- Difficult Prehension and Swallowing » click here
- Hydrotherapy for Pets » click here
- My dog or cat has trouble using the hind legs. What can I do to help my pet until I see the neurologist? » click here
- My dog or cat has trouble using all four legs. What can I do to help my pet until I see the neurologist? » click here
- My dog or cat leans one direction when walking or continues to fall either to the left or the right while walking. What can I do to help my pet until I see the neurologist? » click here
- How do I keep my pet clean if he/she urinates or defecates on themselves? » click here
- What are bedsores and how do I prevent them? » click here
- My pet has a bedsore. What can I do to help it heal? » click here
- The medications my pet has been prescribed make my pet very hungry. What can I do? » click here
- My pet started having seizures. What should I do until I see the neurologist?» click here
- My pet can’t blink. » click here
Dysfunction of the nerves of the mouth and throat can present with difficulty prehending (act of taking food or water into the mouth), swallowing (act of moving the food bolus or water from the mouth to the pharynx and into the swallow tube, esophagus and transport to the stomach). These cranial neuropathies can present a challenge to ensuring your pet maintains normal hydration and nourishment. Complications can be life threatening, if not diagnosed and treated properly.
How do I know if my pet is having trouble prehending and swallowing?
- If your pet takes significantly longer to eat or drink than they used to.
- If your pet spends long periods of time at the water bowl, without water disappearing and with the water becoming slimy and filled with food particles.
- If you notice your pet having difficulty picking up or drops food while trying to eat.
- A decrease or lack of appetite.
- When the mouth remains open, with the jaw dropped down.
- Disability or inability to move the tongue appropriately.
- Excessive drooling.
- These symptoms may also be related to problems other than difficulty swallowing. Your family veterinarian will help you determine the cause of these symptoms.
My dog’s mouth hangs open and he/she has trouble keeping food and water in the mouth. What can I do to help my dog eat and drink?
- Using a 1/4-inch width rubber band, placed over the snout and under the jaw, about midway between the tip of the nose and the eyes, will help keep the jaw closed and allow suction to develop in the caudal oral cavity, the pharynx and provide a spring action to the jaw, assisting with chewing. The rubber band should be large enough to hold the jaw close together, not shut, and wide enough that it will not cause a pressure sore on the top or bottom of the jaw.
- The rubber band should never be left on for longer than 5 minutes at a time, just long enough for your pet to eat and drink. The rubber band should be used as a temporary aid. Trouble eating and/or drinking can become a life threatening problem if not addressed by your family veterinarian.
- Elevate food and water bowls, so your pet does not have to bend down to eat and drink. This will add gravity as an aid to food and water intake to the back of the tongue and pharynx more easily.
- If your pet is showing similar signs, please seek help from your family veterinarian, to determine the cause and a possible solution.
My dog stands at the water bowl for a long period of time, but doesn’t seem to actually drink. What can I do to help my pet?
- Fill a large water bowl and resist the temptation to change the water, no matter how unsightly it may appear to you. As your pet drools in the water, the protein from the saliva makes the water viscous, or slimy, making it easier for your pet’s tongue to lap up the water and create negative suction in the pharynx.
- Elevate the water bowl so the head is elevated above the bottom of your dog’s belly. This will add gravity as an aid to water flowing downhill to the stomach.
- Using a 1/4-inch rubber band will help keep the jaw closed to allow suction to develop in the caudal oral cavity, the pharynx and assist with swallowing. The rubber band should be large enough to hold the jaws close together, not shut; and wide enough that it will not cause a pressure sore on the top or bottom of the jaw.
- The rubber band should only be left in place while your pet drinks.
- If your pet is having a problem similar to this, seek help from your family veterinarian. Defining the cause for the problem will allow for measures of correction. Trouble eating and/or drinking can become a life threatening problem if not addressed.
What else can I do while my pet recovers normal prehension and swallowing function?
