as 3 weeks of age, and immunity generally lasts 12 months.

Some pet facilities, such as kennels and daycares, have started to require vaccination every 6 months to ensure effectiveness. While the medical necessity of this is debated, the vaccine is safe enough to give every 6 months without incidence, and more frequent vaccination may benefit high-risk pets.

Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is also known as kidney failure, chronic renal failure, kidney insufficiency, or renal insufficiency. All of these terms mean the same thing: your pet’s kidneys can’t keep up with their daily task of ridding toxins from the blood. While there is no cure for kidney disease, it can often be slowed or even arrested with proactive treatment.

Kidney disease occurs in stages, with Stage I representing pets with biological evidence of kidney disease but no evidence of actual change in kidney function; this stage is sometimes referred to as “pre-failure.” Stage II is defined as mild failure, Stage III is moderate failure, and Stave IV indicates severe failure and end-stage disease. These stages are determined based on blood and urine tests that analyze protein levels in the body.


Acute kidney failure can develop as the result of ingesting toxins, decreased blood flow or oxygen to the kidneys, infection, or urinary obstruction. Acute symptoms have a rapid onset, and kidney function will decline over a period of days.

Chronic kidney disease is more apparent in older animals, and is often caused by underlying illness, congenital defects, and hereditary conditions. Just as human seniors may develop issues with their vital organ function, senior pets often experience a slow decrease in kidney function as they age. There is also evidence that dental disease may be a significant contributor, as bacteria associated with periodontal disease invade the organs and cause irreversible damage.


Excessive thirst
Change in volume of urine produced
Bloody or black, tarry stool
Lethargy or listlessness
Decreased appetite and weight loss
Bad breath
Mouth ulcers
Stumbling, disorientation


Treatment will depend on whether the condition is acute or chronic. Acute conditions usually require aggressive hospitalization to rid the body of any toxins that have damaged the kidneys and other vital organs. Chronic treatment is less invasive and focuses on managing kidney disease instead of curing it. Long-term management can often be achieved via a specialized, renal-specific veterinary diet.

Treatment of either form of kidney disease can include: drugs that encourage urine production, fluid therapy, management of blood electrolyte abnormalities, monitoring of urinary output, medication to treat gastrointestinal problems, correction of anemia, management of high blood pressure, and even dialysis.


Acute kidney disease can be avoided by preventing your pet from accessing any toxins in the home. Some of the most commonly ingested toxins include antifreeze, vitamin D, toxic or tainted foods, and certain human medications such as non-steroid anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) and certain cardiac medications.

Chronic kidney disease occurs over a period of months to years, and the damage associated with chronic kidney disease is usually irreversible. Therefore, treatment is aimed at stabilizing current renal function. Kidney disease is often not diagnosed until kidneys are functioning at only 25-30% of their capacity, so prevention should be focused on early diagnosis and intervention.


Leptospirosis is a disease that can affect human and animals, including your pets. For many years occurrence among pets was rare, but the disease has been diagnosed more frequently in the past few years. This may be because the increased building and development into areas that were previously rural is leading more pets to be exposed to affected wildlife.


Leptospirosis is spread through contact with the contaminated urine of infected animals, which can get into water or soil and survive there for weeks to months. Your pet may be exposed to leptospirosis when drinking, swimming, or walking through contaminated water, including sea water and agriculture ponds.


The clinical signs of leptospirosis vary and are nonspecific. Sometimes pets do not have any symptoms, and generally younger animals are more seriously affected than older animals. Common clinical signs that have been reported in dogs include:

Abdominal pain
Refusal to eat
Lethargy and depression
Severe muscle pain


The time between exposure to the bacteria and development of disease is usually 5 to 14 days, but can be as short as a few days or as long as 30 days or more. If you suspect your pet may have contracted leptospirosis, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately.

Leptospirosis is treatable in its early stages with antibiotics, and often resolves completely. If the disease is allowed time to develop, severe organ damage may occur, requiring more aggressive treatment methods such as dialysis and hydration therapy.

If your pet has been confirmed by your veterinarian as having leptospirosis, you will need to consider the risk of the infection being transmitted to you. The appropriate action to take will depend on the nature of contact with your pet, as normal daily activities with your pet will not put you at high risk for infection. High-risk situations include any direct or indirect contact with your pet’s blood, urine, or tissues during infection, and the assistance in the delivery of newborns from an infected animal.

If you have had high-risk contact with your pet during the time of its infection, it is important to inform your primary care physician. If common symptoms, such as fever, muscle aches, and headaches, occur within 3 weeks after a high-risk exposure, tests can be performed to see if you require treatment.


The most important preventative tool against leptospirosis is vaccination. While the current vaccine does not provide 100% protection against all strains of the bacteria, it can still prevent many of the most aggressive effects of leptospirosis. This vaccine should be boosted annually.

