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Leptospirosis: Contagious bacterial disease, all dogs susceptible

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Change in season may mean changes in routine, adventures, or social contacts for you and  your dog – and likely, for other people and pets in your neighborhood, hunting group, or at the dog park. This means paying extra attention to how your dog behaves after outings; a single encounter with a contaminated water source or an infected animal can transmit a contagious bacterial disease to even a cautious canine.

What is Leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis is a contagious disease caused by leptospira bacteria and spread through the urine of wildlife species. Not only do dogs become extremely sick with leptospirosis, they can potentially contaminate the environment and spread disease to other animals. Dogs become infected when they come in direct contact with contaminated water sources, ingest or lick contaminated water or surfaces, ingest wildlife that carry the disease, or are in direct contact with infected carriers.

Animals that commonly shed leptospira bacteria include:

  • Raccoons
  • Skunks
  • Dogs
  • Small mammals or rodents
  • Farm animals (cows, sheep, goats, pigs, horses)

Symptoms of animals infected with Leptospira
Some animals, like the rat, don’t become symptomatically ill when infected with lepto; they are known as carriers that spread the disease and contaminate the environment. Other infected animals will not show symptoms until the late stages of infection. It’s not possible to identify an animal infected with leptospira simply by looking at it.
Symptoms of Leptospirosis in dogs Once infected, leptospira reside within the bloodstream. During this time, the dog can exhibit general signs of illness including malaise, fever, and decreased appetite. Approximately one week after initial infection, the disease often spreads to the kidneys, but other organ systems can also be affected including the liver, lungs, eyes, heart, and brain. Because leptospira are in the bloodstream they have easy access to most parts of the body. Symptoms of kidney failure (vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, lethargy, weight loss, decreased appetite, and changes in urination frequency) are often noted a few weeks after initial infection and can be fatal without early and intense treatment.

Indoor pets at risk
Unless your pet lives in a plastic bubble, exposure is happening – and once is enough to lead to infection. At the dog park, on a walk around the block, a stay at a boarding facility, a trip home for a weekend, a drink from the puddle water, or a swim in the lake all are potential opportunities for even a “city dog” to be infected. While historically this disease has been considered a risk for farm dogs or sporting dogs, we now know from data on disease prevalence that dogs off all
breeds and lifestyles are at risk. Especially with the spread of urban communities into more rural areas, disease spread between wildlife and domestic animals occurs with increased frequency.

Protection from disease
Vaccinate your dog for Leptospirosis! The best option currently available is a vaccine that contains the 4 most common serogroups* . There are hundreds of leptospira serogroups, but most are not disease causing. Puppies as young as 9-10 weeks old can begin vaccination for leptospira and will require a booster dose 3-4 weeks later. After the original series is complete, dogs require a yearly vaccine booster for leptospira. Some high-risk dogs may benefit from a booster vaccine every 6 months. Ask your veterinarian about prevalence of leptospirosis in your area. The best offense a good defense!

Diagnosis and treatment for Leptospirosis
Blood work and urine testing are most commonly utilized to confirm diagnosis. Some or all of this can be done with your local veterinarian. Hospitalization with IV fluids and medications is often required for several days for treatment to be successful. Pets that do recover from disease continue may have chronic organ damage.

WARNING
Leptospirosis is not only a concern for our dogs but for people, as well. Protecting dogs via routine vaccination helps protect humans, since a vaccine for humans is not yet available. Also, in areas where dogs are becoming infected, an equal warning should be given to people who frequent or work in those areas. Leptospirosis is a potential hazard for farmers, hunters, outdoor athletes, campers, hikers, fishermen, veterinarians, and others. Extreme caution is advised to immunocompromised individuals, especially when visiting these locations or when handling urine from dogs.





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Part II: Burn Wounds, Freezing Cold

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Burn Wounds, Part II: Freezing Cold
Extreme cold may lead to thermal burns of skin, muscle, or bone and supporting tissues. Similar  to heat burns, tissue damage from cold has varying degrees of severity. Superficial thermal burns that cause minimal tissue damage and that are reversible are termed ‘frost-nip’. More severe deep burns compromise blood flow and result in frostbite. Complete extent of the thermal damage can be difficult to determine based on appearance alone. For the remainder of this article, thermal injury will be in reference to extremes in low temperatures resulting in frostbite damage.

