Archives for June 2012

Parvovirus in Dogs

Parvovirus is a virus that is found in all environments and all seasons (survives in the environment for more than 7 months) that affects dogs. People and cats are not infected by parvovirus (cats are affected by a similar virus known as distemper). Unvaccinated and partially vaccinated puppies (younger than 8 months old) and unvaccinated adult dogs are most susceptible to the devastating parvovirus infections. A puppy may get infected when his/her mouth comes in contact with the virus in feces, contaminated soil, or other materials that are infected with this virus, which commonly happens on a simple walk.

Most common exposure to parvovirus ocacurs in dog parks, grassy reas, and overcrowded housing situations. Once ingested, the incubation period (time between exposure and clinical signs) is 3-14 days. The factors that determine whether a puppy will get sick from their exposure to parvovirus can vary and may include: the amount of exposure to the virus, the number of vaccines, and the overall health at time of exposure (ex. stressed animals and those housed in crowded areas are more likely to become sick after exposure). Once infected, these animal shed (release) a HUGE amount of the virus in their feces, saliva and vomit, which other dogs may get sick from. Dogs that survive this infection can continue to shed (release) the virus for 2-3 weeks. Since the virus is built to be hardy, it is resistant to many household cleaning agents and can be difficult to eradicate (10% bleach is recommended for cleanup). Any dog can get parvovirus but some breeds are highly susceptible including Doberman pinschers, rottweilers, pit bulls, German shepherds and dachshund breeds.

Vaccination is the single most important preventative effort. Puppies should be vaccinated against parvovirus (with DHPP vaccine) starting at 8 weeks of age and should receive the DHPP vaccine every 3-4 weeks until they are 12 weeks of age to be considered vaccinated. Puppies that have not received the full vaccination series should not be allowed to go to dog parks, play on grass, and frequent areas where unvaccinated dogs may be present (including walks in the neighborhood). Puppy classes pose little risk to other participating puppies as long as they have had at least one vaccine, are healthy and are not showing clinical signs of parvovirus infection. Please be sure to check with the facility your puppy may be attending puppy classes at for more information on how they prevent the spread of parvo. If you suspect that your puppy has symptoms consistent with parvovirus or may have been exposed, you should bring him/her into Encina Veterinary Hospital for testing.

Parvovirus destroys the lining of the small intestine and depletes the body of white blood cells that are needed to fight infection. In very young puppies parvovirus can cause permanent damage to the muscles of the heart. The virus acts on the lining of the small intestine and causes it to be sloughed off, which allows blood and liquids to leave the body and bacteria from the gut to enter the body. For this reason the most common symptom of the parvovirus infection is bloody, foul smelling liquid diarrhea. Other clinical signs include lethargy/decreased activity, loss of appetite, and vomiting. Severely ill animals can develop severe dehydration, sepsis, shock and death. If animals are housed together they can develop these symptoms within a couple days of one another. Once symptoms occur these pets should be separated and presented to a veterinarian for diagnostics and treatment.

A quick fecal test can be performed at the veterinary clinic to confirm this infection. Bloodwork is necessary to determine the white blood cell count and overall health status. These test are very important as they help guide the overall treatment plan. Fecal sample may be sent out to the laboratory for analysis as young puppies can be concurrently infected with parasites such as worms and giardia, which should also be treated.

Treatment for parvovirus infection should be performed as soon as diagnosed and in a veterinary hospital such as Encina Veterinary Hospital. Treatment involves intravenous fluids for rehydration, antibiotics, pain medication, anti-emetic, and correction of electrolyte or blood sugar imbalances. While in the hospital, patients will also be monitored for low blood pressure and low and/or high temperatures.
Severely affected animals such as those in shock or septic will require longer and more involved treatments. Puppies and adult dogs that are treated for parvovirus in a veterinary hospital will be placed in an isolation ward as they are contagious to other unvaccinated dogs. Because parvovirus is such an aggressive virus and highly contagious, dogs who are positive for parvo are often isolated from non-infected dogs.

