November is Pet Diabetes Month

In November we recognize Pet Diabetes Month. During this month we shine a spotlight on diabetes in
both dogs and cats. Often pet owners do not realize that dogs and cats are at risk for developing this
disease and its various complications. Diabetes affects between 1 in 100 to 1 in 500 dogs and cats. Its
incidence has been increasing over the past 30 years.

Diabetes mellitus (DM) is the full medical term to describe the disease. Mellitus means “sweet” and
refers to the increased blood and urine sugar (glucose) levels that occur with this disease. DM occurs
when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. Insulin the hormone that allows the cells of the
body to utilize blood glucose. With less insulin the cells are not able to take up and use the blood
glucose. This leads to increased glucose in the blood stream, which produces many adverse side effects
in the body.

Common signs of DM include:

  • Increase thirst and urination
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight loss

Less common symptoms include:

  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Cataracts (in dogs)

DM is diagnosed when the blood glucose concentration is significantly elevated. The presence of
glucose in the urine is need to confirm the diagnosis. Additional test are often indicated to look for
other concurrent diseases (such as urinary tract infections or liver disease) that may accompany DM.
Such tests include a complete blood count, biochemistry profile, urinalysis, urine culture, etc.

DM cannot be cured, but can be managed successfully with:

  • Insulin therapy
  • Diet
  • Exercise

Dogs and cats with diabetes can live long, healthy lives with appropriate treatment and monitoring. DM
can be challenging to regulate and require patience and persistence, but with dedication on the part of
the owner working closely with the veterinary team diabetic pets can live active normal lives for many

February is American Heart Month (for pets too!)

Hearts are seen everywhere in the month of February.  Both in honor of Valentine’s Day and also as a reminder of American Heart Month which raises awareness about heart disease n people.  February is also known as American Heart Month for pets.  It is estimated that 10% of dogs and cats suffer from heart disease and its related symptoms.

            The heart is a pump that circulates blood throughout the body.  If a pet develops heart disease the pump is no longer able to do its job properly.  This decrease in function leads to increased pressure and congestion.  If the heart is not able to pump the blood properly fluid can leak out into the lungs or abdomen.  If the fluid is leaking into the lungs this can lead to trouble breathing and sometimes a cough.

            Sometimes no sign of a heart problem is noted, or you may notice the following symptoms:

  • Coughing
  • Changes in breathing
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Shortness of breath
    • Labored breathing
    • Rapid or fast breathing
  • Changes in behavior (more noticeable in dogs)
    • Tiring easily
    • Reluctance to exercise or not wanting to go for walks
    • Less playfulness
    • Slowing down or lack of energy
    • Depression or a withdrawn demeanor
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fainting or collapsing (less common)
  • Weakness
  • Restlessness, especially at nigh
  • Swollen abdomen

Contact your veterinarian if you notice any of the above signs.

            One of the most sensitive early indicators of progression of heart disease or heart failure is the resting or sleeping respiratory rate.  This is something that is easy to measure at home, it doesn’t cost anything and the pet isn’t bothered since it is asleep.  The normal resting respiratory rate (RRR) is less than 30 breaths per minute.  To determine the RRR you need to count the breaths—each rise of the chest—over 15 seconds and multiple that number by four to get breaths per minute (60 seconds).  There are even apps for smartphones to help count and keep track of your pets RRR.  A RRR of over 40 breaths per minute is a reason for concern and warrants veterinary attention.

            Heart disease is diagnosed initially with a stethoscope.  The veterinarian will listen to your pet’s heart rate, rhythm, and for signs of a heart murmur.  Additional tests may be necessary including: blood test, radiographs, blood pressure tests, an electrocardiograph (ECG) and an echocardiogram (using cardiac ultrasound to view the heart and blood flow).  There are veterinarians that specialize in veterinary cardiology.  Your family veterinarian may refer you to a specialist to help determine the best treatment for your pet.

            Treating your pet’s heart condition will depend on the type of disease diagnosed and its progression.  There are several medications available to help improve and lengthen the lives of dogs and cats with heart disease.  Regular veterinary check-ups and diet and lifestyle changes can also help prolong your pet’s life. 

If you have any questions or concerns about your pets health don’t hesitate to reach out and make time to have your furry friend checked out.

