Saturday, December 28, 2013


In February 2013, Banana Joe became the first affenpinscher to win Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, increasing the popularity of the breed and bringing renewed attention to the “monkey faced” dog.
The affenpinscher, however, isn’t the new kid in school; the breed can trace its roots back several hundred years, when it was popular for another reason.


During the 1600s, the affenpinscher gained its social status as a ratter—a dog used specifically to chase and catch rodents that had infiltrated kitchens, stables and barns storing fresh grain.

The breed was in high demand for its rat-chasing skills, and became known for its unusual looking face which appeared to resemble that of a monkey. Hence, the breed was named “affen,” which means “monkey” in German.

Aegean Cats

Greek history runs deep with tales of mythology, gods and epic battles. It should come as no surprise, then, that an unassuming cat roaming the Greek ruins for centuries has made a lasting impression on the locals, who started breeding standards for the cat a mere 20 years ago.
Although classified as “rare,” this “new” breed is no stranger to the Greek islanders, who have opened their homes to the affectionate feline.


The Aegean cat is a native Greek breed, originating from the Cycladic Islands in the Aegean Sea (Santorini, Milos, Mykonos and Naxos, to name few).

While the cat has been domesticated in Greece for centuries, it is considered a “new” breed as it only began to be formally bred during the early 1990s.
As such, the Aegean cat is the only native variety of cat in Greece and is considered rare. To date, the breed has not yet been recognized by a major cat fancier or breeder organization.

Abyssinian Cats

Abys, as they are lovingly called, are the fourth most popular cat breed a ccording to statistics from the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA), the world’s largest registry of pedigreed cats.Elegant and regal-looking, Abyssinians are easy to care for and make ideal pets for cat lovers.


According to the CFA, the first Abyssinians to exhibit in England cat shows got their names from Ethiopia, formerly Abyssinia, the country which they are reported to have been imported.

The first mention of Abyssinians dates back to 1872; the cat wasn’t imported to North America until the early 1900s. However, top quality Abyssinians forming the foundation of the current American breeding programs didn’t arrive from England until the 1930s.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Canine Parvovirus

Nearly every mammal species, humans included, has its own special parvovirus. Dogs are no exception to this rule. The canine parvovirus (CPV type-2b specifically, but CPV for our purposes) first emerged among domesticated dogs in Europe during the mid-1970s. This initial appearance quickly evolved into a worldwide epidemic of myocarditis and gastroenteritis. The virus is now known to infect both wild and domesticated canine species. A close relationship between CPV and the already well-known feline panleukopenia virus (FPV) was quickly established. It is thought that CPV came about as a result of a small mutation, or change, in the viral structure of FPV.

 Canine small intestine dilatation, luminal hemorrhage
Two decades after its appearance, CPV strikes much less frequently due to the development of effective vaccines. Outbreaks do still occur however, and it is widely acknowledged that the hard-to-kill viral particles are present most everywhere. Because of this, vaccinating your dog is of the utmost importance. Puppies and adolescent dogs are considered especially susceptible to exposure, and it is recommended that you avoid bringing your puppy to public places until after his vaccinations are complete.
Despite the fact that CPV particles are present in nearly every environment, not every dog becomes infected. This is because several factors influence the effectiveness of the virus. Host vitality (overall health of the dog, immune experience, vaccination status), virulence of the virus (the number of viral particles in a given area), and other environmental factors (stress, dry weather, cold weather) all interact and together ultimately determine whether or not an individual dog will become infected. The most influential factors seem to be the immune level of the individual dog and the number of viral particles the dog is exposed to, but if each factor is “just right,” a dog will become infected. When this occurs, a specific sequence of events is initiated as the virus attacks the body.

