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Hypothyroidism - by Lexy Marcellus, Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brian Adam   
Monday, 03 October 2011 20:02

Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland is not releasing enough thyroxine in the blood.  One of the most common hormonal problems in dogs & cats.  As one of the body's most important glands, the thyroid is in the neck near the trachea or windpipe.  It has 2 lobes, one on each side of the trachea & is controlled by the pituitary gland.

The thyroid gland regulates the body’s metabolic rate. If the thyroid is overactive (hyperthyroidism), the body’s metabolism is elevated. If it is underactive (hypothyroidism), the metabolism slows down.

What causes hypothyroidism?

The most common cause is lymphocytic thyroiditis and is thought to be an immune-mediated disease. This means the immune system decides that the thyroid is abnormal or foreign and attacks it; although it's unclear as to why.  For those with idiopathic thyroid gland atrophy, normal thyroid tissue is replaced by fat tissue. This condition is also poorly understood.

These two causes of hypothyroidism account for more than 95% of the cases in dogs. The other 5% are due to rare diseases, including cancer of the thyroid gland.

What are the clinical signs?

-          Weight gain without an increase in appetite

-          Lethargy and lack of desire to exercise,

-          Cold intolerance (gets cold easily)

-          Very thin to nearly bald hair

-          Increased dark pigmentation in the skin

-          Increased susceptibility and occurrence of skin and ear infections

-          Failure to re-grow hair after clipping or shaving

-          High blood cholesterol

-          Infertility, lack of heat cycles, and abortions in females

-          Fat deposits in corneas of the eyes

-          “Dry eye” or Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) due to lack of proper tear production

How is it diagnosed?

Thyroxine, or T4 as it's commonly called, is a natural hormone produced by the thyroid.  Circulating T4 is converted to T3 in body tissues & organs, and T3 acts like a furnace thermostat one's metabolism rate.

Your veterinarian will suggest testing a blood sample for the T4, T3, free T4 (separation of T4 from its carrier proteins), and THS (thyroid stimulating hormone). If there is a decrease in production of those hormones, the dog has hypothyroidism.

How is it treated?

Hypothyroidism is treatable but not curable.  It's treated with an oral medication of thyroid replacement hormone.  This drug must be given for the rest of the dog’s life.  Regular testing of the levels of T4 is recommended every 6 months to 1 year to make sure your dog is well regulated.   If you suspect your dog may have this condition, consult with your veterinarian team for further information and testing to keep your dog healthy and happy. smiley Lexy

Last Updated on Saturday, 05 November 2011 07:30
Canine Obesity - by Lexy Marcellus, Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brian Adam   
Saturday, 10 September 2011 07:27

Obesity does not only affect humans but also your animals as well.  Defined as an excess of 15-20% over ideal body weight, it's been estimated 25-45% of dogs are obese!

Ideal body weight

Ribs- easily felt with slight (1/2”) fat cover

Tail Base- Smooth but bones can be felt under a thin layer of fat

Side View- Abdominal Tuck

Overhead view- Well-proportioned waist is present (hour-glass figure)


Ribs- Difficult to feel under thick fat cover

Tail Base- Thickened and difficult to feel under a thick layer of fat

Side View- Fat hangs down from the abdomen and there is no waist

Overhead View- Markedly Wide (Sausage shaped)


The cause of obesity is the greater energy intake (eating too much, eating high calorie type foods in excess, free-feeding) in combination with negative energy output (sedative lifestyles, not enough exercise). Hypothyroidism is another cause of obesity and weight problems.  Any overweight should be tested for hypothyroidism before beginning a weight loss program.

Obesity is a serious medical condition and can put your dog at higher risk for a number of abnormalities including: exercise intolerance, joint problems (osteoarthritis, injuries and ruptured ligaments), gastrointestinal problems (pancreatitis, and constipation), diabetes, increased work load on heart, and dermatitis. Also obese dogs are at higher risk for complications with anaesthetics, surgery, and other veterinary procedures (blood and urine collection).

As your dog loses weight you will notice that she/he: is more active and interested in playing with toys, is able to play for longer periods of time, has a healthier hair coat, experiences less pain associated with arthritic conditions, and breaths easier at rest and at play.

With today’s advances in nutrition, weight loss has never been easier. Your veterinarian will design a safe and effective weight loss program to meet your dog’s lifestyle. To start, encourage a brisk 30 minute walk twice daily. Discontinue feeding table foods and treats. Instead offer carrots, broccoli, and vet-approved low-calorie treats.

Most pets can lose weight if you adhere to these recommendations. Weight loss in pets and humans is made up of and interaction between reduced caloric intake (eating less) and increasing caloric expenditures (more physical activities). The great news is that weight reduction is about 60% diet and 40% exercise. Weight loss is often a matter of diligence and persistence.

