New Year’s Resolutions
The new year is upon us, and as we make our resolutions and goals for life-style changes, it is important to include our furry friends in the mix. Below is a list of “pawsitive” resolutions we hope you will consider for 2017.
Visit the vet. Start your pet’s new year by making an appointment for a full physical, complete with blood work to check organ function, parasite screening and annual vaccinations. Semi-annual bordetella vaccinations and parasite screenings are required by many boarding kennels and doggie daycare facilities so making sure your pet is up to date now can be helpful later. Your veterinarian can also advise you on appropriate parasite protection for your pet and make recommendations on non-core vaccinations and medications, based on your pet’s lifestyle. Be sure and get copies of all your pets’ vaccinations and medications to keep on hand, or update and access your records online, if your vet’s office offers that service.
Check your pet’s microchip information. Pet safety is always a priority. Check to see that the contact information associated with your pet’s microchip is accurate. This information can be updated online with various registries, or with your local animal control organization. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department even offers free microchip registration on their website. Make sure your pet also wears a secure collar at all times, with their Rabies tab and name tag with contact information firmly attached, at all times.
Help your pet be more active! Current data suggests that over 80% of pets are overweight and do not get enough exercise. Consult your veterinarian for specific exercise guidelines for your pet, but remember that nearly every dog will benefit from a brisk walk and a good game of laser tag can do wonders for a chubby kitty. Start an exercise program slow with an out-of-shape pet and invest in a well-fitting, secure collar or harness and a non-retractable leash. Diet is important too! Set up a consultation with your veterinarian to discuss dietary suggestions, particularly if your pet has special dietary needs or food sensitivities.
Reconnect with your pet. Many of us get so busy that we often forget how much our pets enjoy our company. Find ways to include your pet in your day-to-day activities. Many restaurants and breweries allow dogs to join you for a night out on their patio. Or find an agility class or special training course to that you can enroll in with your pet. Once your pet has been certified, you can both visit hospitals, hospices or retirement facilities. There are also local opportunities for tracking classes, scent classes and herding groups for those busy, working breeds! Most importantly, spend time daily grooming and brushing your pet - it is good for both of you!
Pet-proof your house. Get down on your hands and knees and look for pet hazards at their eye level. Frayed electrical cords, chewed-up old toys, and bones can all be choking hazards. Be aware of toxic or poisonous houseplants, as well as human medications that can be easily accessed and consumed. Check the outside too; search for any open areas in fencing, or nails protruding from decks and fences. Make sure petroleum products, solvents, and yard chemicals are stored out of your pet’s reach.
Consider pet insurance. Many companies offer pet insurance policies at very affordable premiums. Most of these policies offer substantial medical coverage, which can offer peace of mind if there is an emergency expense for your pet. Your veterinarian’s office can answer most general questions, but for further details regarding coverage search online or contact an agent directly.
The veterinarians and staff at Lakecross Veterinary wish you and yours a safe, happy and healthy 2017.
Dr. Kay Wahl is a veterinarian with LakeCross Veterinary in Huntersville. The vets in the big yellow house have been treating pets like family for 20 years. For more information, call 704-948-6300 or go to www.LakeCrossVet.com.
Bone Cancer (Osteosarcoma) in Dogs
Much like humans, dogs are often victims of cancer. Osteosarcoma is the most common form of bone cancer in dogs. While this cancer can be found in any canine, the larger breeds such as Mastiffs, Great Danes, and Rottweilers are most often affected. Bone cancer can also occur in cats, but it is very rare. Osteosarcoma is extremely aggressive and has a tendency to quickly spread to other tissues in the body, including the lymph nodes and lungs. While this cancer can occur in any bone in the body, the most common place for it to originate is in the legs.
The first symptom of bone cancer in dogs is usually a very subtle lameness or limp. Since this symptom is also common with degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis), osteomyelitis (bone infection) or soft tissue trauma, including ligament or tendon injury, osteosarcoma is often misdiagnosed as it occurs less frequently, but initially looks the same as other common diseases.
