Digestion & Vision
A healthy digestive system allows your pet to gain energy and pleasure from their nutrition.
Anal sacs, also called anal glands, are located within a pet's rectal area, between the internal and external sphincter muscles. These glands are sometimes referred to as scent glands, because they excrete a clear discharge when an animal defecates. This discharge has a scent that is unique to each individual and allows canines and felines to identify one another. Anal sac disease occurs when these glands become disturbed by tumors or are otherwise obstructed, constricted, or irritated, though dogs and cats most frequently experience the disease when these glands become impacted. Anal gland problems are relatively common in canines and occur most frequently in smaller breeds, namely Chihuahuas, Miniature Poodles, and Toy Poodles. Most problems with the anal glands are not life threatening, but anal gland disease can quickly worsen if left untreated. If you witness your pet exhibiting any indicative symptoms, a veterinary exam is recommended to check for any existing infection.
What are signs that indicate anal gland disease?
- Chasing tail endlessly
- Exhibiting discomfort or pain when sitting down
- Frequently scooting their bottom across the floor
- Having difficulty defecating
- Leaning to one side to avoid sitting on their bottom
- Licking or biting at their bottom, attempting to relieve pain
How is anal sac disease treated?
After a thorough examination and diagnosis, a veterinarian or veterinarian technician will perform a manual expression of the anal glands. During the expression, if the vet or vet tech notices that a more serious infection is present, the veterinarian will recommend sedation since anal gland impaction is quite painful. After sedation, the anal glands will than be doused in a sterile saline and gentle iodine solution, and an antibiotic ointment will be applied to the affected areas. If your pet has frequent reoccurrences of anal gland infections, the veterinarian may teach you how to express their anal glands on your own. This can prevent frequent veterinary visits and allows you to perform expression the second you notice your pet suffering. For pets with ongoing infections, we might suggest combining anal gland expression with preventative treatment methods which can include implementing a weight management program, increasing fiber intake, using over the counter treatment such as Glandex and for more extreme cases, surgical removal of the anal sacs and any present tumors; though most affected pets respond well to non-surgical treatment methods. The veterinarian will inform you of any instance that sedation or anesthesia is necessary to perform treatment.
If you have any questions about anal sac disease, please contact our veterinary office at your convenience.
Diarrhea can occur in canines for numerous reasons - some as minor as a change in diet, others as serious as infectious disease. Treating dogs with diarrhea is very successful so long as pet owners address the issue in a timely manner. Acute and chronic are two different veterinary terms of the severities of canine diarrhea, and each requires specific attention and care. Acute diarrhea can last for a couple days to a couple weeks. In most cases, it is caused from a sudden change in food, an allergy, or bacteria. Once acute diarrhea has lasted beyond two weeks, it is classified as chronic diarrhea, and the situation is deemed much more serious. Continual diarrhea can initiate essential nutrient loss, making the body become toxic, lowering immune system function, and obstructing a dog's ability to heal itself. As the immune system's functionality is impaired, secondary disorders are able to develop, causing the body to deteriorate.
When to take your dog to the veterinarian:
- Soft stool
- Mucus in stool
- Abdomen is sensitive to touch or pressure
- Frequent and excessive vomiting
- Gums are dry, sticky or pale (sign of dehydration)
- Have a fever
- Have any amounts of blood in fecal matter
- Have visible bloating
- They show extreme lethargy
What causes chronic diarrhea?
Chronic diarrhea is usually caused by a food allergy, inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, parasites, or a more serious condition that the vet will need to diagnose. As diarrhea symptoms continue, you might notice that your dog's coat becomes rough or wiry, your pet has less energy, and/or your dog seems dehydrated. All of these are side effects of chronic diarrhea and will continue until treatment is implemented.
Treating chronic diarrhea
If your dog is experiencing chronic diarrhea, we recommend you call and schedule an appointment immediately. Our veterinarian will examine your pet for internal parasites and disease, conduct blood tests, and assess dehydration levels. Complete diagnostics might also be necessary. After completing a thorough exam, we will be able to distinguish what is causing the diarrhea and will be able to develop an effective treatment plan.