Remember the reason you are doing this is to help your pet live as long and healthy a life as possible. If in doubt, always check with your veterinary team. And who knows, you both may benefit from this diet. wink Lexy

Last Updated on Saturday, 10 September 2011 07:50
Dogs and Arthritis - by Liz Gordon PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brian Adam   
Sunday, 04 September 2011 09:41

Not unlike humans, our "Braveheart" suffered from arthritis in his old age!  Yes, DOGS do develop arthritis; joints become inflamed causing stiffness & pain.  Although puppies may be affected occasionally, arthritis is a common problem in older pets.

Increased friction & decreased mobility of the joint results when over time the protective cartilage layer that lies over the joint portion of the bone, as well as diminished volumes of joint fluid occur. Some common signs that your dog has arthritis include stiffness, exercise intolerance, licking of the joints; when touching your dog you may feel heat from the joints, or your dog may wince in pain.

There are many causes for stiffness in dogs, so it would be wrong to make an assumption that it is caused by arthritis.  It's important to find out from a professional diagnosis as to why your dog is stiff.  Your veterinarian may recommend x-rays, joint fluid analysis and a physical exam to determine if your dog has arthritis.

There are many treatments available, which will best suit your dog’s individual situation; prescription foods with high levels of omega 3 fatty acids, glucosamine & other nutrients that decrease inflammation in joints. Great holistic treatments are available and some dogs respond well to massage, heat therapy, or acupuncture.  There are also pain control meds that are safe & effective, which your veterinarian can prescribe.

By keeping your dog at his ideal body condition & not allowing obesity you can help prevent arthritis (or arthritis from worsening). To strengthen his muscles that will help his joints work better, regular, gentle exercise is an asset.  It’s not normal for a dog to be stiff; by getting him help early, you could be preventing a lot of pain. heart  Liz

Heartworm - by Lexy Marcellus, Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brian Adam   
Sunday, 04 September 2011 09:30

Heartworms are blood-borne parasites that live in the heart and blood vessels of infected dogs.  The female worm is 15-36 cm long & 5mm wide. The male worm is half that size, and one infected dog can have as many as 300 worms inside its body.

How do dogs contract heartworms?

Heartworms infect domestic dogs, as well as wolves, foxes, and coyotes.  They can also occur in cats (domestic and wild), ferrets, and California sea lions - and are spread from one infected animal to another mosquitoes.

The female heartworm produces millions of offspring called microfilaria. These offspring live mainly in the bloodstream's small vessels and cannot complete their life cycle in the dog.  Heartworms develop in the mosquitoes to their infective form, and are then passed onto dogs. This disease is only spread when mosquitoes are present.  The offspring are picked up by the mosquitoes, when they bite the dog, develop in the mosquitos, and then spread to other animals.  When fully developed, the infective offspring enter the bloodstream and move to the heart and blood vessels where they grow to maturity in two to three months and start reproducing, thereby completing the full life cycle.

It takes a number of years before dogs show outward signs of infection. Consequently, the disease is diagnosed mostly in 4 to 8 year old dogs. The disease is very seldom diagnosed in a dog less than one year of age because the young worms (larvae) take up 5-7 months to mature after infection.

What do heartworms do to the dog?

Adult heartworms cause disease by clogging the heart and major blood vessels leading from the heart.  They interfere with valve action of the heart.  By clogging the main blood vessels, the blood supply to the other organs of the body is reduced particularly affecting the lungs, liver and kidneys leading to malfunction of these organs.

Most dogs with heartworm disease had no signs, and the disease is detected by routine heartworm blood tests. The more athletic and active the dog, the earlier the signs are seen. The first signs are often lethargy, decreased activity, and coughing. As the disease worsens, breathing rate and effort increase. Some dogs have fainting episodes when stressed. With advanced disease and heart failure, fluid build-up in the abdomen and weight loss may occur.  If large numbers of adult heartworms obstruct blood flow in the main arteries, lethargy, weakness, loss of appetite and fever may occur. The membranes of the mouth may be pale or yellow from red blood cell destruction and anemia.

How is heartworm diagnosed?

Two blood tests can be run to diagnose heartworm disease in your dog. A serological test for antigens to adult heartworms is the most common test because it detects the antigens (proteins) produced by adult heartworms. This test can also result in false negatives in early infections because only the female heartworm produces the antigen. A blood sample can also be examined to check for microfilariae (heartworm offspring). If microfilariae are seen, the test is positive. The number of microfilariae seen gives us a general indication of the severity of infection.