The second symptom of osteosarcoma, which occurs very quickly (often within days), is swelling at the initial bone cancer site. The animal will begin to avoid putting weight on the affected limb. This swelling is very sensitive to the touch and for good reason. At the heart of the swelling, the bone is being destroyed by the cancer. This process is extremely painful, often to the point that the dog will not even put the foot of the affected limb on the ground. As the destruction from cancer progresses, bone fractures can occur.
By the time osteosarcoma is diagnosed, cancer has usually spread to other parts of the body. What clinically distinguishes osteosarcoma from other conditions is the rate at which it progresses and the high level of pain the dog experiences. Unlike other disorders that typically respond well to medications, because osteosarcoma is so very aggressive and extremely painful, the pain caused by this condition will not be helped by the medications generally used for pain and inflammation.
Diagnosis of osteosarcoma is based on the animal’s history, clinical signs, location of pain and swelling. Radiographic findings in the early stage of the bone cancer can be subtle, but very quickly, significant destruction of bone by the cancer can be seen on X-ray. Bone biopsies may be used to rule out other forms of cancers (such as chondrosarcomas) and infections. Other imaging such as a CT scan can also be helpful. Radiographic imaging of the chest can determine if the cancer has spread to the lungs.
While there are treatment options for osteosarcoma, the long-term prognosis is usually very poor. These options range from palliative care to amputation of the affected limb, followed by chemotherapy. The palliative care approach centers on the control of pain. There are combinations of narcotic and NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) that mitigate the pain. Radiation therapy of the tumor site is available locally and this can significantly reduce the pain and slow the progression of the disease, but this therapy requires multiple doses of radiation to the tumor site and multiple anesthesia procedures to deliver the therapy. A more aggressive treatment approach involves amputation of the affected limb, followed by chemotherapy (carboplatin) to address cancer that has spread to the lungs.
Most dogs do really well with amputation and adapt quickly to having three legs. The chemotherapy can provide up to a year and a half of remission and these dogs live a very good quality of life with this approach. The heartbreak of this disease is that it cannot be cured and will eventually take these big and noble companions of ours from us. If your pet is diagnosed with this cancer, your veterinarian can guide you through those options. Your vet may be able to also recommend other owners have been down this path with their pet and would be willing to share their journey with this disease so you can make the best decision for you and your furry companion.
Dr. Tom Hemstreet is a veterinarian with LakeCross Veterinary in Huntersville. The vets in the big yellow house have been treating pets like family for 20 years. For more information, call 704-948-6300 or go to LakeCrossVet.com.
Bathroom Dangers For Your Pet
Every year, over 18,000 people die as a result of accidents or injuries in their own home. As you try to make things as safe as possible for your family, be sure to consider potential dangers in your house for your pets. As veterinarians, we caution people daily about common hazards that threaten the safety of animals while they are inside.
Most people think of the kitchen as the most dangerous room in the house. While that may be true for humans, the bathroom is one of the primary danger zones for dogs and cats. Bathroom cabinets often contain medications and prescriptions that are helpful to humans, but can be deadly to your pet. Although there are exceptions, veterinarians like to say there are NO human medications that are considered safe for pets. All medications should be kept in a secure cabinet or closet with a doorknob.
Next, look around at your bathroom countertops. Pill containers smell like our hands or our lotion, and that makes them very tempting for the family dog to chew. Pets will eat hearing aid batteries if accessible from a counter top or dropped on the floor. Why not, the batteries smell like earwax, right? Hair ties are extremely enticing to cats. Many will snatch them off the counter and carry them around in their mouths. Some cats will eat them. Hair bows and any type of ribbon can be dangerous to cats and cause intestine damage. Birth control pills and vitamins on the bathroom counter also pose a danger. Many human vitamins come in chewable or gummy form now and a dog will eat a whole bottle at once if given the chance. That is definitely too much of a good thing.
If the cabinet doors under your bathroom counter don’t close tightly, animals can easily open them and get inside. All cleaning supplies are poisonous to pets, but drain cleaners and toilet bowl cleaners are especially toxic. While it may take extra steps on cleaning day, those supplies are safest kept in one place completely out of the reach of pets. You can also use safety latches for “child-proofing” cabinets so they can’t be pried open by a curious animal.
