News: Guest Posts
Early detection is key
Here’s some sobering news: One in four dogs will develop some type of cancerous tumor. The news can wreak havoc on a pet owners’ emotions. The cost to diagnose and treat cancer-related diseases can also take a huge bite out their bank account.
“It’s not uncommon to have a $2,000 to $3,000 veterinary bill,” said Dr. Carol McConnell, vice-president and chief veterinary medical officer for Veterinary Pet Insurance Company (VPI).
The California-based provider of pet insurance recently released its 2010 cancer statistics to educate pet owners about this malady—the number one disease-related killer in dogs and cats—and the costs associated with the illness.
VPI said it received nearly 40,000 claims last year for cancer diagnosis and treatment in pets. Eighty-five percent of the company’s policies are written for dogs, 14 percent for cats, and the remaining one percent for avian and exotic pocket pets, Dr. McConnell said.
The ten most common cancer-related claims VPI received were for:
Dr. McConnell wasn’t surprised that lymphosarcoma—cancer of the lymphatic system—topped the list as the most common cancer-related claim filed.
“Lymphosarcoma is consistently the number one [cancer-related] claim we receive,” she said. “I went back and checked the lists for 2005 and 2006 to see how the different cancers compared to 2010. Lymphosarcoma was number one in 2005 and 2006. And it’s number one again in 2010—by a lot. We received nearly 9,000 claims for Lymphosarcoma in 2010.”
The good news about this type of cancer is that it responds well to chemotherapy, Dr. McConnell said. “Lymphosarcoma is one of the most responsive cancers,” she said. “There are other types of cancers that are death knells.”
The company’s 2010 data revealed that mast cell tumors were the second most common cancer-related claims it received, Dr. McConnell said.
“We see about 5,000 claims a year for this type of cancer,” she said, adding the company receives approximately 1.1 million claims a year for all pets.
VPI’s statistics also uncovered another trend: the number of claims for bone cancer dropped from recent years.
But the decline is nothing to bark about—yet.
“Bone cancer was number three and now it’s number six,” Dr. McConnell said. “But I have actuaries who keep telling me not to over-interpret the data. It’s not a statistically significant difference and it’s not an indicator that the rates of bone cancer have dropped.”
She added: “Bone cancer is one of those diseases that by the time it’s diagnosed, the disease is pretty far along. Dogs are stoic. They put up with a lot and by the time the dog is limping and you go in for an x-ray, the disease is pretty advanced.”
Asked about cancer of the eyelids, Dr. McConnell said: “These are like skin masses on the linings of the eyes and they (masses) can cause an abrasive type of effect on the eyes. Whether they’re malignant or benign, these masses need to be removed. They can cause ulcers on the eyes.”
Treating cancer in dogs and cat is expensive.
VPI’s policyholders spent $12.8 million last year on pet with these top 10 cancer-related illnesses. Cancer of the brain or spinal cord was the most expensive to diagnose and treat, the company said. Policyholders spent an average of $752 to diagnose and non-surgically treat those cancers. Pet owners who pursued surgical treatments spent an average of $2,410, VPI said.
Dr. McConnell said it’s vital for pet owners to learn the signs and symptoms of cancer in their dogs and cats, Dr. McConnell said. “They are the front lines of defense.”
Symptoms pet owners need to watch include:
In the battle against pet-related cancers, Dr. McConnell said it’s also important for dogs, cats, and other animals to receive regular veterinary exams. Early detection and treatment are keys to a pet’s chance for survival, she said.
Pet owners also need to be financially prepared in case their four-legged or winged companions are diagnosed with cancer or other illness, Dr. McConnell said. “Financial preparation is key.”
VPI created a special website to give pet owners an idea about how much it will cost to treat the most common health problems in dogs and cats. The “Cost of Care Planner” breaks down those prices according to specific breeds.
VPI said cancer-related diseases were the fourth most common medical claim it received in 2010. Ear infections, skin allergies and skin infections/hot spots were the top three diseases in pets last year, the company said.
More information about cancer and other pet-related diseases is available on VPI’s website.
Wellness: Health Care
When it comes to taking care of your dog, and insuring your canine friend’s health—it’s often the little things that count. A simple daily check-up will help detect problems that can be easily remedied before they grow into serious afflictions. Checking your dog’s coat, ears and paws should become part of your daily routine—your dog with thank you for it! Join My Dog author Michael J. Rosen as he guides you through a 60-second pup check-up. For other youth-oriented activities, check out more videos from My Dog.
