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Healthy Paws: Did You Know… ?

Healthy Paws
Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

This week we thought we’d present a few fun facts about the amazing furry creatures many of us share our lives with: cats and dogs.

Dogs are omnivores and have nutritional needs more akin to humans than their ancestral relatives. This has a lot to do with the fact that humans domesticated them about 15,000 years ago and lived in very close association with humans, giving them a LOT of time to acclimate to our diet. As such, their metabolism and digestive function is genetically different than it was prior to domestication.

Cats, on the other hand are obligate carnivores…and while they are “domesticated” and that process started somewhere between 9,000-12,000 years ago, they have no genetic difference with their dietary needs or metabolism than their wild counterparts.

Historically speaking, cats, unlike dogs, have not been domesticated to obey humans’ orders; in true feline fashion, they choose to take part in the human-cat interaction.

This is in contrast to the history of dogs and humans, where they have bred over thousands of years to respond to orders, perform specific task and have specific physical traits. Cats, it seems, never needed to learn anything — which explains a LOT about many of their behaviors and “cattitude.”

Cats and dogs have 3rd eyelids! On the lower, inside corner of the eye you may have noticed your cat or dog has a membrane/structure there — this is the 3rd eyelid and it is also called the nicitans. The gland that sits under this eyelid produces about 2/3 of all the tears that cats and dogs make and a “Cherry Eye” is when this gland prolapses, or “falls out of place”.

Female AND male cats and dogs have mammary glands and nipples… however, not all dogs and cats have the same number of glands or nipples.

Most dogs have 5 sets of mammary glands (and 10 nipples) — however that can range from 4-6 gland sets (and 8-12 nipples); and most cats have 4 sets of mammary glands (and 8 nipples) — but that too can range from 3-4 gland sets (and 6-8 nipples).

Sometimes they also have “supernumerary” nipples — or an extra nipple on a single gland, which is of no clinical significance.

Cats sleep for about 2/3 of their lives. When your cat is 12 years old, it will have been awake for only 4 years of its life! Cats also spend about half their waking time grooming… so that 12 year old cat will have spent about 2 of those awake years grooming (and likely the other 2 years intentionally ignoring you, judging you and insisting you feed/pet/devote all your attention to them).

Cats purr at a frequency that promotes tissue healing! Domestic cats purr at a frequency of about 26 Hertz, in a range that promotes tissue regeneration. Purring is most often are associated with positive social situations: nursing, grooming, relaxing, being friendly.

That said purring is also soothing, or self-soothing, as cats also purr in stressful or painful situations (perhaps to help with the healing).

About 1/3 of a dog’s brain mass is devoted to smell, compared with just 5% of a human’s brain! But — they only have about 1700 taste buds, compared to about 9000 in humans… no wonder they don’t mind eating gross things!

Have a topic you’d like us to write about? Email us ([email protected]). We want to tailor these posts to the topics that interest you the most.

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Healthy Paws: Understanding Your Pet’s Labwork Results — Part II: The Biochemistry Profile

Healthy Paws
Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

A couple of weeks ago we looked at the significance of the complete blood cell count. This week, we’ll be looking at the serum chemistry profile which has loads of useful information about metabolic function:

  • Electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorous, calcium — electrolytes may be abnormal with dehydration (or overhydration in rare cases), kidney disease, advanced diabetes, hormonal imbalances and with some gastrointestinal diseases. The pattern of elevation or decrease can be especially helpful in ruling in and out some diseases.
  • Blood sugar, or glucose — measure of how much “sugar” is circulating in the bloodstream; high elevations are seen with diabetes, though animals can develop a very transient elevation, or hyperglycemia), with stress. Low glucose levels, or hypoglycemia, can be seen with liver problems, some cancers, among other causes.
  • Kidney values — kidney function is typically monitored by measuring certain enzymes or products that are typically eliminated by the kidney. The two most commonly measured values are creatinine and blood urea nitrogen (or BUN); the term for elevation is “azotemia”:
    • Creatinine — produced by muscle and eliminated by the kidney. Elevations indicate decreased kidney function or severe muscle damage.
    • BUN — urea is produced by the liver (so may actually be low with significant liver disease), but eliminated by the kidneys, thus increasing with decreased kidney function. However, high protein diets and GI bleeding are other potential causes of elevations.
    • Calcium and phosphorous levels can also be affected with more significant kidney disease.
  • Liver values — here again, several different values are typically measured:
    • ALP — alkaline phosphatase — may be increased with conditions that cause “stasis” in the liver, but also can be induced by certain drugs such as prednisone (a commonly used steroid medication). ALP can also be produced by bones, and mild elevations are not uncommon in growing dogs.
    • ALT — alanine aminotransferase — elevations typically indicate ongoing damage or irritation of the liver.
    • GGT — gamma glutamyl transferase — similar to ALP, but more specific to the liver.
    • Total bilirubin — bilirubin is the molecule responsible for causing a jaundiced or icteric color to the skin, eyes and mucous membranes in individuals with significant liver disease. May also be elevated with a form of anemia in which the body destroys its own red blood cells.
  • Blood proteins
    • Globulins — may be increased with inflammation, some cancers (i.e. multiple myeloma); decreases can be seen with blood loss and with more severe gastrointestinal diseases.
    • Albumin — may be elevated with dehydration, and decreased with blood loss, liver disease, gastrointestinal disease, kidney disease or destruction of red blood cells.

