LBAH Informational Articles

There are Lions on the Airstrip

Our guides drove us to the airstrip at Camp Moremi to see some male lions. Sure enough, when we got there we saw two lazy male lions enjoying their peace and quiet (which would soon be interrupted).

One male was sitting under the fire buckets, while the other was at the passenger loading area. Neither had a care in the world, that is until an airplane with passengers landed. The bush pilot saw our vehicles near the airstrip, so he knew something was up, and was not caught by surprise when he landed and taxied to the passenger loading area.

These bush pilots are professional and experienced, and know what to do in this situation. Once the airplane is on the ground the lions usually move away due to the noise. If they don’t move far enough away for passenger safety, the pilot will rev up his engine and the blast from the prop will move the lions further. This pilot did this, and once the lions were at a reasonable distance, all of our guides moved our vehicles in a line between the lions and embarking/departing passengers. It was quite entertaining, and the passengers on the airplane now have a story to tell the folks back home.

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The two sleeping lions who are about to be rudely awakened

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This guy did not have a care in the world, and was enjoying his siesta in the sun

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The other one slept in the shade

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When the pilot saw all of our vehicles he knew something was up

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He could see the lions as soon as he landed

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The male closest to the airplane heard the airplane land and was instantly alert

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He decided it might be a good time to move, and sauntered right past our vehicle.

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He was in no rush, and took his sweet old time

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He has a beautiful mane

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He walked past his buddy who was now also awake from his nap

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The first male decided to stop by one of our vehicles and stare at its occupants. We were not blocking his path, so it is hard to known why he stopped. 

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For some reason he was not too keen on them, as you can see from his body language. He could hear the airplane getting closer, so he kept on moving.

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The pilot taxied towards this lion (the other lion had already moved into the bushes on the right) to keep him moving away from the passenger loading area

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The nose of the revving engine kept the lion moving

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The lion was still too close for the pilot’s peace of mind…

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so he kept coming towards the lion

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The pilot was still not happy, so he turned the airplane away and revved the engine

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This procedure worked, and both lions moved far enough away for the pilot to feel comfortable enough to unload his passengers

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Our guides moved our vehicles forward between the lions and the airplane to help the pilot

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With the lions at a safe distance, and our vehicles blocking the lion, the passengers unloaded and loaded

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The airplane uneventfully left  the loading area with new passengers

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It took off successfully

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Our friends went back to relaxing


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We had a bunch of happy campers (and guides) this day!

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Leopards of the Okavango Delta

We had more leopard sightings in our four days at Camp Moremi in Botswana than I have seen in all my other eight Africa trips combined. During the daytime leopards like to rest in a tree, hunting under the cover of darkness at night. Apparently the leopards we saw did not know this, because they were quite active during the daytime, and gave us some great photographic opportunities. Below are a few of the 100’s of photos I have of them active during the daytime.

Before you can photograph a leopard you need to find it, usually hidden in a tree. They know how to blend in, and are not easy to spot. Spotting a leopard hidden behind the branches of a tree is one of the more ultimate wildlife photography challenges. This is where the guides earn their keep!

Do you see a leopard in the tree below?

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Look for a tail or leg dangling down from a branch

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Maybe this will help

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It is looking to the left, with its left leg dangling down

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We could see his injured nose when he stood up

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It’s a large male, with an injured ear besides nose

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After a brief glance at us he continued his nap

The following photos are of a female that seemed to pose for us on the several days we saw her. She seemed comfortable in our presence, and would walk around our vehicle just a few feet away from us. One day she even let us join her as she was on the prowl for her dinner.

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 One lucky day for us she climbed down from her perch and started eating some grass, which promptly caused her to vomit. Our guide said this means she is on the hunt.

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She started eating the grass as soon as she hit the ground

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As she roamed the area she walked right past, acting as if we didn’t exist

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There were some gazelle off to our left, so we thought she might be interested in them


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She seemed to change her mind and went the opposite direction

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At times she was no more than seven feet in front of us

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She seemed to know we were taking her photo, and would stop and pose for a few seconds to oblige us. It was uncanny!


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After our last photo op she noticed something on a log to our right


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Our guide said it was a squirrel she was interested in

Why would a predator as powerful as this, that could take down a large gazelle and drag it up a tree with the gazelle in its mouth, hunt a squirrel? Maybe it was a challenge, maybe it was fun, maybe she needed a little energy pick-me-up before attempting larger prey, or maybe even because these cats have such powerful hunting instincts that they can’t resist something that moves. Nobody knows.

Over the next 30 minutes this leopard entertained us as she tried to find the squirrel that was sometimes hiding and sometimes scurrying. Here are a few photos taken of this show. First she scurries around the log showing her amazing agility as she tries to find the squirrel, then she bolts down the log exhibiting her amazing speed. Does the squirrel get away, or does she have an appetizer before her evening meal?

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After that nice snack she looked at something that alerted her

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One last look of her smacking her lips as we left her alone and drove away 

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Wild Dogs of the Okavango Delta

Wild dogs are also known as cape hunting dogs and painted dogs. Even though they are not large, their speed, stamina, and teamwork make them highly efficient predators. It took me 7 trips to Africa to see them for the first time, in 2015 in Tanzania.  In Botswana we saw them many times in our 4 days at Camp Moremi in the Moremi Game Reserve. Too bad they are highly endangered, so get to Africa soon if you want to see them before the burgeoning human population displaces them, and they become impossible to find in the wild.

One of the packs had a dog that was radio collared. We only saw the collars on a few dogs. I never found out why they were collared, so now I have an excuse to go back!

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We came across several packs in the 4 nights we were in the Moremi Game Reserve. Some packs had half a dozen members, while others had up to 30 members. It was not uncommon to see them relaxing next to our vehicle.

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After a good yawn and roll they would become active. Sometimes it would be in the morning, other times it would be in the later afternoon.

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At the end of the day they congregated around water for a drink, and to see what prey might be present. They obliged me by posing for some nice reflection shots.

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One day we spotted them while they were actively hunting. Over 30 of them came trotting down a trail, occasionally moving towards the tall grass, then back on to the trail. They move fast, and our guides did a good job of keeping up with them as they darted all over the place. After their darting they would sit on the trail, look at us, yawn, then shoot off into the bush again. After following them for 20 minutes they vanished into thin air. It was all quite exciting, especially the reaction from our guide who was driving like a mad man trying to keep up with their changing direction.

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The best part is seeing how keen their senses are, as they look, listen, and smell for their quarry

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The Black Mamba

Most people have heard of this snake, and know how dangerous it is due to its size, speed, toxicity, and aggressiveness. It can outrun most people, easily goes up a tree, and does not seem to have fear when it is aroused. The snake is greenish-grey in color; it gets its name from the black color of the inside of its mouth.

The first time I saw a black mamba was in Tsavo National Park in Kenya in 2005. It was in the early evening as we were looking for lions to monitor. We were in a Land Cruiser, slowly going down a road looking for lions, when the driver hit the brakes so hard we were all thrown forward. The other guides started talking rapidly in Swahili and told us it was a black mamba. I saw it cross the road in front of us, moving from right to left, the upper 1/3 of its body in the air, looking directly at us, menacingly, as it moved rapidly across the road. You can see how people think snakes are evil when you see a snake like this looking at you in this manner.

