Sunday, April 28, 2013



OK, now, pay attention!  If you've been reading this blog for long enough, you know that Helpful Buckeye has stressed repeatedly that a pet owner needs to be familiar with the habits and appearance of their dog or cat.  That is one of the most reliable ways to be able to tell when something just isn't right with the pet.  Awareness of the normal state of events is the first step in the process of catching a disease or illness in its early stages.  Catching an illness early in its development not only gives your pet a better chance of an earlier recovery but also has the potential of saving you some money...and both of those are big pluses.

For the love of your pets: Evaluating your pets'
By Dr. John Beck
My own dog was diagnosed with a heart condition about six months ago. We have some trouble every now and then, but for the most part, his condition is controlled with the medications my veterinarian prescribed. Is there any way for us to know if his "spell" is worth taking him into the vet on emergency or if it is something I can wait on?
Heart conditions are a tricky science. It is usually a blend of medications given a couple of times a day to help maintain your pet's quality of life. Regular visits to your veterinarian are necessary to evaluate how your pet is doing on all the medicines and make sure all of his needs are being met.
The fastest way to evaluate your pet's current state is to try and take his vital statistics - just like a human hospital would get your weight, temperature, blood pressure, etc. upon arrival. You can do the same for your pet.
Mucous membranes are something we always look at when first seeing a patient. Mucous membranes usually refer to the color and wetness of the gum line. A healthy gum line is usually a pretty bright pink and slick to the touch due to the saliva. If a dog is having trouble breathing or making oxygen exchange, the gums can appear purple in color. If the dog is dehydrated, they can feel tacky or sticky to the touch.
Another vital statistic that is regularly checked on a dog/cat is capillary refill time. This is how long it takes for the capillaries (small blood vessels) in the gum line to fill back up with blood after being emptied. To check this, you need to apply mild pressure to the gum line until it turns white, then let go. Count, in seconds, how long it takes for the gum to return to a normal color. If the return time is one to two seconds this is considered normal. Anything over three seconds is considered abnormal.
You can check your pet's pulse by finding the femoral artery that runs inside the pets back leg. The groin section is usually the easiest place to find it. Count how many times you can feel the pulse in 15 seconds then multiply by four. This will give you the number of heart beats per minute. For dogs that are less than 30 pounds, an average heart rate or pulse is 100-160 beats per minute. For a dog over 30 pounds, an average heart rate or pulse is 60-100 beats per minute. The smaller the dog, the faster the heart rate; and the larger the dog, the slower the heart rate. Puppies and cats typically have a pretty quick heart rate regardless of size. They tend to run in the 100-130 beat per minute range.
To check your pet's temperature, you will have to use a rectal thermometer. Adding some lubricating jelly will help with the discomfort. The average dog or cat temperature is 101.5 Fahrenheit. If the patient is very excited, the temperature might be a degree higher. If the patient is very old or calm, the temperature might be a degree lower.

These vital statistics can be taken to help reassure yourself of your pet's condition. If you need more help or have any other questions, please feel free to contact me or your local veterinarian.
Adapted from:

Is this Normal? - When to take your pet to the
Adapted from:

