My pet lost a patch of fur and developed a massive sore overnight. It looks like a burn wound.

HotSpot dog

Acute moist dermatitis is a skin ailment in pets that’s caused by a trigger like an itch or pain, and exacerbated by the pet’s scratching and licking until it becomes a large bare patch of painful skin lesion. Since the lesion is an open painful wound, it’s referred to more commonly as a hotspot.

What is a hotspot?

No, we’re not talking about public wireless internet. A hotspot is a skin condition seen far more often in dogs than in cats. It is an area of very itchy, wet, unhappy, infected skin that your dog keeps licking or nibbling at. It usually develops overnight; in a matter of hours, your dog’s healthy skin can develop a massive, sore, red or yellowish bald patch. It is constantly wet and raw as some dogs tend to lick this wound almost obsessively. These spots may have started out as something small and insignificant like a bump from an insect bite, but quickly grow larger in a short time. Usually only one spot is affected rather than several around the body, but there are exceptions to this rule.

Which breeds are more likely to develop hotspots?

Retrievers and German shepherds with longer, thicker coats tend to have this problem more often than dogs with short coats. Hotspots are also more often seen in dogs who love to swim and are always in the water. This is because skin that is always wet tends to get more easily infected with bacteria and fungi that thrive in a warm, moist environment. Something triggers the itch, so when the dog begins to scratch, the bacteria is spread and the hotspot quickly develops. People with water-loving dogs often have their dogs clipped in the warm summer months to prevent this problem.

How do hotspots start?

The initial cause will vary from one pet to another. This condition often occurs as a result of the constant scratching at an itch, such as pets with fleas, allergies or even an ear infection. They can occur anywhere on the body, but usually on a spot they can reach with their paws or mouth to scratch and nibble. The typical places for hotspots to develop are the side of the face below the ears or on the upper part of the back leg. Some spots get a little more attention than others and these get infected, leading to an itchy and sore wound that your pet won’t leave alone.

Why do hotspots grow in size?

Irrespective of the cause, hotspots tend to become infected because they are always wet and the skin is licked raw. As you can imagine, your dog’s mouth is far from the most hygienic means to clean a wound. This infection then leads to swelling and pain on top of the initial itch or discomfort. In trying to alleviate the discomfort, your dog will constantly lick the area, but the more they lick, the more widespread the irritation and infection of the skin becomes.

What can I do if my dog has a hotspot?

The most important first step is to establish the underlying cause of the problem. Was your pet itchy to start with; were they shaking their head from an ear infection? Has your pet had persistent flea infestations? Take your dog to the vet, who will help to determine where the problem may have started. It’s important to not only treat the symptoms and the hotspot itself, but to find the cause in order to prevent the condition from deteriorating or returning.

How is a hotspot treated?

A hotspot involves infected skin, so it would be wise to have it treated and to get the infection under control. The vet will examine the area and determine the extent of the infection. The area around the hotspot will be shaved to make it easier to clean and treat. The area will then be cleaned and the vet will most likely treat it with antiseptic creams or even antibiotics and anti-inflammatories. Depending on the severity of the lesion, the vet may also prescribe systemic antibiotics. In severe cases this treatment may have to be continued over a number of weeks. In some instances this condition can be excruciatingly painful and may require sedation or even a full general anaesthetic to be treated properly.

While the hotspot is healing, your most important task will be to convince your dog to leave it alone. This is not always an easy task because he is probably used to licking or scratching to try to relieve the itch and pain. The most helpful tool is the Elizabethan collar (the ‘cone of shame’), which limits the access your pooch has to that spot. The cone needs to be big enough to stop your pet from reaching the hotspot, so the edge of the cone must be longer than his nose.

Most hotspots respond well to treatment, especially if the underlying cause is treated successfully, but finding the cause is usually the tricky part.

Will a hotspot getter better by itself?

The answer is no. In most cases, the condition keeps on spreading like wildfire and, if not treated sooner rather than later, your pet may end up with significant hair loss and infected skin over large areas of his body. If this happens, the treatment becomes a lot more complex and expensive. If you suspect your dog has a hotspot, the sooner you get him to the vet, the better. 

Why is my dog prone to recurring hotspots?

If the underlying condition leading to a hotspot is not successfully addressed or treated, it will most certainly lead to a recurrence of the condition. Ear infections are a common reason for dogs to scratch the side of their face. It may seem obvious that one should treat the ear condition, but an ear infection in a dog may often be a symptom of another underlying condition. Atopic dermatitis, which is skin irritation caused by the inhaling of allergens, is a common cause of ear infection. This can be a very difficult underlying cause to treat and, in many cases, may never be successfully treated; only managed. If your dog is one of the unlucky canines to have an overactive immune system that is negatively triggered by environmental allergens, it may take a lot more to address the underlying cause of a hotspot and prevent it from recurring on a regular basis. The vet will have to spend more time in such a case to work out a plan of action for future prevention.

© 2020 Vetwebsites – The Code Company Trading (Pty) Ltd

Acral lick granuloma

Canine lick granulomaWhen a pet owner brings their animal in to the vet with a firm, raised, angry red bump on the pet’s leg or ankle, complaining that the animal (a dog more often than a cat) won’t stop licking at it, the vet knows that there is a potentially long road of diagnosis and treatment ahead. The symptoms and behaviour described here are common in what’s called acral lick granuloma

What is an acral lick granuloma?

An acral lick granuloma is a medical condition whose main feature is a raised, angry red bump on the pet’s leg. This angry bump is usually the centre of the pet’s focus, where they constantly lick the area until it is raw.

If we unpack the name of the condition, it gives us a better idea of what it is and how it is caused. Acral refers to peripheral body parts, so the extremities like legs, ankles and paws. This condition usually affects the furthest end parts of the legs; more commonly the front legs, but also the back. The lick part of the name defines the cause of the condition, namely long-term licking, which aggravates the skin and leads to irritation and ulcers. A granuloma is the body’s response to long-term irritation; in this case irritation to the skin. A granuloma comprises clumps of irritated tissue, which usually appear raised like a mushroom on the surface of the skin.

So an acral lick granuloma is a condition where the body creates a granuloma on the leg/s as a result of long-term licking.

What does an acral lick granuloma look like?

Not all acral lick granulomas look identical, but they all share some basic characteristics. They usually appear as thick, firm, raised, hairless areas on the top of the front or back legs. These areas sometimes have a ring of darker coloured skin on the edges. Pets who have this problem compulsively lick the area, even if you scold them or try to distract them. It’s as if they can’t help themselves. Acral lick granulomas develop as a result of long-term licking and develop slowly over time. Long-standing cases have ulcers that develop on the topmost surface of the granuloma. These areas often have an underlying infection, so they can appear red and angry, sometimes oozing a pussy, red or straw-coloured liquid. 

Which animals can get acral lick granulomas? 

Both dogs and cats can develop an acral lick granuloma, but it’s more prevalent in older animals than in younger animals. Retrievers and high focus breeds like Dobermans, Irish setters and German shepherds tend to get this problem more commonly than others.

