Top 5 List for a Safer Holiday Season

Happy Halloween!!!

As Halloween and the upcoming holidays are rapidly approaching, we are often wrapped up in family gathering, parties, and other activities and forget about the well being of our beloved pets. I tried compiling a short list to help keep our pets healthy and out of trouble this holiday season. This should ensure that everyone has a happy holiday season and may save you and your pet from needing emergency trips to veterinarian or emergency clinic.

1. Keep candy away from pets, in particular chocolate and candies made with xylitol and other sweeteners. While these taste good, they can have very harmful effects on your pet, ranging from liver failure, seizures, and as severe as death. If you suspect your pet has consumed any of these, seek veterinary care immediately.

2. Keep a close on the whereabouts of your pets. With all the excitement and increased visitors during this time, make sure your pets are accounted for and haven’t run off. Missing pets and subsequent trauma, such as being hit by a vehicle is an all to common occurrence during this time. Make sure your pets are in a safe place when company is over.

3. Keep pets out of the garbage and from grabbing food off the table. Bones and fatty meats can cause illness in our pets, especially dogs. Bones can cause a lot of irritation and in some cases puncture the gastrointestinal tracts. Fatty foods are not good for our pets and can cause pancreatitis and other gastrointestinal issues. Pancreatitis can range in severity and needs to be treated by your veterinarian.

4. Keep cords and electrical wiring away from your pets. Both cats and dogs can find wires enticing. Electrocution injury can be very severe and cause death in some cases. If you believe your pet to have be electrocuted, have them evaluated by your veterinarian immediately.

5. Keep easily ingestible objects away from your pets. Objects that can be easily swallowed can cause gastrointestinal irritation and obstruction. Some objects that can become obstructive are clothes, small toys, tinsel, etc. Gastrointestinal obstructions demand immediate veterinary care. There are times when the object can pass, but most of the time your pet will need surgery to relieve the obstruction, Surgery can range from a single incision in the stomach to removal of a segment of intestine. In extreme cases this condition can be fatal.

September 2014 Case of the Month – Meet Tido!!!

Tido two weeks after surgery!!! You can't keep him down!!!

Tido two weeks after surgery!!! You can’t keep him down!!!

Meet Tido!!! Tido is a 6 1/2 year old West Highland White Terrier that came to us (Affiliated Veterinary Specialists – Orange Park) for a lower esophageal foreign body. He started showing signs of intermittent vomiting and regurgitation after swallowing his rawhide bone. Unfortunately, it became lodged in the portion of the esophagus that goes through his chest, just past his heart. Usually we can use a scope camera and remove the object without any incisions. The piece of rawhide was wedged in this area and was unable to be moved, so surgery was his only option.

This was the piece of rawhide that was lodged in Tido's esophagus. It was nearly 5cm in length!!

This was the piece of rawhide that was lodged in Tido’s esophagus. It was nearly 4cm in length!!

An incision was made in the chest and the large piece of rawhide was found in the esophagus just past the heart. An incision was made into the esophagus and the rawhide was removed. Surgery on the esophagus is a very delicate surgery. In this area we have big vessels (aorta) above the esophagus and the vena cava below. Just in front of the esophagus is the heart. Nearby, there are very important nerves (vagus) that course over the esophagus. Also, the esophagus has a harder time healing versus other areas of the gastrointestinal tract with a higher chance of stricture (narrowing due to scar tissue) formation.

View of the esophagus just past the heart.

View of the esophagus just past the heart.

After the rawhide was removed, the esophagus was closed in two layers and then a Vetrix Extracellular Matrix (ECM) sheet was placed. This will aid in healing by providing a scaffold for the tissue to heal and incorporate the bodies own stem cells to infiltrate the area. After the esophagus was closed, Tido’s chest was closed in a standard fashion.

Vetrix Extracellular Matrix placement over the esophageal incision.

Vetrix Extracellular Matrix placement over the esophageal incision.

Tido made an excellent recovery!!! He has been on a soft diet and no rawhides for him!!! In four weeks he should be able to resume his normal activity. At his two week recheck, you could never tell he had surgery. Way to go Tido!!!

Happy Holidays

I want to take a moment to thank everyone for their continued interest and support of this blog. Your continued support has meant a lot to me and allowed me to continue to post various topics. I want to wish everyone Happy Holidays during this joyous time of the year! I wish you all the best in the New Year too! Keep your pets safe throughout this time, but definitely spoil them (we want them to ring in the New Years without any ailments)! Please continue to follow this blog!

Seasons Greetings!!


