Internal Medicine

companion_pet_photos (3)Unfortunately, when animals feel sick, they are unable to communicate the nature of their illness.  Doctors and staff at Elkhorn Veterinary Clinic are trained to determine the cause of your pet’s illness and provide quality care to treat or manage your pet’s condition. Through a thorough physical exam and diagnostics such as blood tests, digital x-rays, and ultrasound, doctors can diagnose a variety of diseases such as respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, infectious disease, skin disease, liver disease, kidney disease, hematologic (blood) disorders, and endocrine (hormone) disorders.  Doctors will then discuss treatment options and work with owners to provide the best care for the individual patient at home and/or in the hospital setting.

Commonly seen diseases in cats:

Dr Korosec and cat

A thorough physical exam is the first step to diagnosing your cat’s health problems.

  • Diabetes Mellitus:  Diabetes Mellitus occurs in cats due to decreased sensitivity to the hormone insulin which causes consistently high blood sugar levels.  Cats with diabetes may have weight loss, increased thirst, increased urination, lethargy, and vomiting.  Diabetes can be diagnosed by testing both the blood and urine for presence of elevated glucose or sugar.  Diabetes requires life-long treatment with insulin and diet modification.  Left untreated, diabetes can progress to a fatal condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis.  Keeping your cat at a healthy body weight can decrease his or her chance of developing diabetes.
  • Kidney Disease: As cats age, it is common for kidney function to decline.  The kidneys play a key role in excretion of metabolic waste products from the body, maintaining hydration, and synthesis of hormones for calcium metabolism and red blood cell production.  When greater than 75% of kidney function is lost, metabolic waste products begin to accumulate in the blood stream causing your pet to feel poorly.  Common symptoms of kidney disease include inappetance, weight loss, increased drinking, increased urination, and vomiting.  Kidney disease is diagnosed by bloodwork and urinalysis; additional diagnostics such as blood pressure measurement, urine protein content, and abdominal ultrasound may be recommended to stage the disease and determine its cause.  Chronic kidney disease in cats is irreversible; however, medical therapies to slow progression and improve quality of life can be instituted.
  • Hyperthyroidism: Hyperthyroidism occurs due to increased secretion of thyroid hormone from the thyroid gland.  Thyroid hormone plays a key role in metabolism, the immune system, and cardiovascular function in cats.  Cats suffering from hyperthyroidism commonly experience weight loss, vomiting, behavior change, increased heart rate, and changes in urination habits.  This disease is diagnosed by a blood test evaluating the level of thyroid hormone in the body; additional blood testing, urinalysis, and blood pressure measurement help to assess the systemic effects of the disease.  Treatment options for this condition include radioiodine treatment (offered at a referral hospital) to ablate the thyroid tissue in the body, surgical removal of the thyroid gland, diet change, and most commonly a medication to inhibit synthesis of thyroid hormone.  Cats with well managed hyperthyroidism can lead normal lives.

Commonly seen diseases in dogs:

Dr Tucker checks dog eyes

Medical examinations, careful monitoring of disease, and medications can help to improve the quality and prolong the life of your pet.

  • Heart Disease:  Both young and old dogs can be affected by heart disease.  Heart disease results from failure of valves and/or muscles of the heart to promote flow of blood to the lungs and/or body.  Heart disease is frequently diagnosed when a veterinarian hears a hear murmur during a physical exam.  Additional diagnostics such as chest x-rays, echocardiogram (heart ultrasound), blood pressure, and electrocardiogram (assessment of heart rhythm) may be obtained to determine the cause and extent of the heart disease.  Many dogs are asymptomatic at time of diagnosis and may not need treatment.  Dogs exhibiting symptoms such as lethargy, cough, exercise intolerance, inappetance, fainting, are said to be in congestive heart failure and require additional treatment to help manage their heart disease.  Unfortunately, in the majority of cases, heart disease cannot be cured and is progressive.  However, careful monitoring and medications can help to prolong quality and quantity of life.
  • Allergic Skin Disease:  Itch, rashes, and hot spots are a very common reason for dogs to go to their veterinarian.  Frequently these problems are due to an underlying allergy.  Unlike humans, dogs respond to environmental allergens (i.e. pollens, dusts, danders) and food allergens (generally a particular protein source) with itchy skin rather than sneezing or upset stomach.  Constant scratching is not only uncomfortable, but leads to secondary infections of the skin with yeast and/or bacteria demonstrated as rashes and hot spots.  Diagnosis is generally made through history, physical exam findings, microscopic evaluation of the skin, and diet trials.  Blood and skin tests are also available to assess environmental allergens.  Treatment involves resolving the infection with antibiotics and using medications to resolve the underlying itch (and thus prevent additional infections).  Anti-itch medications include antihistamines, steroids, cyclosporine, and even immunotherapy (i.e. ‘allergy shots’ or sublingual allergy drops).  Some animals must take these anti-itch medications life long or throughout ‘allergy season’ in order to stay comfortable and prevent additional infections.
  • Gastroenteritis:  Dogs frequently arrive at the vet for treatment of vomiting and diarrhea.  Just as in humans, there are many reasons why a dog may be experiencing these symptoms.  Intestinal parasites (i.e. ‘worms’), bacterial or viral infection, dietary indiscretion, intestinal obstruction, and internal organ disease can all cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs.  Your veterinarian may check a fecal sample for worms, take abdominal x-rays, and possibly run blood work in order to diagnose your dog and choose the appropriate treatment.