Animal Health Foundation Blog

Archive for the ‘Medical Issues’ Category

Angel Fund Supplies Clarity for Dog With Terminal Cancer

Saturday, May 9th, 2020

In the fall of 2017, a young Laguna Niguel family had a sick dog on its hands.  Rikku, a shepard mix, had been in the family for some 13 years and was loved by mom and dad and two young children.

“She had been sick for a few months,” Lindsay, the mother, said in an interview.  (She asked that her last name not be used.)  “We were unsure of the cause.  At first we thought it might be behavioral. But then . . . she started having potty accidents in the house, which was so unusual for her.

“We took her to the vet [Dr. Rachel Tuz at Aliso Niguel Animal Hospital].  After a few visits and really no conclusive idea what the diagnosis was, we shrugged our shoulders and decided, ‘Well, she’s 13 years old and pushing 14, should we even pursue this any further?’

“The doctor had suggested a couple of other tests,” Lindsay said. “At that point, we had run dry on money.”  But Dr. Tuz called and said that Angel Fund might be able to help.  Lindsay successfully submitted an application with the hospital’s help. “They did the tests and found that she had a massive tumor in her bladder.  And it was basically inoperable.  There was nothing we could do about it.

“”We didn’t know what to do next, other than wait it out,” Lindsay said. “The next few months the dog got worse quickly and was losing weight, two pounds or more a month.  And we finally reached the point where Dr. Tuz said that this wasn’t fair to Rikku. She was not able to be in the house because she was having so many accidents.  So we had to choose to put her down.  That was in November.”

The experience was wrenching for all the family.  “My husband, Ryan, and I had owned her since we were kids,” Lindsay said.  “It was very hard.  “My son, Finnegan, was very sad.  He still is.  He still talks about her.”  He is five years old.  She and her husband also have a two-year-old daughter, Molly, is two.

The family got a new dog – a puppy – in January.  “We were going to wait but Finnegan kept saying he missed not having a dog,” Lindsay said.  “It’s different, though.  The new dog doesn’t replace the dog you had.  They’re just totally different personalities.”

Angel Fund was “fantastic,” Lindsay said, and she wrote a thank you letter to the fund after receiving the grant.  “They helped us in a serious time of need.  It’s hard when your pet is sick and you feel like you can’t do anything else about it.”

Lindsay had opted to be a stay-at-home mom after her first child was born.  And she and Ryan felt financially overburdened, she said, with a mortgage, two young children and hefty student loans for two college educations.

A Pet Owner’s Guide to Flowers and Plants

Thursday, April 23rd, 2020

BROUGHT TO YOU BY KREMP.COM

We love our pets! The family cat or dog is vital part of our family, and we do everything we can to help ensure that they have what they need. Pet owners need to be certain that they provide the correct food and preventative medical care. While pet safety needs to be a big concern around the house, one of the most common dangers for pets are with the plants and flowers that can be redily found in the home.

Most homes have various types of plants and flowers inside the home. These plants and flowers help brighten up a home and provide a decorative flourish. While the addition of plants and flowers in a home are helpful in making the house attractive, it can also be a danger to pets. Knowing which plants are non-toxic and which plants are toxic to your dog or cat is important for the continued good health of your pet.

There are a number of plants that are commonly found around the home that are toxic to animals. Some of the plants that should be kept away from the family pet include Lilies, Tulips and Azaleas. All of these plants could have an impact on the health of pets if ingested. Therefore, it is important that prevention of potential danger is very important.

If you have a home with pets, and you have flowers and plants, it is imperative to keep an eye out for the possibility of the animal being poisoned. Some of the symptoms that you should look out for include diarrhea, vomiting, weakness and not behaving as normal. If you suspect that your pet may have been accidentally poisoned, it is important to contact your vet as soon as possible. The early the treatment for the poison the better chance of getting them back to health.

To learn more about which plants and flowers are toxic and what to do in the event of a poisoning, please review the following information.

  • Poisonous Plants – Informative web page from Cornell University which provides information on which plants are poisonous to animals.
  • Animal Toxins – Listing of items that are considered poisonous to all animals.
  • Plants Toxic to Animals – Helpful database of plants that are toxic to domesticated animals.
  • Toxic Plants for Pets – In this page you will learn about the plants that animals should avoid.
  • List of Poisonous Plants – Useful article which contains a listing of plants that are toxic to cats and dogs.
  • Pet Safe Gardening – Information from the Animal Health Foundation which offers ideas on having a pet safe garden.
  • Pets and Toxic Plants – This article from UC Davis discusses pets and plants that could be toxic to them.
  • ASPCA Information – Information on plants and flowers that are toxic and non-toxic to pets.
  • Keeping Pets Safe – Article from HGTV which offers ideas on how to keep pets safe from plants and flowers around the home.
  • Safe Indoor House Flowers and Plants – Helpful article from Better Homes and Gardens which provides information on plants and flowers that are safe for pets.
  • Signs of Poisoning – Useful information on how to tell if your dog has been poisoned.
  • Top Dog Poisons – This article informs dog owners about the top potentially harmful items that are poisonous to dogs.
  • Antifreeze Poisoning in Cats – Article which provides general information on how to determine if you cat was poisoned.
  • Poisoned Dog – In this helpful article you will find information and steps to treat a poisoned dog.
  • Treating a Poisoned Cat – Article which lists steps that can be taken to treat a cat suspected of being poisoned.
  • Poison Prevention Tips (PDF) – Publication which lists the top tips on how to keep your pet from being poisoned.
  • Pet Poison Prevention Tips – Information for pet owners on ways to prevent pet poisoning from occurring.
  • Poison Prevention Tips for Pets – Informative information on how to avoid pets being poisoned around the home.
  • Poison Prevention Publication (PDF) – Helpful brochure which provides pet owners with preventative measures to keep poisons away from pets.
  • Poison Control and Prevention – Information on how to keep pets safe from potential poisons.
  • Pets and Poisons – In this article from the American Humane Association you will find information on pet poisoning.
  • Pet First Aid – Red Cross information and class material on learning the basics of pet first aid.
  • Basic Pet First Aid – Useful information for pet owners which provides a basic understanding of first aid.
  • Pesticide Poisoning in Pets – Article which offers information on what to do if your pet is poisoned by pesticides.
  • Poison Information and Resources – Resourceful page with information about pet poisoning.
  • Pets and Poison – Web page which informs pet owners about the dangers around the home for pets.
  • Poison Safety for Pet Owners (PDF) – General information about poison safety from the University of Virginia.
  • Preventing Pet Poisoning – Information about pet poisoning prevention with outdoor pesticides.
  • Pet Poisoning Information – Helpful information about the basics of pet poisoning.
  • Plants and Household Products – Informative fact sheets with information about normal plants and products around the house that can be poisonous to pets.

Disabled Woman Turns to Angel Fund for Help With Dog’s Heart Problem

Tuesday, March 17th, 2020

In 2004, Galina Coleman slipped and fell at work not far from where she lived in Petaluma.  She had five surgeries for the injuries she suffered.  In the wake of that personal catastrophy and disillusioned with her marriage, she got a divorced and moved to Southern California.

Today, estranged from her former husband and two sons, she lives in Aliso Viejo and struggles to pay her bills. She was declared totally disabled in 2006 and lives on a Social Security disability check.

“I’m just really struggling,” she said.  “I’m in affordable housing.  My rent is $1,398 a month, which is ‘very affordable’ here. However, for me it’s just really, really difficult.  I’ve tried to get jobs but it just hasn’t worked out for me.  I have two senior dogs and a senior cat and I know they’re basically at the end of their lives.”

Late last November, her struggles came into clear perspective when Abby, her nearly 14-year-old Dachshund, appeared to be having a digestive issue.  “When I took her to a veterinarian, the doctor discovered a heart murmur. She thought it was pretty serious and prescribed medication for Abby after doing an x-ray,” Galina said.

Later, she took the dog to Dr. Lynn Sanchez, a veterinarian she said she likes and trusts at Garden Grove Dog and Cat Hospital.  Dr. Sanchez recommended an electrocardiogram to get a clearer idea what Abby’s problem was.  But Galina could not handle the cost.  She applied for an Angel Fund grant and was awarded $451, a sum that was matched by the hospital.

