VSSF

HurricaneTips, Be Prepared.

VSSF Admin - Wednesday, May 27, 2015

June 1 marks the official beginning of hurricane season in the United States. If you happen to live on the Atlantic or Gulf coasts you already know this … but are you and your pet prepared — or are you waiting until the first storm scare arrives? Don't wait be prepare and remember we are always here for you 24/7 365 days a year. 

 Hurricanes, like floods, brushfires, and tornadoes, can be frightening things to be caught in (and these tips can be applied to those natural disasters, too). But with some forethought and preparation, you can make things easier and safer for you and your furry loved ones.  

 

1. Make a Plan

Simply put, be prepared. Decide on a course of action and make sure you can initiate it at a moment's notice. Have supplies set aside in a safe, easily accessible place. It’s like having candles or a flashlight under the kitchen sink in case of a black out. You may never need them, but if a blackout happens, there’s no need to scramble in the dark, because you know exactly where to go and what to do for light.

 2. Stick to your Plan

Whatever your decision is, stick to it. Otherwise, you may put your pet in real danger. If you decide to leave town at the first sign of warning, then do so as planned. No dilly-dallying. Changing your mind or changing the plan often leads to unnecessary accidents, as you’re no longer prepared.  

 3. Emergency Kit

A pet savvy emergency kit isn’t that much different to yours. Enough water for three days, non-perishable food (include a can opener if needed), a solid carrier, litter, litter box, puppy pads, plastic bags, medicine and medical records for both you and your pet in waterproof containers, extra leash, and a picture of your pet on you in case the worst happens and you get separated. Tags and/or micro chipping your pet will also make it easier to recover, should it get lost. If your pet is micro chipped make sure it is updated through the company in which the chip is supplied.  

 4. Staying In

If you’re staying home to ride out the storm, keep your pet in its carrier or on a leash. You never know when you might be forced to evacuate. And even if that doesn’t happen, you don’t want to be tracking down a petrified pet during the chaos. Therefore, secure your pet before the storm hits.  

 5. Going Out

Stay tuned to the news reports. If you’re told to evacuate, you must do so at first warning. Moreover, it helps to have everything ready to go. We suggest a backpack that holds all the essentials for you and your pet. And make sure you know ahead of time exactly where all the shelters are and how to get there.  

 6. Stay Calm

Whether you leave early, choose to stay, or are required to evacuate due to the storm's severity or due to house damage, remember to stay calm. Your pet can sense your emotions, so a calming demeanor can lead to a less-panicked pet. Oh, and don't forget to speak to your pet in a calm, soothing voice, too.  

 

Please plan ahead to make this Hurricane season a safe one if the need should arise. 

 

Summer Time Safety Tips

VSSF Admin - Saturday, May 16, 2015
 Even though the weather has become a lot warmer, don’t allow your dog to become a couch potato. He still needs exercise, although it’s essential to take some extra precautions to keep him healthy and safe no matter how high the mercury rises. Here's a great article we found to ensure your furry loved one has a safe and fun summer.

Don’t overdo it: During the summer months, it’s especially important to take things slowly with your dog to prevent him from overheating. Keep exercise sessions short and sweet—a shorter walk outdoors followed by a break and then a play session indoors may be just the right mix. And on especially hot days, try to exercise indoors as much as possible to keep your dog cool and comfortable. 

Avoid the hottest part of the day: In general, the sun is at its peak between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., so it’s best to exercise your dog in the early morning or evening, when temperatures are cooler. 

Provide lots of water: Did you know that your dog’s body comprises approximately 70 percent water? Water is an essential nutrient that keeps his cells functioning properly; without it, his body will shut down. While exercising, a dog sweats primarily through his paw pads, so it’s crucial that he have access to cool, fresh water at all times to replace what he’s expending. If he’s playing outdoors, place a water bowl in a shady area to ensure easy access. Go out and buy a plastic kiddy pool fill up and put in the shade so they can go in and cool themselves. Hose time can also be a great exercise and helps keep them cool at the same time.  

Respect your dog’s breed: Certain breeds, like the Pug and Bulldog, are considered “brachycephalic,” which means that they have flattened heads and shortened muzzles. How does this affect exercise in warm weather? The structure of their faces makes it harder for these types of breeds to breathe, so they are extra sensitive to prolonged, strenuous activity and more prone to heatstroke. 

