All Posts tagged AAHA

Springfield MO Vet Aquires New Digtial X-Ray Technology

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Deerfield Veterinary Hospital in Springfield Mo. purchased a Vet Ray Digital radiography machine. How does this machine differ from our previous veterinary digital radiography machine?

Our new veterinary digital x-ray emits 8 times less radiation than our previous machine.  This makes our machine more environmentally friendly by decreasing its carbon footprint. This also means that your pet and our veterinary team are being exposed to less radiation with each radiograph performed which significantly decreases our chances of obtaining radiation exposure from repeated contact with the x-ray beam.

The Vet Ray produces a clearer, more detailed image which allows us to appreciate the finer details of our patients organ shape, size, and overall organ health. For instance,  we are able to appreciate the thickness of the intestinal bowel loop walls and determine if inflammation, infection, or possible neoplasia may be present; whereas with our previous machine we were only able to see the loops of bowel and not appreciate the wall thickness. This allows us to diagnose abnormalities sooner and provide intervention to hopefully reverse or prevent further progression of diseases and to improve the quality of life for your pet.

Additional patient friendly features include a 4 Way Float Top Table! This means that the table glides gently left, right, forward, or backwards as needed to properly position your pet to obtain the best image possible. We no longer have to physically slide the animal on the table to be directly under the beam, but instead move the table while the patient rests comfortably for appropriate positioning. This reduces stress and anxiety for our patients allowing them to spend more time in your arms, and less time on our table.

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Golden Retrievers May Hold the Answers in Cancer Cancer

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How do genetics, diet and environment influence the incidence of cancer and other diseases in our pets? To answer that question, Morris Animal Foundation created the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, the most groundbreaking observational study ever undertaken to improve canine health.

While the results will certainly improve the health of all dogs, the study itself focuses only on Golden Retrievers. This breed was chosen because they develop cancer at a higher rate when compared to other purebred dogs, often approaching 50 percent of the breed. Plus, their popularity offers researchers a large pool for recruitment.

In order to achieve the most accurate results, the 3,000 dogs selected must be evenly distributed across five national regions and should consist of an equal number of intact females, spayed females, intact males and neutered males. Each Golden Retriever enrolled in the study will be examined and evaluated annually by a participating local veterinarian. The study is expected to take roughly 14 years to complete, making it the largest and longest veterinary study ever initiated to date.

In addition, each owner completes a detailed online questionnaire every year about their dog’s diet, travel, reproductive history, living environment, exercise and behavior. During the pet’s annual study physical exam, its veterinarian collects blood, urine and other samples.

The exam results are then entered into an online database. The collected samples are sent to a laboratory for long-term storage where they will be available to researchers for future additional studies. Samples are also submitted for a wide range of tests and panels, such as a complete blood cell count, urinalysis and a heartworm antigen test, to analyze the dog’s internal health. The results of these tests are shared with owners through their veterinarians.

Whenever a Golden Retriever experiences naturally occurring health issues while participating in the study, the veterinarian will notify Morris Animal Foundation of the testing and results. If a dog would develop cancer, the veterinarian will collect samples that are vital for evaluation.

As the results are gathered over the years, certain patterns will likely unfold, enabling scientists to identify risk factors for disease. While there are few known disease-incidence rates for dogs in the United States, research from other countries indicates that cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs living in several other countries. The findings of this study should shed light on the relationship between risk factors and the development of specific cancers, while also identifying genetic variants associated with common cancers in Golden Retrievers.

Although finding the causes and frequencies of cancer is at the forefront of the study, researchers also hope to gain insights into a host of other canine medical problems, such as diabetes, skin disorders and hip dysplasia. Ultimately, the research will establish extensive catalogs of data and biological samples for future analyses.

The many owners of dogs enrolled in the study take great pride in their involvement.

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“I enrolled my Golden Retriever, Journey, in the study because I have always wanted better health for my dogs,” says Nancy Bishop, a proud owner of a study participant. “I can’t thank Morris Animal Foundation enough for taking on this pioneering study to help my beloved breed and other dogs.”

Other participants chose to enroll their Golden Retrievers because they’ve lost pets to cancers or other diseases.

“It has been heartbreaking in my 40 years as a practicing veterinarian to see young, seemingly healthy Golden Retrievers struck down in what should be the prime of their lives,” says Michael Lappin, DVM, owner of the Animal House in Buzzards Bay, Mass.

Dr. Lappin has four patients in the study and also enrolled his own dog, Isaac. “I have been driven by the need to do as much as I can to help this wonderful breed enjoy a longer, healthier life,” he says.

Those interested in helping to cure canine cancer should visit www.MorrisAnimalFoundation.org/Golden.

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Eligible dogs must be a healthy purebred, with a verifiable three-generation pedigree, be between 6 and 24 months of age and reside in the contiguous United States. For each dog entered into the study, the owner will receive $75 annually to cover the costs of physical exams. Individuals with friends or family who own Golden Retrievers are encouraged to refer them to the website to get involved.

