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The Ruff Report: News about dog health

Laser therapy helps pets recover from injury

A Massachusetts veterinarian is using a new high-tech laser therapy as an alternative to anti-inflammatory drugs to treat injuries in dogs and cats.

Dr. Ronald Hirschberg of Brockton Animal Hospital says the low-level laser treatment promotes healing and relieves pain, The Enterprise of Brockton reports.

Long-term anti-inflammatory medication can have harmful effects on the body, primarily gastrointestinal as well as liver damage," Dr. Hirschberg told the newspaper.

Dr. Hirschberg began using the laser treatment on animals after he received it himself for arthritis in his hands. "I saw what it did for me, and I wanted to see what it could do for animals," he said.

Brockton Animal Hospital has so far treated about 40 animals, including a 21-year-old cat, Dr. Hirschberg said. Treatments last 10 to 30 minutes and most animals see improvement within the two to four treatments.

Some animals have felt better and been more alert as soon as the first treatment, Dr. Hirschberg said. The treatment has no known long-term harmful effects, he said. (December 20, 2008)

Lacerations and bites most common injuries

Fighting - either with each other or with wild animals - is the leading cause of injuries to pets.

Veterinary Pet Insurance of Brea, California, researched its claims in 2007 to determine the top 10 injuries and found that lacerations and bite wounds caused by fighting were the most common injuries. VPI received more than 11,000 claims for lacerations and bite wounds in 2007, about three times more than any other common wound.

"Lacerations and bite wounds frequently occur when a pet is simply defending his territory," Carol McConnell, chief veterinary medical officer for VPI, stated in a media release. "A pet who feels threatened will fight violently to defend an area or face down a perceived predator. To avoid costly altercations, pet owners should monitor pets closely, especially during interactions with other pets or potential exposure to wild animals."

Lacerations also can occur during amateur grooming attempts, or run-ins with sharp-edged objects like a wire fence or tree branch, the research found.

According to the research, the other most common wounds are: torn nails; insect bites and stings; abrasions; eye trauma; punctures; a foreign object in the skin; a foreign object in the ear; a foreign object in foot and snake bites.

Torn nails typically occur when a pet attempts to move quickly with a nail unknowingly stuck or caught in an object, the research found. Crocheted items and some carpets are particularly prone to catching pets’ nails.

Plant-based foreign objects also can cause wounds. The majority of these claims involve foxtails, burrs and other seed pods that attach to a pet’s fur. These burrowing grasses and weeds can penetrate deep into a pet’s skin and even become lodged in internal organs. The ears and paws are the most common entry points. Their migration into the body can leave a trail of infection that can be difficult for a veterinarian to locate and treat.

Snakebites, which are low in frequency, cost the most to treat, mostly due to the expensive antivenin and hospitalization necessary to treat severe bites. The average snakebite cost VPI policyholders $580 per claim in 2007. The average was $350 per claim for lacerations and bites.

"While there’s no way to eliminate all wound threats, pet owners can prevent some of the most common wounds by being aware of their pet’s surroundings, supervising their pet’s physical activity and regularly examining their pet’s body," McConnell said. (November 8, 2008)

Minn. chiropractor makes inroads with animals

After working exclusively with humans for several years, a Minnesota chiropractor has a new group of patients - animals.

Dr. Josée Gerard sees most of her animal patients at her office in Forest Lake, Minnesota, but she even makes some house calls, the Forest Lake Times reports.

Dr. Gerard, a graduate of Northwestern College of Chiropractic, pioneered legislation to legalize animal chiropractic care in Minnesota. She spent years holding forums to garner public support and lobbying politicians. Her efforts paid off earlier this year when lawmakers passed a new law allowing chiropractors to treat animals.

Since then, Dr. Gerard, one of just three animal chiropractors in Minnesota, has been inundated with new animal patients. Six months ago, she would see animals about four days a month. Now, it is 20. "The demand was so quick," she told the newspaper. "They've been waiting for me for years, some of these patients."

Dr. Gerard says giving chiropractic care to animals is a dream job because her four-legged clients are easier to work with than humans. "They react very fast to adjustments," she explained. "They'll give a big shake, and there is a noticeable difference right away. They will start prancing around, they're happy. ... We're psychological beings. We always get in the way of our own healing. [Humans are] the more difficult breed."

In some cases, the results have been dramatic, Dr. Gerard said. She has helped a sled-pulling dog with a hitch in his stride and a fawn that was born without use of its back legs. She also does preventative work on animals and works to keep show dogs in top shape.

