A Story That Could Take Your Breath Away!

Courtesy of: Dr. Gwen

Veterinarians practice veterinary medicine.  I always thought that it was an odd thing to say.  A hockey player practices slap shots or a student of music might practice the piano, but this type of practice allows for mistakes.  After all, how can one learn without making mistakes?  In veterinary medicine, however, mistakes can result in harm and must be avoided at all costs.

I discovered in my first year in the practice of veterinary medicine, I could make mistakes too.  My own kitty, Uri, was the victim of one of my mistakes.

I started working as a vet in Ottawa in a busy animal hospital that also provided emergency care after hours and on weekends.  We had many interesting cases walk through the doors and I learned a lot in the four years that I was there.  I considered myself a fairly seasoned vet when I left vet school because I had worked as a student in veterinary hospital since I was twelve.  I thought I knew a lot.

That was my first mistake.  I quickly learned that there were many gaps in my education that I needed to fill.  Also, the skill of talking to pet care givers was an art form that had to be developed on my own.  I definitely learned that some vets make lousy pet owners!

One day, while trying to catch a little sleep after a long weekend shift, I woke to the sound that all cat owners come to dread … the windup retching to a big vomit.  The cough/gag woke me out of a deep sleep. I rolled over and groaned, wondering what sort of mess I was going to find when I surfaced to the world after my slumber.  “Hair balls” I grunted to myself and I made a mental note to give Uri some hairball medicine.

I treated Uri for hairballs for three days but the horrible retching cough persisted.  Uri still ate food and he still did his standard purr that made me fall in love with him, so I wasn’t worried.  On the third day, I laid down on the floor with him to pat him and play and I noticed that his tongue was a shade of pastel blue.  “That’s definitely not good!” I had to admit. “I think I better take him to work with me.”

In those days I didn’t have a car and I was too cheap to get a taxi, so I bundled him up in my backpack and bicycled to work.  In hindsight, I should have made the journey as low stress as possible because when a cat with breathing problems is stressed, death can result.  Surprisingly, he tolerated the trip and amazingly, he survived.  After chest x-rays and blood work we had a diagnosis…asthma, feline asthma.

Asthma is a condition seen in cats of all ages.  It is reoccurring and involves constriction of the airways along with excess mucus production and inflammation.  This makes it difficult to take a deep breath without considerable effort.  This results in exercise intolerance, coughing, and wheezes which may or may not be obvious.  There are many degrees of asthma that can range from a low grade hairball-like cough to severe asthma that can cause death.

Feline asthma can mimic a number of other diseases so doing some tests to identify it is necessary.  Treatment in the early stages can be quite successful and the key to long term control is prevention by improving air quality in the cat’s environment.  This includes avoiding cigarette smoke, spray on pesticides, using dustless cat litter, and  using air filters.

Diagnosing Uri made me feel like a bad pet owner and horrible vet.  I had been treating him for hairballs while he was suffocating from asthma.  In typical Uri style he didn’t hold it against me.  He happily took his medicine and got better within hours.  In a few days he was back to normal.  He forgave me.  Thank you Uri for the unconditional love and being such a good teacher.



Help, My Dog Is Limping!

Courtesy of: Ashley

In a previous blog I shared with you one thing that scared me about owning a Bullmastiff:  Bloat!  This is the second thing that gives me a fright:  Cruciate Ligament Rupture.

Ligaments are bands of tissue that connect bones to each other.  Cruciate ligaments (CLs) live in the knee joint.  These ligaments connect the femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone).  These ligaments help the knee move backwards and forwards.

A normal knee

CL damage can occur when the knee twists in an unnatural direction.  Often times, a CL tear can occur when a dog is running, then stops to change direction.  The direction change twists the knee in a manner that the knee is not supposed to bend.  When the CL tears it causes pain and the dog becomes lame.  In most cases the dog is not weight bearing (limping) or will only toe-touch and the knee may appear swollen.  The dog may begin to use the leg again but will become lame again with time.

