Osteoarthritis is a chronic, degenerative joint disease that makes your dogs movement difficult and painful, osteoarthritis usually starts from middle age, However younger animals can also be affected. It has been shown in studies that 20% of dogs will suffer from this condition. It is much more common in larger breeds as excessive weight is carried on the joints. Cats can also suffer from this condition though they do not express there pain symptoms as readily as dogs.
Early warning signs of osteoarthritis:
Difficulty in walking, climbing stairs and getting up after rest.
An overall decrease in activity, especially play
Resting more than usual
"Bunny hopping" with the hind legs, rather than running normally
Slow or stiff movements upon waking, after a rest, or in cold weather
Beginning to limp
Licking or biting at a joint
Personality change – your pet no longer likes to be touched and may even become aggressive
The sooner osteoarthritis is first diagnosed and treated, the better your pet』s quality of life will be.
What causes osteoarthritis?
There are many causes, but practically all can be grouped into two main categories:
|1. Abnormal stress on normal joints|
|An injury that damages a joint|
|"Wear and tear": joints are subjected to repeated loads or stress|
|Obesity: an excessive load is put on joints|
|2. Normal stress on abnormal joints|
|Developmental defects that alter the shape or stability of a joint|
|Poor limb conformation, this is a genetic predisposition for example the hind legs of a chow chow are abnormally straight and this will place abnormal stress on the knee joint. In Hong Kong we will most commonly see osteoarthritis in Golden Retrievers. The hip and knee joints are most commonly affected.|
Therapy and control
1. Weight control
Controlling your pet's weight will lighten the load on arthritic joints and make it less difficult to move around. Just as for humans, weight loss for animals involves both a well-balanced, calorie-reduced diet and regular exercise. We will recommend a specific diet plan for your pet.
Exercise is essential because it contributes to strengthening the muscles that support joints. Daily, moderate amounts of low-impact exercise such activities as short walks and swimming also improves joint mobility.
Anti-inflammatories these drugs combat inflammation in the joints, thus relieving pain, increasing mobility, and protecting the joint from further damage. We will also provide you with nutritional supplements to help repair the damaged cartilage. Our trained nurses will also show you how to and how often to apply physiotherapy and massage to your pet.
This is also quite a common infectious disease that we see usually in puppies less than six months of age. The virus is quite resistant and can remain viable in the environment for a few months, especially cool moist conditions. The virus will grow in the cells of the intestine and destroy the lining of the intestine. the incubation period for this virus is about a week.
As the cells in the intestine are destroyed, a severe bloody diarrhoea will result. The patient will also vomit, lose a lot of body fluids and dehydrate very quickly.
There is no cure for this virus. Treatment is aimed at preventing dehydration and protein loss with iv fluids. Preventing secondary infection with antibiotics and maintaining nutrition intravenously until the intestine can cope with food. There is a high mortality rate. Research in North America indicates this to be about 20%. Some breeds like the Rottweiler and Doberman have a very high mortality rate. In some patients the virus may also infect the heart muscle and account for sudden death.
Tick Fever (Babesia & Ehrlichia disease)
Tick fever is common in HK. A tick will bite your dog and infect him with a blood parasite. Frequently you will not see the tick.
There are two important parasites that can infect your dog here in Hong Kong. Babesia Gibsoni and Ehrlichia Canis.
Babesia is a parasite of the red blood cells that causes them to break down. Ehrlichia is the other parasite that targets the white blood cells.
Fever, pale mucous membranes, swollen lymph nodes and spleen. Yellow or dark coloured urine. Loss of appetite and weakness. This is a lethal disease in many dogs and treatment is essential.
We can often see the parasites in the red blood cells on a blood smear under the microscope. We can also ask for a lab test done that looks for the parasites DNA but is a lot more expensive.
Tick fever dog will need to take a series of injection and oral medications. if your pet is seriously ill and many red blood cells have been destroyed, we may need to perform a blood transfusion and hospitalisation. Also a course of injections and antibiotics will be necessary. Sometimes we find the infection is very resistant and a course of very expensive medication will be necessary.
Obesity is the excessive accumulation of fat in your dog. It is caused by a combination of overeating and lack of exercise. Most owners are not aware that their dog is getting too fat, as the accumulation of fat is slow and thus the owner only becomes aware when the vet points this out. Generally I would like to feel a bit of rib along his flank. To see what a natural dog would look like in nature, check out a wolf or a wild dog of Africa. These are lean and fit animals.
