February is National Responsible Pet Owners Month. Including a dog or cat in your family can be incredibly rewarding, but “parenting” a happy, healthy pet is also a large commitment! What does it mean to be a responsible pet owner? Here are 11 things to consider:
(Information provided by fidofriendly.com and puppyup.org)
Tracing Your Dog's Roots
An In-Depth Look with Dr. Ingrid Pyka
You may have heard of “doggy DNA” on the news, or discussed it with a friend at the dog park. Could canine DNA testing really reveal your lovable mutt’s true genetic dispositions?
While you might like the idea of figuring out whether your dog’s spots mean he’s part Dalmatian—or if that splotchy black tongue means he’s got a bit of Chow or Akita mixed in, current DNA technology has brought an incredible value into veterinary medicine, both in the diagnostic and preventive avenues.
What is DNA?
To understand the applications of DNA it is helpful to know “genetic anatomy”. DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid. It is the basic root to all genetics. DNA is made up of a long strand of proteins spiraling as a “double helical” chain. Nearly each cell of an organism holds the same DNA material inside its nucleus.
The proteins that make up the DNA are set in highly specific sequences, thus establishing the exact genetic code for the organism. Sets of proteins, called a gene, determine the entire or at least some part of a single trait. Having a gene for a characteristic does not necessarily mean it will be expressed. Genes can be recessive or dominant and even turned on and off.
Collectively, all the genes on the DNA strand are the genome. The genome is the unique genetic recipe to create and maintain that, and only that one organism.
The DNA further coils into strands called chromosomes. In most mammals, two chromosomes pair together, connecting either as a Y or an X shape. The Y chromosome establishes the male aspect of the animal.
Species vary in the number of chromosomes they have. Humans have 46 chromosomes (23 pairs), dogs carry 78 (39 pairs), and cats have 38 (19 pairs).
Using a small amount of blood or tissue sample, tests can determine the presence of DNA. Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing is just one test in a growing diagnostic field, in which a fragment of DNA is replicated to a detectable level. These various DNA fragments are the codes for specific genes of interest.
Since infectious agents, such as bacteria or viruses, contain DNA too, their genetic trails can also provide a diagnosis. As they replicate within the body system they infect, they produce an abundance of DNA in the host’s body. PCR tests are gaining increasing levels of accuracy in infectious diagnostics.
DNA Testing for Dog Breed Identification
Several companies now offer dog breed identification through DNA testing. With either a small blood sample or a cheek swab, a DNA analysis can recognize the major genomes from most of the AKC breeds.
DNA testing identifies only the strongest genes in the animal’s ancestry. Just like humans where a child may look just like one parent, but have little or no resemblance to the other, a mixed breed dog will also carry the DNA of both parents, but may not necessarily look like them. For pet owners simply curious as to their “mutt’s” heritage, mixed breed gene mapping may answer some questions, or bring some surprises.
Since many breeds have a predisposition to certain medical issues, identifying mixed breeds animals may provide important forewarning of potential problems. One mixed breed dog, for example, may be found to have collie, Labrador retriever, and Great Dane in its ancestry. Collies are known to have reactions to ivermectin, a commonly used antiparasitic medication. Labradors often have hip dysplasia, a crippling hip joint abnormality. Great Danes frequently develop osteosarcoma (bone cancer). Knowing each of these potential risks, the veterinarian may elect to prescribe this patient a different parasitic preventive that is safe for collies, encourage earlier use of dietary and supplementary treatment to prolong the hip health, and more aggressively diagnose and treat any lameness that occurs in this dog.
Labeling a Hereditary Gene
Just as a gene can signal a particular trait, a pathologic gene can also trigger the development of a birth defect or a disease process. Many such hereditary abnormalities have been identified and mapped in the DNA and an increasing number of tests have been devised to diagnose them.
Maine coon cats, for instance, too often develop hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (an enlarged heart). In another example, Doberman pinschers have a high incidence of von Willebrand’s disease (a blood clotting abnormality). Both of these conditions have been linked to specific genes. If a blood sample or cheek swab detects these mutant genes, your veterinarian may be more vigilant of your cat’s heart or your Doberman’s surgical risks.
