Spinal Cord Injuries – How New Research is Helping Both Pets and People

Trauma to the spinal cord is a serious, often fatal injury in people and pets.  Damage to the cord by fractures of the vertebrae or swelling can often lead to pain and weakness and even partial or complete loss of movement or sensation.  These situations are medical emergencies! Interesting new research is now showing promise and the hero of the research may be a family pet!

Experts estimate that more than 12,000 spinal cord injuries (SCI) occur every year in people and that more than a quarter of a million Americans are now living with some form of SCI.  These injuries are not limited to humans, but happen frequently in our pets as well.

In people, damage to the spine often occurs due to a traumatic event, such as a car accidents, severe falls or even sports activities.  Such injuries happen most often to younger men.

In dogs, not only are there a variety of accidents that cause SCI, but many breeds of dogs, can develop a bulging or full prolapse of the discs that are located between the vertebrae.  This bulge puts damaging pressure on the spinal cord, causing pain and even paralysis.  Any sort of pressure, trauma or tearing of the spinal cord is truly an emergency situation.

In both human and veterinary medicine new treatments are focused in an attempt to block certain biochemical pathways after injury to save mobility. But, until now, many of these treatments have been unsuccessful.  Consequently, the human may spend the rest of their life in a wheelchair while many pets are euthanized due to costs or the owner’s inability to care for a pet who is unable to walk.

Dr. Jonathon Levine, a veterinarian and resident in neurology at Texas A & M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine says “about 3% of all hospitalized cases in veterinary medicine were due to disc related spinal cord injuries.”  In certain breeds, especially dachshunds and other long bodied, short legged dogs, the incidence of SCI due to disc problems approaches 25%.

In some situations, especially traumatic events, like a dog being struck by a car, the onset is sudden and easily recognizable.  But in other cases, the signs are much more subtle.  Dogs with slow developing disc problems often show weakness in the limbs, abnormal gait, in-coordination and pain across the back.  Without treatment, these pets may eventually lose the ability to walk.

New advances in diagnostic technology, including increased availability of even more powerful MRI units for pets, have enabled veterinarians to more accurately pinpoint the cause of spinal injuries.  But, the fact still remains that far too many dogs and people suffering lasting serious consequences, from spinal cord injuries.

In conjunction with the University of California Medical School, Dr. Levine and the team at Texas A & M are exploring a new drug that may protect the nervous system after spinal cord injury.  Certain enzymes in the nervous system can actually destroy vital components of the blood-spinal cord barrier and of myelin, the protective covering over nerves.  This current research looks at a new compound that may block these destructive enzymes.  “We are hoping that this new drug will protect the nervous system shortly after injury, improve the outcome and help more dogs walk in these cases.” says Levine.

The importance of this study cannot be overstated.  This is the first veterinary clinical trial that has been funded by the National Institutes of Health.  In addition, because of the potential benefits to both dogs and people, the Department of Defense has also provided grant money to continue the research.  Many of the quarter of a million people living with spinal cord injuries are soldiers wounded while in war zones.

Pet owners, especially those with specific breeds prone to back problems need to be aware of the subtitle signs of potential problems.  A veterinarian should see any dog that cries out during play, has difficulty navigating stairs or that has any sort of uncoordinated gait.  Pets that are overweight are more prone to spinal issues, so keeping your pet trim is one way to minimize the risks.  In some cases, owners may receive a referral to a veterinary neurologist or surgeon for advanced care.

Demodex – Mange in Dogs

Mange is a parasitic skin disease caused by microscopic mites. Two different mange mites cause skin disease in dogs. One lives just under the surface of the skin, while the other resides deep in the hair follicles. Although both mites share similar characteristics, there are also important differences. It is important not to confuse the two types of mange because they have different causes, treatments, and prognoses.

What causes demodectic mange?

Demodectic mange, sometimes just called “demodex” or “red mange”, is the most common form of mange in dogs. It is caused by the Demodex canis, a parasite that lives in the hair follicles of dogs. Under the microscope, this mite is shaped like a cigar with eight legs.
demodectic mange 2009 Demodex Mange

All normal dogs (and many humans) have a few of these mites on their skin. As long as the body’s immune system is functioning properly, these mites live in harmony with their host and  cause no harm.

