Medical Services

If your pet needs medical assistance, you can feel confident turning to us. Our knowledgeable staff and modern facilities are equipped to handle a wide variety of medical conditions, including emergencies. Because we can perform many diagnostic procedures in-house, we can often give you immediate answers and start treating your pet faster. In some cases, your pet may require hospitalization and further diagnostic tests. Please take a look at the more detailed descriptions of medical services we offer, or call us to discuss your pet’s needs.

Valley Fever (Coccidioidomycosis)

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“Valley Fever”, an Arizona Disease

You may have heard the term “valley fever”.  Perhaps you have even had the disease.  Most Arizonans have known someone with the disease, or have even had it themselves.  For those of you who have recently relocated to our state: Welcome to one of the most beautiful states in the nation and the area of the highest prevalence of this disease.  Valley Fever is common in Scottsdale.  Please be aware and informed to protect yourself, and your pets.

What is it?

Valley fever, or coccidioidomycosis, is a fungal disease endemic to the southwest United States and parts of Mexico, South America and Central America.  It is caused by a fungus (Coccidioides species), which lives in the soil.  Arizona is among the areas of highest prevalence.  You can see a map of the regions most affected at: https://www.vfce.arizona.edu/Images/SkinTest.jpg.

How do people and animals get infected?

The fungus reproduces by producing spores which become airborne when the soil is disturbed.  It is by inhaling the spores that most people, and animals, become infected.  Because they like to sniff the ground, dogs are more likely than cats to fall victim to the disease, but any mammal can become infected.  Changes in temperature and rainfall, as well as dust storms and construction can have an impact on how many individuals are affected each year and what time of year most of the new cases occur.

What are the symptoms?

It takes about 1 to 4 weeks for symptoms of valley fever to appear. Most of the time, only mild flu-like symptoms, or no symptoms at all, are experienced.  However, some individuals, particularly those that are immunocompromised, can succumb to more severe disease.  A persistent cough, often with a fever, is the most common sign of infection.  The cough can be due to pneumonia, or enlargement of the lymph nodes in the chest which press on the windpipe, causing irritation.  The early signs in dogs are similar to those of “kennel cough”.  Pulmonary disease (lung infection) causes symptoms such as:

  • Poor appetite
  • Persistent cough
  • Fatigue
  • Fever

Left untreated, the disease can disseminate.  This means it can spread to other parts of the body. In dogs, the bones of the legs are most commonly affected, but it can affect any organ. Some signs of disseminated Valley Fever include:

  • Limping or swellings in the legs
  • Seizures or other signs of neurologic disease, like back or neck pain and weakness
  • Soft swellings in the skin that ooze fluid and don’t heal
  • Swollen testicles
  • Heart failure (weakness, fainting, coughing, difficulty breathing)
  • Red or cloudy eyes, often with squinting
  • Swollen lymph nodes

How is valley fever diagnosed?

Diagnosis of valley fever is based on the patient’s symptoms, laboratory test results, and radiographic evidence (x-rays).  There is a blood test for valley fever which measures the levels of antibodies the patient has produced against the disease.  The blood test doesn’t detect the organism, but rather the body’s response to it.  So, although it is a valuable test and a great way to monitor the response to treatment over time, it is important for the veterinarian to interpret the test in conjunction with other indicators of the disease.

How can valley fever be prevented?

Unfortunately, there is no vaccine for valley fever at this time (2014).  The best way to protect your pet and yourself is to stay indoors during dust storms and avoid activities that generate dust.  Discourage your dog from digging or sniffing rodent burrows, avoid walking near construction sites, and have a ground cover in your yard that reduces dust, such as grass or gravel.  Despite all these precautions, your pet can still become infected.

Can valley fever be fatal?

Unfortunately, it can be fatal, but most make a full recovery.  The ability to recover from valley fever depends on how early in the disease the treatment is started and other factors such as the patient’s age, and concurrent health problems.

Is it treatable?

Yes.  Once the diagnosis has been established, an antifungal drug can be prescribed.  Fluconazole is the drug most commonly used.  Treatment duration varies from several months to a lifetime, depending on the severity of disease and the organs affected.  Relapses are common, so blood testing before, during, and after treatment are necessary to determine how long to treat and when or if treatment can be safely stopped. All of the available drugs used to treat valley fever have the potential to cause birth defects, so be sure to let your veterinarian know if your dog has been diagnosed with valley fever and might be pregnant.

Is it contagious?

No, valley fever can’t be spread between animals or from animals to humans by coughing.  The infective spores are only encountered in the soil, and not in the body fluids.  However, if an animal has draining sores on the skin, they should be kept bandaged and the bandages should be handled and disposed of carefully and never by immunocompromised individuals. Burial of animals that have died of valley fever should be avoided.

What is the most important thing I should take away from this article?

