Thursday, April 24th6.5°C
Dr. Moshe Oz

Tick borne diseases

The Okanagan Valley is considered a warm area in the spring and summer. Ticks are one of the infectious agents that are more active in warm weather and put our pets at risk of contracting different diseases. Ticks attach to warm blooded beings, including humans, and suck their blood for their survival. In the action of penetrating to the blood circulation, ticks may transmit diseases to the host. There are few different tick borne diseases, however most of the the tick borne diseases are not prevalent in the Okanagan. The two tick borne diseases that are common are Lyme disease and Tick paralysis.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by a bacteria called “Borrelia burgdorferi” and is transmitted by the common deer tick. Cats can get infected but are much less susceptible to the disease than dogs. Not all the dogs that are exposed to the bacteria will actually get sick. If the body and the dog’s immune system is strong, the dog might fight the bacteria without developing the disease symptoms. Clinical illness in dogs usually occurs 2 to 5 months after a bite from an infected tick.

Dogs may show several different forms of the disease.  The most common symptoms are fever, swelling in the joints, lameness, enlarged lymph nodes, lethargy, and loss of appetite. Less commonly, Lyme disease can lead to kidney failure. Some dogs may also develop heart problems or nervous system disease after being infected with B. burgdorferi.

Dogs do not develop the typical skin rash redness and rushes around the bite which is a common symptom in people. The diagnosis of Lyme disease is based on the clinical symptoms, a positive blood test, and good response to treatment. Dogs that have been vaccinated or were exposed to the bacteria, but did not develop the disease may show a positive result on the blood test.

Lyme disease is treated by a long course of Antibiotics (usually between 14-30 days). Pain control medications are often required when the joints are affected by the disease. The response to treatment should be fairly rapid. If an animal that is suspected of having Lyme disease does not clinically improve within 48 hours of starting antibiotic therapy, it is best to assume that the problem is not Lyme disease and other diagnostic tests would need to be done to find the source of the problem.

Tick paralysis is the only tick borne disease that is not caused by an infectious organism. The illness is caused by a toxin produced in the tick and transmitted to the animal through the tick’s saliva. This toxin affects the animal nervous system. Early signs may include change or loss of voice, vomiting and dilatation of the pupils.

The paralysis starts gradually, first by back leg weakness and incoordination, which turns into complete paralysis. Eventually the animal becomes unable to move its back and front legs, stand, sit, or lift its head. The paralysis also affects the respiratory system which leads to laboured breathing and eventually respiratory failure.

The diagnosis of the condition may be difficult. Specific laboratory diagnostic techniques are not available for the confirmation of tick paralysis. The diagnosis is based on finding a tick on the pet along with the characteristic clinical signs. Many times the tick is no longer present on the animal at the time of diagnosis. Removal of all ticks usually results in obvious improvement within 24 hours. Failure to recover indicates that at least one tick may be still be attached, or that the diagnosis should be reviewed.

With both Lyme disease and Tick paralysis prevention is the key. Tick control is probably the most important thing an owner can do to prevent tick borne diseases. There are a few recommended topical products available for tick control. Those products are very easy to apply. There is also a vaccine available against Lyme disease. Avoiding contracting the disease is so much easier then treating and recovering from the diseases. Please consult your veterinarian for more information on tick borne diseases and tick control protocols.


Understanding Feline Flu

Over the last week I have received numerous phone calls from concerned cats owners that have read the news about the cat in Calgary who died from H1N1 infection. The Feline Flu or in its professional name, Feline upper respiratory Complex, is a very common disease in cats.

However H1N1 ( Avian Influenza (flu) Virus) is only rarely the cause for these upper respiratory infections in cats.

Upper respiratory complex in cats is wrongly known to most people as Cats Flu. Flu is a disease that is caused by the Influenza virus. Despite its name, the common cats flu, usually does not refer to an infection by an Influenza virus. In fact the Feline upper respiratory infection is caused by a complex of few pathogens, including two viruses Feline Herpes Virus and Feline Calici Virus, and two bacteria: Bordatella Bronchoseptica (similar to dogs Kennel cough) and Chlamidophila Felis.

Feline Upper respiratory Complex in cats is a highly contagious disease.

The initial symptoms of the disease are coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, eye infections, and sometimes fever and loss of appetite. These symptoms can either resolve within four to seven days, however secondary bacterial infections can cause the persistence of clinical signs for weeks. The infection is primarily located in the upper respiratory tract. However, in very young, old or immunosuppressed animals the infection can spread into the lower part of the respiratory system, and affect the lungs as well. Although in general feline upper respiratory syndrome tends to be mild and transient, in these groups of animals the disease can be fatal. Herpes Virus in particular can also permanently damage the eyes.

