Brachycephalic Syndrome: The short-nosed syndrome

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What is Brachycephalic Syndrome?

Brachycephalic Syndrome is a pathological condition which affects short-nosed dogs and cats, which can lead to severe respiratory distress.

There are different anatomical abnormalities that contribute to the disease, all of which are more commonly found in brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds:

  • An elongated soft palate is a condition where the soft palate is too long so that the tip of the it protrudes into the airway and interferes with movement of air into the lungs).
  • Stenotic nares are malformed nostrils that are narrow or collapse inward during inhalation, making it difficult for the dog to breathe through its nose).
  • Everted laryngeal saccules is a condition in which the tissue within the airway, just in front of the vocal cords, is pulled into the trachea (windpipe) and partially obstructs airflow.

Breathing in situations of exercise, stress, or heat become difficult that an animal with such abnormalities may be unable to take fast or deep enough breaths to blow off carbon dioxide. This leads to distress an further increases respiratory rate and heart rate, creating a vicious cycle that can quickly become life-threatening.

 

Risks and Symptoms

Symptoms of brachycephalic syndrome vary with the severity of the abnormalities and can range anywhere from noisy breathing, snorting, snoring, and coughing to exercise intolerance and even collapsing or fainting after exertion.

Hot and humid climates or weather can cause symptoms to worsen. This is due to the anatomy of these animals, they can find it difficult to cool themselves by panting. The increased effort to move air through can cause swelling and inflammation in the airway. This will only further obstruct their breathing, cause respiratory distress, and cause even further overheating and a high risk of heat stroke.

Most brachycephalic dogs in normal conditions — not too hot or humid — breathing isn’t difficult enough to cause major problems. However, situations that cause panting, such as obesity, heat, vigorous exercise, or anxiety and excite can all trigger the vicious cycle: panting, which causes inflammation of the airway, which increases anxiety, leading to more panting, and so on.

Brachycephalic dogs are also at a higher risk of problems during sedation and anesthesia. If your dog needs surgery or any other procedure requiring sedation, your veterinarian will recommend best course of action.

 

Diagnosis

Conditions, such as stenotic nares, can be diagnosed through a simple physical exam. Others, such as the elongated soft palate, usually require general anesthesia. It’s really a matter of determining the severity and whether treatment is necessary.

Other diagnostic approaches include:

  • Chemistry test to evaluate kidney, liver, and pancreatic function, as well as sugar levels
  • Electrolyte tests to ensure your dog isn’t dehydrated or suffering from an electrolyte imbalance.
  • A complete blood count to screen your pet for infection, inflammation, or anemia and other blood-related conditions
  • Urine tests to screen for urinary tract infection and other diseases, and to evaluate the ability of the kidneys to concentrate urine.
  • Screening tests to rule out certain infectious diseases
  • Radiographs (x-rays) of the chest and neck


Treatment

Treatment for dogs with brachycephalic syndrome can range from short term therapy such as oxygen therapy and steroids to decrease inflammation to a more permanent solution such as surgery.

 

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Teamwork

Dr. Bonda (right) performed the life-saving surgery to save Dr. Fox's (left) pup, Aubie (center).

Meet Aubie

Aubie is a French Bulldog who had a severe case of brachycephalic syndrome which initially presented itself as a cough.

 

Prevention

The conditions caused by brachycephalic syndrome are in result of the natural anatomy of flat-faced breeds, so they are not preventable. One way of curbing more severe cases of the syndrome is through selective breeding. This means, dogs that need a lot of surgery to correct these problems should not be used for breeding.

To make life easier on a dog prone to brachycephalic syndrome, keep your pet at a healthy weight, avoid extremely hot weather, strenuous exercise, or stressful situations. This does not mean to do away with daily walks, as all dogs need exercise. However, try for a harness in favor of a collar to make breathing easier. Finally, have your dog examined by your veterinarian regularly to make sure abnormalities aren’t getting worse or need correction.


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Heavy Panting in Dogs: When is panting normal, and when should you be concerned?

