Pet owners often express concern that their dog or cat is licking its rear or scooting its rear on the floor. While a small amount of this behavior may be normal day to day grooming, when it becomes more frequent there may be an underlying problem….ANAL SAC DISEASE.
All dogs and cats have anal sacs (also known as anal glands). These glands are typically about the size of a small marble and sit just inside the anus to the right and left sides. The purpose of these glands is to produce a smelly, pungent, sometimes fishy smelling fluid that can help a dog or a cat add a unique scent to its area, not unlike marking with urine. These are the same glands that skunks use to spray when scared or threatened.
Normally the material produced in the glands is the consistency of water. During a bowel movement, the pressure from the stool expresses the glands. Sometimes the material is thicker in consistency and full expression of the glands is difficult. This leads to discomfort and is often the cause of licking under the tail or scooting the rear on the ground.
Manual expression by a veterinarian, groomer or by the pet owner can often relieve the discomfort associated with full anal sacs. If the glands are impacted (unable to be expressed by the pet) and the glands are not manually expressed, infection can develop and eventually an abscess will occur. In rare cases, the discomfort causing the scooting or licking may be due to an anal sac tumor.
Anal gland impactions tend to be more common in dogs than in cats, or perhaps dogs are more obvious with the symptoms. Often the first sign seen in cats is when an abscess has already formed. Because anal sac disease is one of discomfort in dogs and cats, and because more serious cases of infection and tumors can occur, making an appointment to have the anal sacs checked is advised when excessive licking or scooting are present.
There are a number of medical conditions that can cause cats to urinate or defecate outside of the litter box (see Dr Hershey's article entitled "Help! My cat is urinating outside the box" on our website). It's important to work with your veterinarian to first determine and address the underlying cause for inappropriate elimination, but we also want to make the litter box the "Taj Mahal" of bathroom spaces to help attract your kitty back to good elimination behaviors.
Here are some tips to help make the litter box more attractive to your cat:
1. Make sure you have 1 more box than the number of cats in your house – if you have 2 cats, you should have 3 boxes, and so on.
2. Remove all hoods. Many cats dislike hooded boxes and will choose to eliminate elsewhere.
3. Scoop each box at least once daily, since many cats are EXTREMELY fastidious.
4. Make sure boxes are located in quiet areas where there are no startling noises (e.g., a buzzer from a dryer) that could cause an aversion to using the box.
5. Don’t overfill – Most cats don’t like more than 1-2 inches of litter and some even prefer just a tiny amount scattered across the bottom of the box. This is especially true for cats with arthritis pain (think about trying to walk in deep sand at the beach!). You can offer a couple options at first to see what your cat prefers.
One of the most frequent questions I get is “what should I feed my pet”. This is a very important question to ask, especially if you own a cat. Cats are so different from dogs in terms of their nutritional needs, and understanding their dietary requirements is essential to optimal feline health.
Let me start by giving you some information about a cat’s dietary intake in the wild. The domestic housecat is thought to have originated in the Middle East. Cats are well adapted to an arid environment and their kidneys have excellent concentrating ability. They get most of their liquid from eating prey (a mouse, for example, is about 70% liquid), so they don’t tend to drink as much water. Cats are solitary hunters and therefore take on prey much smaller than themselves, necessitating several small kills per day. They are also obligate carnivores which means that they require animal protein in order to achieve good health. Unlike dogs who are able to manufacturer specific amino acids if not present in their diet, cats lack certain key metabolic enzymes which means that if they are not eating animal protein, they will be nutrient deficient.
Physical exam, x-rays, electrocardiogram and an ultrasound of the heart will offer great information and will help your veterinarian and veterinary cardiologist make a diagnosis and create a treatment plan for your dog. Close monitoring may be needed after initiating therapy, as the medications prescribed can affect other internal organs.
When therapy is successful, you will notice a decrease in coughing and an improved ability to breath. As a rule of thumb, your veterinarian will ask you to report if the breathing rate is faster than 40 breaths per minute at rest.
Much progress has been made in the treatment of heart failure and with proper care and monitoring, your dog's quality and length of life can be greatly improved.
Heartworm disease mainly affects dogs but sometimes affects cats. It’s found in warmer and temperate climates and it caused by the bite of a mosquito. It affects dogs in all 48 continental states, and Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and Guam. It is not usually found in Alaska because the weather isn’t consistently warm enough for the worm to grow in the mosquito and cause disease in dogs. It is also found in wild animals such as wolves, coyotes, and foxes. In North America, heartworm disease is most easily spread in July and August.
Heartworm is caused by a worm called Dirofilaria immitis. It has a life cycle where the mosquito picks up the early worm stage called Larva 1 from the blood of an infected animal and then the worm goes through several stages in the mosquito and is spread to a new animal when the mosquito bites it. It then takes at least six months before the dog can be tested to show that it has heartworm. The worms can grow to be 10 inches long and there can be many worms. They live in the heart and lungs of dogs and cause severe damage. Testing is done annually to prevent this damage so treatment can be initiated quickly.
There are several products that can prevent heartworm. These medications should be given monthly year round. The medications also contain a preventative for intestinal worms, such as roundworms and hookworms. Giving the medication continuously is best even in northern climates that do not have mosquitoes year round. It also helps to get in a routine. Even forgetting one month of prevention can cause heartworm to develop.
Heartworm can be treated safely in most dogs, but it has some risk and is expensive. Once a dog tests positive, we will do additional testing to see if there has been some damage. Radiographs sometimes show damage to the heart and blood vessels. The heart can enlarge on the right side of the heart where the worms live. This x-ray picture is called a Reverse D because the heart looks like a backwards letter D.
Blood work is done to see if there is any organ damage. There is a strict protocol for treating heartworm in dogs that is recommended by the American Heartworm Society. On the first day of treatment the dog is started on heartworm prevention monthly. Prednisone, an anti-inflammatory, is started for several weeks to prevent lung damage. An antibiotic, doxycycline, is started to help with complication that can be caused by a bacteria that lives in the worm, called Wolbachia. The dog must be kep very quiet, no running at all while it is being treated. As the worms die they can block the blood vessels to the lungs and cause very serious lung disease and even death.
On day 60, the medication that kills the adult worms, called melarsomine is injected into the dog’s back muscle. Prednisone is started again to protect the lungs. The next month, two shots of melarsomine are given a day apart. Prednisone is started again. The dog must be kept very quiet for 2 months after this last injection to prevent thromboemboli of the dead worms from affecting the lungs. This is a very important part of the treatment as the dog can die from the dead worm breaking off in large pieces in the lungs. During the fourth month, the blood is tested for microfilariae (immature worms). If the immature worms are present, a medication is given. We must wait 6 months before testing for heartworm again to make sure the worms are gone.