Cancer is all-too common in pets and our patients are no exception. At a heart-breaking frequency we diagnose a beloved pet with some form of cancer- sometimes daily. While some cancers are more overt and easily found, many cancer patients don’t show obvious signs of illness until their cancer has already grown/spread and there are no treatment options left. Other times, a pet has become so debilitated that treatment of an underlying cancer requires intense hospitalization or risky intervention. In an effort to diagnose and treat those pets who fall victim to abdominal cancers early in the disease process, we now offer preventive abdominal cancer screenings.
The abdominal cancer screening uses ultrasonography to check many organs of the abdominal cavity. There are over 11 abdominal organs within dogs and cats, any of which could potentially develop a disease or cancer. These screenings are being offered to healthy pets for the sole purpose of scanning the abdomen for changes or growths that may indicate abdominal cancer, allowing us to diagnose cancer patients before they begin to act sick. Early detection and treatment has been shown to result in better treatment options, responses, and survival times. Intervention on a healthy pet can be both less expensive, less invasive, and less painful for the pet.
Pets over the age of ten are particularly at risk of cancer and certain breeds have significantly higher chances of developing cancers. If you are interested in an Abdominal Ultrasound Cancer Screening please call today to schedule one for your pet.
One of our most frequently utilized in-house tests is the extremely convenient in-hospital heartworm and tickborne-diseases test, often performed using a either “SNAP 4DX” or a Flex-4″ test. These tests use only 2-3 drops of your pet’s blood and takes only 8 minutes to test your pet for Heartworm Disease, Lyme Disease, Ehrlichiosis, and Anaplasmosis.We highly recommend and offer to run this test on all canine patients at their annual checkup. Typically, the veterinary technician who obtains your pet’s history will also draw the small blood sample and run the test so that you know your pet’s results before the end of your appointment.
This test checks your pet for Heartworm antigen (used to diagnose Heartworm Disease) and tells us if your pet has been exposed to and is producing antibodies to 5 different tick-borne diseases: Lyme Disease, 2 types of Ehrlichiosis, and 2 types of Anaplasmosis.
Heartworm Disease is a dangerous disease spread easily by mosquitoes; we take testing and prevention seriously! Every dog should receive heartworm prevention, whether it be a monthly oral chew or liquid applied onto the skin, or the 6-month preventative injection. Any dog who has not been taking heartworm prevention regularly should be tested, especially before beginning a heartworm preventative. Dogs who are having trouble breathing, have exercise intolerance, and/or have a persistent cough may be carriers of heartworm disease. The 4Dx test is a simple and fast way to check your dog.
Montgomery County, MD is situated in the region of the US which experiences the HIGHEST incidence of Lyme Disease cases, both human and dog. Some of the more minor yet debilitating effects of Lyme disease in dogs include joint pain, lameness, fever, and appetite loss, although dogs can be asymptomatic for the disease. Unfortunately, a small number of dogs experience much more severe responses to Lyme Disease, including kidney failure and even death. Luckily, regular use of tick preventatives as well as vaccinating against Lyme disease can help prevent this disease from being transmitted to your pet. Lyme Disease can cause serious problems for humans as well, and because dogs exposed to Lyme Disease can also transport infected ticks into your home, we recommend that year-round tick preventatives be used on your pet. If you think your pet has been bitten by a tick and want to test your pet, we recommend waiting six months for a positive confirmation. Testing your pet earlier may result in a false negative.
Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis
Both the Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis bacterial organisms are spread by ticks and can infect dogs bitten by ticks. Signs of Anaplasmosis are similar to those of Lyme disease; but in addition to joint pain/swelling and appetite loss your pet may also experience vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory problems, and even seizures or bleeding/clotting disorders. Pets with Ehrlichiosis can also show these symptoms as well as a vast host of signs including edema, enlargement of the lymph nodes, increased drinking/urination, vasculitis, and eye disorders that can cause blindness. In some cases both diseases can be fatal. Prompt diagnosis of these diseases allows us to quickly begin treatment with the antibiotic Doxycycline, which can be very effective for Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, and Anaplasmosis.
Through immunization, we can help prevent or alleviate a variety of illnesses- many of which have caused the serious illness or even death of countless animals. Some of these illnesses are spread from animal to animal, making vaccination critical for high-risk pets who are frequently around others (outdoor cats, boarding facilities, cat/dog shows, competitions, parks). Others are picked up from a contaminated environment or even parasites, placing pets who spend time outdoors at a very high risk if they are not protected.
Each vaccination plan is tailored to your pet’s risk level, which is why at every physical exam we obtain a thorough history to understand their likelihood of exposure to known pathogens and disease carriers. This way, we can determine which vaccinations are most helpful to protect your pet- without giving your pet unnecessary vaccinations or causing you unnecessary financial burden. We recommend that you consider these factors prior to your appointment, and always discuss any concerns or reservations you have with our knowledgeable staff.
