The Kitten Chronicles: Introducing Finn

By Vanessa Vandersande, DVM

We recently added a charming kitten to our household and he has the biggest purr in the universe. Finn was adopted from a wonderful local cat rescue called Forgotten Angels. Many of my clients have questions about adding a new pet to their home so I thought I would describe adding Finn to our menagerie. We also have two resident cats, two young children and a sweet senior dog, so adding a cat is no small endeavor.

Our first goal was to quarantine Finn to insure he didn’t have a cold he might pass on to our other kitties. I generally recommend a strict two week quarantine period which is always hard. Finn did end up with a cold after eight days so I was thankful he did not pass it to my other cats. He spent his quarantine in our guest bathroom so he could get used to the sounds of my house and grow confident. My other cats and dog spent a lot of time listening to him on the other side of the door so they got used to him too. The quarantine was an opportunity to discuss him with my young children, advising them that he was a baby and must be handled gently. They learned to read him for signs that he wants to be put down and that any child found being too rough with the kitten would have a serious time out.

As Finn’s quarantine ended we slowly started letting him explore the house for 15-20 minutes at a time. Any time he met with the other cats we would praise them and if there was any hissing we would separate them for some quiet time. Finn jumped a mile when he met our dog but she is used to cats and he quickly found she was not dangerous. The children were monitored closely until they proved themselves gentle with the kitten although there were some tearful time outs for being too rough. One month later, Finn has found his spot in the family with a minimum of stress.

Dogs and their Sensitive Stomachs

The term “food allergy” is often used to describe any adverse food reactions in dogs, often when an owner sees vomiting or diarrhea in the home.  However, it is more accurate to describe many adverse food reactions as “food intolerance”. A true allergy means that there is involvement of the dog’s immune system, while food intolerance does not involve the immune system. Adverse food reactions in dogs are often confused with food allergies. One characteristic of food intolerance is that it occurs on the first exposure to that food or food additive.  Allergies, and the immune system behind them, generally require several exposures before signs are seen.

There are several general categories of food intolerance reactions that may occur in dogs that are not caused by allergies:

-Food poisoning is a direct adverse reaction caused by food that is a frequent cause of gastrointestinal disease in dogs and may include the ingestion of excessive amounts of a certain nutrient, ingestion of spoiled food, and ingestion of foods that are irritating or toxic to a canine (such as chocolate)

-Food additives are occasionally reported to cause issues, including disulfides. Disulfides are found in onions and can cause damage to your dog’s red blood cells.

-Carbohydrate intolerance in dogs is much less frequent than in people, but does include lactose intolerance.  Signs seen at home include diarrhea, bloating, and abdominal discomfort after ingesting any type of dairy product.

-Dietary indiscretion is one of the most common reasons for dogs to develop vomiting and diarrhea, occurring when they eat garbage or human foods. The gastrointestinal signs may result from bacterial contamination, fat or grease (don’t feed your dog fast food!), or from bones, plastic, or aluminum foil.

When your dog’s stomach seems to be an issue, try to distinguish between it being due to something he has eaten once versus something has eaten multiple times (and therefore may involve the immune system and a potential food allergy). Knowing the dog’s feeding schedule, nutrient profile, and the timing and severity of any signs and symptoms will help your veterinarian distinguish between a one-time adverse food reaction and a more chronic food hypersensitivity. If you would like to discuss any concerns about your dog’s diet, please call us at Copper Hill Animal Clinic.

Pudgy Pets

By Vanessa Vandersande

At Copper Hill Animal Clinic, we absolutely understand how difficult it is to maintain a healthy weight in a pet who gazes up at us so beseechingly while we eat something particularly aromatic at the dinner table. How could it hurt to give one sliver of chicken, a crust of bread, or a spoonful of pudding? Our naughty kitten Finnegan stole a whole drumstick off the table just a few weeks ago, and while we should have been taking it back from him we instead found ourselves laughing at his attempts to drag it across the floor. The silly boy has since been barred from the table.