Monitoring your dog’s exercise routine can help reduce the risk of a CL rupture.  Larger or overweight dogs are more prone to this condition.  Making sure your dog is at an ideal weight and keeping larger breeds in a controlled exercise routine will help control the wear and tear on their joints.  Small breed dogs with a luxating patella (when the knee cap moves out of place) may be predisposed to rupturing a CL.

A veterinarian looks for “drawer” when diagnosing a ruptured CL.  By placing one hand on the femur and one on the tibia and manipulating the joint they can observe abnormal movement.

A veterinarian assessing drawer

Within a healthy knee there is very little movement in the joint but with a ruptured CL there is laxity in the joint and movement occurs.  With large or nervous dogs assessing for “drawer” can be difficult to accomplish.  In these cases heavy sedation may be needed to allow the veterinarian to manipulate the joint.  A veterinarian may want radiographs (X-rays) of the joint to see if there is arthritis present as well.  A radiograph can help to confirm the diagnosis of CL rupture.

There are different ways to treat a ruptured CL.  Factors that influence the choice of treatment are the size of the dog, if the rupture was a complete or partial tear, and the dog’s home environment.  If the CL was completely ruptured, surgery is recommended.

One surgical method to correct the rupture is called “extracapsular repair.”  In this method, a strong suture material (cruciate line) is used to create an artificial ligament.

Extracapsular Repair

The torn ligament is completely removed and the cruciate line is placed from the outside lower portion of the femur to the inside upper portion of the tibia, which acts like a brace within the knee.  After this surgery the dog must have very strict rest for 8 to 12 weeks.  The dog’s activity is restricted, with only activities such as leash walking and (eventually) swimming permitted.  The veterinarian will guide the owner with appropriate activities for the dog as the healing progresses.  During the healing time the instructions given by the veterinarian should be followed precisely to prevent further injury.  This method of surgery is performed here at Truro Vet.

Another surgery commonly performed is called Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO).  This surgery is recommended for dogs weighing more than 50 pounds or in dogs with poor conformation (ie: Bulldog).  The purpose of this surgery is to correct the angle of the tibia in relation to the femur, to stop the femur from being able to move in an abnormal direction.  The veterinarian cuts a portion of the tibia and rotates it before reconnecting it with plates and screws.

TPLO plates

This surgery is more challenging to carry out but usually generates a faster return to normal function.  TPLO surgeries are referred by our veterinarians to specialists in this type of procedure.

In select cases, medical treatment may be chosen in lieu of surgery.  Circumstances include:   the CL is only partially torn; the dog has other health conditions; the dog’s age or other health conditions present a risk for anesthesia; or the owners cannot keep the dog quiet for the 8 to 12 week healing period.  The veterinarian will discuss restricting the dog’s exercise to activities like leash walking or swimming.  If the dog is overweight, weight loss and low calorie diets will be discussed.  Frequently anti-inflammatory medications are used to reduce pain and inflammation.  Products containing glucosamine and other joint health supplements may be added to the dog’s diet.

If a CL rupture is not treated, severe joint deterioration usually occurs.  Arthritis sets in and the dog will usually compensate by putting more weight on the other leg causing that ligament to deteriorate and possibly tear.  Without treatment you also run the risk of the dog experiencing chronic pain.

If you would like more information on risk factors for CL ruptures or you are worried your pet may be experiencing this condition, please contact the office at (902) 893-2341.

Hugo and Brenley


Bloat – An Ounce of Prevention Can Be Worth…A Life!

Courtesy of: Ashley

What scares me about owning a Bullmastiff?  BLOAT! (well, and a cruciate ligament rupture but that’s a blog topic for another day).

Bloat (also known as Gastric Dilatation Volvulus or GDV) is a life threatening condition for which large and giant breed and/or deep-chested dogs such as the Bullmastiff, Irish Wolfhound, Great Dane, Irish Setter and Bassett Hound are at risk.  Bloat is when the stomach fills up with gas causing the pet to have discomfort and difficulty breathing.  When the stomach is full of gas it makes it easier for the stomach to twist around itself causing a gastric torsion.  A torsion cuts off the blood supply to the stomach and causes it to die.  When the twist occurs the life of the pet is at risk.