Calici Virus can lead to other complications beyond affecting the respiratory system. The most common are chronic ulcers in the mouth and chronic infection of the mouth- stomatitis. In addition to stomatitis, some cats may develop polyarthritis (inflammation of the multiple joints). Stomatitis and polyarthritis can develop without any upper respiratory infection signs, but fever and loss of appetite may occur. Less commonly the cat may develop kidney infection as well. The great variability of clinical signs in individual cases of Feline Calici Virus is related to the relative virulence of different strains of the virus. Diagnosis by your vet is usually based on the typical signs associated with this syndrome and exclusion of other causes. Testing for Calici Virus and Herpes Virus involves collecting a mouth or eye swab which is then sent to a specialized veterinary laboratory where the virus can be identified. Isolating the causative agent is important in more severe cases for the determination of the prognosis and long term outcome.

The treatment focuses mainly on the secondary bacterial infection and is done by a relatively long course of antibiotics. Affected cats are often reluctant to eat – they will have a poor sense of smell and eating may also be uncomfortable. Using soft, highly aromatic foods (for example kitten foods, fish in oil) that are gently warmed will help to tempt an inappetent cat. There are few anti-viral eye drops available to treat the eye infections, if present.
Lysin is an important protein that can be given as a food additive. Adding Lysin to the cat’s diet over a period of few months, can aid with strengthening the cat’s immunity and its ability to fight the viruses.
Most cats that recover from the infection with the upper respiratory viral infection will become ‘carriers’. Carrier cats usually show no sign of illness but, may shed virus in saliva, tears and nasal secretions, and can be a source of infection to other cats.
Similarly to humans that suffer from Herpes virus (cold sores), most cats that have been affected by Herpes virus will carry it for life. The infection may not ever appear again or recur at times of stress or immunosuppression.
As for prevention, fortunately there are vaccines available against Herpes and Calici viruses. These vaccines are recommended for all cats, irrespective of how they are kept (even if kept totally indoors), as the diseases are so ubiquitous. However, although vaccination usually prevents severe disease developing, they cannot always prevent infection from occurring and so mild disease may still develop in some cats. In addition, Calici virus tends to undergo mutations so various different stains are present. This fact makes the vaccination for the disease challenging and can reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine.

If there is more than one cat in a household, it is important to try to minimize the risk of infection being spread to the other cats. This is not always possible, but in addition to ensuring that all cats are vaccinated, where possible, a cat showing clinical signs should be kept isolated from the other cats (e.g., confined to one room). Separate food bowls and litter trays should be used, and ideally the cat should be kept in a room that has very easy to disinfect surfaces (i.e., not soft furnishings and carpet). These viruses are susceptible to most disinfectants, but take care to use any disinfectant carefully – most are irritant to cats if they come into direct contact with the disinfectant.

Back pain in pets

Back pain is the bane of many people’s life. We are in good company, as it turns out as our four legged furry friends are not immune to back pain either.

The spinal cord is one of the most important and sensitive organs in the body. It is responsible for the transmission of the neurologic signals from the brain to the rest of the body and vise versa, hence responsible for the motor ability, sensation and reflexes. If it is damaged, the nerve cells do not regenerate but are replaced with fibrous or scar tissue. Spinal cord injuries may result in a permanent paralysis.

Spinal cord injuries may be a result of trauma (for example hit by car or sports injuries), arthritis of the vertebral column which leads to anatomical changes in the vertebrae, infections or even tumors. The most common reason for back pain in dogs is intervertebral disc disease. This condition is rare in cats.

Due to its sensitivity, the spinal cord is protected in a very special fashion. It runs through the vertebral column which protects it. It is basically surrounded by bones everywhere except in the junctions between the vertebrae. This  junctions between two adjacent vertebrae are filled by rubber like cushions called intervertebral discs. These discs are allowing the spinal flexibility and also serve as shock absorbers. There are two types of intervertebral disc disease. The disc material undergoes chemical changes, it loses its elasticity, and ultimately ruptures (in type 1) or bulges (in type 2) causing a direct pressure on the spinal cord . Pressure on the spinal cord results in pain and/or loss of information transmission causing partial or complete paralysis.

Type 1 of the disease is the more common form (80% of cases). This condition is genetically inherited and most common in: Dachshunds, Beagles, Lhasa Apsos, Pekingese, Shih Tzus, miniature Poodles, and Cocker Spaniels. These breeds often start to develop the condition as puppies, although the signs usually don’t appear until the age of 3-6 years.

The type 2 of the condition is seen most often in large breed dogs, usually older then 5 years of age.

Dogs with back pain will be hunched over, or have their spine twisted to one side. The dog may have trouble moving and jumping or cry when you pick it  up. Severe cases result in a partial or complete paralysis.

The diagnosis of disc disease is not straightforward. After the initial information gathering the vet will conduct a physical exam. It is important to distinguish between back pain and abdominal pain. This can be challenging at times because many of the conditions that cause severe abdominal pain may appear as back pain. Once the vet establishes that the pain originates from the back he may suggest performing X-rays. Since neither the disc nor the spinal cord are visible on X-rays, the test may suggest but cannot prove the disc herniation.  It can also help in ruling out the other causes of back pain. Disc disease is proven by performing either Myelogram, a specialized radiographic technique  that involves injection of contrast dye to the spinal cord in order to pinpoint the location of the spinal compression, or by performing CT.