Frostbite occurs when tissues become so cold that circulation is diminished and ice crystals form inside the chilled tissues. Mammals have a very complex thermoregulatory system that regulates blood flow distribution to keep the body within a very narrow temperature range; for dogs, a typical range is between 101.0-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. In cold temperatures, the body attempts to maintain its normal temperature by constricting blood vessels and redirecting blood flow away from the periphery of the body. This is done to prevent heat loss from the body to the environment and to maintain internal organ temperature and functioning. Areas most susceptible to cold-related burns are those with limited blood flow and situated farthest from the body core: ears, feet, tail, scrotum, and nose. Dogs with a short hair coat, small size or lean body weight, or otherwise health-compromised pets are at greatest susceptibility for cold related injury, particularly if outdoors in the cold without protection.

Thermal burns are most common in pets housed outdoors with inaccessible or inadequate protection from the environment, but any pet can experience this health emergency under the right conditions. Hypothermia occurs when tissues and organs begin to shut down due to suboptimal low body temperature. If hypothermia is prolonged, permanent and severe internal organ damage occurs in addition to the skin and muscle damage. Rewarming pets who have been injured due to cold needs to be done correctly to prevent further damage. This is best done under veterinary care. Severe alterations in hydration and circulation can occur as a result of the potentially painful rewarming process.

Symptoms of possible cold related injuries:

  • Bright pink, pale, or grey areas of exposed skin
  • Lack of response or painful response to touch in affected areas
  • Black or leathery skin, blisters, and sometimes pus
  • Clumsiness or difficulty walking due to stiffness or loss of feeling
  • Altered mental acuity and shivering
  • Below normal body temperature with cold extremities

Tissue damage from extreme cold results from decreased blood flow to tissues. Frostbite happens in stages and the time between exposure to cold temperatures and the onset of tissue damage is variable. The beginning stages are more mild and and usually reversible. Moisture on the skin or in the air combined with wind and temperatures below freezing is a set up for a quick decline into frostbite danger zone.

First aid for cold-damaged pets:

  • Safely remove pet from cold environment to a clean warm and dry location
  • Do NOT rub injured tissue- this can exacerbate damage to tissues
  • Slowly rewarm pet with warm towels/blankets or warm compresses or in a warm water bath for 15-30 minutes. Do not allow the water to become tepid, as this will have a contradictory cooling effect
    • Do not use hot water, electric heating pads, hairdryers, stoves, or fire to warm pets- This could lead to heat related burns
  • Transport pet ASAP to an emergency veterinary clinic for an exam and treatment

Your pet’s veterinary team will assess damage and keep your pet comfortable while attempting to restore blood flow to damaged tissue and support internal organ function. The full extent of frostbite damage may not be apparent for 24-48 hours after the initial injury. Because most canines are covered in hair, the damaged tissue may be difficult to notice without close inspection.

Long term effects of frostbite injuries can include permanent scarring with chronic pain, amputation, infection, growth defects, and compromised nerve function and blood flow. Dogs who experience generalized hypothermia can have severe internal organ damage.

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Amanda Burow, D.V.M. (Dr. B), is a graduate of Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Burow’s patient list includes hunting dogs of all varieties, as well as several field trial dogs and full time sporting guide dogs. In addition to practicing general veterinary medicine, she has special interest in the areas of preventive care, emergency medicine, and dermatology. In her spare time, she enjoys being outdoors and on the lake, staying active, reading, and spending time with family and friends.

Mud River is proud to share these tips from Dr. B with our customers. Keep in mind it is best to work with your local veterinarian to determine the needs for your animals.





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Part I: Burn Wounds, Scalding Hot

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Scalding Hot: Burn Wounds

Burn injuries can occur in and around the home or as a result of a natural disaster. Immediate first aid can make a big difference in long-term prognosis for burn injuries. Appropriate first aid treatment and medical care is determined by the cause of the burn. Thermal, chemical, and electrical are the three primary sources contributing to animal burn injuries.This article will address thermal injuries; specifically, high heat or fire related injuries.

