Three of our PetIQ Wellness veterinarians share stories of some of their scarier encounters as a veterinarian and discuss how the preventive care and routine physical exams we provide at our Wellness Centers can, and does, save pet lives.
Simple Preventive Medicine Can Make All the Difference
Our first set of stories are about the importance of preventive medicine and care and come from PetIQ veterinarian Dr. Gale Savino-Eason:
“I had a seven-month-old recently spayed female come in to the wellness center. She was lethargic, with a 104° fever, and had had red-tinted urine for the last 24 hours, despite being fine just a few days before. She had not been eating well, and we could tell from an examination that her red blood cell count was plummeting while her white blood cell count was rising. Our tests showed she was positive for leptospirosis icterohemorrhagica. The disease was almost fatal to this pet, but she was saved after hospitalization, multiple tests, and thousands of dollars of care and treatment, including a transfusion! Her illness could have been easily prevented with a series of two vaccines. Leptospirosis is prevalent, and this pet was not an outdoor pet, nor was she camping—she was a stay-at-home pet living in an urban area. This goes to show that all pets should be vaccinated against leptospirosis, as it isn’t restricted to outdoor pets.
Heartworm is also prevalent across pets of all kinds but is easily preventable. I have seen six positive cases of heartworm disease this year alone, and only one is still alive and going through treatment—the rest have sadly passed away. I saw heartworm cases from dogs aged 2-11 and across small and large breeds. Not one of the dogs was an outdoor dog or a hiker, which shows that every dog should take preventative medicine for heartworm, no matter their living situation. All these pets’ deaths could have been prevented with a yearly test and heartworm preventative medicine available at our wellness centers.
Like heartworm, Lyme disease is easily prevented with vaccines and preventive care, but if not prevented, it can severely impact a pet’s life and even cause death. A pet parent recently lost a beloved 6-year-old lab to Lyme nephritis. Her dog was not Lyme-vaccinated nor on a good flea and tick prevention medicine that kills the ticks in less than 24 hours. It takes 24 hours of tick feeding to transmit the disease, and the nymph tick is the size of a coffee ground and can transmit Lyme disease without ever being noticed. The pet parent missed the signs of the disease because she never saw the tick—she thought limping was arthritis from a previous injury. This pet’s illness and death could have been prevented easily with good flea and tick preventative medicine and a series of two vaccines. Fleas, ticks, and heartworm can often be prevented with just one pill per month, so these diseases are straightforward to avoid.
Preventive care can also do wonders in preventing physical injuries. Two pet parents brought their pets, a dog and a cat, into one of our wellness centers because their pets were limping, and the pet parents couldn’t understand why. After an examination, we discovered that they were both limping because their claws had grown around and through their pads in a spiral three times around, as their claws had not been clipped regularly. Nail trims are an easy preventive service we provide at our wellness centers, and they make a massive difference in pets’ lives. After removing the ingrown nails from these pets, bandaging their paws, and providing antibiotics and pain medicine, their limp is gone. We were able to educate the pet parents on the importance of nail trims and other preventive care, and now they come in regularly to get their pets’ nails trimmed and get wellness checkups.”
Physical Exams—a Veterinarian’s Best Diagnostic Tool
Our next two stories come from PetIQ veterinarian Dr. Rebecca Houck and are about the importance of routine physical exams in detecting and tracking medical issues with pets:
“My most recent story is about a 15-year-old FS terrier mix named Lux. We saw her at a PetIQ wellness center for stress-related colitis that we successfully treated. Two months later, her pet parents brought her pet back into the center, and they said that she had had an occasional cough ever since they had adopted her a year prior, but over the past few weeks, the cough had become more persistent. One of her pet parents is a nurse for people and thought her submandibular lymph nodes might have been swollen. Unfortunately, they were, and so were her popliteal lymph nodes. There was a 7-8-inch-wide hard mass in her mid-right abdomen, which I hadn’t palpated when I saw her for her colitis episode. Sadly, there was little I could do but give them my impressions that she had cancer and go over the next steps. We recommended they have an appointment with a full-service vet as soon as possible to establish care and to get an abdominal ultrasound/FNA.
We started Lux on prednisone because she was losing her appetite and coughing more due to her lymph nodes increasing in size. Lux likely will require palliative care, and we did our best to prepare her pet parents for that, and the scan will let them know more about where the mass is arising from and give them some ideas about Lux’s life expectancy. This story is one of the scarier ones I have encountered. It highlights the importance of a veterinarian’s physical exam. In this case, I did not palpate enlarged lymph nodes or an abdominal mass at her colitis appointment, and I checked for them in this elderly pet. I wish I could have caught something early, but it did give us a baseline exam and an idea of how fast Lux’s cancer was growing.”
“On the opposite end of the spectrum, about five years ago, I palpated a basketball-sized mass in a five-year-old hound during a routine physical exam, confirmed it with abdominal radiographs, and sent the pet on for surgery. Fortunately for this pet, they could remove a benign cyst and save the pet’s life. Without that routine physical exam, the outcomes for the pet could have been very different.”
Preventive Care Reunites a Family
Our last story is a story of how routine preventive care reunited a lost dog with its pet parents. Dr. Heather Sutton shares her story with us:
“A mother and teenage daughter were on their way to the Cabarrus Animal Shelter to adopt a dog. They met a man in the parking lot with a dog that he was going to surrender—a Shih Tzu. It was just the dog they were looking for, so rather than going into the shelter to look around, the man gave them the dog to take home. They went to a PetIQ wellness center to get their new pet up to date on his vaccines and parasite prevention, and while he was there, the PetIQ wellness team scanned him for a microchip. To the new pet parents’ surprise, he had one.
While the new pet parents were disappointed, they gave the PetIQ team permission to call the microchip hotline to see if the pup already had a family. He did, and the PetIQ team called the original pet parents, who came to pick their pet up. His mother explained that about two weeks previously, the Shih Tzu, named Lucky, had crawled under a fence and become lost, and she and her son were overjoyed to be reunited with their pet. If it hadn’t been for the microchip and Lucky’s visit to a PetIQ wellness center for his preventive care, he would never have been reunited with his family.”