Common Pet Diseases....Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

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Addison's Disease (Hypoadrenocorticism)

Clinically known as canine hypoadrenocorticism, Addison's disease results from the decreased production of steroid hormones by the adrenal glands. The common symptoms of Addison's disease are not very specific, and can include lethargy, weakness, gastrointestinal upset, and poor appetite. Often these symptoms appear intermittently during an extended period of time. Female dogs are more likely to develop Addison's disease.  Younger dogs of an average age of four to five years are more commonly affected than older dogs. Any breed of dog can develop Addison's disease, although Bearded Collies, Great Danes, Labs, Leonbergers, Portuguese Water Dogs, Rottweilers, Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers, Standard Poodles & West Highland White Terriers seem to be the majority of affected dogs.

Addison's disease refers to the syndrome that results from failure of the adrenal glands to produce the hormones that they normally make. The adrenal glands are two small structures located alongside each kidney. The main hormones produced by the adrenal gland are steroids. There are two major classes of these steroids: mineralocorticoids and glucocorticoids. Aldosterone, the main hormone in the mineralocorticoids class, plays a major role in regulating sodium, potassium, and water balance. Cortisol, the main hormone in the glucocorticoids class, acts on almost every major tissue in the body, helping to regulate glucose production and metabolism, influencing fat and protein breakdown, stimulating red blood cell formation, helping to regulate blood pressure, counteracting stress, and suppressing inflammation.   Destruction of 85 to 90 percent of the steroid-producing cells in the adrenal gland appears necessary for signs to develop secondary to deficiencies of mineralocorticoids and glucocorticoids.

Symptoms of Addison's disease may follow an intermittent course, often coming and going over a long period of time before the illness is suspected. Occasionally, Addison's disease can be diagnosed in dogs with relatively mild symptoms. However, it is common for dogs not to be diagnosed until a life-threatening crisis due to Addison's disease develops. Severe signs of illness including shock and collapse characterize these crises. Usually, the animal can be stabilized successfully if it receives immediate treatment with fluid resuscitation and medications to improve electrolyte and acid-base system abnormalities and to replace deficient glucocorticoids. 

In many cases, changes on routine screening tests, including the complete blood count, biochemistry profile, electrolytes and urinalysis, will trigger the suspicion of Addison's disease. One of the first things to look at when Addison’s disease is suspected are the electrolyte levels.  The two that are of greatest concern are sodium (Na) and potassium (K).  In addition to looking at these values, it is important to look at the ratio between the two.  This number is derived by dividing K into Na and should be between 27 and 40.  For example, a dog with a Na level of 145 and a K level of 4.5 would have a ratio of 32.  A dog in an Addisonian crisis will typically have a low Na level, elevated K and low ratio. An electrocardiogram may show changes if the potassium concentration is elevated.   A definitive diagnosis depends on the results of a test of adrenal gland function called the ACTH stimulation test. Serum concentrations of cortisol, one of the main hormones produced by the adrenal gland, are measured before and after the administration of either synthetic or natural ACTH. 

Atypical Addison's disease refers to primary or secondary adrenal gland failure in dogs that do not exhibit the classic symptoms or electrolyte abnormalities usually seen in Addison's disease. Animals diagnosed with this condition may have more subtle changes on blood tests. Although these dogs will not have the classic findings with Addison's disease, they will exhibit abnormally low responses to ACTH on the ACTH stimulation test, and generally they will respond to treatment with glucocorticoids alone, since the sodium and potassium regulation will remain normal.

With appropriate medical treatment, the long-term outlook for dogs with Addison's disease is excellent. Effective communication between the owner and veterinarian is vital in managing dogs with Addison's disease, and owners should always have prednisone on hand in case it is needed in a crisis situation.

Addison's disease most commonly is caused by primary failure of the adrenal gland to secrete adequate amounts of mineralocorticoids, glucocorticoids, or both. It is thought that immune system-mediated destruction of the adrenal gland is the most common cause of primary adrenal gland failure. Other causes can include infection or inflammation in the adrenal gland; abnormalities in blood supply to the adrenal gland or bleeding within the gland; infiltration of cancer cells within the adrenal gland; the deposition of abnormal proteins within the adrenal gland; and physical trauma to the glands. Rapid withdrawal of drugs such as prednisone after chronic administration and overdoses of drugs used to treat Cushing's disease can result in adrenal gland failure. Secondary adrenal gland failure can occur due to primary problems in either the hypothalamus or the pituitary gland.

The treatment of dogs with Addison's disease depends on the severity of the presenting signs. Many dogs diagnosed with Addison's disease are severely ill at the time of presentation, often with potentially life-threatening fluid deficits and abnormal serum electrolyte concentrations. These animals must receive immediate medical attention, since rapid treatment is extremely important to stabilize dogs experiencing an Addisonian crisis. The main goals of treatment are to correct fluid volume deficits, to improve blood vessel integrity, to provide a source of glucocorticoids, to correct electrolyte and acid base abnormalities, and to confirm the diagnosis. Fluid volume deficits are addressed most appropriately with intravenous saline administration If low blood sugar concentrations are known or suspected, then the fluids should be supplemented with dextrose. Glucocorticoids usually are given via injection. Glucocorticoids that will not affect ACTH stimulation test results are better used than those that might make it difficult to confirm a diagnosis of Addison's disease if they are given prior to the ACTH stimulation test. Electrolyte imbalances are corrected with the intravenous fluids and with administration of mineralocorticoid replacement drugs. These drugs generally are not used until the diagnosis is confirmed, since the other measures used to treat a dog in crisis are usually successful in stabilizing a dog in an Addisonian crisis. Sometimes it will be necessary to take specific measures to lower dangerously high serum potassium concentrations, such as the administration of glucose and insulin, calcium, and sodium bicarbonate. Most dogs in crisis will improve within one to two hours with appropriate treatment. Intravenous fluids often are maintained for 24 to 48 hours, until the dog is eating and drinking on its own without vomiting. Injectable medications can then be switched to oral medications

Once the crisis period has passed, dogs are given either oral or injectable mineralocorticoids. The oral medication Florinef needs to be given on a daily basis, usually twice a day, and sometimes very high doses are needed to control the disease. Some dogs benefit from salt supplementation as well.  The injectable mineralocorticoid used most commonly is called DOCP (Percoretn-V). It is given via injection once a month, and is almost always effective. For many dogs, especially large breed dogs, the injectable drug is much less expensive than the oral form. Most dogs with Addison's disease do well clinically with mineralocorticoid replacement alone, but others will require glucocorticoid supplementation with prednisone as well. As many as 50 percent of dogs on injectable DOCP also will require prednisone administration. For any dog with Addison's disease that may be undergoing stress, surgery, or that develops a non-adrenal gland dependent disease, prednisone should be considered on a short-term basis. Dogs that are used as working dogs also should take prednisone on a short-term basis.

There is no known way to prevent the development of Addison's disease, except for cases in which it is caused by rapid withdrawal of prednisone or other steroids that have been used for long periods of time. Slowly tapering the doses of such drugs before discontinuing them is almost always effective in preventing the development of Addison's disease in these patients.

There may be a hereditary link in some breeds.  Therefore, any affected dog or close relatives should not be bred.  The AKC Canine Health Foundation has funded a research study, also supported by the Bearded Collie Club of America, the Bearded Collie Foundation for Health, the Poodle Club of America, the Leonberger Club of America, the Portuguese Water Dog Foundation and the Great Dane Club of America, that is designed to characterize the mode of inheritance of Addison’s disease (primary hypoadrenocorticism) in the Bearded Collie, Leonberger, Portuguese Water Dog, Standard Poodle and West Highland White Terrier.  To characterize the mode of inheritance, with the ultimate goal of identifying a genetic marker linked to the disease, we need information on dogs that are affected AND unaffected with the disease.  If you are willing to participate in this study, please visit




The anal glands (also called anal sacs) are two glands located on either side of the anus, just under the skin at the 4 o'clock and 8 o'clock positions. These glands secrete a pungent fluid that is typically released during defecation or territorial marking. Some Pets will release them when they are frightened or alarmed. The glands are embedded in the muscle of the anal sphincter and are not readily visible.

Some dogs develop anal gland impactions, infections, abscesses or ruptures, and rarely tumors. Common symptoms of anal gland disease include "scooting" (dragging the rear end across the floor), a foul odor near the anus as well as pain, licking/biting at the rectal area or chasing the tail.  Anal gland impactions are the most common disorder associated with the anal glands in dogs but rarely seen in the cat. For unknown reasons, the fluid produced in the glands becomes too thick to be expressed naturally through the opening of the ducts into the anus. The fluid continues to be produced, resulting in an enlargement of the gland and irritation. Anal gland infections are typically bacterial infections that cause local irritation and inflammation. Abscesses develop when an infection worsens and a significant accumulation of pus occurs within the anal gland. The anal gland may be impacted at the same time. The abscess may continue to enlarge until it ruptures through the skin, causing a small draining hole to develop near the anus. Pus and blood may drain from this small hole.

Treatment and Prevention of Anal Gland Problems:

1. Keep the area under the tail clean and well-groomed. Warm water compresses will increase drainage, reduce itching and soothe the skin. Epsoms Salts sitzen baths may also be helpful for infections and abscesses.

2. Excessive scooting and licking should be discouraged. Some Pets may need to be fitted with an E-Collar to prevent self-trauma. Benadryl (diphenhydramine) may provide itching relief and some sedation.  
For Small Pets....2 ml per 5 pounds of body weight of the children’s liquid every 8-12 hours.  For Medium-Large adult 25 mg capsule per 25 pounds every 8-12 hours.

3. FIBER...Adding canned pumpkin to your dog’s diet often helps the anal glands empty naturally by bulking up the stool. Mix Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin with each meal or give it as a treat in a Kong toy. Small Dogs and Cats 1-2 teaspoons, Medium Dogs 1 tablespoon, and Large Dogs 2 tablespoons.

Other good sources of fiber include Kashi Cereal, ground flax seed, psyllium seed (Metamucil), buckwheat, whole oats, brown rice, and wheat bran. Be sure to hydrate the dry fiber thoroughly before incorporating it into their food.

