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Wobbler Syndrome in Dogs

Cervical Spondylomyelopathy in Dogs

Cervical spondylomyelopathy (CSM), or wobbler syndrome, is a disease of the cervical spine (at the neck) that is commonly seen in large and giant-breed dogs. CSM is characterized by compression of the spinal cord and/or nerve roots, which leads to neurological signs and/or neck pain. The term wobbler syndrome is used to describe the characteristic wobbly gait (walk) that affected dogs have.

Intervertebral disk slippage and/or bony malformation in a narrowed vertebral canal (the bony canal surrounding the soft spinal cord) can cause spinal compression. Disk associated spinal compression is most often seen in dogs older than three years of age.

Doberman pinschers are predisposed to slipping intervertebral disks (in between the vertebrae). Vertebral malformation (bony associated compression) is most commonly seen in giant breed dogs, usually in young adult dogs that are less than three years of age. The bony malformation can compress the spinal cord from the top and bottom, from the top and sides, or just from the sides. Dynamic spinal cord compression (compression that changes with different positions of the cervical spine) always occurs with any type of compression.

Breeds that appear to be predisposed to this condition are Doberman pinchers, rottweilers, great Danes, Irish wolfhounds, and basset hounds.

Symptoms and Types

  • Strange, wobbly gait
  • Neck pain, stiffness
  • Weakness
  • Possible short-strided walking, spastic with a floating appearance or very weak in the front limbs
  • Possibly unable to walk – partial or complete paralysis
  • Possible muscle loss near the shoulders
  • Possible worn or scuffed toenails from uneven walking
  • Increased extension of all four limbs
  • Difficulty getting up from lying position

Causes

  • Nutrition in some cases – excess protein, calcium, and calories have been a proposed cause in great Danes
  • Fast-growth is suspected in large dog breeds

Diagnosis

Along with the standard medical tests, which include a blood chemical profile, a complete blood count, a urinalysis and an electrolyte panel to rule out other diseases, your veterinarian will take a thorough history of your dog’s health, onset of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have preceded this condition, such as traumas to the back or any previous illnesses. Any information you might have on your dog’s genetic background may be helpful as well.

Wobbler syndrome is diagnosed via visualization. X-rays, myelographs, computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) will allow your doctor to view the spine and vertebrae. X-rays should be used mainly to rule out bony disorders while myelographs, CT and MRI are used to visualize the compression of the spinal cord. Diseases that will need to be ruled out though a differential diagnosis include diskospondylitis, neoplasia, and inflammatory spinal cord diseases. The results of the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) analysis should pinpoint the origin of the symptoms.

nerve

A bundle of fibers that are used in the process of sending impulses through the body

urinalysis

An in-depth examination of the properties of urine; used to determine the presence or absence of illness

malformation

Any growth or organ on an animal that is not normal

atrophy

The wasting away of certain tissues; a medical condition that occurs when tissues fail to grow.

ankylosis

A condition in which a joint is unable to move, usually due to some type of illness or medical procedure.

adhesion

Fibers that bond items together that would not normally be combined.

gait

The term used to describe the movement of an animal

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Weight Loss and Chronic Disease in Dogs

Cachexia in Dogs

When should your dog’s weight loss concern you? The standard is when the loss exceeds ten percent of normal body weight (and when it is not due to fluid loss). There are many things that can cause weight loss, including chronic disease. It is important to understand this because the dog’s entire body will probably be affected by the weight loss, and it ultimately depends on the cause and severity of the underlying medical condition.

