Saturday, May 20, 2017

Top Veterinary Articles of the Week: Vitamin E, Degenerative Myelopathy, and more ...

Is Vitamin E Good for Dogs?

Dr. Patrick Mahaney

The simple answer is yes.

I do supplement Cookie's diet with vitamin E in the form of wheat germ oil, and I use it topically on some wounds. As a dietary supplement, I prefer using a whole food supplement. For topical application, I don't mind whatever capsules we find in a grocery store. I wrote an article elaborating on the upside of using whole food supplements. There is a specific section about vitamin E in the article.

Good food sources of vitamin E are oils, nuts, organ meats, eggs, blackberries and green leafy vegetables.

Vitamin E is known for its function as an antioxidant. But the benefits go beyond that. Among other things, it also promotes tissue repair, hence also the topical use.

Vitamin E also has a symbiotic relationship with omega-3 fatty acids, in other words, if you're supplementing fish oil, you might look into providing a source of vitamin E as well.

Of course, all is best in moderation and determined based on your dog's individual needs and health status.

Degenerative Myelopathy – A Progressive Spinal Cord Disease in Dogs

Dr. Christopher Byers/CriticalCareDVM

My friend, PT Sue, wrote two great articles about degenerative myelopathy from the point of view of physical therapy; I recommend you check them out.

The Challenge of Degenerative Myelopathy (DM): Knowledge Is Power
Degenerative Myelopathy (DM): Top 10 Management Suggestions

In his article, Dr. Byers provides a comprehensive overview what this disease is and what it means for your dog.

Simplified to the extreme, what happens that a protective covering that covers the nerve fibers in the spine gets damaged, which results in dysfunction of the nerves themselves. The condition is degenerative and progressive, meaning it only gets worse, eventually resulting in paralysis. Surprisingly, though, you would expect this to be painful, but it is not. Not in itself. However, compensation can lead to pain in other areas of the body.

Read Dr. Byers' explanation of the disease and insights on what to expect and what to do.

Can Dogs Have Amoxicillin?

Dr. Patrick Mahaney

There are many medications used for dogs that are the same as in human medicine. A lot. The number of medications designed specifically for veterinary use is relatively small.

Antibiotics, which is what Amoxicillin is, are the same no matter who they are used for. That's why it can be appropriate to ask your veterinarian to write a script for your local pharmacy, where you can often get it cheaper. We often got antibiotics for our dogs prescribed to a local pharmacy. Jasmine did get amoxicillin a few times.

However, I would never use antibiotics without a correct prescription from a vet. The type, dosage, and duration are important. And if you find yourself tempted to give your left-over antibiotics to your dog, how the heck do you have left-over antibiotics in the first place? Eat your antibiotics yourself and get a prescription from your veterinarian if appropriate for your dog.

Can You Help Science Help Itchy Dogs?

Dr. Anne Fawcett/Small Animal Talk

Itchy dogs. Is it just me or does every other dog have problems with allergies and other skin-related ailments? It is by far the most common topic people bring up in my Dog Health Issues group.

The University of Nottingham has launched The Itchy Dog Project, and you can help.

Dog lovers who own Golden Retrievers and Labradors are being invited to take part in new research into canine atopic dermatitis — otherwise known as skin allergy. 

The Itchy Dog Project is being launched at this year’s Crufts Dog Show by veterinary researchers at The University of Nottingham’s Vet School. The team is looking for dog owners to take part in the study which can all be done online. 

The aim of the project is to investigate the potential genetic and environmental causes of canine atopic dermatitis and to develop a strategy to reduce the number of dogs affected by the disease. The researchers are asking owners to register online to take part, even if their dog does not have an itching problem. 

You can register to take part of this important research here.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Dog Medical Emergencies Survey: Is an Unresponsive Dog an Emergency?

87.88% survey participants checked an unresponsive dog as an emergency.

I suppose I should leave some room for people interpreting unresponsive as disobedient? Otherwise, I cannot understand how this one didn't get 100% people agreeing on it being an emergency.

