Clinton Veterinary Hospital’s Blog
WHAT IS PANCREATITIS?
The pancreas is a very important organ that is located on the right side of the abdomen next to the stomach. The pancreas produces enzymes to help break down food and hormones such as insulin, which helps regulate blood sugar. These enzymes are activated when food is ingested. When pancreatitis occurs, the digestive enzymes are activated before they reach the intestines and cause problems to the surrounding organs. Pancreatitis in our pets can be acute or chronic and can cause mild to severe clinical signs. If your pet has chronic pancreatitis, we see flares of these episodes; where a pet will have symptoms, respond to medications and then recur months later.
WHAT CAUSES PANCREATITIS?
Most cases of pancreatitis in pets are idiopathic; meaning we don’t find the reason your pet develops this disease. Pancreatitis can be triggered by fatty meals or foods, certain medications such as steroids, endocrine diseases such as cushings or diabetes and/or trauma. There is a genetic link in specific breeds such as miniature schnauzers, where they have a genetic predisposition to developing the disease.
WHAT ARE THE CLINICAL SIGNS OF PANCREATITIS?
Vomiting, nausea, decreased appetite, diarrhea, painful abdomen and lethargy are the most common symptoms. Some animals may present in a “prayer” position. In some severe cases some dogs and cats may need to be hospitalized due to the severity of the disease. In some cases pancreatitis can be fatal if not treated right away.
HOW TO DIAGNOSE PANCREATITIS?
There are a few blood tests that can be run to help diagnose pancreatitis. A complete blood cell count (CBC) can be done and may reveal an increase in the white blood cells. This is not 100% diagnostic though, since we can see this elevation due to other things as well. A chemistry panel that shows elevations in the pancreatic enzymes may be the most helpful test we perform. In some cases though, these enzymes may not be elevated. In this situation if we suspect pancreatitis may be the cause or want to have confirmation, an additional test can be done. This test is called the pancreas-specific lipase test. This test is very specific to pancreatic lipase and can be elevated in cases of pancreatitis. Also, ultrasound can be used to diagnose pancreatic inflammation or peritonitis (inflammation of the tissue in the abdomen). Sometimes though, even with all this testing, it may be difficult to diagnose pancreatitis and the diagnosis may be based on clinical signs and history.
HOW IS PANCREATITIS TREATED?
The severity of the disease and symptoms dictates the treatment. For more acute, less severe cases, getting animals on gastrointestinal medications, a bland diet, and some pain medication may be all it takes. This allows the pancreas to “rest” by not overwhelming it with fatty foods and protecting it with specific medications. For more severe cases, more extreme measures may need to be taken. Some animals will need to be hospitalized on intravenous fluids to rehydrate and correct electrolyte imbalances. They will be given intravenous medications to help with the inflammation and analgesics to help with the pain. Certain animals will need to be hospitalized anywhere from 2-4 days or even longer if patients are in systemic shock.
WHAT IS THE PROGNOSIS?
Dogs that have less severity of disease and respond well to the medication prescribed should have a good prognosis. If the disease process is severe and patients don’t respond well to treatment or need to be hospitalized, the prognosis can be more guarded; especially animals who present in shock from the disease process. Overall though, most pancreatitis cases respond and do well. Dogs and cats that have recurrent bouts of pancreatitis are often put on a low fat prescription diet to minimize the risk of future flare ups. It is very important to bring your pet in if there is any change to their normal behavior at home. If you notice vomiting, lethargy, decreased appetite or any of the clinical signs listed above, bring your furry friend in!
How do you prevent pancreatitis?
Make sure you don’t feed your pet high fat meals and stick with your pet’s normal diet. People don’t realize that feeding your pet left over trimmings from Christmas dinner, foods with high butter content or any food that is a different fat content can affect them. Even though we feel we are giving them this as a treat or to show our love to them, it can be harmful. Love your pet with affection via brushing, snuggles, hiking/walks, throwing the ball or giving cat nip, but not by feeding them fatty human foods. This is a great way to keep your furry friends happy and healthy!
You might be thinking, what is leptospirosis and how does it affect me or my pet? Let me explain.