Rodents can carry and spread the bacteria that causes leptospirosis, so to help prevent infection, it is important to keep rodent problems under control. The shedding of leptospirosis in the urine may persist for as long as 3 months after infection even with proper treatment.

If you are treating a pet for leptospirosis, it is important to take preventative measures yourself to prevent transmission. This includes wearing protective clothing when handling infected animals and washing your hands thoroughly after any handling of excrement. Surfaces should be cleaned with an antibacterial solution or a solution of diluted bleach 10:1.

Luxating Patella

Medial luxating patella, commonly called a trick knee, is an extremely common problem in toy dog breeds. Owners typically notice a little skip in their dog’s step, and the dog may even run on three legs for a moment, holding one hind leg up, before returning to four legs. What has happened under the surface is that the kneecap (patella) has slipped out and away from the smooth groove it usually sits in.

With luck, the pet is able to naturally slip the kneecap back where it belongs and is back to normal in only a few steps. For some dogs, getting a kneecap back where it belongs and normal extension of the rear leg is only attainable with surgical correction. Approximately 50 percent of affected dogs have both knees involved while the other 50 percent has only one knee involved.

Medial patellar luxations are graded to assess severity.

Grade 1: The kneecap can be moved out of place manually but will fall back into its natural position once the manipulator lets go. Dogs with Grade I luxations do not require surgical repair.

Grade 2: The kneecap occasionally slips out of its groove, spontaneously creating an intermittent lameness. The kneecap will pop back in place on its own. Whether or not it needs surgery depends on several factors including how often lameness is a problem and how long it typically lasts. If the ridge of bone on the inside of the knee wears down, a Grade 2 knee will progress to Grade 3, so surgery may be recommended preventatively.

Grade 3: The patella is out of place all the time but can be manipulated back into its normal position manually, though it will not stay there.

Grade 4: The patella is out of place all the time and no amount of manipulation can return it to its proper place. Such a dog has extreme difficulty extending his knees and walks with his knees bent virtually all the time, in a somewhat crouched position. In this situation, the rotation in the long bones that accompanies the luxation will interfere with surgical correction, and total resolution of the lameness may not be possible.

Dogs with Grade 3 or 4 disease will most likely require surgery.


Over time, the entire weight-bearing stress of the rear leg is altered, which leads to changes in the hips and related bones. How severe the changes are depends on the grade of the luxation, as well as how long the pet has had that degree of luxation. In time, the legs will actually turn outward with the muscles turning inward, making the dog appear bow-legged. While luxation is not considered a painful condition, after enough time and conformational change, painful arthritis will set in.

There are several surgical treatments that can address a chronic luxating patella. These procedures include lateral imbrication to reinforce the joint, trochlear modification to deepen the patellar groove, tibial crest transposition to rotate the legs outward, and a ridgestop implant to add height to the knee bone.

Some surgeons feel that doing one leg at a time, 8 weeks or more apart, is beneficial to allow the patient one good rear leg to walk on. If the patient is very young (under age one year), it may be a good idea to do both legs at the same time so as to prevent conformational problems in the leg that is not operated on first.


Orthopedic surgeries always require extensive recoveries, so it is important to discuss all treatment options with your veterinarian. Imbrication usually requires three to four weeks of confinement, while other procedures require more like six to eight weeks of confinement, depending on the surgeon’s preference and your pet’s individual case. During this time, easy leash walking is helpful to encourage use of the repaired limb. The dog should be using the leg by two weeks post-operatively, though some dogs must be retrained to use the leg after surgery. Physical therapy is necessary if the dog is not using the leg after one month.


Mange is term used to describe a range of skin diseases characterized by poor coat and skin condition. Mange is caused by a range of common external parasites called mites, found mainly in companion dogs. Some species of mites are normal residents of your pet’s skin, while others are not. Mites are most often found in the skin and hair follicles, and they can cause skin infections that can become severe if not treated.


There are two major groups of mites that can infest your pet. These are “sarcoptes” species, which burrow into skin, and “demodex” species, which live in skin follicles.

Sarcoptic mange
Sarcoptic mange, also known as “canine scabies”, is caused by a microscopic mite that is oval-shaped and light-colored. These mites are easily transferred between hosts and can also infest cats, pigs, horses, sheep, and various other species. They cause itching due to their movement while burrowing through the skin. Hair loss and crusting usually occurs, often seen first on the elbows and ears. Intense scratching and biting can cause skin damage, and secondary skin infections are common.

Demodectic mange
Demodectic mange is also called “demodicosis”, “demodex” or the “red mange”. It is indirectly caused by a species of mite that is naturally present on almost all dogs, and is usually transferred from the mother to her pups during suckling and close contact in the first few days of life. Normally, your pet’s immune system is able to cope with its natural population of mites, and many dogs never suffer any consequences. However, if the animal has a compromised immune system and develops hypersensitivity to the mites, mange can begin.