The bathroom floor can present definite hazards for pets. Remember to pick up your socks and underwear and immediately put them in the hamper. Those articles of clothing have the highest concentration of our scent, and dogs will eat them before you can even get your hair wet in the shower. Although some dogs will vomit them or pass them through, swallowed clothing is one of the most common causes of emergency surgery to remove intestinal obstructions.
Lastly, don’t forget about the bathroom trash can. There is nothing we throw away in the bathroom trash that a dog won’t eat. It can be as harmless as eating a single used tissue or as horrifying as devouring a used diaper or personal hygiene product. Used dental floss is probably the single most dangerous object for dogs and cats. It tastes good to them because it is flavored and has also been in your mouth, but dental floss will bind and slice through the intestines of any pet, causing severe illness.
Taking a pet-based look around your bathroom will make it a safer place for your pet, and remember to keep the door closed and the lid down for everyone’s happiness.
Dr. Donna Warren is a veterinarian with LakeCross Veterinary in Huntersville. The vets in the big yellow house have been treating pets like family for 20 years. For more information, call 704-948-6300 or go to LakeCrossVet.com.
Grooming Tips For Your Pet
As a veterinarian and the proud owner of Bianca, an adorable Cavalier King Charles spaniel, I am often asked about pet grooming. Even clients who take their pet to a professional groomer usually find the following information to be helpful. We hope you do as well.
What is the easiest way to brush my pet’s teeth? Use a finger brush and veterinary enzymatic toothpaste. Simply put the brush on your finger with toothpaste on the bristles. Then, gently hold the muzzle of the pet with one hand while sliding the finger brush into the mouth between the cheek and teeth. Using gentle pressure, move the brush back and forth across the teeth from the back of the mouth to the front. Most of the brushing will be on the upper set of teeth (with the mouth closed), but brushing the teeth on the bottom is also great. Repeat this process on each side of the pet’s mouth for 30-60 seconds. There is no need to rinse the toothpaste from your pet’s mouth. Brush your pet’s teeth daily for best results.
How should I clean the area around my pet’s eyes? It is very common for some breeds of dogs to have eye-related issues that lead to a crusty discharge around the eye. Generally speaking, a warm, damp cloth is best for cleaning around a dog’s eyes. First, moisten the crusty area near the eye with a damp cloth. You can then use a small flea comb to pull the debris loose from the hair. (Be sure to angle the comb away from the eye!) A scent-free baby wipe can be used to clean inside facial folds. If the folds are inflamed or have a lot of debris, use a medicated wipe recommended by your vet.
Can I clean my pet’s ears? As a general rule, you should never stick a cotton swab/Q-tip into your pet’s ears. There are many other effective techniques for ear cleaning in dogs. Some involve putting ear cleaner directly into the ear, while others involve putting a cotton ball or gauze pad soaked with cleaner in the ear. For the safety of your pet, only use a veterinary-recommended ear cleaner. Ask for a demonstration from your veterinary professional since he or she will know best about your pet’s particular needs. If the ear is normal, cleaning should be needed only after a bath or swimming to remove residual water.
Do I need to trim my pet’s nails? The lifestyle of your pet will determine whether your pet’s nails need to be trimmed. Pets that walk or run on hard surfaces such as sidewalks rarely need a nail trimming. In contrast, pets that primarily live indoors usually need their nails trimmed once a month. When trimming pet nails, be sure to avoid cutting into the pink part of the nail (called the quick or nail bed) because it will hurt your pet and likely cause bleeding. Watching a professional perform a nail trim is the best way to learn where to cut the nail without causing pain.
How often should I bathe my pet? This is probably the most frequently asked grooming question I hear. Assuming there are no skin conditions that require a disciplined bathing schedule, it is usually safe to bathe your pet every 2 to 4 weeks. However, it is definitely not necessary to bathe your pet this frequently. In fact, some pets really need to be bathed only if they develop an odor or get into something that is dirty. I recommend only using shampoo specifically for pets, making sure to thoroughly rinse all the lather out of the pet’s hair.
Dr. Gretchen Burke is a veterinarian with LakeCross Veterinary in Huntersville. The vets in the big yellow house have been treating pets like family for 20 years. For more information, call 704-948-6300 or visit www.LakeCrossVet.com.