As the seasons change, your dog or cat’s skin may change as well. You may notice they have increased itching, biting at their feet/legs or overall seem more uncomfortable. We see atopy-or environmental allergies-in dogs quite frequently. The clinical signs range from a simple ear infection to major hair loss, scabs all along the body and them being severely uncomfortable. Atopic dermatitis is the inflammatory and chronic skin issue that’s associated with allergies. These allergies can be brought about by things in the environment that normally would be harmless—pollen, spores, molds, dust mites, etc. During certain seasons, we see these allergies intensify and see the clinical signs associated with them. The most common areas we see affected in our canine friends are; between their toes, ears, groin/inguinal region and sometimes across their backs. Environmental allergies can be genetically linked and even though we can see them in all breeds, there are specific breeds who tend to be affected more. We start to see these develop in dogs from 6 months and up. They have mild reactions when they are younger and we can see these intensify as they are older.
We also see some dogs who have food allergies. Food allergies are less common than environmental allergies and any breed can develop them. We see food allergies manifest when dogs are younger and we see the same type of skin issues from these allergies as well. With food allergies we don’t see a change in symptoms with the season changes. The most common food allergies we see are to protein sources—with beef, pork and chicken being the top allergens.
There are steps we can take to make your dog more comfortable and try to identify what is causing these reactions. Allergy testing can allow us to identify the specific allergens bothering your pet and help us come up with a plan for immunotherapy. Immunotherapy helps slowly build up your dog’s tolerance to these allergens and hopefully eventually decrease their reaction to them. If food allergies are suspected there are specific diets that we may start your pet on. Other things we can add to make your pet more comfortable on a daily basis are medications to helps with the itch, fatty acid supplements and adding antibiotics when we are dealing with a skin infection that flares up. It’s all about managing the itch from many different angles!
A few medications to help with itch are apoquel, which is an oral medication and cytopoint which is an injection. Apoquel helps stop cytokines involved in the itch process and will provide relief against inflammation associated with atopic dermatitis. Cytopoint is the first long acting antibody injection that helps against atopic dermatitis. When or which medication we start with will depend on each individual patient. Both will help your pet with their itch! Also starting an omega 3 supplement helps protect the skin barrier against environmental allergens.
If your are noticing signs of allergies and itchiness at home with your pet, make an appointment and lets discuss the next steps to make your pet less itchy. We can come up with a plan to help manage your dog’s allergies and make sure they are comfortable all year long!
It’s time to think about your cats! Most people adopt kittens or young cats from shelters or friends. That is the perfect time to bring them into the vet and start a habit of veterinary care for them. Bringing your kitten or young cat in begins a positive relationship and allows the start of a discussion for future health care. This is the perfect opportunity to educate yourself on vaccine protocols, behaviors at home, interactions between multiple household cats and much more. This is also a great time to get your cat used to the carrier. Most people don’t bring their cat in until they are much older so being placed in a carrier and in the car and then arriving at a new place is an anxiety filled experience. If there is a reoccurring practice of coming in for multiple kitten vaccines and a positive interaction when they are younger, this will make any future experience to the vets easier. This is also a good time to discuss lifestyle of your cat. Are they going to be indoor or outdoor or even both? Most people believe since their indoor cat does not go outside, they are not exposed to fleas, ticks or mosquitoes. This is not true. So having even your indoor cat on monthly preventatives is important. These are just some examples of what could be discussed at an early vet visit to make sure your cat has a healthy, long future.
People tend to think of cats as smaller versions of their canine friends. However, cats interact with us and each other much differently than dogs. Dogs are more social, pack animals who crave attention while cats are more independent. Dogs will be happy being walked or being allowed to sniff around outside while cats love high perches where they can have the vantage point, and tight spaces where they can be alone. Don’t get me wrong, there are some cats who love to be walked outside to sniff around as well! There are specific behavior cues such as inappropriate urination or marking behaviors which may indicate stressors in the environment. Multi-cat households should have multiple liter boxes–one more than the number of cats. Cleaning out the boxes daily is also a good way to decrease stress in the household. This is also a good time to bring your cat in to discuss these issues to rule out any medical reasons for that inappropriate elimination. Some cats who are older and may being dealing with arthritic issues, may have inappropriate elimination just due to height and location of the litter box. The box may be in a place that is difficult for them to get to–going down flights of steps to the basement for example. Or if the box itself has higher edges, this may be difficult for your cat to comfortably get into, hence the elimination outside the box. Also, just paying attention to daily eating/drinking and elimination habits can tell you a lot about your cats health. If your cat misses a few meals this could lead to serious issues whereas if your dog missed a meal, they could recover quickly. So being aware if your cat is eating and drinking normally and having normal urinary/bowel movements is very important.