Wellness: Health Care
The strange but usually benign case of reverse sneezing
Reverse sneezing is a disconcerting event in which a dog makes an alarming respiratory sound, similar to a honking noise. This understandably leads pet owners to think that their dog is having trouble breathing and in grave danger. These episodes are followed by a warp-speed drive to the ER where we generally assess a happy dog wagging his or her tail and giving us the look of, “Not sure what all the fuss is about, but boy, that sure was a fun car ride!”
Reverse sneezing is a condition that usually does not need any treatment. It is called reverse sneezing because it sounds a bit like a dog “inhaling sneezes” or “snorting backwards.” These episodes are short-lived and usually resolved by the time of presentation, leaving us veterinarians to (embarrassingly) try to mimic the noise in the exam room. This video shows a typical reverse sneezing episode.
What is the cause and what is my pet experiencing when this happens?
The most common cause of reverse sneezing is an irritation of the soft palate and throat that results in a spasm. The dog’s neck will stretch outward and the chest will expand during the spasm as it tries harder to inhale. The trachea narrows during this time, and it’s hard to get the normal amount of air into the lungs. All of these actions together result in the disturbing display.
What are some other causes?
Anything that irritates the throat can cause this spasm, and subsequent reverse sneezing, including:
Further evaluation should be pursued if reverse sneezing becomes a frequent occurrence, as there may be a treatable underlying cause of the episodes, such as mites or allergies. In many cases, however, the cause cannot be identified.
What can I do?
Reverse sneezing itself rarely requires treatment. When the sneezing stops, the spasm is over. If the episode continues beyond a few seconds, sometimes massaging your dog’s throat can help stop the spasm. Also, it is sometimes effective to cover the nostrils for quick moment, which makes the dog swallow and helps to “clear out the irritation.”
Some dogs have these episodes their entire lives; while others develop the condition only as they age. In most dogs, however, the spasm is an occasional and temporary problem that goes away on its own, needing no treatment and leaving the dog with no aftereffects.
Are some dogs more prone to reverse sneezing?
This commonly happens to brachycephalic dogs (flat-faced babies such as Pugs or Boxers) that by nature have elongated soft palates. These breeds will occasionally suck the elongated palate into the throat while inhaling, causing reverse sneezing. Beagles, Yorkies and other small dogs are also particularly prone to it, possibly because they have smaller throats. Cats are very rarely prone to reverse sneezing, and if these signs are noted, veterinary attention is needed.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Vets submit their most surprising x-ray finds
One of my dogs is a master thief. Despite my best efforts to keep the house eternally “puppy proofed,” every now and then I'll find Nemo shredding a sock or sponge--or I'll find out later when it comes out the other end.
Fortunately nothing has ever gotten stuck, but it's something that's always in the back of my mind. Now, Veterinary Practice News' X-ray Contest has me thinking that there could be something in there that I don't know about!
The magazine asked veterinarians to submit their best x-ray finds of the year. The winning submission was taken by Dr. Vanessa Hawkins at Bayshore Animal Hospital in Oregon when she was examining a dog with a lame hind leg. To her surprise, Dr. Hawksin found nine handballs inside of the dog's stomach! It was an incidental finding that she would've never discovered had he not been x-rayed for the lameness.
What is the strangest thing that your dog has ingested?
Wellness: Health Care
From silica gel packets to poinsettias, dogs ingesting these toxins may not need a trip to the vet
During our emergency hours, I receive many a call that begins “my pet ate …” followed by the questions, “Is this harmful?” and “Do I need to bring him or her in?” Many of these inquiries are about substances that are not necessarily toxic, and I often give the recommendation of letting your pet remain happily at home.
I have compiled a list that represents the most common “nontoxic” toxins that I am asked about on a regular basis; knowing these may actually save you a trip to your veterinarian.
1. Silica gel packets: Packed with everything from vitamins to new clothes to protect against spoilage, silica gel packets are commonly ingested or chewed by dogs. Silica gel is chemically and biologically inert. If ingested, mild gastrointestinal (GI) signs are possible. Main risk: The packets can potentially cause an obstruction in the intestines if the whole packet is swallowed, especially in small dogs. (The packaging is often the biggest risk in the case of all these toxins. See note below.)
2. Oxygen absorbers: Found in packaged foods, oxygen absorbers contain iron powder, sodium chloride and carbon. By the time they are eaten by a pet, the iron powder has been converted to ferric oxide (rust!).
3. Ant and roach traps contain multiple active ingredients but at very low concentrations and are not likely to cause any significant clinical effects. These may also cause mild GI upset.
