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It’s never too early to start thinking about what can be done at home to prevent dental disease in your dog or cat. When it comes to home care products, it is important that they are easy to administer, safe, effective and taste good to your pet. There are many choices out there and a consultation with your veterinarian can direct you to the most effective home care solutions.

To catch problems before they become bigger problems, physical exams, including complete dental exams, should be performed every 6 months to a year. At each of these visits, take the time to learn about solutions that will aid you in providing the best oral health care for your pet.

Oral health care at home begins with brushing your pet’s teeth. This is the best way to maintain oral hygiene between dental cleanings in dogs and cats. This should be done daily for best results, but can still be beneficial if done less frequently. Human toothpaste is not recommended because it has been known to cause gastric upset in pets and there are ingredients that should not be swallowed by dogs or cats. In addition, you will quickly find out that human toothpastes don’t taste good to dogs and cats. It may be intimidating to brush your cat or dog’s teeth, but it is easier than you think and there are many video tutorials available online. And the more you do it, the easier it gets!

Brushing may not be a realistic option for every pet. In this scenario, dental treats or chews offer an alternative or compliment to home care prevention. There is a wide range of treats and chews available and it is recommended to find products with ingredients sourced from the US. Chews and treats provide natural abrading action to help remove plaque and food debris. The two most common types of chews on the market are enzymatic chews and chlorhexidine chews. Enzymatic chews are enzymatically treated to help boost the pets’ own natural defenses (similar to enzymatic toothpaste) found in saliva and are offered in multiple sizes to accommodate the size of your pet, including cats. The chlorhexidine products contain chlorhexidine (has antimicrobial effects) which inhibits plaque accumulation on tooth surfaces, decreases the quantity of bacteria in saliva, alters the composition of microbial flora, binds to oral mucosal surfaces and is released slowly over time. As with the enzymatic chews, these chews come in multiple sizes to accommodate all dogs. Delmopinol, a prescription ingredient, is a newer ingredient in some chews that forms a preventative barrier that blocks the formation of bacteria and future formation plaque and calculus. In following the American Veterinary Dermatology College, it is not recommend to give dogs and cats cow hooves, dried natural bones, or hard nylon products because they are too hard and could damage the gums or teeth.

Rinses are available for those patients that don’t like to chew or don’t find chews palatable, have food allergies, don’t need the extra calories, or are too difficult for their owners to successfully brush their teeth. Rinses can also be added to the other home care options to improve the overall results. Rinses are often used during oral surgery and dental cleanings. Most contain 0.12% chlorhexidine with zinc, and have a pleasant taste for pets due to added breath fresheners that cover up the bitter taste of chlorhexidine. Rinses are highly effective antimicrobial, anti-plaque and anti-calculus products that aid in the prevention of tooth and gum disease. In addition they can help with bad breath!

Other products that may be incorporated into your home care plan can include sealants, and prescription dental diets. Sealants and gels provide a physical barrier and are applied to the gum line. They prevent bacteria from invading the underlying structures of the gum. They are also used to prevent plaque and tartar build-up on the teeth. Dental diets are another option and they typically have a unique kibble size that helps remove plaque that can cause disease of the underlying structures of the gums. These can be life-long diets and work daily to clean the surface of the tooth with abrasive action.

If you have questions about the oral healthcare of your pet and want to know more about what you can do, ask your veterinarian today!



The American Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS) reports that 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of oral disease by age 3. Age 3! This makes it one of the most frequently diagnosed health problem for pets. Since pets hide their disease and pain well, periodontal disease typically does not produce obvious clinical signs to owners until the disease is in advanced stages. Because of this, it is often left untreated. Which is a shame because untreated disease increases the likelihood of the infection moving to other parts of the body potentially causing another serious health problem such as heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, and bone loss. Therefore preventative care and awareness are vital in combating this serious disease.

Periodontal disease is the inflammation and infection of tooth support below the gum line. It is caused by the accumulation of numerous types of bacteria at the gum line, leading to inflammation and infection of tissue and structures surrounding the teeth. Improper dental hygiene is usually the culprit for the accumulation of these bacteria.

