Archive for the ‘Medical Issues’ Category

From the AVMA about canine circovirus

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Canine circovirus infections have been documented in dogs with vomiting and diarrhea. The distribution of the virus in the U.S. is not yet known, but dogs infected with circovirus have been reported in California and circovirus may be associated with recent illness and death of dogs in Ohio.

CLICK HERE to see the FAQ from the American Veterinary Medical Association

Veterinary Specialists of the Valley helps Opie

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

Opie Ferguson Picture

The Veterinary Specialists of the Valley turned to the Angel Fund to help save the Ferguson’s family pet, Opie.

Veterinarians skeptical canine circovirus alone is sickening dogs

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

September 10, 2013
By: Jennifer Fiala For The VIN News Service

Photos courtesy of Dr. Melania Butera

Dr. Melanie Butera, a practitioner in Canal Fulton, Ohio, recently treated a Shar-Pei mix named Lexi for vasculitis, which caused the skin on her back to slough off. After the tissue was kept moist and sterile for approximately 30 days, the dog’s skin regrew. Butera removed Lexi’s sutures on Sept. 7. The photos shows Lexi’s wound at day one (top left), day 10 (top right) and nearly healed (above).

It might look like circovirus and act like circovirus … and still not be circovirus.

That’s what scientists investigating the mysterious illness that’s sickening and killing dogs in Ohio and elsewhere say after diagnostic tests of some infected samples came back positive for Dog Circovirus, or DogCV.

Dr. Patricia Pesavento is an associate professor of pathology, microbiology and immunology at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine. In the wake of reports that dogs in Ohio were dying of a mysterious toxicant or virus, she received samples from three of the infected animals, only one of which tested positive for DogCV.

The dogs’ clinical signs included bloody diarrhea and vomiting, extreme lethargy, neurological problems and lack of appetite. Severe hemorrhagic gastroenteritis and vasculitis are associated with DogCV. Treatment guidelines do not exist apart from supportive care.

“Understanding the pathogenesis of DogCV is in its infancy,” Pesavento explained by email. Pointing to previous research she conducted on DogCV, Pesavento said, “We have identified 10 animals retrospectively that are infected with DogCV and that have vascular-based disease, but there is a large burden of proof for causality.”

By phone, she added: “My bottom line: Circovirus is part of this; we don’t know if it’s the same agent killing all of these animals.”

The Ohio Department of Agriculture, which is organizing the investigation, is asking veterinarians to consult the agency’s Division of Animal Health at (614) 728-6220 if they see suspected cases. Concerned pet owners are encouraged to talk to their veterinarians.

Researchers at The Ohio State University (OSU) also are testing samples from sickened dogs. Melissa Weber, director of communications for the veterinary college, confirmed that one dog was sent to OSU for necropsy.

She stated that OSU does not have the ability to test for DogCV. “Everything else they’ve tested for has come back negative,” she said. “Circovirus is interesting, but that doesn’t mean it’s causing these deaths.”

Even so, mainstream media have run with the idea that dogs are dying after contracting circovirus. “It’s a scary new disease that can kill your dog,” an Ohio news agency reported.

A press release issued last week by State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Forshey is less definitive.

“The laboratory confirmation is important because the virus is newly isolated, however we are not prepared at this time to confirm that canine circovirus is the cause of the dog illnesses,” he said. “Because the symptoms being exhibited can also be linked to other known illnesses, additional analysis and information is needed to determine if this virus is alone or in co-infection.”

DogCV is newly isolated and there is very little information available about the virus, where it came from and how it spreads, the Ohio Department of Agriculture press release stated. “The limited research available shows that canine circovirus can cause vasculitis and hemorrhaging in infected dogs.”

Porcine Circovirus, the only other known mammalian circovirus, can cause vasculitis in swine.

Dr. Melanie Butera in Canal Fulton, 18 miles south of Akron, is one of a handful of practitioners in Ohio who’ve treated dogs infected with the novel virus. “I had two dogs come in on the same day with these odd and very severe signs,” said Butera of the first of her patients that presented with signs of the disease on Aug. 24. “These dogs had been sick such a short period of time with normal blood work. I immediately thought there was no way this was a virus. It worked too quickly for the viral diseases we are used to seeing.”

