Fireworks and Thunderstorm fears or anxiety

July 1st, 2018 by carlson
fireworks and fright

They light up the sky, but can frighten pets.

Get ready…firework and thunderstorm season is upon us! For many pet owners, this can be a trying time. The loud booms of fireworks and thunder leave many pets distraught. So what’s a pet owner to do?

How do I know if my pet has storm or firework anxiety?

Thunderstorm and firework anxiety is a type of noise phobia. Pets with noise phobias have an irrational fear of certain types of noises, often loud unpredictable sounds like thunder and fireworks. Animals can manifest this fear in many ways, but the most common behaviors that signal firework or thunderstorm anxiety in cats and dogs are pacing, trembling, hiding, panting, destructive behavior, drooling, dilated pupils, racing heart rate and sometimes urinary or fecal accidents.

What can you do to help?

Watching your pet suffer during storms and fireworks can be agonizing, but luckily there are things you can do to help. Treatment usually involves behavioral therapy, but in some cases pharmaceutical intervention is necessary.

Safety First

pet id tags

Up-to-date identification tags

First things first, make sure your pet has up to date ID tags and is microchipped.

During times of intense fear, some pets will escape from their owners or homes in an attempt to hide and find safety. If your pet has appropriate identification, it will make it that much easier to find him/her if you are separated. If your pet is microchipped, please ensure that your contact information is up to date. If your pet is not microchipped, please contact us to discuss microchipping.

keep pets safe during fireworks

Provide a comfortable and safe space during fireworks or thunderstorms.

Provide a safe and comfortable place for your pet to wait out the storm or firework event. For some pets this may be their crate or bed.

pet's bed or crate as a safe space

Pet bed or crate as a safe space during thunder or fireworks

Most pets prefer a room with few windows, comfortable bedding and toys or treats. You may consider trying to muffle the frightening noise with calming music or turning up the volume on the television.

Counter Conditioning, Distraction and Desensitization

Use counter conditioning techniques. Counter conditioning is a technique that pairs a negative trigger with a positive reward. During thunderstorms or fireworks, offer your pet treats and praise to encourage them to view the event in a more positive light.

You can use distraction techniques like running through training commands that your pet knows and offer treat rewards after every successfully completed behavior. Playing a game or introducing fun toys or a treat filled toy can also help distract them and reduce anxiety.

Fireworks and fear

Beautiful, but they can be anxiety producing for pets.

Desensitization can also help. Playing thunderstorm/firework sounds on an electronic device on fair weather days can allow your pet to get used to the loud noise. Over time they can become desensitized to a noise that used to induce anxiety.

Pharmaceutical Intervention

If all of the above do not seem to help with your pet’s thunderstorm/firework anxiety, your pet may require additional intervention. Natural remedies like neutraceuticals, phermone diffusers and thundershirts may help with milder cases of noise phobias. More severe cases may require prescription anxiolytics. Please call us to set up an appointment to discuss these options in more detail.

It is our pleasure to serve you and your pets. Please do not hesitate to call our offices if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your veterinary healthcare team.


Why do dogs eat grass?

June 18th, 2018 by carlson
grass good for dogs

Why does my dog eat grass?

Why do dogs eat grass? 

Grass certainly doesn’t seem like a delicacy.  In fact, it tastes downright terrible. (Who hasn’t tried grass sometime when they were a kid?).  So why do dogs tear into it with such passion?  Not much is known about why dogs eat grass, but studies indicate that it is a common and normal behavior of most domestic dogs.

It is estimated that 79% of dogs engage in plant eating behaviors, with grass being the most frequently eaten plant.  Of those grass eating dogs, 86% eat grass on a daily or weekly basis (Cliff et al. 2008).  Grass eating is observed in both wolves and dogs, suggesting that the behavior was preserved through domestication and is innate (Price et al. 2009).

dogs eating grass and vomiting

Is grass a snack food for dogs?

What drives grass eating?

