If you own a pet chances are that you’ve heard the term “Heartworm” a few times, but how much do you really know? This article is intended to answer the most common questions about heartworm disease and prevention.
What are Heartworms? Heartworms are exactly what they sound like, worms that live in the heart. They can be found all across America and can become a dangerous, potentially deadly problem. Heartworm disease in the past has been more prevalent in the south but in recent years veterinarians have seen an increase in the number of heartworm cases. Heartworms are spread by mosquitos, meaning that all pets can be exposed, even if they are indoor only. In fact, a heartworm study showed that 1 in 4 cats infected were indoor cats.
So what happens if your pet tests positive? The good news is that, if caught early, the treatment is typically successful in dogs. Unfortunately the treatment can be quite expensive and can takes months until the infection is completely cleared. The treatment for heartworm disease is a mixture of oral medications and injections to kill the bacteria and adult worms that may be living inside your pet. Due to the dangerous nature of the infection your pet may need to stay in the hospital for observation while the treatments are administered. During this entire process you pet must also be under activity restriction so as not to excite them while the worms are being killed off. (For more detailed information on the treatment of heart disease go to www.heartwormsociety.org)
Unfortunately for cats there is currently no treatment.
The best way to deal with Heartworms is to prevent them in the first place! There are several different brands of preventatives available on the market today. All preventatives require a prescription by a veterinarian, if you find a product that claims to prevent heartworms over the counter do not purchase it! Your veterinarian will need to test your pet prior to starting them on preventatives and most veterinarians will still require a heartworm test yearly or bi-yearly even if your pet has been on preventatives. Due to the life cycle of the parasite the preventatives are given monthly. If your pet has missed 1-2 doses of heartworm prevention they must be retested before restarting the medication. It is also recommended by most veterinarians that your pet stay on preventatives year round. Even in northern states where cold weather is common pets have tested positive for heartworm disease. Some mosquito species can adapt to live through the cold, leaving your pets at risk year-round.
Speak to your veterinarian today about how to protect your pet from heartworm disease!
Most veterinarian recommend a wellness exam be done on your pet at least once a year. They may want to see your pet every 6 months if you have a senior pet or a pet with chronic conditions. What makes these visits so important? Preventative care is the care your pet receives to prevent disease or illness. Seeing your pet yearly allows us to catch problems early, before they develop into serious or sometimes life-threatening conditions. It also allows your veterinarian to have a “baseline” for what is normal for your pet.
So, what will occur at your pet’s wellness visit? Your veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical exam, listen to your pet’s chest and look in their ears, eyes and mouth. Most veterinarians will recommend that you bring a stool sample to send to the laboratory. Internal parasites can be picked up on and off throughout your pet’s life and some parasites may be transmissible to humans. Your veterinarian will test your pet for heartworms either yearly or every other year depending on if your pet is on monthly preventatives. Heartworms are spread by mosquitos and can develop into a life- threatening infestation, so it is important to test for them regularly. Depending on your pet’s age you may be asked to send bloodwork to the laboratory. It is important to monitor your pet’s internal health and monitor changes in your pet’s blood values from year to year. Your pet will also receive any vaccines that are due. If your pet has a history of vaccine reactions be sure to tell the receptionist when scheduling the appointment and the technician or doctor when you arrive. Most pets experience little to no side effects from their vaccines. The most common side effect is mild lethargy after the visit.
Don’t forget that your pet’s wellness exam is also a good time to bring up any concerns you may have to the doctor! Come prepared to your visit with any questions or concerns you may have about your pet. It’s also helpful to remember what medications and food your pet is on. If you have trouble remembering, try taking a picture of the food bag or bringing the medication bottles with you.
Wellness exams and preventative care are a large part of what keeps our pets happy and healthy throughout their lives. It has been shown that early diagnosis and treatment, the principal benefits of regular examinations, can dramatically slow progression of conditions such as renal disease, osteoarthritis, and periodontal disease. Call the office to schedule a wellness appointment for your pets today!
10 COMMON PET TOXINS
Every year thousands of pets are presented to emergency hospitals to be treated for various conditions relating to toxin ingestion. What many people might not know is that many of these toxic substances are commonly found in the home. This is why we consider it so important to educate pet owners about the potentially harmful substances that could be hiding in plain sight.
