I'm not sure there's anything redeeming about ticks. They crawl, they bite, and they carry diseases. Thankfully there are some easy ways to just say no to ticks this spring - and all year long.
Here's what you need to know to keep your pets (and your family) safe from ticks.
As you can see, there are a number of effective options available. Some are available in pet stores, others through your veterinarian.
Found a tick? Now what?
Gross - you just found a tick. First, take a deep breath and don't panic. Next, how to remove a tick: grab a pair of tweezers, firmly grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, and pull straight out. This applies to ticks on people as well as pets. The goal is to get the tick's head and mouthparts out if possible. Do NOT pour alcohol on the tick or try to burn it - those techniques just make the tick regurgitate more into the wound and increase disease transmission. Do save the tick and send a photo of it to the folks at tickencounter.org for identification. They will let you know what the risks are for that particular species, and then you can decide whether to pay to have your tick tested for diseases.
Watch for illness - watch your pet closely for lethargy, fever, limping, swollen joints, bruising, or changes to thirst or urination. These are signs of several of the tick-transmitted infections like Lyme disease or Ehrlichiosis. Seek veterinary care quickly if your pet becomes ill.
Test for disease - make sure your veterinarian screens your dog every year for the most common tick diseases, even if you've been using prevention. This can usually be done with a few drops of blood right in the office. A positive result means your pet has been exposed to the organism, and further testing is needed to see if treatment is recommended.
April is First Aid Awareness Month, so here are the essentials - and how to use them - for your first aid kit.
The essential pet first aid kit:
What to do if your pet is choking:
A choking pet will have difficulty breathing, may paw or rub at his or her face or mouth, may cough or retch, and may have blue-tinged lips or tongue.
February was Pet Dental Health Month, so we're going to focus on those (hopefully) pearly whites today. Not so pearly or not so white? Probably time for a checkup and professional cleaning. Because even veterinarian's dogs get dental problems too, here's my Truffle's dental story from last month.
There is a new swelling on the left side of her face, underneath her left eye. Trace the jawline and it will become more clear (I'm sorry, she's a black fuzzy dog so photos aren't as obvious). The picture to the far right has the swelling outlined in red.
The most likely cause of a lumpy swelling on the face in dogs is an infected tooth. If the whole face is swelling or the eyes are swollen, think allergic reaction and seek treatment immediately. Unfortunately, tumors are also a possible cause, especially in older pets, so it's important to get a diagnosis quickly to address the problem.
After a week of antibiotics, Truffle's face was almost back to its normal shape. This made a tooth root infection the most likely reason, so we proceeded to dentistry to find the culprit.
This is what Truffle's teeth looked like once she was asleep. The orange tube goes into her airway and is connected to an anesthetic machine giving her oxygen. It allows us to closely adjust how deeply she's asleep and even breathe for her if necessary, and is one of the many precautions we take to ensure safe anesthesia.
Not too bad, right? But on probing carefully around each tooth, I found a pocket in the center of the largest upper molar. We took x-rays:
After the bad tooth was surgically removed, the gum was stitched back together to provide quickest healing time. Here is Truffle's mouth at the end of the procedure.
A week after the dentistry, I let Truffle start chewing on rawhides and dental treats again. Her mouth is pain-free, and the swelling on the side of her face is much improved. She may never be exactly symmetric again, but now she has a chance to heal and the source of the infection is gone for good.
So here's the moral of the story - even teeth that look ok can hide some pretty nasty problems. Have your pets' teeth checked every time they visit the veterinarian, and follow up with an anesthetic dental cleaning if recommended. Scraping the teeth while your pet is awake will miss a problem like Truffle's every time.
Heartworms are scary, and unfortunately, they're here in Cincinnati. We earned the dubious honor of being the city with the fastest growth in the country of new heartworm cases last month. 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 2 - 4 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 - 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
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.
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.