Our driver sped down the road and kept on going, as the guides kept their excited Swahili talk going, which kept our heart rates up. I must admit, I was much more on the alert the rest of that night while driving around, and even looked under my bed before I went to sleep later that night!

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This picture is the only shot I could get by the time I got my wits and was able to focus on this fast-moving animal. Luckily my shaking hands did not interfere with the shot. 

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Zak explaining the different bird sounds, and how the one we were hearing was a “reptile” alarm call. I was not convinced, and thought he was pulling our legs.

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Another guide walking around with others from our trip spotted it first. Do you see it? It’s in the tree to the right, 25  feet in front of us. 

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Any luck seeing it now?

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What about now?

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3rd time’s a charm

At this point  I pulled out the telephoto lens and went to work

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At this point the mamba starting moving around the tree, so we wisely walked back to our boat 

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Cape Town and the Great White Sharks (almost)

Our shark dive was cancelled due to rough sea conditions, so we did the next best thing, and went to the beach and learned about sharks.

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It was a nice beach with lots of surfers, just like in California!

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After the surfers we saw the African penguins

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There is lots of educational material to learn about their behavior

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There are many more than this, I am showing only one section


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They still have public phone booths in Cape Town


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We had a great lunch looking out over the ocean

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Dominic was hungry that day


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The animal hospitals in Cape Town are all about dog food

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On our second day in Cape Town we climbed Table Mountain

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The view part way up the climb


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Our intrepid group of hikers who huffed and puffed for 2 hours to get to the top

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The view from the top

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We had a great guide tell us stories along the way

I will be back to Cape Town again some day to complete my shark dive.

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Birds of the Okavango Delta

Pelican, yellow-billed stork and spoonbill

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Spoon bill

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Darter drying its wings

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Darter eating a fish breakfast (headfirst)

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Wattled crane adults

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Wattled crane chicks

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Egret

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Owl

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Jacana

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Ibis

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Carmine bee-eaters

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Heron

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Little Bee-eater

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Malachite kingfisher

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Immature malachite kingfisher catching a fish

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The results of trying to photograph this fast-diving bird coming out of the water

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Pied kingfisher hovering over a fish before diving after it

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Pied kingfisher coming out of the water after attempting to snag a fish. As you can see, they are quick and hard to photograph when doing this.

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This small flock of Ground Hornbill were looking for lunch. Today crickets were on the menu.

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Spleen Hematoma


This page stresses the importance of routine yearly exams, and close owner observation, on our pets. Large breed dogs can be stoic, and have significant problems brewing without showing any outward signs. When serious symptoms like weight loss and lack of appetite finally show up, the disease process is usually well entrenched, and there is little we can do. We want to see these pets before it gets to that stage.

Pets are masters at hiding illnes, so it can be difficult if they are ill. It might be a good idea to read our short page on symptoms of disease to know what to watch for.

We also have a nice page on teaching you how to do an in-home exam. If you bring your pet to us one of our staff will go over this with you, and do a hands-on demonstration of how to palpate the peripheral lymph nodes. This early warning system is a great way to catch problems early in the course of disease.

History

A beautiful male labrador retriever named Colt came in for a routine Wellness Exam when he was 10 years old. During this exam Colt’s owner told Dr. Palazzolo that Colt vomited on occasion over the last month, but that otherwise he was doing fine. He is a calm dog, and just lays around a lot.

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Colt’s body temperature was normal, and his weight was the same as a previous visit. A pet’s weight is a good idea of how well it is doing, and if it is maintaining its weight that is usually a good sign. In Colt’s problem, this is not the case.

During the physical Dr. P noted a very tense abdomen, so tense that he could not even palpate internal organs. After this was noted, the owner did say that Colt’s abdomen seemed to be distended. The rest of Colt’s thorough physical examination was normal.

The distended abdomen is a significant finding, and warranted a radiograph, in addition to the blood panel which is part of the Wellness Exam.

Diagnostic Tests

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You don’t need to be a radiologist to know something is wrong with this abdomen, as evidenced by the large and round whitish structure

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Here is a normal abdomen for comparison. In this normal radiograph you can see individual organs, unlike the abnormal one above, that looks like it has a beach ball inside of it.

This is a serious finding, and this mass could have many causes, and involve almost any internal organ. Due to its size, shape, location, and the relative lack of symptoms, it was probably the spleen. It could be a benign tumor of the spleen called a hemangioma, a malignant tumor of the spleen called a hemangiosarcoma, or a hematoma of the spleen. A hematoma is a blood filled cavity that is benign.

Its size said it might be a hematoma, which has the best prognosis of the three. To learn much more about spleen tumors please visit our hemangiosarcoma page.

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Before we proceed any further we take a radiograph of the chest to make sure there has not been any spread of tumor to the lungs. The white object in the center is Colt’s heart, the dark areas around the heart are the lungs. This is a normal chest radiograph.

You can learn much more about how to read a radiograph if you are interested

Our radiologist, Dr. Ann Reed, performed an ultrasound of the abdomen. This ultrasound lets us know if the mass is actively bleeding, and if there has been any spread of the mass to the right atrium of the heart. If that is the case, the mass is probably a hemangiosarcoma that has already spread. This is not a good prognosis.

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Colt’s ultrasound report showing it is probably benign, and consistent with a hemangioma or hematoma

Pre-surgical Preparation

In Colt’s case there was no abdominal bleeding, and the heart was OK. Colt’s blood panel came back normal, so we did a cross match of his blood, and readied a unit of blood for a transfusion in case we needed it during the surgery scheduled for the next day.

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Before we do a blood transfusion we do several tests to minimize a transfusion reaction

We were much better prepared for surgery the next morning with all of this information. During the night prior to surgery Colt was given intravenous fluids to stabilize him and make him a better anesthetic risk, and a pain patch was put on. Having the pain medication on board before surgery increases its effectiveness. Colt is now good to go for surgery the next morning.

We have a short page that talks all about how we do surgery at the Long Beach Animal Hospital. You might want to check it out before you see Colt’s surgery.

Graphic and bloody photos of surgery to follow

Colt did great overnight.  We took away his popcorn after the Lassie movie ended (he likes classic movies), and he rested comfortably during the night, monitored by our night crew. He slept well, and dreamed of being a famous movie star like Lassie.

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 Here he is with Jennifer the next morning, keeping an eye on our surgical team as they prepare for his surgery.

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Colt gets some extra petting for being a good boy, by his surgeon, Dr. Kennedy

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Even though Colt has been thoroughly checked, we always perform a physical exam just prior to inducing anesthesia. An important organ to assess is the heart. If we suspect something is wrong with the heart when we listen to it we will do a pre-anesthetic EKG (electrocardiogram).

If you like heart stuff we have a very detailed page on heart disease in animals. It’s not for the “weak of heart” (pun intended), because it goes into all sorts of anatomy and physiology. If you get through it give yourself a pat on the back, and think of applying to veterinary school!

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Colt’s anesthesia is initially given by injection. Once he is relaxed we put in a breathing tube and start prepping his abdomen for surgery.

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This surgical monitor allows us to detect any impending problems, and make adjustments before problems become serious.