Many people are already aware that dogs cannot eat chocolate, but this is one of the most common pet toxins that veterinarians see. Clinical signs can be seen within 6-12 hours after ingestion. The most common clinical signs are vomiting and diarrhea, increased thirst, panting or restlessness, excessive urination, and a racing heart rate. In severe cases, muscle tremors, seizures, and heart failure can be seen. A general rule of thumb is that the darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is.
One of the less commonly known toxins, grapes and raisins have been found to cause kidney failure even in small amounts. While the exact substance that causes the kidney failure to occur is unknown there have been several studies linking the ingestion of grapes to kidney injury. Affected dogs develop anuric renal failure within 72 hr of ingestion of grapes or raisins. A clear dose-response relationship has not been determined, but as few as 4–5 grapes were implicated in the death of an 18-lb (8.2-kg) dog. Most affected dogs develop vomiting and/or diarrhea within 6–12 hr of ingestion of grapes or raisins. Other signs include lethargy, anorexia, abdominal pain, weakness, dehydration, polydipsia, and tremors (shivering).
Xylitol is a common sweetener found most often in sugar free chewing gum. Xylitol ingestion has become a much larger problem in recent years with artificial sweeteners becoming more and more common. Xylitol can also be found in peanut butter, sugar free fruit drinks, tooth paste and sugar free candies. After xylitol ingestion, vomiting is usually the initial sign. Hypoglycemia may develop within 30 to 60 minutes. However, in some cases of xylitol gum ingestion, hypoglycemia may be delayed for up to 12 hours. The clinical signs may progress rapidly from lethargy to ataxia, collapse, and seizure. Recently, the ASPCA APCC has had reports of some dogs developing elevated liver enzyme activity within 12 to 24 hours after xylitol ingestion. Several of these dogs developed acute liver failure after xylitol exposure.
Ibuprofen is an over the counter anti-inflammatory medication. Most homes have Ibuprofen in the cabinet, while this drug is safe for humans it is actually very harmful to our pets. The clinical signs of Ibuprofen ingestion include vomiting, diarrhea, bloody feces, blood in vomit, nausea, lack of appetite, weight loss, gastric (stomach) ulcers and perforation, increased thirst, increased urination, decreased or lack of urine, seizures, incoordination, coma and death. Even one pill can be toxic to a cat or small dog. **Always consult your veterinarian before giving any over the counter medications to your pets! Medications that are safe for humans can be fatal in small animals!**
Lilies are a common house plant especially around the holidays. They are also extremely toxic to cats. Cats can be affected by ingesting 1-2 petals, pollen or even the vase water! Clinical signs of lily ingestion occur 6-12 hours after ingestion and incude Malaise, anorexia, vomiting, dehydration, renal pain, renal failure, and death. Lily ingestion must be treated as soon as ingestion is known. A good general rule of thumb is to not allow lilies in the house if there are cats in the family.
Plants in the Azalea family are also of concern for both cats and dogs. Ingestion of a few leaves or flowers, or even the nectar of the plant can be enough to cause clinical signs. Clinical signs can occur 1-12 hours after ingestion and can include Hypersalivation, vomiting, diarrhea, bradycardia (low heart rate) or tachycardia (increased heart rate), arrhythmias, hypotension, tremors, seizures and transient blindness.
With the influx of legal marijuana in the United States it is necessary to discuss marijuana toxicity in our pets. While marijuana is relatively safe in humans that is not the case in our small animals. The toxic amount varies by route of exposure and dryness of the plant (dry marijuana is more toxic). Clinical signs can occur minutes to 12 hours after exposure depending on whether the marijuana has been inhaled or eaten. Clinical signs include vomiting, weakness, ataxia, depression or agitation, mydriasis, bradycardia (low heart rate), Increased or decreased temperature, tremors and seizures. An ingestion of a large amount of marijuana can cause death. **Always be honest with your veterinarian. If your pet has ingested an illegal drug the doctor must know what it was in order to save your pet! Veterinarians are NOT required by law to report drug use.**
8. Bromethalin rodenticide
Brotmethalin rodenticide can be found in a variety of products used to kill mice and rats. This type of rodenticide is specifically made to target the neurologic system. Higher doses result in clinical signs within 4–36 hr of exposure, these signs include hyperexcitability, muscle tremors, grand mal seizures, hindlimb hyperreflexia, CNS depression, hyperthermia, and death. At lower doses clinical signs may not appear for up to 7 days after exposure. Initial signs may include depression, hindlimb weakness or paresis, decreased propioception, ataxia, and possible tremors. Cats typically develop the low dose symptoms regardless of the amount ingested.
