Archive for December, 2012

Understanding canine soft tissue sarcomas

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Soft tissue sarcomas develop from the connective tissue of the skin or just beneath it, and they are relatively common in dogs, writes veterinarian Robyn Elmslie. The tumors can be difficult to treat because they invade the nearby tissue with rootlike projections that can be invisible to the naked eye, Dr. Elmslie notes. Although tumor location has an impact on the prognosis, combining surgical excision of the tumor with radiation therapy can provide a good quality of life and a normal lifespan for some patients, she writes. Community Media of Colorado/Colorado Living

By Robyn Elmslie; DVM, DACVIM (Oncology)- Veterinary Referral Center of Colorado (VRCC)Colorado Community Media                              

Soft tissue sarcomas are one of the most common cancers to affect dogs. These tumors typically grow in the skin or in the subcutaneous tissues under the skin. Thus, pet owners usually find these tumors as skin lumps or masses while they are petting their dogs. Soft tissue sarcomas arise from connective tissue, which is a tissue that essentially holds the skin and other organs together and provides a structural framework for the body. As the tumors grow, they form a root system—similar to a weed in a garden—which invades deeply into the surrounding normal tissues. This deep invasion of the root system makes these cancers very challenging to treat or cure.

Signs and Symptoms

The development of a mass lump on the skin or just under the skin is the most common sign of soft tissue sarcomas in dogs. The mass may be moveable in some cases, and in other cases, the tumor will be fixed in place, adhered to the underlying tissue. Depending on the location, the tumor may be painful, but for the most part, the mass does not bother the patient until it is very large.

Treatment Options

If the soft tissue sarcoma grows on a part of the body with ample loose skin around the tumor and body fat underneath it, then surgical removal of the tumor is the most common form of treatment. Your family veterinarian or veterinary surgeon can often successfully remove enough surrounding tissue to completely excise the microscopic root system of the soft tissue sarcoma, thereby ensuring complete removal and cure. However, all too often the tumors grow in a location of the body where there is not ample loose skin or body fat, such as on the lower limbs or on the head and neck. In these locations, it is very difficult for the veterinarian to completely remove the tumor’s microscopic roots. While it may appear to the naked eye that the tumor has been fully removed, if tumor cells from the roots of the mass have been left behind, they will continue to invade deeper into the normal tissues and eventually form a new tumor mass. Since there is often less loose skin than there was prior to the first surgery, this can cause the new tumor to stretch (and ultimately grow through) the skin and create an open, ulcerated wound. The open wound, which can no longer be completely removed surgically, ultimately impacts the pet’s quality of life, and can lead to amputation of the limb or even euthanasia.

In situations where it is not possible to completely excise the tumor surgically, then radiation therapy is an excellent option to prevent regrowth of the tumor. Radiation therapy is a beam of energy applied directly to the surgery scar and surrounding tissues to kill all microscopic tumor cells that have been left behind after surgery. Since radiation therapy does not affect any tissue outside the treated area, your pet will not experience side effects to other organs. The average survival time for pets with an intermediate to low-grade soft tissue sarcomas that undergo radiation therapy is often greater than six years. Therefore, the use of radiation therapy in combination with surgery is a highly effective treatment option that can allow your pet to live out their normal lifespan, in many cases, with manageable short-term side effects.

For more information about our oncology team, our patients and other oncology topics, please visit, tissue or

Dog’s down mood could be a sign of medical condition

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

When a dog’s behavior changes, it may be due to underlying illness or pain such as from arthritis, veterinarian Alex Herman writes in response to an owner’s concerns about a listless pet. A complete physical exam by a veterinarian along with blood tests and other diagnostics will help determine if illness is present, according to Dr. Herman. Medication, changes in the dog’s environment or behavioral consultation may be needed to help improve the pet’s condition, Dr. Herman adds. San Francisco Chronicle (12/4)


Q: Our 12-year-old dog is a mixed breed whom we  rescued from the streets more than 10 years ago. We assume she had been abused  because of her physical condition. She has always been a somewhat moody dog,  often lying curled up in a ball when she is not the center of attention. She has  seen two other pet dogs die, and it seems to have affected her badly each time.  Now she is getting quite deaf and often lies curled in a ball and refuses to use  her beds, preferring the doormat. She seems truly miserable. Do you have any  suggestions for us?