There are many other biochemical values that can also be measured from the blood, providing valuable information about heart health, pancreatic inflammation, cholesterol levels, thyroid hormones and so much more! Veterinarians today are fortunate to practice in an era when so much information is accessible in such a short period of time.

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Healthy Paws: Understanding Your Pet’s Labwork Results — Part I: The CBC

Healthy Paws
Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

Many pets have had bloodwork run at some point in their life — perhaps prior to routine surgery such as neutering, or possibly because they were sick.

So, just what information does blood work give your pet’s doctor that isn’t otherwise apparent?

In this three-part series we’ll look first at the complete blood cell count, or CBC, and then at the blood chemistry profile and finally some of the other myriad of tests that can be run from a simple blood sample.

The complete blood cell count is one of the most basic, but also most important, tests that can be run on a patient’s blood. As the name implies, it is assessing various cell counts within the blood.

In addition to being an important baseline test it is also especially useful in patients with fevers, evidence of infection, inflammation, cancer, or in patients on certain types of medications (especially chemotherapy drugs which can often affect cell counts).

Here’s a brief run-down of the values that are assessed with a complete blood cell count:

  • White blood cells, or WBCs — these cells are the inflammatory cells that help fight infection. The total white blood cell count may be elevated with infection or inflammation as well as some time of cancers. In some instances severe infection can actually lead to a low white blood cell count, as the white blood cells are “used up” in fighting the infection before the bone marrow can regenerate them (the bone marrow is where nearly all of the blood cells originate from).

White blood cells can be further broken down into several different types of cells, each with specific functions: 

  • Neutrophils — the most plentiful of the white blood cells, this cell is a very important player in controlling infection (particularly bacterial) and responding to inflammation.
  • Lymphocytes — includes the very cooly named “natural killer cells,” B cells, and T cells, all of which are involved in responding to infection (especially viral infections).
  • Monocytes — a large white blood cell often associated with chronic inflammation or infection.
  • Eosinophils — elevations often seen with parasitic or allergic diseases.
  • Red blood cells, or RBCs — these cells have the very important job of carrying and delivering oxygen! Anemia, or a low red blood cell count, can be seen with a number of different causes including decreased production of new red blood cells and blood loss. Hematocrit is another way to measure the red blood cell count. Hemoglobin is also measured, and refers specifically to the amount of the oxygen-carrying molecule in the red blood cells. Other parameters such as mean corpuscular volume (MCV) and, mean cell hemoglobin (MCH) can help to further characterize the anemia, and changes in the red blood cell shape can give indicators about various disease states as well. Reticulocytes are immature red blood cells, released from the bone marrow prior to full maturation. Their presence usually indicates that the body is trying to make new red blood cells.
  • Platelets — these important little cells are responsible for aiding in blood clot formation. When low, there is an increased risk of spontaneous bleeding.

The majority of cells in this image are red blood cells. The larger cells with the purplish center are neutrophils, and the small purple dots are platelets.

Next week we’ll discuss a basic blood chemistry, looking at values related to specific organ change or disease.

Join us Saturday March 24, for our 3rd annual open house from 1-3 p.m. We’ll have the clinic open to clients and general public to see the behind the scenes action. We’ll have games, cool learning stations and tons of fun with our staff!

Would you like to learn more about a specific topic? Email us and let us know: [email protected].

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Healthy Paws: Boy Dog Bumps — The Mysterious Bulbus Glandis

Healthy Paws

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

Have ever experienced this scenario?

You have a wonderful new male puppy and one day he rolls over for a belly rub and you notice these two round swollen bumps at the base of his penis. Your puppy seems super happy and not at all bothered by the bumps, but you become really worried that something is wrong. Are those his testicles? Does he have an infection? Are they tumors?

Your happy puppy — now bored and confused that you keep staring at his belly — bounds off and grabs one of his favorite chew toys, seemingly unphased by this new problem.

You then pick up the phone to call your vet and when they start asking you to describe these mysterious new bumps, you go back to look at your puppy and the bumps are completely gone. “I can’t find them anymore,” you say, “but I swear they were there by his penis and REALLY big.” Luckily, your vet tells you not to worry, because these bumps are a normal part of your boy dog’s anatomy — called the bulbus glandis.

The bulbus glandis is generally not noticeable, but will often swell and become very apparent when male (neutered and intact) dogs become excited — like when they are happy to see you and roll over for a belly rub.

So why do dogs have a bulbus glandis? Contrary to the what the name implies, the bulbus glandis is not a gland at all, but actually functions during mating to complete the “coital tie,” which keeps the male and female dogs somewhat locked together until mating is complete.

Luckily, when the bulbus glandis swells it does not cause any discomfort to your pup and does not require any medical intervention. However, if you notice any unusual areas of swelling on your dog, it is never wrong to seek the advice of you veterinarian.