Apply sunscreen: It may seem odd, but dogs can become sunburned, just as humans do! Light-colored and shorthair breeds are especially susceptible. For the best protection, apply a pet-specific sunscreen to your dog’s ears, nose, muzzle, and anywhere you see pink skin. If your dog is light-colored or shorthair, spray him all over with a pet-safe sunscreen. 

Supervise all activities: No matter which activities you and your dog enjoy, supervise him at all times. For example, swimming can be a fun summertime sport, and many dogs enjoy the water immensely—but the swimming pool can be a dangerous place. Make sure that the pool is fenced to prevent your pooch from accidentally falling in, and install stairs to make getting in and out of the water a breeze. 

Observe your dog’s condition: Whenever you and your dog are outdoors in warm weather, watch for signs of overexertion or heatstroke. A dog with heatstroke may display symptoms such as rapid breathing, a pounding heartbeat, and high body temperature. Call the vet immediately if your dog experiences this emergency medical condition. Your best bet is to prevent the problem in the first place by limiting strenuous outdoor exercise on warm days and by never leaving your pup in poorly ventilated areas. 

The dog days of summer don’t have to be long and miserable. By following just a few exercise safety tips, you and your dog can beat the heat with no problem! 



What Is Fading Kitten Syndrome

VSSF Admin - Saturday, May 02, 2015

Fading Kitten Syndrome can be heart breaking because sometimes there is nothing anyone can do to save a kitten with the condition. FKS, as it is known is not a disease but rather a variety of symptoms with the first being the death of a kitten for no apparent reason.

Owners or breeders who are extremely aware of the symptoms might be able to do all that's necessary to save kittens with the condition, but this does rather depend on the causes of it. Many people who make it their mission to rescue and foster nursing or pregnant cats and who regularly foster kittens, get to know the symptoms. Feral cats are especially prone to FKS which is why rescue centers tend to spay all cats in their care and this includes pregnant females.

This is deemed the safest route with some vets referring to the procedure as “Feline abortion – an unnerving necessity”. It's the first six to eight weeks that kittens are at most serious risk of being the victims of Fading Kitten Syndrome, although some vets believe people should use twelve weeks as a guideline to when kittens are most at risk.

The Symptoms To Look Out For

  • Kittens are extremely light at birth which means it is often the runt of the litter that will become the “Fader”.
  • Kittens are unable to nurse properly whereas a healthy kitten will nurse pretty quickly. Very often the “fader” in the litter just does not have enough strength to grasp hold of mom's nipple. The kitten does not get the necessary colostrum within the first 72 hours which is the all important first milk that mom produces. This milk gives kittens the antibodies they need to combat many illnesses and is known as giving “passive immunity” to the newborns. Luckily, in these modern times there are a few companies that manufacture colostrum for kittens – one of which is Just Born Milk Replacer Colostrum.
  • Mom abandons the kitten/kittens because instinctively, she knows that they are weak – this is very much the case of the “survival of the fittest”.
  • Kittens suffer from hypothermia because they are not able to regulate their own body heat and temperatures and as such rely totally on mom. Should mom abandon a kitten, they will very rapidly develop hypothermia. Kittens become lethargic with their gums and mouth turning a bluish color instead of nice healthy pink color. Sadly, kittens die soon after unless you are there to intervene and provide the necessary warmth. This will revive the little creature but then you will need to feed them the right type of food so they can build up their strength again.

What Causes Fading Kitten Syndrome?

When it comes to what causes this condition, it gets a little complicated because you have to look at the cause or causes of why it first happens, and then offer the right sort of treatment in an attempt to save any kittens with the condition. However, below are a few of the most common causes of FKS:

  • Mom suffered some sort of disease or malnutrition during gestation. This can be the cause of the condition in her kittens when they are born. When mom has a first litter during the “kitten season”, the kittens are usually strong because she is in good condition. The problem arises if mom is allowed to have more than one litter in the course of a year – cats are able to have up to five litters over the course of 12 months! If mom has more than one litter, the chances are her kittens won't get all they need during the embryo stage and therefore risk being “Faders” simply because mom might be weaker or she may not have been given enough food to support her pregnancy.
  • Infectious diseases of which they are several. can very rapidly take hold and kittens will suffer the consequences. If you have rescued a pregnant feral cat it is really important to keep her away from any other domestic cats you may have in your home. Everything you use for the feral mom must be thoroughly sterilized so that no infection can be transmitted to any other cats.
  • Fleas and other parasites can really do a lot of damage if a kitten or kittens become infested. The kittens will very rapidly become anemic or suffer from hemobartonella – both conditions are very dangerous for young kittens and death is normally the outcome.