There is typically an incubation period of 3 to 7 days between initial infection and onset of first symptoms. CPV needs the help of rapidly dividing cells in order to successfully infect the host animal, and the first cells to be encroached upon are in the lymph nodes of the throat. The virus incubates here for a few days, replicating repeatedly until a vast number of viral particles have been produced. At this point, the virus has entered the bloodstream and is seeking out other organs containing rapidly dividing cells. The two areas typically hit hardest by CPV are the bone marrow and intestinal walls.
Within the bone marrow CPV destroys young immune cells. This causes a detectable drop in white blood cell count, which makes it significantly easier for the viral particles to invade the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Damage to the lymph nodes and bone marrow, while significant, is minor when compared to the havoc CPV wreaks on the intestines. The lining of this organ is covered by miniscule, finger-like protrusions called villi. In turn, the villi bear microscopic projections called microvilli. Together, the villi and microvilli serve to increase the surface area of the intestine and allow it to better absorb nutrients. The cells that cover this surface are short-lived and are replaced continually by new cells that originate in the rapidly-dividing areas known as the Crypts of Lieberk├╝hn. It is here, where the cells are dividing most rapidly, that CPV stages its invasion and does the most damage.
By disabling the source of new cells, the virus prevents dead and dying cells on the villi and microvilli from being replaced. Consequently, the intestines can no longer adequately absorb nutrients. Severe diarrhea and nausea are the initial result, but eventually the villi and microvilli become so damaged that they begin to break down, and the bacteria that are normally confined to the GI tract embark on a deadly journey out of the intestine and into the bloodstream. This is the cause of both significant blood loss through diarrhea and widespread infection inside the body. To make matters worse, the body’s immune system is not quite up to par, as its ability to produce new white blood cells to combat infection has been hampered by the invasion of CPV into the bone marrow. CPV is not always fatal, but when it does kill, death is as a result of either extreme dehydration and shock, or of septic toxins produced by the intestinal bacteria roaming throughout the bloodstream.
Symptoms often associated with CPV include lethargy, depression, and loss or lack of appetite, followed by a sudden onset of high fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. If your dog is experiencing bouts of bloody diarrhea and/or vomiting, CPV is only one of several potential culprits. There are several tests that can be run by your veterinarian to help determine whether what is affecting your dog is CPV or some other problem.
By far the most common and most convenient method of testing for the presence of CPV is the fecal ELISA test. ELISA is an acronym for enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. The test sounds daunting but can actually be completed by your veterinarian in less than 15 minutes and uses technology similar to that found in home pregnancy tests. A small stool sample is necessary for the completion of the ELISA test. Though the ELISA test is quite accurate, there are some cases in which a false positive or false negative result may be obtained. In this case, further measures may have to be taken to establish a diagnosis of CPV.
A simple measure of white blood cell count is often the clincher for a CPV diagnosis. Because one of the first things the parvovirus infects is the bone marrow, a low white blood cell count can be indicative of CPV infection. If the ELISA test was positive, but the dog has a normal white blood cell count, it is unlikely the animal is infected with CPV. If however the dog has both a positive ELISA reading and a low white cell count, a fairly confident diagnosis of CPV may be made.

Treatment procedures for dogs suffering from CPV are limited to a supportive capacity. A hospital stay is usually necessary, as fluids and nutrients are often given intravenously. Treatments may vary between individuals, but certain aspects are considered vital for all patients.
Fluid therapy is crucial in order to replace the vast quantities of liquid lost via vomiting and diarrhea. Because the digestive tract is in such distress, the most effective method of fluid replacement is the use of an IV drip. Antibiotics may be given, either intravenously or as injections, to help fight the effects of intestinal bacteria that may have entered the bloodstream. In addition, medications to control nausea are sometimes added to the IV fluid bag. Overall, care of dogs with CPV centers around fluid replacement and constant monitoring of bodily functions. There is unfortunately no magic formula that will lead to a complete cure in every case.

Veterinarians usually administer the CPV vaccine as part of a combination shot which includes, among others, the distemper and coronavirus vaccines. These shots are given every 3 to 4 weeks from the time a puppy is 6 weeks old until he is at least 16 weeks of age.

Canine Distemper

Canine distemper is caused by the canine distemper virus (CDV). Prior to the arrival of canine parvovirus, CDV was unquestionably the most feared disease seen in domestic canines. This is a highly contagious, largely incurable, and often fatal disease that attacks the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts, and, most devastatingly, the central nervous system (CNS).
Cases of canine distemper are much less common today due to the advent of effective vaccines, but puppies and even unvaccinated adult dogs are still highly susceptible to infection. Even with a conscientious vaccination program, some dogs still fall victim to this potentially fatal virus.