Beware Of Ticks When Enjoying The Outdoors With Your Dog
Warmer weather in the Carolinas often means that many of us will be spending more time outside with our dogs. With these outdoor activities comes an increased risk of exposure to diseases caused by a tick bite.
Ticks are nasty little parasites that attach themselves to dogs and feed on the blood of our canine friends. During this process, they can infect thousands of dogs each year with tick-transmitted diseases. The most common diseases that are caused by ticks and transmitted to dogs include:
• Canine Ehrlichiosis – As one of the most dangerous and common diseases carried by ticks, Canine Ehrlichiosis can cause weight loss, fever, nose bleeds, severe swelling in the legs. Loss of appetite, depression, and runny eyes and noses are also common symptoms of this disease. Symptoms may occur immediately after a bite.
• Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever – While Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever typically lasts for a few weeks, it can result in death and should be considered very serious. This disease is carried by multiple types of ticks and can cause fever, stiffness, neurological problems and skin lesions.
• Lyme Disease – This painful condition from a tick bite can impact dogs and humans. It causes swollen joints, severe fatigue, overall stiffness, and fever. Your dog may also show a complete loss of appetite. It may take these symptoms quite some time to appear after a tick bite.
• Dog Tick Fever (Canine Anaplasmosis) - Also known as dog fever, this disease results in similar symptoms to other tick diseases, including fever, loss of appetite, stiff joints and lethargy. However, with Dog Tick Fever, seizures, vomiting and diarrhea may also occur.
• Canine Babesiosis & Canine Bartonellosis - Symptoms for these diseases may include fever, anemia, pale gums, weakness and vomiting. Some dogs also experience sudden lameness. If left untreated, Canine Bartonellosis can result in heart or liver disease.
• Canine Hepatozoonosis - While typically associated with fever, runny eyes and nose, muscle pain and diarrhea with the presence of blood, this disease is often caused when a dog ingests a disease-carrying tick.
Preventing Tick-Related Diseases
It is important to check your dog each day for ticks during warm weather. Dogs that spend time in fields or wooded areas are especially vulnerable to tick exposure. To search for ticks, simply rub your fingers through the dog’s fur and feel for small bumps. Then move the hair and look for a small object that is usually black or dark brown in color. If the tick is not attached to the dog, immediately remove and destroy it. (A toilet flush works great!)
Ticks attached to a dog will vary in size and color based on the amount of blood consumed. The impacted tick may appear as small as a pea or as large as a grape. The tick’s legs may or may not be visible. Remove the tick as quickly as possible, as ticks can infect a dog within 24 to 48 hours. Your vet can educate you regarding how to safely remove a tick that is attached to your dog. The most important thing is to remove the entire body of the tick, avoiding leaving the head attached to the dog’s skin.
Although there is no absolute way to avoid tick bites, tick prevention is the best treatment plan. Very effective products and medications are widely available to lesson the chance that you or your dog will have complications from ticks. It is also important to visit your veterinarian for an annual screening for tick disease.
Ticks are a health hazard for your dog, but they don’t have to ruin your summer. Understanding the danger and how to be vigilant for these parasites will allow you and your dog to enjoy outside activities throughout the coming seasons.
Dr. Jean Tuttle is a veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Spinal Manipulation Therapist (CVSMT) with LakeCross Veterinary and 4Paws Animal Rehabilitation & Wellness Clinic in Huntersville. The vets in the big yellow house have been treating pets like family for 20 years. For more information, call 704-948-6300 or go to LakecrossVet.com.
Summer Is Coming! Time To Watch For Ear Infections In Your Pet
Some days at the veterinary hospital, all I seem to do is treat ear infections. While certain seasons are worse than others for this phenomenon, the humidity of summer can lead to a greater chance of ear infections. This can be one of the most frustrating conditions for pet owners to battle.
There are many misconceptions about ear infections in dogs and cats. For example, some pet owners mistake dark debris in a pet’s ears for ear mites. It is very rare for a dog or an adult cat to get ear mites. Although a kitten with ear mites can pass them to any other cat or dog, if your pet has not been around a kitten or a stray cat, it is highly unlikely that the dark debris in the ears is from mites. It’s also important to remember debris that is not associated with infections can build up in your cat’s ears, and ear infections are definitely more common in dogs than cats.