Abby got the electrocardiogram in late December – and with it some good news: the murmur was not as bad as originally suspected.  “Dr. Sanchez said that everything looked pretty good and prescribed three medications,” Galina said.  A week later, when she took Abby back for a recheck, two of the medications were discontinued.  “One of them was really hard on her kidneys,” she said, “so I was really glad to get rid of it.”

After another recheck early in January, the dog is continuing to take Vetmedin.  “She’s not in heart failure but has some damage to a mitral valve,” Galina said.

When Galina divorced, she took her animals with her.  “I have tried to help them on a piecemeal basis,” she said. “I’ve had to rely on charity.  They’ve all been in pretty good health but now they are at the point where that’s starting to change [because of their ages].”

Augie, Abby’s brother, is two years younger at 12.  Aurora, her cat, also is 12.  Galina believes that Augie will need a dental treatment soon.

“I’ve been given the blessing of having these animals – they are just truly a blessing for me.  I am their steward and I need to make sure they get whatever is needed to take care of them. I have to do that.

“Had I not been able to do this [echocardiogram], I would either have been giving Abby way too much medication or no medication at all.  It wouldn’t have been good either way.  it was going to be detrimental to her health one way or the other.”

Galina is grateful to Angel Fund.  “They really helped me out,” she said.  “It is a wonderful thing to help people because things can be so expensive.  I think it’s a really great thing for veterinarians to give back.  I admire them for doing that.  I think that’s what we’re all here for – to give back.”

She is thinking about moving with her animals to a place – perhaps New Mexico – where her disability check would go further.  She is 58 years old.

“I have ignored a lot of my life for these dogs.  But, in return, they’ve provided me with something,” she said.  That something is love and support.

A Kiss Changes Everything

Sunday, March 8th, 2020

Animal Health Foundation’s Caring Creatures Pet Partners Team Jane Horsfield and Kiss are celebrated in Pet Companion Magazine!

From  Pet Companion Magazine  http://digital.petcompanionmag.com/publication/?m=40178&i=651393&p=38    “Reprinted with permission from Pet Companion Magazine, Spring 2020.”

Just like the rock band for which she’s named, the black-and-white­masked Kiss never gives up, even when people might count her out.

Like KISS, whose members have been rocking for 4 7 years, she keeps coming back, stronger each time, just when you think she’s thrown in the towel. KISS the band is traveling the world throughout 2020 on their The End is Near tour-this time, they say, they’re really going to retire. We’ll believe it when we see it.

Kiss the border collie, however, has no plans to throw in any towel or slow down, and certainly not to retire. This rock star therapy dog/athlete has a can-do attitude that won’t quit, and all the curve balls she’s been thrown so far haven’t taken her down. She’s tough as nails, and yet sweet as the pink swipe of a gentle doggie smooch. She’s one special dog who has defied unthinkable odds to not just survive but also stay at the top of her game.

And what game is that? Well, for starters, she used to give other dogs a run for their money in flyball, agility, dock diving, nosework, and Frisbee catching. But being a top athlete wasn’t where Kiss found her calling. It turns out her best talents emerged during her 11-year career (so far) as a therapy dog-part of the Animal Health Foundation, an affiliate of Pet Partners. Kiss visits hospital patients, helps elementary school children learn to love reading, and appears at many public service events benefiting various causes for pets and children, including her local Rotary Club’s fundraising efforts to raise awareness of skin cancer. Since 2013, she has served as a crisis response dog, sent on deployments where she has helped people affected by disasters or other crises cope with their losses. But her best trick yet? Beating her own cancer, a soft-cell sarcoma on her front left leg, and now living with a complex disease called immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA). This 13-year-old takes it on the chin, but she never takes it lying down. Despite a grim diagnosis and multiple complications, Kiss is making steady progress and will soon be back visiting her local hospitals and elementary schools, putting smiles on the many faces she loves.

Kiss was six months old when she was given to Jane Horsfield and Dan Balza of Fountain Valley, California, by a fellow flyball enthusiast. Horsfield and Balza previously owned several dogs involved in the sport-which, heartbreakingly, they had lost to various forms of cancer. A lover of border collies, Horsfield was all in for taking Kiss home. However, she and Balza had recently discussed how their household was definitely at its maximum dog capacity. Grudgingly, Balza agreed to take a look at a photo of the striking black and white little furball. It wasn’t long before Kiss became part of the family.

Horsfield describes young Kiss as “one wild little banshee.” She recalls, “She barked, she chased, she screamed … and she ate everything in sight. She chewed clothes, glasses, furniture, walls (not kidding!), and the oak baseboard. I’d get home from work and, with drywall hanging from her mouth, she’d look at me with those big, brown, loving eyes. Who could be mad? Eventually, the bad behavior faded, and a wonderful ‘teenaged’ doggy emerged.”

At that time, Horsfield was doing pet therapy work with another of her beloved athletic dogs, who was 11 and nearing retirement age. All of her dogs do dog sports, but therapy work-that’s a raised bar that Horsfield says only a few dogs can reach. Because Kiss was proving to be a loving and sensitive dog, she began to train her. At just 2 years old, Kiss passed her Pet Partner evaluation, and with that opened
a new chapter in her life. Although her primary job was now therapy work, Kiss still enjoyed participating in dog sports in her spare time.

In 2017, Kiss’s image was featured on a surfboard that was part of a fundraiser by the Huntington Beach Rotary Club. Local artists were paired with local surfboard shapers, and 22 surfboards were decorated and auctioned off, with the money donated to local hospitals benefiting skin cancer research, prevention, and care. At the unveiling of her surfboard, a participant visiting with Kiss felt a swelling on her front left leg and alerted Horsfield to it. It turned out to be a soft-tissue sarcoma, and Kiss was referred to a specialty hospital.

Having lost four previous dogs to cancer, Horsfield and Balza were devastated, fearing the worst. But after 18 months of treatment, including 6 months of rehabilitation, Kiss was declared free of cancer and cleared to go back to work.

Horsfield got word of a grant from the Petco Foundation and Blue Buffalo that was available to therapy dogs with cancer. The foundation donated $3,000 to help cover some of the costs ofKiss’s treatment, and Petco Foundation and Blue Buffalo shared Kiss’s story on their websites for the 2018 Pet Cancer Awareness campaign. The two companies have invested more than $15 million into pet cancer research since the campaign began in 2010. Asked to participate again in 2019, Kiss’s face was featured on ads in People magazine, on Petco’s Pet Cancer Awareness website, on posters in nearly every Petco store, and even on a reuseable tote bag, a gift for donating $10 to the campaign in any Petco store nationwide.

Sadly, between the time she was declared cancer free and the start of the 2019 Pet Cancer Awareness campaign in May 2019, Kiss was diagnosed with immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, or IMHA. “It’s a horrible, not-so-common disease where the immune system goes haywire and starts destroying its own red blood cells,” explains Horsfield. “She liter­ally was fine on Saturday, then on Sunday morning she didn’t want to eat her break­fast.” While that symptom didn’t seem particularly alarming, Horsfield discovered discoloration in Kiss’s mouth and imme­diately took her to a veterinary specialist. From there, her condition went downhill fast, but thankfully Kiss’s condition today has been mostly stabilized through medica­tion. But not before she suffered an intes­tinal blockage that required emergency sur­gery and a severe bout of pneumonia. The road has been long, and it’s been rough. But Kiss is not a quitter. She fights on.

And Horsfield, who “researches absolutely everything” but was too terrified to even look up this disease at first, is fighting along with her. Every day, she’s learning and, more importantly, educating others about IMHA. It’s a complicated disease with no “one-size-fits-all” treatment-veterinarians must try protocol after protocol to find one that strikes the right balance for Kiss. “This story is far from over, and she has not been ‘cured.’ Knowledge is everything when treating this disease,” Horsfield points out. She says if she’d waited a day to take Kiss to the vet or not gone straight to a specialist, Kiss likely would have died, according to her doctors. “Dog owners need to be aware of what IMHA is and know the warning signs” she cautions. “IMHA packs quite a punch, and Kiss’s life has taken a drastic side road.” Younger dogs who make it through this disease are generally more able to get back to normal, says Horsfield. “Kiss got this ugly disease at 12. She’s not a young dog, but she was in great shape before this hit, which is probably why she’s been able to fight it. I am just grateful to still have her with me 12 months after diagnosis.”