9. Anticoagulent rodenticide (Warfarin and Congeners)
This rodenticide is formulated to prevent the clotting of blood. When ingested by an animal, anticoagulants block the synthesis of vitamin K, an essential component for normal blood clotting, which results in spontaneous and uncontrolled bleeding. Normally, dogs that have mild anticoagulant poisoning will not show signs of poisoning for several days, but as the poison begins to affect the system, the dog will become weak and pale due to blood loss. The bleeding may be external; this may be displayed as a nose bleed, bloody vomit, or bleeding from the rectum. Dogs can also suffer from unseen internal bleeding; bleeding into the chest or abdomen, for example, is fatal if it not diagnosed in time.
10. Ethylene Glycol (Antifreeze)
The widespread availability of antifreeze, its sweet taste and small minimum lethal dose, and the lack of public awareness of the toxicity contribute to the frequency of this intoxication. It may also be ingested more frequently in cold weather due to it being the only liquid available to drink. Ethylene glycol poisoning is divided into three stages:
Stage 1: (within 30 minutes of ingestion): The signs include lethargy, vomiting, incoordination, excessive urination, excessive thirst, hypothermia (low body temperature), seizures, and coma.
Stage 2: 12 to 24 hours after ingestion: Some of the signs seem to dramatically improve, luring pet owners into a false sense of security. However, during this stage, dogs become dehydrated, and develop an elevated breathing and heart rate.
Stage 3: (36-72 hours after ingestion): At this stage, signs of severe kidney dysfunction, which is characterized by swollen, painful kidneys and the production of minimal to no urine, may occur. Progressive depression, lethargy, lack of appetite, vomiting, seizures, coma, and death may be seen.
It is essential that your pet be seen immediately if there is even a small possibility of ethylene glycol ingestion. The success of treatment relies heavily on early intervention.
If your pet ingests any of the substances on this list or if you are unsure if your pet has ingested something toxic please call the ASPCA poison control hotline at 1-888- 426-4435. It is always recommended that your pet be seen BEFORE clinical signs begin. Do not wait until your pet is sick to bring them into the hospital.
Hitting the road with your pet for the holidays, a vacation, or just a quick getaway doesn’t have to be stressful. With the right provisions, taking your pet along is not only easy, but a fun and bonding experience. Here are tips for traveling by car with pets.
Should Your Pet Travel? This is the first thing to take into consideration, as your pet’s safety and well-being is of extreme importance. If your pet is ill, injured, gets nervous, or has any condition that will make travel uncomfortable for him/her, it may be in his/her best interest to leave him/her at home with a trusted caretaker.
- Healthy Start: The last thing you need is a sick pet while traveling. This means a visit to the vet for a medical checkup and to ensure that your pet is up-to- date with all necessary vaccinations. The veterinarian can also issue a health certificate for your pet. If you and your pet will be traveling across state lines, you must obtain a recent health certificate and a certificate of rabies vaccination. If your plans include traveling with your pet from the United States to Canada, you will need to bring along a certificate issued by a veterinarian that clearly identifies the animal and certifies that your pet has been vaccinated against rabies within the past 36 month period. Be sure to contact the government of the province you plan to visit as each province has its own requirements.
- Plan for Restraint: Have a plan for how you’re going to properly restrain your pet in your vehicle. This is a crucial element of pet travel that is not taken seriously enough. The reality is that hundreds of pets are injured or even killed each year because they are allowed free reign in cars, trucks, RVs, and SUVs. Even more real is the toll in human life and property damage caused when an “enthusiastic” animal distracts a driver, leading to an accident. Vehicle pet barriers, pet seat belts, pet car seats, and pet travel crates are all excellent ways to keep your pet (and you) safe when traveling in your vehicle. It’s important to familiarize your pet with the vehicle restraint of choice weeks or months before traveling so that they are comfortable.
