Heartworms are scary, and unfortunately, they're here in Cincinnati. You can't see them, and they can make your dog or cat seriously ill. Heartworms are parasites that live in the heart, lungs, and large blood vessels of dogs and cats. They are transmitted as microscopic larvae by mosquitoes. Luckily, there are effective ways to prevent your dog and cat from getting heartworms.
As you can see from these maps, heartworm disease is steadily spreading across the country, and unfortunately Cincinnati is now in the red zone. We'll get the next updated map in 2020.
How do you get heartworm disease?
From a mosquito. A mosquito bites an infected dog, and ingests baby heartworms, called microfilaria. She then carries these microfilaria to the next dog or cat, and infects the pet when she feeds.
Those heartworm larvae now spend about 2 months migrating through the tissues of the new dog or cat, growing up into adult heartworms when they reach the vessels of the heart. Heartworms can grow to be over 12 inches long, and can live for 7 years inside your dog. The heartworm preventions are only effective during the first 2 months from infection by the mosquito.
What should you do?
Protect your dog and outdoor cat every single month with heartworm prevention.
Common tasty chewable brands include Sentinel, Interceptor, Heartgard, and Triheart. Topical heartworm preventions are also available for cats and dogs who won't take the chews - Revolution and Advantage Multi. There are many options, and they're all just about equally effective at preventing heartworms from reaching adulthood as long as they're given monthly. There is even a long-acting injection, ProHeart 6, which provides 6 months of protection.
We can help you decide which heartworm prevention is the best for you. They are all slightly different in what other parasites they treat, but they are equally effective at preventing heartworm. But they all MUST be given EVERY SINGLE MONTH in order to work. Talk to us about which particular medicine is best for your pet's lifestyle. Once those baby heartworms become adult, they are resistant to the preventatives and your pet needs treatment for the disease.
How to diagnose heartworm disease:
A couple drops of blood is all it takes to check your dog or cat. Here at Montgomery Animal Hospital, we will also screen your dog for tick-borne infections with the same test. Check with your vet about which test is being run, since some tests screen for heartworm only.
How to treat heartworm disease:
Heartworm treatment is a long, arduous process for dogs. There is NO treatment for cats - we are limited to supporting their hearts and lungs as best as we can until the worm dies on its own, a process that can take years. While it's worth it in the end to save your pet's life and lungs, it's not a fun thing to go through.
warning - graphic photograph below
Winter weather is here in Cincinnati and it's time to bundle up. Keep your pets safe from the cold with the following tips.
1 - Beware salt and antifreeze
2 - Dress warmly
3 - Limit outdoor time
4 - Provide extra TLC
'Tis the season for gift-giving! Here are some safe presents to get your pets in the holiday spirit.
4. The gift of good health
2. Signs of Diabetes - consider diabetes if your pet is showing any of these symptoms
3. Diagnosing Diabetes
If your pet is showing any of these signs, blood and urine tests can make the diagnosis of diabetes and rule out complications that require hospitalization before starting insulin at home.
4. Treatment of Diabetes
Insulin therapy and diet change are the mainstays of diabetic management. Cats and dogs respond better to different types of insulin, and most require twice daily insulin injections. Your veterinarian will work closely with you to make sure you are comfortable handling the syringe, drawing up the medication, and giving the injections. Be prepared to see a lot of your veterinarian in the initial stages while we adjust the dose to best treat your pet. We will measure the blood sugar at certain points in time to make sure that the level is never too high or too low. If you are comfortable measuring blood glucose at home then we can teach you which monitor is most accurate for pets and how to get the blood sample you'll need.
Diabetic dogs tend to do best with a high fiber diet. Cats, however, will respond best to a high protein diet. Some cats can even stop needing their insulin injections (achieving remission) after their diet is changed and they've been treated for a few months, although they still require periodic monitoring because the DM can recur later.
Despite these complications, the bottom line is that a diabetic dog or cat can still have a good life. They definitely require a lot of extra care for their nutrition and insulin injections, and the early months can be very frustrating until the right type of insulin at the right dose is found for your particular pet. But we find that most diabetic pets can be well managed at home and just need regular checkups to keep them on the right track.
Pumpkins, costumes, and scary skeletons - it's October! Here are some tips so that both you and your pets can enjoy the holiday in style.
Photo credit: Mike McCune www.flickr.com
Pumpkins are for more than pie
Did you know that pets can enjoy eating pumpkin right along with you? It is a healthy addition to food for many pets. Dogs, cats, parrots, many reptiles, rabbits, and small mammals can all benefit from pumpkin.
