April showers bring May flowers, and what do May flowers bring? Itchy dogs and cats. With the re-emergence of spring, the flowers and trees are in full bloom. While we are all enjoying this welcomed weather, the pollen count is through the roof. That means if your pet suffers from atopic dermatitis (aka – seasonal allergies), your pet is probably itchy. Animals show their allergies differently from their human families. While human allergy sufferers experience itchy eyes, runny noses, and scratchy throats, our pets show their allergies through their skin. That means they itch, their ears get infected, they get skin infections, and they lick and chew.
Luckily, we now have an arsenal of tools to help our pets. Topical products can help control secondary skin and ear infections. That can take the form of shampoos, ear drops, and wipes. We can test your pet to see what specific things they are allergic to. We can then order allergy shots or oral allergy drops to help desensitize them (just like people get allergy shots). There are a variety of oral medications to help control the itch as well. Steroids are very effective, but carry a host of side effects, especially if used for the long term. Anti-histamines can help with mild cases. There is a combination product of a small amount of steroids and antihistamine to combine the best of both worlds. Cyclosporine can help to decrease the immune response in both cats and dogs. Elimination diets are available for dogs and cats with food allergies.
A newer product on the market has given relief to those dogs for who nothing else has worked. Apoquel is a cytokine inhibitor, that works on the JAK1 receptor. This does not allow the allergy cascade to start at the cellular level. It is appropriate for dogs over one year of age, and has a good safety record.
Whatever your pet’s allergy issues, our veterinarians can work with you to find the best solution for your pet.
Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.
Recently a client wrote in asking about feeding human food to dogs. I thought I would take the opportunity to address that, as well as some other nutritional questions we often get. Animal nutrition has come a long way since the days when cats foraged for themselves, horses got fed straight oats, and dogs got what was left over from the plates. When little was understood about animal nutrition, many of our companion animals suffered from a variety of nutritional disorders and diseases. Luckily, I have not had to witness first hand those problems, but they are lurking right around the corner if our pets do not get what they need in the right amounts and ratios. A lot of research, time, and effort from the big companies goes in to making sure the formulas in dog and cat food meet all their nutritional needs. The FDA regulates pet food, and many companies follow the guidelines by AAFCO. If the product is a prescription diet specifically designed to treat a certain disease, even stricter guidelines apply. The manufacturer of the food does matter, as a recent study found that over 50% of the foods found in a pet store have cross contamination of ingredients, and some of the food did not even contain the ingredients listed on the bags (one large, nationally advertised company just lost a major lawsuit in federal court over such an issue). Claims that grains are bad for your pet may apply to some animals with allergies, but is not an across the board recommendation. Adding large amounts of human food on top of the dog food (known as “top dressing”) can throw off the balance of the nutrients in the kibble. Cats also have different nutritional requirements than dogs do, thanks to their unique metabolism.
With recent recalls, some people have resorted to cooking homemade diets for their pets. This can be challenging to get it right, as oils, mineral additives, and multi-vitamins need to be added in the right ratio to assure optimal nutrition. Chocolate, coffee, alcohol, macadamia nuts, grapes, raisins, raw yeast products, artificial sweeteners, onions and garlic are just some of the human foods that can be toxic to dogs and cats. Raw diets carry the risk of introducing Salmonella and E. coli into the environment. Just two days ago, I saw a dog with a major allergic reaction after being fed a raw, pasteurized, cow’s milk product.
So what’s a pet owner to do? My recommendation is to stick with a national based company (I have my favorites, and I know the other vets in our practice do as well), and talk to us about your questions and concerns. We want to help your pet live a long and healthy life, and nutrition is a key component to achieving that.
Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.
Dr. Google doesn’t have his Pennsylvania license…..
The World Wide Web is a wonderful innovation that has changed the world. My father worked in Research and Development for a major computer company for most of my childhood, so I was exposed at an early age to the wonders of computers. However, with the 24 hours, 7 days a week access to information comes access to misinformation as well. Almost anyone can say anything on the internet, whether it is based in facts or not. Unfortunately, this has led some of our well-meaning clients to make poorly informed decisions based on misinformation from the internet. When you are researching a question about your pet’s health, it is important to know where the information is coming from. Veterinary schools, veterinarians, breed organizations, and kennel clubs often have great sections on health related topics on their websites. Our staff is also very willing to answer any questions you may have about your pets, so please do not hesitate to call us if you have any concerns. Below I have listed some of the websites that offer great advice from reliable sources:
1. Pet poisonings – http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control
2. General health questions – http://www.veterinarypartner.com
3. Canine health – http://www.akc.org
4. Feline health – http://www.vet.cornell.edu/fhc
5. Equine health – http://www.aaep.org
Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.
Several weeks ago a client decided to administer a home remedy to her dog that was having some GI issues, on the advice of a friend. Twelve hours later, the dog was dead. I know this is probably an obvious statement, but cats and dogs are not humans. They metabolize drugs very differently, and what would be OK for a person, can cause irreparable harm to your pets. One Tylenol tablet can kill a cat. The majority of dogs will develop GI ulcers after being given aspirin. Giving drugs to your pet without the advice of a veterinarian can limit our choice of drugs we can safely use to help your pet. There are certainly some human drugs that we routinely advise our clients to give their pets, but the dose and frequency are often different than what you or a family member would take. Please help us by discussing all medications, vitamins, and supplements you have given your pet when you bring your pet into the hospital. We are always available to answer questions about medications and supplements, so we can make sure to keep your furry family member safe and healthy.