No one knows for sure why dogs eat grass.  One study showed that grass eating is influenced by satiety and time of day.  Dogs are more likely to eat grass if they are hungry (Price et al. 2007).  So, perhaps dogs are just eating grass because it is a tasty snack?

dog intestines

Dog’s digestive system

There are many theories circulating that grass eating in dogs is tied to digestion.  It has been postulated that dogs eat grass to cause themselves to vomit when they are feeling unwell.  This may be advantageous if they had eaten something that was causing gastrointestinal distress.  This type of grass eating is thought to be different from “normal” grass eating in dogs.  While healthy dogs tend to contentedly graze on grass, dogs with associated gastrointestinal ailments are speculated to gulp down grass quickly and without chewing.  The theory is that this will tickle the throat and cause vomiting, thus voiding the stomach of contents that may be causing discomfort (Hill’s Pet Care Center).

While there is not a lot of current research to support a theory of gastrointestinal distress associated  grass eating, it is certainly still plausible.  Of all grass eating dogs, 9% were reported to frequently appear ill before eating plants and 22% were reported to frequently vomit afterward (Cliff et al. 2008).

When should I be worried about grass eating?

While most grass eating in dogs is benign, there are some instances of grass eating that raise concern.

toxins in grass

If your dog’s grass eating has increased in frequency or is associated with signs of vomiting, diarrhea or inappetence, please contact us to set up an appointment.  Please beware that some herbicides or pesticides found on grass may be toxic.  Additionally, if your dog eats other types of plants, there is a risk that those plants may be toxic.  If you do not know if a plant or herbicide/pesticide is toxic, please contact us or call ASPCA Animal Poison Control for more information.

It is our pleasure to serve you and your pets. Please do not hesitate to call our offices if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your veterinary healthcare team.


Heartworm Awareness

May 18th, 2018 by carlson

April is the official Heartworm Awareness Month, but whenever the temperature is above freezing it is Heartworm Awareness Month. 

mosquitoes can be present in warmer weather

It feels like it is warm enough for a nice walk.

At long last the winter chill is starting to abate! But with the coming of warmer weather, comes greater concern for transmission of heartworm disease to our pets.

Although heartworm disease is a concern year round, April is Heartworm Awareness month. We have discussed heartworm disease before (Carlson blog – heartworm prevention),  but we wanted to once again draw attention to this very concerning, yet very preventable disease.

How do our pets become infected with heartworm disease?

Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitoes.

mosquitoes infect our pets with heartworm

Mosquitoes are the carriers of heartworm.

Adult female heartworms living in an infected dog, fox, coyote, or wolf produce microscopic baby worms called microfilaria that circulate in the bloodstream. When a mosquito bites and takes a blood meal from an infected animal, it picks up these baby worms, which develop and mature into “infective stage” larvae over a period of 10 to 14 days.

When the infected mosquito bites another dog, cat, or susceptible wild animal, the infective larvae are deposited onto the surface of the animal’s skin and enter the new host through the mosquito’s bite wound. Once inside a new host, it takes approximately 6 months for the larvae to mature into adult worms that live in the heart. Once mature, heartworms can live for 5 to 7 years in dogs and up to 2 or 3 years in cats. Because of the longevity of these worms, each mosquito season can lead to an increasing number of worms in an infected pet. – (American Heartworm Society )


effective treatment for preventing heartworm

Heartgard tablets once a month for prevention.

How can you prevent Heartworm disease?

Heartworm disease is easily prevented by giving one Heartgard tablet once monthly, year round. (This also prevents/treats some intestinal parasites).

blood test for heartworm

Annual blood test

The American Heartworm Society advises annual blood testing for heartworm disease followed by continual monthly heartworm prevention. 

Why should you purchase your medication through us?

If your pet should develop heartworm disease while taking preventive purchased at our hospital, Boehringer Ingelheim, our medical supplier, will cover all costs for the treatment for heartworm disease. Treatment includes injections, oral medication, and sometimes hospitalization. Treatment cost can range from $400 to over $1,500 depending on size of your pet and severity.

