Cardiology is the study of the heart, which indirectly includes the study of blood vessels, blood flow and the lungs. A complete veterinary cardiology work-up includes a detailed physical exam, blood pressure monitoring, EKG (electrocardiogram), chest x-rays, echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart) and a consult by a board-certified veterinary cardiologist.
There are no board certified veterinary cardiologists in Routt county, so Pet Kare Clinic strives to provide as much of the complete cardiology work-up as possible. When your pet has an annual physical exam, we listen to the heart and lungs, assess the color of the gums and feel the pulse quality. If there are any abnormalities or concerns noted during the physical exam, additional work-up that Pet Kare Clinic can provide includes an EKG, chest x-rays and blood pressure monitoring.
We are also very proud about our upcoming echocardiogram capabilities. Dr. Kim is currently enrolling in ultrasound certification courses, and will be offering echocardiograms in the fall, 2008. An echocardiogram allows us to look at each chamber of the heart, the valves, the blood flow through the heart and the pressures within each chamber of the heart. This collectively tells us information about the function of the heart, which usually explains why we are hearing heart murmurs or noting other abnormal clinical signs in your pet.
Heart disease can negatively affect the quality of your pet’s life, and therefore it is very important to monitor the heart and lung sounds via an annual exam. Heart disease can be caused by genetics, bacterial infections, heartworm disease and toxins. In addition, heart disease can develop secondary to a congenital abnormality (a defect that your pet is born with), thus it is important to monitor the heart and lungs in puppies as well as ageing dogs.
There are many heart medications that can drastically improve your pet’s quality of life, and even slow down the progression of heart disease if we start them early on. Clinical signs of heart disease include shortness of breath, coughing, exercise intolerance and fainting episodes that are often mistaken as seizures. However, many of our pets are very stoic, and they don’t show us that they are having problems or discomfort until the disease has seriously progressed. Therefore, the best way to help your pet and catch these heart diseases early is an annual exam with your veterinarian!
Here are some links to handouts describing some of the more common heart diseases that we see in dogs and cats:
Of all dogs 2 years old or more, 80% have some form of dental disease, and veterinarians say that periodontal disease is the number one diagnosed condition in pets today. Pets that have healthy mouths can live 2-5 years longer on average.
When Marlene King’s two dogs fought over a bone one night, she had to rush her eldest pet, 14-year-old cocker spaniel “Toby” to the veterinary emergency hospital. She knew that Toby would have to have a few stitches for the bite wounds on his face, but she was shocked when the emergency veterinarian was more concerned about the severity of Toby’s dental disease.
“The veterinarian was much more worried about the infection in Toby’s mouth. One of his big canine teeth had been knocked out in the fight and if we didn’t do gum surgery to repair the hole, he would always have severe sinus infections. Because Toby’s gum disease was so advanced, the doctor was worried about the chances of the surgery healing. I never knew that dental care was that important.”
Dental care of dogs and cats is one of the most commonly overlooked areas of pet health care. Approximately 80% of all dogs and cats have periodontal disease by the time they are only two years old. Dental disease affects much more than fresh breath. It frequently leads to more serious health problems such as liver, kidney and heart disease. That’s why more veterinarians are not just treating dental disease, but taking new steps to prevent it. A major step in this process is encouraging owners to participate in their pet’s oral health at home.
Periodontal disease in pets is the same as it is in people. It’s a sneaky and insidious process that begins when bacteria in the mouth attach to the teeth and produce a film called “plaque”. When the bacteria die, they are calcified into “calculus” commonly known as tartar which makes a rough surface for even more bacteria to stick to. In the beginning, plaque is soft and can easily be removed by brushing or chewing on appropriate toys or treats. But if left to spread, plaque leads to gum inflammation (called “gingivitis”) and infection. Eventually, the infection spreads to the tooth root and even the jaw bone itself – causing pain and tooth loss.