4. If your Pet has a frequent problem with anal gland impactions then the glands should be expressed regularly (some Pets require this monthly). When your Pet starts scooting again, it’s time to have the glands expressed!

5. Don’t forget about EXERCISE, good hydration and keeping your Pet a healthy weight. These factors all contribute to reduction of anal gland problems.


NOTE: If scooting continues for more than a few days after the glands are expressed, they should be re-checked. For some dogs, it takes several expressions in a row before the sacs stay emptied. Other causes of scooting include allergies, dermatitis or hot spots, hair mats or fecal matter adhered to the anal area, tapeworms, skin parasites (fleas or ticks), and perianal fistulas.



Bloat is the extreme dilation of the stomach as a result of gas buildup that cannot escape the stomach.  GASTRIC DILATATION is the expansion of the stomach due to the buildup of gas or material in the stomach. GASTRIC VOLVULUS (TORSION) is the condition where the stomach twists and therefore prevents passage of stomach contents or gas in or out of the stomach.  When both of these occur we refer to it as GDV (Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus).

The usual history is a large breed that has recently eaten a meal of dry dog food and then exercises or engages in some physical activity. On occasion, though, there is no history of physical activity and the dogs is suddenly seen trying to retch and vomit unsuccessfully. The dog paces, becomes uncomfortable, and repeatedly makes retching, gagging noises and may paw at the face. Salivation is common.  With GDV, the dog will continue to TRY to vomit but will not be able to bring anything up.

Treatment needs to be undertaken immediately.  Supportive medications such as antibiotics and intravenous fluids are started right away.  On rare occasion the gas may be relieved just by passing a stomach tube down the esophagus.  But most of the times surgery is needed.  An incision is made into the stomach to remove it's contents. The surgeon will rotate the stomach (and spleen) back into the normal anatomical position and suture the stomach wall against the inner abdominal wall (actually just inside the rib area) to prevent future episodes of GDV.  When the stomach twists,  the spleen may also be twisted and compromised and need to be removed as well. 

In cases where the gastric dilatation has been present for hours and the pressure is very high, the stomach wall will be very thin and stretched to the point of necrosis (dead tissue).  Any time there is necrosis of the stomach wall the prognosis for a successful resolution of the case is very poor. The massive cell death and absorption of toxins through the stretched stomach wall creates severe cardiovascular damage and blood pressure problems, known as shock. Once a state of shock begins, the chances of recovery for the patient are slight. Even dogs that survive surgery and seem to be recovering often succumb to endotoxic shock hours and even days after the procedure.

WHAT CAN BE DONE TO PREVENT BLOAT?   The best suggestions are to feed the dog two small meals a day instead of one large meal. Do not allow the dog to drink large quantities of water at one time... have water available at all times. Do not allow exercise or other vigorous activity for at least two hours after a full meal. Feed a diet composed of more meats and less grain.



The term eosinophilic granuloma complex refers to a group of skin problems in cats caused by inflammation at the site and often initiated and exacerbated by the cat licking the area. The term is not a specific diagnosis but a description of the signs which occur in 3 different forms: eosinophilic ulcer, eosinophilic plaque and eosinophilic granuloma. Each form has its own pattern but all three are skin reactions to an underlying cause. The skin reaction may be a minor problem which disappears as mysteriously as it appeared and may never reappear. However, it can become a persistent problem causing a great deal of tissue damage and discomfort to the cat. 

Eosinophils are a type of white blood cell which are mobilized by the body's immune system to combat invasion at the site of infection or react to the presence of a foreign body. They will be sent to a particular spot of skin and inflammation will occur. If they do their job and leave, the inflammation will subside. However, occasionally they continue to work in the area for longer periods and the inflammation can give rise to a lump which the cat may find itchy. These lumps may then develop into granulomas, types of skin lesion which look like raised sores.

Eosinophilic ulcer: Also called an indolent or rodent ulcer, this can occur on the upper lip near  and has raised edges and a pink/yellow surface. Although they look very sensitive, the lesions do not seem to be painful or itchy. The lesion may start off as a lump but can become ulcerated and can spread towards the nose if the cat licks repeatedly. Licking with the rough feline tongue can cause more damage than the reaction itself. There is some evidence to suggest that this is an allergic response to fleas or other allergies. It may have a genetic component and it can be very difficult to find a cause in many cases which may be classed as 'idiopathic' - meaning of no known cause.

Eosinophilic plaque:  This is a raised, ulcerated, tough and scaly lesion on the body, often located on the cat's stomach and inner thigh. The cat may have licked the area and caused more damage to the skin. This is often seen in younger cats (2 to 6 years old) and can be associated with an allergic reaction to fleas, food or environmental allergens.

Eosinophilic granuloma: Eosinophilic granuloma is also referred to as collagenolytic or linear granuloma and affected areas have damage to the collagen (the fibrous structure of the skin which gives it strength and support). There does not seem to be any breed, age or sex bias and lesions may not be itchy. Skin lesions may be single or in groups and found anywhere on the body but commonly along the middle of the forelegs and as a band of raised hairless lesions along the back of the thighs in a pattern associated with grooming.   The nose, muzzle, ears and the junction of the pads and the haired skin on the foot may also be affected. The foot pads may be ulcerated and swollen and there may be loss of pigment. The skin lesions are usually red, raised, hairless and have a grainy look. There may also be lesions in the mouth.

Treatment depends on the cause of the reaction. Small single lesions which do not seem to bother the cat may be left to heal themselves.  Calenda cream may be applied topically to affected areas.  If disease is more extensive, the vet may prescribe antibiotics for three to six weeks. If this does not prove effective, anthistamines and/or steroids may be given by injection or tablet and the dose reduced gradually.  Other therapies include giving veterinary formulations of essential fatty acids (EFAs) containing a combination of evening primrose oil and fish oil to be administered orally or via the food for a minimum of 4 to 6 weeks.  While fleas may be relatively easy to treat, getting to the root of a food allergy can be difficult. Elimination diets should be tried for a minimum of 6 weeks using one of the 2 diets below:





CUSHINGS DISEASE (Hyperadrenocorticism)

Cushing’s Disease or Hyperadrenocorticism is a disorder resulting from excessive circulating cortisol (a steroid). Cortisol in normal amounts is necessary for normal life; however, too much cortisol is detrimental. Most dogs that are affected are middle or old aged. The average dog is 10 years old and many breeds are affected. The most common signs of Cushing’s Disease are increased appetite, increased thirst and urination, hair loss, lethargy, and pendulous abdomen (due to increased liver size and muscle breakdown). In most cases the cause of Cushing’s Disease is due to a non-cancerous overgrowth (hyperplasia) of the pituitary gland (called Pituitary Dependent Hyperadrenocorticism or PDH). Cushing’s disease can also be caused by a tumor in the adrenal glands, which are located in the abdomen next to the kidneys.

Cushing’s disease is suspected in dogs with the classical clinical signs as well as an increased liver value noted on a routine chemistry blood panel. There are additional blood tests that must be performed to confirm diagnosis of Cushing’s Disease. The three tests used are the ACTH Stimulation Test, Low Dose Dexamethasone Suppression (LDDS) Test and the High Dose Dexamethasone Suppression (HDDS) Test. One of the first two tests mentioned are used to diagnose Cushing’s Disease and the last test may be used to differentiate whether Cushing’s Disease is caused by an abnormal adrenal or pituitary gland.

Cushing's Testing:

The ACTH Stimulation Test requires two blood samples. A blood sample is first taken to determine how much cortisol is in the blood. Then an injection of ACTH (cortisol stimulating hormone) is given to stimulate production of cortisol in the body and another blood sample is taken one hour later. Normal animals will produce a little cortisol while animals with Cushing’s Disease will produce exaggerated amounts of cortisol. The LDDS and the HDDS tests are very similar to each other and only vary in the amount of dexamethasone (a steroid) given. A blood sample is first taken to determine how much cortisol is in the blood and then an injection of steroid is given to supress cortisol production. Two additional blood samples are taken at 4 and 8 hours after the injection. In normal animals, the body shuts down production on cortisol, but not in those affected with Cushing’s Disease—they continue to produce cortisol.

Once your pet is diagnosed, your veterinarian will discuss with you the most appropriate course of treatment. Radiographs or an ultrasound of your pet may also be performed. The goal of treatment is to control the excessive secretion of cortisol by the pituitary or adrenal glands. Spontaneous remission of Cushing’s disease does not occur and treatment is necessary. If your pet is not treated, his or her signs will not resolve and s/he will become ill and may suffer. Dogs with Cushing’s disease are prone to respiratory, skin and bladder infections as well as developing life threatening blood clots, diabetes and heart disease. However, with the proper veterinary care your dog can lead a normal life.

Cushing's Treatment:

Most patients are treated with a medication called Lysodren or Mitotane. Anipryl (Deprenyl) and Ketoconazole (Nizoral) are two other medications that may be used to treat Cushing’s, but they generally are less effective than Lysodren therapy. If your pet has an adrenal tumor, the adrenal gland may be surgically removed (adrenalectomy) and/or treated with Lysodren.

Lysodren (a form of chemotherapy) destroys part of the adrenal glands, thus reducing the amount of cortisol in the blood. Your pet will receive a "loading" dose of this medication for several days after which a repeat ACTH Stimulation Test is performed (to monitor the drug’s effects). Depending on the individual, some patients will be given prednisione (a steroid) during Lysodren treatment as well. If the cortisol level is sufficient, your pet will continue to receive the medication 2-3 times each week for life. In some cases the drug treatment "cures" the Cushing’s Disease but then results in too little cortisol in the system (called hypoadrenocorticism or Addison’s Disease). In these rare cases, your pet is supplemented with small doses steroids and does not need any more Lysodren.

At Home & Follow-Up Care:

Careful monitoring of your pet at home during this treatment is of utmost importance as well as frequent communication with your veterinarian. Recheck appointments and repeat blood testing are necessary to make sure your pet is receiving the proper dose of medication and ensure s/he stays healthy. PLEASE CALL your VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY if your pet should develop Anorexia, Vomiting, Diarrhea or Lethargy while on Lysodren. If any of these symptoms are present, do NOT give any more Lysodren until you talk with the doctor. You may give prednisone as directed to help combat the anorexia and lethargy.


