Thursday, May 27, 2010

Question: Pet is scratching a lot?

Dr. Schaeberle,

My cat seems to be scratching a lot lately. I thought it could be fleas but I’m not seeing any signs. What else could it be?



Hi Kurt,

It is usually around this time of year that we see a lot of itchy pets come into the veterinary hospital. Most pet owners usually assume it must do with external parasites but an itchy pet can actually be a symptom of other skin issues.

The term we use for itching and scratching is pruritus. Pruritus is a common sign of many skin disorders and is one of the most common reasons dog and cat owners seek veterinary care. There are many causes of pruritus. Flea allergy dermatitis, seasonal allergies or atopy, food allergies, contact dermatitis and sarcoptic mange are some of the most common causes of scratching in dogs and cats. To complicate our diagnosis, even pets with a mild scratching can develop both bacterial and yeast skin
infections which can cause even more scratching.

Skin diseases can be challenging and frustrating both for owners and veterinarians. In order to diagnose the specific causes of itching in your pet, several tests and treatments may be necessary. In some cases this process may take weeks to months and some pets may require even lifelong treatment for their condition.

Over the next month I am going to discuss the causes of pruritus.

Thomas Schaeberle, V.M.D.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Question: Leptospirosis?

Dr. Schaeberle,

My dog, Max is vaccinated for for leptospirosis. What is it?


Hi Ed,

Leptospirosis is an illness caused by a group of bacteria in the genus Leptospira. These bacteria are typically shed in the urine of animals like raccoons, skunks, and others. Leptospirosis is zoonotic meaning both animals and people can become infected with the bacteria.

Dogs are frequently affected when they come into contact with an infected water supply like a pond or stream or even a puddle. Bacteria enter the body by ingestion or by entering a wound. Dogs used for hunting, who live on farms or in other rural areas or dogs who are not vaccinated are at higher risk. People are infected in the same manner but may also be infected if their dog has leptospirosis and the person comes in contact with the dog’s urine or saliva.

Symptoms in dogs include vomiting, loss of appetite, fever, lethargy and sometimes increased thirst and urination. People generally experience flu-like symptoms. The bacteria typically target the liver and kidneys. In severe cases, liver or kidney failure may occur. Leptospirosis causes serious illness and can even be fatal. If caught early, the disease may be treated with antibiotics, though even with treatment, permanent damage to the liver or kidneys may occur.

Leptospirosis can be prevented by vaccination against the disease. Not allowing dogs to drink from ponds or other standing water, particularly in wooded areas or on farms can also reduce the risk of contracting the disease. Most distemper vaccines contain leptospirosis. Dogs, such as hunting dogs, who are at higher risk may benefit from a leptospira booster every six months. Some patients do seem to have an allergic reaction to the leptospira vaccine so talk to your veterinarian about the risks and benefits of this vaccine to see if it fits your dog’s lifestyle.

Thomas Schaeberle, V.M.D.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Question: What to do with baby birds?

Dr. Schaeberle,

Every spring I find baby birds that fall out their nests in my barn and I never know what is best to do with them? Any suggestions?



Hi Phil,

“I found a baby bird—what should I do?” is a frequent call received at our veterinary clinic every spring. You may be surprised that our advice will be to do nothing. Why? Because you would be interfering with a natural process. Baby birds, such as the American robin, even birds of prey like owls and hawks, leave the nest before they are able to fly. If a baby bird seems to be fully feathered, don’t worry - their parents will support them from the ground, responding to their hunger cries. What you can do is keep children and pets a safe distance away.

A true nestling can be identified by its covering of down and scant feathers, or by a completely down coat if they are a bird of prey. If you happen to find one, it is ok to return it to its nest if you can reach it. Touching it will not make the mother abandon it. In general, birds have a relatively poor sense of smell and will not detect a human scent. Not every bird that hatches will survive. Multiple eggs are laid so that hopefully at least one will make it! As harsh as this fact may sound, other wildlife are dependent on baby birds as a food source and a means of survival.

Birds, with a few exceptions like the starling, house sparrow and pigeon, are protected by state and federal game laws. If you find a baby bird, owl or hawk that truly requires medical assistance, our office can provide you with contact information for the appropriate licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

Thomas Schaeberle, V.M.D.

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