You should be vigilant, both for the sake of your pet, and yourself.  We want our clients to be well informed, both for their own protection, as well as that of their pets.  If your dog is experiencing a cough that isn’t going away within a week, or has some of the other signs listed above, please come see us.  We want the opportunity to get your friend back to a healthy state as quickly as possible.  As always, we are open to any questions about your pet’s health care, so don’t hesitate to call us with any concerns.

The doctors and staff at K C Animal Hospital

 

Make an appointment by calling 480-451-8375 or by filling out the form below!

Heartworm Prevention

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When they bite, mosquitoes can transmit heartworm infection. And those heartworms can wreak havoc on your dog or cat. These parasites can severely and sometimes fatally damage the heart, lungs, and blood vessels. Some pets may not show any signs of infection; in those that do, symptoms can vary widely.

In dogs, signs of heartworm disease can range from coughing, fatigue, and weight loss to difficulty breathing and a swollen abdomen (caused by fluid accumulation from heart failure). Canine heartworm infection can also lead to a life-threatening complication called “caval syndrome” (a form of liver failure); without prompt surgical intervention, this condition usually causes death.

Although often thought to not be susceptible to heartworm infection, cats can indeed get heartworms. Cats can suffer from a syndrome referred to as heartworm-associated respiratory disease (HARD); the symptoms can be subtle and may mimic those of asthma or allergic bronchitis. Signs of respiratory distress, such as rapid or difficult breathing, wheezing, and panting, are common. Other symptoms include coughing, vomiting (typically unrelated to eating), and loss of appetite or weight. Heartworm infection is more difficult to diagnose in cats than it is in dogs.

Treatment for heartworm infection is far more expensive than prevention—and it can actually kill your dog. There is no approved treatment for cats. Some cats spontaneously rid themselves of the infection; others might not survive it. And even one or two adult heartworms in a cat can cause serious problems.

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to keep your dog or cat safe: by administering monthly heartworm preventives. Most heartworm medications also protect your pet against other parasites, such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, ear mites, fleas, and ticks. We can recommend the best regimen of prevention for your pet.

Dentistry

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Imagine what your mouth would feel like if you never brushed your teeth or went to the dentist. For many dogs and cats, this is a painful reality. According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, more than 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have dental disease by the age of 3. Dental (or periodontal) disease is the most frequently diagnosed health problem in pets.

Common signs of dental disease include:

  • Yellow or brown buildup (tartar) on the teeth
  • Red, swollen, or bleeding gums
  • Bad breath
  • Excessive drooling
  • Changes in eating or chewing habits
  • Pawing at the face
  • Loose teeth
  • Depression

Even if your dog or cat doesn’t have these symptoms, we recommend that you have a veterinarian evaluate your pet’s dental health at least once a year. Bacteria and food debris accumulate around the teeth and, if left unchecked, will lead to deterioration of the soft tissue and bone surrounding the teeth. This decay can result in irreversible periodontal disease, tooth loss, and possibly expensive oral surgery.

Dental disease can also affect other organs in the body: Bacteria in the mouth can get into the bloodstream and cause serious infections in the kidneys, liver, lungs, and heart. If these problems aren’t caught and treated quickly enough, they can result in death. A physical exam combined with appropriate laboratory work can determine if infection in the mouth has spread.

Schedule your pet’s dental exam today! We can also help show you how to brush your pet’s teeth and recommend foods and treats that will help combat plaque and tartar buildup.

Radiology (X-rays)

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When we need to figure out what’s wrong with your pet, we routinely use x-rays to help identify the cause of the problem, rule out possible problems, or provide a list of possible causes. We may also use x-rays during a wellness exam to diagnose potential problems before they become serious.

X-rays provide valuable information about a pet’s bones, gastrointestinal tract (stomach, intestines, colon), respiratory tract (lungs), heart, and genitourinary system (bladder, prostate). We use radiology alone or in conjunction with other diagnostic tools. Interpretation of radiographs requires great skill on the part of the veterinarian.

We are proud to offer digital radiology (x-rays that are captured digitally rather than on film). This state-of-the-art technology allows us to provide you with a quicker diagnosis for your pet. Plus, it uses less radiation than traditional x-rays.

To avoid a blurry image, pets need to remain completely still while an x-ray is taken. In some cases, we may need to sedate your pet or use short-acting general anesthesia.

If you have any questions about our radiology service or what to expect during your pet’s procedure, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Flea Control

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A flea problem on your pet means a flea problem in your home. Understanding the flea life cycle and methods for its control can be a daunting task. We will gladly assist you in this process. We can provide you with safe, effective flea prevention and if necessary, flea treatment. See the flea article in the Pet Health Library of our site.

Dermatology (Skin)

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Skin problems are common in dogs and cats and can be caused by hormonal disorders, allergies, infections, or parasites such as fleas and mites. These issues can be particularly difficult to treat and should be addressed promptly.