Diabetes mellitus can be diagnosed at any age, however the majority of cases of dogs occur seven to nine years and cats that are older than 10 years of age. It appears that females dogs and male cats are diagnosed more often with diabetes.  Any breed of dog or cat can develop diabetes, however, a genetic disposition towards diabetes is suspected in the Keeshond, pulik, cairn terrier, and miniature pinscher. In addition, dachshunds, miniature schnauzers, poodles, and beagles also are frequently diagnosed with the disease. Obesity and the use of medications including steroids and progesterone derivatives are risk factors for the development of diabetes.  Often suspected because of the presence of the classic signs of increased thirst, more frequent urination, and a greater appetite despite weight loss, diabetes mellitus is one of the most common endocrine diseases in dogs and cats.

There are two types of diabetes mellitus in cats. The more common form, type I, or insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, is characterized by a lack of adequate insulin secretion by the pancreas and requires insulin injections for treatment.  This is also the type of diabetes seen in dogs.  Diabetes is characterized by high concentrations of glucose in the blood and urine which can cause severe complications including infections, cataracts, diabetic ketoacidosis, nervous system disorders, pancreatitis, and kidney disease. If left untreated, diabetics will suffer from complications and an early death.

Type II diabetes mellitus is characterized by resistance to the normal activity of insulin in body tissues, or abnormalities in insulin secretion by the pancreas. Its development may be influenced by the presence of complicating factors such as obesity, concurrent disease, or medications that interfere with insulin's activity. Type II diabetics may not require insulin for treatment initially, but will often eventually develop the need for insulin seen in type I diabetics.

In addition, transient diabetes mellitus can occur in cats. Unlike permanently diabetic cats, transient diabetics may require treatment only for a brief period of time. Transient diabetes can also be seen in overweight cats, cats with additional diseases, or cats on medications that interfere with insulin activity. Some transient diabetics eventually require treatment for permanent diabetes.

Diabetic dogs and cats are treated with insulin injections, dietary modification and exercise. Some people with diabetes can use oral hypoglycemic drugs, but these medications typically are not helpful in pets to regulate their blood glucose levels.   A diabetic pet will require frequent veterinary office visits in the initial stages of treatment, followed by periodic examinations for proper maintenance thereafter.

Initially, it may be difficult for some owners to give daily insulin injections, but the majority of pet owners find this task to be manageable. With proper treatment and monitoring, many diabetic pets can enjoy an excellent quality of life.

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The feline leukemia virus (FeLV) has been compared to the human AIDS virus because of its effect on the immune system.  A contagious and often fatal disease, feline leukemia can cause multiple organ disease, cancer, bone marrow suppression, and a weakening of the immune system that makes it less likely that an affected cat will overcome infections.  It is passed from cat to cat most commonly through grooming or a bite wound acquired while fighting. There is a vaccine available to prevent FeLV for cats at high risk for the disease.

Clinical Signs & Symptoms:
Frequently owners bring their cats to the veterinarian because the owner feels the cat is doing poorly or is "not himself; " the cat may have stopped eating or have developed a poor appetite.  Cats that are infected with feline leukemia virus often will develop anemia, weight loss, decreased energy, diarrhea, dehydration, depression, respiratory infections, dental disease, abscesses, enlarged lymph nodes, and sometimes a fever.  Secondary infections and multiple organ disease are complications associated with the virus. 

Feline leukemia is an RNA virus or retrovirus, meaning that the virus duplicates itself by using the cat’s own genetic replication equipment.  Thus, the virus multiplies and can be found in the blood, saliva, tears and many other cells throughout the body, including the bone marrow.  The virus leads to multiple problems including cancer such as lymphoma, leukemia (cancer in the blood stream), bone marrow suppression and immunosuppression (inability to fight off infections).  It is especially dangerous when the virus affects the bone marrow, which is responsible for producing all the blood cell types—each of which plays a vital role in the animal’s life.  Red blood cells carry oxygen, white blood cells fight infection, and platelets help stop bleeding.  If the bone marrow is suppressed, then the cells are not produced, leading to many potentially life-endangering complications.  A common result of FeLV infection is immunosuppression, similar to the condition that affects humans who carry the HIV virus. 

Of cats that are exposed to feline leukemia naturally, some will carry the virus and become sick and die within two to three years.  Other cats that have a strong immune system are able to clear the infection within two months. The rest of the infected cats develop "latent" infections in which the virus remains in hiding for a period of time, after which it comes out of dormancy to cause disease and death.  Cats that have tested positive to feline leukemia should be re-tested in two to three months to see if they are able to clear the virus from their system.

A thorough history and physical examination are vital to detect many of the conditions associated with a feline leukemia virus infection.  A diagnosis of feline leukemia can be confirmed by several different kinds of tests. However, a quick blood test called an ELISA, performed by the veterinarian, can detect the presence of the virus.

Cats that test positive for feline leukemia (FeLV+) should have baseline blood work done to see if the virus is causing diseases of the organ systems.  A chemistry panel will help detect diseases of organs such as the kidney and liver.  Also, a complete blood count, or CBC, will determine the number of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.  X-rays of the chest and abdomen often are taken to detect the presence of cancer.

Cats that are infected with the feline leukemia virus can survive many years and have an excellent quality of life.  However, once the virus begins to cause secondary diseases, the cat eventually will die due to complications from the disease. The most common causes of death due to feline leukemia include cancer, anemia, and bacterial and viral infections. 

Transmission or Cause:
The most common way that cats become infected with the feline leukemia virus is through direct contact with the saliva or nasal secretions of an infected feline—which often occurs during a fight when a cat with the virus bites an unvaccinated animal. The virus cannot survive in the environment, so urine and feces are not significant sources of infection to other cats.  In addition, routine disinfectants will eliminate the virus from cages and other surfaces.  However, cats that groom each other and share food and water sources can transmit the virus because the saliva of an infected cat is contagious. The virus can also be passed from a mother cat to unborn kittens in the uterus.  Mother cats also can transmit the disease while grooming or nursing the kittens. Feline Leukemia is NOT transmitted to humans.

There are no current medications that can eliminate the virus from the cat’s body, nor is there a cure for feline leukemia.  However, there are methods for improving and prolonging a diseased cat’s life.  Certain vitamin supplements and medications, such as alpha interferon, may improve a cat’s clinical signs and prolong its survival by enhancing the immune system.  Antiviral medications can also be beneficial, which help suppress viral replication.  However, these treatments can be quite expensive. Cats that are sick usually need to remain in the hospital for several days in order to provide the necessary care for stabilization.  Bacterial infections that develop as a result of the virus require treatment with antibiotics.  If the cat is very anemic, a blood transfusion may be necessary to replace the red blood cells.   Intravenous fluid therapy is often necessary in cats that have kidney disease or in cats that are dehydrated because they are not eating, have diarrhea, or are vomiting frequently.

The best way to prevent cats from developing feline leukemia is to keep them indoors and away from other cats that could be carrying the virus.  If there is another cat in the house that has feline leukemia, do not allow the animals to share litter boxes, water or food bowls.  The vaccine for feline leukemia virus is recommended for cats that do go outdoors or are at high risk for developing the virus for other reasons.  Because the vaccine can, in rare instances, cause a type of tumor called a fibrosarcoma, it currently is recommended that only cats at risk be vaccinated. Cats that have feline leukemia must be kept indoors to prevent the spread of the virus to other cats.  In addition, cats with the disease should avoid exposure to bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens present in the outside environment since their weakened immune system are less capable of fighting off organisms that cause illness and infection.

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Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) OR FELINE AIDS

Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is a fatal disease of cats that is of the same subfamily of retroviruses as the human HIV virus.  The FIV virus is transmitted in the saliva or blood, commonly through the bite wound from an infected cat.  Once inside the cat’s body, the virus will invade the cells of the cat’s immune system, preventing the cells from performing their vital role of fighting off infections and diseases.  As a result, cats that contract FIV generally succumb to a wide variety of secondary diseases. This is strictly a cat disease and FIV cannot be transmitted to humans. 

Clinical Signs & Symptoms:
Cats infected with FIV may have a fever, enlarged lymph nodes, loss of appetite, weight loss, depression, ulcers in the mouth, skin disorders or conjunctivitis.  Some cats will show behavioral signs such as dementia, inappropriate elimination, hiding, and roaming.  Neurological signs can include seizures or problems maintaining balance.  Cats with FIV may also develop cancer.

Although it cannot be transmitted to humans, feline immunodeficiency virus often has been referred to as "feline AIDS" because of its similarity to the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. Both viruses impair the ability of the immune system to function normally, causing infections, cancer, and debilitation.  When a cat becomes infected with FIV, the virus begins to replicate in the immune cells of the body, causing fever and swollen lymph nodes. After this, FIV goes into a latent or dormant state for several years, during which time the cat does not show signs of the disease.  After two to ten years, the virus emerges from its dormant state and causes the clinical signs of terminal disease.

Following a thorough medical history and physical exam, an FIV test can be performed at most veterinary hospitals using a serology test called an ELISA assay.  Using a few drops of blood, this test detects the presence of antibodies to the virus.  A false positive is possible in kittens younger than 5 months, because FIV antibodies can be transmitted during nursing from an FIV positive mother and take time to leave the kitten’s system.  In addition, a vaccinated cat will also show a false positive on ELISA tests that are now available.

Cats that are sick or showing clinical signs of disease will need to have blood tests done to detect any abnormalities.  The virus can affect organs such as the kidneys and liver, as well as the bone marrow.  Involvement of the bone marrow can cause abnormal development of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

Once cats begin to show signs of serious disease due to repeated bacterial or viral infections, organ disease, or a failure to thrive, the life expectancy is one year or less.  However, it may take cats anywhere from two to 10 years before reaching this stage of the disease.  Each cat is different and one cannot predict how long a cat with FIV will live.

Transmission or Cause:
Feline immunodeficiency virus is transmitted through blood and saliva.  Most often, it is spread when an infected cat bites another cat. Unneutered, outdoor, male cats that roam and fight with other cats are at greatest risk for developing FIV because they are more likely to defend their territory by fighting.  Less common routes of infection include kittens nursing from an FIV positive mother or viral infection while in the uterus.

