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Come on in and see Doc Springer at:
All Pet Care Hospital
1453 Sunset Point Road
Clearwater, FL 33755
Phone: (727) 442-9111
Fax: (727) 446-6670
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Itchy, Red Skin on a Dog Demystified
“We tried everything, and we just don’t know how to make Maisie’s skin feel better!” said the 6-year-old Labrador-Shepherd mixed-breed dog’s mom. “We bathed her, gave her special holistic food, we read about benadryl on the internet and tried that, our friend’s dog had some left-over fish oil capsules we used; she’s going crazy and we don’t want steroids!”
Doc Truli was looking at a sweet, calm, miserable yellow lab/german shepherd mixed breed dog. Her sad brown eyes focused on Doc’s right hand because she was hoping for another dog biscuit.
The front half of Maisie looked normal. Even her ears looked healthy and light pink inside. Her thick, short lab-shepherd fur shed easily, but that’s normal for her breeds. Doc’s physical examination reached the tail end of the dog.
“See these bald spots on either side of her tail?” asked Doc.
“No, we didn’t see that,” said Maisie’s mom.
“Well, take a look. There are bald spots on either side of her tail, right at the base of it. Her anus is red and sore, and she has eruptions of grey-scabbed round sores under the fur up her knack a few centimeters,” said Doc Truli,”this pattern is typical of a flea allergy dermatitis.”
“But we never see fleas!”
“But we never see fleas,” said Maisie’s mom, “And we have her on a topical flea product we got on the internet.”
Thin, Balding Fur by Your Dog or Cat’s Tail Equals Fleas
Veterinary dermatologists tell us thin, balding fur and little red and scabbed sores under the fur by the tail base means fleas 95% of the time. 95%!!!
So, before you get confused and overwhelmed and frustrated about what may be causing your dog or cat to itch, if the pattern is Tail-Base, Back of the Thighs, and/or Red, Sore Belly skin, the problem is fleas!
Food allergies are estimated to be only 10% of itchy pets. Other allergies make the face, paws and ears itch. Fleas make the butt and belly itch.
Focus on Fleas
You would think we would have fleas figured out. The truth of the matter is, fleas are tricky. They are highly successful life forms that excel at survival. And survival means drinking blood from mammals in order to ovulate and lay 50-100 eggs a day that drop off the animal and look like dust.
- Clean the environment, mopping hardwood or tile floors cleans out many, many flea eggs and their dormant cocoon state
- Discourage strays and wildlife from living on your property where the pets roam
- Use products that contain IGR “Insect Growth Regulator” to stop the eggs and cocoons from hatching and kill the adult fleas.
- Visit you veterinarian for the new prescription flea products that work much, much better than the old topicals; you will be amazed!
- Your pet can stay frantically itchy for 2 weeks after the last flea is gone. You may need veterinary help calming the itch fire. You can try a soothing Oatmeal and Aloe bath at home for relief.
#1 Argument That Keeps Pet Parents From Solving the Flea Problem
“But I don’t want chemicals on my dog (or cat)!”
Doc Truli hears this every day. It’s awesome that people are starting to realize that chemicals may challenge the body, the environment, and the health of the planet. The concern about flea treatments is out of proportion and misplaced. Here’s what Doc means:
- The food bag your pet’s food comes in is probably laced with preservative BHA or BHT, even if the label says “organic”
- The cans your pet’s food comes in probably has BPA to line the can or to soften the flip top (that’s the chemical that disrupts estrogen in humans and their daughters)
- Your pet’s nose is at exhaust-pipe, appliance exhaust, and dust level all day long
- Your pet probably does not wipe his or her paws before coming in the house, but then she or he licks the paws and eat the toxins from outside!
- You love you household cleaning products and good-smelling candles and disinfectants. Your pet is 1000’s of times more sensitive to smell than you are, yet you think your house is clean when it smells good. Even organic candles and cleaners release toxins and carcinogens.
- Your pet has been heavily genetically modified. Probably more than the GM corn and soy he or she eats. (What do you think selective breeding really is?)
- So, are you still going to let a little “chemicals” stand in the way of finally solving that flea problem?
Doc Truli says, “Think carefully before you decide you don’t want “chemicals” to solve your pet’s flea problem.”
What is This Lump on My Cat’s Belly?
Tinkerbell needed help. The 14-year-old long-haired calico cat looked at Doc Truli with calm eyes. She even purred in the examination room! Tinkerbell had a tumor growth on her belly. It felt bad. Knobbly, bumpy, fluid-filled pockets of firm roundness in a 6 cm area in the middle of her right mammary chain. Not good. The lump did not hurt and it was not broken open or infected, but it just seemed a matter of time before she started suffering painful consequences.
There was one confusing, hopeful fact, however. According to Tinkerbell’s mom, Katherine, the tumor had been there for years. Years! Doc Truli knew that metastatic breast cancer in cats usually behaved aggressively – meaning it spread fast and far in the body. But here was TInkerbell with this lump growing for years. Maybe it was not a spreading type of tumor?
“Doc,” said Katherine,” She’s 14, I don’t know if I should put her through surgery at her age.” read more…
An Amazing Great Dane Rescue is Just the Beginning
“The animal shelter I volunteer at called to let me know there was this abused, skinny Great Dane they were going to have to put down. Apparently, this lady and her husband considered themselves Great Dane breeders, and then, when they split up, she kept the dogs in tiny, narrow, home-made cages and starved this one down to 50% of his body weight, because he was her ex-husband’s favorite. Can you believe that?” said President’s dad of the past 8 years.
