Dear Dr. Thompson: My dog was diagnosed with an oral tumor. My veterinarian says it s benign but it will probably come back. Should we worry?
ANSWER: The tumor you are describing is most commonly called an epulis. It is a benign growth that arises out of the attachment of the tooth root to the bone. You might have noticed a fleshy growth around or between teeth. These tumors do not have the potential to spread or metastasize. However, one rarer form can be destructive to teeth and the surrounding bone. The bones of the jaw can gradually erode, leading to tooth loss and instability in the mouth. If your dog has this form, a biopsy and surgery will be needed to stop the progression of the tumor. Fortunately, it sounds like your dog has the mild form and your veterinarian may need to periodically trim back these growths to avoid food and bacteria being trapped next to the tooth. Routine tooth-brushing is especially important to help prevent infection from developing around these growths. There are more aggressive forms of oral cancer, so if you notice a growth in your pet s mouth, call your veterinarian. Early detection is crucial .
Dr. Thompson: My daughter s dog has started limping around the house and struggles to get up. When he is running through the yard he seems fine. I would think the opposite would be true. What may be going on?
ANSWER: Your daughter s dog may be developing arthritic changes in the hips. People will not observe a limp when the dog is running due to changes in its gait. Dogs with arthritic hips will bring both back legs up at the same time, rabbit-style, to maintain balance and speed. This masks a limp that is more obvious when walking because the affected hip has to bear the body weight all alone. An X-ray will help determine the source of the limp, and the veterinarian can offer multiple options for managing its condition, depending on the severity.
Dear Dr. Thompson: My long-haired cat seems to be having a terrible time with hair balls. He is in good health.
ANSWER: Cats fastidious grooming habits lead to hair balls. The hair is difficult to digest and can accumulate in the stomach. Eventually the cat will vomit to try to get rid of the hair. The cat laxatives (Laxatone, Cat-Lax) are designed to coat the hair and allow it to be more easily moved through the digestive tract. Putting a small amount on his paws so he licks it off may make the process easier. The newer hair-ball control diets are great at helping ease digestion of hair. Some finicky cats will readily eat canned pumpkin as a fiber source to help if they spurn a diet change. The fact that this is a relatively new problem may mean your cat may be grooming excessively. This can be a sign of skin irritation or disease. Many cats with smoldering bladder problems will groom all of the hair off at the bottom of their belly. Excessive hair loss or baldness is never normal in cats.
Questions for Dr. Thompson can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to The Blade, Attn. Ask the Vet, 541 North Superior St., Toledo, OH 43660. Dr. Thompson regrets that he cannot answer individual letters.