10 Signs Your Pet Needs To See The Vet
Most pet guardians recognize the obvious signs of a pet in distress and would seek veterinary care for all the obvious signs of illness or injury such as bleeding or an animal who can not stand. But what about the more subtle signs that your pet needs help? Every species has its one code, its own tell-tale signs of trouble, and in the animal kingdom, communication can be cryptic to the human eye. One golden rule is to watch for any behavioral shifts which may have an alarming underlying cause..
1.      Restlessness: Maggie, the 10-year-old calico cat, was always a quiet girl. She preferred to spend most of the day sleeping in a wicker basket. So when Maggie began exploring the house more, particularly at night, her family was thrilled to see her becoming more active. Maggie would pace through the house, checking every room and sometimes let out a single meow. Turns out, Maggie was suffering from a brain tumor that was giving her severe headaches. The pacing was her response to the pain. What looked like a wonderful new sense of exploration, was actually the manifestation of severe illness. Restlessness can be a firm indicator of pain or anxiety.
2.      Unusual Ways of Getting Your Attention: What do you make of a bunny who normally wanders the living room floor but is suddenly ascending onto the couch? Perhaps he has his ears cocked in different directions instead of the usual symmetrical arrangement. Bunny may be trying to get your attention. A common cause of pain in rabbits comes from their mouths as teeth tend to grow spurs causing painful lacerations and infection, especially in the rear corners of the mouth that can only be viewed with special veterinary instruments. In dogs and cats, frequent barking or meowing that is uncharacteristic for your pet, could be a sign of distress. Any time your pet is persistently turning to you for attention and you are unable to satisfy this pleading with food, water or a walk outdoors, you could be looking at a pet who is in need of care.  In iguanas, face rubbing is a problem and can lead to injury from abrasive metal cages. Environmental changes, health issues or a small cage can provoke the behavior.
3.      Changes in Body Presentation and Posture: A pet bird who sits with his feathers ruffled out for a long period of time may be suffering respiratory illness See a complete list of bird health warning signs here In rabbits, a hunched and hunkered down posture can indicate stasis, a painful and potentially deadly slow-down of the gastrointestinal tract which is common to rabbits and requires immediate veterinary intervention. And in dogs and cats, you'll want to pay attention if your pet is suddenly sleeping in an unusual position, limping or hesitating to sit down.
4.      Hesitation to Jump or Climb: A dog who begins to hesitate before jumping into the car or onto the bed may be experiencing arthritis, hip dysplasia or even early signs of neurological disease.
5.      Going into Hiding/ Becoming Quiet: If your normally social pet begins seeking more quiet time or begins sleeping a lot more, this can be a red flag indicating some form of pain or infection. This is a big one and you'll want to begin paying careful attention to see if you can uncover any other changes so that you can report these to the vet as well. In fact, one cat who recently swallowed a long piece of string that was constricting his intestines was simply noted to be sitting quietly and not bouncing around as he usually does. This change had only begun that morning, but his eyes seemed to say, something is wrong, and fortunately his very astute guardian rushed him to the vet where an x-ray revealed the foreign body and emergency surgery saved his life. 
6.      Pee & Poo Indicators: Your animal's bathroom habits are an excellent barometer of health which is why its critically important for pet guardians to observe their pets' elimination behaviors. Frequent urination can indicate a variety of sneaky and serious health issues ranging from diabetes to urinary tract infection to kidney failure. In fact, in male cats blockage of the urinary tract can suddenly occur and your cat will be unable to urinate despite desperate attempts. If your litter box is out of sight, you will not notice these red flags. You must see how often your cat is visiting the box. Daily cleaning of the box to look for appropriate quantity of urine is essential, but in multi-cat households, it's harder to spot illness in a single cat through cleaning alone. Changes in bowel movements can indicate anything from simple parasitic infection to intestinal disease to gastrointestinal hemorrhaging. Black poo, poo with red blood or diarrhea that persists are all reasons to see the vet.
7.      Bad Breath: Geriatric pets are not the only ones who can suffer from dental diseases. Even in kittens as young as four months old, severe dental disease can be present as a result of common viruses and severe pain, even exposed nerves, can evolve quickly. If your pet has foul breath, don't play games with over-the-counter breath freshening tools. First, see your vet to find out if your pet has abscesses, broken teeth, gingival (gum) complications or other oral health conditions that could be causing pain and opening the window to additional disease of major organs including the heart.
8.      "False" Hairballs or Coughing: You'd be surprised at how asthma in cats looks and sounds like a cat trying to cough up a fur ball. Many cat guardians miss the early signs of asthma because it appears so similar to the old 'hair ball' routine. Viral infections, heart diseases, asthma and worms are but a few of the reasons your pet may be coughing, wheezing or sneezing and it's simply impossible for pet owners to make these determinations on their own.
9.      Itching: Sometimes food allergies, environmental allergies or external parasites cause itching.  Particularly if you pet is itching at his ears and wincing, painful ear mites or yeast overgrowth may be present.
10.  Not Your Average Vomit: Pets do vomit occasionally but sometimes vomit is an indicator of an emergency ranging from poisoning, an ingested foreign object or serious illness. And, in fact, retching unproductively can also indicate a severe condition in dogs in which their stomach is twisted.
21 Symptoms You Should Never Ignore in
 Your Dog
By: Dr. Debra Primovic
There are serious symptoms that should never be ignored in your dog. A symptom is defined as "any problem that can indicate an underlying disease" and may be your first clue to the presence of a life-threatening problem in your dog. Here is a list of 21 symptoms that should never be ignored if you see them from your dog!
1. Pacing and Restlessness. In dogs, pacing and restlessness can be indicate pain, discomfort or distress. Restlessness can be associated with a condition called "bloat" in which the stomach. Bloat and most commonly occurs in large breed or deep-chested dogs. Pacing and restless can be an indicator of a serious problem.
2. Unproductive Retching. Dogs that attempt to vomit and are unable to bring anything up is a common sign of "bloat". You should call your veterinarian immediately.
3. Collapse or Fainting. Acute collapse is a sudden loss of strength causing your dog to fall and be unable to rise. Some dogs that suddenly collapse will actually lose consciousness. This is called fainting or syncope. Some dogs recover very quickly and look essentially normal just seconds to minutes after collapsing, whereas others stay in the collapsed state until helped. All the reasons for collapse or fainting are serious and should not be ignored. See your veterinarian immediately.
4. Not Eating or Loss of Appetite. Anorexia is a term used to describe the situation where an animal loses his appetite and does not want to eat or is unable to eat. There are many causes of a "loss of appetite" and is often the first indication of illness. Regardless of cause, loss of appetite can have a serious impact on an animal's health if it lasts 24 hours or more. Young animals less than 6 months of age are particularly prone to the problems brought on by loss of appetite.
5. Losing Weight. Weight loss is a physical condition that results from a negative caloric balance. This usually occurs when the body uses and/or excretes essential nutrients faster than it can consume them. Essentially more calories are being burned than are being taken in. Weight loss is considered clinically important when it exceeds 10 percent of the normal body weight and is not associated with fluid loss. There are several causes for this, some of which can be very serious.

