Wednesday, May 30, 2012




Parvovirus has been around since the 1970s, is hard to disinfect, and is shed in extremely large numbers by infected dogs. This means that there is virus everywhere: on every carpet, on every floor, in every yard and park. 

Parvovirus infection occurs primarily in puppies, however adult dogs can occasionally become infected.  The most important factors in whether parvovirus infection occurs seem to be the experience the dog’s immune system has had with the virus plus the number of viral particles the dog is exposed to. 

Restrict dogs  from public outdoor areas
until vaccinations are complete at 16 weeks of age.

The virus enters the body through the mouth as the puppy cleans itself or eats food off the ground or floor. A minuscule amount of infected stool is all it takes.

There is a 3 to 7 day incubation period before the puppy seems obviously ill.


1.  Vomiting

2.  Diarrhea (often with blood)

3.  Lack of appetite

4.  Abdominal pain

5.  Fever

Parvovirus is a deadly virus.  The vomiting and diarrhea resulting from the infection leads to extreme dehydration until shock and death occurs and/or the dog becomes septic from bacterial invasion into the bloodstream from a damaged intestinal barrier.  


Treatment for parvoviral infection centers on supportive care. This means that the clinical problems that come up in the course of the infection are addressed individually with the goal of keeping the patient alive long enough for an immune response to generate. We do not have effective antiviral drugs and must rely on the patient’s immune system for cure.

In order to achieve the usual survival rate of approximately 75-80%, the basic therapies must be instituted which includes IV fluid therapy, antivomiting medication, antibiotics, stomach protectants, and plasma transfusions.  

Make sure your dog is fully vaccinated for parvo.  It is highly effective with minimal if any side effects.  Your puppy should be vaccinated every 2-4 weeks until 16 weeks of age starting at 6-8 weeks of age.  

Blog by:
Kim Simons, DVM
Pet Hospice and In Home Pet Euthanasia

Dr. Kim Simons services all towns in and around Palm Beach county including Boynton Beach, Boca Raton, Highland Beach, Delray Beach, Lake Worth, Palm Beach, and Jupiter.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Skin Tumors in Dogs and Cats


The most common location for a dog to develop a mass is on the skin or underneath the skin surface.  These types of masses may not be as common in the cat, but can still occur.  Most of the time, these masses are found while you are petting or playing with your pet at home.  Sometimes, masses can be found by the family veterinarian at annual wellness visits.  Annual visits to the veterinarian are important for many reasons as your pet ages.  Locating and diagnosing new masses is just one example of the importance for these wellness visits.  
There are a variety of tumor types that occur on the skin or underneath the skin.  Your veterinarian may be able to narrow down the possible tumor types based on appearance, however, the best way to definitively figure out the origin of a mass is to perform a fine needle aspirate or a biopsy.  There are exceptions to this recommendation in cases where pets have small warts or skin tags.  Those may appear like small masses on the skin and they may not be able to be aspirated or biopsied due to their small size.

A fine needle aspirate is a non-invasive test to determine the origin of a mass.  A small needle (about the same size that would be used to draw blood) is inserted into the mass.  Some cells from the mass will enter the needle when it is inserted into the mass.  These cells are then spread onto a glass slide for evaluation.  Sometimes your veterinarian may be able to evaluate the cells under the microscope, but there are times when the slides are sent to a pathologist for review.  

On some occasions, your veterinarian and a pathologist may be unable to determine the origin of a mass based on fine needle aspirate alone.  Some tumor types, both benign and malignant, will not release their cells very easily and can be difficult to diagnose with a fine needle aspirate.  At this point, a biopsy may be necessary.  For a biopsy, your pet may need to be sedated or placed under general anesthesia in order for a small piece of tissue to be obtained.  Alternatively, a biopsy may be able to be performed with just a local anesthetic.  Once the tissue sample is obtained, it is placed in formaldehyde and sent to a pathologist for review.  A biopsy may provide more useful information to your veterinarian or veterinary oncologist than a fine needle aspirate.  Since more tissue is available for review, different parameters such as tumor subtype, grade, and how fast it is growing can be determined from the biopsy.  These are important parameters to determine how aggressive the tumor is behaving and what your pet’s prognosis is with or without treatment.