Also, spaying or neutering your cat when they are younger can help eliminate behavior issues at home. This alteration will decrease aggression issues, marking behaviors and perhaps decrease persistence to escape outside. Having environmental stimuli and toys for them to play with will also help keep them at a healthy weight and keep them stimulated so we don’t see certain behaviors. A link is listed below that lists some tips for environmental stimulation:
Sadly, we as veterinarians don’t always see cats until they are older and their health issues are too severe. We tend to see them when they are sick and owners are ready to put them down. We don’t want to just see your cat at end of life, we want to see them every year! If cats were brought in on an annual basis so we could track weight, body condition, discuss new or odd behaviors at home this would allow us to intervene much quicker and hopefully extend your pets life. There has to be a change with how we view and value our feline pets. Since they can be more independent, stoic and easily left to their own devices, it can be easy to overlook medical/behavioral issues that may be occurring. If we understand that yearly exams and blood work (as they become older) are important tools to help diagnose and keep track of future issues, then making those yearly appointments makes more sense. That way, we as a veterinary family can make sure your feline family members are the healthiest they can be.
You may notice lumps or bumps on your furry friend that happen to pop up. If so, it’s always a great idea to have those bumps checked and make sure they are nothing serious. It’s a good idea to keep track of when they first appeared, the size of them and if they have changed at all. This will help us start to categorize the masses. Once you bring your pet in, the next step is to take samples of the mass. We do this by needle aspirates. We take samples of the tissue that make up the mass and apply these to a glass slide. We stain the slide and then can view the different cells under the microscope. Looking at the different cells allow us to see if they are normal skin or fat cells or are different cells which could indicate cancer. We will go over a few of the more common skin masses we tend to see.
- The most common skin mass we see are lipomas. These are benign masses that are made of fat cells. They usually occur in older dogs but we do see them in younger pets as well. Most of the time these masses are right under the skin but some can be deeper and adhered to the muscle layer. The majority of these do not pose a problem but they can continue to increase in size. If they are in a location-like under the armpit-this could affect how your pet walks. So at times it is a good thing to remove them if they continue to grow. The pictures below were taken from surgery on a patient who had a large lipoma on her chest that was continuing to increase in size. The second picture shows what they look like once removed.
- We also tend to see a lot of cysts as well. There are many types of cysts. The more common ones we see are follicular and sebaceous cysts. Sebaceous glands are under the skin and they produce sebum which lubricates the hair follicles. These glands can become inflamed and cause cysts that are sacs under the skin. Most of the time they are not an issue but they do have the tendency to rupture and leak material. If this is something that keeps on occurring, surgical removal of the cyst is needed to keep the area clean and healthy. The follicular cysts tend to be smaller and the individual hair follicle can become inflamed. These are not an issue if we can monitor and keep the area clean, but if your pet continues to lick or scratch at the area and causes marked inflammation/bleeding you may want to get them removed.
- Another common skin mass we see in practice is a mast cell tumor. This is the most common malignant mass we see on our patients. Mast cells are a normal part of the body. They are commonly found in most tissues; especially the skin, lungs and digestive tract. They are an important part of the body’s immune response to stimuli. They release histamine which can help during times of allergic reaction, but can be dangerous if released in excess from a tumor. These tumors can look like anything from ulcerated, bleeding masses to flat masses right under the skin. Which is why if you are finding anything new on your pet, have it checked! There can be subcutaneous and cutaneous mast cell tumors. Once a mast cell tumor is identified, it is best to remove the mass as quickly as possible. Surgically removing it when the tumor is small helps us get better surgical margins. For more information: https://www.animalreferencepathology.com/canine-mast-cell-tumors.pml
- A fourth mass we see is something called a histiocytoma. These typically occur in young dogs (less than three years old) and are benign. These tumors will typically become ulcerated and then will regress on their own. You will see these masses start out looking like a skin tag, then they can increase in size, become very inflamed and ulcerated. They do tend to visually look worse before they start to regress. These do not need to removed, we just need to monitor them to ensure they don’t become infected.
- We do also see melanomas. Melanomas of the skin may be either benign or malignant which is why it is important to have these checked out and removed. They are darkly pigmented masses, and they can range from small to medium sized. Correlation between location and if these masses will spread can be seen. Melanomas of the mouth and arms/legs can have a greater potential for spread than those on the body.
After removal most masses are sent for histopathology where the pathologist conclusively states what that mass is and the next steps. If the mass is benign–histocytoma, cyst, lipoma then there are no next steps. The pet is in the clear. For malignant masses, there may be follow-up which can differ depending on the type of mass. The five masses listed above are just a few we can see. The main thing is to know if something changes or is new on your pet and make an appointment for that mass to be checked. If we work together, we can hopefully stay on top of any new masses that appear!
