The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) is the only organization to accredit companion animal veterinary hospitals. They set standards for quality veterinary care throughout the entire hospital. These standards strive for excellence in client and patient care, and give us guidelines to help us accomplish that.
Only 12-15% of veterinary hospitals in Canada and the US are accredited with their organization!
To become AAHA accredited, Truro Vet was evaluated on 900 standards of care. These are all encompassing for each section of the hospital. We have always been very proud of our patient care and how we work together as a team to provide it. Gaining AAHA accreditation gives us access to endless resources to guidelines in patient care. This helps us keep up to date with the ever-changing science of veterinary medicine and how we provide it to you and your pet. When you take your pet to an AAHA accredited veterinary clinic you can be confident you will be receiving quality care.
We are excited about our new AAHA accreditation and invite you to ask us more about it! For more information please check out www.aaha.org
In the Fall of 2010, I was a new student in the NSAC Veterinary Technician Program. Daily, I went to the campus clinic where the majority of the animals were from shelters. These animals were there to be spayed or neutered. One particular cat named Willow, had caught my eye. He was small, had disheveled fur, severe dental disease and had diarrhea and vomiting since arriving for his procedures. I had heard through the grapevine that he may be euthanized as his symptoms were not improving.
Instantly, I rushed home from class, filled out my adoption application and eagerly waited for a call. That afternoon I received the good news that I was going to be a cat mom for the second time! At that moment, I had no idea what kind of emotional rollercoaster I was about to embark on with this guy (and his sister) for the next 6 years.
My little ball of fur, now named Little Man fit in well with his new sister and everyone was happy and healthy. After deworming him his diarrhea had come to a halt and having his teeth cleaned with multiple extractions made him happy as ever. That was until January of 2011. Little started to form bloody sores all over his body, and his diarrhea and vomiting had come back. After repeated trips to see Dr. Melissa, having fecal examinations completed, blood tests run and medication/ food trials we learned that he had developed food allergies and irritable bowel disease. He was prescribed Hypoallergenic HP, and for 3 years he did exceptionally well, only having an occasional flare up of his bowel disease when he decided he needed to steal food and treats! Gradually his irritable bowel disease began to progress over the years, but he maintained his health on steroids and hypoallergenic food. It wasn’t until a year ago that his health began to decline. His steroid dose was increased to the highest amount, and he needed injections to keep him from vomiting and having diarrhea. At this point he had developed an over growth of a skin parasite called demodectic mange, which occurred because his immune system was no longer up to the task of keeping them under control. With parasite treatments every 2 weeks and multiple visits to see Dr. Melissa, I began to notice a change in Little’s temperament and he was no longer the cat willing to give constant affection. By September, he had continued to get worse and I researched new ideas and treatments to keep him happy and healthy. After his bowel disease had progressed into lymphoma (a form of cancer), I decided to try chemotherapy which would be administered at home through pill form and bi-weekly blood draws to monitor his response. At this point in his life, I often wondered if doing all of these treatments and repeated visits to the vet were worth it and if I was being selfish. We had our ups and downs, he had his good days and bad days and looking back on Little now, I always wonder what else I could have done to make him comfy longer. I second guessed if I was doing the right thing.
I believe making this decision is different for everyone and there is never a perfect time. Although his life was a short 6 years and I would give anything to have my furry shadow with me forever, knowing he is probably doing his favourite activities like shredding many cat toys and rolling in glitter gives me peace of mind.
6:30 am – Time to start my day! I’m scheduled to work a surgery shift today which means I need to be at work for 8am . That gives me an hour and a half to get myself and our three kids ready and out the door. I get my own dog and cat fed and cared for before heading in to the clinic.
8am – I’ve arrived to see what’s in store for the day. We usually have several elective surgeries booked (this means they have been planned for – ie. spay, neuter, dentistry etc.) I will however, be the only veterinarian in the office until noon, so if there are any animals that need to be seen more urgently I will take care of them as well. My routine surgery days are Wednesdays and my team on that day has started calling them ‘Wacky Wednesdays’ as we seem to attract a great variety of ailments!
My first patient to assess is Tucker. He is a young dog with a history of eating facecloths and socks, was hospitalized overnight and needs repeat radiographs to assess for a possible foreign body. He is not really interested in his breakfast and seems nauseated.