Unfortunately, if you are an animal doctor for long enough, we’ve all heard a story beginning somewhat like this one.
“My heart just broke at the thought of a Great Dane losing his life. My 15-year old Dane Carnival traveled everywhere with me and he has just passed away. I jumped in the car and hit the gas to get to that shelter before they could put him down. I think I blew every red light on the hour-long trip!” read more…
Maggie Feels Sick All of a Sudden
“Doc, Maggie was fine the day before yesterday. Now she won’t eat, vomited once, and is straining to go to the bathroom. I might be crazy, but her stomach almost looks like she’s pregnant. I know she can’t be… she’s old,” said Maggie’s mom.
What is Pyometra?
Pyometra is a uterine infection in which the entire uterus fills with pus. There is open pyometra in which the pus drains to the outside through the vulva and closed pyometra, in which the cervix is closed and the pus builds up inside until the uterus ruptures internally.
A sad, black and tan, ten-year-old shepherd-mix dog looked at Doc Truli. Maggie felt awful. Doc Truli lifted Maggie’s lip and looked at her gums. The normal pink was replaced by a lacy red network of fine blood vessels. Doc’s index finger stuck to the mucous membranes; there was no moisture in Maggie’s mouth. read more…
Why Do My Rabbit’s Ears Hurt?
“Doc, he seemed fine up until a few days ago. Now he scratches at his ears and holds them funny,” said Frankie, the rabbit’s dad.
The young rabbit looked miserable! His sad little brown eyes looked up at Doc Truli while his little rabbit whiskers wiggled as he checked the Doc out. Frankie was optimistic that Doc Truli might have a snack in her pocket!
Doc gently picked Frankie up – being conscious to keep a hand on the middle of his back so he would not be able to bend, or break, his back in case of a panicked kicking escape attempt. Frankie remained calm with the slow, gentle movements of the Doc’s experienced touch.
Support a rabbit’s body when you pick him or her up. Especially, keep their back against your chest or under a firm, gentle hand. A frightened, panicked rabbit will violently jump to escape. Rabbits have been known to instantly break their own back when they jump so hard to escape!
Frankie lay quietly in Doc’s left elbow crook for the physical exam. His body seemed fine. The ears, however, were a whole other story.
Earmites are Treated Differently in Rabbits Than Cats & Dogs
“We were going to try and apply earmite drops format he pet store or clean out the ears, but it looked so bad, we decided we better come to the vet’s,” said Frankie’s mom.
“That’s a great decision,” said Doc Truli,”you can’t clean the infection out of rabbit ears like you would on a cat or dog. The bun ears are so fragile, they bleed and scar tremendously if you actually touch the fragile skin layers.”
We confirmed the infection by magnifying a small sample of the crusted skin under the microscope. Then we discussed treatment.
Rabbit Earmite Treatment
“We have prescription medication we can give as a subcutaneous injection, or topical drops. Whatever medication we choose, it has to work for 2-4 weeks because earmites are little arthropod six-legged insects that lay eggs that hatch out in 2 weeks. So treating adult earmites only today, and not in 2 weeks will mean that the earmites will regrow.
Also, rabbits have so much dead skin and flakey crust in their reaction to the ermines, that those little flakes scatter in their environment and they can reinfect themselves with the earmites! You need to clean your rabbit’s environment, especially his cage and bedding, DAILY, for a month. You can wipe the clean cage with dilute vinegar and water as a mild disinfectant. Do not use strong chemicals in a rabbit’s cage.
The sores in the ears will start to go away on the own. Most importantly, do not rub or ice at the bunny ears, or they will hurt and scar terribly!
“You can’t clean the infection out of rabbit ears like you would on a cat or dog. The bun ears are so fragile, they bleed and scar tremendously if you actually touch the fragile skin layers,” says Doc Truli.
Earmites are very contagious between animals. If you have a cat, ferret, dog, or other rabbits, bring them to the veterinarian for earmite treatment, too. Otherwise the animals will continue to pass the insects between each other and the infection will not cure.
Side Note from Doc Truli: WordPress apparently thinks “earmites” should be autocorrected to “ermines.” That sentence was difficult to type because the computer kept changing every word to “ermines!” Seriously? People write about “ermines” that often? Hmmm….
13-Year Old Pomeranian’s Eye Starts to Bleed
“Doc, what’s the red glint in his eye?”
Doc Truli stopped examining the Grade 4 out of 4 periodontal disease loose, infected teeth and focused on Taylor’s eye. The medial (inner) corner of the fragile golden Pomeranian’s left eye sported a crescent of red inside the eyeball!
Causes of Hyphema
- Hypertension (high blood pressure). Taylor was undergoing an anesthetic procedure and his blood pressure, under continuous monitoring, never elevated above normal.
- Trauma. Doc was with him every second. No trauma.
- Retinal Detachment. Examination showed normal retina.
- Clotting Disorders. Problems with platelets that clot blood or factors (molecules) in the blood that aid in the body’s ability to close up bleeding vessels right away could lead to spontaneous sudden hyphema. Pre-anesthesia lab work showed no anemia (lowered red blood cell count), and we ran stat clotting tests and counted platelets under the microscope right there in the surgery room. No problems.
- Neoplasia. Cancer could spontaneously bleed or cause blood vessels to rupture. No visible lumps or bumps could be found in the eye. Luckily, the nurse noticed the hyphen right away, so there was time to examine the eye right away before it potentially filled up with vision-obscuring blood.
