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Does your dog have itchy skin?  Does he or she suffer from Atopic dermatitis or chronic Allergies?  Are they keeping you up all night?  Have the side effects of long-term steroid use become a worry?
There are new treatment options now for dogs with Atopic dermatitis/Allergies.
Atopic dermatitis is caused by an allergic reaction (hypersensitivity) to one or more substances in the environment (allergens).  Dogs are often itchy and the skin on some parts of the body may be reddened, moist, or damaged due to scratching or chewing.
The diagnosis is based on your observations and on our physical examonation, as well as by ruling out other causes of allergies, parasites and food allergies.
Atopic dermatitis can be treated in many different ways.  Limiting exposure to allergens is most effective, but not usually practical.  Using medications such as fatty acids, prednisone or Atopica may be very helpful.
We now have another anti-inflammatory medications called Apoquel that can control the itch for you dog.  This is a oral tablet that is given twice daily in the beginning, then decreased to once daily.  Apoquel has made a hugh diference in our patients and owners lives.
Most recently a new injectable medication has been released my the FDA (cytopoint).  This new injection is a monoclonal antibody that attacks IL-31 and decreases the itchiness in dogs with Atopy/Allergies.  The injection is give subcutaneously every 4-8 weeks. As with any skin conditions it is important with to treat underlining infection first with antibitics.
If you feel your dog has Atopy or Allergies and would like to relieve their discomfort please call us and make an appointment with our veterinarians.

Heartworms

With the advent of Daylight Savings Time, it's time to remember that heartworm season is with us. Heartworms are parasites that infect the heart, lungs, blood vessels, and other organs and can cause serious disease (and even death) of our pets.

Heartworms are long, slender worms that are carried by mosquitoes. They infect dogs, cats, ferrets, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, and occasionally even people. In coastal areas sea lions and seals have been diagnosed with the disease. These worms damage the lining of arteries in the lungs and other organs causing a number of serious problems. Regrettably, some cases are fatal and all cases are serious.

Heartworm disease occurs in almost every part of the U.S. , including New Mexico . Fortunately, the disease is almost completely preventable. Preventive treatment is safe, effective, and much less expensive than attempting to treat an already infected pet.

A blood test is the simplest way to check for the disease, since most animals only show symptoms after the disease is quite advanced. The disease appears quite differently in dogs than in cats, but in general, the longer the disease is present, the more damage has occurred.

Prevention is easy. Dogs less than 6 months of age may be safely started on the preventive medication. Dogs 6 months of age or older should have a simple blood test to ensure that they are not currently infected (and in need of treatment), after which they may begin the preventive medication.

There are a number of preventive medicines available. We recommend Interceptor in our practice due to its high level of safety and efficacy. The important thing is to ensure that your dog is on a sound preventive program. You may only rarely notice the mosquitoes in your area, but they are around. Remember, it only takes one mosquito to infect your pet with a life threatening (but entirely preventable) disease.

Please call us this week for an appointment to start your pet on a heartworm preventive program. It's simple, affordable, and it may save your dog's life.

Creepy Crawlies

With the advent of warm weather it pays us all to be aware of the crawling creatures that can infest our pets.  Fleas, ticks, and other “bugs” can colonize pets and, in some cases, infest the people who live with those pets.  Aside from making your dog or cat miserable, these pests can carry diseases to both people and pets.  Let’s spend a minute looking at the common bugs that can bring such trouble to our pets and to us.

Ticks
Ticks are actually arachnids, and are closer kin to spiders than insects.  These small parasites are blood suckers and can carry a variety of diseases from Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever to Lyme Disease to Ehrlichiosis.  There are several different species that inhabit the Albuquerque area, and all pose a threat to your pet. Ticks tend to be found in areas of tall vegetation where they wait for an animal to pass by and then hitch a ride and a meal (blood).  Keeping tall vegetation trimmed back and protecting your pets from running through such areas will lessen your pet’s exposure.  However, these are just the areas that dogs and cats love to investigate.  It’s part of their hunting instinct.

Fortunately, there are effective tick preventatives available.  The secret is to prevent tick attachment in the first place, and secondly, to kill or remove them as soon as possible if they do attach.   Please speak with our staff concerning selection and proper use of these products.  They are quite safe when used properly, and we will be happy to assist you in tick prevention.

