Sunday, January 21, 2018

Being "The Middle Child" and Hypothyroid Isn't So Bad

Hypothyroid "Jimmy James Jones"

                                  I sit before my computer with not a clue what to write about after many years of contributing to these veterinary  columns. Normally inspired by on-the-job experiences, I suddenly feel void of ideas. Over the years,  I have aspired to educate about every ailment that can occur for every part of a pet's body. Now faced with writer's block, I turn to the nearest thing to me (literally lying on the floor next to me) for Border Collie, "Jimmy."

                                My husband and I have always shared our home with a minimum of two dogs, the average being three. The latter is the exact number today.  Jimmy is the "middle child," flanked by his older, epileptic , half-sister, "Robbie," and the younger, animated Welsh Corgi, "Betsy Louise." With two "alphas" bossing him around, Jimmy learned quickly to be "a beta."  I like to call Jimmy "the brightest bulb in the pack," not only because he figured out this social hierarchy early on, but also because he is frankly very intelligent. In short, Jimmy is the easy child.

                                While Robbie, at age 14, is in the winter of her life, and still taking high doses of anticonvulsants, and Betsy Louise has torn ligaments in both of her knees,  Jimmy's only ailment has been hypothyroidism, a condition  that isn't "flashy," nor difficult to treat. In fact, like Jimmy, hypothyroidism is very easy to manage.

                                Hypothyroidism, or low thyroid function, is thought to be caused by a dog's immune system attacking its own thyroid glands. This autoimmune activity results in low production of thyroxine, the hormone of metabolism that turns food into fuel. 

                                As many as 60% of middle-aged, large breed dogs will become hypothyroid. In addition, certain dog breeds are over-represented when it comes to low thyroid function and these include Golden and Labrador Retrievers, Dobermans, English Bulldogs, Boxers, Great Danes, Dachshunds, Cocker Spaniels and, of course, Border Collies.

                                Symptoms of low thyroid function may include thinning hair, pigmentation of skin, sluggishness, weight gain, slow heart rate, muscle wasting, skin and ear infections, intolerance to cold, infertility and mental dullness. Some dogs will only experience neurologic symptoms such as seizures, balance disorders and facial nerve paralyses.

                                Diagnosing hypothyroidism involves a simple blood test to measure the dog's Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) produced by the pituitary gland in the brain, as well as its levels of Total T4 (TT4) and  Free T4 (FT4) hormones produced by the thyroid glands themselves. The classic canine hypothyroid patient will have high levels of TSH in the company of below normal levels of TSH.                              

                                Jimmy, and all hypothyroid patients, are treated by administration of economical, twice daily doses of a manufactured hormone in tablet form called levothyroxine or L-thyroxine.  This prescription medication is available in a variety of strengths because each dog's needs are unique. Once diagnosed and treated, follow-up testing to verify dose accuracy, and periodic blood monitoring, are essential to keeping hypothyroid dogs in good regulation and health.  Treatment of hypothyroidism will then be lifelong.

                                If not diagnosed and properly treated, low thyroid hormone levels can result in a rare, but  life-threatening  "myxedema  crisis." Common to Doberman Pinschers, symptoms of this medical emergency include hypothermia, extreme weakness, mental dullness and thickened facial skin above the eyes and along the jowls. Pet owners often do not recognize this oncoming crisis because it is gradual in onset, but serious at its peak.

                                All too often dog owners assume that their pet is slowing down simply due to growing older,  when  in fact they are "growing hypothyroid." Appropriate and timely diagnosis of this readily treated malady makes a huge difference in the patient's quality of life. Because of this, hypothyroidism is a condition I truly love to diagnose and treat.

                                Just ask Jimmy as he is about to celebrate his 11th birthday and acts like a puppy since on thyroid medication.

By Dr. Bonnie Jones 

Dr. Bonnie Jones practices at Delphos Animal Hospital with her husband, John H. Jones, DVM.  She was valedictorian and Outstanding Senior Clinician of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine Class of 1985.

