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The veterinarians and staff at the Tower Hill Animal Hospital are pleased to provide you with an online newsletter. This fun and fact-filled newsletter is updated on a regular basis.

Included in the newsletter are articles pertaining to pet care, information on our animal hospital, as well as news on the latest trends and discoveries in veterinary medicine.

Please enjoy the newsletter!

October is National Pet Wellness Month

Though it may seem like only yesterday that your pet was a playful puppy or curious kitten, pets age more rapidly than humans. At age 2, most pets are considered adults, and by the age 7, pets have entered their senior years. As pets grow older, it becomes increasingly important to spot health problems before they become serious. In order to raise awareness of the pet aging process and promote twice-a-year wellness exams, the American Veterinary Medical Association and Fort Dodge Animal Health has named October "National Pet Wellness Month."

National Pet Wellness Month.

Regular wellness exams are a key part of keeping pets healthy and happy. While annual exams are a good start to keeping your pet healthy, more frequent exams are better. Twice-a-year wellness exams are a way for your veterinarian to detect, treat and, most importantly, prevent problems before they become life-threatening. These exams are also an excellent time for you to ask your vet questions about nutrition, behavior, dental health and other issues. Click here to calculate your pet's age.

Much like humans, as pets age, the risks of cancer, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, heart disease and other conditions increase. Many of these conditions are treatable if diagnosed in time, making twice-yearly wellness exams extremely important. For adult cats and dogs (ages 1-6 years), wellness exams include immunizations, parasite and heartworm checks, dental exams, urinalysis and blood and chemistry profiles. For senior pets, these exams also include osteoarthritis exams, thyroid checks and other tests. Your veterinarian may recommend additional tests depending on your pet's health history.

Contact your veterinarian today to schedule a wellness exam for your pet.

Urine Exam

You can learn a lot about the health of your pet from his or her urine. This smelly yellow liquid provides a variety of clues that can help your veterinarian solve the mystery of your pet's health.

Like people, pets should have yellow urine that has a characteristic odor. Most pets develop a pattern and urinate with the same frequency each day.

Changes in frequency of urination, blood in the urine and pain during urination are common signs of infection and/or irritation. Most pet owners are very good at noticing these signs.

Your pet's urine can be collected at home or in the veterinary hospital. The 'free catch' method for collecting urine can be done at home. When walking your dog, slip a plastic bowl or container under his leg when he stops to urinate. To speed up the process, you can feed your dog several ice cubes before leaving for the walk. Free catch does not require intensive labor, money, or time, nor does it upset your pet. There are some disadvantages to the free catch method. The free catch method does not provide sterile urine and may be contaminated by bacteria from the environment. If the urine is not transported immediately to the hospital, some of the tests may yield inaccurate results.

Urine Collection Vial

Urine Collection Vial

Your veterinarian or a veterinary technician can obtain a fresh urine sample from your pet by catheterizing the bladder. This collection procedure requires the animal's cooperation and often requires sedation.

Once the urine is obtained, the first thing examined is the sediment. Sediment refers to the cells floating in the urine. An increased number of white blood cells signals inflammation and helps with the diagnosis of a bladder infection. With bladder infections, large numbers of bacteria may also be present.

Canine Urine Sediment

Urine Sediment of a Dog.
White Blood Cells and Bacteria are Shown

Due to the long length of the urethra, female dogs are more prone to urinary tract infections than male dogs. Diabetic animals have an increased amount of glucose in the urine, which may promote bacterial growth and cause infection.

Animals can form bladder stones due to a genetic condition, if urine flow is decreased or if the bladder wall is irritated. Stones can sometimes be seen on x-rays and they can often be located during ultrasound examination. Surgery is usually required to remove large bladder stones.

Bladder Stones

X-Ray Showing 2 Bladder Stones

Examination of the urine is also important for diagnosing kidney disease. The specific gravity (of the urine) compares the weight of urine to the weight of water, detecting functional problems with the kidneys. The specific gravity indicates how well the animal is concentrating its urine. If the specific gravity is low (approaching that of water), the kidneys may not be eliminating the body's waste products properly into the urine. Instead of eliminating the waste products into the urine, they accumulate in the blood stream and cause problems.

