Nuclear Sclerosis vs Cataracts

There are a couple medical conditions that can lead to cloudy eyes in a dog, including nuclear sclerosis and cataracts.

Nuclear sclerosis is a benign condition occurring in senior dogs due to their lens fibers becoming denser and scattering light. Typically, the eye will appear only mildly hazy or bluish, and this condition does not affect vision. It occurs in all older dogs and usually, no treatment is needed.

On the contrary, a cataract develops as proteins accumulate within the lens of the eye due to a disease or genetics. This is a progressive condition, which means it worsens over time. A cataract starts out incomplete (the cloudiness only covers a portion of the lens) then progresses to cover the entire lens. In a mature cataract, the lens appears opaque or white in color. One or both eyes may be affected. Cataracts ultimately result in blindness and can be particularly painful.

Dogs that are genetically predisposed to cataracts tend to develop them at younger ages. However, dogs who have diabetes develop cataracts due to dysregulation of glucose, which can occur at any age. Once mature cataracts develop, there is no treatment aside from surgery. However, anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed by your veterinarian to help manage pain and inflammation.

If an eye condition is suspected, your veterinarian can perform a thorough exam and discuss appropriate next steps for your pet.

Inappropriate Urination in Cats

It can be frustrating for pet parents to deal with their cat peeing outside of the litter box without knowing why it is happening. There may be an underlying behavioral or medical problem, and a visit to your veterinarian can help distinguish the two. Sometimes, treatment is implemented and the issue resolves, but other times it can take some time and patience to determine the underlying issue.

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)

FLUTD is a term describing all of the urinary issues that can be attributed to a medical cause. Urinary tract infections, bladder stones, bladder inflammation, or urethral obstruction can all result in urinary issues. Cats may be urinating more frequently, passing blood in the urine, or straining to urinate. They may even cry out when urinating or fail to pass urine at all! Veterinary care is warranted in any of these situations.

Your veterinarian will do a thorough physical exam, will collect a urine sample, and may perform imaging, such as an x-ray or ultrasound. If these tests show that bacteria and inflammation are present within the bladder, appropriate medications can be prescribed. If the urinary tract infection is not resolving, it may be necessary to collect a sterile sample to better target antibiotic therapy. If bladder stones are seen, surgery may be necessary to remove them. Obstructions may be relieved by passing a urinary catheter or in severe cases, surgery may also be necessary. Cats with obstructions may need to be hospitalized for several days.

Once the underlying cause has been addressed and resolved, your veterinarian may discuss starting a new diet and reducing stress in the environment for long-term management.

Stress-Related Behaviors

Once all possible medical reasons have been ruled out, behavioral modification may be necessary. Cats can become easily stressed or anxious especially in multi-cat households where there may be conflict present. Altering the environment through renovations or addition of a new baby can also cause stress to your cat, which can manifest as inappropriate urination. A few strategies can be helpful to try to eliminate these behaviors.

Providing vertical space, such as with shelving or cat trees is also helpful to keep cats active and engaged. Adding another litterbox to the home and cleaning it daily can help.

Inappropriate urination can be frustrating for pet parents. The first step in getting to the bottom of this behavior is to see your veterinarian who will be happy to discuss possible causes and treatment options.


Summer is upon us, and that means more pets are arriving to the animal hospital with allergies and corresponding clinical signs.  Oftentimes, their itchy skin and hair loss is related to fleas. These small parasites are frequently found outdoors and can jump on a dog while he or she is sunbathing, taking a walk, or playing ball. An allergic reaction to the saliva can occur in sensitive dogs when a flea bites, leading to intense itching, hair loss, and inflamed skin. This can be incredibly uncomfortable!

If your dog is experiencing itchy skin or losing hair, it is best to see a veterinarian for a thorough physical exam. A flea comb can be used to identify any live fleas or flea dirt (feces of fleas). The most common distribution of hair loss and inflamed skin secondary to flea allergies is on the rear end near the tail base and down the hind legs.  Absence of fleas or flea dirt does not necessarily rule out flea allergy dermatitis. When a dog goes outside, a flea can still jump on, bite, and trigger a reaction.

Flea prevention is essential year-round to prevent infestations and these secondary signs. Once present, fleas can be difficult to treat due to their extended life cycle. Schedule a visit with your pet’s veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns about fleas or preventative options.

Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs

Environmental allergies are seasonal and occur most commonly in the spring and summer when there is an abundance of pollen and other allergens. This condition is medically referred to as atopic dermatitis.  

First, it is important to differentiate atopic dermatitis from food or flea allergies. To learn more about these other allergies, you may read my previous blog post. Atopic dermatitis usually affects a dog’s belly, paws, muzzle, or ears. Dogs suffering from this condition are usually brought to the animal hospital because they have started to itch, lose hair, or chew their paws. Additional complaints may include watery eyes, sneezing episodes, or malodorous skin. Common environmental allergens are pollen, dust, molds, hay, and grass, among others.

There are specific tests available through a veterinarian to pinpoint the exact allergens a dog is sensitive to. One test is serological and consists of submitting a blood sample to detect antibodies against more than a dozen potential allergens. Intradermal skin testing is also an option, which consists of injecting a small volume of allergen within the skin and assessing whether any swelling or redness results.

Many treatment options are available to provide relief from allergies. In dogs that are only mildly affected, antihistamines or medicated shampoos may be effective. These medications reduce the histamine response that occurs from allergies but must be administered frequently to maintain their effect. Medicated shampoos can have anti-inflammatory, anti-pruritic, and antimicrobial properties. Often, they are used in combination with another therapy. Check with your veterinarian to determine the right course of treatment for your pet’s condition.

Steroid injections can provide immediate relief from itchy skin and inflammation. The relief is usually short-lived and lasts about two weeks. They can be useful in providing short-term relief while your veterinarian determines a long-term treatment strategy.

Two medications–Apoquel and Cytopoint— have been specifically formulated to combat allergies. Cytopoint is a subcutaneous injection that starts working within 24 hours and lasts 4-8 weeks. It works to block the itch. Apoquel is an oral medication that begins working within 4 hours. Monitoring bloodwork with long-term use of Apoquel is generally recommended.

In severely affected dogs, immunotherapy injections may be necessary. This therapy consists of a series of subcutaneous injections that each contain increased doses of the allergen. Injections are continued until an adequate dose is given to provide immunotolerance. This means your dog’s immune system will no longer react to the allergen causing issues. The goal of this therapy is similar to that of vaccines, which primes the immune system against certain diseases.

The prognosis for dogs affected by allergies is good, but it can require lifelong treatment to reduce clinical signs and ensure a good quality of life.

Ear Infections in Dogs

One of the most common reasons for a dog’s visit to the veterinary hospital is ear issues. Pet parents notice their dogs will not stop scratching their ears or that there is a foul smell permeating from them. So what exactly does this mean? Dogs, especially those with floppy ears, commonly get ear infections that cause pain and irritation. If your dog won’t stop scratching, a visit to the veterinarian is warranted.

Your veterinarian will perform a thorough ear examination using an otoscope. This device is used to look deep down into the ear to visualize the ear drum and the internal ear canal. A dog’s ear canal is “L-shaped,” which means that when you flip your dog’s ear up and see the canal, you are only seeing half of it. Debris can get stuck deep down in the internal ear canal which can provide the perfect dark, moist environment for bacteria to harbor and cause infection.

After examination, your veterinarian will collect a sample of the ear debris using a cotton swab. Then, that sample will be pressed onto a glass slide, stained, and examined under a microscope. Yeast and bacteria can be identified and quantified using this method. There should be rare to no bacteria and yeast present within your dog’s ears normally. If there is an abnormal amount of these organisms present in the sample, your veterinarian can discuss treatment options.

Treatment consists of topical antimicrobial medications instilled within the ear. Ear cleaners are often provided to use at home to remove excess debris as well. Typically treatment is generally needed for 7-10 days followed by a recheck to ensure the infection has fully resolved before medication is discontinued.

Uncomplicated ear infections are usually treatable, but if the infection becomes persistent, it can penetrate the inner ear and cause complications. If you suspect your dog may have an ear infection, consult with your veterinarian.

Understanding Canine Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism in dogs occurs when there are decreased levels of thyroid hormones present within the body. It is common in middle-aged to older dogs. These hormones are important for maintaining heart rate, a healthy hair coat, energy levels, ideal body condition, and normal body temperature.  

What causes it?

