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.
It's hard to concentrate in the midst of a global pandemic, but spring is bringing back all the usual pests and our pets need protection. So to keep your pets safe from disease-carrying fleas and ticks, here's what you need to know - we've put it into the mnemonic that's top of mind these days.
So by following the tips above you can keep your pets free of fleas and ticks this year - and give yourself one less thing to stress over. Questions about your particular pet? Just give us a call at 513-791-7912 and we'll be happy to discuss the best product for your individual situation.
COVID-19 has swept the globe and changed our lives.
The novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 originated in a wild animal market in China in December 2019 and has rapidly traversed the globe, causing over 2 million human illnesses to date. Many countries have implemented stay-at-home orders to distance us from each other to slow the transmission and save lives. For some pets, this is the best time of their lives. They have you home all day and are getting all the extra attention and playtime they've always wanted. For others, they are overwhelmed and desperately in need of their mid-day naps. They sense our anxiety but can't understand the cause. So first, take a moment to pause and observe your pets' behavior. If you see signs of stress - lack of appetite, pacing, panting, destructive behaviors, change to play, loss of training - follow these tips to soothe your pet.
Can pets get COVID-19?
Research is ongoing, but at this time there is no evidence that our pets can get seriously ill from this coronavirus. The virus that causes Covid-19 can infect cats and ferrets, but this is only happening rarely. The tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo in New York displayed mild respiratory signs after their exposure from an asymptomatic person who had contact with them. Researchers have also shown that cats can spread the virus to other cats, but at this time there is no evidence that a cat can give the virus to a person. So there is no reason to isolate yourself from your cat or ferret during this pandemic. (Update 5/7/20 - there are a couple dogs who have also tested positive for Covid-19 and displayed mild respiratory signs. So far the dogs do not seem to be contagious to other dogs, nor are they able to spread it back to a person.)
If you are well, continue to interact with your pets just as you normally would, practicing good hygiene and handwashing.
If you are ill with Covid-19, it is prudent to ask another person to take over care of your pet. This is mostly because your pet can act as a vector to carry the virus to another person. If you have a service animal or are the sole caretaker, avoid kissing or hugging your pet while you are ill. Wash your hands before and after feeding or interacting with your pet and wear a facemask to limit the spread of virus particles when you cough.
More information can be found at these sites:
Covid-19 FAQs for pet owners from the AVMA
For human health:
The State of Ohio's coronavirus page
The Center for Disease Control Covid-19 page
Old age can cause challenges whether you have 2 legs or 4. Here are some simple steps you can take to make your older pet's daily life more comfortable and maximize the enjoyable moments.
Maintain a healthy weight
Being over- or under-weight can both be a problem for the senior pet. Work with us to adjust your pets' feeding schedule so that we can optimize lean muscle mass, decrease the stress of obesity on joints, and make sure your pet has the reserves he or she needs to fight illness.
The novel coronavirus outbreak has many people worried for their health and the health of their families and pets. Concerned owners in China have even started putting face masks on their cats when outdoors to minimize the risk of exposure. Should you be worried about your pet? In a word, no.
The current outbreak is caused by a novel coronavirus named Sars-CoV-2, that causes a disease known as COVID-19. As of February 18, the World Health Organization reports it has infected over 73,000 people and caused almost 1900 deaths. That's a lot of people, but let's put it in perspective: the CDC estimates that there have been at least 26,000,000 (yes, million) cases of influenza since October 2019 and at least 14,000 deaths this season here in the United States alone. Companion animals like cats and dogs don't become ill from COVID-19, but it is conceivable that they could carry the virus from one person to another. So a person infected with COVID-19 should minimize contact with their pets to protect other people in the household.
The best protection against viruses is to wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your nose and mouth, and use alcohol-based hand sanitizers after touching public objects (like doorknobs). Stay home if you are ill, and if you are coughing or sneezing in public cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or your elbow to minimize the spray.
But what about other coronaviruses?
Dog Coronavirus Infections:
Cat Coronavirus Infection:
We like to find healthy teeth under a small amount of tartar, with healthy gums that are pink and sharp-edged. Dental xrays will show us healthy roots and bone. These procedures are the shortest and least invasive, and our pets wake refreshed with healthy mouths and fresh breath. An optional dental sealant provides up to 6 months of extra protection against periodontal disease.