- Switch to a soft or canned food. Because your pet has difficulty closing and keeping the lower jaw closed, dry kernels cannot be broken or crushed, and will fall out of the mouth more readily than canned food. Canned foods stick to you pet’s tongue, making it easier to move the food bolus to the back of the mouth and pharynx for swallowing.
- Canned food can be formed into small balls. Place the food balls onto the top of the back of the tongue. Gently shut the jaw and hold closed, as your pet swallows. If your pet gags or retches with this maneuver, make the food balls smaller.
- Moisten the dry kernels in water prior to feeding. The kernels will expand and become sticky, allowing your pet to keep food in the mouth longer, while attempting to swallow. If you choose to use dry food, remember it requires greater jaw action to chew and maintain a closed mouth and more negative pressure to develop in the pharynx.
Hydrotherapy, or water therapy can be an alternative or complement to weight-bearing exercise.Hydrotherapy may be beneficial for:
- Rehabilitation after surgery.
- Spinal cord and nerve disease. Non-gravitational exercise helps to maintain strength and mobility.
- Preoperative fitness. Hydrotherapy helps maintain good body condition, when your pet cannot exercise normally prior to surgery.
- Weight loss or management program.
- General fitness program, especially for older patients with arthritis.
Types of Hydrotherapy
Hydrotherapy encompasses swimming pools, water treadmills and resistance swimming in ‘endless’ pools.
Open swims or free swims are usually large pools to play in. These pools are used for healthy pets in a fitness or maintenance program. They are great for exercise, weight loss and maintaining muscle strength.
Underwater treadmills are used for rehabilitation and fitness programs. Pets can stand and walk on the treadmill. The level of the water can be adjusted. Higher levels increase buoyancy, reducing the amount of weight bearing needed to exercise. As your pet becomes stronger, the water level can be decreased, making your pet work harder.
Endless pools are used for rehabilitation. Pets that cannot stand or walk for long periods may use the endless pool to build strength. These pools may have jets installed for added resistance swimming. Olympic swimmers use this latter form of hydrotherapy when training.
Is Hydrotherapy really that much better than a home exercise program?
Yes. Hydrotherapy is one of the best forms of physical therapy. Water buoyancy allows your pet to float unsupported. Without gravity, specific muscle groups can be isolated, maximizing strength training, flexibility and range of motion. This can be helpful during the recovery process from surgery or spinal cord injury.
The hydrostatic pressure created by the water helps to reduce swelling, by forcing fluid (edema) away from affected areas. Swelling may occur when patients are immobile and lymph fluid is allowed to build up in the extremities.
Increased circulation occurs when warm water is applied on skin and muscles. This dilates blood vessels, allows tissues and muscle to receive more oxygen and nutrients, which allows blood vessels to remove or flush away waste products more efficiently. This process relaxes the muscles, reduces swelling and stiffness, alleviates pain and enhances the healing process. This can increase range of motion of the limbs, resulting in a more relaxed and comfortable pet. Additionally, increased blood flow to the skin improves skin health in recumbent pets.
Hydrotherapy provides movement resistance, thereby increasing the efficiency in your pet’s exercise program. This allows your pet to maintain or build up muscle strength with shorter workouts. Hydrotherapy also provides a great cardiovascular workout, which improves the quality of your pet’s exercise program, overall strength and health.
How do I know when I should start Hydrotherapy and which form will my pet benefit from?
Your veterinarian and the physical therapist will determine this. Approval from your veterinarian prior to starting any hydrotherapy program is recommended, even if the sole purpose is exercise. A complete physical examination should be performed before your pet’s first session. Ask your veterinarian if your pet is healthy enough and a good candidate for hydrotherapy.
How long should swim sessions be?
Your veterinarian should determine this. A 5-minute swim is equivalent to a 5 mile run. Ability and physical condition will determine your pet’s length of exercise. Initially, swim sessions may only last a few minutes, gradually increasing up to 15-20 minutes in length.
How many sessions per week are needed?
Your veterinarian should determine how many sessions are recommended. Initially, many pets will attend 1-2 times per week. Depending upon the physical condition and ability of your pet, this may be increased to 3-4 times per week.
