Nerves & hormones

The endocrine and nervous systems allow communication between your pet's brain and body.


Our veterinarians are highly knowledgeable in diagnosis and offer aggressive treatment plans to help your pet endure a long, healthy life. With extensive training and experience treating pet cancer, our veterinarians and staff can provide quality care and support throughout the therapy process. We know that a positive cancer diagnosis can be difficult, troubling, and confusing. Our staff is here to offer our complete support throughout your pet’s treatment, and we are here to help your family through this trying period.

While a cancer diagnosis in domestic pets was once unheard of, it is becoming increasingly common due to advances made in veterinary care. Feline cancer, however, is less common than canine cancer, and the more prevalent types of feline cancer can usually be prevented through early vaccination and spaying or neutering. Because cancer is quite prevalent among elderly dogs, early detection is critical in effective treatment planning, and prompt discovery can increase survival rates.

Symptoms that possibly indicate cancer in pets:

  • Bleeding from body openings
  • Difficulty making bowel movements or urinating
  • Hesitation to move
  • Inclined to sleep more throughout the day
  • Lethargy
  • Sudden and unexplained collapse
  • Trouble breathing
  • Unexplained weight loss

Diagnosing pet cancer

Currently, there are several tests that help detect cancer in pets. Depending on the location of the tumor, the oncologist will determine the method that will best help to visualize the area in question. The following are some of the methods utilized in diagnosis:
Biopsy – Remove a sample mass of the affected area and have it lab tested for cancerous cells. If those tests are positive, more samples might be necessary to see if cancer is spreading.

Blood tests/chemistry functioning – Test doesn’t diagnose cancer, but major changes in the composition of blood indicate health problems. High white blood cell count, low red blood cell count, and changes in kidney and liver functioning are all examined.
Bone marrow aspiration – Involves removing and testing bone marrow.

CT scan/MRI – Used to identify tumors near the bone that cannot be seen with an X-ray.

Endoscopy – A thin tube with a camera attached is inserted into the mouth and nose to discover tumors. Similar to an ultrasound, a biopsy is then required to test the findings.

Fine needle aspiration (FNA) – Similar to a biopsy, but does not require removal of a mass. Cells are extracted for testing from the mass with a needle. If those cells test positively, more cells might be tested to see how far cancer has spread.

Immunologic studies – Entails testing the dog’s immune system response.

Lymph node aspirate – Requires removing and testing lymph node fluid.

Surgery – Enables veterinarian to examine all potentially cancerous areas in question.

Ultrasound – Typically used to indicate tumors in the abdomen; a biopsy is then performed to verify the findings.

X-ray – Allows veterinarian to detect and visualize tumors in chest, bones, and lungs.

Treating pet cancer

In planning your pet’s cancer therapy, we utilize different approaches depending on the type of cancer and how far it has progressed. In learning about various forms of treatment, it is important for pet owners to understand cancer and how it advances.

Cancer is more commonly referred to as a tumor, and it manifests itself as a bump internally or just under the surface of your pet’s skin. Tumors (collections of cancer cells) come in two forms:

Benign: Slow growing; don’t spread. Usually surgically removed, but sometimes left alone if they are considered a non-threat.

Malignant: Also called carcinomas, sarcomas, and lymphomas; spread to other parts of the body. Can lead to pet death.

While healthy cells within a feline age and die, they are also limited in the number of times they can replicate. Malignant cancer cells are mutated and don’t age, enabling them to reproduce an unlimited number of times. This mutation allows cancer cells to outlive healthy pet cells, slowly outnumber them, and take over. In treating pet cancer, we strive to kill these mutated cells and stop the cancer before it spreads.

The most common cancer treatment methods for pets include chemotherapy, cryosurgery, electrocautery, immunotherapy, radiation, and surgery. Depending on your pet’s circumstances, one or multiple treatments might be appropriate for their particular cancer. Also, some pet cancer cases might need to be referred to an oncology specialist. If your pet requires treatment beyond what we offer in-house, we may refer you to a specialist that we are in close contact with.

