Toxic Pond Algae Is Killing Dogs — How to Protect Your Pooch

Toxic Pond Algae Is Killing Dogs — How to Protect Your Pooch
News Picture: Toxic Pond Algae Is Killing Dogs -- How to Protect Your PoochBy Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Aug. 16, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Your dog bounds heedlessly into a local lake or pond, playfully splashing in the water.

But within minutes, your canine companion is staggering, drooling or suffering seizures. Left untreated, the dog will likely die.

This fate has befallen a handful of pooches exposed to toxic algae blooms this year, experts say.

Blue-green algae is a bacteria that during certain times of year, certain weather conditions, will produce a toxin that’s very harmful to dogs,” said Dr. Julie Schildt, an emergency and critical care veterinarian at the University of Tennessee’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

Last week, three dogs died within hours of swimming in an algae-polluted local pond in Wilmington, N.C.

All three dogs — Abby, Izzy and Harpo — began suffering from seizures within 15 minutes of their evening splash, said the dogs’ owner, Melissa Martin.

“We are gutted,” Martin said in a Facebook post that has been shared more than 32,000 times. “I wish I could do today over.”

Another dog, a border collie named Arya, died following a swim in Georgia’s Lake Allatoona last week.

Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has reported toxic blue-green algae in a number of lakes, prompting shutdowns of some beaches and recreational areas.

It’s hard to say how many canines have fallen ill from toxic algae.

“We don’t know how many dogs have died from harmful algal blooms this year,” said Michael San Filippo, a spokesman for the American Veterinary Medical Association. “There have been several cases reported in the past month, but these types of deaths aren’t reportable, so there’s no reliable statistics available.”

Blue-green algae usually isn’t toxic, Schildt said.

But when the weather is hot and there’s been little rain, stagnant water conditions near the shore of ponds and lakes can prompt the algae to start pumping out toxins, Schildt and San Filippo explained.

“They thrive in warm, calm, shallow, nutrient-rich bodies of water,” San Filippo said.

Toxic algae can make people sick, too, but it’s especially harmful to animals, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said.

There’s usually two different scenarios under which animals fall ill following exposure to toxic algae, Schildt said.

“They can develop signs very quickly, within 15 minutes of being in the water or drinking the water,” Schildt said. “Those animals can have more neurologic signs — they might stagger around, they might drool, they might have seizures. It can lead to very quick, rapid death.”

Other toxins produced by the algae can cause liver failure, and in that case symptoms might not become apparent until sometime later, Schildt said.

“They could come out of the water and seem relatively OK, then go home and start to show signs like vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, not wanting to eat,” Schildt said.

Algae poisoning is very difficult for vets to treat, Schildt said.

“Unfortunately, this is a toxin for which there’s no specific antidote,” Schildt said. “That means we’re left just treating symptoms.”

The EPA recommends keeping your dog away from slimy water, or water that looks like it has foam or scum on its surface. Also avoid water if it smells bad or if it has an odd color, like blue, bright green, brown or red.

Be sure to keep your dogs on a leash during weather conditions that might promote a toxic algae bloom, San Filippo recommended. That way, they can’t run off and jump into a lake before you’ve had a chance to assess the water’s safety.

If you think your dog has gotten into a toxic algae bloom, get the pet out as quickly as possible and rinse the animal off immediately with clean water, Schildt and San Filippo said.

Afterward, keep a close eye out for symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, staggering, drooling, difficulty breathing or convulsions. Rush your dog to the vet at the first sign of any of these symptoms.

In fact, it might be worth taking them to the vet preemptively, San Filippo said.

“Contact your veterinarian and seek medical help immediately. Intervention before symptoms arise can be lifesaving,” San Filippo said.

Unfortunately, climate change might make these sort of algae blooms more likely in coming years, he said.

“Because these blooms thrive in warmer temperatures, you could expect rising temperatures to lead to an increase in harmful algal blooms,” San Filippo said.

