Hospice Care at Elgin Veterinary Hospital

Hospice Care at Elgin Veterinary Hospital
By Emily Hoppmann

Age isn’t a disease, but it is true that seniors are more likely to develop diseases than younger pets. Our team places a huge focus on senior pet care and being there for you and your pet as they age. We offer age-appropriate diagnostics so we can better understand the needs of your aging pets, as well as full-service medical and surgical services to help manage these needs. We believe in pet hospice care, designed to give supportive care to pets in the final phase of life and focus on comfort and quality of life, rather than cure. The goal is to enable patients to be comfortable and free of pain so that they may live each day as fully as possible.

The palliative and hospice care for terminal pets allows us to be there to provide support and answer questions every step of the way. No owner wants to see their pet suffer and neither do we. By having this program, it allows us to help preserve the precious family-pet relationship and advocate for pets with terminal conditions. It is a common misconception that when a pet receives a terminal diagnosis all care options have been exhausted. However, in the time between the diagnosis and when it is time to let go, there are a number of things that we can do to relieve clinical signs and keep your pet as comfortable as possible, for as long as possible.

At the core of palliative and hospice care is appropriate, comprehensive, aggressive pain management – ensuring that no patient suffers. We are able to medically assess your pet’s pain level and tailor a medical protocol for each individual patient and use every type of pain management, from environmental adjustments to acupuncture to different types of pain medications, possible. Communication of your wants and needs, and what we can do for you is vital in the success of treating your pet with the best care available.

We want to be there to help you every step of the way and focus on sustaining comfort, relieving pain, and helping you make the difficult decision, when humane and compassionate euthanasia is needed, and what options you have for your pet after his or her passing. Our two- and four-legged family members will always have our open hearts and assistance during this emotionally delicate time, and unwavering support while navigating the end a beloved friend’s life.

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Teaching Your Pet Tricks

Teaching Your Pet Tricks
By Emily Hoppmann, DVM

Would you like for your cat or dog to do more tricks? It’s always fun to have your dog give a high five or play dead  Below are some helpful tips for you to use to have your pet follow your lead in no time!
First, make a clear plan as to what type of behavior you want to see. If the behavior involves multiple steps, it is best to break the behavior down into smaller pieces. This is a technique known as incremental learning or shaping. Let’s say that you want to teach a dog how to bring you a tissue (behavior) when you sneeze (cue). Your steps might be (1) getting the dog to approach the box, (2) getting him to put a tissue in his mouth, (3) getting him to pull the tissue from the box, (4) getting him to deliver the tissue to you and (5) getting him to release the tissue in your hand. This step-by-step plan represents incremental learning or shaping.
Associations must be formed in your pet’s brain so that he understands exactly what it is you want him to do through the use of a marker or click. When your pet does what you want, you must mark that behavior precisely and immediately. The marker tells the animal, “Yes that was exactly what I wanted you to do!” Markers act much like the shutter of a camera, recording in the animal’s brain that split second in time when he is doing something you want him to do. I find it is easiest to use clicker training, which makes the use a clicking noise as the marker. Clickers can be purchased or you can make your own using anything capable of producing a quick and precise clicking noise, such as a pen, the metal cap from a juice or tea bottle, or even your own tongue. Clickers are great markers because each one’s tone remains the same- no matter the energy or mood of the one clicking.
When teaching a dog how to bring you a tissue, you would mark the successful completion of each step. Once he is easily performing a step, withhold the marker until he goes on to successfully complete the next step. Some dogs will learn the entire behavior in just a few 10 minute sessions, while others may need several weeks – every dog is different as far as how fast they pick up on things and how many steps are within one trick also plays a factor. Don’t get discouraged – this is supposed to be fun for you and your pet!
If you are having difficulty getting your pet to perform a specific step, you can lure your pet into position using a treat or toy. You may also encourage your dog to target an object using sound or motion. Try not to lure or target more than once or twice for each step so that your pet has the opportunity to think through what you’re asking.
Reward your pet with small pieces of his favorite treat after every click – plain Cheerios work really well because they are low in calorie and easy to dispense. (You want to make sure to reward even the clicks you might make by accident.) The positive feelings about those clicks formed through the use of desired rewards means your pet is likely to work hard to figure out how to get you to click again. You can use treat placement to encourage him to focus on a particular object (or objective) to speed up the process. For example, you might put the treat on the tissue when teaching your dog to retrieve it. Much as with luring and targeting, placing treats in certain spots reduces your pet’s need to think, so try to do it sparingly so it keeps his brain working on learning the command.
Keep clicking/treating for each incremental success until your pet has learned to perform the behavior in its entirety. The next step is to embed your cue now that your pet knows the behavior for which you are looking. Once your cue is added, you may have to go back to clicking/treating each step for a session or two. It may seem odd to teach the behavior first and then add the cue, but when you think about it, that makes a lot more sense than using a cue when your pet has no way of understanding its meaning. Cues can be words, gestures, or, in the case of the tissue retrieving dog, even sneezes. You can remove your click when your pet clearly recognizes the cue and willingly performs the behavior.
If your pet is struggling at any stage, reduce expectations (perhaps smaller steps or an easier behavior) and increase motivation (lots of praise and a Cheerio). Remember to stop each session on a high note and, most importantly, have fun with your pet while they’re learning.

