So now that the weather is getting a lot nicer, you want to go outside more, take long walks with your four-legged family members, and have all the outdoor barbecues you can have, right? But what are you going to do about all those pesky insects that try to suck, bite, and sting all the fun out of summer nights? Not only are they a nuisance for you, but they can be just as annoying, and potentially deadly for our pets, too! Read on to learn about some of the various harmful insects, and what you can to combat them and the diseases they can transfer.
Mosquitoes: Passing on Deadly Worms
Mosquito bites are no fun for us, but are even worse for our pets because of something called heartworms. Heartworms are spread through mosquitoes that carry infective larvae, and are a potentially fatal issue for dogs and cats. The heartworm larvae move from the site of the mosquito bite through a host’s body until they reach the heart and lungs. Once they are mature, adult heartworms can get to be 12 inches long, and will cause a significant decrease in blood flow throughout the body. Depending on the severity of the disease, it can possibly lead to death if not taken care of early on.
Heartworm preventatives such as Heartgard, Revolution, and Sentinel are very instrumental in helping before any bite occurs, but getting a heartworm test and treatment at your local AAHA Accredited Veterinary Hospital will absolutely help if your dog or cat already has heartworms. Signs of heartworm disease can include: mild persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after moderate activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss.” These symptoms won’t necessarily show early on in dogs, and in cats they can be very subtle, or very sudden.
Fleas & Ticks: All it Takes is One Bite
Fleas: These tiny brown bugs like to hide in cooler, shady areas like shrubs, trees, and under leaves. Despite not having wings, fleas can jump up to two feet high; so when your dog walks by, that’s when they will hop on, latch in, and start feeding on blood. The danger of fleas is that they can bring about tapeworms, skin infections, and other serious diseases. Combating fleas is as easy as using monthly preventatives such as Frontline or Nexgard, avoiding tall grassy/shady areas when walking, using a flea comb, and washing your pet’s bedding often.
Ticks: Ticks also like to hang out in shady, wooded areas, waiting for an unwary host to attach to. Once they are attached, ticks feed on blood (including you), which means they can directly transmit deadly diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, and babesiosis from just one bite! You can help deter tick bites by also using monthly preventatives, avoiding tall grassy/shady areas when walking, and whenever you are done with your walk make sure to check your dog (and yourself) for any little bumps because it might be a tick!
Bees & Wasps: More than a Sting!
Bee and wasps are a bit easier to avoid because they usually have visible nests and in general they’re the most noticeable bug. If you’ve got a curious pet then you should keep an eye out. Most stings tend to occur on the face or nose because that’s how our pets investigate. They may even get stung in the mouth or throat if they end up catching the bug; and those stings can be dangerous because the poison from the sting can cause the throat to swell. Other severe reactions to look out for include weakness, difficulty breathing and excessive swelling at the sting site. If you see any of these signs you need to go to your veterinarian ASAP. Most of these severe reactions occur with multiple stings, but always give your veterinarian a call and make sure to monitor the reaction to make sure it does not worsen. All cases will be different, so always consult your veterinarian before administering any medication or remedy, such as a weak water/baking soda mixture or an ice pack.
Tips to Decrease Insect Exposure
Ask your veterinarian about monthly Flea/Tick preventatives like oral doses, liquid, and collars.
Close screened windows/doors when inside so flying bugs don’t come inside.
Use bug repellent on yourself, and only pet-safe repellent on your furry friends.
Boarding Team Member
Social Media Coordinator
Many pet owners may not realize that cancer is not just a human disease; it affects our pets as well. In fact, cancer is the leading cause of death in cats and dogs over the age of 10. Since half of all cancers are curable if caught early, it’s important to closely monitor your pet’s health in order to detect early warning signs.
At Home Screening
Diagnosing pet cancer requires a thorough exam by your veterinarian and medical testing, however, at home screening is an excellent regular tool to monitor your pet for a new or changing mass (growth or lump). Here are some steps you can take to screen your pet at home:
- Look at your pet often in a well-lit area and pet all over, feeling under their hair coat.
- Do not to forget to check in the mouth, in the ears, between the toes and under the paws.
- If you find something new take note of the size of the mass you have identified and keep track of when it was first seen.