While Horsfield admits that Kiss probably won’t be competing in flyball or dock diving anytime soon, she still enjoys her nosework and catching the occasional ball or Frisbee. A pivotal moment in her recovery was when she was finally able to take a swim once again in the family’s backyard pool with her pack, the other family dogs. She’s also back to visiting hospital patients, and will head back to school for the elementary reading program very soon. In December, when a student from Rim of the World High School in Lake Arrowhead was tragically murdered, Kiss was there to lend support. In January, she helped deploying military service men and women and their families prepare for the year ahead.

With all she’s been through, you might expect Kiss to just bask in the sun and take life easy for the rest of her days. But that’s not who she is. That little banshee who barked her head off, ate everything in sight, and chewed her way through puppyhood (and the drywall) isn’t resting on her laurels or her haunches. She’s forging ahead, mending hearts and spreading joy and kisses along the way. Because, sometimes, a kiss changes everything.

Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia
By Julie Stegeman, DVM 

Immune-mediated hemo­lytic anemia (IMHA) is an autoimmune condition wherein the patient’s immune system attacks their own red blood cells as if they were a foreign invader. IMHA is more common in dogs than in cats, and it is an almost daily occurrence in the caseload of a referral hospital because of the need for inpatient support­ive care and often the need for blood transfusion. It is most often seen in middle-aged dogs and in young cats, and some breeds are more at risk ( cocker spaniels, miniature schnauzers, miniature dachshunds, etc). IMHA represents a loss of immune system “tolerance of self.” Our immune system has checks and balances built in, but when there is a disturbance in that balance, a red blood cell can “look” like a virus to an immune system cell. It then be­comes a target for destruction, leading to severe anemia and death if left untreated.

Symptoms ofIMHA initially can be vague. Lethargy, poor appetite, even a fever may be seen. Pet owners might notice a red or orange discoloration to the pet’s urine, or they might notice pale gums. The gums and skin might even appear yellow (“jaundiced”) due to buildup of bilirubin, which is a byproduct ofred blood cell destruction. Orange stool is also commonly seen. These symptoms lead to taking the pet in to their veter­inarian. Blood tests will show anemia and may or may not show elevated bilirubin levels, elevated white blood cells, low platelets, or elevated liver or kidney values. If the platelet count is low, the pet may have autoimmune destruction of their platelets as well-this is called Evan’s syndrome.”

It is recommended to screen for a variety of immune system triggers in an IMHA patient, such as various tick-borne illnesses, viral infections, other infectious diseases, and cancer. Other triggers can include a variety of medications and even (rarely) vaccinations. If there is an underlying triggering con­dition, the immune destruction will continue until the trigger is eliminated. This is especially important because treatment for IMHA requires immune suppressive medications, and if there is an infectious disease present, the immune suppres­sant medications will allow the triggering infectious disease to overcome the patient. It is very important to provide a full medical and travel history to the attending veterinarian, so that these issues can be discovered right away. Various blood tests, chest radiographs, and abdomi­nal ultrasounds are usually per­formed to screen for underlying conditions, depending on the patient and their exact history.

If no inciting cause is identi­fied, then immune suppressive treatment is begun. The corner­stone of immune suppressive treatment is glucocorticoid (ste­roid) treatment, most commonly in the form ofprednisone or as injectable dexamethasone. High doses of steroids are required at first, because the immune reac­tions in IMHA are very intense, and progression is rapid if left unchecked. It can take several days to start to see the benefits of the immune suppressive treatments. In some patients, if the immune system is attacking red blood cells at the level of the bone marrow ( where they are being produced), it can take 4 to 6 weeks for stabilization of the red cell levels to occur. Until the red cell level ( often determined with a Packed Cell Volume [PCV]) stabilizes and starts to increase, blood trans­fusions are often necessary. Transfusions help “buy time” until the steroids can control the situation. Unfortunately, the transfused red blood cells are often destroyed as quickly as the pet’s own red blood cells, so repeated transfusion may be needed.

In addition to steroids and transfusions, sometimes other treatments are used. Intrave­nous gamma globulin treatment (IVIgG) is an expensive but often effective way to shorten a hospital stay. This treatment binds to auto-antibodies and keeps them from attacking the red blood cells. It also may reduce antibody production by the patient’s body. It helps “win the battle” but is not proven to improve long-term outcomes. Plasmapheresis is another treatment available at a few referral hospitals in the nation, with a similar end result as IVIgG. Other immune suppressive medications such as cyclosporine, mycophenolate, azathioprine, or leflunomide, often started in conjunction with prednisone, take longer for full effect and are most helpful to reduce how much prednisone is given over the long run.

Patients with IMHA have a high risk for development of abnormal blood clots, and pulmonary embolism is actually one of the leading causes of death in these pets. Therefore, it is common to prescribe blood thinners such as aspirin, clopi­dogrel (Plavix), and/or heparin. A blood thinner is often given as long as the prednisone is given.

Because anemia affects the entire body, gastrointestinal support is often needed, in the form of antacids, anti-nausea medications, and coating agents.

Survival ofIMHA is, un­fortunately, not 100 percent. Estimates vary, but the author’s experience is that approxi­mately 75-percent survival is expected. Not all pets respond completely to treatment. Others succumb to pulmonary embo­lism. Rarely, they develop sec­ondary opportunistic infections, such as fungal infections, due to chronic immune suppressive therapy.

Close monitoring is critical after the patient is discharged from the hospital. A patient may need to be rechecked a couple of times a week at first, gradual­ly reducing to once every 2 to 3 weeks. The medications are ta­pered over time, and usually by 4 to 6 months after diagnosis, the pet is either off medication entirely or is on the minimum dose of medication required to maintain a normal red blood cell level. Relapses can occur, as can other immune-mediated diseases.

In summary, IMHA is a life-threatening but treatable disease, which most but not all patients survive. A thorough evaluation of the patient is needed initially, and most re­quire hospitalization to survive the initial part of the illness. Long term, the pet owner will need to work closely with their veterinarian to adjust medica­tions and watch for relapses.

The Benefits of Coconut Oil for Your Pet

Friday, February 28th, 2020

Innovative therapy puts Blaine, WA dog’s cancer into remission

Monday, February 24th, 2020
The Northern Light Community Newspaper, Bellingham, WA
Blaine dog Wiley with his veterinary team at Bellingham Veterinary. From l., Brittany Grant, Sebastian Grant, Dr. Kevin Steele, Sharon Pozzi and Dr. Edmund Sullivan.
Blaine dog Wiley with his veterinary team at Bellingham, WA Veterinary. From l., Brittany Grant, Sebastian Grant, Dr. Kevin Steele, Sharon Pozzi and Dr. Edmund Sullivan.
  • by Jami Makan

When Jackie Craig got her dog Wiley from a ranch when he was eight weeks old, she expected him to have a long, healthy life. That’s because he’s a Blue Heeler, a type of Australian Cattle Dog known for its long, healthy lifespan and lack of predisposed conditions. Wiley quickly became a beloved figure at The Hair Shop on Martin Street in Blaine where Craig works. “He’s the barbershop dog,” she said. “Everybody knows him.”

So it came as a shock when Wiley, at the age of seven and a half, was diagnosed with lymphoma in August last year. Craig first noticed that Wiley was gaining weight and would start coughing when he drank. She took him in for an appointment at Bellingham Veterinary, where Dr. Edmund Sullivan performed blood work and diagnosed Wiley with B-cell lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. It is also known in people as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “It turns out the lymph nodes in his neck were extremely enlarged,” Craig said. “He was in very sorry shape, and they said he would’ve died within two weeks.”

Although she didn’t have pet insurance – “My biggest mistake,” Craig said – she decided to pay for chemotherapy for Wiley. “I did not think he was going to make it,” she said. “I just wanted to prolong his life. It was agonizing trying to decide whether to put my dog to sleep.”

At first, Dr. Sullivan performed chemotherapy on Wiley once a week. Unfortunately, it wasn’t working well. “Wiley had a very poor response to standard chemotherapy,” said Dr. Sullivan. “On the standard therapy, he didn’t get into any kind of remission at all. He quickly would relapse.”