Some kittens may appear perfectly normal and healthy when they are first born which can be very confusing when they suddenly die for no apparent reason. However, the kittens were born with what is known as an “occult disease” at birth which brings on Fading Kitten Syndrome and unless you spot there is something wrong and act quickly, kittens usually die pretty quickly.

How To Treat The Condition

Good nursing care is essential if you think a kitten or kittens may have Fading Kitten Syndrome. It takes a lot to notice there is something wrong with the youngster, but then constant care is needed if the kitten is to survive. However, the prognosis should always be guarded. A healthy kitten should weigh in at around 100g when they are first born and then put on around 10-15g a day thereafter – if you are worried, you will have to carefully monitor the kitten's weight on a daily basis and then decide how to proceed with the help of your vet.

If you notice one or more of the kittens doesn't seem keen to fight for their food, then you will need to feed them the correct colostrum within the first 72 hours and then continue feeding them a replacement kitten milk in order for them to gain strength and survive. Kittens that are too quiet should cause concern too, because this could be an indication there is a problem.

You will also need to make sure the kitten or kittens are kept warm so that hypothermia does not set in. If the mother cat is suffering from mastitis, then you would need to get her to the vet as soon as possible. You would also need to ask the vet for a food supplement to feed the kittens. However, vets always remain guarded as to whether kittens will survive after becoming “Faders”, but this never means every effort should not be made to save them.

If you are thinking about rescuing a nursing mom and are not sure about her past or how she has been treated or vaccinated, then you should always keep her away from any of your existing cats. When the kittens are born, you would need to keep a close eye on them from the word go. The first 72 hours are crucial for kittens because this is when they take mum's first milk known as colostrum. If a kitten does not get this first milk, you would have to supplement it as previously mentioned so you give the kitten a chance of survival.

HEATSTROKE

VSSF Admin - Sunday, April 26, 2015
To our Florida Furry Friends:
 
It's that time that we worry about HEAT STROKE!  Did you know that this is a LIFE-THREATENING emergency?
 
Heat stroke occurs most commonly dogs- any dog is at risk, but obese and brachycephalic (short nose) dogs are predisposed.  It can occur if a dog is left in a hot car for too long, is playing/running outside or is left outside without any shade or water.  The most common misconception is that if you run your dog same time every day, your pup won't get heat stroke the next day you run with them... unfortunately, this is false as the humidity and/or temperature can vary.
 
Clinical signs of heat stroke including excessive panting, staggering, collapse or altered mentation.  We worry about four body systems with heat injury including kidneys (acute kidney failure), gastrointestinal (vomiting, diarrhea), blood (clotting problems) and neurological (altered mentation, seizures).  Dogs can also develop injury to their liver or become hypoglycemic (low blood sugar).  If you suspect your dog is experiencing heat stroke, emergency cooling should begin immediately at home or in the hospital, stopping cooling methods at 103F to avoid further problems.  If you start cooling at home, please head to the hospital ASAP for further treatment and diagnostic testing.
 
Heat stroke can also occur from multiple, untreated seizures or even an upper airway obstruction.  Regardless of the cause though, we are here to help and treat your loved ones!  Our hospital is fully staffed with veterinarians and technicians 24/7 that are well experienced and trained with this emergency.  Please let us know if you need us!
 
Stacey West, DVM
Emergency Veterinarian
Veterinary Specialists of South Florida

Dangerous Bufo Toads

VSSF Admin - Saturday, April 11, 2015

Well it's just about that time again...the rainy season is just around the corner and that means BUFO TOADS! Please read share and help educate family and friends on these deadly creatures. Unfortunately once we get into the season not a week goes by that we don't see at least one patient come in who has come in contact with these creatures. We are sad to say the outcome is not always a good one. The more prepared and educated we are the better chance our fur babies will survive. 

Many people that are new to Florida do not know about the dangers of the Bufo Toad that can kill your pet within minutes. Giant Toads - also called Cane Toads or Marine Toads - range in size from 6 – 9 inches and may weigh more than 2 pounds. These toads are toxic at almost every stage of their lives, as eggs, tadpoles and especially as adults. When threatened, adult toads secrete a white milky substance from the large parotid glands on the back of their head. The secretion is a potent bufotoxin, a skin irritant to humans and highly toxic to dogs and cats. Similar to the heart stimulant digitalis, the bufotoxin produced by the toad can induce a heart attack in dogs and cats. Sign of toxicity are profuse drooling, foaming at the mouth, red inflamed gums, collapsing, seizures, pawing at mouth and eyes. Depending on the size of your pet and the amount of toxins ingested they can die within minutes. Dogs weighing as much as 80 lbs have died after biting a giant toad. They are attracted to lights, water and food dishes left outside.  They can secrete their toxins on your pets dish and become poisoned without even coming in contact with the toad. Bring in water and food dishes. Bufo toads are most active in the early morning hours and when the sun goes down. But please don't let your guard down, during the daylight hours they can still be found. It is best to keep your dog on leash during these times.