Despite the fact that CDV particles are present in many environments, not every dog will become infected. This is because several factors influence the effectiveness of the virus. Host vitality (overall health of the dog, immune experience, vaccination status), virulence of the virus (the number of viral particles in a given area), and other environmental factors (stress, dry weather, cold weather) all interact and ultimately determine whether or not an individual dog will fall ill. Though the most important factors seem to be the immune level of the dog and the number of viral particles the dog is exposed to, if each factor is ‘just right’, a dog will become infected. When this occurs, a specific sequence of events is initiated as the virus attacks the body.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is an infectious bronchitis of dogs characterized by a harsh, hacking cough that most people describe as sounding like “something stuck in my dog’s throat.” This bronchitis may be of brief duration and mild enough to warrant no treatment at all or it may progress all the way to a life-threatening pneumonia depending on which infectious agents are involved and the immunological strength of the patient. An uncomplicated kennel cough runs a course of a week or two and entails frequent fits of coughing in a patient who otherwise feels active and normal. Uncomplicated cases do not involve fever or listlessness, just lots of coughing.
Numerous organisms may be involved in a case of kennel cough; it would be unusual for only one agent to be involved. Infections with the following organisms frequently occur concurrently to create a case of kennel cough:
  • Bordetella bronchiseptica (bacteria)
  • Parainfluenza virus
  • Adenovirus type 2
  • Canine distemper virus
  • Canine influenza virus
  • Canine herpesvirus (very young puppies)
  • Mycoplasma canis (a single-cell organism that is neither virus nor bacterium)
  • Canine reovirus.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Bordetella / Kennel Cough in Pets

Planning a vacation or holiday away? Whether your pet travels with you or spends his days making new friends at your neighborhood boarding facility, he'll need one important thing ahead of time: the Bordetella vaccine.
The Bordetella vaccine is a preventive measure to ward off a highly contagious bacterial illness that can be readily spread from dog to dog, cat to cat and dog to cat. Human transmission is also possible, so people who have a compromised immune system should avoid contact with infected animals.

Commonly referred to as kennel cough in dogs, Bordatella bronchoseptica infection isn't typically a life-threatening illness but some pets develop complications of pneumonia from the disease. Kennel cough is often a complex disorder caused by a combination of canine parainfluenza virus and Bordatella bronchoseptica bacteria. Other respiratory virusus have also been implicated in this multi-agent disease.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Tips for Preventing Pet Behavior Problems

  1. Set rules immediately and stick to them.
  2. Avoid situations that promote inappropriate behavior.
  3. Observe the pet and provide what it needs to be cared for and attendedto.
  4. Supervise the new pet diligently through undivided individual attention and training, and restrict the pet's access to a limited area of the house until training is complete.
  5. Encourage good behavior with praise and attention.
  6. Correct bad behaviors by providing positive alternatives. (A toy for a slipper, scratching post for the sofa.)
  7. Never physically punish or force compliance to commands. This may lead to fear biting or aggression.
  8. Don't play rough or encourage aggression or play biting.
  9. Expose pets to people, animals, and environments where you want them to live.
  10. See your veterinarian if serious or unresolved behavior problems exist.

Hip Dysplasia

What is hip dysplasia?
In basic terms, hip dysplasia means "badly formed hip." In unaffected animals, the ball at the end of the leg bone fits smoothly into a pocket in the hip, just as pieces of a puzzle fit together. In affected dogs, the "pieces" don't come together as well. The ball may roll around loosely in the socket, making for a rather uncomfortable fit. This looseness is what may cause your pet to limp or seem pained during certain activities.
Who gets it?
The joint disease is common in large dogs; about 50 percent of some larger breeds are affected. Less commonly, the disease also can occur in medium-sized breeds and even in small breeds. It primarily strikes purebreds, but it can develop in mixed breeds, particularly when both parents are prone to the disease. Dogs with a higher incidence of hip dysplasia are German shepherds, Labrador retrievers, rottweillers, Great Danes, golden retrievers, Doberman pinschers, mastiffs, and St. Bernards.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Cushing's Disease

Hyperadrenocorticism, also called Cushing's disease, is a hormonal disorder that affects dogs and cats, although the condition is more prevalent in dogs.
Commonly considered a disease of middle-aged pets, treatment should be viewed as a means to provide the pet a good quality of life as Cushing’s disease is very complicated, has a wide range of symptoms and is not curable.

