When Is Surgery Needed for a Cruciate Tear in a Dog

Determining Factors: When Is Surgery Needed for a Cruciate Tear in a Dog?

In dogs, cranial cruciate ligament disease (CrCLD) is a chronic disease marked by the degradation of the cruciate ligament, one of the primary ligaments that supports a dog’s stifle joint (knee). The disease eventually leads to the rupture of the cruciate ligament, which is similar to a person tearing his or her ACL (anterior cruciate ligament).

Causes of CrCLD

Cranial cruciate ligament disease has a genetic predilection and is common to certain breeds, but other issues like excessive weight can exacerbate the problem. 50% of dogs that have a ligament tear in one leg will tear the ligament of the other stifle joint within six to twelve months. 

Clinical Signs of CrCLD

Although a chronic disease, the onset of symptoms (primarily lameness) is usually acute. A dog will suddenly hold up his or her leg. This lameness tends to appear worse with exercise and better with rest. 

CrCLD Diagnosis

To diagnose CrCLD, a veterinarian will perform a physical examination of a dog’s joint, which will reveal excessive forward movement of the tibia (called a cranial drawer). X-rays will also be taken to rule out other concerns. X-rays won’t reveal the ruptured ligament, but can show secondary changes, such as osteoarthritis or fluid within the stifle. 

Dog Knee Surgery: Treatments for a Cruciate Tear in a Dog

Dog's Canine x-ray

Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO)

Most pets require surgical repair following a cruciate rupture. Different techniques are available including lateral fabellar, tibial plateau-leveling osteotomy (TPLO), and tibial tuberosity advancement (TTA) surgeries. Regardless of the surgical technique, exercise restriction and rehabilitation with dog physical therapy will be essential to the ultimate success of the pet’s surgery. Given the proper recovery care, most pets are able to return to normal function. 

Factors that Determine if Surgery Is Needed for a Canine Cruciate Tear

Surgery following a cruciate tear is usually the only treatment that enables a pet’s full recovery. There are, however, certain cases when surgery might not be recommended. A veterinarian will consider a long list of factors before recommending a dog for a TPLO procedure or another surgical repair.

Genetics

For certain breeds (including golden retriever, Rottweiler, Neapolitan mastiff, Newfoundland, Akita, St. Bernard, American Staffordshire terrier, and mastiff), surgery is often inevitable. Larger breeds’ increased weight makes a non-surgical recovery less likely. Also, due to their genetic tendency, 50% of these dogs will tear the ligament of the other knee within six to twelve months. In these cases, attempting to manage CrCLD without surgery can wind up putting more pressure and strain on the other limb, which accelerates the second rupture and leads to the tear of both ligaments. 

Full vs. Partial Tear

Sometimes a dog’s cruciate tear might be only partial. This can be difficult to determine in pets, since they’re not undergoing MRI exams like people would. In veterinary medicine, the diagnosis of a full or partial tear can be made by arthroscopy of the stifle, but is more frequently estimated based on the palpation of cranial drawer and clinical signs. 

Meniscal Tear

A piece of cartilage, the meniscus acts as a cushion in the stifle joint. The meniscus can tear at the time of a cruciate rupture or after. Often, it will catch during certain movements, causing additional pain. Patients with meniscal tears seldom regain full use of their legs without surgical correction.

Size and Excessive Weight

Dog Surgery

Unfortunately, dogs can’t tell us how they feel following a surgery. As a result, deciding which procedure is better for a dog must be based on observational outcomes of both surgical procedures.

Short-Term Considerations

If large or overweight, a pet’s size can contribute to the excessive strain on the joint. “One of the biggest factors I have seen in determining if rehabilitation alone, without surgery, will be successful is the size of the patient,” says Dr. Jessica Pizzillo, DVM, CCRP. “Very few patients over 35 pounds have desirable outcomes without surgery.” 

In addition, trying to help a dog lose weight while recovering from a cruciate rupture is challenging because part of the recovery involves exercise restriction. With surgery, we can fix the dog’s cruciate ligament, work through the normal recovery, and then begin an appropriate diet and exercise program for weight loss. 

Age and Underlying Medical Conditions

Younger dogs with a tear are more likely to develop arthritis over time. As a result, it’s beneficial to fix and avoid future concerns. On the other hand, there are concerns with older dogs undergoing general anesthesia, which a veterinary must conservatively manage. In addition to age factors, underlying medical conditions such as Cushing’s disease or hypothyroidism can predispose a pet to ligament rupture, but can also complicate strategies for surgery and anesthesia. 