Thus the treatment is to reduce food intake and increase exercise. I strongly recommend that you let one of our experienced nurses chat to you and guide you through a diet programme as it requires significant discipline from you the owner. It is quite important that your whole family becomes involved in this effort. It is especially difficult to control a granny or young kid from feeding your fat pet snacks. You will be required to put your pet on a special diet food and restricted amounts of daily intake. Its also a great idea to give your pet something to chew on like a very large raw marrow bone or raw hide chew. When your pet is hungry and busy chewing he is happy.
Your fat dog, like an obese human, does not have a happy life. Excessive stress is placed on his joints and arthritis will develop. He will have difficulty breathing, walking and wont tolerate exercise. In summer, he will struggle to control his body temperature. A fat dog is also predisposed to diabetes mellitus and we will often recommend a blood profile and urine exam before we initiate the diet.
Gastro Enteritis (GE)
Gastroenteritis is one of the most common complaints I see in my clinic. Generally you will notice your dog becomes a bit depressed and may start vomiting or have a very soft or water stool.
There are many causes of sudden vomiting and diarrhoea. although most of these cases respond very well to symptomatic therapy, some causes of acute vomiting and diarrhoea can be life threatening, and initially, may be difficult to differentiate from less harmful problems.
Food causes includes eating spoiled food, over eating, ingesting foreign material and sudden dietary changes.
Dietary allergy is caused by the bodies immune system overreacting to a specific protein or certain food additives.
There are many infectious agents that can cause acute vomiting and diarrhoea and the most common of these that we see in HK is Parvo virus and Giardia.
Drugs and toxins can cause vomiting and diarrhoea by directly irritating the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. Examples include anti-inflammatory agents and some antibiotics. Insecticide toxins like cockroach bait and heavy metals contained in batteries.
Gastrointestinal obstruction/blockage is particularly life threatening. Most commonly caused by your dog eating something that cannot be digested and blocks the stomach or small intestine. some of these objects can very difficult to diagnose and are not readily seen on an X-ray. Organic substances like corn cob and durian seeds are a good example. Large breeds of dogs are also prone to having a twisted stomach. These situations will require emergency surgery
Diseases of the abdominal organs, like liver, kidney, uterus, prostate, pancreas and bladder can also cause your dog to show GE symptoms
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is when your dogs intestine and immune system becomes over reactive to certain proteins in the food.
Stress can cause a combination of acute vomiting and diarrhoea.
Lymphoma of the intestine is occasionally suspected and can only be diagnosed by taking a biopsy of the intestine to differentiate this condition from inflammatory bowel disease.
We will do a full body exam. Sometimes we can feel a foreign body in the intestine with our hands. Also we will be able to tell how dehydrated your pet is and what degree of severity the situation is by a general clinical exam. We may recommend any of the following tests or procedures to give us a better picture of the underlying cause: blood tests, X-rays, ultrasound, fibre optic examination of the stomach or colon, intestinal biopsy, fecal sample examination and exploratory laparotomy(surgical investigation)
Generally most causes of GE are treated symptomatically by resting the stomach and rehydration. You may be given meds to protect the lining of the intestine and control the acid secretions of the stomach. We will also give injections to stop the vomiting and reduce the intestinal inflammation. Some cases respond well to a course of antibiotics and if necessary, surgery is the only other option. Your dog may need to go onto a special diet.
Distemper is one of the most common infectious diseases that we see in HK. We mostly see this condition in young puppies and when I first came to work in HK in 1992 it was very common. The virus is contracted by direct contact between puppies in pet shops and virtually every pet shop in HK at that time was selling puppies that were infected. This situation resulted in tremendous distress and heart-ache for people who had recently purchased a puppy only for it to succumb to this disease a week or two later. Characteristic Hong Kong government incompetence delayed the regulation of pet shops until 2007. Simply by requiring pet shops to sell puppies vaccinated and microchipped by a registered vet has all but eradicated the disease.
The incubation period for the virus is up to two weeks. Thus even a recently vaccinated puppy my start to show the following symptoms: nasal and ocular discharge, fever, poor appetite, diarrhoea, vomiting and coughing. The virus will infect the nerve cells and muscle twitching and eventually seizures will follow. Death follows soon after.
There is no cure for this virus. The basis of therapy was to stimulate the bodies' immune system and covering antibiotics to control secondary pneumonia. Unfortunately the Hong Kong pet shops advised owners inappropriate feeding regimes and the puppies were presented emaciated with little body reserves to help fight off the infection. We would also nebulise the puppies a few times a day with an antibiotic to control the pneumonia. Many puppies died despite intensive care. In puppies that survived, many were left with permanent nerve damage and damaged tooth enamel.
Thankfully the HK pet shops are now better regulated. It is absolutely essential that your pet is vaccinated properly as this is the only way to prevent your pet becoming infected.