Can my dog eat before swimming?
Please do not feed your dog 2 to 4 hours prior to swimming. This will allow the stomach to empty before exercise.
My dog has never had the opportunity to swim. Will my pet know how to swim?
Maybe not, but most rehabilitation facilities require all pets to wear a life vest while in the pool, especially the first few times. Once your pet becomes comfortable with swimming, a life vest may not be needed.
What if my dog doesn’t like to swim?
Give your pet a few chances to get used to the water. Your pet’s initial session can be difficult, so keep the session short and offer praise and encouragement at all times.
If you are pursuing hydrotherapy as a part of a rehabilitation program, pain may be a limiting factor during the initial stages of recovery. At first, sessions should be geared for mobility and increased range of motion. Strength and endurance should follow. Patience and support are encouraged. No one said that physical therapy was easy!
Will chemicals in the water harm my pet?
Standards are set for water temperature, chemical levels and cleaning. Please ask your physical therapist about their protocols for maintaining cleanliness and water safety. Your veterinarian is a good source for information and recommendations.
My dog or cat has trouble using the hind legs. What can I do to help my pet until I see the neurologist?
Use a bath towel. Roll it up, place the towel under your pet’s abdomen, right in front of the hind legs, with the free ends brought up and over the top of the back much like the handle of a suitcase. By holding the towel ends, you may help take the weight off the rear legs aiding your pet to walk and support while urinating and defecating.
Anytime your pet is weak or cannot use the hind legs, you should contact your family veterinarian or Rocky Mountain Veterinary Neurology immediately. Pets can become permanently paralyzed without prompt treatment. Please call to schedule an appointment with a board certified veterinary neurologist at Rocky Mountain Veterinary Neurology. We can help determine whether your pet needs assessment on an emergency basis.
My dog or cat has trouble using all four legs. What can I do to help my pet until I see the neurologist?
A chest harness can be used to help support the front portion of your pet. Use the top part of the chest harness like a suitcase handle to give your pet support and prevent from falling. You may also want to use a bath towel, rolled up and placed under the abdomen, right in front of the hind legs to help support the hind end as you hold up the chest harness.
Anytime your pet is weak or cannot stand/walk you should contact your family veterinarian or Rocky Mountain Veterinary Neurology immediately. Some pets can become permanently paralyzed without prompt treatment. Please call to schedule an appointment with a board certified veterinary neurologist at Rocky Mountain Veterinary Neurology. We can help determine whether your pet needs assessment on an emergency basis.
My dog or cat leans one direction when walking or continues to fall either to the left or the right while walking. What can I do to help my pet until I see the neurologist?
Stand on the same side of your pet that they are leaning against or falling toward and allow to lean on you as you walk.
When picking your pet up, have the side of their body that they lean or fall to next to your body. This will ensure your pet feels more secure as they anchor against something solid.
All balance problems are extremely debilitating and need to be addressed as soon as possible by your family veterinarian or a board certified neurologist. Please call Rocky Mountain Veterinary Neurology to schedule an appointment. We will help determine whether your pet needs assessment on an emergency basis.
It is very important to keep your pet’s skin and fur clean and dry to prevent sores or rashes from developing. If urine is not cleaned off the skin, this will lead to urine scald and breakdown of the normal barriers of the skin.
The use of clear, fragrant free liquid dish detergents and warm water is a safe, economic and efficient way to cleanse your pet’s skin and hair. It is important to ensure the skin is rinsed thoroughly and the skin and fur are dry following washing. Trapping the moisture under the hair leads to bacterial overgrowth on the skin and superficial infection.
Baby wipes can be used to clean dogs with short hair. Wipes work well because they do not leave the skin and fur wet, which increases the occurrence of sores.
A wet towel with clear, fragrant free liquid dish detergent and warm water works well to spot clean your pet, followed by a dry towel and hair dryer to dry the fur.
The use of waterless shampoo products available at most pet stores can be used to spot clean your pet and do not leave the skin and fur wet after cleaning.
