When the Claws Come Out: The Truth About Declawing Your Cat

September 21st, 2016 by Audrey Parker


Declawing has become a hotly contested topic in veterinary medicine. There are veterinarians who refuse to do the procedure under any circumstances. At the other end of the spectrum, some vets have no qualms at all about declawing pet cats. Pet owners and animal welfare advocates also run the gambit of opinions on this subject.  So what are the facts about this divisive procedure? claw


1) The quickest procedure is the Rescoe method. This involves using a sterilized pair of Rescoe nail trimmers, which work like a guillotine, to remove most of third phalanx. This method can leave behind a piece of the bone, resulting in regrowth of an abnormal nail months or years down the road. If this happens, you have to go in surgically and remove the rest of the bone.

2) The blade disarticulation method involves using a small, sharp scalpel blade to completely remove the distal phalanx by cutting all the ligaments that connect it to the neighboring bone. This is delicate work, and takes somewhat longer than the Rescoe method, but it ensures there is no way a nail can ever regrow.

3) The laser disarticulation method aims to achieve the same end as the blade one, but uses a surgical laser instead. This can shorten surgery time and recovery time, but has not been shown to change long term outcomes. The laser is also very user dependent, so results will vary based on the surgeon’s experience and technique.


The obvious benefit to declawing is that a cat can no longer scratch up the house, furniture, other pets, an owners’ skin, etc. Declawing is a rather permanent solution to scratching problem. Some people want any cat living in their household to be declawed even before it shows any destructive behaviors. Others turn to declawing as a last resort after unacceptable damage has been done.


Not every cat will have an ideal declaw. Some cats experience significant bleeding after surgery or once their overnight bandages are removed. Others can have long-term pain or lameness. This can be due to a medical reason, like nail regrowth or tendon contracture; or it can be from phantom pain.

A few cats may develop behavioral issues if their natural scratch ability is taken away. In addition to scratching, climbing and catching prey might be inhibited. Declawed cats are also less able to defend themselves from other animals, so it is not recommended to let them outside unattended. Some believe that cats who cannot scratch will be more likely to vent their aggression through biting.


There are alternatives to having a cat declawed. Routine nail trims are one option. Starting a kitten early withgetting their nails trimmed every few weeks will help them tolerate it long term. Soft, silicon caps (Soft Paws) can be glued over the nails once every few weeks as well and is a service we offer. soft-paw

Several behavioral modification practices can also dissuade a cat from scratching in an unwanted manner. Please visit the links below for several strategies to redirect your cat’s scratching habits:


Dr. Katie Morrill

The Pet Hospitals– Poplar at Massey

Diabetes and Pets

September 14th, 2016 by Audrey Parker

Just like people, diabetes is a fairly common disease of dogs and cats. Blood sugar regulation is performed by the pancreas by producing insulin. Most diabetic cases are Type 1, or insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, in which the pet requires insulin therapy for control of blood sugar. Cats sometimes will have Type 2, or non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, in which diet and weight loss can help stabilize blood sugar levels without requiring insulin for life. A dramatic increase in water intake and subsequent increased urination are some of the first recognizable signs of diabetes, and it is always recommended you see a veterinarian. Other common signs include increased appetite and weight loss. The best way to check for diabetes is to run a blood glucose test, but your veterinarian may also want to run a complete blood and urine panel to rule out any other diseases.

insulin-syringeIf your pet has been diagnosed with diabetes, a special food will be prescribed and insulin therapy will be instituted. A special prescription food that is low in fat and carbohydrates, and high in protein and fiber will be recommended, along with a strict twice daily meal feeding plan. Treats and snacks in between meals can make regulation of diabetes difficult as they can cause blood sugar to spike, so twice daily meals are best for control of signs. Insulin is given under the skin twice daily after meal feedings. Your veterinarian can teach you how to give the insulin injections, but most dogs and cats tolerate insulin injections very well.glucose-measurement-cat

Monitoring of diabetes includes frequent blood and urine checks,  and periodic glucose curves. A glucose curve involves blood sugar checks on your pet every 1-2 hours throughout a 8-12 hour period. Because the insulin types we use for pets typically last around 12 hours, these curves give us the best idea how your pet is responding to insulin therapy and how to make insulin dose changes.

