Kidney disease refers to the inability of the kidneys to work properly. Kidneys perform several key functions in the body, the most important of which is filtering waste products from the blood. Kidneys also maintain the balance of electrolyte levels in the body (such as sodium, potassium, and chloride), maintain blood pressure, and produce urine. Damage to the kidneys can result in the buildup of waste products to dangerous levels in the blood, also known as azotemia.
There are two main types of kidney disease – acute kidney injury (AKI) and chronic kidney disease (CKD). CKD develops slowly over time and can damage the kidneys to the point where they are unable to function properly. CKD was previously termed chronic renal failure (CRF). Unlike acute kidney injury, CKD does not disappear with treatment. CKD affects up to 10% of elderly dogs, while all cats are at risk of developing the disease. Unfortunately, it can take months or even years before a pet with CKD show signs of the disease. In addition, pets that have been diagnosed with AKI are at risk of developing permanent damage to their kidneys which can lead to CKD.
Pyometra is a serious bacterial infection of the uterus that occurs most often in older, intact (unspayed) female dogs and cats. The most common bacterium identified in pyometra is E. coli, which typically originates in the feces and ascends through the vagina into the uterus. The infection tends to occur about a month after the dog or cat has been in heat. If unrecognized and untreated, pyometra can lead to a systemic infection or blood poisoning.
Pyometra is often described as being “open” or “closed.” With “open” pyometra, the cervix (the part of the uterus that connects with the vagina) is open, allowing the fluid that forms in the uterus due to the infection to drain out of the body through the vagina.
With “closed” pyometra, where the cervix is closed, the fluid in the uterus cannot drain through the vagina. Instead, it builds up, stretching the uterine walls and potentially causing the the uterus to rupture. If this occurs, the infection may spread throughout the abdomen leading to shock and, potentially, death.
X-ray showing pyometra in a dog
X-ray showing pyometra in a cat
More than 4.5 million people in the U.S. are bitten by dogs each year. Nearly 1 in 5 of those bitten will require medical attention, with children being the most common victims. Any dog, no matter the breed, size, age, or sex, can bite. In fact, it’s very common for young children to be bitten by a dog that they are familiar with. The good news, however, is that most dog bites are preventable.
Feline upper respiratory infections (URIs) are similar to the common cold in humans as they include signs such as sinus congestion, sneezing, fever, and runny eyes, but may be caused by several different viruses and bacteria. The two most common causes of a feline URI are feline herpesvirus type 1 (FHV-1) and feline calicivirus (FCV). While it can be difficult to distinguish between the two viruses in an infected cat, FHV-1 causes cats to be quite ill and tends to cause inflammation and ulceration of the eyes and nose. FCV tends to affect the mouth and lungs and is more commonly associated with mouth sores.
When a cat becomes infected with FHV-1 or FCV, they are also susceptible to infection with other bacteria such as Staph and Strep. Aside from viral infections, feline URIs can have bacterial causes as well, the most common of which include Chlamydia, Mycoplasma, and Bordetella. Bordetella is an organism implicated in canine kennel cough.
Feline URIs spread through close contact with an infected cat. Environmental contamination by secretions from the nose, eyes, or mouth become important modes of transmission in crowded environments such as shelters and catteries, especially with FCV. Cats recovering from such an infection can also shed the virus for months afterwards. Feline URIs are incredibly common – they are the leading disease concern in shelters with incidence rates as high as 30%. Cats infected with FHV-1 in particular, like all herpes viruses, will carry the disease for life. The virus will lay dormant until triggered by stress, causing a flare up.
Canine distemper, sometimes referred to as hardpad disease, is a highly contagious and potentially lethal disease caused by a virus (canine distemper virus, or CDV) that attacks multiple systems within the body, including the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems. This widespread infection throughout the body can make treatment difficult, which can be further complicated by subsequent bacterial infections as a result of the dog’s weakened immune system. Some dogs which appear to recover from canine distemper can develop neurologic signs months to years after initial infection. Young puppies develop CDV brain inflammation quite soon after infection. If CDV persists in the brain after the infection is cleared elsewhere in the body, progressive inflammation occurs in the brain and results in neurologic abnormalities. This syndrome is called old dog encephalitis and the damage to the nervous system is permanent.
Dogs are not the only species that can contract distemper – wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, foxes, wolves, coyotes, mink, ferrets, and some wild felids such as cheetahs, lions, and jaguars are all possible hosts to the virus. While humans are not at risk for contracting this disease, the canine distemper virus is closely related to the virus that causes measles in humans. CDV spreads through air droplets which are expelled when an animal sneezes or coughs. Dogs become infected either through direct contact with an infected animal or through airborne exposure. Mother dogs with the virus can also pass it along through the placenta to their puppies. Dogs with canine distemper can shed the virus for weeks to months after infection.