If your dog does come in contact, wash out their mouth with a hose, house faucet, but water ONLY and a sideways rinse. Do not allow the water to go down their throat. You can also wipe their mouths with a wet wash cloth and rush them to your Veterinarian immediately.


 


Pet First Aid Awarness

VSSF Admin - Wednesday, April 01, 2015
Do you know what to do in the event of an emergency, do you have a first aid kit for your fur baby?

Pets are an important part of many families, and April is Pet First Aid Awareness Month is the perfect time to ensure you have the skills to take care of your furry family member.

Pet First Aid Tips

Do you know what to do during a pet emergency? Here are some common emergency tips:

To determine if your cat or dog is dehydrated, pull up on the skin between the shoulder blades. It should spring right back; if it stays tented this is a sign of dehydration.
Signs of pet poisoning include bleeding externally or internally, dilated pupils, drooling or foaming at the mouth, seizures or other abnormal mental state or behavior.
If your pet has a seizure, make sure it is in a safe place, but do not restrain the animal. Keep your hands away from its mouth as your pet may not know who you are during a seizure and could bite you.
Signs of heat stroke or heat exhaustion include collapse; body temperature of 104 degrees F or above; bloody diarrhea or vomiting; wobbliness; excessive panting or difficulty breathing; increase heart rate; mucous membranes very red; and increased salivation.
Pets bitten by other animals need vet attention to prevent the wound (even if minor) from becoming infected and to check for internal wounds. Never break up a dogfight yourself because you could be bitten.
If your pet is bleeding, apply direct pressure using gauze over the bleeding site. If blood soaks through, apply more gauze (do not removed soaked gauze) until you can reach a veterinary hospital.

Just as we have first aid kits for humans we should have the for our pets. Below are some items you could include in your kit.

Pet first-aid book
Phone numbers: your veterinarian, the nearest emergency-veterinary clinic (along with directions!) and a poison-control center or hotline (such as the ASPCA poison-control center, which can be reached at 1-800-426-4435)
Paperwork for your pet (in a waterproof container or bag): proof of rabies-vaccination status, copies of other important medical records and a current photo of your pet (in case he gets lost)
Nylon leash
Self-cling bandage (bandage that stretches and sticks to itself but not to fur—available at pet stores and from pet-supply catalogs)
Muzzle or strips of cloth to prevent biting (don't use this if your pet is vomiting, choking, coughing or otherwise having difficulty breathing)
Basic first-aid supplies
Absorbent gauze pads
Adhesive tape
Antiseptic wipes, lotion, powder or spray
Blanket (a foil emergency blanket)
Cotton balls or swabs
Gauze rolls
Hydrogen peroxide (to induce vomiting—do this only when directed by a veterinarian or a poison-control expert)
Ice pack
Non-latex disposable gloves
Petroleum jelly (to lubricate the thermometer)
Rectal thermometer (your pet's temperature should not rise above 103°F or fall below 100°F)
Scissors (with blunt ends)
Sterile non-stick gauze pads for bandages
Sterile saline solution (sold at pharmacies)
Tweezers
A pillowcase to confine your cat for treatment
A pet carrier
Other useful items
Diphenhydramine (Benadryl®), if approved by a veterinarian for allergic reactions. A veterinarian must tell you the correct dosage for your pet's size.
Ear-cleaning solution
Expired credit card or sample credit card (from direct-mail credit-card offers) to scrape away insect stingers
Glucose paste or corn syrup (for diabetic dogs or those with low blood sugar)
Nail clippers
Non-prescription antibiotic ointment
Penlight or flashlight
Plastic eyedropper or syringe
Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl) to clean the thermometer
Splints and tongue depressors
Styptic powder or pencil (sold at veterinary hospitals, pet-supply stores, and your local pharmacy)
Temporary identification tag (to put your local contact information on your pet's collar when you travel)
Towels
Needle-nosed pliers

Common-sense advice
In addition to the items listed above, include anything your veterinarian has recommended specifically for your pet.
Check the supplies in your pet's first-aid kit occasionally and replace any items that have expired.
For your family's safety, keep all medical supplies and medications out of the reach of children and pets.