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Are Our Cats Plotting Against Us?

Some people and societies throughout history have simply not appreciated cats.  Black cats are considered unlucky or linked to evil witches.  Other people look at cats as sneaky or as serial killers of defenseless wildlife.  But, if you read some current headlines, you might think that our feline friends are a real serious threat!

The main threat in these news articles is not our cats, but rather, an extremely small protozoan parasite known as Toxoplasma gondii.  The threat occurs because this particular intestinal bug only reproduces in domestic and wild cats.  So, when the sensational headline reads “Study Links Cat Litter Box to Increased Suicide Risk”, many readers frankly scared and soon began to worry about the risks of owning a cat.

So here are the real facts you can count on.  The uproar can be traced back to a pair of scientific articles.  As far back as 2000, scientists have understood that this particular parasite has a peculiar effect on some rodents, actually making rats less fearful of their natural predators, the cats.  More recently, a study of 45,000 women in Denmark concluded that infection with Toxoplasma gondii (Toxo, for short) increased the risk of suicide attempts.  So, it appears that this parasite may alter something in brain chemistries or behavior. But, does that mean our cats are to blame?

The emphatic answer: absolutely not. The key here lies in understanding the life cycle of the parasite, the cat’s role in that life cycle and the simple, easy steps to minimize your potential risk.  All cats, domestic and wild, are a natural host for Toxo.  Our feline friends pick up the parasite from hunting rodents and birds or eating raw meat.  Once in the cat’s intestine, the organism starts reproducing, creating millions of oocytes (essentially eggs) that will pass o into the environment.  Interestingly, cats will shed the parasite for about two or three weeks and then rarely ever pass any more after that.

Once outside, these eggs will mature over one to five days and become infective parasites.  It is at this time that any warm blooded animal can become infected by ingesting contaminated soil, water or plant material.  Since most animals aren’t the natural host for Toxo, the parasite localizes in various muscle or nervous tissue and becomes a cyst.  The cycle completes (as most parasite life cycles do) allowing the parasite to once again start to multiply and spread.

For most animals, and people, the parasite is not a problem – remember that.  Some people will experience flu like symptoms but then recover without a problem.  However, immunosuppressed individuals can experience much more severe symptoms, including fevers, confusion, headaches, seizures and poor coordination.  Pregnant woman who have no immunity to Toxo can actually pass the infection to the unborn child causing a miscarriage, stillbirth or serious mental disabilities in the newborn.  So it is true, this parasite is not without it dangers.

The CDC estimates show that about 20% of the US population has antibodies to this parasite.  In addition, the CDC’s website shows that Toxoplasma infections occur by eating undercooked, contaminated meats (especially pork and lamb), accidental ingestion of contaminated meats after handling and failure to wash hands, contamination of foods from utensils used to work with other contaminated foods, drinking water tainted with the parasite and, as mentioned above, accidental ingestion of the parasite through contact with cat feces.

Keeping yourself safe from Toxo is actually pretty easy.  Fully cook all meats, wash your hands and cooking utensils after contact with raw meat or unwashed fruits and vegetables and wear gloves while gardening.   Cat litter boxes should be scooped daily as the parasite does not become infectious for at least 24 hours.  Pregnant women and immunocompromised individuals should completely avoid changing the litter.

Ask your veterinarian about specific recommendations for lowering your risk for toxoplasmosis.  He or she is well schooled in understanding this parasite.

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Veterinary Medicine Online – Calling Dr. Google?

From new toys and comfy beds for your pets to medications, designer sweaters and even recommendations for “pet friendly” vacation destinations, animal lovers can find just about anything for their four legged furry family online.  Unfortunately, it’s far too easy to find a lot of mis-information and even potentially dangerous advice when it comes to your pet’s health care.

Since the very first website was created, anyone with the time, creativity and access to a web hosting service can post their opinions about almost any subject.  This has led to a wide variety of non-veterinarians who claim to be “experts” in pets providing advice and recommendations.  Sadly, pets have been harmed or even died when owners followed the counsel provided by these individuals.

When searching for helpful information about animal health, you should trust sites that have a veterinarian who either writes or oversees the content.  HealthyPet.com from the American Animal Hospital Association is a great place to start.  You can also look at your state’s veterinary medical association website or even their Facebook page for pet owner resources.

A new organization, the American Society of Veterinary Journalists, has been created to help both the media and the public find trustworthy professionals providing advice through any sort of media.  Look for the Seal of Approval from ASVJ.

The popularity of veterinary blogs is hard to ignore and bloggers like Pawcurious.com or Pet Health Care Gazette.com can provide general suggestions and opinions about veterinary care.  The added bonus to following these well-liked sites is that they are often a lot of fun and give the reader a personal viewpoint that is lacking from other sites.  Just remember, none of these bloggers can diagnose or treat your pet’s specific problem.

