Tips For Keeping Your Pet Calm During A Visit To The Veterinarian

VSSF Admin - Monday, February 01, 2016
Does your furry loved one get nervous and stressed out when visiting the veterinarian?

Here are a few ways to help you and your pet stay relaxed during your visit.

Try to leave for the vet when your pet is hungry (unless your veterinarian tells you otherwise). When you arrive at the office offer your pet a tasty treat. Again if your vet has told you to fast then please do so. Some procedures require your pet to arrive on an empty stomach, such as blood work and surgery. So always check with your veterinarian first. Try and make your visits a positive experience rather than a negative one. This is essential when introducing a new furry family member to your veterinarian.

The waiting room can be a frighting place. If your pet gets nervous in the lobby because of all the people and all the other pets ask if you can be placed in a exam room while you wait. If there are no rooms available, ask if you can stay in your car or outside. A walk can be very distracting and make them more comfortable. 

If it's your very first visit, make arrangements ahead of time to complete the needed paper work. This way you will be able to focus on your pet and not have the anxiety of filling out paperwork while trying to keep them calm. Our pets can feed off our emotions. So if they sense we are nervous, they will be nervous. 

If you are visiting with your cat the carrier can sometimes be the worst part of the visit. Don't try and put your furry feline in a carrier for the first time just prior to your appointment. Always leave the carrier out a few days before. Make it an inviting place to hang out, by placing some treats, toys and a comfy bed inside. Make it feel like a home rather than a cage.

Once you arrive, again if your cat is really nervous asked to be placed in a room or stay in your car. Putting a towel over the cage while sitting in the lobby can be helpful also.

Conditioning your furry loved one can probably be the most helpful. Early positive visits can help build trust and prevent that fear from even developing. Bring your pet in just for a friendly visit and introduce them to the facility and the staff. Let us offer treats and just fuss over them. 

A friendly visit from time to time can be the best medicine. Then when they do have to come in for an exam or a procedure it won't be such a scary place. Our goal is to make them feel at home and enjoy their visit with us.

Kennel Cough

VSSF Admin - Wednesday, January 27, 2016
By Wendy C. Brooks, DVM, DipABVP 
Educational Director, VeterinaryPartner.com


Kennel cough is an infectious bronchitis of dogs characterized by a harsh, hacking cough that most people describe as sounding like “something stuck in my dog’s throat.” This bronchitis may be of brief duration and mild enough to warrant no treatment at all or it may progress all the way to a life-threatening pneumonia depending on which infectious agents are involved and the immunological strength of the patient. An uncomplicated kennel cough runs a course of a week or two and entails frequent fits of coughing in a patient who otherwise feels active and normal. Uncomplicated cases do not involve fever or listlessness, just lots of coughing.

Numerous organisms may be involved in a case of kennel cough; it would be unusual for only one agent to be involved. Infections with the following organisms frequently occur concurrently to create a case of kennel cough:

  • Bordetella bronchiseptica (bacteria)
  • Parainfluenza virus
  • Adenovirus type 2
  • Canine distemper virus
  • Canine influenza virus
  • Canine herpesvirus (very young puppies)
  • Mycoplasma canis (a single-cell organism that is neither virus nor bacterium)
  • Canine reovirus.

The classical combination for uncomplicated kennel cough is infection with parainfluenza or adenovirus Type 2 with Bordetella bronchiseptica. Infections involving the distemper virus or canine influenza are more prone to progessing to pneumonia but pneumonia can readily result in any dog or puppy that is sufficiently young, stressed, or debilitated. 

Not sure what a Coughing Dog sounds like?

Dogs can make an assortment of respiratory sounds. Usually a cough is recognizable but it is important to be aware of another sound called a reverse sneeze. The reverse sneeze is often mistaken for a cough, a choking fit, sneezing, retching, or even gasping for breath. In fact, the reverse sneeze represents a post-nasal drip or tickle in the throat. It is considered normal especially for small dogs or dogs and only requires attention if it is felt to be excessive. The point here is to know a cough when you see one. A cough can be dry or productive, meaning it is followed by a gag, swallowing motion, production of foamy mucus (not to be confused with vomiting). Here are some videos that might help.

Coughing Dog (with Productive Cough):


Note: we have received a great deal of email from people who have viewed this video, compared it to what their own dog is doing and concluded their dog has kennel cough. This video is meant to demonstrate coughing in general. It is important to note that there are many causes of coughing and the nature of the cough does not generally reflect on its cause.