If a dog so unwell that they are not responding isn't an emergency, what is?

If a dog is ill enough to be unresponsive, it is absolutely a huge emergency. I still remember our neighbor's dog like it was yesterday. I went to do something in the kitchen when I noticed neighbor's dog laying on the front lawn, being hosed down. He was unaware of his surroundings. his erratic breathing resembling some kind of spasms.

I came out to see what happened to be told that he collapsed on a walk. They believed he was suffering from the heat; that's why they were hosing him down. I wouldn't dare to make an assessment what was wrong with him, but I knew he needed a vet immediately whatever it was.

At my insistence, they wrapped him in wet towels and drove off to an emergency hospital where he died shortly after arrival from a heart failure.

You can read Rufus' story here.

If your dog is unresponsive, their body is in big trouble.

Some of the potential causes include:

  • severe advanced infection
  • heart failure
  • liver or kidney failure
  • severe neurological problem
  • trauma
  • poisoning
  • diabetes
  • hypoglycemia
  • shock
  • coma

Even on the day of her worst horror, Jasmine was still responsive. Even though she couldn't stand up or walk, was feeling terribly miserable, her spirit and mind were fully there. The only time Roxy was unresponsive was during her seizures.

Do you think that an unresponsive dog is not an emergency?

Further reading:
Overview of Coma, Stupor & Decreased Consciousness in Dogs

Related articles:
Dog Medical Emergencies Survey
Dog Medical Emergencies Survey Results
Is Unproductive Retching an Emergency?
Is Difficulty Breathing an Emergency?
Is Panting an Emergency?
Is Severe Pain an Emergency?
Is Limping an Emergency?
Is Vomiting Bile in the Morning an Emergency?
Is Profuse Vomiting an Emergency?
Are Convulsions or Seizures an Emergency?
Is Loss of Appetite an Emergency?
Is Reduced Activity an Emergency?
Is Severe Lethargy an Emergency?
Is Inability to Stand an Emergency?
Is Inability to Urinate an Emergency?
Are Cuts and Abrasions an Emergency?
Is Bleeding an Emergency?
Is Blood in Vomit an Emergency?
Is Fresh Blood in Stool an Emergency?
Is Black, Tarry Stool an Emergency?
Are Pale Gums an Emergency?

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog now available in paperback and Kindle. Each chapter includes notes on when it is an emergency.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Winnie's Vitiligo

by Krista Magnifico, DVM

I met Winnie when she came to the clinic with vomiting and diarrhea after eating a rug 3 days before. (BAD! BAD Winnie!). On presentation, she looked very normal. Her physical exam also revealed no abnormalities in the GI tract, but her face!.

Her face was not only a terrific blog topic, but it was something her dad and I talked about for almost a half an hour.

Winnie is a 2 yr ear old Chocolate Lab who started out looking like every other Chocolate Lab. Brown from stem to spots, no color changes, no interruptions. She was one solid Hershey's brush stroke from nose to the tip of her tail.

Until one day about a year ago when a little pink spot on the left side of her brown nose appeared. 

For us, aging women, her liver spot was a bleached blemish. Her dad brought her in to see if there "might be some kind of skin disease occurring?"

The barely visible, not quite taking a stand, not really bothering anything lesions leave a general veterinarian with a finger on temple wondering with a puzzling pursed look pining over. I promise these are the lesions I lose sleep over.

I call them the "toss of the coin" lesions. 

(As a matter of personal pride I do not toss the coin in front of my clients..but I do sometimes admit to wanting to).

Such was the case with Winnie. That little pink smudge on the left half of her nose was odd. It wasn't raised, irregular, or bothering her. It sort of just looked like a pink paint smudge.

BUT, there are diseases that can cause the skin to change. 

And some of these are really bad diseases, like cancer, or immune-mediated diseases.

The immune-mediated diseases have to be beaten into submission with high doses of steroids, that if needed long enough will kill you! And, gosh, we hate to talk to parents of a one-year-old about cancer or disfiguring life stealing diseases. No one wants to be an alarmist, but we also don't want to ignore something that we might be able to treat to cure now, versus wait and try to treat (possibly too late to do so) later. Oh, the nail biting!

