FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Dogs shake their heads for many reasons, the most common medical ailments are an ear infection (usually caused by swimming or allergies) and foreign material, such as a fox tail, within the ear canal. In order to determine the cause, we recommend a thorough ear exam to look at the eardrum and ear canal and a swab of debris that we can look at under the microscope and diagnose what particular organism (yeast, bacteria or mites) is causing the issue.
Common complications to unaddressed ear infections include ruptured ear drums resulting in deeper infection. In addition, the ear itself has a lot of blood vessels and continued shaking can cause those to rupture resulting in an “aural hematoma”, or blood blister. This usually requires surgical intervention to adequately treat. Not to mention, if you pet is shaking their head enough that you’re concerned, he’s probably in a reasonable amount of discomfort and deserves a check up!
As with humans, animals can have a variety of skin conditions ranging from a bacterial or yeast infection (usually smaller, red bumps) to skin tumors (both benign and malignant). If the lumps are accompanied by itching, it is possible your pet has an allergy that has resulted in a secondary skin infection. If the lumps are of various shape, size or consistency and have changed recently, it is possible we’re looking at a skin tumor. In either case, it is best to have the skin looked at to most quickly address the issue. In the case of a suspect lump, we recommend taking a small sample with a needle for analysis of individual cells under a microscope.
Lots of things make animals itch. The number one culprit is the flea! If your pet isn’t current on flea preventive or is particularly sensitive to fleas, this can cause severe itching and discomfort and sometimes you won’t even see the little buggers! Often the issue goes beyond fleas and involves food or environmental allergies. We offer environmental allergy testing and treatment as well as a variety of food recommendations to try to diagnose and treat allergic disease.
Vomiting can be caused by a wide range of maladies including ingestion of something irritating to the gastrointestinal tract, ingestion of something that blocks flow of food and water through the GI tract (socks, ribbons, balls, rocks… the list is never ending!), inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, constipation and other organ issues including kidney and liver issues! In any case, vomiting carries with it risk of dehydration and the potential of damage to the GI tract. The times we recommend immediate exam are the following: 1. If you witnessed the pet eating something they shouldn’t 2. Your pet is very depressed/lethargic 3. Your pet is vomiting immediately after consumption of food or water 4. The vomiting persists beyond 12 hours.
A thorough exam is where we would start but in order to diagnose the problem, we would do a number of tests, depending on the specific history and physical exam findings. The usual process includes x-rays of the abdomen (for which we have immediate results using our digital x-ray unit), a blood panel to look for systemic causes (such as kidney disease) and a specific test to look for a bout of inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). The remainder of the recommendations vary greatly based on the condition of the patient.
Just like with other symptoms, there are many causes for diarrhea. If the diarrhea persists beyond a day or two OR your animal is acting very ill (not eating, depressed, vomiting) it is definitely worth a visit! When you come, please remember to bring a stool sample (fresh, please!) for us to send to the lab to look for parasites that cause diarrhea.
Chances are if your dog or cat is limping, it hurts. The act of limping is an effort to reduce the amount of weight they’re bearing on an injury, whether that is a muscle strain or sprain, a joint injury or a bone injury.
As with any abnormality, it is recommended if your pet is limping in conjunction with a reduced appetite, activity level or other symptom, he should be seen by his veterinarian. If he is limping but otherwise normal, it's your prerogative to wait and rest them at home, however, I generally recommend a visit to try to isolate the affected area and start treatment. Its no fun to be sore and we can prescribe medication to help ease their discomfort. Some maladies that cause limping may require surgical intervention and/or strict rest/rehabilitation and are well worth a trip to the vet. In order to figure out where they hurt, x-rays are going to be a likely recommendation.
None. Dogs and cats process medications differently than humans and not only is dosing a tricky proposition, in many cases, human medications are toxic to dogs and cats. It is not recommended to self medicate at all until you have spoken to your animal’s veterinarian. As a legal matter, we in the veterinary community are not permitted to make drug or dosing recommendations for an animal we have not examined in the last year.
Can you imagine how bad your breath would smell if you hadn’t brushed in 5, 7, 11 years? Bad. For the most part (I’m guilty!), we don’t brush our animal’s teeth and that results in severe halitosis and dental tartar build-up. Even if you don’t see a large amount of tartar on the teeth, the microscopic bacterial film that results can be extremely stinky. Chances are, if your pet’s breath smells bad, it needs a thorough dental cleaning. I recommend a visit to your veterinarian for a “grading” (how bad are the teeth) and estimate of recommended services.
Its never too late to start brushing and doing so will help slow the buildup of tartar. However, regular brushing won’t remove the plaque and tartar that is already present. Our recommendation for that is a full dental cleaning (scale, polish) under general anesthesia. The anesthesia allows us to fully examine the mouth via probing and x-rays while minimizing the stress on the pet and responding to diseased teeth as necessary (extraction, application of special medications).
Cats especially, but dogs too, are notorious for urinating in inappropriate places. Generally, animals don’t have the reasoning capacity to punish you and are more commonly urinating inappropriately because of either a medical issue (urinary tract infection, bladder stones) or a learned aversion or preference to certain surfaces or environments. If your animal is eliminating in an uncharacteristic manner, please make an appointment for a visit and a urine sample to try to get to the bottom of the issue.
If we suspect that your pet has a urinary tract infection, rather than treat with the wrong antibiotic and risk recurrent infections or a failure to clear, we recommend a urine culture. This will let the lab grow the actual bacteria that are causing the issue as well as determine what antibiotics are most suitable to kill that bacteria. It seems expensive initially, but will save money by preventing the same issue from cropping up multiple times, making it necessary to repeat the same tests and accumulate office visits.
We very commonly see bladder stones (a variety of kinds exist) in animals and this is often associated with accidents and inappropriate urination. One of those types of stones can be a direct result of a urinary tract infection and so if we suspect there may be stones associated with an infection, we’ll always recommend an x-ray to rule that in or out. Alternatively, we often see recurrent infections that end up failing to heal because stones are harboring the little bugs! Its best to know early if stones are present so we can more quickly help your pet to feel better.
The field of veterinary medicine is making great leaps and bounds in pain management for pets. Historically, not much has been provided and we’re quickly realizing the error in our ways. As a rule, your pet will come home with pain medication after any surgical procedure and will have been given pain medication before and during the procedure. We believe this is invaluable and essential for the humane care of our beloved pets. In addition, chronic conditions, such as arthritis, also require pain medication to keep the quality of life at an acceptable level.
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