Reverse Sneezing Dog:


A coughing dog that has a poor appetite, fever, and/or listlessness should be evaluated for pneumonia.

How Infection Occurs

An infected dog sheds infectious bacteria and/or viruses in respiratory secretions. These secretions become aerosolized and float in the air where they can be inhaled by a healthy dog. Obviously, crowded housing and suboptimal ventilation play important roles in the likelihood of transmission but organisms may also be transmitted on toys, food bowls or other objects.

The normal respiratory tract has substantial safeguards against invading infectious agents. The most important of these is probably what is called the mucociliary escalator. This safeguard consists of tiny hair-like structures called cilia that protrude from the cells lining the respiratory tract and extend into a coat of mucus over them. The cilia beat in a coordinated fashion through the lower and more watery mucus layer called the sol. A thicker mucus layer called the gel floats on top of the sol. Debris, including infectious agents, get trapped in the sticky gel and the cilia move them upward towards the throat where the collection of debris and mucus may be coughed up and/or swallowed.

The mucociliary escalator is damaged by the following:

  • shipping stress
  • crowding stress
  • heavy dust exposure
  • cigarette smoke exposure
  • infectious agents (as listed previously)
  • cold temperature
  • poor ventilation.

Without this, a fully functional mucociliary escalator or invading bacteria, especially Bordetella bronchiseptica, the chief agent of kennel cough, may simply march down the airways unimpeded.

Bordetella bronchiseptica organisms have some tricks of their own as well:

  • They are able to bind directly to cilia, rendering them unable to move within 3 hours of contact.
  • They secrete substances that disable the immune cells normally responsible for consuming and destroying bacteria.

Because it is common for Bordetella to be accompanied by at least one other infectious agent (such as one of the viruses listed below), kennel cough is actually a complex of infections rather than infection by one agent.

Classically, dogs get infected when they are kept in a crowded situation with poor air circulation and lots of warm air (i.e., a boarding kennel, vaccination clinic, obedience class, local park, animal shelter, animal hospital waiting room, or grooming parlor). In reality, most causes of coughing that begin acutely in a dog are due to infectious causes and usually represent some form of kennel cough.

Dogs are typically sick for 1-2 weeks. Infected dogs shed Bordetella organism for 2-3 months following infection.

How is Diagnosis Made?

Usually the history of exposure to a crowd of dogs within the proper time frame, plus typical examination findings (coughing dog that otherwise feels well) is adequate to make the diagnosis. Radiographs show bronchitis and are particularly helpful in determining if there is a complicating pneumonia.

Recently, PCR (polymerase chain reaction) panels have become available in many reference laboratories. Using technology to amplify the presence of DNA in a swab, the lab is able to test for most of the kennel cough infectious agents listed. This knowledge is helpful in guiding therapy and understanding expectations.

How is Kennel Cough Treated?

Although most cases will go away on their own, we like to think we can hasten recovery with antibiotics to directly kill the Bordetella organism. Kennel cough may be treated with cough suppressants to provide comfort during natural recovery. Alternatively, antibiotics and cough suppressants can be combined.

Prevention through Vaccination

Vaccination is only available for: Bordetella bronchiseptica, canine adenovirus type 2, canine parainfluenza virus, canine distemper, and canine influenza. Infections with other members of the kennel cough complex cannot be prevented. Vaccine against adenovirus type 2, parainfluenza, and canine distemper is generally included in the basic puppy series and subsequent  boosters (the DHPP or  distemper-parvo shot).  For Bordetella bronchiseptica, vaccination can either be given as a separate injection or as a nasal immunization. There is some controversy regarding which method provides a better immunization or if a combination of both formats is best.

Nasal Vaccine
Intranasal vaccination may be given as early as 3 weeks of age and immunity generally lasts 12 to 13 months. The advantage is that the local immunity is stimulated right at the site where the natural infection would try to take hold.

It takes four days to generate a solid immune response after intranasal vaccination, so it is best if vaccination is given at least four days prior to the exposure. Some dogs will have some sneezing or nasal discharge in the week following intranasal vaccination; this should clear up on its own. As a general rule, nasal vaccination provides faster immunity than injectable vaccination.

Nasal vaccines for Bordetella generally also include vaccine against parainfluenza virus and some also include vaccine against adenovirus type 2.