Next is Gooch, an Australian Shepherd that had routine surgery last week and wasn’t feeling well yesterday. He has been vomiting and passing bloody diarrhea. Radiographs showed a gas pattern in his intestines that was concerning for a foreign body. This is not always clear cut as many foreign bodies are not easy to see on a radiograph. We treated his symptoms with medication overnight and he is back this morning to repeat the pictures. Luckily he is feeling much better and the radiographs have shown a big improvement. He goes on his way with his relieved Mom.
Hank, a large German Shepherd that was neutered last week arrives to recheck his incision. He has significant swelling at the surgery site. He is very active and therefore very hard to keep quiet at home. He is really uncomfortable and doesn’t even really want me to look at it! With his Mom’s reassurance I’m able to assess things well enough that I decide to start him on antibiotics and extra pain medication. I talk with the owner about the possibility of him needing more surgery to investigate the problem a bit further.
Meanwhile, Tucker’s radiographs have been done and they look very suspicious for a foreign body. This along with his history of eating things he shouldn’t makes me recommend exploratory surgery. I’m worried that his bowel is obstructed. His owner gives us the go-ahead so we get him sedated and prepped for surgery. After his sedative he vomits a couple of liters of foul fluid…nothing glamourous about this job! Although I don’t mind cleaning up body fluids, I work with an amazing team that jumps right in and gets it done :0). We all have our thing that we really don’t like (mine is phlegm), and usually someone will offer to take over!
Next we see Lilli, a young shih tzu who is here for bloodwork to check her liver function. She had routine pre-surgical bloodwork last week prior to her spay and we found some abnormalities. Her surgery was postponed until we can look into the cause for those a bit further. She’s been fasted overnight. She is really wiggly, but with some head pats and excited chatter to distract her, we collect blood and feed her some breakfast. She’ll need a second blood collection in 2 hours.
By 10am, Tucker is ready for surgery. Although we have a few other pets that were booked for procedures today, Tucker gets pushed to first in line since he is sick. I find a sock obstructing his small intestine. Some of the bowel tissue has poor blood supply and is starting to die. I have to remove ~30cm of bowel and attach the two ends. (we call this a resection and anastomosis) This makes the surgery higher risk. There is more chance of infection and incision breakdown. Thankfully Tucker is young and otherwise healthy so this improves his chances of recovering well. These cases are the ones I think about before I go to sleep and first thing when I wake up.
As Tucker recovers from anesthesia, Valor, a young German Shepherd, is ready to be neutered. He’s a beautiful boy and very well mannered. Everything goes routinely.
Over lunch I take some time to call Tucker’s owner to update them on his surgery. I update Valor’s Mom as well. Lilli gets to go home. After checking through my phone messages and returning a few calls to clients I grab a quick bite to eat.
It’s now early afternoon and Boomer, a 7 year old hound that was adopted by his current owner this year is getting prepped for his neuter and dental surgery. On his pre-surgical exam I noticed he had quite a lot of dental tartar and several teeth that looked diseased. Our plan today after he is neutered is to scale and polish his teeth, and take dental radiographs to assess the roots of his teeth for disease that we can’t see above the gumline. His teeth clean up very nicely, and on radiographs I see 5 teeth that need to be extracted. There is bone loss around the roots and they are losing their attachment to the gums. This make it easier for bacteria to invade and infect the roots. I extract the teeth and place sutures that will dissolve over the next two weeks.
Tucker is recovering well… he even eats some gastro canned food for me! (this is a special diet that is bland and used for pets with an upset belly). His parents come for a visit – he definitely perks up when he sees them. We are cautiously optimistic that his recovery continues to go well.
As the shift comes to an end, I write up all the medical files from today, finish updating the owners of surgery patients and return more phone calls that have come up. I update the evening veterinarian on my patients that will stay in-hospital overnight.
I head out to pick up my kids and get them home for the evening.
At midnight I head back in to the clinic to check on Tucker. Thankfully he is feeling very well, getting more energetic and has a great appetite!
My days can be busy and varied, and I consider myself lucky to be working in a field where I learn something new every day. There are many days that we deal with very difficult, emotional situations, but seeing patients head home feeling well is so rewarding it makes up for it.