Bedsores are areas of skin irritation or sores that most commonly arise over boney processes such as the hip, knee, shoulder and elbow. They develop when pets are immobile, have reduced muscle mass and spend a lot of time lying on the side putting pressure on these areas. The lack of movement and pressure results in a lack of blood flow and skin cell death. Sores begin as a round reddened discoloration. With time the skin will look like a scab only to fall off leaving a round, full thickness defect, or decubital ulcer.
Movement and removal of pressure on the skin, coupled with clean, soft bedding is the best prevention of bedsores.
Rotating your pet frequently through the day, placing folded towels between the legs to eliminate pressure, and ensuring your pet does not spend too much time lying in the same position will also help to prevent bedsores.
If your pet develops a bedsore your family veterinarian or Rocky Mountain Veterinary Neurology should be alerted and your pet examined to ensure it does not require more attention such as antibiotics or surgical debridement and closure.
Keeping the bedsore clean and dry is the most effective way of managing a bedsore. The use of hydrogen peroxide to flush the bedsore every 2-4 hours in addition to removing the pressure on the sore is the two most effective tools to resolve bedsores.
Lots of soft clean bedding and frequent changes in body position will help prevent the bedsore from becoming larger.
Keeping the wound free of hair and debris is important for the healing process.
When your pet is lying on the affected bedsore put extra padding in that area in the shape of a doughnut, with the bedsore positioned in the center of the doughnut.
A non-stick bandage dressing can be put over the wound when your pet is lying on the affected area to prevent it from sticking to or having too much contact with the bedding.
Consult with the veterinarian who prescribed the medications you are using. Your family veterinarian or Rocky Mountain Veterinary Neurology may be consulted for guidelines on the amount of food your pet should receive if they prescribed these medications. Over feeding your pet and weight gain can be detrimental to long term health and function. We need to ensure food intake is not being increased beyond need for the treatment of your pet’s medical problem.
If your pet is eating things they shouldn’t, like their bedding or toys, providing chew toys that you can insert food into may help by occupying their time. Giving them something to do to will allow for less time to chew or eat things they shouldn’t.
Other foods you can give your pet to satisfy their craving, but will not allow them to gain weight include:
Vegetables (frozen or cooked)
Foods you should NOT give to your pet include:
Kale or Rapini
Always contact your family veterinarian immediately if your pet has a seizure. Without proper treatment, seizures can continue and potentially become life threatening. The expertise of a Board Certified Veterinary Neurologist can often aid in the care of a seizuring pet. Have your veterinarian call us or recommend a referral for further assessment and therapy. We can help determine whether your pet needs assessment on an emergency basis.
A seizure is an emergency in the following circumstances:
There is an onset of cluster seizures (3 or more seizures within a 24 hour period). A seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes or seizures occur in succession without a break that allows your pet to recover, drink water and return to normal respirations. Your pet does not regain consciousness or responsiveness to verbal stimulation, including response to their name.
My pet has a history of seizures and is being treated with anticonvulsants. What can I do to help my pet through the seizure (ictus) and post-seizure (post-ictal) phase?
When a seizure occurs, ensuring the safety of your pet and your family is most important. Keep your pet away from stairs or ledges, where they may fall. Ensure family members do not come close enough to be accidentally bitten during or after the seizure. Animals do not choke or swallow their tongue during a seizure. Do not put your hand into your pet’s mouth during a seizure. Physical restraint during a seizure will not make the seizure any less violent or reduce the length of the seizure. Move furniture out of the way of your pet and allow the seizure to finish. A calm, quiet, dark environment may help to reduce your pet’s anxiety during recovery.
Understand what normal post-seizure recovery is for your pet. Assess each seizure episode and record the seizure and post-seizure changes. Note all vital changes that would necessitate immediate care and specialized therapy: continuous seizure activity of > 3 minutes without cessation, recurrent seizures without a break of 5-10 minutes and unresponsive mental and behavioral status with increased respirations, heart rate and central body temperature (104-107 degrees Fahrenheit) despite the absence of outward seizure activity. If any of these changes are noted in your pet’s status, please take your pet to the nearest emergency facility immediately for further management.