This condition is very serious and can be fatal if not treated as soon as possible by a veterinarian.  Often times a stomach tube is placed to relieve the gas buildup.  If that is not possible a needle is placed through the abdominal wall to relieve the pressure.  Once the pet is stable, surgery is needed to untwist the stomach.  At that time the veterinarian may discuss a procedure called gastropexy to help prevent future bloat.  This procedure involves tacking the stomach to the abdomen wall, to reduce the chance that the stomach may twist.  In at-risk breeds, these procedures are commonly done as a preventive at the pet’s spay or neuter time.

Understanding the early signs of bloat can be very beneficial.  Abdominal distention, vomiting or retching, restlessness, drooling, panting and shallow breathing are all signs that you should contact your veterinarian immediately.

The most common time for bloat to occur is two to three hours after a meal that has been followed by exercise.  Dogs should be fed two or three times a day rather than once a day to limit the volume of food in their stomach at any one time.  Limit the access of water after a meal and limit exercise and excitement before and after meals for one to two hours.  Dogs that are more likely to get bloat should be fed in a quiet location and if a diet change is needed it should be done at a slower rate over a period of at least five days.

Hugo and Brenley (you met Brenley in the nail trim blog), our Bullmastiffs, are watched very closely all the time but are especially not allowed outside off leash for at least one hour after meals to help prevent bloat.  Knowing the early signs can be life saving for your pet!

If you have any questions about bloat, or any other diseases large and giant breed dogs are susceptible to, please call us at 893-2341.


Potty Training…In A Cat?!?!

Courtesy of:  Dr. Melissa

Shortly after graduating from vet school, my husband and I moved to Northern Alberta for work.  We had a 4 year-old cat (Folly), who I had adopted from the PEI Humane Society, and we thought it was time to get her a companion.  A few weeks later, after visiting a farm with a litter of barn kittens, I drove home with an 8-week old ball of fur on my lap.  We named him Tompkin.  It didn’t take long for him to fit in and even win Folly over!  He was very affectionate, loved to cuddle and ‘chatted’ to us regularly.  He especially liked my husband and would climb up on his shoulder anytime he bent down to put on his shoes or pick something up.

He grew into a handsome cat with a thick tabby coat and was loveable….until one day…he PEED on our couch!  Anyone that has experienced this knows the frustration of cleaning cat urine, especially when it happens repeatedly.  In fact, the sad truth is inappropriate urination is one of the top reasons why cats are returned to shelters or euthanized.

Tompkin was lucky to live in a house with a fairly new vet school graduate.  I was determined to figure out what was going on!

Cats can urinate inappropriately for many reasons including cystitis (inflammation of the bladder), crystals, stress/anxiety, marking and infection.  The first step to helping these cats (and your furniture) is ruling out a medical condition.  This usually means getting a urine sample..which as with most things is more difficult in a cat!!  We generally try to do a cystocentesis, which is taking a sample directly from the bladder with a needle.  Most cats tolerate this very well, we get a sterile sample and we don’t have to wait for them to pee!  Once we have a sample we look at how concentrated it is, and look for inflammatory cells, blood, crystals and bacteria. We may take a radiograph to look for bladder stones.  If this is all normal, we focus on behavioural issues.  We will ask a lot of questions to create a history of what is happening which helps us form a plan for therapy.  Things that can help include increasing the size and number of litter boxes , decreasing stress in multi-cat households with cat trees/perches and pheromones as well as anti-anxiety medications in severe cases.

Prevention is key, because once a cat pees on a bed/blanket/bath tub, they may decide they like that better and continue!  Good quality diets, including canned food as a large component, and increasing water consumption are really important.  Keeping multiple litter boxes in open areas and cleaning them frequently will help encourage cats to use them.

