Common Diseases & Conditions

Tips, advice and education for pet owners.

Down-arrow.gif

Common Diseases & Conditions

Tips, advice and education for pet owners.

Down-arrow.gif

Cushing’s Disease

What is Cushing’s Disease? Cushing’s Disease (hyperadrenocorticism) develops when your dog has an overproduction of the hormone cortisol.
How did my dog get Cushing’s Disease? A dog produces most of its cortisol hormone through their adrenal glands. If a tumor is present, it can cause an over-secretion of the cortisol hormone resulting in Cushing’s Disease. Adrenal tumors are responsible for approximately 20% of Cushing’s Disease that is diagnosed. The other 80% of Cushing’s Disease patients result from a tumor on the dog’s pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is located in the brain and when a tumor is present it can send signals to the adrenal glands to increase the production of cortisol, which results in Cushing’s Disease. Less common is the occurrence of iatrogenic Cushing’s Disease, which results from long term use of corticosteroids, such as prednisone.
What are the symptoms? Cushing’s Disease is more prominently found in older pets and oftentimes the disease is mistaken for the natural aging process. Here is a list of the most common signs of Cushing’s Disease:
  • Increased/excessive water consumption known as polydipsia
  • Increased/excessive urination known as polyuria
  • Urinary accidents in previously house-trained dogs
  • Increased/excessive appetite known as polyphagia
  • The appearance of food-stealing/guarding, begging, trash dumping, etc.
  • Sagging, bloated, pot-bellied appearance
  • Weight gain or its appearance, due to fat redistribution
  • Loss of muscle mass, giving the appearance of weight loss
  • The bony, skull-like appearance of the dog’s head
  • Exercise intolerance, lethargy, general or hind-leg weakness
  • New reluctance to jump on furniture or people
  • Excess panting, seeking cool surfaces to rest on
  • Symmetrically thinning hair or baldness on the torso
  • Other coat changes like dullness, dryness
  • Slow regrowth of hair after clipping
  • Thin, wrinkled, fragile, and/or darkly pigmented skin
  • Easily damaged/bruised skin that heals slowly
  • Hard, calcified lumps in the skin
  • Susceptibility to infections (especially skin and urinary)
  • Diabetes, pancreatitis, seizures
Your pet does not have to express each symptom to be diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease.
How does my veterinarian diagnose Cushing’s Disease? Your dog’s outward appearance and behavior will indicate to the veterinarian that there is a need for further diagnostics to determine if your pet has Cushing’s Disease. Further diagnostic tests can include:
  • Bloodwork to determine if your pet has elevated liver enzymes, cholesterol, and blood glucose levels, etc.
  • Urinalysis, looking for high levels of protein and low specific gravity indicating diluted urine.
  • Ultrasound to look for an enlarged liver or atrophied adrenal gland.
Your veterinarian’s exam and these diagnostic procedures can suggest the presence of Cushing’s but specific lab tests can help to further pinpoint a diagnosis. These tests include a urine cortisol/creatinine ratio test, ACTH stimulation test and low dose dexamethasone suppression test. However, there is no single test to diagnose Cushing’s Disease.
Prognosis
The short-term prognosis is very good. Once treated, one would expect symptoms of Cushing’s to fully resolve over the course of 4 - 6 months. Excess drinking and urinating will reduce rather quickly. It may take several months for hair and coat to improve. Dogs are generally more comfortable after the disease is under control and may live happily for years.
Left untreated, Cushing’s Disease will progress. As excess cortisol can suppress the function of the immune system, patients affected are prone to various infections. They are also predisposed to develop hypothyroidism, pancreatitis, diabetes, seizures, hypertension, congestive heart failure, blood clots, and liver and kidney failure.
Treatment Expectations
Depending on which form of Cushing’s Disease your pet has will have an impact on how it is treated.
  • For a Pituitary Tumor your pet will most likely be treated with oral medication like Vetoryl or Lysodren and monitored every 6 – 12 months.
  • If an adrenal tumor is the cause of your pet’s diagnosis, surgery and further diagnostics will be suggested to remove the tumor and rule out cancer.
  • If your pet’s current steroid medication is causing them to have Cushing’s Disease, your veterinarian will alter your pet’s medication and monitor their progress.
Read More

