The FAQs about Allergies

Allergies in Dogs:

There are so many different allergies in dogs. Oftentimes, this is why owners get frustrated with their dog’s progress or lack thereof. Let’s break it down:

Why do dogs have allergies?

Allergies are when a dog’s immune system is reacting to something in the environment or something ingested. This immune response is harmful to the body and can be extremely irritating to the dog. Put simply, allergies are an unnecessary reaction of the immune system.

What do allergies look like in dogs?

Although dogs can have respiratory issues from allergies such as allergic bronchitis, runny nose, coughing, and sneezing, more commonly they experience pruritus (itchy skin). That leads to scabs, hair loss, redness, etc that the owner notices. If you see a dog scratching, having redness, coughing, or sneezing, those are all signs of an allergic reaction.

What are the different types of allergies dogs have?

Food allergy: Allergy to something ingested

Flea allergy: Allergy to the saliva of fleas

Atopy or contact allergy: Allergy to salt, pollen, etc; Something in the environment

Are allergies something my dog was born with?

Allergies to the environment (dust, pollen, etc) can be inherited.

What types of things cause food allergies? How do I tell if my dog is sensitive?

The most common food allergies are: chicken, beef, and occasionally grains. Most dogs will react to protein in their diet, and that reaction manifests in inflammation or infection in the ears, itchy skin, and inflamed/full anal glands.

To tell if your dog has an allergy, you need to feed a prescription diet from your veterinarian for 8-12 weeks. During this time, it is mandatory that your dog has no food other than the prescription food because the goal is to allow his or her gastrointestinal system to clear any allergens that are present and seeing how his or her body responds. Is there less scratching, fewer ear infections, less anal gland inflammation? That information will help the veterinarian determine if your pet is responding well or not.

What is a flea allergy?

Flea allergies are when a dog reacts to the saliva of the flea that bites it. Fleas normally cause itchiness, hair loss, scabs, and redness. If you see this on your dog, spread the hair at the top of the tail and look on its stomach to check for any fleas. A flea allergy is caused by the dog reacting to the saliva of the fleas. It takes three months for owners to see a reduction in the number of fleas if the flea prevention is reliable. So, make sure to get all flea prevention from your veterinarian as well as other medications to be able to help your dog be not as itchy and heal the lesions from the flea bites.

Atopy is an allergy to the environment: pollens, dust, other animals. These cases can be the hardest to control. Seasons, environments, and lifestyle changes all come into play and cause issues for these dogs. The best thing to do with these patients is to come in for an appointment. We have a number of different medicines and therapies that will help treat and cure these allergies. Heska allergy therapy identifies what allergens your dog is reacting to. Then, with immunotherapy, they work to decrease your dog’s reactions to those allergens. We highly recommend this because it actually works to reduce the allergy symptoms through healing your pet. This works in about 80% of cases. Allergies can worsen with age and exposure. So, healing your pet of his or her allergies saves your pet from a lifelong struggle with allergens.

This month, Elkwood Animal Hospital is discounting all allergy testing bloodwork! Contact our office today to schedule an appointment and discover what your pet is allergic to!

The Ins and Outs of Urinalysis

How do we collect urine from animals?

There are three typical methods for collecting urine from a pet.

  1. Free catch- This is the method used most often for urine collection because it is the least invasive. The urine is simply caught in a sterile cup while the animal is urinating. For dogs, we will either bring the dog outside to collect a sample, or we can send you home with a collection cup if the patient is unwilling to urinate for us at the clinic. Collection of urine for cats can be more complicated. Some cats will urinate in the clinic for us with gentle pressure on their bladders. Other times, we will recommend using Kit4Cat at home to collect a sample without stressing the cat. Kit4Cat is a litter replacement that repels urine and causes it to bubble up on top. The litter box is cleaned and emptied of regular litter. The sand from the Kit4Cat is put into the box and the patient urinates on it. A syringe provided in the kit is used to suction up the urine from the top of the sand.
  2. Cystocentesis-  This is collection of urine directly from the bladder using a needle and syringe. Although it sounds intimidating, most animals tolerate this very well with minimal response to the procedure. This method allows us to more thoroughly assess the quality of the urine in the bladder itself, without concern about contamination from the fur and environment. If we are planning to culture bacteria from a urinary tract infection, we will want to collect the urine in this manner to get the most beneficial results.
  3. Catheterization- This method involves passing a urinary catheter up the urethra and into the bladder. This is uncommonly done because it can be uncomfortable for patients and there are simpler ways to collect a urine sample from most animals. However, a catheter may be used to collect a urine sample in patients who have a urinary obstruction or who are paralyzed and unable to empty their bladders on their own.
How soon do we need to look at the urine?

