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June 2014

Reunited, and It Feels So Good!

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Having a pet run away is an experience that many of us have gone through at least once in our lives. For children it can be especially traumatic, and is a difficult situation to deal with. As pets become members of the family, keeping them safe is a priority, especially during seasons where they will be spending more time outdoors! Microchipping can reunite you with your pet–and even save their life!

What is microchipping?

A Microchip ID is a tiny transmitter the size of a grain of rice. Microchipping, (although it may sounds like a complicated procedure), actually only takes a few seconds to do. It is commonly believed that the process requires surgery, but this is not the case. In fact, the microchip is so small that a needle between the shoulder blades does the trick to implant it. Often times, the owners will be allowed to be in the room while their pet receives the needle, just like any other injection! On the chip is an identification code that is unique to your pet, which is then registered in a central registry. This is the ONLY information that will be on the chip! If the pet needs to be identified, the chip is scanned, the registry is contacted, your contact info is matched, and then you are notified!

It should be stated here that a microchip does NOT work like a GPS system, and cannot help to locate your pet in any way! It only holds the identification number which can be scanned when the animal is found.

What are some situations where microchipping my pet would be useful?

When considering microchipping your pet, you should be aware of some common situations where the chip could mean life or death. The most common is a lost pet. If your pet runs away and is recovered by an animal shelter or taken to a vet clinic, then the chip can be scanned and identified as yours. The clinic will be able to contact the registry and notify you, reuniting your pet with your family. Another situation is natural disaster. Sometimes, as it has been with hurricanes, tornadoes and tsunamis in previous years, pets become separated from their owners. In some cases, Animal Control will evacuate the pets all into one area. If your animal does not have any distinctive markings, or does not photograph well due to their shaken up state, then you may never be able to locate it. Finally, if a pet becomes injured while roaming your neighbourhood, and a good Samaritan finds it and brings it to a vet hospital, they will need a way of identifying that it belongs to you. The Samaritan may not be able to afford whatever costs arise, and the future of your pet will forever be unknown to you.

Does microchipping really reunite owners with their pets?

YES! A study retrieved from the American Veterinary Medical Association conducted by Linda K. Lord et al and published on July 15, 2009 found that of 7,700 stray animals, non-microchipped dogs were returned 21.9% of the time, versus 52.2% of the time for microchipped dogs. For cats, the results are even more astonishing, with 1.8% for non-microchipped pets, and a whopping 38.5% for microchipped!

What are the potential problems associated with microchips?

As with all medical procedures and injections, there is always a risk. The British Small Animal Veterinary Association created a database in 1996 which tracked all of the reported adverse reactions associated with microchip implantation. This was a summary of reported incidences of adverse reactions in the United Kingdom from the years 1996-2009. Seeing as the United Kingdom database reports more than 3.7 million registered, micro-chipped pets, the numbers are very low for problems at 4- 75 per year. Migration or movement of the micro-chip from the standard location of mid shoulder blade is the most common problem, followed by lost microchips, and then infection or swelling.

How can I have my pet microchipped?

As it is a simple procedure, merely contacting your veterinarian and booking an appointment is all you have to do. Because the needle is larger, some owners will ask to have the chip implanted during their pet’s neuter or spay surgery while they are still under anesthetic. Often times, there will be residual paperwork to be filled out after the chip has been implanted. This paperwork is crucial, for if it is not filled out and mailed to the registry or completed online, then the chip will never be registered. Not only does this leave your pet unidentified, but it could end in a dispute if somebody else finds the pet and decides to register the chip under their name!

How do I maintain the chip?

All you have to do is make sure your contact information stays up-to-date and that’s it! Microchipping is a one-time procedure that rarely results in an adverse reaction, but often reunites beloved pets with their owners!

Resources

AVMA. (2013, July 30). Microchipping of animals. Retrieved from American Medical Veterinary Association website: https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/Reference/Pages/Microchipping-of-Animals-Backgrounder.aspx

Brooks, W. C. (2011, July 5). Microchipping could save your pet’s life. Retrieved from Veterinary Partner website: http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=3264

Lord, L. K., Ingwersen, W., Gray, J. L., & Wintz, D. J. (2009). Characterization of animals with microchips entering animal shelters. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 235(02), 160-167. Retrieved from http://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/abs/10.2460/javma.235.2.160

May, K., & Wohlferth-Bethke, P. (2013, July 30). Microchipping of animals faq. Retrieved from American Medical Veterinary Association website: https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/FAQs/Pages/Microchipping-of-animals-FAQ.aspx

Content Contributor: Dr. Sandy Drury

Wash Your Paws and Cover Your Muzzle!