Fleas
Fleas are true insects that parasitize a number of different animals (and people).  As with ticks there are a number of different species of fleas in our area.  While there are few cat and dog fleas in the Albuquerque region, there are many rodent and bird fleas.  While these insects prefer rodents or birds, they will feed on other animals and people.  The rodent fleas are notable because they can be carriers of plague, a serious and sometimes fatal bacterial disease.  Bird fleas are also important because of the intense irritation (and secondary effects) they cause.
Others:  There are a number of other “bugs” in our beautiful desert landscape that can cause trouble for your pets.  Certain flies can infect your dog’s skin, causing a raised, inflamed draining lesion with a larval grub inside.  Maggots from common flies often infest long haired dog’s skin, especially when there have been wounds or irritations under the skin.  Maggot infestations can even be fatal.

Mosquitoes
Finally, don’t forget mosquitoes.  Mosquitoes are the carriers of heartworm disease (yes, it does occur here in Albuquerque.) as well as a number of other infections (e.g. West Nile Virus).

Again, as with ticks, we have a number of safe and effective preventive and repellent treatments available for both dogs and cats.  Please come see our friendly staff, any of whom will be happy to assist you.

Why Good Oral Health is Just as Important if Not More so than Good Grooming

Many pet owners take their dogs and cats to the groomer every few weeks in an effort to keep their pet’s coats nice and clean, yet most overlook and neglect the importance of good oral health. When we ignore our pets’ oral health and it is unnoticed for weeks, months, even years; severe dental disease becomes apparent.

Periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition occurring in adult dogs and cats and is entirely preventable. By three years of age most dogs and cats have evidence of gingivitis and some periodontal disease. Signs of dental disease include but are not limited to; bad breath, loose teeth, or teeth that are discolored or covered in tarter, drooling or dropping food when eating, bleeding gums, loss of appetite, and weight loss.

If left untreated or undertreated dental disease may cause multiple problems in the oral cavity and may be associated with damage to internal organs. As plaque and calculus spread under the gum line the bacteria that accompanies it sets in motion a cycle of damage to the supportive tissues around the tooth which eventually leads to the loss of the tooth. The toxic nature of the bacteria contributes to bone loss around the tooth, possible development of a fistula (hole) from the oral cavity into the nasal passage causing nasal discharge which can eventually lead to fractures of the jaw due to weakening of the bone from infection.

Professional dental cleaning is often recommended when periodontal disease is present. Every professional dental cleaning starts with a review of the patient’s general health and a review of the pet’s dental history. Anesthesia is essential for a thorough and safe dental cleaning in veterinary patients. This allows a comprehensive assessment of the tissues, allows dental radiographs (x-rays) to be taken when indicated, and is followed by a cleaning (scaling and polishing) of the teeth. Dental radiographs are one the most important diagnostic tools available to veterinarians. They allow for a view of the internal anatomy of the teeth, the roots, and the bone that surrounds the roots to be examined.
Upon completion of cleaning, the pet owner will be provided with recommendations for daily home oral hygiene specific to his/her pet.

Most pets with painful dental disease do not show clinical signs that are obvious to the owner. This does not mean they are not feeling pain. At every visit to our office we will check your pet’s mouth to rule out any concerns. Some dental treatment and oral surgery procedures such as extractions or deep scaling of the teeth may cause some pain. Steps to minimize any discomfort include the use of anesthesia and local anesthetic blocks (pain injections) during the procedure and post-operative medications when indicated.

Fear of general anesthesia is a natural concern by many owners. However, the risk of chronic oral infection is far greater than the risk of complications from anesthesia. No one can guarantee the outcome of anesthesia, but veterinarians are specifically trained to handle any complications should they arise. They are able to provide a safe and stable environment while minimizing any pain from the procedure.

Think of your annual grooming expenses, the average person takes their pet in every 6-8 weeks and pays anywhere from $40.00 to $60.00. This can add upwards of $400 every year. Dental cleanings start at $210.00 plus tax! That’s on the lower end of average. So next time you take your pet to the groomers, consider their dental health and talk with our veterinary team. We can help to ensure that in addition to pearly whites and a clean soft coat that your pet can continue to provide love and fun for many years to come.

Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes mellitus is a common affliction of both older dogs and cats.  Diabetes is a disease in which the body fails to make insulin or can no longer recognize insulin.  Insulin is needed by cells in order to use glucose; without glucose, the cells of the body can not function properly.  Diabetes can be seen in any breed or gender but is typically more prevalent in female dogs and male cats.  Diabetes is also more typical in poodles, dachshunds, miniature schnauzers and Siamese cats.  Diabetes is generally broken into three classifications: Type 1, which requires daily insulin shots; Type II, which is non-insulin dependent and may be managed by diet and oral hypoglycemic agents, and; Type III, impaired glucose tolerance.  100% of dogs and approximately 50-75% of cats have Type I diabetes.  25-50% of cats have Type II.

Typical signs of diabetes include an increase in drinking and urination, increased appetite, obesity with recent weight loss, and rapid onset cataracts in dogs.  Treatment of diabetes usually focuses on weight loss using a prescription diet recommended by your veterinarian, and daily insulin shots.  Usually insulin is given twice daily with meals; however, some pets may only need once daily injections.  How much insulin and how often it is given is decided by frequent monitoring via several methods: glucose curves done at your veterinarian’s office, at home monitoring of blood glucose or urine glucose and watching for clinical signs of diabetes by owners, especially increases in water consumption.  Insulin should be kept in the refrigerator and rolled, not shaken, prior to injections.  It is very important when giving insulin that owners are sure their pet has eaten.  Giving insulin on an empty stomach can lead to serious consequences such as hypoglycemia, seizures, coma or even death.  If you are worried that your pet is exhibiting signs consistent with too much insulin, rub karo syrup on the gums and seek veterinary assistance immediately. 

Complications of diabetes include recurrent infections, cataracts in dogs, liver disease in cats, neuropathies in cats, and renal disease.  Lack of treatment of diabetes can lead to a condition known as Diabetic Ketoacidosis.  This is a very serious and potentially life threatening situation in which the body starts to break down fat cells due to a lack of insulin.  Typical signs of ketoacidosis include vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, lethargy, dehydration and weakness.  Without medical intervention, this is often a fatal condition.

Diabetes in pets, as in people, is a very serious medical condition, which usually requires life long treatment.  Occasionally cats can develop diabetic remission in which they no longer require treatment for diabetes.  As with all diseases, it is important to work closely with your veterinarian to ensure a long and happy life for your pet. 

Winter Woes

Where has the time gone? Another year is coming to a close with the holidays just around the corner and the weather is turning colder. We are another year older and so are our pets. As dogs and cats age the stress of the holidays and the winter weather can be less tolerable. Most older cats and dogs will have some degree of arthritis and degeneration of joints during their lives. You may start to notice your pet lags behind on walks or seems slow getting up. Often cats will no longer jump up on furniture or window sills. Some of these changes may be less noticeable during the warmer months of the year but become more obvious during the winter. We can help your pet to be more comfortable as they age! Weight is the number one determining factor on how severe or how quickly degeneration of joints occurs. Ask your veterinarian to determine your pets body condition score and if they are overweight, discuss an appropriate diet and weight loss plan.

There are several treatment options for senior dogs with arthritis. The use of anti- inflammatories and pain medications can ease their pain and give them a better quality of life. Supplements such as glucosamine chondrotin and omega fatty acids can help nourish the joints and decrease inflammation. Adequan, a Polysulfated Glycosaminoglycan, can help prevent cartilage in the joints from wearing away. Keeping the cartilage intact prevents the bones from touching other bones. This is given with an intramuscular injection twice weekly for 4 weeks then once monthly or as needed. Physical therapy can keep muscle tone to give the joint support. If you feel your older dog or cat is sluggish, low activity or having behavior changes, its time to have your pet examined by a veterinarian.

With any senior pet it is recommended to have routine blood work preformed yearly. Blood work can help us catch kidney disease, diabetes, liver disease and thyroid disease before the animal is showing signs of these diseases. Early diagnosis of chronic diseases can help slow there progression. We also recommend routine blood work before placing a pet on certain medications and every 6-12 months once they are on a medication.

During the holidays we tend to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life and its ease to miss those subtle signs of stress or pain in our pets. Lets give them a good holiday too!!