Ideally we would like to evaluate the urine sample within 30 minutes of collection. This minimizes the number of changes that occur to the urine outside of the patient and in the urine collection cup. If it is not possible to evaluate the urine this quickly, it should be kept in the refrigerator and evaluated within 24 hours. Urine that is older than 24 hours can still be evaluated, but changes may have occurred in the sample that make it more difficult to interpret.

Parts of the urinalysis:

  1. Color/cloudiness: The first quality of the urine that is assessed is its visual appearance. Normal urine is light yellow in color, although there can be some variation depending on hydration status and time of day. Clear urine may suggest that the patient is overhydrated or has a medical problem that prevents him/her from concentrating the urine appropriately. Dark urine may suggest dehydration or other substances in the urine that should not be there (such as blood or other pigments). We also assess the cloudiness of the urine, as cloudy urine is more likely to have cells or debris present within it.
  2. Specific gravity: This is a measurement of the concentration of the urine, or how “dense” it is. We measure specific gravity with a refractometer. If we are concerned about a dog’s ability to concentrate the urine (for example, with kidney disease), we may ask you to collect a first morning sample to evaluate the urine at its most concentrated. Cats are desert animals and their urine should always be concentrated, so time of day is less important for evaluation of their specific gravities.
  3. pH: The pH is one of several urinary parameters that is measured on a dipstick. This is a measurement of how acidic or basic the urine is. pH can change with diet and time of day, but it can also be affected by infections or other diseases. The pH of the urine is especially important for patients with a history of crystals or bladder stones.
  4. Protein: Normal urine should have minimal to no protein present in it. If there is protein in your pet’s urine sample, we may recommend a secondary test called a urine protein:creatinine ratio. This test lets us know if the amount of protein in the urine is significant or not. Some patients can have a small amount of protein in very concentrated urine and that can be normal. Significant protein in the urine should be further evaluated, as it can indicate problems with the kidneys or elsewhere in the body.
  5. Glucose: Glucose should not normally be present in the urine of dogs and cats. If there is glucose in your pet’s urine sample, diabetes is the primary concern. Sometimes stress can cause glucose to spill into the urine (especially in cats). Less commonly, kidney disease can also cause glucose to enter the urine.
  6. Ketones: Ketones are a byproduct of fat metabolism. They are most commonly seen in the urine of unregulated diabetics.
  7. Bilirubin: Bilirubin is produced by the liver and is not normally present in large amounts in the urine, although healthy dogs can have small amounts present. Large amounts of bilirubin in the urine can indicate liver disease or autoimmune disease.
  8. Blood: Blood in the urine either indicates bleeding in the urinary tract or passing of blood products into the urine from the body. There may be a small amount of blood in a urine sample due to collection if the urine was removed from the bladder using a needle. Other reasons for bleeding in the urinary tract include bladder stones, inflammation, infection, or tumors. The presence of blood in the urine is confirmed in the urinary sediment, as other molecules such as hemoglobin and myoglobin (from the blood or muscles) can cause this test to be positive on the dipstick.
  9. The urine sediment: In this stage of the urinalysis, the urine is spun down in a centrifuge to concentrate any cells or crystals that may be present. The sediment is then evaluated under a microscope. This can either be done manually or with new technology that uses a machine to spin and evaluate the urine. Our clinics are now using the Sedivue, which is a machine that images and analyzes the urine sediment using facial recognition technology. The veterinarian then evaluates and assesses the produced images. This technology allows us to evaluate urine samples more quickly, which increases the amount of information that we can get from them.
  1. Red blood cells- Red blood cells can be present in the urine in small numbers normally, but large numbers can indicate infection, stones, clotting abnormalities, trauma, inflammation, or tumors.
  2. White blood cells- Increased white blood cell count is indicative of inflammation or infection.
  3. Bacteria- Some bacteria can be present normally in a free catch sample due to environmental contamination. In a cystocentesis sample there should be no bacteria. Increased numbers of bacteria and white blood cells may indicate a urinary tract infection.
  4. Crystals- There are several different types of crystals that can form for different reasons. Pets who make crystals can also make bladder stones but these do not always correlate perfectly. Crystals can also be formed with urinary tract infections, liver disease, or certain toxins. Sometimes crystals will form while the urine is sitting in the collection cup, not in the patient. In this situation, we may wish to evaluate a urine sample immediately after production to eliminate this variable.
  5. Casts- Casts are collections of cells or protein that are formed in the shape of the kidneys’ tubules. These can be normal in low numbers or indicative of kidney dysfunction.
  6. Cells- There can be clumps of tissue cells in the urine sample normally. These come from the lining of the bladder and the urethra. If these cells look abnormal, more testing may need to be completed. Sometimes bladder cancer can be diagnosed in this manner.
  7. Sperm- Sperm may be seen in the sediment of intact male animals.

