Archive for July 2011

Deerfield Veterinary Hospital First To Offer Stem Cell Therapy to Pets in Springfield

Early in my professional career, I was advised to avoid publicly discussing three controversial subject matters; politics, religion and money.  Of late, the term “stem cells” could certainly be added to this short list of contentious topics.  Weekly, we see news reports and read editorials on the uses of human embryonic stem cells and the moral-ethical questions surrounding the collection of these powerful cells. There are, however, new breakthroughs in the science of regenerative medicine that draw on the use of adult stem cells, harvested not from embryos but from an adult’s own body.

Research now teaches us that stem cells are an important part of a healthy body’s defense and regeneration process.  Simply put, we could not thrive without these primitive repair cells.  Just as embryonic stem cells have the ability to grow into a completely new human or animal, adult stem cells have the ability to change and differentiate into bone, cartilage, muscle or any tissue in the body.  Recently, a detailed study on the use of fat-derived stem cells in dogs showed that animals receiving stem cells demonstrated a significant improvement in lameness when compared to dogs in the control group.  In clinical trials, over 80% of pet owners report improvement after therapy.  This news has excited veterinarians and pet owners alike and has many asking about the potential for a real world application.

More than 15 million (20%) dogs in North America suffer some form of degenerative joint disease, better known as osteoarthritis (OA).  Unfortunately, many dog owners are completely unaware of the pain their pet is experiencing, chalking up the slow movement to the effects of “old age”.  Some dogs may receive daily doses of pain relievers and oral joint care supplements.  Still others might find their way to physical therapy or rehabilitation.  But for some, any or all of these options are not enough to relieve the pain.  Sadly, many owners decide to euthanize their faithful companion because of the severity of the pain or the continued high cost of on-going treatment.

Adult stem cell regenerative therapy is now an accepted treatment for OA and is available for both dogs and cats.  Deerfield Veterinary Hospital is pleased to be the first veterinary hospital in the Ozarks to offer stem cell therapy.  All of this seems pretty miraculous and for some pets, the results are truly nothing short of a life-saving miracle.

If you are trying to decide if stem cell therapy is right for your pet, please consider the following. Not all pets are considered good candidates for this therapy.  Since anesthesia is involved in both the cell collection step and the reintroduction of the cells, this may not be ideal for all patients.  Additionally, any dog with serious systemic disease, such as cancer, might not benefit from these treatments.  Even though there has been great feedback from owners, this is not a one shot therapy.  Some pets need to return regularly for follow-up treatments.  Scientist report that over-exertion after treatment seems to lessen the benefits of the treatment, often leading to another trip to the veterinarian.  Finally, cost will certainly come into play as owners and veterinarians discuss this option.  Prices will vary among veterinarians, but in general, plan on spending at least $3000 to $3500 for initial treatments.

Arthritis can be painful and even debilitating in any dog or cat.  If you suspect your pet suffers from this disease, talk with us about testing to confirm arthritis and then discuss the many treatment options.   We will recommend a multi-modal approach to pain relief, combining appropriate medications, controlled exercise, weight loss, and environmental changes to make your pet’s life easier.  In some cases, new technology, like stem cell therapy, can be beneficial!

This video segment from ABC’s Nightline in 2008 reviews the process of harvesting and transplanting stem cells in pets.

[youtube mVCnhrwIKBA 420 350]

More

Do Generic Flea Products Meet Your Pet’s Needs?

For a long time, flea control consisted of harsh products that were related to nerve gases of World War I. Many of these carbamates and organophosphates worked well at killing fleas, but unfortunately, they weren’t very safe for pets and had the potential for severe toxicity. Then, about fifteen years ago, modern chemistry helped give us safer topical flea treatments. Because fleas, ticks and other parasites are medical problems that need educated medical recommendations, the companies producing the new products chose to sell these flea medications only through veterinarians.

Fast forward to present day and you can find many flea products both over the counter (OTC) and through veterinary or “ethical” channels. Annual sales of flea and tick medications exceed $1 billion and there are many companies eager to get their share of the pie.