If you are concerned about a mass present on your pet, please contact your veterinarian for evaluation.  A veterinary oncologist may be contacted to discuss treatment options if your pet is diagnosed with a malignant tumor. 

Blog by:
Karri Miller DVM, MS, DACVM (Oncology) 
Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice 

Dr. Karri Miller provides Skype and Phone consultations to families across the United States whose pets have been diagnosed with cancer. As a Board Certified Oncologist, she will be able to provide your family with information about cancer, treatment options, and expectations.

Blog originally prepared for the Lakeland Ledger (Florida)

Posted by Vet Mary Gardner

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Vestibular Syndrome in Dogs - Jennifer Hawthorne

Vestibular Syndrome in Dogs
by Dr. Jennifer Hawthorne

Vestibular disease refers to a disorder involving the vestibular apparatus of the inner ear and brain.  It involves the 8th cranial nerve.  The vestibular apparatus helps maintain balance and orientation.  A condition commonly seen in older dogs is something often referred to as “geriatric vestibular syndrome” or idiopathic vestibular syndrome.  It is similar to vertigo in people.  Some people will also refer to it as a “stroke,” but it is not really the same as a stroke in humans.  Sometimes there are other underlying reasons such as an inner ear infection or a problem within the brain.  Often, however, it simply happens for no known reason.

Symptoms usually come about suddenly in an older pet.  Signs include:
  • Head tilt to one side
  • Falling over to one side
  • Completely unable to stand or walk
  • Rapid eye movements in a certain direction (nystagmus)
  • Nausea/ vomiting
    Circling in one direction
Pets may show several or a few of these symptoms.  Usually it is very disturbing for a pet owner to suddenly find their pet in this state and they often rush them into the veterinary clinic.  Evaluation of your pet will include a good physical exam to start with to determine whether your pet has an ear infection or not.

There are certain signs that may sometimes point to a more serious problem. Vestibular disease is usually lumped into two categories:  peripheral and central.  Geriatric vestibular disease is typically peripheral with symptoms as above.  Central vestibular disease is more serious with other signs.  These include nystagmus in a vertical direction,  loss of conscious proprioception (proper placing of feet) and change in mental status.  Other cranial nerves are involved and there may be a problem within the brain.  Typically with geriatric vestibular syndrome the nystagmus is horizontal or rotary, the pet maintains normal proprioception and normal mentation.  Further tests are usually needed to rule out a central problem including bloodwork and advanced imaging of the brain (MRI, CT).

There is no real treatment for geriatric vestibular syndrome, but that does not mean that the pet is doomed.  Many pets can recover with some time.  Often they will start to recover in a few days, up to 2 weeks.  Some medications can be used to try to alleviate symptoms.  These include meclizine, which is a motion sickness medication, and prednisone, a steroid/ anti-inflammatory.  Many times symptoms will resolve, although some animals will have residual side effects such as a head tilt that remains.  If a pet is not recovering it may be a sign of a central problem.  Sometimes owners cannot bear to see their pet in that state and worry that they will suffer while waiting for it to resolve.  Other factors such as the pet’s age and overall health come into play as well.  Worry that the pet will harm itself falling is often another concern.  The pet should be kept confined in a safe place while trying to recover.  If the symptoms are too severe some owners will elect euthanasia.  This is a decision that should be discussed with your veterinarian.  

Blog by:
Jennifer Hawthorne, DVM
Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice and In-Home Euthanasia

Dr. Jennifer helps families in the Mecklenburg, Cabarrus and Iredell counties including Charlotte, Concord, Kannapolis, Huntersville, Mooresville and more. Click here to read Dr. Jennifer's biography.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Bloat In Dogs Lap of Love Dana Lewis

 Bloat:  Danger Will Robinson! Danger!

a life-threatening condition in which the stomach fills with air, which is called dilatation, and then it might twist upon itself, which is called volvulus.  This leads to the veterinary term, Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus, or GDV.

Veterinary Medical Center of Long Island 

Your pet's abdomen may or may not have a bloated appearance. Signs of bloat can also include:
  • drooling
  • frequent retching (attempts to vomit)
  • pacing, can’t seem to get comfortable, anxious
  • or lethargic
What to Do:
Go to a veterinary hospital or emergency facility immediately!