Causes 

  • Insufficient calorie intake
  • Poor quality of food
  • Taste (palatability) of food
  • Spoiled food/deterioration from prolonged storage
  • Reduced appetite (anorexia)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Chronic protein-losing intestinal disorder
  • Intestinal worms (parasites)
  • Chronic infections of the bowel
  • Tumors of the intestine
  • Blockages in stomach/gut (gastrointestinal obstructions)
  • Surgical removal (resection) of segments of bowel
  • Disease of the pancreas
  • Liver or gall bladder disease
  • Organ failure (heart, liver, kidney)
  • Addison’s disease
  • Diabetes
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Chronic blood loss (hemorrhaging)
  • Skin lesions that ooze and cause loss of protein
  • Disorders of the central nervous system that interfere with eating or appetite
  • Paralysis of the esophagus
  • Neurologic disorders that make it difficult to pick up or swallow food
  • Increased physical activity
  • Prolonged exposure to cold
  • Pregnancy or nursing
  • Fever or inflammation
  • Cancer
  • Bacterial infections
  • Viral infections
  • Fungal infections

Diagnosis 

Your veterinarian will begin with a variety of diagnostic tests to find the underlying cause for the weight loss. After an initial health assessment, the following are some tests that might be recommended for your pet:

  • Fecal studies to look for chronic intestinal parasites
  • Complete blood count (CBC) to look for infection, inflammation, leukemia, anemia, and other blood disorders
  • A biochemical profile that will evaluate kidney, liver, and pancreas function, and the status of blood proteins, blood sugar, and electrolytes
  • Urinalysis to determine kidney function, to look for infections/protein loss from the kidneys, and to determine hydration status
  • Chest and abdominal x-rays to observe heart, lungs, and abdominal organs
  • Tests to evaluate the condition of the pancreas
  • Ultrasound of the abdomen
  • Bile acids test to evaluate liver function
  • Hormone assays to look for endocrine disorders
  • Using a scope to view the intestines (endoscopy) and biopsy
  • Exploratory surgery (laparotomy)

palatability

The term used to describe how much an animal will like a specific taste or food

pancreas

A gland that aids in both digestive and insulin functions

leukemia

An increase in the number of bad white blood cells

esophagus

The tube that extends from the mouth to the stomach

biopsy

The process of removing tissue to examine it, usually for medical reasons.

anemia

A condition of the blood in which normal red blood cell counts or hemoglobin are lacking.

gastrointestinal

The digestive tract containing the stomach and intestine

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Weak Immune System due to Hereditary Disorder in Dogs

Immunodeficiency Disorders in Dogs

The immune system is a collection of biological processes that protects against disease by identifying and killing the invading pathogens, as well as tumor cells. It works 24/7, guarding against invading organisms and infections, detecting a wide variety of invading agents including bacteria, viruses, and parasitic worms. One key feature of the immune system function is that it is able to distinguish the invading organisms from the body’s own cells and tissues.

Primary immunodeficiency disorders involve weakened immune response when required. Primary immunodeficiency disorders are seen due to heritable defects in the immune system, whereas secondary immunodeficiency disorders are caused by some other primary disease.

Breeds predisposed to primary immunodeficiency disorders include basset hounds, Cardigan Welsh corgis, Jack Russell terriers, Beagles, German shepherds, Chinese shar-pei, Doberman pinschers, dwarfed Weimaraners, gray collies, and Irish setters.

Symptoms and Types

  • Prone to recurrent infections and failed response to conventional antibiotic therapies
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite (anorexia)
  • Various skin infections
  • Poor growth (hallmark)
  • Post vaccination diseases
  • Other symptoms related to infections

Causes

Immunodeficiency disorders are a congenital disorder; i.e., dogs are born with them.

Diagnosis

You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health, including the onset and nature of the symptoms, to your veterinarian. He or she will then conduct a complete physical examination, as well as a biochemistry profile, urinalysis, and complete blood count (CBC) — the results of which may reveal various cell abnormalities or clues for infections. More specific tests are available for a more detailed evaluation of the immune system, and may be employed by the veterinarian with your consent. For example, he or she may take a bone marrow sample from your dog for evaluation.

urinalysis

An in-depth examination of the properties of urine; used to determine the presence or absence of illness

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Watery Eyes in Dogs

Epiphora in Dogs

Epiphora is a condition that causes an abnormal overflow of tears. Causes of epiphora due to the shape of the eyes is seen in many breeds. The overproduction of tears can be congenital due to distichiasis – turning in of the eyelashes, or entropion – the turning in of the eyelid. Young shelties, shih tzus, Lhasa apsos, cocker spaniels, pekingese, bulldogs, dachshunds, and miniature poodles are most commonly affected with distichia. Entropion is most commonly seen in some Chinese shar peis, pugs, mastiffs, poodles, Labrador retrievers and chow chows. The upper or lower lid may be affected. This condition may occur secondary to eye irritation.

