Ailments of the urinary system

(Continued from last week)

A reader of this column called me and requested to know the difference between ‘nephritis’ and ‘nephrosis’ – terms, which she had seen in a medical book. Well, for our purpose in this column, we prefer not to get into too much science and scientific definitions. On the other hand, we have maintained that the main function of this column is to educate and elucidate. So, here goes an attempt to clarify.

Nephrosis: You will recall (Pet Corner, May 13) I had mentioned that the kidney consists of specialized tissue units called nephrons. When conditions occur that create degenerative changes in the nephrons, then we speak of a nephrosis. These changes (often irreversible) have been extensively studied in dogs, and it is estimated that between 60-80 per cent of older dogs show clinical signs; and necroscopic (post mortem) examinations reveal evidence of tissue degeneration of various magnitudes. There is always some scar tissue remaining behind, even after the condition has been held in check.

Nephritis is simply an inflammatory process occurring in the kidneys. This inflammation can be caused by bacteria (eg, the leptospira germ – you know, the one that is so often transmitted by rats and may result in jaundice); by viruses, (those viral diseases of canine distemper, canine hepatitis, etc); herpes, I should mention in passing, is often associated with nephritis cases. An array of toxic substances (poisons) can cause great inflammation and weakening/destruction of the kidney tissue. This is another reason why we should not bathe or powder a dog too often against ectoparasites (ticks and fleas, etc) with powerful insecticides. By the way, since ticks are not insects, the chemicals which kill them are specifically called ‘acaricides.’

Always note, that if the anti-insect/tick chemical is so strong that it can kill, just by contact, an obstinate survivor like the tick, then it can surely kill the pet – especially if you overdose with the anti-tick powder/dip/shampoo, etc, and if the animal is already weakened because of another previous or current disease, or if the current nutritional status of your pet is leaving much to be desired. Also, the constant use of these toxic chemicals has an accumulative effect. In other words, the animal being treated with a toxic chemical might be able to withstand one treatment; but successive treatments during a short period could have seriously deleterious consequences.

So, what is one to do? If you leave the ticks and other harmful, disease-producing insects on the pet, then the animal could die; yet, if you try to eliminate the ticks/insects by using toxic chemicals, the animal can be killed. The answer is to liaise closely with your vet when using these potentially dangerous chemicals.

I should mention that some drugs (medications) on their own can have side effects, or can react with other drugs in such a manner as to precipitate kidney damage and inflammatory processes. Again, seek advice from your veterinarian, before you attempt to introduce treatment on your own.

This cute little female kitten (she has been spayed) is waiting at the GSPCA for some kind person to give her a good home.

Furthermore, some breeds (the Lhaso Apso or ‘Tibertian Terrier’ springs to mind) have kidneys with structural and/or developmental problems. In such cases, the kidneys are prone to ailment.

Finally, it should be emphasized that the pet owner (and even the veterinarian, for that matter) might find it difficult to come up with the exact cause of the nephritis or the nephrosis. Only when the dog becomes really ill and the signs and symptoms are those of uraemic poisoning (which, in fact, reflects a total breakdown of the functional kidney tissues), do we know that something is radically wrong. In my younger years as a vet, I used to work with a pathologist. Many of the post-mortems co-incidentally revealed various degrees of kidney tissue damage, without the dog ever having shown any obvious and specific symptoms of a kidney disease.

More on urinary tract diseases next week.

Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals.  Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. If you do not wish your pet to have puppies or kittens, you may exploit the GSPCA’s free spay and neutering programme. If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.


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