There are two types of periodontal disease that can contribute to the inflammation and destruction of tissues: gingivitis and periodontitis.¹ ²

  • Gingivitis, or the inflammation at the gum line, is started by plaque and contributes to bad breath. Oral examination may reveal red, swollen, or bleeding gums. The good news is that gingivitis is reversible and limited to the gum tissue. That is why it is best to get it treated right away, before it leads to periodontitis.
  • There are several visual signs in a pet that has developed periodontitis: abnormal pocketing between the root of the tooth and gum, gum recession, gum swelling and inflammation along with calculus. Toxins from the bacteria and host immune system increase permeability and breakdown the supporting tissues.² You may notice that affected teeth are loose and contain debris under the gum line. This can eventually lead to tooth loss or require removal of the tooth.

It is important to bring your pet to their annual veterinarian visits for a thorough oral examination. Should periodontal disease be found, the treatment your veterinarian chooses will depend on the severity of the disease. If gingivitis is present, a comprehensive cleaning of the teeth, including above and below the gingival margin is required with further treatment possible.² Gingivitis will most likely return if the plaque and bacteria aren’t controlled with frequent teeth cleaning and at-home care. Periodontitis is also treated with a thorough cleaning, but needs further treatment to prevent tooth loss. The procedures more specialized techniques which your veterinarian will explain or refer to a veterinary dentist to perform. Ultimately, if too much bone loss is present or supportive tissues are lost, then removal of the tooth is warranted. As with any cleaning or oral surgery, antibiotics and pain medication should be used where applicable.

The good news that periodontal disease is preventable if caught early! The AVDS has recommendations to help reduce the risk of oral health disease:

  1. Routine physical exams with oral exams at least yearly.
  2. At home oral care maintenance program possibly including dental diets, mouth rinsing, teeth brushing and oral chews.
  3. Schedule follow-up visits.

References

  1. Manfra Marretta S: Periodontal Disease. Saunders Manual of Small Animal Practice 2nd Edition. Philadelphia: WB Saunders; 2000. p. 711-713.
  2. Aiello Susan E, Mays Asa: Merck Veterinary Manual 8th Edition. Whitehouse Station: Merck & CO., Inc; 1998. p. 136-137.
  3. Harvey CE: Management of Periodontal Disease: Understanding the Options. Veterinary clinics of North America Small Animal Practice 35:4. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders; July 2005, p. 819-836.
  4. Holmstrom SE, Bellows J, et.al.: AAHA Dental Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats. Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association. September/October 2005, Vol. 41; p. 1-7.

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Boarding can be a stressful experience for both the pet and the pet parent. It doesn’t have to be. There are a few things you can do to minimize stress and make the boarding experience more enjoyable.

7 things to do before boarding your pet:

  • Check out the facility first: If this is your first time boarding your pet, make sure to tour the facility before dropping your pet off. Some facilities offer different kennel sizes or themed rooms, which are best gauged in person. If you can, do a test run for one night to see how your pet does in a new environment
  • Ask about optional services to make your pets stay more fun: Many boarding facilities offer additional play time, doggy day care, or walks. Incorporating activities into your pet’s stay can help the time go by faster
  • Relax: Calming supplements are available to help pets cope with the changes and new noises boarding brings to their routine.
  • Bring small comforts from home: Bringing your pet’s bed, toys, and treats can make the boarding facility feel more like home. Ask if the facility will allow you to bring your cat’s personal litterbox
  • Keep their diet the same: Changing your pet’s diet can upset your pet’s stomach. Although many boarding facilities will provide food if needed, bringing your pet’s own food with directions regarding how much to feed and what time of day is best.
  • Bring your pet’s medical records: If your pet is on any medication, don’t forget to pack it with dosing instructions.
  • Book early: Book your pet’s stay early and confirm your reservation as your trip gets closer.

It is important to have annual (or bi-annual) routine exams, blood-work and urinalysis to maintain your senior pet’s health. By following your veterinarian’s recommendations, you may catch problems before they progress and keep your senior pet in tip-top shape.



Do you ever turn your nose up to your pet’s breath? Is it hard to sit next to them with the odor of their breath? Bad breath or halitosis is certainly not limited to humans and can affect dogs and cats. While humans are typically aware (or not aware) of halitosis our pets are oblivious when their breath smells atrocious. This poses a big problem as halitosis can be due to some major dental disease and we as owners are responsible for the oral health care of our pets.

What causes halitosis?
Halitosis is the result of odor-producing bacteria that build up in your pet’s mouth, lungs or gut. While we may think that the root of bad breath is always in the mouth, it could be a sign of a more major problem with the liver, kidneys or gastrointestinal tract. Regardless, halitosis is the result of bacteria build-up, saliva and food that have contributed to plaque. If left untreated, this build-up over time can result in an infection affecting the gums and surrounding tissues of the teeth and cause the breath to worsen.

