Hot and Itchy
Red Irritated Skin - The Hot Spot
The 5th Sign of Pain in Pets - Increased Activity
Red Irritated Skin - The Hot Spot
When the weather gets hot and humid, it is fairly common to see dogs erupt with a large, red, weeping sore that is very itchy and painful. These sores are called "Hot Spots." I am not exactly sure how they got that name, but I suspect it is because they are very fast to erupt (Hot) and they are a spot.
In more medical terms, these eruptions are usually caused by an insect bite, small abrasion or local allergic reaction. This reaction is very intense, causing the scratching, redness and clear drainage. If they are not treated, they will continue to grow causing intense pain and discomfort. Bacteria from the skin will invade, creating a deeper wound and infection. When your dog has a Hot Spot you will be alarmed at how a small red area can become a large, draining, intensely painful area on the side of the face, neck or base of the back.
Luckily treatment is easy. An injection of cortisone to quickly relieve the inflammation and drainage coupled often with antibiotic and a tapering dose of cortisone. These spots will dry up and be much better in a matter of days. For some pets a topical antibiotic spray or cream may also be used.
Some dogs may be aggressive and even attempt to bite when you try to examine the hot spot. These are very painful, causing the dog to guard themselves from any touch or handling around the sore. It is important to have a veterinarian examine and treat these as soon as possible. Often, clients have been bitten when trying to clip matted hair away from these sores, or apply treatment. Giving the appropriate medication by mouth and injection is a fast way to relieve the pain and inflammation, speeding up healing. Please do not think that because your pet knows and trusts you they will not possibly be upset by you tending to these Hot Spots. Leave the sore alone and get attention as soon as possible.
The 5th Sign of Pain in Pets - Increased Activity
The title probably sounds a little strange - how can pain cause increased activity? I recently read a one page hand out for clients pointing out the 5 ways pets can show dental pain. The first 4 were describing avoiding hard food, not playing with balls or chewing on rawhide, pulling away when petted on the head, and drooling. The last sign was the pet started to play more, want to be petted or had more energy after a dental was done. The elimination of pain due to infected teeth, tartar, inflamed gums decreased the drain on the body so the pet had more energy. Recently I had an experience like this with a client's cat and it brought this 5th sign home to me.
A sweet older kitty had a mass in his ear that was not causing any obvious infection, irritation, or problem until one day it started to bleed. It was pretty scary for the owner and not much fun for this kitty either. I examined the cat, and was able to treat the ear to control the bleeding and discussed removing the growth because it was growing slowly and could be bumped or bruised and bleed again. The client consented and we set up a day surgery. I was able to remove the growth under anesthesia, without problems and there was good news on the biopsy report. Upon rechecking his ear to be sure it all healed fine, the owner told me about how her kitty was more playful, affectionate, and getting along with the other cats better. She noted how her cat would fall asleep then have to scratch his ear before surgery, not any big deal, but now could sleep through the night. We talked about how getting petted around the head which most cats seek, may have been uncomfortable before but was welcomed now. Head bunting is they way cats greet each other so he now was doing this with the other cats and everyone was getting along better.
None of the previous behaviors were out of the ordinary. His change in nature told us that he chose not to be social and playful because it was painful for him. That is the 5th sign - he was more active, social and playful because the pain was gone. Judging pain in animals is not easy. They do not show pain like we do. The last thing a cat will do is cry in pain. For a cat to cry in pain it means they are ready to die because in the wild that would tell the predator "come get me." For dogs, they may cry or limp more readily but they also hold back until pain is pretty bad. This nature of hiding pain is related to animals living in the wild. Dogs do live in groups and are a predator but may also be predated upon. Cats are even more so at risk for predation when in pain because they are solo animals. They do not live in groups (except for Lions).
Veterinarians are much more trained to read the body language of pets for pain than in the past. We also have more medications, diets, supplements and therapies to help relieve pain in pets. When your veterinarian recommends surgery or treatment for a problem because they judge your pet to have pain, trust their judgment. Your pet cannot speak for themselves and a pet's behavior can tell us a lot about what is going on for them.