Copyright © 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: Julie Schildt, D.V.M., emergency and critical care veterinarian, University of Tennessee’s School of Veterinary Medicine, Knoxville; Michael San Filippo, spokesman, American Veterinary Medical Association; CNN


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New Treatments Could Be Powerful Weapons Against Brain Tumors

New Treatments Could Be Powerful Weapons Against Brain Tumors

News Picture: New Treatments Could Be Powerful Weapons Against Brain TumorsBy Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 14, 2019 (HealthDay News) — New therapies are showing real promise in fighting the type of brain cancer that claimed the lives of Sens. John McCain and Ted Kennedy, a pair of new clinical trials shows.

One experimental treatment injects powerful genes directly into a brain tumor, and then uses pills to turn the genes on and off. That way, the genes can attack the cancer without going berserk and damaging other parts of the body.

“It’s the first time where we show you can do drug-induced gene therapy,” said lead researcher Dr. Antonio Chiocca, neurosurgeon-in-chief and chair of neurosurgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “You don’t want these genes to express all the time. Here we show for the first time in humans, you can turn a gene on and off based on a drug the patient takes by mouth.”

Meanwhile, the other new therapy uses mild electrical current to reduce blood flow to brain tumors, starving the cancer of the nutrients it needs to grow.

Glioblastoma, the form of brain cancer under study, is tough to fight. Traditional therapy involves surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, Chiocca said.

Even with that, half of patients die on average within about 15 months, and the cancer usually recurs within seven months, he noted.

“When it comes back, median survival is usually only a few months,” Chiocca said.

In the gene study, Chiocca and his colleagues injected brain tumors with viruses carrying a gene that promotes the production of interleukin-12, a biochemical that prompts the immune system to find and fight cancer.

Interleukin-12 (IL-12) can’t be directly administered to patients because it’s so powerful that it runs amok in the body, causing side effects like kidney and liver failure, Chiocca explained.

But the IL-12 genes placed in the tumor were genetically altered so that they could be switched on and off using a new drug called veledimex, Chiocca said.

“The patient takes it by mouth and it crosses into the brain, into the tumor, and turns on the gene for a period of hours,” Chiocca said of veledimex.

The phase I trial involved 31 patients with recurring glioblastoma. Results showed that the genes safely promoted an immune response against brain tumors, the researchers said.

These sorts of tumors typically are found to be “immune-deserted,” with no immune cells at all within them, Chiocca said.

But, “when we looked at the tissue, it was full of immune cells” following treatment, he reported.

While the genes stimulated IL-12 production in the tumors, the powerful biochemical did not appear to enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body, the researchers said.

Some patients exhibited serious side effects, including reduced counts of various blood cells, increases in liver enzymes, and an immune system overreaction called “cytokine release syndrome.”

But the side effects went away after the patients stopped taking veledimex, and were less severe in patients taking a lower dose of the drug, the study authors explained.

Future clinical trials will judge the effectiveness of this gene therapy, but Chiocca is hopeful.

Patients who received the gene therapy and also took a powerful steroid called dexamethasone “lived the longest, about 17 months after treatment, which historically is pretty long,” he said. “With these recurrent glioblastomas, we measure survival in a range of 3 to 6 months.”

One neurosurgeon had high praise for the study.

Dr. Michael Schulder, vice chair of neurosurgery at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., and Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y., said the gene study is “very exciting” with “impressive science behind it.”

“The fact is their patients did live longer than expected at the time of glioblastoma recurrence,” Schulder said, adding that he looks forward to seeing the results of larger trials aimed at testing the treatment’s effectiveness.

A neuro-oncologist also awaits larger trials.

“Obviously further head-to-head study is required to see if this is an efficacious strategy for the majority of glioblastoma patients,” said Dr. Stephanie Weiss, chief of neurologic oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. “However, it’s a promising proof of principle that immunologic therapies can be delivered to brain tumor patients who thus far have not benefited from the emerging field of immunotherapy.”


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In the second study, an international research team found that placing electrodes on the head of a patient can help reduce blood flow to brain tumors.

The researchers administered mild electrical stimulation for 20 minutes to 18 patients with brain cancer. MRI scans showed that less blood flowed into the tumor tissue, without affecting the rest of the brain.

“Chemotherapies can have some, though typically limited, efficacy in the brain, due to the blood-brain barrier,” Weiss said. “More novel therapies such as immunomodulation also have some limited efficacy in the brain. More recently, there has been evidence that the manipulation of alternating electrical fields could have some efficacy in the treatment of brain tumors.”