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It’s normal for dogs to pant, especially when they’re hot, excited, or energetic. Heavy panting is different, though, and may be a sign your dog is dangerously overheated, coping with a chronic health problem, or has experienced life-threatening trauma.

Here are answers to three important questions every dog owner should know:

  • What are the common causes of heavy panting in dogs?
  • What can I do about them?
  • When is it time to see the vet?

 

Common Causes and Treatments

Panting helps dogs cool off when they’re hot or engaged in lively exercise. Dogs take between ten and thirty breaths a minute, depending on their size. Get to know what your dog’s everyday breathing and panting looks like so you’ll more quickly notice any changes.

Some common reasons dogs pant heavily include:

Heatstroke or poisoning

It’s normal for a dog to start breathing harder or panting after exertion. As for some dogs, like Boston terriers, bulldogs, and pugs, are prone to heavier breathing than other dogs because of their short snouts. However, heavy panting is also a sign a dog may be suffering from heatstroke or may have consumed a toxic substance.

If you can’t find any obvious reason for a sudden change in your dog’s breathing, take him to a veterinarian immediately. If you suspect heatstroke, first follow the steps at the end of this article to help cool your dog safely.

Chronic illness

Illnesses like heart failure, Cushing’s syndrome, or respiratory disorders can all cause heavy breathing or panting in dogs:

  • Heart failure: Like people, dogs can suffer from heart failure. And just like people, dogs may show some of the same symptoms, including breathing difficulty, reduced exercise tolerance, and coughing. How your dog’s heart failure is treated depends on the cause. But treatment may include medications such as ACE inhibitors and diuretics.
  • Cushing’s syndrome. This occurs when a dog’s adrenal glands produce too much cortisol. Along with heavy panting, symptoms can include excessive hunger and thirst, hair loss, and a pot-bellied appearance. Treatment varies but may include adrenal-suppressing drugs or surgery. For more information on Cushing's disease, read our article.
  • Respiratory disorders. Several respiratory disorders, such as laryngeal paralysis, pneumonia, and lung tumors, may all lead to heavy breathing or panting. Treatment depends on the condition and how far it’s progressed.

Injury and pain

Dogs can’t tell us with words when they’re in pain. So, it’s up to us to know what to look for. Heavy panting is one sign your dog may have suffered an injury.

Other signs of pain or trauma in pets include enlarged pupils, reduced appetite, a reluctance to lie down, restlessness, anxiety, and licking or biting at the pain site.

Dogs may mask their pain with normal behaviors, such as wagging their tail. And an injury may be internal — for example, as a result of being hit by a car. So if you suspect your pet may be in pain, don’t delay. Seek veterinary care right away.

Medication

Some medications, such as prednisone, may also lead to heavy panting in dogs. Talk to your veterinarian if you think your dog’s medication is causing heavy panting.

Other Causes of Heavy Panting in Dogs

Heavy breathing or deep, intense panting can also be a symptom of eclampsia, also called milk fever. Eclampsia is a dangerous condition that affects nursing mothers; low blood calcium levels lead to an inability to stand or walk and tremors. And allergies, infection, or irritation within the airways can cause wheezy, noisy breathing in dogs.

No matter what kind of breathing your dog usually has, any unexplained change — whether heavy panting, coughing, or wheezing — should lead with a call to your veterinarian.

 

Heatstroke and Your Dog: Emergency Response

Overheating is a medical emergency — and one of the most serious reasons for heavy panting in dogs. If you suspect your dog has heatstroke, a quick response can be lifesaving.

Symptoms of heatstroke include excessive panting, glassy eyes, weakness, fast heart rate, drooling, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, and a body temperature over 104 F. If possible, take a rectal temp. You want to stop once temp is back down to 103.

If you think your dog may have heatstroke, here’s what to do to help:

  • Move your dog inside or to a shady spot.
  • Submerge your dog in cool water (avoid cold water, which constricts blood vessels) or apply ice packs or cold towels to your dog’s chest, neck, and head. Don’t spray your dog with a yard hose -- on hot days the water inside a hose can reach near boiling temperatures. You want to cool him off gradually.
  • Give your dog cool, not cold, water. Or give him ice cubes to lick.
  • After you’ve started cooling your dog down, take your dog to the vet immediately.

