Hemangiosarcoma in Dogs

The spleen is an oblong organ – some would say it is tongue-shaped – seated just below the stomach. While one can live perfectly well without a spleen, the spleen does provide some helpful services to the body. Some of these functions include providing stored blood in times of acute hemorrhage, filters out infected cells, and breaks down old red blood cells.

Hemangiosarcomas are a type of malignant cancer most often found in the blood vessels of the spleen in dogs. It is also found in the liver and is actually the most common tumor found in the heart of dogs. These tumors also present themselves on the skin of a dog and may look like small red moles. Hemangiosarcomas also occur in cats, though very rare. This cancer is often found in German Shepherd Dogs and Golden Retrievers. This cancer is equivalent to Angiosarcomas in humans.

Symptoms of Hemangiosarcoma:
     • Usually the patient is suddenly weak.
     • The patient may be obviously cold.
     • The gums will be pale in color.
     • If the bleed stops on its own, the patient will be dramatically better
the next day or even a few hours later.

Unfortunately, this particular cancer is very aggressive. Most commonly when the hemangiosarcoma is attached to the splee, unless the spleen is surgically removed by an experienced surgeon such as Dr. Carl Koehler (ACVS) of Encina Veterinary Hospital, the pet will eventually pass away due to significant bleeding. Along with a splenectomy (removal of the spleen), chemotherapy is also typically suggested for the best possible outcome and longest life expectancy in this situation.

Jared Jaffey, DVM

Self Medicating Pets At Home: A Big “No-No!”

As pet owners, we hate seeing our pets in any distress and want to come to their aid right away. Often we have clients ask us if they can give their pet some over-the-counter human medications (such as Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Pepto Bismol, Pepcid etc.) in the event that they cannot come to the veterinarian at that very moment; you know, something to “hold them over” as they say.

First and foremost we’d like to state that we do not suggest you give your pet any medication unless under the direct treatment of a veterinarian. Many times you may believe the ailment in your pet is one thing, but the doctor finds it to be another, and the medication you were self medicating with prior to diagnosis ended up being more harmful than helpful.

Here’s what you need to know about human OTC (over the counter) medications and pets:

Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) Acetaminophen is a big-fat NO when it comes to pets. Acetaminophen can destroy red blood cells in pets and cause them to be anemic, as well as severe irreversible liver damage, and may lead to death if untreated. Acetaminophen is also more toxic to dogs and cats than people due to extensive recirculation of the drug within the blood.

Ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) Ibuprofen has been used in dogs as an analgesic or to reduce a fever, only when directly under the care of a veterinarian. Dogs often can be allergic to ibuprofen, so it’s important that you don’t give this drug at home because you risk your dog developing an allergic reaction which may constrict his or her airway and eventually lead to a fatality. In addition, ibuprofen can be more toxic to dogs and cats than people due to extensive recirculation of the drug within the blood. It can also be linked with kidney failure and gastric ulcers. When it comes to dogs, ibuprofen is not used to treat pain or arthritis. When it comes to cats, there’s a big “no-no”; cats are never ever to receive ibuprofen under any conditions.

Bismuth Subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol®, Kaopectate®) Bismuth Subsalicylate is used to treat mild diarrhea and stomach inflammation in dogs under the care of a veterinarian. It often leaves the stool a very dark color which should not be alarming. There are no serious complications caused by giving Pepto-Bismol to dogs, although there is not complete agreement that it is helpful either. It is important to know that Pepto-Bismol contains aspirin so it should not be used in dogs that are sensitive to aspirin, those with a history of GI ulcers or bleeding disorders; to do so could cause a fatal bleeding episode. When it comes to cats, it’s best to steer clear because they are more susceptible to suffering from a fatal toxicity.

Famotidine (Pepcid®) Famotidine is used in the treatment and prevention of stomach (gastric) and intestinal ulcers. Another use is management of acid reflux disease )a condition similar to “heartburn” in people) and caused by movement of stomach acid into the lower part of the esophagus. Dogs and cats with mast cell tumors may be treated with famotidine or a related drug because these tumors can produce large amounts of histamine. While generally safe and effective when prescribed by a veterinarian, famotidine can cause side effects in some animals, such as an allergic reaction. Medication should never be dispensed without the direct care of a treating veterinarian. This medication should not be used on patients suffering from kidney or liver disease.

Tums® In veterinary medicine, Tums can be used as a calcium supplement for dogs. A blood panel should be done on your pet before giving him or her Tums as it may not be good for them. An overdose on Tums can cause gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea and constipation.

Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed®) Pseudoephedrine causes increased heart rate and blood pressure, and should never be given to dogs.

Diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) Diphenhydramine is often used to treat allergic reactions in humans and pets. Diphenhydramine is a great emergency drug for allergic reactions related to insect bites and stings. Relatively safe, diphenhydramine is administered at the first sign of an allergic reaction in pets, children and adults, when bit by an insect or stung. Although it is relatively safe, diphenhydramine is not for every pet. Patients with glaucoma, prostatic disease, cardiovascular disease, and hyperthyroid, among other conditions, should generally avoid diphenhydramine.

Loperamide (Imodium®) Often used to treat diarrhea but can cause vomiting or abdominal cramping at lower doses, which can lead to dehydration. High doses can cause neurological signs like depression and ataxia in pets. Some dogs have a genetic sensitivity to the drug (same gene as Ivermectin sensitivity), and will show neurological signs even at low doses. It’s best you don’t give this one at home and contact your veterinarian when your pet has an upset stomach instead.

Give us a call at (925) 937-5000 immediately if you suspect that your pet has ate any medication, since some poisonings require antidotes or supportive treatment.

Always discuss with your veterinarian before “self-medicating” your pet for any condition.

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