Our furry friends bring us lots of joy; we cuddle with them and treat them like family. They respond by licking our hands and face and showering us with unconditional love and attention. Close contact with our furry bundles of joy can also unknowingly cause microorganisms to be passed along to us, which can cause zoonotic diseases. A zoonotic disease is a disease that can be passed between animals and humans. Read on to learn about some of these common zoonotic maladies, and how to safeguard your pet and family from them.
Leptospirosis is an infectious disease caused by bacteria. It can lead to potentially fatal infections of the kidney, liver, brain, lung or heart. Dogs are most often affected by Lepto. They commonly become infected and develop leptospirosis from exposure to, or drinking from rivers, lakes, or streams.
Humans commonly develop leptospirosis through exposure to the urine or bodily fluids of an infected dog. It’s important that you see your veterinarian so they can recommend vaccines that can effectively protect your dog against many strains of this disease.
Hookworms & Roundworms
Hookworms can be acquired in puppies and kittens from their mother’s milk. They can then be transmitted to humans from your pet’s feces, or from contaminated soil when walking barefoot. Hookworms live in the small intestine and can cause gastrointestinal symptoms and blood loss leading to anemia.
Roundworms are typically acquired by your pet when they eat the infected feces of another animal. They most commonly become transmitted to humans through the ingestion of roundworm eggs from contaminated soil in your garden or backyard.
It’s very important that puppies and kittens be de-wormed as they commonly carry hookworms and/or roundworms. If you suspect your pet has been exposed, you should drop off a stool sample at your local veterinarian for analysis.
Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium that is transmitted to humans and pets through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Blacklegged ticks are also known by the name Ixodes Scapularis, and the common name: Deer ticks. Acute Lyme disease causes fever and lethargy. While Lyme disease cannot be spread directly to you from your pet, they can bring infected ticks into your home or yard. Protect yourself and your pet by asking your veterinarian about tick control products for your pets.
Giardia is a microscopic parasite that can live in the intestines of animals and humans. It is often transmitted through contaminated water and is one of the most common waterborne diseases in the United States. Common signs and symptoms in both dogs and humans include diarrhea, gas, abdominal discomfort, nausea, and vomiting.
Puppies and kittens have a higher risk of illness from Giardia so it is important to not allow them to drink water from areas where other animals may have left their feces. Your veterinarian can test your pet’s feces to see if giardia is present and prescribe a safe, effective treatment for control of the disease.
Safeguarding Measures You Can Take
Contracting a pet-borne disease requires very close contact with your pet or their excretions, so zoonotic diseases can be avoided with these common sense approaches:
- Annual Exams! Make sure your pet gets an annual preventative exam by a licensed veterinarian, including a parasite screening test, and is current on all vaccinations.
- Practice good tick protection! Regularly check for ticks on your pets and the humans around them and ask your veterinarian about tick control products for your pet.
- Pick up the poop! Keep your environment free of feces. Make sure you have a clean yard and litter box at all times.
- Cleanliness! Thoroughly wash vegetables from your garden and hands or other exposed skin that come into contact with soil frequented by pets.
- Fresh, Clean, H20! Avoid drinking improperly treated water.
See Your Veterinarian for Testing & Safe, Effective Treatment
If you suspect that your pet is ill or may be infected take them immediately to an AAHA accredited animal hospital. While information on the internet may provide you with some ideas, only a licensed veterinarian can provide you with an accurate diagnosis.
We are constantly reminded that one year of our pet’s life is equivalent to roughly seven human years, six for larger breeds. As your pet ages they need even more care and attention which is why it’s up to us to modify their veterinary care to keep them happy and healthy in their golden years.
Step-up Vet Visits to Twice a Year
A great way to contribute to your senior pet’s good health is by scheduling regular preventative exams. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends senior pets see their vet every 6 months for a checkup. By visiting your veterinarian twice a year, they are able to identify signs of geriatric diseases earlier, including:
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
Screenings Uncover Hidden Diseases Early
Along with their increasing age come many diseases that commonly affect older pets so regular health screenings are key to catching them in the earlier stages. Proper veterinary care can then help alleviate symptoms and slow progression. Health screenings can also help identify diseases that often go undetected in the earliest stages, such as heart, kidney and liver disease.
Health screenings for a senior pet should occur twice a year and include:
- Chemistry (kidney, liver, and pancreas markers and electrolyte values)
- Complete blood cell count (red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets)
- Thyroid hormone levels
- Pro-BNP (indicator of heart disease-NEW TEST!)
