Sunday, September 21st16.9°C
Dr. Moshe Oz

Feline Hyperthyroidism

Eating endlessly but still losing weight, that would sounds like a dream come true to many of us. However, for the feline population, this phenomenon is a sign of a serious, yet quite common metabolic disorder called Hyperthyroidism.

The thyroid glands are organs situated in the neck and secrete hormones that are responsible for the pace of all of the processes in the body (also known as metabolism).

Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland produces excess of its hormones and every function of the body tends to speed up resulting in multi-systemic disease.

Hyperthyroidism is probably the most common endocrine (hormonal) disorder in cats. It occurs in middle age-older cats, with no breed or sex predilection.

In the vast majority of cases the increased thyroid hormone production is due to a benign (non-cancerous) change but a malignant (cancerous) tumor known as a thyroid adenocarcinoma can also be an underlying cause of some cases of hyperthyroidism.

Cats affected with hyperthyroidism usually develop a variety of clinical signs, which are usually quite subtle at first, but then become more severe as the disease progresses.

The most common symptom is weight loss despite an increased appetite. Many cats also show signs of restlessness, increased drinking and urination, intermittent vomiting and diarrhea.

The multi-systemic effects of hyperthyroidism lead to a variety of symptoms depending on the affected organ. Also, as this disease occurs mostly in older cats, some affected cats will have other diseases that can complicate and even mask some of the clinical signs.

The most common secondary complications of hyperthyroidism are high blood pressure, cardiac failure and renal failure.

In my experience, many cats are unfortunately diagnosed much too late when they have one of the most devastating outcomes of the cardiac dysfunction, associated with hyperthyroidism - back legs paralysis - resulting from a blood clot lodge in the main blood vessel supplying the back legs. This condition has a very poor prognosis for recovery.

On physical examination, your veterinarian can assess the cat’s body condition. One or two enlarged thyroid glands can often be felt as a small, firm mass in the neck.

Hyperthyroidism is easily confirmed by a blood test, measuring the level of the hormones associated with the thyroid gland. A general blood and urine test are also recommended in order to assess the secondary effects on the body organs.

Due to the toxic effect of the thyroid gland hyperfunction on the heart, it is important to assess the heart function. The first and easiest test is measuring the cat’s blood pressure. If secondary heart disease is suspected then an electrocardiogram (ECG), and a chest X-ray or ultrasound may be indicated.

Despite the possibility of horrific outcome of hyperthyroidism, if caught on time, it is actually fairly easy to manage.  The most common treatment for hyperthyroidism is life long anti-thyroid drug administration. Radioactive iodine therapy also exists but it is not readily available in most of the veterinary practices. Surgical removal of the glands is also an option.

Clinical signs associated with hyperthyroidism can be quite dramatic and cats can become seriously ill with this condition. However, I find that because this condition progress over time, many cat owners have a hard time noticing the weight changes in their pet. I was witness to a few cases where the owners only noticed the change in their pet after spending a few days away, on a vacation for example. This is where an annual health check at your vet comes in handy. Your veterinarian can notice abnormalities that you as the owner may overlook. If diagnosed on time, most cases of hyperthyroidism are controllable and prolongation of life, while maintaining a good quality of life is very possible.


Arthritis in dogs

Arthritis. I’m sure most, if not all of the senior readers will be able to relate to this topic.  

Arthritis is a group of disorders associated with the bones and joints. The meaning of the term Arthritis is an inflammation of the joint. There are a few different types of arthritis. Some of them are related to auto-immune diseases, where the body attacks the joints as if they were foreign, which leads to an inflammation reaction. More commonly Arthritis is a result of old age changes in the joints due to wear and tear of the joints.

If you have noticed some changes in your dog lately, such as: Is it less active? Does it have a problem rising from lying position? Is it favoring one leg? Is it more stiff lately? If the answer is "yes" to any of these questions, your dog might be suffering from Arthritis.

The joint inflammation damage starts as an erosion of the cartilage which causes loss of the cushioning effect of the joint leading to bones rubbing against each other. This process leads to permanent changes to the bones involved and accumulation of fluids in the joint. Those changes are typical to an inflammatory reaction, which is naturally very painful.

There are many symptoms of Arthritis. The symptoms are generally associated with the pain resulting from using the affected joint. Hence dogs with Arthritis might favor one leg. They might be slow or reluctant to get up or to lie down. They also may be reluctant to go for a walk or may want to go back home early in the walk. They may be reluctant to go up or down the stairs. They may hesitate to jump up to the couch or let out a little yelp when they jump off the couch. Sometimes you will notice that your dog is stiff early in the morning or at the beginning of a walk but appears to improve as it “warms up”.