Overall, a urinalysis provides us with a lot of important information in both healthy and sick pets! Although it can sometimes be frustrating to collect (especially in cats), it allows us to diagnose problems that we cannot always find with just bloodwork and a physical exam. Some diseases like kidney disease can be found in urine before they cause clinical signs and bloodwork changes. This allows us to begin management and monitoring for your pet sooner.

Please give us a call if you have any questions about running a urinalysis and its benefits for your pet!

How Prevalent is Lyme Disease and Should I Be Worried?

March is our Lyme Disease Prevention and Awareness Month! Like people, dogs are susceptible to lyme disease that can have long lasting impact on their health long term. The bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, is the causative infectious agent of Lyme disease. The deer tick, Ixodes scapularis, is the only tick that carries and transmits the bacteria known as Lyme disease!

In Virginia, 1 dog out of every 12 is likely to test positive for Lyme disease. In the graphic below, dogs in Fauquier County are at a high risk for becoming infected with Lyme Disease.
If a tick carries the bacteria, the tick will have to be attached to an animal for 48 to 72 hours in order to transmit. The bacteria must undergo pathogenic changes in order to be ‘ready’ to infect a susceptible animal. Once the bacteria is transmitted to a host, it will take about 70 days for clinical signs to appear; this occurs in 5-10% of infected dogs. Clinical signs include: fever, 0enlarged lymph nodes, lameness, and joint swelling. In very few dogs, approximately 1-2% of cases, they will develop acute renal failure and this can be fatal. A mainstay of treatment is antibiotics. Some cases may need additional supportive care.

We recommend EVERY dog to have yearly testing done since the majority of dogs never show clinical signs of the disease!

The first and best step towards preventing disease is to have pets on effective flea and tick preventatives. Prevention should be YEAR LONG, not seasonal! We still see ticks in the winter! Talk to you veterinarian about which preventative is right for your animal.

There is a lyme vaccine available that can improve protection for dogs against lyme disease. We recommend ALL dogs to be vaccinated for this disease since it is so prevalent in our area! If your dog tests positive, our doctors will discuss with your options which could include further testing and/or medications.

Enjoy a 10% discount off of Lyme disease vaccination and testing to start the vaccine at all our hospitals! Help us help you protect your dog against Lyme disease this spring!

 

Determining Your Pet’s Ideal Weight

There are days we like to give our furry friends a little extra kibble at dinnertime or a tasty treat to show them how much we care. However, go overboard and you might end up with an overweight pet, or worse, an obese one. Obesity is one of the most common medical conditions affecting 60% of cats and 56% of dogs, according to the Association of Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP). Similar to humans, excessive body fat can lead to a host of problems: joint disease, predisposition to metabolic disorders or a state of chronic inflammation. Furthermore, these obese animals typically are less energetic and tend to have shorter life spans.

