Monthly Archives

July 2014

Mangy Mutts and How They Got That Way

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What is sarcoptic mange?

Sarcoptic mange is a highly contagious, (not to mention ITCHY), disease caused by tiny microscopic mites called sarcoptes scabei. These practically invisible critters are not so much insect-like as they are spider-like, burrowing in the skin and leaving a nasty allergic reaction in their wake.

They are most often spread from direct contact between hosts, meaning your pet likely was infected by contact with another animal. Joyously rolling around on a recently dead wildlife carcass may be all it takes. Once the mites find themselves on your pet’s skin, they will begin to mate. After mating, the female will then burrow itself into the skin, leaving 3-4 eggs in the tunnel behind her. After 3-10 days, the eggs will hatch and tiny larvae are born! They then move around on the surface of the skin, where they will stay until they reach maturity. At this time, the process begins again.

What are the symptoms of sarcoptic mange in my pet?

Sarcoptic mange is difficult to diagnose indefinitely, because the symptoms are the same as any other allergic reaction–red, scaly, itchy skin. Skin scrapings can be done but because the mite burrows so deeply into the skin, the scrapings are often negative. The characteristic inflamed skin will most likely be noticed first on the abdomen, ear tips, and elbows because these mites prefer hairless skin. These are the most commonly affected areas, but if left untreated, the pet’s whole body will become involved.

How can I treat and prevent sarcoptic mange in my pet?

Although sarcoptic mange is difficult to diagnose, it is very easy to treat. It is a good idea to give your dog a thorough bath with an anti-itch shampoo to help with their discomfort, as well as to get rid of any crust and residue before applying a medication. Clipping the dog’s coat may also be a good idea, depending on their coat length and severity of the disease. At this point, your veterinarian will be able to prescribe a medication to help kill the mites. The prescription will likely be in the form of a drip, oral medication, or spot-on product. Additional medication may be given to control the itch or treat infection. REMEMBER: You must treat ALL animals in your household once one pet has been diagnosed, EVEN IF THEY SHOW NO SYMPTOMS. The disease is highly contagious, and it is very likely they have contracted it. Let your veterinarian know if you have other pets in the house. Additionally, the diagnosed dog may remain contagious long after treatment, and they should be quarantined from other pets for 2-4 weeks until the check-up appointment.

Can I be infected with sarcoptic mange?

YES. Because the disease is so contagious, it is not unlikely that you will contract the disease if you notice it on your animal. The good news is that on humans, the disease is self-limiting. This means that it will most often go away on its own, unlike your pet! While you have it though, it can be very uncomfortable so seek advice from your doctor. If the disease is noticed on your pet, it is advised to wash all bedding immediately as well as collars and harnesses.


Brooks, W. C. (2001, January 01). Sarcoptic mange (scabies). Retrieved from Veterinary Partner website:

Foil, C. S. (2003, November 30). Sarcoptic mange. Retrieved from Veterinary Partner website:

Content Contributor: Dr. Sandy Drury

Lub, Dub, and Something Else

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What is a heart murmur?

‘Heart murmur’ is the term used to describe any of the many abnormal sounds your veterinarian can hear when using a stethoscope on your pet.

Normally, the heart should make two distinct sounds, lub followed by dub. Any extra sound, most often a ‘whooshing’ occurring between the lub and the dub, will be considered a heart murmur!

The murmur itself is not dangerous, but the cause of the murmur could be. Not all heart murmurs are signs of serious problems, though. Many animals can live normal lives with heart murmurs and never receive any treatment at all. It can, though, be a sign of heart disease. This is why if a murmur is noticed, it is advised to work with your veterinarian to find out for sure if there is an underlying problem.

What causes heart murmurs?

What causes the murmur to exist is the blood flow in that area of the heart–or the kind of blood flow. In normal, healthy animals, the blood flow will be smooth and undisturbed–imagine a tranquil, babbling brook. When murmurs are present, this is due to the blood flow being turbulant–i.e. noisy and not smooth–imagine a surging river during a thunderstorm.