What causes an acral lick granuloma?

There are several theories about what leads to the development of an acral lick granuloma. Many researchers believe that this condition is mainly caused by psychological factors; that it is stress-related. There is yet other evidence that suggests that there may be an underlying medical problem that starts the licking cycle. These conditions include pain, irritation, infection and discomfort. Conditions such as arthritis, pain related to bone conditions, infections, injuries and even itchy skin-related conditions such as allergies or parasites may kick off the animal’s need to lick.

When a pet licks the area of pain or discomfort, it releases feel-good hormones, making them want to keep licking. This soothing effect is most likely how the lick cycle is maintained once it has started, which results in compulsive licking.

In cases where an initial physical cause of the problem could not be found, studies found that many of the dogs with acral lick granuloma had a psychological origin. Many of these dogs started licking as a response to stress, anxiety or boredom. Many of them started licking after a change in their environment. Examples include dogs who were crated for longer than usual, a change in their owner’s working hours, or even the loss of a friend or family member.

I think my pet may have an acral lick granuloma, what can I do?

If you suspect that your pet has an acral lick granuloma, the best would be to discuss the condition with a veterinarian. It is important to find out what started the problem in the first place. The veterinarian will examine your pet and possibly recommend x-rays or even collect samples from the area to rule out bone or joint problems, parasite infections or even cancer. The cause of the problem needs to be addressed if there is to be any hope of a solution. Each case is unique and treatment administered will depend on the cause.

Possible treatment routes

More often than not there is infection hiding deep in an acral lick granuloma, which requires long-term antibiotic treatment. This may be for weeks or months, and requires diligent effort to maintain on the owner’s part. Resolving infection in these cases is the cornerstone to successful treatment. An important component of managing an acral lick granuloma is to limit your pet’s access to this area once treatment has started. This can be done by bandaging the area or by using a cone, or Elizabethan collar.

In cases where psychological stress is a major contributor to the condition, the veterinarian may recommend a consultation with a behavioural specialist who can assist in managing the stress-related aspect of this condition. 

Keeping an eye on when your pet licks may indicate the psychological contributor to the condition. Do they lick more when they are on their own or when surrounded by people? Do they lick when locked up in their crates during the day or night or when they are alone or bored? Do they show other symptoms related to separation anxiety, like not being able to leave your side when you are at home? 

An acral lick granuloma can be a frustrating condition to treat and manage. The granuloma develops slowly over time, so you may not know there is a problem until it is well established. An important part of treating these lick granulomas is finding and treating the initial cause. Without finding the initial cause, they tend to recur. Always speak to the vet about your concerns regarding your pets.

© 2020 Vetwebsites – The Code Company Trading (Pty) Ltd

My dog is tilting his head to the side, and seems to be off balance

The vestibular system

The vestibular system is the body’s ‘balance messenger’ – giving mammals (including humans and pets) key sensory information that allows us to stay upright and properly orientated in the world. The vestibular system is made up of two main components: the inner ear and the brain.

In the inner ear, the vestibular system is made up of tiny sensitive bones, membranes and tiny hairs, all strategically positioned to send signals about balance and where your limbs are and how your body is moving also called your spatial orientation. An example of this will, for instance, be your brain sending and receiving messages about which way your head is moving. The different parts of the brain involved in the vestibular system receive the sensory information from the ear and other body structures and help them to all function together to give you a perception of balance. The eyes, the head, the body and the legs are all included, allowing for smooth, balanced and harmonised movement. The proper functioning of the vestibular system allows you to stand on one leg and touch your finger to your nose without falling over.

What is vestibular disease?

Vestibular disease shows up as the sudden onset of balance problems in your pet. The causes of vestibular disease can originate either from the inner ear (peripheral (outside)) or from the brain (central (inside)). How it is diagnosed and treated will depend on the cause (infection, trauma, structural changes or hormonal influence) and the location (inner ear or brain).

How does vestibular disease occur?

Most cases of vestibular disease occur as a result of infection and inflammation of the inner ear (peripheral vestibular disease). Long-standing outer ear infections can progress to middle and inner ear infection leading to vestibular disease in pets. Ear infections at the best of times are difficult to treat because it in itself have many different causes. The ear canal in dogs and cats is much longer than the human ear canal and consist of two parts, the vertical ear canal and the horizontal ear canal. The long ear canal can in many cases contribute to ear infections, but sometimes ear infections are not primarily related to the ears but can be as a result of general skin allergies which then causes ear infections as a secondary problem. Because severe ear infections can lead to vestibular disease, which is a really serious condition, it is important to treat ear infections as early as possible. Other causes of peripheral vestibular disease can be due to damage to the bones protecting the inner ear as caused by head trauma, abnormal growths in this area, certain medications and even hormonal abnormalities such as low thyroid levels.

Central vestibular disease, which affects the brain, is more serious and can be caused by abnormalities in the brain or the membranes protecting it. This can result from bacterial or viral infections such as meningitis, abnormal growths, toxins or even a stroke.

What symptoms will I see in vestibular disease?

The cause of the disease will determine the signs you will see. The most common sign of both peripheral and central vestibular disease is a head tilt to one side. The head tilt almost always affects only one side; with one ear up in the air and the other pointing down. The downward ear is usually the culprit for the discomfort.

The head tilt can vary in severity – from a barely noticeable tilt to tilting all the way to the side, where your pet looks like they’ll fall over. Some pets develop instability where they tend to lean to one side or even fall and roll to the same side as the head tilt. Sometimes pets will walk in tight circles, always in the same direction toward the problematic ear. In some cases, the vertigo and dizziness can cause nausea where pets drool, lick their lips or even upend their dinner. Pets with outer ear infections often scratch their ears and shake their heads with irritation. Some pets with inner ear infections can develop signs of Horner’s Syndrome, where one side of the face may droop, one eyelid hangs, the third eyelid partially covers the eye and there is a change in the size of the pupil. Sometimes one eye appears squint and looks in a different direction to the other, especially when the pet’s head is lifted up.  

If the cause is located in the brain there will be subtle signs such as poor appetite and sleeping more than usual; as well as more frightening signs such as weakness of the legs to paralysis and seizures.

Is vestibular disease treatable?

Treating vestibular disease depends on the cause of the problem. If the problem originates with an inner ear infection, the vet can usually treat it with anti-inflammatories and antibiotics. However, if the problem is more complex and affects the brain or is caused by abnormal growths, the treatment decision would depend on what is found. If your pet is nauseated or vomiting, your vet can assist with anti-nausea medication.

What do I do if I suspect my pet might be affected?

The best option would be to bring your pet to the vet for a full checkup. The vet could first determine if vestibular disease is a problem in your pet and pinpoint the source of the problem, whether it be peripheral or central. It is important to mention to the vet when you first noticed any signs and how it has progressed over time, as well as if your pet is on any medication.