The best way to manage heatstroke is to avoid it. Never leave your pet in a parked car. It’s better to leave your pet at home than to risk heatstroke. At home, be sure to provide all pets with shade and water or a way to get inside during the hottest part of the day.

 

When to See a Vet

Remember, panting is normal for a dog after exercise, excitement, or when it’s hot.

Call your vet immediately if any of the following applies:

  • Your dog’s panting starts suddenly.
  • You think your dog may be in pain.
  • The panting is constant and intense.
  • Your dog’s tongue or gums appear blue, purple, or white — a sign your pet isn’t getting enough oxygen.

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What is Cushing’s Disease?

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Clinical signs, tests, and treatment

 

What is Cushing’s Disease?

Cushing’s disease (otherwise known as hyperadrenocorticism), is caused by overproduction of the hormone cortisol or overuse of corticosteroid drugs like prednisone.

Most cortisol in the body is made by the adrenal glands. If an adrenal tumor is present, it can over-secrete the hormone. Adrenal tumors are responsible for about 20% of Cushing’s cases in dogs, usually larger breeds.

A tumor located in the brain (pituitary gland) can also stimulate the adrenal glands to produce more cortisol than normal.

 

Cushing’s Disease Symptoms in Dogs

Diagnosing Cushing’s disease is not always an easy process. Symptoms are often somewhat nebulous and are seen as other diseases as well. Classic signs of Cushing’s disease, however, are:

  • Increased appetite
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Skin problems
  • Recurrent infections
  • Panting
  • Muscle weakness
  • A pot-bellied appearance
  • Neurologic changes in advanced pituitary-dependent hyperadrenocorticism.

It is important to keep in mind that not every dog’s case of Cushing’s disease has every listed symptom.

 

What to expect at the vet's office

Your vet may proceed with diagnosing a dog with Cushing’s disease when a patient exhibits particular yet suspicious signs, like:

  • Run a blood chemistry panel, complete blood cell count, a urinalysis, or any other lab work (heartworm test or fecal exam) that might be called for based on a dog’s physical exam and/or history. The results should either point toward or away Cushing’s, i.e. elevated alkaline phosphatase levels and a stress leukogram.
  • With a sample of urine, your veterinarian can run a cortisol: creatinine ratio test. If the results are normal, Cushing’s disease is extremely unlikely. If they are elevated, Cushing’s disease is possible, but not a definitive diagnosis, as other diseases can produce the same result.
  • Identify most (but not ALL) cases of Cushing’s disease and determining whether the adrenal or pituitary gland form of the disease is present (which also determines treatment) is done with a combination of an ACTH stimulation test, low dose dexamethasone suppression test (LDDS), high dose dexamethasone suppression test, and/or abdominal ultrasound.

 

Treatment for Cushing’s Disease

Medications: Dogs with Cushing’s disease caused by a tumor in their pituitary glands are generally treated with either mitotane (Lysodren) or trilostane.

Surgery: Cushing’s disease that is caused by a tumor in the adrenal gland is best treated by surgically removing the tumor.

 

If a dog’s symptoms are not too serious (i.e. he/she is panting more but is otherwise normal), treatment may not be necessary unless the problems become worse over time. Close monitoring of dogs undergoing treatment for Cushing’s disease is essential. The goal is to suppress cortisol production enough to keep pets healthy, but not so much that a new, opposite problem arises: hypoadrenocorticism, otherwise known as Addison’s disease.

 

Dogs with Cushing’s disease can be expected to live three years or even longer, after diagnosis with an appropriate treatment and a dash of luck, but while this is a condition that can often be successfully managed, it is only rarely cured.


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Homemade Slime: Toxicity and Health Risks for Pets

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There has been a rise in a love of crafting homemade slime in households. While not a threat to creativity, some ingredients in slime pose a threat to our beloved pets.

