Category Archives: Internal diseases of Dogs

Digital imaging

Dr Helen admires Bull Mastiff George’s X ray on our new digital X ray system. The high quality of the X ray images increases the accuracy of our diagnoses. We are able to fine tune and individualise your pets’ body and dental X rays and save them directly to their computer records.  Copies of the X rays can also be sent electronically to veterinary imaging specialists and an opinion returned the same day.  Already many pets’ lives have been improved or saved by this leap forward in technology.

Kidney failure

Dogs with failing kidneys drink a lot of water and produce large quantities of urine.

Old or damaged kidneys don’t eliminate all of the body’s waste products and cannot concentrate urine very well.

When is this likely to happen in my dog?

Chronic kidney failure is the result of ageing; it is simply a “wearing out” process.

Small dogs show signs from 10 years of age. Larger breed dogs’ kidneys may fail as early as 7 years of age. In some breeds there is a genetic predisposition to kidney failure.

What do I see if my dog’s kidneys are failing?

Dogs with kidney failure produce large volumes of dilute urine. This increases thirst in an effort to overcome dehydration.

As waste products build up in the blood they lose their appetite, are depressed, vomit, and have very bad breath. Ulcers form in the mouth. These signs of advanced kidney failure are called uraemia.

How is chronic kidney failure diagnosed?

  • Blood tests for the body’s waste products, urea and creatinine
  • Urine tests for concentrating and filtering ability, and to find infection

Can we treat kidney failure?

In some cases the kidneys are so worn out they cannot be revived.

With early diagnosis and appropriate treatment many dogs survive for many months or even years.

Treatment occurs in two phases. The first phase is to flush out the toxins with large quantities of intravenous fluids. Fluid therapy, also known as a drip, also replaces lost electrolytes, especially potassium. Drugs to control vomiting and diarrhea, and to treat infection are given as necessary.

The second phase of treatment reduces the kidneys’ workload by reducing dietary protein. This keeps toxic by-products of protein digestion as low as possible and makes your dog feel better. A special kidney or renal diet is the easiest and most effective way of doing this.

Cushing’s disease

What is Cushing’s Disease?

The adrenal glands overproduce cortisol in dogs with Cushing’s Disease. Cushing’s disease is also known as Hyperadrenocorticism.

What causes Cushing’s disease?

The three causes of Cushing’s Disease are:

  1. A pituitary gland tumour which overproduces the hormone that stimulates cortisol production in the adrenal glands. The size of the tumour and its malignancy varies widely. Signs of brain problems develop if the tumour is large, but this is unusual. Most dogs with this form of Cushing’s Disease live normal lives for many years as long as they take their medication and stay under close medical supervision.
  2. Excessive administration over long periods of time of synthetic cortisones like prednisolone, triamcinolone or dexamethasone causes Iatrogenic Cushing’s disease.
  3. An adrenal gland tumour is an uncommon cause of Cushing’s Disease. Surgical removal treats this form of the disease

How do I know if my dog has Cushing’s?

  • A marked increase in appetite
  • Increased water consumption and urination
  • Lethargy, panting and a poor hair coat
  • A pot-bellied or bloated abdomen

How is it diagnosed?

If we suspect Cushing’s Disease we run a blood test to check your dog’s general health.  An enzyme in the test called Alkaline Phosphatase (ALKP) is usually high in dogs with Cushings.

If ALKP is high then we do a Low Dose Dexamethasone test (LDDT) which will confirm or deny Cushings Disease.

To determine which type of Cushing’s disease your pet has, we ultrasound the adrenal glands and do an endogenous ACTH blood test.

Although some of these tests are expensive, they are necessary to allow us to accurately target the treatment.

 

Pyometra or infections of the uterus

What is pyometra?

Pyometra is an accumulation of pus in the uterus. Toxic products form and make the bitch very sick.

How do I know if my dog has pyometra?

If the cervix is open pus drains from the vagina and can be seen on the skin or hair under the tail or on bedding and furniture.

If the cervix is closed, the trapped pus distends the uterus and abdomen. The bacteria in the pus release toxins into the circulation.  The dog goes off her food, vomits or passes diarrhoea, drinks a lot of water and becomes very depressed.

