The DC area has many challenging career paths for the ambitious and well educated. From high-powered attorneys and lobbyists around Capitol Hill, to high-tech workers serving the financial firms or data warehouse “farms” sprouting around the suburbs like Loudoun County. One profession that has been consistently pushing the envelope in medical and technological advancement has been pet medicine. As the surrounding community becomes better educated on the range of medical treatments available for their own ailments, the
pet owners among them begin asking “would this work for my pet too?” In many instances, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” Our pets can suffer from the same diseases, bacteria, allergens and injuries that can often be successfully treated when found soon enough. The doctors at Family Vet and Middleburg Animal Hospital routinely treat for cancers, broken bones, swallowed objects, diabetes, allergies, the list goes on.
We recently saw a small 9 year old dog that came in with shivering, vomiting and diarrhea and the pet owner noticed the belly was slightly enlarged. Blood tests were run which came out normal, so next X-rays were taken of the abdomen to try and identify any trouble. These were able to show fluid-filled bowel or uterus, and ultimately Dr. Chau was able to use ultrasound images (over several days) to see that a mass was growing on the uterus of the pup. Other causes of fluid buildup could have been trauma to internal organs, rupture of the bladder, or certain diseases. In this case, surgery was the recommended treatment, and within several days of the procedure by Dr. Chau, the dog was making a full recovery. Since this dog was a rescue, the owners were not able to have her spayed when she was a puppy, which doctors Chau and Myers recommend to all their clients with puppies and kittens, at approximately 6 months of age for dogs, and 5 months for kittens.
Veterinarians, and especially Dr. Chau and Dr. Myers, see many cases of paralysis in pets. Typically their patients are dogs, but occasionally they will also see immobilized cats, and even a few months ago a paralyzed Guinea Pig. A particularly interesting case Dr. Chau has been working on lately is a stray kitten that was being cared for by a good Samaritan. Recently this person noticed that the kitten appeared injured and brought her in to see Dr. Chau. This stray would have normally been nearly impossible to catch, except that it had suddenly lost all movement in its rear legs. The kitten was in bad shape: no sensation beginning at its mid-back meant not only could it not walk, nor even stand on 4 legs, it also could not feel or control its bladder or bowels. However, with the vast array of treatments available, from acupuncture, underwater treadmill therapy, spinal decompression exercises and medication and herbs, the kitten amazingly is regaining mobility! She is now using the litterbox on her own, has regained control of bowels and bladder, and walks (though still somewhat wobbly.) “Cat paralysis is less prevalent than dog paralysis” says Dr. Chau, since they get disc disease at a much lower rate than their canine companions.
Dr. Chau recommends attempting treatment for paralysis on nearly all pets, as even acupuncture has been shown effective on all species, from large horses to even small birds. And in a recent study, the American Veterinary Medical Association published a study showing acupuncture to be the superior treatment over certain back surgeries in dogs (have over 80% success versus just 40% for surgeons.)
Spring is the “fighting season” if-you-will as ticks and humans battle: the former for a good blood-meal, the latter to keep from contracting Lyme disease as a result. Your veterinarian is now arming your pets (yes, dogs AND cats should be vaccinated) with a potent weapon, turning them somewhat metaphorically into Trojan horses. The vaccine administered to your pet will literally pass into the tick that bites your pet, and scientists say that the vaccine will bind with the bacteria WITHIN the tick’s gut that thereby renders it harmless to humans if that
tick should then feed on us. Spring is the best time to booster your pet against Lyme disease as most ticks are in the nymph stage which is the period they most often feed on pets, humans, or nearly anything warm blooded. The nymphs of ticks are nearly the size of grains of pepper, so don’t count on being able to see them and pull them as your preventative strategy. Dr. Chau recommends year-round prevention given Loudoun County’s designation as a high-risk area due to its abundance of diagnosed Lyme diseases in residents (approximately 8-times higher/more prevalent than the rest of Virginia.)
While we look forward to the coming winter to kill some pests and tamp down allergies, “no” we don’t think it is too early to start planning for the spring. Whether your pet is moving more stiffly or you notice that she chronically itches or wretches (not common in either cat or dog), we’re here to help and available Monday through Saturdays.
By: Dr. Hanh Chau, DVM, CCRT, CVA
and Dr. Betty Myers,DVM
Family Veterinary Hospital of Stone Ridge
24650 South Point Drive, Suite 140
Chantilly, VA 20152