One of the most common presentations of gastrointestinal disease that we see here at Paws of the Rockies Animal Hospital is colitis. Colitis refers to inflammation of the colon (large intestine) with any of a variety of causes. The most common causes of colitis in the dog and cat are stress or sudden diet changes. However, as you will soon find, there can be much more involved with some cases of colitis.
Colitis is a relatively common problem in pets and may be caused by reactions to food, gastrointestinal parasites, bacterial or fungal infections, benign infiltrative diseases (such as inflammatory bowel disease), and even neoplasia (cancer). The most common symptoms of colitis include straining to defecate, bright red blood on the stool, mucus, and increased frequency of defecation. Most animals are alert, active, and have normal appetites in spite of having colitis. Occasionally, they have diseases affecting both the small intestine and colon, which may cause vomiting, alterations in appetite, and/or weight loss.
Diagnosis of colitis is based in the patient’s history and findings on the physical exam by your veterinarian and selected diagnostic tests. Puppies and kittens are particularly prone to acute colitis caused by dietary indiscretion (eating inappropriate foods/objects), parasites, and bacterial infections which may be spread from animal to animal. Most of these disorders cause abrupt symptoms prompting veterinary attention.
Parasites are easily diagnosed by your veterinarian, who can do so by examining fecal material under the microscope. Rectal swabs for cytologic examination or bacterial fecal cultures may also be recommended. Other diseases, such as fungal infections (e.g. histoplasmosis), inflammatory bowel disease, and neoplasia, occur mostly in adult animals and are characterized by symptoms that have been present fort several weeks to months. These animals usually require hospitalization and a more in depth diagnostic evaluation to confirm a diagnosis. Careful rectal examination is performed in all animals and may provide important clues to the cause of the inflammation. Stressors in the environment can also be initiators of stress-induced colitis i.e. relatives visiting, new baby in the house, boarding at a facility for a period of time, or sudden diet changes.
Therapeutic trials in animals suspected of having parasitic or dietary causes of colitis are reasonable. Some parasites (such as whipworms infestations in dogs) are difficult to detect. You veterinarian may treat your pet with medication to kill this or other suspected parasites.
If a bacterial infection caused by Clostridium perfringens is suspected, treatment with an antibiotic is often useful. Pets that have dietary causes of colitis usually respond favorably to being fed a “bland” diet or hypoallergenic diet. These nutritionally complete diets are highly digestible and reduce the workload of the gut. Fiber supplementation is also beneficial in promoting healing and repair of colonic tissue. A variety of prescription foods or recipes for homemade diets that are appropriate for your pet are available from you veterinarian.
Animals that fail to respond to symptomatic therapy and those having chronic symptoms require additional diagnostic testing. These tests may include blood work, urinalysis, radiographic imaging procedures, and tissue biopsy. These tests may include blood work, urinalysis, radiographic imaging procedures, and tissue biopsy. Endoscopic examination of the colon ( e.g. colonoscopy, which is an examination of the inside of the colon with a scope and light) with mucosal biopsy provides the most definitive diagnosis in most cases. Your pet may require hospitalization before the procedure for bowel cleansing. The colonoscopy is performed while your pet is anesthetized or sedated. The results of endoscopic biopsy will guide treatment recommendations by your veterinarian and provide useful information about the likelihood of cure or recurrence. Regardless of the cause, dietary modification with a hypoallergenic diet and fiber supplementation are beneficial for most dogs and cats with chronic colitis.
Heartworm season springs up on us once again. Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease in dogs (and less often, cats.) Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitos. While heartworm disease can be devastating to the body and potentially fatal to your pet, it is also completely preventable. We highly recommend yearly testing and heartworm prevention for your dog.
Heartworm disease is much easier to prevent than to treat. We can provide fast and accurate heartworm test results in our own hospital in a matter of minutes.
For the entire month of April, Paws of the Rockies Animal Hospital will be offering discounts on heartworm tests for your pets. Call our hospital to find out how you can even qualify for a free heartworm test for your pet.
A common problem seen in veterinary canine patients is lick dermatitis or lick granulomas. These are also known as lick lesions. A lick granuloma is an open sore on the skin caused by and perpetuated by constant licking. It is generally located on one of the legs, especially near the carpus (wrist ) joint. Similarly, acral lick dermatitis is a general skin condition that is the direct result of constant licking. Typically, the hair will be licked off and the area will either be raw and weeping or thickened and scar-like.