Diarrhea is a common ailment in cats, indicated by frequent, loose bowel movements. It is not a disease, rather a symptom of minor to severe illnesses. Diarrhea is caused by food passing too quickly through the digestive tract, not allowing it to completely digest and preventing the body from absorbing any fluid the food contained. Because of this lack of absorption, it is very easy for cats with diarrhea to become dehydrated. The cause of diarrhea in felines ranges from a bacterial infection or parasite, to a systemic illness or cancer; however, a sporadic case could be caused by something as simple as a change in diet. The condition can be acute or chronic, where acute diarrhea occurs suddenly and for a short period of time, and chronic diarrhea is a continuing ailment over a period of a few weeks or longer. If you witness your cat having diarrhea, it is important to schedule a veterinary appointment immediately.
Symptoms of feline diarrhea - Diarrhea in cats can be caused by either the small intestine or large intestine, each with its own indicative symptoms.
Small intestine symptoms
- Frequent bowel movements
- Increased stool amount
Large intestine symptoms
- Blood in stool, or tarry appearance
- Difficulty expelling stools
- Frequent bowel movements
- Mucous discharge in stool
- Urgency to defecate
Additionally, there are several symptoms that occur regardless of where the issue originated, each of which indicate that diarrhea is being caused by a serious medical issue in need of veterinary attention:
- Abdominal pain
- Pale-colored gums
- Stools that are a deep red, or black in color
How is diarrhea in felines treated?
Prior to implementing treatment or a special diet, the veterinarian will first want to determine what is causing the diarrhea. The veterinarian will perform a physical evaluation and ask the pet owner specific details about their pet's condition. If necessary, testing and diagnostics will then be performed. The veterinarian will determine which tests are necessary to aid in diagnosis.
These may include: FIV and FeLV tests, blood work, fecal testing, X-rays or ultrasound. Depending on the result of lab tests and the veterinarian's official diagnosis, a custom treatment plan will be established. In addition to treatment, most cats are fasted for 24 to 36 hours, only being given water and IV fluids to help their digestive system recover and to keep they hydrated. After this initial fast, they are slowly reintroduced to food with a low-fat diet that are given in frequent, small portions.
If you have any questions about diarrhea in cats, please feel free to contact our veterinary practice.
Nearly every pet owner has witnessed their pet chewing on something they weren't supposed to. Oftentimes, these objects end up being swallowed. Such swallowed foreign bodies tend to get stuck in the body, and the first place they can get lodged is within the esophagus. Bones or string are the most common objects that gets caught; other common items include sewing needles, socks, fishhooks, rawhide and wood! Regardless of what object your pet swallows, promptly removing it before it causes further damage should be a primary concern.
Symptoms of a foreign body in esophagus:
- Difficulty breathing
- Excessive drooling
- Loss of appetite
- Repeatedly trying to swallow
- Spitting up
- Weight loss
- Pawing at the mouth
Identifying foreign bodies
When a pet owner brings in their animal either having witnessed them swallowing an article, or suspecting them having swallowed an object, most foreign bodies can be detected with an X-ray. If the item swallowed was translucent, a contrast X-ray will need to be performed in order to detect the item and where it is located. This test utilizes biocompatible dyes to make transparent articles better visible in imaging.
How are foreign elements removed from the esophagus?
Once foreign objects have been positively identified, they should be removed promptly. The outlook for foreign object removal is very good, and most pets do very well. Depending on the precise location of the item, the veterinarian will advise you on the different methods of removal, and you can decide which method is best for your pet. Some objects can be removed with induced vomiting. In some cases, surgery is necessary, and the object will be pushed into the stomach so it can be surgically removed via gastronomy. Gastronomy is a safe surgical incision that enables the veterinarian to examine the contents of the stomach and remove the foreign object without disturbing surrounding organs. If the article has punctured the esophagus, immediate surgery becomes critical. The article cannot be moved and surgery must be performed in the location of the object also known a laparotomy.