- gingivitis: swollen red gums
- pockets: when infection travels along the tooth root under the gum line
- root exposure: chronic infection leads to loss of gum and bone
- loose teeth: this is the end stage of periodontal disease, when the supporting structures around the tooth have been destroyed by infection
- tongue or cheek ulcers or wounds
- growths: lumps inside the mouth can be either cancerous or non-cancerous, and biopsy is required to tell the best course of treatment
- swollen tonsils or lymph nodes
- foreign objects: we've removed hair, pieces of acorn, and even sticks!
- laryngeal changes: some patients develop problems with the soft tissues around their larynx as they age, leading to swallowing or breathing changes
After we've done our job, it's up to you. Daily home care will keep your pet's mouth healthy.
- Dental diets: Hill's T/D is specially created so that each kibble mechanically scrapes the teeth rather than shattering as your pet chews
- Dental chews: There are many available brands. Look for the VOHC seal on the packaging and always watch your pet while they enjoy their chew. We recommend CET HEXtra chews, CET Veggiedent chews, or Oravet dental hygiene chews.
- Daily brushing: Brush your dog or cat's teeth every day with an enzymatic toothpaste like the CET enzymatic toothpaste. Learn how - click on the video!
Resolution #1: 5 more minutes of play
Even just 5 extra minutes of active play makes a difference in your pet's mental and physical health. Throwing a ball, taking a walk or teaching a new trick are good ways to engage your dog. Cats may not retrieve toys but will usually walk to eat kibble tossed in front of them at mealtimes (one piece at a time, folks). Laser pointers, feather dancers, and toys that move on their own can be stimulating for cats. Birds will enjoy paper boxes to shred and foraging toys. Extra bonus - you'll move yourself as well as your pet, and get those creative juices flowing to keep them engaged.
You'll need a measuring cup and 5 minutes to start this one. I hate to break it to you, but those labels on the back of the food bags usually overestimate the amount of food your pet needs. A basic rule of thumb is that a healthy weight spayed or neutered indoor cat or small dog needs roughly 20 calories per pound. Talk to us about your pet's specific needs, because our pets are individuals and the estimates are only starting points. Overweight sedentary pets may need significantly fewer calories while active pets will need more. Carefully monitor weight and body condition after changing the diet to ensure that your pet is fed properly. Check out the Pet Nutrional Alliance calculators or look at the tables by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association for dogs or cats to get the number of calories to start with. Your pet's food should have a calories per cup or can somewhere on the bag, usually near the ingredients. Then you can do the math. If you like giving treats, here's permission: 10% of the calories can come from treats. For example:
- my 60lb dog needs roughly 1000 calories according to the chart, or 1167 according to the calculator
- my Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diet DRM is 418 calories/cup
- 1000 / 418 = 2.4 cups or 1176 / 418 = 2.75 cups - this is your starting point
- I have been feeding Cooper 2.5 cups per day, or 1,045 calories of kibble, with a 190 calorie dental chew 3 days/week. Don't forget to add in dental chew calories - as you can see, a single chew is more than Cooper's 10% treat allowance! I balance that by not using one every day. Since Cooper is maintaining his weight and muscle mass, I know that I have his calorie needs in balance
- I ignore the bag, which recommended 2.75-3.5 cups per day for a 60lb dog
Resolution #3: Weekly once-overs
Think of this as petting with purpose, and a chance to bond with your pet. Once a week, run your hands over your pet's entire body. You're feeling for anything out of the ordinary or asymmetric. This is your chance to find anything from a mat in the fur to a new skin bump to realizing that one leg more muscle than the other or that a joint is swollen. Lift the ear flaps to look and smell - any brown gunk or odor? Clean off any eye goobers, using a wet washcloth to moisten dried out crusts so you don't rip the fur. Lift the lips and look at the teeth - any red angry gumlines, lumps, or brown tartar? Here is your chance to catch little things while they're still little and easier to fix.
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.
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.
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.
What is a hairball?
