Category Archives: Medical Conditions

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease

What is Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease?

Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) describes a collection of conditions that can affect the bladder and urethra of cats. This syndrome can have many possible causes, but cats generally exhibit similar, recognizable signs. Cats with FLUTD usually show signs of difficulty and pain when urinating, increased frequency of urination, and blood in the urine. Affected cats tend to lick their genital area excessively, and sometimes they will urinate outside the litter box, often preferring cool, smooth surfaces like a tile floor or a bathtub.

While the condition can be seen in cats of any age, it is most frequently seen in middle-aged, over-weight cats that get little exercise, use an indoor litter box, have restricted access outside, and eat a dry diet. Environmental factors, such as interactions with owners, multi-cat households, and changes in routine may also increase the risk that a cat will develop FLUTD.


How is FLUTD diagnosed?

Although cats with lower urinary tract disease behave in similar ways, the potential causes are multiple. Urinary tract infections, urinary stones, urethral plugs, cancer, and other disorders can affect the lower urinary tract of the cat. Because FLUTD can have many causes, it can be difficult to diagnose. Based on your cat’s signs, your veterinarian will likely perform an initial physical examination and run a urinalysis. If the cause of the cat’s signs has not been identified with a urinalysis, other testing may be recommended, including bloodwork, x-rays, and urine culture.


What are the most common causes of FLUTD?

Feline Idiopathic Cystitis
Feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC)-also called interstitial cystitis-is the most common diagnosis in cats with lower urinary tract signs. FIC is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning that the term FIC is used if all diagnostics fail to confirm the presence of another disease such as urinary stones. Cats suffering from FIC make frequent attempts to urinate, probably as a result of bladder discomfort, and often are found to have blood in their urine. Signs of lower urinary tract disease in cats with non-obstructive FIC often resolve spontaneously within a couple of weeks regardless of treatment. So most treatments attempt to prevent subsequent recurrence of signs.

Veterinarians have noted many similarities between FIC and a bladder disorder affecting humans called interstitial cystitis. Studies are ongoing to determine whether the human and the feline disorder are truly the same, and whether therapies helpful for humans will be of benefit to cats as well. In humans, a psychologically stressful event often precedes the onset of lower urinary tract discomfort due to interstitial cystitis, and stress also seems to be an important factor in the development of FIC in cats. Possible sources of stress in a cat’s life may include environmental changes, changes in food schedule, and changes in the number of animals in the household. Environmental enrichment and modification can reduce stress and decrease the severity and frequency of FIC episodes. To reduce environmental stress, cats should be provided a safe, clean area in which to urinate, as well as opportunities to express natural predatory behavior. These opportunities may include climbing posts and toys that can be chased and caught.

Because changes in food can also result in recurrence of FIC in some cats, the cat’s diet should remain consistent in both content and schedule. Many pet food manufacturers market diets formulated for “urinary health.” While these “special diets” may reduce the likelihood that cats with FIC will develop a urethral obstruction, there is no evidence that they have reduced the incidence of idiopathic feline lower urinary tract disease itself.

Urolithiasis (Urinary Stones)
Another possible cause of FLUTD is urinary stones-or uroliths-which are rock-hard collections of minerals that form in the urinary tract of cats. Cats with urinary stones will exhibit many of the common signs of FLUTD. X-rays or ultrasound are usually needed to make a diagnosis of urinary stones. The treatment of a cat with urinary stones depends on the mineral composition of the stones; however, surgical removal of stones is often required. The two most common stone types in cats are struvite and calcium oxalate.

For cats with struvite stones, a special stone-dissolving diet may be prescribed to eliminate the stones. If the diet fails to dissolve the stone, then surgical removal may be necessary. Struvite stones are becoming less common in cats, as most commercial feline diets are now formulated to reduce the likelihood of struvite formation by limiting the amount of dietary magnesium and by promoting the production of urine that is more acidic. Unfortunately, the percentage of stones composed of calcium oxalate has increased. The role-if any-that diet plays in the formation of calcium oxalate stones is actively being studied.

Unlike struvite stones, calcium oxalate stones cannot be dissolved with special diets, and more aggressive treatment is needed. Your veterinarian may be able to induce the stones to pass by flushing the bladder with sterile fluids. If they fail to pass, or if they recur, then surgery may be needed. Called a cystotomy, the surgery to remove bladder stones involves making an incision through the belly. The bladder is lifted into view, opened, and stones are removed.

Cats that have formed a stone are at increased risk for recurrence, and your veterinarian may recommend medication or dietary changes to help prevent recurrence.


Urethral Obstruction
The most serious problem associated with urinary function is urethral obstruction. Urethral obstruction-when the cat’s urethra becomes partly or totally blocked-is a potentially life-threatening condition and one of the most serious results of FLUTD. Urinary stones are only one of the causes of urethral obstructions. Another common cause is urethral plugs. Urethral plugs consist of a soft, compressible material that contains variable quantities of minerals, cells, and mucus-like protein.