Recently, the compound, fipronil became available for generic use. The original patent holder, Merial, produces an excellent flea product (Frontline®) that was our main choice for many years. Now, no less than 15 “generic” fipronil flea products will be offered in the OTC markets.

What does this mean for you and your pets? Can you feel comfortable with generic flea medications?

First, let’s look at what a generic medication is. When a specific pharmaceutical company develops and patents a new drug, they are allowed the exclusive rights to sell that drug for a period of time. When the patent expires, other companies can then market their own products that use that drug. Since the generic companies don’t have any research and development costs and very little advertising is needed, their costs are much lower and, therefore, their selling price is also lower.

Although generics utilize the same active ingredients as the original, they are not exactly the same product – and that is very important to know. Different inert ingredients that are generally recognized as safe may be included. In the case of flea medications, these inert ingredients are usually the carrier molecules, or what helps spread the medication across the pet’s body. The FDA requires that generic manufacturers prove their product exhibits bioequivalence to the original product.

In the case of topical parasiticides, many of these products are actually regulated by the EPA instead of the FDA. This means that a veterinarian’s prescription is not necessary to purchase the product, although, as mentioned above, most of the original pharmaceutical companies chose to sell their product “under veterinary supervision”. The generic manufacturers do not have that same belief and the new copycat flea products will be found on shelves of Wal-Mart, Target and other big box stores across the country.

So, if the product is essentially the same and at a lower cost, is it ok to buy these over the counter flea preventives?

Fleas, as well as other parasites, can cause a host of medical problems that go beyond simple itching. Serious diseases can worsen if the issues are not handled properly. In a general merchandise store, you will not find anyone with the expertise or training you’ll find at our hospital. Not to mention someone to call should your pet have an adverse reaction to any topical treatment.

Believe it or not, it might be more economical and more convenient to purchase the preventives through us at our hospital. Not only can you get all the products (flea preventive, heartworm preventive, etc) at one location, some of the ethical products sold can actually help with other parasite diseases.  So, a single product could be the answer for your pet instead of several that end up costing more.

We will also provide a single dose of the flea product instead of the six pack you find at the store. It’s another way we can help you save money!

It’s also important to note that the federal government has actually ordered multiple manufacturers of these generic flea products to remove some products from store shelves.

We understand that your pet is unique and may not tolerate certain products as well as others. We hope our medical advice has real value…especially since the wrong product used improperly actually have the potential to be fatal! We understand if there are other possible interactions between flea preventives and other medications your pet is taking.

Finally, our healthcare team  can not only show you how to properly use the products in question, but they will keep a complete record of what you have used in the past, taking the guesswork out and possible preventing future complications. And you already know we will keep track of your pet’s overall health and find medical problems early while they are still inexpensive to treat. We strive to be part of your pet’s health care team.

All of this valued information is not something you will get from a cashier at the grocery store or a display unit in a big box retailer.

More

Leptospirosis –  An Old Disease Causes New Problems

The leptospira organisms enter the body through mucous membranes or through abrasions on the skin. People and animals can become infected from direct exposure to infected urine, but also through contaminated environment, such as water or damp soil.

People and pets are also exposed to Lepto while camping or participating in outdoor recreational activities. Drinking or swimming in water that is infected with Lepto is the most common exposure, but wet soil can be contaminated as well.  A city environment will not always provide protection against this serious disease.

The signs of Leptospirosis can mimic many other diseases and illnesses.  The first signs in dogs are often depression, loss of appetite, vomiting, weakness, and generalized pain.  Affected dogs may also drink water and urinate excessively and have swollen, red, and painful eyes.  Because these signs are common to other diseases and non-specific, owners may try to treat their pets at home for such problems as an upset stomach or arthritis.

This “wait and see” response delays proper diagnosis and treatment for the dog, as well as increasing the owner’s exposure to the disease.  If caught early, treatment is usually effective and the survival rate is good.  However, time is of the essence.  A mere three or four day delay can lead to irreversible kidney failure.