Various minerals can solidify in urine to form casts and crystals. The presence of calcium oxalate crystals, for example, can be found as a result of ethylene glycol (antifreeze) toxicity. Ammonium biurate crystals are red flags for liver disease. The most commonly found crystals are triple phosphate (magnesium ammonium phosphate) and can signify a bladder infection.

Urinary Cast

Various Urinary crystals (A) Calcium Oxalate Crystals (B) Uric Acid Crystals
(C) Triple Phosphate Crystals with Amorphous Phosphates (D) Cystine Crystals

The kidney is composed of a series of tubules that aid in making urine. Substances are either absorbed back into the body or excreted in the tubules as urine. If casts are found in the urine, this may indicate a problem with the tubules in the kidney. Casts are solid clumps of protein cells or red and white blood cells. These cells collect in the tubules and are shed sporadically. These casts have a tube-like shape and can be seen under a microscope.

Urinary Cast

Large Granular Urinary Cast

Urinary Cast

Red Cell Granular Cast and Numerous Erythrocytes.
Early Stages of Acute Kidney Disease

Urine is so much more than a waste product. Your pet's urine test means a lot for his or her health. It provides many interesting diagnostic clues that help determine what's going on inside your pet!

How to Celebrate a Safe Halloween with Your Pets

When witches, princesses and superheroes take to the streets in search of treats this Halloween, they'll have some furry friends by their side. According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, total spending for Halloween is expected to reach $8.4 billion this year, an all-time high since the survey began 11 years. With nearly 171 million Americans celebrating Halloween, it's estimated 16 percent of households will not only pick out costumes for themselves, but for their pets as well. Superheroes and mermaids are the top choices for pet costumes, with bees, sharks and Stars Wars-themed garb rounding out the list.

If you plan on letting your pet don a devilish disguise, there are a few safety tips to keep in mind. First, make sure your pet wants to wear a costume. While some animals may not mind being outfitted with a pumpkin suit, others may experience extreme discomfort and stress while in costume. Try putting the costume on your pet in advance of the big night to make sure he or she is comfortable with the idea. And while your pet is out trick-or-treating, don't forget about the pets that may be coming to your house - keep a few dog treats by the door to hand out to any four-legged companions accompanying trick-or-treaters.

Whether your pet is dressed like a spider or a dinosaur, make sure the costume allows for easy movement and is not restrictive or confining. However, also be on guard for costumes that drag on the ground. These costumes can get caught in doors or snag on other objects. If your pet's costume includes a mask, modify the eye holes so they are big enough to accommodate your pet's peripheral vision. A pet that can't see may experience increased stress and could become aggressive as a result.

Halloween Pet Celebrations

When the trick-or-treating is over and the treats are ready to be had, be sure to keep chocolate away from your dog. Any amount of chocolate is harmful to your pet, so keep the treats out of their paws, no matter how much they beg. Those cellophane and foil wrappers left behind after the treats are gone are also a potential health hazard for your pet. The wrappers can be caught in your pet's digestive track and cause illness, severe discomfort and even death if the problem is left untreated.

Additional pet safety tips to keep in mind this Halloween:

• Jack o'lanterns and lit candles may look spooky, but they can pose problems for your pet. Rambunctious pets can knock lit pumpkins over and start fires, and wagging tails can easily get burned by open flames. Keep lit pumpkins and candles up on a high shelf to avoid accidents.

• If you're hosting a Halloween party, keep your pet in a separate room, away from all the hustle and bustle. Too many strangers in odd costumes may cause your pet stress. This will also prevent your pet from sneaking out through an open door and darting out into the night.

• Keep your pet indoors during the days and nights around Halloween. Pranksters and vandals have teased, injured, stolen and, in rare cases, killed pets on Halloween. Keeping your pet inside will keep them from becoming a target.

• With all the Halloween festivities, it's a great idea to make sure your pet has proper identification if they escape from your house or become lost while out trick-or-treating.