A: It is unclear whether your beloved dog’s  problems are behavioral or medical. Have her checked by your veterinarian with a  physical exam, red and white blood cell count (CBC), and chemistries to check  kidney function, liver function, electrolytes and thyroid level. Her doctor may  also perform a blood pressure measurement, urinalysis and any other tests that  answer questions raised by her exam.

She may be sleeping by the door because it’s cooler and that makes arthritic  joints feel better. She may not want to sleep on her beds because it is  difficult to position herself. Pain is hard to diagnose in dogs because they are  so stoic. Often arthritis pain is interpreted as getting old or being sad or  tired. If her doctor thinks she is uncomfortable, he or she might want to do  joint radiographs or a trial of pain medication. If she has arthritis, a low,  soft bed may appeal to her.

It may be that she has no medical problems and needs more attention. Owning  a dog is a huge time commitment that can dramatically increase when they age.  They require daily involvement in the form of grooming and play, lots of  affection and exercise, which can be difficult for busy families.

If your dog gets a clean bill of health, a consult with the SPCA’s  behavioral service may help you to understand her and improve her quality of  life. Thank you for taking such good care of her.


Alex  Herman, D.V.M., All Pets Hospital, San Francisco.

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Owners and veterinarians concur: Preventive care is the best care

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Owners and veterinarians are similarly focused on preventive care, including vaccinations and parasite control, writes veterinarian Ann Hohenhaus, who discusses the results of a survey. Owners expressed concern over pet medication costs, but Dr. Hohenhaus endorses veterinary-grade medications, noting the medications are specifically designed for animals. WebMD/Tales from the Pet Clinic blog



By Ann Hohenhaus, DVM

A recent survey of both pet owners and veterinarians interrogated the pet health issues each group thought were most important. In last week’s post, I discussed the issues from the veterinarian’s point of view. In this blog I will write from the pet owner’s point of view.

Pet owners said they were primarily concerned with vaccinations, fleas and ticks, heartworms, intestinal parasites, and spending money on medications. This list appears to overlap with the veterinary list on the topic of intestinal parasites, and both owners and vets are squarely focused on preventive healthcare; care to keep their favorite furry, feathery, or scaly companion healthy.


Vaccinations float to the top of most pet owners’ lists because they save pets’ lives. Before vaccinations were available for common diseases like canine distemper and feline panleukopenia, these diseases spread through neighborhoods like wildfire, often resulting in the deaths of many pets. Decreases in the recommended frequency of some vaccines, coupled with the association between injections and tumors, has raised many questions in pet owners’ minds.

Intestinal parasites

Both pet owners and veterinarians agreed intestinal parasite control was an important issue for pets. How could it not be? Intestinal parasites are high in yuck factor, high in pet discomfort, and on the list of diseases people and pets can share.

Fleas and ticks

These critters are very similar to intestinal parasites with regard to yuck factor and pet discomfort. A pet with a flea infestation may mean you also have a house or apartment with a flea infestation since fleas spend more time off your pet than on. Pet owners want to avoid an expensive exterminator bill by preventing fleas on their pet. Pet owners also want to prevent fleas and ticks to protect their pet against diseases like Lyme disease and blood parasites.


Because heartworms are a serious health concern in both dogs and cats, they are an important medical issue for most pet owners. Nearly every state in the United States reports cases of heartworm in resident dogs and cats. This map shows heartworm cases by state.

Year-round heartworm preventative is a “two-fer” since most prevent both heartworms and some intestinal parasites.

Pet medications

Pet owners want the best for their pet. In my mind, the best are veterinary-specific products.  I prefer to prescribe medications developed specifically for veterinary patients rather than human or compounded medications. Veterinary-specific medications assure you, the pet owner, the product has been tested in dogs or cats and will be absorbed, metabolized, and effective in your pet. But, because most pets do not have insurance and medications are paid for “out of pocket,” many times pet owners can be surprised at the cost. As a pet owner myself, I believe that these veterinary-specific medications are worth paying for.

After looking carefully at the two lists of pet healthcare issues, one from pet owners and the other from veterinarians, are they really so different?  Both groups’ lists really have only one item and it’s the same one: healthy, happy pets.