Treatment for illnesses that can be prevented through vaccination can be very expensive- and sometimes, no matter how much care a sick pet is provided, the prognosis is extremely grave. By engaging in preventive medicine we help make sure that healthy pets stay that way- and at a lower cost to the owner, by preventing expensive hospitalization.
We encourage you to read about the vaccinations that we commonly provide to our patients, and as always, to ask any questions you may have.
Spaying and neutering pets is the #1 way to control animal populations and has the additional benefit of helping to prevent diseases later in life, including uterine/breast/prostate/testicular cancers and life-threatening emergency conditions like a pyometra (uterine infection) or perineal hernia. Many rescue groups and shelters require spaying and neutering as part of their adoption policy; many breeders also encourage that your new pet is spayed or neutered unless explicitly planned to be bred.
Watch us neuter a chinchilla
Female pets are “spayed” when they undergo a surgical procedure (ovariohysterectomy) to remove the uterus and ovary reproductive organs. This makes your pet incapable of becoming pregnant; the removal causes your pet to stop producing sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone. This has an immediate benefit of ending heat cycles which can cause a mess in the home, entice un-neutered males, and lead to undesirable behaviors like possession guarding and sometimes aggression. In the long-term, lower levels of these hormones have been linked to a much lower incidence of breast cancer, a very serious cancer in pets.
Removal of the uterus ensures that it will not be able to become infected later in life. An infected uterus is a very real risk in older un-spayed females. In the worst case, the infected uterus can cause death; and at best only require an emergency hospitalization and emergency pyometra spay, a costly and risky process.
While opinions have changed throughout the years and vary by veterinarian, our policy for a safe, inexpensive, and medically beneficial spay is to recommend spaying your pet as early as 16 weeks of age and preferably before their first heat cycle. Many owners are apprehensive about having surgery performed on smaller pets like toy dogs and young kittens; but it is very common to spay kittens as small as 2lbs! If you have any concerns we strongly encourage you to discuss them with your veterinarian. Our doctors are always happy to answer any questions you may have about your pet’s surgical procedure. They will arrange a tour of our surgical facilities, introduce you to our staff, and allay any fears you may have. The benefits of a spay far outweigh the known and avoidable risks of anesthesia and surgery. With an experienced veterinary team like ours your pet will be at home and happy within 36-hours!
An ovariohysterectomy is a fairly quick procedure; pets are fully recovered within a matter of days! In fact, the biggest detriment to recovery is that pets feel so well they don’t know they should be taking it easy! This is why we request that your pet stay hospitalized overnight, keeping them restricted and calm for the first 12 hours after surgery. They go home the day after surgery. Because of changes that occur to the reproductive organs during a heat cycle whether or not your pet is in heat can have a large impact on the duration of surgery, recovery time, and cost of the procedure. If your pet has already begun going into heat, we recommend waiting 6 weeks after their last heat to schedule the appointment.
Neutering of male pets is accomplished by the surgical removal (gonadectomy) of the testicles, the male reproductive organs that are responsible for producing testosterone and sperm. This prevents male animals from impregnating females, but also reduces and eliminates a number of highly undesirable traits that can be triggered and strengthened by the presence of testosterone. The surge in testosterone production following your male pet’s sexual maturity can cause marking behaviors (urinating in your house), inter-male/territorial/general aggression, dominance attitude toward humans, mounting, and escaping/roaming. Intact males also experience a higher likelihood of prostate cancer later in life, as well as the possibility of testicular cancer. They have a higher incidence of developing perineal hernias, where fat or even abdominal organs like the intestine or bladder can protrude from the pet’s abdomen. Those are emergency conditions difficult and expensive to treat, and in worst-case scenarios are fatal. Intact males are also more prone to growing benign or malignant perianal adenomas- tumors of the muscle around the anus. Even benign growths can be problematic and require surgical removal.
Neutering typically involves surgically removing testicles which have descended out of the abdomen and are easily accessed. This makes the procedure a very quick one in smaller/younger pets. Because the testosterone levels typically begin to rise around 4-5 months of age, we recommend neutering around 3-4 months. Increasing age/size of the pet can lead to increased duration/complexity of surgery and overall cost, as well as resulting in established “male” behavioral traits which may not be affected by neutering/eliminating testosterone production.
In some cases, a male pet will have one or both cryptorchid (un-descended) testicles which are retained within the body and do not drop. These testes, in particular, should be removed as they have a much higher incidence of cancer development and will continue producing testosterone and allowing your pet to breed. Retained testicles are removed via a more involved surgical procedure, similar to a spay, where the abdomen itself is opened in order to access and remove the testicle(s).
Pets typically recover very quickly from a neuter and are kept overnight to keep them quiet and restricted. Neutered pets often go home the day after surgery with their only complication being licking of the surgery site in which case the use of an e-collar may be necessary for a few days. It is very important to note that male dogs retain sperm within their reproductive tract up to one month after neutering, and thus are still capable of impregnating females for 30 days.