​Clinical Signs

The most important factor in determining whether surgery is recommended is your pet’s overall condition and the severity of clinical signs and symptoms. “The number one factor that influences surgery is how well the pet is doing,” says Dr. Mark Beerenstrauch, DVM. “If we are trying to avoid a surgery, but a pet is still experiencing pain and discomfort, then we will move from a more conservative approach to a surgical correction.”

Although some pets with a cruciate tear can be managed with exercise restriction, pain medication like anti-inflamatories, and canine rehabilitation (dog physical therapy) and live a normal, active life, it’s the opinion of Dr. Bilicki, DVM, DACVS-SA, Diplomate ACVS, that surgery is the best way to go.

“Surgery is the fastest and most complete way to achieve full function with added benefits. Surgery alleviates inflammation, which causes direct damage to cartilage, and surgery allows the patient to work toward stopping the cycle of disuse and muscle atrophy to start building muscle mass, strength, and endurance as quickly as possible,” Dr. Bilicki says. “In my opinion, the moment we determine a patient has cruciate disease — whether it is a partial, full, or chronic rupture — surgery is indicated.” 

If your dog suffers a cruciate tear, our team of veterinary professionals will work with you to determine the best course of treatment based on your pet’s individual health and medical concerns.

Why is TPLO an effective Surgical Correction for my Dog’s Cranial Cruciate Rupture?

Dog's Cranial Cruciate Rupture

TPLO surgery (tibial plateau leveling osteotomy) is the most commonly recommended treatment for the rupture of a dog’s cranial cruciate ligament. This injury is like an ACL tear for dogs, and TPLO surgery is designed to stabilize the stifle (knee) joint following the ligament’s rupture.

How Does a Cruciate Tear in a Dog Happen?Dog Cruciate Tear

Dogs develop cranial cruciate ligament disease (the musculoskeletal problem that leads to a cruciate tear in a dog) for a myriad of reasons. Most commonly, the issue arises due to genetics. Certain predisposed breeds have a tibial plateau slope that’s inclined too far backwards, which places constant stress on the ligament. 50% of dogs that develop CCLD due to a genetic component will eventually suffer a tear in both stifle joints.

“It’s by far the most common orthopedic condition we see in our practice,” Dr. Mark Beerenstrauch, DVM said of cranial cruciate ligament disease. “In breeds, which are genetically predisposed, I have seen it develop as early as six months of age.”

Additional factors, such as weight, metabolic diseases (hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease), and a dog’s activity level can also play a role in the development of CCLD.

All about the TPLO Procedure

TPLO procedure

In the 1980s, Dr. Barclay Slocum noticed that some dogs had an abnormal slope of their knee (tibia) which predisposed them to develop CCLD. Rather than attempting to fix a dog’s ligament, as had been attempted with other surgical procedures, Dr. Slocum thought it would be better to correct the tibia’s slope, instead. His method produced much better results than other available surgeries. He patented the TPLO technique and instruments which he developed for the surgery.

How Does TPLO Surgery Work?

The goal of a TPLO surgery is to reduce the angle of a dog’s tibial slope, which puts less pressure on the dog’s cruciate ligament.

“TPLO essentially re-engineers the canine stifle in a way that makes the cranial cruciate ligament less important,” said our veterinary surgeon, Dr. Bilicki, DVM, DACVS-SA, Diplomate ACVS. “People have a five-degree slope of the tibia, and if they’re not athletes, they can learn to compensate for the instability. Our pet patients have a tremendous ability to compensate. If we can make them more like people — taking them from an average of 24 to 34 degrees to about five degrees — they thrive incredibly well.”

What Happens During a TPLO Procedure?

Prior to a dog’s surgery, we’ll measure the top of the tibia’s angle to determine a goal for the surgical correction. Surgery begins with an exploration of the stifle joint’s interior, which is intended to assess the cartilage (meniscus), looking for any damage. If damage is found, it will be removed. According to Dr. Bilicki, “Removing damaged cartilage is essentially like removing a rock from a shoe, which we believe can be as important as eliminating tibial thrust.”

The veterinary orthopedic surgeon will then use a specially curved saw to make a cut on the top surface of the tibia. This cut portion is then rotated to create a more desirable angle. The surgeon then places a stainless-steel bone plate, which holds the two pieces together until the osteotomy site heals (usually within eight to twelve weeks).