Adrenal Disease in Ferrets

Adrenal Disease in Ferrets
By Emily Hoppmann, DVM
What is Adrenal Disease?
Adrenal disease or adrenal associated endocrinopathy is one of the most common diseases of middle aged to older ferrets. The disease syndrome is cause by a tumor of the adrenal gland which secretes excessive amounts of estrogen, testosterone, and/or other hormones. This excessive hormone production is the cause for clinical signs, and can lead to life threatening health problems if left unchecked.
What are the signs of adrenal disease?
The disease syndrome is characterized by hair loss beginning at the base of the tail and gradually spreading forward along the shoulders and back. Behavioral changes may also be seen which include aggression, along with increased mounting and marking behavior. Reproductive abnormalities include vaginal discharge and vulvar swelling in female ferrets along with straining to urinate in males. Chronic cases may show increased bruising, muscle wasting, lethargy, and hind end weakness.
How is adrenal disease diagnosed?
In most cases, diagnosis is made by clinical signs. In cases where clinical signs are not conclusive, a hormone panel measuring estrogen and estrogen precursors is available. Ultrasound of the abdomen may also help to diagnose this disease and see which adrenal gland, or if both, are affected.
How do you treat adrenal disease in ferrets?
Treatment of adrenal disease consists of both surgical and medical options. Surgical removal of the affected adrenal gland is the most permanent fix. Most cases have only one adrenal gland affected and necessitate removal of the affected gland. In some cases, both adrenal glands are affected and may need to be removed. Depending on which adrenal gland is affected, sometimes surgery is not an option due to the location of the right adrenal gland to the main vessels in the abdomen.
There are several different options for medical therapy. Treatment consists of drug therapy which blocks production of both estrogen and testosterone. Some injections must be administered every 30 days and there are also implants that can be placed and replaced when they are no longer helping control the clinical signs. In general, medical therapy helps with hair re-growth and decrease in lethargy, but does not limit tumor growth and the potential for metastasis to other organs.
What should I expect with surgical management?
In most cases, removal of the tumor usually results in hair re-growth and cessation of clinical signs within 2-6 weeks. Absence of clinical signs for 6 months to 1 year is the average due to tumor re-growth or the other adrenal gland becoming affected. Due to its proximity to major blood vessels, the right adrenal gland cannot be removed completely and the tumor may reoccur.

