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The Difference Between Obesity and Hypothyroidism

Welcome back for another edition of Medicine Versus Mom. While working at the veterinary hospital, I can’t tell you how many overweight pets we had as patients. Statistics would tell you that at least 50% of our patients were overweight and had a poor body condition score. While some pet parents seemed oblivious that their pet’s weight was not ideal, others knew that their dog was gaining weight, but felt that they were doing all the right things (not overfeeding, and providing regular exercise). This issue among pet parents is so common that Carol Bryant from Fidose of Reality and myself thought we would discuss it here today.

Specifically, we want to talk about understanding the difference between canine obesity and hypothyroidism. While both of these diseases are highly treatable in dogs, they do have similar symptoms which could lead to misdiagnosis or assumptions from pet parents about how to improve their dog’s health. I believe that by understanding hypothyroidism and it’s symptoms, you will be able to better understand when your dog needs to have endocrine testing versus needing diet and exercise changes.

What is Hypothyroidism?

According to PetMD: 

“Hypothyroidism is a clinical condition resulting from a lowered production and release of T4 and T3 hormones by the thyroid gland. It is common in medium to large-sized dogs, with some being more predisposed than others. “ 

When the production of the T3 and T4 hormones decreases, it causes the processes and the functions of all organ systems in the body to slow down. Including, your dog’s metabolism. Hypothyroidism is commonly diagnosed between the ages of 4 and 10 years old, and some breeds (listed below) are more prone to the disease than others:

  • Golden Retriever
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Irish Setter
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Dachshund
  • Cocker Spanial
  • Airedale Terrier

What are the symptoms associated with Hypothyroidism?

According to the Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health, the symptoms associated with hypothyroidism include:

  • Lethargy
  • Unwillingness or inability to exercise
  • Weight gain
  • Dry coat or skin
  • Excessive shedding
  • Hair thinning or hair loss
  • Reoccuring skin infections

What causes Hypothyroidism to occur?

According to PetMD, hypothyroidism usually occurs because the thyroid gland has been destroyed by an abnormal immune reaction. In most cases (95%) hypothyroidism is due to the destruction of the gland itself, however, in a small number of cases it is due to a tumor of the pituitary gland (Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health).

How is Hypothyroidism diagnosed?

Traditional diagnosis requires endocrine testing (measuring the amount of thyroid hormone your dog has available) of the T3 and T4 hormones.

What is the treatment for Hypothyroidism?

Traditional treatment for hypothyroidism requires providing your dog’s body with the synthetic version of the hormone they are lacking.

The deficient hormones are given in synthetic form, with the dosage adjusted occasionally based on your dog’s individual physical condition and progress. Most clinical symptoms will resolve after a few months, but only your veterinarian can determine whether your dog’s medicine dosage should be adjusted or changed. To avoid complicating the condition, do not change the type or dosage of the drug yourself, and never give anything new to your dog without first consulting with your veterinarian. This caution includes the use of herbal remedies.- PetMD

How to know when its just weight gain…

When I was studying Animal Science at UC Davis, I specifically remember learning that Hypothyroidism, while not a rare disease, was being over diagnosed in veterinary medicine. In an article written by Dr. Patty Khuly in 2008, she alluded to the over-diagnosis of this disease mostly based on the idea that people didn’t want to admit that their pets were simply gaining weight.

Not only do I find this disease of slow-metabolism to be one many of us humans wish we had (especially when at a loss to explain why we gained so much weight over the holidays)—hypothyroidism is an illness pet owners increasingly want their overweight pets tested for.

I can’t blame pet parents for wanting their dogs to be tested for hypothyroidism, especially when they feel that they have done all of the right things to care for their dogs. But, if your dog’s hormones are balanced, we don’t want to give them medication they don’t need.

So, how can you be sure that your dog is receiving the right diagnosis?

