Saturday, February 13, 2016

Top Veterinary Articles of the Week: Veterinary Diagnostics, Lead Poisoning, and more ...

This is why veterinary diagnostics aren’t a waste of money
Dr. Marty Becker

Diagnostics tests can be a big dilemma and I don't even talk about costs. The bottom line is that diagnostic tests exists because there is a limitation to what the eyes can see, the hands can feel and the ears can hear. And short of cutting your dog open to take a look with one's own eyes, your vet just cannot see inside your dog. And there is time and place for exploratory surgery too when all else fails and isn't conclusive enough.

Image The Downs Veterinary Practice

There are some questions one needs to ask themselves before deciding on a diagnostic test.
  • Can my dog be successfully diagnosed without further diagnostics? And since you're asking yourself this question the answer is probably no.

  • How invasive is the test? Some diagnostics are less invasive than others. Some can be as easy as a simple blood draw. Some might require anesthesia, some might require poking junks out of your dog's body.

  • Is there a less invasive test which can provide just as much information?

  • Is what we learn going to change the course of the treatment? This is an important question because what is the point of putting your dog through all that if it's not going to change anything. For example, when Jasmine's neck went bad, we were quite certain we wouldn't have put her through surgery. We could do MRI to see what exactly was wrong but what would that change? Doing the MRI would have only made sense if surgery was one of the options we were considering.

  • Would it make sense to do a therapeutic trial first?

  • Is the chosen diagnostic the best one to really understand what's happening with the dog?
    For example, if there is suspicion of cancer, you could have your vet do all kinds of things but half of those may or may not be useful. It is best to consult with an oncologist first, before running a battery of tests, spending all that money and potentially leaving yourself with no money for the actual treatment.
I am not likely to say no to diagnostic tests. In fact, sometimes I might insist on them. It is always important to weigh what is to be gained or lost by doing them.

One thing that's never happened to me was my vet trying to rip me off by suggesting diagnostic tests. Before you say either yes or no to diagnostic tests, learn about the test and the reason your veterinarian wants to run it.

And talking about diagnostics, why doesn't every vet hospital have a thermal camera by now? It seems like there is a lot of information that could be gained without even touching the dog and it's not THAT expensive. Just wondering because I'd really love having one used on my dogs.

Lead Poisoning in Dogs and Cats
Dr. Jean Dodds/Dr. Jean Dodds' Pet Health Resource Blog

My dad used to work as a typesetter at a print shop. He worked with lead a lot and lead poisoning was a clear and present danger. Lead is toxic to dogs just as well as it is to us. Chronic exposure leads to accumulation of lead in the body. Acute toxicity usually happens from ingestion of lead found in objects.

Lead mimics calcium and zinc and it's therefore absorbed by multiple organs causing damage. Lead poisoning can be fatal.

What you need to know about paw licking in dogs
Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM

Jasmine had periods of time when she'd lick her paws excessively. Even though we kept going back to allergies as the root of some of her problems, including the paw licking, it never really added up. She was not an itchy dog. When she did start licking her paw(s), I'd immediately went to investigate and many of the times she already had an infection going on right there. I'm talking about hours, not days. I strongly believe she was licking because of the infection, rather than the infection happening from the licking.

She also had times when she'd lick her paws like there was no tomorrow for not discernible reason at all. This was typically during her episodes of pacing and panting. Sooner or later she'd just go crazy licking her paws. There was nothing visibly wrong with them at those times at all. And yet somehow they were driving her nuts.

Again, allergies were on the table as a cause of all that. But it was never confirmed and none of the treatments, including steroids, made any difference.

Only much later her neck went bad. Really bad. But we knew all along she had some anatomical abnormalities there, they just never seemed to had been bothering her.

After all was said and done, I am convinced that the neck was indeed an explanation to both the episodes as well as the periods of crazy paw licking. Not allergies.

That is not to say that allergies cannot cause paw licking. But what if there is something else to blame?

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