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Liver Disease

Luxating Patella



Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that is carried commonly by rats and found in river water. It causes Weil's disease in humans and can be passed from dogs to us.

In dogs Leptospirosis normally presents as acute kidney failure or sometimes as a severe anaemia. The symptoms are collapse, fever, vomiting jaundice and diarrhoea.

The bacteria are easily killed by most disinfectants. The bacteria are passed by direct dog to dog contact; the main source of infection is the urine of infected animals.

They can also enter the blood stream through cuts or grazes on the dog's feet. Leptospirosis is also carried by foxes and rats. The severity of this disease can vary. Death can occur within two days.

We do vaccinate against this potentially fatal disease.


Liver Disease

The liver is the largest organ in the body and is situated in the abdomen, just behind the diaphragm. It has a number of important functions that are vital to wellbeing and general health.

The liver is involved in:

  • The storage of fat, carbohydrates and vitamins A, D, K, and B12.
  • The manufacture of proteins and in their breakdown, producing urea, which is transported to the kidneys for excretion.
  • The manufacture of glucose from glycogen, which is stored in the liver.
  • Fat metabolism.
  • The production and excretion of bile, which is involved in the process of digestion.
  • The breakdown and excretion of drugs, poisons and similar substances.
  • The immune system, as cells in the liver help remove toxins, bacteria and cellular debris.

Causes of liver disease

Liver problems are relatively common in older animals but are by no means restricted to this age group.

Anatomical abnormalities of the liver are rare but can cause very serious problems in young animals. There are a number of infectious causes of liver disease, including canine viral hepatitis and Leptospirosis, both of which can be prevented by vaccination.

Non-specific bacterial infections include those entering via the bile duct, causing jaundice, abdominal pain and a rise in temperature.

Poisons can also damage the liver and interfere with its function. With age, there is a gradual reduction in the liver's ability to cope and when the reserve capacity of the liver is fully utilised, then symptoms of liver disease will appear. Liver tumours are fairly common in older dogs.

Diet is of major importance in the control and treatment of liver disease and should be aimed at reducing the workload of the liver. The ideal diet should:

  • Have the optimum quantities of protein, carbohydrate, fats, vitamins and minerals
  • Contain quality protein sources such as chicken, fish and egg
  • Contain high quality fats, although in some instances a low fat diet is necessary
  • Provide easily digestible carbohydrates as an energy source
  • Have lower levels of both phosphorus and sodium, compared to the average diet
  • Be free from artificial additives. Many of these compounds need to be processed by the liver before they can be eliminated by the body


Luxating Patella

Normal knee anatomy

The patella is the bone we know as the knee cap. A groove in the end of the femur allows the patella to glide up and down when the knee joint is bent back and forth. The patella also protects the knee joint.

Looking at the lower front portion of the femur (the thigh bone) in a normal dog, you will notice two bony ridges that form a fairly deep groove in which the patella is supposed to slide up and down.

These structures limit the patella’s movement to one restricted place, and in doing so, control the activity of the quadriceps muscle.

The entire system is constantly lubricated by joint fluid. It works so that there is total freedom of movement between the structures.

What occurs when the patella is luxated?

In some dogs, because of malformation or trauma, the ridges forming the patellar groove are not prominent, and a too-shallow groove is created. In a dog with shallow grooves, the patella will luxate (jump out of the groove) sideways, especially toward the inside.

This causes the leg to 'lock up' with the foot held off the ground.

When the patella luxates from the groove of the femur, it usually cannot return to its normal position until the quadriceps muscle relaxes and increases in length.

This explains why the affected dog may be forced to hold his leg up for a few minutes or so after the initial incident. While the muscles are contracted and the patella is luxated from its correct position, the joint is held in the flexed or bent position.

The yelp is from the pain caused by the knee cap sliding across the bony ridges of the femur. Once out of position, the animal feels no discomfort and continues his activity.

Which dogs are at risk of having a luxated patella?

Smaller breeds of dogs, such as Toy and Miniature Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers and Whippets, have the highest incidence of patella luxation. Genetics can play a role.

Treatment for luxating patellas

As would be expected, medical therapy has little corrective ability in this disorder and surgery is therefore required and is the treatment of choice. A surgical treatment is not necessary in every individual with this condition.

The animal should respond quickly after surgery and is usually completely recovered within thirty days, using his legs in normal fashion.