canstockphoto4438188 smallVeterinary medicine is important to keep your pet healthy and happy.  As a loving pet owner, it may be helpful to be aware of some common conditions your pet may develop, so we have included a list below with a brief description of each, along with the signs an owner might notice.

If you have concerns about your pet and specific symptoms you are observing, please feel free to call us to schedule a consultation with one of our doctors.


Your pet may have allergy issues like many humans – and be just as uncomfortable!  Many of the same allergens, including grass pollen, tree pollen, ragweed pollen, dander, mold, and dust mites can affect our pets with symptoms such as a runny nose or weepy eyes.  Cats and dogs can also be highly allergic to fleas; a single fleabite can trigger an allergic reaction (FAD – flea allergy dermatitis) resulting in skin reactions that may worsen without treatment.  In addition to environmental allergens, pets may also be affected by food allergies or sensitivity to a particular food ingredient, which causes multiple symptoms but most often results in chronic ear infections in dogs and scabby skin areas in cats.

Pets suffering from allergies frequently scratch, itch or bite at their skin resulting in hair loss, redness, open sores, and recurrent infections.  While the underlying causes of an allergy can be frustrating to identify and sometimes difficult to completely resolve, in most cases our doctors can successfully relieve and/or reduce symptoms for most known allergies affecting our pets.


Arthritis commonly affects older and middle-aged pets; however, the condition is not limited to these age groups and younger animals can also suffer from the disease.  When arthritis eventually causes changes in the joint which result in pain it usually becomes apparent by changes in the animal’s behavior.  Because arthritis commonly develops with age, pet owners sometimes confuse changes in their animal’s behavior as normal age-related changes, whereas in fact, the animal might be suffering quite severe arthritis pain.

Symptoms may not be obvious in cats and dogs as they tend to hide signs of injury or weakness, but you may notice limping, a decrease in play or activity, reduced mobility, changes in temperament, chewing or biting at a painful body area, difficulty jumping or getting up and down, or a reduction in grooming because the movements are painful.


Neoplasia describes uncontrolled and/or the abnormal growth of cells or tissues which can be benign or malignant.  A benign tumor is a mass of cells that lacks the ability to invade neighboring tissue or spread throughout the body and usually grow more slowly than malignant tumors.  Malignant tumors usually grow more aggressively, invade the tissues surrounding them and can metastasize (spread throughout the body).  The word “cancer” is often used instead of neoplasia, but only malignant neoplasms are true cancers.

The causes of most neoplastic diseases are not known.  Prevention is therefore difficult and early detection is the best way to manage cancer.  Some symptoms to watch for include:  abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow, sores that do not heal, appetite and/or weight loss, reluctance to exercise or a loss of stamina, persistent lameness or stiffness, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea or  any other signs you notice that make you think your pet is uncomfortable.

Dental Disease

Oral hygiene is a very important issue for dogs and cats.  The bad breath that is so common in pets is also often the first sign of dental disease.  By age 2 it is estimated that 85 percent of dogs and cats have periodontal disease that begins with the accumulation of plaque on the teeth.  If not removed, this plaque hardens into tartar, which can then cause sensitive, sore, and swollen gums, gingivitis and tooth problems.

Beyond cosmetic issues, advanced dental disease also has an effect on many internal organs and has been scientifically linked to heart, lung, and kidney problems, which can shorten the life of your pet.  In addition to bad breath, any of the following can be noticeable signs of dental problems: excessive drooling, change in eating habits, loss of appetite or weight loss, sensitivity or bleeding around the mouth area, facial swelling, yellow-brown crust of tarter around gum line, or missing, loose, or broken teeth.

Just like with humans, the best way to prevent dental disease in our dogs and cats is with regular dental examinations and professional cleanings.  Just to note:  non-anesthetic dental procedures are not safe or sufficient to address infections or needed tooth extractions.


Diabetes in our pets is a disease caused either by a lack of insulin, or an inadequate response of the body to this hormone.  If there is insufficient insulin available, or the body responds inadequately to insulin, glucose is unable to enter cells and can build up to high concentrations in the bloodstream.  As a result, an animal may behave as if it is constantly hungry (the cells are not producing fuel), but may also appear malnourished, again because the cells are unable absorb glucose.