That’s when Dr. Sullivan decided to try a new approach being developed around the country. Through a separate Bellingham company named Aurelius Biotherapeutics, of which his wife Dr. Theresa Westfall is the CEO, Dr. Sullivan has been working for years in conjunction with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, as an off-campus research partner. “We have developed therapies for dogs as patients through that relationship,” said Dr. Sullivan. One of those therapies is known as adoptive T-cell therapy. It is a therapy that is also used on some human patients, and Dr. Sullivan decided to try it on Wiley.

“Basically, it is a method where we first take blood out of the dog,” explained Dr. Kevin Steele, Dr. Sullivan’s Blaine-based lab researcher. “We take anti-tumor T-cells away from the influence of the tumor. The T-cells, the anti-cancer cells, they are in culture now. We give them dead tumor to attack. They expand and get very anti-tumor. All of this is happening in culture. Then we inject them back into the dog.”

Dr. Steele said that adoptive T-cell therapy is typically used in conjunction with standard chemotherapy. First, the chemotherapy kills off rapidly dividing tumor cells, and then the T-cells, after being “jazzed up” in the laboratory, are injected to “hunt down” any surviving cancer cells. The first time Dr. Steele and Dr. Sullivan tried the technique was in 2016, and since then, they have treated about a hundred dogs together. They have conditional USDA approval to provide the treatment, and they are currently working on overcoming additional levels of regulatory hurdles to expand their facility.

“With standard therapy, we don’t have any cures,” said Dr. Sullivan. “So none of them survive. This immunotherapy, meanwhile, has resulted in a fair percentage of dogs living for long periods of time, and some of them being cured,” which he defines as being cancer-free for longer than two years after a diagnosis. Some dogs he has treated have gone as long as four and a half years (and counting) without relapsing. “We believe there’s something to this.”

The experimental treatment was performed at no cost to Craig. The doctors grew T-cells for Wiley and then gave him an additional dose of standard therapy followed by two infusions of the T-cells. Wiley went into remission and has gone without additional chemotherapy for several months now. “Just last week, we did an analysis and he was free of disease – there was no detectable disease,” said Dr. Sullivan. “We will generate another batch of T-cells for him to see if we can extend his remission even longer. There’s a chance he may be cured – we don’t know that until he’s gone two years since his diagnosis – but we’re already six months in. We’re a quarter of the way there.”

During the entire process, Craig said that Wiley’s suffering was minimal, and that he didn’t lose hair. “Now he’s got the puppy bounce,” said Craig. “He was pretty sick when he was going through chemo. I could only get him to eat steak. Now he’s eating completely normal and he’s right back to his old self, playing with other dogs.”

Craig is extremely grateful to Dr. Steele and Dr. Sullivan, who will continue to monitor Wiley’s condition. “Kevin is an angel,” she said. “And Dr. Sullivan, he sits on the floor and talks to the animals. He loves the animals. His entire staff is just very compassionate.”

Craig said that with so many dogs getting cancer, these treatments have come a long way and are worth it. “It gives other people with dogs hope,” she said.

Pancreatitis in Dogs

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020
Date Published: 01/02/2006
Date Reviewed/Revised: 05/07/2019

The Normal Pancreas and What it Does

We eat food, chew it up into a slurry, and swallow it. It travels down the esophagus to the stomach where it is ground up further and enzymes are added to begin the break-down of dietary nutrients (digestion). When the food particles are small enough, they are propelled into the small intestine for further digestive treatment and ultimately nutrient absorption. The upper part of the small intestine (the duodenum) is for further digestion/break down of nutrients while the lower parts of the small intestine are for absorption of the digested nutrients.

Normal Pancreas

Graphic by MarVistaVet

The pancreas is a pale pink glandular organ that nestles cozily just under the stomach and along the duodenum. As a glandular organ, the pancreas is all about secretion and it has two main jobs: the first job is to secrete digestive enzymes to help us break down the nutrients we eat, the second job is to secrete insulin and glucagon (to regulate how we use the nutrients we eat). It’s the first job (the digestive enzyme part) that concerns us in pancreatitis.

Canine Pancreas

Graphic by VIN

Pancreatitis is Inflammation of the Pancreas

In pancreatitis, inflammation disrupts the normal integrity of the pancreas. Digestive enzymes are normally stored safely as inactive forms within pancreatic granules so that they are harmless. In pancreatitis they are prematurely activated and released internally, digesting the body itself. The result can be a metabolic catastrophe. The living tissue becomes further inflamed and the tissue damage quickly involves the adjacent liver. Toxins released from this rampage of tissue destruction are liberated into the circulation and can cause a body-wide inflammatory response.  If the pancreas is affected so as to disrupt its ability to produce insulin, diabetes mellitus can result; this can be either temporary or permanent.

Specific Pancreatitis Disasters

  • A syndrome called Weber-Christian syndrome results, in which fats throughout the body are destroyed with painful and disastrous results.
  • Pancreatitis is one of the chief risk factors for the development of what is called disseminated intravascular coagulation or DIC, which is basically a massive uncoupling of normal blood clotting and clot dissolving mechanisms. This leads to abnormal simultaneous bleeding and clotting of blood throughout the body.
  • Pancreatic encephalopathy (brain damage) can occur if the fats protecting the central nervous system become digested.
    Inflammed Pancreas

    A swollen, inflamed pancreas with areas of hemorrhage. Graphic by MarVistaVet

The good news is that most commonly the inflammation is confined to the area of the liver and pancreas, but even with this limitation pancreatitis can be painful and life-threatening.

Pancreatitis can be acute or chronic, mild or severe.

What Causes Pancreatitis

In most cases we never find out what causes it, but we do know some events that can cause pancreatitis.

  • Backwash (reflux) of duodenal contents into the pancreatic duct. The pancreas has numerous safety mechanisms to prevent self-digestion. One mechanism is storing the enzymes it creates in an inactive form. They are harmless until they are mixed with activating enzymes. The strongest activating enzymes are made by duodenal cells which means that the digestive enzymes do not actually activate until they are out of the pancreas and mixing with food in the duodenum. If duodenal fluids backwash up the pancreatic duct and into the pancreas, enzymes are prematurely activated and pancreatitis resuls. This is apparently the most common pancreatitis mechanism in humans, though it is not very common in veterinary patients.
  • Concurrent hormonal imbalance predisposes a dog to pancreatitis. Such conditions include: Diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, and hypercalcemia. The first two conditions are associated with altered fat metabolism, which predisposes to pancreatitis, and the latter condition involves elevated blood calcium that activates stored digestive enzymes.
  • Use of certain drugs can predispose to pancreatitis (sulfa-containing antibiotics such as trimethoprim sulfa, chemotherapy agents such as azathioprine or L-asparaginase, and the anti-seizure medication potassium bromide). Exposure to organophosphate insecticides has also been implicated as a cause of pancreatitis. Exposure to steroid hormones have traditionally been thought to be involved as a potential cause of pancreatitis but this appears not to be true.
  • Trauma to the pancreas that occurs from a car accident or even surgical manipulation can cause inflammation and thus pancreatitis.
  • A tumor in the pancreas can lead to inflammation in the adjacent pancreatic tissue.
  • A sudden high fat meal is the classic cause of canine pancreatitis. The sudden stimulation to release enzymes to digest fat seems to be involved.
  • Obesity has been found to be a risk factor because of the altered fat metabolism that goes along with it.
  • Miniature Schnauzers are predisposed to pancreatitis as they commonly have altered fat metabolism.

Signs of Pancreatitis

The classical signs in dogs are appetite loss, vomiting, diarrhea, painful abdomen, and fever or any combination thereof.

Making the Diagnosis

Lipase and Amylase Levels (no longer considered reliable)

A reliable blood test has been lacking for this disease until recently. Traditionally, blood levels of amylase and lipase (two pancreatic digestive enzymes) have been used. When their levels are especially high, it’s reasonable sign that these enzymes have leaked out of the pancreas, and the patient has pancreatitis, but these tests are not as sensitive or specific as we would prefer. Amylase and lipase can elevate dramatically with corticosteroid use, with intestinal perforation, kidney disease, or even dehydration. Some experts advocate measuring lipase and amylase on fluid from the belly rather than on blood but this has not been fully investigated and is somewhat invasive.