Please Don't Leave Me!


           Coming home to the scene of massive doggy destruction isn’t anybody’s idea of a good thing.  Nor is coming home to puddles or piles in the house, gouged woodwork around the windows and doors, or neighbor complaints about barking and howling.  Often owners cite separation anxiety as being the cause of these problems.

          Separation problems are pretty common, but not all separation problems are true separation anxiety.  There are many reasons for destructive and undesirable behavior.   Separation anxiety is certainly one of them but, before deciding that this is the problem, others must be ruled out. How do you know if you’re dealing with the need for more training or true separation anxiety?

           If the problems occur when the owner is present, it most likely is not separation anxiety.  Medical problems or incomplete housetraining can be the cause of the urination and defecation problems.  Sometimes the dog has been allowed too much freedom for its age and level of training, particularly if the dog is a puppy or adolescent, or new to the home.  Sometimes the dog has been left alone for an unreasonable amount of time and stress causes it to misbehave. 
          Chewing may be because a puppy is teething, or it may be because the dog has not been taught what is his to chew.  It may be boredom or lack of adequate exercise and mental stimulation.  Barking can be caused by outside stimuli – a squirrel in the tree, birds at a feeder, a cat, the mailman, etcetera.  In many cases, the problems stem from the fact that the dog has not learned to be alone for any period of time.  
          A training program that gradually increases the time the dog is left alone, while keeping it occupied with interactive toys or chewies, can solve the problem.  Suitable confinement (crate, pen, dog-proofed room with a baby gate) may be needed before the dog can be allowed the unsupervised run of the house.  An adequate amount of vigorous exercise before leaving the dog will also help.

            Typical symptoms of separation anxiety include destructive chewing, excessive barking or howling, attempts to dig through flooring, attempts to escape, and urinating and defecating in the house.  Dogs with severe separation anxiety have seriously injured themselves by crashing through windows, tearing out toenails or breaking teeth while attempting to get out of crates.  
            These dogs will usually start showing signs of stress as soon as the owner gives cues that he or she is getting ready to leave.  Getting dressed to go out, putting on a coat, grabbing a purse and car keys – all these things signal the dog that it is about to be left alone.  The dog may whine, drool, pace, pant excessively, tremble, or appear depressed before the owner leaves because they have learned to associate these cues with being left alone.

               Separation anxiety can be the result of several factors.  A change in homes is a frequent cause.  Dogs who had a home and then wound up in a shelter or rescue may be traumatized enough by the loss of their homes to suffer from separation anxiety after they are adopted.  The more homes a dog goes through, the worse the problem.  They cling to their new family or person, not wanting to be left alone because of past experience.  A drastic change in schedule can cause it.  
             If the owner had been home most of the day and then gets a job requiring her to be gone for long periods of time, the problem may occur.  Moving to a new and unfamiliar home can be a trigger.  A “velcro” dog that is rarely away from its owner is a prime candidate for the problem.  Absence of a loved family member may bring about separation anxiety. 

            Lessening or eliminating the problem requires careful training, counter conditioning, and sometimes even prescription medication.  It is not something that can be improved overnight and will often require professional assistance by a trainer, behavior specialist, or veterinarian with expertise in behavior problems. 

            As with so many problems, separation anxiety is often much easier to prevent than to cure.


 By Dorothy M. Miner 
Dorothy Miner is a long-time dog obedience and tracking instructor, judge of canine events, and author.  She teaches weekly classes for the Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution’s PETS Program and provides training and consultation under the banner of “Sidekicks” and “Training for Dogs and Their People.”

Christmas Gift Ideas to Make Your Pet's Howl-iday Meow-y and Bright


                        'Tis the season for giving so I thought I would ”prescribe" some great Christmas gift ideas for pets. After 40 years of studying and owning Canis lupus familiaris (dogs) and Felis catus (cats), I would recommend the following holiday gifts for your four-legged family members.