Although it can become financially challenging if problems arise, many dogs and cats live normal, happy lives with appropriate treatment and monitoring of this disease. If you have questions or concerns about diabetes, please contact your veterinarian.


Dr. Apryl Barton

The Pet Hospitals– Poplar at Massey

My Dog Ate What?!?

September 7th, 2016 by Audrey Parker

Dogs and cats can be very picky about their food, or sometimes they can consume things we would not even imagine would be edible. One of the most common appointments we have is the vomiting dog or cat. Oftentimes we may ask you if they are the type to “eat things” and by this we mean exactly that – will they eat anything that they shouldn’t. Some are notorious for this while others can be very sneaky.

How Do I Know?

Radiographs (X-Rays) are the best first step at figuring out if this may be the case for your pet. Sometimes the offending agent is very obvious, sitting right there in plain site for all to see. Other times it will be less obvious and will require additional tests such as a barium series or ultrasound to gather more information. Take a guess at some of these radiographs we have taken this past year below to see if you can figure out what they may have eaten! (answers are at the bottom)

Radiograph 1:

picture 1

 Radiograph 2:

 picture 2

Radiograph 3:

picture 3


What Is the Next Step?

If the x-rays are as obvious as above, we usually can go forward with our next steps. However, sometimes it isn’t this obvious. For these cases we may run more testing such as labwork, giving them barium, which is a dye that will outline the intestines as it goes through, or putting them on fluids and repeating the x-rays several hours later.

If we know what we are dealing with, the next steps can vary. If you know they have just eaten something and it is sitting in the stomach, we oftentimes can get them to throw it right back up preventing any trouble later. If we see something but it has moved past the stomach, we will prescribe canned or high fiber food and fluids to try to push the offending agent on through so they can pass it. However, if we see something that is in the intestines that isn’t moving and especially if the pet is very sick (vomiting, not eating, lethargic, diarrhea) then surgery is often the best option. For this we go in and remove whatever the object is that is causing a problem. This surgery can be straightforward or complicated, it honestly depends on a lot of different factors which would be discussed in the event your pet would need something like this.

What would you guess is the youngest dog we have ever had to do surgery on for eating something? The oldest? Sadly age is not a discriminating factor in regards to whether or not dogs or cats will eat unusual things. See the answers below!

We would love to hear what else your pets have eaten!

Answers to the radiographs:

  1. Fish hook that a cat ate and is in the stomach. Sadly fish hooks always require surgery, but this kitty recovered quickly with no additional fish hook eating since.
  2. A large tube sock eaten by a dog, present in the intestines. This one had surgery to remove the sock and recovered beautifully.
  3. This young dog ate a rock in the backyard. It was definitely stuck in her intestines. We successfully removed the rock with surgery and she has been rock free ever since!

Answers to questions:

Youngest pet: a 14 week old lab puppy that ate several chunks of concrete

Oldest pet: a 14 year old mixed breed dog that ate a sock

Dr. Kassie Newton

The Pet Hospitals– Collierville

Reverse Sneezing

August 31st, 2016 by Audrey Parker

Ever wonder what that funny sneezing/honking sound was that your dog just made?  It may have even seemed like he couldn’t breathe for a few moments or like he was choking on something.  A reverse sneeze, also known as pharyngeal gag reflex, is a common condition seen in dogs.  Fortunately, it’s usually a benign process that rarely requires treatment.dogsneezing1

Reverse sneezing is usually caused by some type of irritation in the throat and soft palate.  This irritation leads to spasms.  The result is a sound like that of a dog inhaling sneezes.  Sometimes, an affected dog freezes and extends his head and neck, seemingly trying to catch his breath.

