Dogs are not the only pets that can get Heartworm disease, but they’re the natural hosts for these deadly parasites – and the short story is, every dog’s best line of defense is a year-round heartworm prevention program.
Here’s what you need to know:
What are heartworms?
Heartworms are a parasites that can grow to be a foot long. They live for up to 5 years, during which time they can produce millions of offspring called microfilariae. Adult heartworms live in the heart and adjacent large blood vessels, and one infected dog can have as many as 300 worms when diagnosed; the microfilariae live mainly in the small blood vessels of the body.
How does a dog get infected?
When a mosquito bites an infected dog, it sucks up the microfilariae, which then live in the mosquito in order to mature into infective larvae. At this point, they make their way to the mosquito’s mouthparts where they can be transmitted when the mosquito bites another dog. They grow to maturity and can begin producing new offspring within 6 to 7 months.
Heartworms must have the mosquito as an intermediate host, which means that a dog cannot catch heartworms simply by interacting with an infected dog.
What are the signs of heartworm disease?
It can take several years before a dog starts to show signs of illness. While the signs vary depending on how long the dog has been infected, how many worms are present, and so on, the typical signs of adult worms include:
- Soft, dry cough
- Shortness of breath
- Weakness and loss of stamina
- Fainting or disorientation, especially after exercise
Since the microfilariae can cause lung and liver damage, dogs infected with microfilariae may cough, look jaundiced, and be weak.
How is heartworm disease diagnosed treated?
There are several simple blood tests for heartworm disease. A positive test result means further tests will be needed to determine whether the dog is well enough to undergo treatment.
Treatment is a long road, and the dog must be treated with different drugs to kill the adult heartworms as well as the microfilariae.
After the injections for adult heartworms, the dog must be kept very quiet. The adult heartworms die within a few days, and they break up and leave the heart, traveling to the lungs to be reabsorbed by the body. But the fragments of dead heartworms can cause serious complications and even death, so it is absolutely essential that the dog be kept quiet and avoid exercise for a full month following treatment.
About a month after the treatment for heartworms is complete, the dog will stay in the hospital for a day or two for the treatment to kill the microfilariae.
How can I protect my dog from heartworm disease?
All dogs should have annual heartworm tests and be on a preventative program. There are plenty of safe and effective options available including oral and topical medications. They need to be given exactly as directed because missing even one dose can leave your dog unprotected.
As a bonus, some heartworm preventatives also protect against either internal parasites (such as tapeworms) or external parasites (such as fleas). Talk to your veterinarian about the best option for your dog.
The American Heartworm Society recommends that all dogs be on heartworm preventatives year round, even in cold areas. Even though mosquitoes are more common in the warmer months, many can survive indoors all year.
With the arrival of spring, we are all happy to spend more time outdoors. Unfortunately, that includes ticks – which can cause a lot of grief for pets and people. Let’s talk ticks.
Q: What are ticks that affect dogs and cats?
A: Ticks are not true insects because they have 8 legs instead of 6. They are arachnids and are cousins to spiders and scorpions.
Q: How many kinds of ticks are there?
A: There are over 15 species of ticks in North America. Some of the most common ones are the American Dog tick, the Deer or Blacklegged tick, the Brown Dog tick, and the Lone Star tick.
Q: Where do ticks live?
A: Ticks live in every state of the U.S. and in many areas of Canada. They move around a lot and since they can’t fly or jump and can only crawl, they “hitch” rides on mammals or birds.
Q: How do ticks hitch a ride on my dog or cat… or even me?
A: Ticks are very perceptive. They wait on the tips of grasses and shrubs where they sense odors, vibrations, changes in temperature or light patterns that occur as a host walks past. Then they extend their forelegs and grab on to the passing host.
Q: How can ticks survive in every state?
A: Ticks readily adapt to different climates and survive the extremely cold north, hot south, rainy east, and dry west. Ticks have a specialized mechanism to conserve water, so they can withstand droughts.
Q: What do ticks eat?
A: Ticks eat blood meals from their hosts, which can be your dog, your cat, your children, or you. They are efficient eaters and have anti-coagulants in their saliva to prevent the host’s blood from clotting so they can dine leisurely.