TPLO Aftercare: How to Care for a Dog Following Surgery

TPLO aftercare

Providing a dog with the proper post-surgical care is essential to proper healing and the restoration of the stifle joint’s proper function. Immediately following surgery, it will be essential to restrict a dog’s activities until fully healed. This period of exercise restriction will last for eight weeks or longer, depending on the pet.

Canine rehabilitation (dog physical therapy) is also an essential component to a dog’s recovery and rehabilitation following TPLO surgery. “Although TPLOs are very effective at stabilizing knees and decreasing pain, they change the conformation of the leg. In addition, many of these patients have significantly reduced muscle mass and compensatory changes in other parts of the body,” said Dr. Jessica Pizzillo, DVM, CCRP. “Rehabilitation after surgery helps to maintain and restore optimal range of motion, while allowing for a controlled process to rebuild strength and coordination.”

Post-operative canine rehabilitation typically includes a variety of therapies and modalities designed to restore range of motion, flexibility, strength, and balance.

What’s the TPLO Prognosis?

Prognosis following TPLO surgery is overwhelmingly positive. Overall, dogs who receive TPLO surgery, have a good prognosis. Most dogs — an estimated 90% — regain normal function, experience minimal complications, and have no need for long-term use of medications following TPLO surgery and rehabilitation.

If you’re concerned about canine cranial cruciate ligament disease in your dog, we encourage you to talk with a Pet Health Veterinarian about your pet’s personalized wellness plan, genetic predisposition, and the preventative measures you can take to reduce your dog’s overall risk of rupture.

What Is Canine Cranial Cruciate Rupture and How Can I Avoid One?

What Is a Cranial Cruciate Rupture in Dogs?

A dog’s cranial cruciate ligament is one of the main ligaments supporting the stifle joint (knee). Cranial cruciate rupture occurs when the ligament partially or completely tears. This frequently diagnosed chronic canine condition is called cranial cruciate ligament disease (CrCLD). Like a human’s ACL tear in a dog, a cranial cruciate rupture can be debilitating and extremely painful.

What Causes Cranial Cruciate Rupture in Dogs?

Most often, a combination of factors causes a cruciate tear in a dog. Genetics predispose certain breeds to developing CrCLD. In addition, other risk factors, like age, weight, and overall physical condition put dogs at risk. Plus, 50% of dogs that have a ligament tear in one leg will tear the cranial cruciate ligament in the other leg within six to twelve months of the first rupture.

Signs of Cranial Cruciate Tears in Dogs

CrCLD is a chronic condition in dogs, but the onset of noticeable symptoms often occurs suddenly or acutely. For example, your dog might suddenly hold up his or her affected leg.

Additional signs of an ACL tear in a dog include the following:

  • Pain
  • Decreased activity
  • Disinterest in play
  • Stiffness
  • Trouble standing up
  • Difficulty jumping to and from the car
  • Limping and lameness
  • Decreased muscle mass (atrophy)
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Swelling on the inside of the leg
  • Popping noise when moving stifle
  • Symptoms seem to improve with rest and worsen with exercise

The signs and symptoms of cranial cruciate ligament disease vary between dogs, but the condition almost always causes pain and dysfunction of the rear limbs.

Cranial Cruciate Ligament Disease Diagnosis

Diagnosing a dog with CrCLD usually requires a physical examination, x-rays, and possible further evaluation with arthroscopy. Physical examination reveals excessive forward motion of the tibia. Although x-rays can’t show an actual tear, they’re taken to rule out other problems and possibly reveal secondary signs of a rupture, such as osteoarthritis or joint fluid in the stifle. Your pet might require sedation to reduce pain and remain calm.

Treating Canine Cruciate Ligament Disease

Most pets, especially larger breeds, require surgical repair to strengthen the joint. Different surgical techniques can be used, including:

  • Lateral fabellar
  • Tibial plateau-leveling osteotomy (TPLO)
  • Tibial tuberosity advancement (TTA)

Regardless of the type of surgery used, exercise restriction and canine rehabilitation (dog physical therapy) are essential. Following surgery, most pets return to normal function.

How Do I Prevent My Dog from Getting a Cranial Cruciate Rupture?

Dogs with cranial cruciate rupture can be successfully treated, but prevention is always the best medicine! Consider the following ways to reduce your dog’s chances of developing CrCLD.