You will have the assurance that your product has been stored appropriately and is authentic.

Why do you need to treat your dog for 12 months?

The American Heartworm Society recommends protection every month regardless of where you live. Owners are mobile and travel with pets to warmer climates thus increasing the chance of infection. 

mosquitoes can infect pets year round

Chicagoland temperatures from November – February can rise to above 50 degrees

Although mosquitoes shut down at temperatures below 50 degrees, based on the calendar to your right you can see that we consistently have temperatures allowing for mosquitoes to be present in the Chicago area every month November – February.

Why is heartworm becoming more prevalent?

We are treating more cases of heartworm disease in Oak Park because many pet owners are not treating their pets with preventative year round or not at all. Our shelters are housing animals coming from warmer climate states where natural disasters have occurred. These states have a higher prevalence of heartworm disease. When these heartworm positive animals are brought to the Chicago area, the risk of transmission to our local pet population increases. This has greatly impacted the number of cases we are seeing in our area.

It is our pleasure to serve you and your pets. Please do not hesitate to call our offices if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your veterinary healthcare team. 


Can I catch a cold from my cat?

February 7th, 2018 by carlson

Can a cat get a cold?

To make a long answer short: technically yes, but it is very rare.

If you and your cat have an upper respiratory infection (URI or in layman’s terms “cold”) around the same time, it is likely coincidental.


There are some environmental factors that can make it more likely for you and your cat to develop URI symptoms around the same time.  For instance, stress or cold weather can suppress the immune system and make it more likely for an individual (cat or person) to develop a URI. However, the causative agent (i.e. virus, bacterium, etc.) will almost invariably be different between you and your cat.


Cats can carry diseases that infect people.  These are termed zoonotic diseases.

It is very rare for these zoonotic diseases to cause upper respiratory symptoms in people.  Most zoonotic diseases that cats carry are transmitted to people through biting, scratching or contact with stool.  Some of these diseases can be serious, so it is important to bring your cat in for annual health evaluations and vaccinations to keep both you and your cat healthy.  For a more comprehensive list of zoonotic feline diseases and their transmission click here( fhc/Health_Information/ brochure_zoonoticdisease.cfm).   If you are experiencing any abnormal or concerning symptoms, please contact your human physician.

To address the very rare circumstances in which humans can contract a URI from their cat, let’s revisit last year’s blog post:

“While most URI viral agents are highly contagious only among feline species, there are some agents that can affect dogs and even some that are considered zoonotic(infectious to people). Bordetella bronchiseptica, for instance, can be transmitted between dogs and cats, and very rarely humans.

The influenza virus, notorious for crossing species lines, has many strains.  An avian strain, the H7N2 influenza virus, has recently begun infecting shelter cats in New York City, and was even determined to have caused illness in a veterinarian as well…Additionally, the feline chlamydial agent has been reported to cause human conjunctivitis.”

Once again, these instances of cat to human upper respiratory disease transmission are very rare.  To date, there is no evidence of a highly contagious virus that can cross between humans and cats and cause upper respiratory symptoms in both species.  However, viruses frequently mutate, and there may be a day when such a virus exists.

If you have concerns about any symptoms your cat is displaying please contact us to set up an appointment.


It is our pleasure to serve you and your pets. Please do not hesitate to call our offices if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your veterinary healthcare team.

Canine Influenza outbreak caused by a new strain of virus H3N2 from Asia

August 27th, 2017 by carlson

Midwest Canine Influenza outbreak caused by new strain of virus

April 12, 2015 By Joe Schwartz

ITHACA, N.Y. – The canine influenza outbreak afflicting more than 1,000 dogs in Chicago and other parts of the Midwest is caused by a different strain of the virus than was earlier assumed, according to laboratory scientists at Cornell University and the University of Wisconsin. Researchers at Cornell say results from additional testing indicate that the outbreak is being caused by a virus closely related to Asian strains of influenza A H3N2 viruses, currently in wide circulation in southern Chinese and South Korean dog populations since being identified in 2006. There is no evidence that it can be transmitted to humans.