The treatment for disc disease depends on the duration and severity of the condition. Conservative treatment of medication and strict cage rest may help in relieving the pressure on the spine. Surgical treatment is the only option for an actual removal of collapsed disc material. The surgery is not risk free and is recommended only in cases of complete paralysis or when there was no improvement with the medication treatment.

Unfortunately disc disease cannot be prevented, but if your dog belongs to the breeds that are prone to the disease you should be more cautious and try to decrease any shocks to the spinal cord. Do not encourage your dog to jump. When you play fetch, roll the ball on the ground rather than throwing it high in the air. Hold your dog in your arms when going up and down the stairs and pick it up and down from furniture.

Take your dog to the vet when you notice the first signs of back pain. Early diagnosis may help in affecting the prognosis of your dog. 


You can contact Dr. Oz via his website:


A new pet for Christmas

Pets are often given as a Christmas present to loved ones. The holiday season is hectic on its own, adding a new pet on top of that can increase everybody’s stress. Here are some tips on how to smooth up the process and ease the transition period.

As a pet lover I believe that pets are an essential part of one’s life and can bring so much joy and happiness along with them, hence can be the perfect present. However, adopting a pet is a long term commitment, this decision will affect your life for many years to come. Choosing the right type of pet is crucial for a successful adoption.

First I would like to stress that people who choose to add a pet to the family as a present to their child should take into consideration that most probably, when the novelty period is gone, the daily care of the pet will fall on the parents. Before you commit to a new pet, think if this is something that suits you.

A pet can be anything from a fish to snake. Most people go with the conventional house pets- cats and dogs. Cats in general are more easily adaptable, hence this article will focus more on dogs.

When choosing the type of pet you want, think of your lifestyle and what pet will fit it best. For an example if you have a busy lifestyle working most days outside of home, maybe a cat is better fit for you than a dog.

Dog lovers often have a specific breed they love the most. Large breed dogs are very popular amongst dog lovers. However large breed dogs are not for everyone. Large breed dogs require more daily physical exercise, and they cost more to feed and maintain. It sounds very “cold”, but these are actually factors that need to be weighed in, when committing yourself to a dog. Pure breed dogs are usually very popular as well. Each breed has its own specific features that are very appealing to people. However, unfortunately pure breed dogs carry specific diseases or medical conditions in their genes. Some breeds are more affected than others.  Mixed breed dogs can be equally adorable, and often bear less chances of genetic predisposition to specific conditions.

Upon the adoption make sure to receive all the medical information about the pet and its vaccine and deworming record. Take your new pet to be checked by a vet  for the protection of the pet itself and the other family members' health.

The transition period can be very stressful to the pet, especially to young animals that have been separated from their mother. This stress can affect the animal’s behaviour. Expect accidents even in house trained pets - this is very normal and shouldn't alarm you. Extra crying or howling is also very normal. Many animals will be shy for few days and make strange; give them time and let them adjust in their own pace.

Please bear in mind that dogs in the transition period or puppies may damage different objects in your house. This can be a part of teething in puppies or a behavioral manifestation of separation anxiety. Dogs do not damage your house out of spite. This either a cry for help or a part of their normal development. Being aware and avoiding the situation can spare you a lot of grief. Consider confining the dog in a safe area, either by a crate or baby gates until you are confident that the dog has eliminated this habit. Supplying the dog with safe dog toys may satisfy its need for chewing.

Make sure your home is pet proof. Limit the animal’s access to any hazards such as medications, uncovered electric cords, poisons such as antifreeze, rodenticides, fertilization, etc.  

Before you bring the pet home make sure you have a bed ready for it, as well as pet food and litter box for a cat.

Dogs need a collar and a leash. Do not be tempted to walk the dog without a leash, even if you think the dog has gotten used to you by now. In any case I encourage people to always walk dogs on a leash, this is much safer for them, especially to a new dog, where the dog-owner relationship has not been completely established yet. I also recommend to my clients to add identification devices to their pets. It can be done by a collar tag or by permanent means such as a tattoo or microchip.

If you received the pet with food it used to be fed with and you want to change it, do it gradually. Mix the old food with the new food over a few days, and gradually increase the ratio of the new food. Pets can be sensitive and can easily express digestion problems such as vomiting and/or diarrhea due to change of diet.

In case where you are adding a pet to an already existing family with a pet, first make sure that both pets are healthy and vaccinated up to date.

When first introducing dogs to one another, I recommend to have the encounter outdoors and outside of the former dog's territory. First let the dogs get acquainted and play for a while before you allow the new dog into the home.

Introducing a cat and a dog may be more complicated. If you are not sure about the dog’s reaction, consider using a muzzle for a few days. Closely control the contact  between the two animals. Letting the dog sniff the new cat through a closed door is recommended before the actual encounter.

Make sure that children are very gentle with the pet. Closely control every contact between the children and the pet until all parties are well adjusted.

Adding a new member to the family is a major event in life. Before actually doing so, research all aspects of it. Prepare yourself, your family and your home by reading information on the type of animal that will be joining you. Involving a vet and a pet trainer is also very much recommended for a successful adoption.


Dr. Oz can be reached at

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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