Halloween can be a fun time for you and your pet. Following the above safety tips will make sure the only scares you experience are all in good fun.

Your Pet's Allergies

The skin is the largest organ of the body. It's major function is to protect the rest of the body from the external environment. With it's sweat glands and rich blood supply, it is also responsible for regulating the body's temperature.

The exterior portion of the skin is called keratin. In animals, this protective waterproof layer is thickest on the paw pads. Under the keratin layer are the epidermal cells. These cells are constantly dividing, as new cells are replacing damaged older cells. The keratin layer and the epithelial cells are the body's first line of defense against invading microorganisms and hazardous environmental substances. These layers are also responsible for keeping moisture inside the body, preventing the body from dehydrating.

Like humans, animals have allergies. Some allergies are seasonal while others occur year round. In the northern parts of the U.S., flea allergies are commonly seen in the summer and fall. In the southern states, flea allergies often occur throughout the year. Food allergies are not seasonal. They can occur anytime during the year. The most common types of allergies in pets (particularly dogs) include: contact allergies, flea allergies, atopy and food allergies.

Asthma and hay fever are common symptoms of allergies in humans. Animals rarely develop these symptoms. Scratching is the most common symptom of allergies in pets. Some animals scratch so much that they mutilate themselves. It is not unusual to see an allergic dog with large skin wounds and areas devoid of fur (often called "hot spots"). Once the skin is injured, the animal is susceptible to a serious bacterial infection.

There are many ways to treat allergies in pets. Food allergies can be treated with hypoallergenic diets. Certain animals respond favorably to desensitization. Unfortunately, in most cases, allergies are extremely difficult to treat and require medication. This medication should only be dispensed by a veterinarian.

How to Measure Your Pet's Quality of Life

Veterinarians take many things into consideration before recommending humane euthanasia for a sick, injured or elderly pet. When it comes to setting your own mind at ease, there are ways to rate or measure your pet's overall well-being.

The Veterinary Medical Center at Ohio State University published a survey designed to illustrate your pet's quality of life which was adapted from several other common methods. The survey asks you, the pet owner, to rate 25 different prompts on a scale from one to five. A score of one indicates strong agreement or a condition that is present all the time or is severe; a score of five indicates strong disagreement or a condition that is never present and nonexistent. Thus, higher scores indicate a better quality of life.

The Survey


1: Strongly Agree / All the Time / Severe

2: Agree / Most of the Time / Significant

3: Neutral / Sometimes / Mild

4: Disagree / Occasionally / Slight

5: Strongly Disagree / Never / None

My pet...

1. Does not want to play

2. Does not respond to my presence or doesn't interact with me in the same way as before

3. Does not enjoy the same activities as before

4. Is hiding

5. Demeanor/behavior is not the same as it was prior to diagnosis/illness

6. Does not seem to enjoy life

7. Has more bad days than good days

8. Is sleeping more than usual

9. Seems dull and depressed

10. Seems to be or is experiencing pain

11. Is panting (even while resting)

12. Is trembling or shaking

13. Is vomiting and/or seems nauseous

14. Is not eating well (may only be eating treats or if fed by hand)

15. Is not drinking well

16. Is losing weight

17. Is having diarrhea often

18. Is not urinating well

19. Is not moving normally

20. Is not as active as normal

21. Does not move around as needed

22. Needs my help to move around normally

23. Is unable to keep self clean after soiling

24. Has coat that is greasy, matted or rough-looking

25. How is my pet's overall health compared to the initial diagnosis/illness?

Once you have rated each prompt, tally up the number of responses for each number and then place an 'X' on a "Quality of Life line" labeled "Good" at one end and "Poor" at the other according to your most frequent response.

The purpose of this exercise is to help you better visualize your pet's general well-being. Of course, not all pets are the same and what is rated poorly for one may not be so bad for another. For pets currently undergoing treatment, some poor ratings may be liked to symptoms and side effects which will subside. It is always important to discuss your concerns and your pet's overall demeanor with your veterinarian, especially when considering humane euthanasia.