In most animals, this condition is not completely understood, There are three basic view on the subject. Some view it as a primary skin disorder, some see it as a behavioral problem, and some see it as a neurologic disease involving the nerves in the area. Lick granulomas usually begin with an itching or tingling sensation on the leg. The patient responds to that by licking; this may serve to further increase the itching or tingling. Very shortly, a vicious cycle develops, creating a habit much like a child sucking his thumb. Even if the problem that initiated the itching or tingling sensation is gone, the habit if licking continues. Boredom can also be a reason for the licking. It usually occurs in dogs who are left alone for long periods of time. Some breeds, such as Dobermans, Great Danes, Labrador Retrievers, Irish Setters and German Shepherds seem most likely to develop this condition. Also, this condition usually first appears in dogs over five years of age. In addition, males dogs are twice as likely to do this when compared to female dogs.
Stress is another possible reason for this abnormal licking. Any major changes in your dogs’ day to day life, such as the absence if a family member or companion animal, a new baby or even the presence of a nearby female in “heat”. It is important for you to realize that your dog’s problem is psychological, not physical, and you will need to try to determine what it is that is causing your dog anxiety.
In most cases, the diagnosis is made based on the appearance and location of the lesion and the fact that the dog has the compulsion to lick the area. However, certain skin tumors, parasites, embedded foreign bodies, and allergies can create similar lesions. In addition, trauma that causes bone fractures or nerve injury can lead to constant licking, creating a similar lesion. Therefore, if the diagnosis is in doubt or if the dog does respond well to initial treatment, fungal cultures, radiographs (x-rays), and biopsies may be recommended.
Lick dermatitis is extremely difficult to treat unless the underlying psychological cause is found. many approaches have been taken to this problem and none have been successful in all cases. Often, success is only achieved after several ”trial and error” attempts have been made. Various medical treatments can be used in attempt to control the dog’s licking.
These fall into two categories: drugs to deaden the feeling or relieve inflammation in area and mood altering drugs. In many cases. a drug in each category will be used simultaneously by means of attacking the problem from both angles. Some of these medical treatments include lotions, creams, and sprays plus medications such as tranquilizers, behavior modification drugs, antibiotics, injections or bandages over the areas of licking. Laser surgery is also an option. Treatment of this type depends on the size, location, and severity of the sores. Most dogs respond to a combination of therapies and the use of restraint collars. These collars, called elizabethan collars, may need to be worn for 6-8 weeks.
These lesions can become red, hot, swollen or being to ooze fluid so it is extremely important that you watch your pet closely.
The best way for you to treat this lick dermatitis is to try to spend more time with your pet. Whenever possible, exercise your pet regularly. Spending time like this with your dog will help to distract your pet from licking and allow the sores to heal.
This is one of the most difficult medical problems that happens to the dog. Because the initiating factor is usually not identified and because there is such a strong habit that forms, treatment can be very frustrating. Regardless of the initial treatment chosen, it is always possible that the treatment will not be successful. If that happens it is important for you to communicate that so another avenue of treatment can be pursued.
Jessica Jessica recently became engaged. Jessica is very excited and looks forward to planning her wedding. We are still waiting to hear whether “Pudge” and “Abby”, Jessica’s chihuahua’s, will be in the wedding ceremony as ring bearers. Congratulations Jessica!
Karie Karie and her boyfriend Nick bought their first home together January of this year. They are very excited because this has been a dream of theirs for some time.
Karie will be starting agility classes with her Australian shepherd, Widget in a few months. Karie loves living in Colorado and looks forward to climbing her first “fourteener” this summer.
Denise Denise recently passed the National Board Exam for Veterinary Technicians with flying colors. She received 726 points out of a possible 800. Great Job and Congratulations Denise!
Grace is currently in training for the upcoming Avon Breast Cancer Walk in Denver this June. She is thankful her three dogs keep her moving and motivated. Ask her how many miles she is walking this week!
Tenaya is moving to a house in the country. She and her husband are very excited to be able to have more than ample space for all of their pets including horses, dogs and cat. She looks forward to all the new projects the property and home have in store for her.
Tenaya continues to go to school full time in pursuit of her Bachelor’s Degree. She hopes to receive her degree in the Spring of 2008.
Tenaya’s parents recently adopted a 7 month old boy from Guatemala, Jasen Carlos Dunbar. She hopes to visit her new brother in Michigan soon.
As you may recall, Melinda had a skiing accident 2 winters ago. She broke her thumb which required surgery. She finally had the plate removed from her thumb in September 2006. Her thumb is completely healed which made for a great ski season this past winter.
Melinda is participating in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer this June 23rd and 24th. As a participant, she required to raise $1800, but she has set a personal goal of $3000. Last year, she exceeded her goal and hopes to do just as well this year.