If you have observed your pet swallowing foreign items or they are exhibiting any suspicious symptoms, we strongly advise you to contact our veterinary office, and schedule an exam.
Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV) is a multifactorial issue that can be caused by a combination of genetics, anatomy, and environmental factors. GDV is the twisting of the stomach in a way that cuts off blood supply, trapping gasses and creating a life-threatening circumstance. Typically, larger dog breeds or breeds with narrow, deep chests are at a higher risk for GDV, and that risk increases with age. Cats and small dogs can still develop GDV, though it is very rare. GDV is a two part process in which the stomach first bloats or dilates, filling with air, then undergoes torsion or volvulus, spinning on its axis. In less severe cases, a pet suffers from bloat (gastric dilatation) alone. The actual twisting of the stomach (volvulus) is a life-threatening situation that can be fatal within a matter of minutes. When a pet suffers GDV it can then cause the following emergencies:
- Swollen stomach
- Pressure on the abdomen
- Damage to cardiovascular system
- Decreased blood flow
If your pet can burp or vomit it is probably not experiencing GDV. However, if your pet seems to be in excruciating pain, contact our veterinary office immediately and we can initiate tests to check for torsion.
Symptoms that could indicate Gastric Dilatation Volvulus:
- Abdominal pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Excessive salivation
- Hardness developed in the stomach
- Sudden collapse
- Unexplainable weakness
- Vomiting or dry heaving
Treatment options for bloat and Gastric Dilatation Volvulus
Gastric dilatation is considered an emergency situation. Once your pet arrives, we will assess their condition and administer any necessary pain relievers or antibiotics prior to gastric decompression. After relieving the bloat from the stomach, we will perform X-rays to determine if your pet is suffering from dilatation alone or if volvulus has also occurred. If volvulus is present, surgical options will be discussed. Surgery is necessary to return internal organs to their normal positioning, and permanent gastropexy (surgically securing stomach in upright position and sutured to the stomach wall) is often recommended. Once a volvulus has occurred, 75 to 80% of dogs develop it again; gastropexy can prevent future reoccurrences of GDV.
If you witness any of these changes in your pet, please contact our veterinary clinic immediately as it could indicate a serious health emergency.
It's no surprise that pets chew on and swallow things that they shouldn't, and we can't always watch their every move. While some foreign objects are small enough to naturally pass, others can get stuck and cause problems. Toxic items, such as lead, can also pose a serious threat. Gastrointestinal obstruction is the most common surgical emergency in veterinary medicine, and is seen primarily in younger dogs. Several items are particularly known for getting tangled and blocking a pet's intestinal tract, including string, ribbon, socks, underwear, and rocks. Keeping these items out of a pet's reach, combined with close monitoring, can prevent your pet from suffering an obstruction.
Symptoms of a foreign body impeding gastrointestinal tract:
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal swelling
- Excessive drooling
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
Identifying foreign bodies
Our veterinarian can typically detect most foreign bodies with an X-ray. If the item swallowed was translucent, a contrast esophagoscopy (test utilizing biocompatible dye to show transparent articles) will need to be performed in order to determine where the item is located.
How do you remove obstructions from the stomach and intestines?
If foreign bodies are present in the stomach or intestine and cannot pass naturally, they need to be removed; articles can be removed through surgery. For larger articles, surgery via gastrotomy is necessary. During gastrotomy, a pet is sedated under general anesthesia so they remain completely unaware of the procedure. A small incision is then made in the stomach, which allows the veterinarian to locate the object within and remove it. Gastrotomy is generally a very safe surgery and normally does not disrupt surrounding organs.
If your pet is exhibiting symptoms of having a foreign body in the gastrointestinal tract, or you have witnessed them swallow an object, please contact our veterinary office immediately. Removing the article is very important.