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Healthy Paws: February is Pet Dental Month

Healthy Paws

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

Ever wondered what that smell was permeating from your pet’s mouth?

Bad breath is a very common complaint among pet owners, and for good reason. Bad breath or halitosis is most often related to infection or inflammation in the mouth, and most often due to periodontal disease.

This diagram shows the correlation between the various stages of dental disease in our pets’ mouths and what that would look like in our own mouths (be prepared — it’s not pretty!):

February is National Pet Dental Health month, so it’s a good time to revisit some fun facts on oral health that we presented a few years back:

  • Dental disease is undoubtedly one of the most common diseases veterinarians diagnose and treat. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, approximately 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats will have some degree of oral disease by the age of 3.
  • In the majority of cases, dental disease is a condition where “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Small preventative measures such as regular brushing can significantly slow the progression of tartar accumulation and subsequent periodontal disease. While daily brushing is by far the ideal, even brushing every 72 hours will make a significant difference in the amount of tartar accumulation on your pet’s teeth. Every three days is the minimum frequency recommended as beyond that the plaque will already have hardened into tartar, which cannot be removed via brushing.
  • Most dogs, and even cats, can learn to love (or at least tolerate) brushing — check out the video link here for instructions on how to brush your pet’s teeth.
  • While the jury is still out on exactly how the low-grade infection associated with periodontal disease affects our pets systemically, in people there are consistent correlations between periodontal disease and
    systemic diseases such as diabetes, cardiac and kidney disease, likely related to the chronic inflammation and infection originating from the mouth.
  • If brushing is out of the question, there are other options to help decrease the plaque and subsequent tartar buildup in your pet’s mouth. Look for products that carry the VOHC — Veterinary Oral Health Council — seal of approval, such as CET products, Greenies or antiplaque water additives. Most of these products need to be used on a daily basis to make an appreciable difference.
  • Routine brushing and home care can reduce the chances of needing aggressive or emergency dental care, such as tooth extractions and root canals for problems such as severe gingival infections or tooth root abscesses.

If you missed Dr. Gloor at the Aurora Hills Library this past Tuesday evening — she’ll be doing her Pet Dental Health lecture LIVE on facebook Tuesday, February 27 @ 12:30 p.m.!

Have a topic you’d like us to write about? Email us ([email protected])! We want to tailor these posts to the topics that interest you the most.

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Healthy Paws: Puppy Love and Kitty Snuggles… Interesting Facts about the Human-Animal Bond

Healthy Paws

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

February is the month of LOVE, and who better to shower love on than your pets! Human-Animal relationships have many benefits similar to Human-Human relationships. Here are some interesting facts about the Human-Animal Bond:

  • Oxytocin, which you may have heard about in relation to mother-baby bonding, is also the hormone that bonds us to our pets and produces that sense of happiness and well-being in your interactions with your pet. Amazingly, dogs also have a surge of oxytocin when interacting with their owners, as opposed to strangers.
  • February is also American Heart Month, which is appropriate to mention here since many research studies have shown that owning pets great for our heart health. The American Heart Association has gone as far as to publish a summary of all the research that demonstrates how pet ownership can directly improve cardiovascular health. The main benefits are that interactions with pets lower stress hormones in the body and that pets (especially dogs) make you more active. Exercise and reduced stress help lower blood pressure, which helps prevent many cardiovascular diseases.
  • Mental health benefits of pet ownership are also a popular research topic. Studies have shown the benefits of pet ownership/assistance for anxiety, depression, PTSD and dementia disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Animal-assisted therapy programs are becoming more and more popular as a tool in treating those with mental health disorders.

You probably already knew that your bond with your pet was special, but science absolutely confirms that is true! Shower your pet with lots of love this month, but be sure to keep them away from your chocolate.

Check back in 2 weeks  for our blog on DENTAL DISEASE — and feel free to join us at the Aurora Hills Branch Library on Tuesday, February 20 from 5-6:00 p.m. — we (Clarendon Animal Care/Dr. Gloor) will be presenting on pet dental health. Sign up here!

Have a topic you’d like us to write about? Email us ([email protected]). We want to tailor these posts to the topics that interest you the most.

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Healthy Paws: Choosing the Right Collar or Harness

Healthy Paws

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

Leash pulling is a common and frustrating dog behavior, but walking calmly on a leash is not a natural instinct for dogs and learning to do so requires training.

One important component of training is using an appropriate collar or leash that provides secure restraint, gentle control and can aide in discouraging leash pulling.

Not all collars and harnesses are created equal and here are some points to consider when making the right choice for your dog:

Flat Collar or Martingale Collar — These collars are excellent for keeping identification and tags on your dog at all times. They can also be used with a leash for walks, but are best for dogs that never pull or require leash corrections. With leash pulling these collars can cause strain on the neck, press against the airway or elevate pressures in the eyes. For dogs with neck pain or discomfort — these should be avoided.

Head Halters — These are a great training tool for dogs who are persistent leash pullers, especially large breed or strong dogs that are difficult to control. Since the point of leash attachment is the head and not the chest, a head halter disrupts the drive to pull against the leash.