What is Cushing’s Disease?

Simply put, Cushing’s disease is caused by an overproduction of cortisol, a type of steroid hormone that has many roles including managing blood sugar levels, blood vessel function and decreasing inflammation.

It may help to think of cortisol as cortisone (such as used in creams for rashes) or prednisone.
Why would the body produce too much cortisol? Bear with me as I get a little technical here!
Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands under the control of the pituitary gland. There are two main types of Cushing’s disease: pituitary dependent hyperadrenocorticism (PDH) and adrenocortical dependent hyperadrenocorticism (ADH).

Cherry Eye and Pets

Cherry eye, also called prolapse nictitans gland (tear gland of the third eyelid), is a hereditary condition that affects various dog breeds and a few cat breeds. Pet owners may notice redness and inflammation in one of both of their pet’s eyes—but don’t chalk this up to simple irritation. Cherry eye can cause long-term issues if overlooked.
The good news: Modern medicine offers a surgical remedy that corrects the problem. Dr. Jennifer Hawkins, a contributing veterinarian for the VPI Pet HealthZone, shares her experience about treating the condition.

What is Cherry Eye?

“Cherry eye” is a condition that affects many dogs in which the tear-producing gland that is present under the lower eyelid pops out, or prolapses.

This prolapsed gland is easily seen as a bulging red mass protruding from the third eyelid (you know, that pink veil the sits at the inside corner of your dog's eye). In some dogs, this gland of the third eyelid simply isn’t held down very well into its normal position. Dogs that have one gland prolapse may later have prolapse of the gland of the opposite eye.

Which Dog Breeds Are Prone to Cherry Eye?

The genetics are complex but it is generally accepted that cherry eye is a hereditary condition for which some dog breeds may be predisposed.
The facial conformation, or shape, is also a factor as breeds with a short muzzle are more prone to developing this condition. Cherry eye is more common in boxers, bulldogs, beagles, basset hounds, pugs, Boston terriers and cocker spaniels to name a few.
Cats very rarely develop cherry eye, but the condition has been seen in Burmese and Bombay cats. However, technically, any breed can develop cherry eye.


Cherry eye diagram
When I first graduated from veterinary school, I worked in a practice with two other veterinarians. One of the patients on the surgery schedule was a dachshund named Mimi, who was scheduled for cherry eye repair.
I had learned to surgically correct this protruding tear gland that affects many dogs, but one of the veterinarians was of the opinion that the entire gland should be removed. It sparked much debate among the three of us—no one was satisfied until we spoke to a boarded veterinary ophthalmologist.
That day, many years ago (we won’t divulge how many), myself and the other two doctors were able to lay our dispute to rest. The ophthalmologist informed us that indeed, though it was once common to remove these tear glands in the event of cherry eye, it had since been determined how very important it was to preserve the gland. Thus the gland should always be replaced into its natural position under the eyelid.

Long-Term Effect 

Some pet owners elect to not address the cherry eye as the problem appears only cosmetic. However, inflammation of the prolapsed tear producing gland and decreased blood flow to the gland caused by its abnormal anatomic position eventually lead to decreased tear production and yet another condition, keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) or “dry eye.”
Decreased production of the aqueous portion of the tears causes the eye to compensate by increasing the mucoid portion of the tears. This leads to the affected eye becoming gummy and gooey while also negatively impacting the corneal health (the cornea is the clear front layer of the eye).
As a result, the cornea eventually becomes black due to lack of proper lubrication. This black, or melanotic, cornea does affect vision relative to the severity of the melanosis.
Dry eye requires lifelong eye medications, not artificial tears, but prescription medications. Artificial tears require application every two hours to be remotely effective and are thus a very impractical treatment choice.