Localized mange occurs when the mites proliferate in only a few very small, confined areas, usually on the animal’s face. The resulting isolated, scaly, bald patches often look like a polka-dot pattern. Localized mange is common in puppies, and approximately 90% of cases disappear without any treatment.

Generalized mange affects larger areas of skin, and sometimes the entire body. This becomes extremely itchy if there are secondary bacterial infections. The skin may become foul-smelling and secondary infection may develop. This form of mange can indicate underlying health problems or risk factors such as a compromised immune system, hereditary predisposition, or an endocrine problem. The course of treatment for the pet depends on the age at which the disease develops.


Transmission of mange mites usually requires direct host-to-host contact. Although mites can live off a host and in the environment for several weeks, they are infective for only 36 hours. It is very rare for demodex mites to be transmitted to humans or cats.


Sarcoptic mange can cause intense itching, resulting in listlessness and frantic scratching gradually increasing over several days. It also can result in hair loss, reddened skin, sores, and crusty scabs. In dogs, the most commonly affected areas are the ears, elbows, face and legs. In severe cases, it can spread rapidly over the entire body. Sarcoptic mange in humans causes a rash of red bumps similar to mosquito bites.

In addition to extreme itching, demodectic mange causes hair loss, bald spots, scabbing, and dry sores. Other symptoms include thick discharge from the ears, particularly in cats, and leathery or wrinkled skin. Secondary bacterial infections are common and can increase discomfort.


A veterinarian will perform a physical exam of your pet and if necessary, take skin scrapings and examine these with a microscope to confirm the presence of mites. If the mites are buried deep in the skin, they can be difficult to identify. In such cases, the veterinarian may rely on your pet’s history and clinical signs to make a final diagnosis.


Puppies and dogs less than 18 months old are especially prone to localized mange. Generalized mange can be hereditary in dogs, and some breeds appear to be more susceptible, including Dalmatians, American Bulldogs, American Pit Bull Terriers, Old English Sheepdogs, and Shar Peis. Older dogs and those with underlying illness are also more prone to infection.


Your pet’s treatment will depend on various factors such as the type of mange and the breed of dog. Medication may be given orally, by injection, by shampoo or dip, or applied topically.

When treating sarcoptic mange, the first step is to isolate your pet to prevent the disease from spreading. It is likely your vet will prescribe anti-parasitic medications to eradicate the mites, as well as separate medications to ease itching, reduce inflammation, and treat secondary skin infections. Demodectic mange is treated not only by medications but also by managing physiological stress to improve your pet’s immune system. To prevent secondary skin infections, some dogs may also require additional treatments such as medicated shampoos.

Younger dogs often fully recover from mange. In contrast, adult dogs often require long-term treatment and therapy to control the disease. Whichever treatment option is elected, it should be accompanied by skin scrapes every 2 weeks. Usually, medication is discontinued after 2 consecutive scrapes are negative. A final scrape should be performed 4 weeks after treatment to ensure there has not been any recurrence.


Did you know you may be literally killing your pet with kindness? Extra calories from treats and table scraps can result in weight gain, causing lasting damage to your pet’s internal organs, bones, and joints- some of which cannot be cured even with a change in diet and exercise. Therefore, it is critical that you manage your pet’


Many pet owners will not notice their dog or cat has been gradually putting on extra weight until the animal starts slowing down significantly. More often, it is the animal’s regular veterinarian that will notice your pet’s physical changes. To do a check on your pet, feel around its midsection while your pet is standing. The ribs and spine should be easy to feel, and most pets should have a slight hourglass shape to the waist. If you cannot easily feel your dog or cat’s ribs or spine, and the tucked-in waist has thickened enough to give the animal a more tubular shape, it is time for you to consult with your veterinarian about a weight loss regimen for your pet.


According to recent findings by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), more than 45 percent of dogs and 58 percent of cats can be classified as overweight or obese. A gain of even a pound or two of additional fat on some dogs and cats can place significant stress on the body. Some of the conditions that can occur as a result of excess weight are:

Exercise intolerance or decreased stamina
Shortness of breath or wheezing
Heat intolerance
High blood pressure
Liver disease or dysfunction
Increased anesthetic risk
Lowered immune system functioning
Increased risk of cancer


In many cultures, the sharing of food is regarded as a loving gesture, but the most loving thing you can do for your overweight pet is to put it on a diet. Caloric reduction is the only way to ensure that your pet will have the best chance at a life full of activity and good health. Your veterinarian can help you devise a reduced-calorie food and exercise plan that will specifically benefit your pet’s age, weight, breed, and health condition.

Decreasing your pet’s food intake does not have to mean a decrease in the loving gestures you share. There are many healthy, low-calorie treats available, and quality time spent together can increase your bond without the worry of weight gain.


