Blood Test Screening
Dear Alex, thank you. I just received your vaccination reminder letters for my two Westies. Much appreciate the reminder as I’m always forgetting when they are due again each year. You mentioned about your clinic offering a package where you also blood screen them both to check out their internal health. It sounds like it might be a good plan as they are getting on for ten years now. Can you please explain what benefits it holds for my boys, then I’ll make up my mind and bring them down the road to you next week. Regards, Trish.
Hi Trish. Our blood lab helps us to do everything possible to ensure the health and safety of your pets. Many diseases can go unnoticed externally in their early stages. With both of your boys entering their senior years there is an increasing chance of some internal organ deficiencies. Along with the ability to better diagnose and treat individual cases, our in-house blood lab is used extensively prior to surgery.
Many commonly used anesthetic agents are metabolized by the liver and kidneys. Detecting conditions in these organs may show the need to change or alter the anaesthetic agent used on the day, and helps us reduce the risk of any complications. Unusally high WBC (white blood cell) numbers show viral or bacterial infection. If Lab results detect abnormalities like this it may even be necessary to postpone a procedure, to first treat, control or stabilize a condition. If these diseases or weaknesses go undetected they may complicate recovery from an anaesthetic, and cause problems for your pet’s future health.
Even “normal” results from the blood tests will provide a baseline, telling us what is normal for your individual pet. As your pets return to us for care later in life, we will be better able to differentiate between the normal and abnormal and may identify a disease in the initial stage rather than when more advanced. Trish, the more we know, the more we can support you in providing your Westies with a long happy life. See you up here with them soon.
Hi Doc. I’ve got an old girl Jemma, who is struggling a bit these days and I’d like to know if you can help me. She has just turned ten years old and is a super little Jack Russell. The last few weeks she has been drinking tons of water, eating as much as ever but getting more and more skinny. I’ve been told it’s probably diabetes and I’m too worried to bring her in incase you tell me that nothing can be done. Simon. Sandringham.
Simon, the diagnosis of Diabetes is quite possible from the signs you describe. There are other things on our list of possible causes but lets focus on that one for now. Diabetic animals often present just as you have described, and can also be getting weaker, have a thinning coat and urinary infections.
Just as in us, diabetes is treatable in pets. The condition is caused by multiple factors such as genetics, previous infection or disease, some medications, obesity, immune disorders, pancreatitis, and even female hormone fluctuations. These do damage to “Beta” cell function in the pancreas which can then no longer produce insulin.
Low blood insulin leaves the pet unable to transport glucose into its tissue’s cells, glucose builds up to very high levels in its blood and the problems begin. Occasionally this state can be transient, more commonly in cats. Often the condition worsens over 6 months as more beta cells die and treatments need to be increased to match this progression.
The dogs most at risk are middle aged females, often Terriers, Schnauzers, Bichons, and Samoyed. Jemma obviously fits into these risk groups. As with humans obesity is a big risk factor. When you bring Jemma in we can perform some simple blood and urine tests to detect elevated levels of glucose.
Insulin injections, weight control, regular exercise, treatment of any other contributing conditions and a low GI diet are all part of the treatment. Meals are timed with the injections which can be once or twice daily with tiny little non-painful needles.
“Nibbler” cats are usually allowed to keep grazing on small meals all day. Glucose curve tests are then performed periodically to adjust the insulin dose to the individual and patients when stable are monitored easily t home.
Contrary to your fears if indeed Jemma has this condition we can do a huge amount to help her. If left untreated she would become very ill within several weeks.
Kitten Litter Tray
Hi Alex, I have adopted that wee kitten that I found abandoned in a dumpster, and thanks for lending us the cage to transport her in, you’ll be pleased to know she is doing pretty well. But I am the one that’s in big trouble!
The little minx is not using her litter box at all and in fact prefers the designer cow hide rug (OMG) we have in another room. Please, I need some tips and ideas to get her using the litter box? She is sneaking away and doing it else-where so I am not even catching her in time to put her in the litter after she has done it. My boyfriend is not impressed. Eeeekkkk.
Please help me out of my jam, Amy.
Hi Amy, man, you try and do a good deed, look this is actually a common occurrence with a timid (for understandable reasons coming from a dumpster!) kitten the first few days they arrive in a new location.
Your idea of physically placing her in the litter is still a good one to repeatedly remind her of her “options” and it’s location. Initially make sure the litter tray is in an easily accessible location for her, while this may be annoying and in your way, it’s only for a short time then you can move it gradually to somewhere more discrete.