EASTER BASKETS AND YOUR PETS

VSSF Admin - Sunday, March 22, 2015

Whether you are planning to give your pet their own Easter basket, or they just decide to help themselves to one meant for someone else. It is important to be aware there are a few things in a typical Easter basket that can seriously harm our pets.

Candies

Hopefully you are aware of the dangers that chocolate poses to your pets, but be aware that its not the only sweet treat that can do them harm. Many sugar-free gums and candies now contain xylitol, a sugar substitute. Though it may be beneficial for people with diabetes and a high risk of cavities, is highly toxic to dogs.  Even a small amount of xylitol can cause a steep drop in your dog’s blood sugar, leading to seizures, and possible coma or death. At slightly higher doses, xylitol can put your dog into liver failure from which they are unlikely to recover, even with intensive veterinary care.

Easter Grass 

This common filler of Easter baskets is often too tempting a ‘toy’ for pets to stay away from, particularly cats. When ingested, Easter grass has a high likelihood of causing irritation or obstruction of your pet’s intestines. Such digestive problems will likely result in a decrease in energy level and appetite, as well as vomiting and diarrhea. And while the irritation may resolve with at-home care, it just might require several days in the vet hospital too. An obstruction on the other hand, could require surgery to correct. 

Eggs

Whether chocolate, plastic, or real, the eggs found in Easter baskets can cause a variety of problems for your pets. While the dangers of chocolate are well known, the dangers of plastic and real eggs may be less obvious. Plastic eggs can cause digestive and respiratory tract irritation or obstruction when swallowed or inhaled.

Broken pieces of these eggs can also lead to cuts on your pet’s paws and in their mouth. Hard boiled eggs often cause digestive issues when dogs sniff out and eat the eggs leftover from the egg hunt. For your pet’s safety, and your kid’s entertainment, consider writing down where you hid all the eggs, and then be sure they have all been collected before leaving your pet unattended.

Chocolate

We have mentioned this above and this is typically more of a dog hazard, as many dogs have a sweet tooth, a great nose, and the determination to find chocolate hidden or not, but cats may consume chocolate too.

The toxic components in chocolate are theobromine and caffeine, and the level of toxicity is based on the type and quantity of chocolate consumed. 

Different types of chocolate have different amounts of theobromine and caffeine. Dark chocolate contains the highest concentrations and white chocolate contains the least. Early clinical signs are vomiting, diarrhea and trembling


Easter is a great time to spend with family and friends. Make sure all of your guest are aware of these hazards to your furry loved ones, especially young children. If your pet does get into any of these please contact your veterinarian or pet poison control. 



Never Leave Your Pet in a Parked Car

VSSF Admin - Sunday, March 15, 2015

Spring is in the air and our temperatures are now on the rise. Unfortunately every year dogs suffer and die when their guardian makes the mistake of leaving them in a parked car.  Even if it's just for a few minutes while running an errand this is not acceptable. Parking in the shade or leaving the windows cracked is not the solution. 

Parked cars are death traps! On a day where the temperatures are 78 degrees, the temperature in a parked car can soar between 100  and 120 degrees in minutes. On a 90 degrees day the temp can reach as high as 160 degrees in less than 10 minutes. During the 10-15 minutes it takes you to run in the store to pick up a few items for your evening dinner your dog is out in the car suffering. He or she can sustain brain damage or even die from heatstroke in 15 minutes.

Beating the heat is extra tough for dogs because they can only cool themselves by panting and by sweating through their paw pads.

If you ever see a pet  alone in a car, call authorities immediately. Make sure you write down tag number make and model of the car. Get witnesses from nearby bystanders. Send one of them in nearby building to have owner paged. If you believe the pet is in imminent danger take steps to remove the suffering animal for the car if it is taking to long for authorities to arrive. Again having a witness with you while doing this is important.

Symptoms of heatstroke are restlessness, thick saliva, heavy panting, dark tongue and rapid heartbeat, vomiting, diarrhea and lack of coordination. If the dog is showing any of these signs get him or her out of the heat and into a air conditioned car and to the vet immediately. If you can't transport immediately again get pet out of heat, provide water, spray down or pat dog down with cool water to chest and pads. Do not use ice water. Call someone to get you to the vet as soon as possible.