Though the detection of a “bad” gene does not necessarily mean the animal will develop the malady, breeders may stop breeding the carrier to prevent the passing of that gene. If the gene is not found, however, any animal still has the potential of developing any of the medical issues. Carrying a particular gene merely indicates a higher chance that it may be expressed.
Canine DNA Registries
Being able to catalog and register DNA findings has become another way for breeders to strive for stronger and healthier lineage. In an attempt to minimize hereditary defects, many registries offer lists of breeding animals that do not carry a particular gene.
Some breeders use DNA identification as a source to prove the purebred status of their animal. Other people use the DNA to hold on file in case of the theft of their pet. The possibilities of DNA research are just beginning.
Running a Canine DNA Test
Usually all the laboratory needs is a tissue sample, such as a cheek swab, or a small amount of blood. Analyses can cost anywhere from $65 to $250 or more, depending on the test.
Many DNA tests do not require a veterinarian to submit the sample. However, a veterinarian may be a better guide for you as to which test to run and which laboratory to use. Working with a medical professional may also help you understand more of the valuable information regarding your pet that the results may provide.
Though many of the tests are run by independent laboratories, a large number have been developed at universities who are still continuing to gather data on the results they obtain. The continual research they run help the veterinary profession as a whole in determining the best prevention, diagnostic, and treatment plans.
Information provided by, Nationwide Insurance)
Having a pet in your home and family is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. With advances in veterinary medicine, you can enjoy your pet longer and healthier than ever before.
Many dogs in the United States now live to be 12 years or older, almost double the lifespan on most dogs in the 1950s. Indoor often provide companionship for 14 years or longer. And birds, reptiles, and exotic pets (even fish) are living longer lives when given good care.
If you want your pet to live its longest, healthiest life possible, it does have a price. From quality food, routine preventative care and visits to the veterinarian to keep your pet healthy plus planning for accidents, unexpected illnesses, and other emergencies, your pet is an investment. Every dollar you put into your pet is given back to you in unconditional love and companionship.
When the cost of quality medical care exceeds the family budget, families are forced to make tough decisions either bearing the debt or even euthanasia. We do not want any family to have to make this decision and we don’t want any pet to have to face this choice. We believe that planning for your pet’s care is the best way to prevent the painful decision between finances and your pet’s well being.
Preventative Care Pets age much faster than humans, so periodic wellness checks (at least 1 – 2 times per year) are one of the best ways you can help your pets live long and happy lives. Pets are excellent at hiding diseases and illness from us until the disease is advanced enough that they no longer are able to. Preventative wellness visits allow veterinarians to identify problems before they become severe. When diseases or conditions are discovered early, treatment is usually less expensive and veterinarians have a greater chance of saving pets’ lives.
Annual preventative veterinary care will vary slightly depending on your pet’s age but you should plan financially for the following:
What is the Magic Number? Unfortunately, we can’t give you a magic number to put into a pet savings account and the cost of owning a pet will vary. We can give you some options and considerations for when the veterinary bill comes. The important advice is to think about how you will manage both routine and unexpected expenses before the need arises. Choosing multiple options can also help you feel more confident in your financial abilities.
Pet Health Credit Card:
Personal Credit Card:
For a complete list of pet insurances available, please visit 365petinsurance.com
Is my cat a senior? If you’re reading this article, this might be your first question. Most of us have an idea of when people are considered to be “seniors,” but what about cats? A straight linear multiplier was once used to convert people years into cat years, but that is no longer the case. According to Pet Health Network’s feline age chart, younger cats age, or shall we say mature, at a much faster rate. A 4-year-old cat is considered to be equivalent to a 26-year-old human being. The process slows down after that. By the time a cat reaches senior status she is 9-years-old (the presumed equivalent of a 52 year old human) and at/beyond the age of 14, a cat is considered to be geriatric.
What is different about a senior cat’s checkup?
