Summertime Dangers – Heatstroke in Dogs

It is hotter than heck in Houston already, and I just had my first dog die from heatstroke. He was left in the backyard and succumbed to effects of the high temperatures and humidity. By the time he was discovered that he was in trouble, he was scooped up and brought immediately to our hospital. Unfortunately, he died before we could even start treatment. His body temperature still registered 108 degrees on the thermometer.

Why are dogs so vulnerable to the effects of heat?

They can’t sweat. The only way they can cool themselves is with panting and the evaporative cooling of the moisture off their tongues. If the humidity or the temperature is too high, they cannot cool their core temperature enough to sustain themselves. This is especially more evident in dogs with short faces, such as bulldogs, Shi Tzus, boxers and other dogs.

So, what can you do to help your dog keep his cool?
If at all possible, keep them indoors. If they have to be outside, make certain they have plenty of shade and cool fresh water.
Do not leave your dog unattended in a car for any length of time.
When taking your dog for a walk, do so early in the morning or late in the evening.

If you have a smaller dog, consider a dog stroller.

Test the asphalt or concrete with your bare hand before walking your dog on the surface. If it is too hot for your hand, it may burn your dog’s feet. I have already had one Husky with burned paw pads this week alone.
The beds of trucks can also get too hot for your dog’s feet.
If you take your dog walking a lot, consider getting a cooling bandana and dog boots to protect their feet.
Take water for your dog when you are going for a walk.
A few precautions can make the difference between life or death for your dog

ACL or Ruptured Cruciate Ligament Knee Injuries in Pets

Meet Jack…an English Bulldog with a great job and an exciting story to tell. Sadly, Jack’s career was almost derailed due to an unexpected injury. Like so many NBA stars and skiers, Jack messed up his knee and was sidelined for many weeks. Thankfully, prompt care and a great surgery team got Jack “back on the road again!”

Just one look at Jack and you can tell that this is a dog meant for bigger things. From blogging about his travels as New Mexico’s Canine Travel Reporter to his awards from the governor, Jack oozes confidence and excitement. So, when Jack ruptured his cruciate ligament, neither he nor his human partner, Jill, were going to let anything stand in the way of his speedy return to the spotlight.

Normal Stifle x-ray

Like people, dogs have two cruciate ligaments to help provide support for the knee. Their presence keeps the femur and tibia from sliding around and destabilizing the joint. According to veterinary surgeon, Dr. Phil Zeltzman, repairing torn cruciates is the most common surgery at veterinary surgery centers. He adds that certain breeds (Labradors and Rottweilers) show up with this injury more frequently than other pets.

Dogs can rupture these ligaments with sudden twisting movements while running or even from slipping on ice. In Jack’s case, a sudden meeting with a child’s snow sled was enough to cause the injury. After seeing Jack limp into the house that snowy day, Jill knew an appointment with his veterinarian was needed.

In most cases, diagnosing a cruciate tear simply requires a veterinarian’s examination and, if the patient is not cooperative, a touch of sedation. Palpation of the knee joint is the key to the diagnosis although it is also a good idea to take x-rays of both knees to look for any other problems.

The next step is surgery. According to industry experts, pet owners spend more than $1 billion dollars on cruciate surgeries for their pets each year. A variety of procedures exist to help stabilize the knee, but most surgeons will utilize one of three procedures. Because of Jack’s anatomy, breed and size, surgeons at the New Mexico Veterinary Surgery Center determined that the Tibial Tuberosity Advancement surgery would be the most effective solution.

Radiographs to the left show a ruptured ACL ligament in one of my patients, Luna. Compare it to the normal knee and you can see at the 90 degree angle of the x-ray on the left, the femur or the big thigh bone sits almost behind the tibia or the lower leg bone. The cruciate ligament stabilizes the knee. Luna had a TPLO surgery (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy) performed by Dr. Payne of North Houston Veterinary Specialists. Dr. Payne is a veterinary orthopedic surgeon and travels to the veterinary clinic that requires his services.

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The surgery requires very special instruments and surgical skills for a successful outcome and at Luna’s 6 week check up, she was walking great.

As with any pet surgery, cost certainly is an issue. It is not unusual for these cruciate surgeries to range in cost from $1200 to more than $3000. David Goodnight, CEO of PurinaCare pet insurance says that nationwide, the average cost for this type of surgery is $2500.

Some pet owners will question the need for surgery as fibrous tissue in the dog’s body will eventually stabilize the joint. Sadly, this could lead to bigger problems, including severe osteoarthritis or even a rupture of the ligaments in the other knee. Certainly this route only increases the pet’s discomfort.

After surgery, most dogs feel much better. In fact, it’s a challenge for owners to keep their pets rested during the recovery. Jill recalls her experience with Jack, “Luckily I remembered to always keep him on a leash outside…by day three after surgery, I could see him wanting to run!”

This 8-10 week recovery period is crucial. Too much activity can delay healing at the site or even cause enough damage that a second surgery might be needed! The doggie patients need to stay in a crate when they can’t be supervised, go outside ONLY on a leash and only for bathroom breaks until the surgeon says short walks are ok. Running, jumping and stairs should be avoided.

Jack has made a complete recovery and is now back educating people about the wonders of New Mexico. But he is not out of the woods yet. About half of dogs who rupture one cruciate will tear the opposite knee’s ligaments. Along the course of his recovery, Jack’s veterinarians have made several recommendations to help him avoid this fate.

First, weight control! Excess weight creates additional stress on joints and can lead to ligament tears.

Next, daily exercise is important. Spending about an hour each day engaged in moderate exercise is not only a good way to keep your dog healthy and limber…it will probably help you too!

Finally, don’t overdo it! You wouldn’t run a marathon without training, so don’t expect your dog to hike 4-5 miles with you immediately.

Your veterinarian will also have some helpful ideas to protect your pet’s joints. Nutraceuticals, like glucosamine or rehabilitation exercises can help strengthen and support the knees. Canine Dasaflex contains a blend of ingredients to help with joint health and pain.

Brushing your Cat’s Teeth

Tooth Brushing
Brush a cats teeth? This may seem like a daunting task, but your cat can gradually learn to accept daily dental care at home. The key is to start slowly and make the experience as pleasant as possible. Place a small amount of the liquid from a can of water-packed tuna on your finger and allow him to lick it off. Repeat, this time holding his mouth closed and stroking the outside surfaces of his teeth lightly.

Eventually, over a period of one or more weeks, you can substitute a piece of gauze, a finger toothbrush, or a small, soft toothbrush instead of your finger. Remember, unless your veterinarian directs you otherwise, you only need to clean the outside tooth surfaces. This reduces the chance of a painful bite! Once your cat comfortably accepts the brushing process, you can introduce toothpastes designed for pets in place of the tuna water.

The most important aspect of tooth brushing is the mechanical action, but toothpastes can add helpful ingredients like fluoride, enzymes that help break down plaque, and antiseptics that prevent bacterial growth. They are flavored to please your cats palate too. Never use toothpaste designed for people the ingredients may irritate your cats mouth and cause an upset stomach.

Plaque begins to develop within hours after brushing. Within about three days, plaque is converted into tartar. Therefore, daily brushing is recommended. Less frequent brushing is still beneficial, but may allow the gradual development of periodontitis. A daily brushing routine not only keeps your pets mouth healthy but also keeps his breath smelling fresh.