Did you know that as many as one out of every 50 cats will develop diabetes in its lifetime? We tend to see this disease in obese cats that are between 10-13 years old. 70-80% of cats affected by the disease are male! This blog is intended to teach you what to watch for if you think your cat may be developing this disease, how we diagnose it, and how it is treated.
There are two types of diabetes mellitus (DM). Type 1, also known as insulin-dependent DM, occurs when the body destroys insulin secreting cells that are found in the pancreas. We rarely see this type in cats, but it is very common in dogs. Type 2, non-insulin dependent DM, occurs when insulin is still being made by the pancreas but not enough is being excreted. 80% of cats with DM have type 2. Obese cats are 4 times more likely to develop diabetes.
The main function of insulin is to promote storage of glucose in the body into its energy form, glycogen. It also allows amino acids to be stored as protein, and fatty acids to be stored as fat. In DM, storage does not occur and the kidneys are then unable to deal with the extra glucose in the body and it is excreted into the urine. The extra glucose in the urine causes an excessive amount of urination, followed by an excessive amount of drinking. Since there is a decreased amount of protein being made, animals with diabetes tend to lose weight and muscle mass. Therefore, early signs of DM that you may notice in your cats are: an increase in the amount and frequency they need to go out to urinate, an increase in the amount they want to eat, and weight loss. Other signs to watch for are lethargy, a poor hair coat, dehydration (despite the increase in drinking), and hind limb weakness.
We diagnose diabetes with a blood test to check for an elevated glucose level. Sometimes, when cats are stressed (especially after a car ride to the vet!), the glucose can look artificially elevated on the bloodwork. If a cat’s blood glucose level reads in this zone, we send the cat’s blood to an external laboratory to check another level called fructosamine. Fructosamine levels can accurately predict what the glucose level has been in the cat over the past two weeks. It removes the guesswork and will rule in or rule out diabetes.
Cats who are diagnosed with DM often have other diseases at the same time. The most common is a urinary tract infection. Often times, after your cat is diagnosed with DM, we will culture the urine sample to check for bacteria. Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas- an organ near the liver) can also be seen with diabetes because insulin is produced in cells within the pancreas.
The main goal in treating diabetes is to resolve the clinical signs that the cat is showing, and to normalize the glucose level. We treat DM with insulin, which is injected with a very small needle under the cat’s skin. Usually these injections are needed every 12 to 24 hours. In cats (unlike in dogs), diabetes can go into remission after 1-4 months of insulin therapy. In addition to insulin, with weight loss and a diet change, we can also achieve remission, when the cat’s symptoms resolve completely. A high protein and low carbohydrate diet is needed in cats with DM. Higher protein levels will prevent muscle mass loss and will increase the metabolic rate of the cat. Low carbohydrate diets will decrease the insulin demand on tissues. Canned foods are lower in carbs than dry diets, and are often recommended in cats with DM.
After we diagnose your cat with diabetes, we may need to do several “glucose curves” during the first few months after diagnosis. This involves leaving your cat in the clinic for about 12 hours. We check the cat’s glucose level every 2 hours so that we can see how high and how low the glucose level goes in a day. Depending on the results, we may change the dose of insulin you are giving and recheck the curve in one week. Once we find an appropriate level of insulin to dose with, we recommend doing a glucose curve every few months, or you can be taught to check your cat’s glucose levels at home.
As mentioned above, cats with diabetes can go into remission. Things to watch for at home are a change in behavior or severe lethargy, a decreased willingness to play, or weight loss/gain. These changes happen because the glucose level remains too low when insulin is given and is no longer required. The cats may stay in remission as long as they are maintained on their special diet. Occasionally, a cat may come out of remission and insulin injections are once again required. Rarely, we may not be able to control your cat’s diabetes easily with insulin injections. Additional testing and treatments may be needed in those cases.
If you think your cat may be showing signs of diabetes, please give us a call at 893-2341 so we can schedule an appointment.
Hey, my name is Sara-Dawn Langille (better known as Sara-Dawn from River John) and I got an amazing opportunity to work with the staff at the Truro Veterinary Hospital on March 20, 2014. I got to do this because I won a contest on Facebook called “Truro Vet Behind the Scenes” and it is one of the best contests I have ever entered. Having this experience has confirmed that I do want to work in clinics with animals and I now realize what it takes to operate a clinic.