Certainly, most conditions can occur or manifest at any point throughout your cat’s life. There are simply some problems that are statistically more likely to occur as your cat gets older, like:
What can I expect during my senior cat’s checkup?
First of all, you may have specific concerns about your cat and questions you need to have answered. Be sure that those are all addressed to your satisfaction before the conclusion of your visit. Also be aware that your veterinarian likely has a process in order to minimize the odds that distractions cause something important to be missed. In general, your vet will likely cover the following:
All cats should have checkups every “people year” of their lives; depending on your cat’s individual health issues, your veterinarian may even recommend more frequent visits. It is up to you and your veterinarian to work together to decide what is best. That way you and your cat can enjoy her senior and geriatric golden years.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
(Information provided by Dr. Mike Paul, DVM of PetHealthNetwork.com)
Pet First Aid Kit!
Be prepared for a disaster with a pet evacuation kit. Assemble the kit well in advance of any emergency and store in an easy-to-carry, waterproof container close to an exit.
Food and Medicine
First Aid Kit
Pavement, asphalt, wood, metal, sand and car or truck surfaces can become very hot during the summer months. These materials absorb heat from the sun and can stay hot for hours even after the sun has gone down. Temperatures on these surfaces can exceed 145° F!
Tips to Protect Your Pet's Paws in the Dog Days of Summer
Treating Summer Burns:
There are potential complications as a result of summer burns to your dog’s paws. For example, all four feet can be potentially affected, making it hard for your dog to walk. Treatment may include:
You want to enjoy the warm weather with your dog as much as you can so protection from the hazards of summer is important!
Vaccine FAQ and General Information
Why do Baby Animals Need a Series of Shots and how many do they Need?
When a baby kitten or puppy is born, its immune system is not yet mature; the baby is wide open for infection. Fortunately, nature has a system of protection. The mother produces a certain kind of milk in the first few days after giving birth. This milk is called colostrum and is rich in all the antibodies that the mother has to offer. As the babies drink this milk, they will be taking in their mother's immunity. After the first couple of days, regular milk is produced and the baby's intestines undergo what is called closure, which means they are no longer able to take externally produced antibodies into their systems. These first two days are critical to determining what kind of immunity the baby will receive until its own system can take over.
How long this maternal antibody lasts in a given puppy or kitten is totally individual. It can depend on the birth order of the babies, how well they nursed, and a number of other factors. Maternal antibodies against different diseases wear off after different times. We DO know that by 14-20 weeks of age, maternal antibodies are gone and the baby must be able continue on its own immune system.
While maternal immunity is in the puppy’s system, any vaccines given will be inactivated. Vaccines will not be able to "take" until maternal antibody has sufficiently dropped. Puppies and kittens receive a series of vaccines ending at a time when we know the baby's own immune system should be able to respond. We could simply wait until the baby is old enough to definitely respond, as we do with the rabies vaccination, but this could leave a large window of vulnerability if the maternal antibody wanes early. To give babies the best chance of responding to vaccination, we vaccinate intermittently (usually every 2-4 weeks) during this period, in hope of gaining some early protection.
When a vaccine against a specific disease is started for the first time, even in an adult animal, it is best to give at least two vaccinations. This is because the second vaccination will produce a much greater (logarithmically greater) response if it is following a vaccine given 2-4 weeks prior.
If a Vaccine Lasts a Person his or her Whole Life, why do I have to Vaccinate my Pet Annually?
In the U.S., vaccines are licensed based on the minimum duration they can be expected to last. It is expensive to test vaccines across an expanse of years so this is not generally done. If a vaccine is licensed by the USDA for annual use, this means it has been tested and found to be protective to at least 80% of the vaccinated animals a year after they have been vaccinated. Some vaccines are licensed for use every three years and have been tested similarly. Do these vaccines last a lifetime? We cannot say that they do without testing and this kind of testing has yet to be performed.
It is also important to realize that some diseases can be prevented through vaccination while others do not. For a vaccine to generate solid long-lasting immunity, the infection must be fairly generalized to the entire body (such as feline distemper or canine parvovirus) rather than localized to one organ system (such as kennel cough or feline upper respiratory viruses). Vaccination for localized infections tends to require more frequent boosting, whereas there is potential for vaccination for systemic disease to last for many years.