The pancreas is a pale pink organ that sits next to the stomach and helps digestion by secreting digestive enzymes and insulin. In pancreatitis, inflammation disrupts the normal integrity of the pancreas, resulting in metabolic damage. Toxins released from this damage are released into circulation and often cause a full-body inflammation response. Disruption of the pancreas can be temporary or permanent.


In most cases, we never find out the cause of an episode of pancreatitis. However, the most common cause of canine pancreatitis is a sudden high-fat meal (such as a large piece of meat or bone). This meal will stimulate an excessive release of enzymes to digest the fat, which may be the cause of symptoms. Other common events associated with this condition, such as acid reflux of stomach contents, hormonal imbalance, use of certain drugs, a tumor on the pancreas, and obesity.


The classic symptoms of pancreatitis are appetite loss, vomiting, diarrhea, painful abdomen, and fever. Together, these symptoms will appear as a typical “upset stomach” complex.


Pancreatitis can usually be diagnosed by a blood test that tests for the presence of a chemical in the body called specific canine pancreatic lipase. Ultrasound and radiographs sometimes show swelling of the pancreas and surrounding organs to confirm diagnosis. The diagnosis of pancreatitis is not made solely on the basis of a single test, but rather the entire clinical presentation is taken into consideration when making this or another diagnosis.


The most important feature of treatment is aggressively rehydrating the pet to restore the circulation of the pancreas and encourage the body’s natural healing mechanisms. Because of this, hospitalization is often the best route to recovery.

Fluids should be continued until the patient is able to reliably drink and hold down adequate fluid intake, a process which can take up to a week. Pain and nausea medications are needed to keep the pet comfortable during treatment, restore interest in food, and prevent further dehydration. Low-fat diets are crucial to managing pancreatitis, and their use should continue for several weeks following treatment before returning to regular food. Some pets will not be able to transition back to their old diet and will require prescription low-fat foods indefinitely.


Because most cases of pancreatitis are the result of a pet receiving high-fat human foods such as table scraps, you can avoid this condition by only feeding your pet low-fat, veterinarian-approved treats. It is best to avoid rich foods.

While pancreatitis itself usually resolves completely, pancreatic scarring is inevitable and can sometimes lead to the development of diabetes. Choosing a diet that is low in fat can be helpful in preventing not only pancreatitis, but a host of other diseases such as obesity and diabetes as well.


Canine Parvovirus (CPV), sometimes simply called “parvo”, is a viral illness that exists in 2 forms. The intestinal form of CPV is more common, and is typically characterized by vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss and lack of appetite. This form of the virus drastically reduces the dog’s ability to absorb nutrients, meaning an infected animal quickly becomes dehydrated and weak from lack of nutrient absorption.

The less common form of the virus is cardiac in nature. It attacks the heart muscles and often causes fluids to collect in the lungs. This form affects the hearts of puppies in utero and up to 8 weeks of age, when their hearts are not fully formed, and is often fatal. CPV is highly contagious, although the incidence of infection has been reduced considerably by early vaccination efforts.


The major symptoms of intestinal CPV are severe bloody diarrhea, fever, vomiting, lethargy, anorexia and eventually, severe weight loss. The mucous membranes of the eyes and mouth often become enflamed, and the animal may have a rapid heart rate. Infected dogs may respond with pain or discomfort when the abdomen is touched. Another symptom of intestinal CPV can be hypothermia (low body temperature) rather than fever.

The cardiac form may or may not be seen in conjunction with the signs and symptoms of the intestinal form. Some pets will have labored breathing due to the collection of fluids in the lungs and around the heart. Thankfully, the cardiac form of this disease is now seen only rarely due to appropriate vaccination of breeding dogs.


The CPV virus is usually transmitted either indirectly from the feces of an infected dog, or directly by contact with an infected dog. The feces of an infected dog will have high concentrations of the virus, so when a healthy dog sniffs or ingests infected feces, it may contract the disease.

The virus can also reside in the soil for up to a year, and transmission of the virus to a dog’s environment can occur from shoes that have come in contact with infected feces or areas of ground. CPV is resistant to most cleaning products and weather changes, so if there is any possibility that a family member could have come into contact with infected feces, the suspected areas should be sterilized with household bleach, the only disinfectant known to kill the virus.


Dog breeds that have a high susceptibility to the virus include German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, Doberman Pinschers, English Springer Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers, and Alaskan Sled Dogs. A poor immune system resulting from immuno-suppressive diseases or drug therapies can also increase the possibility of infection.

Establishments such as breeding kennels and shelters that house a large number of inadequately vaccinated dogs, especially young dogs, are particularly hazardous places with respect to risk of transmission. Because of this, it is very important that you only board your dog with a reputable business that requires proof of vaccinations for every pet.