But what causes an animal’s blood flow to be turbulant in the first place? There are many reasons! The heart is a complex structure, involving valves, arteries, veins, and chambers to allow the blood to flow properly and in the right direction. If any of these elements experiences problems, then the whole system is thrown off–causing a murmur!

Most common causes of murmurs include:

  • Leaky mitral valves
  • Holes between chambers that should not be connected
  • Narrowing of a chamber or vessel
  • Thin blood (due to anemia for example)

How common are heart murmurs?

Heart murmurs are quite common, and receive one of six number grades which indicates the loudness of the murmur (1 being the softest, and 6 being the loudest). A loud murmur does not necessarily indicate severity! A murmur can be benign, meaning it has no apparent disease that explains the murmur, which is commonly seen in puppies and all ages of cats. Murmurs can even be heard if an animal gets too excited, and these are also considered benign. Animals can even be born with murmurs (these are called congenital murmurs)!

How is a heart murmur treated?

The murmur itself is not treated, but the underlying cause of the murmur can be treated depending on the severity of the heart problem, age of the patient, cost of treatment and other factors. A murmur can mean many things, so there is no way of knowing if it even needs treatment until your veterinarian performs a few tests.

For dogs, your veterinarian will likely be able to determine the severity of the murmur simply by listening. If warranted, a simple blood test can be performed that evaluates if the heart is under stress; this test is helpful to determine if the murmur is significant.

For cats, the severity and cause of the murmur is generally not determined by listening alone, and will often need further testing. This same blood test used for dogs to asses heart health is also available for cats.

In both cats and dogs, your veterinarian may elect to go one step further and perform x-rays, ultrasounds, or other imaging studies, even referring your pet to a specialist. It all depends on the pet!


Rishniw, M. (2007, January 29). Heart murmurs. Retrieved from Veterinary Partner website:

Content Contributor: Dr. Sandy Drury

Soak Up The Sun! (But Not Too Much of It)

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Did you know that your pets can get sunburns just as easily as humans can? It may seem as though your pets’ fur would provide enough protection from the sun’s rays, and in part this is true, but there are areas of your pet that do NOT have this natural protection. It is up to you to keep your pets safe!

What areas of my pet are susceptible to sunburns?

Animals with light-coloured noses and skin, and very short or missing fur are the most vulnerable to the sun’s harmful rays. Pets who have suffered hair loss from allergies, hot spots, disease, surgical preparation, or radiation are also vulnerable. Even if your dog does not fit these categories, if he/she enjoys facing their belly to the sun, or if their normally thick hair has been shaved down, they could also be at high risk! The areas that are the most at-risk for a burn include:

  • Abdomen
  • Inside legs
  • Groin
  • Bridge of nose
  • Ear tips
  • Skin surrounding lips
  • Areas with low pigmentation
  • Paw pads

Although paw pads are not often burnt from prolonged exposure to the sun’s rays, they CAN be easily burnt from walking on hot asphalt for too long! Most pet owners believe that these pads are resilient enough to handle all weather conditions, but they can be quite sensitive!

What are the symptoms of sunburn in my pets?

If your pet is sunburned, it can make itself known by the appearance of red skin, or hair loss. These are the common signs of burns due to prolonged heat exposure. If your dog is limping during a walk in the heat, they may have burnt pads. If the center of the pads have patchy white blisters, this confirms the suspicion.

How can I prevent and treat a sunburn in my pets?

The solutions to the problems discussed in this article are quite simple. You may have guessed it– sun screen! That’s right, sunscreen can and SHOULD be used on your pets. Buying a sunscreen specific to your pet (cat, dog, kitten, puppy etc.) is important! Using ordinary human sunscreen is a bad idea, because it can be toxic upon digestion, and we wouldn’t put it past our furry friends to lick it all off! The sunscreen you purchase should be fragrance-free, non-staining, and contain PABA as the active ingredient. (It should be noted that sunscreen with Octyl Salicylate should not be used on cats).