- Accurate measurements using a ruler are ideal but simply comparing the size to a coin or other object of know size can be helpful as well.
- Take pictures of the mass with an object such as a ruler or a coin within the photo to give reference to size.
Medical Testing Methods
Your veterinarian has several testing methods options that will give your pet the best chance of early detection and early intervention. Knowing the process can greatly help in providing for the health and comfort of your pet.
- Fine needle aspirate – If a mass is detected, a test using a fine needle aspirate will help yield the most information. Commonly referred to as a FNA, the fine needle aspirate involves using a needle and syringe to extract cells from the abnormal area in question. These cells are then analyzed under the microscope to define their type and if they are showing benign or cancerous characteristics. If a mass is defined as benign but, then changes suddenly in size or color, a repeat FNA is a very valuable tool to see if there has been a change that now indicates that the mass should be removed.
- Blood work monitoring – For changes that cannot be seen externally your veterinarian will start with basic blood work monitoring. The slightest change in blood work trends can key your veterinarian in on the need for additional diagnostic work. If there are blood work abnormalities the most common next step is to take radiographs of the suspected area that may be contributing to the change.
- Radiographs – A digital x-ray is an excellent non-invasive screening tool but does have some limitations.
- Ultrasounds – If things are found that are suspicious on radiographs then the use of an ultrasound, to further look at the area in question, can be very helpful. Use of an ultrasound allows your veterinarian to make detailed measurements, as well as direct a fine needle aspirate using the ultrasound to monitor and guide the acquisition of the sample.
Early Detection is Essential
Remember, early detection is key so if you think your pet may be beginning to exhibit signs or symptoms of cancer, you should visit your veterinarian immediately. And don’t overlook the importance of a healthy lifestyle, lots of petting all over and often and regular check-ups by your veterinarian to help keep your pet happy and healthy for a long time!
National Canine Cancer Foundation: http://www.wearethecure.org/more_cancer_facts.htm
AVMA Taking on Cancer: https://www.avma.org/News/JAVMANews/Pages/140115a.aspx
Contributed by Travis Taylor DVM, EMBA, CEO Centreville Animal Hospital
Tick-borne disease agents, intestinal parasites, heartworms . . . these hideous pests are just some of the parasites that can infect our pets, inflicting discomfort, pain, and possibly dangerous illness. Parasites are located nearly everywhere in the environment, so there are many different ways your pet can get infected. Something as simple as eating grass or licking paws after a walk outdoors poses a potential risk of your pet picking up a parasite. So what do you do? Prevention is key.
How Pets Get Infected
Dogs, cats, and other mammals can be exposed to parasites in various ways, starting at birth. These are just some of the most common sources of exposure:
- Puppies can be infected from their mother during pregnancy or nursing.
- Parasite eggs present in soil can get into our homes on the soles of our shoes.
- Potting soil purchased for indoor plants can host parasite eggs.
- Cats and dogs can contract parasites from ingesting rodents, fleas, or other insects.
Parasites such as the worms that infect dogs—including roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and whipworms—live in the intestines, so that’s the first place your vet will look for them. They only shed eggs intermittently, so pets with parasites can have a “healthy” stool sample that doesn’t reveal any evidence of parasites. If left unchecked, parasites can stay undetected for a long time. It is crucial to test for parasites at least once a year and to give your pet a monthly heartworm preventive that also treats and controls intestinal parasites. Puppies and kittens should always be dewormed.
Symptoms of Infection
It is very important to know whether any of your pets may be carrying parasites. This is not only to avoid illness in your pet, but also to avoid transmission to family members. As carriers of zoonotic disease (disease that can be passed to humans from animals), parasites can cause serious problems in people, such as blindness—especially in children (roundworms), and migration under the skin (hookworms). Below are some of the symptoms to look out for in your pet:
- weight loss
Heartworms are a type of internal parasite that lives in the major blood vessels of the lungs. Their name comes from the fact that in severe cases they can migrate to the heart. Heartworms are transmitted to animals by mosquitoes, making heartworm disease endemic in this area (it is always present in our local environment due to our climate and wildlife). Dogs are especially at risk because they frequently encounter mosquitoes outdoors, but animals that stay inside (inside cats and dogs) can also be infected. As most of us know from our own experience, mosquitoes can easily get inside our homes. Currently, there is no feline heartworm treatment available, and treatment in dogs can be quite costly. Heartworms are fatal if not detected before they enter the advanced stages of the disease.