Q: Where do ticks lay their eggs?
A: Adult male and female ticks feed and mate on the host (again, your dog, cat or even you). Then the female ticks falls to the ground to lay her eggs. Male ticks often die after mating. Ticks are very prolific – they can lay thousands of eggs.
Q: What can I do to decrease ticks in my yard?
A: You can clean up areas of the yard that make good tick habitats. Rake the leaves, cut the grass, clean areas beneath trees and hedges. Have a professional exterminator spray regularly if the tick bloom is out of control.
Q: How can I keep ticks from bothering my dog or cat?
A: Products that kill ticks (acaricides) come in the form of monthly topical spot-ons and sprays as well as collars that last up to 6 months. Your veterinarian will help you choose the best product for your situation.
Q: Why do I see more ticks on my dog than on my cat?
A: Cats do get ticks, but they are such good groomers that they remove many of the ticks before attachment. Even so, it’s good to inspect both dogs and cats after outdoor activities and remove ticks promptly.
Q: What’s the best tick removal method for dogs and cats?
A: Do NOT try home remedies such as applying petroleum jelly or grease, or touching the rear of the tick with a hot match! These techniques cause the tick to salivate and can actually increase the chance of getting a disease. Instead:
- Use blunt tweezers and disposable gloves to handle the tick. Don’t touch the tick or its infectious agents directly.
- With tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible. This reduces the possibility of the head detaching from the body upon removal.
- Pull the tick straight out with a steady, even pressure. Do not twist or jerk the tick as this may cause the mouthparts to break off and remain in the skin, increasing the chances of infection. Continue applying steady pressure… it may take a minute or two of constant, slow pulling to release the tick.
- Place the tick in a zip-lock bag or jar containing rubbing alcohol, and thoroughly disinfect the bite area. Wash your hands with soap and water. Label the container for identification. Include the date, time and place where the tick bite occurred. This helps you remember details of the incident, especially if a rash or other symptoms associated with Lyme disease appear later.
- Call your veterinarian and bring the tick sample to the practice. If you were bitten, bring the sample to your doctor. This helps your veterinarian (or physician) rule out or diagnose a tick-related illness.
Q: Can ticks harm their host?
A: Ticks cause primary illness such as paralysis, hypersensitivity and blood loss. They also cause secondary illnesses by transmitting viral and bacterial diseases. Ticks are second only to mosquitoes in the transmission of vector-borne disease.
Q: What diseases do ticks carry?
A: Ticks carry many diseases that affect dogs, cats, and humans. Some of the most common diseases are Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichia, Anaplasmosis, and Babesia.
Q: Are there vaccinations against these diseases?
A: Unfortunately, there aren’t immunizations for all of these diseases, but there is a canine vaccine for Lyme disease. Ask your veterinarian about it.
February is dental health awareness month. Our pets need regular dental care just as we do. Can you imagine not brushing your teeth for your whole life?!
Over 80% of dogs and cats after the age of 3 years have periodontal disease. This extravagant percentage could be easily lowered by preventive care at home whether it be having your pet on a dental diet or brushing their teeth.
Our promotion for Dental Month is 15% off dental cleanings.
Cat Dental Cleaning
Dog Dental Cleaning
Please see the Pet Health Library on our home page for more information on dog and cat dental disease.
If you are concerned about your pets dental health or have questions in regards to dental awareness month please call the hospital and speak with one of our staff. We would love to go over more information with you and potentially book your pet in for a dentistry.
1.Keep your cat inside. Outdoors, felines can freeze, become lost or be stolen, injured or killed. Cats who are allowed to stray are exposed to infectious diseases, including rabies, from other cats, dogs and wildlife.
2.During the winter, outdoor cats sometimes sleep under the hoods of cars. When the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt. If there are outdoor cats in your area, bang loudly on the car hood before starting the engine to give the cat a chance to escape.
3.Never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm, dogs can easily become lost. Make sure your dog always wears ID tags.