4. Birth control pill packets contain 21 tablets of estrogen and/or progesterone and possibly seven placebo pills. The hormone pills contain low levels of estrogen (less than 0.04 mg/tablet) and some contain iron. The levels of toxicity for estrogen are dosages greater than 1 mg/kg of body weight, and for iron, dosages of greater than 20 mg/kg. These levels are not often reached by ingestion of birth control pills. A 25-pound dog would need to eat about 300 pills!
Other current methods of birth control, such as the NuvaRing, contains 11.7 mg of a progesterone and 2.7 mg of an estrogen; ingestion of this product rarely reaches the 1 mg/kg toxic levels.
5. Toilet water with tank “drop-ins” can be corrosive in their concentrated forms (the actual gel or tablet) but are only mild GI irritants once diluted in toilet water. Drinking small amounts of toilet water should not be of concern. If your pet has raided the toilet and lapped up the bowl contents, you can dilute the toilet water that was ingested by encouraging your pet to drink his or her “normal” water or other fluids such as chicken broth.
6. Fertilizers containing salts of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium (N-P-K): In most exposures, these are only GI irritants. Be sure to check for added iron, insecticides or pesticides, which can increase toxic potential. If the iron level is greater than 5 percent, more significant effects may occur.
“Organic” Fertilizer/Bone Meal/Blood Meal products are very attractive to dogs, and the primary concern here is if there are any insecticides mixed in. Another concern is if the product is moldy or rancid, as animals can develop a bacterial gastroenteritis (a bacterial cause of vomiting and diarrhea) or develop severe tremors from tremorgenic mycotoxins that are found in moldy substances. There is also a risk of impaction in the intestines if a large amount is ingested.
7. Lawn treatment herbicides, in general, do not cause severe systemic signs when a dog or cat has access to an appropriately treated yard. Mild GI upset can be noted when the application is fresh, but less likely to occur once the product has dried.
8. Fire logs generally contain sawdust, wood chips, peanut shells, petroleum wax, ammonium chloride and potentially a metal, such as copper to produce flame color. Systemic toxicity is not expected but can cause GI upset and pose obstruction risk.
9. Poinsettia ingestion causes mild GI upset only. The myth of the “deadly nature of the poinsettia plant” evolved from a 1900s rumor of an Army officer’s child dying after eating one leaf. Later, human studies revealed that a toxic dose for a 50-pound child is more than 600 leaves.
10. Glow jewelry contains Dibutyl phthalate, which has a very unpleasant taste. Signs you might note at home include drooling, hyperactivity and head shaking. Treatment includes giving a tasty treat and wiping off any liquid that remains on the fur. (Take your pet into a dark room to find any residual glow on the fur!)
11. Glue traps are commonly used to kill rodents and insects (and hopefully this will never be an issue in your home, as they are a cruel way of rodent control). Most contain benign attractants only, such as pheromones, and they are considered nontoxic. (However, it is important to make sure other substances have not been added, such as rat bait.)
If ingested, the risk is for an intestinal obstruction. If the animal has had exposure to its skin, the main concern is the method of decontamination. SOLVENTS SHOULD NOT BE USED! Instead, use vegetable oil, mineral oil or peanut butter to work the glue out of the fur and then bathe with dish soap.
12. Antacids: These over-the-counter medications commonly contain calcium carbonate, magnesium hydroxide and aluminum hydroxide; the main concern is for the development of vomiting, diarrhea and constipation. Verify that the agent does not contain salicylates. If the product contains salicylates, then you should call your veterinarian or local emergency clinic.
13. Human thyroid supplements overdoses are well tolerated by dogs due to poor intestinal absorption and differences in the way the medication is metabolized. Severe signs are not expected at dosages below 1 mg/kg in dogs. Higher doses can result in GI upset, hyperactivity, high blood pressure, lethargy, fast heart rate and an increased breathing rate. If these are noted, medical attention is needed.
14. H2 blockers, which include famotidine (Pepcid), ranitidine, cimetidine and nizatidine, are relatively benign and oral ingestion of greater than 10 times the therapeutic dose only results in mild GI upset.
15. Triple antibiotic and steroid creams only cause mild clinical signs, if any, as they are poorly absorbed orally. Vomiting and diarrhea may occur and you may see signs from the steroids (increased water consumption, increased urination, increased appetite and panting) but these are short lived and will be self-limiting. There is a risk of obstruction if the tube or cap is ingested.