The pituitary gland secretes thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) which stimulates the thyroid gland to produce T3 and T4 (thyroid hormones). When there is a problem along this pathway, low levels of thyroid hormone can occur. The most common cause of hypothyroidism is lymphocytic thyroiditis, which means that the immune system is attacking the thyroid gland and causing inflammation and destruction. Atrophy of the thyroid gland may also occur as dogs age. A tumor within the pituitary gland that prevents TSH from being produced is another possible cause, but it is much less common than primary thyroid disease.

What are the clinical signs?

Since thyroid hormones are important for metabolism, dogs typically experience weight gain despite a normal diet. Hypothyroid dogs will often have fat accumulating along their hind ends, shoulders, or neck regions. Low heart rate, lethargy, and abnormal hair coat (shedding, hairless areas, dandruff, thickened skin) are often found. Hypothyroid dogs also cannot regulate their body temperature as efficiently and are often heat-seekers.

How is it diagnosed?

Often, this disease is detected through annual wellness bloodwork when T4 levels are checked. If results indicate a low T4, hypothyroidism should be considered. However, many non-thyroidal illnesses can cause low T4 levels so it is important to decipher these based on clinical signs and additional testing. In dogs where hypothyroidism is suspected due to a low T4, a comprehensive thyroid panel can be submitted. High cholesterol and high triglyceride levels are often found on bloodwork as well.

What is the treatment?

Treatment consists of supplementation of thyroxine (T4). This is a relatively inexpensive medication that is given orally every day. Hypothyroid dogs must be regularly monitored while receiving this medication to ensure the dosing is appropriate to maintain normal thyroid hormone levels. Consult your veterinarian for treatment options.

What is the prognosis?

As long as regular monitoring is performed via bloodwork and veterinary visits, the prognosis is generally good for dogs receiving supplementation.

Cat Vaccines

We will discuss three of the most common vaccines given to cats. Two of these are considered core vaccines, and the other one is specifically for at-risk cats.

Core Vaccines

The rabies vaccine is given to kittens between 12-16 weeks of age. The first vaccine is good for one year, and each booster is good for either one or three years thereafter depending on the label and state laws. This disease is transmitted through the saliva of an affected animal and results in severe neurological disease leading to death.

This vaccine protects against three diseases, which include Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (herpes), Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia (feline distemper). The first dose is given between 6-9 weeks of age followed by boosters every 3 weeks until 16 weeks of age. It is boostered again at one year and then every 3 years thereafter. Feline herpes and calicivirus both cause upper respiratory disease and eye or oral lesions. Feline panleukopenia is a severe, but uncommon disease in cats today. It causes gastrointestinal and neurological diseases.

Non-Core Vaccines

The FeLV vaccine is the most common non-core vaccine for cats. It can be given to kittens or adults, but it should be boostered 3 weeks after for the best protection. It is only given to at-risk cats.

Consult your veterinarian with any questions or concerns related to vaccines for your cat!

Dog Vaccines

Vaccines are administered to prevent specific diseases throughout a dog’s life. Core and non-core vaccines are important to ensure pets stay protected and healthy!

Core Vaccines

Rabies is a zoonotic viral disease that is transmitted through the bite of infected dogs. It causes severe neurological dysfunction and death. It is important that dogs stay up to date on this vaccine to protect both animal and public health. The rabies vaccine is given to puppies between 12-16 weeks of age. The first vaccine is good for one year.  Every booster after that is good for 1-3 years depending on state laws and vaccine labels.

Distemper (DAPP)
Canine distemper is also a viral disease that causes gastrointestinal, neurological, and respiratory signs. It is spread through bodily fluids, and young, unvaccinated puppies are most susceptible. The distemper vaccine is given between 6-9 weeks of age and boostered every 3 weeks until a dog is 16 weeks of age. It is repeated at regular intervals because maternal antibodies are still present in young puppies and can interfere with their immune responses to vaccines. By 16 weeks of age, all the maternal antibodies should have disappeared, and your puppy should have mounted a sufficient immune response to be protected. The distemper vaccine is administered again at one year of age and then every 3 years.

Non-Core Vaccines

Bordetella is a type of bacterium that can cause infectious tracheobronchitis (kennel cough) in dogs that come in contact with each other, such as during grooming, daycare, or boarding. As the name describes, this disease results in upper respiratory signs. The first dose is given intranasally for a localized immune response, and boosters are given either intranasally or subcutaneously thereafter. Boosters are done every 6 months-1 year depending on your dog’s exposure level and your veterinarian’s preference.