If a dog is positive for heartworms, chest x-rays are done to look for heart and lung changes. An echocardiogram (heart ultrasound) is done in dogs with heart failure and to assess the heart.  Prior to treatment, routine laboratory tests are usually recommended. If other problems, such as liver or kidney disease are found, they are treated first, because the drug used to kill adult heartworms can harmfully affect the kidneys and liver.

How are dogs treated for Heartworm?

There are some risks involved in treating dogs with heartworms, although deaths are rare. New drugs allow successful treatment of more than 95% of dogs with heartworms. Depending on the severity of the disease the longer the treatment may be.   The first dose of medication is usually and injectable to kill all adult heartworms. Complete rest is essential after the first treatment to prevent acute death caused by the decomposing adult heartworms. Treatment of the microfilariae usually occurs one month after the initial treatment and your dog will need to stay in the hospital overnight for observation.

4-6 months after adult heartworms are treated; a blood test is done to determine whether all adults were killed. A few dogs may remain positive and require repeated adulticide treatment. After successful heartworm treatment, preventative therapy is often given year round or at least during mosquito season. An annual or biannual heartworm test is done to ensure that preventative is working.

How do I prevent heartworm disease?

Yearly heartworm testing is important to ensure that the heartworm as not affected your dog as well as using heartworm prevention medications given monthly during the time when mosquitos are prevalent. The best medicine for this disease is prevention. If you have any further questions regarding heartworm testing and medications it is always important to consult your veterinary team. smiley Lexy

Last Updated on Sunday, 04 September 2011 22:09
Kennel Cough - by Lexy Marcellus, Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brian Adam   
Sunday, 04 September 2011 09:06

Kennel cough is a broad term for any infectious or contagious condition of dogs where coughing is one of the major clinical signs. The term tracheobronchitis describes the location of infection causing inflammation to the ‘windpipe’ or trachea and bronchial tubes.

Several viruses and bacteria can cause kennel cough, often all at the same time.  Some of these are the parainfluenza virus and the bacterium bordetella bronchiseptica. The bordetella bacteria lives in almost every dog, however, a good immune system keeps the bacteria under control.  A low immune system or stress can trigger bordetella to take hold and can cause an infection.  

Because the infection spreads when dogs are housed together at any time when your dog is in the vicinity of an infected dog, the potential exists for infection by air, touching, and other dogs toys, bowls, etc.  The incubation period is 5-10 days, meaning your dog will not show any signs of infection for 5-10 days following the exposure to the virus.

What are the clinical signs of ‘kennel cough’ other than coughing?

Clinical signs are varied, it is often a mild disease but the cough may be chronic lasting for several weeks in some cases. Common clinical signs include a loud cough often described as a “goose honk”, runny eyes, and nose, swollen tonsils, wheezing, lack of appetite and depressed behaviour. Most cases of infectious trachiobronchitis have palpable or elicit able cough that occurs when the throat is palpated or rubbed.

There is no specific treatment for the viral infections, but many of the more severe signs are due to bacterial involvement.  Antibiotics are useful against this bacterium, although some antibiotic resistance has been reported. Some cases require prolonged treatment, but most infections resolve within one to three weeks. Mild clinical signs may linger even when the bacteria have been eliminated.

How can I prevent my dog contracting Kennel Cough?

Most vaccination programs your veterinarian will recommend contain adenovirus and parainfluenza.  Bordetella vaccination is also highly recommended for dogs that are boarded, groomed or interact with other dogs in areas such as dog parks. Dogs that are vaccinated can also shed the virus within the first 72 hours after being given, causing mild signs of the infection to appear (cough, runny eyes, nose etc). It usually takes 7 days after the vaccination has been given for the dogs to develop the protection.

Immunity, even if your dog has experienced the infection naturally, is neither solid nor long-lasting.  Similarly, we cannot expect vaccines to do much better. Since immunity varies with the circumstances, consult with your veterinarian team regarding specific vaccination recommendations for your pet. Recommendations may vary according to specific circumstances. Some facilities require a booster vaccination shortly before grooming or boarding and some veterinarians recommend a booster vaccine every six months to ensure maximum protection against this troublesome infection.

How are the Bordetella vaccines administered?

Vaccination is given either by injection or intra-nasal route. Intra-nasal refers to the liquid vaccine administered as nose drops.  This allows local immunity to develop on the mucous membranes of the nose, throat and windpipe where the infectious agents first attack.  Always remember that vaccines are an important part of keeping your pets healthy and happy as well as regular visits to your vet clinic.  If you have any questions always consult your veterinary team. smiley  Lexy

Last Updated on Sunday, 04 September 2011 22:10
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