The greatest risk of many of these “dietary indiscretions” is not from the substance itself, but from the packaging it is contained in which can cause an intestinal obstruction. Small dogs are at greater risk of developing an obstruction from packaging than larger dogs due to the smaller size of their intestines. For example, a silica gel packet can more easily move through the larger-sized intestine of a Labrador, than it can a Chihuahua. Clinical signs of a developing obstruction can include vomiting, diarrhea, painful belly, lethargy, and/or loss of appetite. If any of these signs are noted, seek care from your veterinarian immediately.
What about inducing vomiting at home?
We never recommend it for four main reasons:
1. Owners may misinterpret the ingredients and induce vomiting of a potentially hazardous substance.
2. There is a risk of causing aspiration pneumonia if not properly done.
3. There is a risk of an object getting lodged in the esophagus on the way back up, which causes another set of problems.
4. We induce vomiting by a simple small injection, which is much more pleasant for your pet than forcing a cup of nasty tasting hydrogen peroxide down his or her mouth.
One final word of CAUTION:
The above guidelines are just that—guidelines—and any ingestion of any questionable substance should always be followed up with a phone call to your veterinarian or local emergency clinic. Anything can be dangerous in the right quantity—even water!
Dog's Life: Home & Garden
A fantastic dog-grooming helper
Baking soda is a key ingredient when it comes to grooming.
•Keep your dog brushes clean by soaking them in a small basin in a solution of warm water and 1 teaspoon baking soda. Rinse and air dry.
•Give your dog a dry bath by sprinkling her with baking soda. Rub it in, then brush it out.
•For a wet wash, combine 3 tablespoons baking soda with 1 teaspoon dishwashing liquid and 1 teaspoon baby oil in a spray bottle. Spritz your pets, then wipe them dry.
•For healthy teeth and gums, dip a damp, soft brush in baking soda and gently brush your dog’s pearly whites.
•Maintain your pet’s dental hygiene by rinsing her mouth regularly with a solution of 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon baking soda in 1 cup of warm water.
•If you trim your dog’s toenails and accidentally cut too close and draw blood, dip the affected nail in baking soda, then apply pressure to stop bleeding.
Wellness: Health Care
The A-Bee-C’s of Acute Allergic Reactions
I kicked off my Saturday morning shift by treating the cutest puffy-faced puppy; he was experiencing his first acute allergic reaction. Like many dog owners, this puppy’s mom had never witnessed this kind of sudden reaction, and arrived at our ER in a panicked and perplexed state exclaiming, “he was normal just a minute ago!”
Acute allergic reactions are a common emergency, and the culprits are generally bees, wasps and spiders. This typically happens when our curious canines can’t resist a good sniff and inspection of the interesting creature moseying along the ground or floor.
Bites and stings can cause clinical signs that range from mild to life-threatening reactions. Mild reactions are generally limited to a swollen or puffy face, swelling and redness around the eyes, lumps and bumps over the skin, redness of the skin, head shaking and itchiness.
Severe reactions are called anaphylactic reactions, which are nearly immediate and can lead to life-threatening alterations in the body. These symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, staggering, pale gums, swelling of the larynx leading to difficulty breathing, and sudden collapse. Most pets that I see for anaphylaxis are reported to have vomited once followed by collapsing, and when I perform my physical exam, I generally observe pale gums and a poor pulse indicating a state of shock.
Veterinary attention is required if your pet is showing any signs of an allergic reaction. While seeking medical care, follow these steps:
What to Do:
“A” is for assist: If your pet was stung, see if the insect and stinger are still attached. If so, try to remove the stinger by scraping it out with a credit card or other stiff material. Alternatively, use tweezers by grasping the stinger, which is located below the venom sac.
When a honeybee stings, its stinger becomes detached from its body and the bee then dies. What’s left in the pet’s body is the stinger and a tiny piece of fleshy looking tissue, which is the venom sac. (Here’s a short video demonstration.) Wasps or bumblebees, on the other hand, can sting over and over again because their stingers do not become detached from their bodies.
“B” is for baking soda: To help neutralize some of the acidic venom, apply a paste mixture of baking soda and water to the sting area.
“C” is for cool compress: Apply a cool compresses to the area to help reduce the swelling and pain, as well as to help with constricting the blood vessels to “slow” the spread of the insect venom.
Have your pet examined immediately by your veterinarian if there are any signs of facial swelling, vomiting, breathing difficulty or collapse. Mild clinical signs can progress to severe clinical signs in a short period of time and early treatment will generally prevent continued progression of the reaction
What NOT to Do:
Can Anaphylaxis be Prevented?
In general, there is no way to predict which animals will have an allergic reaction, whether it will be mild, or whether it will progress to life-threatening anaphylaxis. Some pets have no reaction to a sting one time, and then have a severe reaction the next. The “Bee Gods” are not kind to my own baby girl, and one hones in on her bald little butt at least three or four times a year. Luckily, she has yet to develop a reaction.