When used appropriately, it also allows for gentle control and correction during training without causing pain or pressure. Again, for dogs with neck pain or discomfort — these should be avoided.

Chest Harness – These can be a good alternative to a neck collar or head halter as they provide secure control of the body and avoid any risk of neck strain or pressure. There are many varieties and styles, but they can be simply divided into harnesses with a leash attachment on the top of the back and ones with a leash attachment on the front of the chest.

These are the best to use when there is any neck or back discomfort. They can also be useful in dogs with mobility issues as a “handle” for the front end.

Choke Chain or Pinch/Prong Collar — These are designed to be training device that provide a negative stimulus for leash pulling or other unwanted behaviors. However, punishment training techniques for dogs can increase fear, anxiety and stress.

When using a choke chain or pinch collar, dogs can become more fearful of any stimuli that is associated with the collar being tightened — including interaction with other dogs or people — as they learn to associate these events with pain. For this reason and the medical dangers associated with these collars — strangulation, elevated eye pressures, nerve damage and neck strain — these should be avoided and are generally not recommended for any dog.

Choosing the right collar or harness for your dog may also require trying a few different products to see which provides the best fit and what is most helpful in achieving your training goals.

Additional recommended resources on collar/harness selection and leash training:

For the full article — check out our website. Have a topic you’d like us to write about? Email us at [email protected]. We want to tailor these posts to the topics that interest you the most.

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Healthy Paws: The Dreaded Nail Trim

Healthy Paws

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

Taking your pet in for a nail trim — it sounds so simple, and for many dogs and cats it is. But, for others, it is truly a terrifying experience. For many pets that are anxious or resistant to nail trims it is the handling of their feet that really drives them bananas; for others, they resist the pressure from the clippers. Others get anxious coming into the veterinary hospital or grooming facility, setting them up for a negative experience. For others, it may have been a previous experience that has set them up for fear and anxiety with future nail trims.

While it is true that in many cases a nail trim could be done with enough restraint, this often is not in the best interest of the pet — as future attempts will likely only elicit more severe anxiety and stress, making them that much more difficult and even dangerous to the pet. Our philosophy, and that of many veterinary hospitals that embrace the Fear Free/Low Stress philosophies is to never struggle with a pet for an elective procedure such as a nail trim. Therefore, we often recommend that our clients work on desensitization of their pets at home. In this process, the pet comes to associate the anxiety-provoking procedure with a positive experience.

Veterinary behaviorist Dr. Sophia Yin was a wonderful resource for all things behavior-related in dogs, and has a wonderful (and rather impressive!) video demonstrating how to counter-condition and desensitize a dog to nail trims linked here.

In some cases, behavioral modification enough is not alone and sedation (ranging from very mild to heavy) is needed to safely perform a nail trim. This may include “pre-medicating” with mild anti-anxiety medications prior to the visit or short-acting injectable sedatives administered under the supervision of a veterinarian.

In other cases, pets may do better at home with nail trimming. Many owners are concerned about trimming the nails too close to the “quick,” but with a few precautions this can be easily avoided. Your pet’s veterinarian or groomer will also likely be willing to demonstrate their technique in person.

If nail trims are a source of stress for your pet (and you as their caring owner!), we recommend consulting with your pet’s veterinarian about desensitization techniques and coming up with a plan that works best for your pet.

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Healthy Paws: New Years Resolutions — Pet Edition

Healthy Paws

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

2017 is almost over and we’ll be in a new year next week. What are your resolutions? There is nothing special about 2018 — you’ll probably make resolutions that you’ll struggle to keep after the first week — again. But that doesn’t mean resolutions are hopeless. Make a real difference in the new year and forge a pact for healthy change with your pet. These resolutions will help keep your pet happy, healthy and safe throughout the year. And well, what’s more important than that?

Be more active

  • Studies show one of the biggest health benefits of owning a dog is improved cardiovascular health. Not only is it great for you, it’s great for your dog as well. Some dogs are satisfied with a walk around the neighborhood once a day, while others require additional exercise time. Parks, hiking trails and city walks abound in this area. Grab the leash and go! It’s good for you and your dog.
  • While it is true that cats have the evolutionary advantage of a high metabolism that works even as they lounge around (see lions in the wild), they do still need some physical activity to keep them from a sedentary life of sloth and eventual obesity. Find a toy that keeps your kitty moving and active. Look into expanding their space vertically with floating shelves — and marvel at their acrobatic prowess.

Get in shape

  • Along with being more active, good nutrition and portion control are essential for getting into better physical condition. Obesity is a huge deal in our fur children and is linked with orthopedic disease, metabolic disease and a shortened lifespan. While having your own personal chef to keep you on track with what and how much you eat — your pets do have that luxury. Talk to your veterinarian about what your pet should be eating and how many calories per day. You may be surprised with how many calories are in that cup of dog or cat food… and how few calories your pet actually needs. Help them get to their weight goals but not overfeeding them.