Symptoms and Types

Epiphora is evident with the observation of an overflow of tears, tear drainage and/or staining on face. Other signs include:

  • Squinting
  • Inflammation
  • Redness and irritation
  • Discharge from eye
  • Ulcers of the cornea
  • Skin around eye is loose or sagging

Congenital abnormalities include the occurrence of too large an opening of the eyelids, causing increased exposure of the eyeball in brachycephalic breeds. Ectropion, a turning outward of the eyelid, is commonly found in Great Danes, bloodhounds, and spaniels. Entropion is seen at birth in some breeds and can be acquired due to post-traumatic eyelid scarring and facial nerve paralysis.

Causes

Conditions acquired by a dog can lead to epiphora. These conditions include rhinitis/sinusitis, which causes swelling adjacent to the tear drainage system; trauma or fractures of the bones in the face; foreign bodies in the eyes (e.g., grass, seeds, sand, parasites). Tumors of the third eyelid, the conjunctiva of the eye, eyelids, nasal cavity, maxillary bone in the face, or in the sinuses located around the eyes will also be considered. A condition which causes the nasolacrimal duct (tear duct) to be obstructed, whether through inflammation due to an acquired condition, or because of a congenital abnormality, may also cause an overflow of tears.

Blockage of the nasolacrimal drainage system can be caused by congenital lack of normal openings on the eyelids into the tear drainage system, as seen in cocker spaniels, bulldogs, and poodles. Extra openings can also form into the tear drainage system in abnormal positions, such as openings along the side of the face below the corner of the eye, closest to the nose. Other possibilities include lack of openings from the tear drainage system into the nose.

Acquired conditions involving corneal or conjunctival foreign bodies are seen usually in young, active, large-breed dogs. Inflammation of the eyelids and conjunctiva can be due to infectious or immune-mediated causes. Disorders of the cornea are characterized by the presence of scratches/ulcers with or without inflammation. Inflammation of the front part of the eye, including the iris, can be present. Glaucoma is a condition in which the pressure within the eye is increased. Eyelid tumors are typically seen in older dogs of all breeds.

Diagnosis

Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam on your pet, taking into account the background history of symptoms and possible incidents that might have precipitated this condition.

Your veterinarian may order radiographs to check for lesions in the nose or sinus area, and contrast material may be used to help differentiate structures. Your doctor may also order a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scan. In addition, a culture of the material in the eyes will be taken for laboratory analysis. However, surgical exploration may be the only way to obtain a definitive diagnosis. A flushing of the tear ducts may be sued to dislodge any foreign material.

If irritation is evident, your veterinarian may also employ the use of a fluorescein stain, a non-invasive dye that shows details of the eye under blue light, in order to examine the eye for abrasions or foreign objects.

nasolacrimal duct

The passage that brings tears into the nose

lesion

A change in the way that tissue is constructed; a sore

nerve

A bundle of fibers that are used in the process of sending impulses through the body

sinus

A cavity within a bone; may also indicate a flow or channel

sinusitis

A medical condition; occurs when the sinus becomes inflamed

iris

The colored layer around the pupil

sclera

The outer layer of the eye that helps it to keep its round shape; the eye white.

intact

Denotes an animal that is still able to reproduce or is free of cuts and scrapes

distichiasis

A condition in which there are two rows of lashes in place of one

distichia

Two sets of eyelashes; often results in an injury to the lining of the eye

ducts

A passage in the body with walls

entropion

Turning in of the eyelids

epiphora

The excessive production of tears

brachycephalic

An animal with a wide head, short in stature.