According to Dr. Jennifer Coates, if your dog has symptoms associated with hypothyroidism, and bloodwork has revealed low thyroid levels, and all other clinical signs have been ruled out, then it is appropriate to tentatively diagnose your dog with hypothyroidism. The true test will be your dog’s responsiveness to the medication. If repeat testing shows that your dog’s hormone levels have returned to normal, than your dog is truly hypothyroid and should continue on the medication per your veterinarian’s recommendations.

Misdiagnosis can occur for a variety of reasons:

Because dogs that are sick with diseases completely unrelated to the thyroid gland often develop low thyroid hormone levels. The condition is called euthyroid sick syndrome, and it does not require thyroid hormone replacement therapy. What is really needed is an accurate diagnosis and treatment aimed at the underlying problem, but this is sometimes easier said than done!

In conclusion, it is important for pet parents to be honest with themselves. Is your dog gaining weight? Or are there other symptoms on this list your dog is experiencing? Have you tried adjusting their diet and exercise? Is someone else in your house overfeeding your dog (you would be surprised how often this happens)?

If you truly feel that your dog is experiencing symptoms of Hypothryoidism, definitely take them to visit your veterinarian and be prepared for bloodwork testing.

I highly recommend visiting Fidose of Reality to hear Carol’s Dog Mom perspective on this topic!

medicine versus mom

Trupanion Summer Safety Series: Pool Safety for Pets!

A few weeks ago we kicked off the Trupanion Summer Safety Series by discussing Beach Safety for Pets.

Today, we want to continue that series by discussing Pool Safety for Pets! Although we have discussed pool safety a few times on the blog so far, I am always looking for new insights and tips for keepings our pets safe. Therefore, we are relying on the wonderful Dr. Sarah Nold, DVM & the Trupanion team to share with us their insights to help make the pool a safer place for our pets! Below you will see our Q&A:

1) Pools can be a great way to keep pets cool in the summer, but what precautions can pet parents with backyard pools take to keep their pets safe?

Make sure your pet doesn’t have access to your pool unless they are supervised, especially if your pool does not allow your pet to easily get out of the pool on their own.  If you don’t know if your pet swims well or are concerned they are a poor swimmer, consider having your pet wear a life jacket while in the pool.

If it’s their first time with a pool,  let your pet approach the water at their own pace. Swimming can be intimidating to some dogs—especially when their paws can’t touch the floor. Don’t force your dog into the water—instead start at the shallow end and create plenty of positive experiences.

Rooney wears a lifejacket while in the pool. He usually knows where the stairs are or can pick up on that quickly, but much of the time Rooney is trying to keep up with dogs that are naturally much stronger swimmers. (I think Rooney thinks his legs are much longer than they actually are.) To prevent him from becoming exhausted or panicked, I keep a lifejacket on him.


2) Are there any common pool toys that can be particularly dangerous for pets?

Soft pool covers are dangerous, as a pet can easily become trapped and drown. Avoid toys that are small enough for your pet to swallow or have small parts that can come off.

We do not have a pool, but if I did I would make sure it had a fence around it to add an additional layer of safety for Rooney. As of now, Rooney gets to swim with one of his friends at a nearby pool. As far as pool toys go, Rooney and I are big fans of PrideBites toys because they can float in the pool, and are machine washable.

3) Swimming can be a great physical therapy activity for dogs with joint injuries, are there any specific activities or exercises pet parents can do with their pets in the pool?

Many dogs enjoy retrieving their favorite toy (preferably one that floats).

Why is swimming such a great exercise for dogs? As outlined by the Water4Dogs Canine Rehabilitation Center in New York, hydrotherapy is aerobic, but low impact on the joints and bones. Due to the low impact, the aerobic component, and the resistance from the water, swimming is an ideal exercise for keeping your dog in shape.

As you mentioned, swimming is a great low-impact exercise. If your dog is a hesitant swimmer, you can encourage them to walk through shallow water. This alternative provides some of the same low-impact exercise benefits as swimming and can be a great option for older dogs or dogs who aren’t as confident in the water.