Magnolia Kate Passes Team Evaluation

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Stacey Duff and her lovely Golden Retriever, Magnolia Kate are new AHF Caring Creatures Pet Partners after passing their evaluation on Saturday, December 8th!  Congratulations to you both!

Our First Silken Windhounds

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

We are thrilled to have our first Silken Windhounds in our AHF Caring Creatures Pet Partner Program.  Jolene with Sahara and Keith with Dior (Sahara’s dad) passed their Pet Partner Team Evaluation on December 8th.

We met Jolene Jones and Keith Hicks at Pet Expo 2012 at the OC Fairgrounds and were immediately struck by the beauty of this breed.


Meet Freddie

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Nine year old Freddie is an AHF Pet Partner with his handler, Kristi Reed.  They live in LA and visit the Children’s Hospital there!  Freddie is a terrier mix and just adorable!  Glad you found us, Kristi and are going to be part of AHF moving forward

Muffin and Char

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Jan Aven’s beautiful Pet Partner Muffin with her best friend little Char.  Holiday 2012

Claudia’s Cuisine Recall of Candy Cakes

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

December 7, 2012 – PetSmart has announced Claudia’s Cuisine has issued a voluntary product withdrawal for its 7.5 oz Dog Candy Fruit Hound Cake and Dog Candy Blueberry Hound Cake.

No other products are affected.

The products are being voluntarily withdrawn due to the potential to contain mold.

Claudia’s Cuisine has not received any reports of illness associated with the affected product.

Important Notice

Claudia’s Cuisine does not maintain a company website. In addition, PetSmart Customer Service cannot confirm the accuracy of its own report.1

FDA: Don’t feed certain Nature’s Deli Chicken Jerky Dog treats

Friday, December 7th, 2012

Product may be contaminated with Salmonella

December 6, 2012

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning pet owners and caretakers not to feed their pets Nature’s Deli Chicken Jerky Dog Treats with a lot code of BESTBY061913DEN because they may be contaminated with Salmonella. The treats are made, packaged and distributed in the United States by Kasel Associates Industries Inc. (Kasel) and were sold at Costco stores in the Denver, Colo., area.

Kasel has declined to perform a voluntary recall at this time. However, Costco is working with FDA and has removed all of the affected products from its shelves. The company will also contact customers who may have purchased the product to provide additional instructions.

The product is sold in 3.0 lb. packages labeled as Nature’s Deli Chicken Jerky Dog Treats. The product is packaged in flexible plastic which is yellow, blue, green and red, with black and white print writing. The packaging also has a digital photo of a dog on the front panel, and transparent sections to view the product inside. Lot code BESTBY061913DEN is located on the reverse side of the packaging in the transparent section immediately following the term “All American Dog.”

In September 2012, a retail sample of a Kasel dog treat product tested by the Colorado Department of Agriculture was found to be positive for Salmonella. An FDA follow-up inspection at the firm found certain finished dog treat products and 34 out of 72 environmental samples positive for Salmonella.

On October 2, 2012, the company recalled one lot of its Nature’s Deli Chicken Jerky Dog Treats. However that recall did not extend to the lot code covered by this warning.

In November 2012, a retail sample of Nature’s Deli Chicken Jerky Dog Treats lot code BESTBY061913DEN taken by the Colorado Department of Agriculture tested positive for Salmonella.

These treats are manufactured in the United States and are not associated with FDA’s investigation in reports of illnesses in dogs associated with consumption of chicken jerky treats.

FDA has not received any reports of illnesses associated with these treats. However, both people and animals can contract Salmonellosis from handling or eating contaminated products. People handling dry pet treats should thoroughly wash their hands after having contact with the treats as well as any surfaces exposed to these products.

Consumers should dispose of these products in ways that people and animals, including wild animals, cannot access them, such as placing them in a securely lidded garbage can.

Healthy people infected with Salmonella may experience some or all of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever. Although rare, Salmonella can result in more serious ailments including arterial infections, endocarditis (inflammation of the lining of the heart), arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation and urinary tract symptoms. Consumers exhibiting these signs after having contact with this product should contact their health care provider immediately.

The elderly, infants and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to become severely ill from Salmonella infection. The bacterium can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in these vulnerable populations. Most healthy individuals recover from Salmonella infections within four to seven days without treatment.