The vet will do a full check on your pet. This may include examining your pet’s ears with an otoscope, test nerve and brain responses, and the vet may even recommend x-rays to have a better idea of what is going on in the inner ear. If a brain-based problem is suspected, a Computed Tomography scan (CT or CAT scan) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan (MRI scan) might be recommended. These procedures are highly specialised and most veterinary practices do not have the equipment to do these scans in house and you may need to be referred to a veterinary specialist.

When is vestibular disease a problem?

On the basic level, vestibular disease can be a problem if your pet is falling over and hurting themselves, or even falling into the pool and unable to get out. Ear infections are uncomfortable and often painful and will not come right by itself.

On a more serious level, a head tilt can be the tip of the iceberg and may be the first sign of a very serious problem. If your pet has vestibular disease, it is something that does require further investigation and treatment – it will not simply come right on its own.

Either way, if you see your pet persistently tilting their head to the side,  please make an appointment with the veterinary practice.

© 2020 Vetwebsites – The Code Company Trading (Pty) Ltd

Coronavirus and your pets

Now that the coronavirus has hit South Africa's shores, and several people have been confirmed to have the disease, COVID-19, there are many pet owners who are concerned about how COVID-19 will affect them and their pets.

Background

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a disease caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. The source of the coronavirus is believed to be a ‘wet market’ in Wuhan, China, which sold both dead and live animals including fish and birds. Currently, there is no evidence suggesting a specific animal host as a virus reservoir, and further investigations are ongoing.

How is COVID-19 spread?

The disease is spread from person to person via respiratory droplets produced from the airways, often during coughing or sneezing. Symptoms appear between two and 14 days (with an average of five days) from the time of first exposure and contraction of the disease. As with most viral infections, some people will contract the disease while others who have been exposed to the same virus will not contract the disease. This is usually as a result of the immune status and health of the individual.

Symptoms of COVID-19 infection

The symptoms of COVID-19 are very similar to the flu we have become accustomed to in winter and include a fever, a dry cough, weakness and fatigue, and shortness of breath. Sneezing, a runny nose and a sore throat are less common. The disease usually causes only mild symptoms, but in immune compromised or older people, it can progress to pneumonia and multi organ failure.

Can pets contract Coronavirus?

Currently, there is no evidence that companion animals can be infected with or spread COVID-19.

However, there are several coronaviruses that affect our pets and that can cause disease in animals.

It is very important to understand that when we speak about ‘coronavirus’, we are actually speaking about a large family of viruses and not a single virus. To this end there are a number of coronaviruses that can affect people and animals.

Coronaviruses belong to the family Coronaviridae. Alpha- and beta-coronaviruses usually infect mammals, while gamma and delta coronaviruses usually infect birds and fish. Canine coronavirus, which can cause mild diarrhoea, and feline coronavirus, which can cause feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), are both alpha-coronaviruses. These coronaviruses are not associated with the current coronavirus outbreak. Until the appearance of SARS-CoV-2, which belongs to the beta-coronaviruses, there were only six known coronaviruses capable of infecting humans and causing respiratory disease, including the severe acute respiratory syndrome, coronavirus SARS-CoV (identified in 2002/2003) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus MERS-CoV (identified in 2012). SARS-CoV-2 is genetically more related to SARS-CoV than MERS-CoV, but both are beta-coronaviruses with their origins in bats. While it is not known whether COVID-19 will behave the same way as SARS and MERS, the information from both of these earlier coronaviruses can inform recommendations concerning COVID-19.

Can I get COVID-19 from my pets?

Recently, the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) announced that a pet dog of a COVID-19 infected patient has tested ‘weak positive’ for the virus, however, further tests are currently being carried out to determine if it is a true infection or if it is due to environmental contamination of its mouth and nose. In a statement, AFCD said that the dog had not shown any symptoms and there was no evidence to suggest that pets could contract the coronavirus or be a source of infection in people.

In the last few weeks, rapid progress had been made in the identification of viral etiology, isolation of infectious virus and the development of diagnostic tools. However, there are still many important questions that remain to be answered. For now, the information available indicates that we cannot get the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), which causes COVID-19, from our pets.

It is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets. This protects you against various common bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella that can pass between pets and humans.

Should I avoid contact with pets or other animals if I am sick with COVID-19?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following: “You should restrict contact with pets and other animals while you are sick with COVID-19, just like you would around other people. Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that people with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus.

When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick. If you are sick with COVID-19, avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked and sharing food. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with pets and wear a facemask.”

If my pet has been in contact with someone who is sick from COVID-19, can it spread the disease to other people?

While we do not yet know for sure, there is no evidence that companion animals can be infected with or spread SARS-CoV-2. We also do not know if they could get sick from this new coronavirus.

Additionally, there is currently no evidence that companion animals could be a source of infection to people. This is a rapidly evolving situation and this information may change.

What should I do if my pet develops an unexplained illness and was around a person with documented COVID-19 infection?

We don’t yet know if companion animals can get infected by SARS-CoV-2 or develop the COVID-19 disease. If your pet develops an unexplained illness and has been exposed to a person infected with COVID-19, talk to the public health official working with the person infected with COVID-19. If your area has a state veterinarian, the public health official can consult with them or another appropriate official. If the state veterinarian, or other public health official, advises you to take your pet to a veterinary clinic, call us before you come in to let us know that you are bringing a sick pet that has been exposed to a person infected with COVID-19. This will allow us time to prepare an isolation area. Do not bring the animal to our veterinary facility unless you are instructed to do so by a public health official.

What are the concerns regarding pets that have been in contact with people infected with this virus?

While COVID-19 seems to have emerged from an animal source, it is now spreading from person to person. Person-to-person spread is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. At this time, it’s unclear how easily or sustainably this virus is spreading between people.

Importantly, there is no evidence at this point in time (March 2020) that companion animals including pets such as dogs and cats, can become infected with COVID-19.

What should be done with pets in areas where the virus is active?

Currently there is no evidence that pets can be infected with this new coronavirus. Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, until we know more, pet owners should avoid contact with animals they are unfamiliar with and always wash their hands before and after they interact with animals.  As stated before in this article, if owners are sick with COVID-19, they should avoid contact with animals in their household, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food. If they need to care for their pet or be around animals while they are sick, they should wash their hands before and after they interact with them and wear a facemask.

Should my vet vaccinate my dogs against canine coronavirus because of the risk of SARS-Cov-2?

The canine coronavirus vaccines are intended to protect against enteric coronavirus infection in dogs and are NOT licensed for protection against respiratory infections. In the face of the current outbreak, some dog owners may propose that there may be some form of cross-protection against COVID-19 and may think that it will be of benefit to have their dogs vaccinated with the current coronavirus vaccine to be better protected. There is absolutely no evidence that vaccinating dogs with commercially available vaccines will provide cross-protection against the infection by SARS-CoV-2, since the enteric and respiratory viruses are distinctly different variants of coronavirus. No vaccines are currently available in any market for respiratory coronavirus infection in dogs.