Most of the time, the results on animals are similar to humans, Dr. Gerard said. "Owners just want their animals to feel good," she said. "If they, themselves, have seen a chiropractor before and believe in natural healing and holistic health, then they'll want their animals to have that, too." (October 18, 2008)

Dogs in Britain fight battle of the bulge

Nearly half the dogs in Britain are overweight, putting their health at risk.

According to a survey of 100 veterinary surgeons for Sainsbury's Finance, which offers pet insurance, 47 percent of all dogs were too fat and 26 percent were obese, the London Telegraph reports.

Many medical conditions are linked to being overweight, Sainsbury official Neal Devine said. "People often think they are being kind to their pet by giving it treats, but being overweight can influence and worsen many medical conditions in pets, such as osteoarthritis and respiratory disorders, conditions that can be very uncomfortable for the animal," Devine told the newspaper.

The survey found cats also have a weight problem; 19 percent of them are obese and 20 percent slightly overweight. (October 18, 2008)

Arthritic dog gets stem-cell treatment

A 9-year-old German shepherd mix dog who suffers from debilitating arthritis of the hips may get a second chance at a normal life because of an experimental regenerative stem-cell therapy treatment.

The treatment on the dog, named Mandy, involved a minor surgical procedure performed at All Creatures Animal Hospital in Stuart, Florida, reports.

"Some dogs run around like puppies again," veterinarian Rich Bressman said.

The procedure involved making a 1-inch incision to remove a small amount of the dog's fat tissue. The tissue was then shipped overnight to Vet-Stem, a southern California stem-cell laboratory, where the stem cells were isolated and shipped back. Bressman then used an ultrasound-guided needle to inject the cells into Mandy's hip joints.

Mandy should be able to have an easier time walking within a few weeks to a few months, Bressman predicted. He said some of the worst arthritic cases often experience the best results.

Mandy's owners, Bobby and Michelle Amor of Stuart, had been giving their dog joint supplements and anti-inflammatory medications, but their dog reached a point where she was struggling just to make it up and down the stairs.

The Amors had considered hip-replacement surgery for Mandy, but the treatment would have required two major operations costing nearly $7,000. Stem-cell therapy has a minor period of recovery and will cost the Amors roughly $2,500. (September 27, 2008)

Stem-cell treatment for arthritis more common

A California veterinary clinic has been added to a growing list of animal hospitals using stem cells to treat dogs with arthritis.

Santa Cruz Westside Animal Hospital recently treated a dog with an arthritic elbow, the Mercury News of San Jose reports. The dog was able to put most of his weight back on his arthritic elbow within days after undergoing the regenerative surgery.

Cooper, a 2-year-old Bernese Mountain dog, can now leap in and out of an F-150 Ford pickup truck with the tailgate still up. "He's like a whole new dog," owner Crystal Myers told the newspaper.

The procedure costs about $2,500 to $3,000.

"This is the coolest thing I've ever seen in veterinary medicine," Westside Animal Hospital president David Shuman told the newspaper. "All of the dogs that have been treated by us are doing unbelievably well."

Shuman said his clinic has treated seven dogs. He estimates 150 to 200 veterinarians are certified to do the stem-cell treatment in the United States; 40 of which are within 100 miles of Santa Cruz.

Stem-cell treatment requires the veterinarian to collect a small fat sample from a dog's abdomen, Shuman said. The sample is sent to a lab where the fat is spun down and the stem cells collected. The sample is shipped back the following morning and the cells are injected into the affected joints or connective tissues. (September 27, 2008)

Bionic leg helps London dog live normal life

A year ago, Coal had his left paw amputated because of cancer and was on the verge of being put down if his other three legs were unable to support his body.

Today, the 8-year-old bulldog is running around London like a puppy with the help of a bionic leg.

"Now he has an absolutely normal quality of life, which he wouldn't have had before," Reg Walker, the dog's owner, told the Daily Mail of London.

Walker paid nearly $20,000 (10,000 pounds) to fit Coal with a bionic leg, which was designed to be compatible with Coal's own tissue. The titanium alloy used mimics animal hide, allowing the skin and the bone from above to seal the metal implant below without it being rejected by the body. The operation was the second performed on an animal using a technique performed on a survivor of the London 7/7 bombings.

"This is unique in that it's the world's only implant into which skin and bone grow," veterinarian Noel Fitzpatrick told the Enfield Independent. "It is the holy grail of research." (September 27, 2008)

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