1 in 3 cats will develop kidney disease during their lifetime. The signs are subtle, and the disease can progress to kidney failure before it's recognized. Thankfully, there are screening tests available to monitor your cat's kidney health, so we can intervene and slow down the disease before your cat ever feels ill.
The kidneys play a key role in filtering the blood and removing waste products. As their function decreases, those waste products build up in the blood and cause illness. The kidneys are also important in balancing electrolytes. Kidney disease allows important salts and proteins to leak through and be lost in the urine.
How to diagnose kidney disease:
Cats 7 years old and older should have screening for kidney disease done every year, and twice per year after they're 10 years old. This gives us the best chance of catching kidney disease in its early stages, where simple diet change can have a huge impact. If you notice any of the signs of kidney disease in your cat, your veterinarian can run a few simple tests to assess kidney function. We start with a complete physical exam, including palpating the kidneys. Cats with chronic kidney disease often have small firm kidneys. We then run blood and urine tests and check blood pressure.
The earliest blood marker of kidney disease is SDMA. It can detect as little as 1/4 kidney function loss, well before there are any outside signs of illness.
Creatinine and BUN increase when 3/4 of kidney function is lost. The cats usually feel ill as these increase.
Isosthenuria, where the concentration of the urine is the same as the blood plasma, occurs once approximately 2/3 of kidney function is lost.
Proteinuria, where the kidneys leak protein, requires special additional treatment.
We also evaluate for red and white blood cells, bacteria, abnormal urinary tract cells or casts, and crystals. These can indicate infection or ongoing kidney injury.
Cats with chronic kidney disease often develop hypertension. This then causes more kidney injury as the high blood pressure damages the remaining functioning kidney. We can interrupt this vicious cycle with appropriate medication.
Treating Kidney Disease:
While there's no cure, cats with chronic kidney disease (CKD) can live for years with good quality of life if their disease is managed. Frequent monitoring is the key to success so treatments can be adjusted.
August 15 was National Check the Chip Day, so this month we're writing to remind you about the best way to increase your chances of finding your pet if he or she ever gets lost.
What is a microchip, anyway?
Do microchips work?
Yes! A study of stray animals at animal shelters showed that microchipped dogs were more than twice as likely to be returned to their owners as dogs without chips. Cats with microchips were 21 times as likely to be returned to their owners as cats without chips! But even so, more than half of microchipped dogs and cats were never reunited with their owners because the contact information in the database was missing or out of date.
Is your pet’s microchip information up to date? Use the AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup to check and see which company your pet’s chip is registered with – then contact the company and make sure they have your correct contact information. http://www.petmicrochiplookup.org/
July 15 is National Pet Fire Safety Day. Every year, nearly 1000 home fires are started in the United States by a household pet. The most common cause is a dog or cat jumping up on a gas stove and turning the knob, igniting whatever is on the stove. One of our own clients suffered this tragedy a couple years ago when his basset hound jumped on the stove to get to a bag of kibble. The firefighters were able to resuscitate the basset, but another dog in the home died in the fire and the house was destroyed.
2. Protect the stove
Use the child-proofing knob covers or remove the knobs of gas stoves so that a pet can't accidentally turn the knob and start a fire. Also, make sure that there is nothing left on top of the stove that could burn should the burner accidentally light.
3. Beware of glass water bowls on wooden decks
It sounds crazy, but if the sunlight hits a wooden bowl in just the right way it can act like a magnifying glass, potentially setting fire to the wood underneath it. This also applies to any outdoor glass ornaments or mirrors that could focus the sun's rays. Use ceramic or stainless steel bowls instead.
When you're not home:
Keep young pets confined so they can't get into trouble and are easy to find in case of emergency.
Consider leaving pets in rooms close to the entrances/exits of the home so they're easy to rescue. Ideally, your pets should stay in a part of the home with 2 exits so that they are less likely to be trapped.
Since pets can't escape a burning home on their own, consider monitored smoke alarms so that a company can be alerted if the alarms go off, and the fire department dispatched even when you're not home.
Affix a pet window cling - firefighters must prioritize human lives, but they will usually save pets whenever possible. A window decal with a date and information about the number and type of pets can help rescue personnel be on the alert for your pet family.
Did you know that July 5 is the biggest intake day of the year for animal shelters? Every year the fireworks and celebrations scare dogs and cats and they lose their way. Here are some precautions to make sure your furry friends stay safe at home. All of these tips also apply to pets who are afraid of thunderstorms, too.