All pets react differently before, during and after a seizure. Notation of how your pet reacts will help you manage episodes better in the future. All pets become anxious, are disoriented and restless during the post-ictal phase. Allow your pet to wander and “walk it off” in a quiet area. Some pets become very hungry and/or thirsty after a seizure. Allow your pet to eat and drink small amounts of water, once consciousness has returned. Some pets become “clingy” or “needy” seeking attention and comfort. Other pets can become agitated and aggressive. Keeping your pet in a quiet, safe environment is essential in these cases.
I was told to keep a journal of seizure activity. What should I be recording and when should I report this to my veterinarian and/or neurologist?
A journal of seizure activity is one of the best ways to keep yourself, your neurologist and veterinarian involved and up to date. Your journal is one of the many tools needed, to assess current treatment and to determine whether medical treatment needs to be changed. Journal entries should be presented at the initial examination, all rechecks and annual assessments.
Things to note in the journal:
Number of seizures
Date of seizure(s)
Duration of seizure(s)
Duration of post-ictal phase
Medications given before, during and after seizure
Anticonvulsant blood level testing schedule
Any recent change to medication or dosing schedule
Any diet, vitamin or supplement change
When should I be concerned with my pet’s seizure pattern?
All epileptic and recurrent seizure patients will develop a seizure pattern unique to their own. Variation from this pattern and/or increased seizure frequency, duration and recovery from seizures are reasons to alert your veterinarian and/or veterinary neurologist.
My pet needs anticonvulsant level(s) testing. What do I need to do the day of the test?
Your veterinarian and/or veterinary neurologist will determine when anticonvulsant testing should occur. Inform your doctor if you have recently adjusted the dosage or dosing frequency. Your pet may eat and drink the morning of the blood test. Most anticonvulsant testing should be performed 6-8 hours after medication administration, although times will vary dependent upon the type of anticonvulsant(s) used. At the time of testing, please provide all medication dosages and administration times. Also, please request your pet’s body weight be recorded at the time of testing. This will aid your doctor’s interpretation and any dosage adjustments.
My pet seems fine, but her/his facial expression is not the same as it was yesterday. There is drool coming from the side of the mouth, and my pet appears unable to blink on the same side. A fleshy membrane will flick across the eye if I attempt to touch my pet’s face.
Rest assured, this is a common problem facing small animal companion animals. Cranial, or head, nerve disorders can involve any of the nerves of the head and face. The facial nerves are the most frequent nerves to be affected. Dysfunction of the facial nerve(s) can present as the sudden inability to blink or move the lips and ear on the side of nerve failure (facial nerve dysfunction). This may affect one or both sides of the face, at the same time or separated by hours or months.
The sudden failure of the facial nerve function results in loss of muscle tone, motor function and maintenance of muscle mass of the innervated muscle fibers receiving nerve supply. In this case, the muscles of facial expression become non-functional. Your pet’s lip(s) may droop, the ear(s) may remain upward or drooped without movement, and you may notice the third eyelid move across the eye if you move you hand toward the face. This latter movement is a protective mechanism and demonstrates that vision is intact, but your pet cannot blink the eye closed for protection of the eye. With time, contracture (shortening of the muscle fibers) will cause the denervated (muscles lacking nerve supply) muscle fibers to pull back, or contract, making the drooping lips look more normal.
In most cases, facial nerve dysfunction is a benign, non-progressive neuropathy, or nerve dysfunction. This is a preprogrammed, likely genetic, failure of nerve function. Changes are sudden in onset and often permanent.
Identifying other underlying causes, such as hypothyroidism (low thyroid function), which can be reversed, is the goal. It is important to have your veterinarian assess your pet as soon as possible after you notice any signs of facial change. Your veterinarian may recommended that a board certified veterinary neurologist examine your pet to ensure the noted nerve dysfunction does not represent a more serious condition.