Archive for the ‘Dog health’ Category

A Primer on Canine Tetanus

June 26, 2016

SFSBlog_tetanusOdds are really good that none of the dogs you’ll ever know will develop tetanus. So, why have I chosen to write about this disease? Blame it on Facebook (FB). For those of you who use FB, when I describe the vegetative trance one can enter while scrolling through a FB news feed, you know exactly what I’m talking about. This is the state I was in when I happened to scroll past a photo of a Labrador’ish-looking dog whose facial expression appeared pretty much just like the dog pictured here. This very classic photo pulled me right out of my FB trance.

The text accompanying the photo was a plea for help in the way of “Can anyone tell me what is wrong with my dog?” The FB poster indicated that her vet had already examined her dog a few times, but there was still no diagnosis. Even with baytril (an antibiotic) and pain medication on board, her dog was steadily getting worse. Her dog was still able to walk, but appeared very stiff.

I don’t usually get involved in requests for a “photo diagnosis.” A single photo can usually translate into a dozen or more diagnoses. However, this particular photo was classic- a textbook case of tetanus. And, I knew that, without appropriate treatment administered just as soon as possible, this dog would be doomed. I felt a moral obligation to respond.

I posted a comment letting the FB poster know that her dog likely had tetanus and was in need of intensive therapy. I encouraged her to seek help ASAP, ideally by way of an emergency hospital, or veterinary specialist such as an internist or criticalist. I asked if the dog had a recent wound that would have allowed the tetanus organism to gain entry.

The response arrived within seconds. Sure enough, a week or so ago the dog had been limping due to a cut on his toe. She thanked me profusely and let me know that she would get help for her dog right away. I wished her the best of luck and our FB conversation ended.

The cause of tetanus

Tetanus is caused by Clostridium tetani, a soil bacterium that can enter the bloodstream via a wound, most commonly on the foot or in the mouth. Puppies can develop tetanus because they chew on sticks and other soil-contaminated goodies, and they have open wounds in their gums created by the loss of baby teeth.

The clostridial organism produces a toxin called tetanospasmin that binds to nerve cells and interferes with the function of a particular neurotransmitter (a chemical released from a nerve cell that transmits an impulse) responsible for inhibiting muscle contractions. Disabling this inhibitory neurotransmitter results in relentless muscle spasms.

Symptoms

Tetanus symptoms usually begin around the face and eyes. Dogs lose their ability to blink accompanied by changes in facial features. This classic facial appearance (the one that prompted me to respond to the FB post) is referred to as risus sardonicus.

With time, symptoms become more generalized throughout the body ultimately resulting in a spastic paralysis- the dog is unable to move at all because of muscle rigidity. Without appropriate treatment, death occurs due to paralysis of the muscles responsible for breathing.

To see a dog with tetanic symptoms, have a look at this video. Not to worry, this video has a happy ending.

Diagnosis

There is no simple test for diagnosing tetanus. Rather, the diagnosis is made based on symptoms and the history of a wound that allowed the clostridial organism to gain entry into the bloodstream.

Treatment and prognosis

Clostridium tetani is an anaerobic bacterial organism, meaning that it thrives in environments devoid of oxygen. A wound festering beneath the skin surface is an ideal incubator. For this reason, it is important to treat the wound (if one is found) where the bacteria gained entry. This involves debridement- opening the wound and removing as much infected tissue as possible.

Appropriate antibiotic therapy is imperative. Penicillin-related drugs work well against the clostridial organism and, at least initially, they are typically administered intravenously. With improvement, oral antibiotics are appropriate. (Baytril, the antibiotic the FB dog was being treated with, is ineffective against Clostridium tetani.)

Additional treatment is dictated by the severity of symptoms. Muscle relaxants are commonly administered along with medication to reduce anxiety. If the dog is unable to eat because of “lock jaw”, nutrition is provided by way of a feeding tube. And if the dog is unable to move, intensive nursing care is required.

Dogs with tetanus are usually super-sensitive to stimuli, and sights and sounds can intensify muscle contractions. For this reason, these dogs are often sedated and kept in a dark quiet room during the recovery period. Long-term treatment- up to a month or more- is often required.

The prognosis for tetanus is good, assuming the dog receives early intervention and aggressive treatment. As with most diseases, the earlier the diagnosis is made and treatment started, the better the prognosis.