Male and neutered male cats are at greater risk for obstruction than females, because their urethra is longer and narrower. Urethral obstruction is a true medical emergency, and any cat suspected of suffering from this condition must receive immediate veterinary attention. When the urethra is completely blocked, the kidneys are no longer able to remove toxins from the blood and maintain a proper balance of fluids and electrolytes in the body. If the obstruction is not relieved, the cat will eventually lose consciousness and die. Death most frequently occurs as a result of electrolyte imbalances, which ultimately cause heart failure. The time from complete obstruction until death may be less than twenty-four to forty-eight hours, so immediate treatment is essential.

A cat experiencing a urethral obstruction behaves similarly to any other cat with FLUTD: straining to urinate, frequently attempting to urinate, and producing little, if any, urine. However, as time passes, an obstructed cat typically becomes much more distressed-often crying out in pain.

Treatment of urethral obstruction usually involves catheterization, which is the passage of a narrow tube up the urethra, but other procedures are sometimes necessary. Unless the cat is comatose, catheterization usually requires sedation or anesthesia. After the obstruction has been relieved, treatment varies depending upon the condition of the cat. Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance are treated with intravenous fluid therapy. Antibiotics may be given to combat bacteria, and drugs that help restore bladder function are sometimes required. Hospitalization may range from a few days to several weeks, depending on the severity and duration of the obstruction.

For cats who continue to experience urethral obstruction despite proper medical management, a surgical procedure called a perineal urethrostomy may be suggested. The surgery involves removing much of the penis and the narrow portion of the urethra, leaving a wider opening for the remaining portion. Side effects of surgery can include bleeding for up to ten days after surgery, narrowing at the surgical site, urinary incontinence, and a greater incidence of other kinds of bladder diseases. For these reasons, perineal urethrostomy is usually considered to be a last resort.

What can I do at home to prevent future occurrences?

A few unfortunate cats who have suffered from lower urinary tract disease will experience frequent recurrences of bladder inflammation, re-obstruction, or formation of uroliths. Fortunately, most others rarely experience the problem again or will have only occasional recurrences. Home care of cats who have suffered from lower urinary tract disease is determined by the cause, and varies depending on the cat’s condition and history. Some steps can be taken, however, to help reduce the frequency of attacks and both the severity and duration of signs when the problem occurs:

Steps to Reduce Occurences and Signs of Lower Urinary Tract Disease

  1. Feed small meals on a frequent basis.
  2. For cats with a history of struvite formation, owners should feed diets that promote the formation of urine that is acidic. Most commercial diets meet this criteria. Avoid supplementing such diets with additional urinary acidifiers, because over-acidification can cause metabolic acidosis, impaired kidney function, and mineral imbalance.
  3. Provide clean, fresh water at all times.
  4. Provide an adequate number of litter boxes (usually one more than the number of cats in the household).
  5. Keep litter boxes in quiet, safe areas of the house.
  6. Keep litter boxes clean.
  7. Minimize major changes in routine.

Signs of Lower Urinary Tract Disease

  1. Straining to urinate.
  2. Frequent and/or prolonged attempts to urinate.
  3. Crying out while urinating.
  4. Excessive licking of the genital area.
  5. Urinating outside the litter box.
  6. Blood in the urine.

***Cats with a urethral obstruction will show the above signs but will pass little or no urine and will become increasingly distressed. A urethral obstruction is an absolute emergency, requiring immediate veterinary treatment.***


Gastric Dilatation/Volvus Syndrome In Dogs


Gastric dilatation is a condition that can develop in many different breeds of dogs. The condition is commonly associated with large meals and causes the stomach to dilate because of food and gas and may get to a point where neither may be expelled. As the stomach begins to dilate and expand, the pressure in the stomach begins to increase. The increased pressure and size of the stomach may have several severe consequences, including preventing adequate blood return to the heart from the abdomen, loss of blood flow to the lining of the stomach, and rupture of the stomach wall. As the stomach expands, it may also put pressure on the diaphragm preventing the lungs from adequately expanding, which leads to decreased ability to maintain normal breathing (ventilation).


A lateral radiograph of a dog with a gastric volvulus. Note the stomach is markedly distended with gas (which shows up as black on the radiograph) and the stomach is occupying nearly the entire abdomen.


The entire body suffers from the poor ventilation leading to death of cells in many tissues. Additionally, the stomach can become dilated enough to rotate in the abdomen, a condition called volvulus. The rotation can occasionally lead to blockage to the blood supply to the spleen and the stomach wall requiring surgical removal of the dead tissues. Most of these patients are in shock due to the effects on the entire body. The treatment of this condition involves stabilization of the patient, decompression of the stomach and surgery to return the stomach to the normal position permanently (gastropexy) and evaluate abdominal organs for damage and treat them appropriately as determined at the time of surgery.