7 Steps to Preventing Cranial Cruciate Tear in Dogs

1. Avoid Predisposed Breeds

Certain breeds are at high-risk of developing CrCLD due to genetic predisposition. These include:

2. Manage Weight

Extra weight puts unnecessary stress on joints.

3. Provide Proper Nutrition

Though rare, nutritional deficiencies can increase your pet’s risk. If not already on an AFFCO approved dog food, like a homemade diet, switch your dog to an approved food or consult a veterinary nutritionist.

4. Keep Your Pet in Shape

Avoiding activities for which your pet has not been conditioned and keeping your pet in shape with regular exercise helps prevent all sorts of injuries. “Just like humans are prone to injury when they partake in a vigorous activity without proper training, so are our canine companions,” says Dr. Jessica Pizzillo, DVM, CCRP. “If your pet is normally a couch potato, a lively game of Frisbee or a long strenuous hike may not be in their best interest.”

5. Warm Up and Stretch

Warm up and stretch your dog prior to exercise to prevent injury. Our dog physical therapist can show you some very useful stretches.

6. Manage Related Medical Conditions

Underlying metabolic diseases, like hypothyroidisim or Cushing’s disease, can predispose a pet to developing CrCLD. Long-term steroid administration can weaken ligaments. Precautions should be taken with pets who require these medications.

7. Consider Delaying Your Pet’s Spay or Neuter

Recent studies have shown a possible correlation between early spay and neuter and cruciate disease in pets. There are pros and cons to delaying spay and neuter surgery. So, you should talk with a holistic veterinarian about possibly postponing your pet’s procedure to 14 months of age — especially if your pet’s a predisposed breed.

Give Your Pet Access to the Best Veterinary Care Available with Pet Insurance

Preparing you and your pet for unexpected health expenses with comprehensive insurance coverage can help offset the cost of one or possibly multiple surgeries, helping your pet return to normal function as quickly as possible with minimal damage to your bank account.

“The most important recommendation that I give to pet parents,” says Dr. Beerenstrauch, DVM, “is to get pet insurance. Even if you’re doing everything right, a cruciate rupture is often unavoidable because of the genetic predisposition some breeds have to developing the disease.”

Las Vegas Cold Weather Is Harmful To Pets

cold weather in Las VegasResidents of Las Vegas have surely noticed the steep drop in temperatures over the last few weeks.  This cold front has lasted longer than a typical Las Vegas winter and has brought sub-freezing temperatures to the valley for many days in a row.  These temperatures typically drop below freezing overnight and into the morning hours.  Although many people have taken precautions to bring their animals inside during these winter times, even if the pets are typically “outdoor” animals, many have still not taken the extra steps necessary to keep their pet’s safe when the temperatures drop.  Many Las Vegas veterinarians are seeing increases in the amount of frostbite cases to animal’s extremities, as well as other issues that go along with the colder temperatures.  The best way of keeping your pet’s safe over the winter is to bring them inside, and not let them out unsupervised at any time.  If you cannot bring your pets inside with you, at least take extra precautions to keep them safe from the cold.

Provide a shelter.  Always make sure that your pets have a shelter that they can comfortably get inside of during cold weather.  If this structure can be heated, make sure that the heater does not create any dangerous fumes inside the shelter, or that the heater cannot be compromised by rain or snow.  Animals will instinctively seek out warm places to sleep, but older or sicker animals may not be able to find them very well even if they are provided.  It is a good idea to work with your pet to make sure they understand the location of their shelter, and that they can comfortably get in and out of the structure.  Inside the shelter provide blankets or other elements that can help keep the animal warm.  Always remember that even though they have fur, they are just as susceptible to the colder temperatures as you are.  If you feel cold, then they do to.

Make sure there is adequate food and water.  Always remember that water will freeze in cold temperatures, so it is always a good idea to provide water on a drip system that will not completely freeze if the temperature goes too low.  Also, never store your pet’s food in metal containers or bowls as these can cause an animal’s tongue to stick if the temperature is low enough.  Every year, veterinarians in Las Vegas see cases of animals who have torn skin from their tongue attempting to remove it from being stuck to a metal food bowl left outside.  This can cause extreme pain and bleeding.