                        For your dog or canines belonging to others, remember that ALL DOGS need to be on heartworm and flea control medications ALL YEAR ROUND---not just during the warmer months! The greatest gift of all is to keep any pet parasite-free! Check your supply of these items, then visit your veterinarian to stock up for the winter months. For friends and family, consider buying a gift certificate from their veterinarian so they may purchase these necessities at this time of year when excess budgets run tight.

                        Older dogs have a greater need for veterinary care and products, including orthopedic beds, geriatric vitamins, pain medications, veterinary fish oils and joint supplements. Ask your veterinarian to prescribe appropriate medications and supplements as stocking stuffers for the mature dogs on your gift-giving list. I know my senior working Border Collies would recommend a comfortably-cushioned dog bed or orthopedic mat.       

                        If you have ever been repulsed by your dog's "dragon breath," consider scheduling  a veterinary dental cleaning. These ultrasonic scalings are followed by instruction on how to maintain your dog's clean, fresh "Hollywood Smile." Your veterinary professional will  teach you how to brush your dog's teeth, and can assist in choosing appropriate chew toys, toothbrushes, pet pastes, dental wipes and tartar control treats to put under the Christmas tree.

                        While I am certain new chew toys are on every dog's wish list, making the correct and SAFE choice in this gift category can prove to be challenging for dog owners. As a participant in more intestinal foreign body retrieval surgeries for pets than I care to admit to, I can attest to this fact. Please do not put your pet at risk for a life-threatening intestinal blockage.  Ask your veterinarian to recommend chew toys specifically for your pet to avoid spending New Year's Eve at the pet emergency hospital.

                        Just as we like to "rock" new clothes over the holidays, so does your dog. Why not consider replacing that old, smelly dog collar and leash with a new, stylish harness and matching lead. Harnesses are more comfortable and kinder to your pet's airways, especially if yours is a short-muzzled dog breed. Small and short-haired dogs would also be most appreciative of an insulated, well-fitting coat at this time of year.

                        Finally, for human AND canine family members, consider pampering your dog by purchasing veterinary gift certificates for professional services like pedicures, ear cleanings, grooming, luxury boarding and entertaining day care.

                        What about our feline family members? Their wish list is similar to dog's and they, too, could benefit from a veterinary gift certificate. But, have you considered protecting your Christmas tree from your Felis catus by providing it with its own "Cat Tree?" The best thing about this gift is it can be inexpensively homemade.

                        The purpose of cat trees is to mimic the outdoors by allowing felines to "go vertical." Veterinary research has proven that many cat behavioral and health problems may be prevented through indoor "environmental enrichment." Consider helping your cat "go horizontal" as well. And by that, I mean build a skyline or "cat walk" along a ceiling, with a "cat ladder" to approach it, that is adorned with safe, strategically placed cat toys.

                        Along these same lines, note that the very best cat entertainment is generally provided by items that are already in your home. Think crumpled holiday wrapping paper, bows, gift bags and boxes to play and hide in. BUT, please (yes, I am begging) be mindful of the danger associated with cats swallowing decorative ribbon. Linear or string-like items are ALWAYS a "no-no" in any cat's environment any time of the year!

                        In addition, if like me, you do not enjoy stepping out of bed to have your toes meet up with a gross and disgusting hairball or pile of vomit, give your cat the gift of a fresh tube of cat laxative. Then, actually commit to using it regularly! This is really a gift to yourself...

                         Thank you for always making your pet's Christmas, and mine, "Meow-y and Bright" by celebrating the reason for the season with them!

By Dr. Bonnie Jones
 Dr. Bonnie Jones practices at Delphos Animal Hospital with her husband, John H. Jones, DVM.  She is questioning if it is wise to put up the Christmas tree with new kitten, "Opie," joining the family.