Saturday, September 22, 2018

Top Veterinary Articles of the Week: Malignant Melanoma, Medicinal Mushrooms, and more ...

That Spot in Your Pet’s Eye Could be Malignant Melanoma

Dr. Marty Becker

The primary purpose of my blog is to help people see things about their dog that are out of the ordinary, don't belong, and warrant further investigation and action. There are two parts to that; noticing that something has changed and understanding the significance.

Just like lumps and bumps, a new spot where there never used to be one shouldn't be dismissed. Dr. Becker's article deals with one of the situations when discovering a black dot in your dog's eye is a serious finding--a malignant melanoma.

Top Veterinary Articles of the Week: Malignant Melanoma, Medicinal Mushrooms, and more ...



Fresh and Raw Diets for Dogs May Have Health Benefits

Science Daily

For what seems forever, science was pushing back against fresh and raw diets for dogs. Considering what is now understood in human nutrition, as well as simple logic, how does that make any sense?

The point of potentially incomplete or imbalanced diet is valid. But does that mean that any fresh or raw diet is automatically deficient? Or deadly dangerous?

I was heartened to see a study conducted by the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences taking a closer look at how do extruded kibble products compare to fresh diets.

Does nutrition go beyond nutrient-counting? If you're interested in learning what the study found, read the article.

Further reading:
Apparent total-tract macronutrient digestibility, serum chemistry, urinalysis, and fecal characteristics, metabolites, and microbiota of adult dogs fed extruded, mildly cooked, and raw diets


Medicinal Mushrooms for Pets

Dr. Jean Dodds

There are infographics out there listing mushrooms as toxic to dogs. Some of them indeed are, because they are just plain toxic. While it is a good idea to keep your dog from helping themselves to any ol' mushroom they find on their own, there are others that can not only be harmless but beneficial.

"...mushrooms have been used by in folk medicines and also served as medicines prior to the development and use of pharmaceuticals for millennia." ~Dr. Jean Dodds


That doesn't mean you should self-medicate your dog willy-nilly. Instead of trying to treat your dog on your own for anything, it is best to work with somebody who knows what they're doing, such as an integrative veterinarian. All else aside, you cannot randomly treat a problem without having a proper diagnosis. And that is something none of us can do on their own.

Proper diagnosis, proper choice, dosing, as well as sourcing, are variables that can make the difference between helping or harming your dog.

To learn more about the medicinal use of mushrooms, which mushrooms are commonly used, and what beneficial compounds they contain, read Dr. Dodds' article.


Friday, September 21, 2018

Veterinary Highlights: Cytopoint, New Treatment for Canine Atopy

Atopy, or atopic dermatitis, is the equivalent of human hay fever. But dogs don't get a runny nose and sneezes, they get itchy skin. Very itchy skin. So itchy they are willing to scratch the flesh right off themselves.

There are many potential treatment options but they don't always do much to help the poor suffering dog. Immunotherapy is the one that makes the most sense to me. Why not work with the immune system instead of suppressing it? It takes a while to take effect, though--what if your dog needs some serious relief now?

Veterinary Highlights: Cytopoint, New Treatment for Canine Atopy

Then there came Apoquel. It generated a lot of excitement but the long-term satisfaction has been mixed. Cytopoint has just been licensed for the treatment of canine allergic dermatitis.

What I like about it is that it uses monoclonal antibodies targeting the key protein involved in triggering itch. Antibodies are something normally found in the body and they are very targeted.



One injection is supposed to provide itch relief for up to eight weeks. That all sounds pretty good. According to studies, it seems to do a good job to stop the itchy feeling. Side effects as known so far had been relatively rare.


Source article:
Cytopoint Now Approved to Treat Canine Allergic Dermatitis

Further reading:
A New Treatment for Dogs with Hay Fever (atopy)
Cytopoint

Thursday, September 20, 2018

What Happens in a Dog's Body with Cyanotoxin?

By Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM

What Happens in a Dog's Body with Cyanotoxin?