Identifying these diseases and starting treatment sooner will extend our pet’s lifespan, often times by many months to years.
Maintain Mobility and Exercise
Your pet may be slowing down with age, but it doesn’t mean they can’t still go on daily walks with you. Mobility and exercise are critical to keeping your senior pet healthy. One of the most common ailments for our senior pets is arthritis, causing discomfort leading to a decreased quality of life and enjoyment of every day activities. There are several treatments for arthritis including:
- Joint supplements (glucosamine, chondroitin, omega-3 fatty acids)
- Prescription pain control
- Physical therapy
Your veterinarian can help implement a treatment plan to control your pet’s discomfort and improve their quality of life that suits your family and lifestyle.
Enjoy Each Day
Aging is a privilege denied to many so monitor your senior pet’s health carefully, and schedule regular check-ups with your vet. Snuggle up, go for a leisurely walk and appreciate the time you have together.
American Association of Feline Practitioners: http://aafp.com/senior-care-guidelines.aspx
American Animal Hospital Association: https://www.aaha.org/resources/senior_care.aspx
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
Arthritis is something most of us are aware of in people, but know little about in our pets. One major difference between how it affects humans and pets is that animal patients can’t tell us which body part hurts, or how badly it hurts. Arthritis (Osteoarthritis or Degenerative Joint Disease) is caused by the breakdown or deterioration of the cartilage in joints that protects and covers the joints as they move. As the cartilage deteriorates it causes the bones in the joints to rub and grind against each other, causing pain and inflammation.
Although arthritis in pets is most common in larger breeds of dogs (ranging from Great Danes and Mastiffs to Labrador and Golden Retrievers) it can also affect smaller dogs (even the tiniest such as Yorkshire Terriers and Chihuahuas) and even cats.
Signs of arthritis can range from something as subtle as a decrease in energy level (we often say a pet is “slowing down”), to holding up a limb and not walking on it at all. Here are some other signs:
- stiffness when getting up from a lying-down position
- refusal or hesitation to jump or run, or to lay or sit in a certain position
- changes in behavior, such as sudden signs of aggression, which can be a response to fear of pain
- trouble walking or getting around on slick surfaces
- lack of activity
- change in bathroom habits (dogs may be reluctant to go outside and cats may be reluctant to use the litter box)
Both dogs and cats (cats especially) are notorious for hiding signs of disease or sickness until it has substantially progressed. By the time your pet is showing significant signs of joint problems, the condition generally is in an advanced stage. The best was to keep your pet from feeling the pain of arthritis is to recognize the early warning signs and prevent the disease from going further. Managing your pet’s weight and providing adequate exercise also can reduce joint strain.
Let your veterinarian know if you see your dog having trouble getting up after laying down, or have noticed she is reluctant to go on a walk or play for more than a few minutes. Similarly, if you notice that your cat isn’t jumping on furniture as much as normal, or he isn’t using his litter box, he may be suffering from arthritis. You’ll have to do a little detective work and communicate closely with your veterinarian to distinguish whether these are symptoms of behavioral issues or a sign of a health problem. For instance, a cat that fails to use his litter box may be having a behavioral issue or may be avoiding pain caused by arthritis, since squatting or climbing in and out of a litter box can be painful.
There are simple ways to help your pet feel more comfortable and protect her joints:
- Glucosamine and Chondroitin—These can prevent further damage by helping to cushion joints and make movements less painful. NOTE: Ask about our current discount on Dasuquin, which combines avocado and soybean with Glucosamine and Chondroitin.
- Omega 3s (found in fish oil)—Helps with inflammation and is also good for the skin and heart.
- NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)—These help with pain and inflammation in dogs.
IMPORTANT NOTES: Cats do not fare well with the use of NSAIDs since they are unable to process these drugs without internal damage. Over-the-counter (OTC) human medications such as Aspirin, Advil, and especially Tylenol, are very toxic to pets and can cause ulcers, bleeding, anemia, and even death. Always consult with a veterinarian before giving your pet any type of medication. If you administer OTC medication, there is a 7- to 14-day waiting period before we can give your pet other pain medications.
- Other Pain Medications—There are other options for both dogs and cats that work differently and have fewer side effects than NSAIDs, but they are generally not quite as effective.
- Joint injections—Administered during an office visit, these provide anti-inflammatory relief from arthritic joint pain.
- Physical Therapy—We offer various treatment options, depending on the nature of and severity of the condition.
If you suspect that your pet is in pain, please contact us immediately so we can diagnose the problem and start treatment. We have many ways to help prevent and treat arthritis, as well as the many other conditions affecting your pet’s health and quality of life.
