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Our Blog - we cover a variety of topics on a fairly sporadic basis! Check in and see what we are writing about today!

Seriously Scary - GDV

First off, GDV stands for gastric dilation and volvulus. This is a serious, life-threatening condition that can occur in any dog breed, but most commonly in deep-chested dog breeds like Great Danes, Labradors, Weimaraners, Standard Poodles and Saint Bernards. The direct cause of GDV is not known but there are many factors that contribute to the development of the condition. These factors include rapidly consuming food, exercise immediately before or after eating, stressful conditions, increased age or inherent motility disorders of the stomach. There is a gas accumulation in the stomach that then leads to distention and a rotation or twist of the entire stomach.

So, how do you recognize this condition? The most common signs are abdominal distension, vomiting or retching (unproductive vomiting), restlessness or signs of pain. Occasionally, the dog may even collapse. These signs usually progress as the condition worsens. This condition can become very serious very quickly. As the stomach twists, the blood supply is cut off. This is a life-threatening situation that can lead to necrosis of the stomach. If your pet is showing any of these signs, they should already be in the car and on the way to a vet!

Diagnosing GDV is usually fairly straightforward. Abdominal radiographs show a dilated stomach that is full of gas and some food materials. Often times, a stomach tube cannot be passed due to the rotated stomach. Treatment of a GDV is multi-faceted. IV fluids must be administered for cardiovascular support. The patient is typically placed under anesthesia and decompression of the stomach is attempted. Usually, surgery is required to reposition the stomach. The stomach is then sutured to the abdominal wall in a procedure called a gastropexy. This prevents the stomach from twisting again in the future, as this condition often repeats itself. If the condition is severe enough, sometimes the stomach or the spleen may need to be resected due to necrosis. These conditions unfortunately increase the mortality rate of this condition. Recovery from the condition takes several days, as food is slowly re-introduced post-operatively.

This radiograph of a canine abdomen shows a severely distended stomach full of gas. 

This radiograph of a canine abdomen shows a severely distended stomach full of gas. 

There are many things you can do to try to prevent this condition from occurring in your pet. Changes to feeding habits can decrease the incidence rate. Feed multiple, smaller meals throughout the day and have a significant time gap in between feeding and exercise. Some dogs, like my mother’s dog Milly, often inhale their food within seconds. Placing a rock or large ball in the bowl to slow down eating is often helpful. None of these methods, however, are 100% effective. A prophylactic gastropexy may prevent this condition from occurring in your pet. This procedure tacks the stomach to the abdominal wall to prevent twisting from occurring. This procedure does involve an abdominal laparotomy; it is often done when spaying female dogs that are pre-disposed to this condition.

Hopefully, this gives you a bit of insight on a serious and life-threatening condition many dogs face. Most famously, Marley from the film “Marley and Me” suffered from a GDV at some point in the film. 

Marley from the classic canine film "Marley and Me". Just had to throw a cute lab puppy picture in for a smile.

Marley from the classic canine film "Marley and Me". Just had to throw a cute lab puppy picture in for a smile.

Halloween Hazards and Household Toxins

With Halloween around the corner, and everyone stocking up on their chocolate candy for trick-or-treaters, a blog post about common household toxins for pets seems in order. This will not be all inclusive, but hopefully I can cover the major toxic items inside and outside the home.

Let’s start with foods. The most well known is of course, CHOCOLATE. With chocolate, the dark, baking chocolate is the most toxic. Also, white chocolate is in fact not toxic at all to your pup (but please do not give it to your dog). Other common food items that are toxic include avocado, onions and garlic, grapes and raisins, any beverages with caffeine or alcohol, macadamia nuts and any chewing gum containing xylitol.

Another major source of toxins for pets is household plants. This list is very long and new plants are constantly added to it. The ones that immediately pop into my head are LILIES (all kinds – especially in your feline friends), oleander, foxgloves, daffodils, philodendrons and sago palms (a huge problem in Louisiana and Florida). Other plants on the list include: English ivy, poision ivy and poison oak, rhododendron, poinsettias and holly (Christmas!), yews, dumb cane, elephant ears, hibiscus and aloe vera.

Outside you can find other toxins as well. Garden mulch and mushrooms can be toxic to dogs and cats. Also, many fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides, especially organophosphates, are not safe for pets. Please keep your pets away from these products when they must be used. The worst toxin I can think of is ANTI-FREEZE. This always becomes a problem with cooler weather coming. This chemical is very potent and just the smallest drop can cause a severe problem for cats and small dogs. Please be extremely careful with the product. It is naturally sweet tasting, so pets can often be attracted to the smell. Always clean up anti-freeze spills when they occur.

Another major toxin is RAT POISON. This can cause internal bleeding if ingested. These rodenticide and other baits in the home can cause serious problems if your pet happens to get into them. Also, household cleaners, especially bleach, should be kept in a safe place out of your pet’s reach.