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Even though we use these hi-tech machines to monitor important physiologic parameters during surgery, we also use the hands-on approach to make sure we do not miss anything. In this picture our anesthetist is listening to the heart with a stethoscope.

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During the procedure Colt’s vital information is closely monitored and recorded. Our anesthesia page has more details.

Instruments

While Colt is being readied for surgery Dr. K is getting her instruments ready. She will need many clamps to close off the blood supply to the spleen before it can be removed, which required more than one surgical pack.

draping

When Colt is prepped, and under the proper plane of anesthesia, Dr. Kennedy does her draping. This draping is an important part of the surgery, and is doing carefully.

JessicaTerri

It will take more than one pair of hands to get this spleen out, so our surgical assistant, Jessica, stands by waiting for instruction. Terri our anesthetist keeps a close tab on everything.

Incision1

The initial incision is only though the skin. Blood vessels just under the skin are clamped before we go any further.

Incision2

You can see the two clamps that are controlling bleeding in the subcutaneous (SQ) tissue just under the skin. Colt’s spleen is humungous, so it will take a long incision to get a big enough opening to remove it

Incision3

Even though the incision was made as long as possible, the opening was still not big enough to remove the spleen. Dr. K had to make a side incision in the abdomen to facilitate removal.

SpleenBloodSupply

The spleen has an extensive supply of blood vessels that are near the stomach. A large part of this surgery is identifying and ligating these vessels, and doing this without damaging the blood supply to the stomach. These blood vessels are intertwined in tissue that is covering the spleen as the body attempts to wall of this large mass. This is the most meticulous part of the surgery, and Dr. K’s experience and skill at doing this before pays off.

LargeVessel

These blood vessels are large and need to be handled carefully

ClampingVessles

It takes multiple clamps and special suture material to perform this important part of the surgery

JessicaHoldingClamps

Jessica is kept busy holding clamps while Dr. K identifies and continues to ligate the many blood vessels to the spleen

FirstRemovalAttempt

As more of these vessels are ligated Dr. K carefully attempts to get the spleen out of the abdomen. No luck the first time.

Adhesion

An adhesion from the intestines to the spleen was identified and removed. Time to try to get the spleen out again.

SecondRemovalAttempt

 We need to be very careful at this point that we do not rupture the spleen by forcing it out.

FirstRemovalAttempt

With gentle coaxing and manipulating, along with Jessica’s help holding the abdomen open, we almost have it out, but not just yet

ThirdRemovalAttempt

It was time for Dr. P to stop taking photos and assist in surgery. He has removed many spleens in his decades of surgery, and with the help of Dr. K and Jessica, was able to extricate the spleen. Now Dr. K could finish ligating blood vessels (and hopefully Jessica does not need to scratch an itch at her nose)!

JessicaHolding

Here she is doing a great job

FinalCut

The final blood vessel to the spleen is cut while Jessica holds on to the spleen

JessicaHoldingFinal

After almost 2 hours of surgery Colt is now lighter on his feet

FourteenPounds

It’s official, 14.095 pounds!

SpleenHematoma

The vertical and long structure on the left is an enlarged and normal spleen, with the hematoma of this spleen on the right

Lavage

Surgery is nowhere near done. After Dr. K looks for any significant bleeding on the blood vessels she ligated, she flushes the abdomen numerous times with warm saline.

LineaSutures

The long process of putting Colt back together now begins. The most important suture layer is an area called the linea alba. This is where the muscle bellies of the abdomen meet, and is a tendinous area that is very strong. This is where the first and most important layer of sutures is placed.

SkinSutures

After more layers of sutures are placed, and before Dr. K puts in skin staples, Colt now has a bikini scar (OK, maybe not, but once the hair grows back nobody will know his secret)

Local

In addition to the pain patch put on the night before, and the pain injection given during surgery, a long acting local anesthetic is placed at the incision. Now Colt will be comfortable when he wakes up and through the night.

LocalStaples

All of our abdominal surgeries receive therapy laser treatment on their incisions. This aids in both healing and pain control. Notice the staples in Colt’s skin incision.

FirstBandage

Now comes the bandage; the first layer is gauze and telfa pads

SecondBandage

After more pads and gauze are put over the incision, the outer layer is wrapped by Terri while Jennifer and Jessica hold up Colt. They are getting their biceps exercise for the day!

LastBandage

We did the surgery the day after Halloween, so we thought this was an appropriate colored bandage

Trophy

Our dedicated surgical team posing with their trophy. Great job!

Colt was closely monitored for several days, and his red blood cell count was checked to make sure he did not need that blood transfusion. He went home after 2 days and was back to normal in no time. Yea Colt!

HemangiomaReport

Great news on Colt’s histopathology report, confirming it is a hematoma. Colt should make a complete recovery and lead a normal, if not lighter, life.

HemangiomaHisto

Just in case you want to see what a spleen hematoma looks like under the microscope here is your chance

047A8608

Colt with his happy mom two weeks later when he came in for his staples removal

 Case Summary

If you go back to Colt’s initial history the owner stated Colt vomited on occasion over the last month. Looking at the size of this hematoma (a record for Long Beach Animal Hospital), the hematoma was probably brewing over several months. Its a wonder Colt could even eat, and was not vomiting more, with a hematoma of this size in his abdomen. If Colt had not been brought in for his Wellness Exam, this hematoma could have easily ruptured, causing Colt to go into shock. and most likely a rapid death.

 Colt’s weight was the same as a previous visit. It was only because he had such a large mass in his abdomen, and goes to show you cannot go by just one physical parameter to determine health. It also shows you need to be thorough when investigating a medical problem.

The ability to do ultrasound with our highly skilled radiologist, telling us the hematoma was not actively bleeding, allowed us to take the time to prepare Colt for surgery. This made him a much better anesthetic risk, and and allowed him to heal faster with no complications.

The ultrasound told us it was probably a hematoma, and there was no evidence of spread to the heart which would indicate a potential malignant hemagiosarcoma of the spleen. With the blood panel and chest radiographs being normal, it was realistic to proceed with surgery based on the fact that the mass was probably not a malignant cancer.

Now that you have seen a successful hematoma surgery, now might be a good time to learn about hemangiosarcoma, a malignant cancer of the spleen. In this same page you can see another hematoma surgery of a dog with an 8 pound hematoma of the spleen.

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Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

IBD is an inflammatory condition of the stomach, small intestines, or large intestines (the gastrointestinal (GI) tract).  It tends to be chronic in nature.  It is one of the most common conditions of the gastrointestinal tract diagnosed in pets, especially in cats. Despite its prevalence, it is one of the least understood conditions, especially regarding cause. Some pets respond well to treatment, others do not.

Some cases of IBD involve the liver and pancreas. In this case there are 3 diseases occurring, and we refer to it as Triaditis. This is more difficult to treat than IBD alone.

The usual symptoms of IBD are poor appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss.  In the cat more often they are vomiting, in the dog they oftentimes have diarrhea. These symptoms appear in many other diseases, so you cannot assume your pet has IBD from symptoms alone. To learn the process of how we make a diagnosis of a disease when the symptoms are the same as so many other diseases, we have a methodical and detailed approach. It is called the Diagnostic Process.