There are various types of intestinal tract problems among pets, and often, pet owners get them confused. Each causes a pet to exhibit similar symptoms, but not all are alike. In learning the subtle differences, you can help understand which issue your pet is suffering from and get them the treatment they need.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a psychosomatic disease (mental illness that is characterized by physical symptoms) and is entirely self-inflicted by an over-abundance of anxiety.
Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome:
- Mucous in stool
- Urgency to defecate
Treatment of IBS
The treatment of IBS focuses on identifying and addressing the anxiety or stressor. Inconsistent schedules, frequent moving, or weather changes can all contribute to anxiety, as can numerous other causes. Increasing fiber in the pet's diet tends to help IBS symptoms, as does adding an anti-diarrheal medication during flare-ups along with probiotics. In extreme cases, the veterinarian can prescribe anti-anxiety medication to keep a pet's stress level under control, but this is typically used as a last resort.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders affecting cats and dogs. IBD is characterized by chronic inflammation of the small and large intestines which results in a disruption of the digestive system's regular contractions. This disruption produces irregular contractions that cause mucus and toxins to collect in the intestines and build a partial obstruction that traps gas and feces. This obstruction results in bloating, distention, and constipation. Most causes of IBD are unknown but could be related to food allergies, bacterial or viral infection, or parasites.
Symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease:
- Abdominal pain
- Mucous in stool
Treatment for inflammatory bowel disease
Treatment for inflammatory bowel disease is a tough balancing act, because all pets respond drastically different and causes of IBD usually cannot be determined. Prescription medication along with dietary restriction is usually the best method of treatment, though some pet owners are against medicating their pets. Dietary management comprises of eliminating allergens from the diet and adding non-fermentable fiber with the intention of normalizing a pet's bowel movements. The veterinarian also recommends limiting tap water intake and opting for bottled water, because tap water can contain lead, copper, mercury, and aluminum, which can irritate a sensitive stomach and cause inflammation. It is important to note, that it is difficult to obtain a full recovery with diet alone. If you opt for medication for your pet, the veterinarian will determine which is best based on your pet's species. Some medications are better for dogs, while others work best for cats.
Colitis is a condition similar to inflammatory bowel disease and causes rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, and abdominal spasms. It is more common in dogs but reported instances in cats have been increasing. Because finding the origin of the problem is difficult, treatment is typically symptomatic.
How is colitis treated?
- Drug therapy - implements the use of anti-inflammatories. This form of treatment can have long-term side-effects, so it is rarely used over an extended period of time.
- Dietary management - initiating a change in diet to control fiber and polyunsaturated fatty acids with the intention of controlling colitis.
- Elimination diets: consists of removing all additives and supplements from diet, stripping it down to one carbohydrate and one 'novel' protein (a protein that the pet has not previously been unexposed to). After the symptoms dissipate, a normal diet can be reintroduced.
- allergenic diets: involves feeding one novel protein for a period of 4 weeks, then slowly introducing a second novel protein. This second protein can typically be used to manage symptoms long-term.
If you have any questions about intestinal tract issues or if your pet is exhibiting any of the issues described above, please contact our veterinary clinic, and we can help diagnose the issue and formulate a treatment plan.
In a healthy pet, the liver functions by removing toxins from the bloodstream, storing sugars, and distributing proteins. Pets with a liver shunt cannot properly filter their blood. Veins bypass the liver when moving blood from the intestines, pancreas, spleen, and stomach, causing nutrients and toxins to reach the heart. Liver shunts can be intra-hepatic (inside the liver) or extra-hepatic (outside the liver) and are typically present at birth but can also be acquired with liver disease. Intra-heptic shunts are more common among large dog breeds, whereas extra-hepatic shunts are more common among small dog breeds and cats - namely Persians, Himalayans, and mixed-breeds. There is no way to prevent a liver shunt from developing. The condition occurs towards the end of gestation within the mother's uterus, and most animals start showing signs of the disease within their first 6 months of living. On occasion, shunts aren't prevalent until much later, when an elderly pet begins to develop bladder problems or kidney stones.