An important thing to understand about your pet’s ears is they have very long ear canals. When you look into your dog’s ears you can only see part of the vertical ear canal. The part you cannot see takes a turn and continues to the eardrum via the horizontal canal. Because of this anatomy, ear infections can be brewing long before you see visual signs of a problem. It also means an infection may not be completely cleared up just because the ear looks good from the outer part of the canal. This is why it is so important to have your dogs ears checked at the end of treatment for an ear infection to be sure the problem is completely resolved.
Another thing to understand is that ear infections in dogs are most commonly associated with allergies. Recurrent, year-round ear infections are often caused by food allergies. In contrast, seasonal occurrences of ear infections are more commonly associated with airborne allergies. Managing these underlying allergies will decrease and sometimes eliminate ear infections in your pets.
Humidity plays a big role in ear infections. Chronic moisture in the ears is a very common cause of ear infections in dogs. Dogs that do a lot of swimming are very prone to developing infections and it is common for dogs to develop ear infections after baths. Regular ear cleaning can go a long way toward combating moisture in the ears. Use a liquid ear cleaner that will chemically dry the ear weekly during humid months, at the end of a day of swimming and after bathing. You can wipe out excess cleaner with a cotton ball, but do not use cotton-tipped swabs as these swabs can actually pack debris into the horizontal canals.
Treatment of ear infections in your pet may require repeated visits to your vet. This is very important because untreated ear infections will lead to chronic pain and irritation for your animal, and can result in irreversible damage to the ear canals. Your veterinarian can determine if you pet’s ears are infected and what type of infection is present by swabbing the ears, and then looking at the ear debris under a microscope. This process will also help the veterinarian choose the best medication for treatment. If a significant amount of bacteria is found, a culture might also be recommended to determine exactly which bacteria are present and what antibiotic will be most effective for treatment. If your animal gets recurrent ear infections, or if the infections never seem to completely clear up, it may be worth seeing a veterinary dermatologist.
As we head into the summer heat and humidity, remember to watch for ear infections in your pets and keep their ears as clean and dry as possible.
Dr. Lauren Kappers is a veterinarian with LakeCross Veterinary in Huntersville. The vets in the big yellow house have been treating pets like family for 20 years. For more information, call 704-948-6300 or go to www.LakeCrossVet.com.
Tips For Finding A Lost Pet
Having a lost pet can be one of the most heart-wrenching moments of a pet owner’s life. It can also be overwhelming figuring out how to start the search process. I’ve lost a pet and helped dozens of friends and family find their pets. Based on these experiences, I’ve listed a few recommendations that may help you if you’re ever in this situation.
Have photos of your pet on hand – Searching high and low to find pictures of pets in a hurry can be very stressful. Keep front and side view photos of your pets on your phone or computer at all times. These can be used to quickly post online or make posters.
Have your pet always wear an embroidered collar with name and phone number – While pets are technically required to wear a rabies tag and county license, they can easily fall off of a collar. Same with small, metal ID tags. An embroidered collar with a phone number is an easy, quick way that a lost pet’s owner can be contacted at any time of day.
Use microchips and keep contact information current – A microchip is a tiny integrated circuit about the size of a grain of rice, that is implanted by your veterinarian underneath the pet’s skin, usually between the shoulder blades, on the neck. The chips each have a unique number and are identified using a handheld scanner. Most veterinarians, animal control facilities and officers have microchip scanners. The only downfall of microchips is that you, as the pet owner, must be proactive in registering with the microchip company and keeping your contact information current. Your veterinarian can help you with this process. Please remember to list a friend or relative who lives out of state as an alternative contact. After Hurricane Katrina, there were hundreds of microchipped dogs and cats found, but because phones and vet offices were inaccessible, there was no way of identifying many of the pets. Locally, CMPD Animal Care and Control has a free microchip registration service, which is easily accessed on their website.
Contact your vet and local animal control – Contact your veterinarian as soon as you can, regarding your lost pet. Call other veterinarians, groomers and pet stores in your area and, if possible, provide a photo. City and county local police departments often provide animal control and have lost and found pet services. CMPD Animal Care and Control can be contacted via the 311 service, and has a very comprehensive lost and found page on their website.