- Anesthesia. For reasons unelucidated, anesthesia can trigger spontaneous hyphema. In this case, the body should destabilize and absorb those red blood cells over a few weeks and Taylor would be back to normal.
The Hyphema Continued
Doc Truli hoped the bleeding would just stop, but the bleeding continued until the whole globe of Taylor’s left eye was cherry red! We quickly finished the oral surgery, in spite of the hyphema. The decision was difficult because Doc wanted Taylor awake and back to normal as quickly as possible. But, Taylor’s loose teeth and infected gumlines needed treatment to help his quality of life. We finished the oral surgery and Taylor woke up without incident.
Luckily, his right eye did not bleed, so he had plenty of vision when he woke up. After two weeks, he was back to normal. (We could not get a picture because he moves his head around like crazy when he is awake in front of the camera.)
If Your Dog, or Cat’s Eye Suddenly Turns Red, Get to the Veterinarian Right Away!
Hyphema can be a sign of a life-threatening bleeding disorder. If you delay in getting veterinary help, you could lose your pet’s life!
Mange in Dogs
“Doc, we looked online and saw pictures of mange. We’re so afraid this is contagious red mange and all our other dogs are going to get it,” said the American Pit Bull Terrier, Hailey’s mom.
Demodex & Sarcoptic Mange
You may have read many websites that describe mange and you’re more confused than ever. First, go to a veterinarian. A simple skin scrape cytology test will find demodectic mange, or demodex. Demodex is a cigar-shaped long, thin insect too small to see without a microscope. It is believed to be passed from mother to puppy during birthing. After that original transmission, it is not contagious!
Demodex: Easy to find, Difficult to treat
Sarcoptes: Hard to Find, Easy to treat
The other dog mange is sarcoptic mange, also called “red mange” in some parts of the United States. Sarcoptic mange is a fat little round insect too small to see without a microscope. It is highly contagious between warm-blooded animals. It lives deeper in the hair follicles of the skin and only comes to the surface 25% of the time when a skin scrape cytology is performed.
Any attack on the skin will irritate and change the skin. Redness, heat, pain, and swelling are the body’s hallmarks of inflammation. Whether an insect, like a flea or mite, bacteria, fungus, or yeast attacks the skin, the damage will look similar. Any of the infections can mimic each other, because they are attacking the same skin system. Tests performed by your veterinarian, along with experience, and the tenacity to look for typical signs and patterns will nail the diagnosis for you.
One last thing to remember: just because you think you know what is wrong with your puppy, the battle doe not end there. Hailey’s mom figured her skin was sore from fleas. And it was. But she did not seek help for over three weeks. During those weeks, the sore skin allowed the demodex to grow and bacteria to set in. A smaller problem grew much more complicated because of the delay.
Clown Face of Demodex
Usually, demodectic mange starts as a “clown face” look of baldness around the eyes. Sometimes even conjunctivitis for no reason at all is the first sign that the demodex is at the edge of the eyelids and bothering the puppy. That’s what happened to Hailey.
“The animal shelter gave her ointment for conjunctivitis.”
“Did she have an upper respiratory infection?” asked Doc Truli.
“What do you mean?”
“Has she had any sneezing or coughing?”
“No. not at all,” said Hailey’s mom.
That’s strange. Any time something doesn’t “fit,” Doc Truli is suspicious that we don’t have the picture. Puppies usually do not get conjunctivitis for no reason. She could have been stressed, or been in a dirty environment before the shelter. Or she could have hidden demodex on the edges of her eyelids, where we can’t perform the skin scrape test.
Any time something doesn’t “fit,” Doc Truli is suspicious that we don’t have the whole picture.
Doc Truli advised Hailey’s parents to watch for baldness or thinning of the fur. Sure enough, 1 week later, she returned with demodex lesions showing all over her face and legs.
Bald Tops of Paws and Toes
If your puppy’s toes are bald on the tops of the knuckles, get checked for mange. But what about older dogs? Juvenile demodectic mange is common. After the age of 1 1/2, it is very unusual for a dog to develop demodectic mange for the first time. This demodectic mange is called adult onset. Adult onset mange indicates a problem with your dog’s immune system. Your veterinarian can check for hypothyroidism and can evaluate your dog’s history for allergy patterns which would suppress the immune system and allow mange to grow.
Mange in Unexpected Cases
Doc saw a 5-year-old German Shepherd Dog with an open, bleeding skin infection at the base of his neck, in between the shoulder blades. The Shepherd already finished two powerful and long courses of antibiotics. Why didn’t the antibiotics work?
Proper Skin Diagnostic Tests
- Skin Scrape Cytology – find and count mites & fungus deep in the hair follicles
- Skin tape Cytology – find and count bacteria & yeast colonizing the surface of the skin
- Dermatophyte fungal culture – make sure there’s no zoonotic, contagious ringworm fungus
- Check those ears! After all, the ear canal lining is just special skin in a sunless damp hole in the head!
A skin scrape cytology test revealed demodex mange mites mixed with the infection. Mange mites and bacteria work together to alter the pH acid-base balance of the skin and they release enzymes to make each other happier. So, if you treat the bacteria and not the mange, then the problem never cures. Once the Shepherd received treatment for both the infection and the mites, his sores went away and he felt comfortable again!
Demodectic Mange Treatment
Demodex is considered a normal commensal on dog skin. This means that some demodex is natural and does not cause disease. Anything that is natural, but growing out of control, is far trickier to control than an unnatural, foreign invasion infecting the skin – like sarcoptic mange.
