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Kitty Cat Onesy

November 11, 2012

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How Do You Stop a Cat from Chewing a Wound?

If you are reading about cats on the interwebs, then you know about elizabethan cone collars. You probably know about soft and hard plastic collars. You know about bandages. You know cats hate bandages. You know about Bitter sprays and creams you can put on bandages to discourage cats from chewing them off. You may know about baby diapers with tail holes cut into them to protect wounds on the nether regions.

Big (12 pound, 5.5 kg) domestic short haired tabby cat sits on his dad's lap, wearing an 18-month baby onesy

Chillin in my onesy

Meet Archie. Archie really hated cone collars. He hates bandages. But for some strange, cosmic serendipitous reason, Archie likes wearing an 18-month old baby onesy. Has no problem with it at all! (Thank goodness.)

Archie needed to stay away from a surgery wound on his side. Seems he lacerated himself on a fence nail (we think). While the stitches healed, he needed to NOT lick the wound for a week or so. After several trips to the store for the correct size, (after all- how does a woman with no human children at home explain to the nice clerk at the store what size she needs for her fur-baby?) Archie fit comfortably in an 18-month baby onesy.

So there’s another idea for you if you are having trouble keeping your peaceful house cat from eating a hole in their own side. You are welcome.

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Guinea Pig Needs Probiotics

November 4, 2012

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A Guinea Pig Will Not Eat

Short-coat guinea pig with half orange/half black face sniffs the exam table.

Is there more food under here?

“Doc, you have to help Sam.  She has not eaten all morning and I read online that is very bad for guinea pigs,” said Sam’s distraught mom.

Sam really did not care.  She sat in her portable guinea pig carry cage and glanced sideways at Doc Truli.  Her nose twitched, but otherwise, she was frozen in uncertain prey position.

“How are her stools?” asked Doc.

“Normal, I think,” said Sam’s mom.  “There are some in the cage if you want to check them.” Read more…

6-Month-Old Rescue Rat Terrier with a Large, Strange Bump

October 7, 2012

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Rescue Dog was Perfect, Now Lumpy

brown and white short-haired rat terrier mixed breed dog (cute!)

Just adorable!

Imagine you found the perfect dog.  Small, compact, able to play with your other dog with no problems. You rescued her from who-knows-what horrors.  Yet she is playful, affectionate, and really just perfect in every way. You are the luckiest person!

2 weeks later, a bump the size of a modest watermelon appears overnight on your dog’s side.  No kidding.  Overnight, a large lump just sits right there on your dog.  She’s not in pain.  It doesn’t hurt when you touch it.  Your dog is only 6 months old, how can it be cancer? Maybe your other (bigger) dog played too rough and it’s a bleeding problem?  You have no idea.  And it does not go away after a day or two.  You freak out and head to Doc Truli’s office for advice.

Doc Truli Assesses the Lump

View of Trixie on her left side, with the lump sticking 3-4 inches (6-8cm) up in the air before exploratory and hopefully curative surgery.

The thing in the middle is the lump!

“Doc, I think maybe my other dog injured her when they were playing,” said Trixie’s concerned mom. “But she never cries or complains. She’s eating well. Everything else seems normal.”

Doc Truli performed a needle aspirate cytology test to try and identify what made up the lump.  Was it blood? No.  Was it cancer? No.  What then?

“We must perform surgery to diagnose the problem and to remove it because it is not healing on its own,” said Doc Truli.

“Okay,” said Trixie’s mom. “I thought you might say that, so I withheld her food this morning.  Could we just get it other with today?”

“Of course,” said the Doc.

The Disgusting Puppy Lump Revealed

After the initial skin incision, Doc Truli saw disorganized swirls of purple-red muscle and fat and connective scar tissue.  Some of the scar tissue moved easily with light digital (by finger) pressure. Some scar tissue adhered tightly to  the ribs and the stomach muscles.  Doc Truli worked slowly and carefully left only healthy puppy muscles and skin, not disturbing the healthy normal post-op healing process.  Once Doc Truli removed the majority of the disgusting, unhealthy lump, an indentation 4 inches (9 cm) in diameter remained.

At the end of surgery, the lump is gone. There is a depression in her side behind the rins where the deep parts of the lump were removed and a latex tube called a Penrose drain is sticking out of the surgery area.

Post-op sutures and Penrose drain.

“If a surgery site is left with a ‘pocket,’ or possible space under the skin, then the skin may have difficulty re-adhering to the underlying layers of the body.  That space can fill up with protein-laden serum which makes good food for opportunistic bacteria,” says Doc Truli. “A surgical drain allows the serum, blood, and any marauding bacteria to flow out of the surgical wound for 3-5 days after the surgery to prevent post-operative complications.”

What Was the Lump on the Puppy?