The outbreak in the Midwest had been attributed to the H3N8 strain of virus, which was identified in the U.S. dog population in 2004 and has been circulating since. The H3N2 virus had not been previously detected in North America. The outbreak in Chicago suggests a recent introduction of the H3N2 virus from Asia.

Testing of clinical samples from the outbreak conducted at The New York State Animal Diagnostic Laboratory at Cornell indicated that the virus was Influenza A. Further testing led researchers to believe a new strain was at fault. Subsequent testing, carried out with the assistance of the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, identified the new subtype as H3N2. The National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, IA is sequencing two isolates from this outbreak, which were isolated at Cornell, to facilitate rapid complete characterization of the viruses.

Both Influenza strains can cause high fever, loss of appetite, coughing, nasal discharge, and lethargy. Symptoms may be more severe in cases caused by the H3N2 virus. Some infected dogs may not show symptoms at all.

H3N2 has caused infection and respiratory illness in cats.

Veterinary professionals are advised that diagnostic testing of samples from sick pets can be done using a broadly targeted Influenza A matrix reverse transciptase-polymerase chain reaction assay (Rt-PCR). The canine-specific Influenza A H3N8 Rt-PCR in use in several laboratories will not detect this virus. Serology is also currently not available as the H3N2 virus is different enough from H3N8 that antibodies may not cross react. However, an H3N2-specific serologic assay is under development and will be available soon.

It is not known if the current vaccine will provide any protection from this new virus. It does protect against H3N8, which is in circulation in some areas. Other preventive advice remains the same: In areas where the viruses are active, avoid places where dogs congregate, such as dog parks and grooming salons.

Owners of symptomatic dogs and cats should consult our office.

Senior Pets – Part 3 of 3

August 22nd, 2017 by carlson


Dog patient

One of our very patient patients.

In our three part series of posts on Senior and geriatric pets we focused on:

Part 1: Describing/defining a senior or geriatric pet

Part 2: Important Conditions and Focus Areas for an aging pet



Now in part 3 of our 3 part posts we will focus on Medical Management / Early Detection and Screening

Medical Management / Early Detection and Screening

Cat patient

Dr. Toncray enjoying a patient.

   Although the list of medical conditions can be very long in our older pets, many of them can be managed successfully. We advise our patient’s caregivers to consider a senior health care plan that will target early detection and treatment.

Early detection will allow for prompt, specific care for your pet that will prevent, delay, or temper an illness, extend life span, promote increased quality of life and extend the human-animal bond.  It begins by defining baseline values for your pet as they move into their senior life stage. This will help set the foundation to provide the best preventive and medical care for the years ahead. It continues with frequent evaluation, therapy and monitoring as medical conditions require.


Physical Examinations

Dr. Leslie monitoring the weight of one of our feline patients

   A complete and thorough physical examination will help localize and uncover any problems or suspect areas. Initially annual exams are advised, however, increasing the examination frequency to two times a year as your pet ages will increase the chance of detecting a problem early. We recommend monitoring body weight more frequently, 2-4 times a year. You can come in and use our scale in the waiting area.



Observations and History

    Dialogue between our doctors and pet owners in this life stage is exceptionally valuable.

older dogs eye issues

Dr. Swindell consulting with a client.

Observations and notations of subtle changes in interactions and day-to-day routines can provide important information and direction for early detection of health issues. Education on what signs to watch for and their significance can heighten detection of early changes.


Laboratory and diagnostic testing

Routine diagnostic tests can give additional depth to your pet’s health evaluation

Simple blood test

and can specifically target organ system changes at a significantly earlier time than waiting for abnormal symptoms to present on a physical exam.

These tests may include: complete blood cell counts, serum chemistry panels and a urinalysis. Each pet has a unique set of examination findings and pertinent history which may require more specialized diagnostics that specifically meet their needs.