Demodectic mange most often occurs when a dog has an immature immune or a defective immune system which will allow the number of skin mites to grow rapidly. Some breeds of dogs are more prone to the disease and there may be a genetic factor for the prevalence of Demodectic mange. Because of this, the disease is found primarily in young dogs less than twelve to eighteen months of age and dogs with severe mange should not be bred. As the dog matures, its immune system also matures. Adult dogs that have the disease usually have defective immune systems. Demodectic mange may occur in older dogs because function of the immune system often declines with age. Dogs who have immune suppression due to illness or certain medications are also candidates for demodectic mange.

Is demodectic mange contagious?

No, demodectic mange is not contagious to other animals or humans. Demodex mites are transmitted to puppies from their mother during the first few days of life. Since the mite is found on virtually all dogs, exposure of a normal dog to one with demodectic mange is not dangerous.
demodectic mange 2009 2 Demodex Mange
Why doesn’t the immune system mature correctly in some dogs?

Development of the immune system is under genetic or hereditary control. Thus, an affected dog often has littermates that are also affected. Owners of littermates should be alerted to watch for the development of the mange in their puppies. Because the disease can be due to a genetic defect of the immune system, affected dogs should not be bred, and the parents of the
affected dog should not be bred again.

What does demodectic mange do to the dog?

Surprisingly, a dog with demodectic mange usually does not itch severely, even though it loses hair in patches. The hair loss usually begins on the face, especially around the eyes. When there are only a few patches of hair loss, the condition is called localized demodectic mange. If the disease spreads to many areas of the skin, it becomes generalized demodectic mange. The mites multiply in the hair follicle which causes the hair to fall out. When the integrity of the skin is broken, then bacteria that normally resides on the skin can penetrate the broken skin and cause a secondary skin infection or a “pyoderma” . Because the immune system in these dogs in often defective, the skin infection can sometimes become severe.

How is demodectic mange diagnosed?

Your veterinarian will take deep skin scrapings and try to squeeze the mites out of the hair follicles and examine them under the microscope to diagnose this disease. The finding of larger than normal numbers of Demodex mites in skin scrapings confirms the diagnosis. Occasionally, the disease will be diagnosed by means of a
skin biopsy in dogs that have chronic skin infections that have not responded appropriately to treatment.
demodex
What is the treatment for Demodectic mange?

The localized form is usually treated with topical medication. The generalized form requires more aggressive treatment using special follicular flushing medicated shampoos and dips, along with oral medication. Shampooing with special
cleansing shampoos containing benzoyl peroxide helps to flush out and open the hair follicles prior to dipping. In some cases, especially dogs with generalized demodectic mange, secondary skin infections complicate the condition, requiring antibiotic therapy. Dogs with skin infections often have very red, inflamed skin. This is the source of the
term “red mange.”

Are there any problems with topical treatment?

The dip commonly used for demodectic mange contains the insecticide amitraz. It must be used cautiously because it is a strong insecticide that can cause side effects, both to your dog and to you, if not used properly. Your dog may experience vomiting and sedation for twenty-four to thirty-six hours following each application. Most of these problems are self-limiting and resolve without medical intervention. If your dog reacts in this manner, you should dilute the next dip with 25% more water. Since most dogs develop tolerance to the dip as they are repeated, your dog is less likely to have side effects with each subsequent treatment. After receiving two to three dipping treatments at 2 week intervals, skin scrapings should be repeated and
examined for the presence of live mites or mite eggs. The results of these skin scrapings will determine whether further treatment is needed. Often a minimum of 6 to 8 dips is necessary to control the disease.

Is there a drug that can be given orally for demodectic mange?

Yes, under certain conditions.

Ivermectins are a class of drugs that are approved for prevention of heartworm disease in dogs and cats. Milbemycin oxime, the active ingredient of Interceptor® and Sentinel® heartworm preventives,
may be used to treat demodicosis in certain cases. Certain   ivermectins are used to treat parasites on cattle. In the past, the cattle preparation has been used orally for demodectic mange in some dogs. However, it is a very strong drug that can cause severe side-effects, including death, if it is not administered properly. It is not approved for use in dogs, so we would only consider using it as long as you are  willing to accept liability for adverse effects. Veterinarians do not generally recommend ivermectin usage in collies, Shetland sheepdogs, Australian shepherds, old English sheepdogs, or any other herding breed.