There has been a lot in the news recently about grain free dog foods and how they might be contributing to heart disease in dogs. The FDA has issued a warning and is looking into grain free diets, particularly those containing legumes, peas, lentils and potatoes. These ingredients are most common in grain free foods.
Here is what I think you should/need to know.
1.) Most veterinarians do not like grain free foods. “Grain Free” is a marketing strategy designed by the multi billion dollar pet food industry to make you feel like you should be feeding this to your dog. You shouldn’t. Not one of the 3 doctors in our practice feed a grain free food to their dog.
Why don’t we like grain free? First- most dogs do not have a wheat allergy. Most allergies in dogs are to a protein source such as beef, pork or chicken. Second- a lot of the grain free diets are higher in fat and certain minerals. This makes patients more prone to GI issues such a vomiting and diarrhea and pancreatitis as well as bladder stones. Third- these diets may actually be harming our patients. While we do not fully understand the link between heart disease and grain free foods yet, I think it would be wise to pay attention.
2.) Here is what we do know so far about the link between grain free foods and heart disease.
There are several reported cases of Dilated Cardiomyopathy in breeds that are not genetically predisposed to it. There was a sharp increase in cases that caused veterinary cardiologists to pause and try to determine what might be causing this rise. The common link so far is that all the dogs were eating grain free foods that were high in peas, legumes, lentils and potatoes. These ingredients are usually found in grain free foods.
At first it was thought that taurine, an essential amino acid for heart health, might be causing the issue. However, some of the dogs are taurine deficient and some are not, further complicating the issue.
3.) One of the questions/statements I have heard a lot recently is- “wild dogs didn’t eat grains?”
No they didn’t. However, they weren’t eating legumes, peas, potatoes or barley either. Also, you don’t have a wild dog sleeping in bed with you. You have a domesticated dog who has been bred to be a companion animal, and thus, their nutritional needs are vastly different than those of a wild animal.
4.) Why do people think that corn and wheat are such a bad thing for pets?
Both corn and wheat, which a lot of people seem to think are bad for their pets are good sources of fiber. They are also low in fat and easy to produce and test for quality control and safety. Things like oatmeal, and brown rice are grains and they are good ingredients in pet food.
5.)What should you do if you are concerned about your pet or want to switch foods?
Contact your veterinarian! We are happy to talk to you about diets that might be a good fit for your pet. We do not make any money from our recommendations, nor do we even sell any of the diets! Our only wish is to keep your pet as healthy as possible. We want to help, not harm your pet.
If you do want to switch foods, do it slowly. Mix 25% of the new (hopefully non grain free food) in with 75% of the old food and gradually increase the amount of the new food over the course of 1-2 weeks.
Want more information on what foods might be appropriate or what the best food is for your pet? Check out the Tufts Veterinary School’s nutrition service. They have a lot of helpful resources on their page and you can trust their info.
Don’t believe them? Read the FDA press release on their investigation:
Have you ever wondered why we recommend you bring a fecal sample to your pets annual exam? Yes, this recommendation is messy and smelly, but it is a very important part of your pets annual wellness screening. Fecals allow us to test for intestinal parasites. These parasites can be a huge health concern for your pet and can even cause health hazards for humans as well. Kansas state shows a statistic that 34% of dogs are infested with intestinal parasites nationwide. This is a high number! So let’s talk about this!
WHAT DO FECALS DETECT:
Fecals allow veterinarians to detect if your pet has parasites such as; round worms, hookworms, coccidia, giarida and tapeworms. Unlike fleas or ticks which infest your pets and can be seen on the fur/skin, these are much more difficult to detect. Which is why sending out the fecal material to be tested is ideal. This allows us to see if there are any eggs, larvae or cysts in the feces by viewing it under the microscope.
COMMON INTESTINAL PARASITES
Roundworms, known as ascarids, live and feed off the intestines of your dogs and cats. When they are passed in the feces as adults they can be white/brown and look like spaghetti. At high burden loads they can cause clinical signs in your pet like vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss and distended abdomen. Puppies are commonly seen with these worms because they can be passed on from their mother as well as the environment. In the environment, your dog or cat can pick them up from feces infected with the eggs or rodents that may carry the parasites. It’s very important to be looking for these parasites because they are zoonotic–which means they can be spread to humans! Actually, “3-6 million people are year in the United States are infected by toxocara larva migrans”. These are mostly by children who play in the dirt and have a fecal to oral contamination. You can actually see the infection in the eyes or under the skin.