Injectable Vaccine
Injectable vaccination is a good choice for aggressive dogs who may bite if their muzzle is approached. For puppies, injectable vaccination provides good systemic immunity as long as two doses are given (approximately one month apart) after age 4 months. Boosters are generally given annually. Some dogs experience a small lump under the skin at the injection site. This should resolve without treatment.


If boarding is planned and more than 6 months have passed since the last booster shot, ideally the vaccine should be boosted 5 days or more before the start of boarding.

Bordetella bronchiseptica vaccination may not prevent infection. In some cases, vaccination minimizes symptoms of illness but does not entirely prevent infection. This is true whether nasal or injectable vaccine is used.

Dogs that have recovered from Bordetella bronchiseptica are typically immune to reinfection for 6 to 12 months.

What if Kennel Cough doesn't Improve?

As previously noted, this infection is generally self-limiting. It should be at least improved partially after one week of treatment. If no improvement has been observed in this time, a re-check exam (possibly including radiographs of the chest) would be a good idea. Failure of kennel cough to resolve suggests an underlying condition. Kennel cough can activate a previously asymptomatic collapsing trachea or the condition may have progressed to pneumonia. There is also another respiratory infection called canine influenza, which seemed to be a racing greyhound issue exclusively until late 2005. This infection produces fever and pneumonia but starts looking like a routine kennel cough. This particular infection is much more severe, highly contagious, but for now seems to be uncommon.

If you have questions about a coughing dog, do not hesitate to bring them to your veterinarian, or use the Ask A Vet feature on the home page of Veterinary Partner.

Date Published: 1/1/2001
Date Reviewed/Revised: 11/27/2012

Dietary Management in Patients with Congestive Heart Failure

VSSF Admin - Saturday, January 16, 2016

An often neglected component of the management of any patient with an illness is diet modification.  Generally speaking, patients at high risk for or those with a history of congestive heart failure should be on at least a moderately sodium (salt) restricted diet.  This means that the diet should contain no more than 100 mg of sodium per 100 gram dry weight.  Most senior or geriatric-formulated dog foods meet this criterion.  There are prescription diets available that are moderate to severely sodium-restricted (i.e. less than 50 mg sodium per 100 gram dry weight).  By limiting the dietary intake of sodium, we can help control the fluid retention that occurs with congestive heart failure.  This becomes more of an issue the longer a patient lives with congestive heart failure.  Many “end-stage” patients on multiple diuretics require quite strict sodium intake control.  It is important, however, to keep in mind that patients that are ill may have a poor appetite, and sodium-restricted diets tend to be less palatable.  This is especially true for cats.  Sometimes it is more important to keep animals with a poor appetite eating – whatever they are willing to eat – than it is to focus on exactly what they are eating.  Home-cooked meals can be useful.  Owners should be aware not to add sodium to whatever it is they are preparing.  Ingredients such as chicken or beef stock/broth, which tend to have large amounts of sodium, should be avoided. 


 Many sodium-restricted diets for dogs and cats are available by prescription from your regular veterinarian.  Depending on the presence or absence of other concurrent problems, some may be better for a particular patient than others, and consultation with your regular veterinarian and/or a board-certified veterinary internal medicine specialist or cardiologist is advised.  The list below (from Plumb’s Veterinary Drug Handbook, 6th Ed., Donald C. Plumb, Blackwell Publishing, © 2008) is ordered by the most to least amount of dietary sodium:


            Canine Prescription Diet                                                  Sodium (mg/100 kcal)



Modified Formula (Royal Canin/IVD) canned                      83

Early Cardiac Support (Eukanuba/IVD) dry                         61

g/d (Hill’s/Science Diet) canned                                            59

g/d (Hill’s/Science Diet) dry                                                  52

Hepatic LS 14 (Royal Canin/IVD) dry                                  47

Advanced Protection Senior 7+ (Hill’s/Science Diet) dry    43

Early Cardiac EC 22 (Royal Canin/IVD) dry                       43

Modified formula (Royal Canin/IVD) dry                           33

h/d (Hill’s/Science Diet) canned                                          23

Renal MP (Royal Canin/IVD) dry                                       22

CV (Purina) canned                                                             20