Check with your veterinarian for the recommended medicine to treat your dog.

What is the prognosis for my dog?

Treatment of demodectic mange is generally successful. However, if the immune system is defective, neither the mites nor the infection may respond to treatment. With generalized demodicosis, successful treatment may take a long time and re-occurrences can develop later in life or with stress.

Because the immune system does not mature until twelve to eighteen months of age, a dog with demodectic mange may have relapses until that age. It is important to treat as soon as a relapse occurs to minimize the possibility of developing resistant mange.

 

 

 

 

Pets Can Get Cancer

Cancer of the Liver

Cancer in the Liver

Pets are living longer now and like their humans, our pets are also getting diseases that are also common in our elderly. Cancer can also affect our pets. Some cancers, such as some forms of leukemia in cats, are caused by a virus, the Feline Leukemia virus. Some cancers may have a genetic or inheritable factor. Boxers tend to have a higher rate of cancer than other breeds of dogs and Golden Retrievers have a higher rate of lymphosarcomas. Some cancers may be due to our environment, insecticides or toxins.Caring for the Older Dog
As a pet owner, you may do the very best with your pet by providing the best food, nutritional supplements, preventative care such as heartworm prevention, vaccinations and wellness care, but still, your beloved pet can develop cancer. No one or no pet is immune to the probability, but diligent care and wellness exams can detect some cancers early when they are still treatable. One of the best preventatives is spaying and neutering your pet. In the female, each heat cycle releases the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which then activates the mammary glands. This in turn increases the risk of developing mammary cancer or breast cancer with each heat cycle. The current recommendation is to spay your pet before their first heat cycle or before 6 months of age which will reduce the risk of developing breast cancer to less than .05%. In the male, neutering reduces the hormones and can eliminate the risk of testicular cancer and reduce the risk of prostate and perianal cancers that can develop from the release of testosterone.

Semi-annual physical exams are recommended for pets over 7 years old. Small changes that may be overlooked by you can sometimes be found by your veterinarian. Small lumps and bumps that you may discover on your pet should be brought to your veterinarian’s attention. A simple needle aspirate of the lump can sometimes tell if it is a benign (harmless) tumor, or something more that warrants further investigation. Tumors in your pet’s mouth can also occur and your vet will often examine the mouth during the exam.

wellness_dog_geriatric-3Annual blood exams can give a baseline and any change in the blood work from year to year can help identify problems earlier. In some cases, I have had blood work in normal limits and have only found the cancer with radiographs (x-rays) or ultra-sound. Purchasing pet insurance will help defray the costs of diagnostics as your pet ages and can also cover surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy if your pet should develop cancer.

Cance Metastasis to the Lungs

Cancer Metastasis to the Lungs

Because pet insurance will not cover pre-existing problems, it is best to buy the insurance before your pet develops a problem. Some cancers when caught early are curable and many others can be put in remission and extend the life of your pet. Unlike human chemotherapy, pet chemotherapy is aimed at extending their life and making them comfortable, so many of the unpleasant side effects, such as nausea, vomiting and hair loss are avoided.
Supplements containing anti-oxidants may help reduce cancer risks by freeing the body of the free-radicals that occur. Sam-e is another supplement that aids the liver and glucosamine and chondroitin help with joint health. No firm data has established if these supplements truly reduce developing cancer but they do not harm your pet either. Golden Years vitamins are designed for older pets and make an excellent supplement.
Develop a wellness plan with your veterinarian as your pet ages. Some pets can live as long as twenty years of age with a little help from you and your veterinarian.

Ear Disease in Pets

The most common ear problem in dogs is inflammation of the outer ear, technically termed otitis externa. The area between the outside opening and the eardrum can be irritated by infections, parasites, allergies and foreign objects.

Signs of Ear Problems

Signs of irritation include scratching, shaking the head, and reacting painfully when the ears are touched. You may also see discharge. Ear hematomas are common if irritation goes untreated. Depending on the cause, one or both of the ears may be affected.