The truth of the matter is that our pets eat too much and exercise too little. Large dogs bred to pull sleds across tundra languish in their homes on the rug and cats sleep in fuzzy lined beds, barely walking 100 feet to a food bowl, rather than jumping, attacking and working for their prey. The portion sizes listed on the back of the food bag are often vague and confusing, leading to a bowl filled with more food than should actually be given. And all of this leads to a simple truth, that obesity is now the number one metabolic disease of pets.
In the upcoming months, Copper Hill Animal Clinic will be launching a program that we trialed with our own pets and have found to be effective. Anyone wishing for their pet to be a part of the program can make a free appointment to have a technician weigh and measure their pet. Depending on several data points and the pets needs, a plan is built recommending the exact amount of food that should be given, and a graph showing the pets expected weight loss is generated. Only current clients of Copper Hill may purchase food, but clients of other veterinary practices may discuss the plan with their regular vet to insure it is in their best interest. Check out our Facebook page for more information, and let’s all take a swing at obesity this year!

Eyes like Ours

By Vanessa Vandersande DVM

Did you know that animals suffer from many of the same eye problems that we do?  Clinical signs like red eyes, rubbing at the eyes and tear staining can be signs of eye problems and generally mean a trip to the vet is in order. Eye problems can be very painful and when ignored may lead to permanent damage, so prompt attention is important. Here are some common diseases we will be looking for during an eye exam.

Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, a fancy name for dry eye, is a disease that leads to an inflamed, dry cornea and conjunctiva. It occurs when there is a deficiency in the water portion of the tears, which normally accounts for 95% of the tear volume. The disease leads to a gooey yellow eye discharge characteristic of this condition. It can be diagnosed with an inexpensive test within minutes.

Glaucoma is an eye disease where the pressure in the eye becomes elevated. Intraocular pressure can become rapidly elevated to levels much higher than typically occur in people. Values above 50 mmHg rapidly cause blindness, are painful, and may cause the eye size to increase and it may bulge.  The beginning of diagnosis of glaucoma includes a test which checks pressure in the eye, which can be done in a few minutes during an eye exam.

Cataracts are an opacity in the lens of the eye. The entire lens may be involved or just a part of it. The opacity stops the passage of light through the lens and causes partial or complete blindness. Since many dogs adjust to blindness fairly well, some cataracts are not that problematic. However cataracts often lead to  secondary problems such as uveitis and glaucoma, so a dog or cat with cataracts should have several tests run annually to monitor for other diseases. Cataracts can sometimes be fixed with surgery which may cause a return of vision. The procedure is similar to the cataract surgery offered for human patients.

If you are concerned about your pets eyes, make an appointment at Copper Hill Animal Clinic for a complete ophthalmic assessment.

Pets and Tylenol Toxicity

Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in Tylenol and some other related medications that are used to treat pain and fever in people. Unfortunately, this drug can be extremely poisonous to cats and dogs. Acetaminophen toxicity occurs when a cat or dog swallows enough of the drug to cause damaging effects in the body. Acetaminophen is mostly broken down and eliminated from the body by the liver. Some of the substances that are created during this process can have harmful effects on cats and dogs. Cats are at much greater risk of toxicity than dogs because they lack certain proteins necessary for the liver to safely metabolize acetaminophen.

Once swallowed, acetaminophen reaches the blood stream within 30 minutes and toxic effects are rapid, damaging the liver and red blood cells. Severe liver damage can lead to liver failure. Red blood cells are damaged in that the affected ones are no longer able to carry oxygen. This means that the blood can no longer supply enough oxygen to the body’s vital organs.

Many cases of acetaminophen toxicity in dogs and cats are accidental. A pet may find and chew on a bottle of pills or eat a pill that has fallen on the floor. Sadly, some cases occur because pet owners give medication intended for people to their pets without being instructed to do so by a veterinarian..

Clinical signs of acetaminophen toxicity include vomiting, lethargy, difficult breathing, swelling, shock, collapse and even death. If you realize right away that your pet has swallowed acetaminophen, vomiting can be induced to remove the drug from your pet’s stomach before the body can absorb it. Another option may be to flush out the contents of the stomach. Activated charcoal may also be given to slow absorption of toxic material from the stomach and intestines. Additional treatments may include blood transfusions, intravenous fluid therapy, and other medications to help support and stabilize the patient.

Acetaminophen toxicity can be fatal. However, pets can survive if the condition is recognized, diagnosed, and treated quickly. If you have any questions about Tylenol, feel free to give us a call at Copper Hill Animal Clinic.