Tapeworms can be infest your pet via fleas. We tend to see dog and cats who have a flea infestations acquire these parasites. The animals, while grooming, ingest the fleas which carry the parasite and this infects our pets. These tapeworms are segmented and pieces of those segments can fall off and that’s what we can see around the animals anus or in their feces. These look like white or brown rice pieces. We tend to see animals scratching at their hind ends, scooting, we may see weight loss as well.
Giardia is an intestinal protozoa. This can cause vomiting, diarrhea and weight loss. It is very common in puppies but since it can persist in the environment, we can see this in adult dogs as well. Giardia can be very persistent in the environment when conditions are cooler and moist. Most dogs actually get infected via drinking water contaminated with feces. They become infected and pass the cysts through feces and then can be a cause of infection to other animals. Cleaning any food or water bowls in boiling water, steam cleaning the carpet and using disinfectants for other surfaces will help clear the cysts from the environment.
Coccidia is very common in young puppies can cause a watery, mucousy diarrhea which can dehydrate young puppies quickly. It is spread via fecal material and usually is passed from an adult mother to her puppies as well as contaminated environments.
Hookworm are another intestinal parasite that can cause issues in a young animal. These actually hook into the intestinal lining and can cause anemia, which can be quite debilitating in your pet. Puppies can acquire them via milk from the mother and adults can acquire from the environment through larval penetration of skin or through oral contamination. This is another parasite which can affect humans again through larval penetration of the skin.
HOW TO COLLECT A SAMPLE:
Collecting a fresh sample is always best. This allows easier interpretation as if the sample is days old the eggs can be more difficult to classify. Putting the sample in a clean container and either bringing it to us right away or if it’s going to be a few hours, keep it in the fridge.
HOW TO TREAT
Overall, all these infections can be treated and diagnosed easily. A fecal sample allows us to look for the eggs, larva and cysts of these different parasites. If we detect them early, we can get your pet on the proper de-worming medication. This will hopefully prevent any clinical signs at home and prevent you or your family members from getting infected. Picking up your dogs feces is also extremely important to making sure that parasites are not spread to the environment or other people’s pets. Clean up after your pooch and bring in a fecal sample yearly to make sure you and your pet stay safe!
Pet Safety tips for the Fourth of July!
Keep them away from fireworks. Make sure they are in a safe, secure location. Check to make sure that all doors and windows are secure and that your pet cannot get out of them. Keep dogs and cats away from all picnic foods that could make them sick. If you do have to leave your pet’s make sure they are microchipped or have an ID tag on. It is going to be hot next week so make sure they are in a cool place with plenty of water.
Contact your vet now to ask about sedation or medication that may help calm your pet if they have noise phobias or are afraid of fireworks. We carry sileo which is the only approved medication to treat noise phobias in dogs.
"We have been extremely happy with all the docs in this group. Would highly recommend."—Lisa K. Old Saybrook, CT
"Not a fault to be had! Wonderful & caring staff! Your pet will be well cared for!!"
"Care is always knowledgeable and administered with compassion."—Marilyn S. Clinton, CT
"Everyone at this practice genuinely cares for every animal they see. I would not take my cat any place else. They provide consistent service and are knowledgeable and professional."—Elle MP, Westbrook, CT
"Clinton Veterinary Hospital is always so great with Lilly. They always make sure that she is given the best care. The doctors are so courteous and the staff is amazing. I trust them completely with her!!"—Andrea G, Clinton, CT
"I got a same day appt when I called in the morning. Dr Price found the cause and discussed treatment options. By the next morning my cat was his old self. Great staff!"—Paula H.
"Leni loves visiting Dr. Price, and I am always happy knowing she is receiving the best care possible. Thank you!"—Courtney B., Deep River, CT
"I love Clinton vet ! And feel that I am getting The best possible care. They are knowledgeable and very kind kind to my two Pomeranians."—Laura E., Clinton CT
"We have been clients for many years-since 1978. Over that time we have had 3 cats and 6 dogs that we have taken to Clinton Veterinary. They have always been wonderful to our pets and us. Dr Price has continued the wonderful care to our current dogs, Ralph and Dodger. They have a great support staff also-very caring."—Anne C. Guilford, CT
"Dr. Santelli has been wonderful helping us decode Kohl's allergies since we adopted him last month. We have not had experience with the immunotherapy injections we chose to treat with and she has always welcomed questions and has great feedback."—Jessica B.
"I am very happy with CVH and I especially like Dr. Santelli. She is great with my dogs and understands the rules and regs on getting dogs overseas and back. She is super!"—Maureen G. Lyme, CT
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Clinton Veterinary Hospital sees emergencies Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. For emergencies during all other hours, please contact one of the facilities below: