Hot Topics

The information on this page is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care. Always follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian.

Veterinary Acupuncture 

Despite the fact many of its practices are thousands of years old, Eastern, or non-traditional, medicine is becoming more popular today than ever. Acupuncture is one specialized facet of non-traditional medicine that not only entered the mainstream; it’s become a treatment option for our pets.

“The specific origin of acupuncture is uncertain,” said Rodney Bagley, a veterinary neurosurgeon. “No one knows if it originally came from China, Korea, or India but it’s widely held that the Chinese perfected it.” Dr. Bagley recently completed a three-week certification course learning veterinary acupuncture techniques.

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Bathing Your Dog

Every pet owner has an olfactory (smell) memory that triggers their gag reflex, “I’ve never smelled anything like it!  (S)He must have rolled in something dead!Odors that defy classification have an obvious solution; bathe the dog. Soap choice is where the confusion starts. In some situations it seems nothing but the harshest solvents will be adequate to clean your pet. It may also seem reasonable to use dish soap or a product designed for human hygiene, such as shampoo. “Harsh chemicals aren’t necessary,” assured Terese DeManuelle, a veterinary dermatologist from Portland, Oregon. “A mild hypoallergenic soap that’s formulated for veterinary use is all you need.” “Formulated for veterinary use” means a product that’s designed to work with a dog’s body. While dish soap or your favorite shampoo might strip away the dirt, and more importantly the odor, from your pet’s coat, it will also strip natural oils from their fur and may irritate their skin.

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An Overview of Cancer

Cancer is caused by uncontrolled and purposeless growth of cells in the body. Other terms for cancer are malignancy, tumor and neoplasia. Cancer can arise from any tissue in the body so there are many types of cancer.

Some forms of cancer have the ability to spread to other sites in the body which are often far from the original site. This happens when cancer cells enter the blood or lymph vessels and are then carried to other organs. Cancers with this type of behavior are considered malignant.

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Chronic Kidney Disease and Failure

Chronic kidney disease is defined as kidney disease that has been present for months to years. Chronic renal disease (CRD), chronic renal failure (CRF), and chronic renal insufficiency refer to the same condition.

CKD is not a single disease. There are many different causes of CKD but by the time the animal shows signs of kidney disease the cause may no longer be apparent. Some potential causes of CRF include:

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Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus occurs when the pancreas doesn't  produce enough insulin. Insulin is required for the body to efficiently use sugars, fats and proteins. 

Diabetes most commonly occurs in middle age to older dogs and cats, but occasionally occurs in young animals. When diabetes occurs in young animals, it is often genetic and may occur in related animals. Diabetes mellitus occurs more commonly in female dogs and in male cats. 

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Diarrhea

Diarrhea is the passing of loose or liquid stool, more often than normal. Diarrhea can be caused by diseases of the small intestine, large intestine or by diseases of organs other than the intestinal tract. Your ability to answer questions about your pet's diet, habits, environment and specific details about the diarrhea can help the veterinarian narrow the list of possible causes, and to plan for specific tests to determine the cause of diarrhea. (Anatomy of the digestive system: dog / cat)

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Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)

Anatomy of the heart of a cat

HCM is a disease that causes thickening of the heart muscle resulting in poor relaxing and filling ability. As the heart’s pumping chamber (ventricle) becomes progressively thicker, less blood can enter the chamber; thus, less blood is ejected out to the body. The cause of HCM is unknown, although certain breeds of cats appear to be predisposed. Middle-aged male cats may be more commonly affected. Sometimes heart muscle thickening similar to HCM can develop secondary to other disorders such as hyperthyroidism (elevated thyroid hormone) and systemic hypertension (elevated blood pressure). Blood pressure measurement and, in cats over five years of age, a blood thyroid hormone test should be done to exclude these secondary causes when cardiac hypertrophy (thickening) is diagnosed.

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Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)  

Anatomy of the heart of a dog

What is it?

DCM is a disease of the heart muscle that results in weakened contractions and poor pumping ability. As the disease progresses the heart chambers become enlarged, one or more valves may leak, and signs of congestive heart failure develop. The cause of DCM is unclear in most cases, but certain breeds appear to have an inherited predisposition. Large breeds of dogs are most often affected, although DCM also occurs in some smaller breeds such as cocker spaniels. Occasionally, DCM-like heart muscle dysfunction develops secondary to an identifiable cause such as a toxin or an infection. In contrast to people, heart muscle dysfunction in dogs and cats is almost never the result of chronic coronary artery disease ("heart attacks").

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Heart Valve Malfunction in the Dog (Mitral Insufficiency)

Anatomy of the heart of a dog

Many dogs slowly develop degenerative thickening and progressive deformity of one or more heart valves as they age. In time, these changes cause the valve to leak. The mitral valve is most commonly affected. This valve separates the blood collecting chamber (left atrium) from the pumping chamber (left ventricle) leading to the body. Some dogs also develop these changes in the tricuspid valve, which separates the collecting (right atrium) and pumping (right ventricle) chamber leading to the lungs.

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Holiday Health Hazards

If you want to get festive, mix some of your pet's regular food with water to make a "dough" and roll out and cut into festive shapes, then bake until crunchy.

The holiday season brings excitement and commotion associated with shopping, final exams, travel, and other seasonal preparations. In all the activities of the season our beloved pets may be exposed to hazards less commonly found other times of the year. As homes fill with holiday spirit, pets may be intrigued by the new sites, smells and tastes. The following are some of the most common health concerns for your pet during the holidays. If you have specific questions regarding any pet health concern please contact your veterinarian.

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Hyperthyroidism in the Cat

Hyperthyroidism is the overproduction of thyroid hormone by the thyroid glands. Hyperthyroidism occurs most commonly in older cats and is rare in dogs. The average age of cats with hyperthyroidism is 13 years of age; only about 5 % of hyperthyroid cats are younger than 10 years of age. There are 2 thyroid glands located in the neck. One or  both of the glands can enlarge and overproduce thyroid hormone.  Involvement of  both glands is more common than involvement of one gland. Thyroid hormone affects the function of most organs in the body, so the signs of hyperthyroidism are quite variable. 

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Hypothyroidism in Dogs

The thyroid glands located in the neck produce hormones that affect the function of many parts of the body. Although thyroid disease in cats often causes over productive glands and too much hormone, dogs with thyroid disease usually have a low production of thyroid hormones.

Overactive thyroid glands in the dog are rare and are usually associated with cancer. Hypothyroidism in dogs is usually caused by inflammation or shrinkage of the thyroid gland. Thyroid cancer can cause hypothyroidism although it does not occur commonly in dogs. Hypothyroidism occurs more commonly in medium to large breed dogs and usually in middle aged dogs. Breeds commonly affected include:

  • Golden retriever
  • Doberman pincher
  • Irish setter

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Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence is the involuntary passing of urine. Pets can be incontinent for many different reasons. Those reasons can involve the bladder, the urethra which is the tube from the bladder to the outside, or incontinence can be caused by abnormalities in the parts of the brain and spinal cord that control bladder function. Related anatomy dog/ cat

Incontinence can be confused with diseases that cause a pet to urinate frequently. This pet health topic only discusses incontinence, not frequent urination.

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Intervertebral Disk Disease

The intervertebral disks sit between the vertebrae in the spine. They function as shock-absorbers to help dissipate the forces placed on the spine. Each disc is made up of two parts, an outer fibrous covering (the annulus fibrosus) and an inner, gelatinous portion, the nucleus pulposus.

Invertebral disc disease (IVDD) occurs when there is degeneration of the intervertebral disks. As disks degenerate, they lose some of their water content, the nucleus becomes less gelatinous and more calcified. This calcified disc is less stable and more apt to herniate (type I IVDD) or protrude (type II IVDD). Discs usually rupture or protrude in an upward direction. Sitting above the disc anatomically is the spinal cord.

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Chronic Kidney Disease and Failure (CKD, CRF, CRD)

Chronic kidney disease is defined as kidney disease that has been present for months to years. Chronic renal disease (CRD), chronic renal failure (CRF), and chronic renal insufficiency refer to the same condition.

CKD is not a single disease. There are many different causes of CKD but by the time the animal shows signs of kidney disease the cause may no longer be apparent. Some potential causes of CRF include:

  • congenital malformation of the kidneys (birth defects)
  • chronic bacterial infection of the kidneys with or without kidney stones (pyelonephritis)
  • high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • diseases associated with the immune system (e.g. glomerulonephritis, systemic lupus))
  • acute kidney disease, for example poisoning with antifreeze, that damages the kidneys can lead to CKD

Often the cause of CKD is unknown.

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Determining Gender (Sex) of a Kitten

You just brought home a kitten that you intend to name Sam but your roommate tells you that you had better consider the name Samantha instead.

Determining the sex (gender) of a kitten is easy when you know what to look for. 

Lift the kitten's tail. The opening just under the tail is the anus. Below the anus is the genital opening which is round in males and is a vertical slit in females. In kittens of similar size, the distance between the anus and the genital opening is greater in the male than the female.

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Laboratory: What Do Those Lab Tests Mean?

The results of laboratory tests on a patient are compared to reference ranges established by measuring the laboratory parameters in a group of normal animals. The reference ranges for each laboratory test differ between laboratories and across species. Be careful interpreting laboratory tests. An occasional animal will have a value for a laboratory test that falls outside the reference range, but the value may still be normal for that animal. 

Your veterinarian will interpret laboratory tests in light of the entire evaluation of your pet. Sometimes laboratory tests need to be repeated to evaluate trends, which may provide more information than measurement of a single test. 

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Lyme Disease

What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is caused by the corkscrew-shaped bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi  which is also called a spirochete. The bacteria are carried by ticks which transmit the infection when they feed on animals and humans. The disease can cause generalized illness in animals and humans worldwide. 

map of the US showing the distribution of tick-borne diseases In the United States, Lyme disease occurs predominantly on the Pacific coast and in the Midwest, and Atlantic coast states.  Regions in which the disease occurs commonly are called endemic regions. About 75% of dogs living in endemic regions are exposed to infected ticks, but only a small percentage of exposed dogs develop signs of disease.

 

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Canine Lymphosarcoma (Lymphoma, LSA)

Incidence/cause

LSA, a tumor caused by a cancerous proliferation of lymphocytes (cells that normally function in the immune system), is one of the most common tumors seen in dogs. It affects dogs of any breed and age, although most dogs will be middle-aged or older at the time of diagnosis; Golden retrievers are considered a breed at increased risk of developing LSA. The cause of LSA in dogs, as is true for most canine tumors, is not known.

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Feline Lymphosarcoma (Lymphoma, LSA)

Incidence/Cause

Lymphosarcoma is a tumor caused by a cancerous proliferation of lymphocytes or, cells that normally function in the immune system. This is a very common tumor in cats and can present in a variety of ways. At one time, feline leukemia virus (FeLV) was a leading cause of LSA in cats and typically young cats were infected. Now that the incidence of FeLV has decreased cats still develop LSA but it is generally older cats and different forms. The Feline aids virus (FIV) has also been shown to increase the risk of a cat developing LSA six times over a non-infected cat. Any breed of cat can develop LSA. The cause of the disease unrelated to FeLV or FIV is unknown although environmental smoke exposure has been found to increase a cat’s risk of LSA, and a possible link to long standing inflammatory disease has long been theorized. 

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Canine Mast Cell Tumors

Incidence/Cause

Mast cell tumors (MCT) in dogs are very common, accounting for approximately 20% of all skin tumors in dogs. For most dogs, the underlying cause promoting the development of the tumor is not known. Mast cell tumors can arise from any skin site on the body, and can have a variety of appearances. Veterinary oncologists recommend that before any skin lump is removed, the cells from the mass be collected for examination to rule out the lump as a mast cell (or other malignant) tumor. And mast cells are something that are easily identified on aspiration.

