A Serious and Deadly Threat

It’s easy to get complacent about a potential problem that never seems to materialize into a real threat.  Now that threat is very real in Palm Beach County.  The newly confirmed case of rabies has been discovered recently in our own backyard of Jupiter, Florida.

Because of this growing threat, it is tremendously important that pet owners have an appreciation of the significance of rabies to human health and safety.  Human exposure is usually from contact with rabid or possible rabid domestic animals.  The most common wild species affected by rabies are skunks, bats, raccoons, and foxes. However, this time it was an otter. Because control of rabies is so difficult in wildlife, vaccinating our pets primarily controls rabies.

Rabies is a virus that attacks the central nervous system.  It cannot be treated with antibiotics or any other medication.  Infection with this virus occurs most commonly when infected saliva from a rabid animal is introduced into an open would or abrasion of either the skin or mucous membranes by a bite or a scratch.

There are two forms of rabies: the furious form, and the paralytic or dumb form.  In an early stage of the disease, vague changes in temperament may be observed.  Pets that are normally affectionate may hide and shun company; others may become unusually attentive and affectionate.  Furious rabies is recognized by restlessness, nervousness, and developing viciousness.  The animal often utters strange cries and hoarse howls because of partial paralysis of its vocal cords.  The eyes are usually staring because of dilation of the pupils.  There does not seem to be any real hydrophobia (fear of water) as there is in man.  Convulsive seizures often precede the appearance of incoordination, which is the first sign of the final stage of the disease.  Rabies is always fatal.

In the dumb form of rabies, paralysis usually appears first in the muscles of the head and neck.  The victim cannot chew its food; it cannot swallow water or does so with difficulty.  Its lower jaw hangs; it cannot close its mouth.  In trying to examine the animal’s mouth for an object that is not there, the animal’s human friends often expose themselves to the disease by scratching their hands on its teeth or getting its saliva into a cut on the hands.

In cats the disease generally takes the furious form and the signs are similar to those in dogs.  Rabid cats are very dangerous animals for humans because of their viciousness and quickness of action.

All warm-blooded animals are vulnerable to infection by rabies.  This includes livestock, which can transmit the virus to unsuspecting owners who attempt to manually relieve an animal that appears “choked”.

The American Veterinary Medical Association does not recommend keeping wildlife as pets.  Since no rabies vaccine is licensed for use in wild animals and since there is no evidence that animal rabies vaccines produce acceptable levels of immunity in wild animals, vaccination is not recommended.

It is imperative that you be sure that your pet’s rabies vaccination is up to date.  In most cases, this should be done yearly.  This is essential for the protection and the control of rabies.  Cats, in particular, are often overlooked when rabies vaccination is considered. It is also a law that all companion animals be vaccinated.  Different public health policies have been established to deal with various kinds of exposure.  These range from quarantine to immediate euthanasia and depend on the vaccination status of the animal. This is another good reason to be certain pets are vaccinated regularly.

If you see any animal acting strangely or aggressively you should stay away from the animal and contact Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control at 561-233-1200.  For wildlife concerns contact the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission via the “FWC Wildlife Alert” app. Download the app onto Apple or Android smartphones or tablets, text 847411 with the keyword “FWC” or call the Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.
Call your veterinarian today to check on the status of your pet’s vaccines or make an appointment for vaccination as soon as possible.

We Offer Minimally Invasive Surgery with a Laparoscope

The doors are open to a better standard of care for your pet here at Harmony Animal Hospital. We are pleased to offer laparoscopic surgery because your pet’s health is as important to us as it is to you. For many procedures, laparoscopic surgery can provide a better alternative to traditional surgery.One of our doctors getting ready for a procedure

Laparoscopic surgery is a minimally invasive surgical technique used in both humans and animals. A 5mm surgical telescope is inserted through a small keyhole-sized incision. This camera allows surgeons to view magnified organs on a monitor. Additional small incisions are made to facilitate the use of surgical instruments, and surgeons can perform a more precise, less painful surgery, avoiding the traditional large incisions and longer recoveries.

What does this mean for your pet?

  • Reduced risk of infection – Keeping incisions small means your pet has a reduced risk of being exposed to infections.
  • Precision – The specialized scopes and video systems that we use make it much easier to see what they are doing – meaning your pet gets a safer, more precise and complete procedure
  • Less Pain – Typically, minimally invasive surgery patients require smaller dosages of anesthesia and post-operative pain control drugs. For example, a study published in JAVMA (Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association) showed up to 65% less pain when using minimally invasive techniques for spays.
  • Faster recovery – Smaller incision sizes and less need for anesthesia drugs mean fewer post-op complications and an overall faster recovery

Set up a time to speak with one of our doctors for more information.

Acupuncture for Pets

Acupuncture/Acupressure for Dogs

The advances of modern medicine have improved the quality and lengthened the life spans of both “man and beast.” New medical advancements are extraordinary, yet many veterinarians are turning to a form of the ancient medicine to help their patients. Utilizing centuries-old techniques of acupuncture and acupressure may enhance traditional veterinary medicine and further benefit the canine community.

