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Foreign Body Ingestion in Pets

December 1, 2018

Michael G. Hoelzler DVM, DACVS
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

As winter approaches, it is important for pet owners to realize that the holiday season can be a particularly risky time for our canine and feline companions. Dogs and cats are curious animals that love to interact with their environments. Loose wrapping paper, bows or tinsel, if ingested, can cause gastrointestinal blockage that may require veterinary care.

A gastrointestinal foreign body is any material that originates outside the body and gets ingested by your pet. Although many foreign bodies can pass on their own, materials such as string or other large and abnormally shaped objects can get stuck and cause problems. Objects lodged in the esophagus, stomach, or intestine can cause blockage of ingesta that normally moves along the digestive system. This in turn leads to a functional “back-up” that causes discomfort and illness and in some cases death.

After foreign body ingestion, it is usually not difficult for the attentive pet owner to know that something is wrong. Most animals with a gastrointestinal obstruction will exhibit clinical signs that may include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, anorexia or decreased appetite, lethargy, straining to defecate, or other changes in behavior.

If your pet ate foreign material or exhibits clinical signs of foreign body ingestion, it is extremely important that you contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. String foreign bodies can cut into the walls of the intestine while other objects can perforate or devitalize the muscular walls of the gastrointestinal tract. This can lead to leakage of ingesta and bacteria into the abdomen. Infection within the abdominal cavity (peritonitis) is a medical emergency that can cause disseminated infection (sepsis), shock and possible death.

After arrival at the hospital, your veterinarian will examine your pet and will likely use diagnostic tools such as radiographs or ultrasound to diagnose / confirm the foreign body ingestion. If gastrointestinal obstruction is noted, surgery is usually recommended. Esophageal or gastric foreign material can sometimes be removed with endoscopy, but most cases require an abdominal incision. During the procedure, your veterinarian will identify the part of the gastrointestinal tract that is affected and then make an incision into the organ to retrieve the object or objects. The muscular wall of the stomach or intestine is then sutured closed, followed by routine closure of the abdomen.

Most uncomplicated gastrointestinal foreign bodies can be removed with a good prognosis as long as the stomach or intestinal tract is not perforated, devitalized, or otherwise damaged. Animals typically remain hospitalized for several days on medications and intravenous fluids before being sent home. After discharge from the hospital, typical recommendations include two to three weeks of rest to allow the abdominal incision to heal, and to feed a bland diet to minimize further gastrointestinal signs. As always, your pet will need to be watched closely to ensure that additional foreign body ingestion does not occur in the future.

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the professional advice of your veterinarian.


Dietary Indiscretions and Your Pet

October 15, 2018

Caitlin Pohlit, DVM
Practice limited to Internal Medicine
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

 While our pets offer companionship and enrich our lives, they are also mischievous and indiscriminate at times. This lends itself to dietary indiscretion, or the act of consuming unusual items, table scraps, garbage, or spoiled food. This behavior is extremely common, and in many cases may cause illness. For example, ingestion of these things could lead to acute gastroenteritis, pancreatitis or foreign body obstruction. As the holidays approach, we historically see increases in these disorders, especially chocolate toxicity.

All chocolate contains caffeine, methylxanthines, and theobromine which are central nervous system (CNS) stimulants and toxic to animals. Unsweetened baking chocolate contains the most and in general, the darker and more bitter the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. Vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, polydipsia (increased thirst), polyuria (increased urination), restlessness, tachycardia (increased heart rate), cardiac arrhythmias, and seizures can occur. These clinical signs usually occur in a progressive fashion beginning shortly after significant ingestions, which will also largely be dependent on the animal’s size and type of chocolate consumed. Treatment is directed at decontamination, control of anxiety and seizures, and the support of renal elimination through intravenous fluid therapy. Prognosis is good with early, goal-directed treatment and care.

Dumpster diver animals and their dietary indiscretions are also considered to be an important risk factor for the development of acute pancreatitis, particularly in dogs. Pancreatitis is defined as a fully reversible, non-infectious inflammation of the pancreas. The disease can be local or lead to massive systemic inflammation affecting different organs. Cases of pancreatitis present with a tremendously wide variety of clinical signs, many of which overlap with non-pancreatic disease like vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, lethargy, and abdominal pain. As such, your veterinarian will need to perform different tests to aid in confirming a definitive diagnosis such as lab work and abdominal ultrasound. Treatment is largely supportive with aggressive intravenous fluid therapy, early enteral nutrition (ultra-low-fat diets fed through the gastrointestinal tract), analgesics for abdominal discomfort, and antiemetics for nausea and vomiting.