What can I do to protect myself and my pets against COVID-19?

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, experts recommend everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Stay at home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the rubbish bin.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

Where can I find more information on COVID-19?

The most up-to-date information and advice on human infection can be found on the following websites:

• World Health Organisation (WHO) (see here)

• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (see here)

The most up-to-date information related to animal health can be found on the following website:

• World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) (see here)

 

© 2020 Vetwebsites – The Code Company Trading (Pty) Ltd

 

 

 

My little dog is coughing often and sometimes seems to struggle to breathe.

What is tracheal collapse?

Tracheal collapse is a common cause of coughing and airway obstruction in dogs. The trachea, which is also known as the “windpipe”, provides the air supply from the outside to the lungs. The trachea can be thought of as resembling a vacuum cleaner pipe. It is a flexible but firm tube that is reinforced by strong cartilage rings. These rings are not complete but rather “c-shaped”, with the open end of the “c” facing to the inside of the neck with a ligament attaching from the one end of the C to the other. Sometimes these cartilage rings weaken and cannot hold their shape causing the trachea to narrow or even close, making it more difficult for air to pass through.

Which dogs are prone to tracheal collapse?

The small and toy breed dogs are most commonly affected by this condition.  Yorkshire terriers, Toy Pomeranians, Poodles and Chihuahuas are some of the most commonly affected breeds. Young dogs can be affected but the condition is more commonly seen in middle-aged to older patients. These dogs are often overweight and living in a household that has smokers often exacerbates the condition.

What are the signs of tracheal collapse?

  • The dog often has a characteristic “goose honking” cough.
  • The dog may cough when picked up or pulled on a collar.
  • Some dogs may have difficulty breathing and some turn blue when excited.
  • There is usually a degree of exercise intolerance and a wheezy noise may be heard when the animal breathes in.
  • The cough and other signs are often worsened with excitement, eating, drinking, tracheal irritants such as smoke, dust or pollution, obesity, exercise and hot and humid weather.

Diagnosing tracheal collapse

The clinical signs and breed of dog make a diagnosis of tracheal collapse highly likely. X-rays can be helpful in making a diagnosis but the collapse of the trachea is often dynamic so may not be seen all the time. Fluoroscopy is a moving x-ray and is beneficial in that the trachea can be visualised over a short period of time. Unfortunately, fluoroscopy is usually only available at veterinary teaching hospitals and some veterinary referral centres. Using a scope is the only way one can see what is happening within the trachea and may also be useful as swabs and cultures can be taken to make sure there is not a secondary infection present concurrently.

Can tracheal collapse be confused with other conditions?

Tracheal collapse can definitely be confused with other upper respiratory tract conditions of which the most common one in toy breeds is arguably reverse sneeze. Kennel cough, an infectious viral condition of the upper respiratory tract is another. Allergies are another common cause of upper respiratory tract conditions. A foreign body like a grass awn which gets stuck somewhere in the upper or lower respiratory tract is another possibility. To differentiate which condition your dog may be suffering with will most likely require a thorough clinical examination and diagnostic workup by the vet.  

Can tracheal collapse be cured?

Unfortunately, tracheal collapse cannot be cured but it can be managed relatively successfully. Medical management includes medication to suppress the cough, reduce airway inflammation and spasms, and reduce anxiety. Weight loss is probably the most important aspect of management in overweight pets as obesity greatly exacerbates the condition.

In some cases, surgery may be an option to help support the trachea. It is a specialist procedure and an animal will still need to be managed medically afterwards. Surgery does come with its own risk so it is important to speak to an experienced surgeon before travelling down this route. It is also important to remember that not all animals will be ideal candidates.

At present, there is no known way to prevent tracheal collapse but maintaining an ideal weight and reducing exposure to airway irritants such as smoke have been found to help. Patients may be managed relatively efficiently with medical management and it is estimated that more than two-thirds of dogs will show some improvement. About three-quarters of dogs will improve with surgical treatment but the surgery does also carry its own risks. Older dogs may also have laryngeal or bronchial disease. This also comes with complications and does reduce the long-term prognosis for management.  Weight management and control of the cough is vital for a good outcome and it is important to remember that medical management is still instrumental even after surgical treatment. 

There is a strong school of thought that suggests tracheal collapse may be inheritable because it is related to the shape and confirmation of the trachea. Just like you may find some dogs have longer legs and some have shorter legs, so some of the toy breeds may have narrower tracheas than others. It would certainly stand you in good stead to do some proper research before buying a highly pedigreed toy breed of dog.

If you are not sure if your dog may be suffering with tracheal collapse, visit the vet and have a proper exam done. It may just improve the quality of life of your best friend.

© 2019 Vetwebsites – The Code Company Trading (Pty) Ltd

 

My cat is eating like crazy and not picking up weight

What is hyperthyroidism?

Hyperthyroidism is a condition that arises from an excessive production and secretion of active thyroid hormones by an abnormally functioning thyroid gland. First recognised in the late 1970’s, the frequency of diagnosis has escalated dramatically – currently it is the most common endocrine (hormone system) disease in cats and also one of the more frequently diagnosed disorders in the veterinary field. The condition is estimated to affect 1 in 300 cats.

What causes hyperthyroidism?

Despite several studies, the exact cause of the disease remains unknown. Recent studies have found that there is no breed association with risk. Other studies have found cats fed mostly tinned cat food, especially fish or liver and giblet flavour, and cats using cat litter are at increased risk.

Soybeans have also been implicated as a potential culprit as it is used as a protein source in some commercial cat foods. Furthermore, the thyroid gland contains more selenium than any other tissue, which suggests this trace element may play an important role.

Which cats are affected?

The disease typically affects middle-aged to older cats, with an average age of onset at 12-13 years.  Rarely can it affect cats as young as 4 years of age. There is no breed or gender predilection.

What are the clinical signs of hyperthyroidism?

Thyroid hormones are involved in a wide variety of functions in the body, including the regulation of heat production, metabolism and interaction with the nervous system. Therefore almost any organ system can be affected and subsequently a wide variety of clinical signs are possible.

Typically the signs start out very subtle and slowly progress, causing most owners to not notice them for several months. Some owners may also put these signs down to the normal “ageing” process.

The most common clinical sign is weight loss, despite a voracious appetite. Affected cats may seem constantly hungry and “finicky eaters” stop being “finicky”, eating everything that is offered to them or that they can get to.

Affected cats often gobble down their own food before going on to eat all the other pets in the household’s food as well; they may even try to steal your food off your plate if given the chance. Remember that cats are a lot smaller than us humans – losing for example 500g is not significant weight loss for a human but for a cat it’s about 10-20% of their total body weight and definitely a cause for concern.

Affected cats also become hyperactive – they may seem restless, anxious and irritable, constantly moving or even pacing, sleeping for short periods only and wakening easily. When brought to the vet these cats typically won’t sit for the vet to examine them and become aggressive when attempts are made to restrain them.