Get more sleep

  • Did you know that cats sleep anywhere from 16-20 hours per day, and dogs sleep approximately 12-14 hours per day? If there’s one thing our pets are constantly showing us — it’s how to relax. You may want to keep the cat naps a little bit shorter though. Experts say that a power 30 is the perfect amount of time to help get you through the day. Turn the electronics off at night, go to bed earlier and snuggle up with that fur ball of yours.

More Mental Stimulation

  • It’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. Try a new hobby or activity that challenges your brain to keep it sharp. And apply that to your pets. Train some new tricks (yes, cats can be trained too!), do some agility with your dog or teach the cat how to use the toilet. Puzzle feeders are also great ways to keep those minds bright by having you pets need to work out how to get their treat… anything to prevent boredom.

Socialize

  • Don’t worry; you don’t have to create a Facebook profile for them (though having an IG account is encouraged). But like children, your pet can become destructive and unmanageable when they are not given enough attention or not allowed to socialize with other animals of her kind.
  • The optimal window of socialization for kittens is 2-7 weeks of age and for puppies is 6-14 weeks of age. This doesn’t mean you can’t socialize outside of this age range — it does mean we should work on socialization pretty significantly when our pets are very young. And when we are working with older dogs and cats, we just need to work that much harder (and have a bit more patience) to make progress — but it can be done.
  • Obedience/training courses and/or working with a trainer to help with new skills, basic (or advanced) socialization and helping give your pets the tools to be comfortable in their environment can be just what is needed to keep your (and honestly, your pet’s) sanity.
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Healthy Paws: Fur-baby It’s Cold Outside

Healthy Paws

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

Winter is finally here and we cannot stress enough the importance of keeping pets in a warm, protected environment this time of year. So, for this week’s post, we’re reminding everyone about some winter weather tips for our canine and feline companions. Because, even though our four-legged family members have fur, they too are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia (low body temperature) and other winter-related ailments.

What is frostbite?

Frostbite occurs when damage to the skin and underlying tissues caused by exposure to extremely cold agents and weather occurs. Sub-freezing temperatures cause constriction/narrowing of blood vessels, which after long periods of time, reduces blood flow to certain parts of the body, especially the extremities. Together, the nearly freezing temperature and reduction of blood flow can result in severe injury to the exposed tissues. This is how frostbite develops in our furry friend’s paws, ears and tails (body parts farthest from the heart and most susceptible to becoming cold). Keep in mind young animals outdoors, or those in poor body condition, are at greater risk.

  • Signs/symptoms of frostbite
    • Often, mild cold injury to the extremities may go undetected (toe tips, ear tips, tail tips) until changes to the skin are noted, sometimes days later
    • Acutely affected animals may have pale gray or bluish areas of skin that are cool to the touch
    • Body parts may be numb, overly sensitive to touch or painful
    • As the affected areas of the body thaw, the tissues may become red or swollen and painful
    • Skin may blister or ulcerate
    • Days after the frostbite has occurred, tissues may appear shrunken and discolored and may begin to slough if the tissue becomes necrotic or dies
    • Days to weeks after injury, hair loss and sloughing may occur
  • What to do if your pet is suffering from hypothermia (and at risk for frostbite)
    • Remove any snow from in between the paws pads
    • Dry your pet off if their hair coat is wet or damp
    • Wrap your pet in a blanket or towel and contact your primary veterinarian, or the closest emergency hospital for further care and diagnostics
  • Prevention
    • No matter how thick-coated your furry friend is, no pet should be left outside for long periods of time in below-freezing weather.

For those short-coated pets, this is a perfect time of the year to play dress-up with the pet winter sweaters and coats. Some pets may also benefit from booties to protect their feet. It’s best to have a few options since wet clothing can actually be more detrimental to the body, so after coming from outside, remove or change your pet’s winter gear.

Other winter preparation/safety tips

A warm vehicle engine can be an appealing heat source for outdoor and feral cats as well as wildlife — but that can lead to some pretty disastrous consequences. Check underneath your car, bang on the hood, and honk the horn before starting the engine to encourage wanna-be hitchhikers to abandon their roost under the hood.

Pay special attention to your pets feet. Ice melt and collections of snow/ice can be very irritating and cause inflammation and pain between the toes. Booties, pad wax and cleaning between toes after coming inside can be very helpful to prevent irritation and to prevent/remove potential toxins (such as antifreeze).

Speaking of antifreeze — even small amounts can be deadly! It’s sweet (like sugar) and so many pets will ingest it — however it can cause severe, acute kidney failure, seizures and death. Be sure to clean any spills (no matter how small) immediately.

Many pets become lost in winter because snow and ice can hide recognizable scents that might normally help your pet find his/her way back home. Make sure your pet has a well-fitting collar with up-to-date identification and contact information. A microchip is a more permanent means of identification, but it’s critical that you keep the registration up to date. Prepare a disaster/emergency kit and prepare your pet in your plans. Make sure to stock up on food, water, prescription medications in the event of a weather emergency that may leave you stranded into house.

And if it’s too cold for you outside — it’s probably too cold for the fur-family as well!