Pancreatic Lipase Immunoreactivity

A newer test called the PLI, or pancreatic lipase immunoreactivity, test has come to be important. As mentioned, lipase is one of the pancreatic digestive enzymes and only small traces are normally in the circulation. These levels jump dramatically in pancreatitis, which allows for the diagnosis to be confirmed with a non-invasive and relatively inexpensive test. The PLI test is different from the regular lipase level because the PLI test measures only lipase of pancreatic origin and thus is more specific. The problem is that technology needed to run this test is unique and the test can only been run in certain facilities on certain days. Results are not necessarily available rapidly enough to help a sick patient.

The PLI, or pancreatic lipase immunoreactivity, test has come to be important. Photo courtesy of National Institutes of Mental Health, Department of Health and Human Services

Spec CPL and DGGR Lipase Assay

More recently a new test called the SPEC cPL (specific canine pancreatic lipase) test has become available. This test is a newer generation immunological test for canine pancreatic lipase and can be run overnight by a reference lab. This test is able to detect 83 percent of pancreatitis cases (the test is 83 percent sensitive) and excludes other possible diseases in 98 percent of cases (i.e. the test is 98 percent specific for pancreatitis). The CPL test has been adapted into an in-house test kit and can be run in approximately 30 minutes. Some kits provide a numeric value while others are simply positive or negative depending on whether the CPL level surpasses the normal level. These kits have made diagnosis of pancreatitis much more rapid and convenient.

A similar lipase assay called the DGGR Lipase Assay (Precision PSL® test). This test can be run at a reference laboratory with results obtained usually overnight; there is no in-hospital test kit.

The diagnosis of pancreatitis is not made solely on the basis of a lab test. These tests are not used to screen patients that are not sick; the entire clinical picture of a given patient is considered in making this or any other diagnosis.

Imaging

Dr. Jon Perlis of DVMSound performs an ultrasound exam on a dog. Photo by MarVistaVet

Radiographs can show a widening of the angle of the duodenum against the stomach, which indicates a swelling of the pancreas. Most veterinary hospitals have the ability to take radiographs but this type of imaging is not very sensitive in detecting pancreatitis and only is able to find 24 percent of cases.

Ultrasound, on the other hand, detects 68 percent of cases and provides the opportunity to image other organs and even easily collect fluid from the belly. Since pancreatitis can be accompanied by a tumor near the pancreas, ultrasound provides the opportunity to catch such complicating factors.

In some cases, surgical exploration is the only way to make the correct diagnosis.

Treatment

The most important feature of treatment is aggressively rehydrating the patient with intravenous fluids as this restores the circulation to the pancreas and supports the natural healing mechanisms of the body.  This means that the best route to recovery involves hospitalization. Fluids are continued until the patient is able to reliably drink and hold down adequate fluid intake, a process that commonly takes the better part of a week. Pain and nausea medication are needed to keep the patient comfortable, restore interest in food, and prevent further dehydration.

Plasma transfusion is somewhat controversial in treating pancreatitis. On one hand, plasma replenishes some of the natural blood proteins that are consumed by circulating digestive enzymes and would seem to make sense. In humans with pancreatitis, however, no benefit has been shown with plasma transfusion. Whether or not the protection afforded by plasma is real or theoretical is still being worked out. Higher mortality has been associated with patients receiving plasma but this may be because they were sicker than patients who did not receive plasma to begin with.

Drawing by Dr. Wendy Brooks

In the past, nutritional support was delayed in pancreatitis patients as it was felt that stimulating the pancreas to secrete enzymes would encourage the on-going inflammation, but this theory has been re-thought. Currently, earlier return to feeding has been found to be beneficial to the GI tract’s ability to resume function. If nausea control through medication does not give the patient a reasonable appetite, assisted-feeding is started using a fat-restricted diet. Return of food interest and resolution of vomiting/diarrhea generally means the patient is ready for return to the home setting. Low-fat diets are crucial to managing pancreatitis and their use should be continued for several weeks before attempting return to regular dog food. Some dogs can never return to regular dog food and require prescription low fat foods indefinitely.

How Much Fat is Okay?

There are several ultra-low fat diets made for pancreatitis patients and your veterinarian will likely be sending your dog home with one of them. Remember that pancreatitis is a diet-sensitive disease so it is important not to feed unsanctioned foods or you risk a recurrence. If your dog will not eat one of the commercial therapeutic diets, you will either need to home cook or find another diet that is appropriately low in fat (less than 7 percent fat on a dry matter basis). In order to determine the fat content of a pet food, some calculation is needed to take into consideration how much moisture is in the food.

The Guaranteed Analysis on the bag or can of food will have two values that we are interested in: the % moisture and the % crude fat. To determine the % fat in the food, you must first determine the % dry matter of the food. This is done by subtracting the moisture content from 100. For example, if the moisture content is 15%, the dry matter is 85%. If the moisture content is 75%, the dry matter is 25% and so on.

Next, take the % crude fat from the label and divide the % crude fat by the % dry matter. For example, if the moisture content is 76%, this means the dry matter is 24%. If the crude fat content is 4%, the true fat content is 4 divided by 24 which =0.16 (16%). Such a food would be way too high in fat for a dog with pancreatitis. You want the number to be 0.07 (7%) or less. Simply reading the fat content off the label does not take into account the moisture content of the food and will not tell you what you need to know. If this is too much math, the staff at your vet’s hospital can help you out.

When in doubt, canned chicken, fat-free cottage cheese and/or boiled white rice will work in a pinch.

Beware of Diabetes Mellitus

When the inflammation subsides in the pancreas, some scarring is inevitable. When 80% of the pancreas is damaged to an extent that insulin cannot be produced, diabetes mellitus results. This may or may not be permanent depending on the capacity for the pancreas’ tissue to recover.

DEMENTIA IN DOGS | COGNITIVE DYSFUNTION SYNDROME

Monday, February 17th, 2020

Unfortunately, just like people, dogs and cats also develop degenerative brain diseases known as canine or feline cognitive dysfunction syndrome. But unlike humans, often the signs a pet is in mental decline go unnoticed until the condition is so advanced there’s little that can be done to turn things around or at least slow the progression of the disease.

Often, even an animal’s veterinarian is unaware there’s a problem because he or she doesn’t see the pet that often and always in a clinical setting vs. at home. In addition, according to Dr. Jeff Nichol, a veterinary behavior specialist in Albuquerque, NM, many DVMs aren’t aware of just how common cognitive dysfunction syndrome is. Vets assume pet parents will tell them when an older dog or cat is experiencing behavior changes, while owners assume the changes are just a natural part of aging.

In a large Australian study published in 2011 on canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD), scientists at the University of Sydney reported that about 14 percent of dogs develop CCD, but less than 2 percent are diagnosed. In addition, the risk of CCD increases with age — over 40 percent of dogs at 15 will have at least one symptom. Researchers also estimate the prevalence of cognitive dysfunction in geriatric dogs at 68 percent.

In a study also published in 2011 on cognitive decline in cats,2 a researcher at the University of Edinburgh, Hospital for Small Animals estimated that a third of all cats between 11 and 14 years of age have age-related cognitive decline. That number increases to 50 percent for cats 15 years and older.

Our blind Jack Russell Terrier of 18 years old started to pee and poo all over the place even though when he got blind, he was able to find his pee/poo area. Initially, we did not think much about it except for the fact that he was getting old and he had trouble locating his usual spot.

We were so wrong. Whenever we left the house for a while, he would be found sitting by the main door quietly for our return. One day, when we opened the door, he was not there. He was pacing in circle. We knew almost immediately this is bad news. So this began our quest to find a holistic approach for Dementia.

REFERENCES

Wendell O. Belfield, DVM
Author of How to Have a Healthier Dog

Jeffrey Feinman, DVM, BA, VMD, CVH
Jeffrey Feinman holds both molecular biology and veterinary degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Jeff was the first dual degree recipient at Penn in the prestigious University Scholar program (which was designed to foster medical scientists).

Karen Becker, DVM
Diplomate American Veterinary Medical Association, American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy

Stephen Tobin, DVM
Holistic veterinarian who provides treatment using homeopathy, herbs, and nutrition. He is a veterinary graduate of the Ludwig Maximillian Universitat in Munich, Germany.