Another image of a dog with GDV/Bloat






Several studies have been published that have evaluated risk factors and causes for gastric dilatation and volvulus in dogs. This syndrome is not completely understood; however, we know that there is an association in dogs that have a deep chest (increased thoracic height to width ratio), dogs that are fed a single large meal once daily, older dogs and dogs that are related to other dogs that have had the condition. Additionally, it has been suggested that elevated feeding, dogs that have previously had a spleen removed, large or giant breed dogs, and stress may result in an increased incidence of this condition. A 2006 study also determined that dogs fed dry dog foods that list oils (e.g. sunflower oil, animal fat) among the first four label ingredients predispose a high risk dog to GDV.



Incidence and Prevalence

Several studies have been published that have evaluated risk factors and causes for gastric dilatation and volvulus in dogs. This syndrome is not completely understood; however, we know that there is an association in dogs that have a deep chest (increased thoracic height to width ratio), dogs that are fed a single large meal once daily, older dogs and dogs that are related to other dogs that have had the condition. Additionally, it has been suggested that elevated feeding, dogs that have previously had a spleen removed, large or giant breed dogs, and stress may result in an increased incidence of this condition. A 2006 study also determined that dogs fed dry dog foods that list oils (e.g. sunflower oil, animal fat) among the first four label ingredients predispose a high risk dog to GDV.


Signs and Symptoms

Initial signs are often associated with abdominal pain. These can include but are not limited to:

  • an anxious look or looking at the abdomen
  • standing and stretching
  • drooling
  • distending abdomen
  • retching without producing anything

As the disease progresses, the animal may begin to pant, have abdominal distension, or be weak and collapse and be recumbent. On physical examination, patients often have elevated heart and respiratory rates, have poor pulse quality, and have poor capillary refill times. Abdominal distension is commonly noted.



Treatment Options

Stabilization of the patient is paramount and often begins with intravenous fluids and oxygen therapy. Gastric decompression often follows, which includes the passing of a tube down the esophagus into to stomach to release the air and fluid accumulation and can be frequently followed with lavage (flushing of water) into and out of the stomach to remove remaining food particles. In certain cases this is not possible and a needle or catheter may be placed into the stomach from outside the body to release air and aid in the passing of the tube. The time for general anesthesia and surgical stabilization will be determined by the stability of your pet and at the discretion of the surgeon. Surgery involves full exploration of the abdomen and de-rotation of the stomach. Additionally, the viability of the stomach wall, the spleen, and all other organs will be determined. Removal of part of the stomach wall (partial gastrectomy) or the spleen (splenectomy) is occasionally performed. Once the stomach is returned to the normal position in the abdomen, it should be fixed to the body wall (gastropexy).


A gastropexy. Note that the stomach has been sutured to the abdominal wall in order to prevent it from expanding and twisting again.


Courtesy:  ACVS


Heat Stroke

Every year, thousands of dogs suffer from heat stroke, which is defined as the elevation of body temperature above normal levels due to the production of excessive heat, exposure to excessive ambient temperatures or failure of the body properly to lose heat. Heat stroke is not the same as “having a fever.” Heat stroke, also called non-pyrogenic (non-fever-based) hyperthermia, occurs when the animal’s heat-dissipating mechanisms cannot accommodate excessive heat. In many cases, owners are not aware that their dogs are developing this condition until it is too late to reverse the damage. Immediate emergency medical treatment is necessary to prevent organ damage, and death. Early recognition of the common signs of heat stroke is critical to saving the dog’s life.


Symptoms of Heat Stroke

The initial symptoms of heat stroke in dogs are characterized by unanticipated restlessness. They include physical signs such as excessive or fluctuating panting, which may start, stop and then start again. Other physical signs are excessive drooling (hypersalivation), foaming at the mouth, dry tacky gums and labored or difficult breathing (dyspnea). Among common behavioral changes are agitation, whining, barking and other signs of anxiety. As the dog’s core body temperature becomes dangerously elevated (called hyperthermia), the initial signs normally progress to include vomiting, diarrhea, confusion, lack of muscular coordination (ataxia), very red gums and uncontrolled tremors. In the end stages of heat stroke, a dog will become listless, dull, weak and recumbent. It may try to move to cool places but be unable to rise, will have increased difficulty breathing and ultimately will have seizures, collapse, lapse into a coma and die.

Very young and older dogs are at higher risk of heat stroke. Brachycephalic breeds, obese animals and long haired and dark-colored dogs are also predisposed. Dogs with hyperthyroidism, cardiopulmonary disease or thick hair coats are also at increased risk of developing heat stroke. If you notice these signs in your dog, take your dog to a veterinary clinic immediately.


What dogs are at risk?

Dogs can be in danger from experiencing a heat stroke if they are acclimating to hot weather, confined in a hot space, or if they have worked or played too much without cooling down periods. Sadly this condition is commonly seen in dogs, especially in dogs that live in hot and humid climates. Dogs are able to pant to help control inner temperatures, but dogs are unable to sweat. In the case of a heat stroke, panting is not enough to cool the body down.