4.Thoroughly wipe off your dog’s legs and stomach when he comes in out of the sleet, snow or ice. He can ingest salt, antifreeze or other potentially dangerous chemicals while licking his paws, and his paw pads may also bleed from snow or encrusted ice.
5.Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth. When you bathe your dog in the colder months, be sure to completely dry him before taking him out for a walk. Own a short-haired breed? Consider getting him a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly. For many dogs, this is regulation winter wear.
6.Never leave your dog or cat alone in a car during cold weather. A car can act as a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death.
7.If your dog is sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed type, take him outdoors only to relieve himself.
8.Does your dog spend a lot of time engaged in outdoor activities? Increase his supply of food, particularly protein, to keep him, and his fur, in tip-top shape.
9.Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.
10.Make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts. A cozy dog or cat bed with a warm blanket or pillow is perfect.
Taken from http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cold-weather-tips
During times of celebration, friends and family often gather in our homes. At these times, it is easy to overlook potential hazards to your cat and dog’s health and safety. In order to prevent mishaps for your cuddly companions, it is important that you recognize these hidden dangers.
Please select the links below for more information on Holiday Hazards:
Halloween has the potential for your four legged pet getting into all of their halloween loot. Having your pets getting into high fatty treats can result in pancreatitis (for details on pancreatitis see the above paragraph) and chocolate contains a toxic ingredient called theobromine which can result in seizures or even death. The more chocolate liquor the product contains the more toxic (more theobromine) the chocolate is. Although milk chocolate (most Halloween chocolate bars are milk) is less toxic than semi-sweet and dark chocolate it can still result in serious illness. Be sure to put all Halloween candy and treats out of reach of your critters and do not share your chocolate treats with your dogs and cats. Click here for further details on chocolate toxicity.
Many people also think of bats when Halloween comes around every year. Bats are notorious rabies vectors and although there is a low risk of transmission, even indoor cats can be affected when these animals get into our homes. Ensure that your cats are vaccinated against rabies even if they are indoor kitties. Please see Cat and bats and rabies posted by Dr. Scott Weese.
With Thanksgiving approaching, there may be a tendency for many pet owners to offer an abundance of leftovers and turkey bones to their furry family members. Of course they will be taken with no hesitation and gladly gobbled down. However, you could be doing more harm than good in offering these “treats” to your pets. In dogs, the ingestion of a fatty meal, like meat trimmings, can result in the inflammation of the pancreas, also known as pancreatitis. The pancreas has two main jobs – the secretion of digestive enzymes (helps to break down the food that has been ingested) and the secretion of insulin and glucagon (to regulate sugar metabolism). With pancreastis, the digestive enzymes that are secreted from the pancreas are released prematurely (when there is no food passing through) and they begin to digest the body itself, resulting in the inflammation and tissue damage of the surrounding living tissue. Common signs include vomiting, anorexia, diarrhea, depression and dehydration. In cats, the cause of pancreatitis is rarely uncovered, however there are a number of factors that could contribute to it like certain medications, and an inflammatory bowel disease association. In regard to bones, owners beware!! Bones can cause a number of injuries to your pets including blockage of the esophagus or wind pipe (if they inhale a small bone or splinter from a larger bone), blockage of the intestines (may lead to surgery), mouth and gum injury, and broken teeth. For further information please see No Bones About it: Bones are Unsafe for Your Dog.
Allergic skin disease equally affects males and females, regardless of age or breed. Causes of skin allergies can be divided into four main categories – food allergies, contact allergies, insect bite allergies (flea bite hypersensitivity), and allergic inhalant skin disease (pollens, mold spores, and dust mites).
a) Food allergies
Food allergies are very common in dogs, with dietary protein being the culprit for this allergy. This allergen often affects the face, ears, feet, groin and armpit region, however a chronic ear infection can often be the only sign. Food allergies can also affect cats, although much less than dogs, with clinical signs including skin lesions and itching around the face, neck and ears. Typically in order to diagnose and treat suspected food allergies provide a diet that contains proteins to which your pet has not been exposed for a minimum of eight weeks, ensuring that no other foods are given. Individual proteins can be removed, then reintroduced to determine whether or not they are the cause of the allergy. At the Victoria Road Animal Hospital we sell specific veterinary diets that are targeted for food allergic pets, once an allergen has been identified.
b) Contact allergies
Contact allergies are not common in pets, but when they do occur reactions are typically found only at the sites of contact with the allergen, or areas where the hair coat is thin. Possible allergens include plants, plastic food dishes, wool, carpet deodorizers and cleaning products. The diagnosis of a contact allergen is not easily made, but by eliminating potential sources and identifying any reduction in clinical signs, the culprit is usually uncovered.