Diabetes does manifest in visible changes in behavior that usually develop over a few weeks or months.  The indications your pet may have diabetes include drinking more water than usual, urinating more frequently, in greater volumes or perhaps loss of urinary control, consistently acting hungry but maintaining or losing weight, an unusually sweet-smelling or fruity breath, or tiredness and decreased activity.  More acute symptoms may include dehydration, urinary tract infections, vomiting, chronic skin infections, and cloudy eyes.  Early diagnosis and treatment usually make this condition significantly easier to manage.

Ear Mites

A common parasitic infestation of young animal’s ears is by the mite Otodectes Cynotis.  It is generally mild in severity and relatively easy to diagnose ear mites by taking an ear swab with mineral oil to be examined under the microscope.  The doctor will also use an otoscope to inspect your pet’s ear canals to assess the severity of the infestation.  Animals that have an infestation typically scratch excessively at the ears, head and neck, shake their heads and even create bald patches by removing their hair from scratching.  In most cases you will also notice red-brown or black crusts on the inside of the ear, which can look like coffee grounds, and/or scratches and abrasions on the external ear.


Epilepsy is a disorder of the brain that occurs in many animals, including cats and dogs.  It is caused by sporadic electrical storms in the brain which result in seizures or episodes of sudden involuntary increases in muscle tone and/or movement.  These episodes can vary from brief and nearly undetectable to long periods of vigorous shaking.  The pet may be conscious or unconscious during these recurring attacks.

Before an actual seizure occurs your cat or dog may show nervousness, whining, trembling, salivation, restlessness, hiding and apprehension.  Cat seizures are usually shorter in duration, lasting up to 90 seconds; whereas a dog’s seizure may last up to three minutes.  During a seizure the pet may lose consciousness, show teeth gnashing or chomp their jaw, stiffen, paddle or thrash their limbs, drool, whine or vocalize, urinate or defecate.  In many instances you will not observe the actual seizure, but there are changes in behavior that can be seen after a seizure occurs that include awkwardness or confusion, pacing, directionless wandering, loss of sight, increased appetite, or increase in thirst.


Fleas are the most common external parasite that affects our pets and they not only make our pets uncomfortable, they are also responsible for health risks as well.  Flea bite hypersensitivity and flea allergic dermatitis (FAD) is a skin disease that affects many animals and is often considered to be the most common skin disease in cats and dogs.  A single fleabite can trigger FAD resulting in skin reactions that may worsen without treatment.  Fleas are also carriers of tapeworms, which can be transmitted to their human housemates.

In many instances, it may not be obvious that your pet has fleas even when there is an infestation of adults, eggs, larvae and pupas, which can be dormant in the environment for long periods.  You may notice that your pet tends to “hop” because they are being bitten or they avoid walking on the carpets and rugs where flea populations may be higher, but fleas can also live in hard surfaces where all they need is a dark crack hide and your pet’s blood to feed on.  The most obvious signs to watch for are those of skin other disorders including incessant itching or scratching, biting or licking their skin, redness, hair loss, and sores.  On dogs, flea allergy symptoms appear most frequently at the base of the tails; whereas in cats, you may notice sores or scabbing around the head and ears.


Heartworm is a parasitic roundworm (Dirofilaria immitis) found in nearly all locations where mosquitos are present.  It primarily infects dogs, cats and ferrets and is potentially fatal; however, it is almost 100% preventable with yearly testing and proper use of heartworm preventive medications.

Heartworm can only be transmitted when a mosquito draws blood from an animal infected with heartworm then bites a new victim – our pet – injecting the disease-causing larvae.   This means any animal that comes into contact with mosquitoes are susceptible and should be tested, including pets that might go outside only occasionally.   A cat or dog with recent or mild heartworm infections may show no signs of illness; however, once the adult worms have developed in the heart common symptoms can include fatigue, chronic coughing, vomiting, and weight loss.  Untreated heartworm disease causes damage to the heart, lungs and liver, and eventually leads to congestive heart failure.

Intestinal Parasites

Intestinal parasites are often found in cats and dogs and some may passed from mothers directly or indirectly to their puppies or kittens.  Common parasites include hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, tapeworms, coccidiosis and giardia.  Pro-active treatment with common deworming medications can eliminate some of these parasites, but they may require more than one course of treatment; others require medications and treatment plans specific to the particular organisms.