When I first came into the clinic I was told that Dr. Gwen was already going into surgery and I could go in and watch; I put on a scrub hat and mask and went into the surgery room. Dr. Gwen was performing a neuter on a Jack Russell. At first I was scared I would become ill from watching the surgery but it was really cool to watch. The best part was when Dr. Gwen finished, shut off the gas and the dog woke up. A Vet Assistant named Brea showed me how to wake up a dog after they had been through surgery and we woke him up no problem.
The next surgery for the day was a tooth extraction on a wiener dog, but before that surgery could start I helped Carmen the Vet Technician clean and polish the dog’s teeth. After the preparation Dr. Gwen came back and we took out a broken tooth. It had three roots and was a very large tooth.
After the two surgeries were done I got to hang out with Ashley and Brea the two Vet Assistants and they told me what their duties were and about their job at Truro Vet. For the rest of the day we had clients coming in for appointments and I learned a lot from this too. Before I went into any appointments I helped Brea clean and wrap the instruments that were used in the surgeries. If I were to become a Vet Assistant or Tech these would be very important things to learn.
Dr. Michelle came in to start the appointments and I got to go into the first appointment with a Vet Tech named Charity to do preliminary questions. Throughout the day I did visits with clients with Dr. Michelle and I got to meet tons of animals and their owners who were helped by Dr. Michelle and the team at the clinic.
At the end of my shift the Truro Vet gave me a bag of goodies for myself and my cat Oodie which she is enjoying to the full extent. I had an awesome day and I am so glad I got this chance! I know for sure I want to work in the Veterinary field because I love animals and I want to make a difference. Thank you Truro Vet!!
It’s all fun and games until someone ends up in a cone!
“What on earth is that?”
“Why is your dog wearing a lamp shade?”
“Hey look, here comes cone head!”
Actually, the technical name for this contraption is “Elizabethan Collar” (e-collar for short). While they do look bizarre, they serve a VERY important purpose. E-collars are used to prevent your pet from biting, licking or scratching at their healing wounds. Most commonly, they are sent home with a patient after they have been spayed or neutered. This was the case with my lovely little fur child, Cooper.
Cooper, (aka “Coopy” and often called “Loopy”) is my crazy 11 month old German Shorthaired Pointer. For those of you who are not familiar with the breed, they are very versatile all-purpose hunting dogs. They are extremely energetic dogs who love to run and never seem to get tired. The very thought of trying to keep this dog quiet for 2 weeks after his neuter seemed impossible! But of course, it had to be done.
On January 9th, Cooper was neutered. The operation went smoothly, and soon enough he was ready to roll again. He didn’t seem too concerned about his little incision, so we didn’t bother with an e-collar at first. If he started to pick at it, I would simply tell him “No” and he would stop. What a good boy! As the days went on, I began to notice the incision site looked irritated and wasn’t healing as fast as I had hoped. I started to spy on him and realized he was licking when I wasn’t watching! One of our vets looked at him the next day and believed he was reacting to the suture material. She prescribed some antibiotics and the dreaded cone.
For most dogs, e-collars work great. They are simply unable to reach the area and the wound is able to heal properly without infection. However, that was not the case with Cooper. I would catch him bending the cone so he was able to lick himself! We even used the largest size cone available here with the same result. This dog is smart and flexible, and has a long nose which makes things very difficult. Since the cone wasn’t working for him, we tried bitter spray on the incision. The horrible taste should deter him from licking, right? Again, for most dogs, it works well. Clearly Cooper didn’t think it tasted all that bad, because he continued to lick!
I felt like I was running out of options. It has now been almost a month and no improvement. Not only that, but keeping a dog who is used to running off leash everyday calm and quiet is not an easy task.
These are all great ideas, but not ONE worked for this dog!
Now this is where I start to brag about how awesome my co-workers at Truro Vet really are. Since NOTHING else was working, they developed Cooper a custom made cone.
As you can see, it’s a giant ice-cream container with an e-collar attached to the top, complete with padding around the bottom, and loop holes to string his collar through. The fact that he tolerated this contraption so well made it a lot easier. I guess he had to get used to it, since it was on him 24/7 for a few weeks. Yes, even when he crawled into our bed at night…under the covers! This amazing contraption is the reason why Cooper is now 100% healed!