As for Tompkin, it turns out his urine issues are a combination of medical and behavioural  problems.  His urine is very concentrated, which creates crystals.  The irritation from this causes him to pee outside the litter box…a sure sign to me that he is hurting.  He flares up when he is stressed (if we are away or having noisy renovations done).  He is on a urinary diet, with canned food daily to dilute his urine.  He also gets an anti-inflammatory medication when there is a flare-up. His last episode was almost a year ago..hopefully it was his last!


Cushing’s Disease – The Scoop On Sparky

Courtesy of:  Dr. Michelle

Our last Facebook contest gave you the opportunity to guess what disease our 12 year old fictional dog Sparky had.  The correct answer was Cushing’s Disease (also known as hyperadrenocorticism, or HAC).

HAC is a disease involving an excess of one or more adrenal gland steroids, most commonly cortisol.  We tend to see this disease most commonly in older dogs over 6 years of age.  There are many clinical signs to watch for including: drinking more than normal and therefore urinating more than normal (which can also be a sign of diabetes or kidney disease), excessive hunger, a distended belly, panting, thinning or loss of fur, and oily skin.

In order to diagnose HAC, we start with some basic blood work.  The most common finding of these tests is an elevation of alkaline phosphatase (ALP).  This enzyme, which is normally found in the Iiver, may be elevated in either liver disease or when there is an excessive amount of steroids in the bloodstream (as is the case in HAC).  The next step in the diagnosis of HAC is to do one of two tests: an ACTH stimulation test or a Low Dose Dexamethasone Suppression test.  Depending on the clinical signs and blood work results of the individual dog, the doctor may choose to do either of those tests.

Once a diagnosis of Cushing’s disease is made, treatment will be started.  The most common treatment is a pill called Trilostane (Vetoryl).  This drug inhibits cortisol production at the level of the adrenal gland, therefore reducing clinical signs associated with the disease.  There are also drugs which partially destroy the adrenal gland and are only indicated in certain cases of HAC.  Other more drastic treatments such as surgery or radiation therapy may be needed in very rare instances.

After beginning Trilostane, a follow-up ACTH stimulation test is performed one month later, and the dose of the medication is adjusted as needed.  We recommend repeating an ACTH stimulation test every 3 months to make sure that the cortisol level in the dog is not dropping too low which can lead to an emergency condition called an Addisonian crisis.

Dogs can live a long and healthy life after being diagnosed with HAC.  If your dog is experiencing any of the symptoms that Sparky was showing, please give Truro Vet a call at 893-2341.


A Story You Can Sink Your Teeth Into…If Only It Didn’t Hurt So Much!

Courtesy of:  Bethany

As a recent Veterinary Technician student (I just graduated in May, yay me!), I had a lot of interaction with the animals from the local animal shelter. During my first year in the program I had the pleasure of meeting a lovely little feline named ‘Cinder’.  She was just one of many cats without a person to call their own. Who would have predicted the journey before us?

Cinder had been a resident of the local SPCA for almost two years.  The little I know about Cinder’s history is that she had arrived at the shelter with kittens and had been to foster home after foster home, never finding a permanent home and loving family she could call her own.

Cinder was having quite a difficult time in her everyday life; she constantly had a hard time eating, often not eating more than a few bites in a day. It was obvious that she was having some severe issues with her mouth. She was already missing quite a few teeth and had stage 4 periodontal disease. I knew that because of these issues, it would be hard to find anyone who would be willing to take on a case like this and provide her the care she needed.

So, being in the veterinary field I decided that I was qualified enough to take care of this little girl and save her from a life at the shelter.  After paying my adoption fee I took home my new little bundle of joy to introduce her to my other two cats, who I hoped would take to her easily.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t my cats who were the issue.

After I brought her home, Cinder was nowhere to be found! At first I thought her hiding was due to the stress of moving into a new home. I soon discovered she wasn’t hiding due to fear but because she was in constant pain. Eating was almost impossible, even with canned food.  Even trying to yawn would cause her to shriek in pain and go running for the nearest hiding place. In her mind, pain was all around her and no place was safe.