Peter Dobias, DVM
Founder and CEO of Dr. Dobias Healing Solutions Inc. Advanced Professional Course in Veterinary Homeopathy. Homeopathic Master Clinician  (human homeopathy)

Steve Marsden, DVM ND MSOM LAc DiplCH AHG

Shawn Messonnier, DVM

What causes Dementia in Dogs?

At present there is no conclusive cause known although it is believed that certain changes in the brain can contribute. Nerve function is vital to cognitive function and this relies on the chemical reaction of transmission of information across nerve pathways – from structures known as synapses.

Each nerve firing is a message to the body to react, whether this is physical or mental, the nervous system has overriding control of the speed of reactions in the dog.

Although the exact cause of cognitive dysfunction syndrome is currently unknown, genetic factors may predispose an animal to develop the condition.

However age related cognitive decline is not the only condition that causes dementia in dogs. Some other conditions that can cause dementia include:

  • Brain tumors
  • Brain trauma or other acute injury
    encephalitis from various causes
  • Tick-borne diseases
  • Liver abnormalities

Another theory on a contributing factor to dementia is as the dog ages a protein known as beta amyloid accumulates in the brain clustering around the nerves (known as a plaque). The build-up acts as an insulator to the chemical process of the nerve firing and thus prevents or slows the nerve sending the message to the receptors in the body.  As the amount of beta amyloid increases it becomes increasingly difficult for the nerves to work effectively.

Another view related to the nerve action is that decreased dopamine production has been identified in cases of dementia. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and its presence is essential for effective nerve transmission.

Signs and Symptoms of Dementia in Dogs

Signs of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome can be wide ranging, some may appear slowly but others can occur and become an issue for the dog relatively quickly. It is important to talk over the signs with your Vet or Vet nurse as some signs can potentially indicate underlying conditions.

Some of the most common signs are as follows:

  • A blank, lost look in the dogs eyes – they appear distant and unreactive
  • Circling – walking round in a circle continuously
  • Getting lost/stuck in their own home – may get stuck in places around the house
  • Repetitive actions
  • Urinating /Defecating in the house
  • Makes uncharacteristic noises – may whine, pant or bark at inappropriate times
  • Change in sleeping patterns – erratic sleep patterns may be sleeping all day and awake all night , excess sleeping or insomnia
  • Behavioural changes – often due to confusion dogs may become irritable and snappy, even one that was once very placid can withdraw into itself and snap when interrupted.
  • Change in family behaviours – your dog may no longer react to his name or your voice, and may not greet you happily at the door as he has done in the past.

Diagnosis process of Dementia in Dogs

There is no single test which can diagnose canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome. Your veterinarian will base the diagnosis on examination, observations and exclusion of underlying conditions. As your veterinarian carries out a full examination he will take notes on your concerns and what you have noticed at home, he may recommend a blood test and a urine sample. These simple tests will allow the vet to exclude any other conditions often found in senior pets and monitor the function of your dog’s vital organs such as heart, liver and kidneys. You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health to your veterinarian, including the onset and nature of the symptoms and possible incidents that might have precipitated the unusual behaviors or complications.

Your vet will be likely to ask you to return for a review after a few weeks of trying any treatments and will wish to monitor the progression of the symptoms.

Dementia-Like Conditions in Dogs

Conditions that Resemble Dementia

There are also conditions with similar symptoms to dementia. They include hepatic encephalopathy, with its signature symptom of head pressing, and vestibular disorder, a condition of the inner ear and brain.

Head Pressing

Head pressing is most often associated with a liver condition called hepatic encephalopathy, but can be a symptom of other conditions, all of them serious.

In head pressing, the dog presses her head against a wall. This can resemble the behavior of standing in corners or next to walls that dogs with canine cognitive dysfunction perform, but is different in one important way: the dog visibly presses her head against a surface.

Geriatric Vestibular Disorder

Geriatric vestibular disorder is an abnormality of the parts of the brain and inner ear that control balance. The behaviors that dogs suffering from it exhibit can resemble those of a dog with dementia, but there is generally no cognitive decline involved.

Vestibular disorder often has an unknown cause, but can sometimes result from an ear infection, so a vet visit is in order.

Current Available Treatment in Singapore for Dogs diagnosed with Dementia

There is no magic cure for age-related dog dementia, but a number of treatments appear to help slow the process somewhat, and to varying degrees. The following canine cognitive dysfunction treatments have been shown in scientific studies to help. Please check with your veterinarian if you suspect your dog has canine cognitive dysfunction.

Anipryl (U.S. brand name for selegiline)  has been shown to slow the progression of canine cognitive dysfunction. It is a drug that is used to treat Parkinson’s in humans. It is available now for dogs in tablets and chewables. If your vet prescribes it, try to shop around. Its price really varies. The doses for dogs that you can buy on cards are quite expensive. But it can also be purchased in generic tablets quite cheaply.Some prescription drugs commonly used in Europe for canine cognitive dysfunction are nicergoline, propentofylline, and adrafanil. Of these, adrafanil has shown the most promise in studies.

Like all drugs, Anipryl comes with a risk of side effects, including — but not limited to — diarrhea, vomiting, restlessness or hyperactivity, loss of appetite, seizures, staggering and lethargy.

(There is no drug approved for treatment of CDS in cats, although some veterinarians report promising results using L-deprenyl in cats.)

IMPORTANCE OF PROPER NUTRACEUTICALS FOR DEMENTIA DOGS

Choline

The most important and widely used anti-Alzheimer’s drugs are acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, so called because they inhibit the action of acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine molecules (this is a necessary function that can, however, get out of balance). By interfering with the action of this enzyme, the drugs effectively increase the amount of acetylcholine available to the brain’s neurons. In one particular study of reversing clinical signs of cognitive disorder , Choline has shown 82% success in clinical signs reduction over 21 dogs of various breed 10 years of age.

Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo Biloba is a plant extract containing several compounds that may have positive effects on cells within the brain and the body. Ginkgo biloba is thought to have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, to protect cell membranes and to regulate neurotransmitter function. Ginkgo Biloba is widely considered as an “antiaging herb”. It has proved effective in treating Alzheimer’s disease in both people and canine. Ginkgo enhances both long-term and short-term memory in puppies and senior dogs alike.

However, Ginkgo Biloba has very mixed research.

* Rosemary

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) is one of the most economically important species of the family Lamiaceae. Among the most important group of compounds isolated from the plant are the abietane-type phenolic diterpenes that account for most of the antioxidant and many pharmacological activities of the plant. Rosemary diterpenes have also been shown in recent years to inhibit neuronal cell death induced by a variety of agents both in vitro and in vivo.

If you are attempting to use Rosemary Essential Oil, you have to look for 1,8-cineole (Tunisia).

Bacopa

Bacopa is a creeping perennial herb that thrives in wetlands and on muddy shores. Its therapeutic use has its origins in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, where it has been used for its adaptogenic, tranquilizing, and antioxidant properties. Today, modern science is trying to confirm traditional wisdom about Bacopa. In studies conducted in Australia and the U.S., Bacopa improved study subjects’ ability to retain new information — and it also helped them increase their visual processing speed in as little as 3 weeks.

However, there is a side effect that might concern pet owners. Bacopa might slow down the heart beat. This could be a problem in people who already have a slow heart rate.

Gotu Kola

Gotu kola is an herb that is commonly used in Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine.  According to modern studies, gotu kola does offer support for healthy memory function. A study conducted in 1992 by K. Nalini at Kasturba Medical College showed an impressive improvement in memory in rats which were treated with the extract (orally) daily for 14 days before the experiment. The retention of learned behavior in the rats treated with gotu kola was 3 to 60 times better than that in control animals.

However, animals who are known to have liver damage or cancer should not take this drug. Asiaticoside contained in gotu kola has been shown to encourage the growth of tumors in mice.

Asiaticoside contained in gotu kola has been shown to encourage the growth of tumors in mice – See more at: http://www.vitaminsestore.com/gotu-kola-benefits-reviews-side-effects-and-dosage/#sthash.bEGgaBcI.dpuf
Asiaticoside contained in gotu kola has been shown to encourage the growth of tumors in mice – See more at: http://www.vitaminsestore.com/gotu-kola-benefits-reviews-side-effects-and-dosage/#sthash.bEGgaBcI.dpuf

Resveratrol

Resveratrol is part of a group of compounds called polyphenols. They’re thought to act like antioxidants, protecting the body against damage that can put you at higher risk for things like cancer and heart disease.It’s in the skin of red grapes, but you can also find it in peanuts and berries. Manufacturers have tried to capitalize on its powers by selling resveratrol supplements. Most resveratrol capsules sold in the U.S. contain extracts from an Asian plant called Polygonum cuspidatum. Other resveratrol supplements are made from red wine or red grape extracts.