We see reverse sneezing far more frequently in small dogs, likely because their airways are smaller.  It’s also common in bracycephalic dogs, or dogs with smooshed noses such as pugs, shih tzus and bulldogs.  The cause maybe as simple as the dog getting overly excited, eating or drinking, pulling against a leash, perfume or other household irritant.  It can also be caused by more problematic things such as allergies and foreign bodies.pug

Often reverse sneezes will stop as abruptly as they start, after a matter of seconds.  You can try rubbing your hand up and down the dog’s throat to get the spasms to stop.  You can also try placing your fingers over the dog’s nostrils briefly.  This usually causes the dog to swallow and the spasms to stop.

Reverse sneezing is most often diagnosed based on sound or description of sound.  It’s rare for reverse sneezing to need treatment.  Sometimes the underlying cause needs to be treated, but often, it’s just something the dog will do throughout his life.

What is a Hot Spot?

August 17th, 2016 by Audrey Parker

“The spot came up on my dog overnight, and now they won’t leave it alone!” This is usually how the conversation goes with panic-stricken clients that have just noticed the huge, bald sore that is red and oozing. After telling them it looks or sounds like they are describing  a hot spot, the next question is typically, “What is a hot spot?!”

Hot spots, or acute moist superficial pyoderma or pyotraumatic dermatitis, are rapidly developing skin infections where the naturally occurring bacteria on the skin invade through damaged skin. The initial inciting factor can be from many sources. Anything that leads the dog or cat to start itching in a particular location can begin the cycle. The most common reasons for itching are fleas or external parasites, food allergies, seasonal allergies, matted hair, and insect bites or stings. Once the itching and scratching begins, skin abrasions develop which allow the normal Staphylococcal bacteria on the skin to set up an infection.

hotspotThese infections normally progress very rapidly and can become large and very painful in a matter of hours. Once the infection takes hold, the itching and scratching is accelerated- so that the pet constantly licking, biting, or scratching which then makes the lesion worse. The sore becomes moist, oozes pus, and loses hair. Usually the hot spot actually extends into the haired areas as well, and we don’t realize how large it is until we begin to shave the surrounding hair. It is more common to see these in the hot, humid times of the year; but they can occur year round.

So how do we treat this?

Although hot spots look terrible and are very uncomfortable for the pet, fortunately the treatment is straightforward. We may still have to search for the underlying cause to prevent the animal from having recurrent problems, but treatment for the hot spot will still be the same. The first thing I do is shave the entire area, which is usually much larger than it initially appeared. This allows me to visualize the extent of the hot spot, scrub the entire area with an antiseptic, and allows more fresh air to reach the wound. Our goal is to start drying the wound so it will scab over and to avoid anything that will keep the wound wet (like greasy ointments). In severe cases, the animal may have to be sedated to completely shave and clean the area.HotSpot_dog

Once the area is sufficiently cleaned; there are many different topical, oral, and injectable products or combination thereof that can be effective in treating the infection. Every veterinarian has their favorite products that we reach for first; but those can include antibiotics, a steroid for itching and inflammation, NSAIDs for pain, and Elizabethan collars to prevent further scratching. For very large and painful hot spots, topical therapy alone may not be sufficient. To choose the appropriate antibiotic, a skin cytology or skin culture may be needed. Therapy will need to be continued until the hot spot is completely healed, and the pet will need to be reassessed by the veterinarian to determine when the medications can be discontinued.

The thing to remember is that you are not a bad pet owner if your dog or cat develops a hot spot. This a very common skin condition that can become severe before you even notice that it is an issue. Please bring your pet in to see your veterinarian as soon as you notice that there appears to be problem, especially if your pet is prone to get recurrent skin infections. You may even want to place a wrap or cover the affected area until you can get to the vet to keep further damage from being caused from continuous licking or biting. The sooner treatment is initiated by your veterinarian, the faster your pet can be comfortable and on the road to recovery.

Dr. Alison Bradshaw

The Pet Hospitals- Collierville