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Water on the Brain in Dogs

Hydrocephalus in Dogs

Hydrocephalus is an expansion or abnormal dilation of the ventricular system due to an increased volume of spinal fluid. In this case, the ventricles that are affected are those connected with the spinal cord. The abnormal dilation may affect only on one side of the brain, or both sides. It may involve the entire ventricular system (a set of hollow structures in the brain continuous with the central canal of the spinal cord), or only elements next to a site of ventricular system obstruction.

There are two types of hydrocephalus – obstructive and compensatory. Both compensatory and obstructive hydrocephalus can be congenital (present at birth) or acquired.

In the case of obstructive hydrocephalus, spinal fluid accumulates due to an obstruction along the normal circulatory pattern (noncommunicating hydrocephalus), or the fluid accumulates at the fluid resorption site near the meningeal arachnoid villi (communicating hydrocephalus). The meninges are composed of three membranous envelopes – the pia mater, which lies against the brain; the arachnoid, the middle layer; and the dura mater, the outer, thicker layer closest tot he skull – that surround the brain and spinal cord. Intracranial (within the skull) pressure may be high or normal. However, clinical signs may be noted when intracranial pressure is normal.

Congenital obstruction causes primary obstructive hydrocephalus. The most common site of obstruction is at the level of the mesencephalic (middle brain) aqueduct. Prenatal (before birth) infections may cause aqueductal stenosis (narrowing) with subsequent hydrocephalus. This may result in considerable disruption of the architecture of the brain.

Acquired obstruction results in secondary obstructive hydrocephalus. It is caused by tumors, abscesses, and inflammatory diseases (including inflammation resulting from hemorrhage that has been caused by traumatic injuries or other causes of bleeding). The sites of obstruction include the interventricular foramina (channels that connect the paired lateral ventricles with the third ventricle at the midline of the brain), the mesencephalic aqueduct, or the lateral apertures of the fourth ventricle.

With compensatory hydrocephalus, spinal fluid fills the space where the nervous system’s functional parts have been destroyed and/or failed to develop. Intracranial (within the brain) pressure is a normal result. This is ventricular dilation incidental to the primary disease.

Overproduction of spinal fluid can also cause hydrocephalus. However, this is rare. A tumor in the eye may also cause water on the brain.

The congenital form of hydrocephalus is more likely to occur in small and brachycephalic dogs: bulldogs, Chihuahuas, Maltese, Pomeranians, Toy Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, Lhasa Apsos, Cairn Terriers, Boston Terriers, Pugs, and Pekingese. It is an inherited disease in Yorkshire terriers. Additionally, there is a high incidence of normal adult beagles that are found to have enlarged ventricular systems and yet are clinically without symptoms. Acquired hydrocephalus can occur in all breeds.

Congenital hydrocephalus usually becomes apparent at a few weeks up to a year of age. Acute onset of signs can occur in dogs with previously undiagnosed congenital hydrocephalus. The exact cause of this uncertain. Acquired hydrocephalus can occur at any age.

Symptoms and Types

  • May be without symptoms
  • Wetting or soiling in the house
  • Sleepiness
  • Excess vocalization
  • Hyperexcitability
  • Blindness
  • Seizures
  • A large dome-shaped head (due to intracranial swelling)
  • Crossed-eyes
  • Gait abnormalities
  • Coma
  • Abnormal breathing
  • Animal may arch its head back and extend all four legs

Causes

  • Congenital
  • Genetics
  • Prenatal infection
  • Parainfluenza virus (dogs)
  • Exposure to teratogens (drugs that interfere with fetal development) in utero
  • Brain hemorrhage in newborn after difficult labor
  • Vitamin A deficiency
  • Acquired
  • Intracranial inflammatory diseases
  • Masses in the cranium

Diagnosis

You will need to provide your veterinarian with a thorough and detailed history of your dog’s health, including any information you have about its birth and parentage, the onset of symptoms, and any possible incidents, including minor falls, that might have preceded this condition. Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical exam on your dog, with a complete blood profile, chemical blood profile, complete blood count, an electrolyte panel, and a urinalysis, in order to effectively rule out or confirm evidence of trauma, infection, or cancer.

