Does my pet have allergies?

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!

A Feline Friendly Life!

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:

http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/cats/tips/cat_happy_indoors.html

                                                                                                   http://fixnation.org/2017/12/top-toys-cats/

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.

The Most Common Skin Masses

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.

  1. 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.                   
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  4. 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.
  5. 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!

Grain free diets, could they be harming your pet?

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.

Grain free diets, big on marketing, small on truth

Finding the best food for your pet

Don’t believe them? Read the FDA press release on their investigation:

FDA investigation between heart disease and diet

Beat the Summer Heat

How to keep (1)
As we are heading through the heart of summer, here are a few tips to beat the heat and keep your pet cool.
 Overall, know your dog. This may sound obvious but understand that breed and age can play a part in how much the heat can affect your pet. Breeds such as brachycephalics-flat faced dogs-have airways that make breathing and ventilating more difficult. They can overheat much quicker than longer nosed breeds. Their airways make it much more difficult to breathe and oxygenate well. Also, young puppies and older dogs can become overheated much quicker. So be more cautious with those certain breeds/ages. Below are some other tips to help you and your pet beat the heat:
Tip #1: Don’t leave your dog in the car during summer! Even with the windows down, on a day that’s above 75•, the car can get stifling and can be a cause of severe heat stroke or even death. Just leave your pet at home in the AC or find simple alternatives to leaving them in the car. They will thank your for it!
Tip #2: Take frequent breaks between times of play. Your dog may want to keep fetching the ball or stick, but making sure to take time for them to catch their breath and cool down is important. If the humidity is intense outside, make sure to monitor how long they have been running around or playing. Let them go for 5-10 minutes of play and then allow them to rest.
Tip #3: Always have water. This is a must. Carry a water bottle and container to pour water into. They make cool gadgets that fold out and form water dishes and your dog will thank you for the hydration. Or plan your outing with your pet around water–bring them to a lake or river, have a sprinkler installed outside in the back yard and pools can be fun! There are always cooling wraps/shirts that you can keep in the freezer or add ice to that will help keep your dog cool. Anything you can think of to cool them off! Dogs cool off by panting and evaporating heat. So, allow them time in the shade to pant and rest. They also have sweat glands in their paw pads so keeping their feet cool with water is helpful!
Tip #4: Make sure to walk your dog in the early morning or late evening. These times of day are cooler and your pet has less chance of overheating. Also, if you are walking on the sidewalk, the cement won’t be as hot on your dogs feet. This can be a serious issue and cause burns on the bottom of their feet.
Tip #5: If you think your dog is overheating, make sure to allow them to rest in a cool, darker place. Wet down their paws with cool water, place in AC and give them space. If you are truly concerned, definitely seek medical care. Dogs can get heat stroke and this can be a critical condition.
Hopefully these tips are helpful to you and will allow you and your dog to have a sunny, fun-filled summer!

 

Fecal Tests: Poop is important!

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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.

Cat-Roundworm-

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!

Sites:

https://www.vet.k-state.edu/vhc/services/phc/intestinal-parasites.html

https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/giardia/prevention-control-pets.html

https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/animals.html

 

Keep your pet’s safe over the 4th of July!

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.

July Fourth Safety Tips for pets!

July Fourth Safety Tips for pets!

Tips to traveling with your pet

how to

Now is the time when people are traveling a lot more due to summer break and time off! If you want your family pet to be included in your travel plans, here are a few tips for a successful trip.

Firstly, know where you are going and what regulations that specific destination state/country has for importing animals. If you are planning to take your pet on an international trip some countries require specific tests that may take some time to get back-so give yourself that time and get your plans started as early as possible. Another thing to know, is that for most international locations, an accredited veterinarian has to examine and write the health certificate. So, finding a hospital who has an accredited veterinarian is important. Here at Clinton Vet, Dr. Santelli is accredited. Also, not a lot of people know this, but some states even require certain vaccines/preventatives before a pet can travel to that location. These health certificates state that your pet is healthy enough to travel, up to date on vaccines and will not carry diseases into another area.

Secondly, if you are flying with your pet, contact the airline you are flying with and make sure you have everything in place for your pet. They may require extra fees or a specific regulated carrier for your pet to be in if they are flying with you in cabin. They also have certain weight restrictions for animals in cabin so make sure you are aware of that weight regulation. Make sure any carrier or container your pet travels in, is clearly marked with your information and your pets information. This will help prevent any mistakes or lost pets. Also, making sure your animal has an updated ID tag/collar will help as well. If you are driving with your pet, make sure to make frequent stops to allow your animals relief and time to get out and walk around.  For our feline friends, sometimes having a medium dog crate with enough space for blankets, a small litter box and some food/water allows your cat to have the space they need and reduces anxiety. This leads us to the third tip, how to help the anxious pet when traveling.

Anxiety. We all know sometimes traveling with our pets can cause them great anxiety. Which is why knowing and anticipating this stress allows you to plan accordingly. There are things such as calming treats, pheromone or stress sprays/collars and thunder shirts which are all great components to help combat stress. Also, if you know a long trip in the car is coming up, taking your pet on small frequent trips can help de-sensitize them to the car rides. But in the end, if all that isn’t enough, you can talk to your veterinarian about mild sedatives or other medications that may help your pet. Each animal is different so not every sedative or medication would work for every animal, which is why having that exam and conversation with your veterinarian is important. Overall, we are trying to make sure your trip with your pet is as safe and comfortable as possible!

A link is provided for you to browse through if you have any more questions about pet travel: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/pet-travel

Plane and car safety tips for animals: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/travel-safety-tips

Yearly 4DX: Why is this important?

fb 4dx

Since last month was heartworm awareness month and as we continue to head into warmer months, let us discuss what a 4Dx test is! What things does it test for? What happens if your dog tests positive for something on the test? All good questions, lets dive in!If you have a dog, then you may have noticed that when you come with him/her for their annual exam, we take them into the treatment room to get some blood. This blood is used to run a test called a 4Dx. This is a snap test used in veterinary medicine to provide a screening process for six diseases. What is neat about this test, is that it can run in 8 minutes—and provides fast, reliable results. It tests for heartworm disease which can be spread via mosquitos and tick-borne pathognes; Lyme, Anaplasma platys, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Ehrlichia ewingi and Ehrlichia canis.

Heartworm disease can be spread by mosquitoes and we do see it up here in the Northeast.  Dogs on heartworm medication can still get infected if they are not on the correct dose or not getting it every month all year round. Which is why testing yearly for heartworm is so very important. Heartworm is treatable and preventable, but it is a very serious disease that can be fatal. We want to make sure we are checking yearly that your dog is negative for this disease!

All the tick borne diseases listed above can have similar symptoms. We can see lethargy, fever, loss of appetite, lameness and joint inflammation but sometimes we are not seeing any symptoms at all. Which is why the test is very important because these diseases can cause issues internally as well. Ehrlichia and Anaplasma can affect the white blood cells and platelets–so we may want to do additional testing like a CBC (blood test) to monitor those levels.  Lyme can seriously impact the kidneys which can cause damage to that organ. The most common and effective treatment for this tick borne diseases is to treat with an oral antibiotic-doxycycline.

The 4Dx test should be done annually because this allows us to catch any positive results and start treatment right away. These vector borne diseases can be dangerous if left untreated!

Yearly, proactive testing is very important even if there is not outward signs of disease. This leads to early detection and thus early treatment and this is the overall goal of preventive care!