One of the two dogs died. It was then that Butera learned several dogs recently had become ill and three died after visiting a boarding facility in Norwood, north of Cincinnati.

Despite extensive testing of the facility, no bacterial agent or toxicant was found to have caused the cases, which sounded a lot like what Butera was seeing in her own practice. Butera turned to the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), an online community for the profession, where she consulted colleagues about what she was witnessing.

“What has really stood out to me in these cases is the acute profound lethargy/weakness/depression, and the sinus tachycardia,” she wrote in a VIN discussion. By phone, she added: “The big thing was how sick these dogs were in such a short time period. They had fluid coming out of their gums. They weren’t passing bloody diarrhea, they were passing blood and clear fluid.”

Another dog Butera treated with similar clinical signs is on the mend after vasculitis caused the skin on its back to slough off. She’s now collecting reports from veterinarians in the area who’ve seen patients with similar conditions and has warned her clients about what she says are “sporadic cases.”

“It was one of my patients that tested positive for circovirus,” Butera said. “But I’ve said this repeatedly: Just because they found the virus does not mean it caused the disease.”

Protecting dogs from Lyme disease starts with your veterinarian

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

ticksLyme disease in humans is garnering attention lately because it’s often misdiagnosed, but veterinarian Richard Goldstein, chief medical officer at Animal Medical Center in New York, reminds dog owners that canines are also susceptible to the disease. Protection begins with a conversation with a veterinarian, and a preventive vaccine is available. Dale’s Pet World blog

Lyme Disease is getting more pub – how it’s being underdiagnosed in people. Dr. Richard Goldstein, chief medical officer of Animal Medical Center in New York City notes we can do more to protect our dogs than we can to protect ourselves. From my national radio show Steve Dale’s Pet World, listen HERE to Dr. Goldstien explain that Lyme isn’t any longer only associated with New England, it’s spreaded West and South and it continues to spread – even to places like in downtown Chicago!

The key is for veterinarians to screen for Lyme, for starters. Protection depends on where you are, but don’t guess at what you should do (you may guess wrong), ask your veterinarian. A vaccine is also available.

Lyme is most often transmitted to dogs in the fall – so it’s certainly not too late in the year to think about protection. Learn more through this website about dogs and ticks and tick disease.

Pet’s allergy diagnosis needs more than an oral swab

Monday, September 9th, 2013

dog scratchingAllergies in pets can’t be definitively diagnosed by taking an oral swab and sending it to a lab for evaluation, according to veterinarian Meridith Brand. Instead, a pet with skin problems should undergo a complete veterinary exam to rule out other potential causes. Dr. Brand notes that for diagnosis and management of canine atopy, intradermal skin testing is the gold standard. The Baltimore Sun

Swab tests and blood tests have been shown to be inaccurate in diagnosing pets’ allergies. If you think your pet might be suffering from allergies, the first step is to visit your veterinarian for a full evaluation to rule out other problems such as bacterial and fungal infections, skin mites, ringworm, fleas, or more serious diseases. Skin scrapings, skin cytology, skin cultures or skin biopsies may be necessary to identify your pet’s particular problem. Baseline blood work including thyroid testing should also be part of this evaluation. Once other diseases are ruled out and secondary infection is managed, your pet may be a candidate for allergy testing with a board-certified veterinary dermatologist.

Intradermal allergy testing has been considered the gold standard for diagnosing and treating canine atopy for many years and remains the primary testing method used by most veterinary dermatologists. Intradermal allergy testing allows us to test the skin where the allergic response is occurring. Most animals tolerate the procedure well and results are available immediately.  After allergy testing, your pet will be started on a series of injections tailored to your pet’s specific allergies that act to desensitize your pet to certain allergens.

If you are concerned that your pet has allergies, schedule an exam with your veterinarian to discuss all of your options.

This week’s expert is Dr. Meridith Brand with Eastern Animal Hospital, Baltimore.
Read more:,0,6925965.story#ixzz2ePcyksXR

Transfusion from dog saves poisoned cat, veterinarian says

Monday, August 26th, 2013

bag-of-transfusion-bloodNew Zealand veterinarian Kate Heller says she was out of conventional options and time to save a cat that had ingested rat poison, so she took an unorthodox approach and used dog blood for a transfusion. Because she was unable to determine the cat’s blood type, Dr. Heller could not use cat blood — using the wrong type would have sparked a fatal response. “If we didn’t do it, he would have died, so we had nothing to lose by giving it a go,” Dr. Heller said. An hour after the transfusion, the cat had made a remarkable recovery, Dr. Heller said. France-Presse (8/21), The New Zealand Herald/APNZ News Service (8/20)

Traditional animal rivalries were set aside in New Zealand when a dog’s blood was used to save the life of a poisoned cat in a rare inter-species transfusion, reports said Wednesday.