Estimating the weight of our furry friend can be difficult, and we, as humans, usually tend to underestimate how much our pet has gained. Thankfully, a weight dog/cat chart, or Body Condition Score (BCS), can help reduce some of the mystery behind your pet’s ideal weight. It is imperative to monitor your pet’s weight because excessive fat in dogs and cats does have its consequences.

Studies show that excessive fat may lead to reduced life expectancy, chronic inflammation, skin disorders, orthopedic disease, respiratory disorders, kidney dysfunction, and metabolic/endocrine disorders. Veterinary behaviorists have suggested that some obese dogs and cats are clinically depressed. Their daily activity is often limited to taking brief jaunts in the yard or to the litter box for bathroom breaks. The first step to helping your pet lose weight is by speaking with your veterinarian. Here at Catlett Animal Hospital, we can provide guidance about the right diet for your pet including type, amount, and frequency of feedings. Additionally, we can discuss exercise.

This month, we are focusing on weight loss. If you feel your pet is overweight and want to take the first step in helping him/her lose that weight, then speak with us about the Hill’s Weight Loss Challenge. It is as simple as signing up and starting your pet on a weight loss diet. Weight checks happen every two to three weeks and at the end will decide the winner by the overall most percent of body weight lost. There will be one cat and one dog winner which will earn them three months of free, healthy food. Speak with one of our veterinarians today about details on participating in this weight loss challenge!

Tips for Bringing Your Furry Friend to the Vet

It’s that time of the year again, bringing in your beloved feline companion for his or her annual wellness exam. Many cats dislike going to the veterinarian’s office, and their dislike starts with the difficulty of getting them into the carrier at home. For many owners, this elicits a feeling of stress and can be more stressful than the actual appointment! Many of us are all too familiar with this routine. You’ll bring out the carrier and your furry friend will turn around and run in the opposite direction. Soon you find yourself chasing them around the house trying to catch your cat to put them into the carrier. This ordeal can be very stressful for both yourself and the cat. If this step can be made easier, the entire veterinary visit can be less stressful.

Understanding Cat Behavior

    Cats prefer a consistent daily routine and going to the veterinary’s office disrupts this routine. They are most comfortable with the familiar and need time to adjust to things that are unfamiliar. Cats do not learn from punishment or force, and they can sense our anxiety and frustrations. It is important to remain calm and patient with them.

Choosing The Right Carrier

     Of additional importance is your cat being safely transported to the veterinary office. A carrier facilitates this process. A carrier also helps the veterinarian team work safely with the cat during the appointment. Remember to choose one that will be easy for you to carry.

An ideal carrier should have:

  • Hard-sides that are sturdy and stable
  • Open from both the top and front
  • Can be taken apart in the middle.  

An easily removable top allows a fearful or anxious cat to say in the bottom half of the carrier for exams. 



Acclimating Your Cat to the Carrier

    Usually cats only see the carrier once or twice a year when they go the veterinarian’s office, so they learn to associate the carrier with stressful situations. It is important to change this association by creating positive experiences with the carrier. Remember, it will take time for them to trust and become comfortable, so it is important to remain patient during this period.
Here are a few steps you can take at home to help:

  • Leave the carrier in a familiar place at home by having it where your cat spends a majority of their time
  • Keep the carrier out at all times
  • Put his or her favorite toys, soft bedding, and treats inside the carrier
  • Reward your kitty for sitting calmly near or in its carrier with treats, play, or affection.

Getting Your Cat Ready to Go to the Vet’s Office

    If your cat is already in the carrier – great!

If not, move the carrier into a small room with few hiding places. Spray some Feliway (a synthetic feline pheromone) inside the carrier 30mins prior to transport to help calm the cat. Move the cat into the room and close the door. If the cat does not walk into the carrier, do not chase them into the carrier. Instead, open the top of the carrier and place your kitty in the bottom.

 

We look forward to seeing your kitty during the month of November for our feline wellness month! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our office!
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