How Ear Problems are Diagnosed

Your veterinarian will use an otoscope to look into the ears. He will also take a sample of ear discharge and examine it microscopically to check for signs of infection or ear mites. If infection is present, the sample may be sent to a lab for culture. Cultures provide information about the kinds of bacteria present and the medications that can help. During the examination, the veterinarian may also see foreign objects such as foxtails in the ear canal. If your dogs ears are very painful, sedation or anesthesia may be required.Ear Problems

Common Causes of Ear Problems
Some pets are prone to ear problems due to anatomy, allergies, or skin conditions. Ventilation of the ears is poor in dogs with floppy ears, resulting in a warm, moist environment perfect for growth of bacteria and yeast. Certain breeds of dogs are also more likely to suffer from skin allergies and disorders like sebhorrea. These skin problems affect the ears too, causing chronic inflammation and susceptibility to infection. The lining of the ear canal, like the rest of the skin, normally contains small amounts of bacteria and yeast. These organisms are harmless unless they multiply out of control. Overgrowth causes irritation, inflammation, foul odor and discharge. Chronic infection can lead to damage to ear tissues, including rupture of the ear drum. If the ear drum is ruptured, the infection can gain access to the middle ear, causing serious problems like head tilt, loss of balance, and inability to walk normally. Parasites in the ear include ear mites and ticks. Ear mites are tiny creatures that are just barely visible with the naked eye. They are quite contagious between animals. They cause severe itching and produce large amounts of black, waxy discharge. Pets with ear mites scratch their ears incessantly. This can lead to ear or skin infections as well as damage to deeper ear structures. Ticks can attach to the inside of the ears. They may irritate the ears or obstruct the canal, preventing normal ventilation and interfering with hearing. The most common foreign bodies in the ears are foxtails or grass awns. These pointy seeds get caught in pets fur and gradually work their way into the skin, nose, ears, and paws where they can cause major damage. Foxtails in the ears are very irritating. If they are not removed, they can penetrate the ear drum.

Treatment for Ear Problems

The first step in treating ear problems is a thorough cleaning of the ears. This may require sedation or anesthesia. Once the ears are clean, specific medications are prescribed. Antibiotics are used for bacterial infections, antifungals for yeast, anti-inflammatories for irritation and allergies, and insecticides for ear mites. Most of the medications are administered directly into your dogs ears proper administration is crucial for effective treatment. Medication must be given exactly as instructed and continued for the full duration prescribed, even if the pet seems to be fully recovered sooner. The final step is to minimize the factors that can put pets at higher risk for ear problems. Skin problems and allergies may respond to dietary supplements, antihistamines, or anti-inflammatories. Routine ear cleaning with a product recommended by your veterinarian can also help. Check out our own brand- Spring Pet Products Ear Cleanser to help maintain a healthy ear environment. Avoid allowing pets in areas that contain foxtails and check for foxtails when they return from outdoors. If signs of ear problems recur, seek prompt medical attention before the condition worsens.


Spring Pet Ear Cleaner for Dogs and Cats ~ 16 Ounces ~ Soothing Aloe Vera and Vitamin Veterinary Strength Formula Made in USA

Can You Have Allergies And Still Have A Dog?

Many dog lovers simply do not have a pet due to allergies.  It isn’t the pet itself that causes the allergies, but the pet dander that most dogs and cats shed naturally that cause people to have allergic reactions.  Keeping your pet well-groomed may allow you to keep it in your home.

Some people are allergic to cats and cat dander and not to dogs, therefore they are able to tolerate dogs and not cats. Others, like my nephew, are allergic to dogs and not cats. My nephew loves dogs, he and his family actually have four outside dogs. Since the dogs do not live in the home he is able to maintain his allergies and still have a rewarding relationship with his dogs. But what if you live in town and cannot keep your pets outside? Some non shedding breeds of dogs such as Poodles or Portuguese Water Dogs seem to have less dander and are more easily tolerated by people with allergies. For example my sister had a Cocker Spaniel named Charlie that she dearly loved, but Charlie made her eyes and sinuses run; so sadly my sister had to find a new home for him.  A few years later she really wanted another dog and decided to try sharing her home with a pair of poodles. Sassy and Lucky are now a permanent part of her home and she can enjoy having a dog without the misery of allergies.

So it is possible to have a pet in your life and still control your allergies. With help with your doctor you can