Treatment and Prevention
In the case of many kinds of worms, treatment is given orally (by mouth) or in a shot. Many of these drugs are considered “broad-spectrum” because they’re effective in treating a wide range of parasites, including worms that live in the gut. This is the case for many monthly heartworm preventatives, which contain medication that helps prevent the more common intestinal parasites. Keeping your environment free of dirt, feces, and vermin is another important step in prevention parasites from affecting you and you pets. Standing water outside your home (such as in a bird bath) can attract mosquitoes to come lay their eggs, so eliminating those sources is important.
All pets are at risk of exposure to internal parasites, but there are measures we can take to help protect them, and us. Contact your veterinarian to discuss an individualized parasite prevention program tailored to your own pet’s needs.
Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC): http://www.petsandparasites.org/about-capc/
CAPC brochure: http://www.petsandparasites.org/images/uploads/documents/CAPC_ParaBro_1.11_LR.pdf
Cesar Milan: http://www.cesarsway.com/Heartgard/Intestinal-Parasites
CAH Blog: Parasites: The Hidden Intruders
Centers for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/animals.html
Contributed by Dr. Marsha Pollock, DVM
It’s cold and there’s snow outside, so who’s thinking about fleas, ticks, and heartworms? Well, it might be cold now, but remember a couple of weeks ago when the temperature was in the 60s and you let your pets outside to enjoy some fresh air and sunshine . . .
The fact of it is, dogs and cats can get fleas, ticks, and heartworms almost any time of year in our area, so treatment shouldn’t be seasonal; it should be maintained all year round. Read on to learn more about how these pests survive the cold and why your pet should be treated year-round.
While ideal temperatures for the growth and reproduction of fleas range between 65 and 80 degrees, flea pupae can remain dormant for over a year—cocooned until their surroundings have reached ideal temperatures. As long as an adult flea can find a suitable host to feed from, it can stay warm and healthy throughout the entire cold season. The flea can even survive temperatures in the upper 30s. Anyone who has had a pet with fleas knows that they are not just very unpleasant invaders, but can be very difficult to eliminate once they have established themselves in your home.
Like fleas, ticks are capable of surviving winter temperatures if they can find a suitable host to feed on and use for warmth (i.e., you or your pets). In fact, ticks can comfortably live in temperatures hovering around 45 degrees. Just like for humans, the biggest threat for our pets when it comes to ticks are the diseases they spread, such as Lyme disease. In the Northeast, warmer spring temperatures are leading to an earlier emergence of the blacklegged ticks that carry Lyme disease and other tick-borne pathogens. At the same time, milder weather is allowing ticks to spread into new regions. See the map below. You can also read more about this at http://phys.org/news/2015-02-warmer-world-disease-earlier-ranges.html.
Heartworms live inside a host animal, regardless of the season or temperature. There they mature into adults, mate, and produce offspring. Left untreated, their numbers can increase to as many as several hundred in a single animal’s body. Heartworm disease causes lasting damage to the heart, lungs, and arteries, and can affect the animal’s health and quality of life long after the parasites are gone. It can take up to 6 months for a dog to test positive after it has been infected, so prevention is key. You can read more about the affects of heartworm disease on your pet here.
In an area like ours, where the weather can change from one day to the next, your best bet is to continue monthly treatment for your pet all year round. For fleas and ticks there are a number of different treatments available. While it is hard to make a recommendation that fits all situations, we have seen very good results from the newer-generation oral (taken by mouth) products such as NexGard®. One benefit of orally administered products is that they do not get degraded by bathing or swimming, are much safer in households with young children, and have new active ingredients that fleas and ticks are not yet resistant to.
Heartworm preventatives, such as Heartgard®, Sentinel®, and Revolution® are very effective at preventing heartworms and also treat and prevent some intestinal parasitic diseases like hookworm, roundworm, and whipworm. Each preventative has its own advantages, so we look at each patient’s health and individual risk factors to determine which preventative we recommend.
