We asked pet owners to submit questions via our Facebook page. Here is the first batch of questions and answers.
Question from Kathleen Grube Would love someone to talk about hypothyroid in dogs. I think it's very under diagnosed and a complete blood panel doesn't include it (vets should have a price that includes the CBC AND thyroid, imo).
My dog with epilepsy went through at least 6 vets and not one suggested testing his thyroid. When I finally asked for it, it turned out that HE HAS NO measurable thyroid in his body. No wonder he felt so crummy. According to Jean Dodds, DVM, who writes extensively on this topic, hypothyroid can sometimes cause seizures.
Low thyroid can also cause aggression in dogs, general anxiety, and a host of other symptoms. Make sure to have your dog's (and cat's) thyroid checked!!
Dr. Waterhouse: Good points -- checking the thyroid should always be considered, especially in older/sick pets, or those with unexplainable medical issues. Unfortunately, low thyroid in dogs is all to often OVERdiagnosed -- the tests used most commonly have a margin of error AND many diseases outside the thyroid can cause an artificial low reading (we call these 'grey zone' results). Best to follow up with more sensitive tests to support a diagnosis of low thyroid in these cases before starting treatment.
Question from Marilyn Williams I have a 17-year old cat that yowls after dark; do cats get dementia?
Dr. Waterhouse: We can see age-related behavioral changes in cats and dogs, often the result of chemical changes in the brain. With any older pet showing changes in behavior, it is important to have a veterinarian perform a physical exam and check out internal organs (blood panel, urinalysis) to make sure all is ok. Often, pain, blood pressure, and vision loss can cause behavioral changes we attribute to 'dementia'.
Question from Linda Curran:Is there a way to prevent Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis? One of our chihuahua facebook group, her darling long haired white chi died suddenly, within 48 hours of vomiting and diarrhea. And is it highly contagious to other dogs as we are told it is?
Dr. Waterhouse: Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE) is a condition that causes severe bloody diarrhea – smaller breeds are prone to developing this condition. Causes are still poorly understood, but bacterial pathogens and stress are suspected players. We will often see it as a result of travel, boarding, or getting food items the pet is unaccustomed to. Fluid and blood loss through the lining of the intestines can be severe, and small dogs become debilitated very quickly. Rapid response – a trip to the veterinarian, antibiotics, possible IV fluid support and hospitalization, are the best bets for preventing the catastrophic outcome you describe.
The bacteria that are implicated in the disease (relatives of the same bacteria that cause tetanus or botulism toxicity) can be passed from dog to dog – so it is important to isolate dogs having diarrhea, and cleaning up messes as soon as they happen (especially in boarding and breeding facilities)
Question from Erika Valberg: What's the best cat food for cats over the age of 20 years old? Mine's on the skinny side, so no weight loss food needed here.
Dr. Waterhouse: I’d defer that to your cat’s veterinarian – there really is not one BEST food for a particular situation – it all depends on your cat’s overall health and what he/she likes to eat. I’d start with a blood test to look at kidney, liver, and thyroid health – skinny cats in this age group sometimes start showing signs of disease we can regulate with diet.
In general, wet diets (canned foods) for cats contain more moisture, helping their kidneys function a little better. Discuss diet and geriatric care with your veterinarian.
Question from Keri Tracy: What do i do when my dog seems to have skin irritation from any and every collar i get him. Hes mixed boxer and pit brindle
Dr. Waterhouse: Tough to say without seeing the irritation – could be a sensitivity to animal products (leather) or synthetics (nylon). Might also be that the collar is trapping moisture and bacteria close to the skin, allowing an infection to start. Most porous materials will harbor skin bacteria, so washing the collar on a regular basis and making sure it is not too tight to allow air circulation might solve the problem.
Question from Tara Bush Nelson I have a 13 y/o Shiba Inu and she is mostly blind and I believe deaf, sometimes when she comes in the house after going outside she paces constantly and pants, it takes forever for her to calm down is there anything that will help this?
Dr. Waterhouse: I’d have your vet look at internal organ/thyroid function (blood and urine check) as well as an assessment for pain (arthritis, other). Many older dogs will also show signs of ‘dementia’ – the effects of age on the brain. Supplements and medications can be helpful in these situations.
Question from Sheila Clark Are Greenies and similar dog chews bad for dogs? I've heard horror stories about bowel obstructions. What are the best treats to give our puggle and chihuahua?
Dr. Waterhouse: The ‘Greenies’ brand took some flack a few years ago when their products were causing GI perforation and obstruction – they have since been reformulated to prevent that kind of issue. They work great, from a dental standpoint, as long as your pet actually chews them (vs swallowing whole). In general, look for chew treats that are not hard enough to break the teeth (bones, antlers and hooves are bad for this reason), and try to not give so many that your dog gains excess weight.
Question from Norma Franco My nine year old boxer is losing his coat on certain spots. It's not a virus and vet can't figure out why can you help
Dr. Waterhouse: Tough call to make without seeing the coat, and knowing what has been done to diagnose the problem so far. Bacterial infection in the skin is common (“staph. infections”), as are fungal diseases (ringworm). Allergies can cause some pretty significant changes in the skin. Often, hormonal changes will affect the hair coat, especially in older dogs (thyroid gland, adrenal glands, for example). Best to have your vet check things out, or consult one of the veterinary dermatology specialists in your area.