We discuss the importance of worms (internal parasites) many times in this page in regards to IBD. With the modern medications we have, including flea products that contain medication to kill worms, it behooves you to treat your pets for worms monthly. Not only will it help prevent IBD from appearing at some time in your pet’s life, it will protect you and your children. Our Internal Parasites page has the scoop on all of this.

Graphic photos of surgeries are on this page. 

Anatomy and Physiology of the Gastrointestinal (GI) Tract

When your pet eats, food from the stomach passes into the small intestine, which is composed of three different sections called the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum.

The majority of nutrient (proteins, carbohydrates, fats) digestion occurs within the small intestines.  The inner lining of the intestines is called the mucosa, and that’s where all the action occurs when it comes to absorbing nutrients. The mucosa has a large surface area because there are microscopic folds called villa.

Ilium-NormalMucosa

This is the lining of the small intestines. The villa are microscopic, so you cannot see them without a microscope.

There are many different types of specialized cells in the lining of the mucosa. Some of these cells specialize in aiding digestion, some are for absorption of these nutrients into the bloodstream, and some are part of the immunes system and defend the body from foreign invaders.

Surgery-SmallIntestines

These are the small intestines during a routine abdominal surgery. Notice the extensive blood supply, necessary to get those nutrients from the lining of the intestines into the bloodstream and off to all of the cells in the body- amazing!

Ilium-Ingesta

This is what the ingesta looks like as it passes through the small intestines

The pancreas secretes digestive enzymes into the small intestines as the food passes through the duodenum. These enzymes are crucial for digestion of fats, carbohydrates, and protein. As the food continues down the small intestines the enzymes from the pancreas continue their breakdown of nutrients, which are then absorbed by the mucosa of the jejunum and ileum and make it into the bloodstream.

Pancreas-labeled

This is the pancreas, a small but mighty organ. Our surgeon is holding the duodenum, showing the pancreas in the center:  D- Duodenun   P-pancreas

Pancreas-Normal

Close view of the architecture on the outside of the pancreas

The gall bladder secretes bile into the duodenum to help in digesting fats. When the liver is a part of IBD the bile can build up in the liver and cause a problem. This is a part of the Triaditis that complicates IBD.

The large intestine is composed of the cecum (our appendix), colon, rectum, and anus.  Water, electrolytes (sodium and potassium), sugars, and vitamins are the main nutrients absorbed by the large intestine. Some vitamins are produced in the large intestine also. Nutrients that were not broken down or absorbed well enough within the small intestine are further digested in the large intestine due to microbial fermentation. The large numbers of these good bacteria that are present in the intestines are crucial to normal health.

The human cecum (appendix) has atrophied to the point that it is no longer needed. Our diet does not have the fiber of our ancestors, so this organ is not needed for normal digestion, which is why it can be removed if appendicitis occurs. As a fun anatomical comparison, the cecum of a rabbit is enormous in relation to the rest of its body. That is because it is a hind-gut fermenter, and contains large numbers of bacteria to help digest food that is high in fiber. Our rabbit GI stasis page has radiographs of the cecum along with actual pictures to give you an idea of just how large it is.

Pathophysiology

Allergens cause inflammation of the mucosa, leading to the symptoms associated with IBD. The allergens that cause this inflammation can be anything, with food (especially protein) as the main culprit.

Intesinte-normal lumen

The size of the lumen thorough with the food passes and intestinal wall thickness of a normal small intestine

ThickenedSmallIntestine

You can easily see the smaller lumen and thickened intestinal wall in this pet with IBD

Inflammation of the pancreas is known as pancreatitis. In pancreatitis, the digestive enzymes that would normally be secreted into the duodenum to digest food are now leaking out of the pancreas into the abdomen, causing tremendous inflammation and pain to surrounding organs. Pancreatitis is a serious disease, and usually requires hospitalization, intravenous fluids, and medication. It can be hard to diagnose in cats because they usually become quiet and sit as if content, when in reality they are in pain and this is how they handle pain. A clue is the fact that are not eating well.

Inflammation of the liver in some cases may be associated with IBD, permitting an infection to creep up the bile duct and into the liver. There are many different sources to this infection, ascending from the GI tract or urinary tract.

The pancreas, liver, and intestines are closely associated, and when one has a problem it causes inflammation in one of the other ones. When all three have a problem it is called Triaditis. As you can see, it all gets quite complicated.

Cause

IBD is one of those conditions where the exact cause might never be identified. The most common causes are dietary allergies, infections, and environmental stress.

Dietary allergies are involved with sensitivity to protein in the diet. Sometimes, an inability to absorb nutrients, called a malabsorption syndrome, is involved. Some pets generate an excessive amount of a specific white blood cell called an eosinophil (eosinophil gastroenteritis) in the lining of the GI tract.

Other dietary causes might include artificial coloring, preservatives, and food additives. Differentiation between the above-mentioned causes is difficult, especially since many IBD cases are associated with several concurrent factors.

It is suspected that puppies with a large amount of internal parasites (worms) are setting the stage for IBD later in life. This is another good reason to have your pet checked for internal parasites at least yearly, and wormed frequently when young.

Pancreatitis is highly associated with pets that are overweight, particularly spayed female dogs. Fatty meals are important components of the clinical history for cases involving pancreatitis. As a result, we tend to see this cause of pancreatitis around the holidays when people are celebrating with turkey (and gravy) and other similar foods that their pets’ eat also.

Inflammation of the pancreas can spread to the liver  due to its proximity.  This can inflame the gall bladder, causing bile to backup into the liver. This can lead to Triaditis mentioned earlier.

Inflammation of the liver and biliary system, known as cholangiohepatitis, is most commonly associated with a bacterial infection.  In cases of Triaditis, it is unknown as to whether the liver is the first organ affected, resulting in secondary inflammation of the pancreas and gastrointestinal tract, or if it is the other way around.  It has been hypothesized that bacterial infections may be the initiating cause of cholangiohepatitis, with IBD and pancreatitis following thereafter.

Dietary Induced

Proteins and grains in the food contribute to dietary intolerance. Intolerance occurs when there is an abrupt change in the diet, resulting in an inability for the gastrointestinal tract mucosa and associated cells to adapt accordingly.  When this happens foods are often not digested or absorbed properly.

Maldigestion is a separate condition of the gastrointestinal tract that generally occurs secondary to exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. The endocrine pancreas secretes insulin to regulate the blood glucose level. The exocrine pancreas secretes the digestive enzymes needed to digest food in the intestines. If the pancreas is not secreting enzymes into the small intestines as the food passes, the nutrients will not be broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream. This leads to weight loss and diarrhea, even in a pet that is eating.

Malabsorption is secondary to numerous disease processes such as food allergies and/or intolerance, protein losing diseases of the gastrointestinal mucosal layer, intestinal parasites, antibiotic responsive disease, cancer, IBD, and immune-mediated disease. The exocrine pancreas is secreting the proper digestive enzymes in this cause. It is an inflammation of the inner lining of the intestines (the mucosa) that prevents absorption of the nutrients into the bloodstream.

Intestinal parasites (worms)

There are numerous intestinal parasites known to cause the same symptoms as IBD. They include roundworms, hookworms, whipworms (dogs only), cryptosporidia (protozoa), toxoplasma (protozoa; cats only), coccidia, and giardia.