The American Animal Hospital Association recently devised new guidelines for veterinarians in order to highlight the need for more professional oral hygiene care for pets. The organization stressed the necessity of going beyond the traditional “scraping the surface” of routine dental cleanings, known as “prophies”. Veterinarians are encouraged to teach owners the importance of good oral hygiene when puppies and kittens are only a few months old in order to begin a lifetime of healthy benefits that go far beyond sweet smelling kisses.
Dr. Johnathon R. Dodd, DVM, DAVDC, of the Animal Dental Clinic in Austin, Texas is a big proponent of dental health awareness and says, “The bottom line is that periodontal disease is extremely aggressive…it is a disease of neglect.”
Unfortunately, good oral health care hasn’t been an important part of the veterinary school curriculum until recent years. Many veterinarians simply were not taught the serious health consequences of untreated dental disease. But research proves that unchecked dental disease can be the root of other problems. Seminars and workshops at the Western Veterinary Conference, the largest educational conference for veterinarians, are filled to capacity by veterinarians learning good preventative dentistry and oral surgery.
Marlene King was fortunate that Toby’s emergency doctor had a special interest in veterinary dentistry, and had learned new dental procedures at a recent conference. “Toby had x-rays of his mouth and we found out that he actually had several abscessed teeth which the vet removed. Toby had been eating more slowly for several months and I thought it was just a part of old age. Now I know that he was probably in pain every time he ate.”
A recent roundtable discussion between veterinary dental experts shed even more light on the impact that good preventative dentistry plays in a pet’s life. They strongly recommend daily dental care for pets and twice yearly mouth exams beginning when puppies and kittens are two months old. And while that schedule may seem too complicated for some pet owners, dental specialists, veterinary supply companies have developed products that will help pet busy owners put some bite into home dental care for their pets.
A development that goes beyond good veterinary and at-home care, is the actual prevention of plaque using a barrier sealant gel. This is applied by the veterinarian and continued at home by the pet owner. Called OraVet®, this system is the first method used by veterinarians to create a physical barrier that reduces bacterial plaque adhesion above and under the gum lines. It is applied at home only once a week after the initial hospital application.
Marlene has learned how to easily clean Toby’s mouth on a regular basis in order to keep him healthy and to prevent his mouth from getting infected again. She began using the new plaque prevention system. “It’s not that expensive, it’s easy to do, and Toby likes the attention. And he gets special treats that actually help clean his teeth as well.”
It’s important for all pet owners to know that pets can lead longer and healthier lives with good dental care. In fact, studies show that proper dental care can extend a pet’s life by as much as five years! Ask your veterinarian about good dental care for your special furry friend.
Arguably nothing is more uncomfortable that itchy, irritated skin. Whether your animal is suffering from parasites, allergies or some other skin problem – Pet Kare Clinic doctors will offer a complete workup to get to the root of the issue and get your pet feeling better!
The first step we’ll often take with an itchy dog or cat is gathering evidence to help us diagnose the disease. In house procedures include: skin cytology, skin scrapings, trichograms (hair shaft morphology), fungal cultures and biopsies.
Parasites are among the most easily treated problems while allergic or immune compromised individuals often have life long treatments requiring many follow-up visits and special therapeutic tactics.
We see quite a lot of dogs in this area with allergic skin disease, aka atopic dermatitis:
“Atopic dermatitis or canine atopy is an inherited predisposition to develop allergic symptoms following repeated exposure to some otherwise harmless substance, an “allergen,” such as dust mites or pollen. Most dogs begin to show their allergic signs between 1 and 3 years of age. Due to the hereditary nature of the disease, several breeds, including golden retrievers, most terriers, Irish setters, Lhasa apsos, Dalmatians, bulldogs and Old English sheep dogs are more commonly atopic, but many dogs, including mixed breed dogs can have atopic dermatitis. The incidence is increasing both in man and animals.