Affected cats are also weak and tire very quickly – you may notice it can’t jump as well as it used to. They also can’t cope with stress – short car rides, bathing, boarding or vet visits may weaken them severely or even cause them to collapse.

The digestive system may also be affected, causing vomiting, soft, bulky, stinky stools and sometimes even diarrhoea.

How is hyperthyroidism diagnosed?

Hyperthyroidism can cause a wide variety of clinical signs, many of which can be caused by several other disease processes as well. Vets may perform several tests on your cat to rule out, amongst others, diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, pancreatic disease and cancer. These tests may include blood tests, urine analysis, X-rays and even an electrocardiogram or ECG.

The diagnosis is confirmed by measuring the amount of thyroid hormone circulating in the cat’s blood.   Affected cats’ values may be up to 19 times more than the top normal value.

It is worth noting that up to 10% of affected cats may have borderline or even normal levels of thyroid hormone. These cats are either mildly affected or are suffering from another non related concurrent illness which is suppressing the thyroid levels. Therefore, the vet may decide that a single measurement is not enough to either rule in or – out thyroid disease and may recommend additional tests.

How is hyperthyroidism in cats treated?

Affected cats are generally started on anti-thyroid medication to stop the excessive secretion of thyroid hormones. The medication can be given between one and three times a day. The vet will typically start on a certain dose and repeat the thyroid hormone levels by doing a blood test after two weeks from commencing treatment.

Depending on the result, the dose may be increased or decreased and the blood tests repeated again after two weeks. This process will continue until the thyroid hormone levels return to the normal range. Once this is achieved, thyroid blood levels will need to be retested every 3 to 6 months or whenever otherwise indicated. 

The success of the therapy will mostly depend on you, the owner, as you will be the one tasked with administering the medication. It is important that you stick to the prescribed dosage and return to the vet for scheduled follow-ups or whenever your cat shows any signs of illness.

Cats are notoriously hard to pill! If you find it impossible to administer the medication, let the vet know as soon as possible – we will be happy to show you how to give the medication or help you come up with an alternative.

In some cases the vet may opt to surgically remove either one or both of the thyroid glands. Generally, the procedure cures the disease, but there is always a risk of it recurring – therefor the vet may want to monitor the progression of the disease every 6 to 12 months; if it recurs the cat will have to go onto medication again.

The vet may also recommend a diet change as there are therapeutic diets which have been specifically developed for this condition.

The last option is destruction of the thyroid gland via radioactive iodine, which is currently not readily available in South Africa.

What’s the connection between hyperthyroidism and kidney disease?

Hyperthyroid cats are predisposed to kidney disease due to the effects of the higher metabolism on the kidneys. Conversely, the higher metabolism also masks the signs of kidney failure. Consequently these cats often start showing signs of kidney failure once their thyroid condition is brought under control.

The vet may decide to monitor you cat’s kidney enzyme levels along with the thyroid levels in order to diagnose kidney failure as early as possible.

What’s the connection between hyperthyroidism and heart disease?

Hyperthyroid cats are prone to developing heart murmurs, abnormally fast heart rates and abnormal heart rhythms. The vet may notice these abnormalities when listening to the heart with a stethoscope.

The excessive amount of circulating thyroid hormone makes the heart work harder than normal, which is further worsened by having to keep up with the cat’s higher metabolic rate. Over time the heart muscle starts thickening and/or the heart chambers start dilating to increase their size in an attempt to cope with the increased workload.

Congestive heart failure sets in eventually when the heart cannot keep up anymore fluids starts building up in the lungs and/or the abdomen.

If the vet suspects heart disease, he or she may decide to investigate further with ECGs, ultrasonic heart scans and X-rays. Depending on the findings, the cat may have to go onto heart medication as well.

What is the prognosis for hyperthyroidism in my cat?

The prognosis will depend on the cat’s physical condition, age, and whether other diseases are present. When treated, the average survival rate is 2 years and the quality of life is acceptable.

© 2019 Vetwebsites – The Code Company Trading (Pty) Ltd

My dog’s nose seems to be all clogged up and hard and he is not well at all

Canine distemper

Following recent outbreaks of Distemper (Hondesiekte in Afrikaans) in Kwa Zulu Natal and Gauteng, it is important to have an understanding of this disease which is fatal in half of all cases of dogs that contract the disease.

What causes Distemper?

Distemper is a virus disease caused by the Canine Distemper Virus or CDV. This virus is a morbillivirus in the Paramyxoviridae family which is a virus group that affects humans, vertebrates and birds. This specific virus is not transmissible to humans but specifically targets dogs hence the name “Canine” Distemper Virus. The virus is closely related to measles virus in humans, and also to rinderpest virus in cattle, which at the beginning of the previous century almost killed the entire cattle population of Southern Africa. It’s a nasty virus.

What are the symptoms of Distemper?

The virus attacks mainly the respiratory system (from the nose right into the lungs), the gastro-intestinal system (from the mouth, through the stomach into the small and large intestines) and the central nervous system (mainly the brain). This means that the symptoms associated with the disease will be related to problems with these three main systems. In acute to subacute infections the dog will usually develop a fever within a day or two from being infected. The dog will go off its food and become weak and lethargic

Respiratory system symptoms may include a clogged up nose typically with mucous or slime that becomes hard, and hardening of the nose itself. This is a very telling symptom of Distemper but is by no means the only, or most typical, presentation of the disease. A dog with distemper may have a perfectly normal nose and still have the disease. Many times there will also be a discharge in the corners of the eyes. Other respiratory symptoms include coughing, sneezing and difficult breathing if the virus attacks the lungs.

If the gastrointestinal systems is affected you may see vomiting and/or diarrhoea.

If the central nervous system is involved you may have muscle tremors, a dog which seems disorientated and walks around as if they are drunk (ataxia), hind limbs which are dragged or seem lazy (paresis), a dog which cannot get up or falls down when they do get up (paralysis), and even seizures. Other symptoms which are not immediately visible and which only the vet may be able to pick up are lesions on the retina at the back of the eye, or an inflammation in the front of the eye called anterior uveitis. Hardening of the footpads  (hyperkeratosis) was previously quite common because of the strains of virus involved, but seem to be less common these days.

How is Distemper diagnosed?

There are several blood tests which can be done by the vet, but it is a difficult disease to diagnose because unlike a disease like biliary or tick fever in dogs where you can see the parasite in the blood with a bloodsmear, in Distemper, as with all other virus diseases, you cannot see the virus as it is simply too small. The trouble with the blood tests are that they are often not conclusive. The reason for this is that some of the tests, test if the dog is building up antibodies (“soldier”) against the virus. However a dog that may previously have been vaccinated may show antibodies and not have the disease. Sometimes the dog may die acutely before the body was able to produce neutralising antibodies, so in that case the test may be negative, yet the dog still had the disease.