At this time, there is no known treatment that will eliminate the virus or treat it specifically. Medications and nutritional supplements that stimulate the immune system have been used in cats, which may improve the quality and duration of the cat’s life. Because the virus can damage the immune system, treatment generally is directed at controlling any secondary bacterial infections through the use of antibiotics.


General recommendations include keeping all cats indoors to deter them from fighting with potential carriers of FIV.  New cats should be tested for FIV before being housed with other cats that do not have the virus. Kittens that are born to FIV infected mothers should not be allowed to nurse because the virus can be passed through the milk.  FIV is not transmitted commonly by casual contact and is destroyed easily by disinfectants and routine cleaning.

HAIRBALLS....Hack, Hack, Hack... Here's what you can do to reduce hairballs: 

  • Brush daily to remove shedding hair before your cat can ingest it.  The Furminator works great to remove a lot of fur!
  • Feed canned food to help trap fur in the stomach and encourage it to pass through the intestinal tract.
  • Consider professional grooming for longer haired and denser coated cats.
  • Offer a natural (petroleum-free) hairball remedy such as Vetbasis Cat Hairball Gel or Hairball Aid by NaturVet once or twice a week to lubricate the ingested hair and help it pass out in the stool.  Note that products with petroleum or mineral oil will prevent the absorption of fat soluble vitamins and can lead to a deficiency especially Vitamin A.
  • Switch to a Hairball Formula Diet—one of the best on the market is Royal Canin Intense Hairball
  • Add fiber to the diet…Fiber helps your cat defecate easier by adding moisture and bulk to the stool. Canned pumpkin, squash baby food, oat or rice bran, flax seed and psyllium husks all provide additional fiber that can be given to your cat every other day, mixed in with regular food. Try ½-1 teaspoon of pumpkin or squash or 1/4 teaspoon of bran, flax or psyllium.
  • Catnip and grass (wheat, oats, rye and barley) are also good sources of fiber.  Grow your own Kitty Grass: To receive your FREE Sample Packet of Natural Oat Cat Grass seeds, just MAIL  a #10 SELF-ADDRESSED return envelope with Three FIRST CLASS U.S. Postage Stamps to:

SAN DIEGO, CA   92110


Kidney disease in pets is a malfunction of the kidneys with many different potential causes. If you notice that your pet is drinking or urinating excessively, has discolored or bloody urine, or has an arched back and stiff walk, you should see your veterinarian immediately. A physical exam as well as a blood and urine tests will determine if your pet is experiencing kidney problems. Early detection is important, as untreated cases may eventually lead to kidney failure or irreversible damage.

How do the Kidneys Work? Kidneys are composed of millions of tiny filters called glomeruli. As blood passes through these filters, the waste products of protein metabolism are collected and excreted into the urine and bladder. In addition to this, these filters regulate the amount of water and minerals (electrolytes) present in the body. Nature has given us and our pets much more kidney filtering capacity than the body needs, however, the wear and tear of time as well as specific diseases, infections and nutritional imbalances slowly clog and destroy these small filters (glomeruli). It is not until approximately 75% of the filters have been damaged that the level of waste products in the bloodstream begins to increase and shows on routine blood testing. The byproducts of protein metabolism are urea and creatinine, these waste products give the urine its yellowish color. As kidney function wanes, these numbers begin to increase and is referred to as chronic kidney disease, chronic renal failure, renal insufficiency or chronic interstitial nephritis. When two-thirds of the filters are lost and as creatinine levels approach double their normal values certain signs begin. First, the pet will begin to drink more water and urinate more--you may notice your pet’s urine is pale colored or even clear--and accidents sometimes occur. Each remaining glomerulus filters increasing amounts of water from the blood to make up for declining filter numbers. As the disease progresses, the pet also becomes anemic due to reduced levels of erythropoietin (a hormone produced by the kidneys). Ulcers of the mouth and digestive tract can occur due to increased waste products in the body. Blood phosphorus levels increase and potassium levels decrease which can lead to nausea and weakness respectively. Often times the pet will develop vomiting and diarrhea secondary to the disease process. Many pets with kidney disease will have a strong breath odor due to the build up of toxins in the blood (uremia). The pet’s appetite decreases and hence weight loss ensues. Pets with kidney disease can also develop high blood pressure. In cats, kidney disease and over-active thyroid (hyperthyroidism) often go hand in hand and treating both diseases can be complicated.

Treatment: While there is no cure for kidney disease, pets can be managed with proper nutrition and dietary supplements to extend their lives and keep them comfortable. It is important that pets with kidney disease have fresh filtered water available at all times. When symptoms occur, your veterinarian may give the pet extra fluids intravenously or subcutaneously. Human beings in this situation begin kidney dialysis to flush wastes from their body. Your veterinarian may accomplish the same thing by giving massive amounts of fluid under the pet’s skin. This fluid is soon urinated, carrying away nitrogenous waste as it goes.

While there is no cure for kidney disease, pets can be managed with proper nutrition and dietary supplements to extend their lives and keep them comfortable. It is important that pets with kidney disease have fresh filtered water available at all times. When symptoms occur, your veterinarian may give the pet extra fluids intravenously or subcutaneously. Human beings in this situation begin kidney dialysis to flush wastes from their body. Your veterinarian may accomplish the same thing by giving massive amounts of fluid under the pet’s skin. This fluid is soon urinated, carrying away nitrogenous waste as it goes.

Dietary management is an important part of therapy for all animals with kidney disease. The goal of proper diet (such as Royal Canin Renal, Hill’s k/d or Purina Veterinary NF) is to reduce the workload on the kidneys while supplying the nutritional needs of the pet. Reduced dietary sodium has been shown to help control the high blood pressure that frequently occurs with kidney disease. These diets derive more of their energy from fats and carbohydrates so that they do not tax the kidneys. These diets are also low in phosphorus and have increased levels of potassium and B vitamins. Often times other medications such as anabolic steroids, B-vitamins, and erythropoietin are given to encourage red blood cell production and stimulate appetite. Aluminum hydroxide antacids may be needed to help control digestive disturbances and remove excess phosphorus in addition to other medications for nausea. Studies have shown that high doses of vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids and flax seed oil can also slow kidney destruction.

Moreover, adding Transfer Factor to your pet’s treatment regimen can boost the immune system, slow the disease process, and help increase your pet’s appetite leading to weight gain and better overall health. 4Life’s TF Complete Canine & Feline Products are specifically designed to provide your pet with the nutritional punch s/he needs to cope with stress. TF Complete will provide your pet with the vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, amino acids and protein necessary for gaining health and longevity. Transfer Factor Animal Stress Pack is particularly useful in the acute situation as it contains higher levels of Transfer Factor Plus, electrolytes, probiotics and other nutrients that are critical in restoring health and wellness. For more information on Transfer Factor, please contact Dr. Fry or visit So although kidney disease is a progressive disease with no absolute cure, a lot can be done to improve your pet’s quality and length of life.


"Dani was nearly 17 years old the other summer when she suddenly became very lethargic and all but stopped eating. The entire month of July 2002 she steadily lost weight, became more and more lethargic, teetered closer and closure to Kidney failure, and became borderline hyperthyroid. She dropped from a nice healthy 10 pounds to an alarming 6.2 pounds from October 2001 to July 2002, losing four pounds in July alone of last year. My beloved regular vet, Dr. Steve Everson, suggested that I put her on subques, which I did, but he offered no hope that she would get better.... Faithfully since then, each morning I have given her 1/4 scoop of regular Feline Transfer Factor mixed with whatever food she's decided that's her favorite of the day/week. Her kidney evaluation has stayed at 52, and her thyroid is back to normal. Slowly but surely, she steadily gained weight ever since using Transfer Factor. She now weighs in at 8 lbs., 15.5 oz.  I know what Transfer Factor has done for Dani. She's living proof that the stuff works and I honestly believe that Transfer Factor has highly contributed, if not, saved her life. Transfer Factor has added another TWO years of *good* quality life. Her recovery from Death's Door is an absolute miracle in our eyes."

Susie B.



Lyme disease can occur at rates in dogs that are 50 to 100 times the rate of humans!!

Fever, loss of appetite, swollen lymph nodes, limping, lameness that sometimes shifts from one leg to another, heart disease, inflamed and painful joints, kidney disease, and neurologic disease.

The veterinarian can determine if a dog or cat has Lyme disease after performing a blood test (Idexx 3DX Snap test) that will show exposure to the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. This simple test requires only three drops of blood, can be done in the office in 10 minutes and does not interfere with prior vaccination unlike a titer test and is much less expensive than a Western Blot blood test. A positive response to treatment is also important in making a final diagnosis.

Dogs should begin to show signs of recovery two to three days after beginning appropriate antibiotic treatment. However, the disease may recur within a few weeks or months; in these cases, the dog will need to return to antibiotic therapy for extended periods.

Transmission or Cause:
Lyme disease is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, which is passed to dogs, cats and people by deer ticks carrying the infection; the ticks get the infection from the white-footed mouse, which acts as a carrier. The only way a tick can transmit the bacteria is to remain attached to the animal's skin for one to two days. Unfortunately, these ticks are very small and easily can go unnoticed. Infected dogs do not transmit the disease to humans.

Treatment involves the use of an appropriate antibiotic, such as doxycycline, for at least three to four weeks.

There is a vaccine for the prevention of Lyme disease for dogs, and it is highly recommended to have your dog vaccinated yearly. In addition, annual blood testing for Lyme Disease is also recommended. Quick removal of a tick also will help prevent Lyme disease because the tick must remain attached for a day before the disease can be transmitted. Tick prevention products such as Frontline, K9 Advantix and Preventic Collar purchased from your veterinarian should also be used to help prevent Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.  For more information on Lyme Disese visit the foundation at





Hypothyroidism (or Thyroid Hormone Deficiency)
Hypothyroidism usually affects middle-aged dogs (2-6 yrs old).   Boxers, cocker spaniels, golden retrievers, schnauzers, Old English sheepdogs, poodles, Shelties, and Doberman pinschers have a higher incidence of the disease. Very rarely, cats may develop the disease as well.

