FCEM – a disease that often has a good ending, unless you’re a squirrel

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Skye had been completely normal when her family left for work and school that morning. But, when her big brother arrived home early in the afternoon, he found her sprawled out at the front door, her eyes two big saucers. She toppled over with each flailing attempt to stand. It was like her legs had abandoned her. Panic set in.
When she arrived at our hospital around 4 pm, she no longer had the use of her limbs. Her heart was pounding – she was a very scared dog. Skye was given sedative medication to help her relax and to allow us to perform some tests. X-rays showed that she had some narrowed intervertebral disc spaces and considerable arthritis along her spine. She would need to be referred to a neurologist for a definitive diagnosis, but we suspected fibrocartilaginous embolic myelopathy (FCEM) was the culprit.

FCEM is an acute infarction of the spinal cord caused by a vascular embolus of fibrocartilage. The condition can be thought of like a spinal stroke. There is usually a history of sudden collapse with or without vigorous exercise. The symptoms may worsen within the first few hours but often do not progress beyond the time a patient is examined by a veterinarian. A single limb, or all four limbs may be affected with varying degrees of weakness or paralysis. Many patients will regain near normal function of their limb(s) within 2 to 6 weeks.

With the love of her family, lots of nursing care, and her own unwavering determination, Skye is now walking short distances with assistance. Hopefully before long, she’ll be chasing squirrels out of her backyard again!

How To Thank A Tick

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I’ve been thinking a lot about ticks and Lyme disease this spring. Tick numbers in Durham Region are on the rise. Every day, I talk with dog owners about the realities of Lyme disease. Dogs are more resistant (than humans) to developing Lyme disease and knowing the risks, symptoms and strategies for avoidance can help manage our fears about exposure to ticks. This week one of my clients asked, “What are ticks good for? I mean, why do they even exist?”
“I’ve often wondered the same thing about wasps.” I answered. That conversation got me wondering if there is a way to thank ticks for their existence. I decided it would be easiest to start by thanking my dog.

Thank you Gryphon for reminding me that it’s important to check you over every night. I need to feel for any bumps that could be a tick that’s hitched a ride on your handsome furry face! Without you, I may have seen one news story about Lyme disease, felt a pang of anxiety, told myself to wear long pants while camping this summer and then … within a week, forgotten all about the threat of ticks. As usual Gryphon – you’re da bomb dawg!

Ok, that was easy. Now, on to thanking ticks. This is tougher but here we go.

Dear Deer Tick,
I heard Mom talking about how you like to hang out in long grass. She said you like rabbits too. We have a lot in common! I like to sniff stuff, how about you? I like pretty much everyone I meet. Sometimes I eat bugs though, even the ones that sting, so I’m sorry if I ever eat you or someone in your family. Anyway, I need to thank you. I’ve been getting checked over every night for ticks. It’s like a full body massage – I feel myself getting sleepy just thinking about it! Well, time for me to get back to work. I’m on backyard bunny patrol today – I just bark real loud and scare them off so they don’t eat Mom’s flowers. She doesn’t like that.
Everyone’s furry friend,
Gryphon D’Or

A Whoosh in my Box of Chocolates

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This morning as I worked away in Rusty’s mouth, cleaning his teeth and wrestling with his tongue that is honestly about two sizes too big, I thought to myself – Dental cleanings really are like Forest Gump’s box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.

Here’s what was in my dental box of chocolates today.
1. Thick tartar crammed between crooked teeth
2. Gums that bled with the most gentle probing
3. Gingival hyperplasia – this is when gums overgrow as a response to infection and inflammation
4. Furcation exposure – this is a tunnel that forms due to bone loss between the roots of a multi-rooted tooth
5. Gum recession
6. Loose teeth
7. Bad breath
8. Plaque

But before I even opened this little furry fellow’s mouth, I had my first surprise. I discovered a very quiet heart murmur immediately after induction of anesthesia. Rusty has had his heart auscultated many times at Brock Street Animal Hospital and no one has ever heard a murmur. In fact, I listened to his heart before sedating him this morning and heard nothing but a nice regular distinct lub dub, lub dub. It’s possible that the murmur is related to anesthetic medications or it may indicate early disease of the heart valves. Many older, small breed dogs have degeneration of one or more of the heart valves. This results in some backward flow of blood with each beat of the heart. The backward flow causes turbulence within the chambers of the heart and creates the fuzzy, whoosh whoosh sound of a murmur.

All the people that love Rusty (and there are lots!), now know to watch for coughing, exercise intolerance and an increase in his sleeping respiratory rate; these are symptoms that could indicate congestive heart disease.
So, today I had a little extra ‘whoosh’ in my box of chocolates but despite the challenges, Rusty went home with a nice clean mouth and as much zest for life as when he arrived this morning!

Mental Health Week.

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Mental Health week.

Being its Mental Health week, I thought I would do a blog on the benefits of owning a pet and how it can help your mental health.

I know for sure that my pets make me happy, they make me laugh, smile and comfort me when I am feeling down.

Pets never judge, they never look at you and think you look bad without your makeup, or your still in your jammies at 2 pm on a Sunday.

They love you with their whole being, they love you regardless of what you look like, what you drive.

I love my walks with my dogs, and feel so much better after I get home, they are happy and relaxed which makes me feel happy too.

When I get home, they are so happy to see me, in fact I can go to the washroom and come out and they are just as happy to see me….Daisy thinks I have a trap door in the washroom that I will disappear out of if she doesn’t come into the washroom with me..lol

Having pets for some, gives them a purpose to get up in the morning, a purpose to get out and take a walk.  Pets rely on us to take care of them, in return they give us so much more.

I know that without my pets, my heart would be so empty, my house too quiet.

Go give your pet a hug , I know I will when I get home!

Insolent Eyeballs

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A bit like having a piece of sand in your eye, scratches or ulcers on the cornea hurt. In dogs and cats, corneal ulcers will generally heal with 7 to 10 days of treatment with antibiotic and tear replacement drops. There are however cases where the wound persists despite prolonged treatment; we call these, indolent ulcers. The term indolent means lazy or slow to heal. In these cases, new cells at the edges of the ulcer are unable to adhere to the ulcerated surface. Much like a wet bandaid, they just don’t stick so healing cannot occur.

Last week I saw Kobe, a handsome spirited Collie mix. Kobe had a corneal ulcer that refused to heal with drops alone, and I found myself thinking that a better term for this condition would be, insolent ulcer. Maybe it was because I’d been dealing with a bit of an unruly teenager for a few days, but really when you think about it, the term ‘insolent’ is actually very appropriate. I mean these corneas have no respect for the body’s attempt to heal itself!

So, how do we get these bad tempered corneas back to optimal health?

We perform a procedure called a striate keratotomy. Loose flaps of healing tissue at the edges of the ulcer are gently removed with a dry cotton swab. Then a small gauge needle is used to scratch a grid pattern over the surface of the ulcer. This stimulates healing and creates openings through the unhealthy corneal tissue which allows new cells to stick and ultimately fill in the defect. Striate keratotomies are effective in 60-70% of cases. If this procedure is not successful, referral to a veterinary ophthalmologist is required for a superficial keratectomy. In this procedure, a thin layer of cornea is completely removed (including the ulcerated area) leaving behind only healthy tissue. No matter the treatment used, patients always have to wear an Elizabethan collar (aka e collar or lampshade) which prevents them from rubbing the eye and causing further damage.

Managing insolent eyeballs requires patience and persistence, and in Kobe’s case, he seems to be well on his way to feeling better!