Dr. Richerson listening to the internal sounds of a patient.


We understand that the senior/geriatric life stage can be more demanding than the younger adult years. However, by approaching their health care preemptively we can minimize those demands and allow our pets to be happy, active and healthy members of our family for years to come.

cardiatric patient

Dr. Carlson and a patient.





It is our pleasure to serve you and your pets. Please do not hesitate to call our offices if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your veterinary healthcare team.

Carlson Animal Hospital, Oak Park, IL 708.383.3606

Senior Pets – part 2 of 3

August 9th, 2017 by carlson

Aging is not a disease

In our first of three posts on Senior Pets, we reported the good news that our pets are living longer and healthier lives. We celebrated our privilege of participating in this change during the 37 years of our practice. We covered the definitions of aging and what this means for our pets.

In this post we address: Important Conditions and  Focus Areas

The conditions below can contribute to illness as well as play a vital role in maintaining optimal quality of life and longevity. All these areas are interconnected physiologically in our senior pets and each pet’s health condition as it ages. We know that because of this each pet requires its own unique treatment plan. Our doctors and staff at CAH can advise and completely review your pet’s needs in order to plan out a specific senior/geriatric health care course with you and your pet.

I. Nutrition and Body Condition

Dietary needs change with age and many common diseases and age-related conditions can benefit from shifts in nutrition as part of prevention and treatment. Overall body condition as well as body weight play critical roles in senior health.

II. Oral/dental health

Dog teeth brushing

Good oral health helps to extend pets’ lives

The mouth, teeth, and gums can be an easy portal of entry for bacteria as well as a source of pain and discomfort if not maintained in the later years of life.




III. Gastrointestinal

The GI tract is highly complex and has many roles in the body. Digestive efficiency and body requirements can shift with age and maintaining optimal health of the entire gastrointestinal system will significantly impact our dog and cats longevity.

Keeping pets flexible

Dr. Swindell examining a patient for orthopedic flexibility.

IV. Orthopedic conditions and mobility

Movement and exercise are essential during the senior years. Addressing health issues such as arthritis and muscle strength will allow your pet to maintain mobility and pain-free movement.

V. Endocrine/ Hormones

One of the most common areas in which our geriatric veterinary patients experience functional changes is in hormone production. Thyroid, adrenal and insulin hormones are the most commonly involved. Fortunately, the majority of these conditions are very responsive to treatment and can be managed successfully. Early detection can make this management less complicated.

VI. Cardiovascular/Renal/Respiratory

Dopper to analyze a pet's heart murmur

Doppler image of blood flow in a pet’s heart.

These organ systems also have numerous changes as they age. Here too, many of these common conditions can be slowed and managed to maximize the working lifetime of these organs. Often times months to years of quality life can be added to our pet’s life expectancy.




VII. Skin

Healthy skin is important for our seniors and coat quality and changes can be early indicators of health changes. Masses and lumps are common at this life stage and should be discussed and evaluated.

VIII. Mental Health/ cognition/ behavior

Our pets do face behavioral and cognitive/neurological changes as they age. These changes can be addressed in a variety of ways, some through nutrition, environmental changes, and medications.

IX. Sensory

nuclear sclerosis

We illuminated Fluffy’s eye to show her mild lenticular sclerosis.

Changes in the major senses especially eyesight and hearing can require adjustments in environment and lifestyle to prevent injury and anxiety.




X. Environmental Conditions

Older pets will usually need changes in their environment and lifestyle to accommodate their health care needs and still provide and promote safe movement and mental stimulation.



XI. Pain Management and Pharmacology

Senior health conditions that might have discomfort or pain associated with them should be targeted and treated either temporarily or long term as the condition requires. All drugs must be used with the most current knowledge of  senior/geriatric metabolism to prevent drug related illness or toxicity.

In the third of our three part series on Senior and geriatric pets our next post will focus on:

In our next post, Part 3 of 3, we will focus on: 

Medical Management / Early Detection and Screening. 