Use social media – Post through your own personal social media and also ask your vet, friends, social groups and family to do the same. The FaceBook page “Lost & Found Dogs-North Carolina” does a wonderful job posting notices from all over the state. The website LostAndFoundLKN.com also has postings for local animals.
Print and post flyers – This “old school” method is still very effective. Print flyers and post in your neighborhood on stop signs, community clubhouses, pet stores, vet offices, and post offices. Be sure to include a photo of the lost pet.
Visit animal shelters and animal control frequently – Many of these organizations are overwhelmed with pets and underwhelmed with staff. Your black lab might be listed as a black shepherd mix on their service page! Visiting the actual shelter frequently is always best.
Get your smell out there – Placing clothing or bedding items in areas where your pet may have been or near your home may help them find their way back to you. Placing food and items of clothing in an open carrier may also help.
Keep the faith – There are many heartwarming stories of pets being found years after being lost, just don’t give up the search!
Dr. Kay Wahl is a veterinarian and certified veterinary acupuncturist with LakeCross Veterinary in Huntersville. The vets in the big yellow house have been treating pets like family for 20 years. For more information, call 704-948-6300 or visit LakeCrossVet.com.
Make This A Healthier Year For Your Pet
New Year’s resolutions often include vows to reach a healthier lifestyle. It is a proven fact that we feel better when we exercise, eat a well-balanced diet, and keep our weight at a healthy level. The same is true for animals! And while our pets cannot commit to resolutions this time of the year, their natural desire to please and bond with us can help facilitate success in a weight loss program.
There are a million “excuses” humans use to avoid a good diet and regular exercise for themselves and their pets. As veterinarians, we often hear, “When I cut down on his food, he’s hungry!” Remember that dogs live to eat, and are programmed genetically to eat whenever and wherever the opportunity arises. Hence, they lick the floors for crumbs, sniff out the garbage, and circle under the table as often as possible. This does not mean they are hungry, it means they are opportunists.
Pet parents also resist diets for animals by explaining, “He looks at me with those big brown eyes and he begs for food!” This is a case of the pet training the owner. The pet knows when they act in a certain manner, such as standing by the treat cabinet and whining or looking with an intense stare, they will get a treat. The trick to eliminating this guilt-causing behavior is to switch the reward the pet receives after “begging.” Instead of a treat, grab a toy and play, strap on the collar and leash and go for a walk, or give your pet love and affection.
If your pet has annoying habits where feeding time is concerned, reconditioning the pet’s behavior can also work in this case. For example, if your dog or cat plays with their bowl when they want to be fed, remove the bowl after each feeding. If new begging behaviors then develop, respond with playtime, or provide a distraction (such as a non-edible or low calorie chew toy) until you are ready to feed the next meal.
The secret to the success of any diet plan is to make sure that the amount of calories taken in each day is less than the amount of calories being used. Here are a few tips to help you and your pet on the weight loss journey:
1) Feed a high-quality diet that features the proper amount of protein for the life-stage/activity level of the animal. Diets that are full of fillers will result in a faster digestive rate, which means the pet will feel hunger faster.
2) Consult your veterinarian about how much food is needed to help your pet maintain or lose weight. NEVER feed what is listed on the bag of food!
3) Count treats in the mix. Special occasions happen and we want to share them with our pets. The daily calorie count should include these special treats.
4) Do not feed table scraps to your pet. There are many risks associated with feeding pets human food, and these foods are often difficult to manage in the calorie budget.
Adding regular exercise to your pet’s daily routine will help to expend calories and increase the ability to lose weight. Besides the obvious physical benefits, exercise also helps to decrease anxiety, provide mental stimulation, and increase the ability to form strong bonds. Pets completely depend on us for their well-being. Make it your New Year’s resolution to make this your pet’s best year ever in terms of weight and exercise. It’s one resolution that will be good for you both.
Dr. Gretchen Burke is a veterinarian with LakeCross Veterinary in Huntersville. The vets in the big yellow house have been treating pets like family for 20 years. For more information, go to www.LakeCrossVet.com or call 704-948-6300.