When symptoms are present, they can include diarrhea, lack of appetite, vomiting, and possible dehydration – especially in young puppies and kittens.  While internal parasites may be present in our pets without symptoms, they are important to screen for because of not only the potential health consequences as the populations in the pet’s system multiply, but also because of the zoonotic potential – the fact that of some of these parasites can be passed to their owners.


Canine Parvovirus (CPV), sometimes simply called “Parvo”, is a viral illness that is highly contagious and potentially life-threatening – especially in puppies.  The virus is usually transmitted when a healthy dog sniffs or ingests infected feces of an infected dog.  The virus can also reside in the soil and on small items within the environment (fomites) and can be transmitted if these are ingested. This is important to note because the virus can live in the ground for up to 1 year and it is very resistant to most cleaning products and weather changes.

The first sign of Parvo is usually lethargy followed by vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss and lack of appetite.  Because CPV is a viral infection, there is no cure for it.  Untreated cases of CPV have a mortality rate of 91%.  With aggressive medical treatment mortality rates are reduced to 5-20%.  An infected dog will require intensive therapy for its bodily systems to recover.  Treatment is aimed at controlling the symptoms and preventing secondary infections and early diagnosis by a veterinarian is critical.

Skin Conditions

Just like in humans, the skin is your pet’s largest organ.  Dermatology is the branch of medicine dealing with the skin,

the nails, hair and their diseases.  Dermatological symptoms can be outward indicators of major metabolic health problems, but even less serious skin-related abnormalities can make your pet very uncomfortable.  Some of the common medical conditions besides allergies that cause these symptoms are Scabies or Demodex (which are two types of mange caused by mites) and ringworm (which is a fungal infection.)  Like pet allergies, symptoms of other skin disorders include incessant itching or scratching, biting or licking their skin, redness, hair loss, and sores.  If you notice these signs of a problem, it is time to have them examined by one of our veterinarians.

Thyroid Disease

The hormones produced by the thyroid gland have effects throughout the body including regulation of body temperature, weight, heart rate, nervous system function, growth and brain development in young animals, muscle tone and skin condition.  Thyroid dysfunction is very common in cats and dogs

Hypothyroidism, or the decreased production of thyroid hormones, usually occurs in middle-aged dogs (rarely in cats) and symptoms typically include a low energy level, weight gain, a tendency to seek out warm places in the home, a poor quality coat, and recurrent skin and ear problems.  Hyperthyroidism, when the gland produces too much hormone, occurs much more often in cats and typically results in weight loss despite a good or even ravenous appetite, increased energy levels, and possibly heart disease.  Fortunately, once diagnosed it is a condition that is fairly easy to treat; however, if left untreated, thyroid issues may adversely affect your pet’s quality of life.


Ticks are external parasites that feed on the blood of unlucky host animals such as our canine and feline companions.  Ticks are most active in warm temperatures and live in tall brush, grass, wooded areas and along trails where they may attach to dogs and outdoor cats frolicking on their turf.  As human domains expand, there is more shared space and interaction with tick-carrying animals including feral cats, deer, raccoons, opossums, wild turkeys and coyotes; consequently more cats, dogs and families are exposed to ticks.  Any contact with the tick’s blood can potentially transmit infection to a pet or even to you!

The possible disease risks from a tick bite include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichioisis, Anaplasmosis, Babesia, Cytauxzoonosis and Mycoplasma, all of which can have serious health consequences.  Symptoms of tick-borne diseases vary but may include fever, lethargy or lameness, lack of appetite, swollen lymph nodes, jaundice and severe anemia.  These signs may not appear for 7-21 days or longer after a tick bite, so watch your pet closely for changes in behavior or appetite if you suspect that they have been bitten.

Vestibular Disease

Most mammals gain their sense of balance and spatial orientation from organs in the inner ear and parts of the brain, collectively called the “vestibular system.”  If the vestibular system becomes diseased, this affects the ability of the animal to balance resulting in vertigo and dizziness, which can cause excessive drooling, sometimes with nausea and vomiting.  Other symptoms include:  abnormal posture, leaning or head tilt, a “drunken” gait, circling, and nystagmus – involuntary, rhythmic, jerking eye flicks.  You should definitely communicate to us if you are concerned your pet is showing signs of vestibular disease.