Soon after, she stopped eating entirely for a whole day.  I immediately called up Truro Vet and booked an appointment to have her examined and hopefully come up with a solution to the problem. During this first appointment, Dr. Michelle informed me that Cinder had a serious auto-immune condition and that her quality of life was very poor and that she would quickly decline if something was not done. Knowing I was a student and money was an issue, euthanasia was presented as a viable option since treatment would be so expensive and potentially hard for Cinder to get through.  I couldn’t decide right then and there so I was sent home with some pain medication and antibiotics to help reduce some of the inflammation in Cinder’s mouth and help treat any bacteria that may have been passing through her body due to her dental disease.

For two months I was in denial about the seriousness of Cinder’s condition and kept going with the antibiotics in a futile attempt to avoid the needed treatment. What was the treatment you ask? Treatment involved taking out every single tooth left in Cinder’s mouth followed by a lifetime diet of canned food. I felt like I would be an awful person if I did that to my cat!  What kind of life is it without teeth for a cat?

I booked another appointment at Truro Vet and was booked with Dr. Gwen. I simply asked, “Can you explain to me again what the problem is, what the treatment is and what will happen to her if she has the procedure done?”

Cinder had a condition called Feline Oral Resorptive Lesions. Essentially, her body was rejecting her teeth and because of this, her teeth were slowly being reabsorbed into the gums. As a result, this was very painful! Her gums should have been a nice shade of light pink and instead they looked like this:

Ouch! Her gums were swollen, red and painful and even though she didn’t have an overly large amount of tarter or plaque, that didn’t matter in this case. With this condition, often it is so painful that even under surgical anesthesia, when the animal is supposed to be completely asleep, touching their gums can elicit a pain response. It’s not really understood exactly why this disease happens, only that it is an auto-immune condition.

On x-ray, it became quite obvious how serious the condition was:

Normal x-ray

Cinder’s x-ray

In these x-rays, you can see just how much of her teeth were being eaten away.

When I dropped her off for her surgery that day, I felt so horrible about it I almost wanted to cry. I couldn’t believe that all her teeth were about to be removed and her life would completely change. I got the call later that day that she had sailed through surgery with no complications and was resting comfortably. She stayed the night and I arrived the next day to pick up my kitty, feeling guilty as ever.

Joye, one of Truro Vet’s Vet Techs, came into the room to instruct me on how to care for Cinder at home and the first thing she told me was that after Cinder woke up, Joye had offered her some canned food to see if she would be interested and she ate the WHOLE THING! She ate all of the food she was offered without any indication she was in pain, only the indication that she was starving. I almost immediately stopped feeling guilty because even though her gums had been cut open, her teeth removed and her gums sewn back up, she was doing so much better that she was actually able to eat for the first time in days.

We continued the antibiotics for a few more weeks and I watched as Cinder changed into a completely different cat: she no longer hid for hours during the day, in fact she’s quite the cuddle bug (who knew?!) and now she can yawn comfortably without any pain whatsoever.

Who would have known that when I agreed to give this little girl her forever home that we would go through so much in such a short time? I was faced with the harsh reality of having to choose to spend a lot of money on her or decide to end her suffering permanently and say goodbye.

I know some people would probably say, ‘It’s just a cat, what’s the big deal?’ but I couldn’t imagine having made the choice to say goodbye to Cinder that day. She has become a permanent fixture in my household and has the most amazing personality that I have ever seen in a pet. She is on a diet of reduced calorie canned food to prevent her from gaining too much weight, although she still enjoys stealing hard food kibbles out of her housemates’ dishes. Despite having no teeth, she eats more hard food now than she did when she had them!

With the support of my veterinary team (who I now have the pleasure of working with as well) I was able to make this decision and trust their capable hands to care for my little girl and help her become the lovely cat she is today. And every time someone asks me why I put my cat through that, all I can say is that it turned her into the cat she was supposed to be from the very beginning.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding dental care for your pet, please call the Truro Veterinary Hospital at (902) 893–2341.