Renal LP (Royal Canin/IVD) dry                                        18               

h/d (Hill’s/Science Diet) dry                                                17

Renal LP (Royal Canin/IVD) canned                                  15


Feline Prescription Diet                                                    Sodium (mg/100 kcal)



g/d (Hill’s/Science Diet) dry                                                77

g/d (Hill’s/Science Diet) canned                                          76

k/d (Hill’s/Science Diet) canned                                          70

k/d chicken (Hill’s/Science Diet) canned                             68

k/d (Hill’s/Science Diet) dry                                                 58

Modified Formula (Royal Canin/IVD) dry                           49

Modified Formula (Royal Canin/IVD) canned                      47

l/d (Hill’s/Science Diet) canned                                             43

CV Formula (Purina) canned                                                 40

Renal LP (Royal Canin/IVD) dry                                           35

 Patients eating severely salt-restricted diets should probably have some supplemental protein, such as plain boiled chicken or beef.   Diets with very low sodium content may not contain adequate amounts of protein.  Many patients with severe, end-stage congestive heart failure, especially right-sided heart failure, will develop chronic muscle wasting secondary to cardiac cachexia.  These patients essentially develop poor nutrient absorption from their gastrointestinal tracts due to chronic congestion from heart failure. 


 Sometimes cooking for the patient at home is warranted if they are unwilling to eat regular food.  Generally, plain boiled chicken or beef with plain white rice or pasta is okay on a short-term basis for patients with congestive heart failure.  This is especially the case if the patient is having gastrointestinal upset and/or diarrhea.  Hill’s does have a homemade canine recipe for a sodium-restricted diet (approximately 50 mg of sodium per 100 gram dry weight) and it is listed below: 



            ¼ lb. ground round or other lean beef

            2 cups cooked white rice without salt

            1 tablespoon vegetable oil

            2 t (9 grams) dicalcium phosphate (Drug and health food store, substitute bone meal)

            balanced vitamin/mineral supplement


           Cook beef in skillet, retaining fat, stirring until lightly browned. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.  Keep covered in refrigerator.  Yields 1 lb.  Feed a sufficient amount to maintain body weight.


            Body Weight (lb)                                     Approximate Daily Feeding (lb)


            5                                                          1/3

            10                                                         1/2

            20                                                         1

            40                                                         1 3/4

            60                                                         2 1/3

            80                                                         2 3/4

            100                                                       3 1/3

 It is important to emphasize that we should strive to keep our pets with congestive heart failure eating.  Many patients are on multiple medications, and if they don’t eat and/or drink enough to compensate, they may become dehydrated and ill.  Sometimes treats are okay, but in patients with end-stage disease, we typically need to avoid treats.  Most commercially available dog treats are LOADED with sodium and should be avoided.  Look for LOW SALT treats.  Cats frequently become quite picky eaters, especially if they are otherwise ill.  In many cases, prescription low-sodium diets are not always realistic for these patients, and just keeping them eating anything may be a challenge. 

Nick Schroeder DVM DACVIM (cardiology)

New Years Resolutions For Our Pets

VSSF Admin - Saturday, January 02, 2016
  • Its the start to a new year. Many of you may have received a new pet for Christmas. Please remember this is a lifetime commitment. They rely on us for everything. Maybe some of you already have fur babies, and got a little behind in their care last year.  Well it's a new year so lets all make some new years resolutions for our furry family members...
  • Be sure your pet is current on vaccinations. This will prevent illness and the spread of illness and keep your pet healthy. It's also required by law.
  • Be sure your pet has proper identification should he get lost. A collar with a tag including your name, address and phone number, as well as an alternate phone number. You should also have current rabies tags on your animals.
  • Consider having a microchip inserted. This is a simple, non-surgical procedure that will ensure your pet's return if it winds up in an animal shelter.
  • If you haven't already, get your pet spayed or neutered. This will prevent pet overpopulation. We have too many dogs and cats out there that are looking for their forever home. Let's not add to the problem. It also helps reduce the chances for cancer in both males and females, It will also help eliminate your pet's urge to roam and mark. 
  • Keeping your pets weight under control. This is a tuff one. They look at us with those eyes, and it can be so hard to resist, but it will save you form many health issues down the line.
  •  Heartworm preventive, make sure to have him tested for heartworm and begin the monthly preventive.
  • These are all such minor things that can make such a difference in our fur babies lives. Please lets all make sure we stick to these few commitments to keep your furry family members around for years to come! HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!

Do's and Don'ts This Holiday Season

VSSF Admin - Monday, December 14, 2015

Here's a good article from PetMD on keeping our furry loved ones safe this holiday season.