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Healthy Paws: Online Pet Pharmacies

Healthy Paws

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

Online, 3rd party, pet pharmacies such as 1-800-Petmeds, Allivet and many others, have become very popular over the recent years, and with good reason. They often are able to offer lower prices on many of the medications commonly prescribed by veterinarians, with the convenience of having it shipped directly to your home. It seems like a no-brainer that this would be a win-win. After all, in most cases we fill our own prescription medications at pharmacies rather than our doctors’ offices, so why should it be any different for our pets?  

It turns out the situation is not quite as straight-forward as it may seem. Most of the major pharmaceutical companies claim to not sell their products directly to these online pharmacy sources and that they cannot track their product. As such, they do not guarantee the product for its efficacy, expiration date or validity. They will guarantee safety, so long as it is not a counterfeit product. This does beg several questions:

  • Where are these drugs coming from, if not from the manufacturer? In some cases, they are coming from unscrupulous veterinarians who purchase a large quantity at cost and then sell it to an online pharmacy for resale to the customer. In other cases, counterfeit product is sold. 
  • What happens if my pet experiences an adverse reaction, or the product is ineffective? When many brand-name prescription medications are purchased directly from your veterinarian the manufacturer stands behind the product, guaranteeing both its safety and its efficacy for the labeled indications. As such, if there is a product failure, or an adverse reaction, the veterinarian can contact the manufacturer to report the incident and often obtain some financial compensation for the client for necessary treatments or even diagnostic tests. However, when the product is purchased through a 3rd party online pharmacy avenue, the manufacturer does not support the product because they cannot guarantee that it the product has been labeled or handled correctly, or that it actually is their product.  

Lets use heartworm prevention as an example. Heartworm disease can be very serious medically for the pet, but also very expensive to treat. If a pet has been on heartworm preventative diligently, and the veterinarian has records to indicate appropriate purchase intervals, the company will help to cover the cost of treatment.

In our area of Northern Virginia, heartworm disease is not especially endemic, but the intestinal parasites roundworms and hookworms both are. Both are on the label for treatment for many heartworm preventatives. We have, on more than one occasion, been able to report a treatment failure to the appropriate manufacturer and obtain compensation for treatment costs and follow-up testing for the client. Testing and follow up that may otherwise cost hundreds (sometimes thousands in the case of heartworm disease) of dollars.

Issues and complaints with online pet pharmacies have become frequent enough over recent years that the FDA has created a program called AWARE to educate pet owners about what to be on the look-out for when it comes to online pet pharmacies.  

Many veterinary clinics will not work with these 3rd party online pharmacies directly because of concerns regarding product safety & efficacy. That said, veterinarians are obligated to provide written prescriptions upon request so it is still possible to purchase a medication through a 3rd party online pharmacy using a written prescription, even if your pet’s veterinarian does not deal directly with them. In these instances, it is up to the owner to provide the pharmacy with the provided written prescription.

One final note: More and more veterinary hospitals are introducing their own online pharmacies that are associated with their hospital. These differ from many of the larger outside/3rd party online pharmacies in that there is the guarantee that the products are coming directly from the manufacturer or trusted distributor, and that applicable/brand name products will be backed by the manufacturer in the event of a treatment failure or efficacy issues. If you prefer the convenience of having your pet’s medications delivered directly to your door (and who doesn’t?!), we recommend asking your veterinarian if their hospital has an partnered online pharmacy.

For additional information regarding prescriptions and pharmacies in general — you can also visit the American Veterinary Medical Association’s information page on prescriptions and pharmacies by clicking here.  

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Healthy Paws: Antibiotic Use in Pets

Healthy Paws

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

November 13-19 has been declared World Antibiotic Week. While at first glance it might be easy to roll your eyes at this, think about how much antibiotics have done for health and medicine over the last century, and you’ll see few things are more deserving of their own week than antibiotics. Antibiotic, by definition, means “opposed to life” — specifically the life of bacteria. Antibiotic is often used interchangeably with the term antimicrobial, but antimicrobial refers more generally to all microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoal organisms)

The original antibiotic, penicillin was first discovered by biologist Alexander Fleming in 1928, purified by Ernst Chain, Howard Florey and Edward Abraham in 1942, and further developed for wide-scale production by Norman Heatley. Penicillin arrived on the scene just in time to be the decisive factor in saving countless lives during World War II, and it’s difficult to overestimate the importance of antibiotics since then. However, as “bigger and better” antibiotics have been developed in the 89 years since their initial discovery, many of the bacteria they are targeting have also developed coping mechanisms or resistance to the antibiotics designed to destroy them.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the ability of a microbe (which includes bacteria, viruses and certain parasites) to prevent an antimicrobial agent from working against it. This has become an increasingly serious problem as microbes develop resistance against more and more antimicrobials and is seen with all kinds of microbes — not just bacteria. While all resistance is a concern, antibacterial resistance typically receives the most attention as bacteria account for so many of the infections seen worldwide, both in humans and animals.  