It is our pleasure to serve you and your pets. Please do not hesitate to call our offices if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your veterinary healthcare team.

Carlson Animal Hospital, Oak Park, IL 708.383.3606

Senior pets – Part 1 of 3

July 26th, 2017 by carlson

Senior/ Geriatric Pet Health

We are happy to report that our pets are living much longer healthier lives. We’ve been a part of the great changes in veterinary medicine for these 35+ years and continue to keep up with the pace of the advancements.

No matter the life stage – growth, adult, senior/geriatric – we work hard to help you make the best of each of your pet’s stages. We have particularly focused on the senior/geriatric stages . The medical staff at Carlson Animal Hospital can help provide the most current and advanced medical care to help you and your pet navigate this complex life stage.

The senior/geriatric pet 

The exact definition of a senior or geriatric pet varies. Due to differences in species (feline versus canine), breed, and size, there is not an exact year that defines senior or geriatric. One guideline states that pets are seniors if they are in the last 25% of their predicted lifespan for their species and breed. This is when they are at significantly higher risk for numerous health conditions and disorders. The generally accepted veterinary guidelines are:

1) cats and small to medium size dogs are considered senior/geriatric at age 7 years and older

2) larger breed dogs with naturally shorter life spans are considered senior at age 6.

Often the term senior refers to the earlier part of this life stage and geriatric refers to the latter years. Many cat and dog caregivers like to equate their pet’s age with comparable human years and there are several conversion charts and formulas devised to attempt those comparisons.

In addition to the above table the American Veterinary Medical Association lists the oldest recorded age of a cat at 34 years old.The oldest recorded age of a dog at 29 years old. Recent statistics report that between 33% and 50% of all the dogs and cats in the United States are now 7 years of age or older.


Aging itself is not a disease. There are physiologic changes that occur as the body ages. They involve the gradual and irreversible loss of function of the body’s organ systems as well as any reserve capability they may have.  During the aging process, individual cells and the cell cycles begin to decrease to the point where they stop functioning altogether. Throughout the pet’s lifetime, outside influences/insults from the environment have also been exerting effects on the body systems and its innate genetic programming.

In our next two posts we expand and focus on:

Part 2 of 3: Important Conditions and  Focus Areas

Part 3 of 3: Medical Management / Early Detection and Screening


It is our pleasure to serve you and your pets. Please do not hesitate to call our offices if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your veterinary healthcare team.

Carlson Animal Hospital, Oak Park, IL 708.383.3606







Feline Upper Respiratory Infections

March 25th, 2017 by carlson



Aachoooo!  Uh oh.

First a sneeze, then what next? A runny nose?  Watery eyes? A cough? To you, these are the signs of a cold setting in, but what happens when it is your CAT showing these signs?  Can a cat get a cold? Can it be contagious to you or your other pets?   And what can you do to help them feel better?  All these answers and more as we cover FELINE UPPER RESPIRATORY INFECTIONS in today’s blog.

What is a feline upper respiratory infection (URI)?

A feline URI is an infection of feline species (domestic and exotic) that affects the beginning part of the respiratory tract, including the nasal passages, sinuses, and pharynx (throat).

cat throat

Feline Pharynx – upper respiratory system

Depending on the infectious agent, sometimes the eyes, oral cavity and lower respiratory tract can also be affected.  The infectious agent of a URI is commonly a virus, but can also be a bacterium, and in rare instances even a fungus or parasite.  Some URIs can be a combination of multiple infectious agents.  Common upper respiratory viruses that infect cats are HerpesvirusCalicivirusChlamydophila felis and Influenza.  Some of the more common bacterial causes of feline URIs are Bordetella bronchiseptica and Mycoplasma felis.

How do cats get URIs? Are they contagious?

