BY DR. BONNIE JONES, DVM
I love the month of February, possibly because the color red always has been and will continue to be my favorite color. As a chocolate and flower connoisseur, I love everything about Valentine’s Day. And, I think the innovator of National Wear Red Day to support the fight against heart disease is a genius who has brought light to an often over-looked and important health issue for women.
What does all this have to do with veterinary medicine? Unfortunately, in all types of medicine, there are times when the color red is not a welcome sight. From head to toes for pets, the appearance of redness can be quite concerning. So, when is red not a good color?
Veterinarians are trained to recognize “red eyes” as problematic. If your pet’s white of its eye, called the “sclera,” is reddened, the causes may be many, including but not limited to conjunctivitis, dry eye (Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca or KCS), glaucoma and bleeding disorders.
With a thorough eye exam, your veterinarian can determine the reason for your pet’s red eye and initiate treatment expediently. A red eye should always be considered a potential pet emergency. If your pet cannot be seen imminently by a veterinarian, you may use an over-the-counter eye irrigating solution to attempt to sooth and cleanse the eye. You should, however, plan to see your veterinarian as quickly as possible.
Another area that red is not a pretty color to see is in pet’s ears, especially if the redness is accompanied by odor or build-up. Please consult your veterinarian promptly as the longer an ear problem exists, the more difficult it becomes to resolve. Recurrent or chronic ear issues can be a manifestation of underlying conditions such as low thyroid function, food hypersensitivity, or inhalant allergies. Your veterinarian will solve the mystery for you.
Kisses and hugs are the universal signs of love, but if your pet’s breath makes you turn away instead, lift your pet’s lips and look inside. Reddening of the gums or “gingivitis” associated with dental disease may be the reason for the end of the Valentine season in your home. Dental disease is prevalent in more than half of pets as early as age four. Please don’t forget to follow your veterinarian’s advice about providing proper dental health for your pet.
If you would rather “rub noses like Eskimos” with your pet to show affection, be mindful of any red discharges from the nose, especially in cats that sneeze frequently or dogs that have had access to rodent poisons. Nasal hemorrhages can be a sign of feline upper respiratory diseases, rodenticide poisoning, tumors of the nose, and immune mediated bleeding disorders. Again, a trip to your veterinarian is in order if the color red exits your pet’s nose.
A “hot spot” or Acute Moist Dermatitis is an alarming and uncomfortable reddening of the skin of pets that can occur with rapid onset anywhere on the body. Pet owners will report that these skin lesions literally appeared out of nowhere, and they are not lying. Hot spots begin with some irritant on the skin that initiates a cycle of persistent licking or scratching by the pet. The skin becomes bright red, then ulcerated and bloody. Infection sets in quickly and the spot becomes odorous and moist. This is when the color red is then replaced by the color green as the skin begins to look like a rug burn gone bad.
Your pet will be more than grateful if you expediently seek the assistance of your veterinarian to diagnose and begin systemic as well as topical treatment of hot spots. Some hot spots can be extremely large and will require sedation to be treated appropriately. Fleas are often the underlying cause of hot spots so don’t forget to consult your veterinarian about an effective, safe and, most importantly, guaranteed flea control product.
Other places that red is not a good color include in pets’ urine or stool. The likely culprit in these locations is blood that should not be there. Call your veterinarian about this finding. You will likely be directed to schedule an examination that will include bringing a fresh sample of urine or feces for analysis to determine the underlying cause.
These are just some examples of when this Ohio State University graduate veterinarian does not like to see the color scarlet, with or without gray. Red will always continue to be my favorite color, just not when worn by pets. Go Bucks!