Another fashionable trend is the use of review sites to find service providers, restaurants or almost any other type of retail outlet.  The question here is, should you rely on these review sites when you are looking for a veterinarian?

According to SearchEngineLand.com, almost 80% of online users say they trust online reviews as much as personnel recommendations. There is no doubt that sites like Yelp, YP.com and Angie’s List can have a significant impact on a person’s decision to use a specific provider.  These experts do recommend that you follow some easy guidelines when reading online reviews.

First, find sites that present a balanced set of reviews and look for at least ten to twelve postings before you can say you spot a trend for that particular business.

Next, look beyond the reviewer’s words.  Is there a genuine concern over poor service or are emotions and a focus on money obscuring the real issue?  Let’s face it…some people are very hard to please or are often simply grumpy.

Conversely, avoid relying on reviews that are excessively positive and seem too good to be true.  While there are people who are always happy and never have a bad word to say, companies do exist that pay individuals to write positive reviews for a wide variety of organizations.

Finally, look at the reviewer’s profile.  Has this person reviewed other businesses?  Do they seem to be objective or are they using the same “cut and paste” language on all their reviews?  If their evaluations seem too similar, they may be working for one of the review writing companies.  Another red flag is to watch out for reviewers who constantly try to send you to look at their own profile…odds are, they are trying to sell something and they are using the review sites as marketing opportunities.

It’s been said before, but your veterinarian (www.deerfieldvet.com) will always offer you the best and most trusted source of information.  With a good relationship, you can have confidence that your veterinary professionals are eager to help and offer the correct advice!

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What’s Wrong With My Cat’s Mouth?

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Ask any cat owner about how they care for their feline’s teeth and most will reply that “he eats dry food” or, more commonly “I really don’t clean her teeth”.  While most veterinarians will acknowledge that brushing a cat’s teeth is a challenge for many owners, they will stress the importance of routine oral assessment of your cat’s mouth.  These exams help find preventable problems and even some very concerning issues.  One of those concerns we are seeing more frequently is called Feline Tooth Resorption.

Tooth Resorption, or “TR” as it is commonly called, is a condition seen in a growing percentage of cats over the age of six years. The same strange condition is also seen in dogs and in people, but it is not nearly as common.

In the past, this disease has been called “neck lesions”, “cervical line lesions” and even the cumbersome “Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesions (FORLs)”.  Whatever the name, we know that this condition is seen in cats who often appear normal.  The process will continue to develop, causing extreme pain because of the exposure of the root canal.  This can even lead to behavior changes and lack of normal appetite.

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Dr. Brett Beckman, a noted board-certified veterinary dentist, says that an exact cause for TR has not been determined yet.  Theories about exposure to certain viruses, breed prevalence and chronic inflammation of the mouth and gums have all been proposed as root causes.  According to Beckman, a single study suggests that high levels of Vitamin D in cat foods could be linked to resorptive disease, but that research is still ongoing.  Interestingly, there has even been evidence of TR in cat skeletons that are 800 years old!

Clinically, most cats will appear normal, but observant owners may note that their cat prefers to chew food on just one side or that the cat stops grooming.  They may “toss” dry food into the back of their mouth.   As TR progresses, some pets will even develop sullen or aggressive attitudes, as if they are mad at the world!

Eventually, your veterinarian may point out how some of your cat’s cheek teeth are showing lines of inflamed, fleshy material right near the base of the tooth.  At this point, the erosion has exposed the tooth to the bacteria of the mouth and this is when affected cats become extremely painful.  Even under a general anesthetic, a slight touch of these teeth will cause a cat to “chatter” their jaw, indicating very serious pain!

Dental x-rays are the only way to diagnose TR.  When the radiographs are taken, if TR is present, your veterinarian can see changes in the density of the roots and crowns of the teeth.  All teeth can be affected, but the major “signal” tooth is the first one in the lower jaw.  Some teeth can be partially affected, while others may have completely dissolved away leaving a “ghost image”.

Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment that can save the pet’s teeth.  A normal cleaning and polishing will not work!  Veterinary dentists have even tried root canal therapies (endodonics), but they fail, as this resorption occurs on a microsopic basis.  A tooth that is showing any signs of resorption needs to be extracted.  Some cats will need full mouth extractions.  All cats with a known history of TR should be x-rayed every six months to a year. It is likely other teeth are affected and they must be monitored.

The good news in all of this is that once your veterinarian knows about the disease, several things can be done to keep your cat comfortable.  Experience has shown that cats who were once not eating well or even aggressive will often have a positive behavior change in just a matter of weeks.  It is surprising how the removal of these painful teeth can often bring back your affectionate feline friend.

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Owners are often unaware that their pets are experiencing such discomfort.  But, regular visits to your veterinarian can help identify the issue and start work that will make your cat feel better.  Contact your veterinarian to have a comprehensive oral examination for your pet, including dental x-rays and regular dental cleanings.

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