Clinical Signs:
Clinical signs vary and are gradual in onset.  Lethargy,  mental depression,  exercise intolerance, weight gain despite limited food portions, and poor hair coat (dry or oily skin, brittle hair and/or hair loss) are very common.  Some dogs will experience a  personality change or seek out warm places. Some dogs will have a "rat tail" appearance or darkened skin and thickening of the skin.  Neuromuscular signs may include seizures; ataxia or stumbling; circling; knuckling or dragging the feet.

The thyroid gland maintains the body's metabolism. A decrease in the thyroid hormones causes a lower cellular metabolic rate which affects the body's ability to function properly.  There are two types of hypothyroidism that can affect dogs. The first is called primary or acquired hypothyroidism, which is the most common form of this disorder. Primary hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland is attacked by the body's immune system, or when the thyroid gland atrophies, or wastes away, for unknown reasons. The end result in both cases is the inability of the thyroid gland to secrete important hormones that regulate the body's metabolism. The other type of hypothyroidism is called secondary hypothyroidism, which involves the destruction or malfunction of the pituitary gland in the brainstem. A poorly functioning pituitary gland is unable to produce the TSH hormone that stimulates the thyroid gland's production of the thyroid hormones. When TSH is not produced, neither will the thyroid hormones.

The most common way to diagnose hypothyroidism is to measure baseline blood levels of the thyroid hormone called T4. Decreased hormone levels are indicative of hypothyroidism; however, other non-related diseases and medications will also lower levels of this hormone. When clinical signs exist together with a low T4 level, a definitive diagnosis of hypothyroidism usually can be made. A CBC (complete blood count) as well as a serum chemistry panel will also be done to look for changes consistent with hypothyroidism (especially elevated cholesterol and often times mild anemia). More specialized tests, such as a complete thyroid hormone panel, may be needed if a normal T4 is found but the dog has clinical signs of hypothyroidism.

Dogs with primary hypothyroidism that are being treated appropriately with thyroid hormone supplementation have a good prognosis and are expected to have a normal life span. Dogs with secondary hypothyroidism have a guarded to poor prognosis because of the possibility of cancer or destruction to the pituitary gland which is located in the brain stem.

Treatment involves synthetic thyroid hormone supplementation with medications such as sodium levothyroxine. Oral supplementation generally will be given daily for the remainder of the dog's life. Frequent re-examinations by the veterinarian will be needed to evaluate the blood levels of the thyroid hormone to be sure that the appropriate dose is being given. When too much hormone supplementation is given, a condition called thyrotoxicosis can occur. This condition, which is quite uncommon, may result in clinical signs such as panting, nervousness or anxiety, weight loss, diarrhea, increased drinking and increased urinating, aggressive behavior, and increased appetite.



Hyperthyroidism (Overactive Thyroid) in Cats

Clinical Signs:
The clinical signs of hyperthyroidism are due to an overall increase in metabolism.  Most cats will show signs such as weight loss, ravenous appetite, hyperactivity, unkempt haircoat or hair loss, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst (polydipsia), excessive urination (polyuria), and aggression.  Only a few hyperthyroid cats will present with atypical signs such as poor appetite, anorexia, lethargy, and weakness. Common physical exam findings include an enlarged thyroid gland, cachexia, heart murmur, elevated heart rate (tachycardia), and hyperactive behavior.

Hyperthyroidism is the most common hormonal abnormality affecting cats. Most frequently afflicting cats eight years of age or older, it is a multisystemic metabolic disorder caused by high circulating levels of thyroid hormones. As a result, the body's systems begin working at an accelerated rate that can cause them to function abnormally. Thyroid hormones affect the musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, liver, urinary, nervous, and behavioral systems. Common complications of hyperthyroidism are heart muscle enlargement, high blood pressure, kidney function impairment, and intestinal problems.

Several other diseases, including diabetes, chronic kidney failure, liver disease, and cancer, can have similar symptoms as hyperthyroidism. A thorough history, complete physical exam, and routine laboratory testing will lead to the diagnosis of hyperthyroidism in the majority of cases. Routine testing includes a complete blood count, a blood chemistry profile, urinalysis, and thyroid hormone level.

Cats with early signs of hyperthyroidism initially may show a thyroid hormone, or T4, level that is within the normal range, making diagnosis more difficult. Because hormone levels may fluctuate between normal and increased early in the course of the disease, it is important that cats showing early signs have their thyroid hormone levels re-evaluated after a period of a few weeks.

The prognosis for uncomplicated hyperthyroidism is excellent. If the cat's physical condition is extremely poor or if another disease is present, the prognosis is not as good and will depend on the response to treatment. If cancer has caused the hyperthyroidism, thyroidectomy or radioiodine therapy may improve signs for some time but will not cure the disease.

Treatment of hyperthyroidism usually is rewarding and extremely effective.  The goal of treatment is to reduce the circulating levels of thyroid hormones.  There are three options for treatment of hyperthyroidism: daily medications, surgical removal of thyroid tissue, or radioiodine therapy. 
Ruling out possible concurrent kidney failure is essential before surgery or permanent destruction by radioiodine, since permanent correction of hyperthyroidism can worsen renal disease. 

The most commonly used antithyroid drug prescribed to cats is called methimazole (FELIMAZOLE).  Most cats will need to be given methimazole twice daily for the best results.  Mild side effects associated with methimazole include loss of appetite, vomiting, and lethargy. Rare side effects include scratching to the point of causing lesions on the face and neck, a low platelet count, and bleeding disorders.  These complications usually develop within the first few weeks of treatment and may require stopping the drug.  Contact the veterinarian immediately if a cat on methimazole experiences any side effects. Drug therapy typically requires frequent veterinary follow-ups for the first three months.  Physical exams generally are scheduled every two to three weeks to assess improvements of hyperthyroidism clinical signs, especially of the heart, side effects of the drug, and improvement in the thyroid hormone concentration. 

Thyroidectomy is the surgical removal of the thyroid gland or glands.  If successful, this procedure will correct the hyperthyroidism permanently, unless thyroid cancer is present, or if only one gland is removed initially and the second gland continues or starts to hyperfunction.  Antithyroid drugs sometimes are used preoperatively to reduce anesthetic and surgical risks and to rule out concurrent kidney failure. 

Administered by injection, radioactive iodine treatment usually is successful in curing hyperthyroidism and causes the lowest incidence of side effects.  Radioactive iodine destroys only functioning thyroid cells.  Dormant thyroid cells that do not take up the radiation are then able to produce normal amounts of thyroid hormone at a later time. Very few cats, less than two to four percent, will require a second treatment or require thyroid hormone replacement therapy.  For more information visit






Canine Leptospirosis

  • Description: Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease of mammals, including dogs and humans. It can be transmitted to dogs by infected dogs, wildlife, livestock, and rodents. Leptospira bacteria most frequently affect the liver and kidneys.
  • Transmission: Leptospira bacteria are passed through the urine of infected animals, including dogs, wildlife, rodents, and livestock. The bacteria can enter through a break in the skin or when infected urine is ingested. Outbreaks of leptospirosis infections occur frequently after periods of heavy rain. The bacteria can be found in standing water, rivers, streams, and ponds.
  • Clinical Signs: Fever, weight loss, dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, kidney pain, yellowing of the skin (jaundice), and increased urination.

  • Prevention:  A series of two initial vaccinations and yearly boosters are highly recommended for all dogs.

  • For more information visit


Mast cell tumors are especially common in dogs accounting for approximately 20% of skin tumors. The Boxer is at an especially high risk, as are related breeds: English Bulldog, Boston Terrier. Also at higher than average risk are the Shar pei, Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, Schnauzer, and Cocker Spaniel. Most mast cell tumors arise in the skin but technically they can arise anywhere that mast cells are found. Mast cells are produced in the bone marrow and found in connective tissues. They are part of the immune system and release histamine in response to parasites, allergens or trauma. (For example, squeezing this type of tumor can cause it to enlarge in size.) Mast cell tumors are a common skin tumor in dogs and cats, but can be found anywhere in the body. Clinical appearance can vary greatly: raised, hairless, soft, firm, ulcerated, etc.,  It is not unusual for the owner to notice a sudden change in the size of the growth or, for that matter, that the growth is itchy or bothersome to the patient.

Diagnosis can often be made with a needle aspirate, which collects some cells of the tumor with a needle, and the cells are examined under the microscope. The granules have distinct staining characteristics leading to their recognition. An actual tissue biopsy, however, is needed to grade the tumor and grading of the tumor is crucial to determining prognosis. 

GRADING THE MAST CELL TUMOR:  The grade is a reflection of the malignant characteristics of the cells under the microscope (which of course generally correlates to the behavior of the tumor) with Grade I being benign, Grade III being malignant, and Grade II having some ability to go either way.  Mast cell tumors arising in the following areas tend to be the most malignant: nail bed, genital areas, muzzle, and oral cavity. Mast cell tumors that originate in deeper tissues such as the liver or spleen carry a particularly grave prognosis.  In addition, tumors that have been present for months or years tend to be more benign.

THERAPY for mast cell tumors consists of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy (as is the case for almost all types of cancer). What combination of the above is chosen depends on the extent of spread and malignant characteristics of the tumor.

SURGERY:  If the tumor can be cured with one or even two surgeries, this is ideal. Mast cell tumors are highly invasive and very deep. Further, the inflammation associated with manipulation of the tumor can lead to extra swelling, bleeding, and even a drop in blood pressure. In one study a 10% incidence of wound healing failure ("dehissence") was observed with mast cell tumors. The biopsy sample obtained will not only yield the grade of the tumor but will include a measurement of the tissue margin (the width of normal tissue that has been excised around the tumor). The width of the margins will go far in determining if further treatment is needed. If the margins are narrow or margins indicate there is still tumor left behind then a second surgery or even a course of radiation therapy may be desirable. Clean margins are generally defined as a 10 mm margin around the tumor in all directions. If the margin is clean, theoretically the tumor should be completely removed but it is still a good idea to keep an eye on the area over the years.

MEDICATIONS:   Palladia is the new oral anti-cancer drug for dogs.  Corticosteroids seem to be directly toxic to mast cells and can lead to a brief remission even when used alone.   Chemotherapy drugs such as Lomustine & Vinblastine and radiation may also be helpful. 