A heat stroke in dogs can develop into a potentially deadly situation in as little as 20 minutes. In this type of instance the dog is normally in a closed atmosphere, such as a car, where the temperature steadily climbs. In some instances a heat stroke can take hours to develop into a deadly situation. These cases usually involve dogs that are playing outdoors in the heat or dogs that are older or overweight and trying to acclimate to higher temperatures than they are used to.

To protect your dog from a heat stroke, take the time to learn the signs and symptoms of heat stroke in dogs. Always ensure that your dog has access to water and shade in hot temperatures, and never leave your dog in a hot car even if it is only for “a few minutes”.

This dog is receiving treatment for heat stroke. (Courtesy:

Treating Heat Stroke

Heat stroke in dogs can quickly turn deadly if not treated immediately and aggressively. Successful treatment requires intensive emergency care at a veterinary clinic. The therapeutic goals are to lower the dog’s core body temperature to a normal range and to identify and resolve the underlying cause of the condition. This may be as simple as removing the dog from the source of excessive environmental heat, but this is not always easy to do. Most affected dogs will require inpatient hospitalization and intensive care for at least several days, until their temperature and clinical signs are stabilized. Again, early recognition is the key to treatment success.



Feline Bartonella “The Cat Scratch Disease Bacteria”

Healthy cats can carry six members of the Bartonella bacteria family in their blood, which are transmitted between cats by fleas and ticks.  The bacteria can be spread to people via cat scratches, bites, contact with fur, and probably rarely by infected fleas and ticks. 


Prevalence of Infection

The prevalence of Bartonella-infected cats varies in different geographic areas and depends on the average temperature and rainfall (humidity).  About 20% of healthy cats in the U.S. are infected carriers.  The highest infection rates occur in hot, humid climates, where conditions are favorable for fleas and ticks.  Most untreated infected cats remain infected for years or for life.


 Risk Factors for Infection

Risk factors that make cats more likely to have flea infestation and thus become infected with Bartonella are:

  • originating as a stray
  • coming from a shelter or human group
  • living in a multi-cat household
  • going outdoors often
  • living in a hot and humid area


Cat Bartonella Diseases

Cat Bartonella possess hair-like structures found on the bacteria’s surface w hich allow the bacteria to stick to, and penetrate, red blood cells and the cells that make up the walls of the capillaries.  This ability leads to the wide and varied tissue specificity observed in cats, dogs, and people.  Bartonella induce inflammatory reactions in may tissues throughout the infected animal’s body.  These tissue are:

  • oral and respiratory mucosa
  • ocular tissue
  • the gastro-intestinal tissues
  • the skin
  • organs (liver, spleen and lymph nodes) 

In fact, since capillaries are found in all tissue, all tissues are susceptible to the inflammatory effects of Bartonella.  Inflammatory reactions often occur concurrently in multiple sites, such as the oral and respiratory tissues, ocular and oral tissues, or in other combinations.  Although numerous microorganisms can cause inflammatory diseases, it appears that Bartonella are the cause of about 40-50% of the following conditions in pet cats:

Oral Diseases:  Gingivitis, Stomatitis, Oral Ulcers


Respiratory Diseases:  Upper Respiratory Disease, Rhinitis, Sinusitis


Ocular Diseases:  Conjunctivitis, Uveitis, Chorioretinitis, Corneal Ulcers, Keratis


Intestinal Diseases: Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Diarrhea (chronic), Vomiting (chronic)

Other Diseases:  Enlarged Lymph Nodes, Fever of Unknown Origin, Skin Diseases, Heart Disease


Bartonella Therapy

Antibiotic therapy of healthy infected cats and cats with Bartonella-induced diseases is effective for most cats.  Owners should be careful while treating their cats to avoid being scratched or bitten. 


Human Bartonella Disease

Bartonella, transmitted from cats, can cause 22  human diseases and cat scratch disease is only the “tip of the Bartonella disease iceberg.”  The other Bartonella diseases are:

  • Bacillary Angiomatosis & Peliosis
  • Febrile Bacteremia
  • Heart Diseases (endocarditis & vegetative  valvular disease)
  • Eye Diseases (Uveitis, Neuroretinitis, Disciform Keratitis)
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Lymphadenopathy


Cat Scratch Disease

Cat scratch disease is the best known Bartonella disease.  More than 22,000 cases occur each year, of which more than 2,000 people require hospitalization.  The disease usually begins a few weeks after transmission of Bartonella from cats with a red papule at the site of a scratch or bit.  Lymph nodes that drain the injury site become inflamed, enlarged, painful, and may develop an abscess, which my rupture and drain.  Severe cases may progress to organ involvement, neurological complications, and rarely to coma. 


Testing for Bartonella is available at both clinics through National Veterinary Laboratory in New Jersey.  If you have any questions or concerns about your cat, please call Northstar Animal Care at (614) 488-4121 or Upper Arlington Veterinary Hospital at (614) 481-8014.


[information taken from "Cats & Bartonella" phamphlet]




TightRope CCL: A New Surgical Option for Cruciate Repair

What is cranial cruciate ligament disease?

The cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) is one of the main stabilizing structures of the knee (stifle) joint in the mail hindlimbs of dogs.  The CCL is a rope-like structure inside the joint that acts as a static (constant) stabilizer of the knee, preventing abnormal “slipping” of the two bones of the knee joint, the femur and tibia.  It’s main job is to hold the femur and tibia in proper alignment during all forms of activity.

Deficiency of the CCL is the most common orthopaedic problem in dogs and inevitably results in degenerative joint disease (arthritis) in the knee joint.  It is referred to as a disease because it is typically the result of a degenerative process in dogs, rather than from athletic injury or trauma.  Although it is often noticed after running, playing or jumping, the disease process has been present for weeks to months when symptoms occur.


What are the symptoms of CCL disease?

Some of the symptoms your pet may display are:

  • Limping
  • Holding the hindlimb up
  • Sitting with the leg stuck out to the side
  • Stiffness, especially after exercise
  • Not wanting to play or exercise
  • Pain when the joint is touched or moved
  • Swelling of the joint
  • Clicking sound when walking


How is CCL disease diagnosed?

We will review your dog’s medical history and perform a complete examination using tests of the integrity of the CCL, including the “crainal drawer” and “tibial thrust” tests.  X-rays will be performed to assess the amount of arthritis present and aid in determining treatment options.  Sedation or anesthesia may be necessary for making the definitive diagnosis, to avoid causing any pain to your pet.


What are my treatment options?

First, it is important to know that there is no cure for CCL disease in dogs.  The goals for all treatments are to relieve pain, improve function and slow down the arthritis.  With these realistic goals in mind, a number of treatment options can be very successful in accomplishing all of them.

Nonsurgical treatment entails rest and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication for 6-8 weeks.  Once the initial pain and inflammation have subsided, a strength-building exercise program and weight loss (if necessary) should be initiated.  Nonsurgical treatment of CCL disease can be successful at accomplishing our goals.  However, the success rate for accomplishing all of our treatment goals is not high and typically, only small dogs weighing less that 30 pounds may have good long-term results with this approach.

Surgical treatment options are numerous and no treatment has been proven to be superior to others for all types of dogs.  It is vital to remember that complete assessment of the joint with treatment of damaged tissues, such as the CCL and meniscus, as well as exceptional postoperative management and rehabilitation programs are as, or even more, important than the “CCL surgery” itself.  The decision should be based on the best available on safety and success, the surgeon’s experience with the techniques and individualized for each patient using the information from the exam and discussion with you  regarding your goals and concerns.


Most common CCL surgery techniques:

Tibeal Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) is one of the “bone-cutting” techniques and is designed to change the anatomy of the knee so that it no longer “slips” without having to try to replace the function of the CCL.  A semicircular cut is made at the top of the tibia with a curved sa so that the tibial joint surface is “leveled out” to prevent forward slipping of the joint.  A plate and screws are inserted to stabilize the cut bone during the healing.

TPLO Surgery


Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA) is the other “bone-cutting” technique which is designed to change the knee anatomy, so that muscle forces are rebalanced to limit the tibia from “slipping” forward.  In this procedure, the bony attachment of the quadriceps muscles is cut, moved forward and held in place with a spacer, plate and screw during healing.

TTA Procedure


Lateral Suture Stabilization is the most common technique used to treat CCL disease in dogs.  It is one of the extracapsular techniques.  This means the function of the CCL, which is inside the joint, is replaced by placing a suture outside the joint.  The suture, most commonly a type of medical grade “fishing line”, is placed around the fabella and through the tibia providing a soft tissue-to-bone stabilizer of the joint during healing.  The suture acts as a temporary stabilizer as the dog makes new functional scar tissue around the knee for long-term joint stability.

Lateral Suture Repair


TightRope CCL was developed in 2005 to provide a minimally invasive and improved method for extracapsular stabilization of the CCL.  This technique does not require cutting of the bone like the TPLO or TTA procedures.  Instead, it uses small drill holes in the femur and tibia to pass a synthetic ligament-like biomaterial through a small incision to provide bone-to-bone stabilization during healing.  The biomaterial used for the TightRope CCL is called FiberTape.  This is a Kevlar-like material that is used extensively in human surgery for many orthopaedic applications.  This material has properties that make it stronger and less prone to failure than any other suture materials currently being used for CCL. 

TightRope CCL Repair


Are you concerned that your dog might be suffering from CCL disease?  Call our offices and schedule your appointment with us today.  Dr. Adam Parson performs the TightRope procedure at Northstar Animal Care on 5th Ave. on Mondays and Tuesdays by appointment only. 



       [Information taken from Arthrex Vet System Brochure] 

Dental Disease


A dog with severe dental disease.


Most pets with painful dental conditions do not show clinical signs that are obvious to the owner, but this does not mean that they are not feeling pain. They cannot tell you about the pain. In the wild, animals tend to hide signs of illness or weakness – dogs and cats posses this instinct.

According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, more than 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show some signs of gum disease by age three. In spite of this important statistic, oral hygiene is one of the most overlooked areas of medical care for animals. As we increase our knowledge of animal health we realize that proper dental care does not just make your pet’s breath smell better; it is mandatory for your pet’s long term quality of life.