Every pet is different. They all react to situations in different ways. Some ideas will work great for one pet and not at all for another. If nothing seems to work…don’t worry. Give us a call at 893-2341. We will be happy to put our heads together to help you find something that works for your pet!
“That last prescription you gave Tommy Boy worked wonders!” Mr. Jenkins said excitedly. I was happy to hear it but I wasn’t so happy to hear the rest. “He didn’t even have to take all the pills for it to get better, so now I have some left to keep on hand for the next time he gets into a fight.” Mr. Jenkins seemed very proud of this accomplishment. While I was pleased that Mr. Jenkins was happy with the outcome of his beloved Tommy Boy’s infected bite wound, I was also worried about the next time Tommy Boy gets into a cat fight. Maybe Mr. Jenkins and Tommy Boy won’t be so lucky next time.
When antibiotics are prescribed for a condition, the animal’s age, weight and overall health together with the condition being treated are carefully considered. For example, some antibiotics work better in dental disease while others work better on skin infections. Other health issues may affect the dose of the drug used since one patient may not be able to clear the drug from their system as efficiently as another individual. The personality of the patient is also a concern. If you have ever had the task of giving pills to a cat, you will know what I mean. Some patients will never take a pill in their food which means the care giver must find another way to outsmart their pets.
If the medication is not taken as directed then the antibiotic designed to treat the problem may never reach the levels it needs to kill all the bacteria. If some bacteria survive the improper dosing then they can continue to thrive in your pet and cause more disease and the antibiotic that was used will not work anymore.
Antibiotics have probably saved more lives than any other medical breakthrough of the 20th century. We have come to depend on antibiotic therapy to treat many day to day problems. After more than 75 years of using antibiotics, we are learning that there is a down side, a potentially very serious one… antibiotic resistance.
Antibiotic resistance is the term used when a population of bacteria becomes unaffected or poorly affected by an antibiotic that has been effective against them in the past. These bacteria may require antibiotic treatment at a higher dose, with more frequency, or for longer duration. In some cases, they require a different type of antibiotic medication entirely. Unfortunately, the number of different types of antibiotics available for use is limited, and some bacteria have become resistant to multiple types. These bacteria are frequently referred to as “superbugs”. We have likely all heard of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Human hospitals screen for this because the doctors know that if the highly resistant bacteria gets into an immune-compromised person, there may be no treatment.
Our pets have their own version of MRSA. It is called Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus pseudointermedius (MRSP).These organisms have been found in wounds, on skin, in ears and in urinary tracts. It has been identified in dogs, cats, horses, birds and humans. Yes, that’s right, humans. Allowing these organisms to grow by not using antibiotics correctly can not only put your pet’s health at risk but also the health of your human family. Transmission has been documented between animals and people but the shocker is that once the MRSP is allowed to establish itself, it can spread through the environment with the aid of hair or shed skin cells, which make up the majority of house dust.
Antibiotics are dispensed less often these days because of the recognition of these resistances. We try to treat medical problems with alternate therapies to alleviate this serious health issue. A good example is bladder disease in cats. Thirty years ago, the common problem of bladder disease in cats was thought to be due to infections. Antibiotics were a cornerstone to their treatment. Much has been learned about bladder disease in the last 30 years. We now understand the problem better and have long recognized that infection is rarely a component of bladder disease in young to middle aged cats. Instead of antibiotics, we use diet and anti-inflammatories to treat the condition. Sometimes it is just a matter of increasing the water in the kitty’s diet to help them though this painful condition.
The key to successful antibiotic therapy is to complete the treatment and follow the instructions carefully. If you cannot get the pill in your cat, ‘Fang’ (or your dog, ‘Jaws’) without risking a bite and possible antibiotic therapy yourself, tell your vet. Veterinary hospital staff know many tricks to get the medication in your pet where it belongs. If the tricks don’t work then a different type of antibiotic may be needed.
The last consideration of antibiotic therapy is determining how long to treat the problem. Some infections only need treatment for a week, others need much longer because the bacteria are hard to kill or the ability of the antibiotic to get to the affected area is time dependent. Re-assessment of the condition is often required to ensure that the antibiotic is working and that it has been given long enough.