The following briefly describes what each treatment method entails:

Electrocautery/Cryosurgery – Surface tumors are removed by electrically burning them off or by freezing them off.

Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy kills cancer cells along with normal, healthy cells. "Chemo", as it is commonly referred to, tends to be more toxic to the cancer cells rather than healthy cells, but can kill both, leaving a pet fragile and potentially more susceptible to catching a viral or bacterial illness.

Immunotherapy – The veterinarian injects the patient with antibodies that engage the patient’s immune system to help kill malignant cancer cells.

Radiation – Radiation localizes energy waves to penetrate cancer cells, killing them by damaging their DNA and stopping them from multiplying. The veterinarian focuses treatment only on the affected area.

Surgery – Completely removes certain cancers and makes others much less substantial. Surgery is typically performed before cancer cells further replicate and advance to other areas of the patient’s body.

If you have any questions about pet cancer, please contact our veterinary practice. We will try our best to answer any and all questions, or we can refer you to a pet oncologist who can further meet your needs.


Diabetes, also referred to as Diabetes Mellitus (DM), affects a pet’s ability to properly use or produce insulin; their body stops producing insulin altogether or cannot produce the quantity necessary. With diabetes, a pet’s body also inhibits organs and muscles from converting sugars into energy, creating a condition known as hyperglycemia – an excess of glucose in the bloodstream.

Female, obese, and elderly canines run a much higher risk of obtaining diabetes, whereas male felines have twice the risk as female cats. While the cause of each individual pet’s case is difficult to determine, genetics and obesity are believed to be the top two risk factors.
Symptoms that may indicate diabetes:

  • Anorexia
  • Canines occasionally develop cataracts
  • Dehydration
  • Depression
  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Labored breathing
  • Sudden increase in appetite and excessive hunger
  • Sweet smelling breath
  • Tiredness combined with weakness
  • Unexplainable weight loss
  • Vomiting

Treatment for diabetes

If we suspect that a patient may have diabetes, we usually perform a blood count, chemical profile, and urinalysis as standard tests to diagnose diabetes. Once a positive diagnosis is made, our veterinarian will discuss a custom treatment plan with you. Disease management differs for every pet depending upon their current health status and activity level. Most every pet can benefit from exercise, especially a diabetic animal. Daily exercise lowers insulin demand and is usually included in a treatment plan.

Nutrition is also an important aspect of care. We commonly enforce a strict nutritional diet alongside owner-administered insulin. You will receive proper instruction about correct dosages and timing prior to administering the insulin on your own. Keeping the amount of calories your pet eats consistent is critical, because insulin dosages are calculated upon that determinant. Diabetic pets perform best with regularly scheduled meals, and insulin dosages should be given at the same time every day. Diabetes is incurable, but the sooner a pet is examined and diagnosed, the sooner the disease can be managed; and the better the pet’s outlook is.

Please contact our veterinary office if you suspect that your pet might be suffering from diabetes.


When a pet’s body overproduces the thyroid hormone, it increases their metabolism, potentially resulting in weight loss, anxiety, diarrhea, and a multitude of other symptoms. This condition, known as hyperthyroidism, is fairly rare in canines but increasingly common among cats. Hyperthyroidism is a condition that usually affects older pets and is most likely caused by multiple factors.

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism in canines:

  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Enlarged thyroid gland
  • Excessive thirst
  • Forced breathing
  • Heavy, rapid breathing
  • Increased appetite
  • Increased energy
  • Increased urination
  • Nervousness
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shaggy hair texture
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

Treatment options for pets with hyperthyroidism

There are three primary forms of therapy used to treat hyperthyroidism depending on the severity of a pet’s particular case as well the cause behind the issue. When a pet owner opts for non-invasive treatment, medication is prescribed that inhibits the production of thyroid hormones. By preventing the pet’s body from making more of these hormones, the issue usually subsides.

