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Monday, March 30, 2009

Puppy strangles

By request, I am posting about a disease called puppy strangles, otherwise known as juvenile cellulitis. While we don't see cases of it every day, it is nonetheless not rare.
Affected puppies are usually between one and four months of age. with symptoms that are often quite shocking in appearance. They include a swollen face, ears, muzzle, and spectacularly enlarged lymph nodes. The symptoms are consistent with other diseases and must be differentiated from a severe bacterial or fungal infection and mange (Demodex or Sarcoptes mites under the skin). Puppy strangles can be quite painful, unlike the other diseases just mentioned.
While it may appear that these dogs have some sort of infection, true puppy strangles is an auto-immune disease, meaning that the puppy's own immune system has, for some reason, gone a "little haywire". Therefore, treatment involves the use of prednisone, as an immunosuppressant, for cure. Within one to two weeks of treatment, affected puppies respond very favorably. The disease is curable and does not recur.

Puppy with juvenile cellulitis, or strangles (photo from the Pet Health Library).

Friday, March 27, 2009

Dogs in the news

Today, The Globe and Mail reported that a 4 month-old Lhasa Apso, sealed in a bag, was found in a Toronto dumpster. Nice, eh? A maintenance worker heard the whimpering of the poor animal and discovered it in the refuse bin. The adorable little puppy is up for adoption at Toronto Animal Services.
On the opposite page in the Globe, you can read about how another two dogs, belonging to one owner, were likely deliberately poisoned in Whitby Park. This after a weekend of deliberate poisonings in nearby Port Perry. These dogs had ostensibly eaten treats laced with ethylene glycol (antifreeze). It imparts a sweet taste to anything so would be undetectable in an already-sweetened treat. It causes acute and often irreversible kidney failure. It is treatable if detected early, and fatal if left undetected. A Boston Terrier, one of the intoxicated dogs described above, has already died. I cannot imagine the devastation and utter sadness that has been wrought upon this dog's owner.

The culprit who tossed the puppy in the bin, left to suffocate, should never be permitted to own a pet, of any kind, ever again in his/her life. Period. Of course, add a massive fine or jail time... let authorities figure that one out.
Please, let authorities find the s.o.b. who has been killing our dogs and and be harpooned (literally?) with the harshest sentence possible.

Not a dog, not a cat, not a guppy, not a newt. People should be banned from owning any animal after found guilty of any act of cruelty towards animals.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Horner's syndrome 2

When you type "Horner's syndrome" and "dogs" in Google's search engine, VetBlog shows up on the first page. Considering this syndrome is not uncommon, many people have posted questions on this blog in the comments section of my previous post on Horner's syndrome.
Due to its popularity, I have decided to post again on this subject.

Horner's syndrome (or Horner syndrome) is not a disease but rather a constellation of clinical signs resulting from a lesion to the sympathetic branch to the eye. The symptoms are 1) a droopy eyelid, 2) miosis (a constricted or smaller-than-normal pupil), 3) enophthalmos (a sunken eyeball) and 4) a protruding 3rd eyelid or nictitans.
The sympathetic branch (in this specific case) is a a part of the nervous system that courses down the spinal cord, does a U-turn at the upper thoracic spine, and then courses back to innervate the eye. It is responsible for doing the opposite of what we see in Horner's: bulging eyes, wide pupils, retracted 3rd eyelid, and eyelids that are kept up. You're correct if you've come to the conclusion that this occurs with either a "fight or flight" response. When an animal is frightened, its sympathetic nervous system kicks in.
Ok, enough anatomy!
Again, Horner's is not a disease but the manifestations of an underlying disease process, or its idiopathic.
Idiopathic Horner's syndrome means that no underlying disease can be found and the symptoms typically resolve in a few weeks or less.
Due to the coursing of the sympathetic branch through the middle ear, otitis media (or infection of the MIDDLE ear) often results in Horner's syndrome (and often accompanied by facial paralysis, from the 7th cranial nerve being concurrently affected). Middle ear infections often result from an outer ear infection that ruptures the eardrum, and then spreads to the middle ear. This needs to be diagnosed correctly so that proper long-term treatment can be instituted.
Horner's is rarely caused by tick-borne diseases and an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). Growths (especially polyps in cats) and tumors can also cause Horner's syndrome.
Protruded discs in the neck or upper thoracic spine can also cause Horner's syndrome.
A CT scan or MRI is not always necessary to make the diagnosis, but may be the most accurate. The prognosis depends on the underlying cause. It can range from excellent with middle ear infections, to grave with tumors.
Please keep posting on this subject - I hope I can continue to help you out.