Finding The Cause Of Lumps And Bumps On Your Pet
People love to pet and groom their dogs and cats, and we often know our pet’s physique as well as our own. As a result, concerns about newly discovered skin infections, bumps and lumps are very common. The causes of these growths in animals are numerous and treatment options can vary dramatically.
Some changes in the skin can occur suddenly. Skin infections, for example, can arise in a matter of days and can feel like thickened areas under the skin. Hives can occur in a matter of minutes and be very dramatic in appearance. Hives are usually the result of an allergic reaction, such as insect stings or even vaccinations. Injectable, oral or topical medications are often used to treat these examples.
A thorough physical exam by a veterinarian is the first place to start when trying to determine the cause of a new lump or bump. Routine annual physical exams by a veterinarian can also identify subtle changes missed at home. As vets, we strive to determine if the lump is on the skin, in the skin, or under the skin. We also try to learn whether the lumps or bumps are new or have been present for a while and if they are infectious, contagious, benign or malignant. During the veterinary exam, your pet’s skin and any suspicious areas will be examined for many different factors, including irritation, infection, color, size, shape, texture, and whether the mass is soft, solid or filled with fluid. We will try to determine if other organs are associated with the lump or bump.
Many times we can visually diagnose the cause of the new growth. Other situations require the use of cytology in which a needle is inserted into the suspicious area. This process does not typically require sedation or local anesthesia. A syringe is attached to the needle allowing a small number of cells to be collected and then expressed onto a microscope slide. A quick 3-step staining process is then performed to look at the cells microscopically and make a preliminary diagnosis of the lump. Veterinarians have years of training in this process and are adept at diagnosing masses or tumors with cytology. If further diagnostics are needed, your vet may recommend surgical removal of lumps or bumps, particularly if he or she feels the initial cytology looks suspicious. Surgical removal of masses allows the surgeon to remove extra tissue around the suspicious areas and submit the tissue to a board-certified pathologist for an exact diagnosis.
Biopsies, or microscopic identification of cell types, allow your veterinarian to make the proper treatment plan for your pet. In some cases, bloodwork may also be needed to determine internal organ function, particularly if the biopsy reveals a malignancy that is responsive to chemotherapy. Radiographs may also be necessary to see if any spread of a malignancy has occurred.
While much of this information can seem overwhelming, rest assured that the majority of lumps and bumps can be diagnosed and treated very effectively, allowing your pet to maintain a happy future and quality of life. The most important thing is to seek advice from your vet as early as possible.
Dr. Kay Wahl is a veterinarian and certified veterinary acupuncturist with LakeCross Veterinary in Huntersville. The vets in the big yellow house have cared for pets in the Lake Norman area since 1998. For more information, go to www.LakeCrossVet.com or call 704-948-6300.
Your Cat’s Drinking Habits Could Be A Sign Of Serious Medical Problems
Cats are the subtlest of creatures. The smallest change in their behavior can provide huge clues regarding their health. For example, an increase in how much your cat is drinking and urinating can be signs of a medical problem.
Of course there are normal causes for increased thirst, such as unusually hot and dry weather or if your cat has been playing more than usual. But you should always take note if there is more water consumed without an obvious cause. Unlike dogs, cats don’t usually choose to drink more than they need.
With cats, it can be difficult to observe an increase in urination. This is where clumping litter provides a great way to detect increased water consumption. In general, cats are very efficient with water consumption and usually urinate twice a day. They can also hold their urine for a day or more when stressed. If you normally scoop two golf-ball-sized clumps of litter a day, that is probably about right, especially if your cat is fed dry food only. Canned food has more moisture in it and will cause cats to urinate more frequently. Veterinarians advise monitoring the size and amount of urine productions in the litter so you can more easily detect a change in their urinary behavior. If you notice your cat is near the water bowl more often and suddenly the clumps of litter increase in size, then there is likely a medical problem that needs attention.
There are three main causes of excessive drinking (polydipsia) and excessive urination (polyuria): diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, and kidney disease. While generally these conditions only occur in older cats, younger cats can experience these problems, especially with diabetes, if the kitty is overweight.