Diagnostic imaging is essential. Skull radiographs may help to diagnose congenital hydrocephalus, but computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are best for visualization, enabling your veterinarian to come to a definitive diagnosis.

Other diagnostic tests that can assist in the diagnosis of hydrocephalus are a spinal tap, with a laboratory analysis of the fluid, and an electroencephalogram (EEG) for measuring the brain’s electrical activity.

meninges

The term for the connective tissue around the brain and spine

lateral

Moving or located away from the midline; located along the side

intracranial

Found inside the cranium

prognosis

The prediction of a disease’s outcome in advance

third ventricle

The cavity that connects to the fourth ventricle in the diencephalon

ventricle

a) A cavity in certain animals b) Term refers to a rear chamber in the heart or a cavity in the brain

urinalysis

An in-depth examination of the properties of urine; used to determine the presence or absence of illness

interventricular

Found between the ventricles

stenosis

The act of making an opening narrower.

in utero

Inside the uterus

dilation

The widening of something

brachycephalic

An animal with a wide head, short in stature.

arch

A bend or curve

dura mater

The outermost part of the meninges

electroencephalogram

Any record of the electrical activity that takes place in the brain

hydrocephalus

A condition in which fluid is found inside the brain; water on the brain

hemorrhage

Extreme loss of blood

arachnoid

Term used to refer to something being constructed of tiny hairs; a cobweb is arachnoid in nature.

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Water Diabetes in Dogs

Diabetes Insipidus in Dogs

Diabetes insipidus (DI) is a rare disorder that affects water metabolism, preventing the body from conserving water and releasing too much of it. This condition is characterized by increased urination, dilute urine (so-called insipid, or dull urine), and increased thirst and drinking. This disease is not related to diabetes mellitus (insulin diabetes).

Symptoms and Types

There are two main types of DI that affect dogs: neurogenic (or central diabetes insipidus) and nephrogenic diabetes insipidus. In neurogenic DI, the cause is due to a lack of the hormone vasopressin, which regulates the body’s retention of water. The release of vasopressin is produced and regulated by the hypothalamus (in the brain), so a dysfunction in its release may be due to a head injury, or to a tumor in the brain. Vasopressin is produced in the hypothalamus into the connected pituitary gland, and is then released into the bloodstream. A lack of vasopressin may be due to a failure in the hypothalamus, or a failure in the pituitary gland. A significant number of cases is idiopathic.

Nephrogenic DI, meanwhile, can be caused by a deficiency of antidiuretic hormone (ADH), which functions to stimulate the capillary muscles and reduce the flow of urine, effectively conserving water for the body’s various functions. The cause is found in the kidneys and their inability to respond appropriately to ADH, allowing too much water from the body to escape into the urine.

This is typically an acquired condition, and may be due to amyloidosis of the kidney, cysts on the kidney, or an imbalance of electrolytes.

Other common symptoms seen in dogs with DI include:

  • Increased urination (polyuria)
  • Increased drinking (polydipsia)
  • Decreased urination with dehydration
  • Housesoiling—occasional
  • Poor hair coat 

Causes

Inadequate secretion of antidiuretic hormone ADH

  • Congenital defect
  • Unknown causes
  • Trauma
  • Cancer

Renal insensitivity to ADH

  • Congenital
  • Secondary to drugs
  • Secondary to endocrine and metabolic disorders
  • Secondary to renal disease or infection

polyuria

Excessive urination

prognosis

The prediction of a disease’s outcome in advance

uterus

The hollow bodily organ that holds the embryo and fetus and provides nourishment; only found in female animals.