With the appropriate treatment led by a veterinarian, parvo can be beat and your dog can live a healthy life. However, it’s important to know that the response to treatment plays a huge role in the chances a dog has at beating parvo. Without appropriate treatment as soon as clinical signs are noted, the chances of survival decrease. In untreated animals, severe illness most often results in death.

If you feel your dog may have been exposed to the parvovirus and is now positive, please give us a call immediately: (925) 937-5000

Maryam O’Hara DVM

Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs and Cats

Inflammatory bowel disease (aka IBD) is a disorder of dogs and cats where inflammatory cells (types of white blood cells within the blood) abnormally infiltrate the stomach and intestines, causing abnormal digestion of food. In cats, the disease can be part of a serious complex that also affects the liver and pancreas.

IBD is one of the most common causes of chronic vomiting and diarrhea in both dogs and cats. Other signs of IBD can include gradual weight loss, a dull hair coat, lethargy, hiding, and a decreased or increased appetite. Your veterinarian at Encina Veterinary Hospital may pick up on other signs during a physical exam, such as thickened gut loops and enlarged abdominal lymph nodes.

The exact cause or root of IBD is still not known; it is thought to be caused by a variety of triggers. These include intolerance to certain diets, gastrointestinal parasites and bacteria, and an individual’s genetic predisposition. Unfortunately, the exact trigger is usually not found, so the cause is labeled as “idiopathic” or unknown.

Diagnosing IBD is somewhat more complicated than other conditions. IBD cannot be diagnosed by a blood test and the only way to confirm IBD is to collect samples of tissue from inside the stomach, intestines, and colon. Once these samples are collected, they are sent off to the lab for analysis to see if signs of inflammatory infiltration are present. Samples are collected by either endoscopy (where a tiny camera is passed through the mouth and colon using a thin and flexible tube) or via exploratory surgery. Before these advanced tests are performed, your veterinarian will typically recommend a variety of less complex tests to rule out other causes of chronic vomiting and diarrhea first. These tests may include comprehensive blood, urine, and fecal tests and/or an abdominal ultrasound.

As a chronic illness, pets diagnosed with IBD will require regular rechecks with your veterinarian as well as emotional and financial investment in order to manage. Treatments for this condition may be life long, treatments are aimed at making your dog or cat feel better, and treatments are usually performed in a step-wise fashion. Your veterinarian may first recommend starting oral antibiotics and dewormers, as well as starting a strict prescription diet for several weeks to rule out bacterial, parasitic, and dietary triggers. In the rare case, your pet may feel better with these treatments alone. Most cases require additional treatments with anti-inflammatories. Starting these anti-inflammatories can actually hinder the diagnosis of IBD and is usually not recommended until biopsies are collected or your veterinarian has a very strong suspicion that IBD is present. Your veterinarian will work with you to help find the right combination of medications and treatments that will make your pet feel better.

If left untreated, IBD can be a serious disease which can lead to severe weight loss, decreased appetite, depression, and a poor quality of life. In rare cases in cats, IBD can actually lead to intestinal lymphoma, which is a type of cancer.

While IBD is a complicated and chronic disease process affecting many dogs and cats that requires veterinary care in order to diagnose and treat, this is a manageable condition. Your veterinarian is the best person to help formulate a plan that will make your dog or cat feel better and improve the quality of their life.

Erica Chiu DVM

Arthritis in Dogs and Cats

Arthritis not only affects people, but our beloved furry friends too. In fact, arthritis affects one in every five adult dogs in the U.S. and is one of the most common sources of chronic pain that veterinarians treat. Although not as common, arthritis also affects our feline friends.

What exactly is arthritis? Osteoarthritis, a.k.a. degenerative joint disease or osteoarthrosis, is an irreversible, non inflammatory degenerative damage of the bones that make up joints. Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint, but most often affects the hips.

