Dogs make you feel alive. They are naturally very interactive and seem happiest when they have business to attend to…even if that business is having a snooze! The problems dogs find themselves in are often related to their environment and lifestyle. The West Boulevard Veterinary Clinic is in a very urban area (albeit their are lots of trails and beaches). The problems we encounter likely different from those seen in a more rural community.
However, that being said, dogs tend to present with their own group of issues.
Lameness is a very common presentation with severity running the gamut from minor stains to major fractures. The issues seem to relate to degree and type of activity, whether the dog is kept on or allowed to go off leash and what genetic issues the breed is likely to be faced with. Young dogs often present lameness associated with growth disparity and underlying genetic or congenital issues. As their bodies mature lameness is more related to activity and lifestyle. Strained or torn ligaments, tendons and muscles , punctures, lacerations and fractures are not uncommon. Blistered and abraded pads and foreign bodies in pads are frequently encountered. Intravertebral disc disease (IVDD) is very painful. Dogs with this condition can progress from to paralysis if not carefully managed. They are the issues of an active life! Arthritis is frequently encountered as dogs age. Fortunately veterinarians and caregivers can work together to minimize how this entity hinders a pet’s lifestyle. Adjusting activity levels and type, choosing diets with appropriate formulations, utilizing nutritional supplements are initial ways to combat arthritis. As it progresses parenteral medications can be employed to maximize the health of joints, decrease inflammation and mediate pain. Acupuncture is a modality that really helps with management of arthritis. Neoplasia can also cause lameness. Osteo and chondro sarcomas are examples of cancers seen causing severe lameness.
Gastro-intestinal upsets are very common in dogs. Their dietary discretion is not always the best…and these indiscretions can result in tummy upsets of various magnitudes. Dogs are frequently presented due to vomiting and/or diarrhea. By listening to the caregivers history of the situation while observing the pet (and if available samples of what it has expelled) gives a veterinarian the first indication of what may be going on. Next comes a thorough physical examination followed by laboratory tests, radiographs and/or ultrasonograhy if so indicated. Whether tests are run or images taken depends on what the veterinarian feels the current circumstance warrants. Once the likely cause ,and effect on the body has been determined, then an appropriate treatment plan can be developed. Not all GI upsets are due what has been ingested. Regardless of cause the same tools are used when determining cause, effect and treatment.
Skin issues are another problem that are seen in dogs. The causes are varied. However ectoparasites (fleas, mites, lice, ticks ) are often the underlying culprit. Allergies are also high on the list of things that upset skin. Fortunately in our demographic area most dogs are very well groomed but occasionally we will see skin issues secondary to poor hygiene and inadequate grooming. Endocrine disorders with skin manifestations are not uncommon in dogs. Although we frequently see lumps in the skin (both cancerous and benign) we do not see generalized skin cancer on a wide scale basis. There are also a group of skin issues related to hereditary problems with the make up of the skin itself.
Eye issues are frequently encountered in dogs. Again it seems this is often related to lifestyle and allergies. A mild irritation and itchiness can progress to serious corneal ulcers if left unattended. Other serious problems commonly encountered are Keratitis sicca (dry eye) and glaucoma.
Dental disease of varying degrees is detected on a regular basis. However it is rarely what people notice themselves. It tends to be noticed when dogs are in for general examinations or are being examined for other reasons. If dental disease or trauma results in frank bleeding from the mouth or nose that is when dogs are presented for dental problems.
Heart disease is seen in dogs. Fortunately, in our practice, heart problems are usually detected in the early stages during the course of general examinations. Early detection allows for early treatment and management and the prevention of congestive heart failure.
Urinary tract disorders quickly get the attention of owners. Dogs that urinate too much, can’t urinate or urinate blood are noticed by their owners. The process of solving the problem will be beginning to sound familiar! A history, observation, examination and testing helps determine cause of the problem, effect and required treatment and/or management plans. Management involving appropriate diet and/or antibiotics is often required. Some cases require surgery to alleviate the problem.
Behavioural problems are seen all too often. The scope of these is wide…separation anxiety, aggressiveness, timidity, inappropriate defecation/urination are some of the most common reasons for presentation. Many issues are a direct result of lifestyle and environment. Others have a basis in the nature of the breed. Regardless of presentation or cause all are serious. They are serious because they impede the relationship between the caregiver and the dog…they impede the very reason for having a dog. If the issue isn’t resolved the relationship will be, or remain, broken. Broken relationships lead to a downward spiral that can result in rehoming (sometimes many times over and/or euthanasia or abandonment).
Fortunately most dogs are healthy and, other than routine maintenance care, their trips to the veterinarian are few and far between.