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What is kennel cough?

Kennel cough is an infectious bronchitis which is transmitted through the air, and is most susceptible to dogs which are stressed, overly exposed to dust and smoke, or receiving poor ventilation. These may be qualities of dogs who are kept in kennels, which is why recent boarding experiences is a number one cause for an infected animal. This is how the disease gets its nickname (the scientific name is canine tracheobronchitis)! Kennel cough is very common, infecting a high percentage of dogs at least once during their lifetime. The bronchitis causes a hacking cough which is often described as sounding like there is an obstruction in the throat of the animal. The sickness can range from uncomplicated, lasting one or two weeks and requiring no treatment, to complicated, possibly resulting in a life-threatening pneumonia.

How is kennel cough contracted?

An infected animal will shed their bacteria or virus through respiratory secretions, which then become air bound, ready to be inhaled by a healthy dog. As mentioned previously, ventilation and stress are major causes, but the disease can also be contracted through exposure to infected toys or food bowls too.

A more in-depth explanation requires mention of a very important structure in a dog’s respiratory system called the mucociliary escalator. This structure is sticky with mucus and its job is to help remove debris and infectious agents by allowing them to stick to it, and then pushing them up where they can be coughed out or swallowed.

This mucociliary escalator becomes damaged in the presence of shipping stress, crowding stress, heavy dust exposure, cigarette smoke exposure, cold temperature, and poor ventilation! When it is damaged, the infections can waltz right down into the lungs, and this is how infection occurs.

What problems does kennel cough cause?

The mildest cases, as mentioned previously, will cause no problems at all. The pet will cough for a week or two and will not need to be treated.

Complicated cases on the other hand, may result in fever and listlessness, as well as pneumonia. Young puppies, and older or pregnant dogs are the most at risk because their immune system’s capabilities are the weakest.

What are the symptoms of kennel cough in my pets?

The symptoms of the disease are easy to spot and may include:

  • Dry hacking cough
  • Cough which sounds like honking
  • Retching
  • Watery nasal discharge
  • In severe cases, symptoms can include pneumonia loss of appetite, fever, lethargy and even death

How can I prevent and treat kennel cough?

Prevention can be difficult because the main causes of the disease are generally difficult to avoid (e.g. obedience classes, dog parks, toys and bowls, boarding kennels, doggie daycares). If desired, a vaccination can be provided by your veterinarian which immunizes the animal from a few of the agents that can cause the disease. If you are going on vacation and your pet is being boarded, make sure you make your appointment at least one week ahead so there is time for the vaccine to take effect. Certain members of the kennel cough complex cannot be immunized against. Additionally, nasal vaccines can be provided for puppies as young as three weeks of age which aims to immunize the puppies for their first year of life. Talk to your veterinarian to determine which choice is best for your pet!

These vaccines are not helpful for pets who are already infected, so this is when treatment becomes a focus. To reiterate, uncomplicated cases can go away on their own and do not require treatment. That said, antibiotics and cough suppressants can be provided to increase comfort and possibly speed recovery. If pneumonia is detected, then more progressive treatments will need to begin–but that’s another article altogether!

If you are unsure about the severity of your dog’s cough–do not hesitate to make an appointment with your veterinarian.

Resources:

Brooks, W. C. (2001, January 01). Kennel cough. Retrieved from Veterinary Partner website: http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=600

(2012). Kennel cough in dogs. Retrieved from Pet MD website: http://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/respiratory/c_dg_canine_tracheobronchitis

Content Contributor: Dr. Sandy Drury

You Can’t Give an Old Dog New Hips!

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What is Hip Dysplasia?

Canine hip dysplasia is a condition that all current and future owners of large breed dogs should be aware of. The term ‘dysplasia’ simply means ‘abnormal growth’. So, you can imagine a hip being like a ball-and-socket structure, with the head of the femur as the ball, and the acetabulum in the pelvis as the socket. These bones are covered in smooth cartilage to facilitate frictionless, easy movement. This is the normal growth. Now, the abnormal growth, i.e. dysplasia, is typified by the ball-and-socket structure not fitting quite right. The two do not fit smoothly, the socket may be flattened and the ball will not be held tightly in place. As a result, this may cause slipping, and as the body attempts to stabilize the joint, it only causes joint damage, inflammation, and pain for the animal.