And there sat Winnie, smiling, wagging, and splotched. 

She thought that she was just fine. So, why would we argue with her? A  patient always tells you the most important pieces of the diagnosis. If the patient is down and out depressed, and not looking like they want to put any effort forth to struggle with your poking and prodding, something is WRONG!

But, if like Winnie they think everything is just honkey-dory then listen. A casual neglectful approach is sometimes the right decision. For Winnie, it was the correct diagnosis.

Vitiligo is a disorder that causes a lack of pigment due to the disappearance of the epidermal and/or follicular melanocytes. 

No one really knows why. It could be immune-mediated, it could be triggered by some unknown cause, it has a genetic link, but no identifiable etiology. It sort of slowly creeps up and then creeps along the skin erasing the color that used to be there. It affects about 1-4% of humans thereby making it an important area of study for dermatologists. Loss of pigment leaves skin more susceptible to sun damage which can increase the chance of skin cancer.

In dogs, it is usually seen around the face but can affect the whole body. 

It is characterized by loss of pigment in the skin causing the resulting hair in that area to grow out white.

Some dogs lose the hair, and when regrown it is white. There are no corresponding skin lesions. Dogs with skin infections, or trauma to the skin can lose hair, and it may grow back a different color, or not at all. But such dogs tend to lick, itch, traumatize the skin or have crusting, flaking skin, or pustules that resemble pimples or fluid filled bumps. Such dogs should be seen by a veterinarian and have a work-up to identify the source of the skin problem and receive an appropriate treatment plan to address the underlying cause and any subsequent secondary skin infection, etc.

Diagnostics for skin lesions can include blood work, skin scrapes, cytology, impression smears, cultures, and biopsy. 

If there is no lesion with loss of pigment of the skin, resultant white hair,  then the diagnosis is vitiligo.

There is no treatment for vitiligo. 

This is a cosmetic condition and will not affect Winnie in any way. She does need to be careful not to burn her skin, especially the non-haired areas like her nose and eyelids. There is a much higher incidence of skin cancer in white dogs and cats.


If you have a pet in need, you can find a community of helpful people at Pawbly is free to use and open to anyone who loves their pet and wants to help them.

I am also available for personal consults at Jarrettsville Veterinary Center in Jarrettsville Maryland. Or find me on YouTube or Twitter @FreePetAdvice.

Articles by Dr. Magnifico:
Don't Make This Mistake: Ruby's Death To Heat Stroke 
Parvo: Cora's Story 
Jake's Laryngeal Paralysis
The Tip Of The Iceberg: The Unexpected Dental Dilemma
The Ear Ache That Wasn't Going Away: Tootsie's Story
Cody's Eyelid Tumor
Ruger's Mysterious Illness
The Day The Heart Stood Still: Timber's Story 
Different Definition Of Comfort Food: Levi's Story 
Savannah's Pancreatitis  
Histiocytoma: Rio's Mysterious Bump
Von Willebrand's Disease: Greta's Story 
Alice's Heart Murmur  
Jekyll Loses His Tail Mo-Jo 
Pale Gums Are An Emergency: Bailey's Story 
To Amputate Or Not To Amputate: Heidi's Story
Lessons From A Real-Life Veterinarian 
Charlie's Life-Saving Lipoma Surgery  
Understanding and Diagnosing The Limping Dog, Why To Probe The Paw 
Angus' Dog Fight And The Consequences
When To Induce Vomiting And When It's Not A Good Idea  
Abby's Survived Being Run Over By Car But Succumbed To A Mammary Tumor 
Palmer's Hemoabdomen: Nearly An Unnecessary Death Sentence
A Puppy That Doesn't Want To Eat Or Play Is An Emergency: Aurora's Story
Does Your Dog Like Chewing Sticks? Hank's Story  
Lexi's Bump 
Pyometra: Happy Ending for Pheonix 
Never Give Up: Bella's New Legs 
How Losing His Spleen Saved Buddy's Life 
Pyometra Emergency: Saving Chloe  
Limping Dog Checklist (part I): Did You Check the Toenails?
Limping Dog Checklist (part II): Did You Check between the Toes?
Limping Dog Checklist (part III): Foot Pads
Limping Dog Checklist (part IV): Broken Bones  
Limping Dog Checklist (part V): Joint Injuries
IVDD: Recovery, Post-Op Problems And How To Conquer Them All
Has Your Vet Given Up On Your Pet? Or You? Would You Even Recognize It If They Had?
Cervical Disc Disease: Hank's Story of Hope
Retained Testicles: Diesel's Story
Ear Tip Bleeds: Domino's Story
Leroy's Battle with Cancer

