Jul 28, 2014
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Veterinary News From the Front Lines

A few of the things veterinarians are learning about pet health care and treatment.

Veterinary News From the Front Lines

Like doctors, veterinarians attend conferences to keep up on what's new in their field. I go to veterinary conferences at least annually as well to learn about advances in veterinary medicine and find story ideas that will be of interest to dog and cat owners. Along the way, I pick up little bits of information that might not make a whole article but are still useful or interesting. Here’s a little of what I learned this year at the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine conference.

Urinary tract infections are a common and irritating problem in pets, especially when they recur. Mary H. Bowles, a veterinary internal medicine specialist at Oklahoma State University, says that based on studies of women, adding probiotics to a pet’s diet may help. Probiotics are live microorganisms that are thought to have health benefits. They are found in foods with active live cultures, such as some yogurts or certain dietary supplements. Liquid cranberry extract has the potential to help prevent UTIs in dogs by destroying the biofilm that protects bacteria, but it’s not effective in treating active infections.

True or false? Cats don’t get arthritis. If you answered false, you’re ahead of the curve on knowledge of pain in cats. Lisa Moses, VMD, an internal medicine specialist at Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston, says degenerative joint disease in cats does not show up as prominently on X-rays as it does in dogs because cats tend to form less bone in their joints than dogs do. But changes in a cat's ability or willingness to jump on and off furniture (functional mobility), hiding or reluctance to be petted or groomed (isolating behaviors), and changes in the way they sleep or sit are often signs of arthritis or of chronic pain from other conditions such as urinary tract disease, inflammatory bowel disease or chronic pancreatitis. Treatments that can help include acupuncture, physical therapy, and injections of Adequan, a nutraceutical that reduces inflammation and protects cartilage.

The Internet is great for researching diseases and treatments, but not all sources are equal, says Michael Childress, a veterinary oncologist at Purdue University, who often speaks to pet owners about information they've found online regarding cancer treatments. He advises them to look for proof in the form of randomized clinical trials—the gold standard for medical evidence. Good places to start your research are Pubmed and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (part of the National Institutes of Health) and Medline.

Some complementary and alternative therapies can play a significant role in improving the quality of life of pets with cancer, Dr. Childress says. Acupuncture, which stimulates the release of beta endorphins, can help relieve pain and nausea. It has also been useful in relieving the back pain of pets with intervertebral disc disease.

Not every complementary or alternative therapy is safe, even if it’s “natural.” Therapies that can be toxic or otherwise injurious to pets include those containing garlic and onions; corrosive salves (known as escharotics) made of bloodroot given topically, orally or by injection; and colloidal silver.

Pancreatitis in cats is often associated with obesity, high-fat meals, and certain medications or steroids, but Cornell University internal medicine specialist Marnin Forman, DVM, in his talk "Figuring Out Feline Pancreatitis," says that in reality there’s no correlation with body composition, age, breed or the other factors that are common suspects. Most cases are idiopathic, meaning there is no known cause. It’s possible, he says, that the condition has a bacterial component, but that is still under investigation.

Pet of the Week

Meet Divot, a really cute 4-year-old Shih Tzu mix. This happy and energetic black-and-white male is an OCAC volunteer favorite. He loves to play and go for walks and would be a great family dog. To meet him, go to Orange County Animal Care Services at 561 The City Drive in Orange. His ID number is A11776956.

Put the California Dreamin’ Pet Fair on your calendar for Saturday, June 30, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at 561 The City Drive in Orange. In addition to a parade of adoptable dogs and other great pets available for adoption, you’ll find pet-related vendors and demonstrations. Best of all, adopters will receive a mystery envelope adoption discount—anything from a free vaccination to a free adoption. For more information, visit the OCACS website or call (714) 935-6848.

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