When is a mosquito bite more than just an itchy annoyance for your dog, cat, or ferret? When that mosquito is carrying a parasite called heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis). Found in all 50 states but most prevalent in the South and Midwest, heartworms are transmitted from one pet to the next by a mosquito.
Heartworms start as tiny microfilaria that can only be seen under a microscope. Over the next 6 months they lodge in the vessels of the heart and lungs and grow to be over a foot long. Adult heartworms can live in your pet for up to 7 years, and create thousands of baby heartworms that will be transmitted to other pets through new mosquitoes.
Heartworm disease is the syndrome caused by these worms living inside your pet. At the beginning, your dog will not show any signs of illness. Early signs of illness can include decreased activity, decreased appetite, weight loss, and/or mild cough. Over time, the heartworms can cause heart failure, kidney failure, or sudden death. Cats and ferrets can get severe disease from just a couple worms, and unfortunately there is no treatment for heartworm in these pets.
Dogs can be treated for heartworms with a medication called immiticide. This kills the adult heartworms and then your dog's immune system will gradually break down the worms. Treating heartworm is a very time-consuming and expensive process. It must be done gradually, because the dead worms can cause potentially fatal clots. Your dog is absolutely NOT allowed to run during the months of treatment because exercise can dislodge a worm and cause sudden death. In order to decrease this risk, we start with a month of an antibiotic to weaken the worms prior to the immiticide and steroids to decrease the inflammation in the lungs following the American Heartworm Society Guidelines.
So, that's all the bad news. What's the good news?
The good news is that heartworm disease is completely preventable. There are many preventive medications available that stop the baby heartworms from developing into adult disease-causing worms. Adding in mosquito repellent provides another layer of protection.
Everyone raise a paw to happy holidays! Here are some easy ways to keep the furry and feathered family members safe.
#1 Keep the food out of reach
Nothing spoils a meal faster than the dog eating the roast, carving knife and all (yes, that's actually happened). Keep pets away from tempting holiday spreads to prevent everything from a minor bellyache to life-threatening pancreatitis.
Onions, grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, the sweetener xylitol, and chocolate are all toxic to dogs and cats. If your pet gets a hold of food with any of these ingredients, call us and induce vomiting as quickly as possible.
#2 Decorate for pet success
Holiday decorations provide a variety of new smells and tastes for the curious dog, cat, or parrot. Block all access by your inquisitive friend for the safest holiday. Pitfalls include:
Christmas trees - can fall over if pets climb on them or run into them
Christmas tree lights - chewing on the cord can lead to electric shock
Christmas tree water - additives can be toxic if swallowed
Tinsel - cats can become obstructed if they swallow it
Candles - possible fire hazards, and burn risks if knocked over
Ornaments - fragile ornaments will break if knocked over and possibly cut paws and mouths
Decorative plants - lilies, amaryllis, mistletoe, and cedar are all toxic. For a complete list, look at the ASPCA Poison Control's toxic plants for dogs and cats.
#3 Be prepared for visitors and travel
Expecting guests, or a petsitter?
Make sure your pet is identified with a microchip and wearing their collars and tags when you're expecting visitors. That gives them the best chance of returning home if they accidentally get out during the commotion. Keep pets away from the exits while you are occupied collecting coats and belongings for your guests.
Boarding your pet?
Make sure they are up to date on their vaccinations, especially against kennel cough (bordetella) and the canine flu (H3N8 and H3N2 influenza). Also make sure they are protected against fleas and ticks so they don't bring home any unwanted guests.
Interstate and international travel require a health certificate from your veterinarian, usually within 10 days of travel. Check with your airline for any additional paperwork requirements. Be sure to pack sufficient supplies of food and medications, and bring your pet's medical records with you in case of emergency at your destination.
Fall is here, and that means certain wildlife may be trying to make their way into your home to find a cozy spot for the winter. But don't reach for that rat bait just yet - take these simple precautions to keep your pets safe from poisoning.
Rat and mouse bait:
Rodenticides are poisons that kill rodents. They are frequently used to control mice and rats in homes, businesses, and some public areas. Unfortunately, children and pets are susceptible to the same active ingredients, so they are at risk for accidental poisoning. There is no such thing as a "pet-safe" bait. They are designed to smell good to get the rodents to come eat them. I've seen dogs who moved rocks to dig up buried baits, who chewed through heavy plastic bait stations, who opened cabinets to get to refill packs. They are motivated by the smell and have no idea that the delicious treat is designed to kill.
So the bottom line is, if you value your pet's life, DO NOT BRING THESE INTO YOUR HOME. Choose integrated pest management instead. This starts by removing food sources that draw the rodents into your home, blocking the entrances, and using mechanical traps (placed far away from inquisitive paws and noses), glue traps, or live traps to remove the creatures already present. Click the link for more information.
On the other hand, ant and roach baits are rarely toxic to dogs and cats. They may vomit or have mild diarrhea, but ingestion is rarely an emergency. An obstruction can occur, however, if they swallow the plastic or metal casing. If your pet eats an ant or roach bait, call your veterinarian or poison control with the specific active ingredient to verify whether or not any treatment is needed.
Antifreeze is one of the most common pet poisonings in the United States, probably because it's commonly found in most homes. It frequently contains the toxin ethylene glycol, which can have a sweet taste that is attractive to dogs and cats. They will lick it off garage floors if it drips down from the car. The poison causes changes to behavior and quickly progresses to kidney failure.
Signs of antifreeze poisoning include:
How to keep your pets safe:
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.
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
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.
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!
Spring is here! Well, at least according to the calendar - someone better tell the weather! But here are a couple reminders to keep your dogs and cats safe during Easter festivities.
Lastly, remember that baby chicks and bunnies do not make good gifts. They require years of proper care, so make sure you are truly committed and have done your research before making that impulse buy.
So now that you're forewarned, break out the eggs and have a safe Easter for the whole family!