The mast cell tumor releases histamine-containing granules that
lead to inflammation and increased stomach acid secretion....the use of Diphenhydramine and Cimetidine are often very helpful.



Please refer to this website for a lot of valuable information:



Heartworm disease (Dirofilaria immitis) is a serious & potentially fatal condition caused by parasitic worms living in the arteries of the lungs & the heart of dogs, cats & other species of mammals, including wolves, foxes, ferrets and sea lions.  Dogs & cats of any age or breed are susceptible to infection.

Dogs or other animals harboring adult worms are the recognized reservoir of heartworm infection. The disease is spread by mosquitoes that become infected with microfilariae while taking a blood meal from an infected dog. Within the mosquito, the microfilariae mature into the infective larval stage. When the mosquito then bites another dog, cat, or susceptible animal, the larvae are deposited on the skin & actively migrate into the new host. For about 2 months the larvae migrate through the connective tissue, under the skin, then pass into the animal's blood stream & are quickly transported to the arteries of the lung. It takes a total of approximately six months for the infective larvae to mature into adult worms that begin producing offspring, microfilariae. Adult heartworms can live for five to seven years in the dog.

In the dog, the larvae progress in their development to an adult form of the worm, & live in the pulmonary vessels, where they continue the life cycle & cause extensive injury. The period of time when heartworms are reproductively capable is referred to as patency. In cats, it takes seven to eight months before adult worms potentially reach patency in the pulmonary vessels, & this is referred to as transient patency, as reproductive capability in the cat is usually very short (months) compared to that of dogs (years). In most cases the cat is not an effective reservoir host, since microfilaria are produced in less than 20% of the cats.

In the cat, the larvae molt as well, but fewer worms survive to adulthood. While dogs may suffer from severe heart & lung damage from heartworm infection, cats typically exhibit minimal changes in the heart. The cat's primary response to the presence of heartworms occurs in the lungs.

Yearly screening is recommended and can be done in your vet's office in 10 minutes.  Heartworm can be treated but it is much easier (and less expensive) to PREVENT by giving a monthly oral tablet (Wormshield, Heartgard or Interceptor) or applying a topical medication to your pet's skin (Advantage Multi or Revolution).


Congestive Heart Failure (CHF):  Mitral Valve Disease and Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) is the most common form of heart disease in dogs and usually occurs in small to medium dogs. There does seem to be a genetic predisposition to the development of this form of heart disease in the following breeds:  Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Poodle, Schnauzer, Chihuahua, Fox Terrier and Boston Terrier. It is mostly older dogs who tend to suffer from this disease but some dogs are quite young when it begins to occur.  MVD is a disease affecting the surface of the heart valves also known as endocardiosis or Valvular Insufficiency. The valves are normally smooth and form a perfect seal when closed. MVD causes the edges of the valves to become thickened, bumpy and distorted. The seal is now not tight and when the heart pumps, some of the blood flows backwards from the ventricle into the atrium. This backward flow creates a noise that your veterinarian can hear with a stethoscope. This noise is called a murmur. Further testing may involve x-rays, EKG or an ultrasound of your dog's heart.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a disease of the heart muscle. DCM can be caused by specific nutritional deficiencies, but there are many potential causes such as genetic factors, viral infections, exposure to chemical toxins and, amino acid deficiency.  DCM is more common in medium to large dogs such as Doberman, Cocker and Springer Spaniels, Boxer, Irish Setters, German Shepherds, Great Danes, St Bernard and Irish Wolfhounds. Middle- aged male dogs tend to be most affected. In DCM, the heart does not pump normally.  The contractions are weak and blood is not supplied to the body as efficiently.  Over time, the heart stretches and enlarges to try to compensate.

Leaky heart valves and/or a weak pump lead to impaired circulation in both MVD and DCM. Your dog's body will make adjustments to allow it to cope. However, at some point, the heart disease progresses and your dog can no longer compensate and becomes sick.  Signs of heart disease are:
  • Lack of energy/depression
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Laboured breathing
  • Coughing
  • Weakness
  • Fainting
  • Swollen abdomen (ascites)

It is important to remember that, as yet, there is no cure for either of the causes of CHF in dogs. However, there are treatments that not only greatly improve your dog's quality of life but can also extend your dog's life span - significantly. Medical treatment may consist of some or all of the following:

  • Diuretics (i.e. water pills) that remove excess fluid from the lungs or abdomen.
  • Medicines that 'open up' blood vessels to reduce the workload on your dog's weakened heart.
  • Medicines that improve the strength and rate of your dog's heart beat. 
  • Medicines that allow the heart to work more efficiently which should help your dog to live longer


Disease Prevention Quick Tips for Outdoor Enthusiasts 

Below is list of diseases from  that outdoor enthusiasts and their companions may encounter. 


Anaplasmosis is a tick-borne disease caused by the Anaplasma phagocytophilum bacteria (and less commonly by Anaplasma platys). It is spread by tick bites, primarily by the blacklegged and western blacklegged ticks.  Anaplasmosis is a reportable disease— this means that health care providers and laboratories that diagnose cases of laboratory-confirmed anaplasmosis are required to report those cases to their local or state health departments, which in turn report the cases to CDC. In 2008, 1,009 cases of anaplasmosis were reported in the United States; the majority of the cases were reported in the eastern and Central U.S. The bacteria is considered endemic (established in the environment) in the upper Midwest, East and Northeast regions of the United States, as well as the Western coastal regions.  Symptoms of anaplasmosis in humans generally appear 5-21 days after a bite from an infected tick, and include headaches, fever, chills and muscle aches, and may be confused with flu symptoms. While some people may only experience mild symptoms and recover without medical attention, elderly or immunocompromised people may develop a more severe illness.  Dogs with anaplasmosis may show signs of lameness and joint pain, and some may also develop vomiting, diarrhea, coughing or labored breathing. It can be difficult to distinguish anaplasmosis from Lyme disease because the signs of disease are very similar and they occur in essentially the same areas of the country.



Babesiosis is a relatively unknown, malaria-like disease that is caused by Babesia parasites. It is transmitted by ticks – the same species of ticks that can carry Lyme disease and ehrlichiosis. It can also be transmitted by blood transfusion from an infected blood donor.  It is found mainly in Northeastern states, as well as Minnesota, Wisconsin and Washington state. Symptoms are flu-like and it can be difficult to diagnose.  Babesiosis in dogs can also be difficult to diagnose because of the variety of signs that may be observed. Infected dogs may appear normal, or they might suddenly go into shock from rapid destruction of their blood cells – these dogs show signs of fever, weakness, depression, swollen lymph nodes and very pale gums.


Campylobacteriosis (Campylobacter jejuni)

Campylobacteriosis is a disease caused by Camplyobacter jejuni or Campylobacter coli bacteria. It affects the intestinal tract and, in rare cases, the bloodstream. It is one of the most commonly reported causes of bacterial diarrhea.  Campylobacter bacteria are generally spread by eating or drinking contaminated food or water, unpasteurized milk, and by direct or indirect contact with stool from an infected person, animal or pet. Many animals, including pigs (including wild pigs), cattle, dogs, moose, hares and birds, can carry the bacteria in their intestines.  Most infected animals will not show signs of disease, but they can develop diarrhea.


Cryptosporidiosis is an illness caused by a simple, one-celled parasite named Cryptosporidium (there are several different species of the parasite that are capable of infecting animals and people), which is shed in the stool of wild and domestic animals. Infection generally occurs by contact with the stool of infected animals, contaminated surfaces or by drinking water or eating uncooked food contaminated with stool from infected animals. People can also become infected by swimming in contaminated water.  Although some people may not become ill after being infected, the most common symptoms of infection are extreme diarrhea, along with stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever, headache and decreased appetite. People with weakened immune systems can develop severe disease if infected with Cryptosporidium. Cryptosporidiosis is a reportable disease – this means that health care providers and laboratories that diagnose cases of laboratory-confirmed cryptosporidiosis are required to report those cases to their local or state health departments, which in turn report the cases to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  The best way to prevent infection is by using good hygiene. Avoid drinking untreated water; water can be made safe by heating it to a rolling boil for at least 1 minute or by using a filter that has an absolute pore size of 1 micron (pt) or smaller, or has been NSF rated for "cyst removal."  Infected persons can shed the organism in the stool for several weeks after infection, emphasizing the need for good hygiene.  Dogs and horses can become infected with Cryptosporidium but generally do not show signs of illness. Mild diarrhea may develop. To date, there is little evidence that dogs can readily infect their owners with Cryptosporidium; however, proper hygiene is always recommended when handling dog stool. There have been only a very small number of horses reported to be infected with Cryptosporidium, so there is not much data about the illness and the risk of transmission to people from horses.


Ehrlichiosis is a disease caused by bacteria that belong to the Ehrlichia species. There are several types of the bacteria that can cause illness. The disease is transmitted via the bite of an infected tick. It is a reportable disease – this means that health care providers and laboratories that diagnose cases of laboratory-confirmed ehrlichiosis are required to report those cases to their local or state health departments, which in turn report the cases to the CDC.  Symptoms usually occur within 1 to 3 weeks after exposure and can range from mild to severe. Common symptoms include fever, muscle pain, headache and chills. Occasionally, symptoms may include nausea/vomiting, a sharp drop in weight, mental confusion, cough and skin rash.   In dogs, the disease has 3 distinct phases. During the initial phase of infection, which generally lasts 1 to 3 weeks, the signs are nonspecific and include fever, loss of appetite, weight loss, depression and swollen lymph nodes. If the disease is not detected or treated during the initial phase, the dog may again appear normal. Chronic infection can develop, however, and can be life-threatening. Signs of severe ehrlichiosis include dramatic weight loss and loss of muscle tone, swollen lymph nodes, high fever, and bleeding.