Vaccines are available but many pet owners have either experienced or heard about adverse reactions associated with these vaccines.  In the past, Leptospirosis vaccines were generally created using the whole bacterial organism.  In many cases, when a whole bacterium is used, the likelihood of a “vaccine reaction” increases.  Thankfully, newer vaccines have been developed that reduce this possibility by using specific Leptospirosis proteins instead of the whole organism.

A study reviewing vaccine reactions in more than one million dogs vaccinated found that reactions occur about 13 times for every 10,000 vaccines given.  More importantly, the lepto vaccine was no more likely to cause a reaction than any other vaccine.

So, if the vaccine appears to be safe and the disease deadly, shouldn’t all dog owners vaccinate their pets?

Unfortunately, that question is difficult to fully answer.  Because there are so many Leptospirosis strains, no one vaccine will cover every possible exposure a pet might have.  At present, vaccines are available that protect against four of the common strains infecting dogs.  In addition, the vaccine will prevent clinical disease, but may not stop the pet from shedding bacteria in his urine.  This makes the pet a threat to other animals, especially those who are not vaccinated.  And, as mentioned above, humans are at risk as well.

Worldwide, Leptospirosis is the most widespread zoonotic disease.  Cases occur routinely in tropical countries, but increases have been seen in Europe and North America as well.  Floods and hurricanes are instrumental in spreading this illness and coordinated efforts to rescue and re-home pets from these disasters might actually transplant lepto into new areas.

Protecting your pet from Leptospirosis is a complex situation.  Use your veterinarian as a resource to help assess your pet’s risk factors as well as the benefits and hazards of vaccination.  Other important steps that might minimize your pet’s exposure to this disease include removing animal pests, such as rodents and draining areas of standing water.

More

Helping Your Pet Celebrate Independence Day

Everyone loves the fun of family and festivities of the July 4th celebrations.  However, your four legged family members may not have the same appreciation of these patriotic displays.  The fear of noises and sounds like fireworks and thunderstorms are known as “noise phobias” and a great number of pets suffer from this condition during the holiday.

Dogs, cats, horses, and even livestock can react to fireworks in ways that could potentially cause injury or even death.  Our clients regularly share stories of their pets shaking uncontrollably and hiding in closets at the first sound of thunder and fireworks.  Some pets may become “fearfully aggressive” due to the loud noises.   Protect your pets from children who may not realize the consequences of waving sparklers or setting off home fireworks.  If you are planning on attending a fireworks celebration, leave your pet at home.

During the upcoming celebrations, keep small pets indoors.   A good idea is to keep the pet in an interior room without windows.  Consider turning on the TV or radio to provide a familiar and comforting distraction.  Avoid leaving pets alone outdoors, even if tethered or in a fenced yard.  It is not uncommon for dogs to escape or injure themselves in a frenzied attempt to escape.
Many animal shelters report increases of “stray” animal intakes after the 4th of July holiday due to the number of pets running away in an attempt to avoid the noise and excitement.  Be sure that your pet has a current ID tag and/or microchip so that you and your pet can be easily reunited in the case he or she runs off.

Desensitization methods are also an option for many pet owners.   By playing a CD that contains noises of thunderstorms, fireworks, and gunshots, many pets can be counter conditioned and may actually begin to remain calm during these events.  Be sure to check out www.soundtherapy4pets.com for examples of desensitization CDs.

Always remember never to punish your pet for his fearful behavior, but don’t reinforce the behavior by trying to sooth your pet with “It’s ok” or similar words.   Paying attention to your pet may positively reinforce the fearful behavior.

Your veterinarian may prescribe tranquilizers or mild sedatives for your pets during this time, but these drugs do have limitations and should not be used on a daily basis.  In addition natural methods, such as pheromone therapy or melatonin are also available.

If you believe any of your pets have a noise phobia, talk with your veterinarian and staff about the best ways to keep your pet safe this holiday.

More