You Make The Diagnosis: Common Shih Tzu Health Problems

Pictured below is a lovely little Shih Tzu named Suki.  As a veterinarian, I think of this breed as a love sponge, wanting to soak up every bit of attention they can from their family.  Unfortuantely, Shih Tzu’s are also prone to a host of health problems.  Name the common health problems found in this breed.



    1.  Luxating patella’s – a condition common in toy breeds where the knee cap pops out of joint.

    2.  Hereditary renal dysplasia.

    3.  Dental abnormalities including missing teeth, unerrupted teeth that sometimes form dentigerous cysts, malpositioned teeth leading to interference and retained deciduous teeth.

    4.  Allergies.

    5.  Ear diasease.

    6.  Epiphora-a condition where tears spill from the inner aspect of the lower eyelid causing a dark stain on their fur.

You Make The Diagnosis: Name The Cardiac Condition Common In Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels or cavs as they are commonly called are a royal breed that originated in the United Kingdom.  This toy breed comes in four different colors-blenheim, tricolor, black and tan and ruby.  Most cavs possess a wonderful personality, making them an outstanding family dog.  Veterinarians enjoy working with this breed because of their temperament.  

Unfortunately, some of these spaniels suffer from a serious cardiac problem involving a heart valve.  Name the valve?  What happens when this valve fails?

Diagnosis:  Mitral Valve

The mitral valve is located on the left side of the heart between the ventricle and atrium.  When the valve is open, blood flows from the atrium into the ventricle.  Once the ventricle is full, the valve closes and the ventricle contracts pumping blood out the aorta to the body.  Cavalier King Charles Spaniels suffer from a condition called early onset mitral valve disease.  The mitral valve does not close properly allowing blood to flow backwards.   The condition worsens over time until heart failure occurs.  Mitral valve disease is a problem in other toy breeds as well.  What is unique about cavs is the early age of onset, often less than five years of age. 

Clinically, the first sign of early onset mitral disease is a heart murmur caused by the blood flowing backwards into the atrium.  When a murmur is heard, the next step is a cardiac ultrasound to assess severity.  Because the problem is so common in cavs, I recommend all breeding animals undergo a thorough evaluation by a veterinary cardiologist prior to breeding.  Of course, all cavs should have regular check-ups that include a thorough auscultation of their hearts.       

Qualitest Pharmaceuticals Recalls Phenobarbital

Today I received an alert from the American Veterinary Medical Association warning that phenobarbital manufactured by Qualitest Pharmaceuticals might be mismarked.  While the label says the tablets are phenobarbital, the tablets inside may actually be hydrocodone or acetaminophen.  If your pet is on phenobarbital manufactured by Qualitest to control seizures, please call your veterinarian to verify the safety of the medication.  Even though the company issued a recall in early February, the FDA reports they are still receiving reports of pets suffering severe health problems after receiving the mislabeled medication.   

Plastic Bags Are Hazardous To Pets

It is common sense I suppose, but seeing one of my little rascals in this bag prompted me to write this reminder.  Plastic bags are hazardous to pets just as they are for children.  The risk of suffocation is obvious.  Suffocation can happen so quickly.  In addition, animals are fond of swallowing any number of items.  I once did surgery to remove a diamond ring from a cat’s stomach.  At least that owner had a profit on the procedure!  I also had a dog swallow six pairs of surgical gloves used by the owner on his ostomy bag.  One of our cats loves to stand at my husband’s feet when he takes the plastic wrappers off the dry cleaned shirts.  Now we keep him out of the room.  This cat can not help himself from lunging headfirst into the pile of bags like we did as kids in Minnesota when the fall leaves were raked into a huge mound. 

You Make The Diagnosis: Name This Common Condition

Pictured below is the rear end of an adult, orange cat.  His back legs are seen on the right side of the image and the underside of his tail is on the left.  His owner noticed a bloody area of skin just below his anus.  Name this common condition in cats.   

Diagnosis:  Cat Fight Abscess

Cat fight abscesses are a fairly common problem in veterinary medicine.  When cats bite each other, they inject bacteria from their mouths under the skin. The bacteria grow in the warm conditions forming a pocket of infection called an abscess.  Clinically, these cats are lethargic and feverish.  Since cats are so good at hiding their illnesses, most people do not know anything is wrong with their pet until the abscess ruptures.  When this abscess ruptured, blood mixed with the yellow colored pus to form a pink fluid that the owner found on the floor.  

The most important part of treatment is draining the infection out of the abscess.  The entire area is clipped and cleaned with an antiseptic solution.  Large abscesses may require a surgically placed drain to facilitate drainage.  The patient goes home on antibiotics and medicine to control pain.  Most cats will also require a large plastic e-collar to prevent licking.

Because of the location, the other rule out for this is an anal gland abscess.  Cats have anal glands that secrete a smelly liquid onto their feces.  In many cats, you can see the openings of these glands at approximately the 4 and 8 o’clock positions, marked by a black dot.  If the gland is plugged, the secretion builds up and forms an abscess beneath the skin.  Since the orange cat pictured above lives with two precocious kittens and has normal anal glands, it is a cat fight abscess.  

With proper treatment, this cat made a full recovery.  The pictures below are close ups of the area during the healing process.

Warning:  If you live in the desert southwest region of the United States, plague may also cause abscess formation.  Although rare, use extreme caution with all abscesses until a diagnosis is reached.      

4 days of healing                                                                  7 days of healing