Here at Ocean County Veterinary Hospital Group (OCVH) we find that one of the most frustrating problems for rabbit and guinea pig owners is when a seemingly healthy pet develops an abscess – a pocket of infection and pus. Underlying dental disease is the most common reason these abscesses form. An abnormal tooth or malformation of the mouth will frequently lead to abscesses. Rabbit and guinea pig teeth continue to grow throughout the animal’s entire life, so it is important that they always have hay available. Chewing hay helps keep their teeth properly ground down. Unfortunately, genetics also plays a role, so even with a proper diet, acquired dental disease and abscesses are not always preventable.
There are some other ways for abscesses to occur in rabbits and guinea pigs. Trauma is a frequent underlying cause. This can be anything from a fall to a sharp piece of a cage abrading or puncturing the feet or body. And abscesses can occur anywhere in the body if the infection enters the blood stream and lymphatic system. Untreated, these lesions will many times be fatal.
Recently, a little guinea pig named Jack came to visit us at OCVH.. Jack, a 10-month old male, presented for two swellings under his chin. Upon examination, we found that the swellings were actually abscessed lymph nodes. We immediately took him to surgery to lance and drain the infected lesions. He recovered well and was placed on oral antibiotics to help fight the infection. With many guinea pigs and rabbits this relatively minor procedure alone is enough to cure the problem. Unfortunately, recurrence is not uncommon due to the huge load of bacteria in the system and other complicating factors.
Jack did happen to have a recurrence of the swellings about 2 weeks later. This time we needed to perform a more complex procedure to remove Jack’s lymph nodes “en bloc”- which means to completely cut out all of the infected lymph node intact. The surgical sites were packed with a blend of antibiotics and other natural ingredients to promote healing. Jack continued to take antibiotics and his owners were instructed how to flush the areas to keep them clean and promote healing. Jack did very well following this procedure, but unfortunately recurrence is still possible.
Early detection is the key to a successful outcome for these types of cases. By recognizing abscesses early we can remove small pockets of infection before they spread or become more invasive. It gives us the best chance at avoiding recurrence and reducing the pet’s discomfort. For this reason regular visits with your guinea pig and rabbit companions are highly recommended. During the examination, we can get a clear view of your pet’s teeth and oral cavity, as well as palpate for the presence of any abscesses that may be cropping up. We can also trim or file overgrown teeth before they cause pain or abscesses to form.
So remember, lots of hay, careful observation and rapid intervention whenever you suspect a problem.
Thanks for entrusting us with the care of your rabbit and guinea pig family members!
It is hard to believe, but summer is already over, and the holidays are right around the corner. Of course, with Halloween and other holidays soon to follow, baking and gift giving season has begun. As one of the most beloved desserts and snack foods in the world, chocolate is sure to abound in every household. But this treat, delicious as it may be, can be extremely harmful to our adored pets. Even though it is a well -known fact for some of us, we may still sneak an Oreo or two to our dogs and cats and maybe even some Hershey’s chocolate. How can they be denied the satisfaction of such tasty treat? While there are not always toxic effects associated with the ingestion of very small amounts of chocolate, a tasty treat could turn into a real Halloween nightmare!
What part of chocolate makes it harmful for some animals?
Many dogs have indiscriminate eating behaviors. (I’m sure many of you have a dog that has eaten a sock or two in the past!) Because of this common trait, chocolate toxicity generally occurs more frequently in dogs than in cats. The chemical that causes all of the problems in dogs is called methylxanthine. Some types and brands of chocolate contain more of this chemical than others. For example, baker’s chocolate has extremely high amounts and is very dangerous compared to most inexpensive candy bars. In animals, this chemical causes extreme stimulation of the nervous system, increased urination and dangerous effects on the heart. It can cause arrhythmias, or disturbances to the normal rate and rhythm of the heart that may be life threatening. The increased stimulation of the nervous system puts dogs at risk for seizures.
What are the signs of chocolate toxicity in dogs?