Additionally, for Corgis, swimming is a great exercise for building muscles that support their back while keeping the exercise low impact.

4) At Trupanion what kinds of claims are commonly associated with pools?

This is very similar to the beach-related claims. Dehydration and heat stroke are always a concern on hot days. Pets, just like humans, need plenty of water and a place in the shade to cool down.

For dogs like Rooney who have a fear of missing out (FOMO). It’s difficult to get him to take a break while other dogs are playing in the pool. I know that swimming is much more challenging for him than a Lab, for example, so I have to schedule breaks when he is swimming. Last week, Rooney was swimming with his friend Grayson who is a Cattle Dog Border Collie Mix, who swims every day. Rooney wouldn’t rest while Grayson was still swimming, so I did have to take him for a leisurely walk so that he could use the bathroom, and take a much needed break from swimming.

Does your dog like to swim? What precautions do you take to help keep your dog safe around the pool?

Stay tuned for the next installment in the Trupanion Summer Safety Series: Car & Travel Safety

Disclaimer: Trupanion is the pet insurance that we have for Rooney. My Kid Has Paws is working with Trupanion to provide pet parents with valuable information to help keep their pets safe. Also, I am a PrideBites affiliate. However, My Kid Has Paws only shares information we think our readers would find to be valuable. 

Apoquel is Rooney’s Best Friend

Disclaimer: What works for us may not work for you, but I did want to share our experience with Apoquel. I think it’s important to note that I am not a Veterinarian and, therefore, can’t recommend or prescribe Apoquel for any individual dog (Apoquel is not FDA approved to be used for cats). This post was created simply to provide our experience and give pet parents some additional information. Apoquel didn’t sponsor this post. Additionally, all thoughts and experiences are my own.

I don’t know if I have mentioned this already, but allergies in California this year have been fierce! Mostly due to all the rain we had (and needed) this past winter. The only bummer is that when our allergies are bad, so are our dogs allergies.

Therefore, Rooney has been one itchy dog this year. Most years his allergies will peak sometime in the Spring and again in the Fall, but this year Rooney has been constantly fighting allergies. Luckily, these days we have a medication that works well and fast, it’s called Apoquel.

Signs of Allergies

Before I start talking about Apoquel and its benefits, it’s important that you know the signs and symptoms associated with dog allergies. According to Apoquel’s guide, the signs and symptoms of canine allergies include:

  • Excessive Licking, Chewing, Biting or Scratching
  • Excessive Rolling, Rubbing, or Scooting
  • Foot Chewing (Rooney’s number 1 symptom)
  • Hair Loss
  • Ear Infections and Head Shaking
  • Red or Itchy Skin
  • Changes in the skin, including sores, darkened colors, or scabs

If your dog is exhibiting any of the above symptoms, its imperative that you learn what type of allergy your dog has (inhaled, flea, or food). In order to accurately determine what kind of allergies your dog is experiencing, and how you can best help your dog, you will need to work with your veterinarian.

Rooney has inhaled (or environmental) allergies. Apoquel helps control his itching and secondary symptoms associated with his allergies.

Apoquel, A History

Shortly after Apoquel debuted on the market, it went on backorder due to high demand, and according to Veterinary Practice News, “undisclosed production problems”. Before Apoquel was available on the market, and during it’s shortage, there are few other medications available that are somewhat cost effective, and don’t include steroids. While steroids are used to treat severe allergies in the short term, they are tough on the body’s kidney and liver, therefore, I want to avoid giving Rooney steroids as much as possible. We had tried quite a few medications, since Rooney’s allergies arrive every year, and cannot be left untreated or he will develop hotspots. However, once Apoquel was back on the market, we talked to Rooney’s vet and began using it to tame his allergies once again.

What exactly is Apoquel?