Protect from frostbite. Even though Las Vegas is generally a warmer climate, our winters go below freezing very often.  Make sure that your pet is not getting frostbitten on their body extremities like their paws, tail, nose or ears.  These areas of your pet are just as susceptible to frostbite as your fingers and toes.  Many people think that animals skin is tougher than human beings, but nothing is further from the truth.  If your pet becomes frostbitten, get them to the nearest veterinarian immediately.

Lower temperatures means additional dangers for pets left outside, and it is always the suggestion to make sure that even outdoor animals are brought into a heated area during times of extreme cold.  It’s cold out there Las Vegas, bring those furry friends inside!

Is pet wellness care like human programs?

Many years ago, doctors figured out that preventing many illnesses and diseases in humans involved changing your lifestyle, eating habits and regularity with which you are examined by a medical professional. Read more

We Know Your Breed

When many people adopt their new pet, they are looking for something specific. This does not necessarily mean that they are seeking a specific breed of animal (although many people are) but instead perhaps they are seeking a type of pet, small, large, active, furry etc. When they shop for their pet or go to their local shelter to adopt, they are seeking an animal that fits into a certain type, and is probably a type of breed as a result. Even mixed-breed dogs and cats still have the genetic traits of major breeds, giving them a look, temperament, size and all of the potential health issues that accompany that breed. Pet Health Animal Hospital employs a unique method of providing care for your pet, including both ongoing care as well as preventative maintenance. These wellness programs employ standard veterinary schedules for vaccinations and checkups that are specific for your type of pet, but go further by also addressing your pet’s breed and health condition in order to also put into place preventative steps to stop the spread of common ailments in your type of pet. These “breed specific” types of procedures come from years of experience and knowledge of working with specific breeds, as well as knowing what to look for. Only Pet Health Hospital uses this unique system of wellness care, as it was developed and produced by the veterinarians at our clinic.

At Pet Health Hospital, we know your breed of pet. We have decades of experience working with animals of all different types, and have worked extensively with all breeds of cats and dogs. Your particular pet has unique features and needs with regards to medical care, and we have seen them all before. Only the most experienced veterinarians can claim this level of understanding of your particular pet, and we have the experience you have been seeking. There are unique elements that make pitbulls different than pugs, and only someone who has worked with both those breeds for many years is going to know exactly what to look for, and what may be the issues to try and prevent. As an example, pugs and German shepherds are both prone to having hip problems, but they are very different breeds of dog. If your pug starts to have difficulty walking on their hind legs, there may be a hip issue that is common in their breed that we can treat. Only the experience of working with that particular breed is going to give you the best treatment plan for your pet.

Our breed specific care is based upon our ongoing idea that preventing illnesses and maladies that are common in animals is as simple as knowing what to look for and taking steps to prevent it from happening. By understanding that some dogs are more prone to heat exhaustion than others, we can prescribe exercises that are beneficial to your dog based upon the breed, and not just based upon the fact that they are a dog. Come in to our clinic today and ask about our breed specific care.

Potential Danger To Dogs In Peanut Butter (Xylitol)

Xylitol dogsOne of the most desirable treats for a dog is peanut butter, which makes the process of giving pills to dogs far easier because very few dogs will reject peanut butter. Many people will use a small amount of peanut butter as a treat or reward for their dog as well. But recent news stories have shed light on a potential danger to your dog’s health that is finding it’s way into some peanut butters, an ingredient known as Xylitol. Xylitol is a man-made sweetener which is being used in more and more foods as a substitute for sugar, mainly in products that are marketed as weight loss foods or low in fat foods. The desire of many companies to provide alternatives to traditional foods and drinks that contain less calories or fats have lead to an entire category of foods that have sugars being substituted with artificial sweeteners, Xylitol being the most popular. The biggest issue with this ingredient is that it is toxic for dogs to eat can can be fatal if enough is consumed. Xylitol can be found in gums, baked goods, candies and peanut butters.

This year so far, there have been more than 2,800 calls to the Pet Poison Help Line that have shown potential Xylitol poisoning as the reason for the problems that the pet is experiencing. This number is up more than 300 over 2009, which is probably due to the increasing utilization of Xylitol in human products which are designed for weight loss and sugar restricted diets. As the use of the sweetener becomes more and more popular and it makes it’s way into more foods that were traditionally fine to feed to your pets as a small treat (even though veterinarians will discourage the use of human foods as treats across the board) people are unaware that the food that once was able to be provided without any health issues is suddenly causing problems in pets due to the difference in ingredients.