Since the mid-1990s most veterinary teaching hospitals have restructured their vaccination policies to increase the duration of some vaccines from one year to three years based on independent studies rather than on the studies used by the USDA for vaccine licensing. The American Association of Feline Practitioners has vaccination guidelines for cats living in different exposure situations, and the American Animal Hospital Association has guidelines for dogs.
It is important to realize that these are just guidelines and different regions and different pet lifestyles will justify modifications.
What do I do if my Pet Skips a Year of Vaccination?
It depends on the vaccine and the hospital. Hospitals are likely to have different recommendations as vaccination policy tends to be individualized to the practice and its geographic location. At some hospitals, recommendations for adult animals who skip an annual vaccine include:
What vaccines are recommended to an individual pet depend on many factors: what kind of exposure to disease the animal has, what diseases are common in the area, what kind of stress factors are present, etc. When you consider the multitudes of vaccine types and combinations and the many different situations dogs and cats live in, it is not too surprising to find that almost every veterinarian recommends a different group of vaccines. The best advice is to establish a relationship wtih a veterinary facility that you trust and go with their recommendation.
What Vaccines Should I get if my Pet is Indoors almost Completely?
Both the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the American Animal Hospital Association have published guidelines for vaccination. Vaccinations are divided into “core” vaccines that every pet should have, and “non-core” vaccines that a pet should have depending on exposure risk.
For cats, core vaccines are the basic distemper shot (FVRCP) and rabies vaccine. Many people are surprised that rabies is a core vaccine and is considered important even for indoor-only cats, but when you consider the consequences of rabies exposure (which can certainly happen indoors) and the legal consequences of owning a biting animal (what happens to the animal generally is dependent on its vaccine status), it is not hard to see why this vaccine is important.
For dogs, core vaccines are the basic distemper shot (DHLPP) and the rabies vaccine. Since dogs do go outside for walks, for grooming, etc., some veterinarians recommend vaccinating dogs for kennel cough even though they are not listed as "core" by the aforementioned organizations.
What is the Difference Between a Live and a Killed Vaccine?
These terms apply to vaccine against viral infection.
The goal of vaccination is to give the virus in question to the patient’s immune system in as natural a way as possible; the hope is to best mimic the stimulation obtained by natural infection yet skip the illness.
There are two ways to achieve this goal. One way is to use killed vaccine. Here, large amounts of dead virus are injected into the patient. They filter into the immune system and lead to stimulation. The other way is to use a live virus that has been modified such that actual disease does not result in infection. The live vaccine is able to travel through the body in the same sequence as the naturally occurring virus would, creating immune stimulation in the same way the street virus would. An immunity similar to that created by a real infection is produced.
In general, live virus vaccine is preferred as the most thorough immune stimulation will occur with it, but there are some circumstances where killed is better. A killed virus vaccine can never revert to virulence, which means there are no circumstances under which the vaccine can produce the disease it is trying to prevent. If the virus in question is particularly deadly (such as rabies), it is not worth taking any chances with a live virus vaccine even for superior immunity.
Why do Vaccinated Pets still get Sick?
There are several reasons why a pet might get sick from a disease it is vaccinated against. Not every pet is able to respond to vaccination due to inherent individual immunological issues. Some vaccines are not intended to prevent infection but are intended to blunt the symptoms of the disease should infection occur (as with the feline upper respiratory infections).
In most cases, the pet got sick because of incomplete vaccination. This situation generally involves a puppy that did not finish its puppy series of shots or got exposed to infection before the shot series could be completed. True vaccination breaks are extremely rare but if you think your pet may have experienced one, your veterinarian will need to issue a report to the manufacturer.
Can a Pregnant Pet be Vaccinated?