polydipsia

A medical condition involving excessive thirst

urinalysis

An in-depth examination of the properties of urine; used to determine the presence or absence of illness

hypothalamus

Part of the thalamus that helps to regulate the release of certain hormones

idiopathic

Relating to a disease of unknown origin, which may or may not have arisen spontaneously

insulin

A hormone created by the pancreas that helps to regulate the flow of glucose

dehydration

A medical condition in which the body has lost fluid or water in excessive amounts

pituitary gland

The gland that is found at the bottom of the brain whose job is to maintain appropriate levels of hormones in the blood

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Wart Virus in Dogs

Papillomatosis in Dogs

The term papillomatosis is used to describe a benign tumor on the surface of the skin. A virus, known as the papillomavirus, causes the growth. The general appearance is wart-like, raised, with the central surface having an open pore if the wart is inverted. In dogs, the warts are most commonly presented in a raised manner; however, inverted warts are not uncommon. The pigmented appearance normally presents as a rough surface that is flat in appearance and black in colour.

There are instances where the papillomatosis can progress, causing common forms of skin cancer. It is also possible for invasive cancerous cells to penetrate and begin eating the underlying tissues. They are usually located around the lips, mouth and tongue. In young dogs the wart virus may be present around the mouth, genitals or eyes. However, the skin can be affected at any age.

Papillomatosis can affect both dogs and cats. If you would like would like to learn more about how this disease affects cats, please visit this page in the PetMD health library.

Symptoms and Types

Symptoms related to this disorder include bad breath associated with oral papillomatosis, bleeding from the mouth, increased or decreased appetite, and excessive excretion of saliva. Dogs will usually develop the papillomas, which are oval or circular in shape, around the lower abdomen.

Causes

Papillomatosis is contagious in nature and is caused by the canine oral papillomavirus. There are some cases where the wart virus is genetically related by breed.

Diagnosis

Your veterinarian will take a biopsy of the lesions if the papillomavirus is oral in nature. When there is evidence that the papillomatosis has affected the skin, or there are visible changes to the skin and cellular structures, pathology tests will be required. Further tests associated with the immune system will establish whether viral antibodies are present within the lesions.

pathology

The study of the causes and development of disease

malignant

Something that becomes worse or life threatening as it spreads

biopsy

The process of removing tissue to examine it, usually for medical reasons.

benign

Not being able to cause harm; the opposite of malignant.

excretion

Eliminating or the material that has actually been eliminated

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Verterbral Disc Inflammation in Dogs

Diskspondylitis in Dogs

Diskspondylitis is the inflammation of vertebral disks due to an infection caused by the invasion of bacteria or fungus. In dogs, as with other vertebrates, the vertebral column is composed of a series of vertebral bones. These bones maintain the structure of the body and protect the spinal cord, which is nested within the vertebral column. Between each vertebrae are structures called disks. These round, cartilaginous shock absorbers hold a nucleus of fibrous gel, which allows for normal movement of the vertebrae without the vertebral bones grinding against each other.

The infections most commonly reach the intervertebral disks through the blood. Less common is infection due to fractures or local abscesses. Due to the proximity of the spinal cord many of the symptoms seen in affected animals are related to the nervous system.

Large and giant breed dogs, including German shepherds and great Danes, are at higher risk than other breeds. In addition, males dogs have double the chances of developing this condition than female dogs.

Symptoms and Types

Paralysis may occur in some dogs, especially for those that have gone untreated. Other common symptoms seen in dogs suffering from diskspondylitis include:

  • Back pain
  • Difficulty in standing and jumping
  • Stiff gait
  • Uncoordinated walk
  • Weakness in limbs
  • Lameness
  • Fever

Causes

  • Bacterial infections
  • Fungal infections
  • Surgery
  • Bite wounds
  • Fracture
  • Injury to back or spine
  • Abscess near site of inflammation

Diagnosis

Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam on your dog, taking into account the background history of symptoms and possible incidents that might have led to this condition. After the initial physical examination, your veterinarian will order routine laboratory tests, including a complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis. These tests can be of value in determining the presence of any infections that might be primary causes of this disease. Your veterinarian will also take blood and urine samples for laboratory culturing in order to identify the causative bacteria or fungus. Drug sensitivity testing may also help your veterinarian to select the most effective drug(s) for your dog so that the underlying infection is appropriately treated.