The most common toxin exposure we see at CSAH is human medications given to pets inappropriately. We recommend calling us before giving your pet ANY household medication. If you don’t know already, TYLENOL is extremely toxic, especially to cats. Also, please do not give your pet ibuprofen (Motrin) as overdoses are very common. Decongestant medications containing pseudoephedrine can cause hyper-excitability and liver damage.

Another common toxin we see is topical flea and tick medication labeled only for dogs being used on cats. If this happens, the first thing you should do is bathe the cat with dawn (or another gentle soap) to get the product off the fur.

Signs of toxin exposure can be very variable. The most common signs include vomiting (GI toxins), lethargy and weakness, or seizures (CNS toxins). You may also see labored or shallow breathing, drooling, stumbling, staggering or tremors. Some toxins cause increased heart rate, hyperactivity, increased thirst and dilated pupils.

If you think your pet has ingested a toxin, please give us or any emergency center a call immediately. If you need to bring your pet into the hospital, always remember to bring the packaging that the toxin came in. This can provide very valuable information when handling toxin exposure cases.

Hopefully this blog post opened your eyes to some of the pet toxins found around your home and in the yard. Please comment if you have any questions about this information.

ASPCA Toxin Hotline: (888) 426-4435


- H

Fleas, fleas, and more fleas!

Today I will be covering a topic that has plagued so many of our clients (and staff) this fall. FLEAS! Those pesky little bugs that suck your pet's blood, cause intense itching, skin lesions, and worst of all, invade your home. 

The flea most often seen on your dogs and cats is actually the cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis. These fleas lay eggs on the fur of their host (your pet), and the eggs then fall onto bedding or carpet for hatching. Hatching leads to larvae which leads to cocooning pupa which, after several weeks, finally produces an adult flea. Adult fleas feed on their host almost immediately. They consume blood and excrete it in a blackish red pellets onto their host to create "flea dirt." Flea dirt looks a lot like pepper flakes on your pet's skin. These fleas cannot survive for more than a few days in temperatures less than 37 degrees F. To survive the winter, these fleas find a host to keep warm. These hosts can be your pet, if you are not treating topically. 

In some pets, flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) may develop secondary to flea infestations. FAD is a hypersensitivity to flea salvia that may cause dermatitis in dogs and cats. In cats, this typically presents as miliary dermatitis with small crusted spots on the neck, back and face. In dogs, there is intense itching, usually at the tail base but can occur all over the body. Dogs can lose hair and develop lesions in the skin from the intense itching. Occasionally, secondary bacterial or fungal infections may occur on the skin from the self-trauma. 

Fleas can cause more problems than just itchy skin. In young animals, too many fleas can lead to iron deficiency anemia from so much blood loss. Also, fleas are carriers of several different intestinal worms. The most common is the tapeworm. When grooming, your pet may ingest a flea which may then lead to a tapeworm infection as well. 

The goal of flea treatment is three-fold: 1. eliminate fleas on your pet(s), 2. eliminate fleas in your pet's environment and 3. prevent subsequent re-infestation. 

Eliminating fleas on your pet. There are so many products out on the market right now for flea control. Here is what we typically recommend for clients. Remember, please make sure you are purchasing the right product for your pet. Check the weight and species approved on all products before using them. 

  1. Topical monthly flea and tick prevention - products such as Parastar Plus, Frontline Plus, K9 Advantix for dogs or EasySpot and Frontline for cats - these products may take up to 24 hours to start killing fleas
  2. Oral monthly flea prevention - Comfortis or Trifexis (heartworm prevention as well). Our current heartworm medication of choice, Sentinel, also prevents flea infestations by neutralizing flea eggs. 
  3. Oral immedatiate treatment - CapStar, which kills fleas on the pet for 24 hours

To treat the environment, there are a few different things to do, depending on the degree of infestation. You may start by washing all the bedding your pet contacts and vacuuming the carpets (tip: put a flea collar in the vacuum bag). There are sprays out there to kill fleas in their various stages you can use as well. Usually, however, you will have to get a flea bomb to fully treat your home. There are also treatments that can be used on the yard. Concentrate these on places your pet goes, such as the doghouse, garage or special areas your pet likes to lounge. 

Preventing re-infestation is usually done by using a monthly prevention we mentioned earlier. Unfortunately, fleas can develop resistance to some of these products. If you notice a product stops working for your pet, wait a few weeks after application and try a different one. These products are ideally used year round. If you want to stop using topical products during the winter, just remember to use them a month after the first freeze and then re-start a month before the last freeze.

Hopefully this will help pet owners to deal with the terrible flea season we have seen in Tennessee this year. Remember, you are not alone if you are experiencing a flea infestation. If you have more questions, please let us know or call the office at 615.377.4959. Thanks!

- H