Remember to be very generous with your sunscreen applications! It is recommended to use about 1 tablespoon for every AREA treated, and should be re-applied every 4-6 hours.

As for the pad burns, wearing booties is recommended for long walks. Your pet will not be happy at first (remember when you made them wear a collar for the first time?), but they will get used to it eventually. Wearing booties once a day will be a lot nicer than wearing bandages from burnt pads!


Foil, C. S. (2013, July 23). Sunscreen for pets. Retrieved from Veterinary Partner website:

Gfeller, R. W., Thomas, M. W., & Mayo, I. (1994, December 31). Sunburn. Retrieved from Veterinary Partner website:

Kuhly, P. (2009, June 24). Burnt pads, sunburn and other often overlooked, hot-weather hazards. Retrieved from Pet MD website:

Content Contributor: Dr. Sandy Drury

The Cat Contagion

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What is feline leukemia virus?

Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is a very common infection among cats which impairs the cat’s immune system and causes certain types of cancer. The virus has three different ‘types’ which all display varying effects on the animal. A cat with FeLV can be infected with one, two, or all three types! This infection is most likely to affect outdoor cats during the summertime, because this is when they have the most exposure to unfamiliar and unvaccinated animals.

FeLV can be transmitted in three basic ways:

1) Through contamination of eye, mouth and nose membranes when licked or bitten by an infected cat

2) Through passing of infected blood

3) Through pregnancy

What problems does feline leukemia virus cause?

FeLV is a very serious illness which, unfortunately, often results in the death of the animal. As high as 85% of the cats who are diagnosed with the disease will die within the following three years. The immune system is severely impacted in most cases, which results in an array of unique problems for the cat. All cats with FeLV are experiencing FeLV-A, which impacts the immune system. About 50% of cats will also be infected with FeLV-B, which causes tumors and abnormal tissue growths. A mere 1% of cats infected will also have FeLV-C, which causes anemia.

How common is feline leukemia virus?

FeLV is a very common infection, causing more cat deaths directly or indirectly than any other organism. It is more common among male cats as well as cats between the ages 0-6 years.

What are the symptoms of feline leukemia virus in my pets?

As the main problem associated with FeLV is immunosuppression, the symptoms will vary for each animal, depending on how the immune system is reacting. A diagnosis cannot be made based on symptoms alone, and the veterinarian may have to do a series of tests before they arrive at an accurate diagnosis. These tests may include a blood test (most common), urinalysis, or a bone marrow biopsy. That said, some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Anemia
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Abscesses
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Infections of the external ear and skin
  • Fever (seen in about 50 percent of cases)
  • Wobbly, uncoordinated movement
  • Inflammation of the nose or the eye
  • Inflammation of the gums or mouth tissues
  • Lymphoma (the most common FeLV-associated cancer)
  • Fibrosarcomas (cancer that develops from fibrous tissue)

How can I treat and prevent feline leukemia virus in my pets?

There are many preventative measures that can be taken to prevent this disease. First of all, new cats brought into the home can be tested for the virus and vaccinated if they are negative. Kittens are the most susceptible to the disease, and if they are given the proper vaccines when they are young, this makes a huge difference to lower their risk later on in life. Finally, keeping your cat indoors prevents exposure to the virus if you choose not to vaccinate.

Treatment methods in these cases will vary from animal to animal. Some animals will simply need a prescription medication to treat infections or symptoms that arise from their impaired immune system. Other animals may need special diets to help combat weight loss, or blood transfusions if affected by anemia. It all depends on the pet, and a proper treatment plan will be planned especially for them. Talk to your veterinarian today about how to keep your cat healthy and disease-free!


VIN Community Contributors. (2003, July 12). Feline leukemia virus. Retrieved from Veterinary Partner website:

(n.d.). Leukemia virus infection in cats. Retrieved from Pet MD website:

Content Contributor: Dr. Sandy Drury