Could Your Cat Be Hiding Signs of Diabetes?

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Find out during National Diabetes Awareness Month

Type 2 diabetes is on the rise in people, and it is also common in cats. But signs of diabetes can be subtle, and cats have evolved an exceptional ability to hide signs of illness – a survival instinct that has helped them thrive, but may make it difficult for you to recognize your cat is sick before the disease has reached an advanced stage.

The good news about feline diabetes is there are signs you can learn to recognize, if you know what to look for.

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Schedule an appointment for your cat if you see any of these signs:

  • Increased thirst and drinking more water than usual
  • Urinating more than usual. If you use clumping litter, you may notice more clumps or larger clumps than you normally see in the litter box.
  • Increased appetite and eating more food than usual.
  • Weight loss, even with increased food intake.
  • Weakness in the back legs. You may notice your cat’s stance is different.

Dog vs. Porcupine

Our friend Georgia had an unfortunate wildlife encounter yesterday. We sedated her and got to work. In addition to the quills on her face, she had quite a mouthful. It took three technicians about 90 minutes to pull  hundreds of quills.

Georgia

Georgia is not alone – every year in the warmer months we see at least a dozen dogs who have caught the wrong end of the porcupine – Georgia was our seventh since April! This got us thinking about porcupines and we wanted to share some information, misconceptions and tips to help keep your dog safe.

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They’re so cute and sweet, from the front

Porcupines are members of the rodent family and there are several different kinds of porcupine in different regions around the world. The North American Porcupine –  Erethizon dorsatum – is a slow-moving herbivore that roams the forests of New England.

Porcupines are generally solitary outside of mating season, which is in late summer/early fall. They make their dens in caves and hollow logs and are excellent climbers, spending a lot of time in the treetops. They’re generally most active in the early morning, evening and throughout the night. Surprisingly, they’re also very good swimmers.

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Most of the larger quills are on the back and tail of the porcupine. They get more sparse toward the neck and face and there are no quills on the sides or belly.

Porcupines like to mind their own business and will generally avoid conflict. However, if a predator pushes the issue the porcupine has an excellent defense system. They sport up to 30,000 sharp, barbed quills on their backs and tails. When danger approaches, they turn their back and present their quills, protecting their vulnerable heads and bellies. If the predator gets close enough, the porcupine can lash out with his quill-covered tail, giving the intruder a face full of quills.

Porcupine-quillPorcupine quills are basically modified hairs. They’re hollow and very sharp. The North American porcupine also has 700-800 microscopic barbs on the ends of the quills that allow the quill to penetrate easily but provide resistance when we try to pull the quills out. Those  barbs are what make quill removal so challenging – and painful – to our four-legged friends.

Common Porcupine Myths:

  • “Porcupines can shoot their quills!”
    • Nope. Porcupines do not have the ability to shoot their quills. This myth may have come about because a porcupine does have the ability to whack a predator with its heavily quilled tail, and that can happen so quickly it may have led to the perception that the quills were shot out.
  • “Porcupine quills are poisonous!”
    • Nope. There is no poison on the quills, although they often have bacteria on them that can cause infection when they puncture the skin.
  • “Cutting the quills before you try to pull them will make them deflate so they come out easier!”
    • Definitely not a good idea. The resistance comes from the barbs on the ends of the quills, not from air pressure within the quill. If they slip below the surface of the skin where they can’t be seen and removed, porcupine quills become very dangerous.
  • “My dog got quilled – I’m sure he learned his lesson!”
    • Well, hopefully not a myth. But there’s no guarantee that a dog who gets quilled will “learn” from the experience and avoid porcupines in the future. We have several “repeat offenders” who get quilled once or twice every year.
  • “My dog doesn’t go off leash, so I don’t have to worry about porcupines”
    • Believe it or not, we’ve seen dogs that were quilled while they were walking on leash with their owners. They suddenly dove into the bushes and came out with a face full of quills, their surprised owner standing right there holding the other end of the leash.

What to do if your dog gets quilled:

You should always seek veterinary care immediately if your dog gets quilled. There are many reasons for this:

  • As time passes, the dog is likely to try to get rid of the quills by rolling, pawing at them or trying to rub them off. Unfortunately, this only drives them further into the tissue and breaks off the ends, making them even more difficult to remove
  • Quill removal is extremely painful. Your veterinarian can sedate or anesthetize your dog for the procedure
  • Even the nicest dogs may bite with the pain, trauma and shock of being quilled/having the quills pulled while awake, and  you don’t want to damage the trusting relationship you have with your dog
  • There are probably quills that you can’t see/get, including inside of your dog’s mouth and throat
  • Some quills may have to be surgically removed if they’ve slipped completely under the skin
  • Your vet can prescribe antibiotics to help prevent abscesses and infection that the bacteria on the quills can cause, and medication to help with pain and inflammation.
  • Porcupine quills are surprisingly brittle when you’re trying to pull them and broken off pieces can cause infections and migrate under the skin

A note about migrating quills:

In some cases, it can be nearly impossible to remove all the quills and quill fragments, even with proper veterinary care. It is common for quills to move, or “migrate”, out toward the surface of the skin days or even weeks after the incident. These quills should be removed completely as soon as they become apparent. It is possible for porcupine quills or fragments to migrate deeper into the body instead of outward. This can cause pockets of infection and, in very rare cases, may be life-threatening as the quills can actually work their way deep enough to puncture vital organs. While it’s not a common, it’s something to keep in mind and another reason to have your vet  examine and treat your dog if they are quilled.

Prevention is the best medicine

Although there’s no guaranteed way to prevent your dog from having a run-in with a porcupine, there are steps you can take to lessen the risk. Make sure your dog is indoors overnight when porcupines are most active, and keep him on a leash when you’re out walking in wooded areas. Keep your dog’s rabies vaccine up to date, and if your dog does get quilled, bring him to a veterinarian right away.

 

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Change in available medications for Hypothyroid Dogs

Hypothyroidism is a relatively common ailment in dogs. Similar to people, Hypothyroid dogs have an under-active thyroid gland which can cause a range of symptoms including weight gain and low energy. For years, veterinarians have had access to a range of thyroid-supplement products. Most veterinary drug companies had their own brand of thyroid supplement; there were 10 different brands of levothyroxine for veterinarians to choose from. None of the drugs were FDA approved for use in dogs but they had a long track record of safety and efficacy. Veterinarians were allowed to use them because there was not an FDA approved thyroid medication for dogs available.

In early 2016 Llyod Pharmaceuticals received FDA approval for their thyroid supplement, Thyro-Tabs Canine.  Now that there is an FDA approved option, the companies manufacturing the unapproved products are no longer allowed to. This includes the chewable thyroid tablets as well as the Soloxine brand that we were using here at PAH. Veterinarians are being permitted to distribute what they have on their shelves, but when it comes to ordering more, PAH and all other animal hospitals will only be able to order Thyro-Tabs Canine.  It’s a long process to FDA approval for a medication, so while it’s likely some of the other companies will pursue that path, it will likely be a while before there are other options available.

The good news in this is that the Thyro-Tabs Canine have been rigorously tested for safety and efficacy by the FDA and will continue to be monitored. It’s the same active ingredient that all of the others used – levothyroxine – and even if your dog has been on a different brand of supplement the transition should be smooth and their dose should stay at or very close to where it is now.

For more information, check out this article from Veterinary Information Network news – http://news.vin.com/vinnews.aspx?articleId=39721

and the FDA’s official website: http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/NewsEvents/CVMUpdates/ucm482928.htm