Category Archives: Disease

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.

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.

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.

Dental Disease Prevention

By Vanessa Vandersande DVM

When I first graduated from veterinary school there weren’t many dental disease preventatives on the market. While I counseled clients about preventative care I always asked the question, “How often do you brush your pet’s teeth?” I always chuckled a little as I said it though because it felt like a ridiculous question.

Certainly there are some people who are able to brush their pet’s teeth but for the most of us the prospect is a nightmare. My husband and I are both veterinarians, we know tooth brushing is the gold standard, but we simply don’t do it. Lately the market is flooded with dental disease prevention for our pets. It seems every treat and chew promises to cleanse and leave each little tooth gleaming white. But can all these claims be true?

Prevention is the only tool we have to keep our pets from requiring frequent dental cleanings under anesthesia and ideally we would keep those cleanings to a minimum. But how is one to choose which form of dental prevention is best?

The veterinary profession has an answer to this problem. In 1980 a group of veterinary dentists and other dental professionals helped form the VOHC or Veterinary Oral Health Council. This council is a group of veterinary dental professionals who created a series of protocols by which dental disease preventatives are judged. Only products which are proven to reduce the severity of periodontal disease are permitted to bear the VOHC label. When shopping for a dental disease preventative treat or diet, you can feel confident you are making a good choice if you see the VOHC label on the packaging. These products will definitely help protect your pet’s teeth.

The VOHC also curates a list of approved products at where you can log on and check on their list for new products that have won approval. At Copper Hill Animal Clinic, we are passionate about providing only the highest quality preventatives so we only carry dental prevention approved by the VOHC. Let us know if we can pick one out for your pet!