Equine Encephalitis Viruses

Equine encephalitis viruses, including the Eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEE), Western equine encephalitis virus (WEE) and Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEE), are transmitted by mosquitoes. As with West Nile Virus (WNV), the reservoir hosts for the encephalitis viruses are primarily wild birds.  Human infection with encephalitis viruses often causes symptoms such as fever, flu-like illness, muscle pain, vomiting and neurologic signs including seizures and convulsions. Infection with equine encephalitis viruses can be fatal. Infection with any of the equine encephalitis viruses is a reportable disease – this means that health care providers and laboratories that diagnose cases of laboratory-confirmed encephalitis are required to report those cases to their local or state health departments, which in turn report the cases to the CDC.  Although dogs can become infected with the viruses (particularly VEE), they do not usually develop illness.

Escherichia coli Infection (E. coli)

Escherichia coli, or E. coli, is a bacterium that causes diarrhea and stomach pain in people and is the leading cause of hemolytic uremic syndrome, a rare kidney disorder that can cause kidney failure. Many types of E. coli are harmless, but certain types can cause severe disease.  Although most cases of E. coli infection come from eating contaminated beef or drinking unpasteurized, contaminated milk products, disease-causing E. coli has been found in cattle, goats, sheep, deer, elk, pigs, horses and birds. Infection can also occur if a person drinks or swims in contaminated water. The bacteria are spread through fecal-oral transmission; an infected person or animal sheds the bacteria in their stool, and others are infected by accidentally eating the bacteria after they have touched a contaminated surface or had contact with infected stool. The bacteria are invisible to the naked eye, and people can become infected even if they don't see the contamination.  Dogs can become infected with E. coli. Intestinal infection often causes diarrhea and abdominal pain. E. coli infection in dogs can also cause urinary tract infections, uterine infections, ear infections and other problems.


Giardiasis is caused by infection with a microscopic parasite called Giardia duodenalis. The parasite is shed in the stool of infected wild and domestic animals. Infection generally occurs by contact with the stool of infected animals, contaminated surfaces or by drinking water or eating uncooked food contaminated with stool from infected animals. People can also become infected by swimming in contaminated water.   Although some people may not become ill after being infected, the most common symptoms of infection are diarrhea with "greasy" stools, along with gas, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever, and decreased appetite. It may take up to 1-2 weeks for these symptoms to occur, and illness may last 2-6 weeks. People with weakened immune systems can develop severe disease if infected with Giardia.  The best way to prevent infection is by using good hygiene. Avoid drinking untreated water; water can be made safe by heating it to a rolling boil for at least 1 minute or by using a filter that has an absolute pore size of 1 micron (pt) or smaller, or has been NSF rated for "cyst removal."  Infected persons can shed the organism in the stool for several weeks after infection, emphasizing the need for good hygiene.  Dogs can become infected with Giardia but generally do not show signs of illness. Mild diarrhea may develop. The risk is very low that dogs can readily infect their owners with Giardia; however, proper hygiene is always recommended when handling dog stool.


Hantaviruses have worldwide distribution. Rodents (such as deer mice) are the natural hosts for these viruses. The viruses can be found in the rodents' urine, feces, and saliva, and when these substances have been deposited and dried, the viruses can become airborne and infect humans when they breathe in the airborne particles. Another way to get infected, although not as common, is via a rodent bite or drinking or eating food or water contaminated by rodents. Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (respiratory disease due to hantavirus infection) is a reportable disease – this means that health care providers and laboratories that diagnose cases of laboratory-confirmed hantavirus infection are required to report those cases to their local or state health departments, which in turn report the cases to the CDC.  The illness that develops in humans depends on the type of hantavirus. There is a severe illness known as hantavirus pulmonary illness that was first reported in the Southwestern U.S. in the early 1990s. This syndrome starts with fever, body aches, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and a dry cough. The major symptoms that indicate more serious illness are shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. This may lead to respiratory failure (which happens about 4 days after the symptoms first appear), when the lungs fill up with fluid and results in death in about 50% of infected patients. To date, hantavirus infections in dogs or horses have not been reported.


Leptospirosis is caused by Leptospira bacteria. The bacteria are found worldwide. Many species of both wildlife and domestic animals can spread leptospirosis. It is transmitted through an infected animal's urine. Leptospirosis is a risk during any recreational activity that involves exposure to water in lakes, rivers, or ponds that could be contaminated by urine from infected animals – this includes camping, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, trail biking, etc. Outdoor enthusiasts and their animal companions can become exposed to Leptospira bacteri  a when they wade in contaminated waters or swamps; walk through contaminated soil, mud and wet plants; by direct contact with infected animals; or by eating food or meat or drinking water contaminated with the bacteria. The bacteria can also infect people and animals through open wounds or if contaminated water or food comes into contact with mucous membranes (e.g., linings of the nose, mouth and eyes). Person-to-person transmission is rare.  Symptoms of leptospirosis in humans range from mild to severe. The symptoms usually appear 5-14 days after infection, with a mild fever, chills, muscle ache and headache. Symptoms may progress to abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea and skin rash. The most severe cases develop liver and kidney problems, heart dysfunction and mental confusion. These severe cases are more common in older people and can result in death.  The signs of leptospirosis in dogs vary and can be vague. Infected dogs might not show any signs of disease, or they may exhibit fever, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, weakness and depression, stiffness or infertility. Younger animals may be more likely to develop the disease.

Lyme Disease (Lyme borreliosis)

Lyme disease is an illness caused by a bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, which is a "spirochete" (a bacterium that has a worm-like, spiral-shaped form). Deer ticks are the primary carriers of the bacteria.  In humans, often the earliest indication of infection is a "bull's eye" rash at the site of the tick bite – so named because it resembles a target. As the infection develops, symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and muscle and joint pain. The disease can progress to cause chronic joint problems as well as heart and neurological problems. Lyme disease is not contagious from one person to another. Lyme disease is a reportable disease – this means that health care providers and laboratories that diagnose cases of laboratory-confirmed Lyme disease are required to report those cases to their local or state health departments, which in turn report the cases to the CDC.   Dogs infected with Lyme disease may not show signs for 2-5 months, at which time they usually develop fever, loss of appetite and lameness. It can be difficult to distinguish Lyme disease from anaplasmosis because the signs of disease are very similar, and they occur in essentially the same areas of the country.  Because it can be a difficult disease to diagnose, it is best to prevent infection by taking appropriate measures to prevent tick bites.


Plague is a disease caused by infection with Yersinia pestis bacteria, the same bacteria responsible for the "Black Death" that killed millions of people in the 1300s. The bacteria is still present in the environment in several regions of the nation, and the disease has recently been reported in mountain lions, rodents, rabbits, squirrels and other carnivorous animals. There are two common forms of plague – pneumonic plague, which involves the lungs and is more life-threatening; and bubonic plague, which is more common and less severe.  Plague can be transmitted to outdoor enthusiasts and their dogs through bites of infected fleas or by direct contact with infected animal tissues. The highest risks of exposures come from infected blood and tissues. The disease is more commonly found in areas with high populations of prairie dogs or other rodents.  The symptoms of plague in humans include high fever, chills, weakness, headache, nausea, and often a painful enlarged lymph node (in the groin area or armpit). Plague is a reportable disease – this means that health care providers and laboratories that diagnose cases of laboratory-confirmed plague are required to report those cases to their local or state health departments, which in turn report the cases to the CDC.  Signs of infection in dogs are usually open sores around the head and neck, and a veterinarian should be consulted immediately. Do not allow hunting dogs or pets near established prairie dog colonies, because they may become infested with plague-carrying fleas and may become ill and/or bring the infected fleas into your home or onto your property, increasing the risk of human infection.

Q fever

Q fever is a disease caused by the Coxiella burnetii bacteria. Cattle, sheep and goats are the primary reservoirs of C. burnetii, but cats, dogs, some wild mammals, birds and ticks are also natural reservoirs. The bacteria can be present in high numbers in the birth tissues (e.g., amniotic fluid, placenta and uterus) of infected animals and in lower numbers from their milk, urine, vaginal mucus, semen and manure/feces. The nesting sites of infected animals pose a high risk for infection. The bacteria most often infects humans and animals through an aerosol route – as the infected fluids dry, the bacteria remains in the dust. Infection can also develop following ingestion of contaminated, unpasteurized dairy products.  Both people and dogs can become infected with Q fever. In humans, Q fever is often mistaken for a flu or cold; symptoms include fever, chills, headache, muscle pain, weakness and severe sweats, usually lasting 2 weeks. There is a possibility of complications involving the lungs, nervous system or heart. Q fever is a reportable disease – this means that health care providers and laboratories that diagnose cases of laboratory-confirmed Q fever are required to report those cases to their local or state health departments, which in turn report the cases to the CDC.  Many animals do not exhibit signs of the disease, but infected dogs can shed the bacteria in their urine or milk and serve as sources of infection of their owners. Although not common in the U.S., C. burnetii can cause abortions and placental disease in horses.


Rabies is caused by different variants (similar to strains) of the rabies virus. The virus is transmitted primarily through bites and causes severe damage to the brain. Non-bite transmission of the rabies virus is very rare but can occur through scratches, abrasions, open wounds or mucous membranes contaminated with saliva or other potentially infectious material (such as brain tissue) from a rabid animal. Once clinical signs of rabies are observed, it is 100% fatal in animals and almost 100% fatal in humans.  In the United States, rabies is most common in raccoons, foxes, skunks and bats. The virus can infect any mammal, and there are documented cases of rabies in many wildlife and domestic species.  The symptoms of human rabies cases can vary, but early symptoms may include fever, headache, sore throat, tingling at the site of the bite and fatigue. As the disease progresses, infected humans can develop disorientation, paralysis, hallucinations, seizures, coma and death.  Rabies is a reportable disease – this means that health care providers and laboratories that diagnose cases of laboratory-confirmed rabies are required to report those cases to their local or state health departments, which in turn report the cases to the CDC. Suspected cases are also reportable to local and state health departments.  The first clinical signs of rabies seen in animals are usually nonspecific and may include lethargy, vomiting, fever and anorexia (loss of appetite). Signs rapidly progress and in days may include restlessness, confusion/disorientation, ataxia/incoordination, lameness, hypersalivation, weakness, paralysis, aggression, self mutilation, tremors, seizures, choking, or difficulty breathing or swallowing. Contrary to popular belief, rabid dogs are more likely to exhibit lethargy and paralysis than aggression. Do not take any extraordinary risks if you do see a potentially rabid animal – the presence of a potentially rabid animal should be reported to the proper authorities. If it is necessary to kill the animal before the proper authorities can be contacted or can arrive, try to avoid killing the animal by a head shot or causing any trauma to the animal's head – the brain must be intact for rabies to be confirmed. Do not handle any potentially rabid animals without proper protection (such as gloves), and avoid any contact with the animal's mouth, eyes and nose.