Symptoms of a liver shunt:
- Underdevelopment (Growing slower than peers)
- Inability to gain weight
- Odd behaviors (disorientation, pacing, staring off)
How is a liver shunt treated?
A liver shunt is first diagnosed through blood tests and other methods such as x-rays and ultrasound to localize the shunt. From conducting specific tests, the veterinarian can observe liver function and draw a positive conclusion. The veterinarian will then discuss the various methods of surgical and non-surgical treatment that are available. Non-surgical therapy typically includes a precise eating regimen that is comprised of a low-protein diet alongside prescribed medications which help stop the production and absorption of toxins. After an extended period of time, some pets will still experience liver failure with this method of treatment, eventually requiring surgery. Surgical treatment involves closing the shunt as best as possible. For both intra- and extra-hepatic shunts, constrictors (metal loops) are placed around the vessels causing the shunt; these constrictors gradually close around the shunt. In some cases, the shunt cannot be entirely closed, but in most cases, even a partial closure is enough to relieve the symptoms of the disorder. Following surgery, the pet's low-protein diet will need to continue until bile acid levels return to normal.
If your pet exhibits any of the described symptoms, we strongly recommend you contact our veterinary office and schedule an exam with the veterinarian, as it may be an indication of a liver shunt.
Obesity takes an immense toll on a pet's body; overweight animals are more likely to experience skin problems, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, and even certain cancers. Obesity causes pets to be more susceptible to infection, torn knee ligaments, and spinal disc issues. For overweight pets, exercise is difficult, fatigue is common, and blood pressure is usually high. This combination causes the heart to work much harder than the heart of a healthier, leaner pet, resulting in heart disease, and eventually, congestive heart failure. An obese pet is also considered high-risk during surgical procedures. Overweight pets are at-risk when undergoing anesthesia, with their weight causing decreased lung functioning, reduced kidney and liver functioning, as well as a need for increased anesthetic than a pet of normal size. All of these complications create a life-threatening scenario for a procedure that might otherwise be routine. The obstacles caused by obesity attribute to a reduced lifespan, affecting a dog's quality of life, their happiness, and comfort. As pet owners, it becomes our responsibility to inform ourselves how to best care for our pets and ensure their well-being. Nearly 24-40% of all pets suffer from some degree of obesity. A condition primarily affecting middle-aged pets, obesity has several causes, many of which can be prevented.
Leading causes of pet obesity:
- Breed susceptibility
- Dry food diet
- Wet food diet
- Free-feeding (keeping a bowl full of food and allowing the pet to have unlimited access to it) or overfeeding a spayed or neutered pet
- Illness that causes weight gain
- Injury that requires sedentary lifestyle (either momentarily or prolonged)
- Little to no exercise
There are over 2,000 different strains of salmonella (salmonellosis). Affecting mammals and reptiles, the common bacterial infection can affect nearly every type of pet. Salmonella usually affects the gastrointestinal tract after it settles in the lymph nodes and drops down into the intestines. It is a zoonotic disease so humans are highly capable of contracting the infection from their pets. Sources of salmonella include natural pet treats such as rawhide or pig ears, raw pet food, or the feces of an infected animal. Bacteria is shed in the feces of a previously infected animal for months after it seems to have resolved, so humans and other animals can still become infected even if it appears that a pet is no longer contagious. Pets and pet owners who are most at risk are those with weakened or underdeveloped immune systems, namely the very young or very old. Also, pets taking antibiotics or pets with weakened gastrointestinal systems are at an increased risk.
Symptoms indicative of salmonella
- Abdominal pain
- Lack of appetite
- Rapid heart rate
- Skin disease
- Weight loss
If you have any questions about salmonella or think your pet may have an infection, please contact our veterinary practice.