Cat owner Kim Edwards was frantic last Friday when her ginger tom Rory went limp after eating rat poison, rushing to her local veterinary clinic at Tauranga in the North Island for help.

Vet Kate Heller said the feeble feline was fading fast and needed an immediate transfusion to survive, but there was not enough time to send a sample to the laboratory for testing to determine the cat’s blood type.

Instead, she decided to take a gamble and use dog blood to try to save the animal, knowing it would die instantly if she gave it the wrong type.

Edwards called up her friend Michelle Whitmore, who volunteered her black Labrador Macy as a doggie blood donor in a last-ditch attempt to save Rory, a procedure Heller said she had never performed before and was very rare.

“People are going to think it sounds pretty dodgy — and it is — but hey, we’ve been successful and it’s saved it’s life,” Heller told the New Zealand Herald.

Edwards said the cat appeared to have come through its ordeal unscathed, seemingly without any canine side effects.

“The vets just went above and beyond… it’s incredible that it worked,” she said.

“Rory is back to normal and we don’t have a cat that barks or fetches the paper.”

Golden Retriever Lifetime Study takes aim at canine cancer

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Magnolia DuffThe Morris Animal Foundation’s Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is recruiting 3,000 healthy, young golden retrievers to be studied for clues to the breed’s high incidence of cancer. The foundation is partnering with veterinarians and owners around the country in the 10-year, $25 million study. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could tell [an owner] whether her dog has a high predisposition to a certain cancer so we can catch it really early?” said foundation President and CEO David Haworth, also a veterinarian. “Or if we know what a cancer’s pathway is, our drug partners can find a way to intervene.” Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Fla.) (8/22)

At not quite 9 months of age, Cali has accomplished a lot. She knows her basic commands — that includes offering a soft yellow paw in both the standard shake, and an enthusiastic high five. She turns any occasion into a party, as I discovered Monday when we met at Partridge Animal Hospital in St. Petersburg.

And she may help unlock a mystery that has baffled many a veterinarian and grief-stricken family: Why do so many golden retrievers get cancer?

Cali is a healthy participant in the Morris Animal Foundation’s Golden Retriever Lifetime Study. It aims to recruit at least 3,000 dogs between ages 6 months and 2 years for an observational study planned to go on for 10 years at a cost of $25 million. Goldens all over the United States are needed for the project, which requires owners to bring their dogs to their own vet every year for a thorough exam and complete detailed questionnaires about diet and lifestyle.

Once she saw how happy Cali was to visit her vet, Dr. David Landers, Pamela Hogle felt comfortable committing to the study. Landers will be doing a lot of the work — and is happy to, being a big fan of the breed himself.

Hogle’s inspiration was another beloved golden, Oriel, who died of cancer two years ago at age 13.

“When you think about why people love their dogs, Oriel was the embodiment of all of those reasons,” said Hogle, a St. Petersburg freelance editor who works with a service dog organization in California. “She was sweet, gentle, calm, but always up for an adventure.”

Canine cancer is the leading disease cause of death in dogs over age 10. Goldens appear to be among the most susceptible, but no breed is immune. The study aims to establish whether cancer disproportionately afflicts certain dogs — and why.

Dr. David Haworth, a veterinarian who is president and CEO of Denver-based Morris Animal Foundation, described the golden study as the canine equivalent of the famous Framingham Heart Study. Morris (you may have seen the group promoted by its most famous board member, actor Betty White) has funded scientific research for 65 years. But this, Haworth said, is the largest veterinary study ever.

It could reveal information valuable to human health, too. Two cancers common in goldens — lymphoma and osteosarcoma — have so many molecular similarities to the human diseases that they’re considered models for studying the conditions in people.

But the primary purpose is to help dogs by examining the genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors that may contribute to cancer and other disorders. With that kind of information, in the future vets and pet owners might be able to find a cancer early enough to cure it — or even prevent it altogether.