Sometimes A Good Purr Can Save Your Life!

Courtesy of: Dr. Gwen

My cat, Uri, wasn’t supposed to have a long life. Thankfully, he subscribed to the notion that cats have at least nine lives. He lived a happy 16 years but only because he managed to win the heart of a brand new veterinarian.  Uri was going to be one of my first euthanasias but his charming purr turned him into a life-long feline friend and one of my first patients.

I had just been a vet for a few months in an emergency practice in Ottawa.  It was late one Saturday night when Uri was brought into the emergency clinic by a young couple. He was about two years old, a pumpkin orange tabby with a large tomcat head and a purr that vibrated the table. He lay there purring to invite pats and attention. “What seems to be the trouble?” I asked the owners.

“Brandy (as he was called then) doesn’t want to eat,” the owners replied. I smiled at Brandy and said hello as I patted his head.  His purr volume increased to rival a jack hammer. As the pats went from his head to the tail, I knew immediately what was wrong. Brandy was still a lean young cat with a muscular neck and chest that tapered into a narrow trim waist until my hand reached the large lump inside his belly.

I had learned early in vet school that cats with testicles can’t be pregnant so that left the most obvious diagnosis … a urinary obstruction.  Male cats can develop crystals in their urine that clump together to block off their ability to urinate.  A blockage was bad news. “Has he been vomiting?” I asked, hoping the answer was no. It turns out he had vomited a few times.  This was a bad sign that suggested that the kidneys were feeling the intense pressure of the blockage.  Death was knocking, calling Brandy’s name.

Sadly back in those days, cat foods were not what they are today. I knew that I could unblock Brandy’s bladder but frequently cats with this condition block again and the long term answer was to perform a surgery that involved amputating the kitty’s penis! Because of this, convincing pet owners to treat their blocked kitties was a difficult thing to do.

As I was a newly minted vet, I wasn’t yet skilled in communicating to people about their pet’s health. I wondered, “How do I tell them that penis amputation may be in their cat’s future?”  Thank goodness that our knowledge of food has enabled us to manage urinary disease much better … I haven’t done a penis amputation in 20 years.

As Brandy lay on that table listening and purring, the conversation turned to tears for the pet owners. Being a young couple, pregnant with their first child, they couldn’t commit to the costs associated with saving Brandy’s life. Euthanasia seemed like the only humane answer.

“Euthanize!” I heard myself scream in my head, “but he is so sweet and purry, how can I do that to him?” In a split second I made up my mind. Brandy was not going to die that day or the next day or for at least ten years. I was going to make sure of that. I explained to the couple that this was my first time being faced with this decision and I found it hard to go through with it.

“Will you give him to me? I will look after him and give him a good home as long as I can,” I promised. Brandy’s watchful eyes looked at me with the purr humming in the background like he was a backup to my song. The couple happily agreed.

Brandy was pretty sick. Not only was he vomiting but his heart was slowing down, another bad sign. His electrolyte imbalances were affecting his heart and could possibly stop it. I had to act fast. Thankfully, the blockage was typically simple to dislodge. It doesn’t seem fair that such a small problem can cause death so quickly.

I nursed him back to health over the next few days and decided that the only body part I was going to take from him was his testicles. He didn’t seem to mind, his purr seemed more important to him then his gonads and it was alive and well.

Brandy didn’t seem like the right name for him. He seemed to me to be a lot more than a ‘Brandy’. Being still very keen on my new profession, I thought an anatomical name would suit him the best, something that would remind me of how our lives crossed paths. ‘Uri’ (short for urinary) seemed like the obvious choice to my recently-graduated-vet-mind.

After a 30 minute ride in my backpack on my bike I introduced Uri to my home. It took about two seconds for him to check the place out (it was pretty small) and say hello to my other cat, Mouth (another vet student bad name choice) and reboot his purr.  That was when my boyfriend (now husband) looked at me like I had two heads. “Uri? What kind of name is that?” He was completely unimpressed with my choice. “He is not a Uri …. he is a Purry.”