Trixie received her puppy vaccines at the animal shelter just before her mom adopted her.  While the records did not show the anatomical site of the vaccines, the side of the body by the ribs is a common location for administering vaccines.  We also know vaccines can stimulate a vaccine-site reaction.  In Trixie’s case, the reaction was unusually large and vehement.  She obviously has an immune system that responds vigorously and violently to certain types of stimulation. Histopathology revealed inflammation and necrosis typical of an injection reaction.  The only injections in her medical record were various core, basic dog vaccines.

Trixie Makes a Full Recovery

At the 5 day post-op recheck, the drain is clean and dry. There is slight swelling over the surgery area due to post-op inflammation, not the tumor growing back.

5 days post-op

Just 2 weeks after surgery, the incision scar is barely felt and short-stubby new fur covers the shaved surgery area on Trixie's side.
2 weeks post-op

5 days after the surgery, the surgery site was slightly swollen.  The drain worked well and Doc Truli removed it 5 days post-op.  Two weeks after surgery, Trixie’s stitches came out. She is a normal, happy dog in every way.

Vaccine-Associated Bumps

The vaccines given to your dog usually have a 1 cc volume.  It causes a tiny bump under the skin where the vaccine is given just by sheer fact of being a liquid volume.  But, in most pets, the liquid absorbs in minutes and you don’t even see it.  Especially if your pet has fur.

Some pets experience pain at the injection site for a few hours to a day or so. Rarely, a pet will grow an inflammatory bump at the site of the injection.  Under the microscope, it is made up of activated immune cells. You should have your veterinarian check any persistent lump to get a professional opinion about a reasonable course of action.  Also, your veterinarian may wish to change your vaccine protocol in the future.

“As a general guideline, if a lump or bump after a vaccination, that has been checked by the veterinarian, does not disappear within 3 months, or grows bigger, it should be removed and sent to a qualified pathologist for diagnosis,” says Doc Truli.

Trixie’s case was truly unusual.  Always consult your pet’s healthcare provider to discuss merits and risks of vaccines.  In Trixie’s case, she experienced the routine vaccinations of the animal shelter, so Doc Truli and Trixie’s mom had no control over how she got sick.  One surgery later, Trixie is surfing the back yard deck in search of dropped barbecue morsels and playing with people and dogs alike.

VirtuaVet goes into more detail about…

needle aspirate cytologies

other reasons for bumps on your dog

Or search for “bumps” on VirtuaVet in the search box or the tags. (There’re lots more stories!)

Sugar Glider Eye Abscess

September 16, 2012

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soft, sassy healthy sugar glider

Healthy Sugar Glider

Excuse Me, What is a Sugar Glider?

Sugar gliders can make troublesome pets. Marsupials native to Australian and New Guinea, they get their name from their ability to glide, almost fly, granted by their patagium (pah-ta-jee-um). Sugar gliders have a membrane of skin between their fifth finger and their first toe (along the sides of their body on each side.) They are private, sensitive little creatures and very sensitive to moves, new people, and changes in their social relationships. (They can die when placed in a new home, away from people they know.)

Small wounds become a big deal in no time

They also tear and scratch easily and impractically, can eat the skin away from any tear or scratch in an effort to attend to the wound. The first sugar glider Doc Truli met came to the pet emergency room because she cut her back leg on her cage. By the time the family drove to the pet e.r., she had eaten all the skin off of her leg! Doc Truli could not believe her eyes; the little glider’s muscles were just right there – out in the open. The glider went to a specialist for surgery and had to have her leg amputated to save her life. All because of a little cut from a wire sticking out in the side of her cage.

Eye Abscess is a Common Glider Health Problem

Dehydrated, thin sugar glider clings to mom's shirt

The right eye abscess of a dehydrated, thin sugar glider

A very common injury sugar gliders sustain is a corneal scratch. A scratch on their eye surface quickly turns into a corneal ulcer, or worse, an abscessed eye. The eye may quickly form a trapped infection and cause our glider to become septic. The infection in the eye can make the entire body infected. These gliders are very, very sick. They become dehydrated, they loose weight and their little spine and ribs start to become extra easy to feel.

This little girl in the pictures was Petunia. Petunia came to Doc Truli after her mom tried to clean and treat the eye at home. Once the eye abscessed, it is unlikely to heal unless the infection is completely surgically removed. In Petunia’s case, this would mean general anesthesia and eye removal surgery.

How to Decide Whether to Have Surgery on a Sugar Glider

1) Does your sugar glider have any other choices for treatment? If yes, try it!

2) Could your little glider die without surgery? If yes, probably should risk the surgery.

3) Is your glider very weak and surgery is extra risky? If yes (usually yes because they hide their symptoms so well), then see #1 and #2 and then just accept the risk because you do not have a simple, no risk choice!