Insect bites, particularly from fleas, can also cause allergic reactions in pets. Flea allergy dermatitis can occur in dogs and cats that are hypersensitive to the saliva in a flea’s bite. The reaction produces a raised bump or scab and hair loss along the backbone to the base of the tail. Mosquito bites can also leave raised red bumps, like they do in humans. Biting flies will target the tips of ears, and cause thick, dark, scabby lesions that will easily bleed, with pets usually showing a distinctive head shaking motion. There are a number of flea prevention options are available at the Victoria Road Animal Hospital, please enquire, as to which one is best suited for your pet.
d) Allergic inhalant skin disease
This is the most common form of allergy in pets. Inhaled substances cause an allergic reaction by animals that are genetically predisposed to them. This type of allergy is known as atopic dermatitis, or atopy. Atopy affects 10%-15% of the dog population, and usually appears within the first three years of life. The most common allergens include airborne pollens (trees, weeds, grasses), mold spores, and dust mites. While some pets may only experience seasonal itchiness (like pollen allergies in fall), most often more than one allergic trigger exists, and some pets experience discomfort year round. Lesions can appear in many locations of the body, including the face, ears, ventral neck, chest, and abdomen, and lower parts of the limbs (between toes) usually due to self-induced trauma from excessive itching. Pets that suffer from chronic itchiness, may develop a secondary chronic skin and ear infections that required antibiotic treatment. Treatments for atopy may include supplements (e.g. essential fatty acid), antihistamines, prescription drugs (e.g. corticosteroids), and desensitization injections (as long as specific allergens can be determined by skin or blood testing).
There is no cure for allergies, and lifelong avoidance measure and symptom treatment might be necessary to ensure the allergic pet maintains a high quality of life.
- Veterinary Information Network – Airborne Allergies
- Veterinary Information Network – Itching and Allergy in Cats
- Veterinary Information Network – Itching and Allergy in Dogs
Inflammation of the ears can fall into one of three categories: otitis externa – inflammation of the external ear canal, otitis media – inflammation of the middle ear, and otitis interna – inflammation of the inner ear (see diagram of the ear below).
We will only expand on otitis externa here. Otitis externa is usually characterized by pain when the ears are touched, head shaking, scratching at the pinnae, ear exudate (yellow-tan to dark brown) and malodorous ears. The primary cause is usually one or more of the following – parasites, hypersensitivities, foreign bodies, obstructions, or autoimmune disease. Perpetuating factors include secondary bacterial infections due to yeast overgrowth, bacteria, and rarely fungus, and chronic water exposure (from swimming regularly). Otitis externa is best diagnosed from microscopic examination of aural exudate – which is the single most important diagnostic tool after complete examination of the ear canal has been performed. Treatment usually consists of the prescription of a topical therapy and an ear cleaner. If the infection is due to severe amounts of bacteria then oral antibiotics may also be prescribed. For dogs that swim regularly, ensure that their ears are dried well after each dip in the water.
Leptospirosis is a serious infectious disease that can affect both animals and humans. Caused by the Leptospira bacteria, dog are especially susceptible when they come into contact with infected wildlife (through bite wounds or ingestion of infected tissues), or areas where infected wildlife have contaminated the environment (puddles, ditches, or streams). Early stages of leptospirosis can have the same flu symptom appearance, and progress to potentially become fatal. Currently at the Victoria Road Animal Hospital, we offer a Leptospirosis vaccine for dogs (either as part of your dog’s annual vaccines or at any other time) that protects them against the four (4) most common strains of Leptospira that affect dogs.