Pets and their dietary indiscretions may involve accidental ingestion of holiday décor. These objects can lodge in the stomach or intestinal tract. Radiographs (x-rays) are necessary to make a diagnosis. If there is a foreign body in the stomach, it is possible inducing emesis (vomiting), may result in successful expulsion. However, more often than not this does not work, and a gastroscopy may be necessary. This is a minimally invasive scope of the stomach, allowing for complete visualization and endoscopic retrieval of the foreign object(s). If the foreign body is obstructing the intestine, then surgery would be warranted. Bringing your pet in for immediate evaluation is the best way to mitigate the need for surgery.

If you think your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance or when in doubt, contact your family veterinarian, the nearest 24/7 veterinary emergency critical care hospital, and/or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435).

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the professional advice of your veterinarian.


Tracheal Collapse

August 1, 2018

Michelle Brognano, DVM
Greater Staten Island Veterinary Services,
a member of the GSVS Family of Veterinary Hospitals

The trachea is made up of cartilaginous rings shaped like the letter “C”. Over time these rings start to weaken and the tracheal membrane becomes loose. When a dog with tracheal collapse breathes outward, the membrane of the trachea droops down and causes an occlusion. The tickling sensation of the membrane touching the tracheal lining generates coughing, and if the obstruction interrupts breathing the patient may become distressed. Panting or rapid breathing for any reason makes the collapse and anxiety worse, which unfortunately tends to generate more rapid breathing and a vicious cycle of distress.

The factor that can sometimes further complicate this disease is inflammation in the trachea. The inflammation causes more coughing which causes more inflammation. Ultimately, the tissue of the trachea gets worse and worse.

Tracheal collapse is a very common disease seen in small breed dogs, such as, Yorkies, Maltese, and Pomeranians. It is usually seen in middle aged dogs but the disease can occur at any age. Many times dogs with tracheal collapse are asymptomatic until they are having an episode. Potential hazards that can predispose a patient with tracheal disease to an episode are:

  • Obesity
  • Cigarette smoke, dust, airway irritants, extreme heat
  • Kennel cough (infectious tracheobronchitis)
  • Heart disease
  • Irritation from endotracheal tube during anesthesia
  • Heart disease

There are two ways to treat tracheal collapse: medical management or placement of a tracheal stent. Medical management is ALWAYS the first line of treatment and includes sedation, cough suppressants, and sometimes steroids. Patients that are having an episode are often hospitalized in oxygen and kept sedated until the inflammation has subsided, recovery may take hours to days. In severe cases, where medical management is ineffective, placement of a tracheal stent is considered. This procedure is performed by a specialist and can be done at Garden State Veterinary Specialists in Tinton Falls, NJ, our sister hospital.

If you notice your pet has prolonged difficulty breathing, has blue colored gums or uncontrolled coughing, they should be seen by a veterinarian immediately. If your pet has been diagnosed with tracheal collapse, try and keep them cool and quiet during warm weather conditions. Using a harness rather than a neck leash will avoid placing pressure on the trachea. Do not expose your dog to cigarette smoke since it will put added stress on their ability to breathe. Keeping your pet a healthy weight will help ease breathing as well.

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the professional advice of your veterinarian.


Heat Stroke

July 2, 2018

Irina Arye DVM
Greater Staten Island Veterinary Services,
a member of the GSVS Family of Veterinary Hospitals

It’s the time of year when everyone wants to enjoy the beautiful warm weather after a long winter. This warm weather predisposes your dog to heat stroke, which is an emergency situation that requires immediate veterinary attention. Dogs do not tolerate the heat as well as we do. Their only method of releasing the heat from their body is to pant, which is less effective in very hot temperatures.

There are many situations that you need to keep in mind when taking your best friend with you on an outing in the hot weather. One of the first things you should consider is their breed. Short nose breeds, such as, Bull dogs, Pugs, and Pekinese experience difficulty breathing when the temperatures rise. Long haired breeds have even less tolerance for heat and should avoid long periods of exposure to high temperatures.