It is important that live vaccines (see above) NOT be used in pregnant pets. This is because a "modified" virus that will not cause illness in the mother may still be strong enough to infect the unborn puppies or kittens. Killed vaccines may be given during pregnancy though, as a general rule, it is best not to give any medical treatments during pregnancy if it can be avoided. While giving killed vaccines is commonly done in large animals and food animals, it is not routine for dogs or cats.
What is a Recombinant Vaccine and is it Really Better than the other Available Vaccine Types?
Recombinant vaccines represent the cutting edge of vaccine technology in both veterinary and human medicine. For generations, we classified vaccines as either "killed" or "modified live" (see above). With the advent of genetic engineering, there are now new vaccines that do not fit this classification: the recombinant vaccines. While the USDA recognizes four categories of recombinant vaccines, only the vectored virus category is commercially available.
With vectored virus vaccines, the viral DNA responsible for stimulating the patient's immune system is cloned into a harmless live virus. The harmless virus is injected into the patient where it travels innocuously within the body, stimulating the patient's immune system to respond to the cloned viral DNA. In this way, the benefits of a live vaccine can be realized for a virus that is normally considered too dangerous for a modified live vaccine. Presently, recombinant vaccines are available for feline rabies, feline leukemia, Lyme disease, and canine distemper.
So are these vaccines better than the traditional ones? The chief benefit seems to be less vaccine reactions since there are less extraneous proteins to cause unnecessary immune stimulation when compared to killed virus vaccines. Since the virus used in recombinant vaccines is alive, there is no potentially harmful adjuvant included in the product (see below). There is also a zero chance of the vaccine virus reverting to virulence and causing infection.
What is an Adjuvant?
An adjuvant is a material added to a killed vaccine to assist in the generation of immunity. When a killed vaccine is injected, the body recognizes a foreign substance and begins to break it down and remove it. If this process happens too quickly, the viral proteins will not be present long enough to generate an immunological response. Adjuvants help hold the killed virus in place and stabilize it so that its presence can be prolonged and provide a more complete stimulation of the patient's immune system.
Adjuvants have become controversial in cats especially and may be associated with tumor (especially fibrosarcoma) formation. It appears desirable to avoid the use of adjuvanted vaccines in cats.
Why is a Feline Leukemia Test Required Prior to Vaccination?
The feline leukemia virus has potential to be latent in a carrier cat without any signs of illness and this carrier state can persist for years. During this time, the cat is contagious and at risk for numerous problems. Many people want to skip the test to save money but, in fact, it is of great importance to know if a cat is harboring this infection. Knowing that a cat is positive allows you to save money by not unnecessarily vaccinating for feline leukemia. Further, if an owner is aware of a cat's positive status, the pet can be kept away from other cats, thus preventing the spread of the disease. An owner can prepare financially for expected treatments needed for this cat. Testing is important when a new pet cat is obtained.
What is a Vaccine Titer?
Antibody levels against certain infections can be measured in a patient's blood sample. These antibody levels are called titers.
The idea is to measure a titer and determine whether or not a patient is protected against the infection in question so that unnecessary vaccination can be avoided. There is some controversy associated with this procedure.
Can Vaccines Hurt my Pet?
Some muscle soreness, lethargy and mild fever persisting for a day or two are considered common (normal) reactions to stimulation of the immune system. Vaccine reactions beyond this are unusual but possible. Allergic reactionscharacterized usually by facial swelling and hives are a strong sign that special care should be taken in administering vaccinations. Vomiting can be a sign of impending shock and should be taken seriously after vaccination. Since allergic reactions potentially can become worse with each episode, it is important to take heed of these signs as severe reactions can result in shock or even death.
Another reaction that has received tremendous press lately is the vaccine-induced fibrosarcoma, a form of cancer in cats. See the next question.
Can Vaccines Cause Cancer?
The fibrosarcoma is an especially aggressive form of cancer that can affect cats spontaneously or by viral induction via the feline sarcoma virus. Recently, fibrosarcomas have been removed from areas of the body typically used for vaccination and, to the surprise of the veterinary profession, particles of aluminum-based vaccine ingredients (called adjuvants) were discovered within the tumor. The working theory is that vaccination may induce this form of cancer in rare cases (between 1 in a 1,000 and 1 in 10,000 cats). The killed feline leukemia vaccine and the killed rabies vaccine have been implicated as being more likely to be involved. The problem is definitely not a matter of simply changing to non-aluminum based adjuvants but is more complicated. A list of preventive measures has been issued by most veterinary associations.