What is acupuncture?

Ancient Chinese medicine is based on the philosophy that illness is caused by an imbalance of vital energies in the body. Acupuncture is one aspect of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) that focuses on restoring the energy balance in the body and promoting healing. In other words, acupuncture is used to help the body heal itself by correcting energy imbalances in the body.

The technique requires the insertion of fine needles into the dog’s body at specified points, called acupuncture points, where nerves and blood vessels converge. These points are located in sites called meridians, which are energy channels that transmit energy throughout the dog’s body.

The inserted needles guide “chi” or vital energy along the meridians. Placed in these identified points, the needles enhance blood circulation which improves healing ability. Acupuncture also stimulates the nervous system and increases the release of anti-inflammatory and pain relieving substances to reduce a dog’s discomfort.

Similar to acupuncture, another technique called acupressure, which involves applying pressure to acupuncture points rather than inserting a needle, is another option. This less invasive technique is preferred for locations that are hard to reach with needles, or for dogs that may not tolerate the needles.

How do acupuncture and acupressure help?

Acupuncture improves blood flow which increases oxygenation of tissues. It also reduces the amount of waste products produced and increases the amount of metabolic waste the body can remove, so there is a systemic benefit.

Acupuncture relaxes muscles both where the needle is inserted, and muscles located elsewhere in the body, so it relieves pain both locally and generally. By stimulating the release of naturally occurring pain relieving and anti-inflammatory substances, acupuncture may decrease the amount of pain medications needed to treat these dogs.

Most pain medications and anti-inflammatory drugs are quite safe but may affect organ function, so veterinarians closely monitor organ function through routine laboratory testing to minimize the risk. Acupuncture has no systemic side effects, so it is particularly helpful for dogs in poor health.

“Acupuncture has no systemic side effects, so it is particularly helpful for dogs in poor health.”

As with most medical protocols, a combination of treatments often provides the best results. Fortunately, acupuncture and medical therapy can be safely used together, which is beneficial when neither method can provide the desired response alone.

What conditions can acupuncture treat?

Acupuncture is often used to treat dogs with arthritis and joint inflammation. For example, dogs with hip dysplasia or degenerative joint disease are good candidates for acupuncture, which may alleviate pain and improve joint range of motion. Dogs with chronic back pain and even dogs with serious spinal cord conditions also benefit from acupuncture.

Less serious medical problems are also treated with acupuncture. Lick granulomas are lesions on the legs of dogs that continuously lick a spot causing an irritated sore and exposing superficial nerve endings. These lesions are often difficult to heal and acupuncture may be a good complement to antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications.

“Acupuncture may be a good complement to antibiotics and anti-inflammatory

It should be noted that although acupuncture can reduce pain and inflammation associated with many different medical conditions, traditional medicine is the first line of treatment for infection, cancer, and major organ disease. However, some issues associated with cancer, or the side effects of cancer treatment (chemotherapy and radiation) such as tissue inflammation, nausea, and decreased appetite, can be helped using acupuncture. Veterinary acupuncturists have treated patients with metabolic diseases associated with impaired organ function. Dogs with diabetes, kidney or liver failure, pancreatitis, Cushing’s disease and Addison’s disease have experienced a decrease in nausea and an increase in appetite after acupuncture sessions. So, even if acupuncture or acupressure cannot cure a condition, they may make it more tolerable.

What is a typical acupuncture session like?

The first appointment with a veterinary acupuncturist involves a general medical assessment. The primary care veterinarian will send medical records outlining a history of the dog’s condition to the acupuncturist. Lab tests, radiographs, and current medical therapy will be documented so the acupuncturist is fully informed. The veterinary acupuncturist will perform his own physical examination, discuss treatment options, and explain exactly what happens during an acupuncture session.

Even though the patient dog may be a little nervous in a new clinical setting, most become very relaxed after needle insertion. Depending on the conditions addressed, the actual session may last 20-30 minutes. The doctor outlines a treatment protocol that may involve one to three sessions per week for several weeks. Often, the number of sessions is tapered off as the dog improves, so visits are scheduled less frequently.

The effects of acupuncture treatment are cumulative so there is a benefit to repeated sessions, but the goal is to achieve the greatest degree of improvement and maintain that level with the fewest treatments necessary. There are few side effects with acupuncture, but some dogs may be sore or stiff following a treatment session, while other patients appear tired. These symptoms usually resolve within 24-48 hours.

How do you find a veterinary acupuncturist?

Your dog’s primary care veterinarian can help you determine if acupuncture is a good option and can also help you find a local veterinary acupuncturist. The two veterinarians will communicate so that each doctor stays updated on your dog’s condition. There are more than 150,000 certified veterinary acupuncturists in the US who have completed an extensive course of study, so locating one close by is usually not a problem.

The combination of old and new medicine is often one that produces good results for many dogs.

Here at Harmony Animal Hospital, we offer acupuncture through Dr. Clines.

Contributors: Lynn Buzhardt, DVM

© Copyright 2015 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.