Category Archives: Symptoms

“My Dog Has A —–” or “My Cat Keeps on —–“

Broken Back or Scoliosis in Koi and Pond Fish

The three most common causes are:

  1. Being carried in a net
  2. Being flown overseas resulting in hyperinflation of the airbladder, which can either break the back, or hyperinflate and deform the back LIKE scoliosis and…
  3. Lightning strike or electrocution
Broken Back or Scoliosis in Koi and Pond Fish
Broken Back or Scoliosis in Koi and Pond Fish

Less likely causes are organophosphate poisoning and Vitamin C deficiency

Scoliosis –> Broken Back —> Jerky Swimming = Electrocution

Consult content:

“Usually shows up two weeks after the electrical discharge but in my mind, it was settled, the fish had been “hit” by stray voltage. From lightning or a surge through an adjacent appliance….

For a fish of her size, to have lesions like that, at that stage in life, there would only be two possible causes:

1. I’ve seen this in fish with scoliosis after a history of serious, bloodstream infections with Aeromonas / Pseudomonas – and I THEORIZE that these fish SOMETIMES get “microabscesses” in the spinal cord, *or* an Aeromonas osteomyelitis – of the spine – and so I’ve seen (as a postulated result) a rash of broken backs among an admittedly low percentage of fish (< 10%) I know to have bacterial infections. Another possibility is injections given too deep in the muscles of the back, may have done damage to the spine.

…or -VERY- possibly:

2. Electrocution.

A lightning strike NEAR the pond can generate quite a jolt of electricity in the ground, and this dissipates RAPIDLY as the discharge goes into “ground” via heat, etc. But if close enough to the pond, and considering fish “jerk” in mere millivolts and milliamps – you can find these lightning strike discharges (of “gigajoules” my friend) reaching the pond in “still high enough” voltages to jerk the backs of some fish asunder – AND – folks are surprised to find, sometimes ONLY one or more fish affected (not all) which is mystifying – but common. The reasoning is purely “adjacency” to the discharge – the nearer fish with greater body power snapping their own spines more predictably than a fish further away and with less mass to snap the spine.”

See also: Scoliosis II

Doc Johnson

Broken Back or Scoliosis in Koi and Pond Fish

Cat Colds: Snuffles Viral (Usually) Upper Respiratory Infections

Cat Colds – Or Snuffles

Often, the best combination of treatments I have found for Snuffles is short acting cortisone, Cypraheptadine, and Clavamox. The main thing is to keep the cats eating, because when their sinuses don’t allow air passage, their appetite fails for lack of smell. Worse, breaking a fever may become critical. cats usually will not eat when feverish.


The most common manifestation of “Feline respiratory disease” is an infection of the upper respiratory tract (nasal cavity, sinuses, and upper airways). Involvement of the lungs (pneumonia) is much less common but represents a more serious infection.

The most common signs of Feline Viral Respiratory Disease are mild to severe sneezing accompanied by a nasal discharge, discharge and redness of the eyes, and occasionally coughing. Other signs include: Lack of appetite (due to blocked nasal passages inhibiting the sense of smell), depression, and fever. Occasionally, this disease can progress to pneumonia, dehydration, and even death.

Viral respiratory disease in cats is extremely contagious.

All discharges (oral, nasal, and ocular) are infective. Contaminated feeding bowls and bedding are capable of transmitting the disease from infected cats to susceptible individuals. HUMAN “COLD” VIRUSES ARE NOT TRANSMISSIBLE TO CATS AND VICE VERSA. Often humans and cats get “colds” at the same time of year, which causes us to wonder if transmission has occurred. Humans can, however, transmit the disease from one cat to another if they are contaminated with infected discharges so it is best to wash your hands after treating your pet.

Treatment usually involves broad spectrum antibiotics to prevent or treat secondary bacterial infections, nasal decongestants, and occasionally, vitamins. For more severe cases, hospitalization may be indicated. The duration of the disease depends on the individual health of the infected cat (ie. concurrent malnutrition, stress, parasitisms, and other infections that may contribute to a more severe infection), the strength or virulence of the virus, and vaccination status of the infected cat.

The goals of vaccination are to try and prevent this disease complex. The “FVRCP-C” vaccine is aimed at stimulating a protective immune response against four of the major causes of upper respiratory disease in cats. Cats should be tested for feline Leukemia as early in life as possible (generally at 6-10 weeks of age when they come into a new home). New kittens and cats should be separated from existing household cats until they are tested for feline Leukemia, and are vaccinated for feline Leukemia and FVRCP-C. This may help prevent the spread of infection in a new household.