 

Table Salt

This is often the most concerning ingredient in many slime recipes. Pets can develop salt toxicity or hypernatremia. Depending on the amount of salt ingested symptoms can range from GI upset to Central Nervous System signs such as lethargy, tremors, seizures, coma, and death. Signs of toxicity can be seen at 2 g/kg , or 0.13 tablespoons/kg of body weight. To put this into perspective, a 10lb dog (4.54 kg) could began to show signs of toxicity after ingesting just over 0.5 tablespoons of table salt. For that same 10 lb dog a fatal dose is possible at 1.5 tablespoons of salt ingested. Some slime recipes do not contain a particular amount of salt but just instructions to continue adding salt until the desired consistency/texture is achieved. This can make it difficult to gauge the amount of salt in the finished product. Some homemade slimes contain epsom salt instead of table salt. It would generally take more epsom salt than table salt to cause toxicity but this is still an ingredient that should not be ingested in large amounts as significant GI signs can result.

 

School glue

This is a common ingredient that does not usually hold significant potential for toxicity. When ingested GI irritation (vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia) is possible.

 

Shaving cream, hand soap, dish soap, shampoo and most hand lotions

These ingredients cause not much more than GI irritation but variations in ingredients are possible that may increase the risk for toxicity. For example, there are shampoos and lotions that contain cocoa bean (Theobroma Cacao) extract which is an ingredient of concern for chocolate toxicity.

 

Boric Acid

Generally, in acute (one time) doses, this is a GI irritant that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or anorexia.

 

Saline Contact Lens Solution

While some contact lens solutions are just saline, in addition to the salt concern, many (usually the ones used to make slime) contain Boric Acid or Borate which is a GI irritant.

 

Laundry detergent

Laundry detergent, when ingested, can be a GI irritant or for some products even cause corrosive injury to the oral cavity and GI tract. Mixed into a product like a slime it would be diluted and less likely to cause corrosive injury but if not well mixed and if an area of concentrated laundry detergent came into contact with the GI tract there would still be potential for injury.

 

Toothpaste

Many kinds of toothpaste contain xylitol which can pose significant toxicity risk for dogs.  Depending on the dose ingested, xylitol can cause profound hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and in higher doses liver failure. Both of these levels of toxicity can be life-threatening for your dog.

 

Liquid Starch

Most liquid starches contain ingredients that would be expected to cause GI irritation at most when ingested in a slime mixture.

 


There are other concerns in addition to toxicity when our pets ingest slime. Large amounts of slime could pose a risk for a foreign body obstruction or blockage in the GI tract.

When slime contains decorative additives such as sequins, tinsel, or glitter, injury to the GI tract is also possible. Tinsel is of particular concern as if long enough strands (more than a couple of inches long) are ingested, linear foreign body (a condition where string type materials can cause injury to the GI tract by bunching it up and causing blockage or necrotic damage)is possible.

Another concern is that slime is by nature slimy, and viscous. If your pet vomits this material back up there is a risk for aspiration of the product into the lungs which can quickly become a life threatening situation.


How do we prevent our pets from ingesting homemade slime?

  1. When the slime is not in use keep it somewhere that is not accessible to your pet.
  2. Keep your pets out of areas where slime is in use.
  3. Teach your children not to walk away from their slime project without putting it somewhere that is inaccessible to pets.
  4. Store the slime making ingredients out of reach of your pets at all times.
  5. Slime ingestion is also harmful for wildlife. Please dispose of your used slime responsibly.
 

What should you do if your pet ingests slime?

  1. Do not attempt to induce vomiting at home or treat your pet in any other way without advice from your veterinarian or an animal poison control center. Some at home treatments can do more harm than good.
  2. Call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline.

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People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pet

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This week is National Poison Prevention week and we are bringing you a list of the top toxic people foods to avoid feeding your pet. If you suspect your pet has eaten any of the following foods, please note the amount ingested and contact your veterinarian or poison control.

 

Alcohol

Alcoholic beverages and food products containing alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma and even death. Under no circumstances should your pet be given any alcohol. If you suspect that your pet has ingested alcohol, contact your veterinarian or Poison Control immediately.

 

Avocado

Avocado is primarily a problem for birds, rabbits, donkeys, horses, and ruminants including sheep and goats. The biggest concern is for cardiovascular damage and death in birds.  Horses, donkeys and ruminants frequently get swollen, edematous head and neck.