Diabetes

What is Diabetes? Diabetes occurs when there is a lack of insulin in your pet’s body.
How did my pet get Diabetes? Diabetes acts the same in pets as it does in humans.Just like humans, genetics plays a role in why we get certain diseases like Diabetes. Another factor that may play a role is your pet’s weight, as obese pets are more likely to develop Diabetes than pets at an ideal weight.
Your pet’s pancreas is ultimately responsible for your pet’s natural production of insulin. Other conditions that impact their pancreas can contribute to a condition of Diabetes. Insulin resistance and secondary diabetes can be linked in pets, particularly dogs that exhibit hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s Disease) or are treated chronically with glucocorticoids or progestins.
What is happening to my pet?
Each time your pet eats their food it begins to break down. One of the components of the food that is broken down is glucose (sugar) that is then carried to their cells by insulin. If your pet cannot produce enough insulin or if the insulin that they do produce doesn’t work properly it can’t carry the glucose to the cells. This means that there is a build-up of glucose (sugar) causing blood sugar levels to rise. Too much sugar in your pet’s bloodstream will cause adverse side effects.
What are the symptoms?
  • Increased/excessive water consumption (polydipsia)
  • Increased/excessive urination (polyuria)
  • Weight loss, even if their appetite has increased
  • Vision issues (bilateral cataracts occur mostly in dogs)
  • Chronic or recurring infections (especially skin infections)
How does my veterinarian diagnose Diabetes?
Your pet’s outward appearance and behavior will indicate to the veterinarian that there is a need for further diagnostics to determine if your pet has Diabetes. Further diagnostic tests can include:
Bloodwork which will determine if there is an elevation in blood sugar (glucose) in your pet’s bloodstream.
  • Urinalysis, to determine if your pet has glucose to spill into the urine.
  • Cat’s are unique in that they can cause themselves to become transiently diabetic due to stress levels. Your veterinarian will want to check a fructosamine to properly diagnose your cat as truly diabetic.
  • Since diabetes can be a result of other issues in your pet, your veterinarian may want to perform additional tests to determine your pet’s overall health.
Prognosis
Your pet’s prognosis is good once they are properly regulated and continue with consistent medication and diet. Your pet can go on to live a normal life without developing many other symptoms.
Treatment Expectations
Weight loss, diet and insulin are all standards in treating diabetes. Pets and their owners should work alongside their veterinarians in properly and safely achieving weight loss goals for the pets. Cats are usually prescribed high protein low fiber diets, whereas dogs are typically prescribed high fiber complex carbohydrate diets. Hills Science Diet W/D is one commonly used diet in dogs with diabetes due to its high fiber content. It is important that your pet’s treatment becomes part of your daily routine. Insulin injections are a very integral part of treatment and once the pet owner and veterinarian decide on which insulin is best to treat the pet, successful management is literally in the hands of the pet owner.
Your veterinarian will want to see your pet for regular checkups every 6 - 12 months depending on your pet’s age and response to treatment. If you notice sudden changes in your pet’s behavior it is important that you contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to help you regulate your pet’s treatment.
Read More

Hyperthyroidism in Cats

What is Hyperthyroidism? Your cat has two thyroid glands located in their neck. These glands play a very important role in regulating your cat’s metabolism. Some cats develop nodules in one (or rarely both) thyroid glands. Most nodules are benign (1-2% are malignant). These nodules are active, meaning they produce excessive amounts of thyroid hormone. This subsequently causes their metabolic rate to increase.
How did my cat get Hyperthyroidism?
Older cats (9 - 12 yrs old) are more frequently diagnosed with hyperthyroidism than younger cats. Studies have shown that large amounts of dietary iodine may be linked to hyperthyroidism in cats.
What are the symptoms?
Weight loss from an increased metabolism is generally the first sign that is noticed in hyperthyroid cats. You may also notice some of the other symptoms which include:
  • Ravenous appetite and weight loss
  • Restlessness
  • Cranky disposition
  • Increased vocalization, especially at night time
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Periodic vomiting and diarrhea
  • Coat will appear dull and unkept
  • Anorexia (lack of appetite) can develop if the disease progresses without treatment
How does my veterinarian diagnose Hyperthyroidism?
Your cat’s outward appearance and behavior will indicate to the veterinarian that there is a need for further diagnostics to determine if your cat has hyperthyroidism. Further diagnostic tests can include:
  • Bloodwork looking for an increase in thyroid levels. Most of the time this will be easily detected. However, additional testing may be necessary.
Hyperthyroidism can lead to secondary conditions such as high blood pressure and cardiomyopathy (heart disease). High blood pressure is caused by the increased pumping from the increased metabolism. High blood pressure can lead to detached retinas if left untreated. This also causes the heart muscle to thicken making it more difficult to pump blood throughout your cat’s body. Your veterinarian may want to perform other diagnostics (radiographs, ultrasound, ECG, blood pressure monitoring) to determine the overall health of your pet. Most of the secondary conditions can be treated with proper medication.
Prognosis
With proper monitoring and medications your cat can continue to live a normal life.
Treatment Expectations
Your cat will likely go through a lot of testing to properly diagnose their disease and determine your cat’s overall health. For the remainder of your pet’s life you will be giving daily medication oral or transdermal methimazole to treat your cat’s condition.
Your veterinarian may discuss switching your cat to a low iodine diet like Y/D made by Hills Veterinary Diets.
There are also radioactive iodine treatments that can be performed by a specialist if you and your veterinarian feel that your cat is a good candidate for this kind of treatment. This treatment may eliminate the need for daily medications. Surgery to remove the thyroid nodule was a treatment option in the past, but is rarely performed today.
Read More