One of the ways that health care professionals, including veterinarians, determine if a bacterial infection is resistant to common bacteria is to “culture” the organism and perform sensitivity testing — in this process the organism is grown on a petri dish in a lab and various antibiotics are tested against it to see which are effective and which are ineffective at hindering growth in a lab setting. Ideally, all suspected bacterial infections would be cultured; however, from a cost, time and resources standpoint this is not often practical and often health care professionals need to make an educated guess about which antibiotic would be most appropriate for the type of infection they are treating.  

Many of the general recommendations from human medicine for decreasing the chances of resistance apply to veterinary medicine as well:

  • Antibiotics should only be used when prescribed by a licensed health professional.
  • The full course of antibiotics should be finished, unless otherwise directed by a health professional.
  • Antibiotics should not be shared with other people or animals.
  • Left-over antibiotics should not be used for similar signs down the road, unless under the direction of a health professional (and if they were used for the full course initially, there shouldn’t be any leftover regardless).

On the veterinarian/prescriber end of things, the following should be abided by:

  • Antibiotics should only be prescribed when there is proven bacterial infection, or very high index of suspicion for such.
  • Antibiotics should be prescribed for a sufficient length of time so as to fully address the infection.
  • “Bigger gun” antibiotics should be reserved only for infections in which other antibiotics are ineffective, preferably based on culture and sensitivity results.
  • If bacterial cultures are not used from the initial diagnosis — they should be implemented at the first signs of initial treatment failure so targeted therapy can be instituted quickly.

Antibiotic resistance is something we all (veterinarians, human healthcare professionals, and recipients) need to work toward reducing as the rate of new antibiotic development has tapered to a trickle; and overuse and inappropriate use has contributed greatly to the widespread resistance problems.

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Healthy Paws: The Senior Cat

Healthy Paws

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

Cats are often forgotten members of the household in terms of veterinary care, since they are by nature self-reliant and hide illness and discomfort remarkably well. According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), a “senior” cat is defined as a cat over 11 years of age, while a “geriatric” cat is defined as being over 15 years of age.

As age increases, cats are more prone to developing subtle changes in behavior that can help clue us into various common diseases in older kitties, such as arthritis, chronic kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, hypertension (high blood pressure) and small intestinal disease.

Chronic pain caused by osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease) is the most common condition we diagnose that causes a chronic, negative impact on quality of life. Studies have shown that up to 90% of older cats will have changes consistent with osteoarthritis on x-rays, affecting many different joints in the spine and limbs.

Recognition of feline pain and pain management in cats has come a very long way in the last two decades. Some cats will develop visible lameness or signs of discomfort, but often the signs are much more subtle, such as:

  • Hesitation before jumping.
  • Relocating favored perches and sleeping areas to more accessible areas.
  • If in a home with stairs, limiting themselves to one level of the home.
  • Under grooming or over grooming.
  • Not using the litterbox, especially to defecate.
  • Reclusiveness and/or changes in temperament.

Treatment of osteoarthritis is often multimodal, meaning approached from many different angles. We generally start with omega-3 and joint supplements, as well as some prescription foods to manage the disease from a nutritional angle. Weight management is also an important part of nutritional management, as obesity creates a pro-inflammatory state in the body that can worsen disease symptoms (this is true of humans and dogs, as well!). Pain management with various drug therapies are often recommended; as well as physical therapy, cold laser therapy and acupuncture.

Osteoarthritis and common systemic diseases in cats, such as chronic kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, hypertension and gastrointestinal disease, often have an insidious onset and a nonspecific set of symptoms (weight loss, increased or decreased appetite, vomiting and/or diarrhea, increased water consumption and accidents outside the litter box, etc… ).

The non specificity of symptoms, and often coexistence of multiple diseases in a single cat, is why we recommend a blood pressure and comprehensive blood work and urinalysis profile any time a senior or geriatric cat presents with any combination of these symptoms. We may also recommend diagnostic imaging such as x-rays and abdominal ultrasound to be able to further define symptoms and come to a diagnosis. Treatment of the various common systemic diseases in older cats is also multimodal, often employing a combination of supplements, diet and drug therapies.

In the generally healthy senior or geriatric cat, the annual physical examination is a great opportunity to review the happenings of the past year with your veterinarian, and have a discussion as to the “normals” and “abnormals” of your unique kitty. We very often have findings on our examinations that are so subtle that clients have not noticed them at home, such as weight loss and painful joints.

In addition to our standard annual physical examination, vaccine and intestinal parasite prevention protocols, the AAFP additionally recommends annual baseline blood work, thyroid, urinalysis and blood pressure in all senior cats. Having these baseline values for an individual patient is extremely helpful for comparison to their “normal” if illness arises. For some senior and all geriatric kitties, it is often recommend to have examinations, and sometimes blood work, on a biannual basis.

Amazingly, it is not uncommon for cats to live into their early 20’s with regular preventive care, pain management and early and persistent management of chronic diseases. We absolutely love our well-lived and well-loved senior and geriatric feline patients!

Helpful Resources for Senior Cat Lovers:
Top 10 Tips for Senior Cats
How Do I Know if My Cat is in Pain?

