Thursday, February 5, 2009

Internet Research

Daily, I get questions and concerns from people worried about their pets. A certain percentage of those questions and concerns are spurred and/or fueled by information gleaned from the World Wide Web. As one would expect, there is a lot of good information out there that can be very helpful to pet owners...and there is a lot that isn't so helpful.

A couple brought their sick rat in to see me today. She is young and otherwise healthy, but over the past few weeks (yeah, it took awhile for them to bring her in) her head has been gradually and more consistently tilting to the left. Going online, they had diagnosed her with "wryneck."

Now, wryneck is a general medical description rather than a disease processes (except in one case). More scientifically known as "torticollis," the condition is characterized by the sufferer having a head tilt. In the veterinary world, there are many interesting disease and/or condition names that are fairly descriptive such as founder, hotspots and (a personal favorite) cancer eye. When a vet is told a creature has "wryneck," this picture jumps to mind: long-necked waterfowl with exposure to botulisim. Clostridum botulinum (the bacterial organisim that produces the toxin) grows in soil under certain conditions, and waterfowl are particularly prone to the toxic effects, ending up with a flaccid neck and a head that flops all over. Just as botox paralyzes the muscles of your face to reduce wrinkles, botulinum toxin paralyzes the neck muscles of birds.

Fortunately for the rat, she likely is not suffering from any issues related to botulisim (which the owners were concerned about.) Unfortunately, she has a very bad inner ear infection that may or may not improve with treatment. I'm still a little curious as to why the research that lead them to the diagnosis of wryneck didn't encourage them to bring the rat in sooner....

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