Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Santaw Family of Summerville are always very exciting visitors for us here at AMC. They bring with them a gaggle of fluffy golden retriever love!! After the loss of their 14 year old Golden, Brina to cancer in early 2014, it was over a year before they were ready to add a new puppy to their pack. In June, they added a beautiful new golden retriever pup, Fenway, to their family. Fenway is a great addition to the family and fit right in with the families’ other two golden retrievers right away.
Fenway came in for her first visit with us and started her puppy vaccine series appearing healthy and happy like most other puppies. Her parents did notice that she had a small bump on her arm and asked Dr. Parrott to look at it during her exam. Fenway had a small bump behind her elbow. Because Fenway had just joined their family and the family was not sure of when the bump had appeared, Dr. Parrott discussed monitoring the bump and possibly removing it for biopsy during Fenway’s spay. This was especially important due to Fenway’s breed: Golden retrievers have a higher incidence of cancer than many other breeds.

By the time she returned for her vaccination booster several weeks later, the bump had already increased in size and Dr. Parrott recommended we collect a small sample of the growth and examine it under the microscope to check for abnormal cells. Unfortunately, when the sample was examined, there was a type of abnormal cell present – mast cells. Mast cell tumors are cancerous proliferations of mast cells. Although they can and will spread throughout the body, the danger from mast cell tumors arises from the secondary damage caused by the release of chemicals that they produce. These chemicals can cause systemic problems that include gastric ulcers, internal bleeding, and a range of allergic manifestations. This type of cancer may be relatively innocent or aggressively malignant. As mast cell tumors are very common in dogs, it is important for the regular pet owner to have at least a basic understanding of what they are and how they work.

Mast cells are specialized cells that normally are found distributed throughout the body and help an animal respond to inflammation and allergies. Mast cells can release several biological chemicals when stimulated. Although these chemicals are vital to normal bodily function, especially immune response, they can be very damaging to the body when released in chronic excess. Diagnosis hopefully begins early when the alert pet-owner notices a growth on their dog. The vet may take a fine-needle aspirate from the growth to submit a sample for preliminary biopsy. The entire tumor will then need to be fully removed, if possible, and submitted for biopsy to determine how aggressively
malignant the cancer appears to be.

Treatment for mast cell tumors almost always first involves surgically removing the entire tumor, if that is possible. The tumor is then submitted to a laboratory for biopsy, and a pathology report is generated. Beyond complete surgical excision, treatment options depend on factors that suggest the aggressiveness and status of the cancer. Low-grade tumors are generally treated locally with surgery, with or without radiation. High-grade tumors may be treated systemically with chemotherapy. Sometimes the only “treatment” if the cancer has spread within the body is supportive care intended not to extend the dogs life but to make what remains of it as comfortable as possible.

As soon as Dr. Parrott noted that mast cells were present in the sample from the growth, Fenway was scheduled for surgery to remove the growth. Fenway was 12 weeks old with the whole of her life ahead. The best chance to give Fenway a healthy normal life was to remove the tumor and then have an oncologist review the results of the biopsy and treat her for any cells that may have spread. Fenway was referred to Dr. Rissetto at Charleston Veterinary Referral Center. A veterinary oncologist is a veterinarian with advanced training and expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Because Fenway’s tumor was identified by the pathologist as a higher grade or more aggressive type of Mast cell tumor, she will be undergoing additional treatment at CVRC to prevent/treat spread of the cancer.

Dogs who have had mast cell tumors are more likely to develop more mast cell tumors. Prognosis is highly variable and dependent on many factors including tumor location, histologic grade and clinical stage. Fenway will always have to be monitored closely for the rest of her life even after completing treatment for her current tumor.

Luckily, Fenway’s tumor was identified early and just like all the other pets in their family, Fenway has pet insurance to help her family defray the cost of her treatment.

The bottom line is that if you notice any type of lump on your dog it is important to get it evaluated right away. When caught early mast cell tumors can be treated successfully, however they can also spread with fatal consequences. Just because one mast cell tumor is benign, does not mean all of them on the dog will be. Each and every lump should be evaluated by your veterinarian as they appear.

Fenway is now 15 weeks old and we hope you will join us as we keep their family in our thoughts and prayers as they fight Fenway’s cancer.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Case of the week: Sandra's story

 When the Milligan Family of Summerville decided to add a new member to their family, they had no idea that the next weeks would be spent dealing with unknown medical issues an even surgical care for their new pet.

