Bernie: A Golden Story of Triumph

Below you will find a blog piece written by one of our former Doctor Assistants, Ashley. While with us, Ashley had the privilege of meeting and working with “Bernie,” a patient of ours who continues to amaze us each and every time we see him. Through out all of his ailments in 2011, Bernie continued to be a burst of positivity for us and we’re grateful he’s doing so much better, thanks to his doting father, Forrest.

    I originally met Bernie the golden retriever a few years ago during an annual exam. I was immediately taken by two things, 1) Bernie’s exuberant personality (he was all wags and barks) and 2) how much his parents cared for him. My coworkers and I became steadfast fans of Bernie’s infectious outgoing energy, so you can imagine our dismay when our lovable golden friend’s health began to fail two winters ago. It began with a diagnosis of diabetes in early December of 2010. Bernie mysteriously stopped eating, a sure sign in most retrievers that something has gone awry. Dr. Peter Nurre started Bernie on Humulin insulin. Soon after his change in medication, Bernie came in feeling crummy, and Dr. Roger Johnson performed an abdominal ultrasound on Bernie to find that he had an infection in his abdomen. Surgery was necessary to search for the source of infection, which is typically a perforation (hole) somewhere within the bowel, but in Bernie’s case the source of infection was not a perforated bowel, and remained a mystery. Dr. Johnson cleaned the infection out of the abdomen as best he could and stitched Bernie back up.

    After surgery Bernie’s troubles were not over, as he had several mysterious post-operative infections in spite of being treated with a battery of antibiotics. Soon after surgery Bernie went blind from cataracts, a common problem for diabetics, but had lost so much weight that the corrective surgery could not be performed as a result of the fact that his eyes were sunken into his skull so much. When I caught up with Bernie in February of 2011 I was shocked to see that he had dropped from a robust 80 pounds down to a paltry 55 pounds. His tail still wagged, but he was so thin he was nearly unrecognizable. It is hard to admit, but I was starting to lose hope for my furry friend. However, Bernie’s dad Forrest was vigilant during the whole process. Utilizing the latest in iPad applications and spreadsheets to track Bernie’s blood glucose and insulin doses, Forrest communicated regularly with Dr. Johnson via e-mail in hopes of controlling the diabetes.

    Bernie’s health seemed to decline even further when his jaw seemed to stop working in March of 2011, as he was diagnosed with a condition known as trigeminal neuritis by Dr. Filippo Adamo, our neurologist. This rare condition effects the nerves that wrap around the face, which control the ability of the jaw to open and close normally as well as the blinking reflex of the eyes. The symptom Bernie experienced was that of a “dropped jaw,” in which the jaw cannot close properly. Forrest had to hand feed and water Bernie for six weeks until the condition spontaneously resolved. During Bernie’s bout with trigeminal neuritis he would often bleed profusely from his mouth because when he would drink water, he would take in such large amounts that he would rupture blood vessels near the back of his tongue.

    After the trigeminal neuritis resolved Bernie began to gain weight again, and he was able to have cataract surgery in June of 2011. Bernie’s parents were thrilled when he regained his sight the same day as the surgery, and according to Forrest, the golden retriever’s happiness returned with his vision. Forrest noted the intense eye medication regimen that followed surgery, but Bernie’s renewed sense of self made the process worthwhile. Bernie’s eating stabilized, and in July of 2011 Dr. Johnson wrote the phrase, “getting fat! :)” in his chart.

    I caught Bernie and Forrest in the clinic a few months ago during a recheck visit to see Dr. Johnson, and I was thrilled when Bernie barked at me for attention as Forrest was showing me the latest blood glucose monitoring applications on his iPad. He looked like his normal Bernie self, and his wagging tail never stopped moving the whole time I was in the room. Dr. Johnson found some discrepancies within Bernie’s blood work recently (high tryglycerides and evidence of blood proteins), and he has since began a medication regimen to treat those conditions. Clinically, Bernie looked fabulous! I am happy to report that this past December the ten year old golden is once again at his fighting weight of 77.5 pounds. Dr. Johnson and the staff at Encina would like to commend Forrest for his vigilance in monitoring and caring for Bernie.

Please follow Bernie on Twitter @BernieLitke

A special thanks to Bernie’s dedicated father, Forrest Litke, for his contribution of information and pictures to this blog, and for allowing us to share Bernie’s story with everyone!

Hyperthyroidism in Cats: Introducing Hill’s y/d Diet

    As devoted pet owners we know that as our pets’ age, they become more susceptible to illnesses and health conditions. One of the most common diagnoses in older cats is hyperthyroidism; hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid gland (located in the neck) makes too much thyroid hormone for the body.