Bottomline, from most research, this supplement has very little use for dogs who have been diganosed with dementia.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has medium chain triglycerides [MCT], which are a good source of energy, in the form of ketone bodies … MCTs are converted in the liver into ketones, which can be used by the brain as fuel; they are a more immediate source of energy than other fats. There are however mixed reviews on whether it really helps in managing dementia in dogs. But given the health benefits of it, there is no risk in giving it.

As a daily supplement, work up to about 1 tsp per 10 lbs of body weight per day. Start with ¼ of this amount to avoid loose stool from the extra oil going through your dog’s digestive system, then increase gradually until you get to the recommended dose.

SAMe

SAMe (S-Adenosyl-Methionine) is an amino acid derivative normally synthesized in the body that may become depleted with sickness or age. Supplementing with SAMe plus folate, trimethylglycine (TMG or betaine), vitamins B6 and B12 appears to be an effective way to overcome this deficiency.

Oral s-Adenosylmethionine, or SAMe, alleviates signs of age-related cognitive decline in dogs as well as humans. According to one double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, SAMe-treated dogs showed significant improvements in activity and awareness of their surroundings without serious adverse effects. How it accomplishes this remains unknown for now.

Omega-3

Omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, has been shown to improve cognitive dysfunction in affected dogs. Interestingly, DHA appears to slow the progression of human dementia and Alzheimer’s disease too.

A study was performed on 142 older dogs with a variety of behavioral abnormalities (disorientation, disrupted sleep patterns, altered interactions with family members, altered activity levels and loss of house training). During the 60-day period, dogs fed a DHA-supplemented food showed significant improvement in every one of these behavior categories. However, it is very important to take note that pet owners should supplement their pet with Vitamin E if they are feeding their dogs with Omega-3.

Wild Blueberry Extracts

The blueberry, already labeled a ‘super fruit’ for its power to potentially lower the risk of heart disease and cancer, also could be another weapon in the war against Alzheimer’s disease. New research being presented today further bolsters this idea, which is being tested by many teams. The fruit is loaded with healthful antioxidants, and these substances could help prevent the devastating effects of this increasingly common form of dementia, scientists report.

“Our new findings corroborate those of previous animal studies and preliminary human studies, adding further support to the notion that blueberries can have a real benefit in improving memory and cognitive function in some older adults,” says Robert Krikorian, Ph.D., leader of the research team. He adds that blueberries’ beneficial effects could be due to flavonoids called anthocyanins, which have been shown to improve animals’ cognition.

Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone found naturally in the body. Melatonin used as medicine is usually made synthetically in a laboratory. It is most commonly available in pill form, but melatonin is also available in forms that can be placed in the cheek or under the tongue. This allows the melatonin to be absorbed directly into the body.

Melatonin is also used for the inability to fall asleep (insomnia); delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS); rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder (RBD); insomnia associated with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); insomnia due to certain high blood pressure medications called beta-blockers; and sleep problems in children with developmental disorders including autism, cerebral palsy, and intellectual disabilities. It is also used as a sleep aid after discontinuing the use of benzodiazepine drugs. But pet owners, take note that Melatonin might increase blood sugar and increase blood pressure.

Turmeric

Turmeric has been used as a spice and a medicine for millennia. Turmeric has been called a super food and a super spice. The health and medical benefits attributed to it include pain reliver, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and cancer-preventative.  It can also lower cholesterol and protect the cardiovascular system.

The anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric is part of the reason it gained such a high standing in traditional Eastern systems of medicine. Since etanercept is an anti-inflammatory, it is not an entirely capricious leap of faith to suppose that anti-inflammatory substances in the spice turmeric should act in ways similar to the pharmaceutical etanercept. In fact, there is mounting clinical evidence that turmeric might protect the brain from the onset as well as the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Acetyl-L-carnitine

Acetyl l-carnitine (ALCAR) is a modified form of carnitine, an amino acid derivative found in red meat, which is readily absorbed throughout the body, including the brain. It is involved in fatty acid metabolism and may improve several aspects of brain health, including mitochondrial function, activity of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, and possibly cognition.

So, how exactly does ALC work? Mind Boosters author Dr. Ray Sahelia believes that Alzheimer’s patients may benefit from ALC in three ways: It is able to travel through the blood-brain barrier, where it then helps form the brain chemical acetylcholine; it keeps mitochondria working efficiently by clearing them of toxic fatty-acid metabolites; and it helps regenerate neurons damaged by free radicals.

But the evidence of it is still weak at this moment of time.

Alpha Lipoic Acid

Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is a synthetic version of lipoic acid, which helps cells make energy. It has antioxidant properties and may reduce inflammation. Oxidative stress and neuronal energy depletion are characteristic hallmarks of Dementia’s disease. It has been hypothesized that, because of this, pro-energetic and antioxidant drugs such as alpha-lipoic acid might delay the onset or slow down the progression of the disease.
Separate research also revealed that alpha lipoic acid, in combination with vitamin E and acetyl-l-carnitine, led to improvements in potential biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease and showed promise for slowing the progression of the disease.

In one study of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, those given 600 mg of alpha lipoic daily for 12 months had a stabilization of cognitive function. A follow-up study, which increased the number of patients in the study and extended the observation period to 48 months, the progression of the disease was “dramatically lower” among those taking alpha lipoic acid, compared to those with no treatment or those taking choline-esterase inhibitor drugs.

Phosphatidylserine

Phosphatidylserine is a class of phospholipids found in cell membranes. Its levels and location within the brain can affect important signaling pathways for cell survival and communication. Phosphatidylserine includes two fatty acids that can vary from saturated or monounsaturated to polyunsaturated omega-6 and omega-3 versions like docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Some clinical trials of phosphatidylserine supplements have shown modestly improved cognitive function.

Our bodies need this phospholipid to build brain cell membranes that are fluid enough to release the neurotransmitters acetylcholine and dopamine, but luckily, our brains normally manufacture enough phosphatidylserine (PS) to keep us in top mental order. However, when we reach middle age, our levels of PS begin to decline — an effect that is worsened by deficiencies of other essential fatty acids, folic acid or vitamin B12. Because PS is necessary for effective neurotransmission, PS deficiency is linked to mental impairment, including Alzheimer’s and non-Alzheimer’s dementia, depression and Parkinson’s disease among middle-aged and elderly people.

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Record your pet’s life in a diary

Monday, February 17th, 2020

Pet Connection by Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

A Life in Words

Pet Connection
By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

When you find a diary, are you tempted to read it? Do you keep a diary yourself, under lock and key? Diaries feature in some of the world’s most famous literature, social history, fiction and children’s books: Anne Frank’s “The Diary of a Young Girl.” The diary of Samuel Pepys. “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” “Harriet the Spy.” “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.”

Diaries bring history to life, store secrets, record lives. They can make for fascinating reading. But they can also make for fascinating writing, especially if they focus on your best friend: your dog, cat, bird or other pet. It’s not just in Nancy Drew mysteries that a diary is filled with clues.

Susannah Charleson is a K-9 search and rescue handler and author of “Where the Lost Dogs Go: A Story of Love, Search, and the Power of Reunion.” She spoke last month at the K-9 Sport Scent Work Conference in Palm Springs, California. While her topic was the importance of logs for search and rescue handlers, she also touched on how keeping a log can make a difference in the health, confidence and success of any dog-human team — including the partnership between people and their companion dogs. And there’s no reason to leave out cats, birds, rabbits, horses or other pets. Anyone can benefit from tracing the story of their relationship with an animal.

“I think for pet owners it’s invaluable,” she says. “If you’re doing any kind of training, even just to be a good companion animal, it’s all coming fast — the dog is new, the training is new, how the dog views the world versus how we view the world is completely different.”

When you keep a diary and document the changes you see in your pet and yourself, you are capturing the journey of your developing friendship, as well as making observations that can help you solve behavior problems and identify health issues before they become serious.