Some intestinal parasites are known to affect humans as well (zoonotic potential), including roundworms (organ and eye involvement), hookworms (skin involvement), giardia (gastrointestinal disorders), coccidia (gastrointestinal disorders especially in immune suppressed individuals), toxoplasma (congenital defects in babies), and cryptosporidia (gastrointestinal disorders).

A fecal examination is often one of the first steps when diagnostics are being evaluated in a pet with a gastrointestinal disease. Our intestinal parasites page has detailed information on these parasites (worms).

Cancer – Lymphosarcoma (Lymphoma)

In cats, lymphosarcoma is the most common type of cancer known to affect the gastrointestinal tract. This is not easy to diagnose, since the changes present in IBD are very similar to those in Lymphosarcoma when the pathologist analyzes them under the microscope.

Depending on the type of lymphoma (small, medium or large cell lymphoma), tissue samples must be sent in for further diagnostics in order to definitively differentiate between early cancer and IBD. Proper treatment depends upon a proper diagnosis.

VeryThickenedSmallIntestine

These severely thickened intestines are from cancer.

We have a page that shows an exploratory surgery on a cat with intestinal cancer.

Bacterial infection

Although there are no definitive infectious agents that consistently result in IBD, some organisms such as Giardia, Salmonella, Clostridium, and Campylobacter could be a cause. Some of the “good” bacteria, those that are necessary for life, can become imbalanced and cause the symptoms seen in IBD.

Medications

Any medication can disrupt the lining of the intestines. The most common one is antibiotics, since they disrupt the normal GI bacteria (referred to sometimes as flora).

Other causes

Toxicities (plants, chemicals), hyperthyroidism, FIP, FeLV, FIV .

Diagnosis

Signalment

Both dogs and cats are commonly affected by IBD, although it is much more of a problem in cats. IBD can occur at most any age due to the numerous causes of the condition; however, it is usually observed in pets over the age of two .

Triaditis is more commonly diagnosed in middle to older aged cats.  If it is associated with a food allergy, they tend to be young adults to middle aged. Males and females get IBD in equal frequencies.

Addison’s disease, which is common in Standard Poodles, can cause symptoms similar to IBD.

History

Sometimes pets are affected by IBD for many years while appearing apparently healthy in all other aspects. Typical symptoms are  lethargy, poor appetite (anorexia), weight loss, diarrhea and vomiting.

Depending on the inciting cause, the clinical signs may occur intermittently over a long period of time (i.e. dietary allergy) or abruptly and progressively (immune-mediated, infectious, dietary allergy, cancer). If Triaditis is present clinical signs may range from lethargy and decreased appetite to severe vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and icterus (jaundice) due to liver compromise).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This pet has severe icterus (also known as jaundice)

Cats can have variable symptoms compared to dog. Cats that have pancreatitis might sit quietly and appear to have no problems. In reality, these cats are painful, which is why they sit like this.

Physical Exam

In both dogs and cats, palpation of the abdomen might reveal painful and thickened bowel loops. This is not a consistent sign, and just because bowel loops are thickened, does not mean there is a problem. Pain may also be associated with palpation of the pancreas or liver in cases of Triaditis. Lymph nodes deep within the abdomen may be enlarged and palpable as well as painful. Excessive intestinal sounds (called borborygmus ) might be heard on auscultation of the abdomen. In more chronic cases, other subtle signs may be present such as a dull hair coat, mild to moderate dehydration, fever, and overall poor body condition. None of these are consistent findings, and cannot be relied upon for a diagnosis of IBD.

XRays-LymphNode

These lymph nodes, call the sub lumbar, are enlarged on this dog. They are the whitish circles within the red circle. They are due to cancer, but they cannot be palpated.

Diagnostic Tests

Complete blood count, biochemistry panel, and urinalysis, are a starting point for diagnosis. Certain blood values might suggest IBD if in combination with clinical signs. Even “normal values” are clinically diagnostic, as they help to rule out another disease that can cause the same symptoms as IBD.

Some pets will have a chronic anemia (low red blood cells). Sometimes the white blood cells will be elevated, in other cases the protein will be low. There might also be a low cobalamin level.   Cholangiohepatitis (inflammation of the liver) in cats, when Triaditis is present, may be further suspected if bilirubin (hyprebilirubinemia) or liver enzymes are increased.

LiverTests

The blood panel is very thorough and checks many different organs and systems. This is a few of the many tests, the elevated liver tests are circled, and could be a sign of Triaditis in this case.

Fecal examination is an important and inexpensive test to rule out internal parasites (worms). We sometimes give worm medication (called anthelmintics) to pets with a negative fecal if they have and GI symptoms. This is because a pet can have internal parasites that do not show up on a fecal exam. Our intestinal parasites page has much more information explaining this.

Scarlet Ojeda 38765 Gall Bladder Surgery Linda Larsen

A fecal exam, checking for internal parasites (worms) is important in every pet with any signs of illness. In this exam, we are checking for eggs (ova) of the parasite.

Abdominal radiographs are often normal in cases of IBD, but are a necessary tool to rule out other causes of similar clinical signs. Survey abdominal radiographs are also indicated prior to ultrasound  as well.

Xray-PenniesInRectum

This dog had chronic diarrhea.  Nobody took a radiograph prior to treatment. The cause was not IBD, it was the pennies stuck in the rectum.

IBDRadiograph-thickened intestines

This cat has IBD, as evidenced in this case by the thickened small intestines at the arrow. This can also be a normal finding, and it can also be a sign of intestinal cancer. The more common ones in a car are lymphoma, adenocarcinoma, and mast cell.

Prior to the common use of ultrasonography, barium contrast studies were performed in order to reveal disruptions of the mucosal surface along the gastrointestinal tract.  We are looking for filling defects and ulcers of the mucosa and thickening. Barium has lost some of its significance since ultrasonography tends to be much more sensitive. One very nice “side effect” of giving barium to a pet that might be vomiting is its soothing affect on the lining of the intestines (mucosa) to stop the vomiting.

TLI type tests- serum fPLI (pancreatitis), fasting serum TLI (exocrine pancreatic insufficiency), fasting serum cobalamin and folate (small intestinal function and bacterial overgrowth). These are specialized tests and take several days for the results to come back.

Endoscopy is a useful tool since we can observe the lining of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum for ulcers, lesions, and foreign bodies, that might not show up on a radiograph. Biopsy samples can be taken, although they are not full thickness, and only take the lining of the small intestines. This can lead to a missed diagnosis.

The most accurate way to diagnose IBD is to perform an exploratory surgery and take full thickness intestinal biopsy samples. The samples are analyzed by a pathologist to help differentiate IBD from intestinal cancer. Sometimes  the pathologist cannot tell the difference due to the similar histopathology of the tissue because of the abundance of inflammatory cells. During surgery, samples of other important organs like the liver and lymph nodes can also be obtained. These samples are very informative, and are taken in many cases.

IntestineBiopsy

Surgery has the major advantage of being able to see and palpate the intestines, along with taking a complete (called full thickness) sample of the intestines. This surgeon is using a scalpel blade to take the sample.