Hyperthyroidism increases metabolism and blood pressure, which causes an increased flow of blood through the kidneys resulting in more urine production. Hyperthyroidism tends to also cause weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, increased activity, increased vocalization and a ravenous appetite in an older animal.
Diabetes mellitus in cats mirrors insulin resistant Type II diabetes in humans. This condition is more common in obese cats, and causes thirst because of glucose in the urine. Weight loss occurs when a cat’s insulin does not work properly in the tissues.
Primary kidney disease is a bit broader and harder to pinpoint. Increased urination and thirst can be caused by infection or kidney failure. Acute kidney failure is not restricted to older cats. This condition occurs very suddenly and can be caused by diseases, parasites, poisoning (from drugs, plants, or chemicals), heart failure, blood clots, and shock related to injury or trauma. In contrast, chronic kidney disease is a slow decline in kidney function due to age or other chronic conditions.
To take the best care of your feline friends, look for the signs of increased thirst and urination in cats and pay attention to the subtle clues in your pets. An examination and blood work by your veterinarian can determine if there is something wrong and if treatment is needed.
Dr. Tom Hemstreet is a veterinarian with LakeCross Veterinary in Huntersville where he also offers radioactive iodine treatment for cats with hyperthyroidism. The vets in the big yellow house have been treating pets like family for 20 years. For more information, call 704-948-6300 or visit www.LakeCrossVet.com and www.t4paws.com.
Tips For Using Online Pet Pharmacies
Everyone loves a bargain. But when it comes to veterinary prescriptions it’s vital to be aware of the potential dangers of buying pet medications online. You want to ensure your pet is getting the correct medication and that your personal information is secure.
There have been incidents where pet owners have received incorrect medications, expired or improperly handled medication, improper dosage instructions, and medications that appear to be under a guarantee but actually are not. In addition to these possible health risks to your pet, websites that are not properly secure can expose you to identity or online theft.
Not all online pharmacies are bad, but it’s important to know how to protect yourself and your pet from possible risks associated with online pharmacies. First, be your pet’s own best prescription advocate. Discuss all prescriptions and over-the-counter medications for your pet with your veterinarian. You should know the actual name of the drug (including the brand name or generic alternative names), what the medication is used for, dosage instructions (how many times a day, what route, with/without food) and the appearance of the medication. Always review any labeled medication very carefully. The label should include the drug name, dosing instructions, what the medication is being used for (antibiotic, anti-inflammatory), quantity (you should always double check this upon receipt), expiration date, the prescriber’s name and business name. Do not give a medication to your pet if something doesn’t seem right. Always call your veterinarian with any questions.
Next, ask your veterinarian for a recommendation of a trusted state-licensed internet pharmacy. This ensures that when your vet prescribes or recommends a drug for your pet, the prescription medication is handled appropriately by accredited pharmacists. Some sites even allow your veterinary office to load the recommended medications into an online “medicine cabinet” for greater convenience. This type of online pharmacy is the safest way to get the best value for your veterinary prescriptions.
Watch for red flags! Do not use an online pharmacy if it doesn’t require a prescription for prescription medications, does not have a licensed pharmacist who you can easily contact with questions, carries only a few items, has dramatically lower prices than your vet, doesn't list a physical business address in the United States, or is not licensed by the State Board of Pharmacy in the state where the business is located.
Always check the online pharmacy for proper accreditation. Make sure it is an accredited Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice (VIPPS). This accreditation ensures the online pharmacy has appropriate state licensing, undergoes a regular 19-point review, and an on-site survey every three years. These websites must also meet criteria for protecting clients’ personal information, strict quality assurance standards, and ensuring prescription validity. Drug reactions should be reported to the medication manufacturer and to the FDA, as well as to your veterinarian. Immediately inform your bank or credit card company if you discover fraudulent online charges.
For more information about online pharmacies, go to the Center for Veterinary Medicine website at http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary or call the center directly at 1-240-402-7002. Remember, knowledge is power, and you should always consider the old saying, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is!”
Dr. Gretchen Burke is a veterinarian with LakeCross Veterinary in Huntersville. The vets in the big yellow house have been treating pets like family for 20 years. For more information, go to www.LakeCrossVet.com or call 704-948-6300.