6. Breathing Problems. Respiratory distress, often called dyspnea, is labored, difficult breathing or shortness of breath. This can occur at any time during the breathing process, during inspiration (breathing in) or expiration (breathing out). When your dog has trouble breathing, he may not be able to get enough oxygen to his tissues. Additionally, if he has heart failure, he may not be able to pump sufficient blood to his muscles and other tissues. Dyspnea is often associated with accumulation of fluid (edema) in the lungs or the chest cavity (pleural effusion). This fluid can lead to shortness of breath and coughing. This is a very serious symptom and should be evaluated immediately.
7. Red Eye. A "red eye" is a non-specific sign of inflammation or infection. It may be seen with several different diseases including those involving different parts of the eye including the external eyelids, third eyelid, conjunctiva, cornea, and sclera (white portion of the eye). It may also occur with inflammation of the structures inside the eye, with glaucoma (high pressure within the eye) or with certain diseases of the orbit (eye socket). Either one or both eyes can become red, depending upon the cause of the problem. Some of the possible causes can be serious and ultimately cause blindness.
8. Jaundice. Jaundice, also referred to as icterus, describes the yellow color taken on by the tissues throughout the body due to elevated levels of bilirubin, a substance that comes from the breakdown of red blood cells. There are several causes for jaundice and regardless of the cause, jaundice is considered abnormal and serious in the dog.
9. Trouble Urinating. "Trouble urinating" can include straining to urinate, frequent attempts at urination, and evidence of discomfort when urinating. Discomfort may be demonstrated by crying out during urination, excessive licking at the urogenital region or turning and looking at the area. There are several underlying causes. Some of the causes if left untreated can result in death in as little as 36 hours.
10. Urinating and Drinking Excessively. These signs are often early signs of disease including kidney failure, diabetes mellitus, thyroid gland problems, uterine infection (called pyometra), as well as other causes. Dogs normally take in about 20 to 40 milliliters per pound of body weight per day, or one to two cups per day for a normal sized dog. If you determine that your pet is drinking excessively, make an appointment with your veterinarian.
11. Fever. A fever is defined as an abnormally high body temperature resulting from internal controls. It is believed that fever is a method of fighting infection. The body resets the temperature control area of the brain to increase the body temperature – probably in response to invasion of foreign matter such as bacteria or viruses. The normal temperature in dogs is 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If your pet temperature is high, call your veterinarian.
12. Seizure. A seizure or convulsion is a sudden excessive firing of nerves in the brain. The severity of the seizure can vary between a far-away look or twitching in one part of the face to your dog falling on his side, barking, gnashing his teeth, urinating, defecating and paddling his limbs. A seizure can last from seconds to minutes. Seizures are symptoms of some neurological disorder – they are not in themselves a disease. They can be caused by several disorders including epilepsy, toxins or tumors.
13. Bruising and Bleeding. Abnormal bruising and bleeding arises with disorders of hemostasis (clotting). Clotting abnormalities are also called coagulopathies, because they reflect the inability of the blood to coagulate or clot. Bleeding from clotting disturbances may occur into the skin, the mucous membranes, and various internal organs, tissues, and body cavities. The impact of such bleeding on the affected individual may be mild or severe depending on the degree of blood loss.
14. Coughing. Coughing is a common protective reflex that clears secretions or foreign matter from the throat, voice box, and/or airways, and protects the lungs against aspiration. It affects the respiratory system by hindering the ability to breathe properly. Common causes include obstruction in the windpipe, bronchitis, pneumonia, heartworm disease, lung tumors, kennel cough and heart failure. Some of the causes are life threatening and all pets with a cough should be evaluated by a veterinarian.
15. Bloated or Distended Abdomen. Abdominal distension is an abnormal enlargement of the abdominal cavity. This term is usually reserved for abdominal enlargement due to causes other than simple obesity. One cause of abdominal distension is abnormal fluid accumulation. Another cause of abdominal distension is enlargement of any abdominal organ including the liver, kidneys, or spleen. Distension of the stomach with air ("bloating") or fluid or distension of the uterus (womb) during pregnancy, can result in abdominal distension. Pressure from the abdomen pushing into the chest may make breathing more difficult and pressure within the abdomen may decrease the appetite. NOTE: It is important to recognize abdominal distension because it can be a symptom of potentially life-threatening diseases and should be investigated thoroughly.
16. Bloody Diarrhea. Blood in the feces can either appear as "melena" which makes the stools appear black and tarry is the presence suggests digested blood in the feces. Melena is different from fresh blood in the stool (hematochezia). Bleeding into the colon or rectum appears as fresh blood in the stool. Bloody diarrhea should be evaluated by your veterinarian as soon as possible.
17. Bloody Urine. Hematuria is the presence of red blood cells in the urine. It may be gross (visible to the naked eye) or microscopic. There are several possible causes including bacterial infections, cancer, stones in the urinary tract.
18. Bite Wounds. Bite wounds are often the result when two animals engage in a fight or aggressive play. Bite wounds, which may only appear as a small puncture wound in the skin, can actually be quite extensive. Once the tooth penetrates the skin, severe damage can occur to the underlying tissues without major skin damage. Some wounds may appear deceptively minor but may have the potential to be life threatening, depending on the area of the body bitten. All bite wounds should receive veterinary attention.
19. Bloody Vomit. Vomiting blood can fresh blood, which is bright red or partially digested blood, which has the appearance of brown coffee grounds. There are a variety of causes of vomiting blood and the effects on the animal are also variable. Some are subtle and minor ailments, while others are severe or life threatening.
20. Lethargy or Weakness. Lethargy is a state of drowsiness, inactivity, or indifference in which there are delayed responses to external stimuli such as auditory (sound), visual (sight), or tactile (touch) stimuli. Lethargy is a nonspecific sign associated with many possible underlying systemic disorders. It may have little to no impact on the affected individual; however its presence may represent severe or life-threatening illness. Lethargy of more than a day's duration should not be ignored, and should be addressed, especially if it persists.
21. Pale Gums. Pale gums or mucous membranes can indicate blood loss or "shock". The possible causes for either blood loss or shock are life-threatening and thus should be evaluated immediately.
Adapted from:

Give pet a pat, and an exam while at it

There’s something therapeutic about petting your cat or dog.
No, really: Your petting them could save their life. Depending on the animal, it’s not uncommon for cats and dogs to develop lumps or bumps on or under their skin. During annual veterinary exams, your vet should be checking for these.
In between vet visits — some even suggest once a week — it’s good to give your pet a check-over to make sure no new bumps have emerged or that no existing bumps have grown.
The vets at and Southwest Veterinary Oncology suggest starting at the nose and working back to the tail. Check the nostrils for discharge or bumps, and feel your way over their face, ears and neck, not ignoring the skin in their wrinkles.
Open a dog’s mouth (a cat’s, too, if you can) and check for any abnormalities in the gums or tongue.
Work your way down the torso and legs, and check the anal area for bumps or discharge. Go all the way to the end of the tail, getting in between toes and at the points where joints connect.
Most pets will allow and even welcome the stroking: They’ll think you’re petting them, said Dr. Jennifer Arthur of Southwest Veterinary Oncology.
There are at least a half-dozen possibilities of what the lump is and what caused it, so if you do find one, don’t panic.
The first step is to check the same area on the other side. If it’s symmetrical, odds are it’s nothing to be worried about.
If it isn’t, call and describe it to your vet. They may suggest that you come in, or they may just ask that you monitor it during the next few weeks.
It could turn out to be an abscess, a sebaceous cyst, a skin papilloma (wart) or a variety of other non-fatal things.
If you detect swelling around the lymph nodes (under jaw, in front of shoulders, junction of back legs and front of knees on both animals), see the vet soon. This could be an indicator of cancer, which your vet can detect.
If a vet is unsure, he or she may take a needle biopsy or excise the lump and send it to a pathologist for a report.
Whatever the issue is, if you catch the lump early, treatment options are many. has very helpful how-to videos on examining pets, and they offer a visual tracker so you can monitor a bump’s appearance, growth and vet opinions.  Their web site is at:
The next time you have a rough day and need a snuggle, pet like you mean it and give your animal a quick exam.
It’s a simple, free tool for keeping your pet healthy, and they’ll relish attention from their favorite person in the whole world.
Adapted from:
Any questions or comments should be sent to Helpful Buckeye at:  or submitted at the "Comment" section at the end of this issue.
~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~

1 comment:

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