- Temporary ID Tag: In the unfortunate event that your pet runs off while you’re traveling, a temporary identification tag, along with a photo of your pet will help ensure their safe return. Attach a temporary ID tag to your pet’s collar in addition to their permanent tag. Include the address and phone number of where you’ll be staying along with your cell phone number and perhaps your email address. This is one of the most important aspects of traveling with your pet, but also one of the most overlooked. In addition, bring along a current photo of your pet. A photograph will make it easier for others to help you find your lost pet.
- Packing Essentials: When packing for your pet include an ample supply of your pet’s food. Don’t rely on stopping along the way to pick up their food or picking it up at your final destination. Their particular brand of food may not be readily available, and it is not advisable to introduce your pet to a new brand of food while traveling. Other essentials to pack for your pet include collapsible travel food and water bowls, bedding, litter and litter box, leash, collar and tags, favorite toys, grooming supplies, a pet first-aid kit and any necessary medications. And of course – be sure to always have an ample supply of water available for your pet.
- Secure Pet Friendly Accommodations: If you’re planning a long journey and will need to stay in pet friendly accommodations on the way to your final destination, be sure to secure these accommodations before you hit the road. Map out where you’ll be spending the night and arrange for lodging along the way.
- Medical Records: In case of a medical emergency while traveling, it is advisable to bring along your pets medical records along with your vet’s contact information should they be needed for consultation.
Hitting the Road
- No Heads Out the Window: Although many pets find that sticking their head out the window is the best part of the road trip, it’s not safe. Your pet can easily be injured by flying debris. This should go without saying, but NEVER travel with a pet in the back of a pickup truck. Some states have laws restricting such transport and it is always dangerous.
- Frequent Pit Stops: Always provide frequent bathroom and exercise breaks. Most travel service areas have designated areas for walking your pet. Be sure to stay in this area particularly when you pet needs a potty breaks and of course, bring along a bag to pick up after your pet. When outside your vehicle, make sure that your pet is always on a leash and wearing a collar with a permanent and temporary travel identification tag.
- Proper Hydration: During your pit stops be sure to provide your pet with some fresh water to wet their whistle. Occasionally, traveling can upset your pet’s stomach. Take along ice cubes, which are easier on your pet than large amounts of water.
- Watch the Food Intake: It is recommended that you keep feeding to a minimum during travel. Be sure to feed them their regular pet food and resist the temptation to give them some of your fast food burger or fries (that never has a good ending).
- Don’t Leave Them Alone: Never leave your pet unattended in a parked vehicle. On warm days, the temperature in your vehicle can rise to 120 degrees in minutes, even with the windows slightly open. In addition, an animal left alone in a vehicle is an open invitation to pet thieves.
- Practice Restraint: Be sure that your pet is safely restrained in your vehicle. Utilizing a pet safety harness, travel kennel, vehicle pet barrier, or pet car seat are the best ways to keep your pet safe. They not only protect your pet from injury, but they help by keeping them from distracting you as you drive. A safety harness functions like a seatbelt. While most pets will not have a problem adjusting to it, you may want to let them wear the harness by itself a few times before using it in the vehicle. If your pet prefers a travel kennel, be sure it is well ventilated and stabilized. Many pet owners prefer vehicle barriers, particularly for larger pets. Vehicle barriers are best suited for SUVs. Smaller pets are best suited for pet car seats. The car seat is secured in the back seat using a seat belt and your pet is secured in the car seat with a safety harness. In addition to its safety features, a pet car seat will prop up your smaller pet, allowing them to better look out the window. No matter what method you choose, back seat travel is always safer for your pet.
- Safe and Comfortable: Whatever method you choose to properly restrain your pet in your vehicle, be sure to make their comfort a priority. Just as it’s important for your seat to be comfortable for your long road trip, your pet’s seat should be comfortable too. Typically, their favorite blanket or travel bed will do the trick. There are also some safe and very cozy pet car seats available that your pet may find quite comfy