From that day on, Uri-Purry enriched our lives and hearts for 14 more years.

There are a few more chapters to Uri’s life … stay tuned.


Anna Belle’s Yucky Breakfast

Courtesy of:  Valerie

It is 5 am on a wet and foggy morning and I am walking around our yard with our new rescue puppy Anna Belle.  Anna Belle is a black 5 month old Chinese Shar Pei who came to us not knowing a few things and housetraining is unfortunately one of them.  This is why I am standing in my yard in my PJ’s wearing my green rubber boots and a big warm coat with a pocket full of treats.

After Anna Belle “does her business” she gets rewarded with a kibble.  This time our coordination is off and she loses it in the grass.  I have two other dogs in the house with allergies (you will meet them in another post) so I bend down right away to retrieve it.  To my horror and disgust, what I thought was an innocent piece of kibble in the grass is actually a slug!  Yuck!!  The more that I look around the yard, the more slugs I see.  The worst part is realizing that when my dogs are out munching on the grass as they often do, they are likely getting some extra protein from the slimy slugs!  Ugh…it gives me the shivers just to write that down!

Not only are slugs gross, but in Atlantic Canada slugs and snails can carry Fox Lungworm (Crenosoma vulpis).   Foxes carry the lungworm and shed larvae in their feces, which the slugs eat.  When dogs then eat the slugs, they can become infected as well.  The main sign of lungworm in dogs is a persistent cough.  Thankfully the cough can be treated easily with several veterinary products.  If you are concerned about lungworm in your dog, contact Truro Vet at 893-2341 for more information.

As I make my way back to bed, I relax knowing that my dogs are on a preventative deworming schedule that works on lungworm, but I need to seriously reconsider those sluggy doggy kisses!


My Itchy Kitty

Courtesy: Dr. Michelle

I have two cats, Flynn (I will write about his adventure in another blog!) and Earl. Earl was found at a neighboring vet clinic where my fiancé works (also as a vet) during Hurricane Earl in 2010. After an extensive search for his owners with no success, we decided to adopt him.

Earl has severe allergies to both his environment and food that make him very itchy. This is a chronic, on-going, life-long condition that can be very challenging to manage. He is on a special diet, Royal Canin’s Hypoallergenic HP (Hydrolyzed Protein) which greatly helps to increase his overall comfort level. We don’t know exactly which ingredient in his food he is allergic to- most cats are allergic to either the meat or carbohydrate component (chicken, beef, rice, and potato are common instigators). This specific diet breaks the protein down into very small molecules that an animal’s immune system does not recognize, and therefore does not stimulate an allergic response. No allergic response=no itchiness=happy kitty! Therefore, this is the only food that Earl is allowed. If I feel the need to give him a treat (usually while applying his monthly Revolution), he gets a piece of his daily allotted kibble. If he sneaks a piece of dropped food from the floor, he becomes obviously itchy the next day (don’t even ask about the day when Flynn and Earl shared a box of graham crackers that were accidentally left on the counter!).

Since Earl is also allergic to his environment (likely pollen and dust mites), he receives a shot of a long-acting steroid every 6 or so weeks, depending on the season. While steroids can have detrimental consequences when used on a long-term basis, sometimes they are needed to improve the quality of life of an individual animal.  I have recently started Earl on a drug called cyclosporine, which acts on his immune system in a different way than steroids do, therefore decreasing the risk of side effects. This drug is far more expensive than steroids, but if I am able to wean him off of the steroids and can make him comfortable on only the cyclosporine, then it is worth it! It is also makes fur grow at an exceptionally fast rate, and considering that Earl is completely bald on his belly from over-grooming himself while itchy, this will be an added benefit!

If you believe that your pet may be suffering from allergies, please give Truro Vet a call at 893-2341.  We can’t wait to help!