Bringing a record to your veterinarian or behaviorist of when a behavior began and how frequently it occurs can be the first step in solving a problem.

Some owners track daily blood sugar curves and insulin doses for diabetic pets, delivery of medication, occurrence of seizures, and pets’ eating habits or weight.

People who participate in dog sports log trials and practice sessions to track their progress.

“Log entries allow you to start seeing a pattern and learning about your dog,” Charleson says. “They assist in self-evaluation. You’ve got all these beautiful signals that can tell you where your strengths and weaknesses are and find areas where you can improve, where your dog can improve and where you can improve together.”

Keeping track of a pet’s life can be done with a paper journal, on computer apps or social media, or on a calendar. I have a pile of calendars that I can’t bear to throw away because they record so many of the events of my dogs’ lives. Supplement diaries with photos and videos.

At the end of a pet’s life, a diary is a way to look back at the journey you and your pet have shared. The memories can help to heal grief and establish a foundation for the next partnership.

“When a career or life ends, logs trace the journey that you and a dog have shared,” Charleson says. “Logs tell a story. They trace the arc of our understanding and our ability as separate entities and together. They’re a history of the earliest days that we might forget. Write it all down. You’ll have a wealth of information to learn from, and at the end of a life, those words may save you.”

Q&A

Do kittens need

socialization?

Q: Do kittens have the same type of socialization period as puppies?

A: They do, but it starts even earlier and doesn’t last as long. My colleague Nicholas Dodman, a veterinary behaviorist and emeritus professor at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, says the social period in kittens is between weeks 2 and 7.

During those early weeks, kittens soak up knowledge of everything around them, that clever kitty brain making new neural connections daily to generate learning and behavior. Kittens who see, hear, smell and experience many different people, animals, sights and sounds during this sensitive period grow up to be sociable, smart and curious.

Young kittens need to have many different positive experiences with children, friendly dogs and cats, people of all ages and appearances, common household sounds such as vacuum cleaners and blenders, car rides, being transported comfortably and safely in a carrier, and visiting the veterinarian. In an ideal world, they haven’t had any bad experiences with those things, and they don’t have preconceived ideas about what to expect from such experiences.

Limiting fear during this impressionable time is also important to a kitten’s development. A normal amount of fear is valuable because it helps kittens to avoid things that might hurt them, but protecting them from aversive experiences can help them to have more fulfilling lives as adult cats because they are more calm in the face of new experiences.

When young kittens encounter these things in a positive way during the socialization period, their brains store the good memories and help the kittens develop resiliency if they later have negative experiences with, say, dogs or scary noises. The neural connections their brains make during this period is how they become well-rounded, adaptable cats.

You can learn more about feline development at FearFreeHappyHomes.com. — Dr. Marty Becker

Do you have a pet question? Send it to askpetconnection@gmail.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.

This South Bay veterinarian is leading the pack to provide hospice care for cats and dogs who are terminally ill

Friday, February 7th, 2020
From The Beach Reporter  By Melissa Heckscher   Feb 5, 2020

So when emergency vets recommended hospitalizing the 12-year-old dog to give her, maybe, a few extra weeks in her six-year battle against cancer, Russell knew what needed to be done:

“I just looked at them and said, ‘I’m taking her home,” she said. “We sat in the chair until about midnight, then I put her in the bed and laid there holding her until 4:30 in the morning.”

Cricket died the next day with the help of in-home euthanasia.

“She was tired,” Russell said. “She had gone through a lot.”

But she wasn’t alone. For the past six years, Cricket has had the help of veterinary oncologist Alice Villalobos, a Torrance-based veterinarian who specializes in palliative and end-of-life hospice care for dogs and cats.

For Cricket, palliative care meant treating the cancer—the dog underwent four surgeries and four chemotherapy sessions for her recurrent tumors—and getting a slew of supplements and medications to keep the champion agility dog active and comfortable.

Hospice care meant preparing Russell for the days when nature would take its inevitable course—and guiding her about how to recognize her dog was “ready to cross the rainbow bridge.”

“In human medicine, physicians don’t generally refer to hospice until patients are about three days before death,” said Villalobos, who in January received the Shomer Ethics Award from the Society of Veterinary Medical Ethics for her contributions to both cancer and palliative care for pets.

“When we use the word ‘hospice,’ we want to make sure people know that we are going to support the pet and provide comfort care whenever they get the diagnosis of a life-limiting disease,” said the Hermosa Beach resident.

While palliative care is a growing niche in the world of pet care, it isn’t all that different for dogs and cats than it is for humans. The goal is to make patients comfortable so they can live out their days in peace, even in spite of incurable conditions. The only difference for pets is the added option of euthanasia when suffering becomes intolerable.

“Many times people say, ‘Let nature take its course,’” said Villalobos, who has been called the”Mother of Veterinary Hospice” by the SVME.  “And then I’m contacted to help with that end-of-life decision. People want to know, ‘When is the right time to put my pet down?’”

To aid in this decision-making, Villalobos developed a Quality of Life Scale to help people determine if their pet has “acceptable life quality to continue with pet hospice.” Her guidelines have been shared and used by veterinarians and pet-owners worldwide.

“In the old days some doctors would just recommend euthanasia right away,” Villalobos said. “People would take a limping dog into the vet and they would come home without a dog. [Doctors] would choose to do euthanasia upon diagnosis.”

Veterinarians, she said, would often give patients two options when presented with a seriously sick pet: Euthanize the pet or opt for surgery, the latter of which is expensive and may not necessarily extend the animal’s life significantly.

“I’m trying to give people a third option—and that is hospice,” Villalobos said. “Hospice embraces the whole beginning right up to the end. It allows people time to grieve and gives me time to counsel the family members.”

For Ari Dane of Playa del Rey, Villalobos helped his 17-year-old chihuahua, Roxy, stay comfortable despite a trio of grim diagnoses including a chest tumor, heart problems and kidney disease.

“(Roxy) keeps bouncing back and she’s still here,” said Dane, who sees Villalobos about every six weeks. “She will perk up around mealtime, but most of the time she sleeps. It’s fading time.”

Under Villalobos’ direction, Dane adds more than 15 different medicines and supplements to Roxy’s food every day, all of which are meant to treat the tiny dog’s myriad health issues. It’s a tedious, expensive process, but one that Dane wouldn’t give up.

“It’s a sad thing to watch her decline, but that’s the price of admission,” he said. “Roxy has been a part of the family for 17 and a half years. I wouldn’t want her to be treated any differently.”

Pets As family

In a society where people consider pets part of the family—and where half of all dogs that reach the age of 10 will be diagnosed with cancer, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association—it only makes sense that palliative care would become a part of the deal.

As of 2020, there were more than 800 members in the International Association for Animal Hospice & Palliative Care (IAAHPC), an organization dedicated to developing guidelines for comfort-oriented care to pets as they approach the end of life. The organization was founded in 2009.

“Veterinarians have been offering some measure of comfort care for animals as long as they have been caring for them, but the shift has come with families embracing pets as members of the family,” said IAAHPC President Tyler Carmack, a Virginia-based veterinarian. “They now wish their pets to have the same level of compassionate care at end of life as our human family members.”

Carmack said many providers and pet-owners shy away from discussing hospice and palliative care until their pets are already very sick. She hopes this will change as people become more aware of their options.

“As we open the communication about caring for pets as they enter their end-of-life stage, we allow more and more families to make the best possible decision for their pet and their family,” Carmack said.

Costs of care

Of course, caring for sick and dying pets isn’t cheap.

According to the Veterinary Cancer Society, cancer care costs for dogs ranges between $150 and $600 per dose of chemotherapy and between $1,000 and $6,000 for radiation. Pet insurance can help pay some of these costs, but many companies have a cap on annual or per-illness expenses.

On top of that, in-home euthanasia, the option most palliative care specialists prefer, costs about $250.

For many pet-owners, it’s a price that must be paid.

“You get them as a pup and you know that you’re probably going to outlive them,” Russell said. “It’s part of the package.”

For more information about Dr. Alice Villalobos and to get information on palliative care for pets, visit www.pawspice.com. Villalobos operates out of Harbor Animal Hospital. She plans to move her services to Redwood Animal Hospital in Redondo Beach in the coming months.

Contact Lisa Jacobs lisa.jacobs@TBRnews.com or follow her on Twitter @lisaannjacobs.