Internal medicine is the diagnosis and non-surgical treatment of internal organ disease. This is a subtle and complex discipline requiring vast amounts of knowledge and experience, not to mention patience and an inquisitive mind.
Internal medical expertise underpins all that we do for hospitalised patients at Gordon Veterinary Hospital. Our two veterinary partners are Members of the Australian College of Veterinary Scientists in small animal (canine and feline) or feline medicine as follows:
- David Loneragan (Feline Medicine)
- Scott Lackenby (Canine & Feline Medicine)
Given that only 10% of veterinarians have any College qualification this is an exceptional line up of skills and experience and is put to use every day.
Accurate diagnosis is essential if effective treatments and a prognosis are to be given. This in turn relies on a series of diagnostic tests performed during a hospital stay or over a few visits. The tests are listed below and are generally non-invasive but some involve general anaesthesia or sedation.
- Culture of organisms such as fungii or bacteria
- Blood tests such as organ profiles, blood counts, coagulation profiles and blood gas analysis
- Urine tests
- Electronic tests such as blood pressure measurement, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels
The options for diagnosis and treatment and the costs of each option will be presented to you by the veterinarian and you can decide what best suits your pet and your family.
Cardiovascular disease is common amongst our elderly (and not so elderly) patients just as it is with ourselves.The most common syndrome encountered is that of congestive heart failure which is in turn caused by a number of heart diseases. Pets can also have heart muscle and heart rhythm disturbances as well as congenital (birth defects). Heartworm disease is thankfully rare in our area because of the high rate of preventative medication, such as the Proheart annual injection.
Many dogs are diagnosed with a heart murmur, particularly small dog breeds as they get older. Usually when it is first diagnosed, a heart murmur is subclinical (not causing any clinical signs of disease). A heart murmur does not necessarily mean heart failure. Heart failure can be a consequence of a severe heart murmur but it usually develops slowly over a period of years. This is why an annual health check is so important so your vet can monitor the severity of the murmur each time.
Sneezing, nasal discharge, coughing, wheezing or noisy breathing and difficulty breathing are all signs of disease of the respiratory system as well as some other systems. Many small dogs are born with obstructive diseases of their throat and nose which should be assessed to avoid life-long damage. Respiratory difficulty can be a sign of tick paralysis and many other problems – your pet should be kept cool and calm and checked immediately.
For any respiratory disease that does not respond to routine veterinary therapy, a chest radiograph (xray) is usually recommended to enable us to image the chest. Usually this is able to be performed under sedation (depending on the patient).
Click here to find out more about Diagnostic Imaging.
Diseases of the stomach and bowel are very common. Vomiting, Diarrhoea, straining to toilet or just being off food are the most common signs. Infections and parasites are a particular problem in dogs because they eat things that they shouldn’t and drink from dirty water. Pets are also prone to things getting stuck (bones, corn cobs and all sorts of strange things!), inflammation and cancer. Liver and pancreatic disease are also very common, in particular a condition called pancreatitis.
Pancreatitis in Dogs
This is inflammation of the pancreas organ (responsible for producing enzymes for digestion). When the pancreas becomes inflamed, these enzymes are activated within the pancreas rather than in the digestive tract, which can cause peritonitis (inflammation of the whole abdominal cavity). These animals have a sore, tense abdomen and in dogs, acute vomiting is often seen. Pancreatitis is a life threatening disease and animals with these symptoms need urgent veterinary attention and hospitalisation. In some cases, pancreatitis is the result of ingestion of something fatty (such as bacon) which the dog’s digestive tract simply cannot handle. It is for these reasons that we recommend that dogs stay on a fairly consistent diet designed for dogs, such as the Hills Science Diet.
Urinary & Reproductive Disease
Kidney failure is very common in older cats and is a chronic, life-threatening disease that causes a host of other problems such as high blood pressure, anaemia and changes in electrolytes (blood salts). Pets are also prone to cystitis which is just as painful as with ourselves and can in turn be due to infections, bladder stones and more. Problems in the ovaries, uterus and prostate also occur but less frequently because most pets are desexed.
The symptoms of chronic renal failure (kidney failure) are generally excessive thirst and excessive urination with weight loss. If you suspect your pet may have kidney failure, there is a blood and a urine test that can be run to confirm this. Try to bring a urine sample with you but we can collect it for you if needed during the consultation. High blood pressure often occurs with kidney failure and can speed up the disease so your vet may recommend the blood pressure be checked. In most cases, kidney failure cannot be cured but improvements can be made to the quality of life through different medications, diets and lifestyle changes.
Urinary incontinence is a common problem in older dogs, especially females, which can be controlled in almost all cases.
Diabetes and Cushings disease (overactive adrenal glands) are reasonably common in dogs. Diabetes is also commonly seen in overweight cats. Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid glands) is one of the most common old age problems found in cats.
Subtle early signs indicative of these problems include excessive thirst, frequent urination and weight loss. Similar to humans, we can control and in some cases reverse these conditions.
Diabetes is where there is an insulin deficiency (Type I) or an insulin resistance (Type II). The cause in dogs can be chronic pancreatitis in some cases, but for the majority of cases, diabetes occurs without an explanation. In cats, obesity (particularly in Burmese cats) has been shown to be a predisposing factor for developing Type II diabetes.
The symptoms of diabetes include excessive thirst, excessive urination and sometimes cataracts (in later stages). Weight loss is often a feature in dogs with diabetes, but not necessarily cats. If you notice any of these signs in your pet, come in for a consultation and we will be able to run a blood test to get an immediate diagnosis. Like in humans, the earlier treatment with insulin injections is commenced, the better the outcome.
Giving injections to your pet can be a source of worry for pet owners. In most cases, however, after a tutorial and some practice, injections become second nature. The needles used are so tiny that the pet usually doesn’t even notice he or she is getting it!
Thyroid disease is common in both cats and dogs. In older cats, we see hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) where the symptoms include excessive appetite but poor weight gain and occasionally blindness (secondary to a high blood pressure). Cats with hyperthyroidism can also be quite moody.
In dogs, hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) is common. Symptoms include lethargy, hair loss (or poor hair growth after being clipped) and obesity. Unfortunately, the thyroid level can be low in dogs that have another disease present which can confuse the diagnosis. In these cases, we will usually need to run more tests to clarify whether the thyroid disease is significant or just a consequence of another disease.
See our section on Cancer Medicine.