“Wouldn’t it be great if we could tell someone like Cali’s owner whether her dog has a high predisposition to a certain cancer so we can catch it really early?” Haworth said. “Or if we know what a cancer’s pathway is, our drug partners can find a way to intervene.”

Goldens are one of America’s most popular breeds. But Haworth (whose puppy Bridger is in the study) explained the main reason they’re using purebreds is because they are so genetically similar, it’s easier to detect differences that might be connected to disease.

Which prompted me to ask: Are mixed-breed dogs and cats healthier than purebreds?

He paused. “That’s controversial. There have been conflicting studies. For the most part, purebred dogs that are responsibly bred — by which I mean breeders are paying attention to health conditions — are as healthy as mixed breeds.”

It will be a while until results start coming out of the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study. Meanwhile, we can do a lot to protect the furriest members of our families. Do your homework before you get a pet, and if you want a purebred, ask your vet how to find a reputable breeder. Look for changes in your dog or cat that might be a signal of trouble; as in people, some canine cancers can be successfully treated if caught early. Keep current on checkups (even if, unlike Cali, yours doesn’t adore the vet).

And if you have a healthy young golden, consider joining the study (get details at You both could be doing a lot for your four-legged and two-legged friends.

Itchy pet’s problem may be more than skin deep

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

dog scratchingDiagnosing and treating itchy pets is a tall order, writes veterinarian Lyssa Alexander, who explains the many causes of itchy skin in pets. Some pets have only mildly itchy skin while others are so irritated that it affects their quality of life. In many cases, an underlying allergy is to blame, according to Dr. Alexander. Causes of allergies in pets are numerous and include environmental allergens, flea allergies and food allergies. Other causes of itching include mite and ringworm infections or systemic or immune diseases. (Mich.) (8/14)

The end of the summer is a beautiful time. The plants are mature and the fields are abloom with gorgeous yellow and purple flowers. It is truly one of my favorite times of year.

Unfortunately, for many of our dog friends, the end of the summer comes with bad allergies. Dogs who have environmental allergies can react at any time of the year, depending on what they are allergic to. However, this time of year seems to bring me a lot of itchy pets.

Humans are no stranger to allergies. Many of us can chart the change of the season with levels of snot and congestion. Though our allergy symptoms overlap quite a bit with what we see in dogs, the main presentation of an allergic dog is itching.

They lick their paws (major sign of itching), scratch their bodies, shake their heads and get widespread skin and ear infections. For many dogs, these signs are mild, and they come and go with the season. However, many dogs can develop debilitating skin and ear infections or are simply too miserable to sleep. These are the dogs that come through my doors in droves.

When an itchy dog walks through my door, the first step is to try to determine if they have any infections. Regardless of why they are itching, hot spots, skin infections and ear infections can develop. Dogs with ear infections will have debris, inflammation and a foul smell in their ears and will exhibit head shaking or pawing at the ears.

Skin infections will take the form of scabs, ulcers and crusting along any part of the body. The skin is a complex organ with many important jobs. Besides keeping your insides on the inside, the skin also has to serve as a complex cellular barrier against naturally-occurring yeast and bacteria in the environment.

Every dog and person has low numbers of these organisms living on their skin at all time. However, for most of us, the skin’s barrier function and intelligent immune system keep these organisms in check. When the skin is inflamed and immune compromised, the yeast and bacteria grow to impressive numbers and cause even greater levels of rashes and itching.

Once we have diagnosed and treated the infections that come along with itchy conditions, we need to determine the underlying cause. Sometimes this is easy and sometimes it takes a lot of time and patients.

The most common reasons for an itchy pet are environmental allergies, food allergies, flea allergies, ringworm infections and mange. Other less common reasons include local reactions to insects or chemicals or certain systemic illnesses and immune conditions. Cats also get a similar variety of itchy conditions.

Environmental allergies or (Atopy or Atopic Dermatitis) is by far the most common itchy condition in dogs. There is usually a history of recurrent itchiness or skin and ear infections that come and go throughout the year. As a dog’s immune system matures, their allergy season may change or expand.

Dogs can be allergic to almost anything (just like people). Some of the main offenders are pollens, grasses, plant materials, dust, dust mites, molds, cats and insects. For many pets, we can decrease their itching through dietary supplementation, environmental management, antihistamines (please ask your veterinarian before giving your dog any medications) and judicious use of steroids for short periods of time.