If you see your pet with these symptoms, please contact your vet.
(note the droopy eyelid, the constricted pupil, the prolapsed 3rd eyelid - the sunken eyeball can't really be appreciated in this photo)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Practice makes perfect

I don't know how to tell this story modestly, well, because it was simply impressive and exhilarating (how's that for modesty?!). I was sitting in a café this morning reading some notes on canine rehabilitation when a young woman approached me and asked me, half-jokingly, if I could help her rehabilitate her anxious and aggressive dog, Chico, a middle-aged Chihuahua. He was sitting outside on the deck barking his head off, with the owner's other more psychologically-stable dog. We shared a chuckle when I told her that I was reading about physical rehabilitation therapy and not about dog behaviour.
However, I did offer to try something, with no guarantee that it would help - something I learned from watching and reading (-sigh!) the Dog Whisperer. Cesar Millan would certainly classify this dog in the "Red Zone."
I asked the young woman to wait in the coffee shop while I met with Chico outside on the deck. I approached both dogs, very closely, said not a word, and allowed them to smell me. After a few seconds they settled down, there was no barking, no growling, just calmness. That is when I reached down and gently held Chico by his collar with one hand, while I held the leash with the other. He literally freaked out for about 30 seconds. Growling, baring all teeth, he desperately attempted to turn around to get a piece of me. When he realized that his actions were in vain, I picked him up, sat on a bench, and plopped him down on my lap in a sphinx pose. Any little growl or manifestation of aggression was quickly corrected with a gentle tug on his leash, a quick and firm touch to the back, and a silencing "shh" or "tss."
I continued this for at least 10 minutes. Only while the dog was calm, would I say his name, give him a loving scratch on the head and muzzle, and gently stroke his fur and massage his back. I immediately felt a connection to him. Was I crazy or was this little devil starting to like me?
His owner was astounded (as was I). She said that nobody had ever sat with him like we were. It seemed like we were old friends.
Now was the second important test. Would Chico bark incessantly when the owner would leave him alone on the deck, as he had always done? I put Chico down, picked him up again, at which point he again freaked out and tried to get me. I quickly repeated what I had previously done: a very gentle correction and he was back on my lap, quiet and calm. I put him back down without notice, and told the owner to follow me back into the café.
We stayed inside for at least 5 minutes, our eyes and ears never leaving the dogs. Not a peep out of Chico. That was the first time Chico was quiet while he waited outside for his owner to return. I left her with a few tips so that the dog continues to improve.
We were elated. Internally, I was glowing.

I would not have attempted this with a dog much larger than this one.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A dog in a wheelchair

Today on 1010 AM, CFRB, John Moore was commenting on a story he heard about, in which a 3 year-old, paralyzed dog was in a wheelchair, and whose owners had to "squeeze" him several times daily in order for the dog to urinate. The host commented that he would not be willing to devote so much time and energy to a paralyzed dog and would have had him euthanized instead.
Many callers phoned in to convey sympathy and understanding for these owners' willingness to do so much for their beloved pet.
Firstly, I am not condemning this man. I believe he is neither heartless nor callous. Some people simply would not be able to do these things, whether constrained by money, time, energy, whatever. I would never judge. For something I believe as innocuous and simple as giving my cat insulin twice daily, may be just too much for some pet owners. The extent of what people are willing to do for their pets depends on many factors. What's good for one may not be good for another.
In this case, it appears the owners realized that their pet is 3 (and not 13), has a whole life ahead of him, and do not seem burdened by the care that is required to sustain their pet.
If pet owners in a similar situation, however, are negatively impacted either physically and/or mentally, their health and lives cannot be trumped by those of the pet.

How beautiful is this? I see no suffering here...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Dog left in van

Michou, a handsome, grey, curly-haired, little poodle, spent 19 days in a van at a Vermont airport while his owner was vacationing. Pascal Bellon, the said owner from a charming little town in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, told authorities he did not know the dog was in the car.

His fine: $100. Authorities could not prove he wasn't telling the truth so he got off with a slap on the wrist.

Michou lost 50 percent of his weight over 19 days of starvation, dehydration, and freezing temperatures. There was an outpouring of both compassion for the dog and outrage with the fine against the owner.
I know humans are an imperfect species, but I wish we weren't quite so imperfect.

A sufficient fine? Where are those tough laws now (see previous post)?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Toughest animal cruelty laws in Canada

On March 1, 2009, the government of Ontario amended animal cruelty lesgislation, last changed significantly seven years after the Titanic struck an iceberg and sank on that fateful night in 1912. Ninety years ago, these laws were avant-garde, showing a society that was ready to care for its animals as well as its hungry, sick, and homeless human citizens.
The new legislation sees increased fines and tougher sentences brought upon those who harm animals. Veterinarians are now required by law to report cases of suspected animal abuse, the government assuming all responsibility for liability.
Strangely, animals used in law enforcement will have separate (and likely increased) protection. Why not a seeing eye dog? Why not an eighty year-old whose only companion is her Golden Retriever? Why not my cats whom I care for deeply?
I am elated and proud of the changes brought on by the government of Ontario. Now why not set the bar high enough to view all animals as equal, regardless of whether or not that animal has a "job"? Punishments for cruelty or causing distress in animals should be severe in every single case, regardless of species and use of that animal in contemporary society.

From a very early edition of a publication of the Toronto Humane Society