When it’s hot, very few dogs can resist taking a dip and probably a sip from whatever water is nearby. Usually, that’s not a problem, but if the water is home to large numbers of blue-green algae (also called cyanobacteria), owners should do everything in their power to keep their dogs away.

Here’s why.

Many species of blue-green algae produce toxins that collectively are called cyanotoxins. 


In truth, there are more than 30 species of potentially dangerous blue-green algae that produce several different types of toxin, but for our purposes, we can divide cyanotoxins into two main categories:

  1. Neurotoxins—toxins that primarily affect the nervous system
  2. Hepatotoxins—toxins that primarily affect the liver

Routes of Exposure


The most serious damage from cyanotoxin occurs when a dog ingests blue-green algae. This typically happens when a dog drinks from a contaminated body of water but can also be associated with swimming when dogs either inadvertently get a mouthful of water or try to lick themselves clean after they get out.

Blue-green algae primarily live in stagnant or slow-moving bodies of fresh water that are warm and carry a large nutrient load (e.g., are polluted with fertilizer, animal waste, etc.). Salt or brackish water cyanotoxin poisonings are possible but occur much less frequently. Most cases occur in the late summer.

When people swim in blue-green algae contaminated water, we can develop skin rashes, eye irritation, ear inflammation, and respiratory problems. Similar symptoms probably occur in dogs as well, but they tend to be overshadowed by the effects of neurotoxins and hepatotoxins.

The Effects of Blue-Green Algae Neurotoxins on Dogs


Blue-green algae neurotoxins take effect very quickly.

They work by overstimulating the nervous system, which then essentially “wears out” over a short period of time if the dose is high enough.

Within minutes of ingestion, a dog develops symptoms like weakness, unsteadiness, muscle cramps, twitching, tremors, salivation, excessive tear production, urination, defecation, and difficulty breathing. Soon thereafter, severely affected animals may exhibit seizures, heart failure, and paralysis. Most die even if they receive prompt and appropriate treatment.

The Effects of Blue-Green Algae Hepatotoxins on Dogs


Blue-green algae hepatotoxins do their damage a little more slowly.

Symptoms can take hours or even a day or two to before they become evident but are all related to the death of liver cells and liver failure. Signs typically include some combination of lethargy, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, pale or yellow skin and mucous membranes, and abnormal bleeding or bruising.

Supportive treatment for liver failure can be successful in milder cases, but most patients still die or are euthanized due to a poor prognosis. There is one report of a severely affected dog recovering after receiving the drug cholestyramine, but the link between treatment with this drug and the dog’s outcome isn’t clear.

Preventing Cyanotoxin Exposure


Since treatment for cyanotoxin exposure is so rarely successful, prevention is absolutely essential.

Blue-green algae blooms tend to look like a thick soup or a layer of paint floating on the surface of the water. Wind may push them into dense mats. Some types are a bright green color while others are more blue, brown, or a mixture of red and green. It is impossible to know whether an algal bloom with this appearance is toxic without laboratory analysis so it’s always best to be on the safe side and keep your dog (and yourself) away from any body of water that is potentially contaminated with cyanotoxin.

Related articles:
Summer Perils: Blue-Green Algae


Articles by Dr. Coates:
Kidney Disease – Say What? 
What Happens In The Dog's Body When The Kidneys Fail To Function Properly? 
Heat Stroke: What Happens In The Dog's Body? 
The Perplexities of Pancreatitis
The Other Side Of The Coin: The Cost Of Defensive Medicine
To Neuter Or Not To Neuter… That Is The Question
Don’t Forget the Physical Therapy
Common Misdiagnoses (Part 1)
Common Misdiagnoses (Part 2)
Picking the Right Dog to Breed
When Is It An Emergency?
Dog Allergies: Common, Commonly Misdiagnosed, or Both? 
Why Does The Spleen Get No Respect?
Protect Your Dog From Snake Bites
More Creepy Crawlies
Why I Dislike Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Salmonella – A Significant Problem, Or Not? 
What’s In the Vomit?
Cortisol: What Happens In A Dog’s Body When It Goes Awry?
What Happens In The Dog's Body With Zinc Toxicity? 
What Happens In The Dog’s Body: Xylitol Poisoning 
What Happens In The Dog's Body: Insulin 
When Is Hypothyroidism not Hypothyroidism? 
What Happens in a Dog's Body with Severe Vomiting?
What Happens in a Dog's Body with Hypothermia?