Another type of blood test where the white and red blood cells are counted and where the white cells are less than usual, called lymphopenia,  may give an indication that the dog has a virus disease but it will not tell which virus the dog has.

If the dog has central nervous system symptoms, the fluid around the brain and spine called Cerebro Spinal Fluid (CSF) may contain antibodies but once again it may not be 100% diagnostic. There are other tests which can be run on the CSF (cell or protein content) which may be indicative, but does not conclusively confirm that the dog has Distemper.

There are a number of other diseases which can present with similar symptoms which the vet will have to rule out. On the respiratory side there is Kennel Cough or other upper respiratory tract infections. On the intestinal side there is Parvovirus and Coronavirus, parasitism like worms or Giardia, bacterial infections, toxin ingestion or inflammatory bowel disease. On the neurological side there is granulomatous meningoencephalitis, protozoal encephalitis (toxoplasmosis, neosporosis, babesia), cryptococcus or other infections (meningitis, Ehrlichiosis), pug dog encephalitis and lead or other poisoning.

Clearly Distemper is not a simple disease to diagnose and the vet will often have to rely on the age of the dog, its history, the results of the clinical tests and the appearance of the clinical symptoms, to make a diagnosis of Distemper.

How is Distemper transferred?

The virus is typically inhaled through the air from other sick dogs and also from physical contact with infected animals. The virus can survive for a period of time in the environment and if a dog which carries the virus sniffed around or spent time in a certain environment, it will leave tiny, tiny droplets (aerosol) which contain the virus in that area, which can then infect other dogs. A dog which is infected will inhale or ingest the virus and the virus will quickly spread through the mucous membranes to the local lymphnodes (these are like the remote “army bases” of the body which has to protect the body against invasions) where it will multiply and within one week the whole body will be infected.

How is Distemper treated?

Vets have over the years tried antiviral drugs of which there are very few anyway,  and none have been effective. As with almost all virus diseases one has to support the body in its own fight against the virus because it is only once the body has been successful to produce antibodies (the “soldier cells” which kill the “terrorist” or virus), that the dog will be able to overcome the disease. Often, when the body is attacked by viruses and the immune system is fighting hard to overcome the infection, bacteria will cause a secondary infection and make the whole situation worse. Therefore antibiotics are often administered even though it will do nothing against the virus, but at least it will help the body fight off opportunistic bacterial infections and help the body to overcome the disease. Other treatment depends largely on which systems are affected and to what extent. The vet will typically give symptomatic treatment, for example if the dog has seizures, the vet may administer a drug to help contain the seizures and make them less violent. Certain drugs should not be given and it is important to consult with the vet in case you think your dog may suffer from Distemper.

Can Distemper spread to humans or cats?

In the past it was suspected that the Canine Distemper Virus can cause Multiple Sclerosis in humans. However this has been proven NOT to be the case and as far as we know the disease cannot spread from dogs to humans. Similarly, as far as we know, this disease cannot be transferred to domestic cats.

What is the prognosis should my dog contract Distemper?

Unfortunately the prognosis is not good and the mortality rate is 50%. It will be very difficult for the vet to tell whether your dog will fall in the 50% that will survive or the 50% that will not make it. The vet will have to assess the extent and severity of the clinical symptoms and the progression of the disease and based on that, will advise you whether treatment has any chance of success or not. An important thing to remember is that even though the disease may not appear to be very far advanced when you first present your dog to the vet, and there seems to be early good response to treatment, like the clogging of the nose and the discharge in the eyes clearing up, the dog may still develop fatal central nervous system signs later on. It is important to understand that the vet has no control over which way the disease may go and will do his or her best with your animal’s best interest at heart, when recommending treatment or not.

Can Distemper be prevented?

A resounding yes! Vaccination has been hugely effective in almost eradicating this disease and all dogs should be vaccinated, preferably yearly at the same time as their annual health exam. Your vet will give you more specific advice related to the area you live in and the risk factors involved and should the vet think that annual vaccination is not necessary, the vet will advise you accordingly.

Puppies and old dogs are more commonly affected and all puppies should go through an initial vaccination program from 6 weeks onwards to provide protection. Puppies born from mothers who were vaccinated and had antibodies will get this protection from the initial milk or colostrum from the mother in the first few days after birth. The protection provided through the mother’s milk will start waning after six weeks and this is why vets normally start vaccinating at this time, and repeating the vaccination three or four times with booster vaccinations with monthly intervals and then yearly thereafter.

What do I do if I suspect my dog to have Distemper?

Get them to the vet as soon as you can. Home remedies or treatment is unlikely to give your dog a fighting chance. Proper supportive and secondary infection treatment remains the mainstay of treatment.

Most importantly, have your dog vaccinated. Prevention is always better than cure!

© 2019 The Code Company Vetwebsites

My older German Shepherd Dog seems to be getting weak in its hindquarters

This article outlines a genetic disorder that mainly German Shepherd dogs are prone to. There are other breeds affected by this condition too like Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Corgis, Boxers, Wirehaired Fox Terriers and Rhodesian Ridgebacks, however, the disease is mostly seen in German Shepherds.

If one breaks down the name of the disease it describes what happens with the disease. Degeneration refers to a breaking down or deterioration of something. That “something” in this case is myelin which is the insulating sheath around neurons in the spinal cord. Neurons are the “electrical wires” of the nervous system and one can compare myelin to the insulating plastic around the wires, almost like one would find with an electrical cord. Whenever a term is followed by “pathy” it refers to a disease or disorder in a certain part of the body. In this case the spinal cord.

Degenerative Myelopathy is a debilitating condition for which there is no cure but only the potential to slow down the progress.

The occurs typically in older German Shepherd Dogs. The average age at which clinical signs start and progress is from 8 to 12 years of age. This is not a condition with rapid onset but instead is slowly progressive with clinical signs worsening with time. Degenerative myelopathy starts out as a very slowly progressive hind limb weakness and loss of function of the back legs called paresis. It is commonly confused with hip pain because the symptoms can mimic hip dysplasia, another debilitating condition with a high incidence in German Shepherds.

The condition is the result of a demyelination (loss of protective cover) and nerve degeneration of the spinal cord in the region of the mid to hind back. This degeneration is something referred to as an ascending lesion meaning that it starts at the tail end of the spinal cord and works its way towards the head. The underlying cause of the disease is thought to be a genetic mutation (change) of the SOD1 gene. This gene is responsible for the protection of cells against certain particles that damage the DNA of cells. The name given to the damaging particles are free radicles. Under normal circumstances the SOD1 gene produces a free radicle scavenger i.e. it helps to clean up the system and prevents damage to the sheath surrounding the nerves.

The way in which the defect is inherited determines whether a particular dog is at a high risk of getting the disease or if they are a carrier of the genetic mutation without showing clinical signs. An individual dog has to carry 2 copies of the mutation in the genes of the cells of their bodies for it to cause the disease. There is no sex predilection, so male or female dogs may be affected equally. What is interesting about the disease is that even if an individual dog has both copies of the mutated gene and they are at very high risk of developing the disease, there are still other factors that influence whether or not they do contract the disease and to what extent they do.  