Other treatment options are more involved, requiring pets to undergo monitoring and stay within our facility for several days but can permanently solve canine hyperthyroidism. Surgery comprises of the veterinarian removing the thyroid gland entirely, though it is usually only performed when one gland is causing problems so that the body still has one functional gland remaining. If both thyroid glands are removed, the opposite condition, hypothyroidism, can result. When a tumor is causing overactive thyroid, radioactive iodine therapy is usually the treatment of choice. In liquid form, radioactive iodine destroys thyroid tissue without harming any other bodily tissues. Eventually the iodine is passed out of the dog’s body through the urinary tract, but until this takes place, the pet will be held in isolation to prevent exposing other pets in our facility to the radioactive materials.

If your pet is exhibiting the symptoms of hyperthyroidism or you have more questions about the condition, please contact our office today.


Hypothyroidism is a pet’s inability to create enough of the necessary thyroid hormone, which results in a low-functioning metabolism. The disease is usually caused by a shrunken or inflamed thyroid gland, which commonly appears in middle-aged large dog breeds; hypothyroidism rarely occurs in cats and small dogs. On occasion, hypothyroidism is caused by a tumor that forcefully puts pressure on cells of the pituitary gland. In these cases, hypothyroidism can be life-threatening, thus seeking veterinary care is critical.

Most thyroid hormone deficiencies go unnoticed by pet owners because the symptoms appear gradually. By the time a new symptom onsets, an owner has already adjusted to a previous issue, not considering that the two could be connected and caused by the same underlying problem. If your pet is exhibiting any of the following symptoms, please contact our office to schedule an exam.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism:

  • Droopy facial expression
  • Dull coat
  • Hair loss or thinning of hair
  • Increased shedding
  • Intolerant of cold temperatures
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle weakness
  • Unexplained weight gain

Treating hypothyroidism in pets

Pets that are positively diagnosed with hypothyroidism undergo hormone replacement therapy and remain on synthetic hormones for the remainder of their lives. In certain instances, the veterinarian may also find dietary restrictions helpful for your pet as well, such as limiting fat intake. After implementing the supplements, most symptoms subside within a few months, and the veterinarian will determine if levels can be reevaluated or adjusted, though this isn’t certain in all cases.

For pets receiving hormone therapy it is important to note that pet owners should not administer any medications or herbal supplements without consulting the veterinarian first. Medications react differently with synthetic hormones and it’s best to inquire first in order to prevent any subsequent issue.

If you have any questions about hormone therapy or about hypothyroidism, feel free to contact our office at your earliest convenience.


In accurately diagnosing a pet with epilepsy, our veterinarians rely heavily on pet-owner cooperation. The process of diagnosis requires close observation and recording of a pet’s seizure activity outside of our veterinary office, as well as observation from the vet. Epilepsy is a disease that has symptoms similar to other diseases; when possible, video and written records of episodes of seizures greatly improve accurate diagnoses, and we appreciate you actively participating in your pet’s treatment.

Epilepsy is a persistent neurological condition that is distinguished by seizures. There are several different types of seizures which are classified by the affected pet’s reaction to the episode and the brain activity patterns it causes. Seizures can be partial, secondary generalized, or generalized. Partial seizures are localized within a specific area of the brain; when a partial seizure spreads to the cortex it is considered secondary generalized. A generalized seizure is one that involves the entire cortex.

In all cases, the cause of epilepsy is difficult to determine. Some predisposing factors include bacterial/viral encephalitis, brain malformations, brain trauma, brain tumor(s), high fever, genetic and hereditary factors, metabolic disturbances, and stroke. When the onset of epilepsy can be determined, it is considered Secondary Epilepsy. If the reason for seizures cannot be established, it is referred to as Idiopathic Epilepsy.

Types of seizures in pets

Cluster: numerous seizures within a short span of time, allowing very short periods of consciousness between each seizure.

Complex partial: involves behaviors that are continually repeated throughout the seizure. In otherwise normal pets these behaviors include biting, chewing, hiding, vocal noises, running. Seizure side effects can also include biting oneself, diarrhea, temporary blindness, and vomiting.

Partial: seizure-like jerking movement limited to specific areas of the body. (i.e. localized muscle spasms, facial twitches).