Cats are self-grooming creatures, so they ingest hair on a daily basis as part of their normal routine. They may also groom their friends and ingest hair from housemates. Have you ever noticed how rough your cat's tongue is? Those tiny papillae point backwards and help the cat catch loose hair and untangle knots. They also prevent the cat from spitting out most of this hair, so instead they move hair towards the back of the mouth to be swallowed. Most of this hair will pass through the GI tract uneventfully and be passed in the stool. Sometimes the hair accumulates in the stomach or esophagus, leading to a hairball. When enough hair is trapped in the stomach it will often trigger the urge to vomit. Bringing up a hairball is usually an active process for most cats. They may make noise, hack, retch, or cough before bringing up the hair. A healthy hairball can be anywhere from 1-5 inches long, and is usually tube shaped from coming up the esophagus. The fluid around the hairball can range from clear to yellow to green to brown and still be normal. It will depend on how recently your cat ate and drank.
How many hairballs are normal?
Healthy cats can bring up a hairball on a weekly basis. Some will do so much less frequently (or never), and some cats will increase their hairballs during their twice yearly major shedding cycles. Cats who are distressed by their hairballs, vomit repeatedly, or bring up hairballs more than once a week should see the veterinarian.
Thankfully, there are several things you can do to make your cat's hairballs less frequent.
- Brush your cat. Less loose hair = less hair ingested = less hair to vomit up. Long-haired cats afflicted by hairballs will benefit from being shaved.
- Feed a hairball-specific diet. Science Diet Hairball Control, Purina Proplan Hairball Management, and Royal Canin Hairball Care cat foods all use proprietary fiber blends to catch the hair and pull it through the GI tract so it can be passed in the stool rather than vomited back up.
- Use a hairball remedy. Laxatone by Vetroquinol is a tasty gel that comes in tuna and maple flavors. It acts as a lubricant that coats the hair and allows it to pass through the GI tract
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.
- Anti-coagulant: these are the oldest type of baits and prevent blood clotting. They interfere with Vitamin K's role in the clotting cascade, eventually causing bleeding and death. Examples include Warfarin, Diphacinone, Bromadialone, and Brodifacoum. The latter two are single dose because they bind irreversibly to an enzyme and get stored in the liver, so the animal is affected long after eating the bait. Vitamin K can be used to reverse the effect of many of these baits, and your veterinarian will monitor your pet's clotting times closely to determine how long treatment is required. Unfortunately, the EPA banned the use of several anti-coagulants because of toxicity concerns, so the poison manufacturers moved on to chemicals with no antidote:
- Bromethalin: one of the most common types of bait currently available in the US is a neurotoxin. It causes nerve cells to swell, increasing the pressure in the brain. This leads to seizures, paralysis, and death. Unfortunately, there is no antidote to bromethalin when our pets are exposed. Treatment is limited to decontamination by inducing vomiting if the exposure was within the past 4 hours and giving repeated doses of activated charcoal to try the bind the toxin as it circulates through the intestines. Neurologic signs can develop within 7 days of exposure. These can include weakness, trouble walking, seizures, and death. These pets usually need to be hospitalized and medications given to decrease the pressure in the brain. Pets with mild signs can sometimes recover, but unfortunately those with severe signs will often die from their exposure.
- Cholecalciferol: Vitamin D3. The popular bait d-CON now uses cholecalciferol instead of anticoagulants. Vitamin D3 is important in the body for calcium retention, and an overdose causes levels of calcium and phosphorus to soar. This leads to mineralization of organs and rapid kidney failure. Signs of cholecalciferol poisoning usually take 1-2 days to occur, by which time the damage can be permanent and sometimes fatal. Signs to watch for include increased thirst and urine, vomiting, weakness, lethargy, decreased appetite, and lack of urine in the end stages. It is crucial that cholelciferol exposure be treated immediately to preserve your pet's kidneys.
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:
- wobbly gait, acting drunk
- vomiting and/or diarrhea
- urinating more
- rapid heart rate
- depression, acting dull, or coma
How to keep your pets safe:
- Purchase antifreeze with the safe propylene glycol instead of the toxic ethylene glycol
- Keep antifreeze in closed containers out of reach of pets
- Dispose of used antifreeze properly
- Clean any spills immediately to prevent pet contact