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Sago Palm Poisoning: Piper's Brush with Death

They are so pretty, aren't they? Sago palms. Don't let their looks deceive you--these things are severely toxic. What is even worse, there is no easy way to diagnose Sago palm poisoning--there is no test for the toxin it contains. And there is no antidote for it either.

Dog Conditions - Real-Life Stories: Sago Palm Poisoning: Piper's Brush with Death

Unless you caught your dog munching on one of these things or its seeds, how would you even begin to suspect that Sago palm toxicity is behind your dog's severe illness? I would hope that no dog owners have any of these killer beauties at home. But that doesn't mean they are not present in your landscape, depending on where you live.

I would hope that veterinarians in places such as Florida would keep Sago palm poisoning on their differential diagnosis list with any patient with symptoms of severe illness, particularly with an indication of liver failure.

"Dr. Stephen Davis of the Niceville Emergency Veterinary clinic said he sees dogs with sago palm poisoning weekly and they usually only have a 10-20 percent chance of survival."

While symptoms might start rather inconspicuously with vomiting and diarrhea, your dog can get much worse fast. It is also another good reason why considering the big picture is important.

Dog Conditions - Real Life Stories: Sago Palm Poisoning: Piper's Brush with Death

Piper is a happy, go-lucky, all-around Black Lab. She loves playing fetch and spending time outdoors.

One morning she woke up vomiting and having diarrhea. Piper's mom did take her to a veterinarian who figured it was a garden-variety GI upset or a "stomach bug." Piper received fluids and some medications expected to get better.

However, not only that Piper wasn't improving but stopped eating and was quite lethargic. Her mom sought a second opinion. There they ran a blood panel and took x-rays of Piper's abdomen. They determined she was in liver failure but it wasn't clear why. Piper received more fluids and was sent home.

During that night, Piper couldn't stand and started convulsing. She was carried to the car and rushed to an emergency clinic where she was admitted for supportive treatment and further diagnostics. She continued to get worse and by early morning, Piper needed an emergency surgery.

Once they got to take a look inside they learned that Piper's GI tract was so inflamed it was virtually closed shut. It was then when they suspected Sago palm poisoning. At the complex where Piper lives, Sago palms were planted everywhere.

As there is no antidote, the only treatment is aggressive fluid therapy and liver support.

Piper is now slowly improving but will require 6 days of ICU treatment. Her veterinarian is confident that she should fully recover within about one month's time. That's about how long it took for Jasmine to recover from her hyperthermia horror too.

Original story:
Dog Owner Learns Hard Way about Sago Palm Poisoning

Further reading:
Sago Palm Poisoning


Do you have a story to share?
Your story can help others, maybe even save a life!


What were the first signs you noticed? How did your dog get diagnosed? What treatment did/didn't work for you? What was your experience with your vet(s)? How did you cope with the challenges?

Email me, I'll be happy to hear from you.

Do you know what your dog is telling you about their health?

Do you know what your dog is telling you about their health?

Learn how to detect and interpret the signs of a potential problem.


Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog now available in paperback and Kindle. Each chapter includes notes on when it is an emergency.

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog is an award-winning guide to help you better understand what your dog is telling you about their health and how to best advocate for them. 

Learn how to see and how to think about changes in your dog’s appearance, habits, and behavior. Some signs that might not trigger your concern can be important indicators that your dog needs to see a veterinarian right away. Other symptoms, while hard to miss, such as diarrhea, vomiting, or limping, are easy to spot but can have a laundry list of potential causes, some of them serious or even life-threatening. 

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog is a dog health advocacy guide 101. It covers a variety of common symptoms, including when each of them might be an emergency. 