Pets with Salmonella infections may become lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever and vomiting. Some pets may experience only a decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. Infected, but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and infect other animals or humans. If your pet has consumed any of the affected product or is experiencing any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately.

As with humans, dogs who are elderly, very young or have impaired immune systems are more vulnerable to Salmonella infection.

Consumers can report complaints about FDA-regulated pet food and pet treat products by calling the consumer complaint coordinator in their area or by reporting through the Safety Reporting Portal. Information on reporting consumer complaints can be found at:

Why cats don’t make it to the veterinarian’s office enough

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

More dogs get regular veterinary care than cats, writes veterinarian Barry Burtis. He suggests many factors contribute, including cats’ general aversion to traveling in carriers, owners’ mistaken belief that indoor cats don’t need regular veterinary care and the feline ability to mask symptoms. Dr. Burtis emphasizes the connection between regular veterinary care and optimum health for cats. The Burlington Post (Ontario) (11/29)

Statistics tell us that dogs visit veterinarians much more regularly than cats. On the other hand, polls tell us both dog and cat owners equally recognize the value of veterinary care for their pets.

So, why the disconnect? Why do you suppose dogs average 1.8 veterinary visits per year while cats get to see us only 0.7 times a year? Are dogs or their owners just hypochondriacs, excessively worried or anxious about illness and health? Are dogs just wimps — limping, whining and crying with every little ailment? Do dog owners just have huge amounts of money they wish to use supporting veterinary medicine? Do cat owners not love their feline as much as dog owners care for their dog? Are cats more resistant to disease, requiring less vaccination protection or other healthcare advice?

In my opinion, none of the above offers a correct explanation for the difference. No, there are other much more likely reasons.

Here are some that come to mind. Cats are homebodies. Getting into a carrier, in the first place, is not a happy experience for many cats, neither is it fun for their owner. No matter how smooth the ride, few cats love to go in the car. The yowling, scratching and sometimes bad odours emanating from the cat carrier can take the pleasure out of the ride for the cat’s car companions, as well. At the veterinary hospital, the cat’s attitude toward the cat carrier usually suddenly changes. It’s the nearest thing to home in that place. Why would they want to come out and be weighed, poked, prodded or needled? No, when a cat fails to see any benefit or value associated with this experience, their behaviour reflects their concerns. Is there anything to make the experience more pleasant for all? Well, as a start, begin at a very early age and continue through their life to build a better relationship between a kitten/cat and its carrier. Bring it out of storage at times other than just before a stressful car ride. That should make the trip a bit easier. Then it’s going to be up to the owner to realize most everyone experiences a bit of stress when they go to see their doctor.

People sometimes mistakenly believe that because their cat stays inside it really does not need the benefit of vaccinations. I believe this is another reason cats fail to get to see their doctor as often as they should.  However, municipal bylaws mandate that all cats — regardless of lifestyle — must be vaccinated against rabies. Panleukopenia, feline leukemia and the respiratory viruses — rhinotracheitis and calici virus — are all diseases that can be protected against. A veterinarian should determine which ones are necessary for an individual cat.

Do some cat owners just believe it’s too expensive to visit a veterinarian? People are usually thrilled to learn about the medicines, treatments and therapies that are available for their pets these days. Especially now with the availability of pet health insurance, I hope not many cats are failing to get the full benefits of healthcare because of cost.

A perhaps more legitimate reasons for cats and veterinarians not getting together as often as they should is that cats mask their illnesses very well. Cats are predators, but they are also a prey species. In the wild, showing weakness is the best way to hasten your decline. Cats often hide even severe arthritis, because they are moving around usually much less than dogs. Using the privacy of a litter box, instead of urinating on a walk like a dog, means cat owners are probably much less aware of volumes of urine a cat is producing, behaviour when a cat is urinating or the appearance of a cat’s urine. Lumps and bumps on a cat’s body surface may be less quickly spotted than with a dog. When a cat vomits, is it just a hairball or is it vomiting for some other reason and the hair just happens to be brought up as an effect, but not the cause of the problem?

How do we make cats equal opportunity users, with dogs, of today’s healthcare for pets? It’s very easy. Just make sure your cat visits its veterinarian at least once per year. It can receive a general physical examination, be updated on vaccine needs, get reliable, current diet and healthcare advice, all with a minimum of stress and expense.