Obesity

What is Obesity? Obesity is excess fat and body weight on your pet. This is a common problem with family pets. 52.6% of dogs and 57.6% of cats in the United States are overweight. Similar to humans there are many health risks and diseases that can be attributed to obesity such as:
  • Diabetes
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Heart and Respiratory Disease
  • Cruciate Ligament Injury
  • Kidney Disease
  • Cancer
  • Decreased Life Expectancy
How did my pet become obese?
Overeating at home is the first factor that should be assessed when questioning if the pet has weight issues. Talk to your family to determine what your pet is eating, how much, and how often. Oftentimes you will determine that two family members are feeding your pet, someone is sneaking extra snacks, table scraps, or maybe you are not measuring your pets food. The next question that you should ask your family members is how much exercise is your pet getting? Are you taking your pet on regular walks? Discuss your pet’s overall diet and exercise with your veterinarian to develop a plan for your pet. Just like us, diet and exercise can be a difficult habit to develop in our pets.
What are the symptoms?
Fat tissue can be linked to inflammation and can put stress on other body systems. Since obesity can be linked to so many other diseases you may notice a variety of symptoms in your pet such as:
  • Lack of energy
  • Panting
  • Increased drinking / urinating
  • Increased begging
  • Difficulty getting up
  • Inability to walk for long distances
How does your veterinarian diagnose obesity?
Your veterinarian uses a body condition scoring chart to determine your pets body score. The chart below demonstrates how your pet will be charted and is based on recommendations by the American Animal Hospital Association.
Prognosis
With proper diet and exercise your pet can go on to live a healthy life. You may be able to revert some diseases with diet and exercise and eliminate some of your pet’s medication.
Treatment Expectations
Knowledge about the effects of obesity on your pet is a great start to curing your pet. Setting up a diet plan with your veterinarian that includes a diet dog food such as W/D from Hills Pet Nutrition, which is high in fiber to help your pet feel full, or a reduction in their current diet. Performing wellness blood work every year is a great way to determine if your pet’s overall health is improving. Periodic visits to the Veterinary Hospital for weight checks will help in monitoring the effectiveness of the diet.
Read More

Osteoarthritis

What is Osteoarthritis? Osteoarthritis involves inflammation and degeneration of joints.
How did my pet get Osteoarthritis? Your pet has a 20% chance of getting this disease as they age regardless of their lifestyle and overall health.
This disease is one of the most common diseases that impact our pets. If your pet is overweight it can increase the likelihood that your pet will develop osteoarthritis. Your pet’s overall genetic makeup can also predispose your pet to osteoarthritis. Your pet can also develop the disease through injury or because of improper nutrition.
What are the symptoms? Your pet may exhibit a variety of symptoms when they have osteoarthritis. Here are a few things you may notice.
  • Walking stiffly
  • Trouble getting up and down
  • Reluctance going up and down the stairs
  • Stiff joints
  • Swollen joints
  • Lethargy
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Panting
  • Lack of appetite
How does my veterinarian diagnose Osteoarthritis?
Your veterinarian will diagnose osteoarthritis by talking to you about your pet’s behaviors at home. They will then perform a physical examination on your pet and palpating to localize pain. They may also recommend an x-ray to further determine the disease progression in your pet.
Prognosis
Although you are not able to cure your pet of osteoarthritis you can manage their comfort with medication and lifestyle changes.
Treatment Expectations?
Your number one goal when treating Osteoarthritis is to normalize your pet’s life and minimize their pain.
First, you and your veterinarian should determine if your pet is at an ideal weight. Excess weight can be difficult to carry around especially if your pet’s joints are inflamed. Your pet may need to go on a diet to reduce weight and the stress on their joints. Keeping your pet active with low or moderate exercise is also a good way to keep them from getting stiff.
Next, take a look at your home. Are there slick surfaces like hardwood floors that may be difficult for your pet to get up and down from. Place additional rugs where your pet likes to sleep to help them get up and down. If you can avoid stairs by using different entrances of your home, do it. If you cannot avoid wood stairs, place stair treads on them so they are no longer as slick.
Finally your veterinarian may decide to put your pet on an oral medication known as an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug). These medications can help reduce your pet’s pain and inflammation. It is important to remember that human pain medication is not appropriate for your pet.
If your pet is not a good candidate for NSAIDs then other medication can be prescribed to help your pet feel more comfortable. Remember to take notice of your pet’s attitude and abilities to maneuver your home after beginning medication treatments to determine its effectiveness.
When your pet is put on long term use NSAIDs it is important to monitor their liver and kidney values on a regular basis. You may be directed to bring your pet into the hospital for blood work every 6 - 12 months.
Read More