For animals who do have an established history of being allergic to insect bites, I often get asked about giving Benadryl, which is part of the treatment protocol in allergic reactions. In the hospital setting, Benadryl is given by injection into the muscle, which works much faster than giving the medication orally. However, owners who are out on hikes and away from veterinary care often raise the concern about needing more immediate treatment. In these cases, you can carry with you, and give if needed, one milligram of Benadryl for every one pound of body weight (for example, a 50-pound dog can get 50 mg of Benadryl). This is not a substitute for veterinary care, but it can be helpful at “buying time” as you make your way to your veterinarian for evaluation.
You can also ask your veterinarian about getting a prescription for an “epi-pen” if your pet has experienced a true anaphylactic reaction in the past. This is a special syringe and needle filled with a single dose of epinephrine, and is similar to the type used for people who are highly allergic. You can carry this with you on trips or hikes and use if your pet experiences another severe reaction.
If you suspect your pet is experiencing a reaction from an insect bite, whether it is mild or severe, please contact your veterinarian or local emergency hospital for guidance and advice.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
One in three dogs will be affected by cancer
I still remember when I first heard that cancer affects one in three dogs. I was at an agility trial fundraiser for canine cancer research and the organizers asked anyone touched by the disease to raise their hand. Almost everyone had their hand up.
It's a scary statistic that hit home recently. Three of my friends have lost dogs to cancer in the last month. The disease has become so commonplace that last week there was an Internet hoax last week about a canine hero who was diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma.
So I thought it was a good time to review the National Canine Cancer Foundation's 10 early warning signs of canine cancer:
News: Guest Posts
Why we spent $6,500 this month … and counting
For the month of August, my husband and I have spent $6,500 on veterinary care for two of our four dogs. What I find particularly maddening is how we have done everything possible to ensure our dogs stay healthy, and yet, do we really know if it made a difference? I naively thought that by giving my dogs the best of everything—a raw diet, vitamins, supplements, holistic treats, mentally stimulating toys, daily exercise—they would remain immune to illness or injury.
Shelby had been acting strange for five months. My senior Pit Bull mix spent more time apart from the rest of the pack. Though never much of a food hound, she always came running for meals. This had changed; she’d either come at a walk or not at all. Eventually, she preferred to eat her meals outside instead of her usual spot in the kitchen. When I offered a treat, she’d gingerly pick it up out of my hand, then drop it to the floor before tentatively mouthing it. At nearly 10 years old, we suspected hearing loss and tooth decay, but it was neither. She had cancer.
My seven-year-old Dalmatian, Jolie, should’ve been at her healthiest. Between agility, Rally obedience, and hikes along the river, she was a compact, muscled 38 pounds. But for eight months, she suffered chronic lower back pain. Chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture, massage and laser treatments helped ease the pain, and she returned to normal activity. Two weeks ago, she woke up unable to move her head to the left. When she attempted to lay down, her high-pitched cries brought me to tears. A neurosurgeon solved the mystery: She had a bulging disc that required immediate back surgery.
After months of speculation and worry, we’re relieved to know what exactly is wrong with Shelby and Jolie. But now a new anxiety grows, like a storm cloud. Will they survive their respective journeys to wellness? How do we know that the decisions we make will improve their quality of life? Would we have been better off feeding a premium kibble, skipping the vitamins and supplements, and taking fewer agility or Rally classes so we had more money to feed these insatiable vet bills?
News: Guest Posts
Foster volunteer chronicles her pup’s heartworm treatment
For the past month, I’ve been following a blog about a nine-year-old foster dog named Mila, who is undergoing heartworm treatment. It’s written by Jean, who fosters dogs for Big Hearts Big Dog Rescue in Western New York. Mila is the third heartworm-positive pup to come into Jean’s care.
I’ve never really appreciated the challenges or devastation heartworm, and I’ve never known a dog treated for it. It’s a rare, though not unprecedented, occurrence in my part of the country, where nighttime temperatures aren’t generally hot enough for the heartworm larvae to mature in the mosquito host.
Following Mila’s journey has been an eye-opener—both in terms of the commitment of the caregiver and the challenges of the treatment, in particular, the need to keep the canine patient calm for a month at a time. We’ve asked Jean to check in with us about Mila’s progress.
In the meantime, check out BigDogsBigHeartworm.com to learn more about Mila, the treatment and some myth-busting about heartworm.
► Do you have a heartworm story to tell?
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