Avoid a Scary Halloween for Your Pet!

Halloween Pet Safety

By Pam Small

          There are many things that can be hazardous to our pets during the Halloween celebrations.  We all like to join in on the fun but we need to be responsible when doing so with our pets.  Just like we don’t want kids trick or treating without flashlights, we don’t want harm to befall our furry friends.  Here are some things to consider this Halloween season.

When meeting and greeting those trick or treaters, think safety first.  Our pets can get anxious or excited by the people arriving at our door.  You may want to consider a pet gate in the doorway to insure they cannot squeeze out the door in all the excitement and get lost and confused by all the activity and sounds of Halloween.  If a gate is not an option you can keep them in another room or on a leash so that you can ensure they stay close.  We would not recommend leaving them outside in the yard as this can also be stressful for them.  For those outside dogs we would recommend bringing them inside the house or garage for the duration of the night to help them to remain calm and safe.

When considering all those adorable pet costumes we need to remember that not all pets like to wear them.  Some become anxious and this can add to an already stressful situation for our pet.  So if you choose to get them dressed up you may want to take those photos and then allow them to take the costume off.  For those that do enjoy those costumes keep in mind comfort and ensure that they can see and move with ease.  Trying on costumes before the big night is a great way to make sure your pet can move and see well with it on and to gauge their comfort level.

We also need to keep in mind the treats we have out.  Many are not safe for our pets.  Chocolate is toxic to pets as most of us know but the wrappers can be hazards too.  If consumed, they can cause obstructions and trauma to their gastrointestinal tracts.  There are also hazards in sugar-free candy choices. Many contain xylitol which is toxic to our pets.  Other sugary sweets can cause upset stomachs in our pets even if they are non-toxic so it’s best to keep all treats far away from your pets.

Other trick and treating worries are glow sticks.  These are great for keeping our kids safe and seen but not so good for our pets.  The substance inside is toxic to pets so if they bite into one they can ingest it and become ill.  It is best to keep these far away for them.  We would not recommend letting pets wear them either as this can encourage them to chew at them.

When we are thinking about all those decorations we should remember a few things; keep electrical cords safely tucked away to prevent trip hazards as well as preventing them from being chewed on. Battery powered decorations can be hazardous if the batteries become separated and chewed on.  And if swallowed they can cause harm to your pets. Also when using candles we want to ensure any open flames are far from our pets reach to prevent any burns.

And last but not least, it’s also a very good idea to keep your pets ID tags on and up to date just in case you do become separated from them. If they are microchipped, make sure to have this information and a current photo somewhere easy to find in case you need to file a lost pet report.

So remember to have a Happy and Safe Halloween for you and your pets!!

Animal Hospice & Palliative Care

This past year has been a difficult year personally.  Our family has experienced the loss of two of our dogs to chronic kidney disease.  The journey through their diagnosis, treatment and ultimate end of life has been a hard road.  But the lessons I learned along the way will be invaluable to my patients.  These experiences have shown me the necessity and the ultimate beauty of walking through the end of life with our beloved companions.  At the end of life, the Rainbow Bridge becomes a destination of ultimate healing when our medical modalities are no longer enough.

The veterinary world is beginning to see and embrace the idea of end of life care through hospice and palliative care. These philosophies of care allow us to focus on the care of pets who are diagnosed with a life limiting illness that is not responsive to curative treatment.  Examples of such conditions are: chronic kidney disease, severe osteoarthritis, diabetes, and cancer.  The focus is not simply on the end of life, but more on living life as fully as possible while making safe preparations for death itself.

Having recently walked with my furry companions towards that Rainbow Bridge, I know the heartache of seeing your best friend declining.  I know of the long days and nights, the feedings and the medications.  I have held their paw and cleaned up their messes.  But I have also looked deep into their eyes, into their souls and saw that all the hard work done in love was not done in vain.  When they licked my hand or laid their head on my lap I knew it was worth it to them and those are memories I will cherish always.

Agnes Sligh Turnbull wrote: “Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.” And I could not agree more.  We all wish we could make our dogs live forever, but this is not in our power.  When old age or sickness begin to affect our pets, it is nice to know that there are many things we can do to bring comfort to their bodies and minds.  I am glad that the veterinary community is finding ways to ease their pain and suffering and I am glad to be part of it.