We can often diagnose a skin problem by simply examining your pet. Some dermatologic diseases or conditions do require additional diagnostic procedures to ensure a correct diagnosis. Depending on your pet’s symptoms and the results of our physical exam, we may run blood work or perform a urinalysis, skin scraping, or biopsies.

Contact us if you notice your dog or cat scratching excessively or if he or she develops any bare patches, scabs, scaling, redness, inflammation, lumps, or bumps.

Endoscopy

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This minimally invasive procedure allows a veterinarian to see inside a pet’s body and, when necessary, take biopsies (tissue samples) without having to perform surgery. Endoscopy is commonly used to examine the inside of the ears, nose, esophagus, colon, bladder, stomach, and other internal organs. Endoscopy can also be used to assist with minimally invasive surgeries and is particularly valuable in retrieving swallowed items.

To perform this procedure, the veterinarian inserts the endoscope (a long tube with a camera at one end) into the area to be examined. Incisions are sometimes required; however, the incisions used for endoscopic procedures are considerably smaller than those used in traditional surgery. This means a much less painful and quicker recovery for your pet.

Endoscopy does require that your pet be placed under anesthesia. As with all such procedures, we follow strict protocols and continually monitor your pet’s vital signs to help ensure his or her safety. Please see the descriptions under Anesthesia and Patient Monitoring for more information on what we do to keep your pet safe.

If you have any questions about our endoscopy service or what to expect during your pet’s procedure, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Cardiology (Heart)

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Although heart problems are found more often in older pets, these conditions can affect pets at any age. Heart disease is usually a life-threatening condition, but early diagnosis and appropriate therapy can extend your pet’s life. If caught soon enough, some forms of heart disease can be cured.

Heart disease can lead to congestive heart failure (CHF), which occurs when the heart can no longer pump blood effectively. If an animal is suffering from CHF, fluid usually accumulates in and around the lungs and sometimes in the abdomen. Congenital heart disease (animals born with a heart problem), valvular heart disease (abnormalities of the heart valves), arrhythmias (rhythm disturbances), and heartworm disease can all lead to CHF.

Call us if your pet starts breathing rapidly or coughing, loses his or her appetite, tires easily, seems weak, or has trouble exercising. We can discover many heart problems during a physical exam. Additional tests, such as an electrocardiogram (ECG), radiographs (x-rays), and ultrasounds, are usually needed to accurately identify the cause of the heart disease or failure.

Tonometry

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It is crucial for your pet’s vision that we detect and treat glaucoma and other problems with intraocular pressure (pressure within the eye) as quickly as possible. We can test your dog or cat’s eyes for excess pressure easily and safely. The test, performed with a device called a tonometer, is not painful and does not require sedation.

If not treated immediately (within hours to days), glaucoma can cause permanent vision loss or even blindness. Pets that have suffered eye injuries should have this test performed. In addition, we recommend that breeds that are prone to developing glaucoma come in for regular measurements so we can monitor eye pressure and begin treatment before any problem becomes irreversible. Please call us to discuss whether your pet may be at higher risk for glaucoma.

Call us right away if you notice any of the following problems in either or both of your pet’s eyes: dilated (enlarged) pupils, clouding of the cornea (the normally clear outer layer of the eye), red or bloodshot eyes, one eye protruding or appearing larger than the other, squinting, or tearing. Because glaucoma is painful, your pet may react by rubbing or pawing at the eyes or rubbing his or her head against the floor or furniture more than normal.

Ultrasonography

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Ultrasonography (also called ultrasound or sonography) is a noninvasive, pain-free procedure that uses sound waves to examine a pet’s internal organs and other structures inside the body. It can be used to evaluate the animal’s heart, kidneys, liver, gallbladder, and bladder; to detect fluid, cysts, tumors, or abscesses; and to confirm pregnancy or monitor an ongoing pregnancy.

We may use this imaging technique in conjunction with radiography (x-rays) and other diagnostic methods to ensure a proper diagnosis. Interpretation of ultrasound images requires great skill on the part of the clinician.

The ultrasonographer applies gel to the surface of the body and then methodically moves a transducer (a small handheld tool) across the skin to record images of the area of interest. The gel helps the transducer slide more easily and create a more accurate visual image.

The transducer emits ultrasonic sound waves, which are directed into the body toward the structures to be examined. The waves create echoes of varying degrees depending on the density of the tissue and amount of fluid present. Those waves create detailed images of the structures, which are shown on a monitor and recorded for evaluation.

Ultrasound does not involve radiation, has no known side effects, and doesn’t typically require pets to be sedated or anesthetized. The hair in the area to be examined usually needs to be shaved so the ultrasonographer can obtain the best result.

If you have any questions about our ultrasonography service or what to expect during your pet’s procedure, please don’t hesitate to ask.