Demodex takes a minimum of 6 weeks and a maximum of up to a year or longer to control, or cure.
Treatments for Demodectic Mange
- Treat bacterial infections
- prescription medicated shampoo
- systemic antibiotics
- Support nutrition and healing
- Good quality dog food
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids & Vitamin E (ask for Vet Rx)
- Kill demodex
- Only FDA approved treatment: Mitaban dips
- “Off-label” treatments:
- Oral daily ivermectin
- Promeris topical drops
- daily milbemycin (Interceptor brand) tablets
Hailey’s system did not take well to the prescription FDA-approved Mitaban dips. She experienced lethargy, vomiting, and some diarrhea. She switched to Promeris topical dewormer and felt much better. So far, she is 2 weeks into treatment and you can see in the slide show, her fur is starting to fill in!
More Reading About Dog Skin Diseases
VirtuaVet’s: Gigantic, red, bald, angry, sore Hot spot
VirtuaVet discusses Allergic skin disease
What Would You Do If You Rolled Over Your Dog’s Paw?
Malcolm, the 4-year-old black and tan Doberman Pinscher limped into the animal hospital, blood dripping over the floor everywhere he stepped. 20 minutes before, Malcolm was resting in his driveway in an invisible blind spot behind the sports utility vehicle’s back tire. His mom backed the tire over his foot.
“All I heard was howling and I slammed on the brakes. I ran around the back of the SUV, and there he was, with his leg out at this awful angle, stuck under the tire. I didn’t know what to do, so I got back in and pulled forward to get the tire off of his foot. He didn’t get up at all,” said the Dobie’s mom, “I feel sick about it. Is he going to be all right?”
Malcolm’s left hind paw was bleeding profusely. After some painkillers and a sedative, a small tourniquet, some x-rays and some careful looking, Doc Truli could tell what was going on. The outside 4th toe on the left hind foot was ripped away from the foot, just hanging by some skin. The bone was cut in half lengthwise, like a dissection sample in medical school – only this was real life.
Inventory of the SUV Paw Damage
The 3rd toe was hanging at a strange angle. It was floppy and lightweight. The ligaments to the 3rd toe were ripped and the little bones at the base of the toe were broken on about 4 pieces. The skin on the outside of the left hind paw was pulled back and away in an area about 5 inches long and 4 inches wide, quite big on a small dog paw.
“The toes in a cat or dog are numbered starting at the medial, or inside (by the “thumbs”) toward the outside. The cat and dog normally have 5 front toes and 4 hind toes. The middle toes are the biggest and the weight-bearing toes. They should be preserved over the other toes if a difficult choice needs to be made,” says Doc Truli.
We wanted to save the 3rd toe if possible because the 2nd and 3rd – the two middle toes on the dog’s hind foot – are the weight-bearing toes. He might not limp if he had only 1 hind toe to bear weight, but two toes would be better to prevent arthritis and disability down the road.
However the car tire and the driveway made saving the 3rd toe an unknown challenge. Road dirt and tarmac were ground into the wound. If a bone became infected – called osteomyelitis– he would need another surrey to remove the toe. Sometimes osteomyelitis spreads and someone could lose a whole foot, or worse, become septic with a systemic infection and lose their life.
Surgical Correction Succeeds
Surgery proceeded to save the toe and hopefully, prevent infection from setting into the bone.
Malcolm took his antibiotics and painkillers, refused to keep a bandage on the paw, and healed anyway. He did not, however, play in mud puddles or go swimming for 4 weeks while the foot healed!
Here you can see one tiny red spot of epithelialization (when the skin has stretched as far as it will go and the new thin layer of skin cells finishes the wound closure). Otherwise, his 3-toed paw is perfect. What a lucky dog!
Lethargy and Drinking Extra Water, Signs of Illness in Cats
“Spitty’s been lethargic, so I decided to stop his meds. He didn’t eat anything yesterday,” said the 17-year-old red tabby cat’s mom.
Spitfire purred non-stop, the last two caudate vertebra nervously flicking the tip of his tail.
“He’s dehydrated,” said Doc Truli, pulling up the skin between his shoulder blades and showing the sinuous ledge of dry fur and tacky skin underneath in a skin turgor test.
“But he drinks lots of water. He’s a good drinker,” said Spitty Kitty’s mom.
Any increase in water consumption, barring rehydration on a hot day,
indicates illness. Especially for a cat. read more…
5-Year Old Labrador Retriever Looses Leg
Larry was a male, neutered 5-year-old black labrador retriever mixed-breed dog with a penchant for boating. He loved to go out on the family’s 24-foot fishing boat and hang out for the day. Sometimes he jumped in the water for a swim and hauled himself back up on the boat. Most times he just sniffed the tops of beer cans and licked his chops as his brown eyes begged for Cheese Doodles. He was a typical lab.
Sudden Car Accident Changes Everything
On evening at about 7 p.m., just as the sun was setting, the family was packing up the boat and gear after a long day. Larry pulled his usual duties of running around and getting his nose in everybody’s way. No one really paid him much mind; Larry knew what he was doing. Or did he?
Suddenly there was a crunch of tires against the seashells of the parking area, and Larry cried out in pain.
He was trapped under the rear tire of an SUV! No one saw how it happened. The SUV driver did not know what to do, so she pulled forward and released Larry’s right front leg from under the treads. Larry was in shock, but he tried to get up and limp over to his family. He made it about three steps and collapsed.