Diagnosis of CPV will usually start with a physical examination of the dog. The veterinarian will require a thorough history of the dog’s health, recent activities and when the onset of symptoms occurred.

Samples of feces or vomit can usually be examined and used microscopically to detect the virus. Some cases may require biochemical tests or urinalysis to look for elevated liver enzymes, low lymphocyte levels, or electrolyte imbalances. Blood tests will give your veterinarian a chemical blood profile and a blood cell count. Radiograph imaging can be used to show any obstruction of the intestine, while ultrasound imaging can reveal enlarged lymph nodes within the body and any fluid-filled sections of the intestine.


Because CPV is a viral infection, there is no cure for it; treatment is aimed at controlling the symptoms and preventing secondary infections. The dog will require intensive therapy for its bodily systems to recover from the damage done during the disease’s initial onset. Severe diarrhea and dehydration are treated via intravenous fluids, and nutrition therapy is often critical to reestablish protein and electrolyte levels.

Several medications may be given to your dog to prevent further complications, such as anti-emetics to reduce vomiting, H2 blockers to reduce nausea, antibiotics to prevent secondary infections, and anthelmintics to prevent parasitic infections.


Untreated cases of CPV have a mortality rate of 91%. With early diagnosis and aggressive therapy, mortality rates are reduced to just 5-20%. When death occurs, it is usually the result of secondary complications including severe dehydration, secondary bacterial infections, toxins in the blood from bacteria, or severe bleeding from the intestines. Because puppies have a less developed immune system, they tend to have a lower survival rate. Puppies that are infected with CPV commonly suffer from shock and sudden death.


During recovery, it is best to feed your dog a bland diet that is easily digested. It is likely your dog will have a weakened immune system during this time, making it more susceptible to other illnesses. Your veterinarian will make recommendations for how to bolster your dog’s health and immunity throughout the recovery period to ensure your pet returns to full health.

After the initial recovery, your dog will still be contagious to other dogs for up to two months. Therefore, it is necessary to isolate your dog from others during this period. In addition, you should consider telling any family, friends, or neighbors that they may need to have their own pets tested if they socialized recently with your pet. It is important to wash all objects that your dog uses (toys, bedding, dishes, etc.) with a very dilute bleach solution (1:30 ratio) to disinfect and kill the parvovirus.


To prevent CPV infection, the best course of action is to follow the correct vaccination protocol. Puppies should first be vaccinated at 6 to 8 weeks of age, and then will receive a booster vaccine every 3 to 4 weeks until the puppy is 16 weeks old. Puppies should not be allowed contact with any outside dogs until at least 2 weeks after the last vaccination. Breeds with a high susceptibility to CPV may require a longer initial vaccination period, possibly up to 22 weeks.


Rabies is a severe viral disease of the central nervous system that is caused by a group of viruses able to infect all warm-bloodied animals, including humans. The virus causes devastating effects including nervous system damage, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), and eventual death. In North America, wildlife account for 99% of all positive rabies cases.


Transmission of rabies is almost exclusively the result of an infected animal biting a non-infected animal. Rarely, it can also be transmitted by scratches or infected saliva falling on the mucous membranes of a non-infected animal. In California, most cases of rabies occur in bats; rabies is also occasionally detected in wild animals such as skunks and foxes. Rabies is very rarely seen in domestic animals, although transmission can occur if a pet is bitten by a rabid wild animal.

The rabies virus does not live for long outside the host. For example, it remains viable for less than 24 hours in the carcass of an infected animal. Therefore, direct contact with an infected host is necessary for transmission to occur. Further, although the saliva of an infected animal will contain high concentrations of the virus, being bitten does not necessarily mean that the human or animal will become infected.


Initial symptoms include itchiness at the site of infection, and fever. Usually, the virus spreads along the animal’s peripheral nerves, traveling toward the brain. The virus is relatively slow-moving: the average time between initial exposure and cranial symptoms is 3 to 8 weeks in dogs, 2 to 6 weeks in cats, and 3 to 6 weeks in humans. However, incubation periods as long as 6 months in dogs and 12 months in humans have been reported.

Once the virus reaches the brain, it will begin to cause severe symptoms that can be grouped into three distinct phases: the prodromal phase, the furious phase, and the paralytic phase. Animals may or may not move through all three of the disease.

Prodromal Phase
The first phase is known as the prodromal phase. In dogs, this usually lasts for 2 to 3 days. Behavioral changes such as apprehension, nervousness, anxiety, and solitude may be noticeable, and a fever may develop. Animals that are normally friendly may become shy or irritable, and may even snap or nip. Alternatively, normally aggressive animals may become very affectionate and docile. The infection site will receive extensive attention from the animal, with constant licking, chewing, scratching, and rubbing. In dogs, this phase usually lasts for 2 to 3 days; in cats, the phase is closer to 1 to 2 days. Cats also often experience more notable fever spikes and changes in behavior than dogs.