So what can you do to help your buddy? Well the changes that are associated with arthritis may not be reversible but there are measures you can take in order to slow down the process and improve your furry friend’s quality of life.

First, if you suspect Arthritis in your dog take it to see your Veterinarian. The Vet will examine the dog. The Vet will perform a physical exam which will include passive movement of the joints to check for a pain reaction or restrictive movement range of the joint. The Vet might also suggest performing an X-ray exam in order to visualize the changes in the affected joints. This will either confirm or rule out Arthritis.

Arthritis is treated with a group of drugs that are called “Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory” drugs. These medications control the inflammation reaction in the joints and the pain associated with it. Humans are also using many drugs of this group such as Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen but NEVER give your dog a human drug without consulting your Vet because these drugs are toxic for pets. Even the veterinary version of the drugs possess some potential hazards, so your Vet might suggest performing blood work before prescribing the medication, and periodic blood work while your dog is on the medication.

You can also give your dog food additives such as Glucosamine, Chondroitin Sulfate or Omega 3 fatty acids that are sold over the counter and have shown to help relieve the symptoms of Arthritis in dogs. You can also find prescription diets that contain those food supplements and support the joints. Keeping your dog active can help in both maintaining the range of motion in the joint and also maintaining normal body weight. Be aware that dogs with arthritis also like to lie on padded surfaces.

Arthritis is a common outcome of old age, unfortunately nobody can change that, but it is manageable, especially if diagnosed early. Please consult your veterinarian about treating your dog’s Arthritis in order to keep you buddy comfortable, safe and happy.


Travelling with pets

The summer months are the official vacation time for many families. With the current school strike going on, many people are finding themselves on vacation sooner than they expected. If you consider going on a family getaway, don't be discouraged if you didn’t plan an arrangement for your pet. Owning a pet should not restrict you from travelling and going on vacations. Even hotels and airlines are acknowledging this fact and try to be accommodating for pets.

Before you travel there are few things you should think about in order to keep the trip safe and pleasurable for both you and your pet.

I strongly recommend that all pet owners put an identification tag on the pet’s collar and to consider injecting an identification microchip. A microchip is permanent and can’t be removed in case the pet is lost or stolen.

For the campers out there, it is recommended to administer deworming, tick and flea control and heartworm prevention medications to your pet. Heartworm is transmitted by mosquitoes and this is the peak of the season.

If you are planning a trip outside of the province or country you should also check to see if there is a specific prevalence of any infectious agent in your destination area that might require a specific preventative treatment.

Before traveling anywhere, make sure your pet's vaccinations are up to date. If you are planning on crossing an international border, including the United States, a Rabies vaccine is mandatory.

Whether you are traveling by air or by car, you should think about the factors that will make your pet comfortable and safe. When traveling by air, the pet has to be placed in a travelling crate.

Nowadays many people take their pet on overseas vacations. Some airlines even permit carrying a small pet on board with you.  If you are traveling with a large breed dog, check with your airline as to what the rules and restrictions are for the crate size and weight because those vary between the different airline companies. If your crate is very large you might face a problem with the airline or will be required to pay an extra fee. It is better to be well prepared and not to face unpleasant surprises on the day of the actual trip.

The pet should be comfortable in its crate. When you are choosing a travelling crate, make sure it is large enough to allow the animal stand, sit upright and lie down comfortably in the crate.

Make sure that the crate is not broken and that it can be latched securely. Label the crate with a “Live Animal” designation, and your contact numbers both at home and at the destination address.

Placing a familiar blanket and safe toys can help the animal feel more comfortable. It is very important to make sure that the crate is well ventilated. Some owners cover the crate to limit the pet’s vision and reduce stress. This cover should be removed before boarding the plane to ensure adequate air supply.

The question of whether to sedate the pet is always a dilemma to the owners. I usually recommend avoiding sedation if possible, and to sedate only animals that are extremely stressed.  Sedating an animal without being able to monitor it might bear some risks.

Make sure you put enough water in the crate that will last for the whole length of trip.

If the length of the trip and the medical condition of the pet allows it, it is better not to leave food in the crate and to feed soon after arriving at the destination.

When you travel by car you are not obligated to use a crate but I definitely recommend using a crate, especially when traveling with a cat. Cats tend to get extremely stressed in an unfamiliar situation and can escape very easily if not confined.

If your pet suffers from car sickness your vet can prescribe anti-nausea medications.