Vomiting is a normal, healthy function for dogs and cats. On occasion, pets eat things that do not agree with their stomachs or cats need to expel a hairball, and purging brings the body back into stasis, eliminating toxins within the stomach. This sort of sporadic vomiting is not cause for alarm; however, if vomiting is occurring on a regular basis, it could be indicative that something serious is wrong with your pet. In determining if your pet has vomited and whether or not it is a serious health concern, you must first establish whether the hurling is vomit or regurgitation. Vomiting involves physical retching and heaving from the stomach, and the product expelled is fully digested and typically has a yellowish fluid (bile) present within it. Regurgitation is hacking from the throat, and the substance is not fully digested, remaining tubular in shape; usually you will see pieces of whatever your pet has swallowed within it. During regurgitation, a pet will lower their head and dismiss the food without a lot of effort. Regurgitation is often considered less serious than vomiting, though continual regurgitation and the inability to hold food down does indicate the need for immediate veterinary attention.
An interesting fact for pet owners!
- Horses, rabbits, and rats are among the few pets that possess muscles around their esophagi that prevent them from vomiting.
Three stages of vomiting in pets
Nausea - indicated by drooling, frequent swallowing, yawning, or lip smacking. Most pets will also find a space in which to hide.
Retching - the contracting of the stomach in a way that prevents them from relaxing so nothing comes from the mouth.
Vomiting - when food physically expels from the mouth.
Pets need immediate veterinary care if they:
- Also have diarrhea and lethargy
- Are vomiting multiple times per day
- Are vomiting though they have not eaten in several hours
- Have a fever
- Have projectile vomiting
- Have vomit containing bright red blood, or if vomit looks like coffee grounds
- Show signs of depression or physical agony
- Vomits once in a day and continues to vomit the following day
- Baby food.
- Coffee or tea.
- Dough containing yeast.
- Fruit seeds/pits.
- Grapes and raisins.
- Macadamia nuts.
When a pet is suffering from eye discomfort or is having difficulty seeing, most pet owners take notice right away. The symptoms are usually apparent, which allows an owner to quickly notice the issue and schedule an exam. Most common eye problems are either hereditary or caused by trauma, and when given proper veterinary care, heal well.
Symptoms of eye problems in pets:
- Difficulty finding food and water bowls or other common items
- Enlarged eyeballs or swelling around the eye socket
- Eye discharge or crusty build-up around eyes
- Eye glow happening more frequently, even in well-lit situations
- Hesitation when entering dark rooms or unfamiliar areas
- Increased instances of pupil dilation
- Pawing at eyes
- Watery eyes
- Cataracts - The gradual clouding of a pet's lenses. Cataracts are usually genetic and do not begin occurring until a pet is elderly, though there are exceptions. Surgical removal is the best form of treatment.
- Cherry eye - The loosening of a dog's second eyelid tissue-membrane that causes it to prolapse, creating a swollen red mass in the lower corner of the eye. If left untreated, cherry eye can cause chronic dry eye which can lead to more serious problems.
- Chronic conjunctivitis - Similar to conjunctivitis (Pink Eye) in humans. Pets experience puffy, red, itchy eyes and sensitivity to light. It occurs most commonly in large breeds because of their sizeable eye sockets.
- Chronic superficial keratitis - Scar tissue and blood vessels enter cornea, leaving the affected areas black in color. When not taken care of, keratitis can eventually cause permanent blindness.
- Corneal ulcers - Occurs when a dog gets something stuck in their eye or injures it, and the eye becomes infected, requiring antibiotics. Depending on the size and type of object stuck, surgical removal might be required.
- Glaucoma - The build-up of fluid in the eye, causing an increase in pressure. When glaucoma is not addressed immediately in a pet, it usually causes permanent vision loss.
- Progressive retinol atrophy (PRA) - Several inherited, progressive diseases that affect the retina. Simultaneously occurring in both eyes, PRA usually causes complete vision loss in pets. Currently there is no cure.