If you are bitten or come into physical contact (scratches or direct contact with the brain or saliva) with a potentially rabid animal, immediately wash the area with soap and water. Contact your physician immediately; rabies is almost always fatal if not treated immediately. Also contact the local or state health department.  View the AVMA's World Rabies Day page for more information.

Raccoon Roundworm (Baylisascaris procyonis)

The raccoon roundworm, Baylisascaris procyonis, is a large parasitic worm that lives in the intestines of raccoons, although over 90 species of mammals, including dogs, rabbits, rodents, birds and humans can become infected with it. It is a common parasite in raccoons and has been reported throughout the U.S. (mainly in the Northeast, midAtlantic, Midwest and West Coast states).  The adult worms shed millions of microscopic eggs that are passed through the infected animal's stool into the soil, where the eggs can survive for months or even years. Humans become infected through accidentally eating eggs in contaminated food or water, or through contact with raccoon feces or objects that have been contaminated with raccoon feces. Because raccoons tend to use specific "latrine" areas, there can be a very high number of infective eggs in the soil in these areas.  While the worm does not cause harm to raccoons, it can cause serious illness in humans. Symptoms include nausea, lethargy, liver enlargement and loss of muscle control, eventually resulting in coma and blindness. Deaths are rare, but permanent liver, eye or brain damage can occur.  Dogs can be infected with the raccoon roundworm by contact with the stool of infected raccoons (or soil or water contaminated by the stool) or by contact with (or eating) the intestinal contents of an infected raccoon. Signs of illness include fatigue, blindness, incoordination and other nervous system problems. It is possible that an infected dog could shed eggs that can infect its owner. It has been suggested that monthly heartworm preventives may decrease the risk of infection in dogs.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (tick-borne typhus fever) and other spotted fevers

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) is caused by the Rickettsia ricketsii bacteria and can be transmitted to hunters via tick bites. Person-to-person transmission does not occur.  Symptoms of RMSF usually appear within 3 to 14 days after the bite of an infected tick, with moderate to high fever (which may last for 2 to 3 weeks), severe headache, fatigue, muscle aches, chills and skin rash. The rash looks like blood spots or heavy freckles, explaining the "spotted fever" part of the name, and begins on the legs and arms and may include the soles of the feet and palms of the hands, spreading rapidly to the rest of the body. It is important to note that not everyone who has RMSF will develop a rash. RMSF is a reportable disease – this means that health care providers and laboratories that diagnose cases of laboratory-confirmed RMSF are required to report those cases to their local or state health departments, which in turn report the cases to the CDC.  In dogs, the first sign observed is usually a high fever, occurring 4-5 days after a bite from an infected tick. Blood spots (pinpoint or larger in size) may be seen on the lips, gums and nonhaired (or shorthaired) areas of the dog's skin. The dog's legs may swell, as well as the lips, ears and sheath. In the late stages of the disease, or sometimes during recovery, the damage in the legs can be severe enough that sloughing of the skin and tissues can occur. There are new spotted fevers being detected worldwide that are similar to RMSF, and these are also transferred via tick bites. In the United States, the most frequently diagnosed rickettsial infection associated with hunters returning from international travel is African tick bite fever.

Salmonellosis (Salmonella species)

Salmonellosis is a bacterial infection caused by Salmonella species. There are many Salmonella species that can cause infection and illness. Many species of animals, including pets, livestock, reptiles, birds and wildlife, can be infected and can spread Salmonella. These bacteria usually infect the intestinal tract but also can be found in urine, blood or in other body tissues.  Salmonella bacteria are spread through fecal-oral transmission; an infected person or animal sheds the bacteria in their stool, and others are infected by accidentally eating the bacteria after they have touched a contaminated surface or have had contact with infected stool. The bacteria are invisible to the naked eye, and people can become infected even if they don't see the contamination.  Symptoms in humans and animals may include mild to severe diarrhea, stomach pain, fever and vomiting. Infections in the bloodstream are rare but potentially can be very dangerous. Salmonellosis is a reportable disease – this means that health care providers and laboratories that diagnose cases of laboratory-confirmed salmonellosis are required to report those cases to their local or state health departments, which in turn report the cases to the CDC.

Sarcoptic mange

Sarcoptic mange is a skin disease caused by sarcoptic mange mites, which are found nationwide. This mange can be found in feral swine, foxes, coyotes and wolves, as well as in big game (including moose, elk, caribou, lions and water buffalo). It is spread by contact from animal to animal or from an infected environment to an animal and becomes more common when animal populations are high and contact is more likely.  Sarcoptic mange mites burrow through the top layer of the dog's skin and cause intense itching. Clinical signs include generalized hair loss, a skin rash and crusting. Skin infections may develop secondary to the intense irritation. It usually appears first in the hind end and tail regions, and gradually expands up along the back to the head.  People who come in close contact with an affected dog may develop a skin rash and should see their physician. When hunters come across an infected carcass, they should burn or bury the carcass, and as always, when dealing with a wild animal carcass, gloves should be worn and the workplace disinfected afterwards. If a dog comes in contact with a mange-infested carcass, prompt use of mite-killing topical products can prevent infection. Consult your veterinarian for a product recommendation.


Toxoplasmosis is caused by Toxoplasma gondii, a single-celled parasite.  A person can get toxoplasmosis by eating raw or undercooked meat, especially venison, lamb or pork, or from consuming unpasteurized milk or milk products. Humans can also get toxoplasmosis by consuming food, water, or soil contaminated with cat feces.  Healthy people rarely develop toxoplasmosis. If illness occurs, symptoms include fever and swollen lymph nodes. Eye problems can also occur. Less common symptoms include skin rash, fatigue and muscle pain, and serious cases (usually in persons with weakened immune systems) develop pneumonia and central nervous system (brain or spinal cord) disorders. If a pregnant woman becomes infected, it may result in severe birth defects or death of the baby.  Dogs can become infected with T. gondii, but it is uncommon for them to develop illness. Illness is more likely to develop in dogs with weakened immune systems, and the signs of illness include incoordination, weakness and seizures.  Preventive measures include thoroughly cooking meat and using proper food hygiene (washing hands and utensils after contact with raw food, washing fruit before eating it, etc.) Avoid eating raw eggs or unpasteurized milk.


Tularemia is caused by infection with Francisella tularensis bacteria, commonly found in the United States in rabbits, squirrels, muskrats, beavers, prairie dogs, cats, bobcats, deer and sheep. Rabbits are the most common source of tularemia in the United States. It is a potentially fatal disease. It can be spread to animals and people by deerflies and other insects. Tularemia is a reportable disease— this means that health care providers and laboratories that diagnose cases of laboratory-confirmed tularemia are required to report those cases to their local or state health departments, which in turn report the cases to the CDC.  Historically, people that work outdoors (landscapers, etc.) have been more likely to be infected with tularemia. Hunters are at risk of exposure because of the amount of time they spend outdoors and in their handling of game species prone to infection.  Note: Rabbit meat can remain infective even after being frozen several years.  Symptoms of tularemia in people usually include skin lesions and swollen glands. If the infection is caused by eating infected meat, symptoms may include sore throat, intestinal pain, diarrhea and vomiting. Inhalation of the bacteria may produce a fever or may also cause a pneumonia-like illness. While the symptoms may appear anywhere from 2-10 days after exposure, they usually appear after 3 days. Simple measures can be taken to minimize the risk of tularemia, including wearing rubber gloves when handling or dressing game (especially rabbits) and always thoroughly cook rabbit and/or squirrel meat as well as using protective clothing and insect repellants and check for ticks frequently.    Dogs can be affected by tularemia, but the signs observed may be mild and nonspecific. The signs that may be observed are related to the mode of transmission and include fever, depression, mucopurulent (mucus with pus) discharge from the nose and/or eyes, pustules at the sites of contact, swollen lymph nodes, and loss of appetite. In most cases, the disease is self-limiting with supportive treatment. 


West Nile Virus

African mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus (WNV) first arrived in New York City in 1999. The virus has since spread throughout North America. The virus infects wild birds, and mosquitoes then transfer the virus to other animals and to humans.   Approximately 20% of people who are exposed to the virus via mosquito bites develop symptoms. Approximately 1% develops encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the linings of the brain or spinal cord) that can lead to death. West Nile Virus infection is a reportable disease – this means that health care providers and laboratories that diagnose cases of laboratory-confirmed West Nile Virus infecitons are required to report those cases to their local or state health departments, which in turn report the cases to the CDC. Since 1999, there have been 17,000 reported cases and more than 650 deaths due to West Nile virus infection.  Sudden bird die-offs can indicate the presence of West Nile virus in the area. Hunters should report any noticeable increase in dead birds to the state or local agenciesAvoid handling dead birds. Hunters should avoid handling dead birds they encounter that have not been shot during the hunt. Follow the state or local health department's instructions regarding what to do with the dead bird. If instructed to dispose of the bird, use gloves or protect your hands with a plastic bag to place the bird carcass in a garbage bag and dispose of it in the trash.  Dogs are not likely to show signs of disease when infected with the West Nile virus.  Horses infected with WNV usually develop signs of disease within 7 days. Signs include behavioral changes, incoordination, stumbling, depression, anxiety, weakness, inability to stand, localized muscle twitches, seizures, coma and death.



Clinical Trials at University of Pennsylvania for Cats & Dogs....Your Pet May Qualify

If you would like to learn more about any of Penn's studies, please call 215-573-0302 or email

Hypertension in Cats with Chronic Kidney Disease

Investigational medication to treat high blood pressure in cats with kidney disease

Feline Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma


Cats with FIV

Oral Health & Kidney Disease in CatsVaccine for Dogs with Bone Cancer

Lymphoma Classification for Dogs 

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) for Dobermans

Arthritis Assessment