Signs that your dog or cat may have arthritis: Unfortunately dogs and cats are not able to tell us when they hurt. It is important, therefore, to watch for non-verbal cues closely and take even subtle changes seriously. The following are signs that your pet may have arthritis:
         -Favoring a limb
         -Difficulty standing or sitting
         -Sleeping more
         -Seeming to have stiff or sore joints
         -Hesitancy to jump, run or climb stairs
         -Weight gain
         -Decreased activity or less interest in play
         -Attitude or behavior changes

Management of Osteoarthritis: As osteoarthritis is an irreversible disease, the goals of therapy are not to cure the animal, but rather to control pain, increase mobility, slow the destructive process in the joint and encourage cartilage repair. The following are some ways to help minimize the aches and pains:

  Drug Therapy:
Fortunately, there are multiple options when it comes to drug therapy. Often times, drugs are used in combination with one another to provide better comfort. The following are some commonly used medications:
     -Non steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), such as Rimadyl and Meloxicam, can be used to help reduce inflammation in the joints.
     -Other pain medications, such as Tramadol and Gabapentin, can be used in conjunction with NSAIDs to alleviate pain and discomfort.
     -Chondroprotective agents, such as Adequan, Cosequin and Glyco-flex, work to protect cartilage as it attempts to repair itself.

Please do not give your dog or cat any pain medications without consultation with a veterinarian first. Many human anti-arthritis drugs can cause serious, even fatal, results in animals.

  Weight Management and Exercise: Drug therapy is most effective when combined with appropriate exercise and weight management. Weight control is probably the most important thing an owner can do to help their arthritic pet. Low impact exercises, such as swimming or walking, are good ways to keep an animal thin and may enhance the nutrition of the cartilage.

  Surgery: If medical management fails to reduce pain and improve function, surgical intervention may be an option. There is a wide variety of surgical corrections, alteration, replacements and salvage procedures that may be helpful in certain situations.

  Other Therapies: Physical therapy, acupuncture and special diets are some more good options for dogs and cats with osteoarthritis.

Should you believe your pet is suffering from arthritis or has been recently diagnosed, keep in mind that although this condition is irreversible there are many things that both you and Encina Veterinary Hospital’s staff of veterinarians can do to control pain/discomfort and slow the course of the disease, giving your pet a full and healthy life!

Nadia Rifat DVM

Anesthesia 101 for the Pet Owner

Having an anesthetic procedure performed can be a scary experience for both you and your pet, but it doesn’t have to be. If you know the right questions to ask your veterinarian or RVT (registered veterinary technician) that will be performing the anesthesia, it will help alleviate some of your anxiety and give you peace of mind.

Why do we perform blood work or an ultrasound prior to anesthesia at Encina Veterinary Hospital and how does this influence our anesthetic plan for your pet? Blood work and sometimes ultrasound aids us in looking for abnormalities within your pet’s organ systems. Some blood abnormalities we look for are low red cell counts (anemia), elevated kidney or liver levels, electrolyte abnormalities (electrolytes are things like potassium, sodium, chloride etc) or decreased protein levels in the blood. In addition, ultrasound helps us diagnose the severity of heart disease if your pet has a murmur or a mass/tumor in the body. These are just a few of the abnormalities that will help us determine your pet’s anesthetic plan. The medical history (previous medical problems or history of hospitalization) of your pet also aids in determining our anesthetic protocol. Anesthesia is NOT a one size fits all. We will choose the anesthetic drugs for your pet depending on its blood work, ultrasound results and medical history. Species and breed type can also influence our anesthetic plan. Sight hounds (Greyhounds, Whippets etc), brachycephalics (Pugs, English Bulldogs, Boxers etc) and cats, in general, can have different reactions to certain anesthetic drugs that differ from the majority of the pet population. Pets that are overweight, old (usually 9yrs or older) or very young (4 months or younger) also have anesthetic issues that can alter their anesthetic plans. All of this is taken into account when deciding on what anesthetic drugs will be safest for your pet.