What Can You Do With a Crushed Leg?
Larry arrived at Doc Truli’s ER in a state of metabolic shock. His gums were pale pink, his heart rate was fast, his pulses thin and thready. He lost blood from his injured leg. Little shards of sickeningly white bone slivers poked up through the black fur, skin, seashell, and sinew mess Larry had left for a right foreleg. Intravenous fluids, strong painkillers, and a few radiographs later, and Larry’s situation was clarified.
“Larry’s radius and ulna are shattered and crushed. His elbow is broken and dislocated and his shoulder was twisted and broken in the accident. It’s possible his nerves to the leg are severed,” said Doc Truli.
“What options do we have?” asked Larry’s devastated family.
“We have to clean the wounds and bandage them. He will need bandage changes daily because of the extensive bacterial infiltration from the parking lot. He is not a candidate for an external fixation device (like scaffolding for the leg), because you need solid bone at the top and bottom of the area to attach the device. Larry’s leg has suffered so much crush injury and dislocations and breaks, there’s nothing to attach the apparatus to” said the Doc. “Furthermore, you need intact nerves to send signals for healing and repair. Larry’s nerve supply to the leg is questionable at best.”
Amputation is Best
“What are you saying? Are you saying he’s going to lose his leg? Because we couldn’t live with a three-legged dog,” said Larry’s mom.
“Many people feel shock and grief when they consider removing their dog’s leg for medical reasons. The dogs do not miss their legs. The humans think it will be a problem; the dogs are happy to be alive!”
Reasons A Dog’s Leg Might Be Amputated
- Massive Trauma
- Infiltrative, painful soft tissue tumor
- Nerve Damage and subsequent leg trauma because the dog cannot feel the damage to the leg
- Infiltrative, dissecting, pernicious infection
Larry’s front leg amputation surgery went fine. Generally, you wish a dog to be an ideal weight before an amputation surgery; extra weight makes recovery difficult. Because dogs carry greater than fifty percent of their weight on the front legs compared to the hind legs, a hind leg amputation is a faster, smoother recovery.
Leg Amputation Recovery in a Dog
Larry healed 100% within 6 weeks. He was up and trying to hobble around 24 hours after surgery (and the morphine drip) started to wear off. He takes a glucosamine supplement and omega 3 fatty acids to help prevent early onset of osteoarthritis in his remaining left front leg. Plus, he went on a diet!
Don’t Judge, Just Listen.
Mayberry walked into the animal hospital of his own volition. Most Boxers live to become 8-10 years old. Many, many Boxers succumb to cancer. More than any other breed of dog. Beloved Mayberry, stiff with arthritis, never grew any lumps or bumps. He never vomited. Never coughed. In fact, Mayberry never really showed any signs of overt, obvious illness.
So, you may look at this guy and wonder,”Couldn’t his family see how thin and sad he looks?”
Well, yes and no. Obviously, they knew he was eating less and less.
“Berry kept going for his walks, waiting in the kitchen for his breakfast, basically doing everything he normally did,” said the thin dog’s mom.
“How can we put him down when he wants to stay around?”
Evaluate Your Older Pet’s Life
Perform a periodic life-evaluation for your older pet. You do not have to obsess as soon as your pet turns 8 years old, but twice a year, follow this checklist to keep in touch with the over-all picture of your pet’s health.
Doc Truli’s Pet Life Evaluation CheckList
Ask yourself, is your pet…
- Enjoying food as much as he or she ever has?
- Enjoying your company or the company of an animal companion?
- Enjoying the body he or she is in? Keeping clean, moving well, maybe playing?
- Enjoying controlling something. This could be controlling the yard, your attention, or her favorite chair. Or has he or she relinquished control?
- Enjoying observing the environment?
If you’re still not sure, ask your friends or relatives. Still not sure? Your family veterinarian is a perfect touchstone to assess your pet’s physical status. Weight, Body Condition, Bloodwork. Get it done if you want to catch negative trends early.
A Yearly or Semi-Annual Check-Up May Have Helped This Dog
Mayberry lived to 14. That’s almost double the life-expectancy of an average Boxer. Should he have received medical care before he lost 75% of his body weight? As a veterinarian, I say yes. Did his family love and care for him? Absolutely, yes!
Next time you see a very thin (or very fat) dog walking down the street, try not to jump to conclusions. Go home and evaluate your own pets using the Life Evaluation CheckList. Or schedule a check-up with your veterinarian.
Then, extend the understanding and concern you feel for the dogs you see on the sidewalk downtown to people in your life!
Something is Wrong With the Cat’s Ear
“Abigail’s been scratching and shaking her head for a few weeks now. We thought it was earmites, so we bought some earmite medicine online. But it didn’t seem to help and she hates it,” said the skinny grey tabby cat’s mom.
Abby’s golden eyes peered out of the green plastic cat carrier at Doc Truli. She wasn’t coming out of there on her own.
“Let’s get the top off of this carrier and see what’s in those ears,” said the Doc.
Doc and Abby’s mom removed the top of the carrier. Abigail looked around with a surprised expression. (Most cats remain calm and become much easier for the veterinarian to examine with the carrier top removed, rather than the cat extracted through the doorway.)
If your cat won’t come out of the carrier at the vet’s office, take the top off!
Obese Chihuahuas Live Shorter Lives
(Not just Chihuahuas, all dogs!)
