Many, if not most. pets coming to see a veterinary professional are feeling sick, exhausted, pain, and dehydrated. These conditions are usually caused by acute or chronic digestive upset (vomiting, diarrhea), joint pain, dental infections, or other common inflammatory disorders. Besides discussing a long-term program for maintaining joint or dental health and appropriate diet to address digestive and skin problems, it is important to treat the presenting complaints and symptoms to get your pet feeling stronger and start on a path to fast recovery. Here are some simple medical treatments that we use to help our patients get back up on their feet and feeling brighter within hours.
Subcutaneous fluid therapy: Administering sterile intravenous balanced electrolyte solutions (physiological saline) under the skin delivers a burst of hydration to tissues that might have been undersupplied for some time. The most important beneficiary is the digestive tract lining in stomachs and intestines. Adequate blood supply allows delivery of nutrients necessary for tissue repair and resolving ulcers. The kidneys and liver become more effective at eliminating toxins, hence breaking the cycle of tissue inflammation and re-injury. Proper hydration can help reduce throat soreness and nasal inflammation (congestion). It helps to cool the body and resolve panting and other signs of distress. Fluid therapy is contraindicated in patients with impaired heart or kidney function, because it can produce congestion and edema. Patients with heart disease are much likely to require slow intravenous fluid therapy.
Injectable acid reducers: These medications temporarily shut off stomach acid production, hence taking the pressure off injured stomach lining. They help to quickly eliminate symptoms of heartburn, which can include a pet’s digging at the neck, chest, and armpits; ravenous appetite; excess grass eating; or incessant licking of feet and forearms. Heartburn is very common in patients not feeling well from most causes. It is a source of pain that can lead to panting (hyperventilation). Panting is a reflex that helps to cool down an inflamed body but at a cost of exhaling significant amounts of moisture, often adding to dehydration. Antacids can be administered at the same time the patient is getting fluid therapy, eliminating a need for additional and potentially painful injection. Side-effects are extremely rare and short-lived.
Injectable B-complex vitamins: B vitamins are micronutrients obtained either from food or produced by resident gut microbes. They are stored mainly in the liver and bone marrow, but a long-standing disease process requiring a patient to expand significant amount of energy can easily deplete B vitamin stores, leaving patients feeling exhausted or lethargic. These essential vitamins act as cellular cofactors in the process of energy production where food and oxygen are combined to produce chemical energy necessary for cell repair and survival. They also play a role in generating red blood cells, which is why chronically ill patients will often suffer from anemia. Just like acid reducers, vitamin injections can be administered through the same line used to deliver fluids.
Injectable non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents, or NSAIDs: Drugs in this class help to modulate or decrease chronic inflammation that is causing permanent damage to joints, kidneys, the thyroid gland, and other tissues with poor regenerative capacity. If not addressed promptly, chronic inflammation can lead to fibrosis or cirrhosis and a buildup of excess scar tissue replaces normal functional tissues or impedes full rage of joint movement. Because these drugs significantly affect the normal bodily process of inflammation, they can have impact on circulation to many vital organs, which is why it is extremely important to make sure patients are well hydrated before receiving these drugs. Most NSAIDs are eliminated by the liver and kidneys, so your veterinarian may need to run a blood test to make sure patient’s detoxification organs are functioning properly.
Injectable short or long-acting antibiotics: Antibiotics help resolve infections or bacterial overgrowths in damaged tissue. They impede bacterial growth, hence producing more clean, if not a sterile, environment conducive to tissue healing. Chronically inflamed and infected tissues might have hard time repairing, which can lead to fibrosis. Antibiotics help reduce bacterial overgrowths causing tissue damage, and resolve pain. Initial short-acting preparations can reduce stress and make patients better able to handle oral antibiotics if a long course is required to completely eradicate an infectious agent. Long-acting injectable antibiotics reduce the need of oral medicating, hence a significant possibility to damage of bacterial flora of the gut. This helps to prevent undesirable side-effects such as digestive upset, including diarrhea and vomiting.
Regardless of the cause for meeting with a veterinary professional, supportive care can quickly resolve painful symptoms and set patients on track to swift recovery. It is much less expensive, and less stressful, than hospitalization. It often produces visible results within hours as opposed to days, significantly reducing length of illness and suffering. It can be repeated as needed if at-home care is not sufficient. Thorough discussion of symptoms and problems will help your veterinarian devise a comprehensive treatment plan that might include special diet, organ-specific supplements, or other oral medications to be administered at home.
Adam Piaseczny, D.V.M., C.V.A., has built and leads the team of Healthy Pets Veterinary Hospital, a three-doctor integrative practice located in West Portal neighborhood of San Francisco. He lives in adjacent Sunnyside with his partner, daughter Sofia, dogs, and chickens.
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