Heat stroke is a very important condition to be aware of in Hong Kong in summer. Dogs do not cool their body temperature like humans by sweating and evaporating over the skin surface. Their tongue becomes the surface of evaporation. Body heat is thus lost by panting air rapidly over the tongues surface. When the ambient temperature is above 30 degrees with high humidity, the situation can become dangerous for a dog that is exercising as he may not be able to release enough body heat. There is also a higher risk or brachycephalic (short nosed) dogs for getting heat stroke.
After exercise or even walking on a very hot humid day. Your dog may be breathing excessively, excessive salivation at first, weakness and disorientation, and collapse. The gums may appear very red at first and then go pale and dry as he goes into shock. There will be a very rapid heart rate. He may vomit or have diarrhoea. If you have a thermometer and know how to use it, check his body temp. temperatures above 40 degrees are becoming quite dangerous.
Cool his body temp down asap. Wet the hair over his body and put him in front of a fan. Give him water to drink. This can be an emergency situation and if your pet appears disorientated and weak or collapsed bring him to us ASAP. Furthermore, permanent and irreversible damage my happen to the brain and kidneys. The ability of the blood to coagulate may be altered that may set off and irreversible cascade of blood coagulation failure. As an emergency, he will go on iv fluids to treat the shock and maintain tissue perfusion. Especially the kidneys. We will monitor the factors that help the blood to coagulate. If we can treat the patient soon, the outcome is generally quite positive.
Please remember, your dog needs to pant to cool down his body temp. if you must use a muzzle please make sure it is the cage type that will allow your dog to pant normally.
Two types of mange commonly infect dogs in HK. Sarcoptic mange is caused by a small mite that is very itchy and causes hair loss especially at the elbows, flanks and ear tips. Without therapy this can spread over the whole body. It is very itchy and is contagious between dogs and although cannot infect humans can cause you to become a bit itchy.
The other mite is called Demodex and is not infectious. It lives normally in dogs skin in very small numbers. In some dogs the skins immune system is overwhelmed by the mites and an itchy patches of hair loss appear especially on the feet and legs and around the eyes.
We can see the mite under the microscope after scraping a superficial layer of skin.
We will give weekly injections for a month and then a course of oral medicine if necessary. We will also give some topical therapy if necessary and nutritional supplements. Many of these infections also have a secondary bacterial infection that will require antibiotics.
Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)
The heart is a pump that pumps blood to all the tissues in the body. Oxygenated blood is pumped from the heart through the arteries to the tissues and deoxygenated blood flows back. The deoxygenated blood, in turn is pumped to the lungs where it is oxygenated before being pumped back to the heart. Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) is when this pump mechanism breaks down and insufficient oxygenated blood reaches all the tissues and fluids leak into the lungs and body cavities. This failure of the pump is caused most commonly by degeneration of the heart valves in especially smaller breed dogs from middle age onwards. Less commonly, Heart worm disease, congenital abnormalities and heart muscle abnormalities can also be involved.
The symptoms you may see are coughing and difficulty sleeping as fluids leak into the lungs. Weakness and not willing to exercise as insufficient oxygen is reaching the muscles. Swollen abdomen called ascites results if fluid leaks into the abdominal cavity. If your pets brain does not receive sufficient oxygen, especially after excitement or exercise, he may suddenly collapse.
Frequently we will diagnose this condition at the time of your annual vaccination when we examine the chest with a stethoscope. We can hear a heart murmur and will grade its severity at the time of the consult. We will also recommend chest X-rays and ultrasound scan and ECG.
There is no cure for heart disease. What we aim at is to slower the rate of deterioration, improve the quality of life of the animal and prolong their life. Usually we do not start any treatment until the symptoms described appear. Usually coughing is the first symptom you will notice. The therapy is aimed at removing the fluid off the chest and relieving the pressure the heart muscle needs to pump against. We will also use drugs that improve the strength of the heart muscle. This medication needs to be given every day and many patients can live a good quality of life for many years on therapy.
Heartworm disease is common in HK. It is especially common in the new territories. This disease occurs when the larvae of this worm migrate to the heart and grow into large adult worms. Their presence in the heart effects the hearts ability to pump blood around the body and the symptoms we see are similar to heart failure. Your pet will seem to slowly get weaker, lose weight and start coughing.
This disease is spread by mosquitoes and thus infections are more commonly picked up in summer .
There is a fast an accurate snap test for heart worm available. sometimes we will also do blood smear to check for larva in the blood as well. if your dog is diagnosed of heartworm positive, he will need to have some injections to kill the worms. and soon after the treatment ends, we would recommend you to take precautions against reinfections by taking monthly oral tablets or annal injections.