Furious Phase
After the prodromal phase, infected animals may enter what is called the furious stage. Animals will be restless, irritable, and hyper-responsive to auditory or visual stimuli. As the restlessness increases, the animal will begin to wander, becoming more irritable and vicious. If caged, rabid animals may bite and attack their enclosure or its contents. Animals will progress into disorientation and will eventually begin to have seizures. Animals in this stage often die without progressing to the paralytic phase.

Paralytic Phase
Some animals may develop a third phase, the paralytic phase, which can come after the prodromal or furious stage. This phase is characterized by paralysis and usually develops within 2 to 4 days of the first observed symptoms. The nerves affecting functions of the head and throat are usually the first to be involved. Animals may become unable to swallow, resulting in excessive salivation. As the muscles of the diaphragm and face become increasingly paralyzed, the animal may show deep, labored breathing and a dropped jaw. The animal may make a choking sound, as if there is something lodged in the throat. After the progressive loss of muscular control, the animal will eventually enter respiratory failure and die.


The current method of diagnosing rabies is a microscopic examination of the brain after death. There are new techniques in development that use a skin or blood sample as a method of testing potentially exposed animals (and humans), although these tests are not yet routine.

Pet Exposure
As a precaution, if your pet is bitten or scratched by any carnivorous wildlife (including bats) that is not available for testing, your pet should be considered as having been exposed to rabies. Dogs and cats with current vaccinations are kept under observation for 45 days if they are bitten. If your pet is unvaccinated, it should be placed in complete isolation for 6 months and vaccinated one month before release. If your pet’s vaccination has expired, it will need to be to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Human Exposure
If an animal bites a human and it is suspected the animal may have rabies, the animal will be quarantined or observed for at least 10 days to monitor for symptoms that indicate the presence of rabies. Other factors that affect the requirements of quarantine include the vaccination status of the animal in question and the legalities and concerns of your local community.

Humans that have been bitten by a potentially rabid animal are given post-exposure vaccinations and a globulin (antibody) injection to protect them from becoming infected. If you are bitten by any animal that might have rabies, you should immediately wash the wound thoroughly for 15 minutes with soap and water and then seek emergency medical attention.


Currently, there is no treatment for rabies. Only a handful of people have survived a rabies infection, and each required extremely intensive medical care; if the disease develops in humans, death is almost always certain. Similarly, although there are some reported cases of domestic animals surviving rabies infection, these are extremely rare.


Animals must be vaccinated to prevent infection of rabies. California law requires every dog older than three months to be vaccinated against rabies. Although vaccination of cats is not yet required legally, it is best to vaccinate all pet cats, as the rate of rabies infection in cats is much higher than that in dogs.

The standard protocol to vaccinate cats and dogs is an initial vaccine at 3 to 4 months of age, and then a booster vaccine at one year of age. A year later, your pet can be given either a 1-year or 3-year vaccination.

In general, we strongly support the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV) recommendation that all dogs and cats be vaccinated. However, we do recognize that some animals might require an exemption from mandatory rabies vaccination, and your veterinarian can advise you as to the best course of treatment for your pet.


Many people are surprised to learn that ringworm is not caused by a worm at all, but by a fungus. These fungi feed upon the dead cells of skin and hair, and in humans a classic round, red lesion with a ring of scale around the edges develops. In animals, ringworm frequently looks like a dry, grey, scaly patch but can also mimic a variety of others skin lesion.

Ringworm spores are extremely hardy and can survive in the environment for years. Infection can come from direct contact with an infected animal, direct contact with an asymptomatic carrier, or contact with spores in the environment. Skin lesions typically appear one to three weeks after exposure.


There are a number of predisposing factors for infection, such as age: puppies and kittens are at higher risk than adult animals. Lifestyle is also important, as free-roaming or hunting animals are at a higher risk, as are pets living in warmer, more humid climates. There are two breed predispositions of note: Yorkshire Terriers and Persian cats. Both infection rates and treatment failures are higher in these breeds.


A Wood’s light is a lamp designed to emit light in a specific range of wavelengths such that ringworm-infected skin will glow green under the lamp. This is a good first step in diagnosis if your veterinarian is suspicious of a ringworm infection.
Your vet may also wish to pluck several hairs from affected areas and view them under the microscope to see if spores are present. In some cases, a skin sample will be biopsied for further examination, including growing the fungus on a culture plate to confirm what species of fungus is present.


If any animal in a household is diagnosed with ringworm, it is essential to disinfect the entire home and consider treating other pets. The infected pet will require isolation while the environment is disinfected, and should not be allowed back into the clean area until a culture is negative. Ideally all pets should be cultured and isolated until they have been deemed clear of infection, at which point they can be allowed back into the cleaned area.