APOQUEL is used for the control of itch associated with allergic skin disease and for control of atopic skin disease in dogs at least 1 year of age. APOQUEL significantly reduces itching, and also decreases the associated inflammation, redness or swelling of the skin.

How Does Apoquel work?

Unlike other treatments, APOQUEL targets a key itch signal in the nervous system and has minimal negative impact on the immune system. APOQUEL also allows your veterinarian to continue to diagnose the underlying cause of itch while providing your dog with relief.

Why I Like Apoquel

As Needed. Rooney gets Apoquel once a day as needed to relieve itching due to allergies. I like this type of dosage because Rooney doesn’t need the medication 365 days a year. However, he will need allergy medication several times throughout the year to keep his allergies in control.

Works Fast. Apoquel can start to relieve your pet from itching in 4 hours. I know when I give Rooney his Apoquel he quickly goes from being very itchy to only slightly itchy within a few hours.

Apoquel is mostly cost effective for our budget. It’s not the cheapest allergy medication available, but it is so effective. And because you can give it to your pet on an as needed basis, it helps you save as compared to some other medications.

Work With Your Veterinarian

Do you think that your dog could benefit from a medication like Apoquel? If so, you should discuss this possibility with your veterinarian if your dog is over 1 year of age. Please keep in mind that like all medications, Apoquel can have side effects. I highly recommend doing your research and consulting a veterinarian before starting your pet on any medication.

Would you like us to bring back Medical Mondays (even though it’s Wednesday — I’m trying lol)? I think these posts have provided pet parents with important information over the years. Therefore, I would like to add them back to the blogging rotation (and post more frequently again – sorry friends!). What do you think?

Cold Laser Therapy for Dogs: A Revolution in Arthritis Treatment

There is a new-ish treatment available in veterinary medicine, and it’s called Cold Laser Therapy!

I am very excited to share with your some information about Cold Laser Therapy along with my good friend Carol Bryant from Fidose of Reality. Carol’s dog Dexter has been treated with Cold Laser Therapy, so she will be able to share her Mom perspective on the topic, while I provide you with some general medical information regarding this new and exciting treatment.

What is Cold Laser Therapy?

It’s a type of treatment where “a cold laser uses a beam of light to stimulate damaged cells to produce more energy” (Veterinary General). When the laser stimulates the cells, it improves cellular function, reduces inflammation, and stimulates blood flow. Additionally, Cold Laser Therapy improves the absorption of nutrients by the cells and cellular reproduction. What most pet parents need to understand is that the most common joint damage that our pets experience is due to cellular damage, inflammation, and a lack of healthy cell reproduction. Specifically arthritis, which is defined by PetMD as:

Arthritis is a general term for abnormal changes in a joint. It can arise from joint tissue destruction after an infection, from congenital defects affecting structural architecture, and from stress and trauma to joint surfaces and supporting structures.”

Due to its positive effect on cellular tissue, Cold Laser Therapy can be used to treat the following (Veterinary General):

  • Arthritis or Musculoskeletal diseases
  • Joint injuries or Trauma
  • Post-Surgical incisions
  • Ligament or tendon injuries
  • Fractures
  • Muscle sprains or strains
  • Skin lesions or abrasions
  • Nerve damage

New-ish to Veterinary Medicine

Cold Laser Therapy is new-ish to veterinary medicine. Much of the initial research in the media was published around 2011 from my findings. However, according to Multi Radiance Medical, Cold Laser Therapy gained popularity in the veterinary rehabilitation community in the 1990s. Despite being a new-ish treatment, Cold Laser Therapy has been around in human medicine for quite some time.

“Laser therapy is a very effective modality to speed and direct healing in dogs with painful arthritis, strains and sprains and other injuries or effects of aging. It has been used in humans for a long time and dogs now can reap the benefits, too.” – Dr. Christine Zink Director of the Department of Molecular and Comparative Pathobiology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

What does this mean for you?