Keeping your furry family members safe during the holidays can be a difficult task. There are the ornaments, plants, presents, lights -- oh, and who could forget the Christmas tree (if do you decide to put one up this year)? Let's take a look at some simple steps that will allow your pets to join in the holiday fun this year, while avoiding any trips to the animal emergency room.


Christmas Tree Tips:


1. Place your Christmas tree in a corner, blocked off from your pet's wanting eyes. If this doesn't keep your dog or cat from attempting to jump onto the tree, you can place aluminum foil, a plastic drink bottle filled with knick knacks, or anything else that creates noise on the tree's bottom limbs to warn you of an impending tree disaster.


2. Tinsel can add a nice sparkling touch to the tree, but make sure you hang it up out of your pet's reach. Ingesting the tinsel can potentially block their intestines, which is generally only remedied through surgical means.


3. Do not put lights on the tree's lower branches. Not only can your pet get tangled up in the lights, they are a burning hazard. Additionally, your dog or cat may inadvertently get shocked by biting through the wire.


4. Ornaments need to be kept out of reach, too. In addition to being a choking andintestinal blockage hazard, shards from broken ornaments may injure paws, mouths, or other parts of your pet's body.


5. For those buying a live Christmas trees this year, keep the area free and clear of pine needles. While they may not seem dangerous, the needles can puncture your pet's intestines if ingested.


Other Great Holiday Item Tips:


1. Did you know holly, mistletoe, and poinsettia plants are poisonous to dogs or cats? If you normally use these plants to decorate your home, they should be kept in an area your pet cannot reach.


2. Edible tree decorations -- whether they be ornaments, or cranberry or popcorn strings -- are like time bombs waiting to happen. These goodies are just too enticing and your pet will surely tug at them, knocking down your wonderfully decorated spruce.


3. Burning candles should be placed on high shelves or mantels, out of your pet's way -- there's no telling where a wagging tail may end up. Homes with fireplaces should use screens to avoid accidental burns.


4. To prevent any accidental electrocutions, any exposed indoor or outdoor wires should be taped to the wall or the sides of the house.


5. When gift wrapping, be sure to keep your pet away. Wrapping paper, string, plastic, or cloth could cause intestinal blockages. Scissors are another hazard, and they should be kept off floors or low tables.


Please remember if you do have an emergency we are here for you 24/7/365

We wish all of you a happy and safe holiday season!

Euthanasia- the conversation no one wants to have….

VSSF Admin - Saturday, November 21, 2015

For all animal lovers, euthanasia is a difficult decision to make and perhaps the hardest thing they will ever have to do.  It is when we have to humanely say goodbye to our furry best friend, our family member.  The number one question I always get is, “When will I know it is time?”  Unless medically a veterinarian can determine a pet is suffering and can tell a family that, euthanasia is a decision a family needs to make. I try to get families to either write down or think about all of the things that are important to their pet:  what makes them happy, what makes them wag their tail or purr, what do they like for treats and are they eating, do they like to go on walks and are they still going out with you, or are they hiding?  Etc.  This is important to do especially when we are considering quality of life.  A big difference between veterinary medicine and human medicine (right now) is that we don’t have to watch our furry loved ones suffer.  They don’t know what is going on, they don’t know why they don’t feel well and we can prevent them from suffering, wasting away or living in pain. 

 The second question I typically get is, “Is euthanasia painful?”  The answer is no.  A catheter is placed in your loved ones little arm and here at VSSF, they are administered 2 injections- one is Propofol for sedation and the second is Euthasol for humane euthanasia.  Some pets require an additional sedative.  Typically, the process of euthanasia takes less than one minute.  Afterwards, the doctor listens with their stethoscope for no heartbeat and lets your know when your pet is at peace.  Some families decide to be present during the euthanasia process and others decide not to be, whether it is because it’s too difficult to watch or they want to remember their loving face alive.  Regardless of your choice, here at VSSF we respect your decision.  If you decide not to be with your pet during the euthanasia, it is our promise to you that your pet will get extra love during the process like they are our own pet. 

As you know, VSSF is open 24/7, that means that a doctor is here 24/7 if you need our help or support. 

NOTE:  A veterinarian can say no to performing a euthanasia if they don’t feel it is time for an animal or they don’t believe they are suffering (i.e. if you’re moving and can’t bring your pet, they’re young and healthy and NOT vicious, if you don’t have time to train them, etc)- we can provide options for rescue groups though, recommendations for training or shelters so they can be adopted out into another family. 



