Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Chances are, when you have been to our clinic for your dog’s annual wellness care, we have either recommended or administered a Leptospirosis vaccine to your furry friend.  But what exactly is Leptospirosis, how does it affect dogs, and how can we best prevent it?   Let’s start with the fact that Leptospirosis (or Lepto for short) is a spirochete type bacteria that is transmitted through the urine of infected animals.  Some of the animals that can spread Lepto through their urine include raccoons, skunks, squirrels, rodents, opossums, and deer.  As you can see, we have no shortage of those animals in our yards and parks, so nearly every dog that comes to see us is considered “at risk”!  In turn, the infected urine can then contaminate ground water, puddles, and soil where it can potentially survive for months.

Dogs become infected when the bacteria enters their body through breaks in the skin or their mucous membranes (eyes, nose, mouth).  Some examples include getting contaminated soil in a wound or drinking or swimming in contaminated water.   After infection, some dogs do not get ill but those that do can display a wide variety of signs including fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, and gastrointestinal signs, but unfortunately some dogs progress to the hallmark signs of kidney and liver failure.  This makes Lepto a potentially life-threatening disease and not to be taken lightly!

Testing for this disease once a pet becomes ill involves a combination of bloodwork, urine, Lepto titers (which check the body’s antibody levels to an infection), and imaging of the internal organs through x-rays and ultrasound.  Treatment is aimed at supporting the affected organs and the patient while starting antibiotics.  This is best accomplished with hospitalization for IV fluids, anti-nausea medications, monitoring, and injectable antibiotics.   Fortunately, the Lepto bacteria are susceptible to antibiotics and typically a combination is used to both clear the blood infection and eliminate the bacteria from the kidney.  It is worth noting that even though we can kill the bacteria, the patient’s overall prognosis depends on the degree of organ damage and response to treatment.

However, the best treatment is prevention, and thank goodness we have vaccines for the most common strains of Leptospirosis.  They can be started as young as 12 weeks of age and initially are a series of two vaccines given 3-4 weeks apart.  It is boostered annually thereafter.  Unlike many of our viral vaccines which can produce an immunity of up to 3 years, Lepto is a bacteria and durations of immunity longer than one year have not been able to be established.  So that annual booster is a must!
Recently, at our Mt. Prospect Hospital, we have had a couple of positive cases of Lepto that were late on their annual vaccines.   After consulting with veterinarians at the vaccine manufacturer, we have started recommending re-boostering if your dog is more than 6 weeks late for their annual booster.  This ensures they are protected for the strains in the vaccine and allows the manufacturer to back their guarantee on the vaccine.

If you have any further questions, please ask our team or visit http://www.cdc.gov/leptospirosis/

article written by:
Dr. Jessica Smith
Companion Animal Hospital Mount Prospect

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Did you know cats thrive on canned / moist food?

Diet is the foundation of  health. This blog lays out some often-ignored principles of feline nutrition and explains why cats have a better chance at optimal health if they are fed a quality canned food diet instead of dry kibble. Putting a little thought into what you feed your cat(s) can pay big dividends over their lifetime and very possibly help them avoid serious, painful and costly illnesses!

The three key negative issues associated with dry food are:
1) Type of protein - too high in plant-based versus animal-based proteins
2) Carbohydrate load is too high
3) Water content is too low

Cats are obligate carnivores which means they need meat / protein!  Canned cat food on average provides 20-30% more protein per serving than dry cat food. Feeding canned cat food addresses the
three negatives associated with feeding dry food.

Kibble or dry formulations of cat foods are often too low in protein and rely too much on plant based protein.  Proteins help our cats produce amino acids, which help the body grow, create cells and regulate normal bodily functions. A protein deficiency can lead to: Loss of appetite, dull coat, poor skin, decreased immune function, lethargy, and increased rate of illness or infections.

Who doesn’t love carbs! Despite being delicious they are not always the best for us or our feline friends!  Dry cat foods are heavy in carbohydrates because of the manufacturing process used to produce the food. Although the dry food may be dipped in animal fat to make the kibble more appealing to the cat, this may present a problem if it encourages the cat to eat dry food excessively. A diet high in carbohydrates can lead to weight gain and overweight cats can have complications from and higher chances of diabetes, poor mobility, liver disease, heart disease, arthritis and urinary tract disease.

Water content and hydration
Cats do not drink enough water and those cats fed only a dry kibble based diet do not receive adequate hydration.  In the wild cats eat fresh prey, such as birds and mice, and the raw meat of these animals has some liquid content that helps keep the cat hydrated without it having to seek additional water sources.  When fed kibble they do not seem to make up the difference with their water intake.  Poor hydration over years leads to both kidney disease and or urinary tract disease. Feeding canned cat food helps reduce this risk !

article written by:
Dr. Joe Whalen
Companion Animal Hospital