   Often times the symptoms of hyperthyroidism are not visible, but over time and as the condition worsens, symptoms become noticeable. The most common symptoms are weight loss, frequent urination, increased thirst and appetite.

   When a cat is suspected of suffering from hyperthyroidism, the veterinarian will first feel the neck of the cat to see if he or she can feel if the thyroid gland is enlarged. Often times, the thyroid becomes inflamed when suffering from hyperthyroidism and swells a bit. Heart rate and blood pressure may also be checked because when a cat suffers from hyperthyroidism, it causes the heart to work faster and harder which can eventually lead to an enlarged heart. After the exam is complete, a blood sample is taken from the cat and sent to the laboratory to analyze the present thyroid hormone.

   Should your cat be diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, you should know right away that there are options. Encina Veterinary Hospital in Walnut Creek offers two key options for treatment: medication or a diet change. We know that many pet owners have a difficult time medicating their cat for multiple reasons; this is why we are big fans of feeding Hill’s Prescription diet y/d Feline Thyroid Health brand pet food. It carefully limits the levels of dietary iodine to reduce thyroid hormone production and help restore health without the need for any other therapy.

   Once your feline friend has been prescribed the new y/d diet, you will gradually introduce y/d over a 7 day period by mixing y/d with your cat’s current food, gradually increasing the amount of y/d until only y/d is fed. Once your cat has been eating y/d exclusively for 2 weeks, you will then remove all thyroid medication from his/her life. In the 4th week after starting y/d, your veterinarian at Encina will then perform a recheck to see how the thyroid is doing compared to before the diet change.

   One of our recent patients, Autumn Pumpkin, was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and was given numerous medications to manage the condition. This was not only a stressful situation for both the owner and cat, but it was costly as well. 3 weeks after Autumn Pumpkin began the y/d diet, she was completely taken off of all medications and maintains healthy thyroid levels on the y/d diet alone! WAHOO!!!

   The most challenging part about feeding your cat the y/d diet is the fact that you can no longer offer the range of treats and snacks you once did. It’s important your cat eats the y/d diet exclusively to ensure it works. However, Hill’s has been working very hard to come up with ways that cat owners can still spoil their feline friends and developed several recipes for loving cat owners to make hyperthyroid safe snacks!

Click here to download the recipe for Snack Triangles from y/d Canned Food, Gravy from y/d Canned Food and Snack Cookies from y/d Dry Food

Peanut the Miracle Cat!

Peanut's Baby Picture

It is said by many that cats have nine lives, as it would appear in the case of Peanut Matthews. Peanut, a very sweet seal point Siamese, has proven herself to be a survivor not once, but twice. Found by her human dad at St. Mary’s College (my alma mater) in August of 2010, she is the only kitten out of her litter of six to survive. Peanut came to us on the brink of death earlier this year, after her brother found her curled up against the back door of their house, crying, barely conscious. Dr. Johnson brought her back using life-saving measures that night, and Dr. Christine Fabregas recalls her story below:

Dr. Fabregas, attempting to get Peanut's blood pressure

“Peanut” Matthews, a 1 year old female-spayed Siamese cat, who was found by her owner at the age of 4 weeks. Peanut’s new family bottle feed her and nursed her to a healthy kitten. She was an indoor/outdoor kitten that loved to adventure through the neighborhood. On October 13, 2011, Peanut was presented to Encina Veterinary Hospital comatose, very low body temperature and blood pressure; neither was able to be registered. At this time the thought was that there was a traumatic event that occurred such as a hit by car. Her skin was bruised on her limbs and abdomen. She did not have any fluid in her chest or abdomen when scanned with the ultrasound. An IV catheter was placed and blood work was ran revealing a very low red blood cell count (8%) and her clotting factor time was out of range. Her limbs became rigid and she began to arrest. Emergency medicine was instituted with epinephrine and atropine injections. Her cardiac electrical conduction revealed ventricular fibrillation on ECG. The doctors defibrillated her chest and brought her back to life. She was given a blood and plasma transfusion, and Vitamin K1 injection for the possibility of a toxicity. She was intubated for oxygen therapy and protection of her airway. Blood was noticed within her airway tube and suctioned out. She began to regain more energy and her airway tube was removed. She was maintained in an oxygen cage, on IV fluid and medications for the next 24 hours. Her pupils were dilated and fixed, unsure if she has vision.

Peanut getting a blood transfusion, with Dr. Johnson & Barb's help

Peanut’s owner called later that evening stating the high likelihood of rat-bait toxicity found in their neighbor’s yard. We continued treatment for D-con poisoning. D-con is an over the counter rat poison, an anticoagulant. The mechanism of action is to cause bleeding, most commonly into the abdomen, chest, or subcutaneous. This also occurs in cats and dogs if they ingest the poison itself or if they ingest a rat that has ingested the poison. If you notice that rat bait has been ingested by your pet, it is recommended to bring them in to the veterinary hospital for assessment. This rat bait ingestion can be fatal if not treated.