So next time you think you will give your furry loved one a treat and let him or her go for a ride in the car while you run a few errands re think your decision by leaving them at home where it's nice and cool!


Day Light Savings And Our Pets

VSSF Admin - Saturday, March 07, 2015

This Sunday morning there will be many blurry eyes and tired faces. The clocks will be moved one hour ahead for Daylight Savings Time. Does this affect our pets?

There is no science to prove that dogs and cats can tell time. Any pet owner will disagree with that! Pets are creatures of habit. They know when it's time for breakfast, dinner and other events.

They don't realize time has changed, they are still running on their time. Just as with us there will be some transition. It's more of an issue when the clock goes back and food time is an hour later.

So don't be surprised if early in the morning they look at you as if to say,  HEY I still have some snooze time here. Or you come home from work you open the door to find your furry loved one laying on the couch, or doing something he's not supposed to be doing. You get that surprised look of...OMG your not supposed to be home yet! Again they are creatures of habit, be patient they will adjust to the new routine and all will be good...then the clock slips back and now they are up an hour early! 

Pericardial Disease

VSSF Admin - Sunday, March 01, 2015
Pericardial Disease
Nick Schroeder, DVM DACVIM (cardiology)

The heart is held in place within the chest cavity by a sac that is called the pericardium. When patients have pericardial disease, fluid commonly accumulates within the pericardial sac. This fluid is referred to as pericardial effusion. When too much fluid accumulates around the heart, the increased pressure makes it difficult for the right side of the heart to fill with blood. If this occurs suddenly, it typically leads to weakness, collapse, difficulty breathing, or fainting (syncope). If this occurs over a period of days to weeks, then this leads to chronic, increased pressure in the systemic veins in the body, which may cause congestion of the abdominal organs (liver, spleen, intestines, etc.), and secondary fluid accumulations. Fluid may accumulate in the abdomen, and this is termed abdominal effusion (ascites). Fluid may also accumulate in the chest cavity outside of the pericardial sac and lungs. This is termed pleural effusion. Occasionally fluid may build up in the subcutaneous tissues (under the skin), leading to swelling and puffiness. This is termed subcutaneous or “pitting” edema.

Patients with too much pericardial effusion may require a therapeutic procedure to manually remove the fluid from around the heart. This is called a pericardiocentesis (pericardial “tap”). This is a moderately invasive procedure that involves the temporary placement of a catheter into the pericardial space with which the fluid is drained off with a syringe. We recommend that patients that have had a pericardiocentesis to be monitored in the hospital for a minimum of 24 hours on telemetry (continuous EKG) monitoring.

There are three main causes of pericardial effusion in dogs. The most common cause is hemorrhage from a mass on the heart itself. Masses on the right atrium/auricle of the heart most commonly turn out to be a serious type of cancer called hemangiosarcoma. Masses at the heart base are commonly a neuroendocrine tumor known as a chemodectoma. Most hemangiosarcomas result in bleeding into the pericardial space (hemopericardium), and the fluid removed is bloody. Heart-based masses may cause intrapericardial bleeding or cause fluid accumulation that is not bloody. Pericardial effusion may develop secondary to heart disease. Dogs may occasionally develop fluid accumulation within the pericardial space secondary to congestive heart failure. Rarely, dogs may have bleeding into the pericardial space secondary to rupture of a heart chamber from severe underlying heart disease. This is most commonly a rupture of the left atrium, and is secondary to severe, chronic mitral valvular disease. Dogs may occasionally develop pericardial effusion (typically hemorrhage) for unknown reasons, and this is referred to as idiopathic pericardial effusion. The prognosis for pericardial effusion varies with the underlying cause.

Diagnosis of pericardial effusion is made most effectively with echocardiography (ultrasound of the heart). This generally allows us to not only diagnose the presence of pericardial effusion, but also determine the underlying cause as well as guide therapy.

Recurrent pericardial effusion may sometimes be palliated by a procedure to remove all or a portion of the pericardial sac. This is a surgical procedure called a pericardectomy. This may be done thorascopically or by a procedure to open the chest between the ribs (thoracotomy) or splitting the sternum (median sternotomy). Typically only a portion of the pericardial sac may be removed via thoracoscopy or thoracotomy (subtotal pericardectomy), whereas the majority of the pericardial sac may be removed via sternotomy. The pros/cons of each procedure must be evaluated in light of the patient’s underlying problems, and consultation with a veterinary surgeon is recommended.

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