Petunia’s mom could not face the decision for surgery. She knew sugar glider eye abscesses almost never get better without

This sugar glider's spine is bony and easy to feel because she is sick from an infected eyeball

The prominent spine is easy to see in this picture.

surgery, she also knew Petunia was very systemically ill. She decided to try oral medication and eye drops and felt surgery would be a death sentence for Petunia. Doc Truli felt not performing surgery was a death sentence.

Exotic Pet Surgery Inherently Risky

Exotic pets are always riskier surgical candidates than cats or dogs. Science knows much less about them and most veterinarians have much more experience with cats and dogs. But if your little one needs surgery, try not to be too frightened or overwhelmed by the decision to authorize surgery. You might be surprised at a good result!

P.S. Petunia passed away two weeks later after a week of not wanting to eat. Sorry for the unhappy ending to a VirtuaVet story. Doc Truli hopes this story will save a glider’s life if they get an eye abscess and their parents need help deciding whether to do surgery or not. Please consider surgery!

Mini Pig Neuter Day

August 26, 2012

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Miniature Potbellied Pigs Need to be Spayed or Neutered

black and white 5 pound miniature potbellied pig looks out from his chihuahua carrier before surgery

Mini Pig Perfection

Meet Moose!  Moose came to Doc Truli as a little 2 pound mini pig being bottle-fed by his humans.  By the time these picture were taken, he had already doubled in size!  Before he got too big to hold for inhalant anesthesia, we scheduled his neuter day.

Mini pigs make happier, easier to care for pets if they are spayed or castrated.  (“Neuter” is the neutral term for either the male or female surgery, but most people in the United States mean the male procedure when they say neuter.) Breast cancer, ovarian cancer, testicular cancer, uterine cancer, pyometra, and urinary tract problems are just a few of the health complaints that can be eliminated or minimized with surgical spay or castration.

Because pigs are notoriously screamers, complainers, and squigglers when they do not like what you are doing (holding, injections, etc.), they are most manageable o be held for inhalant anesthesia induction when they are still little. If a pig is over about 15-20 pounds (7-10 kg), certainly 30 pounds (12 kg), they are nearly impossible to restrain without injectable sedatives and anesthetics. Pigs react less predictably to these injectable medications than other veterinary species.  Therefore, do not procrastinate in having your tiny little one surgically altered before the procedure becomes more complex, expensive, and risky.

Inducing Anesthesia

Mini Pig with his face in an anesthesia mask to breathe in the isoflourane inhalant anesthesia

Anesthetic Induction

The technical term for going under anesthesia is “induction.” We are basically putting parts of the brain to sleep that are involved in motor function, pain perception, and consciousness.  We aim to not stop autonomic functions like breathing and internal organ regulation.  Going to far is called “too deep.”  Of course, if a  patient is not properly monitored and the anesthetic is not properly titrated (metered out to the desired effect for the individual patient), the brain could stop and the patient could die.

One of the potential risks with injectable anesthesia is the finality of the dose.  Once given, only some of the drugs can be reversed, many cannot.  If a patient is unusually sensitive or reacts unpredictably to the drug, then damage or death could result.  In veterinary medicine, we attempt to use reversible drugs for added options in case of an unpredictable reaction.

Another technique we use to give more options in case of anesthesia reactions is to titrate the dose.  Certain intravenous injections and inhalant anesthetics can be given just enough to make the patient go right to the point of falling asleep (called “going under.”) Mini pigs do well with titrated inhalant anesthesia.  In the picture, you can see Moose has a mask over his snout so he can breathe the anesthetic gas.

The Spay or Castration Surgery

Mini pigs can be spayed or castrated just like cats or dogs.  The anesthesia, personality, and reactions to pain and anesthesia differ, but the anatomy is very similar.

However, unlike cats and dogs,  inguinal hernias are common in male pigs. An inguinal hernia is an abnormally large hole in between the muscles in the right and/or left lower abdomen where the testicular cords come through the body wall.  Normally, there is a small space between the abdominal muscles where nerves, blood vessels, and the testicular cords travel from inside to outside the body. In some pigs, some fat or even intestines can pooch out through an enlarged hole.  They may become stuck or incarcerated, or trapped outside the body with the blood and nerve supply cut off.  If this happens, the trapped, incarcerated body part dies painfully and the body could die as a result. (The dead part must be surgically removed and the remaining pieces put back together and the hernia fixed to restore bodily function.)

When a mini pig is castrated, the inguinal ring could be too big and intestines could fall out of the abdomen and kill the pig.  An experienced pig surgeon knows how to check for inguinal herniation and surgically tighten the inguinal ring so the pig will be healthy. Your pet mini pig deserves his surgery when he is young, resilient, and manageable.