Stacey West, DVM

Emergency Veterinarian

Veterinary Specialists of South Florida 

Chocolate Toxicity

VSSF Admin - Sunday, November 01, 2015

With the start of the holiday season coming up, there tends to be an increase in visits to local emergency clinics as pets begin to get into Halloween candy, Thanksgiving dinners, and holiday chocolate and presents.  While there are many human foods that are safe for dogs, such as carrots and cooked green beans, before you decide to share your holiday bounty with your beloved pet, be prepared to think twice about foods that can be toxic to pets that have no negative effects in humans. 

One of these common foods is chocolate.  Toxicity secondary to chocolate ingestion occurs most frequently in dogs, though other species are also susceptible.  The clinical signs seen will vary with each pet based on the size of the pet, type of chocolate ingested, amount of chocolate ingested, and pet’s individual sensitivity to the toxins.  As a general rule, the higher the amount of chocolate ingested and darker the type of chocolate ingested will account for more severe clinical signs and worse overall prognosis. 

So why does chocolate cause problems for pets?  There are two main ingredients that cause toxicity, caffeine and theobromine.  These chemicals (often known as methylxanthines) are readily absorbed from the GI tract and widely distributed throughout the body.  They are metabolized in the liver and will undergo what is termed enterohepatic recycling, meaning a large portion of the chemical will continue to recirculate throughout the body rather than being excreted.  The amount that is excreted is done so through the kidneys and the chemicals will then accumulate in the urine that sits in the bladder.  In the bladder the chemicals can again be reabsorbed into circulation through the bladder wall causing continued toxicity.  It can take 18 hours for half of the concentration of theobromine to be removed from the body and 5 hours for half of the concentration of caffeine.  This delay in excretion and toxin recirculation accounts for lack of improvement and possible progression of clinical signs when no treatment is instituted.

What type of clinical signs are to be expected from these two chemicals?  Typically the first clinical signs following chocolate ingestion are GI signs of vomiting and diarrhea, increased thirst, and restlessness.  These signs typically occur within the first 6 to 12 hours of ingestion.  Further signs indicating a more serious toxicity include very fast or slow heart rates, abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias), difficulty breathing, very high or very low blood pressures, high body temperature, tremoring, seizures, coma and even death.  Often the severity of clinical signs that can be expected can be predicted based on the type and amount of chocolate that was ingested.  By contacting your local veterinarian or poison control hotline, the severity of the toxicity can be quickly determined.

Why is treatment important?  Many times on presentation to a veterinarian, vomiting can be induced causing the removal of a large portion of the chocolate ingested, which can ultimately lead to lesser clinical signs and a better prognosis.  Hospitalization with treatment to help stop and/or decrease further absorption of the chocolate from the GI tract is instituted, as well as treatment to help reduce recirculation of the toxins and increase their excretion.  Pets are monitored for life-threatening arrhythmias, blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature abnormalities, and can be further treated for any additional complications such as vomiting, diarrhea, abnormal heart rates and tremoring/seizure activity.  Typically hospitalization lasts about 24-48 hours unless serious complications arise.  Most animals do not have any permanent or additional complications arise from chocolate toxicity following treatment; however, some pets can develop pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) that can cause them to have further GI signs and abdominal pain, requiring additional treatment.  Pets usually go home on a few days of GI supportive medications.

In summary, chocolate ingestion in pets can cause multiple clinical problems, which are typically based on the amount and type of chocolate ingested, with baking and dark chocolate being the most toxic.  Overall, while chocolate toxicity in pets can be extremely serious and life-threatening, those pets that receive prompt evaluation and treatment will fully recover and go home to their families in no time!


Tea Gluhak, DVM

Chronic Kidney Disease In Cats

VSSF Admin - Thursday, October 22, 2015

“Chronic Kidney Failure” is the term given to the condition wherein the kidneys begin to fail to remove the body’s waste products from the blood.  Kidney failure does not necessarily mean urine excretion ceases.  Kidney failure takes two clinical forms:

  1. Urine production is continued, but does not contain the filtered waste products.  Often urine production is actually increased.
  2. Urine production is decreased or is totally absent.

Kidney failure may occur from exposure to various chemicals or infectious agents, but the primary cause of CHRONIC kidney failure is the process of aging.  The kidneys just wear out!  For most cats, the early signs of impending kidney failure occur at 10-14 years of age.