11 Myths about Feline Heartworm Disease

11 Myths about Feline Heartworm Disease
By Emily Hoppmann, DVM

Myth #1: Cats won’t develop heartworm disease because of a strong immune response.
Prevalence rates in cats are only up to 20% of that of canine rates in the same region. The national prevalence rate in cats is 16% based on studies measuring positive antibodies to heartworms. Plus, these rates are likely grossly underestimated because antibodies may subside over time.
Myth #2: Indoor cats aren’t susceptible to heartworm disease.
In the United States, 27% of cats infected with heartworms are indoor-only cats. Mosquitoes may enter the home through screen doors and open windows.
Myth #3: Cats with heartworms don’t show clinical signs.
Nearly two-thirds of heartworm-infected cats have signs such as coughing, wheezing, vomiting, difficult or rapid breathing, and weight loss.
Myth #4: A negative heartworm antibody test rules out heartworm disease in cats.
A recent study found that 50% of cats experimentally infected with heartworms had a negative antibody test; 100% of cats had a negative antibody test 18 months after infection.
Myth #5: A negative heartworm antigen test rules out heartworm disease in cats.
A negative test result may occur because of a prepatent infection with immature worms less than 7 or 8 months after infection, or with male-only infection.
Myth #6: Heartworm disease in cats often causes cardiac disease in cats.
The target organ in cats is the lung, not the heart. Heartworm-associated respiratory disease is the main manifestation of heartworm disease in cats.
Myth #7: An echocardiogram is not a useful test in cats since heartworm disease rarely causes cardiac disease.
Echocardiography (an ultrasound on the heart) is a complementary test to identify adult worms in the proximal pulmonary artery and main pulmonary artery branches, which may be seen in 40% of infected cats. It is also necessary to diagnose caval syndrome, a rare but life-threatening condition that requires immediate extraction of worms from the tricuspid valve.
Myth #8: Treatment of heartworm disease is the same in cats and dogs.
Adulticidal treatment with melarsomine in cats is not recommended because it can lead to rapid worm death and subsequent death of the cat. Instead, heartworm treatment in cats involves the use of corticosteroids to decrease inflammatory response to the heartworms in the lungs, bronchi, and pulmonary arterioles.
Myth #9: Heartworm preventives are only effective against early larval infections.
The different heartworm preventives have a variable retroactive efficacy, or reach-back effect, meaning that if a preventive is delayed for a period of time it still may be able to kill larvae that have matured, if subsequent doses are given consecutively every month.
Myth #10: A heartworm test is necessary before starting heartworm prevention.
Don’t wait. There is no reason not to start a preventive if you have not tested for heartworm disease. Fewer than 20% of infected cats have circulating microfilaria, which exists for only one to two months. We recommend monthly Revolution.
Myth #11: Heartworm disease is a death sentence in cats.
Ten to twenty percent of cats with adult heartworms die. However, even if a cat survives the death of the adult heartworms, chronic pulmonary disease may persist. An Italian study showed that the probability of death was not related to the amount of time a cat lived with the infection after diagnosis or to the presence of clinical signs- even cats that remain asymptomatic for more than three years are still at risk of dying of heartworm disease.

Think Local

By Emily Hoppmann, DVM

Over the past decade, we have seen more changes in the state of our economy, the job market, and the way business is done than ever before. However, these changes are not all necessarily positive changes, but if we come together as a community we can make positive progress locally. America was built on small, family-owned businesses and thinking local by supporting these small businesses is the best way to improve our local economy. By making an effort to do business with smaller, family-owned and operated businesses, it ensures that the hard-earned money we spend stays within our local economy. Not only does having this money stay within our community directly improve the local economy, but it also helps to increase employment opportunities and decrease the number of people being laid-off. By thinking local first and supporting the economy directly surrounding us, we have the power to achieve the positive changes within our community that are so desperately needed.

To give an example of how much difference supporting a local business instead of one of the bigger chain stores can make, we will use “John” who currently owns the local hardware store that has been in his family for years. For years and years, people have always come to this hardware store for supplies, advice, and helpful hints. Not only is the business contributing to our local economy just by being open, but John and his multiple employees are members of our community that are all happily employed. However, one of the large chain companies opened up in the area, offering slightly lower prices than the local hardware store since chains are able to buy in bulk at a discounted rate and smaller businesses can’t. As more and more people started to go to the big box company, John’s business slowed down and eventually he had to close the doors because his small business simply couldn’t compete with the large chain. Despite the fact that John and his employees took enormous pride in their work, always did their best to make sure every customer was taken care of, offered only the best products available and were always there with advice or guidance the hardware store went out of business. When it came down to the bottom line, John’s cost to buy and carry the same products found in larger stores was at least double since there are no price breaks for small businesses and his payroll was much higher because he wanted to employee as many knowledgeable, caring people as it took in order to personally assist each customer’s needs (not just give them an aisle number) and offer sound advice. John could not image sacrificing the quality of the customer service or the products he carried, so that left the single option of closing his beloved store. The closing of this small business is a loss that will be felt throughout our community because it is rare to find larger businesses where customer satisfaction always comes first and the folks helping you are often friends or neighbors who you trust. It also is a large blow to our local economy due to the loss of revenue from the business, having the money spent at the local store no longer being pumped back into our community, and the unemployment rising even more with those loyal employees no longer having a place to work.

As more and more large chain stores open and one small business after another has to close its doors, our economy is not going to improve. Not only does being locally owned and operated make all the difference in the world when it comes to quality and customer service, but supporting these businesses is the best answer for improving our local economy. I have had the pleasure of meeting a number of small business owners who I want to show my support for, so I will be featuring different businesses that have the same honest, respectful, and quality performance that I expect. I want to say thank you to these companies and tell the world about them, so I will be featuring all types of other small businesses in my future blogs. Until next time, think local!