A dental x-ray of a dog’s mouth. Look how long those roots are!

Symptoms of dental disease can range from subtle to extreme. One of the most common symptoms is bad breath (halitosis). Sometimes a pet with dental disease will cry in pain when you touch it anywhere near its muzzle.  Another symptom is a partial or complete inability to eat (anorexia).  A pet that has this problem may eagerly go to the food bowl, and either just look at the food or drop the food out of its mouth after only a few bites. Other pets might drool from one or both sides of the mouth.  Unfortunately, many pets do not show any symptoms until the problem is well entrenched and we have a difficult time correcting the problem.


The  4 stages of periodontal disease. 

  • The first stage occurs when bacteria cause an invisible film of plaque to form on the teeth.  The bacteria react with minerals and other debris that accumulate in the oral cavity, eventually causing tartar.
  • Gingivitis appears prior to tartar formation. It is seen as the reddened gum along this canine tooth.  Since the gingiva are the first line of defense for the tooth against bacteria, any gingivitis is considered significant. This pet should be treated now before the problem progresses to more advanced periodontal disease.

    Stage 1 Dental Disease


  • A tooth that starts with the tartar of the above teeth will rapidly progress to this more advanced state, which is Stage II periodontal disease. The underlying gum is more inflamed and is pulled further away from the tooth. 
  • As the periodontal disease progresses tartar buildup also continues. The underlying gum is pulled further away from the tooth, and Stage III periodontal disease is present. The pocket of bacteria under the gumline in this tooth is significantly weakening the periodontal ligament and weakening the bone of the jaw.
Stage 3 Dental Disease


  • Here is another dog with a similar problem. The tartar is so thick that it is literally holding the teeth in place!  Notice how far up the inflamed gums are.  In Stage IV periodontal disease the tartar can be so extensive that it is the only thing holding the teeth in the socket in some cases.
Stage 4 Dental Disease
Due to the severe dental disease, this cat will undergo a procedure to remove all the teeth that remain.


  • Stage III periodontal disease eventually progresses to Stage IV periodontal disease.  This tooth shows advanced periodontal disease as evidenced by the ulcerated gums (blue arrow), pus along the gum line, and severe tartar.  When this happens your pet will experience pain and will become internally ill from the bacteria spreading to internal organs via the bloodstream. Pet’s with this problem are in jeopardy of internal organ failure.
Stage 4 Dental Disease



The heart is one of the main internal organs affected in advanced dental disease, because bacteria from the mouth infection can readily deposit on the heart valves (especially the mitral valve).  In addition to heart (cardiac) problems, dental disease can affect the kidneys  and the liver.  These are both vital organs, and require a pet free from dental problems if they are to function properly.

Proper care of your pet’s teeth at home is vital!  Daily brushing is recommended, but brushing a time or two a week still has amazing benefits.  There are also toys, treats and other items that can help aid in the prevention of dental disease.  Think your pet needs a dental cleaning?  Call our office to schedule your dog’s appointment today!

Feline Leukemia

Feline leukemia is one of the most important causes of illness and death among cats.  It causes cancer in about 20% of infected cats and also contributes to other infectious diseases (such as anemia) by suppressing the immune system and bone marrow production.  A major source of spreading the disease is persistently infected cats that appear to be healthy.


When is your cat at risk?

All it takes to spread feline leukemia is contact with the bodily fluid of an infected animal.  Any of these situations could put your cat or kitten at risk:

  • Social grooming
  • Common litter boxes
  • Shared food and water bowls
  • Bite wounds from playing or fighting
  • Time outdoors
  • Contact with other cats
  • Newly adopted

        The virus is especially dangerous to young cats.  Kittens can contract the disease  from their mothers while nursing or still in the womb. 


Feline Leukemia:

  • is found in every region of the United States.
  • is highly contagious.
  • is transmitted from cat to cat.
  • can be fatal.
  • has few outward signs, and no “sure” signs.
  • is associated with illness and death of more cats than any other disease.
  • can weaken a cat’s immune system. 


When should I test my cat for Feline leukemia?

Since your last visit to a veterinary clinic, has your cat:

  • Had a bite wounds?
  • Been outside for even a brief period of time?
  • Been exposed to any other cat whose status is unknown?

        If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, your cat should be tested. 


Why should I test my cat?

Without testing, there is no way to know whether your cat is infected.  Without diagnosis, your cat cannot be treated properly.  The American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends that all at-risk cats, sick cats and kittens should be tested. 


Are you unsure if your cat has been tested for Feline Leukemia?  Give us a call to confirm.  If your cat hasn’t been tested, we would be happy to arrange an appointment to have your cat tested. 

(Information from Idexx and Merial)


What is leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis, or lepto, is a deadly bacterial disease spread by wildlife and domestic animals.