If you suspect that your dog has ingested any chocolate, it is recommended that you contact a veterinarian for further advice. Signs of chocolate toxicity include vomiting, hyperactivity, restlessness, high heart rate, and high respiratory rate. Some dogs may even develop pancreatitis, which is an inflammation of the pancreas, several days after ingestion of chocolate, even if they have undergone treatment. Clinical signs of pancreatitis include abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea. Depending on the severity of the reaction, dogs with pancreatitis may require hospitalization because it too can be life threatening.
How is chocolate ingestion and toxicity treated?
It depends on what signs your dog is showing and how much chocolate your dog consumed. Methylxanthine is specifically found in cocoa so generally speaking, the higher percent cocoa in the chocolate, the higher concentration of methylxanthine it contains. If your dog is brought to see a veterinarian within a short period of time of the ingestion, the doctor may elect to induce vomiting in your pet. Depending on the circumstances, treatment can range from monitoring your pet at home to having your pet hospitalized in the ICU and on IV fluids and medications. While hospitalized, your pet’s heart rhythm can be monitored for life threatening arrhythmias and for seizure activity. If there is any question that your pet consumed chocolate, please contact your veterinarian right away.
How do I prevent chocolate toxicity?
Of course, the first preventative step is to lock away the chocolate-containing candy! Due to their great sense of smell, dogs can sniff out tasty treats, making them susceptible to ingestion and toxicity so be sure it is well out of reach or in a cabinet that can’t be opened easily.
Other household products do contain methylxanthine and may cause the same serious reactions in your pets. These include: diet pills, fatigue reduction pills, tea leaves, coffee products, and colas. If in doubt call your veterinarian!
In addition, please keep in mind that some “sugar free” chocolates and candies do have another chemical compound called xylitol, which is EXTREMELY toxic to pets. Xylitol is most commonly found in sugar-free products and leads to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Xylitol is quickly absorbed once ingested and can cause signs within an hour or sooner. Pets that have ingested the chemical typically require hospitalization.
We at OCVH, FVH, and NPVH are always available to help you with any concerns you may have with regard to your pet’s health. Never hesitate to contact us with your questions!
Jessica Moreira DVM
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As humans, it is recommended to see your family physician once a year for your annual check up. Now imagine only seeing your doctor every 4-7 years! Do you think some medical problems would have easily been prevented or managed better with more frequent visits? That’s the concern with our feline family members. Since cats age more rapidly than people and are very good at hiding ailments, it is recommended they have twice yearly visits.
Twice yearly visits to OCVH, FVH or NPVH allow our veterinarians to examine your cat’s mouth and thoroughly examine her teeth. By three years old, 85% of cats have some form of dental disease. We can give you a detailed assessment of her dental health and give you recommendations on how to maintain it. We will listen to her heart and lungs. We will identify any murmurs (abnormal blood flow) or arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms). This is very important as cats may not show any signs of heart disease until it is very advanced and then are at risk of sudden death. We will palpate her abdomen to assess organ size and any pain. Lower urinary tract (bladder) disease is more prevalent in cats age 1 through 10, whereas upper urinary tract (kidney) disease is more prevalent in cats over 8 years old. We will check her weight and address any signs of obesity or weight loss. Overweight cats are more prone to diseases such as arthritis, diabetes mellitus, heart disease, constipation, and more. Weight loss may indicate metabolic disease, over active thyroid disease, or cancer. We will also assess her body condition, skin, coat, eyes, ears, lungs and neurologic health. Surprisingly 90% of cats over age 12 have some degree of arthritis! Most owners simply chalk it up to “slowing down” or “getting older” when actually these cats are experiencing pain. Many conditions are treatable with timely diagnosis and medical management.
During the physical examination the doctor will make recommendations for vaccines based on your cat’s lifestyle. The doctor may make recommendations for blood tests in senior cats or those that show changes from their previous visit. These tests allow us to address problems before they become too advanced or reduce your cat’s quality of life. It gives us a chance to be proactive in preventing the complications frequently associated with medical problems. By investing twice yearly in exams, you may dramatically extend your cat’s lifespan and comfort.
Twice yearly visits also provide you with the opportunity to discuss any concerns you have with the doctor. It gives you a chance to share information with us as it pertains to your cat’s health and behavior. We value your insight! You are our eyes and ears in the home setting. By incorporating your observations with our medical findings and expertise we can help your cat live a longer and healthier life.
Erika Iaquinto DVM