Monday, May 15, 2017

Adoption Monday: Ricky, Yellow Labrador Retriever Mix, Toronto, ON

Ricky is a very loving boy who is good with dogs, cats and children.

Ricky presently resides with the resident male shepherd mix and they get along fabulously. Ricky is up to date on vaccines, neutered and will be microchipped prior to going to his forever home.

Ricky is non-destructive and is easy to please. Being a senior, he would be happy just to be by your side for lots of love and cuddles.

Ricky would be happy having a nice fenced in backyard where he can lay back and soak up the sunshine. Ricky will require a special food, chicken and poultry do not agree with him but he seems to be thriving on his salmon-based, grain-free kibble.


ANML-RESQ is a dedicated group of volunteers looking out for the 4-legged creatures we share this world with. Their goal is to save a dog or cat from being euthanized in a shelter, through no fault of their own - just in the wrong place at the wrong time. If they don't have a foster home available they will work with other reputable organizations to find a place.

ANML-RESQ relies solely on donations and fundraisers to spay/neuter, vaccinate and microchip their pets prior to adoption.  They don't even use funds for gas to transport the pets in their program to their new homes!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Top Veterinary Articles of the Week: Diabetes, Histoplasmosis, and more ...

Diabetes in Dogs: Type 1 vs. Type 2

Dr. Hanie Elfenbein/petMD

Photo Pixabay
"Diabetes in dogs is not a death sentence. It takes dedication, but your dog can still live a long, happy life." ~Dr. Hanie Elfenbein

I think we all have a decent idea what diabetes is. It is a disease that results in an inability to regulate blood sugar levels and getting the glucose where it ought to be (for storage or to the cells).

There are two types of diabetes. Type I in which the dog's pancreas is unable to produce sufficient amounts of insulin. Insulin is the hormone that takes care of moving glucose out of blood wherever it ought to go.  With type II, insulin is being produced, but the cells ignore its attempts to do its job. The result is the same. The blood is full of glucose that shouldn't be there, and the cells are starving for energy. Bad things happen.

Dogs typically get type I diabetes but rarely can suffer from type II as well, particularly secondary to some diseases or medications. Type II diabetes can often be reversed through diet and exercise. Type I requires insulin supplementation.

Do note that a dog can also develop type I diabetes after a severe bout of pancreatitis if enough of the pancreas gets damaged.

To learn more about diabetes, its symptoms and treatment and options, check out Dr. Hanie's article.

Related articles:
Medical Jargon Explained: Hypo- versus Hyperglycemia

Histoplasmosis in Dogs & Cats – A Funky Fungal Infection

Dr. Christopher Byers/CriticalCareDVM

Bacterial infections can be sometimes scary and dangerous. But viral or fungal infections scare me more. If I were to choose which I consider worse, I don't know if I could pick between the two.

Histoplasma, like any other fungi, prefers warm, moist and humid conditions. Dogs can get infected from contaminated soil.

The problem with histoplasmosis is that the symptoms are non-specific and can look like any other disease. Symptoms include lethargy and depression, weight loss, loss of appetite, diarrhea, coughing and difficulty breathing, jaundice and eye problems. You might be inclined to rush to a vet with some of these symptoms, but some can often be dismissed as nothing serious.