Petit mal: there are several different indications of a petit mal seizure and all do not necessarily occur at once. Some pets shake their head left and right for a few minutes: others’ entire bodies shake throughout the extent of the seizure. Some pets blankly stare with a glazed look while others continuously blink while arching their backs.

Status epilepticus: life threatening emergency of a continuous seizure lasting longer than 30 minutes, or a series of multiple seizures in a short time without periods of consciousness in between.

Tonic-clonic: a pet typically falls over, losing consciousness and extending its limbs to a rigid outstretched position. Breathing stops for a short period of 10-30 seconds until the convulsing movements begin which can include chewing or making a paddling motion with the limbs. Some dogs exhibit dilated pupils, excessive drooling, and incontinence.

Stages of pet seizures:

Prodome – preceding a seizure (hours to days) a pet’s mood/behavior might begin subtly changing from its normal essence.

Pre-ictal phase – marks the beginning stages of the seizure and can include constant salivation, nervousness, trembling, or whining. It can last seconds to hours.

Ictal phase – the actual seizure. Most last from a few seconds to a few minutes and are characterized by tensed muscles and partial paralysis. Some pets lose control of their salivary glands and bowels.

Post-ictal Phase – the post-seizure period in which the dog is still disoriented, confused, and possibly dehydrated or salivating. Some pets also experience temporary blindness and wander aimlessly.

Treatment options for pets with seizures

Once a thorough neurological examination has been completed (accompanied by necessary blood tests) and epilepsy has been diagnosed, it is typically controlled with medication. The veterinarian will decide which medication is best for your pet based on their species and breed. In more severe cases epilepsy can be treated with surgery, but surgical options will be determined by the veterinarian for those particular cases. If your pet’s seizures are severe enough to be placed on a medication, common anti-seizure medications for pets can include the following:

Clorazepate – A relatively mild anticonvulsant that is also used to treat anxiety and phobias in canines and felines. Side effects include tiredness, increased appetite, and lack of coordination.

Diazepam – An extremely fast acting anticonvulsant typically used to treat status epilepticus. Side effects include hypotension, hypoventilation, and impaired consciousness.

Felbamate – Highly effective in controlling partial seizures with little-to-no side effects when used as the only anticonvulsant in a treatment plan. Side effects are limited in reported case studies due to the drug’s short half-life.

Levetiracetam – Can be used singularly or combined with a Phenobarbital or Potassium Bromide and is one of the newer anti-seizure medications for pets. Must be administered three times per day. So far, the most common side effect is that some pets develop a tolerance for it, thus losing its effectiveness.

Phenobarbital – Most commonly prescribed anti-seizure medication. Side effects can include increased appetite, dehydration, frequent urination, lethargy, or ataxia.

Potassium Bromide – Can be used singularly or in addition to Phenobarbital and is the second most prescribed anticonvulsant. The commonly reported side effects are increased appetite, dehydration, frequent urination, lethargy, or ataxia (involuntary muscle movements).

Primidone – Similar to Phenobarbital in effectiveness, but has a greater risk of causing liver disease so is only prescribed when Phenobarbital proves ineffective. Side effects can include agitation, anxiety, ataxia, dehydration, depression, frequent urination, increased appetite, or lethargy.

Zonisamide – Used to treat generalized seizures in canines but it is not commonly prescribed as it is very expensive. The most common side effects are ataxia (involuntary muscle movements), nausea, and tiredness.

If you think your pet may have had a seizure, the first step is to remain calm and keep your voice mellow and soothing in an effort to prevent the seizure from reoccurring. Show your pet love and affection, allowing them to understand that they have done nothing wrong and that everything will be okay. Please contact our office immediately so we can complete a full pet evaluation to ensure there are no pressing health issues that require emergency medical attention. It is important to remember that epilepsy treatment is not curative and is only meant to help prevent seizures from occurring; though a pet can relapse, and they can still occur.

If you think your pet may have epilepsy or have questions about the disease, please contact our office.