Extreme heat that results in a thermal burn or smoke/gas inhalation is an emergency. A variety of heat sources that commonly burn pets include fires, space heaters, hot liquids, hair dryers, cooking surfaces, the sun and surfaces heated by the sun, and hot metal parts on vehicles or equipment. Emergency care should be sought if heat-related injury occurs. Read More >





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Lumps and Bumps: Warts in a Puppy’s Mouth

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Image Credit: MR Facebook fan Julie Stanley’s pup Cacey

Lumps and Bumps: Warts in a Puppy’s Mouth

What are those bumps?

A “wart” is an abnormal growth of tissue and can occur just about anywhere on the body. Canine oral papillomas are warts that are caused by a papillomavirus. While there are numerous strains of papillomaviruses, canine oral papilloma virus (COPV) is the most common strain and is benign (not harmful).  When COPV infects tissue and replicates, it causes abnormal tissue growths on mucous membranes that range in appearance from small white/pink bumps to unique lumps with fronds. Oral papillomas typically occur in bunches or clusters rather than singular growths and are most common in the mouth and on the lips. Occasionally, COPV warts occur in unusual locations. Read More >





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Hard Pad Disease: Canine Distemper

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Hard Pad Disease: Canine Distemper

Vaccination to prevent canine distemper virus has been so effective that it has largely eliminated the disease from urban communities; thus, many people are unaware of virus’s impact. Distemper virus is highly contagious and actively circulates in wildlife populations and in stray or unvaccinated dogs. The disease can affect multiple organ systems and clinical signs of disease vary. There is no cure for the often fatal disease even when supportive care is provided.

Read More >





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Fat Could Heal Your Dog

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Stem Cell Therapy for Orthopedic Injuries

First, let’s clarify: General obesity will NOT heal your pet’s orthopedic injury. In fact, overweight pets suffer unnecessarily from increased wear-and-tear on joints. However, fat tissue is a great source for stem cell harvest and it only requires a small amount. Stem cells may be utilized to heal many common ailments in your pet, including orthopedic injuries and osteoarthritis. Using the body’s own tissue as a way to heal itself is a type of regenerative medicine.

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Something Fishy: Anal Sac Impaction

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Something Fishy: Anal Sac Impaction

While not the most attractive topic to discuss, anal sac problems are fairly common in our canine companions.  Let’s gain a better understanding of what anal sacs are, learn how they may be problematic and what symptoms look like, and explore helpful tips for prevention.

Anal sacs are a set of specialized glands located near the anus. With a function thought to be related to scent-marking, the glands produce oily secretions; each dog makes its own unique combination of scents in these glands which contributes to a not-so-pleasant fish-stench aroma. Like human fingerprints distinguish people from one another, smell allows dogs to recognize other dogs, lending to the common greeting of sniffing each others’ rear ends.  Canines do not have a patent on this “fun” design; other species (ex. Skunks) have a similar sac. Dogs, like skunks,can express their anal sacs when stressed or in fear, but it is not routinely utilized as a defensive tactic. Healthy dogs will express their anal sacs when feces presses against them during defecation.

Read More >





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Does My Dog Have Alzheimer’s?

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Cognitive Dysfunction

Dogs can experience a decline in mental health, or cognitive function, as they age.  Physical and chemical changes in the brain that occur in some aging pets mirror the changes found in human Alzheimer’s patients.

Behavioral changes are often the first reported symptoms of declining mental health, though dog owners often underreport behavior changes in elderly pets not realizing help is available. Generally, cognitive dysfunction is diagnosed in dogs over ten years of age but recent research has found early brain changes and coinciding symptoms in younger dogs. Read More >





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Aural Hematomas

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Aural Hematomas

An aural hematoma is a soft swelling of the ear flap due to an abnormal accumulation of blood between the skin of the ear and the underlying ear cartilage. This fluid is made up of blood or bloody fluid; sometimes it can also contain infection. In theory, blood leaks from the ear vessels when the vessels become weakened. This can be due to either chronic disease or ear trauma.  Aural hematomas can occur in a variety of animal species including dogs and cats. Read More >