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog has won the following awards:

Friday, September 14, 2018

Veterinary Highlights: Artificial Intelligence Comes to Veterinary Medicine

Vetology Innovations LLC now offers automated heart evaluation tools to veterinarians as part of the company’s artificial intelligence (AI) radiology software.



Science fiction? Nope; an AI radiology software is already a reality. What it does is provide automated diagnostic analysis of patient radiographs.

Besides sounding very cool, I think it might be quite handy--most of the time anyway. Apparently, there is a lot of manual measuring and calculations when evaluating heart x-rays. Just like I am happy to reach for calculator instead of running numbers through my head, I would be just as happy to have this task automated as well. It ought to be much quicker, easier, and accurate.



Source article:
Vetology Automated AI Heart Evaluation Tech Available Nationwide

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog: Unexplained Bruising

The main thing to understand about bruising in dogs is that while a trauma can cause a bruise, it would need to be quite a substantial trauma. Dog skin is much thicker than human skin, and they have the further protection provided by their fur.

When I see a bruise on my dog, trauma is not my prime suspect.


Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog: Unexplained Bruising

The only time JD had a "legitimate" bruise was when he had a close encounter with a steel rack. They had a disagreement about which one of them should move out of the way. The steel rack won. JD had a history of believing that if he persists in the game of chicken, the object will move eventually.

Surgical sites end up with a lot of bruising.


If your dog ever had major surgery, such as to repair an injured knee, you would have noticed the huge amount of bruising all around it. This is further exaggerated by the fact that a large area around the incision is shaved. Otherwise, you wouldn't see much of anything.

Why would surgery cause so much bruising since it's not an impact blow?

A bruise is a discoloration caused by blood spilling out of damaged capillaries under the skin.


In other words, it is the leaked red blood cells that give the bruise its appearance. You might see where I'm going with this. What if you find bruising on your dog and there has been no trauma and no surgery to explain it? What else could cause the displacement of blood from the blood vessels?

Blood is not clotting the way it should.


The body is designed to allow blood to flow where it needs to be while keeping it contained where it belongs. The two aspects involved are blood vessel permeability and blood clotting.

When the blood clotting system breaks down, blood can leak freely even from the tiniest little "nick." Meaning it doesn't take an actual trauma in the real sense of the word to cause bleeding. All it can take is normal wear and tear of the blood vessels. When everything functions normally, the body easily repairs the leak. When you see unexplained bruising, you know that something went wrong with the system.

The potential causes include toxicity, auto-immune disorder, infections, and others.

The blood vessels can't hold the blood.


Blood vessels that become too fragile, as well as increase in blood pressure, can impair the body's ability to keep blood from leaking out. Vascular disease can also lead to unexplained bruising.

Either way, it's bad news.


Weird bruising on her tongue and belly was one of the symptoms Jasmine experienced after her hyperthermia horror. Her platelets were devastated by the event.

The tongue, gums, eyes, and belly are the most likely places where you can notice unexplained bruising. It could look like small dots, specks, or large areas. It's a sign of a serious problem. If you find that on your dog, don't wait and see a veterinarian.

Note: Clotting problems caused by toxicity, such as rodenticide poisoning, it is more likely to see bleeding from the nose or mouth, pale gums, severe lethargy and other signs reflecting internal bleeding.

Do you know what your dog is telling you about their health?


Learn how to detect and interpret the signs of a potential problem.


Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog now available in paperback and Kindle. Each chapter includes notes on when it is an emergency.

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog is an award-winning guide to help you better understand what your dog is telling you about their health and how to best advocate for them. 

Learn how to see and how to think about changes in your dog’s appearance, habits, and behavior. Some signs that might not trigger your concern can be important indicators that your dog needs to see a veterinarian right away. Other symptoms, while hard to miss, such as diarrhea, vomiting, or limping, are easy to spot but can have a laundry list of potential causes, some of them serious or even life-threatening. 

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog is a dog health advocacy guide 101. It covers a variety of common symptoms, including when each of them might be an emergency. 

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog has won the following awards:
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