For animals with severe allergies, more elaborate measures are needed. For these pets we recommend either going on a long term medication protocol with an immune modulating agent or starting a series of vaccines to try to desensitize their immune system to the allergens that are most offensive to your pet. Both of these strategies have their pitfalls at times, but for miserable dogs they can be lifesaving.

Another leading cause of itchy pets is food allergy. This is a well recognized condition that has been a bit twisted by dog food marketing. You can’t walk down a pet food isle without encountering bags that advertise “grain free” diets or “low allergen formulations.” Though wheat and corn are common food allergens in dogs that are truly food allergic, they are by no means the only offending ingredients. Diagnosing a food allergy in dogs can be tricky.

The best way to diagnose food allergy is to do a strict food allergy trial. This can be done with various veterinary prescription diets, but is most effective when done with a strict home-cooked diet formulated from novel ingredients (ask your vet for advice on how to do a trial). If an itchy dog clears up on the food, it is important to challenge them with their previous diet to make sure that the food was really the cause.

I have seen a lot of people switch their pets’ diets in the fall and see a big improvement. But many dogs with environmental allergies get better as the winter sets in anyway, so it is hard to say why the dog actually got better without doing a proper challenge at the end of the trial. For dogs with true food allergies, finding the right diet can be life-changing.

Flea allergies are also fairly common. hen a dog is heavily infested with fleas they can be quite itchy. However, dogs with flea ALLERGIES only have to be bitten occasionally to become wildly itchy. It can sometimes be a big challenge to convince owners that their dog has flea allergies when they haven’t seen any fleas.

Depending on the dog’s environment, even if they are on a good flea preventative they can get an occasional flea bite that can cause a flare-up. These cases can be frustrating at times, but as long as we keep them as flea free as possible, they can usually be managed well.

Mites and ringworm infections are also somewhat common, especially in puppies. Some of these conditions can spread to humans. Scabies mites cause dogs to be extremely itchy, especially on their ears. People in contact with scabies mites can develop itchy red rashes.


Older animals make good pets, too

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

660_JenniePhotographer Lori Fusaro is compiling photos of older animals for a book she hopes will inspire people to think about adopting older pets from shelters. Fusaro’s idea for the book coalesced when she met Sunny, an ailing 16-year-old mixed-breed dog, at a Los Angeles shelter. Fusaro adopted her, and a year later, they are still together. Fusaro knows letting go will be difficult. “I didn’t want to open my heart for that kind of pain, but how much sadder and more horrible for me would it be to leave her at the shelter,” said Fusaro. “It will be terrible to lose her but much worse to leave her to die alone.” The Washington Post (tiered subscription model)/The Associated Press

CLICK HERE to read the full story

Canine epilepsy study recruiting subjects

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

EnglishBulldogSonnyPuppy9Weeks2North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine is one of several centers across the country participating in a study of canine epilepsy, the most common neurological disorder in dogs. Goals include generating a clearer understanding of the condition and developing pathways to treatment. The centers are looking for canine patients to include in the study. Eligible dogs have to meet specific age and treatment history criteria, but they can be of any breed. American City Business Journals/Raleigh/Durham, N.C./Traingle BizBlog (8/15


For the more than 780,000 dogs diagnosed with canine epilepsy each year, an ongoing study at North Carolina State University could offer relief.

North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine is among investigator sites participating in a nationwide canine epilepsy clinical trial. Epilepsy is the single most common neurological disorder in dogs, and researchers still haven’t identified a cause. That’s where the national study comes in, aiming to provide important evidence-based research that could lead to improved understanding, as well as new treatment options.

To qualify for the trial, dogs must be at least 4 months of age, have received no more of 7 days of prior treatment with an anti-seizure medication, and meet certain other requirements. All breeds are eligible.

Dog owners will net up to $150 to help with travel-related expenses.

All medical care, including physical and neurological exams, blood and urine testing, MRI and medication, will be offered free of charge to participating canines. The study is sponsored by an unnamed major animal health pharmaceutical company and is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Enrollment of patients is expected to run into 2014 and additional study sites are located in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Main, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Tennessee. Raleigh-based Raleigh-based Visionaire Research & Education is recruiting for the trial.