Trialling different litter types is also a good plan, for semi strays we often begin with loose soil, torn up newspaper or recycled pulp litter is preferred by some cats, a bit of trial and error. Change the litter twice daily to begin with. In this little kitten’s case though I think the described behaviour of sneaking away is the main hint towards resolving this weeing problem.
Most cats will feel very prone while toileting, instinctively realising enemies could most easily pounce while agility is at its lowest. She is trying to find a sheltered, isolated spot. Try placing the litter tray (or two would be even better) under spaces or furniture where she is sheltering from her perceived threats, or alternatively using a litter tray that comes with a hood and cat flap, some shy, private cats love these. Best wishes, Dr Alex Melrose
Urinary incontinence – pee’d off!
To continue our feature on senior pets here is another problem some of our treasured old dogs face and often people don’t realise how easy it is to treat. If you have noticed wet patches where your dog sits or sleeps at night read on!
One of the underlying reasons dogs and cats are such successful pets is that they are readily toilet trained so that they don’t pee and poo inside our homes. When that toilet training starts to fail consistently, real pressure comes on the relationship and euthanasia is often the ultimate end-point.
However, the euthanasia decision may be tinged with far more guilt than usual, because a pet with urinary incontinence is often healthy and happy in every other way. This makes it especially important to recognise signs early and get effective diagnosis and treatment of the problem.
There are many causes of urinary incontinence, and they fall into two groups: the ones that cause active straining to pee so that the pet is aware it is peeing, and those in which the pet is unaware it is peeing. This is usually called passive or involuntary incontinence. It is most common in bitches; is usually due to a failure of the urinary sphincter mechanism, and is what this article will focus on.
The urinary bladder is a pear shaped organ. The bladder wall contains muscle fibres that contract to force urine out. Towards the neck of the bladder these fibres spiral around the narrowing tube where it joins the urethra. In this zone muscle contraction prevents urine flow. This is called the urinary sphincter mechanism. It fails, or becomes incompetent, when the pressure on or inside the bladder becomes greater than the muscle contraction can withstand.
Urinary sphincter mechanism incompetence causing urine leakage is a relatively common problem in spayed bitches. This is because oestrogen plays a significant part in sensitising the nerve receptors in the sphincter mechanism to the nerve transmitter substance. Spaying increases the risk of the problem eight- fold, and there is ongoing debate about whether spaying before the first heat increases this risk further.
The statistics are much less clear whether age at neutering influences the risk of future urinary incontinence. Early neutering minimises the risk of future mammary cancer and avoids the problems of the heat period and so is often favoured. This decision should be discussed with your vet.
Other factors influence sphincter mechanism incompetence. The biggest of these is the position of the bladder neck in relation to the pelvis. When the bladder neck lies in the abdomen, increased abdominal pressure pushes on the sphincter area just as much as on the bladder wall itself. This neutralises the effect of the pressure.
But in bitches where the bladder neck lies within the pelvis, no neutralisation occurs, so that increased abdominal pressure can more easily overcome the sphincter muscle tone. These are the bitches that will respond best to surgical treatment.
Other risk factors are obesity, urinary tract infections, spinal problems, being a large breed dog, and any conditions resulting in increased urine production. This interplay of many factors means your vet will need to perform a thorough physical exam. Urine needs to be tested and blood tests, X-rays or ultrasound may be required to sort out the problem.
The good news is that treatment usually works!
Most bitches respond to medical treatment. A low dose oestrogen supplement, or a drug, phenylpropanolamine, which stimulates the nerve receptors in the sphincter mechanism can be used separately or in combination. Control is usually achieved in just a few days, after which the dosage of the drugs can be reduced to the lowest level that maintains sphincter control.
There is a surgical option too – colposuspension. This operation works best in those bitches where the bladder neck rests within the pelvis. It involves moving the bladder neck forward into the abdominal cavity and anchoring it just in front of the pelvis. This cures about 50% of the bitches operated, and a further 40% have varying degrees of improvement. Not all veterinarians perform this surgery but referral can be arranged.
Blokes can have problems too! Male dogs can also develop sphincter incompetence causing them to dribble urine involuntarily. Typical this also follows neutering. Luckily it is uncommon because it responds much less well to treatment than does the problem in bitches.
Old entire male dogs may develop incontinence with prostatic disease but this normally resolves when the prostatic disease is treated.