  • Lepto is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be passed from animals to people.
  • Lepto has been diagnosed in all types of dogs.  All breed and sizes of dogs are at risk.
  • Common lepto carriers include raccoons, skunks, opossums, squirrels, rats and other dogs.  Livestock can also carry the disease.
  • Lepto bacteria can survive for long periods in water.
  • The number of canine leptospirosis cases has risen dramatically in recent years.  Today, lepto is the #1 cause of acute kidney failure in dogs.
  • Early recognition of leptospirosis is important for a full recovery.


How is my dog exposed?

Lepto bacteria are shed in urine.  Dogs become infected when they come into contact with urine from infected animals.

  • Infection occurs when dogs wade through or drink from contaminated water sources.
  • The bacteria can enter through a cut in the skin or mucous membranes, such as the eye, nose or mouth.


Is your dog at risk?

Because lepto carriers reside in many locations, dogs living in urban, suburban and rural areas can be at risk.

  • Does your dog go outdoors?
  • Does your dog drink from or wade in standing water?
  • Is your dog exposed to areas where wildlife has been?
  • Do you take your dog to dog parks or daycare?
  • Do you live in a newly developed area or near farmland or woods?
  • Has lepto been diagnosed in your area in dogs or people?


Take Steps to Protect

 Every dog that ventures outdoors is at risk for lepto.  Take steps now to protect your pet.

  • Remove food, garbage and nesting material from your yard  to minimize wildlife activity.
  • Discourage your dog from drinking standing water.
  • Most importantly, ask us about protection with the Lepto vaccine.


(Courtesy Fort Dodge LeptoVax Pamphlet)



The rabies virus represents a serious risk to people and their pets – with hundreds of cases in pets each year in the United States alone.  All it takes to contract this deadly disease is exposure to an infected animal through a scratch, cut or bite.

Fortunately, there’s something you can do.  A simple vaccination is the best way to help protect your pet against rabies.  Even if you keep your pet indoors, it should still be vaccinated — and it’s require by law!


What is rabies?

Rabies is an acute viral infection that can affect all warm-blooded animals – including dogs and cats.  The disease is almost always caused by the bite of an infected animal that has rabies virus in its saliva.  Younger animals are usually more susceptible to rabies infection.  And it’s always fatal once clinic signs appears.

What if my pet has possible been exposed?

If your pet has been bitten by or exposed to a wild or potentially rabid animal, speak with us immediately and report it to local animal control authorities.  Even if your pet has a current vaccine, you should still contact us.

Signs and Prevention

Once the rabies virus enters the body, it travels along the nerves to the brain.  It can take a matter of days, weeks or months for your pet to show signs of the rabies virus.

Infected animals often show anxiety, aggression, restlessness and erratic behavior.  They also may develop weakness, poor coordination or tremors.  Wild rabid animals commonly lose their fear of humans. Species that are normally nocturnal may be seen wandering about during the day.

Dogs, cats or ferrets that have never been vaccinated and are exposed to a rabid animal may need to be euthanized or placed in strict isolation for six months. 

Vaccinate to Protect Your Pet

We are committed to helping you make the best choices for your pet’s health.  To give your pet the protection it needs, we recommend vaccination with the IMRAB rabies vaccine. 

What Else Can You Do?

  • Don’t leave garbage or pet food outdoors.
  • Observe all wild or stray animals.
  • If you see a wild animal acting strangely, report it to your local animal control authorities. 


(Information courtesy of Merial)

Infectious Tracheobronchitis

More popularly known as Kennel Cough, Infectious Tracheobronchitis is a highly contagious disease that is spread through airborne droplets.  Infectious Tracheobronchitis spreads freely at boarding facilities, grooming facilities, dog parks – basically any social situation that you may find a dog in.

Like whooping cough in humans, kennel cough is an inflammation of the upper airways.  It is typically a mild disease, but still has the ability to advance into life-threatening pneumonia in puppies.

The signs of Infectious Tracheobronchitis

  • The main clinical sign = a hoarse cough
  • Cough can begin three to ten days after exposure
  • Bouts of severe coughing
  • Loud, high-pitched “honking”
  • Dogs may cough up phlegm, which looks like vomiting
  • Depression, lethargy, and loss of appetite
  • Discharge from the nose or eyes

In order to diagnose kennel cough, we will ask you about recent exposure to infected or susceptible dogs and consider the clinical signs that we are seeing.   The doctor will also palpate the trachea to initiate coughing.  Once diagnosed, most dogs will be prescribed medication to lessen the cough.  It is recommended that infectious dogs be isolated until ALL signs have disappeared to prevent the spreading of the disease.  To avoid most cases of kennel cough, we recommend an annual vaccination that works quickly to immunize dogs, and is proven safe and effective.   Prevention is key!


Feline Herpes Virus

Is your feline friend bothered by recurring conjunctivitis?  Feline herpes virus (FHV-1) may be to blame.  FHV-1 is widespread in the general cat population and is transmitted by close contact with infected cats.  It is highly contagious, making cat-crowded environments perfect places for HFV-1 to thrive.  The virus can remain viable for up to 18 hours, so infected bedding and kennels can also easily lead to an outbreak.