When traveling by car with a dog, it is recommended not to let it sit in the front passenger sit if there is an airbag in the car. It is better to place the dog in the back seat. You can find different car seat harnesses and other safety accessories in pet equipment stores. Remember to make frequent stops for the dog to drink, exercise and to relieve itself, and keep your dog on a leash at all times.



Treating bite wounds

Animals tend to bite in self defence, in an attempt to prey food, and as part of normal interactions. Occasionally the bite attacks may seem unprovoked.

One may be surprised to hear that dogs and cats mouths are probably one of the most contaminated organs in their body. Besides the fact that pets do not normally get their teeth brushed daily and plaque (layers of bacteria and debris)  is formed on their teeth, even their normal bacterial flora can cause severe infections if penetrated to other tissues of the body. Let alone the fact that some animals have the charming habit of eating other animals, or their own stool… Therefore, even a small bite wound can potentially have severe consequences.

Most sizes of bite wounds should be addressed and treated medically. Very small wounds act differently than large wounds but are not necessarily less severe in consequence. In fact, when the bite wound is very small, typical to cat bites, the external skin heals very fast. However, the bacteria that penetrated through the broken skin causes a local infection underneath the healed skin. This condition leads to a pocket of pus that is called an abscess. Abscesses tend to appear a few days after the bite occurred. Very commonly, the owner does not see the abscess under the fur but can readily notice that the pet is not feeling good, not being himself, has low appetite and is lethargic. If an abscess goes unnoticed, it is very likely to eventually burst. It is much better to  drain the abscess than to let it burst. When an abscess bursts spontaneously it often leaves a laceration that can not heal properly on its own without a surgical correction.

When an animal bites another animal that is significantly smaller than it, it tends to hold the bitten animal in its mouth and shake it (same behaviour that you would see dogs with a chewing toy in their mouth). This shaking causes a significant damage to the tissues under the skin. When a big dog is involved in the biting, you can be almost sure that the tissue damage is much greater than what you can visualize externally on the pet.

The approach to larger skin laceration and bite wounds is always surgical. The tissue needs to be thoroughly cleaned. An assessment to the integrity of internal organs or any other internal damage is made. Surgical correction of the wounds, often involves placing drains for a number of days, in order to reduce the large pockets formed by the shaking movements.

Any bite wounds case requires an antibiotic course to prevent the possible infections and severe complications that are so likely to arise.

If your animal was attacked by another animal it is highly recommended to take it to your vet right away. Even if the external wounds do not look serious to you, the potential of complications can be significantly reduced just by treating the pet with a preventative course of antibiotics. Obviously, every bite wound would be painful so pain control medication is recommended as well.

On top of bacterial infections animals can also transmit viruses. The most significant virus that can be transmitted by animal bites is rabies. Checking the biting dog's immunization status and making sure that your own pet is vaccinated are important steps  to be taken for the prevention of transmission of the diseases.

It is important for dogs owners to know the laws regarding bite wounds. The biting dog owners are liable for any damage caused by dog bites to persons or domestic animals.  If dogs attack or pose a nuisance to the safety of persons or domestic animals, an application can be made to the court that may order destruction of the dog or provide better control of the dog by making an order with conditions such as ensuring the dog is on a leash, muzzled, confined to a secure area, warning signs, or prohibition from owning a dog for a certain time.

This rule does not apply if the biting occurred where the dog is housed and the bitten animal trespassed into the biting dog property.

Therefore, the owners should take all the safety measures needed to prevent attacks. Always keep your dog on a leash.  A leash does not always completely prevent an attack, however, you have much more control of your dog if it is leashed.  If your dog can be aggressive, always muzzle it. If you live in proximity to an aggressive dog, make sure that your pet can not trespass to the property. Also keep it leashed any time you leave the house. The last bite wound case I treated was a tragic case in which neighbouring dogs attacked two small dogs, just on the driveway, two steps before the small dogs entered the family car.

Bottom line, dog bites can cause a horrific outcome. Know your pet, do not overlook its potential and ability to harm other living creatures or get hurt by other animals. Take basic safety measures. If your animal did get attacked by another animal, do not hesitate and take it to see your vet - it is better be safe than much more sorry down the road.

Read more Dr. Oz's Vet Advice articles


About the Author

Dr. Moshe Oz owns Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital, a small animal veterinary practice in West Kelowna. Dr. Oz has deep love and affection for animals. It was his childhood dream to become a veterinarian, a dream that he has fulfilled when he graduated with honours from KUVM,on 2006. Dr. Oz's special interest is Internal medicine and surgery. In his free time Dr. Oz enjoys training and racing triathlons, including the legendary Penticton's Ironman.

Dr. Oz can be contacted through his website:


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.

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