The main issue with animals ingesting Xylitol is dangerously low blood sugar levels. When a dog eats anything containing Xylitol, the insulin is produced by the pancreas. The blood sugar levels will drop to dangerously low levels and you will begin seeing signs of weakness, staggering and the pet acting almost as if they were drunk. Untreated Xylitol ingestion can cause irreversible liver damage and be fatal to dogs, however if it is caught and treated early enough the damage can be reversible. Look for signs of potential Xylitol poisoning if your dog is vomiting, has diarrhea or is acting very lethargic.

The problem with Xylitol is that many people do not know it is in their food, and do not know that dogs cannot eat even a small amount of it without being poisoned. Due to the fact that foods that you traditionally gave to your pet without any reaction may have switched ingredients to provide a “healthier” alternative, you can no longer feed that food to your pet without consequences. We encourage you to read the ingredients of anything you feed to your dog even in small amounts, and never feed anything containing Xylitol to your dog under any circumstances. If you suspect your dog has eaten Xylitol, contact your veterinarian immediately.

The Pet Poison Help Line is a 24 hour service that can be reached at 855-764-7661

The Dangers Of Colder Weather To Pets In Las Vegas

With the onset of the holiday season in Las Vegas, we begin to see the colder weather that all people who have lived here long enough realize that the weather begins to change to colder temperatures around the end of October, and will get progressively colder throughout the winter. Many people who have just moved to Las Vega, or who have not yet been through a winter here might not have an accurate idea of exactly how cold it gets, and might be under the impression that it is all right to leave their pets outside now that the hot weather has passed. Nothing is further from the truth, and the cold weather in Las Vegas can have just as deadly an effect on pets as the heat. Simply put, it will go to below freezing here many nights, and sometimes without much warning. This means it is not safe to leave your cats and dogs outside in the cold without adequate shelter, food or water.

When the temperatures drop in Las Vegas, they do so quickly and many times without much warning. Animals that are left outside in the freezing temperatures have little ability to cope with the temperatures, and many times will be left not only cold but without enough water due to the fact that it freezes and is no longer drinkable by the animal. This can happen within a few hours if a dog or cat is left unattended and unsupervised, leading to potential hypothermia, frostbite and dehydration due to lack of adequate water. So many people believe that since animals have fur they will be better adapted to coping with colder temperatures, but what you have to realize is that their extremities are just as vulnerable as your own hands and feet. Combine this with the fact that most of our pets are not used to living outside and it makes the cold even more difficult for them to deal with. Frostbite can happen within minutes if the temperatures drop below freezing and your pet is exposed, so it is always suggested to bring your pet inside as soon as it gets too cold out for you to feel comfortable outside yourself.

In the cases where your pet does spend extended periods of time outside, provide them with the shelter of a dog house or another structure that will allow them some shelter from the cold temperatures. If that shelter can be heated, it will help them feel comfortable and also keep their water from freezing. Something to keep in mind as well is that water which is left in metal bowls outside in cold temperatures can cause the dog or cat’s tongues to stick to the frozen metal if temperatures drop, causing injuries to the sensitive tissues. Your pet will instinctively lick the bowl and does not understand that their tongues might stick to the surfaces, which can cause severe damage when they try to pull away. Keep water in plastic bowls in cold temperatures.

The colder weather may allow your pet to be outside longer than when it was very hot outside, but as a responsible pet owner it is always best to plan on keeping your pet inside in the Las Vegas winters as much as possible. They get cold too!

Know Your Local Animal Hospitals

When it comes to the most important things that you can do for your pet, one of the most important is knowing where the closest animal hospitals and after hours emergency hospitals are located. While your veterinarian of choice is based upon how much you feel that they understand animal medicine, their reviews, the facility itself and how helpful the staff is, the times when seconds count need to be planned on based upon proximity to your home. For this reason, we always suggest making a list of the closest animal hospitals or emergency rooms that treat animals to your home. The fact of the matter is going to be that many emergencies with regards to your pets are going to happen after the business hours of your local veterinarian of choice, and in those crisis situations you are going to have to have a plan in place that takes as little time to execute as possible.