What NOT to Do:   
Do not give anything by mouth or try to induce vomiting.

What happens to your dog in GDV:
The condition is commonly associated with large meals and causes the stomach to dilate because of expansion of the food and the production of gas and may get to a point where neither may be expelled. As the stomach begins to dilate and rotate, the pressure in the stomach begins to increase and several severe consequences, including preventing adequate blood return to the heart from the abdomen, loss of blood flow to the lining of the stomach, and rupture of the stomach wall can occur. As the stomach expands, it may also put pressure on the diaphragm preventing the lungs from adequately expanding, which leads to decreased ability to maintain normal breathing.  

While the stomach is twisted, changes occur in blood levels of oxygen leading to cell death in other organs.   Cardiac arrhythmias (abnormal heart beats) are commonly seen because of the hypoxia (low oxygen). Additionally, the lining of the entire gastrointestinal tract is at risk of cell death and sloughing. As the condition progresses, toxins may be increasing the cells of the stomach and when gastric dilatation is relieved these may circulate through the body resulting in additional heart arrhythmias, acute kidney failure, and liver failure. Bacteria also get into the blood during this condition leading to sepsis.

Ohio State University
No one entity has been shown to prevent this disease process.  There is a lot of debate over risk factors that contribute to bloat.  However, feeding smaller more frequent meals, and making sure fat is not in the top 4 ingredients in your pet’s diet are proven to reduce the risk of bloat.  

Elevated feeding bowls may actually increase the risk of GDV in some patients.  Elevated citric acid in the diet may increase risk, but bone and meat meal in the top 4 ingredients appear to reduce the risk.  It appears that dogs who eat rapidly, eat one large meal a day, consume a large volume of water, or exercise soon after a meal also have increased risk. 

In breeds with a high risk of bloat, there is a preventive surgery called a prophylactic gastropexy that can often be performed when the dog is being spayed or neutered, or while young if the pet is going to be bred.  Most police and military service dogs have this procedure performed at a young age to protect them.  Gastropexy involves surgically attaching the stomach to the wall of the abdomen to prevent rotation.

Other risk factors:
Discontinuing breeding animals with a family history of GDV may potentially decrease the risk of GDV.  Male dogs are almost twice as likely to develop gastric dilatation and volvulus as females. Neutering and spaying does not appear to have an effect on the risk of bloat.  Dogs over 7 years of age are more than twice as likely to develop gastric dilatation and volvulus as those who are 2-4 years of age.  

Any dog of any size can develop bloat, but large and giant breeds with a deep chest are most at risk.   

The five breeds at greatest risk are
Great Danes, Weimaraners, St. Bernards, Gordon Setters, and Irish Setters.  In fact, the lifetime risk for a Great Dane to develop bloat has been estimated to be close to 37 percent!  Standard Poodles are also at risk for this health problem, as are Irish Wolfhound, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers and Rhodesian Ridgebacks. Basset Hounds have the greatest risk for dogs less than 50 lbs.
What the surgeon does to fix this when it occurs:
The pet will be put on IV fluids and oxygen, and attempts to decompress the stomach will be tried.  We try to put a tube down into the stomach to relieve pressure, and if that cannot be done successfully, we will pass a needle into the stomach from the outside to release air.  Sometimes this then lets us pass a stomach tube as well.  Then as soon as the pet is as stable as we can make it for surgery, it is off to surgery where the surgeon will determine if the stomach and spleen (which often gets entrapped in the rotating process and damaged) are viable.  The surgeon will de-rotate the stomach, remove any dead portions of the stomach, and possibly remove the spleen, and do a gastropexy to attempt to prevent this from happening again in the future.  After surgery, complications can include the organ failure listed above, but again, the survival rate is much better nowadays with quick surgical intervention.  Survival rates used to be less than 10% a few decades ago, but now is 60-80% depending on how much damage occurs during the progression of the disease.  So get that bloated dog to a hospital ASAP!


Dr. Dana Lewis

Dr. Dana assists families with Pet Hospice and Euthanasia in the Raleigh North Carolina area (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and the greater Triangle, as well as Wake, Durham, Orange, and Chatham counties.)

Blog posted by:
Vet Mary Gardner