The most common cause of heat stroke in dogs is being left in the car. The car can heat up very quickly, much quicker than it would seem. For example, on a 78°F day, which does not seem too hot, the car can reach temperatures of 100-120 °F in minutes, especially if standing in the sun.

The best way to prevent severe side effects of heat stroke, besides avoiding situations that predispose to heat stroke, is to identify the onset of heat stroke as soon as possible. The signs you should look for include: excess panting, excessive drooling, reddened gums, decreased urine production, respiratory distress, vomiting (potentially with blood), diarrhea (potentially bloody stool/black stool), change in the mental state, and drunken gate. With the onset of severe heat stroke dogs will start showing even more severe signs: severe dehydration, pinpoint bleeding in the skin, severe kidney failure, rapid heart rate/irregular heart rhythm, shock, cardiopulmonary arrest, blood clotting disorders, systemic inflammatory response syndrome, breakdown of red blood cells, liver cell death, muscle tremors, seizures or unconsciousness.

Treatment at a veterinary hospital will include active cooling to bring down the patient’s temperature as soon as possible. It is very important not to use ice cold water to avoid negative side effects on the cooling process, but instead use cool water to bring down the temperature in a more controlled way. In the hospital cool water baths and intravenous fluids (sometimes cooled) are administered to start bringing down the patient’s temperature as well.

It is important to remember to take precautions when you bring your dog outside this summer. Have plenty of cool water for your dog and take frequent breaks if taking a long walk. Avoid situations that may predispose your dog to heat stroke and if you think your pet may be showing signs of heat stroke, have them evaluated by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Make it a safe summer for all.

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the professional advice of your veterinarian.

Pyrethrins & Pyrethroids

June 1, 2018

Michelle Brognano, DVM
Greater Staten Island Veterinary Services,
a member of the GSVS Family of Veterinary Hospitals

Ticks are a significant problem in the tri-state area largely due to a rising deer population. It’s incredibly important to keep your pets on parasite preventatives year round but even more so in these warmer months. Dogs and cats that stay inside only are at risk for tick bites and heartworm disease too! Please take the time to ensure you select the CORRECT preventative for your pet.

Pyrethrin insecticides are naturally obtained from the Chrysanthemum flower while pyrethroids insecticides are a synthetic (man made) version. Insecticides are found in home and outdoor gardening supplies, over the counter flea shampoos, and some (but not all) topical flea/tick preventative products. These insecticides are commonly used on dogs without much of a problem, however cats are extremely sensitive to these products.

Cats often present to the emergency room after a canine only-labeled product is applied to them. Some cats may also become ill after the product is applied to another pet in the household with whom they have direct contact. Dogs that ingest flea collars or tubes of topical parasite preventive products will also require emergency veterinary care.

Clinical signs of toxicity are hypersalivation, seizures, paresthesia, tremors, ataxia, hyperexcitability, hypothermia, weakness, vomiting, trouble breathing or even death. The onset of these signs can vary from minutes to hours. If your pet is suffering from any of the symptoms they should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Patients are usually admitted to the hospital for IV fluids, heat support, sedation, muscle relaxants and anti-seizure drugs, as needed. Blood work may also be done to assess organ function. The goal of treatment is to manage clinical signs, detoxify if possible, and to provide supportive care. Vomiting is usually not induced due to a risk of aspiration which could lead to a more serious medical condition. For dermal exposures, the patient is bathed in liquid dish detergent with warm water.

Prognosis is usually good for patients treated aggressively and quickly. Failure to do this may result in complications that can eventually lead to death. Prevention is key! ALWAYS read the label and follow packaging directions which are based on weight and species. Pesticides should be safely secured out of the reach of children and animals.

INTERESTING FACT: Fish are so sensitive to insecticides that they may die from even the least amount of exposure. For this reason it is recommended that dogs do not swim in ponds or creeks for approximately 24-48 hours after administration of a parasite prevention product.

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the professional advice of your veterinarian.



April 2, 2018
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

Rabies is a viral disease that affects both animals and people. It is transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal, most often by a bite. In the United States, rabies occurs mostly in wild animals such as raccoons, foxes, bats, skunks and groundhogs. In 2017, there were 208 animal cases of rabies in New Jersey. This includes 22 cases in Monmouth County. Because nearly all animals and people who have rabies die from this disease, prevention is the key to keeping your household rabies free.