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Healthy Paws: Halloween Candy

Healthy Paws

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

Halloween is right around the corner, so this week we’re going to discuss… candy!  These tasty sweets can be dangerous for dogs, particularly those that contain chocolate, are sugar-free candy and those containing raisins. Although not life-threatening, ingestion of high-sugar candy can cause diarrhea by pulling water into the gastrointestinal tract and giving gut bacteria too much “food,” leading to excess growth of bacterial populations. Specific candy toxicities are discussed below:

Chocolate contains a compound called theobromine, which is related to caffeine. Dogs do not metabolize these compounds quickly, so they can experience more intense and lasting effects of these stimulants. Common signs of chocolate toxicity are anxiousness, panting, muscle twitches, rapid heart rate, and even seizures. Vomiting and diarrhea are also common and will sometimes be the only symptom in mild cases.

The weight of the dog, the amount of chocolate, and type of chocolate ingested are all factors that determine whether chocolate ingestion is toxic. As a general rule the darker the chocolate is more toxic it is (baking chocolate is far more toxic than milk chocolate), and larger amounts of any chocolate consumed by smaller dogs carries more risk of toxicity. Milk chocolate is often more concerning for the potential to cause illness and symptoms from pancreatitis, as a result of ingestion of sugar and fat, than true chocolate toxicity from theobromine.

Sugar-free candy with the sweetener xylitol is extremely dangerous to dogs. Xylitol causes large amounts of insulin release in the dog. This leads to a rapid drop in blood sugar levels which can manifest as  uncoordinated walking (ataxia), extreme lethargy and/or seizures.

Xylitol can also induce liver failure and blood clotting abnormalities. Any amount of xylitol ingested should be considered very toxic to Any size dog; if you suspect your dog has ingested this substance, you should immediately visit your veterinarian or the nearest emergency veterinary clinic  for emergency treatment, hospitalization and monitoring.

Raisins (and grapes) have the potential to cause acute kidney failure in dogs. The frustrating thing about this toxicity is that we do not know what in the grapes or raisins causes the toxicity, and there is not a widely accepted toxic dose. Raisins tend to be more concerning than grapes as they present a more “concentrated” version of the fruit. Any ingestion comes with recommendations for emergency care to induce vomiting and, preferably, 48-72 hours of IV fluids and monitoring of kidney values.

In all cases of suspected toxin ingestion, it is advised to call your veterinarian, go to an emergency veterinarian or call ASPCA Poison Control  (888) 426-4435 immediately for further direction. If it is determined a toxic dose of a candy has been ingested, seeking medical care to induce vomiting as soon as possible is the best course of action. Depending on the amount ingested, further treatments may be indicated such as: administration of activated charcoal to help absorb toxins within the gastrointestinal tract, intravenous fluids, hospitalization, and drug therapy.

We wish everyone a happy and safe Halloween — and remember to keep that candy out of reach of the pups, which means the more for you as well!

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Healthy Paws: Arthritis

Healthy Paws

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

Arthritis is something that we see pretty commonly in our pet cats and dogs. Most people think of big dogs and their predisposition to getting hip dysplasia — but we’ve come to recognize that cats and every size of dog are prone to getting arthritis as they age…much like us. They are just SO much better at hiding the symptoms for so much longer than most of us wimpy humans.

When we break it down to it’s Latin & Greek roots arthritis means “inflammation of a joint.” There are two main classes of arthritis — osteoarthritis: which is a chronic use/degenerative process of a joint that develops from overuse or poor conformation of the joint; and inflammatory/immune mediated arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Inflammation, in short/brief doses is good for the body — but when uncontrolled can lead to destruction of the cartilage. In attempts to stabilize the joint and reduce pain, inflammation often leads to excess bone production along the joint edge (such as bone spurs) that actually lead to more pain and inflammation…and the cycle continues.

Symptoms of arthritis can include overt joint pain (i.e. lameness, stiffness) but also more subtle changes such as reduced activity (reluctance on walks, jumping, etc…), inappropriate elimination (many times because it is painful to posture to urinate/defecate) or changes in behavior or mood.

True diagnosis of osteoarthritis is made with x-rays — but we are often suspicious of it and may will manage accordingly based on physical exam findings and history alone. Management of arthritis involves nutrition, weight management, exercise, nutritional supplements and depending on the severity prescription pain medications.

A multi-modal approach to pain management often results is better comfort and many times less needed drug. Two of the most important things to start with are weight and exercise.  A trim/fit dog or cat is going to be able to deal with arthritis much better than an overweight/out of shape pet, as the physical stress on the joints is going to be less.

Regular, controlled exercise is also so important as it helps maintain a normal joint range of motion as well as muscle mass — which is necessary to support a joint. As our pets get older they tend to lose muscle mass and get overweight — which exacerbates any predisposition for arthritis development.

Diagnosis of other types of arthritis (such as infectious arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis) often involves a much more extensive work up with blood work, joint taps or other diagnostics, and may involve additional treatments such as antibiotics or immunosuppressive drugs.  

Arthritis, while potentially painful for our pets, can often be well-managed — if you are concerned that your pet may be suffering from arthritis, we recommend talking with your pet’s veterinarian about the best options for him/her.

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