Atopic animals will usually rub, lick, chew, bite or scratch at their feet, muzzle, ears, armpits or groin, causing hair loss, and reddening and thickening of the skin. In some cases several skin problems can “add” together to cause an animal to itch where just the allergy alone would not be enough to cause itching. These problems include air borne-allergens (pollens, etc.), allergens in food, and allergens from parasites (fleas, etc.) and also bacterial or yeast infections of the skin. Eliminating some but not all of the problems may allow a patient’s itchiness to go away. Therefore it is important to treat any other problems that could be making your pet itch while dealing with allergy.” – from VIN-Library-Client-Education-Sheet
As pets age they often require additional care as the health problems they acquire negatively impact their quality of life. Our aim is to keep your animal comfortable and healthy with consideration to their well-being.
It is important to remember that age is not a disease, in and of itself. Advanced age should not be a reason to ignore a pet’s health problems or allow them to suffer through pain or discomfort.
Common age-related diseases where we can do a lot to ease suffering include:
Poor dental health, advanced periodontitis: How is your dog or cat’s breath lately? Dental disease can be very painful and leads to organ diseases such as bacterial endocarditis (heart valve disease) and kidney disease.
Arthritic and painful joints: If your dog limps or moves slowly, we can help with the pain!
Organ dysfunction and metabolic changes: Many older animals suffer from decreased organ function such as kidney disease or liver disease. Often there are supplements or special diets that are simple changes that can help them feel much better as they age. Yearly blood chemistries can help us diagnose these health problems before they take a toll on the body and spirit of your pet.
Cancer: When properly diagnosed early in the process, cancer can be managed in a way that is extremely rewarding to the animal and family. Cancer is an unfortunate and challenging disease, but there’s a lot we can do to help your pet weather or survive the storm.
With age-related health problems addressed, your animal will feel much younger and have a much improve outlook on their life and role in the family.
Oncology (Cancer Diagnosis and Therapy)
Oncology is the study of cancer. Cancer is unfortunately one of the top causes of death in older dogs. Currently, veterinarians do not have a known cause for most types of cancers. There are a couple types of cancer that have known genetic causes, including malignant histiocytoses in Bernese Mountain Dogs and hemangiosarcoma in Golden Retrievers and possibly German Shepherds. Overall, cancer is usually a mystery as to why it forms and why it spreads throughout the body.
The first line of defense for detecting cancer in your pet is YOU! Through daily petting and consistent grooming, new lumps and bumps can be found. As soon as a new lump is found on your pet, have it checked by a veterinarian. The first thing that a veterinarian at Pet Kare Clinic will do to assess a lump on your pet is to feel for size and consistency. A fine needle aspirate (FNA) will then be taken from the lump; this is when a needle is poked into the lump to retrieve cells. These cells are then stained and look at under a microscope. An FNA is crucial to determine what kind of lump is on your pet. Although most lumps in dogs are benign and often fatty tumors, there is no way to be sure about what kind of lump your pet has without looking at it under the microscope.
The lump is benign… what’s next?
As said above, most lumps are benign and/or fatty tumors, which are called lipomas. Usually, these benign lumps are of no concern. However, if the lump ever grows rapidly or changes in consistency (feels soft one day and then firm the next), a veterinarian should take another FNA. It is rare, but benign lumps can change into cancerous lumps.
The lump looks like cancer… what’s next?
The next step would be to biopsy the mass either by removing it or taking a little piece, and sending it to a board certified pathologist. Cancerous lumps need to be staged or graded to determine whether the cancer is aggressive or not. If the cancer is aggressive, then additional work-up should be started. At Pet Kare Clinic, our oncology work-up includes a complete physical exam, chest and abdominal x-rays and abdominal ultrasound, if indicated. Depending on the type of cancer, certain organs and areas in the body need to be checked for metastasis (spread).
Sometimes, your pet can have cancer within the organs and/or lungs, but not in the form of an outside lump. An annual exam is crucial for your pet, as it can often detect changes in lung sounds, or masses in the abdomen that are signs of cancer.