  The Milligans decided to adopt a dog from a local shelter and when they went in to visit, they immediately fell in love with Sandra, a 1 year old boxer mix. Who could resist those big chocolate eyes and the constantly wagging tale. So, on July 19th, they adopted her and brought her home to be a part of their family.

  From the time she came home something seemed not so right with Sandra. She was a little thin and not as active as a young dog should be.  She also seemed to be having digestive issues and would frequently vomit and was also having loose stools. The family contacted the shelter where they had adopted Sandra, as they were very concerned about her health status. The shelter employees let them know that after adoption, changes in diet and stress can often result in vomiting or diarrhea in many pets and that they should see their veterinarian to follow-up if she was not feeling better within a few days.

  The Milligan's set up an appointment to have Sandra evaluated at a local veterinarian who had included a coupon for a complimentary visit for new adoptees. Shelters and recue groups frequently provide a coupon for an initial veterinary exam to check for any abnormalities and discuss routine care for new adoptees. At the time of the visit, they were expecting to maybe receive some medication for stomach upset or a screening for intestinal parasites, not to be told that something was indeed very wrong inside Sandra. At the time of her exam, the veterinarian was able to tell the Milligan family that something was abnormal in Sandra's abdomen, but without other diagnostics(x-rays, ultrasound, or exploratory surgery) it was uncertain what was making her so sick.

The Milligans were heartbroken. They had adopted an adult dog and purchased all of the food, bedding, collars, toys, etc. that she would need and were not expecting or prepared for expenses that were looking to go well into the thousands of dollars. Feeling at a loss for what to do, they reached out to members of their local community on Facebook looking for recommendations for a regular veterinarian who could examine Sandra and give them a second opinion and make plans for treatments to make her well again.  Someone on Facebook recommended us here at the Animal Medical Clinic of Goose Creek and even provided them with a referral card so that they would not have to pay for an additional exam.

  When we met Sandra, we could see how the Milligans had fallen in love with this little girl. She was obviously so ill, but had nothing but tail wags and kisses for everyone she met.  When Dr. Fay completed his exam on Sandra, the news was not what the family wanted to hear. Sandra had a large hard area inside her abdomen that could be anything from something she had ingested to a birth defect, or even a tumor. No matter what the abnormality was, it needed to be addressed. Sandra was already 5-10 pounds underweight and was lethargic and if this continued, it was unlikely that she would survive the next couple weeks. Incidentally she was also carrying a type of intestinal parasite that is not commonly dewormed for by most rescues and shelters.  They were devastated. The cost for an exploratory surgery would cost over a thousand dollars and it was not within their budget to have the surgery that could save Sandra's life.

  Pets adopted from many shelters and rescues are often provided with a free trial month of pet insurance that will help cover the costs of unexpected illnesses that may be unknown at the time of adoption. Sadly, in Sandra's case, the paperwork went home with her, but the family was not told that to be eligible the insurance had to be activated within 24 hours of adoption. The insurance would not cover any of the surgical costs because it had not been activated the first day. The Milligans had already committed to making Sandra part of their family and decided to find a way to raise the money for her surgery. Dr. Fay explained that based on the severity of her illness she needed to have the procedure within 24 hours to increase the chances that her life could be saved.

  The family were able to find friends and family to loan them the majority of the cost of the surgical cost and the Animal Medical Clinic Angel fund was able to help with some of the surgical cost as well to allow Sandra to go into surgery the next morning.

When Dr. Fay opened Sandra's abdomen, it was obvious that her intestines were very inflamed and there was a large hard structure within a very angry section of the small intestines. When he made the incision into the area, he could immediately see a blue plastic object that was blocking her intestinal tract. Dr. Fay widened the incision and removed not 1, but 2 large Avant pacifiers. The incision was closed, but Sandra's prognosis was still guarded as the pacifiers seemed likely to have been inside her for quite some time and there was no guarantee that her intestines would be able to recover after being blocked for such a long period of time. The Milligan family does not have any babies and it is very likely that the pacifiers were already inside Sandra when she was turned into the shelter on June 11th. That means they were inside her for at least five weeks. There was a chance that even though the blockage had been removed that the intestines would not be able to regain normal function and allow Sandra to absorb the nutrients she needed. It was a time to wait and see if after 24 hours she would be able to eat and keep the food down.