Careful use of antibiotics can be accomplished only by veterinarians and pet owners working closely together as a team. Following the instructions precisely at home is the best way for you to help prevent antibiotic resistant organisms from developing in your pets, and also in your family. If you have any questions about the proper use of antibiotics or any medication prescribed for your pet, please call us at 893-2341.
That’s what I thought when Dr. Michelle told me my 4 year old Golden Retriever, Charlie, needed to lose weight. Who did she think she was?
Then I took a step back and really looked at Charlie. Apparently what I had taken as a full winter coat was indeed extra padding over the ribcage. When I bent down to rub his side, I could not feel his ribs anymore. Life with 2 preschoolers and a toddler had taken its toll. Too many table droppings and plate scrapings. Too little exercise. Poor Charlie and his waistline had gone unnoticed. Even more concerning to me was that Charlie suffers from severe hip dysplasia. The head of his femur does not sit properly in his hip socket. We have been able to keep him pain free with muscle toning through exercise. Keeping him at a healthy weight is equally important to prevent hip pain. Were his hips starting to bother him too because of the weight gain and I hadn’t noticed?
So, I had a heart-to-heart with our Charlie-dog. We were going to cut back on the food and we would get back to our regular daily walks. He was thrilled about the walking part, not so much about the food part.
I did not want to change Charlie’s diet entirely. At this point he is on Royal Canin Dental formula to promote a healthy mouth and prevent gum disease. We decided that his weight gain was small enough that reducing his feeding amount and increasing his exercise should be sufficient to manage it. In more severe cases, the better solution would be to change the diet to one formulated specifically for weight loss. Royal Canin has effective diets designed for successful weight management.
We use a yogurt container to scoop each meal, which we have measured and determined to hold two cups of food. We cut the top of the yogurt container down so that a full container would only hold 1 ¾ cups instead, making measuring his food still easy and accurate. Now hubby or I could still give him a full scoop but the cup would contain less.
We started daily walks again. Some days we only go for 20 minutes, but other walks are over an hour. He is now looking slim and trim, scoring a perfect 3 on a body conditioning scale of 1 to 5. He lost 5 pounds and is goofier than ever.
If you notice a little extra padding on your pet’s ribcage or a tummy waddle when they walk, call 893-2341 and ask to speak to one of our Nutrition Counselors. Together we can get your pet back on the road to good health.
One question that I hear often is “When can I start training?” The answer is, the sooner the better! When I got my puppy Indy (almost 5 years ago now) he was 8 weeks old and I started his training the very first day he arrived home. Some time ago, people were told that their dog had to be at least six months in order to start training. This misconception was brought about by choke collars – as they thought puppies could not handle the harsh leash correction before six months of age – yet it was perfectly OK once the pups reached six months. We don’t support correction training, choke collars or prong collars here at the Truro Veterinary Hospital; instead we encourage positive training methods.
If you want to wait until your puppy is six months of age then you miss out on a lot of opportunities not just in training your dog (that’s four months of training time lost). You also miss out on preventing bad habits and behaviours from developing (that’s four months of bad behaviour!). A puppy’s mind is like a child’s – a sponge waiting to learn and soak up information and behaviours (good or bad). They are able to learn and absorb so much – so why not get them started on the right paw as soon as they come into your home? Don’t let four months (or longer) of training opportunities pass you by! Remember, even if you are not training your puppy they are learning every single day, and some of this learning might be unwanted behaviours that you will have to re-train down the road.
I will go back and talk a bit about Indy – and his training. We started when he was eight weeks of age because I wanted to get off to the right start for both of us. Indy has been working every day since then. Within that first week we accomplished so much! We worked on some basic behaviour and he was starting to get pretty fluent in them already. We learned sit, down, stand, loose leash walking, come when called, stay, even roll over to the left and the right, twist and twirl, and shake a paw – all by the time he was 9 weeks old!
We also worked on general good behaviours and manners such as nipping, and biting, house training (Indy had only had two accidents in the house as a puppy), proper greetings and so much more. There is no reason why you can’t have a puppy that is as well behaved as Indy right from the start!
It does require time, patience, and training classes – but that is where we can help you out! We offer a variety of different training classes for all ages and breeds. If you have a new puppy, or an older dog who could benefit from some manners, please call us at 893-2341 to learn more!
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.