Every day Doc Truli hears someone say, “He’s so cute fat like that!” Is this some form of reverse Anorexia by Proxy? Do people think a dog or cat or child is cuter fatter because they have a body dysmorphia projecting onto the pet or the child? Sure seems like it!
Then there are the people that judge every dog they see on a walk,”Oh, look at that, what a shame. He’s just too thin!” They are rarely right!
Fact is, thinner dogs live 2-4 years longer than their calorie glutting fat friends.
Which Chihuahua is Normal?
Surprise! 1 is obese and two are normal. The obese Chihuahua is 50% overweight. He weighs 16 pounds and he should be 8 pounds. He eats 100% extra calories each day. Probably in canned food, or treats and semi-soft chews that are unregulated. Imagine this: most treats are about 30 calories each and an eight-pound chihuahua should eat maybe 250-300 calories per 24-hour day (depending on athleticism.) So 10 treats is already enough calories. Unfortunately they are “empty calories.” All calorie and no nutrition.
Does this help you rethink why your dog might be fat?
Harley, the American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) Mix, Can’t Stop Bleeding from the Butt
“Doc, I think my dog has a hemorrhoid,” said Harley’s mom.
Okay, every veterinarian has heard those words at one point or another in their career. Thing is, dogs don’t sit around on their bums all day. Hence, no hemorrhoids. So, as soon as a pet parent leads with those choice words, the veterinarian starts thinking:
- Is it a blocked, ruptured anal sac?
- Is it bloody diarrhea?
- Is it a scraped lump or skin bump?
- (Older dog) Is it cancer?
Harley was only 2 years old. The odds of cancer were none to almost none. Eating well, looking happy as can be (see picture above!) The guy just did not look sick.
Then the APBT stood up. A splash of blood decorated the stainless steel under his tuckus.
Little Kitten in Pain After Car Accident
Shadow never had a chance. The car hit her while she was watching a squirrel flitting among acorns on the opposite side of the road. Head down, eyes fixed, kitty butt high in the air; Shadow thought she was invisible behind a small pile of autumn leaves. Problem was, she was right.
The driver did not see the little kitten by the side of the road. As Shadow darted out to surprise the squirrel, the SUV surprised her. The driver never noticed, never stopped. read more…
Doc Truli Was a Puppy Pusher
Years ago, yours Truli was puppy pusher. Yes, Doc Truli admits, she worked in a pet store that was also a veterinary clinic, grooming parlor, and boarding facility. She also worked in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Arguable, the puppy-mill capital of the American East. Doc has an insider’s perspective. read more…
Doc Truli admits the gruesome truth. “I’ve always lived with cats. And always long-haired cats, by chance. I love cats just the way they are, and I thought I would never consent to have one of my cats shaved.” read more…
“I Never Thought I’d Shave my Cat,”
Doc Truli admits the gruesome truth. “I’ve always lived with cats. And always long-haired cats, by chance. I love cats just the way they are, and I thought I would never consent to have one of my cats shaved.” read more…
A Dog With a Broken Leg is No Fun!
Purdue had no problem running around on three legs. After all, one broken leg can be help up under the belly while the other three legs bob you up and down and you still get to lick the veterinarian’s hand and beg for treats!
Purdue was a male, neutered mix of something very short and crooked-legged and a lusty boisterous American Pit Bull Terrier; basically, he was a mutt with heart of a Pit.
Jumping off of the bed led to a leg held up, some whining, and a reluctance to finish his dinner. So he ended up in Doc Truli’s examination room.
Broken Hind Leg So Obvious, So Why the Radiographs?
The left hind leg jutted out at an odd angle. A light finger touch to the skin revealed moving bones, a grinding, grating feeling. A person could not possibly hear the bone fragments crunching against one another, yet Doc Truli gathered the distinct impression she could hear the bone pieces scraping against one another. read more…
Obesity and English Bulldogs Equals Deadly Combination
Isn’t Mario just adorable?
English Bulldogs are smooshie-face cute. Little button eyes, folded polite little ears, drolly, snotty noses with their tongue usually licking the nearest part of a human nearby. But cute and fat are a deadly combination for English Bulldogs.
It’s Hard to Tell When an English Bulldog is Fat
Between the barrel-shaped chest, the naturally skinny, sometimes dysplastic hips, the huge head with the extra skin folds all around the neck, it can be difficult to tell when the fat starts and the Bulldogginess ends.
Look at the waistline
- Tummy tuck?
- Dimple at the base of the tail
- Straight across bottom line
- Bulging waistline
- Cannot see, feel, or count the ribs
You guessed it! The second scenario is a fat, usually obese English Bulldog.
But My Bulldog Looks so Cute, and I Love My Dog Just The Way He (or She) Is!
Doc Truli hears this with every English Bulldog. While the sentiment to love unconditionally is good, the application of the sentiment is misdirected on an obese dog.
Your obese Bullie will suffer for your lack of focus on the importance of a healthy weight.
- Hip dysplasia
- ACL injuries
- IVDD and slipped discs
- Pickwickian syndrome and inability to breath
- Sleep apnea (Bulldogs have apnea 20x an hour all night long anyway because of a tiny trachea. Don’t make it any harder!)
- Neck pain and pinched nerves
- Cardiac insufficiency and heart failure
- Recurrent impacted anal sacs
Put Your Dog on a Diet
Most English Bulldogs are surprisingly active for their bulk and native inability to ventilate properly. Usually, increasing exercise is not possible or not an option.