  Sandra did not surprise us at all! She is a true survivor and began eating small amounts after 24 hours and was able to pass all of the food through. She was ravenous!! After 48 hours Sandra was able to go home to her family and we hope for a full recovery. Sandra seems to be doing well and each day that goes by increases the chances that she will make a full recovery.

The Milligan family is so happy to have their little girl back at home recovering with them. They are still looking for ways to repay the loans made by generous family and friends to allow Sandra to receive care.

If you are interested in helping the Milligan family with medical costs or in donating to help the AMC Angel Fund, donations can be made directly by contacting any of our reception team at 843-569-3647.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Keeping your pet with arthritis comfortable


We see it all the time, pets who come to visit for a wellness visit, grooming, or an illness and their owner mentions off hand that their pet is slower in their old age. Maybe they don't jump into the car or onto the bed like they used to do, maybe they seem sensitive or even upset when you are trying to trim their nails or brush their fur. Sometimes a pet owner will even say that their pet is "grumpy" or aggressive now that he or she is getting older. These are all signs that your pet may be suffering from joint pain. 

What Are The First Signs Of Arthritis That I Will See In My Pet ?

  The telltale sign of arthritis in older pets is a reluctance to move about. As your pet’s joints age, they may become reluctant to run, play, or jump. On rising in the morning, you pet may be stiff or even limping. These changes almost always come on very gradually. It is easy to ignore or not notice them at first. Slowing down isn't only related to your pet's joints.

As pets guard their sore joints, muscles and ligaments contract decreasing the joint’s range of motion. You may notice that your pet no longer jumps up on sofas and chairs as it once did. One common symptom of age-related arthritis is that joints tend to be stiffer and more painful after periods of rest and that pain tends to work out during the day. By evening, your pet may be its old self again. Some pets may also have a decrease in muscle due to lack of use.

Arthritis problems tend to be worse in overweight pets. Some of their panting after a long walk can be due to arthritis pain and not just the overheating and out-of-shape problems that obesity produce. Cold days and dampness tend to make the problem worse as well.

Are There Things I can Do To help with Arthritis pain In My Pet?

Age is not a disease, but senior pets do need some special care. There are many things we can do to help keep senior pets happy and comfortable.

Diet And Nutrition
What your pet eats and how much it eats throughout its life will affect arthritis in its later years. If your pet is overweight, reducing its weight, slowly, to a healthy level is one of the most important things you can do to reduce its discomfort.

A moderate amount of daily exercise, like taking walks and interactive play-time, is thought to delay arthritis. Moderate exercise will help your senior pet maintain muscle mass and keep joints mobile.

Good Nail And Foot Care
Its important that you keep your pets toenails clipped properly so its normal walking and running gait is not distorted. Overgrown nails can place abnormal stress on the joints and ligaments of the feet.

Low-Level Laser Therapy
Cold laser therapy can significantly reduce the debilitating joint inflammation that accompanies arthritis and improves circulation in damaged joints.  We can even come to your home for your pet's laser therapy sessions.

Extra Padding For Comfort and Traction
  Your pets balance and coordination are not what they once were. Older dogs have better traction on carpet or rugs. Providing throw rugs for walking on slippery floor surfaces will help your pet walk more confidently.  

  Wood ramps, covered with carpet are a real help for pets that can no longer climb stairs, get into bed, or into the car. Just be sure they are stable. Make the slope as gentle as possible.


NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs)(Carprofen, Meloxicam, dericoxib, etc)

  NSAID’s reduce inflammation and pain in arthritis patients. All pets receiving any NSAIDs should have a blood chemistry and complete blood count run prior to beginning the medication so your veterinarian will have a reference point to refer to if drug issues or side effects develop later. (It is safest to have those same tests repeated every six months to monitor how your pet is handling the medication)

Glucosamine / Chondroitin Products :
Supports joint health by facilitating maintenance of cartilage and helping to restore lubricant in the joint fluid. 

Adequan (Polysulfated Glycosaminoglycan (PSGAG)
Helps prevent the breakdown of cartilage and supports the repair of damaged cartilage.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Cold-water fish oils are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. They appear to be helpful in reducing many forms of inflammation – joint inflammation included.

Narcotics and other medications for pain
There are narcotic and nerve pain medication that can be used alone or as an addition to NSAIDs when they alone are no longer sufficient to give your pet relief.  
Please call us to have your pet evaluated for their arthritis symptoms or if you would like to discuss how the above therapies can help your pet lead a long and comfortable life.