Mini Pig Surgical Recovery is Crazy Fast

The little mini pig starts to stand on his own after anesthesia, but his eyelids are still heavy with sleep.

Waking up from anesthesia!

Little Moose was up about 2 minutes after Doc Truli finished surgery. Please do not wait to decide about spaying or neutering your little pig.  Anesthesia, pain control, reactions, and recovery time will be much more of a big deal after your pig crosses that 20 pound (8-10 kg) weight.

How to Tell If Your Pet Rat is in Pain

August 12, 2012

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Signs of Pain in a Pet Rat

Pet rats descend from wily, smart wild rats.  They are social, intelligent, creative, and hoarders of sparkly things.  After thousands of generations of laboratory breeding programs, pet rats remarkably retain their personalities and sweet intelligence.  They also inherited a tremendous propensity to grow tumors, become fat, or develop other illnesses too easily.

A smart, social pet who hides pain well, rats often go untreated for their pain. Here are some detectable signs of pain in your pet rat:

A rat in detectable pain will hunch over, usually nose to tail or nose to feet or floor.  She (or he) will squirt her or his eyes.  The corneal surface of the eyes will likely appear dull, not the usual bright and shiny.  The ears may be set low, almost horizontal, or pulled back against the skull.  The bridge of the nose may be scrunched in ridges or the whiskers pulled back.  Certainly, the whiskers will not be forward and vibrating in exploration.

Eating and drinking slows almost to a halt.  Play, exploration and most movement ceases.  The breathing may be deeper and more rapid than usual.  If there is heart failure (common in older obese rats), the paws and tail end may have a blue tinge from lack of oxygen.

Signs of Pain in Your Pet Rat

  • Hunched over
  • ruffled, dishevelled fur
  • squinty eyes
  • dull corneas
  • nose to floor
  • no eating or drinking
  • no play or exploration
  • not very responsive to your voice or touch, withdrawn

Pet Rat After Surgery

Brown and white hooded pet rat hunched with her tail and nose touching, her fur sticking up in spiky "shelves" and her eyes dull and staring. She's in pain right when she wakes up from surgery.

Hooded rat showing pain after surgery

Angelica needed surgery to remove the tip of her tail that had been caught in a door. Doc Truli gave her pre-operative painkillers and used local anesthesia to numb the tip of her tail, but painkillers may not be 100% effective.

This picture shows Angelica when she woke up.  She was hunched.  Her little used were partly closed and dull.  Her fur stuck up in ridges.

Doc Truli gave her some painkillers and 10 minutes later she literally “shook it off!”  Angelica sat up, shook her whole body like a dog.  The brightness returned to her eyes and she ran into the hiding box Doc made for her.  A few minutes later, she started eating a rat block because she felt nearly normal already!  (No picture, rat moving too fast and hiding too well!)

Compare a Rat in Pain with a Healthy Rat

Sleek, shiny, brown Dumbo rat sits on mommy's shoulder.

Healthy, happy, slightly apprehensive Dumbo rat.

To see the difference between Angelica in pain (above) and a healthy rat, take a look at Harley (pictured here). Harley came to Doc Truli for a semi annual physical (rats should have a physical and a fecal exam every six months).

Harley has sleek, shiny, smooth fur.  His eyes are bright and attentive.  His whiskers are out to the sides of his face at the ready.  He is showing some apprehension by how spread apart his toes are as they grip mom’s shoulder.  His ears are not very good for giving us clues to his feelings.  Harley is a specialty breed of rat called a Dumbo rat.  (Can you see the resemblance to Disney’s Dumbo the circus elephant?)  Dumbo rats have large, disproportionate ears that lie back and to the sides of their little heads.

There are over 65 breeds of pet rats!  You can see cute pictures and earn more about all the kinds of pet rats at the American Association of Fancy Rat Breeders website.

Chinchilla Almost Loses a Foot

July 29, 2012

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silver grey chinchilla with stiff straight long whiskers jutting out the sides of his face

Chinchilla Under Anesthesia Effects

2-Year-Old Chinchilla Faces Amputation

Doc Truli could barely understand Franny’s dad.

Something about a Chinchilla…a leg…a broken paw…4 days…(4 days?!)…bone sticking out.

“A break with a bone sticking out is an emergency.  Please bring her in right away,” said Doc Truli.

A broken leg with the bone visible, or even just with the skin ripped through and through is a compound fracture by definition.  Bacteria and infection can easily infiltrate the bone and then the bloodstream and the body. Immediate medical help is required or a life can be lost.

Franny was a sweet little Chinchilla.  She appeared unafraid, calm, and peaceful about her physical exam.  Normally hyper little opinionated and affectionate critters, Chinchillas are not big fans of car rides and the veterinary examination room. Doc Truli was surprised that Franny’s leg was severely broken and yet Franny did not act frightened or angry. Read more…