Can Over-Vaccination Cause other Diseases?
As mentioned, in the mid-1990s recommendations for annual canine distemper and feline distemper vaccination shifted to every three years for these vaccines. The reason for this is not that annual vaccination was found to be harmful; it simply became accepted as unnecessary.
Many people have speculated that annual vaccination is responsible for cancer, immune-mediated diseases, kidney disease, and most common ailments of senior dogs and cats. So far, there is no clear evidence that annual vaccination has increased the incidence of any specific health problems.
How can I Have my Pets Vaccinated at Low Cost?
Vaccination is an important part of a pet's health and it should not be skipped. If cost is a problem there are several approaches you can take but each has advantages and disadvantages.
OPTION ONE: Omit the Examination and Choose Vaccination OnlyPrices vary from veterinarian to veterinarian. Some veterinarians are not comfortable administering vaccinations without completely examining the pet first. Others allow you the option of coming in for "vaccination only." Obviously, an exam - at least annually - is of crucial importance to an elderly pet or a pet with a known history of illness, and you never know when your veterinarian will pick up an important finding but if money is tight, skipping the exam is an option. In some states, "vaccination only" is not an option or there may be restrictions.
OPTION TWO: Vaccinating your Pets Yourself
It is physically possible to give vaccines yourself if you know how to give a subcutaneous injection. In many areas, pet vaccines are considered over-the-counter medications and you can get them from your local pharmacy or by mail order. Some veterinarians do not recommend this practice for the following reasons:
These clinics are springing up everywhere to provide streamlined "shots only" service. These clinics may be mobile (traveling monthly or weekly to your local feed or pet supply store) or may be located in your own regular veterinarian's office. Here are some tips on what to look for in a clinic:
Are they using disposable needles?
You do not want to have your pet experience a needle that has been dulled on a previous patient or possibly inadequately re-sterilized.
Is the clinic using the latest guidelines to avoid vaccine-induced fibrosarcomas?
This might be a good indicator of whether the clinic is up-to-date in its quality control. See more information on prevention of vaccine-induced fibrosarcomas.
Do they seem simply interested in selling you the maximum number of vaccines or do they seem genuinely interested in informing you on which vaccines you do and do not need?
Many vaccine clinics pay their staff commission for the number of vaccines sold.
Is your regular veterinarian's office sponsoring the clinic?
If they are, this will solve a lot of confusion about keeping vaccine records straight at your vet's office and will avoid the confusion of getting vaccine recommendations from different veterinarians.
(Information provided by: THE PET HEALTH LIBRARY By Wendy C. Brooks, DVM, DipABVP Educational Director, VeterinaryPartner.com)
Fireworks, picnics and other Fourth of July traditions can be great fun for people; but all of the festivities can be frightening and even dangerous for animals. Noisy fireworks and other celebrations can startle animals and cause them to run away; holiday foods can be unhealthy; summer heat and travel can be dangerous; and potentially dangerous debris can end up lying on the ground where pets can eat or play with it.
Whether or not you’re planning your own Independence Day celebration, it’s important to take precautions to keep your pets safe both during and after the July 4th festivities.
Preparing in advance:
When spring arrives, many of us humans are reaching for the tissues and allergy meds. Turns out our dogs may be suffering, too. Instead of respiratory symptoms, most dogs with seasonal allergies have dermatological reactions — irritated skin, ear or paw infections and a tendency to lick, bite or scratch the affected areas.
In fact, skin allergies are the top reason dogs require medical treatment, veterinarians report. While many of those reactions start out seasonal, without treatment, the allergies and the problems they cause can last all year long.