On behalf of the staff of Willow Creek Veterinary Center, have a Happy and Healthy New Year!
Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.
As we celebrate Veteran’s Day this week, Willow Creek Veterinary Center is pleased to announce that Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D. is now the official consulting veterinarian for the Eastern Pennsylvania Tactical EMS Team. Working with the EMS team, we will be consulting on the care of our canine officers in the field attached to our local SWAT team, as well as other municipalities. We have already had two EMS members spend time in our clinic observing, asking questions, and talking about various situations they will encounter in the field. It is an honor to help our canine officers, to ensure they receive the best medical care while they are performing their job and keeping us safe.
With late summer and early fall comes the surge in the fall pollen counts. That means itching, scratching, or biting if your pet suffers from inhalant allergies. Dogs and cats show their allergies through their skin, unlike humans who typically suffer with sneezing, runny eyes, and a runny nose. Spots that are the hallmarks for allergic skin disease (atopy) include the feet, groin, armpits (axilla), and ears. Secondary skin and ear infections are not uncommon. Luckily, we now have many options to help your pet. Antihistamines (Benadryl, hydroxyzine, etc.), combination drugs, allergy testing and desensitization, drugs to block cell receptors, and of course steroids. Each choice has benefits and side effects. Once one of our veterinarians has determined that your pet suffers from atopy, we can work together to find the best solution for both you and your pet.
Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.
As we head into the warmer months, many dogs will experience problems from noise phobia associated with thunderstorms and/or fireworks. Stress can manifest itself as barking, drooling, heavy panting, trembling, house soiling, and hiding. Some dogs can become so stressed that they will run, and I have even witnessed the aftermath of dogs breaking through doors and windows during panic attacks.
There are many things that you as a pet owner can do to help your dog with their noise phobia.
Thundershirts are a brand of garment that help some dogs calm down by providing compression to the torso. Behavior modification can be tried. You ignore the symptoms of the stress, and only reward the dog when they remain calm. You can try playing audio recordings of storms or fireworks, gradually increasing the volume while continuing to praise calm behavior. If the behavior is still severe, Zylkene is a new anxiety drug that is based on milk proteins that can be used for anxiety in the short or long term. For animals where Zylkene does not seem to help, other anxiety drugs are available, but may take weeks to become effective. Unfortunately, some dogs may need a mild sedative to help keep them safe during periods of loud noises. As always, our veterinarians are here to help and guide you on the best solutions for your pet.
Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.
The recent outbreak of canine influenza in the Midwest has made headlines as over 1,000 dogs have been affected. I thought I would review what we know about the outbreak. This strain of influenza is caused by the H3N2 virus. It is an airborne virus, but can be passed on hands, clothing, and bowls. 4 out of 5 dogs exposed will become sick. Symptoms begin 2 to 4 days after exposure. Symptoms last for 2 weeks.
Dogs cough, have a high fever, runny nose and eyes, sore throat, decreased appetite and lethargy.
The virus can last on hands for 12 hours, and 24 hours on clothing. Unlike the human influenza virus, there is no evidence that this is seasonal. Treatment is symptomatic, as there is no treatment for the virus. 10% of the dogs may go on to develop pneumonia, which would be treated with antibiotics. The current influenza vaccine does not prevent this outbreak of influenza, as it is a different virus. Currently, this has not spread outside the Midwest area, but obviously care is needed if you take your dog to dog shows or events where people and their dogs are traveling from out of state. If you have any questions or concerns about your dog’s health, please do not hesitate to contact our staff so we can answer your questions.
Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.
As we head into warmer weather, it is time to share some fun tick facts.
- Ticks are part of the Arachnoid species, so they are more closely related to spiders and scorpions.
- There are over 800 species of ticks.
- Ticks crawl up their hosts, and are attracted to their hosts by heat, odor, and CO2.
- The majority of ticks use 3 different hosts for their 3 different life stages.
- Ticks need to be attached for at least 24 hours to transmit disease.
- Ticks have anti-inflammatory and anesthetic agents in their saliva to make it less likely that their hosts will notice that they have been bitten.
- Temperatures have to be less than 10F for a long period of time for ticks to die.
- Male ticks die right after mating.
We have multiple options for controlling ticks. Please talk to one of our staff members about what may be appropriate for your pet. And, it is quite likely, you may find one of these on your human self! We also have “tick twisters”, which can be used on humans and pets, alike.
Recently we have noticed an alarming trend in our patients. The current fad in nutrition is the high protein, no grain formulas touted by big companies with even bigger marketing budgets. While limited grains may be appropriate for dogs and cats with food allergies or other medical issues, there is no scientific proof that grains are bad for animals in general. In the past year we have had multiple patients that are on such diets develop urinary problems, including kidney and bladder stones. A balanced diet is the key to good nutrition for your pets as well as yourself. There are plenty of diets available to support your pet’s nutritional needs without resorting to the latest “fad diet”. Please feel free to discuss your pet’s nutritional needs with one of our veterinarians on your next visit.
Ann Bastian, V.M.D.