The first step to prevention is vaccination. All dogs and cats should be vaccinated for rabies. This is particularly important for cats. Cats that never go outside have been known to come in contact with wildlife inside the home. In New Jersey, cats have accounted for 90% of the domestic animal cases seen each year for the past 5 years. Cats are also more likely to roam and encounter wild animals. Vaccines are available from your veterinarian or at a community vaccine clinic. It is important to note that dogs and cats are not considered to be protected from rabies until 30 days after receiving the vaccine.
Most dogs and cats get rabies from exposure to a rabid wild animal such as a raccoon or fox. Keeping your cat indoors or your dog on a leash and under your direct control decreases the risk that they will come in contact with a rabid animal.

Report all stray animals to your local Animal Control. You should also report any suspicious wildlife. This would include animals who are behaving abnormally or nocturnal animals that are out during the day. Animals that have rabies may appear sick, weak, walking as if they are drunk, or they may even appear normal. Do not feed or handle wildlife. Don’t provide incentive for wildlife to come into your yard. Keep garbage cans tightly covered and do not leave pet food outside. If your pet is bitten by a wild animal, or you are concerned that your pet has been exposed to rabies, you should immediately contact your veterinarian. If animal control is able to capture wildlife suspected of having rabies, testing can be performed by the New Jersey Department of Health.

If a person is bitten or comes in contact with a potentially rabid animal they should seek immediate medical attention and ensure that the New Jersey Department of Health is contacted so that the appropriate testing and treatment steps are taken. For more information on rabies in animals and people, contact your local health department, your veterinarian or check these websites: Visit the CDC website
or  Visit the State of NJ Department of Health website

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the professional advice of your veterinarian.

Under Pressure – Glaucoma in Your Pet

March 1, 2018
Michele L. Edelmann, VMD, DACVO
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

Glaucoma is a common condition in dogs and cats that may be diagnosed by a veterinarian. Glaucoma is an increase in the pressure in the eye. The normal eye should constantly produce a fresh, water-based fluid at the same rate it drains out older fluid. In glaucoma, the drain of the eye is malformed and becomes clogged, but the “faucet” is still on, leading to pressure buildup.

The pressure buildup is painful. This may feel like a migraine headache. Furthermore, glaucoma may be blinding due to permanent damage to the delicate retina in the back of the eye.

Increased redness of the white of the eye, blue cloudiness, squinting, tearing, or rubbing/pawing at the eye may be appreciated. In some cases, an increase in size in the eyeball may occur to accommodate for the high pressure. Occasionally, no changes to the eye are noticed until vision loss occurs. This can happen very suddenly. Some owners notice that their pet seems quieter than normal or less interested in eating.

Ocular pressure may be measured by your veterinarian. This is a quick and simple test that is performed after application of a topical anesthetic eye drop in the office. Pressure should be lower than 25 mmHg. Pressure readings over 25 mmHg are consistent with a diagnosis of glaucoma. False high readings occasionally occur. If you or your veterinarian are suspicious that your pet may have glaucoma, referral to a veterinary ophthalmologist is recommended.

There are many possible causes of glaucoma. Cataracts, chronic inflammation (uveitis) in the eye, ocular tumors, trauma, and retinal detachments are just a few causes. A complete eye examination with an ophthalmologist can help determine the cause. In some cases, no obvious underlying cause is found and a genetic tendency towards glaucoma is suspected. This is called primary glaucoma. Primary glaucoma is a disease that will also affect the opposite eye, typically within 6 months to 1 year after the original diagnosis. For this reason, the ophthalmologist may recommend that your pet be treated prophylactically in the opposite eye to delay the onset of disease.

The first line of treatment for glaucoma is eye drop therapy. Your ophthalmologist can prescribe medications to help to reduce pressure in the eye to restore comfort. In some situations, your ophthalmologist may recommend laser surgery. This procedure is performed under general anesthesia. A laser is used to inactivate the parts of the eye that produce fluid. Your pet may also be a candidate for shunt placement (“Ahmed valve”). This is an implant that improves fluid drainage out of the eye. The goals of laser/shunt surgery are to lower pressure more permanently, to reduce the need for topical medications, and to maintain vision for as long as possible.

If your pet is suspected to be permanently blind and medications are not effective in keeping pressure to a comfortable range, there are additional procedures or surgeries that can be discussed to restore comfort.

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the professional advice of your veterinarian.
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