A bulldog the size and girth of Mario is eating 30-50% too many calories! So, in a tight world economy, save yourself some kibble change and cut back 25% to start on the pooch’s chow.
Do not underestimate the power of treats and cookies to pack on the pounds or curry the kilos. Most yummy, semi-soft dog treats are approx. 30-60 calories each! That’s most of a meal!
When a dog food or treat says “light” or “reduced calorie,” they mean compared to their regular brand offerings. That food item could actually contain double the calories of the competitor’s product!
Mario had made a New Year’s resolution of which he is blissfully unaware. He’s going to lose about 25 pounds (10 kilos). He’ll feel even better and look just as cute as ever!
Read More VirtuaVet Pet Weight Loss Help
Painful Infection Spreads in Hours
“I swear, it wasn’t this bad yesterday!” said Arlo’s dad.
Arlo snorted and wagged his stumpy tail and looked up suspiciously at Doc Truli as if to say, “I like her if she has cookies, but if she’s gonna touch my face, that’s not good.”
“I’m not a bad dog parent or anything, I thought it would go away with a little of that spray I got last time.” read more…
Constant Ear Infections, Itchy Face, Itchy Paws, Chewing at Skin, and Black Skin on Belly
Amelia visited Doc Truli for a dogicure (that’s a pedicure for dogs!) Doc could not help but notice a few uncomfortable-looking problems with Amelia’s skin and ears.
The poor little Spaniel suffered constant itchiness in her face, paws and ears. Her armpits and groin sported black pigment infiltrating the areas. Her right ear looked like a yeast infection had dug a home in the lining of the ear canal and did not want to leave anytime soon!
Signs of Allergies in Dogs
- Itchy Face
- Itchy Paws, Licking Paws
- Black Skin in the armpits and groin area (axillary and inguinal, respectively)
- “Dry eye”
- Recurrent, difficult ear infections that just won’t go away read more…
Is My Dog Pregnant?
Samantha stood shivering on the silver stainless steel examination table. Her black Porkie eyes flicked from her mom’s face to her doctor’s face.
Only moments before, Samantha’s mom asked, “Can you tell if she has another puppy inside her? I came home from class and she was nervous and kept running to the bedroom and back to me. So I followed her. While I was at school today, she must have given birth to this little boy puppy.”
The little 6 ounce black and tan puppy with one white hind paw like his father lay inert on a blue birthing blanket while Samantha licked and nudged him. She was a diligent and concerned mom. Even though he was stillborn, Samantha kept trying to clean him and stimulate his breathing with her gentle, firm licking. read more…
Your Christmas Decorations Look Like Toys to a Dog, Cat, Ferret or Bird
Your holiday celebrations may involve jingly, jangling, dangly, glittering, branchy, tree-y, crinkly, or even stringy, ribbon-y sorts of decorations. As traditional, nostalgic and heirloom as they seem to you, they are mere toys to your beloved pet.
Ali, the 4-month-old albino white American Bulldog Puppy thought a red bell hanging from a ribbon in the animal hospital waiting room was toy meant just for her. Luckily we pulled her away with cookie bribes before she tore the tree to the floor! Who hasn’t walked past the tree in the living room, only to be startled witless by a cat screaming out of the upper branches? Or better, awoken to strewn carcasses of silver-lined hand-blown glass ornaments broken and carelessly tossed around the living room like so many used toys? Don’t even think of letting a ferret or bird near the decorations. The devastation would be mighty!
But even through the heartbreak and worry of losing your favorite decorations and wondering if your pet is okay, it’s the hidden holiday dangers that Doc Truli dreads each holiday season.
4-Year-Old Labrador Retriever Mix Refuses to Stop Licking her Front Leg!
Mercy was a peaceful, calm dog. She stepped on the scale at the vet’s and obeyed any request such as “sit!” or “Gimme paw!” But the 4-year-old Lab mix would not stop licking the top of her left front leg!
Lick Granuloma Obsession
Day and night, when she wasn’t running and playing, she was laying in a quiet corner, under the dining room table, or next to the bed, just licking and licking. She obsessed about one particular oval, grey, raised, bald spot on the top of her left forearm. Over the years, that spot grew thicker and bigger. First, there was just a tiny red spot and the licking. But after a few months, all the hair fell out. Now, several years into the thing, the licking is constant. These spots are called “lick granulomas.”
Treatments That Sometimes Work for a Lick Granuloma
Mercy’s family tried everything they could think of:
- Bitter Apple spray
- Triple antibiotic cream
- Hot sauce
- Vitamin E and Aloe vera
- Squirting water at her and saying no!
- Antidepressant medication
Still, Mercy licked obsessively at that one spot. read more…
Guinea Pigs Need Surgery, Too (Sometimes)
Harvey peered at Doc Truli through the mesh in his carrier door. His
cheeks bulged back and forth as he chewed his Timothy hay. His orange
and white ruffled fur stuck out different directions on hs shoulders
Three children watched their 2 1/4 pound pet and nervously offered
“The oldest Guinea Pig I’ve known was Einstein. He lived in Maine, USA. I didn’t believe he was nine. But when we calculated the time since the kids met him as their kindergarten class pet and took him home at the end of that school year, well, nine years had passed!” said Doc Truli. read more…
Loss of a Faithful Companion Can Tear Your World Apart
Shara lost her 12-year-old mini Dachshund to Bufo Toad toxicity. Mimi had been a lusty red-headed long haired Dachshund, and she did what Dachshunds do: Mimi got into everything, preferably teeth first. The Bufo toad sat in wait in the leaves at the edge of the patio, and when Mimi lunged for the toad, her tongue barely touched the poisonous skin.