About Pet Medications
Don’t forget to discuss preventatives with your veterinarian at your pet’s next annual physical, or make an appointment now — before the weather really warms up — to discuss flea, tick, and heartworm prevention. Some veterinarians and animal hospitals allow you to re-order regular medications using an online pharmacy, as we do at Centreville Animal Hospital. In addition to ordering convenience, these sites often offer coupons and specials.
Contributed by Zach Buchanan, Veterinary Assistant
It is officially the 2014–2015 holiday season! Time for thicker jackets, shorter days, and everyone’s favorite: making plans for holiday travel. As pet parents, our worries do not stop at planning our vacation; we also have to worry about where our pets will stay while we are gone.
While some families are lucky enough to have a trusted friend or family member who can tend to all the needs of their pet, that is not an option for many people. Sometimes circumstances don’t allow for a pet sitter, and some animals adapt better to a secure, comforting, and friendly facility then to being left alone. Animals left at home with someone checking on them just a few times a day are more likely to become destructive, risk injury, and have accidents in the house.
So what’s best for you and your pet? Below are some key things to consider—the Who, What, and Where—when leaving your pet in someone else’s care while you are away.
When choosing a caregiver keep your pet’s specific needs in mind. WHO is best suited to meet the specific needs of your pet?
- Who is best equipped to ensure your pet’s daily habits are disrupted as little as possible (eating, sleeping, going to the bathroom, exercising, taking medications, etc.)
- Who can guarantee your pet’s safety?
- Who do you truly trust with your pet’s life?
It can be hard to anticipate everything your pet might need while you are away. WHAT does your pet need in your absence?
- Can all of your pet’s needs be taken care of by a pet sitter, as opposed to multiple staff at a boarding facility?
- What happens if your pet gets injured?
- How will you know if your pet is healthy, comfortable, and relaxed?
While home is familiar to your pet, being left there alone for long periods of time may cause unexpected behaviors or circumstances. WHERE your pet stays matters. Boarding at a facility with trained, knowledgeable staff can guarantee the following:
- You will be informed immediately if anything goes wrong
- Your pet will be staying in the safest possible place when not in your care
- You will know exactly where your pet is at all times, and how he or she is doing
Boarding Facility vs. Kennel
Boarding facilities are commonly misidentified as “kennels.” Many people mistakenly believe these terms are interchangeable, but there are two significant differences between the two types of facilities.
Staff—While kennels and boarding facilities both have the goal of taking good care of animals being housed there, boarding staff—especially those working at a veterinary hospital—are more than just caretakers. Typically 80% of the staff at a veterinary hospital or clinic work there because veterinary medicine is their chosen field. A kennel worker may love animals, but typically does not possess the medical knowledge, experience, and credentials of a professional in the veterinary field.
Facility—While a kennel may be well equipped to provide comfort, exercise, and basic safety for your pet, it does do not have the diagnostic and treatment resources that a veterinary boarding facility has. Should a medical issue arise, a kennel will have to consult with a veterinarian—preferably yours, if they are close by—to arrange for transport and treatment of your pet.
Only you know what is best for your pet and your family, but if you have any doubts, think about what will put you at ease and what kind of environment and care will put your pet at ease as well. At Centreville Animal Hospital we do not take any concerns about our patients lightly. Our primary concern is always the health of our patients and the needs of their owners. The scenario below is just one example of how this approach benefits our overnight clients.
We recently received a call from a cat owner reporting that her 2-year-old male cat had lost interest in eating, and also had a history of bladder infections. Our first suggestion was to bring the cat in to allow us to fully evaluate him. Upon arrival, the owner informed us of the cat’s health issues, and also explained that she was headed out of town and would need to leave her cat with a pet sitter. We recommended that the cat stay with us over the weekend to allow for monitoring in case any other issues were to come up, which his owner opted to do. This turned out to be a very good decision, as on the morning of his second day here we found that he was “blocked,” a very dangerous—and potentially fatal—condition for a cat. Luckily, we were able to immediately unblock him by performing the necessary procedure (from which he recovered well), and we administered the proper medications. He fairly quickly got his appetite back! When his owner came back into town he went home bathed, relaxed from a comfortable stay, and in good health. Had the owner gone away and left the cat in the hands of sitter, the outcome could have been very different.