If an infection is caught very early, sometimes pets will only require topical treatment on any localized lesions. Most infected pets will require oral medication, generally an anti-fungal, in addition to topical treatment. It is important to understand that oral medication will suppress the infection, while topical treatment will kill the fungus directly.

The traditional topical ringworm treatment is a twice-weekly lime-sulfur dip – this liquid is poured over the pet and allowed to sit for a period of time before rinsing and towel-drying the pet. There are several other rinses, shampoos, and topical treatments that can be effective when used in conjunction with other treatment.

Environmental decontamination must be extensive to ensure all ringworm spores are eliminated. Best practices include specific recommendations for disinfection from the Dermatology Department at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

If you become infected during the course of your pet’s treatment, contact your doctor. Veterinarians are not able to make recommendations for human disease or infection, even if the infection came from a pet.

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

The urinary tract consists of the kidneys, the bladder, the urethra, and the tubes that connect them. A urinary tract infection (UTI) can involve any of these areas, although the most commonly affected organ is the bladder.


Because these infections are localized to the urinary tract, the pet rarely develops symptoms of a full-body infection, such as fever or appetite loss. While people with urinary tract infections typically report a burning sensation during urination, in pets the most common signs are:

Excessive water consumption
Urinating more frequently
Urinating a smaller amount than usual
Urinating in multiple spots
Inability to hold urine the normal amount of time
Bloody urine

Sometimes there are no symptoms at all, so it is important to periodically screen patients at risk (such as elderly patients and patients that use cortisone-type medications long term).


The easiest route to diagnosing a urinary tract infection is analyzing a urine sample. A urinalysis examines chemical properties of a urine sample such as the pH, specific gravity (a measure of concentration), and the amount of proteins or other biochemical markers. It also includes a visual inspection of the urine sediment to look for crystals, cells, or bacteria.

In more advanced cases, your veterinarian may want to perform a urine culture. In this test, the urine is spun rapidly in a centrifuge to separate out the solids from the liquid. The solid part is then transferred to a specialized container and incubated for bacterial growth. Once the bacteria has grown for several days, it can be analyzed to help determine which antibiotic will be most effective.


A simple urinary tract infection is usually easily treated with 7 to 14 days of antibiotics. The patient’s symptoms usually resolve quickly, within the first 2 days of treatment, though the entire course of treatment should be given to prevent infection recurrence and future bacterial resistance.

Ideally, approximately one week after the last antibiotic dose is given, a new urine sample is tested to be sure the infection is gone. If the infection has not improved, a repeat urine culture may be necessary.

Related Conditions
If a pet’s immune system is weak, an infection in the urinary tract may ascend into the kidneys, where it can cause infection and ultimately kidney failure. There are several other diseases that can also cause symptoms similar to a UTI, such as bladder stones, bladder tumors, and prostate infections. As such, it is important to monitor your pet for any symptoms of increased urination so that infections can be treated proactively before they advance to a more serious condition.

Upper Respiratory Infection (URI)

The symptoms of an upper respiratory infection (URI) in cats and dogs is very similar to the experience humans would have with a common cold. In general, the treatment of a URI is mostly aimed at alleviating the discomfort of your pet’s symptoms. While most upper respiratory infections will run their course over several days or several weeks at most, your pet should be seen by a veterinarian if symptoms persist for 2 to 3 days, to ensure no other disease is present.


Pets with a URI will most likely have symptoms similar to the common cold, including:

Discharge from the nose or eyes (white, yellow, or green)
Difficulty breathing, sniffling
Loss of appetite
Hoarse voice

Puppies and kittens are usually hit the hardest due to their immature immune systems. When these animals grow up, they may show URI symptoms when stress or other illness suppresses their immune system.


When you take your pet to the vet with the basic symptoms of a URI, your vet will perform a physical exam to get a sense of your pet’s general health. Blood tests may be recommended, and x-rays will be required if pneumonia seems likely. Your veterinarian may also want to run tests to eliminate the possibility of illness that can cause similar symptoms, such as feline leukemia (FeLV) and heartworm.


How a URI is treated depends on how severe it is and whether or not there seems to be a bacterial infection complicating a viral infection. Mildly symptomatic pets might need no treatment at all, as symptoms should naturally wane over 1 to 2 weeks. A heavily congested pet or one that is very dehydrated is likely to require antibiotics and possibly even hospitalization.

In addition to oral medications, topical ointments are commonly prescribed, and severely affected cats may require inhalational antibiotics, antiviral medications, intravenous fluids, and/or some sort of assisted feeding to stabilize your pet during recovery.


Some of the diseases that cause upper respiratory infections can be prevented via vaccination. For example, in dogs, kennel cough can be prevented by the Bordetella vaccine, and the Canine Influenza vaccine can help prevent the development of a URI if your dog becomes infected with the flu virus. In cats, the combination feline distemper vaccine (often abbreviated FRCP or FVRCP) will prevent your cat from developing a URI due to rhinotracheitis or calcivirus.