If your pet has cancer, Pet Kare Clinic can offer surgical removal of the mass and/or affected organ, chemotherapy, diet recommendations and herbal therapy. The veterinarians at Pet Kare Clinic also have good communication with board certified veterinary oncologists, which allows for accurate planning and care for your pet with cancer. We often refer pets with cancer to oncologists in the Front Range, and are happy to implement any treatment recommended by a specialist. There are options for your pet with cancer; Pet Kare Clinic will help with whatever decision you decide is best for you and your pet.
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Ear Diseases: Advanced Otoscopic Diagnosis and Treatment
Ear disease is one of the most common problems affecting dogs and cats. More than 20% of dogs suffer from ear infections. Otitis externa (external ear infection) is one of the leading pet insurance claims. These problems are often long term and frustrating for the pet, the owners and the veterinary staff.
Video otoscopy makes things a lot less frustrating. Video otoscopy means using a tiny camera to safely look inside and or treat your pet’s ears. This technology allows you and the doctor to see inside your pet’s ears on a large video monitor. Ear diseases are therefore viewed in much greater detail than with a standard otoscope and images can be saved for later review – which helps for wiggly, sensitive patients.
Our video otoscope also offers exceedingly accurate and precise treatment of any diseases found. It can be used in a deep ear cleaning to flush, grasp and remove debris safely, even very close to the ear drum. Objects such as grass awns, hair, cotton balls, or crusty wax can safely be removed. The scope also allows us to biopsy or culture the pathology and videos and images can be saved for later review.
Common signs of ear problems
- Scratching or rubbing of ears and head
- Discharge in the ears
- Redness or swelling of the ear flap or canal
- Shaking of the head or tilting it to one side
- Pain around the ears
- Changes in behavior such as depression or irritability
Causes of ear disease:
Ear disease in dogs is often the result of multiple different factors. All of the following in different combinations lead to ear infections and disease:
- Environmental or food allergies
- Microorganisms – bacteria and yeast
- Foreign bodies, e.g., plant awns (grass seeds)
- Parasites – ear mites
- Hormonal abnormalities, e.g., hypothyroidism
- The ear environment, e.g., excess moisture and ear anatomy
- Hereditary or immune conditions
- Growths, polyps or cancerous tumors
Pediatrics – Puppies and Kittens
There is a lot of joy to be had in raising a new puppy or kitten. At Pet Kare Clinic we aim to get you and your little friend started on the right track. Avoiding some common pitfalls will help ensure your pet remains a positive healthy addition to your family.
Pediatric wellness appointments are designed around the goals of helping you create a loving and easy to raise animal, keeping the little one healthy, properly nourished, and protected from preventable serious diseases. We also screen all pediactrics for congenital and developmental abnormalities.
We’ll be talking with you about your new pet’s upbringing and addressing all your questions and concerns. However, we encourage you to read some of our online resources about raising a puppy or kitten so you can be as well informed as possible. Try doing a search for new puppy, or navigate via the boxes on top. For instance select “canine” then “behavior” and you’ll find 69 articles on housetraining, 17 articles on puppy training, and 89 articles on getting a new pet.
We try to keep the number of vaccinations given to a minimum high benefit to risk ratio. Vaccination for puppies and kittens is important and we still see many expensive and frustrating cases preventable by simple low-risk vaccinations. Read the Vaccine FAQ’s handout for more info.
The vaccination protocol we recommend for puppies is as follows:
- 8-weeks: DA2PP (Distemper, Adenovirus type-2, Parvovirus, Parinfluenza); In-BORD (Intranasal Bordetella)
- 12-weeks: DA2PP (Distemper, Adenovirus type-2, Parvovirus, Parinfluenza); BORD (Injectable Bordetella)
- 16-weeks: DA2PP (Distemper, Adenovirus type-2, Parvovirus, Parinfluenza); BORD (Injectable Bordetella)
- RV (Rabies Virus)
The vaccination protocol recommend for kittens is as follows:
- 8-weeks: FVRCP (Feline Distemper)
- 12-weeks: FVRCP (Feline Distemper)
- 16-weeks: RV (Feline Rabies)
- If your cat is an outdoor cat, we will recommend vaccinating for Feline Leukemia Virus (FELV).