As mentioned previously this a slowly progressive condition that has a time frame of about 3 years before severe debilitating disease sets in. The clinical signs noticed in dogs include the following:

After 6 to 12 months of contracting the disease, you will notice weakness and partial loss of function of the back legs. Your dog may seem weak and wobbly on the back legs and they may struggle to get up or be slower to get up that what they used to be. When they run, their back legs may sway abnormally.

After 9 to 18 months on contracting the disease, the back legs start to get even weaker and collapse under the dog from time to time. If one assesses the reflexes in the back legs like the patella reflex, you will find that they are abnormal and weakened.

After 12 to 24 months of contracting the disease, the front legs start to become affected and you may notice that your dog starts losing their normal co-ordination and function. By this point, the hind legs are very weak and your dog may struggle to stand and use their legs correctly. Unfortunately, the nerve degeneration also influences bladder and bowel control and they will start to urinate and defecate involuntarily. This is known as urine and faecal incontinence.

After 24 to 36 month of contracting the disease, and if the dog was able to come this far and still cope with the disease, they develop tetraplegia or quadriplegia which is a paralysis that causes partial or total loss of use of all their limbs and body. The loss is usually sensory and motor, which means that both sensation and control are lost, or put a different way, the dog does not know where its legs are and even if they did, they do not have the ability to correct it. Clearly a very unhappy situation.

The way in which this condition is diagnosed by the vet is through a number of tests as well as the typical clinical signs and also the breed of your dog. These, together with the thorough history of the condition, should provide the veterinarian with some very important clues to what is going on with your dog. The important diseases or differential diagnoses to rule out are spinal disc disease (like a slipped disc) and conditions affecting the lower part of the spine where the hips meet the spine, like hip dysplasia or joint disease. The biggest difference with degenerative myelopathy and the other conditions is that degenerative myelopathy is painless because it is the loss of sensation and function which underlies this disease. Special tests such as MRI’s may be done to visualise the damage within the spinal cord and there is also a DNA test available to check if your dog has the genetic mutation discussed earlier.

Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment available. Certain supplements can be used in an attempt to slow down the condition, such as vitamin E and aminocaproic acid. The vitamin E is an essential vitamin which helps various systems in the body to protect it from these damaging free radicles. The aminocaproic acid is an agent used to prevent the breakdown of clots in the bloodstream. The reasoning behind using this is that it is believed that the spinal cord may be indirectly attacked by the body’s own immune system. Antibodies in the bloodstream attach to the foreign material within the bloodstream forming complexes and these stimulate a response from the immune system. These complexes are usually removed by the liver and spleen. Sometimes they can stick to the walls of blood vessels, damage the walls and stimulate the formation of blood clots. The breakdown of these clots are associated with inflammation and this may result in damage to the surrounding tissues, so-called collateral damage. If this happens in the sensitive tissues of the spinal cord, the damage is devastating because the nervous tissue is not able to regenerate and repair itself. The thinking behind using aminocaproic acid is to inhibit clot breakdown in these delicate tissues.

Lastly and most importantly, the most effective treatment for this condition and the only one proven to actually slow down the progress is the use of physiotherapy and hydrotherapy. Another key factor is, the sooner the dog is diagnosed and treatment started, the better the progress of the disease can be slowed, and the more time the vet can give you with your dog. Unfortunately, the sad truth is that eventually, the disease will lead to complete paralysis and eventually, in most cases, euthanasia.

Genetic disorders like degenerative myelopathy can only be prevented by not breeding with animals where there is a family history of the disease. Make sure if you buy a puppy, that you get references on a breeder before you buy.

©2018 Vetwebsites The Code Company (Pty) Ltd

I found a lump on my animal’s skin. Is it cancer?

Finding a lump or a bump in your pet which you have never noticed before, can cause serious worry for pet owners. This article will highlight what to watch out for when to take your pet to the vet and the process veterinarians follow when approaching any lump found on a pet.

Firstly, it is always important to remember that you can never tell how serious a mass on your pet is by simply feeling it and judging by its size. Dynamite can often come in small packages and some of the most aggressive skin cancers may present as a simple small raised area on the skin. Generally, lumps on a cat tend to be more dangerous and they are not something to be ignored. All growths have to start small but may grow very rapidly. Lumps come in all shapes and sizes and for that reason, it is always best to get any lump on the skin or underneath the skin checked by the veterinarian as soon as you discover it. This will provide peace of mind to you as an owner if it is simply a dermal cyst or a small wart-like growth, both of which will not cause any major health issues for your pet. Alternatively, if it is something more aggressive and dangerous, it is always better to start treatment as soon as possible. If it is determined to be a bad type of growth (malignant), the sooner it is diagnosed the better the prognosis for both removing it surgically or starting any other form of treatment.

When you bring your animal to the vet there are a few questions the vet will ask that are essential to determine when and if the lump will be removed.

1. When did you notice the mass and has it grown since noticing it? Masses that grow quickly will invariably need to be removed regardless of the cells that make up the mass. The reason for this is that it will only continue to enlarge and may eventually lead to impaired function of the area of the body it is growing from or may cause discomfort and become more difficult to remove later on.

2. Is the lump bothering your pet, are they scratching, biting or licking it? Any lump that bothers your pet is causing them discomfort and this is the last thing we want. It also predisposes them to infections in the area as the licking and scratching will traumatise the mass with a subsequent breakdown in the skin’s protective barrier.

3. Has your pet ever had any other masses that were of concern? Certain growths on the skin, mast cell tumours for example, do have a tendency to regrow or spread to other areas. Once the vet has gained sufficient information from the pet owner, a more in-depth assessment of the lump will commence.

Usually, a visit to the vet will start with the vet obtaining a history from you regarding the pet’s health which will then be followed by a physical clinical examination of your pet. The vet will then examine the appearance of the lump and determine if there are any other lumps present on or under the skin. The appearance of a mass may give a clue as to what the mass might be. A small round firm lump may simply be a cyst. Small superficial wart-like growths on the skin surface are often benign and only need to be monitored. If they are injured or bleed, they may have to be removed. A dermal cyst may eventually rupture discharging its contents and resolve on its own.  A dermal cyst may however re-occur and the only way to get rid of it for good will be to surgically remove it. Once the vet has had a look at the appearance of the mass they will then most likely perform a fine needle aspirate. This procedure involves placing a needle into the mass with a syringe attached to the needle. The plunger of the syringe is drawn back and with some luck, a small sample of the cells making up the lump will be drawn into the needle. Once this small sample of cells is obtained it is sprayed onto a glass slide for fixing, staining and observation under a microscope. It is rare for the vet to make a definitive diagnosis of what type of growth and how aggressive it is with a single or even multiple fine needle aspirates. However, the small sample of cells obtained may give the vet an idea of the type of cells making up the growth and how urgently it needs to be removed, if at all. There are three types of lumps which can generally be identified more accurately based on these small samples which are, lipomas (which is a benign fatty growth not considered to be a cancer), mast cell tumours (which is a bad type of cancer) and a melanomas (which is a really bad type of cancer). The exclusion of these three types of growths already helps somewhat in determining a prognosis. If it does turn out to be a mast cell tumour or a melanoma, the grade and the subtype of these masses will still need to be determined so just identifying it is not enough. Generally, the vet can determine the type of cells present, for example, a round cell tumour, which may be present in a number of specific growths, but the final diagnosis of which type of round cell tumour and the stage cancer can only be definitively identified by histopathology. Histopathology is where either the full growth or a portion of it is removed surgically and sent to a specialist pathologist who then examines the tissue sample sent with high-resolution microscopy and makes a definitive diagnosis. Round cell tumours generally have to be removed surgically as they grow quickly and are locally invasive into surrounding tissues. Other cell types that may be seen are spindle cells, epithelial cells, glandular cells, fat cells etc. If a cyst is aspirated then one will only see cyst material or debris and no obvious cells. If these lumps are subsequently gently squeezed, the contents of the cysts will be extruded.