These samples are analyzed by a histopathologist. The report might come back with several different terms describing the IBD in specific medical terms, depending on the cell type:

  • Lymphocytic-plasmacyltic (the most common one)
  • Eosinophilic
  • Granulomatous
  • Suppurative
  • Histiocytic

Ultrasonography of the abdomen is an invaluable diagnostic tool in diagnosing IBD. In the case of IBD it should be performed by a specialist in this area. It has revolutionized how we diagnose IBD, pancreatitis, and Triaditis. Prior to the advent of ultrasound, exploratory surgery was needed to make an accurate diagnosis, and that was only after biopsy samples were obtained. Ultrasound is dramatically less invasive and expensive compared to surgery, and the results are obtained immediately in many cases.

Ultrasound-Machine

Ultrasound is rapid and painless, and the only invasive part is shaving your pet’s abdomen

UltrasoundReport-IBD

This is a typical report of a pet with IBD

Ultrasound can be used to measure wall thickness of various segments of the intestinal tract, which yields supportive evidence in the face of clinical signs. However, it cannot be used to differentiate between IBD and other disease processes that result in significant inflammation of the intestinal wall (i.e. lymphoma). This is where surgery has an advantage since full thickness biopsy samples can be taken for analysis

Ultrasound-SmallIntestine

This is what the small intestines look like during ultrasound while they are being measure for size

Ultrasound-Pancreas1

This is what the pancreas looks like, also being measured

Ultrasound-MesLymphNode

All of the abdominal organs are assessed during an ultrasound. This is what an enlarged lymph node looks like.

Fine needle aspirate samples may be obtained with the guidance of ultrasonography.  Sometimes this test is diagnostic, sometimes it is not. Even though it is not a perfect test, we sometimes recommend it due to the simplicity in obtaining it.

A hypoallergenic diet trial may be issued for cases of highly suspected dietary allergies or intolerance. In such cases, some pets respond when the diet is altered and no further diagnostics are necessary. You must feed this food, and only this food, to see if this works. Sometimes results are immediate, other times it might take several months to know for sure.

This can be a risk if the diet trial is attempted before numerous other disease processes are not first ruled out, especially cancer and internal organ diseases like Feline Hyperthyroidism.  This delay in diagnosis can affect outcome. If clinical signs do not improve or resolve within the first two weeks of the diet trial, then further diagnostic work-up is indicated.

Treatment

Depending on the severity of disease at presentation, treatment must first begin with stabilizing the pet. What we do to stabilize depends on the severity and duration of symptoms.

Symptomatic

Stabilization generally includes intravenous  fluids to correct dehydration, correct electrolyte imbalance, and improve kidney function. If the protein level is low we might use a fluid called Hetastarch.

Pets that are not eating are assist fed a special diet called A/D to maintain appropriate caloric intake and to prevent further disruption of internal organ function and get the GI tract back to normal. Probiotics to help stimulate the normal bacterial flora might be beneficial.

Vomiting pets are continued on fluids to maintain normal hydration, and given a specific medication called Cerenia (maropitant) to stop the vomiting. This drug has been a tremendous help in alleviating vomiting in pets due to many different causes. We use it for IBD, put also for other GI problems like parvo virus and pancreatitis without IBD. Cerenia works on the emetic (vomiting) center of the brain.

Cerenia

We use the injectable version in the hospital, and send home an oral version if needed

Diet

Dietary intervention is considered a mainstay for many gastrointestinal cases because a large proportion of cats and dogs with gastrointestinal disease are associated with food-sensitivity. We need to get these pets eating again for the intestines to return to normal function. Dogs and cats with pancreatitis, which is painful and causes severe illness,  do well initially with a low fat diet in the early stages to get them stronger and get the intestines used to digesting food again.  I/D (Intestinal Diet) has been used by our doctors for well over 35 years, and is the gold standard for pets with GI problems. After the pet is stable we look for a long term food.

PrescriptionDiet-ID

I/D comes in many variations, and our doctors will tell you which one is appropriate for your pet’s specific problem

 It is the protein component of the food causing the problem. Hill’s has solved this problem by making a food with a hydrolyzed protein that does not cause a reaction. It is unconditionally guaranteed, and is worth using in every case because it works often, and you can get your money back if it does not work. This is a complete diet and can be fed for the rest of your pet’s life. It is very rewarding when a dog or cat with the signs of IBD improves on only food and does not need medication.

PrescriptionDiet-ZD

The best food we have found overall for dogs and cats with food allergy is called Z/D

Novel proteins are not manipulated protein sources (as compared to hydrolyzed proteins like Z/D), but are simply new proteins that the pet has never ingested before. These foods might contain:

  • Potato
  • Duck
  • Sweet potato
  • Venison
  • Salmon

Many dogs and cats immune systems have not been exposed to venison, duck, or rabbit. Due to the fact that it takes long-term exposure to a protein before the immune system will react against it, then these novel protein diets are often attempted when the protein source is suspected to be the cause of IBD.  If pancreatitis is present (in Triaditis cases), a low-fat diet is critical during the first stages of medical therapy prior to initiating a diet trial.

Vitamin supplementation is a critical component of treatment for some individual pets whose IBD stems from a deficiency in cobalamin (vitamin B12), specifically in cats.  Pets that are sick enough to have a low cobalamin level are generally in need of more than just vitamin supplementation, requiring a combination of other medications and dietary alterations.

Medications

Steroids (corticosteroids) are used in many cases in order to decrease the inflammation. The most common ones include prednisolone or prednisone. Budesonide, is a weaker steroid, that is also used. If the root of IBD or Triaditis is due to an immune-mediated process, then more potent immune system suppressants than steroids are required, such as cyclosporine, chlorambucil, or azathioprine.

Antibiotic therapy is used when Triaditis is present.  Antibiotics should be chosen based on bacterial culture and susceptibility (usually of the urine to check for an U.T.I.) results, especially in cases of Triaditis. A very common antibiotic used for pets with IBD is metronidazole, also known as Flagyl.

When the liver is involved (Triaditis) we might also use Actigall (ursodiol) or Denamarin (s-adenosyl methionine)

Denamarin

IBD can be painful, and it is important to keep the pet as comfortable as possible during an acute episode of IBD or severe case of Triaditis. Prednisone and Flagyl decrease inflammation, which helps minimze pain. Specific pain medications are also used.

Prognosis

The prognosis depends on many factors. This disease is usually not cured, unless there is a food allergy and we find the right diet for your pet. Most cases are controlled with diet and medication. IBD and it’s associated diseases tend to be a long term problem that is usually managed successfully. You increase your chance of success by giving medication consistently and bringing your pet to us for exams and diagnostic tests to look for changes that require a change in treatment.

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C-Section

A  Caesarean Section (abbreviated as C-Section) is derived from the latin word “caedare”, which means to cut. It is believed that Julius Caesar was the first to be born this way when his mother died during childbirth. Most scholars of ancient history believe this was done long before Julius Caesar was born. Either way, the name sticks.

Our patient is a female dog that was able to deliver 2 pups normally. When we examined her and palpated her abdomen we could feel another puppy. She is exhausted, and has what is called uterine inertia. Her uterus does not have the strength to deliver the last pup.