Centreville Animal Hospital is keenly aware of the anxiety that can come with leaving behind a pet when your family is away from home. Learn more about our boarding services by visiting our website or watching our boarding video. The best way to know if a facility is right for you and your pet is to see it for yourself, so don’t hesitate to request a tour of our boarding facility with one of our boarding assistants.
Contributed by Allison “Ally” Velandria, Boarding Assistant, with her two birds, Zazu and Snowflake, and cat Sassy
(who was not at all pleased with sharing her space with the birds)
During Rabies Awareness Week, we want to remind all pet owners of the importance of vaccinating against this fatal disease (World Rabies Day is Sunday, September 28). Rabies is a virus that is most often transmitted through saliva and bite wounds from an infected animal, and it can affect the brain and spinal cord of all mammals, including dogs, cats, and humans. Vaccination is an easy, inexpensive way to prevent this nightmarish disease.
While the most commonly known symptom of rabies is foaming at the mouth, this is usually not the first sign pet owners will see. (See list of symptoms below.) Since there is no treatment or cure for rabies in animals once symptoms appear, animals who are suspected of having the virus are most often euthanized.
Rabies causes the death of more than 50,000 humans, and millions of animals worldwide, and the disease has been reported in every state in the United States except Hawaii, and everywhere throughout the world except tiny island nations.*
Federal law requires that all dogs and cats be vaccinated for rabies once they are 12 weeks old, and that they stay current on the vaccine for the duration of their lives. Only a vaccine administered by a state licensed veterinarian is considered legal. Your veterinarian will let you know the right vaccination schedule for your pet.
Progression of Rabies Symptoms
- Change in behavior, usually shown by the pet being more reclusive or shy, or a change in the pet’s voice. You may notice excessive licking or scratching the initial bite wound. (1–1.5 days after symptoms start)
- The animal will seem to become fearless and aggressive and may experience hallucinations. When confined, the pet may attack the bars of its cage.
(2–3 days after symptoms start)
- The pet will experience weakness and/or paralysis. Once this stage occurs, death is imminent as the muscles that control breathing will become paralyzed as well.
(4–5 days days after symptoms start)
One of the most difficult aspects of rabies is that it can take up to one year for obvious symptoms to appear. Call your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your pet has been bitten by an animal (especially foxes, skunks, raccoons, bats, and dogs/cats with unknown vaccination status) that could have rabies or is showing any signs of rabies or abnormal behavior.
Even if your pet is up-to-date with vaccinations, if it has been bitten by a possibly rabid animal, it should receive a rabies booster immediately and be kept under observation for a period of time determined by your local public health department.
If an animal that is overdue or not vaccinated for rabies bites you, there are a number of protocols that must be followed, as listed below.
- If the pet has been legally vaccinated for rabies, but is overdue for its booster, it will be quarantined for a period of time (as dictated by the local public health department), observed for symptoms, and vaccinated at the end of the quarantine.
- If the pet has never been vaccinated for rabies more drastic measures must be taken. The pet must be quarantined for up to six months or will be euthanized to allow testing for rabies.
Animal Control officers and veterinarians working together facilitate rabies testing through the state laboratory system. Testing requires a brain tissue sample, which can only be collected from a deceased animal. For more information regarding animal exposure and prevention, speak with one of our veterinarians.
Rabies in People
If you are exposed to rabies, there are a number of things that must be done:
- Clean the wound, as quickly as possible, using warm water and soap for at least 1 minute.
- Report the bite to the health department immediately.
- Get to the hospital for post-exposure treatment. The wound will be flushed with a hyperimmune serum to hopefully counteract the virus before it penetrates the nerves. Then, a number of vaccines will be administered on a regular schedule lasting about 1 month.
For more info regarding human exposure protocols, you can contact the Centers for Disease Control.
Global Alliance for Rabies
Centreville Animal Hospital is donating a portion of the proceeds from rabies vaccinations on Monday, September 29, to Global Alliance for Rabies. This is an organization that is trying to raise awareness of this fatal disease through education and is working to vaccinate animals and people for rabies in endemic regions. Visit our Facebook page for more info: https://www.facebook.com/CentrevilleAnimalHospital.
Contributed by Eric Fogle