What do I do if my pet has halitosis?
First, don’t panic! There are lots of remedies and help available. The best thing you can do is make an appointment with your veterinarian for a physical exam and comprehensive oral exam. He/she will recommend specific diagnostics based on physical exam findings and history. Blood work may be recommended to figure out if there is a problem present other than oral disease. If your veterinarian finds excessive calculus, broken teeth, discolored teeth, etc. on oral exam then he/she will recommend a dental cleaning under anesthesia.

What treatment will be done for my cat and dog with halitosis?
As mentioned previously, if there are problems found on the physical exam or blood work, then those problems will be addressed first. If a teeth cleaning is warranted and there are no problems on the initial exam or blood work, then a cleaning under anesthesia will be scheduled. Cleaning under anesthesia will typically begin with a thorough oral exam, dental radiographs, and routine scaling/polishing of all the teeth. The examination and radiographs may reveal more significant concerns that may require further treatment. If abnormalities are found, such as fractured teeth, tooth root abscesses, etc., then extraction of those teeth may be recommended. After the dental cleaning, sealants may be applied in some cases. Rinses, antibiotics, and pain medication may also be sent home to reduce discomfort, help clear infection, and allow for proper healing.

What can I do at home to help prevent/treat halitosis?
There are many easy things you can do at home to help prevent halitosis. There are lots of choices of toothpaste and toothbrushes designed specifically for pet use. Pets need their teeth brushed just like humans and it is recommended to brush them once a day. If that is too often for you, even as little as once a week will be beneficial. Antibacterial rinses can help with bacterial load and in turn with halitosis (and they are easier to use than they sound!). Chews can also be given to help with the mechanical removal of plaque. Some chews even contain antibacterial ingredients that can combat the bacterial load. Finally, some dental diets offer another option for removing plaque mechanically.

Remember to have a complete oral health exam performed at least annually as part of a general physical exam. Combining regular monitoring with proper dental care as recommended by your veterinarian will help to prevent halitosis and severe dental disease from occurring. Make an appointment today!



Osteoarthritis (OA) is a progressive condition that causes joint inflammation, cartilage damage, pain, and disability. Ouch! OA can be managed though. A well rounded approach to managing OA may include weight management, exercise, modifying the environment, drugs, and supplements.

What in the world is UC-II®? 

UC-II® is a proprietary form of undenatured type II collagen* that works in a completely different way than traditional oral supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin. As joints suffer wear and tear, small bits of type-II collagen can be released from the cartilage into the joint fluid, triggering the immune system to react, causing pain. UC-II® targets the dog’s immune system in the digestive tract in a process called oral tolerization. By exposing the digestive tract to even more collagen, UC-II® “teaches” the immune cells to ignore the loose type-II collagen, thus lessening the pain response. The process works much in the same way an allergy can be treated by exposing it to small amounts of the allergen over time, building up tolerance.

The efficacy and safety of UC-II was demonstrated in a trial in dogs with OA. In the study, lameness and pain were evaluated after the dogs were given UC-II® for 90 days. The dogs receiving UC-II® had significant declines in lameness, overall pain, and pain during manipulation. No adverse effects were noted and no changes were seen in serum chemistry measurements, suggesting that UC-II® was well tolerated.

Other Helpful Supplements for Osteoarthritis

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Omega 3 fatty acids are a collection of polyunsaturated fatty acids. They have anti-inflammatory properties and are vital to healthy joints. They are not produced naturally in the body and food or supplements are good sources to add them. Omega 3 fatty acids aid in joint health by lessoning the inflammation that often accompanies OA. Many over the counter pet foods add omega 3 fatty acids to the food. However, due to regulatory restrictions, they are not allowed to add the therapeutic levels of omega 3’s recommended for osteoarthritis management.
  • Glucosamine/ Chondroitin – Glucosamine and chondroitin are substances that occur naturally in connective tissue and provide building block material for the components of healthy cartilage and its structural integrity. They are in many joint health supplements.
  • Methyl-Sulfonyl-Methane (MSM) – Methyl-sulfonyl-methane is a source of sulfur required for the formation of collagen. Sulfur is found in almost every cell in the body, and higher concentrations are found in joints, hair, skin and nails. MSM is an antioxidant and enhances the structural integrity of connective tissue including cartilage.
  • Vitamin C – Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, which are reactive substances created by metabolic processes.