However, vaccinated kittens and adult cats can still occasionally become infected but usually their disease is much less severe.

Itchy Cats: Pruritis / Itching in Cats Can Be Lots of Things

Cats with Itchy skin – Feline Pruritis

Most everyone has a cat that scratches now and then.

Some people have cats that scratch until they create bleeding sores all over their necks and rumps.

Cats scratch for a variety of reasons. Most commonly, they have fleas, and possibly an allergy to the flea bites. Some cats are “allergic” to their food (rare) or perhaps even more likely, intolerant to carbohydrates like grain, rice, barley etc. Finally, some cats have issues with their own immune system which is called Eosinophilic Granuloma Complex.  I can often tell by looking at some of these syndromes.

Routine allergies that cause scratching are the most common, and the most inexpensive problems to treat in the cat.

But there are other possible causes that have to be considered based on experience and a careful examination. Sometimes cats are allergic or intolerant to their food. Sometimes they are infected with a skin fungus called “Ringworm”.

And other times they are being bathed too often, and in a shampoo that dries the skin out.

Fascinating fact: Cats have no sweat glands in their skin. It is easy to dry out the skin, leaving it itchy and flakey.

Catteries with cats close together sometimes experience ringworm outbreaks
Catteries with cats close together sometimes experience ringworm outbreaks

When I look at your itching cat, I check to see if it looks much like Ringworm. If so, it may be suggested that a Ringworm culture should be done. This test is very inexpensive and prevents human infection by the fungus. Fungal / ringworm infections are rare in cats that are under little to no stress. In catteries / cat breeder operations, crowded together and being pushed for several litters per year of kitten mass-production, cats are more prone to Ringworm.

If it appears to be allergic, I may suggest a cortisone shot, which suppresses the allergic response to the fleas and gives the cat a great deal of comfort.

Finally, I may suggest a flea control method, like Frontline, Comfortis et al, or a shampoo that does not dry the skin, or a flea spray.

In rare instances, a special food may be tried, called Hill’s D/D diet, that reduces a cats allergic response to the food, but only if that is what I actually think is ailing the cat. Other times, choosing a food that uses oatmeal or rice in place of corn or wheat – can improve a tolerance / rejection issue with food.

No matter how you slice it, the vast majority of cats tearing themselves up out there do not have to be suffering like that, and the majority of those cats could be helped immensely.

FUS: Feline Urological Syndrome

Feline Urological Syndrom IAE

Cat in the litter pan having trouble going to the bathroom.
Cat in the litter pan having trouble going to the bathroom.

Stopping behavioral disorders which result in cats peeing outside the litter box is VERY difficult, I daresay, impossible to control entirely.

Feline Urolological Syndrome (FUS) is a disease of cats that can manifest itself in a variety of ways.

* Usually there is straining to urinate,

* increased frequency of urination, and the

* appearance of blood or “sand” in the urine which can lead to complete blockage of the urinary tract.

* frequent attempts to urinate with the passage of only small quantities of urine.

* Blood can be seen in the urine.

* Urination in inappropriate areas can also be observed.

* Male cats with urethral obstruction may also cry frequently and lick themselves under the tail.

* They may be unable to pass urine and will strain frequently, which may be confused with constipation.

* As uremic poisons accumulate, the cat will become depressed, lose his appetite, and may vomit.

Blockage is more common in male cats, and is often severe. Because blockage prevents the normal passage of urine, waste products normally eliminated by the kidneys accumulate in the cat’s blood stream and can lead to “uremic poisoning”.

The cause or causes of FUS are still controversial. Researchers feel that dietary compounds, viral infections, urinary acidity and possibly environmental factors all may play a role. The lack of a definitive cause of FUS makes it difficult for us to design a universal treatment plan which is consistently successful. Therefore, some cats will have recurring episodes of FUS.

Signs of FUS indicate an emergency condition and immediate veterinary care is required, or severe kidney damage and finally, death due to uremic poisoning may result.

If a cat with FUS has urethral blockage, we attempt to remove the obstructing plug by gently flushing with a sterile solution. While there is some risk of urethra or bladder rupture, this rarely occurs. We usually place a catheter in the bladder to permit the emptying of the urine and hopefully the excretion of the sand while other medicines are given. Within two or three days the catheter is removed, and with any luck, the cat remains un-obstructed, and is placed on a special diet. Long term complications of urethral blockage include loss of bladder tone, secondary kidney damage, bacterial infections of the urinary tract, and recurrent blockage.

If the cat is showing signs of FUS without blockage, we usually begin treatment as an outpatient.