The new studies were published Aug. 14 in the journals Science Translational Medicine and Science Advances.

Copyright © 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: Antonio Chiocca, M.D., Ph.D., neurosurgeon-in-chief and chair, neurosurgery, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston; Michael Schulder, M.D., vice chair, neurosurgery, North Shore University Hospital, Manhasset, N.Y., and Long Island Jewish Medical Center, New Hyde Park, N.Y.; Stephanie Weiss, M.D., chief, neurologic oncology, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia; Aug. 14, 2019, Science Translational Medicine; Aug. 14, 2019, Science Advances

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Tight Blood Pressure Control Could Help Save Aging Brains

Tight Blood Pressure Control Could Help Save Aging Brains
News Picture: Tight Blood Pressure Control Could Help Save Aging Brains

Latest High Blood Pressure News

TUESDAY, Aug. 13, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Staying sharp and warding off dementia might rely, in part, on doing your best to keep high blood pressure at bay.

So finds a new study that suggests strict control of hypertension may help prevent dementia.

In the study, researchers at the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) used MRIs to scan the brains of hundreds of patients with high blood pressure.

They found that people who got “intensive” control of their high blood pressure showed a slowing of accumulation of certain lesions in the brain’s white matter, compared to people who got “standard” blood pressure treatment.

These white matter lesions reflect changes deep inside the brain, said the team led by Dr. Clinton Wright, director of the Division of Clinical Research at NINDS.

Prior research has suggested that people with high blood pressure are at increased risk for accumulation of white matter lesions and also for mental decline and dementia, he said.

The NINDS-funded study was published Aug. 13 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Getting blood pressure numbers to healthy levels “significantly reduced white matter lesion accumulation in people who had a higher chance of experiencing this kind of damage because they had high blood pressure,” Wright said in a NINDS news release.

The study also found that patients who received intensive blood pressure control had slightly more loss of the brain’s volume, compared to people who got standard treatment. The effect was seen predominantly in men.

However, this loss was generally very small and of unclear clinical significance, the researchers said.

The patients in the study enrolled in the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT). The trial involved nearly 9,300 people age 50 or older.

A prior study by the same research team found that intensive treatment of high blood pressure significantly lowered the risk of mild cognitive impairment — often a precursor to dementia.

In the trial, “standard” high blood pressure treatment lowered systolic blood pressure (the first of two numbers measured during an exam) to less than 140 mm Hg. “Intensive” treatment went further, lowering the same pressure reading to below 120 mm Hg.

Overall, the data “support a growing body of evidence suggesting that controlling blood pressure may not only reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease but also of age-related cognitive loss,” said NINDS director Dr. Walter Koroshetz.

“I strongly urge people to know your blood pressure and discuss with your doctors how to optimize control. It may be a key to your future brain health,” he said in the release.

“These findings on white matter lesions — primarily in the aggressive control of blood pressure — are encouraging as we continue to advance the science of understanding and addressing the complexities of brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and related dementias,” Dr. Richard Hodes said in the release. He’s director of the U.S. National Institute on Aging.

Researchers said the next step is to examine how controlling blood pressure may affect the accumulation of white matter lesions in critical regions of the brain affected by age-related brain disorders, and what factors may make some people more responsive to high blood pressure treatment.

— Robert Preidt

Copyright © 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, news release, Aug. 13, 2019


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One Man's False Teeth Got 'Lost' in His Throat After Surgery

One Man's False Teeth Got 'Lost' in His Throat After Surgery
News Picture: One Man's False Teeth Got 'Lost' in His Throat After Surgery

TUESDAY, Aug. 13, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Scheduled for surgery? Don’t forget to take your dentures out.

According to a new report, one 72-year-old man who had abdominal surgery in England swallowed his dentures during the procedure.

They got stuck in his throat — and were only discovered eight days later.

The initial surgery was to remove a harmless lump in the man’s abdominal wall. But because of the denture debacle, he suffered pain, bleeding and swallowing difficulties, and endured repeated hospital visits, additional invasive tests and blood transfusions.

He also required two additional operations.