Upper Respiratory Issues – Brachycephalic Upper Airway Syndrome (BUAS)


A very common airway problem seen in small dogs and some bigger dogs is a syndrome termed Brachycephalic Upper Airway Syndrome (BUAS). This disease process affects brachycephalic dogs due to the development of their skull structure. These dogs can be thought of having the same anatomy as a longer nose dog, just in a much smaller area. As one could image, this can cause difficulty in the passage of air as it traverses through the nasal passage and into the naso- and oropharynx causing an increased pressure.

Common breeds that are affected and grouped into the breed type(brachycephalic) range from the Bulldog to the Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Dogs that are affected by BUAS can present with many different symptoms that all involve the passage of air and include snoring, stridor, exercise intolerance, apnea and even gastrointestinal side effects such as vomiting and regurgitation. There are factors that can worsen the signs such as weight gain, allergies, environment conditions etc. Factors that can be controlled should be addressed.

In the next segment we will look at the physical features of dogs that have brachycephalic upper airway syndrome. Feel free to ask questions.

Pug and stenotic nares - after surgery

Pug and stenotic nares – after surgery

Treatment for an Intestinal Obstruction

Sorry about the nearly one month lapse in writing. I think it would be good to finish the topic on intestinal obstructions. The biggest question to be asked is, once the diagnosis is made – how do we correct the issue. The answer is one of three: 1. endoscopic removal of gastric foreign material, 2. surgical removal by an abdominal exploratory (or laparoscopy – only if a focal obstruction), and 3. hospitalization and fluids, if and only if , the foreign material is diagnosed as being in the large intestine/colon.

Generally, surgical explore of the abdomen and removal via a gastrotomy, enterotomy, or intestinal resection and anastomosis is recommended. Rather than go into the technical aspects of the surgeries, it would be better to put the emphasis of the importance of early detection and treatment of an intestinal obstruction, especially a complete obstruction. The biggest worry is both where in the gastrointestinal tract and to what extent did the material cause damage to the intestine. This can range from irritation and inflammation to perforation and necrosis (death) of the affected intestine. Early intervention is key in trying to reduce the risk of extensive damage. The more aggressive the procedure required increases post-operative risk to the patient.

Most patients will do well with surgery and recover uneventfully. Standard enterotomies and resection/anastomosis have a 10-15% complication rate when performed according to the literature. The most concerning complication is termed dehiscence (leaking of the intestinal suture line) and require another surgery to repair the area. Unfortunately, with more surgery required, the complication rate increases.

The best word of advice would be to attempt to identify possible foreign bodies and remove them them your pets reach. Some examples would be torn pieces of toys, squeakers from toys that have been removed, string/fishing line from cats, etc. However, if you do find your pets have the common signs – seek veterinary help right away.

An x-ray of a foreign body both in the stomach and within the intestines.

Common Signs with Intestinal Obstructions

Welcome back. This shouldn’t take too long, but let’s review some of the more common signs seen with intestinal obstructions. The most common sign would be vomiting and generally not a one time occurrence. This will usually be profuse vomiting (but can vary with every patient). Other signs to look for is anorexia (not wanting to eat), lethargy, and abdominal pain. As with any type of foreign body the gastrointestinal tract can become perforated and significantly worse signs can become evident. Whenever an intestinal foreign body is suspected immediate veterinary care (whether your primary veterinarian or an emergency clinic) is highly recommended. Generally these signs will occur very acutely (all of a sudden) once the object begins to obstruct the intestine. We don’t always know what our dogs get into, especially if they are left unattended or go outside in the back and unsupervised. It seems like many owner don’t know what there pet got into and swallowed.

During the initial evaluation, your veterinarian may recommend some diagnostic tests to help support the diagnosis of an intestinal foreign body and justify surgery. Most of the time the physical exam will show, dehydration (high heart rate, dry mucus membranes, etc), evidence of vomiting, pain on abdominal palpation, fever (if perforated intestines) and other various signs. Some dogs when presented early show few signs and are very stable, other dogs show very severe signs and may be very unstable and require aggressive supportive care including aggressive fluid management and other treatments.

The standard diagnostics after initial triage (physical exam, blood pressure, etc) typically include abdominal radiographs (x-rays), complete blood work, possible chest radiographs (if aspiration suspect or in the geriatric dog) and possible abdominal ultrasound if the radiographs are non-diagnostic. Some may also recommend contrast radiographs with barium contrast in an attempt to highlight the foreign body.

Once a presumptive diagnosis is made and the patient is deemed stable surgery generally is the next step. If the foreign body is only in the stomach, endoscopy may be performed succesfully to remove the object.