Early signs of chronic kidney failure include increased water consumption and increased urine production.  When aging decreases the ability of the kidneys to filter the blood efficiently and effectively, the cat’s body responds by increasing blood flow to the kidneys.  More blood flow means more potential exposure of the blood to the kidneys for filtration.  This results in the production of more urine, but not necessarily filled with any more waste products.  Thirst usually increases as the body’s way of replacing the additional urine being drained from the body.  As the kidneys become more ineffective at removing the waste products from the body, clinical signs of decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and bad breath become evident.  In the late stages, mouth ulcers are commonly present.

DIAGNOSIS OF CHRONIC KIDNEY FAILURE is accomplished by several tests.  The first evidence of chronic kidney failure will be changes in the composition of the urine.  Chemical analysis, measurement of specific gravity, and urine sediment examination are important in the evaluation of the urine.  As the disease progresses, blood tests to measure the blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and blood creatinine become important diagnostic tools.

SUCCESSFUL TREATMENT REQUIRES EARLY DETECTION.  The earlier signs of kidney failure are noted, the better chance for prolonging the cat’s quality life.  The best treatment would be a kidney transplant!  However, since that is not yet practical, treatment is directed at helping the kidneys “catch up” with its function of filtering the blood for the body.  This is accomplished through the administration of large quantities of intravenous fluids to “flush out” the blood, by running a lot more fluid through the kidney filtration system. 

The body can still function adequately with only 10% active functioning kidney tissue.  If the kidneys can be helped to “catch up,” hopefully they can then maintain adequate filtration with the help of medications.  This initial treatment may result in long-term kidney function, short-term functioning before problems return again, or no improvement at all.  Unfortunately, there is no test to determine which cat will or will not respond to treatment.

If initial treatment is successful, recommendations will be made to keep the kidneys functioning as long as possible.  The recommendations may include:

  1. High quality, low protein diets.
  2. Potassium supplementation.
  3. Phosphate binders.
  4. Additional oral or parental fluids.
  5. Drugs to stimulate bone marrow production.

Aggressive treatment can add up to 3-4 years to the life of a cat.

Anal Sac Disease

VSSF Admin - Friday, October 16, 2015

What are the anal sacs?

Popularly called ‘anal glands’, these are two small pouches located on either side of the anus at approximately the 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock positions. The sacs are lined with numerous specialized sebaceous (skin) glands that produce a foul smelling secretion. Each sac is connected to the outside by a small duct which opens just inside the anus.

What is their function?

The secretion acts as a territorial marker – a dog’s ‘calling card’. The ‘glands’ are present in both male and female dogs. Normally they empty when the dog defecates. This is why dogs are so interested in one another’s feces.

Why are they important?

Anal gland (sac) disease is very common in dogs. The sacs frequently become impacted, usually due to blocking of the ducts. This is followed by thickening and hardening of the secretion. It is then painful for your dog to pass feces. The secreted material within the anal sacs (glands) forms an ideal medium on which germs can multiply so that an abscess can easily form. Pain increases and sometimes a red, angry swelling will appear on one or both sides of the anus indicating abscessation. These abscesses often burst and release a quantity of greenish yellow or bloody pus. If untreated, the infection can quickly spread and cause severe damage to the anus and rectum.

How will I know if my dog has anal sac problems?

The first sign is often scooting or dragging the rear along the ground. There may be excessive licking or biting, often at the root of the tail rather than the anal area. Anal sac impaction and infection is very painful. Even normally gentle dogs may snap or growl if you touch the tail or anus when they have anal sac disease. If the anal sac ruptures, you may see blood or pus draining from the rectum.

What should I do?

Problems with the anal gland are common in all dogs, regardless of size or breed. If you are concerned that your pet may have an anal sac problem, do not hesitate to call us. Treatment for impaction involves flushing and removal of the solidified material. Since this condition is painful, many pets will require a sedative or an anesthetic. Antibiotics are often prescribed and sometimes instilled into the glands over a period of several days. In advanced cases, surgery may be necessary. 

Is the condition likely to recur?

Many dogs will have recurrent anal sac impaction due to blocking of the secretions in the ducts or the sacs themselves. If this recurs frequently, surgical removal of the sacs is indicated since repeated treatment often results in scarring and narrowing of the duct.

Are anal glands unnecessary for my dog?  Will removal have any adverse effects?  Will my pet miss them?

Anal glands produce the pungent smelling secretion that allows the dog to define his or her territory. For our domesticated dogs, this is unnecessary and will not adversely affect your pet.