Peanut in the Oxygen Cage

Peanut required multiple plasma transfusions to increase the amount of clotting factors in her blood to stop the bleeding. She had a few seizures over her first night in the hospital and the following day, which were treated and subsided. Medication was given to decrease the pressure around her brain. An IV catheter was placed in her jugular vein(neck vein) for ease of blood sampling and fluid administration. Peanut did not seem to be neurologically appropriate, because she was just laying on her side, not responsive to her surroundings. She would vocalize when pet, but was not completely aware. She was not eating or drinking on her own. A feeding tube was placed to increase her nutrition and prevent any potential liver disease. She was fed a/d slurry and administered oral medications through her feeding tube. Chest X-rays were taken and showed an area of a bruised lung. She began to have episodes of agitation to stimuli outside of her cage.

Peanut following the placement of a feeding tube

With time and intensive care, Peanut continued to improve everyday. She was noticed grooming herself, walking around in the cage, vocalizing,and more alert to her surroundings. She was slowly transitioned out of the oxygen cage into a regular cage. Her vision was still questionable, but her touch and light reflexes were present. Her temperature, blood pressure, and blood work were reaching normal values. She began to eat small amounts of food on her own. Her tube feedings were reduced prior to discharge from the hospital. Her bruising on her abdomen and limbs were greatly improved. Peanut was discharged from the hospital with instructions on proper feedings and administration of medication via the tube. She was responsive to her owners.

Peanut eating on her own!

On recheck examination, Peanut was active and alert with partial visual improvement. Her feeding tube was removed since she was eating well on own. She was grooming herself in the examination room in the arms of herloving owner. We wish Peanut and her family the best of luck in the future.”

Peanut feeling much better following a few days of intensive treatment

I spoke with Peanut’s dad recently, and he said that she is up to her old trick of hiding in the hallway and grabbing the legs of unsuspecting passerby.  Her vision has returned completely, all the better to find her targets. Peanut’s  spunky personality is still very much intact, and she has even learned not to use her claws when playing with her human family. We at Encina are very happy have been able to witness Peanut’s miracle recovery, and wish the best of health for her for the rest of her life!

Peanut's Unbreakable Spirit is Evident in Her Beautiful Eyes

Also, as a fun bonus, please check out Peanut taking her medication right out of her owner’s hand! Dr. Johnson and I have never seen a cat take medication so easily!  Peanut Taking Pills

 

Persians are Purrfection!

Persians are one of the most recognizable and popular cat breeds on the planet. Known for their calm, laid back demeanor and beautiful (yet high maintenance) coat, this cat breed is said to date back to the 1500s. The gene for long hair is recessive in cats, and researchers believe that it “appeared spontaneously in the cold mountain areas of Persia”. Queen Victoria of England owned two blue Persians, which made them quite desirable in the early 1900s. In North America, the Persian is considered to be one breed, regardless of color, however, in Britain each color of Persian is considered a separate breed.

The fact that Persians are brachycephalic (flat-faced) means that the breed is prone to breathing difficulties, as well as skin and eye issues. Polycystic kidney disease is also prevalent, in which the kidneys become enlarged as a result of cysts that grow in and around the organ.

One of Dr. Johnson’s more famous Persian patients is named Gabriella, known around cat shows as KIT’Z PAWS GABRIELLA BLISS. Gabi is the beautiful kitty you see in these pictures. I asked her mom Felicia to share their story:


“Before I started showing Gabbi I had never shown any cat.  I had gone to a few cat shows, but just as a spectator.  I bought Gabbi as a kitten  with
the intention of showing her, and ran into all kinds of health issues within the first few days of owning her. These health issues went on for about a good year,  however with the excellent  care of Dr. Roger Johnson, Shannon, and everyone at Encina, she bounced out of all that and is a wonderful pet and show Persian.  Some people that show believe in caging their show cats to keep the cats coat in show condition,  I am not one of
those , Gabbi has the run of the house with my other 3 cats.  Nobody thought she would be in the place she is now, which is in the Ribbons at the Shows! Gabbi loves to go to the shows, and she is just looking better and better.
I started showing her in August of 2011,  her first show she received her “Premier”   title, and four shows later in October she received her
“Grand Premier”   title . I am currently competing for a Regional win, then she will have a “Regional Winner” title.

Encina would like to wish Gabi and Felicia the best of luck in all of their future endeavors, on and off the show circuit!