Prevention

Dogs are not routinely vaccinated against tetanus because they are so much less susceptible to this disease than are other species such as horses, livestock and people. This being said, it does make sense to thoroughly clean even minor wounds, particularly those on the feet.

How the story ends

So, how did things turn out for the dog I “met” on FB? I sure wish I knew. Silly me, I failed to note the woman’s name and, because we are not FB “friends”, I am at a loss as to how to find her again. I suspect things turned out well, and I’m glad my FB conversation prompted me to teach you about tetanus!

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at http://www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

 

 

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Resolutions for the New Year That Will Benefit You and Your Pet

January 1, 2012

The transition to a new calendar year may inspire you to muster the resolve to make good changes in your life. How about the lives of your pets? No time like the present to make some new year’s resolutions that will benefit both of you. Here are three suggestions:

More Face Time With Your Pets

Our furry family members are more than happy to be our exercise partners, confidantes, psychotherapists, and nonelectric heating blankets. Take advantage of such pet-facilitated services as much as possible this year!

What dog doesn’t crave attention from their favorite human? Teach your best friend some new tricks. Begin working on that long overdue grooming. Get your pup out for more exercise (lose the sedentary human behavior at the dog park). Don’t let the winter weather be a deterrent. Go shopping for some canine winter apparel and gift yourself with Dr. Phil Zeltzman’s book, Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound to glean some inspiration!

What about our kitties? Well you know how it is- cats tend to like things on their terms. However, even the most curmudgeonly of cats will benefit from a feather toy tempting them to expend some energy and some affectionate scratches under the chin. The challenge is to spend more quality time with your kitties while convincing them that the activity is of their choosing.

Fewer Vaccinations

Your adult pet’s good health requires inoculation with core vaccinations no more than once every three years. The term “core” is reserved for those vaccines, such as distemper, that are recommended for every adult animal. Overvaccinating (vaccinating more than once every three years) exposes your best little buddy to needless risk (yes, there is some risk associated with every vaccination). Besides, why spend your hard earned money on something that is completely unnecessary?

If your veterinarian has remained on the “once a year bandwagon” and the thought of convincing him or her otherwise gives you a case of the willies, I encourage you to read the chapter called, “Discussion About Your Dog’s Vaccinations” in Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet. Kathie please make this a live link to the Amazon page The information found there will provide you with all the inspiration you need to broach the vaccination conversation with your vet. (For those of you who are cat fanciers, please know that my hope is to create the feline version of this book within the year. In the meantime, know that the basic principles provided in Your Dog’s Best Health apply to kitty care as well.)

Recruit a Professional to Help With Your Pet’s Behavioral Issues

Would you love to be able to leave your dog home alone for more than ten minutes without the house being destroyed? Would you be ecstatic if your precious puss quit spraying your walls with his version of graffiti? Would you relish the idea of taking your dog for a walk without having to ice your shoulder afterwards? There is no time like the present to tackle such behavioral issues. I encourage you to get the professional help you need so that you and your pet can fully enjoy cohabitating. Chronic behavior issues tend to gradually result in more and more isolation for the pet until most of their waking hours are spent within a crate, a single room of the house, or the backyard. Such isolation begets even more negative adaptive behaviors, and the end result may be relinquishment to a shelter or rescue organization; worse yet, euthanasia.

Please know that if your dog or cat has a significant behavioral issue, you are certainly not alone. Also know that the sooner the issue is dealt with, the happier the outcome will be for both you and your pet. Hiring a pro to help you work out a behavior bugaboo will be one of the best investments you make this year!

When choosing a trainer or behaviorist, check in with your veterinarian for a recommendation. Additionally, check out the websites below. You’ll find lots of information about how to choose the right person to help you with the issue at hand. These sites also have “locators” to help you find a professional in your area.

Association of Pet Dog Trainers

Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers

International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants

Animal Behavior Society

American College of Veterinary Behaviorists

Have you made any “pet resolutions” this year? Does your pet have a behavioral issue that is affecting the quality of your life? Have you successfully dealt with a significant behavioral issue in the past? Please share what you know so that others may offer advice and/or benefit from what you have learned.

Best wishes for a happy new year,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.