Your pet will have many monitoring devices placed on it during anesthesia. The monitors help us make sure your pet has the safest anesthetic experience possible. We monitor your pet’s heart rate with an ECG as well as its blood pressure. Blood pressure is a VERY important vital sign to monitor. It tells us whether your pet’s organs and tissues are getting enough blood and therefore oxygen (blood carries oxygen that is vital in keeping your pet alive). The cells that make up tissues and organs can die if not enough oxygen is delivered to them. Initially this may not be a big deal, but if your pet has multiple anesthetic procedures and blood pressure is not monitored or is low your pet can start showing signs of organ disease. If blood pressure continues to be low during anesthesia we will administer fluids and sometimes drugs to help increase it. Low blood pressure is usually a side effect of most anesthetic drugs. Usually blood pressure returns to normal once anesthesia is discontinued. Carbon dioxide levels are also very important to monitor. If carbon dioxide starts increasing in your pet it can lead to very serious complications and eventually may lead to death. If carbon dioxide levels do start to increase during anesthesia, we will place your pet on a ventilator (a machine to assist your pet in breathing better). This DOES NOT mean that your pet has developed a breathing problem. Most of the drugs that we use for anesthesia cause respiratory depression i.e. breathing depth and frequency become decreased causing carbon dioxide to build up. Once your pet is recovered, breathing depth and frequency will usually return to normal. Oxygenation of the blood is monitored which aids us in making sure that enough oxygen is being transported by the red cells to your pet’s body. Your pet’s temperature is continually monitored with a temperature probe (like a big thermometer you use at home). This probe is placed in your pet’s throat or rectum depending on the surgical operation – don’t worry, the probes covers are changed after every surgical procedure. Usually your pet will have a warming device that blows warm air placed on top or under them to keep their temperatures normal. If your pet is small or sick, we may place two of these warming devices on them as these patients get cold quickly.

After your pet’s surgical or dental procedure is finished at Encina Veterinary Hospital, they will usually receive another dose of pain medication upon recovery. Again, this pain medication is chosen depending on their medical history. If you know that your pet has had a certain anesthetic or pain drug in the past and has not done well on it let the doctor or staff know so we can chose another drug. There are many newer anesthetic and pain drugs that are available to us. Your pet will recover in our ICU or preoperative area depending on the severity of their medical condition or surgical procedure. Patients that recover in ICU have many things that need to be monitored post operatively by our ICU nurses such as IV fluids or constant pain medications. Patients with moderate to severe organ disease will also be placed in ICU along with older healthy patients. Younger and healthier patients will recover in the preoperative area where they are watched by our surgical staff.

Anesthetic complications, though rare, can occur in any pet because ANY patient can have drug reactions that we can not predict. Some drug reactions can be reversed by using drugs that are specifically made for this purpose. Unfortunately, reversal drugs are only commonly available for opioids (morphine type drugs) and certain sedation drugs (Dexdomitor). Most other drugs can not be reversed so if a reaction occurs we can only support the patient with IV fluids and other drugs to minimize the reaction. Unfortunately, sometimes this is not enough and the patient may die, although this is EXTREMELY uncommon. We try to minimize all potential anesthetic complications by obtaining current medical history from you the pet owner as well as having current blood work on your pet. Records are reviewed by the surgical doctor as well as the RVT anesthetic staff the day of anesthesia. Again, once your pet’s history and blood work has been reviewed we will develop an anesthetic plan specific to your pet to minimize all potential complications and risks.

In addition, our anesthetic staff is the only staff in the entire Bay Area that is overseen by an RVT with a specialty in anesthesia ( This allows our staff and doctors to be current on all anesthetic and pain drugs that are available including being current on new recommendations for their safe use.

Susan Burns BS, RVT, VST (Anesth)

Summer Pet Tips 101

    With summer approaching, we’re more likely to spend time outdoors with our pets. Whether it’s taking our dog with us camping in Tahoe or on a long walk at Newhall Park in Concord or even taking our indoor cats outside on the lawn for a roll in the grass, it’s important we be aware of what may harm our pets.

Dr. Jill Christofferson of Encina Veterinary Hospital recommends that pet owners apply sunblock on the ears, noses, etc of light colored pets (such as white cats/dogs) or pets with less than full fur (certain breeds of cats and dogs have little to no hair). Also, on the belly of dogs if they sunbathe belly-up. Should your pet suffer a sunburn, aloe vera or vitamin E may help to soothe it but a veterinarian will also be able to prescribe a mild pain-reliever to help with your pets’ discomfort.