Leptospirosis is a type of spirochete bacterium that is transmitted through contact with infected wildlife urine. It is zoonotic and most commonly causes kidney and liver disease. This vaccine can be combined with the distemper vaccine or given individually. It is boostered 3-4 weeks after the initial dose and then yearly in at-risk dogs.

Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium known as Borrelia burgdorferi. It is transmitted by tick bites and causes kidney and joint disease. This vaccine is administered at 12 weeks of age with a booster 3-4 weeks later. It is then given yearly to at-risk dogs.

Influenza causes upper respiratory signs similar to what we see in people. It is highly contagious among dogs coming in close contact with one another. The vaccine can be administered as early as 8 weeks of age and then is boostered 3-4 weeks later.

You should consult your veterinarian to determine the recommended vaccines and schedule for your unique dog! Vaccine schedules may differ depending upon the age of the patient and vaccine history.

What is the SNAP Combo Test for Cats?

A SNAP combo test checks for Feline Leukemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, which are both lifelong diseases that cause immunosuppression. They are not overly common, but it is best to diagnose these diseases early on since they are contagious and can spread to other cats in the household.


Feline Leukemia Virus is considered a “friendly cat” disease because it is most commonly transmitted through saliva when cats are grooming each other or drinking out of the same bowl. It can also be spread through bodily fluids, such as urine, or from the mother during nursing. It is most common in younger cats but can occur in any age. This virus infects the bone marrow resulting in immunosuppression and anemia. Cats infected have a higher risk of developing lymphoma and leukemia.


Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is highly contagious and is known as the “mean cat” disease since it is spread most commonly through bites. This disease is most prevalent in young, outdoor male cats. It also causes immunosuppression and predisposes those affected to secondary infections.

There are no effective treatment options for either virus, but supportive care and maintenance of good health can help improve a cat’s quality of life. Both diseases progressively worsen over time. Most FeLV-infected cats succumb to the disease within 2-3 years; however, some cats live much longer with supportive care. The prognosis for FIV-infected cats is much more guarded, and usually cats succumb to the disease just months after diagnosis. These are just general time frames, and each cat is unique, however.

Cats that are infected should be kept separate from other cats within the household. Your veterinarian may recommend repeating this combo test yearly or as needed for at-risk cats.

Coughing in Pets

Coughing can be caused from a variety of medical conditions. We will discuss the most common reasons why a cough can develop in dogs and cats.

Heart Disease

Let’s first discuss heart disease, which can be congenital or acquired. Hearing a heart murmur can provide the first clue that heart disease is present. Murmurs occur when there are valvular abnormalities within the heart. Over time, the heart can become progressively damaged and lead to congestive heart failure. If the left side of the heart is affected, fluid may back up into the lungs and produce a wet or productive cough.

Heartworm Disease

Dogs and cats that have contracted heartworm disease may also develop a cough. This can be due to an anaphylactic reaction to heartworm microfilaria or progressive damage to the pulmonary artery and right atrium, where heartworms become lodged.

Lung disease

Parasites and inflammation are a few lung issues that can occur. Coughing may worsen during spring and summer when environmental allergens cause inflammation within the bronchioles (bronchitis). In cats, asthma is fairly common and results in difficulty breathing and a non-productive cough likely secondary to environmental allergens as well. In addition, primary lung tumors or metastatic disease can reduce lung capacity and lead to breathing abnormalities and coughing that may expel blood.


Dogs and cats can contract bacterial, fungal, or viral infections that may lead to upper respiratory signs. Pneumonia results in lung consolidation and a productive cough, whereas many viruses result in a dry cough. Unvaccinated dogs are at risk for contracting kennel cough or distemper by coming in contact with a virus and/or bacteria. Cats may also develop upper respiratory tract infections due to underlying viral or bacterial disease.

Upper Respiratory Disease

Older, large breed dogs can develop laryngeal paralysis, which is a nerve defect that causes the larynx to become partially closed. This results in noisy breathing and a dry cough. In contrast, small breed dogs are predisposed to tracheal collapse where the cartilage within their tracheas weakens and the lumen becomes smaller. A “honking” cough is characteristic of this disease and can often be elicited upon tracheal stimulation.

Your veterinarian can perform diagnostics, such as bloodwork and chest radiographs (x-rays) to determine the underlying cause of a cough and formulate an appropriate treatment plan for your pet.