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K9 Corner: Owners have responsibility to monitor their dogs’ health

By HELEN PALMER

K9 Corner

Do you think “It can’t happen to you!?” Any dog, no matter how well bred can develop a serious condition.

It might be a faulty heart; or the pituitary gland can shut down, causing the dog to consume gallons — I’m not kidding — of water; or it can be an eye condition that can lead to blindness if it is not treated in time.

This happened to one of my dogs. Although his eyes were tested as a pup and he was registered with the Canine Eye Registration Foundation, he developed “dry eye.” This condition is exactly what the name says, there is insufficient production of tears due to degeneration of the tear gland; in most cases, both eyes are affected.

The test for this condition is the Schirmer tear test, which is not part of a routine screening eye examination. I requested that the dog’s eyes be checked when I noticed a bluish cast in both eyes. Because he was only three years old, the veterinarians were concerned by the lack of tears and the scarring on the cornea where the animal had been rubbing his eyes.

Fortunately his cornea had not ulcerated. With antibiotics and drops to stimulate tear production, the dog recovered, but had to stay on the medication the rest of his life. He would have gone blind if I hadn’t noticed the bluish cast to his normally dark brown eyes and asked the veterinarian to check his eyes.

It is the owner’s responsibility to watch for warning signs that the dog needs to be seen by his doctor. At least once a week and preferably more often, the animal should be inspected for any problems that might have started. This could be as simple as a balding spot on the top of the back where the dog has rubbed the fur off because of itching, or it could be serious as a thick ocular discharge signaling a trip to the doctor.

The veterinarian cannot take care of your pet unless you have first observed and concluded that there is something going on that needs to be seen. Most animal clinics will advise you if you are in doubt about the need. The clinic may say the condition bears watching, but is not critical at the moment.

Again, it is the owner’s decision in the end. I was told to watch a growth on one of my dog’s chest. I watched a full three days and then took the animal in asking that the growth be removed. Everyone was glad that I made this decision when it was proven cancerous.

Did I know what the growth was? No. It was so small I discovered it only when I combed the dog. But we got it in time.