She immediately started foaming at the mouth and tremors and seizures followed within two minutes. Even though Shara washed out Mimi’s mouth with hose water and rushed to the animal hospital, Mimi could not be revived out of her seizures, even with continuous general anesthesia. She eventually lapsed into a coma and passed away later that same night. read more…
How Can You Get a Fat Cat to Eat Better Food and Less Food, Especially in a Multi-Cat Household?
Is It Bad for a Cat to be Fat?
Ralph was obese. The 24-pound striped tabby cat tipped the scales. His blubber overflowed the bucket scale, and we weighed him on the dog scale.
50% of pet cats and dogs are obese in the United States, following the lead of their humans. This fat shaves 2-4 years off of the cats’ lifespans. Arthritis, intervertebral disc disease, asthma, heart disease, diabetes, and pancreatitis abound in the US feline population. read more…
Doc Truli at Dogtoberfest, Dunedin, FL, USA 2010
All Pet Care Hospital and Doc Truli contributed to the Suncoast Animal League Third Annual Dogtoberfest Charity Event 2010 in Highlander Park, Dunedin, FL, USA. Surprisingly, Doc Truli was the only veterinarian on hand at the event to answer pet questions! Our “Ask the Doc” table located next to the food, was a hit! At least 3,000 people attended the event, and I’ll tell you how I know that in a minute.
Let’s Stump the Doc
Many people stopped by to meet Doc Truli or to chat, but a few people actively attempted to “stump the Doc.”
“My vet said my dog’s cruciate ligament is ruptured and he must have surgery, what do you think?”
The second knee is likely to go in the next year.
“I can’t get rid of fleas, is there anything new on the market?”
Comfortis pill for dogs, labelled organic
“How do I keep my Chihuahua from getting carsick?”
Ginger root. “What’s that?” Dramamine II “Harrumph, I don’t like drugs.” “Acupressure point on the inside of the front leg just above the wrist. “Are you crazy?” Okay, what answer were you looking for?
“What do you think this lump is? My vet tested it yesterday, but the results aren’t back yet?”
Don’t know. Glad you got it tested. Wait and see!
“Do you take care of Chinchillas, too?”
Doc Truli’s favorite question that usually stumps dog parents?
“What kind of food do you feed your dog?” An uncomfortable silence follows. The color of the bag and the word “natural” come up. But that’s usually about it! How embarrassing. Happens (almost) every time! read more…
Diagnosing an Allergic Pet Takes Medicine and Sleuthing
Work with your veterinarian to figure out your pet’s allergies. If more than one pet in your household is allergic, do not become discouraged, about 50% of American pets are allergic. It is probably not a poisonous horrible thing you did to your pets, it’s probably just that they are related by family, breed, or they are all in the affected 50%!
If it seems like your veterinarian wants to run a million tests, this checklist can help you keep track of the tests, and maybe reassure you that all the investigation is needed!
“I check the general health of a patient first, because back health or a disease and make allergies worse,” says Doc Truli. “Then we ‘control the controllable’ with a food elimination diet, and give nutritional supplements to see if the allergy resolves. Then we go into excluding common skin diseases and then finally, allergy testing and treatment.”
Pet Allergy Investigation Checklist
- Thorough, thoughtful physical examination
- Perfect flea prevention and treatment if present (If you can do this yourself, you may save a vet visit! 50% of pet dermatology specialist appointments turn out to be a flea problem!)
- Most allergic pets have secondary skin infections that need to be treated so we can see what the condition is like when only the allergy is present
- skin scrape cytology for mites (mange)
- skin tape cytology for lice and yeast and bacterial counts
- ear cytology for concomitant otitis (very common with skin problems)
- CBC, Chemistry, Thyroid screening test, fecal parasite exam, heartworm test, for cats feline leukemia and feline aids test
- Try Omega 3’s and Vitamin E
- Allergy Elimination Diet (8-12 weeks). See VirtuaVet’s Detailed article on how to perform the food trial at home.
- Lyme-sulfur dips in case of hidden mange or infections tests did not identify (tests are not perfect).
- Skin surgical biopsy (usually tiny samples, can be done in non-sedated patient… usually.)
- allergy blood serum tests and/or allergy skin testing (usually does require sedation, shaving the sides, and a dermatologist to correctly interpret the results.)
Your veterinarian will help you treat any secondary yeast, mite, or bacterial infections. Your pet may need anti-itching oral or topical medication for comfort while the investigation takes the necessary months to complete. If you discover another condition, such as hypothyroidism, get it treated. Sometimes the body just needs some balancing in order to handle the allergies itself.
Next time on VirtuaVet: Are Common House Product Scents setting off your pet’s allergies?
Q: Why can’t I just use an anti histamine?
A: Only 10% of cats or dogs respond to antihistamines.
Some Pets Suffer In Spite of Your Best Efforts
Doc Truli came across a scientific report that might explain why some pets are still itchy and miserable after all of your best efforts.
Maybe you have tried the allergy diet trial. Maybe you cook for your pet. Maybe your cat is ripping her fur out and still itchy after seeing the dermatologist several times. Maybe you’ve done the gammit of allergy investigation and treatment. Maybe your veterinary behavior specialist has tried 3 or 4 drugs on your pet thinking that he or she is “crazy.” Maybe your dog only feels okay if he takes daily prednisone, and you cannot fathom why he’s still allergic. read more…