Feline URIs are highly contagious, with transmission occurring through direct contact with an infectious individual, aerosolized droplets or fomites (objects or materials like clothes or furniture on which infectious agents can survive away from an animal host).  Cats that come from shelter situations, spend time outdoors around other cats or have owners that interact with cats outside the home, are at risk.  Clinical signs can last for a few days in mild cases, but can persist for weeks before resolving in moderate to severe cases.  Some infections can be chronic, entering into a latent (inactive) phase and then re-emerging intermittently throughout life during times of stress.

Can a cat get a cold?

While most URI viral agents are highly contagious only among feline species, there are some agents that can affect dogs and even some that are considered zoonotic (infectious to people). Bordetella bronchiseptica, for instance, can be transmitted between dogs and cats, and very rarely humans.

The influenza virus, notorious for crossing species lines, has many strains.  An avian strain, the H7N2 influenza virus, has recently begun infecting shelter cats in New York City, and was even determined to have caused illness in a veterinarian as well.  Thus, well known feline URI causative agents, as well as newly emerging agents, can pose a threat to our feline friends. Additionally, the feline chlamydial agent has been reported to cause human conjunctivitis.

How do I know if my cat has a URI?

eye infection

Feline conjunctivitis

Clinical signs such as sneezing, conjunctivitis, nasal and ocular discharge, wheezing and general malaise can be an indication that your pet has a URI.  If you are suspicious of a URI, please contact us to set up an appointment.  During your appointment a thorough history and physical examination will allow us to determine an appropriate diagnostic and treatment plan for you and your pet.  We have the ability to test for feline URI causative agents, enabling us to develop an appropriate treatment regimen for each individual.

Are URIs treatable?  How can I protect my cat?

Feline URIs can be treated.  Treatment is determined by the causative agent of the URI.  Some URIs can be treated with antibiotics, while others can resolve with supportive care or, in rare instances, an anti-fungal or anthelminthic.  If your cat is showing signs of a URI, please consult with us to determine which treatment options may be effective for your pet.

Veterinarian and feline patient

Dr. Richerson and Carrot

If you own a cat, preventing infection before it occurs is the best medicine.  The 3 year

FVRCP (Distemper) vaccine we offer is designed to protect your cat against URIs.  Bringing your cat in for examinations and immunizations, as recommend, will help ensure his/her protection against URIs.  Additionally, keeping your pet away from high risk situations like outdoor cat interactions, unclean multi-cat boarding situations, and introduction of new shelter cats to the household, can reduce the chance of infection.

cat being inoculated

Proper inoculation will help protect your cat against illness.

If you are concerned your cat has a URI or would like more information on how to prevent infection, please do not hesitate to contact our hospital.

It is our pleasure to serve you and your pets. Please do not hesitate to call our offices if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your veterinary healthcare team.

Carlson Animal Hospital, Oak Park, IL 708.383.3606

Osteoarthritis in our dog and cat companions

February 27th, 2017 by carlson

Geriatric pet care

Our canine and feline companions are living long active lives well into their geriatric years. Therefore assessing and treating osteoarthritis is an important part of geriatric pet care. Many pet owners make the comment that they believe arthritis is the cause of stiffness and a slow rising from rest in their pets.  Up to 60% of dogs are diagnosed with the disease based upon radiographic evidence at some time in their life.

As with most medical conditions, treatments for osteoarthritis are specifically targeted to the physiologic processes that cause the disease.  At Carlson Animal Hospital we strive to educate pet owners about the physiologic basis of the treatments we employ. In this blog we will delve into a bit more detail about the disease itself.

Osteoarthritis and the synovial joints

Osteoarthritis is a chronic, degenerative disease that affects synovial joints.  Synovial joints are articular joints between two bones that are joined by a joint capsule containing fluid and cartilage. The purpose of synovial joints are to allow smooth movement between two bones. The term arthritis, without the osteo prefix, refers to inflammation of a joint of any sort.  Whereas osteoarthritis refers to the chronic degenerative process of cartilage breakdown and associated inflammation.

cat being examined for osteoarthritis

Dr. Swindell examining a feline patient.