The type of therapy that we recommend will vary, depending on your cat’s condition upon presentation. If there is indication of a bladder infection, we will place your cat on antibiotics, usually for 7-10 days.

The need for antibiotics may be shortened (or their effect enhanced) by acidifying the urinary tract with a special diet made to lower the urine pH. Examples are Hill’s C/D and W/D prescription diets.

Regular urination can be encouraged by frequently cleaning the litterbox. We also advise feeding your cat a low magnesium diet (ie: O.1% MG in dry matter).

Giving distilled water has also been shown to be favorably influential.


* Prescription Diet C/D or S/D for the first few months after FUS episode.

  • Royal Canin S/O Diet is excellent (my favorite for feline FUS)

* Can be on Feline C/D or the lower calorie W/D as long term diet.

Itchy Dogs (Article I) How to Control Itching in Dogs

Itchy (Pruritic) Dogs

Some dogs actually seem to enjoy scratching. I doubt they do, but some of them do it alot.

You see them rubbing against shrubs and trees, and under the coffee table, and rolling around on their backs in the yard.

But sometimes scratching gets ugly.

They’ll scratch all night long, and cry while they’re doing it. Eventually; sometimes within hours, they’ll raise large, wet, red whelps under their ears or on their rumps (Hot spots or Moist Excema). Their tail may become hairless for all their digging.

The majority of these cases are allergic conditions where a flea may have bitten the dog, causing an itchy reaction in the skin.

But many such dogs are also “allergic” to house dust, pollens, and molds. (They call that “Atopy” which was once believed to be “inhaled” allergies. New information supports that it’s a contact allergy as well)

Rainy weather triggers some cases by spawning mold growth in leaf litter, however; dry weather and wintertime low-humidity triggers yet others. Some dogs are even allergic to their own food! New information suggests that some dogs have “carbohydrate intolerance” and their skin erupts the way some people’s skin erupts in response to milk/dairy. I hold that this is a COMMON cause of itching in dogs and switching to low-carb feeding helps the majority of cases.

Video on Low Carb Feeding You Should See: Starring ME!

Food allergy is comparatively rare. Among dogs, only one out of fifteen HUNDRED of them will be food allergic. However, there are MANY dogs which are intolerant of certain grains and fillers, much the same way people can be INTOLERANT of lactose, not allergic to it. When an animal eats a food it doesn’t digest effectively, diarrhea or soft stool may results, however, the colon can restore a LOT of normalcy to the stool, but the effects of the food intolerance can be indirect and serious.

When I look at your dog for itchy skin, it will be an exam to see whether the condition appears to be mange. Mange scrapes are a very reasonably priced diagnostic test. The results are available within minutes. While some vets DO scrape every single itchy dog that come$ into the clinic, I don’t automatically scrape every dog for mange, unless there’s a question that it could be mange.

If the skin appears to be infected with Ringworm fungus, then I might recommend that some hairs be pulled out and cultured for the fungus. This test takes a little longer, but can provide valuable information.

In the majority of cases, I can tell by a careful examination, and through a line of careful questions, that a condition is allergic/atopic or not, and then will discuss the treatment or diagnostic options available. Usually, the most practical treatment for allergies, with the highest success rate, is the use of cortisone, by injection.

Other treatments which may be recommended are Atopica (I don’t like it), Apoquel (Causes cancer I hate it) and Cytopoint (Hold a lot of promise but cancer statistics are unavailable now).

In some cases, there is also infection in the skin as evidenced by pus exuding from wounds. In those cases, an antibiotic is also sent home for you to give to your companion.

The majority of “itchy-dog-skin” cases can be seen and treated for well under a hundred dollars. Later, once the diagnosis is established, subsequent visits may sometimes involve a re-examination charge plus the cost of the treatment. That depends entirely on your vet of course but it’s not an unfair question to ask.

At Johnson Veterinary Services, we welcome discussions about your bill, and if you ask me, I’ll help you estimate the costs that may be involved, up front, so there will be no unpleasant surprises, and you’ll usually have money left in your pocket. I never exceed estimate without consent.

Allergies are usually *chronic* and are difficult to totally “cure”. In other words, the allergic symptom of itching usually returns when control of the allergic cause is relaxed. (For example, if the fleas are allowed to remain on the pet, or in the environment.)

In some instances, the best desired result could be the longest possible control of symptoms for the comfort of the pet; with the least amount of pharmacological influence. That’s by diet, skin conditioners, medications, raw honey, and other adjunctive care.

Frequently administered cortisone may have adverse effects, in some cases of extreme abuse. I can clarify and avoid these circumstances.