Her 3rd one was stubborn though and did not want to come out, so we had to go in and convince him the time had come to meet his siblings. We routinely perform a spay (OVH) on these dogs after we remove the pup.

Graphic photos of an actual surgery are on this page. 

Radiograph-pregnant dog lateral

We took a radiograph to confirm the size of the pup and look for any problems

Pup-nursing help

The two that were born naturally had one last meal from their mother before we brought her into surgery

Pups-sleeping in carrier

After their meal they were cozied up with blankets and a hot water bottle (at the bottom of the photo) since they cannot regulate their temperature at this stage

Pups-sleeping

We know they were content because they fell asleep. Now we could concentrate on their mother and the remaining pup

It was time for the C-section. After we gave the mother a thorough pre-anesthetic exam, and administered intravenous fluids, she was ready for surgery. In this procedure we move fast, real fast, so the remaining pup is not depressed by the anesthesia we give the mother for the C-section. While the surgeons are scrubbing in and preparing their instruments we are preparing the mother for surgery.

Joel-mother

After she was clipped Joel brought her in to start the anesthesia

Mother-onside

She is getting sleepy as we administer her anesthetic. As soon as she is out we move her into surgery. Her abdomen has alreadly been clipped, and a local anesthetic has been infused into her abdomen where we will make our incision. This allows us to give her less general anesthetic and not depress the remaining puppy.

Hands

While our patient is being anesthetized our surgeons are scrubbing up

Instruments

As soon as the surgeon’s are gloved and gowned they go right into the surgery suite to get the instruments ready. We do not want our patient waiting for the surgeons, we want the surgeons waiting for the patient.

Surgivet

Our patient is immediately hooked up to our anesthetic machine when brought into the surgery suite. When stable we can start the surgery.

Surgeon-draping

Dr. Wood, our first surgeon, wastes no time draping our patient for the procedure once our anesthetist confirms our patient is stable

Doctor-draping

At this point, our 2nd surgeon, Dr. ridgeway, is scrubbing in and will be in the surgery suite in a few seconds

Doctor-surgery team

We don’t technically need 2 surgeons for this procedure. We do it because we can get the puppy out of the uterus faster this way, which is of utmost importance to us for a pup that has been in the uterus longer than it should be and could be struggling.

Pup- in uterus

This is what the pup looks like in the uterus

Uterus-incision

A quick incision in the uterus, taking care not to cut the puppy

Uterus-pup out

Out he (it’s a boy!) comes covered in a protective membrane

Pup-umbilicus clamp

Once we remove the membrane the first thing we do is clamp and cut his umbilical cord

Pup-suction

We immediately suction out any fluid from his mouth so he can get some air into his lungs

Pup-nurse suction

Then it’s a quick hand-off to our nurses who are eagerly waiting for him with a warm towel and more suctioning

Over several minutes we gently suction out mucous from the nose and mouth

After we are sure the breathing passages are clear we stimulate him to breathe by gently rubbing him

Pup-eating

His mom is still in surgery, so we give him a quick meal until he can nurse. Nursing is important because the milk the mother produces contains antibodies he needs to prevent common diseases like Distemper. He cannot produce these antibodies just yet.

Pups-feeding

While our doctors are finishing the surgery our nursings staff goes to work making sure these puppies are fed and kept warm until the mother is fully recovered and able to nurse all of them


Whitepup-feeding

The nursing instinct is strong and the puppies greedily suck down the milk

Nurse assist feeeding puppy

Pups-resting

After nice meal all 3 of them take a well deserved nap


Mother-recovering

We let the mother recover completely before we let the pups nurse. She is exhausted from trying to get this last puppy out and needs some time to rest.


CSection-surgeons

Once mom was out of surgery and stable our surgeons could not resist, and had to hold the puppies

This was Dr. Wood’s first C-section, and she did a wonderful job! Next time she has to do one in the middle of the night she won’t need to call Dr. P or Dr. R to help her!

Here is a C-Section we did many years ago:

One of the most rewarding surgeries we perform is a Cesarean Section. Usually it is performed on small breed dogs because their pelvic canals are just too small to handle the size of the pups for a natural birth. This is the story of Margarita, a Chihuahua that had 4 large pups in her tank.

The gestation length in most domestic dogs is 63-65 days. When Margarita first came to us one week before she was due we knew a C-Section would be needed from her size and her radiograph.

How many pups do you see in Margarita’s abdomen? The answer to this question will become apparent later on.

On the appointed day Margarita was brought to our hospital for a C-Section by Dr. Palazzolo. On a dog that is this small, and has this many large puppies in its uterus, preanesthetic preparation is important. This consisted of a preanesthetic blood paneland intravenous fluids prior to and during surgery.

We keep a close tab on important physiologic parameters for all of our surgeries. Monitors like this give us an early warning of an impending problem.

Surgery-Monitor

Once our surgeon has scrubbed up and is  in sterile gown, gloves, and mask, the surgery begins

_D2A8630

Here she is on the surgery table. You can see the green tape covering her IV catheter and if you look closely you might be able to tell that her abdomen has already been shaved. She has also been given a local anesthetic where her incision will be. All of these things are done prior to any anesthesia. They will allow us to use less anesthesia for the actual procedure which is important to minimize any anesthesia that depresses the pups.

At this point things start moving fast. Margarita has been given an IV sedative to relax her, the final surgical prep has been applied, and a breathing tube (called an endotracheal tube) is in her windpipe giving her 100% oxygen. Once she is intubated we move fast, and in the next 5 minutes all of the pups will be out of her uterus. While her anesthesia is being monitored the rest of the team is preparing to receive the pups.

She is draped and a rapid incision is made in her skin. By giving her the local anesthetic earlier she does not feel the skin incision and we can keep the anesthetic level to a minimum.

The uterus is rapidly located and gently squeezed out of her incision. We make the incision in her abdomen just big enough to gently exteriorize the uterus because she will heal faster and nurse her pups better with a smaller incision. This is where the experience of our surgeon, Dr. Palazzolo, comes into play.

This is one horn of the uterus and contains 2 of the pups. The other horn of the uterus can be visualized running horizontally at the bottom of the picture.

A scissors is used to cut into the uterus. Special care is taken not to cut the pups,which could be moving in the uterus.

The first pup is gently removed with his umbilical cord still attached.

You can get a better idea of the amniotic sac that completely covers the pups.

The first things our nurses do upon receiving the pups is to rub them gently yet vigorously in a towel. This stimulates them to breathe. They also gently shake them to remove fluid from their lungs.

The nurses use a special bulb syringe to suction fluids from pups that aren’t eliminating fluid from shaking and rubbing.

Any pup that is still not breathing well at this point is giving a drop of respiratory stimulant on the top of its tongue.

Once our nurses feel the pup is breathing on its own they tie its umbilical cord.

After all 4 pups are stable they are put under a heat lamp since at this early stage in their lives they do not have a very strong ability to regulate their body temperature.

Meanwhile back in surgery Dr. P is checking the abdomen to make sure there is no bleeding prior to suturing the abdomen. In Margarita’s case she was also spayed.

Her muscle layer is carefully sewn back together. These sutures are critical to prevent a hernia from occurring, especially when pups vigorously nurse.