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Giving Oral Medications to a Cat 

Your veterinarian will tell you if your cat's medication(s) can be given with food or if it must be given on an empty stomach. If the tablet or capsule can be given with food, you may make a "meatball" by placing the medication in the center of a small ball of canned cat food or cheese.  Always give a test "meatball" to your cat to make sure she is willing eat it and also to see if she chews it or gulps it whole. Cats are more likely to chew their food than are dogs, so cats often will eat the "meatball" and spit out the tablet or capsule. This causes the tablet or capsule to partially dissolve and become very hard to handle. If the cat bites into the tablet or capsule, which will leave  a bad taste in her mouth, she will be harder to medicate on the second attempt. So, you will have to decide what works best with your cat. 

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Giving Oral Medications to a Dog

Your veterinarian will tell you if your dog's medication(s) can be given with food or if it must be given on an empty stomach. If the tablet or capsule can be given with food, you may make a "meatball" by placing the medication in the center of a small ball of canned dog food or cheese. Always give a test "meatball" to your dog to make sure she is willing eat it and also to see if she chews it or gulps it whole. Dogs are more likely to gulp the "meatball" without chewing. If they do chew the "meatball" and spit out the pill, the tablet or capsule will partially dissolve and become very hard to handle. If the dog bites into the tablet or capsule, which will leave a bad taste in her mouth, she will be harder to medicate on the second attempt. So, you will have to decide what works best with your dog.

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Canine Osteosarcoma (OSA)

Incidence/Cause

OSA is the most common primary bone tumor of dogs and is estimated to account for roughly 85% of tumors in the canine skeleton. It is most often a tumor of the front limb with tumors near the "wrist" (in the radius or ulna) common and tumor in other sites of the front and rear leg somewhat less common. Another rule of thumb often stated is that these tumor occur away from the elbow and towards the knee. OSA can, however, occur in any bone. Middle aged to older large to giant breed dogs are most often affected by the form of tumor involving the long bones such as the radius, ulna, humerus, femur and tibia. The cause of this tumor is largely unknown.

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Seizures

A seizure is defined as a paroxysmal, transitory disturbance of brain function that has a sudden onset, ceases spontaneously, and has a tendency to recur. Generalized seizures affect the entire body. Most commonly, animals will fall to the side, make paddling movements with the limbs; they will often will urinate, salivate and defecate during the episodes. Generalized seizures usually last from several seconds to upwards of a couple minutes. Focal seizures remain localized to one body region and are usually shorter in duration, lasting a couple seconds. Seizures may start focal and then become generalized. 
After the veterinarian is convinced that a seizure disorder is present, the most important question to be answered is whether the seizure is the result of primary brain disease (intracranial disease), or the result of a disturbance outside the brain (extracranial disease), The most common intracranial causes of seizures include: structural disease including hydrocephalus, head trauma, inflammatory brain disease (encephalitis), strokes and neoplasia (brain cancer). The most common causes of extracranial diseases that cause secondary brain signs include: toxins and metabolic diseases. Metabolic diseases include: low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), high blood sugar (hyperglycemia), liver disease, kidney disease, electrolyte disturbances, toxins (poisons), anemia.

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Assistance (Service ) Dogs

Dogs can certainly be a best friend, but when they are assistance animals they are much more. These dogs allow people freedoms many of us take for granted everyday. 

Rachael Armstrong is a Washington State University sophomore veterinary student at who provides "basic training" to assistance dogs. "Zack" is the two-year-old German shepherd currently under Rachael’s tutelage. His title is prominently displayed on the red vest he wears. Given his job will be to assist someone with day to day living, Zack must be exposed to every possible public environment.

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Vomiting  

Vomiting is a very common problem in dogs and cats. There are many causes of vomiting. Primary or gastric causes of vomiting are those that are due to diseases of the stomach and upper intestinal tract. Secondary or non-gastric causes of vomiting are caused by diseases of other organs that cause an accumulation  of  toxic substances in the blood. These toxic substances stimulate the vomiting center in the brain causing the animal to vomit. (Anatomy of the digestive system: dog / cat)

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