1. Keep them secure
All pets should be kept indoors during fireworks, whether they're being exposed to a large municipal show or the backyard noisemakers. It's too easy for a dog or cat to slip a collar, jump a fence, or simply run away when the air is exploding in noise all around them. A quiet basement or a back room away from windows is usually the best place. Provide indoor cats with hiding spots where they can feel safe, and warn children not to try to reach in and try to pet their pal if they've found a dark quiet spot. For outdoor cats, a doghouse or under-deck space usually provides some refuge. Playing music loudly can also decrease the stimulation from the outdoor bangs and pops.
Now is also a great time to double check your pet's microchip - your vet can scan the chip to make sure it works, and you can log in to the manufacturer's database to make sure your contact information is up to date.
3. Supplement for stress
Calming supplements and foods work best when given for several weeks to months, so start now. There can be some effect when given the day of, but the further ahead you start the less panic your pet will feel when the fireworks start. Clinically proven calming foods include Hill's C/D Stress for cats and I/D stress for dogs, and Royal Canin Calm for both cats and dogs.
Supplements Zylkene and Solliquin are both excellent at decreasing anxiety when given daily, and while you may see a change on day 1, they will reach peak effect in 6 weeks. They are based on the milk protein casein, which is one of the factors that promotes relaxation in newborns after nursing.
ProQuiet is a bit less potent than Zylkene and Solliquin, but it's meant to be given several hours before a trigger event instead of every day. It is full of l-tryptophan, the same amino acid that makes us calm after a turkey dinner.
4. Medicate if needed
There's no shame in needing a little more chemical help for our pets. We can't explain to them that the fireworks will be done shortly, and a safe calming medication prevents the wind-up of fear and adrenaline. Talk to your veterinarian about which medication is best for your pet - there are a number of options, and the treatment plan should be made with your pet's specific health status and fear response in mind. Medications used for situational anxiety include diazepam, alprazolam, lorazepam, and sileo. They must be prescribed by a veterinarian, so plan enough time to have your pet seen for an appointment if needed before getting the medication.
So with these strategies, we can help our pets have a calm, safe 4th of July - and maybe weather the summer thunderstorms a little more easily too.
Spring went by in the blink of an eye this year and it's HOT outside. Here are 3 tips to keep your 4-legged friends cool and comfortable - and out of the emergency room.
#1: NEVER - and I mean NEVER EVER - leave your pet in the car
I know you're only running into the store for 1 thing and it'll just take a minute, you promise. Or you just need to sign your kid out from school. But then there's a line at checkout or your kid has to say goodbye to her friend - and your dog has now collapsed in the back seat. Don't believe me? A quick google search finds hundreds of news stories of dogs (and children) killed in cars - including highly trained police K-9's and well-meaning owners who knew the danger, left the a/c running, but still lost their pets when it malfunctioned. Contrary to popular belief, cracking the windows has minimal effect on the temperature inside the car.
Heat stroke is real, and I don't want to treat it this summer. While in the best case we can revive our furry friend, most of the time their organs have shut down and we can't get them back. Too many dogs have died inside cars. Don't let yours join the list.
#2: Provide relief from the heat
Bring dogs and cats inside with you during the heat of the day. If you're enjoying that a/c, chances are your pet will enjoy laying on the vents. When outside, provide shade and plenty of cool water to drink. Many dogs won't drink once their water gets hot, so change the water frequently and use ice cubes to help keep it cool longer. Dogs out on tethers can get tangled and trapped out in the sun, so make sure they are supervised and have access to shade and greenery. Kiddie pools with water and even ice can be a fun backyard water activity for dogs as well as humans.
A note on grooming: unless you own a breed that is routinely shaved, resist the temptation to shave your dog for the summer. Brushing to remove matts and dead hair, including the undercoat in double-coated dogs, allows air to circulate under the guard hairs of the coat and actually keeps your pet cooler than being shaved. It also protects against sunburn. Dogs with sparse fur on their noses or ears can benefit from sunscreen. There are pet-specific products available, or pick a human one with broad spectrum (both UVA and UVB) that does NOT contain zinc. If your dog licks too much of the zinc sunscreen it can cause anemia.
#3: Plan your day around the weather
Snub-nosed dog owners, take heed. Bulldogs, pugs, and Boston terriers are especially susceptible to overheating because of their narrow airways, but any overweight or older pet is also at risk. Take your walks in the early morning or late evening, and avoid exercise in the heat of the day.
Think about the ground - remember the last time you walked barefoot on a hot sandy beach? Asphalt roads and concrete sidewalks can heat up under the summer sun and cause burns to your pup's unprotected feet. Plan for morning excursions before the temperatures get too high, or choose grassy paths that are less likely to be scorching hot.
With these 3 tips, you and your pets can enjoy a safe and active summer. Enjoy!