Are there any other risks attached to surgery?

This is a specialized surgery. Many veterinarians perform this procedure routinely; however, veterinary surgical specialists may be recommended depending on the severity of your dog’s condition. The primary concern is permanent damage to the nerves that allow the anus to close. This can result in fecal incontinence or the inability to control bowel movements. While this is rare, we want to minimize the risk of any complication for your pet.

Some dogs will experience loose stools or lack of bowel control for one to three weeks following surgery. This resolves without further treatment in the majority of pets.

As with any surgery, there are risks and potential complications. Today’s modern anesthetics and surgical techniques ensure that these risks are minimized. For dogs suffering from chronic anal sac infection or impaction, surgery is the only permanent cure.

My dog is very nervous and sometimes seems to express his own glands. Is this normal?

It is common for dogs to express their anal sacs, particularly if frightened. Some dogs even appear to lack control of the anus or anal sac ducts so that small quantities of fluid will drain out when they are resting. This, of course, leaves an unpleasant lingering odor in the home. For dogs with this condition, surgery may be recommended.

Fall Festivities And Your Pets

VSSF Admin - Sunday, September 06, 2015
We are in the last  couple weeks of Summer and the fall will be upon us. This means the holiday season is just around the corner. We can never stress enough some of the dangers the holidays can bring to our pets. This is the time of the year for family gathering, parties and lots of good times with family and friends. Here are just a few reminders to make sure we keep our fur babies happy and healthy during the fall festivities!

Halloween Candy

In preparation for costume parties and trick-or-treaters, the Halloween festivities are usually accompanied by sweet and chocolaty treats. During this time it is important to keep chocolate treats and sweets away from your pets. Chocolates, in addition to causing an upset stomach, contain caffeine and a toxin called theobromine. In dogs and cats, both the caffeine and theobromine can cause high heart rates, high blood pressure, and rarely seizures. If we know a dog has eaten chocolate then treatment can consist of inducing vomiting, giving medications to prevent absorption of the toxin contained in the chocolate, and sometimes a night in the hospital on IV fluids. It is better to avoid potential exposures to chocolate by keeping the treats out of reach or within a cabinet. If your pet gets into the Halloween candy, it is recommended to have them checked out by a veterinarian to start treatment.

Thanksgiving Holiday Pet Hazards

In this time of plentiful dinners and holiday goodies, it can be hard not to share with our furry household friends. However, it is important to remember that you should avoid feeding your cats and dogs Thanksgiving chocolate treats. Chocolates in addition to causing an upset stomach contain caffeine and a toxin called theobromine. In dogs and cats, both the caffeine and theobromine can cause high heart rates, high blood pressure, and rarely seizures. If we know a dog has eaten chocolate then treatment can consist of inducing vomiting, giving medications to prevent absorption of the toxin contained in the chocolate, and sometimes a night in the hospital on IV fluids. It is better to avoid potential exposures to chocolate by keeping the treats out of reach or within a cabinet. If your pet gets into the thanksgiving chocolate, it is recommended to have them checked out by a veterinarian.

During the Thanksgiving holiday, people often want to share their turkey dinners with their dogs. Most dogs would really enjoy sharing in the festivities but please keep a couple important points in mind. First, you want to avoid giving your dog sweet or fatty foods because this can sometimes cause diarrhea. Also, turkey bones or the turkey carcass should not be fed to dogs and cats. Poultry and turkey bones tend to shatter or sliver and these slivers can get stuck in the back of the throat or stomach. Finally, you should avoid feeding any side dishes that contain raw garlic or onions to your pets. Garlic and onions contain a toxin that can cause anemia in dogs and cats. If your pet does not have a sensitive stomach and you want to share some of the dinner festivities, consider giving them some lean cooked turkey meat and mashed potatoes, but avoid the fatty gravy topping. Vegetables (without lots of butter, garlic or onions) can also be a great treat.

The time of year for holiday and family gatherings can be stressful for pets that are shy, especially cats. Some cats are very social and love to greet your holiday guests; however, most cats tend to be shy, and need to have their own space to feel safe. With lots of company around the holidays, cats can become very anxious or risk injury if they are underfoot. For cats that are timid around strangers or noise, it is best to keep them in a room that is relatively quiet and where they can have access to hiding places and a litter box until the guests are gone.

Following these few tips will make the fall festivities more enjoyable for you and your furry loved ones!

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