With her skin sutures complete Margarita is now taken off the anesthetic machine and a pain injection is given to her.

Our nurses take care of the feeding while Margarita rests and recuperates. We won’t let 4 hungry pups nurse until she is strong enough.

Here are our 4 little piggies all in a row sleeping after their ordeal and their first meal. Their tummies are full and they are keeping each other warm.

In a surgery like this there needs to be close coordination between the surgeon, anesthetist, and nursing staff. You can see how much time and attention our nurses put into doting over these puppies.

Time for a little shut eye, we had a big day!

This is one of those pups several months later with her proud mom! Can you guess which of the above 4 puppies this one is? (Hint-look at the white spot on the forehead).

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Geriatric Medicine

In the past, we may have accepted a declining quality of life for our aging pets as a fact of life beyond our control. Like humans, older dogs and cats are more likely to encounter health problems than younger pets. Thanks to advances in veterinary medicine, pets are living longer than ever before. A 7 year old dog or cat is equivalent to a 50 year old person. Most humanoids are practicing preventive medicine at this age- routine physical exams, breast exams, prostate exams, blood pressure checkups, blood panels and dietary changes. Dogs and cats need similar preventive medicine at this age. Since they age approximately 7 years for every 1 year of human life, an 8 year old dog or cat is equivalent to a 56 year old person, and a 9 year old dog or cat is equivalent ot a 63 year old person. This rapid yearly increase in equivalent age emphasizes the fact that we need to pay close attention to all dogs and cats as they move beyond 7 years of life.

Just as older people experience a progressive decline in physical condition, so do senior pets. Studies indicate that 36% of senior dogs suffer from osteoarthritis, 18% show signs of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, and the number one diagnosed disease of dogs in all age groups is dental disease. Compared to humans, old age problems may progress up to 7 times faster in senior pets. Having your senior pet examined only once a year is like a senior person visiting the doctor only once every seven years. That is why, as your pet nears 7 years of age (5 years of age in Giant Breeds), preventive senior exams every 6 months can help assess your pet’s current health, provide a baseline for monitoring changes in the years ahead, and help detect health problems in the early stages, when diseases can be treated more effectively.

Senior Care is “geriatric” medicine for pets. Senior health care implies both preventive and therapeutic approaches to medicine, including nutrition, dental care, and exercise as well as therapy for diseases.

Age Chart

Relative age of Your Dog in “Human Years”
Age Dog’s size in pounds
years 0-20 21-50 51-90 90 +
5 36 37 40 42
6 40 42 45 49
7 44 47 50 56
8 48 51 55 64
9 52 56 61 71
10 56 60 66 78
11 60 65 72 86
12 64 69 77 93
13 68 74 82 101
14 72 78 88 108
15 76 83 93 115
16 80 87 99 123
17 84 92 104
18 88 96 109
19 92 101 115
20 96 105 120
= Senior
= Geriatric

 


Symptoms

Changes in behavior or appearance may be the first indication of a problem. However, these signs may not be apparent in the exam room during your veterinary visit. It is important for you to watch for subtle changes, especially in stoic older pets.

Signs of aging:

Difficulty climbing stairs

Difficulty jumping up

Increased stiffness or limping

Loss of housetraining

Increased thirst

Increased urination

Changes in activity level

Excessive panting

Circling/Repetitive movements

Confusion or disorientation

Excessive barking

Less interaction with family

Decreased responsiveness

Tremors or shaking

Skin and haircoat changes

Changes in sleeping patterns

Less enthusiastic greeting or behavior

Altered appetite

Weight change

Common Health Conditions of Senior Pets

Obesity- As their metabolism slows down it is easy to overfeed. This leads to arthritis, sugar diabetes, liver disease, and heart disease.

Dental– Inflammation of the teeth and gums may lead to pain, infection, tooth loss, bad breath, kidney and heart disease, and, as a result, decrease your pet’s life expectancy.

Hormone (endocrine)- cause a vast array of symptoms that are treatable and sometimes curable.

Cushing’s– Excess production of cortisol (cortisone) by the adrenal glands.

Diabetes (sugar) – Excess glucose in the bloodstream due to a lack of insulin

Hyperthyroid– Excess production of thyroid hormone

Hypothyroid– Inadequate amount of thyroid production

Kidney– Failure of this organ can lead to chemical imbalances, anemia, compromised immune function, and blood clotting defects as well as altered mental capacity. Kidney disease is a leading cause of death in geriatric cats.Chronic Urinary Tract Infections can easily occur without you being aware. These are painful, and can predispose your pet to bladder stones.

Liver– Failure can lead to serious disease with chemical imbalances, anemia, compromised immune function, and blood clotting defects as well as altered mental capacity.

Heart– Pets with heart disease can experience difficulty breathing, fatigue, exercise intolerance, and lethargy.

Cancer– Can occur in many different organs. Early detection may improve the prognosis. Many treatments are available and most have few side effects.

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome– Similar to senility or Alzheimers in people.

Senior Exam

With frequent checkups, at least twice a year, we can screen for common senior diseases. By diagnosing and treating problems earlier, we may be able to slow the disease process and prevent pain and discomfort.

In addition to a complete physical examinationdiagnostic tests can help detect many diseases before your pet displays signs of a condition. Even if results are normal, the findings give you veterinarian a good baseline to identify and monitor changes in your pet’s health as the years progress.

You can do an in-home exam to help catch problems before they become entrenched.

Physical Examination We can check for physical signs of cancer, arthritis, heart and lung disease, dental disease, or cataracts.
Complete Blood Count
(CBC)
This test helps identify infections, anemia, and certain types of cancer as well as problems with bleeding and the immune system.
Serum Chemistry Profile This blood test can help identify diseases of the liver and kidney, and endocrine disorders such as Diabetes or Cushing’s.
Complete Urinalysis A urine sample can help test for kidney diseasediabetes, urinary tract infections, andbladder stones.
Fecal Exam A fecal sample can be checked for internal parasites and bacterial overgrowth.
Other Tests Depending on your pet’s overall health, we may recommend additional tests such asblood pressure measurementradiographselectrocardiography (ECG or EKG),ultrasound, thyroid (hyperthyroid or hypothyroid) or adrenal gland (Cushing’s or addison’s) testing, as well as liver, pancreas, and small intestine function tests.

Senior Nutritional Needs

Nutritional needs of pets change as they get older. Senior dogs should consume fewer calories due to decreased activity and reduced daily energy needs. This is very important because obesity increases the risk of serious diseases, arthritis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and musculoskeletal disorders in older dogs.

Pet foods, specifically for seniors, are now available with fewer calories, limited phosphorous, more protein, balanced fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to meet the specific nutritional needs of senior pets. These foods have optimum amounts of nutrition, and can help in the progression of common diseases like kidney disease.

We recommend G/D (Geriatric Diet) by Hill’s as a great general food for older pets. Those pets that we suspect as developing kidney disease need K/D (Kidney Diet), also by Hill’s.


References:

1. Survey of Veterinarians, 1998. Sponsored by The Iams Company and Pfizer Animal Health.

Developed for Long Beach animal Hospital, by Glenna M Gobar DVM, MPVM, MS, courtesy of Pfizer animal Health; Sept 2001

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