Potential Complications of Surgery 

There are a multitude of surgical techniques to repair cherry eye, all of them effective. However, it is still possible for the gland to prolapse again and sometimes require another surgery.
Also, the opposite gland may prolapse thus requiring surgery. Occasionally, a small piece of suture material may loosen causing eye irritation. Sometimes this is treated with eye medication, other times a second surgery to remove the offending piece of suture material is needed.
As it turns out, I was beginning my career during a time when the current paradigm with regards to cherry eye treatment was changing due to a more thorough understanding of the importance of this gland. I am pleased to say that Mimi had surgery to replace the tear gland back under the third eyelid and had a great recovery.

Canine Influenza

Canine Influenza is a respiratory infection caused by a highly contagious virus. The virus easily spreads from one dog to another via air and/or contact with infected objects.
Canine influenza has been traced as a mutation from the virus causing equine influenza in horses. The initial infection began in Florida on a greyhound racetrack in 2004 (though some researchers suspect even earlier cases). It rapidly traveled through other dog race tracks, animal shelters, and veterinary facilities, reaching dogs throughout much of the United States before it was even truly recognized.
Because this is such a new infectious agent, most dogs have no natural immunity against this virus. Hence, the majority of dogs exposed will become actively infected.


Dogs infected with canine influenza develop varying degrees of coughing, nasal discharge, fever, and decline in attitude and appetite. Indeed, initially these are the same symptoms seen with other upper respiratory infections, often referred to as “kennel cough.”

For those dogs that have only mild signs of canine influenza, they should recover within a week or two, though the cough may still persist for two to three weeks.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Cancer in Avian and Exotic Pets

Cancer is one of the dreaded diseases that affects humans and pets alike. Unfortunately, birds, rabbits and other exotic pets can suffer from cancer-related diseases, too.
Unlike dogs and cats that can show symptoms in the early stages, rabbits and birds may not show signs of the disease until the cancer has spread.
Therefore, any change in behavior, eating patterns or repeated diarrhea, vomiting or fatigue should be reported to your veterinarian immediately.


Lymphosarcoma is the most common tumor of guinea pigs, rabbits, ferrets, pot-bellied pigs and similar exotic pets. And just as with humans, the best way to detect this cancer in pets is to regularly feel for lumps, bumps or swellings.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Addison's Disease in Dogs

Addison's disease, or hypoadrenocorticism, is a hormonal disorder that is typically diagnosed in dogs, and considered rare in cats. In fact, while Addison's disease is still relatively uncommon in dogs, it occurs more frequently than with humans and commonly affects young to middle-aged female dogs.
Though uncommon, this condition should not be taken lightly: Addison’s disease is fatal if left untreated.


Addison's disease is believed to be a result of the body’s own immune system attacking the outer layers of the adrenal glands.

The outermost layer of the adrenal gland produces hormones that help maintain the balance of sodium, potassium and water in the body. When not properly balanced, this can result in an inability for muscles, including the heart, to function. The next layer of the adrenal gland produces cortisol (much like prednisone) which is important in metabolism of protein, carbohydrates and sugars.

Seasonal Dangers to Outdoor Pets

Warning to pet owners: The winter climate can make for some very chilly critters.
Health conditions like diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease and hormonal imbalances can compromise your pet’s ability to regulate his or her body heat.
Pets who are not generally in good health shouldn't be exposed to winter conditions for an extended length of time. Here are 10 of the most common winter hazards to outdoor pets.

1. Inadequate Shelter

If your pet lives predominantly outdoors, make sure to provide a draft-free, weatherproof shelter that will stay dry and isn’t so large that it will not retain enough heat to keep your pet warm. It is also a good idea to position your pet’s house in the opposite direction of the wind, including the shelter door opening. This will help retain warmer conditions inside. Even pets who are used to living outdoors should be brought inside once the temperature gets below freezing.