The presence of any false teeth or dental plates in patients should be clearly documented before and after any surgery, said Dr. Harriet Cunniffe, lead author of a case study on the elderly patient’s ordeal. Cunniffe is an ear, nose and throat specialist with James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in Great Yarmouth, England.

According to the report, six days after his surgery, the man went to the emergency department. But doctors there concluded that the bleeding in his mouth, swallowing difficulties and pain were due to a respiratory infection and side effects from having a tube down his throat during surgery.

He was prescribed mouthwash, antibiotics and steroids, and sent home.

Two days later, he returned to the emergency department with worsening symptoms. He told doctors he hadn’t been able to swallow any of his prescribed medicines.

At this point, he was re-admitted to the hospital. Tests revealed a semi-circular object lying across his vocal cords, which had caused internal swelling and blistering.

When told this, the man said his dentures — a metal roof plate and three false teeth — were lost during his previous hospital stay for his abdominal surgery.

Doctors operated to remove the dentures and kept him hospitalized for six days. However, he returned a number of times over the next few weeks because of bleeding. Doctors eventually determined that the bleeding was due to internal wound tissue around the blistering caused by his false teeth. They cauterized the tissue to prevent further bleeding.

But by this time the patient had lost so much blood that he required a blood transfusion.

After another two days in the hospital, he was sent home.

But the hospital still hadn’t seen the last of him. He returned nine days later with more bleeding caused by a torn artery in the wound. Emergency surgery was ordered.

Over the next six weeks, however, his tissue healed, he did not require any more emergency care, and his blood count returned to normal, according to the Aug. 12 BMJ Case Reports.

This isn’t the first documented case of dentures being inhaled while a patient is under general anesthetic, the authors noted.

In the United Kingdom, “there are no set national guidelines on how dentures should be managed during anesthesia,” the authors wrote in a journal news release.

“It is known that leaving dentures in during bag-mask ventilation allows for a better seal during induction [when the anesthetic is being infused], and therefore many hospitals allow dentures to be removed immediately before intubation [when a tube is inserted into the airway to assist breathing],” they wrote.

However, all members of the surgical team need to know what’s to be done with a patient’s dentures, Cunniffe and her colleagues said.

— Robert Preidt

Copyright © 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: BMJ Case Reports, news release, Aug. 12, 2019


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How to Help Your Heart Weather Extreme Heat

How to Help Your Heart Weather Extreme Heat
News Picture: How to Help Your Heart Weather Extreme Heat

SUNDAY, Aug. 11, 2019 (HealthDay News) — As extreme heat events become more common, you need to know how to protect your heart.

Hot temperatures and high humidity can lead to dehydration, which causes the heart to work harder and puts it at risk, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). Staying hydrated makes it easier for the heart to pump blood to your muscles.

“If you’re a heart patient, older than 50 or overweight, you might need to take special precautions in the heat,” said AHA President Dr. Robert Harrington.

“Certain heart medications like angiotensin receptor blockers [ARBs], angiotensin-converting enzyme [ACE] inhibitors, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers and diuretics, which deplete the body of sodium, can exaggerate the body’s response to heat and cause you to feel ill in extreme heat,” said Harrington, a cardiologist who heads the Department of Medicine at Stanford University in California.

If you have heat-related concerns about these medications, discuss them with your doctor. Never stop taking medications on your own.

Infants and the elderly are also at increased risk of heat-related problems, but everyone needs to take precautions in extreme heat.

“It is easy to get dehydrated as you may not be aware that you’re thirsty,” Harrington said in an AHA news release. “If you’re going to be outside, it’s important to drink water even if you don’t think you need it. Drink water before, during and after going outside in hot weather.”

Here are some other important hot weather precautions.

  • Avoid the outdoors between noon and 3 p.m., when the sun is usually at its strongest. When outside, wear lightweight, light-colored clothing made of breathable fabrics such as cotton, or a newer fabric that repels sweat. Wear a hat and sunglasses. Apply a water-resistant sunscreen with at least SPF 15 every two hours.
  • To stay hydrated, drink a few cups of water before, during and after exercise. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Take regular breaks. Stop for a few minutes in shade or a cool place, hydrate and start again.

— Robert Preidt

Copyright © 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, July 18, 2019


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