McCune Animal Hospital
Common Diseases and Their Symptoms
‘Lumps and Bumps’ are common occurrences as both pets and people age. Usually, these masses are benign cysts and fatty deposits. Bleeding, raised, red or darkly pigmented masses should be a cause for concern. We often recommend fine-needle aspiration and pathology review of any suspicious mass. Many skin tumors can be removed with local anesthesia or with mild sedation on an outpatient basis.
Arthritis is by far the most common disease in both dogs and cats. Clinical signs include limping, reluctance to walk or exercise decreased appetite and pain when the leg(s) are touched. Oddly, very few pets will cry out or even moan despite constant, terrible pain. Bone tumors are somewhat rare but are often indistinguishable from arthritis. Any swellings or hard masses should be brought to the veterinarian’s attention immediately. Most arthritic pain can be managed with oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as Rimadyl or EtoGesic.
Cataracts are the most common age-related eye disorder in dogs. The vast majority of cataracts are hereditary and develop around 8-10 years of age. You may notice a gray or bluish hue in the center of the eye. We often recommend surgical removal of the cataract to preserve vision. Glaucoma, which is defined as increased pressure in the eye, is a leading cause of blindness in pets and people. The most common clinical signs are rubbing at the eyes, pressing the head against objects, a swollen appearance to the eye and/or redness and irritation. Glaucoma can usually be successfully treated with medications and/or surgery. “Dry Eye” is another common disorder characterized by red, irritated eyes with corneal ulceration. This disease is caused by decreased tear production and is treatable with daily medication.
Hearing loss is common as dogs and cats age. The higher and lower frequencies are often lost first with complete loss of hearing occurring in many patients. Ear canal polyps, tumors and infections are also more common in the older pet. If you observe frequent shaking of the head, pawing at the ears and head, bleeding or discharge from the ears, contact the hospital.
Gingivitis and periodontal disease are the most common diseases we see at our hospital. Bad breath, red, bleeding and swollen gums, discolored, missing or loose teeth are some of the common clinical signs. Proper home dental care including feeding Prescription Diet t/d diet, brushing and rinsing is the best prevention. Ultrasonic dental scaling and polishing is the only method to remove accumulations of tartar and mineralized calculus beneath the gums. In many patients, especially those with heart disease, we recommend monthly treatment with antibiotics to help reduce the numbers of disease-causing bacteria in the mouth.
Heart and Lungs
Ten-percent of all dogs will develop heart disease during their lifetime. Decreased stamina and activity levels, coughing (especially at night) and difficulty breathing are common symptoms of heart disease. A thorough physical examination including chest x-rays, EKG, blood pressure and routine blood tests can help us to detect heart disease early in their course. Heart disease can often be successfully treated with diet, proper exercise and medications. Diagnosed early, most dogs continue to enjoy a normal lifestyle. In cats, heart disease can be more difficult to diagnose due to the lack of clinical signs. Any cat that experiences panting, coughing or collapses should be immediately evaluated for heart disease.
Kidney and Liver
Kidney disease is the leading cause of death in cats second only to cancer. Kidney and liver disease account for almost one-fourth of all canine deaths. High-protein diets, environmental toxins, trauma, cancer and heredity are the leading causes of kidney and liver disease. The most common clinical signs are increased thirst and urination, decreased appetite, vomiting and diarrhea. It is very important that all pets over seven years of age (roughly 50-60 years in human equivalent) have yearly blood tests to detect kidney and liver disease as well as diabetes, thyroid and other organ system disorders.