Dear Friend,

In this Edition you will find:

Ticks

Xylitol

Is your pet painful?

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The mouth parts of Ixodes scapularis.

The mouth parts of Ixodes scapularis.

Ticks

Ticks sure can be tough little suckers. They are masters of hiding. They can hold completely still for extended periods. They can go up to 2 years without a blood meal. They have preferred hosts, but any animal will do. The majority of ticks will survive in the environment through the winter.

Here in Wisconsin and Minnesota the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) takes the toughness prize. As soon as it starts to warm up a little we start to see dogs coming to the clinic with them attached. Their life cycle has the deer tick more active during the late spring and again during the late summer to early fall.

Just because the deer tick takes the prize does not mean that the wood tick is a slouch. Its life cycle is just a little different so it becomes active when the weather is a bit warmer. Its peak activity is in the late spring and early summer.

The weather models suggest that over the next couple of weeks we will be warming significantly. Without much snow cover the grass will be exposed quickly. When this happens we expect to start seeing ticks.

It is time to really start thinking about and preparing for the tick season. Start your pet's preventative now. We have stocks of Frontline® and NexGardTM.


Just some of the many products containing xylitol.

Just some of the many products containing xylitol.

Xylitol

Many things in nature are toxic when eaten. It is no surprise that many man-made products are also toxic. Just like in nature, just because one animal can eat something does not mean that another animal can safely consume it.

One major example of this is the artificial sweetener called Xylitol. This sweetener is used in a great many products including gums, medicines and candies. If dogs and cats ingest xylitol they can get very sick very quickly.

In dogs and cats the xylitol will trigger an insulin release like when a large amount of sugar is ingested. The problem is that this is not sugar that the body can use. The result is that insulin drives too much blood sugar into the cells and leads to severe hypoglycemia that can result in seizures and death.

The second toxic principle is direct toxicity to the liver. This toxicity can destroy enough liver that survival is not possible even with aggressive treatment.

The real lesson: Be aware of what your pet eats. Keep candies and gums away from them. Some gums contain enough xylitol that a single piece could kill him/her.


Is your pet painful?

This can be an incredibly difficult question to answer, even for veterinary professionals. Your pet can not verbally tell you that it hurts. So how do you know? It is now accepted that behavioral changes are the most accurate way to determine pain in your animal.

There are several types of pain recognized with descriptors such as acute, chronic, adaptive, maladaptive, nociceptive, inflammatory and pathologic. These words do not really help us determine if pain is present, they are only descriptive. However, they help us think about recognition.

Think about the last time you sprained your ankle. It hurt right? You limped or maybe even could not walk on the ankle for a time because of the pain. Maybe even the area around the ankle became painful and you did not want to touch it. This is an acute inflammatory pain that keeps you from using the ankle while it heals. Think protective. If it did not hurt, you would use the leg and cause more damage or prevent the needed healing. So the pain is a good thing. However, this pain is also causing stress and making it difficult for you to get around and maybe even find food or get away from dangers. Therefore, pain is not really a great thing.

Now, think about the arthritis in your knee (or friend or relative). You cannot get away from this pain. There is inflammation involved, but there are also chronic changes to the soft tissue and bone. Certain things like the weather or over use make the pain worse. Rest and not using the knee make it feel better, but it stiffens up when you rest and hurts more when you first get up. How do you move? Stiffly? Limping? Using a cane? Do you go for long walks? Walk more slowly? Jump that puddle on the sidewalk? This chronic pain is always there and it affects your life on a continual basis.

So let's think about this with animals. They often do not verbalize their pain so we must watch for behavioral changes. Obvious things are limping, not jumping onto the chair as normal, not wanting an area to be touched or carrying a leg.

But most behavioral changes are more subtle. The cat that will have accidents because it will not get into the litter box anymore due to arthritis. The dog that quits running the household because of a painful tooth. The dog that licks its wrists excessively because of arthritis. The dog or cat that is slow to rise and start moving but then increases speed. The dog that is not excited by the invitation for a walk anymore or has trouble keeping up/going as far. Some of these changes are gradual and not recognized initially. However, once that tooth was removed the dog is back to running the house again.

The big message is to watch for changes in behavior. These include loss of normal behavior and development of new behaviors as an adaptation to pain, or even a response to pain relief. If you notice such changes, please schedule an appointment so we can try to identify and address the problems.


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