What causes it?

The most common cause of hip dysplasia is simply genetics. That said, no test has been developed to adequately test DNA to predict the inheritance of this gene, so the best way to prevent hip dysplasia is to breed only dogs with normal hips. Many breeders of high risk dogs have their dogs certified free of hip dysplasia before accepting them into their breeding program.

Another cause is nutritional. It is not uncommon for large breed dogs to be ‘pushed’ into growing at abnormally fast paces by their owners with overfeeding or administering extra protein and calcium into their diets. This has resulted in disastrous consequences, causing many unwanted conditions among these animals–hip dysplasia being one. Many companies have recently developed large breed puppy diets specifically designed to slow the puppy’s growth and reduce the risk of this disease.

How common is Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is one of the most commonly seen skeletal diseases in dogs, and can occur in 50% or more of some of the larger breeds of dogs!
Large dogs with relatively high incidence of hip dysplasia include:

  • Bernese Mountain Dog
  • Bloodhound
  • Boxer
  • Brittany Spaniel,
  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever
  • English Setter
  • English Springer Spaniel
  • Golden Retriever
  • Gordon Setter,
  • German Shepherd Dog
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Standard Poodle
  • Rottweiler
  • St. Bernard
  • Welsh Springer Spaniel
  • Welsh Corgi

Large dogs with relatively low incidence of hip dysplasia include:

  • Borzoi
  • Doberman
  • Pinscher
  • Great Dane
  • Greyhound
  • Irish Wolfhound
  • Siberian Husky

What are the symptoms of Hip Dysplasia in my pets?

Oftentimes, a dog experiencing hip dysplasia will show symptoms within the first 4-12 months of life. The first sign is usually a decrease in activity due to joint pain. You may see your pet drawing their hind legs forward more than usual, attempting to put more weight on their front legs. When they run, they may appear to be moving in a ‘bunny hop’ like motion. As the condition progresses, more severe symptoms will begin to reveal themselves, such as difficulty rising after sitting or lying down, or whimpering while climbing stairs.

How can I prevent and treat Hip Dysplasia in my pets?

Hip Dysplasia is most commonly caused by genetics, so sometimes prevention isn’t possible. Making sure not to overfeed a large breed dog may be a smart preventative measure though (and will also help reduce the risk of other conditions such as obesity and diabetes!) Speak to your veterinarian about proper diet choices when your pet is as young as 8 weeks of age.

If any of the symptoms mentioned above have been noticed, then making an appointment with your veterinarian is the best way to help your pet. In order to diagnose the condition, a veterinarian will have to perform a physical examination of the hips, and the diagnosis can be confirmed with a radiographic image. Hip dysplasia will be apparent on a radiographic image if there is a lot of space surrounding the bones, or if the femoral head appears to be out of place.

There are a few options when it comes to treatment of hip dysplasia. Most importantly, it is advised that dysplastic animals participate in activities such as walking, swimming and slow running, but NOT in activities like jumping or prolonged running. Often-times, anti-inflammatory drugs and narcotics may be prescribed to relieve pain, but they will not cure the disease or prevent its progression. With this in mind, products such Glucosamine, Chondroitin, Omega 3 fatty acids and Cartrophen (pentosan polysulfate sodium) can be prescribed to stop the degradation of the cartilage and foster cartilage growth and repair. These products can also improve the production of synovial fluid. Synovial fluid is the lubricant in a joint that allows the joint to move smoothly. Mobility diets are also available which contain many of these products. A joint health plan should be started as soon as hip dysplasia is detected!

If medical therapy is not enough, other treatments are available. A newer procedure, denervation of the hip joint capsule, can be performed. The goal of this procedure is to remove the pain immediately and reactivate the active component of the hip joint. Finally, in severe cases, more invasive surgery is an option where the bones may be rearranged or completely replaced by prostheses.

Resources

Brooks, W. C. (2005, February 21). Canine hip dysplasia. Retrieved from Veterinary Partner website: http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=1916

(2005, February 21). Diagnosis and genetics of canine hip dysplasia. Retrieved from Cornell University website: http://bakerinstitute.vet.cornell.edu/contentimages/library/File/Canine_Hip_Dysplasia_brochure_11_05.pdf

Content Contributor: Dr. Sandy Drury