Non-epileptic Seizures

The primary difference between an epileptic seizure and a non-epileptic seizure is their underlying cause. Non-epileptic seizures are usually focal-motor seizures and are caused by an abundance of electrical activity in the brain due to a brain lesion, such as an abscess or tumor. During a focal-motor seizure, a pet convulses or twitches, but that twitching is limited to a specific part of the body.

If your pet has a seizure, you must take them to see a veterinarian immediately to be sure that brain damage has not occurred and that no major health issues are the cause. During your pet’s exam, try to inform the veterinarian of as many details about the seizure as you can remember. After a thorough diagnosis, the veterinarian will be able to determine and treat the underlying cause.

Common causes of non-epileptic seizures:

  • Brain abscesses
  • Brain injury
  • Brain tumors
  • Concussion (seizure typically occurs weeks to months after injury)
  • Distemper
  • Encephalitis
  • Heartworm disease
  • Heat stroke
  • Kidney failure
  • Liver failure
  • Poisoning
  • Stroke

Treatment of non-epileptic seizures

If seizures are recurring over a period of several days, anticonvulsants might be prescribed for a period of 1 to 2 weeks after the initial seizure. If medication is needed beyond that, the veterinarian will reevaluate levels and write a new prescription. If a more serious medical condition exists, such as heartworm or liver failure, and is determined to be the underlying cause of the seizures, the veterinarian will address the larger health issues at hand.

In a majority of the cases, non-epileptic seizures end up being a one-time occurrence that disappears once the causal illness is treated. If the ailment takes an extended period of time to treat, multiple seizures can occur which is why prompt treatment is essential.

If you have questions about seizures in domestic pets, feel free to contact our office at your convenience.

Separation anxiety

Canines and felines experience separation anxiety for very different reasons and exhibit very different symptoms. Cats may feel anxious after being separated from their mother, from early weaning, or when purchased from a pet store. A dog might begin experiencing separation anxiety after a change in ownership or a serious alteration in their owner’s routine or schedule. Shelter dogs also experience anxiety, because rescue animals live in constant fear of abandonment. Some degree of separation anxiety is estimated to occur in about 30% of all dogs, making it one of the most prevalent disorders among canines; however, it is so uncommon in cats that until recently, it was thought to be non-existent.

To eliminate the fears of separation anxiety, gradual behavior modification is necessary. With the help of our staff and your dedication and commitment, we can build a treatment plan that helps your pet enjoy or tolerate being left alone, easing their grief and yours.

Indications of a dog with separation anxiety:

  • Barking or howling when owner leaves
  • Chewing up things in owner’s absence
  • Consuming feces only in owner’s absence
  • Digging in owner’s absence
  • Dog is overly excited when owner gets home
  • Escaping confinement when owner isn’t present
  • Exhibiting obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Need to be by owner’s side constantly

Symptoms of a cat with separation anxiety:

  • Having “accidents” outside of the litter box in their owner’s absence
  • Hiding in owner’s absence
  • Needing to be in owner’s presence
  • Refusing to eat
  • Vomiting in owner’s absence

Treatment options for separation anxiety:

Persistence with any treatment plan is critical. Working alongside our veterinarian, we can form a customized behavior modification plan that allows you to gradually train your pet to be self-sufficient, calming their anxiety. In cases of moderate-to-severe separation anxiety, we might suggest prescription medication to supplement training. Prescriptions will be tapered off once pets start to show improvements in behavior and begin accepting the training process.

For severe canine separation anxiety, we recommend pet owners taking their dogs to a doggie daycare or hiring a pet sitter. Many times having some attention, even if it isn’t from the pet owner, takes a dog’s mind off of the owner being away. While the cost of a caregiver can be expensive, it could potentially outweigh the cost of expensive damage caused by an anxious dog left alone.

No matter the case, punishment should never be used on a pet with separation anxiety. This will only increase their anxiety and cause them to act out more. Similarly, frantic, hyper pets should never be awarded with attention immediately after an owner gets home; let pets settle down before rewarding them with attention, letting them know that they will only receive acknowledgement when they are calm and quiet.

If you have questions regarding separation anxiety or would like to enroll your pet in behavior modification classes, please contact our veterinary office at your convenience.