The best prevention of URI and other common infections includes fully vaccinating your pet, and preventing your pet from socializing with animals that are not fully vaccinated.

Vestibular Disease

Vestibular disease, also known as “old dog” syndrome, is a condition that affects your pet’s sense of balance and spatial orientation. If the organs of the inner ear and parts of the brain, collectively called the vestibular system, become diseased, the animal may become symptomatic.

There are two forms of vestibular disease. The most common is peripheral vestibular disease, which arises from disorders affecting the inner ear and related nerves. The less common form, called central vestibular disease, is considerably more serious as it originates within the central nervous system. Both forms result in the animal experiencing a loss of balance and other symptoms of vertigo and dizziness. This disease can appear extremely dramatic to dog owners, particularly the first time the symptoms are observed. However, most cases improve quickly with appropriate care and treatment of the underlying causes.

Peripheral Vestibular Disease
Peripheral vestibular disease results from irritation of the nerves connecting the inner ear to the brain. Although the cause of the condition cannot always be found, infection of the middle ear is the most common cause of the disease in younger dogs. In older dogs, brain tumors may be to blame. Other factors including:

Chronic/recurrent infections of the inner and middle ear
Physical damage to the ear
Head trauma
Tumors or polyps
Congenital defects present from birth
 The ongoing use of certain medications

Central Vestibular Disease
Central vestibular disease is related to the brainstem. Causes of central vestibular disease include:

Inflammatory disease
Head trauma
Bleeding in the brain
Loss of blood flow


Signs of vestibular disease of either type include:

Abnormal posture, e.g. leaning or head tilt
Loss of balance or asymmetric ataxia, i.e. “drunken” gait
Circling in one direction
Involuntary, rhythmic, or jerking eye flicks or twitches
Vomiting/motion sickness

Dizziness and loss of balance can cause excessive drooling, sometimes accompanied by nausea and vomiting. If only one ear/side of the head is affected, circling and head-tilting usually occurs in the direction of that ear, and eye flicks will be present only on that side.

Congenital vestibular disease is usually apparent before 3 months of age. Breeds that are predisposed to this condition include Akitas, Beagles, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, English Cocker Spaniels, Smooth Fox Terriers, and Tibetan Terriers.

Vestibular disease in senior pets is often mistaken for the animal having a stroke. The signs of vertigo caused by the disease can be more intense in older pets, which may show a complete inability to stand in addition to nausea and circling. The disease can make eating and drinking, or even going outside to urinate or defecate, very difficult, if not impossible. Therapy in the form of intravenous fluids and supplemental nutrition is usually necessary.


A physical examination and neurological assessment will ascertain if the vestibular disease is of peripheral or central origin. If the peripheral form of the condition is identified, your veterinarian will likely use an otoscope to look deep into your pet’s ears. Sometimes, x-rays are needed to assist the diagnosis. Other screening methods such as blood tests, culture and sensitivity, and cytology will help eliminate other potential causes of specific symptoms.

Your veterinarian may also recommend a biopsy of any polyps or tumors that are found. If central vestibular disease is diagnosed, MRI or CT scans are likely to be recommended. Additional tests include cerebrospinal fluid analysis, in which the fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord is analyzed for abnormalities in protein concentration, cell counts, and other parameters. This test is most useful to determine if there is an inflammatory and/or infectious disease present.


The aims of treating vestibular disease are two-fold: the first aim is to deal with the underlying cause, and the second is to provide supportive care. The symptoms of nausea and vomiting can be mitigated by motion sickness medications. If the middle or inner ear is infected, antibiotics are likely to improve the condition. Ear infections should be identified and treated as quickly as possible, because prolonged inflammation can progress to a point where the condition may be untreatable.

If the disease is caused by an under-active thyroid, the condition will resolve once the metabolic condition is managed appropriately. If a medication is the cause, stopping the medication can lead to complete resolution, although pets can have residual hearing loss. Surgical removal of polyps can result in a complete cure, but if the tumors are cancerous, the prognosis is usually less positive.

The central vestibular form of the disease generally has a poorer prognosis than the peripheral form, primarily due to the potential for damage to the brain stem and surrounding brain matter. Fortunately, most cases of the peripheral form improve quickly once the underlying cause is addressed and the vertigo symptoms are treated. Rehabilitation therapy can help your dog learn better awareness of his body position and thereby improve his stability.

There is currently no treatment that consistently manages either peripheral or congenital vestibular disease. Affected pets will require significant nursing care and confinement. Puppies born with the congenital disease often adapt more readily and are less affected as they get older. In old dogs, the condition often resolves in 7 to 14 days, although the head-tilt can be life-long. If you are concerned your pet is showing signs of vestibular disease, it is important you have them examined by a veterinarian to prevent the condition from worsening.

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