Friday, August 14, 2015

Vomiting in Cats

Vomiting is a very common problem with cats with a multitude of causes. They range from eating something poisonous or inedible (like string), to infection, urinary tract disease, or diabetes to hairballs. Symptoms are usually obvious, and include drooling and abdominal heaving. Vomiting can quickly leave your cat dehydrated. Vomiting can be a result of something minor, like a cat consuming his meal too quickly, or it can be a sign of a much more serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. Usually, a cat vomits because he ate something disagreeable, ate too much or played too soon after dinner. Vomiting can also be associated with gastrointestinal or systemic disorders.

Some causes for a sudden episode of vomiting, or acute vomiting, include:
  • Bacterial infection of the gastrointestinal tract
  • Diet-related causes (diet change, food intolerance)
  • Gastric or intestinal foreign bodies (toys, hairballs)
  • Intestinal parasite
  • Acute kidney failure
  • Acute liver failure or gall bladder inflammation
  • Pancreatitis
  • Post-operative nausea
  • Toxins or chemicals
  • Viral infections
  • Certain medications.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Chronic / Idiopathic Hepatitis of Dogs

In dogs, as in humans, the liver is a vital organ—it is essential for life. It performs many functions: it eliminates toxins absorbed by the intestinal tract; processes the body’s energy supplies of sugar, fat, and proteins; participates in digestion; and stores large supplies of energy in the form of sugars and some fats. The liver is also involved in many hormonal and regulatory processes as well as the production of many important building blocks for the body, including the proteins that keep up muscle mass and prevent abnormal fluid shifts into the body’s tissues, and the proteins that are critical to forming blood clots to prevent hemorrhage.
Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. In human beings, hepatitis happens most commonly due to viral infection (hepatitis A, B, C, etc.), but these viruses do not affect dogs at all. Rather, dogs that develop hepatitis do so most often as a result of self-directed damage of liver tissue by the dog’s own misguided immune system. That is, a trigger creates a case of mistaken identity whereby the immune system perceives the body’s own liver tissue as foreign and slowly begins to attack it. In most instances, the trigger of this process is unknown, or idiopathic, giving rise to the name of the disease, idiopathic hepatitis. 

Another name given to this same disease in the past was chronic active hepatitis. No matter what the underlying cause, once the immune system starts to damage the liver, the liver’s ability to function can become greatly reduced. This can cause limited production of necessary nutrients, inefficient digestion, pooling of fluid in the belly (abdominal effusion, ascites) and abnormal hormonal balances. In severe cases, blood clotting disorders can develop, causing unusual or excessive bleeding. In addition to a reduction in liver function, idiopathic hepatitis can cause destruction of liver cells. This does not immediately make a difference because the liver has a great deal of extra reserve but ongoing destruction of liver tissue can, over a period of time, cause severe permanent damage and scarring of the liver (known as fibrosis or cirrhosis).

Corneal Ulceration

In dogs and cats, like in humans, the cornea is the transparent, front part of the eye through which one sees the pupil (black center) and iris (colored [brown, blue, green] part of the eyes). A corneal ulcer (also sometimes called a “scratch on the cornea”) is an injury to the surface of the cornea that may be superficial or deep. There are many potential causes of corneal ulcers in dogs and cats. The most obvious is direct trauma, such as when a stick or toy strikes the eye during play or a piece of gravel
strikes the eye while a pet has its head out the window of a moving car. Other causes include entropion and distichia, conditions in which one or more eyelashes rub against the cornea. Some diseases indirectly predispose to corneal ulcers, such as disorders that affect the nerves to the eyelids and result in poor or absent blink reflexes, which can also lead to dry, ulcerated corneas. Diseases that cause inadequate tear production (keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or “dry eye”) also invariably cause corneal ulceration because the cornea becomes dry and unhealthy. 

Various ocular infections (bacterial, viral, fungal) can cause corneal ulcers. For example, in cats, infection with feline herpesvirus may cause corneal ulcers. Corneal ulcers are generally uncomfortable or painful, and squinting (blepharospasm), redness of the eye, and excessive tear production (lacrimation) are common symptoms. Depending on whether the corneal ulcer is superficial or deep, the length of time before treatment, and whether the ulcer is infected, vision may or may not be affected and corneal scarring may or may not occur. Any eye injury should be treated as an emergency and veterinary care should be sought immediately.