Any lump or bump which is cancerous should be surgically removed and sent for histopathology for definitive diagnosis and grading. This is also important to ensure that the surgical margins are clear which means that all cancer cells were removed and none of the growth was left behind. This is particularly important for very aggressive tumours such as mast cell tumours, as they invade the surrounding tissue easily and to a large extent. To remove these tumours, a margin of 3 cm around the entire mass, and 2 tissue planes deep have to be removed by the surgeon. The resulting wound to be closed after surgical removal of a tumour can be very extensive with a high risk of post-operative complications. It is with these masses, as you could imagine, that the smaller the growth, the better it is to catch it early.

Instances where you would not remove lumps and bumps include

  1. cases of wart-like growths on the skin called adenoma’s. Unless they have been traumatised by the animal scratching, biting or licking them or where they have grown too large, it does not have to be removed.
  2. dermal cysts come and go and unless the owner wants them permanently removed, they do not need to be surgically removed.
  3. the very common growth known as a lipoma, which is a soft lump underneath the skin which is usually not firmly attached to the underlying tissues and do not seem to bother the animal at all. A lipoma is, in essence, a tumour of fatty tissue, but it is benign and only grows locally.

Lipomas are generally benign, well-encapsulated growths which do not invade surrounding tissues and they can sometimes grow very large, sometimes up to the size of a rugby ball, without posing any systemic risk to the animal. The problem is that they become a physical problem which interferes with the animal’s sitting or lying down or movement. Smaller lipomas can initially be monitored and not removed, but should they continue to grow, it is advisable to get them surgically removed before they start to interfere with your pets ability to move and live a normal comfortable life.

In conclusion, when you find a lump or bump on your pet, rather take them to the vet to have it checked out so that it can be diagnosed and treated. If advised by the veterinarian to remove the growth, it is always better to do it sooner rather than later. Lastly, remember that no growth is too small to be ignored.

© 2018 Vetwebsites – The Code Company Trading (Pty) Ltd

Can my kitten make me sick?

There are many diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans. These diseases are called zoonotic diseases. Although the list below is by no means comprehensive, some of the more common diseases that we can get from our household pets are:

  • Ringworm, which is a fungal infection of the skin
  • Hook worm, roundworm and tapeworm infection
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Cat scratch disease
  • Scabies, a mite that causes severe itchiness and skin lesions

In this article we are going to look at cat scratch disease (CSD), the cause of it, the symptoms and how to prevent it. Cat scratch disease, or cat scratch fever, is caused by an organism called Bartonella henselae or formerly called Rochalimaea henselae. It is a small anaerobic (organism which does not need oxygen to survive), gram-negative, non-motile bacterium. Domestic cats are the natural hosts for this organism and the animal from which humans can contract the disease (also known as the vector). If a cat harbors this bacterium, the cat very rarely shows any signs of the disease which is described as asymptomatic. It is therefore impossible to tell if a cat is infected with this organism without further testing. Fleas are the organism responsible for transmission of the disease between cats and therefore flea control is one of the best ways to prevent this disease. The infection rate is much higher in a population of cats that are flea ridden and can be as high as 61%. As a cat scratches and bites at fleas, the organism gets stuck between their teeth and under their nails. Kittens younger than 12 months are 15 times more likely to carry the infection than adult cats.

Cats transmit the disease to humans when they bite or scratch a person, causing a break in the skin. There is no evidence to suggest that fleas can transmit the disease directly to humans through a flea bite. Bacteria are also found on the coat of infected cats and can be transmitted to a person with open wounds on their skin by just stroking or holding an infected cat. Bacteria enter the wound of the affected human and causes local inflammation with swelling and redness of the area. A vesicle or an erythematous papule (a small blister almost like a pimple) may form at the site of initial infection during the progression of the infection. Soon after the initial bite or scratch, people develop signs of fever, headaches, decreased appetite, nausea, muscle pain, chills and joint pain. There is a swelling of the lymph glands closest to the area where the initial bite occurred. This is also known as a regional lymphadenopathy. The lymph glands become enlarged and painful and the nodes glands most commonly affected are in the armpit, the groin and the junction between the neck and jaw.

Cat scratch fever is a self-limiting disease in people with a healthy immune system. The disease resolves without specific treatment within 6 to 12 weeks. In children younger than 5 years as well as immune compromised people, complications can occur. Impaired immune systems can be the result of HIV infection or cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. In these cases treatment is necessary and this entails putting the patient on a course of antibiotic tablets which has to be prescribed by a medical doctor. Complications that can occur in patients with weakened immune systems are the following:

  • Meningoencephalitis (infection of the membrane around the brain)
  • Encephalopathy (infection of the brain itself)
  • Seizures
  • Endocarditis (infection of the heart)
  • Granulomatous conjunctivitis (infection in the eye)
  • Optic neuritis (damage to the main nerve running from the brain to the eye)

The best way to avoid this disease is to avoid situations where you can be bitten by a cat. Kittens are often playful and rough play frequently results in scratches or even bites. When bitten or scratched, it is important to wash the wound thoroughly under running water and cleaning it with a disinfectant. Never let cats lick open wounds on your skin. Since the disease is transmitted to cats by fleas, good tick and flea control is very important in your cat. It is important to take note that you should treat all your animals (dogs, cats and any other animals you may have) for fleas, even if you find just one flea on only one animal in your household. It is often difficult to see fleas on your cat because by grooming themselves they actually often catch and shallow fleas during the process. It is advised that people with weakened immune systems adopt cats that are older than one year of age, since kittens are the most likely carriers of the disease. Keeping your cat’s nails trimmed can also help prevent infection.

If you experience any of the above named symptoms after being bitten or scratched by your cat, it is strongly advised that you see your doctor.

© 2018 Vetwebsites – The Code Company Trading (Pty.) Ltd.