Radiographic studies will help your veterinarian to determine the location of the inflamed disc, as well as the extent of the problem in your dog. Spinal X-rays will usually reveal damage to the vertebra and adjacent structures that have occurred due to infection. Displacement and collapse of intervertebral (between the vertebral bones) disks will also be evident in spinal X-rays. More specific radiographic studies, such as myelography, computed tomography (CT) scan, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be used for a more detailed and concise evaluation.

Myelography is a type of radiographic technique that uses an injectable substance that will contrast suitably on an X-ray device, in effect, “lighting” the internal area that is to be examined. This minimally invasive technique may allow your doctor to detect abnormalities of the spinal cord, making visible any compressions in the spinal cord, especially in those cases in which surgery may be required. Your veterinarian may also use CT or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans if normal X-rays and myelography imaging does not provide the needed details.

vertebrates

Term used to refer to animals that have a spine or backbone, including fish and mammals

vertebra

A bone in the spinal column

myelography

The study of the spine after dye has been injected

gait

The term used to describe the movement of an animal

urinalysis

An in-depth examination of the properties of urine; used to determine the presence or absence of illness

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Heart Murmurs in Dogs

 

Murmurs are extra heart vibrations that are produced as a result of a disturbance in the blood flow — enough, in fact, to produce audible noise. Often, the murmurs are classified according to a variety of characteristics, including their timing. Systolic murmurs, for example, occur when the heart muscle contracts; diastolic murmurs occur when the heart muscle relaxes between beats; and continuous and to-and-fro murmurs occur throughout all or most of the cardiac cycle.

Heart murmurs can occur in both dogs and cats. If you would like to learn more about how they affect cats, please visit this page in the PetMD health library.

Symptoms and Types

The symptoms associated with murmurs depend on a variety of characteristics, including their grade, configuration, and location. If, however, the murmur is associated with structural heart disease, your dog may display signs of congestive heart failure such as coughing, weakness, or exercise intolerance.

Grading Scale for Heart Murmurs in Dogs

  • Grade I—barely audible
  • Grade II—soft, but easily heard with a stethoscope
  • Grade III—intermediate loudness; most murmurs which are related to the mechanics of blood circulation are at least grade III
  • Grade IV—loud murmur that radiates widely, often including opposite side of chest
  • Grade V—very loud, audible with stethoscope barely touching the chest; the vibration is also strong enough to be felt through the animal’s chest wall
  • Grade VI—very loud, audible with stethoscope barely touching the chest; the vibration is also strong enough to be felt through the animal’s chest wall

Configuration of Heart Murmurs in Dogs

  • Plateau murmurs have uniform loudness and are typical of blood regurgitation through an abnormal valvular orifice (regurgitant murmurs).
  • Crescendo-decrescendo murmurs get louder and then softer and are typical of ejection murmurs due to turbulent forward flow.
  • Decrescendo murmurs start loud and then get softer and are typical of diastolic murmurs.

Causes of Heart Murmurs in Dogs

Heart murmurs in dogs are caused by the following:

  • Disturbed blood flow associated with high flow through normal or abnormal valves or with structures vibrating in the blood flow.
  • Flow disturbances associated with outflow obstruction or forward flow through diseased valves or into a dilated great vessel.
  • Flow disturbances associated with regurgitant flow due to an incompetent valve, patent ductus arteriosus, or a defect in the septum (the wall that separates the heart’s left and right sides).