 

Chocolate, Coffee and Caffeine

These products all contain substances called methylxanthines, which are found in cacao seeds, the fruit of the plant used to make coffee, and in the nuts of an extract used in some sodas. When ingested by pets, methylxanthines can cause vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death. Note that darker chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate. White chocolate has the lowest level of methylxanthines, while baking chocolate contains the highest.

 

Citrus

The stems, leaves, peels, fruit and seeds of citrus plants contain varying amounts of citric acid, essential oils that can cause irritation and possibly even central nervous system depression if ingested in significant amounts. Small doses, such as eating the fruit, are not likely to present problems beyond minor stomach upset.

 

Coconut and Coconut Oil

When ingested in small amounts, coconut and coconut-based products are not likely to cause serious harm to your pet. The flesh and milk of fresh coconuts do contain oils that may cause stomach upset, loose stools or diarrhea. Because of this, we encourage you to use caution when offering your pets these foods. Coconut water is high in potassium and should not be given to your pet.

 

Grapes and Raisins

Although the toxic substance within grapes and raisins is unknown, these fruits can cause kidney failure. Until more information is known about the toxic substance, it is best to avoid feeding grapes and raisins to dogs.

 

Macadamia Nuts

Macadamia nuts can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs. Signs usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion and can last approximately 12 to 48 hours.

 

Milk and Dairy

Because pets do not possess significant amounts of lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk), milk and other dairy-based products cause them diarrhea or other digestive upset.

 

Nuts

Nuts, including almonds, pecans, and walnuts, contain high amounts of oils and fats. The fats can cause vomiting and diarrhea, and potentially pancreatitis in pets.

 

Onions, Garlic, Chives

These vegetables and herbs can cause gastrointestinal irritation and could lead to red blood cell damage. Although cats are more susceptible, dogs are also at risk if a large enough amount is consumed. Toxicity is normally diagnosed through history, clinical signs and microscopic confirmation of Heinz bodies.

 

Raw/Undercooked Meat, Eggs and Bones

Raw meat and raw eggs can contain bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli that can be harmful to pets and humans. Raw eggs contain an enzyme called avidin that decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin), which can lead to skin and coat problems. Feeding your pet raw bones may seem like a natural and healthy option that might occur if your pet lived in the wild. However, this can be very dangerous for a domestic pet, who might choke on bones, or sustain a grave injury should the bone splinter and become lodged in or puncture your pet’s digestive tract.

 

Salt and Salty Snack Foods

Large amounts of salt can produce excessive thirst and urination, or even sodium ion poisoning in pets. Signs that your pet may have eaten too many salty foods include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, elevated body temperature, seizures and even death. As such, we encourage you to avoid feeding salt-heavy snacks like potato chips, pretzels, and salted popcorn to your pets. 

 

Xylitol

Xylitol is used as a sweetener in many products, including gum, candy, baked goods, peanut butter, and toothpaste. It can cause insulin release in most species, which can lead to liver failure. The increase in insulin leads to hypoglycemia (lowered sugar levels). Initial signs of toxicosis include vomiting, lethargy and loss of coordination. Signs can progress to seizures. Elevated liver enzymes and liver failure can be seen within a few days.

 

Yeast Dough

Yeast dough can rise and cause gas to accumulate in your pet’s digestive system. This can be painful and can cause the stomach to bloat, and potentially twist, becoming a life threatening emergency. The yeast produce ethanol as a by-product and a dog ingesting raw bread dough can become drunk (See alcohol).


Poison Prevention Tips

  • Be prepared for an emergency. Keep the national, free Poison Helpline number at your fingertips by saving the number in your mobile phone: 1-800-222-1222
  • Practice safe storage habits. Always store medicines and hazardous substances up, away, and out of sight of children. Keep these substances in their original, child resistant containers.
  • Read and follow all labels and directions. Review medicine and product labels before you use them, especially before giving medicine to children.
  • Detect invisible threats. Have a working carbon monoxide detector in your home

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