Veterinary Medicine has spent many years determining the effects and applications of Cold Laser Therapy. As the treatment continues to gain popularity in the veterinary field, your pet will have better access to improved technology.

What to Expect

Veterinarians who are trained in rehab therapy will be able to recommend the Cold Laser Therapy to your pet as part of a larger treatment plan.

Your veterinarian may recommend Cold Laser Therapy as a treatment for your pet if they suffer from a joint or ligament injury or condition. The reason that Cold Laser Therapy benefits your pet is that it is non-invasive treatment, with no recovery time. Meaning, there is no anesthesia necessary, and often, you can be with your pet during the treatment (Veterans Memorial Drive Animal Hospital).

Once your veterinarian recommends Cold Laser Therapy for your dog, you and your pet will visit the veterinary hospital for regular visits. While in the hospital, your pet will lie down and the laser will be applied to the targeted area. You may need to visit more frequently in the first few weeks until your dog reaches maintenance (Veterans Memorial Drive Animal Hospital).

Many positive stories surround the use of Cold Laser Therapy in pets. Some pet parents say their pets joints seem brand new! Others see a marked difference in the way their pet walks. Either way, it seems as though many pet parents have had a positive experience with Cold Laser Therapy.

The Skeptics

Of course, with new treatments, there will be skeptics, which is a good thing. In my opinion, the more questions that are being asked, the better the technology and research will become.

  • “Not all cases are successful.” As of 2012, some studies do show that Cold Laser Therapy is not always successful. However, due to the number of parameters and variables that can skew the research, these studies do not indicate that Cold Laser Therapy is ineffective. (Veterinary Practice News)
  • “The lasers only reduce pain, nothing else”. This is false, due to the increased circulation, Cold Laser Therapy can also improve ligament and cartilage function, as well as, decrease inflammation. (Veterinary Practice News)

To learn more about common myths associated with Cold Laser Therapy, I highly recommend reading this article from Veterinary Practice News.

Items of Note:

Based on my research, I wanted to share with pet parents a few quick items of note:

  • Not recommended for pets who have cancer because the treatment can stimulate the blood flow near cancer cells. (ABCNews)
  • There are different classes of lasers. According to Dr. Karen Becker, Class IV lasers, which are the strongest, were approved but the FDA in 2011 and are 50 times more powerful than their Class III predecessor. Additionally, new lasers have adjustable power output so that you can adjust for different types of treatment.
  • Class IV laser therapy treatments are cumulative, meaning each treatment builds on prior treatments and the animal’s condition improves continuously.” – Dr. Karen Becker
  • The treatment can reduce the probability of re-injury (Dr. Karen Becker)

Do you have or know a pet who could benefit from Cold Laser Therapy? If so, share with them this information and check out Carol’s Mom perspective on Cold Laser Therapy.

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Fighting the Flea and Tick Problem with Only Natural Pet

Disclaimer: This blog post was made possible by Only Natural Pet. I received financial compensation for sharing my opinions about Only Natural Pet and their products. However, My Kid Has Paws only recommends products we believe our readers will value.

Preventing against fleas and ticks is a problem that every pet parent faces. Sometimes the problem is seasonal, but no matter the conditions, prevention should be top of mind for every pet parent. Today, I want to share with you some available options for fighting the ever-present flea and tick problem both for your pet and in your home.

What’s the Big Deal with Fleas and Ticks?

Occasionally when working at the veterinary hospital, I noticed that a few pet parents skipped out on the flea and tick prevention at their pet’s initial veterinary exam. On occasion, they declined due to the expense. Sometimes, they concluded that the prevention was unnecessary because their pet will be mostly inside. Often, pet parents didn’t quite understand the severity of flea and tick problems. It is important, however, to understand that fleas and ticks cause a real threat to your pet’s health.

For example, a tick bite or infestation can lead to Lyme disease, which can be detrimental to the health of your pet. Additionally, fleas can lead to flea bite allergy and dermatitis, which can begin a potentially long list of skin problems.