When you plan for emergencies around your home, you probably made a note of where the local hospitals and emergency rooms are located around your home, just in case a family member was to get hurt and need to be transported to the doctor quickly. Most people will suggest that you keep the address, direction to, and phone numbers of the closest hospitals to your home, posted on your refrigerator or in another convenient location. Additionally, taking a drive from our house to the local emergency room is a good idea so that every family member knows exactly how to get there in the shortest time, just in case it is necessary. This same logic applies to your pets, so on that same note you might want to put the location of the local 24 hour emergency pet hospital, or if there is no emergency pet hospital near you, put the number of who to call where emergency care can be found. Make sure that each family member knows the location of the emergency pet hospital, and how to contact them in order to let them know you are coming in case of emergency. One thing that people fail to realize when the are planning for emergencies is that in a crisis time when seconds count, you are not going to have time to think straight. It is not the time to consult Google or the phone book looking for which veterinarians may be open after hours. You need to know exactly what to do as soon as the emergency happens, which is why planning out what to do in advance is the best way to go.

Call your veterinarian of choice and ask them what emergency animal hospital they suggest, and map it out to see if it is closest to our home or if there is another facility that offers the same kind of care which is closer. Contact that emergency room and ask about any hours that they might not be open, or what you should do if there is a pet emergency in your home. Put your information on file if you can, just so you can save time in a crisis. Visit the animal hospital and see how long it takes to get there and if they appear to have the ability to handle all critical cases. Ask about their prices, and if there is anything else you should plan on bringing with you if there is an emergency. If you plan for an emergency, sometimes your planning can save your pet’s life. Hopefully it will never be necessary, but if it is you will be glad you did.

The Six Most Common Dog Health Issues

Your dog is your best friend, and we all want to keep our friends in the best of health so they can spend as much time with us as possible. There are many health issues that can effect your dog, and here are the six most common health issues:

1. Ear Infections: This is probably the most common health issue in dogs, and is generally caused by yeast, bacteria, ear mites or hair growth deep in the ear canal that causes itching and a resulting infection. It is important to take your dog to the veterinarian if they have an ear infection because there is a good chance that permanent damage can occur if your dog is left alone scratching their ears. Many dogs will scratch until damage has occurred to the skin and ear canal, and shaking their head can also rupture blood vessels. Untreated bacterial and yeast infections can result in permanent deafness.Things to look for if you believe your dog might have an ear infection are:

Shaking their head or tilting it
Odor coming from ears
Scratching ears
Poor balance
Unusual eye movement
Redness or swelling of ears or ear canals
Any discharge from ears.

2. Tapeworms, Hookworms, Roundworms or Whipworms: These parasites are internal and cannot be noticed by looking at your dog. If left untreated, worms can be fatal in puppies. The best thing to do if you expect that your dog might have worms is to take them to a veterinarian for treatment. Typical treatments include an oral medication and a follow up. Do not try to treat worms yourself. Here are symptoms of worms:

Diarrhea
Loss of weight
Appetite changes
Dry or rough coat
Scooting
Poor appearance

3. Fleas: Fleas are very uncomfortable for dogs, and a single flea can breed to over 1,000 fleas in less than three weeks. Fleas can cause a severe allergic reaction in dogs and even anemia from blood loss. Scratching the areas of flea bites can lead to skin damage and infection. Symptoms of fleas include:

Scratching, licking, or biting skin
Hair loss
Hot spots
Allergic dermatitis
Tapeworms (these are carried by fleas)
Flea dirt on skin(this looks like small black dots)

4. Hot Spots. These are areas that are very itchy for dogs and will generally produce vigorous scratching as they attempt to get rid of the itching feeling. Hot spots are generally caused by moist allergic dermatitis, which is an acute skin infection. Hot spots can also be caused by flea bites and other conditions. The treatment for hot spots usually involves shaving the area and treating with topical ointments or anti-inflammatory drugs.

5. Vomiting. If your dog is vomiting repeatedly, get them to the veterinarian immediately as it can quickly lead to dehydration and can be fatal. It is also generally a signal of a deeper condition which is causing the body to shut down and not be able to hold food or water. Vomiting is usually caused by infection or intestinal parasites to pancreatitis, kidney failure, heatstroke, or poisoning. If your dog is lethargic, vomiting or acting uncomfortable, a trip to the vet immediately is necessary.

6. Diarrhea: Diarrhea in dogs can also cause dehydration quite quickly and can be fatal if untreated. It is also generally a sign of a deeper underlying condition such as stress, infections like parvo virus, intestinal parasites, and food problems. If your dog has liquid or loose stool for more than 1 day, take them to the veterinarian for an examination.