How is it treated?

Pyometra is an emergency. Surgery to remove the uterus and ovaries ensures complete recovery. If not treated toxins cause organ damage. If the cervix is closed the uterus may rupture and spill into the abdominal cavity. Either of these is rapidly fatal.  Intravenous fluids and antibiotics before and after surgery reverse the toxicity and control residual infection.

When does it occur?

Pyometra is most common in older bitches after many years of oestrus cycles without pregnancy.  Occasionally younger bitches are affected.

Pyometra occurs about 1-2 months after oestrus.

How is it diagnosed?

A non-desexed female dog that is very ill , drinking a lot of water, and has a vaginal discharge or an enlarged abdomen could have pyometra. They also have a high white blood cell count and serum globulin level. Toxins reduce the ability of the kidneys to concentrate the urine.

An ultrasound examination identifies an enlarged uterus and differentiates pyometra from pregnancy.

Why does my dog have pyometra?

Hormonal changes cause pyometra. After a bitch is on heat or in season (oestrus), progesterone levels stay high for 8-10 weeks, thickening the lining of the uterus in preparation for pregnancy. If pregnancy does not occur for several oestrus cycles, the lining continues to thicken and cysts form in it. The thickened, cystic lining secretes fluid creating an ideal environment for bacterial growth. High progesterone levels also inhibit contraction of uterine muscles preventing expulsion of the fluid.

Drugs containing progesterone and/or oestrogen also predispose bitches to pyometra.

How do bacteria get into the uterus?

The cervix is the gateway to the uterus. It remains tightly closed except during oestrus. When the cervix is open during oestrus vaginal bacteria can enter the uterus easily. If the uterus is normal, bacteria won’t survive.  However, when the uterine wall is thickened and weak, conditions are perfect for bacterial growth.

Pancreatitis

Fatty foods like sausages, cheese and the cat’s biscuits, cause acute pancreatitis in overweight middle-aged dogs.

Dogs with acute pancreatitis vomit, refuse their food, withdraw from the family and show signs of pain in the belly.  They hunch over, adopt a praying position, or are reluctant to move.

To treat pancreatitis we ban all food  and give intravenous fluids, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs and pain relief. The pancreas produces enzymes that digest food, and hormones like insulin that help the body utilise glucose.

Under normal conditions, digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas are activated when they reach the small intestines. In pancreatitis, these enzymes are activated prematurely and digest the pancreas itself. The severity of the disease depends on the quantity of enzymes activated.

Some cases of pancreatitis are in reaction to particular medications or toxins.

Inflammation of the pancreas sometimes allows digestive enzymes to spill into the abdominal cavity resulting in damage to surrounding organs, such as the liver, bile ducts, gall bladder, and intestines.  Toxins spilling into the bloodstream cause shock and problems in more distant organs.

If we suspect pancreatitis we check the level of pancreatic enzymes in the blood. Some dogs with pancreatitis have normal enzyme levels. If we still suspect pancreatitis we run a pancreatic specific lipase test.

Recovery depends on the extent of the disease and the response to initial therapy. Dogs that present with shock and depression have a very guarded prognosis. Most of the mild forms of pancreatitis respond quickly to treatment and have a good outlook.

Most dogs recover with no long-term ill-effects. However, there are three possible long-term complications of severe or repeated pancreatitis.

  1. If a significant number of cells that produce digestive enzymes are destroyed, proper food digestion is compromised. The dog loses weight despite a ravenous appetite and produces voluminous, soft faeces.  This is known as pancreatic insufficiency and is treated with by adding the missing enzymes to the food.
  2. If the cells that produce insulin are destroyed diabetes mellitus can result.  Signs of diabetes include weight loss despite a good appetite coupled with excessive drinking and urination.  Insulin therapy may be necessary.
  3. In rare cases, adhesions between the abdominal organs cause momentary “catches” as your dog moves are a consequence of pancreatitis.
  4. After a bout of pancreatitis, dogs are prone to relapse and owners must make sure that their dog has no access to fatty foods. We recommend a low fat good quality dog food.