Lymphoma in Pets

By Vanessa Vandersande DVM

In my opinion, cancer is the plague of this generation. I know few who have not been touched by cancer’s icy claws. Personally, I have lost both a dog and cat to cancer and both times it was lymphoma. In the past several months at Copper Hill Animal Clinic we said goodbye to two special pets under the age of seven who lost their fight to lymphoma and both times we were all angered and bereft at a disease that would take the young as easily as the old.

What is this horrible disease that kills with such relentless impunity? Lymphoma is a common cancer in both animals and humans so I think a discussion of lymphoma helps us to know and recognize our enemy.

Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system. This system is a network of lymphatic vessels and lymph nodes which serve as processing centers where foreign substances are presented to the cells of the immune system. Once presented, the immune system can mount a response to the foreign substance. Cancer occurs when a normal cell goes wrong and it begins to divide quickly and without control. It is a cell behaving badly, like a person who takes up too much room on a shared armrest in the airplane. Only this person is exceptionally rude and ends up sitting in your seat as well as taking up your armrest. The spread of cancer cells to other areas, like the rude person into your seat, is called metastasis.

As the cancer cells spread, the lymph nodes harden and swell. Further spread of the cancer cells affect the bone marrow, destroy the immune system, and the patient will die from weakness and an inability to fight off even the mildest of infections. With no treatment at all, most pets will live no more than 4-8 weeks after diagnosis of lymphoma. This is a staggering statistic. We do not know what causes many kinds of cancer and it is important to remember that many times there is nothing an owner could have done to prevent the disease. Things like chemicals in our environment and genetic factors play a role. Badly behaving cells arise in a pets body all the time and most of the time they are able destroy these cells before they get out of hand. Sometimes these cancer cells escape our natural safeguard mechanisms, allowing the young cancer to develop.

If you fear your pet may have cancer, the best thing to do is to attack the problem as quickly as possible. At Copper Hill Animal Clinic, every single one of our doctors has had or currently has a pet with cancer. We understand this fight and we can help you through it, no matter what route you choose.

Holiday Time Considerations

by Tristan Clark, DVM

The holidays are nearly here and with them come cooler weather and the busy schedules of visiting friends and family. Often this season brings changes to your home, many of which can potentially be harmful to your pets. Keep some of the following in mind as you finalize your plans to ensure that your furry loved ones remain happy and safe through the winter!

The colder weather can play a part in changing where your dog or cat chooses to rest. Take care to ensure your smaller pets aren’t hiding under the covers before you jump on the bed or couch. Double check the dryer for any warmth-seeking nappers before turning it on for the next load and keep a safety screen up in front of the fireplace when lit. Burning candles can be knocked over by a running cat or wagging dog tail so ensure they’re out of reach. Also, be aware that outdoor cats may heat seek by curling up under a car hood – a situation that could be deadly once the engine is turned on.  A firm knock on the car hood helps alert them it is time to jump out of the vehicle.

My favorite part of the holidays is all the wonderful food but many of these items could spell disaster in the stomach of a pet. Chocolate is always a no-no and tends to be more prevalent in the house during this time of year. Alcoholic beverages can be very potent to those with a smaller body mass. Many holiday dinners include fatty foods such as eggnog, cheese logs, ham, prime rib or gravy. These all have a very good chance of causing vomiting and diarrhea, a surprise that nobody wants on December 25th!

The Christmas tree may be the star decoration of your holiday home but be aware of the extra dangers it may bring. Tree water might be full of stomach-churning fertilizers and breed bacteria. Ensure fresh water is always nearby for your pets to drink instead. Electrical cords should be hidden or covered as chewing them can result in a nasty shock. Ornaments and tinsel can cause problems if ingested. And as always, ensure the tree is good and steady as it can be tipped over quite easily by a curious climbing kitty or two.

Enjoy your holiday this year but keep an eye our ahead of time for these potential dangers!

A New Test for Early Diagnosis of Renal Disease

By Vanessa Vandersande DVM

Imagine the benefits of diagnosing chronic kidney disease months or even years earlier than what is currently possible. Until now, veterinarians used lab values, physical exam and an animals history to diagnose kidney disease. One in every three cats and one in ten dogs will be diagnosed with kidney disease in their lifetime, making this a major cause of death in our pets.

Symmetric dimethylarginine (SDMA) is a revolutionary new kidney function test and when evaluated alongside BUN, creatinine and urinalysis, makes it possible to intervene earlier and more effectively manage kidney disease. SDMA is excreted almost exclusively by the kidneys and can be an excellent tool in the evaluation of glomerular filtration rate. Other lab markers such as creatinine become elevated when three quarters of kidney function is already gone which is simply too late in some situations. Elevations in SDMA are apparent long before that kind of damage is present, giving us more opportunity to intervene with treatment, many of which are easy to administer, very cost effective, and lead to a longer, happier life.

SDMA testing has become the new gold standard for early intervention and superb wellness care and is only available through a national veterinary laboratory. At Copper Hill Animal Clinic, we fight against kidney disease on a daily basis so when our doctors heard about this test we made certain we would have it available to our clients the very moment it became available to us. Ask your veterinarian if they are screening SDMA when they run your pet’s bloodwork. It could change your pet’s life.

Covered for Emergencies

By Vanessa Vandersande DVM

A medical emergency is every pet owner’s worst case scenario.  A previously active dog ruptures a ligament in its knee and now can barely walk. A kitty accidentally gets out of the house and is hit by a car.

The good news is that the quality of care available from a veterinarian is similar to the care available for humans with similar medical issues.  Every owner who brings a pet through our doors wants to do the best thing possible for their pet, otherwise they wouldn’t bring them to the vet at all. However, excellent veterinary care is expensive and sometimes the true problem really comes down to the cost of care.  It can cause terrible emotional conflict when the funds are simply not available but your pet is going to need help anyway.

At our practice, we have found two tools that have helped many of our clients pay for care they could not otherwise afford. The first is Care Credit, a payment plan that many owners can be approved for over the phone. Depending on the plan, care credit can offer a way to make payments without accruing interest, which is a much better option than racking up debt on a credit card.

The second tool can have dramatic dividends. Pet insurance can be a literal life saver for some pets. I can think of countless stories from clients who signed up for pet insurance and then found it was going to save them thousands of dollars. To be clear, I do not work for or receive compensation from any pet insurance company, but I can tell you the company I have most consistently seen make reimbursements is Trupanion. I have many stories of clients whose pet had an emergency and insurance helped pay them back a large percentage for the treatment. Other insurance companies offer different benefits, so be sure to research whichever one you choose.

In a lot of places, pets have moved out of the farmyard and into the home. Sophisticated surgeries, treatments and diagnostic imaging such as MRI are available to help pets all around the world. When you really need to pay for pet care there are excellent options available. At Copper Hill Animal Clinic, we would love to tell you stories of the animals who would not otherwise be alive if it wasn’t for plans like Care Credit and Trupanion.

When is My Puppy Safe?

By Vanessa Vandersande DVM

It’s springtime and puppies are arriving in the practice for their puppy series vaccinations. This is one of my favorite times of year- who doesn’t love puppy breath? Most puppy owners recognize the importance of puppy vaccination and the value of preventing diseases like distemper and parvovirus.

However, many new owners are raising the question “When will it be safe for my puppy to have exposure to other dogs?” The question has a complicated answer. Depending on when vaccines are begun, some puppies will not truly develop immunity until the end of the vaccine series. The entire series takes four months, and that is an awfully long time to keep your new friend isolated!

The other side of the coin is many dogs don’t work out in their new homes due to behavioral problems. Exposing a pup to other dogs early in life can be extremely beneficial, helping the puppy to learn how to behave with other dogs in a non-fearful manner. Puppies also have a phenomenal amount of energy and having them run around with another dog is a wonderful, healthy way to tire them out.

The object in this situation is to find a middle ground where the puppy can interact with other dogs and learn good social skills while steering clear of situations where the pup might be exposed to a dangerous disease. We offer owners some rules to use so their pup can get out of the house. First, puppies can play with other dogs who are properly vaccinated and are on monthly deworming products. Go to other dog owners you trust. Your puppy can definitely play with their dog!

Second, only walk your pup in areas that have little dog traffic. Dog parks are NOT a good choice. Avoid other animal feces and urine, as they can harbor disease. Third, make sure you keep up to date with your puppy’s vaccine and deworming protocol.

A little common sense means you can protect your pup and still teach it to interact with the big, exciting world.