Histoplasmosis requires a lenghty, aggressive treatment. I hope none of my dogs and none of your dogs ever gets this infection. But I always believe that any symptoms, particularly if severe or ongoing, need thorough investigation. Never underestimate what your dog's symptoms might signal.

Vestibular Disease in a Canine

Dr. Krista Magnifico

Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?

Dr. Jean Dodds

This is one of the questions which seems to be right up there with "what came first, the chicken or the egg?" There are many theories but very little consensus.

I think that one of the reasons for that is that dogs might eat grass for more than one reason. I know that my own dogs would eat grass for at least two of them. Yes, they eat grass when their stomach is upset. But they also sometimes seem to eat grass simply for the enjoyment of it. Only rarely grass-eating is followed by vomiting in my dogs.

Dr. Dodds' article talks about a few studies that were trying to get to the bottom of this. One of the interesting findings was that type of diet or fiber content have no impact on this behavior. Beyond that, we seem to remain at hypotheses.

It is an interesting article, though, I recommend you read.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Dog Medical Emergencies Survey: Are Pale Gums an Emergency?

69.70% survey participants checked pale gums as an emergency.

Now, yes, different breeds have differently colored gums. My guys' gums are very dark, mostly black. Other breeds have gums that are straight pink. Somehow I hope that those who didn't check pale gums as an emergency were thinking something along these lines.

Yes, it is important to be familiar what your dog's normal gum color is. 

Pale gums, then are gums that are lighter than they normally would be. Gums that are any other than normal color signal a serious problem.

Bright or dark red gums can indicate heat stroke, fever, severe infection, poisoning, smoke inhalation, or abnormal levels of red blood cells, which can be caused by dehydration, chronically low blood oxygen levels or bone marrow disease.

Blue or purple gums indicate a lack of oxygen, which can be caused by heart failure, poisonings, or respiratory problems.

Yellow or orange gums (i.e., jaundice) are typically associated with liver disease/jaundice or red blood cell disorders.

When I see pale gums, the first thing I'm thinking is anemia.

Anemia means an insufficient amount of red blood cells. Insufficient amount of red blood cells means not enough oxygen for the cells and organs.

"You know how they say that all you need is love? Oxygen is pretty important too." ~House MD

Low enough supply of oxygen = game over. Without oxygen, cells start the die. The brain is most vulnerable to lack of oxygen.

While the urgency might depend on how pale the gums are, how long would you want to wait?

How pale do the gums need to get before you'd notice? How lethargic and sick-looking would your dog have to look before you'd even look at the gums? What are the chances things would improve on their own? 

What can cause anemia?

Anemia can be caused by:

  • loss of red blood cells such as from trauma, clotting disorders, tumors or heavy parasite infestation ...
  • destruction of red blood cells such as with autoimmune disease, poisoning, certain infections or cancer ...
  • insufficient red blood cell production such as from severe chronic kidney or liver disease, autoimmune disease, cancer ...

Pale gums can also be a sign of shock.

Checking gum color is one of the first things I do when my dog looks ill or lethargic as one of the measures of urgency.

If I found pale gums on my dog, I am on my way to a veterinarian.

I also invite you to read Bailey's story.

Related articles:
Dog Medical Emergencies Survey
Dog Medical Emergencies Survey Results
Is Unproductive Retching an Emergency?
Is Difficulty Breathing an Emergency?
Is Panting an Emergency?
Is Severe Pain an Emergency?
Is Limping an Emergency?
Is Vomiting Bile in the Morning an Emergency?
Is Profuse Vomiting an Emergency?
Are Convulsions or Seizures an Emergency?
Is Loss of Appetite an Emergency?
Is Reduced Activity an Emergency?
Is Severe Lethargy an Emergency?
Is Inability to Stand an Emergency?
Is Inability to Urinate an Emergency?
Are Cuts and Abrasions an Emergency?
Is Bleeding an Emergency?
Is Blood in Vomit an Emergency?
Is Fresh Blood in Stool an Emergency?
Is Black, Tarry Stool an Emergency?

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog now available in paperback and Kindle. Each chapter includes notes on when it is an emergency.