Health Problems Associated with Ticks (PetMD):

  • toxicosis or hypersensitivity
  • blood loss anemia
  • transmitters of viral or bacterial diseases

Health Problems Associated with Fleas (PetMD):

  • itching
  • hair loss
  • inflammation
  • secondary skin infection

Fighting the Flea and Tick Problem with Only Natural Pet

The reality is that pet parents don’t actually need to know the list of problems associated with fleas and ticks. All anyone needs to know is that they can cause problems for your pet that can be prevented, so let’s talk about prevention!

Is There a Pill for That?

The answer is yes. For a long time, there were only a few options that dominated the flea and tick prevention market. However, these days there are a variety of options that pet parents can choose from:

1) Topical

Topical flea, heartworm, and tick medications are available and are the type of medication most pet parents recognize. Many of these medications will protect your pet from more than one insect intruder. For example, Revolution, a product that I have used on Rooney in the past, prevents against fleas, heartworm, and intestinal parasites.

2) Pill form

Flea and tick medications do come in pill form. We tried one of these products in the past, and they upset Rooney’s stomach, so we discontinued the use of that. The benefit to a pill form or chewable is that your pet doesn’t have to stay dry for 24-48 hours before, and after, application as they do with topical medications. Therefore, these are great alternatives for pets who like to swim.

Additionally, there is no concern regarding kids petting a dog or cat after their the medication has been administered (as is the concern with topical medication).

3) Chewable

Chewables have been common on the market for treating heartworm for quite some time, but are also an option for flea and tick prevention.

What About Collars?

Flea collars are available on the market, and a few have the ability to repel ticks as well. This type of flea and tick repellent is preferred by some pet parents due to their long-lasting effects (up to 8 months).

Are There Any Natural or Holistic Options?

Only Natural Pet, a company that we have worked with before, brought to my attention one of their newest products: EasyDefense Flea & Tick Spray for Dogs and Cats.

Only Natural Pet EasyDefense Spray is a powerful, natural flea & tick repellent for both dogs and cats. Made with NO DEET, pyrethrins, or synthetic pesticides, this flea & tick spray for dogs and cats keeps biting pests off your pet.

In recent years many of the more traditional flea and tick prevention alternatives have been under attack in the market due to some pets having a negative reaction to the chemicals. The active ingredients in the EasyDefense Spray include; geraniol (a natural extract from the geranium plant) and peppermint oil.

The purpose of this specific spray is to provide you with a natural way to fight the good fight against fleas and ticks. That being said, you will need to spray your pet each time they go outside, but the good news is that you can use it to protect your home as well.

If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I want to hear what veterinarians think about a product, especially one that is so essential to the overall health of a pet, before I make any recommendations. So here is Holistic Veterinarian, Dr. Jean Hofve, to provide you with more information on preventing fleas and ticks naturally.

Notice that Dr. Jean Hofve mentions a few things to keep in mind when opting for a natural solution. Pet parents need to be very diligent about protecting all of the pets you have in your home, and your home itself. Basically, if you are going to opt for a more natural solution, it will take more work on your part.

In addition to the diligent use of natural products, and the essential oils they contain, pet parents will need to make sure all the pets in the home are bathed regularly, and the home is cleaned as frequently as possible (PetMD).

Additional Steps

If you are interested in the natural remedies of Only Natural Pet, they offer the EasyDefense Spray as part of a larger natural kit to help protect your pet and home against fleas and ticks. As discussed by Dr. Hofve, the best way to implement a natural solution is to take a comprehensive approach.

What remedies or natural treatments have you tried to prevent fleas and ticks? Are you interested in trying Only Natural Pet EasyDefense Spray? 

You can order online at Only Natural Pet and receive free shipping and save 20% by using the code AFLEA20SF and clicking here.

OR, you can enter our giveaway and receive a $50 Gift card to Only Natural Pet!

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