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Cancer

Cancer

Cancer, by definition, is the uncontrolled growth of cells. Any type of cells in the body can become cancerous. Once these cells grow out of control, they take over areas previously occupied by normal cells; sometimes these tumor cells break off and travel to other areas of the body. Wherever these cells lodge they can start new tumors. This process continues until there is not enough normal tissue remaining to sustain normal bodily functions. There are a number of factors that influence how fast a cancer may grow or spread: type of cancer cell, location, genetics, as well as any concurrent illness or debilitating condition the patient may have.

While there are many research studies devoted to determining the causes of cancer, a lot about this disease is still unknown. It is evident that factors like genetics; exposure to harmful substances, injury, and advanced age can predispose certain patients to this disease.

Regular physical examinations and thorough medical history review are often key components to detecting cancer. Samples of any abnormal tissue should be evaluated by a pathologist to determine the type of tumor and degree of aggressiveness of the disease. A pathologist’s report, along with other imaging such as X-rays, ultrasound, and lab work help establish the patient’s health status and determine the optimal treatment plan.

There are many different type of cancer treatment: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or any combination of these treatments. The important thing is to destroy the abnormal cells without damaging the normal cells. Veterinary oncologists, veterinarians that specialize in the study and treatment of cancer, can be consulted to help determine what treatment would be best for the patient.

Cancer is not always a terminal disease. Early detection and appropriate treatments are important in achieving the best outcome. New advancements in diagnostics and more effective treatments are being discovered all the time.

Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes Mellitus (DM) is a life long disorder of dogs and cats that results when the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin to meet the animal’s needs. Insulin is a hormone needed to transport glucose (blood sugar) into the body’s cells. When there is a lack of insulin in the body, blood glucose rises to abnormally high levels. Over time, this causes damage to body tissues and produces the symptoms commonly seen in animals with DM.

Early symptoms, such as weakness, weight loss, change in appetite and depression can be mild and may go unnoticed by the owner. Increased thirst and frequent urination more commonly results in a visit to your Veterinarian where tests can be done to identify what may be affecting the family pet. Urinary tract infections are more common in diabetic pets than in normal animals.

Once a diagnosis has been made, a treatment plan will be designed to meet the individual needs of your pet and you. The plan will address the type and amount of insulin, how it is to be administered, dietary restrictions and exercise for your pet. Dogs are Type I diabetics in that they require insulin injections. Cats are usually Type II diabetics. Insulin injections are usually used initially, but when fed a special diet, as much as 70% of cats can eventually be maintained without the insulin.

There is no cure for DM, but through your commitment of time and management of their life style, your pet can lead a happy comfortable life.

Obesity

Obesity

Excess weight is a serious health problem for dogs and cats and is common in many countries. The two main causes of obesity are too much food and too little exercise. Other contributing factors can be due to hormonal influences, certain genetic factors, and other disease processes.

If you pet is carrying extra weight, it can:

  1. Increase the risk of heart disease by forcing the heart to work harder.
  2. Increase the risk of arthritis as extra weight can stress the joints, cause joint pain, and make it harder for your pet to move around comfortably.
  3. Obesity can cause breathing problems, skin and hair coat problems.
  4. Especially in cats, obesity frequently leads to diabetes.

All of these problems can make your pet uncomfortable and limit the way they interact with you and other family members.

Treatment is to rule out and treat any medical causes, such as hypothyroidism. Reducing caloric intake and increasing exercise can help your pet successfully lose weight. Lifestyle changes and a weight loss program are essential. Your veterinarian can help determine if your pet is too heavy and provide guidelines for achieving their ideal weight. Slentrol is an oral weight loss drug for obese dogs that are not able to lose weight by other means.

Vertigo or Old Dog Vestibular Syndrome

Vertigo or Old Dog Vestibular Syndrome

Vertigo is a syndrome in the elderly dog, which can be very frightening to the owners. The dog is suddenly afflicted with a balance problem, usually staggering, but occasionally unable to stand, and more rarely actually rolling over and over. There is a tilting of the head to one side and nystagmus, a rhythmic flicking movement of the eyes. Nausea and vomiting may also in present. It is not due to a stroke, as most people assume. It is thought to be due to an abnormal flow of fluid in the semi-circular canals of the inner ear. It is more common in older medium to large breeds of dogs. It is rarely seen in cats. Although the symptoms are alarming and often incapacitating to the dog, the prognosis is good. Improvement of clinical signs usually starts within 48-72 hours and most patients are normal within two to three weeks, even with no treatment. A mild head tilt may persist. Veterinarians should be consulted as the symptoms can also be caused by ear infections, foreign bodies in the ear, or tumors. The vestibular system may need treatment, with motion sickness drugs, or intravenous fluids if the nausea is severe or the dog is unable to eat or drink for a few days.

Epilepsy

Epilepsy

Epilepsy (often referred to as a seizure disorder) is a chronic neurological condition characterized by recurrent unprovoked seizures. It is commonly controlled with medication, although surgical methods are used as well. Epileptic seizures are classified both by their patterns of activity in the brain and their effects on behavior.

In terms of their pattern of activity, seizures may be described as either partial or generalized. Partial seizures only involve a localized part of the brain, whereas generalized seizures involve the entire cortex. The term ‘secondary generalization’ may be used to describe a partial seizure that later spreads to the whole of the cortex and becomes generalized. All the causes of epilepsy are not known, but many predisposing factors have been identified, including brain damage resulting from malformations of brain development, head trauma, neurosurgical operations, other penetrating wounds of the brain, brain tumor, high fever, bacterial or viral encephalitis, stroke, intoxication, or acute or inborn disturbances of metabolism. Hereditary or genetic factors also play a role.

Liver Shunt

Liver Shunt

A liver shunt is also named a PSS, portosystemic shunt, portacaval shunt or portosystemic vascular anomaly. This abnormality occurs when a pet’s venous blood from the intestine bypasses the liver. In the normal pet, blood vessels pick up nutrients from ingested material in the intestine and carry it to the liver to be processed. In the case of a shunt, an abnormal blood vessel carries this blood around the liver and dumps the nutrients directly into the general circulation. Toxins build up in the bloodstream as a result. The pet can be born with the shunt (congenital) or can develop it later (acquired).

Breeds at increased risk for congenital shunts include Cairn Terriers, Yorkshire Terriers, Maltese, Irish Wolfhounds, Himalayans and Persians. An acquired shunt can develop in any breed and is usually caused by liver problems due to toxins, hepatitis, infections, inflammation, etc.

Symptoms of a liver shunt include stunted growth, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, unresponsiveness, seizures, disorientation, poor skin and coat, excessive drinking and urination. Some pets will have a single sign and some with have several.

The diagnosis is made with blood tests, urinalysis and imaging tests (radiographs and/or ultrasounds). A liver function test called bile acids is usually very suggestive for a liver shunt when the values are very high. Another diagnostic test that can be performed is nuclear scintigraphy, which must be done at a referral specialty facility. Yet another possible diagnostic test that can be performed is a CT scan.

The treatment and how well the pet responds are dependent on many things including the location and severity of the shunt. Some pets will do well for long periods of time with medical management only. Medical management includes a low protein diet, antibiotics and lactulose. Surgical repair is commonly done for congenital shunts and again the success is dependent on the location and severity of the shunt.