Today | Pet Care
Food Allergies in Our Pets
by Dr. Peter Gasper
Food allergies are becoming more common in people worldwide. Food allergies seem to be increasing in dogs and cats too. However, we do not have solid data to confirm this hunch.
Food allergies are a specific thing. Gastrointestinal upsets caused by food (or treats) are either immune in origin (food allergy) or non-immune in origin (food intolerance).
Most of the food-caused gastrointestinal upsets we veterinarians see are of the food-intolerance variety. Specifically, they are the results of dietary indiscretion — your pet getting diarrhea from (maybe vomiting from) something they should not have eaten.
Interestingly, while the dog or cat is mounting an immune reaction to the food inside their gastrointestinal tract, it is their skin that brings them to us. Cats itch around their face or neck. They may have scabs or hair loss. Dog itch their face and eyes. They might chew or lick their feet. They might have ear infections.
Also interesting is that most animals have been eating the offending food for months or years with no problem.
The most straightforward way to diagnose a true food allergy is to perform a food trial. We have special diets in which the proteins have been broken down such that the protein molecules are too small to trigger an immune reaction. You’ll know in 4-6 weeks if your cat or dog has a food allergy because their itchiness will stop.
What if the food trial does not stop the itching?
That indicates that your cat or dog has allergies, but the immunologic trigger is something else — a particular plant, pollen, fleas, mange, or something else in your pet’s environment.
Veterinary Medicine in a COVID World
by Dr. Sanjay Jain
This past year has been a trial for us all. We have had to isolate from our friends, coworkers, and our aged family members. The imposed isolation of the virus led us to seek out the company of non-human company by adopting shelter animals. This has increased both demand for veterinary services and the time it takes to get an appointment.
The problem is the number of veterinarians available to fill the demand was already diminished before the pandemic. According to a lecture held in San Diego in December 2019, the unemployment rate of veterinarians was half of the national level. Add the pandemic, and the situation left the remaining staff even more stressed.
To keep the veterinary staff safer, we have had to resort to curbside service. Please understand we WANT to have the face-to-face contact with owners, but if the support staff or veterinarian gets infected, the practice would need to close temporarily to allow heavy disinfection and recovery. My practice has had to close twice in 2020 due to staff getting infected. And if we are re-exposed and remain healthy, we don’t want to infect someone else.
The Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association (WVMA) has been trying to get veterinarians on the list as essential workers so we can get the vaccine. The Department of Human Services (DHS) has turned down the livestock vets twice and just recently allowed teachers in early March. But the companion/small animal vets have been turned down three times, and they won’t be allowed until all people of any age are permitted.
Therefore, I’m asking clients to PLEASE be patient! We want you in the rooms with your fur-babies, but a lot of clinics were not built for the social distancing. If you really feel that your pet needs you present, and you are willing to pay the higher costs, there are a few mobile practices you can call for an appointment. Thank you for your understanding!
Feline Feeding Pitfalls
by Dr. Carla Edwards
Though we want our cats to eat all at once, we may be doing more harm than good. By thinking about their natural behavioral instincts, we can help our cats from becoming too thin or too heavy and eliminate stress.
Mimicking their ancestral need to hunt for food, cats “graze” by eating small amounts at a time. If we suspect they are walking away from the food because they don’t like it or are fussy, we tend to change foods or add treats that may indeed get them to eat more at a time until they go back to eating less and we change foods again. This not only causes stress, but also causes them to become overweight.
For those with multiple cats, feeding them all at one time in one area can lead to problems and stress. Cats prefer to eat alone and can get anxiety when they are forced to eat in a group. The tension can create a negative association with eating, and they eat less. The same tension may cause other cats to overeat, thinking that the other cats might get their food if they don’t eat it. This can also cause regurgitation. Sure, it’s more difficult to feed cats separately but it may be worth the effort to eliminate stress, overeating, regurgitation, or weight loss.
If you have a fussy eater or an overeater, there are many things you can try to prevent both, if you consider their natural behaviors.
- Measure the appropriate amount of food per day for each cat.
- Feed small amounts of food more frequently with an option to use a timed feeder and a treat ball to encourage exercise.
- Vary stations and include a high location, a secluded spot, and one up or downstairs.
The Slip Felt Around the Yard
by Dr. Jain
There are several diseases that can affect the stifle (knee):
1) partial to full tears of the cranial cruciate ligament (rarely the caudal ligament)
2) arthritis from age
3) bone cancer above or below the actual joint
4) patella luxation (kneecap).
Patella luxation is when the kneecap moves out the femur groove it normally slides up and down in and moves to the inside (medial) of the groove. This results in an inability for the leg to support weight due to the quadriceps muscle group attached from the hip to the patella pulling with no bone support. The classic sign is an animal holding its leg up in pain. A dog can also have a congenital (birth) defect that allows the patella to easily slip out of the groove. After the initial tear, usually the animal is not in pain, but can’t use the leg. In mild cases, you can readjust it yourself or the dog may learn to stretch its leg straight to slip it into the groove again. The severity is measured on a 1 to 4 grade scale with 4 being the worst. This determines the likelihood that surgery is going to be needed.
A grade 1 or 2 is a mild luxation and requires rest or simply being aware of what is happening. It usually means the patella is in its groove most of the time with grade 1 requiring us to push it to the inside and grade 2 occasionally slips on its own. A grade 3 is mostly out of the groove and this along with a grade 4 (always out of the groove) will require surgery to correct.
The surgical correction will depend on the grade and how long the condition has been going on. These may include:
1) a simple imbrication (tightening of the outside joint capsule), 2) screwing a “ridge stop” device to inside of the groove to raise the height to prevent slippage, 3) deeping the groove (trochleoplasty), and 4) cutting the attachment point on the tibia and moving it more lateral (outside) of its original location (tibial tuberosity transportation). Grade 4 luxations are the most difficult and therefore may require a board-certified surgeon.
It is important to note that even low grade luxations may require surgery if the instances are occurring frequently enough and the condition is more common in small breed dogs where there is shorter leg muscles and bones and less muscle usage.
Two Ways to Help Your Pet
by Dr. Peter Gasper
Many things affect the health of our pets. A number of these influences are out of our control.
Veterinarians never know what malady might await them when they enter an exam room. A dog with diabetes? A cat with hyperthyroidism? A dog with an ear infection? We never know.
Veterinarians do know that there are two actions we can take that will bolster the health of our pets over their lifetimes.
We can work to maintain our pets’ ideal body weight.
Obese pets are more at risk to develop cancer, arthritis, respiratory compromise, diabetes, liver disease; any one of which will result in a reduced life span.
We can brush our pets’ teeth.
The bacteria involved in poor oral hygiene can travel through the body of our pets, causing problems in other organs. Pets with poor oral hygiene are more at risk for heart disease and renal disease; all also leading to a reduced life span.
While the hazards facing our pets seem limitless, we can do our part in decreasing those hazards.