Osteoarthritis affects both dogs and cats.   Sometimes the disease is related to aging and sometimes it is not.  Osteoarthritis may also occur secondary to an injury or instability of a joint. A common orthopedic injury in dogs is a rupture of an anterior cruciate ligament (also known as an ACL rupture).

dog hip examination

Dr. Swindell performing a hip exam.

Hip dysplasia is an instability of the hip joint that is often diagnosed earlier in life. These pets will eventually develop osteoarthritis in that joint due to the chronic instability/inflammation.

Physiology of osteoarthritis

Moving on to the physiology of osteoarthritis. We’ve included a definition of a few key terms:

  1. Cartilage– firm, smooth, flexible connective tissue found inside the surface of a joint.
  2. Chondrocyte – a cell that creates the matrix of the cartilage that is found inside cartilage.
  3. Hyaluronate and Chondroitin sulfate – polysaccharides associated with cartilage that are the joint’s shock absorbers.
  4. Inflammatory mediators – signals sent by cells in the body as a response to damage- they cause the body’s protective response, including inflammation. (This is a very simplified discussion of a very complex process!)

The primary pathology of osteoarthritis is cartilage breakdown.  The cartilage becomes weaker, less elastic with less ability to absorb shock.  Small fissures within the cartilage develop propagating a self-perpetuating degenerative process.  Enzymes are produced that degrade the chondroitin, hyaluronate and the collagen of the cartilage further.  As the cartilage is degraded the fluid in the joint secretes inflammatory mediators which cause inflammation inside the joint.  As the osteoarthritis progresses,  osteophytes ( new bone formation) occur around the joint.  These are little outgrowths of bone that occur near where there is damaged cartilage. These osteophytes further create a decreased range of motion and pain.  Osteophytes have sometimes been described as bone spurs.

dog hip with osteoarthritis damage

Model of a normal canine hip joint on the left and a hip joint with osteophytes and chances from osteoarthritis on the right.

Diagnosis includes a physical exam and radiographs (X-rays)

We believe that it is important to diagnose osteoarthritis prior to beginning treatment, especially since the treatment and the disease are frequently chronic.  The initial portion of the diagnosis is based upon a physical examination of the pet.  Joints with osteoarthritis often have a decreased range of motion with associated pain upon careful manipulation.  Radiographs (x-rays)  of the affected joints are advised.  While radiographs will not show us damaged cartilage, they will document the osteophytes that occur in the advanced stages of osteoarthritis, as well as an increase in joint fluid if present,  which is usually associated with inflammation and discomfort. The radiographs below demonstrate a normal canine knee joint on the left.  A radiograph of a knee joint with osteophytes (the osteophytes are noted as small irregularities along the margins of the larger bones surrounding the joint) and osteoarthritis on the right.

dog's knee radiograph

A dog’s normal knee joint – no osteophytes.

dog knee arthritis radiograph

A dog’s arthritic knee joint with osteophytes.









Multi-modal treatment

At Carlson Animal Hospital we employ a multi-modal approach to the treatment of osteoarthritis.  This means that we target the disease based on the various physiologic processes you  just learned about in this blog.  We decrease inflammation with medication, we help build and support cartilage with supplements, we incorporate a moderate exercise program and weight loss program.  We can even employ a very safe and effective drug that helps decrease the enzymes that cause the breakdown of chondroitin and collagen.

By using all these tools,  we can actually modify the course of the disease, rather than just decreasing pain and stiffness.  We continually re-assess management options based upon the current research through the medical literature and medical conferences.  Fortunately, we continue to see treatment options which increase the comfort of pets affected by osteoarthritis, and decrease the speed of the process of cartilage breakdown.

Our Doctors would be pleased to speak with you about these treatment options and whether they may be helpful to your four legged family members.

It is our pleasure to serve you and your pets. Please do not hesitate to call our offices if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your veterinary healthcare team.

Carlson Animal Hospital, Oak Park, IL 708.383.3606