Leverage your veterinarian as a source of information

Your veterinarian is the best person to discuss any questions you have about managing your pet with OA. Several years ago a study was done to evaluate the quality of information regarding OA in dogs that was available online. At that time they determined the quality of information available on the web was questionable. Although many of the sites had some conventional information that was reasonably accurate, the information was often incomplete, of minimal use, and often considered counterproductive. Your veterinarian and health care team will be able to provide guidance on the best options for your pet.

Helping your Pet with Osteoarthritis Live Relatively Pain Free

Osteoarthritis can be managed with a multi-modal approach. Work with your veterinarian to find the best supplement for your pet. Those recommendations may change as the disease progresses or your pet’s health changes. In addition to supplementation, weight reduction, controlled exercise and modifying the environment are beneficial. These methods along with drugs such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories will help break the negative cycle and allow your pet to live a long, happy and relatively pain free life!

*UC-II® is a trademark of InterHealth N.I.



It’s no secret that regular physical activity is beneficial to the health of both people and animals. Maintaining mobility is especially important for pets with osteoarthritis (OA). The great thing about walking is that the duration, frequency and intensity can all be adjusted based on the individual pet’s needs. Plus, dogs make great exercise partners and can help motivate owners to get moving!

  • Walking is a great way to bond with your dog.
  • Exercise, including walking, helps with weight control. Since dogs with OA often need better management of their weight, walking is an important part of a weight loss plan.
  • Walking gives you the chance to get in tune with nature! Too little stimulation can contribute to a number of behavioral problems, and a daily (or frequent) walk can reduce boredom, provide interesting sensory interactions and opportunities for socialization. If your dog is not used to being around other pets use caution if you meet other dogs on your walk and use a leash when necessary.
  • The positive impact of dog walking motivates some people to get moving themselves. Having a dog as a walking buddy overcomes some of the barriers of finding an exercise partner. A dog always has time, as opposed to a friend who might not be able to schedule time. Dogs can also make walking more fun and help a person stick with the exercise program. Dogs love routine and once you get into a walking routine, your furry companion will likely not let you forget your daily walk.
  • The key is consistent and controlled exercise. High intensity activities over a short period are more likely to cause injury.

It’s good for you too!

The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) Foundation recently announced the results of a study that explored what happened when participants were sent emails with incentives to walk. Pet owners were sent reminders about the benefits to their dogs of walking, and non-dog owners were reminded of the benefits to themselves. Although both groups increased their walking times, the dog owners accumulated significantly more walking minutes per week than the non-dog owners! The powerful human-animal bond can help change behavior in a positive fashion.*

A positive exercise experience is a happy and healthy one

Walking is a good exercise even for pets with OA, but be sure to keep the experience a positive one. Some pets will benefit from being on supplements or pain relieving medication before starting an exercise program. Make a pledge to take more walks together and reap the benefits of better health. Talk to your veterinarian about how to get started and then hit the trail!

*Randomized Controlled Theory-Based, E-Mail-Mediated Walking Intervention: Differences Between Dog Owners and Non-Dog Owners. Richards, E. A., N. Ogata, and C.-W. Cheng. Clinical Nursing Research (2016): 1-21. 1 July 2016



Planning a summer vacation can be an exciting task for you and the entire family. Travelers are including their pets in summer travel plans more often. If you are bringing your furry friend along for the ride, here are a few things to consider to make the trip easier on your pet.

Hitting the Road?

If you are taking a road trip with your pet, don’t forget to take a trial run first. Bring your pet along with you on more local car trips to see how they respond in different situations. Additionally, make sure you have options to ensure your pet is safely secured within your vehicle. For smaller dogs and cats, always have them secured in a carrier. For larger dogs, a crate in the back of the car that is secured is preferable. Pet seat belts or restraints are also an option.

Depending on the length of your trip, plan out stops so that your pet has ample opportunities to use the restroom and stretch their legs. Some rest stops and larger gas stations even have doggy play areas! Don’t forget to allow pets to hydrate while traveling – and if traveling during regular meal times, make sure they are able to eat.

Lastly, consider car temperatures! Never leave your pet unattended in a warm car. Temperatures inside a parked car can reach 20-30 degrees higher than outside, and can quickly become deadly for a pet.

Flying high?

Flying with a pet is more popular than ever. Some airlines are even doing more to accommodate pets, but there are still a few things to keep in mind if you are taking off with your pet in tow.

First, always make sure your pet is in good health before flying. If your pet is very young or old, or has a particularly fragile medical condition, it may be best to leave them at home.

