Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard
Snow Leopard cub (7 mos old) - Cape May County Zoo

Thursday, March 27, 2014

When Positive Is NOT A Good Thing

The photo above shows a feline combo or feline leukemia  
(FeLV) / feline immunodeficiency virus test (FIV).  The center blue dot at the top - the 12 o'clock if you will - is the control dot. That dot should appear every single time the test is run as it means it ran correctly. 

The dots you see that are at the 3 and 6 o'clock positions are positives for feline leukemia and FIV, respectively. 

This test is from a stray cat that was brought in the other day by a good Samaritan who has been seeing this cat outside of her home most days for the past year. He was friendly enough to touch and the other day, after going missing for over a day, came back clearly in distress and not moving well.

He was unable to stand and crying and his exam revealed severe infections in three of his four feet, a suspected joint infection in his left elbow (very swollen and painful) and/or trauma to that leg and overall depressed mentation. 

Though the "owner" was willing to take responsibility for further diagnostics, the first thing we always do is this test. This sad case is a perfect example of why we insist upon it. 
With radiographs and other tests and medications potentially adding up to hundreds of dollars, not to mention the likelihood this cat would not recover as expected, this test saves everyone a lot of further heart ache.  The cat included.

This cat has been infected, and is now clearly clinical, with two immunosuppressive feline viruses. He is the poster child for FIV - an un-neutered male cat who has been seen fighting with at least another cat in the area. FIV is spread via fights and bites as well as sexually. Feline leukemia is spread via close intimate contact (grooming, sharing food/water bowls, etc) and transplacentally, meaning it can be passed on to the kittens. 

The kindest thing to do for this cat was to euthanize him. Even if he was not sick and merely positive, he could not live with any other cats AND he certainly should not be put back outside spreading these viruses to other cats, reproducing and potentially creating positive kittens. A cat with one or both of these viruses is also more prone to infections and they are more likely to be serious, therefore they need to be kept inside for that reason as well. 

We know cats can survive a long time with FIV alone. They should be kept indoors. They can live with other cats if there is no intense fighting (enough to cause punctures) among the cats in the household. 

It's the FeLV that's the kicker here. Cats that are infected rarely live past 2-3 years. 

AND this cat has both viruses - truly a no win situation for him.

As we assured the kind lady, it is nice that he didn't have to suffer outside in the cold, unable to get food and water and starving to death outside. Sometimes that's just part of being an animal lover. 

I'll discuss prevention and other aspects of these diseases in my next blog post.

Friday, March 21, 2014

It's Almost Time for Lyme

I'm going to be very honest with you. I truly DO take for granted sometimes what people know, get and understand. No, these are not deep medical secrets, things only students of anatomy, physiology or pharmacology would know. These are things I know are "out there" in the media and that pet owners talk about. Things that pet owners often worry about getting themselves and see their own doctors about.  The thing is, often what they know isn't accurate. It certainly is not tailored to their pet or where they live. 

Lyme disease is one of the most common things I diagnose, year in, year out here in the Poconos. Northeast PA has the highest incidence in human and dog cases per the CDC. FYI - cats for whatever reason, are immune to it (see, I told you cats were amazing!). Anyhow, what upsets me the most is that this disease, while endemic to this region, is preventable. 
However, if patients are not properly protected, they can die from it. 

Lyme nephritis is kidney failure cause by the Lyme bacteria. The bacteria cause an immune response whereby immune complexes clog up the tiny little glomeruli (or filters) in the kidneys. There is NO treatment once we reach this point. Lyme nephritis, in my personal experience of 15 years, does not seem to hit those dogs that are routinely vaccinated. Dogs with Lyme nephritis can live a few days to weeks (rarely months) with medications, fluids, etc. However, they are doomed. Even if they are 2, 3, 5 years old, etc. Trust me, I've had to be the bearer of the news I dread to deliver. I've had to euthanize otherwise healthy young dogs with years left because they didn't have a  $25 vaccine on board. Yes. It sucks. 

Even a vaccinated dog can and often, in our area, does test positive for Lyme on the 4Dx Snap test. The test does NOT get a false positive from vaccine and is only positive from active infection. Therefore, that tells me that the vaccine offers a HUGE protection in clinical disease to our dogs. There is NO reason not to vaccinate a dog, unless he or she has cancer or some other massive immune system issue where vaccines are a problem. This is a very RARE circumstance. Even indoor little "foo foo's" that supposedly never go out have tested positive in my practice settings. 

Dogs usually test positive months after exposure to an infected tick. They will not test positive from a tick you pulled off the day or week of your visit with us. 

If your dog tests positive, I WILL treat him or her with a month of antibiotics. In a year, we will want to check an antibody level. However, you should continue to (or start) vaccinating your dog for Lyme (it's always a series of 2 vaccines initially, then yearly) and using an effective product like Vectra (any topical needs to be applied more frequently if you bathe or swim your dog a lot.) Lyme re infections can occur at any time. This is not chicken pox in humans.

So when we ask or recommend that your pet get tested, it's not because we want to make more money. It really is not! I can assure you.  There is nothing more upsetting and maddening to me to have to tell someone their pet is going to die (from something that could have been prevented with proper care and listening to or even going to a veterinarian). Please understand and follow our recommendations. If you don't trust your vet, please find one you do. There are a lot of things we cannot prevent or change or predict. However we work very hard at the things we can!