Heatstroke in pets is all too common sadly. Leaving your pet in the car (even with the windows cracked), being left outside on a hot sunny day while you are away for hours with no water or shade or even just exercising on hot humid days (especially for brachycephalic breeds like Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Boxers, Pugs, Boston Terrier or Pekingese) can all lead to heat stoke in your pet and even death. Here are some symptoms to keep an eye out for:
                           • Excessive drooling or panting
                           • 104-110 degree body temperature
                           • Twitching muscles
                           • Vomiting and/or bloody diarrhea
                           • Pale dry gums that are gray in color and tacky to the touch
                           • Staggering/stumbling when walking or inability to stand
                           • Wide-eyed look of distress or panic
                           • Difficulty breathing and increased heart rate
    Should your pet experience any of these symptoms, your first and best move is to seek emergency veterinary care. If you are unable to do so, here are some things you can do to help your pet cool off before getting them to the veterinary emergency hospital:
                    • Immerse your pet in cool water for about 2 minutes or hose/pour cool water on your pet.
                    • Wrap your pet in a damp, cool towel while traveling with him/her to the veterinary hospital.
                    • Get your pet to shade or an airconditioned area.
                    • NEVER use ice or freezing temperature water; this may lead to shock and cause further complications.
    Preventing heatstroke is quite easy. NEVER leave your pet locked in the car on a hot or even warm day; your car can and will become a death trap reaching temperatures well above 119 degrees. NEVER leave pets unattended outdoors with no access to shade or water; heatstroke can set in very easy and fast if your pet is already partially dehydrated. When walking your dog or exercising them, do it early in the morning before temperatures reach high levels or in the evening.

WARM WEATHER TOXINS: With everyone working hard to perfect their lawn and landscapes, a bottle of pesticides, fertilizer and other garden chemicals may be lurking. Be sure you properly close/seal all of these toxins and keep them away from your pets.

SWIMMING: As with children, never leave a pet unattended in the water; accidents and drownings happen in pets too and they need you to help keep them safe.

PARASITE, FLEA AND TICK PREVENTION: Talk to us about a year around parasite prevention program to help keep your pets, home and you, flea free. Trifexis is also offering up to a $20 rebate through August 31st, 2012 to help you get started.

TRAVEL: Secure your pet using a harness or crate when driving with your pet; though it is not a law in California, it’s better safe than sorry should you get into an accident. But it is against the law to have your pet loose in the bed of your truck; they MUST be restrained!

GROOMING: If your pet is elderly or has a long coat, consider taking him or her in to get shaved down for the summer; this will help them keep cooler as well as reduce the chance of debris (like fox tails) getting stuck in their fur (and eventually burrowing their way into your pet’s skin) since they may be spending more time outdoors.

FOXTAILS: We can never say this enough, fox tails are such a hazard! They’re everywhere and can be anywhere on your pet. Paws, ears, nose, belly and chest are common areas that fox tails get into. Abscesses, surgery, lung collapsing and punctured organs are just a few of the complications we see each year from fox tails penetrating a pet. Once a fox tail gets stuck in your pets fur, it burrows it’s way to the skin and eventually through the skin leading to an abscess which leads to further issues. One way to help protect against this is keep your pet groomed and make it a habit to brush/comb him or her each time they come inside from being outdoors. Another way is by investing in the Out Fox Field Guard (Did you know one of our very own clients designed and this?! We’re so proud!!) to help protect against fox tails in the ears, nose, eyes and face. And be sure to keep your yard trimmed and free of fox tails!

In the end, summer is a great time to enjoy the Bay Area of California outdoors with your family and pets. Keeping an eye out for these hazards will help ensure your family’s summer is full of fun and empty of harm.

Should your pet experience an emergency, don’t hesitate to call us because we are open 24 hours, 7 days a week – holidays and weekends included! (925) 937-5000