Second, do your research first regarding airline fees and policies – you might be surprised at how quickly they can add up. Some airlines charge extra for bringing pets and others will consider your pet carrier as a “checked bag.” Take a close look at your airlines’ pet policies.

If you are heading out of country, pay close attention to laws regarding vaccinations and medical records needed prior to bringing your pet. Some countries (and Hawaii) even require quarantine periods.

Keep your pet safe – no matter how you are traveling

Whether you are driving or flying with your pet, there are some common things to always do beforehand.

  • Ensure your pet’s ID tags are current and that your pet is micro chipped with updated contact information
  • Consult with your veterinarian about your plans
  • If your pet gets nervous while traveling, consider a calming supplement to ease their worries
  • Bring your pet’s favorite toys or blanket as a familiar reminder of home

Ensuring your pet’s well-being while traveling can help make your summer trip the best one yet. As always, if you have more questions regarding things to consider when bringing your pet along on trips, talk to your veterinarian.



Aches and pains; feeling a bit creaky getting out of bed. Sound familiar? We’re not the only ones who may experience stiff and achy joints – our dogs and cats can too. Osteoarthritis (OA), sometimes called degenerative joint disease (DJD) is a common condition in pets that occurs when the cartilage protecting the bone is damaged. Similar to humans, OA is most common in older dogs and cats. Unfortunately, this is not just due to simple wear and tear but it can also be due to injuries your pet has gone through over the years. Animals can suffer from and be diagnosed with OA at any age, and certainly the more active the animal is the higher the likelihood for injury.

Possible risk Factors of Osteoarthritis in Dogs and Cats:

  • Breed
  • Obesity
  • Injuries
  • Infectious Disease

Signs My Pet Has Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis causes changes in the affected joints that are painful. Clinical signs of OA in dogs and cats may be subtle or more obvious depending upon the individual pet’s pain tolerance, or the extent of the damage to the joint.

  • Your pet is a little slower to get up in the morning, or reluctant to climb the stairs or jump from heights that were easy before.
  • Sometimes your pet may limp, or favor one or more of their legs. The limp may be worse when they first get up and gets better after they move around a little bit.
  • Another tell-tale sign is hesitancy to do some of the things that previously were easy for your pet to accomplish. They may have difficulty jumping into the car or onto the couch. It may be difficult getting into or out of the litter box, and/or jumping onto furniture.
  • The pain of osteoarthritis may make some pets irritable. They may not like to be petted or groomed because it is painful to be touched or moved.
  • You know your pet better than anyone. If something seems off, it’s probably time to call the veterinarian.

The Important Role Your Veterinarian Plays

As part of evaluating your pet’s overall health, your veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical and orthopedic exam to help pinpoint the cause of your pet’s pain. Painful joints can usually be discovered by touching and feeling the joint and through a range of motion exercises. Radiographs may be taken to get a better look at the musculoskeletal system of your pet and, in some cases, joint fluid analyzed to determine the cause of pain.

The plan your veterinarian develops will be based on those mentioned exams combined with your pet’s health history. Keep track of changes you see to add to the discussions with your vet.

  • Has there been a recent injury?
  • Is the stiffness or lameness only in the morning or throughout the day?
  • Is the lameness in the same leg all the time or different legs?
  • Is the stiffness worse in cold weather?
  • Does it seem difficult for your pet to reach certain areas when grooming?
  • Is there a lapse in litter box habits?

As your pet’s best advocate, talk to your veterinarian about what you have observed. It’s a good idea to take a video of your pet moving to show your veterinarian.



Obesity is a complex disease with influences of genetics, environmental factors, and other diseases. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimates that 54% of the pets in the United States are overweight or obese. Why does this matter? Pets that are overweight or obese are at risk for several diseases, including osteoarthritis (OA). Obesity is ultimately caused by consuming more calories than needed. The excess calories are stored are then stored as fat. Hormones and chemicals related to inflammation are released from this fat, causing chronic diseases such as OA. Cartoon cats with a fancy for pasta are not aspirational for our pets. Just like people, a weight loss journey is never all that simple and easy. However, in the end will lead to a more enjoyable life for your companion.

How Do I Know If My Pet is Overweight?

One of the first steps to evaluating a pet that is overweight or obese is a thorough physical examination and laboratory tests. Your veterinarian will help you evaluate your pet’s Body Condition Score (BCS) which evaluates body fat by observation and palpation. There is a 5-point scoring system and a 9-point scoring system. For most pets a body condition score of 3 on a 5-point system and 5 on a 9-point system is a good goal.