Cases of Rabies in animals and humans have decreased dramatically because we have a vaccine to protect animals and people. However we still see cases of Rabies. So it is important to keep your pet vaccinated and protected against Rabies. Rabies is still such an important and deadly disease, that World Rabies Day was created to help raise awareness about the disease and how to prevent it.
The map to the right shows counties, in pink, where animals tested positive for Rabies in 2014. In 2013, the CDC had reports of 5,865 cases of Rabies in the United States. Of these cases, 247 were cats, 89 were dogs and 3 were people. Over 55,000 people die world-wide from Rabies every year.
Dogs in the state of Illinois are required by law to be vaccinated for Rabies. Cats vaccination requirement varies depending on what county you live in. Champaign County requires cats to be vaccinated. Douglas County does not require cats to be vaccinated. We highly recommend having cats vaccinated for Rabies. Cats who go outside are exposed to Rabies, just like dogs. Even cats who live indoors only should be vaccinated. Mice and bats can come inside the house where your cat can catch them or get bitten by them. Inside cats can can also sneak out of the house, without anyone knowing, and can come into contact with wildlife. Dogs and cats are given their first Rabies vaccine when they are four months old. The vaccine is boostered every one to three years, depending on the type of vaccine given. It is important for your pet to have an exam prior to receiving any vaccination. If your pet is ill, the vaccine can make them sicker. Giving a vaccine to an ill pet can also cause the vaccine to not be effective at preventing the disease.
Rabies is disease caused by a virus that is almost always fatal. Infected dogs, cats, skunks, foxes, bats, raccoons and other animals can spread the disease. The virus can be transmitted through saliva, blood and nerve tissues (brain, spine, nerves). So, for example, your neighbor has a dog named Fluffy and does not keep Fluffy up to date on her Rabies vaccine. Fluffy is in the back yard playing and an infected skunk wanders into their yard. Fluffy doesn't like this intruder so she attacks the skunk. During the fight, the skunk bites Fluffy. The skunk's saliva, and the Rabies virus, enters Fluffy's body through the bite wounds. In a few days Fluffy may start to behave differently (hide and act nervous), snap at her owners, wonder around the house, stumble as she walks and drool. Fluffy will die from her Rabies infection. If Fluffy had her vaccine, she would have been protected. We do not have a cure for rabies and it is almost always fatal. This is why vaccinating for Rabies is so important.
If your pet has been bitten by any animal, bring him or her to the vet. We will wash out the wounds and prescribe medication. Tell us what happened to your pet (what animal bit yours, was the animal acting strange). If the other animal may be rabid, and your pet has been vaccinated, we will vaccinate your pet again and send him or her home for confinement. If your pet has not been vaccinated, we will send him or her home for confinement for up to six months and vaccinate your pet. Unvaccinated pets will usually die if they have been bitten by a rabid animal.
If you have been bitten by an animal, you should go to the doctor. The doctor's office can treat your wound and may prescribe medication. Tell your doctor what happened and, if you were bitten by a dog, they need to contact Animal Control. You can reach the Douglas County Animal Control at 253-4921. You will need to locate the owner of the dog and find out if the dog is current on their Rabies vaccine. Animal Control will issue a quarantine notice for the dog. The dog can be quarantined for 10 days at a vet clinic or in the owner's home, depending on if the dog has been vaccinated.
Some of the symptoms an animal with Rabies show include a change in attitude, difficulty swallowing, trouble walking, drooling, paralysis and restlessness. Wild animals will often lose their fear of humans and may wander into your yard. Never approach a wild animal that is acting friendly or is hurt. Contact your local Animal Control Department or the Department of Natural Resources at (217) 345-2420 if you see a wild animal that is hurt or acting strangely.
You can protect your pet against Rabies. The most important thing you can do is to have your pet vaccinated against Rabies. Encourage your neighbors to have their pets vaccinated too. Always take your pet out on leash, so you can keep an eye on your pet.
For more information about Rabies, visit the Center for Disease Control's website. For more information about the number of cases of Rabies reported in Illinois, visit the Illinois Department of Public Health's website.
* Graphic courtesy of Illinois Department of Public Health