Contributed by Michelle LeBlanc, Veterinary Assistant
Pictured here with her husband, Jon, and pets (left to right) Quincy, Simba, and Ducky (in back), and dog Gracie
As you may recall, last month we looked at the different positions required to support a full-service veterinary practice. In the coming months, we will be exploring the personal journeys of the CAH staff to better understand how their training has helped them achieve their professional and personal goals. This month I talked to Margaret Bolen about what led her to pursue LVT training.
A Virginia native with a life-long love for animals, Margaret Bolen (pictured here with Annie) accepted a position at Centreville Animal Hospital back in 1998 after moving to Northern Virginia from her hometown of Lexington, Virginia. Little did she know then that what started out as a part-time job would grow into a career. Today, 15 years after joining the CAH team, she is a busy working mom pursuing her certification as a Licensed Veterinary Technician (LVT).
Growing up in a rural, equestrian-oriented area, Margaret loved the fact that she was always surrounded by barn cats, farm and house dogs, and horses. But after earning a masters degree in Psychology at Hollins College, she moved to the Centreville area and began her working life, holding various professional positions, including serving as an adjunct professor at NOVA. She eventually realized that as interesting as some of her positions were, something vital was lacking in her life: she missed being around animals. So when a friend referred her to an open position at CAH, Margaret applied. The rest is history.
Pursing A Passion
Several years into her tenure at CAH, Margaret decided to pursue professional training. At first, she pecked away at doing piecemeal coursework, but realized that what she really wanted to do was to become an LVT. Having decided to take this leap, she found an accredited college degree program offering the structure and support she needed to undertake the rigorous technical curriculum, with the flexibility for part-time distance learning to accommodate her very busy life. The Distance Education Veterinary Technology Program (DEVTP) at Texas Cedar Valley College turned out to fill her needs:
- distance learning option
- option to take only 2 to 3 courses per semester
- affordable, pay-as-you-go tuition
- one-on-one support provided by the program
- innovative use of technology to complete assignments (such as using video to show completion of work she is doing at the veterinary hospital)
While this option worked best for Margaret, there are many other options for LVT training, including traditional on-campus programs, which are usually completed in two to three years. Local options include the Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC) Loudon Campus and the Blue Ridge Community College (BRCC) in Weyer’s Cave, Virginia. Both institutions offer distance-learning programs as well. See the links provided at the end of this article for more information.
You Can’t Do It Alone
CAH’s commitment to providing educational opportunities and employee mentorship have been essential in helping Margaret achieve her goal. This engagement with staff is not only an important component of training and retention—as evidenced in Margaret’s long tenure at the practice—but participation by the veterinary hospital in the student’s training is a requirement of many veterinary programs. The doctors at CAH have agreed to support Margaret’s efforts in the following ways: staying informed about the specific requirements of her curriculum, providing her with opportunities to complete assignments during the course of her daily work, and taking time out of their schedules to work with her directly when necessary.
As a “people person,” Margaret “loves the work of caring for animals and helping owners,” and finds great satisfaction in analyzing and solving patients’ medical problems. She admits that the work takes “emotional stamina,” and in one day she may go from the excitement of the birth of a new puppy to end-of-life treatment for a beloved geriatric cat. Once she completes her LVT program, Margaret will be able to enjoy more hands-on contact with her patients, both during exams and during surgical procedures, including dental cleanings, inserting catheters, monitoring anesthesia, and playing a vital role in many other aspects of patient care and treatment.
Margaret’s pursuit of training, inspired by her passion for and commitment to treating animals, has been an example for other CAH staff. She was the first assistant in the practice to enroll in an online LVT program, and now four other staff are in similar programs, three of whom are enrolled in the DEVTP at Texas Cedar Valley College (Brittany, Kacey, and Kate). Zach Buchanan is currently enrolled in the Penn Foster program. Our group of Licensed Veterinary Technicians, including Becky Lewellen, Elise Welker, and Elisa Miller, all are an integral part of the mentor support that helps our LVT students reach their goals. Centreville Animal Hospital takes pride in being a center for constant learning.
What advice would Margaret give to someone considering a career as an LVT? “If you’re in college, don’t be afraid to take the hard science courses,” to prepare yourself and get a taste of what you will be learning as an LVT candidate. And, she urges, “Don’t give up” on pursuing a career in veterinary medicine if you have been working in another field. “It’s never too late to start!”
Veterinary Education: https://www.avma.org/professionaldevelopment/education/pages/default.aspx
—Article by Martha B. Schultz, Blog Managing Editor