Some signs your pet is at a healthy weight are:

  • Dogs: Ribs are easily felt with little fat covering. When viewed from above a waist can be seen. From the side, a stomach tuck is present.
  • Cats: Ribs are easily felt with little fat covering as well. The lower spine can be clearly seen. There is an obvious waist behind the ribs with minimal stomach fat.

Tips for Weight Management

Below are some ways that can help make your pet’s weight management more beneficial and easier for the both of you:

  • Weight loss foods high in protein will help encourage weight loss and a lean body while those high in fiber will keep your pet feeling full while consuming fewer calories.
  • Be sure to calculate treats within your pet’s diet plan, save 10% for treats.
  • Some good options are: low calorie treats and certain fruits and vegetables.
  • Supplements may also be used for treats to simultaneously reward you pet and create healthier joints (Examples: Flexadin Advanced, Flexadin Plus, etc.)
  • Incorporating an exercise plan is important to help your pet lose weight and relieve joint pains. Walking is always a convenient and inexpensive way to exercise. Duration, frequency and intensity can all be adjusted based on the individual pet’s needs.
  • Typically a pet needs to eat 20% to 30% fewer calories than it would need to maintain weight.
  • Monitor weight loss. Weigh your pet every week or so and write down the number. If weight loss stops, reevaluate what you’re doing.
  • Underwater treadmill walking has also been successful for many obese cats and dogs that have a difficult time walking on their own. (Check for availability in your area.)
  • Don’t expect a rapid drop in weight, but slow and steady weight loss. Pets will gradually lose weight overtime with the slowest being in cats.

Feeding a weight loss food, using supplements to maintain healthy joints, and exercising several times a week are all key parts to a good weight management program. However, the most important step each pet owner needs to take is recognizing that there is a problem and to take action. We sometimes use excuses of “she’s just fluffy” or “he’s big boned” but honesty is needed to recognize positive changes that will better the quality of your pet’s life. It isn’t easy but helping your pet lose weight and maintaining an ideal weight will make them feel better in the long run.



Anemia is a condition in which there are too few red blood cells to carry the necessary amount of oxygen to the tissues. The number of red cells in the blood is roughly analogous to the amount of water in a bucket. But this bucket is leaky, so to keep the water level constant a running faucet continuously replaces the water being lost—the water flowing in replaces the water flowing out. The escaping water corresponds to the normal aging and death of red cells. The life span of feline red blood cells is only about 70 to 80 days, so they’re in constant need of replacement. These lost cells are replenished—like the water from the faucet—by “factory” tissues in the bone marrow.

Carrying our analogy further, anemia can come about in two ways: either the faucet is turned too low, or water is leaking out more quickly than it can be replenished. Non-regenerative anemia is due to inadequate production of red blood cells by the bone marrow—the faucet’s turned too low. There are many causes, but feline leukemia virus in felines is the most common culprit. Regenerative anemia is caused by either blood loss from hemorrhage or premature death of red cells—the leak in the bucket is too big. It is absolutely essential to distinguish between these two forms of anemia if the condition is to be properly treated. Fortunately, simple blood tests and, if necessary, a bone marrow evaluation allow veterinarians to make the distinction.

Broken cells

Hemolytic anemia results from the abnormal destruction of red cells and is of the regenerative type. In immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA), body’s own immune system is fooled into “thinking” that the red blood cells are foreign—and thus destroys them. A plethora of conditions can trick the immune system into behaving badly: Infections, cancer , blood parasites, adverse reactions to medication, poisoning and transfusion reactions are a few. But many cats and dogs with this form of anemia escape diagnosis in spite of extensive diagnostic tests. If a specific cause can’t be identified and alleviated, management then relies on immune-suppressing medications which don’t always help. Many cats and dogs don’t survive.

Vaccination

There are no studies suggesting a relationship between vaccination and IMHA in cats and dogs . This being the case, I see no need to modify vaccination protocol. Remember, the goal is to maximize the benefits of vaccination—of which there are many—while minimizing the risks. The majority of vaccines are rarely associated with serious adverse reactions. But as with any medical procedure, vaccination isn’t entirely free of complications. To tip the balance toward the beneficial side, it’s important to vaccinate only against infectious agents to which your pets have a realistic risk of exposure, and then vaccinate only as often as is necessary.


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