Seeing the Signs

Unfortunately, kittens are most susceptible to FHV-1, especially when maternal antibodies start waning at eight to twelve weeks.  Because so many kittens end up in shelters, many of them are exposed before they can be adopted.

Once infected with FHV-1, kittens and cats develop conjunctivitis.  Reddened, swollen, itchy eyes with increased discharge are the hallmark symptoms, and in viral cases, painful corneal ulcers may develop.  Most cats recover within two weeks, but severe cases may take longer.

After the first infection, more than 80% of infected cats become latently infected, meaning the virus does not completely vanish.  About have of them will have recurring infections, as the virus reactivates spontaneously or in response to stress.  Infections typically show up about a week after a stressful event, such as travel, boarding or the use of steroids, which can suppress the immune system.  The affected cat will be contagious to fellow felines for one to two weeks, but healthy adult cats probably have immune systems strong enough to withstand the threat – but that is not always the case!

The diagnosis of FHV-1 is often a presumptive diagnosis, meaning it is treated based on specific symptoms rather than test results.  Anti-viral medications may be needed in severe cases, when the disease may lead to blindness.

Sight for Sore Eyes

Cats with recurring conjunctivitis may show symptoms in both eyes or in only one eye (it tends to be the same eye each time).  Antibiotics will not kill the virus, but where there is also a bacterial infection, antibiotic drops may be prescribed for the eyes

There is no cure for latent viral infection, and there is no prevention for uninfected cats.  However, supportive therapy may shorten the disease’s life:

* L-lysine:  This amino acid, which inhibits the replication of FHV-1, is available as a powder you can sprinkle on food and as tempting treats.

* Interferons:  These proteins are produced by cells in response to viruses.  When given to affected cats, they seem to limit the infection of healthy cells.




Nearly 20% of all dogs in the U.S. suffer from canine arthritis.  This disease develops gradually over time, and can cause your dog pain and prevent him from performing the simplest of tasks, like climbing the stairs or walking.

An X-ray image shows a healthy hip in contrast to an arthritic hip.

Canine arthritis occurs in your dog’s joints.  A healthy joint consists of cartilage that covers and protects the ends of the bones in a joint.  The cartilage has no nerves; when it touches the cartilage of another bone, the dog feels no pain.

However, arthritis causes the cartilage to wear away.  This exposes the bone, which has many nerves.  So when two bones touch each other, your dog feels pain.  This pain can greatly affect your dog’s quality of life.

When bones continually rub against each other, they will eventually change shape.  The bone reshaping can make it difficult – or sometimes impossible – for your dog to walk or move naturally.  Arthritis can be managed much more successfully when it is diagnosed and treated early in the process.

Signs of Canine Arthritis

– Sluggishness
– Tiredness
– Low Activity
– Reluctance to walking, running, climbing stairs, jumping, or playing
– Lagging behind on walks
– Reluctance to extend rear legs
– Soreness
– Aggressive or withdrawn behavior
– Other personality or behavioral changes.


Are you concerned that your pet might have arthritis?  Take a minute and ask yourself the following questions:

The Arthritis Checklist

1.  Does your dog hesitate before jumping onto the bed or couch, or have difficulty getting in or out of the car?
2.  Does your dog seem to be lagging behind during walks? 
3.  Does your dog hesitate to go up and down stairs?
4.  Does your dog sometimes seem stiff or shaky when rising or walking?
5.  Does your dog show signs of discomfort?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, it’s time to make an appointment and have an examination performed on your dog.  In addition to an exam, the doctor may consider taking a X-ray of the specified joint to determine the severity of the arthritis.


My dog has arthritis.  What are my options?

There are a few things you can do at home to help alleviate the pain of arthritis, such as low-impact exercise, decreasing the amount of food and treats given in hopes of dropping a few pounds, and using portable ramps for getting in and out of cars or onto the bed.

The introduction of pain relievers (Tramadol) and anti-inflammatory drugs (Rimadyl, Deramaxx) are also an option.  In addition to oral medications, the injectable drug Adequan has been shown to prevent the further deterioration of cartilage in joints.  And it’s never too early to think about supplements: Glucosamine and Chondroitin can be found in several forms including pills, treats and chews.   As always, see your vet before starting any medication regimen, as some of the medications listed require regular bloodwork.

If you are concerned that your dog may be experiencing symptoms of arthritis, please call to schedule an appointment with one of our veterinarians.  The sooner we can treat the problem, the more comfortable your dog will be.

And to our feline patients, we haven’t forgot about you!  Arthritis can affect our feline friends as well.  Is your cat a bit older?  Maybe you’ve noticed him having difficulty getting in and out of the litter box (or even having accidents in the house) or hopping onto his favorite spot?  If so, we want to see them, too!

A clear sign your cat has arthritis.


To Schedule an Appointment, Please call:
Northstar Animal Care  (614) 488-4121
Upper Arlington Veterinary Hospital  (614) 481-8014

Be sure to visit our Facebook pages!