More specifically, the following are some conditions and diseases that may bring on murmurs:

Systolic Heart Murmurs

  • Anemia
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Heartworm disease
  • Mitral and tricuspid valve heart failure
  • Cardiomyopathy and aortic valve insufficiency
  • Mitral and tricuspid valve dysplasia
  • Systolic anterior mitral motion (SAM)
  • Dynamic right ventricular outflow obstruction
  • Dynamic subaortic stenosis
  • Aortic stenosis
  • Pulmonic stenosis
  • Atrial and ventricular septal defect
  • Tetralogy of Fallot
  • Mitral and tricuspid valve endocarditis (inflammation of the inner part of the heart)

Continuous or To-and-Fro Heart Murmurs

Diastolic Heart Murmurs

  • Mitral and tricuspid valve stenosis
  • Aortic and pulmonic valve endocarditis (inflammation of the inner layer of the heart)

Diagnosing Dogs With Heart Murmurs

In order to determine exactly what is causing the symptoms, your veterinarian must differentiate between a wide range of abnormal heart sounds — split sounds, ejection sounds, gallop rhythms, and clicks, for example. He or she also must differentiate between abnormal lung and heart sounds, and listen to see if timing of abnormal sound is correlated with respiration or heartbeat.

The location and radiation of the murmur, as well as the timing during cardiac cycle, is another way to determine the underlying cause. This can be accomplished by conducting a variety of tests, including chest X-rays, Doppler studies, and echocardiography. A complete blood count, meanwhile, is one of the preferred methods for confirming anemic murmurs.

Treatment for Heart Murmurs in Dogs

Unless heart failure is evident, your dog will be treated as an outpatient. The course of treatment will be determined based on the associated clinical signs. Puppies with low grade murmurs, for example, may require little or no treatment and the murmur may resolve itself within six months. Routine diagnostic imaging is recommended for dogs with murmurs.

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Vaginal Inflammation in Dogs

Vaginitis in Dogs

The term vaginitis refers to inflammation of vagina or vestibule in female dogs. Although this conditions is uncommon, it may occur at any age and in any breed.

Symptoms and Types

  • Discharge from the vulva
  • Male attraction (due to vaginal discharge)
  • Frequent urination (polyuria), even in improper locations
  • Frequent licking of the vagina (due irritation caused by inflammation)

Causes

Vaginitis may occur due to feces or urine contamination of the organ or collection of blood at the site. An injury to the vagina or abscess formation may also lead to vaginitis. Other common underlying causes include:

  • Urinary tract infections (viral or bacterial)
  • Vaginal tumors
  • Zinc poisoning
  • Problems with urinating

Diagnosis

After completing a complete medical history of your animal, your veterinarian will perform a physical exam, including a blood chemical profile, a complete blood count, a urinalysis, and an electrolyte panel. Although the results of these tests may be normal, there are exceptions. In some dogs, the urinalysis may indicate inflammation, while biochemical testing may indicate abnormally high hormones, a sign of uterine inflammation or pregnancy.

To rule out neoplasia, foreign bodies, and/or constriction of reproductive tubes, your veterinarian may recommend abdominal X-rays. Ultrasounds can also be of great help in diagnosing vaginal masses.

A sample from the vagina may be gathered for further testing. For instance, it may be cultured and microscopically examined or it may be sent to a laboratory to identify whether pus, blood, or feces is present in the sample.

Your veterinarian will also examine the inside of vagina — either with his/her finger or a special instrument called a vaginal scope — to rule out the presence of a mass, tumor, foreign body, blood-filled cavity, or abnormal narrowing of vagina.

uterus

The hollow bodily organ that holds the embryo and fetus and provides nourishment; only found in female animals.

vaginitis

A medical condition in which the vagina becomes inflamed.

vulva

The genitalia of a female; found on the outside

urinalysis

An in-depth examination of the properties of urine; used to determine the presence or absence of illness

vestibule

The foremost portion of the nose and nasal cavity; includes the nostrils

pus

A product made of fluid, cell waste, and cells

estrus

The time period in which a female is receptive to male attention

polyuria

Excessive urination

prognosis

The prediction of a disease’s outcome in advance

abscess

A localized infection, usually a lesion filled with pus. Can be large or small in size.