That’s what happened with Henri, a 7-year-old French bulldog who lives with Nori and Lori Morimoto in St.Petersburg, Fla. When Henri was a little more than a year old, the couple noticed welts in his armpits and on his paws. Some became so inflamed they bled. “It was horrible,” Lori recalls.
They took Henri to the vet, and he was prescribed oral medications. In the short term, the prescriptions helped, but “we were in and out of there all the time,” Lori says. “We’d start (the medication), and it’d get under control ... come off of it, and it’d start up again. It was just a vicious cycle.” They were referred to a veterinary dermatologist who administered an allergy test to pinpoint Henri’s allergies.
In addition to seasonal pollens, he was reacting to human dander and horsehair (difficult to avoid, as the Morimotos live on a horse farm). With that knowledge, the veterinarian developed a shot for Henri that the Morimotos give him every five days, and he gets another injection at the dermatologist’s office every six weeks. A potato and whitefish-based diet, an antihistamine and oral medication to minimize itching are now part of his daily routine, and the Morimotos treat him with baths and a topical spray when he has flare-ups.
Challenging to Diagnose, Treat
If all that sounds like a lot of work, it’s because allergies in pets are a bit trickier to treat than they are in humans, says Dr. Chris Cook, a veterinarian specializing in dermatology at several BluePearl pet hospitals in Michigan. While dogs are allergic to most of the same things we are, the ways they’re exposed to the allergens are different, he says. For the most part, we breathe in our allergens, which means air filters and deep cleaning can make a big difference. Dogs, however, pick up allergens through their skin.
“That’s their world. They’re living in the biggest concentration of allergens — on the floor or outside on the grass — and they’re walking on it and lying on it all day long,” Cook says. “So I think because of that, it’s a different presentation and probably why it seems to be a lot harder to control in many cases than with people.”
He adds that typically, at an initial appointment for allergy symptoms, a veterinarian will first rule out other causes of itchy skin, such as fleas, infection and food allergies. If seasonal allergies are diagnosed, and shortterm solutions like antihistamines, immunosuppressants and topical remedies aren’t working, the next step is an allergy vaccine. “What you’re doing with a vaccine is you’re trying to retrain the body in essence to learn to not be allergic to these substances,” he says. “You’re retraining the immune system to react to them in a nonallergic way.”
When to Seek Treatment
Even if a dog only suffers for part of the year, you don’t want to wait it out, Cook stresses. Left untreated, a small allergy problem can become more serious. “Once you make that diagnosis, this is a lifelong condition,” he says. “You’re going to be talking about management with something for the rest of that animal’s life. It’s very unlikely that the dog’s going to outgrow those allergies down the road.”
The good news is that with professional help, seasonal allergies can be managed, making everyone happier. It’s certainly worked for Henri. “He is a completely different dog,” Lori says. “He looks beautiful … he’s much more comfortable. You can tell he’s a lot happier dog; he has a little more spunk in his step than when he was sick.”
(Information Provided By Stacy Chandler, USA TODAY Pet Guide)
What is heartworm disease?Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease in pets in the United States and many other parts of the world. It is caused by foot-long worms (heartworms) that live in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of affected pets, causing severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body. Heartworm disease affects dogs, cats and ferrets, but heartworms also live in other mammal species, including wolves, coyotes, foxes, sea lions and—in rare instances—humans. Because wild species such as foxes and coyotes live in proximity to many urban areas, they are considered important carriers of the disease.
Dogs. The dog is a natural host for heartworms, which means that heartworms that live inside the dog mature into adults, mate and produce offspring. If untreated, their numbers can increase, and dogs have been known to harbor several hundred worms in their bodies. Heartworm disease causes lasting damage to the heart, lungs and arteries, and can affect the dog’s health and quality of life long after the parasites are gone. For this reason, prevention is by far the best option, and treatment—when needed—should be administered as early in the course of the disease as possible.
Cats. Heartworm disease in cats is very different from heartworm disease in dogs. The cat is an atypical host for heartworms, and most worms in cats do not survive to the adult stage. Cats with adult heartworms typically have just one to three worms, and many cats affected by heartworms have no adult worms. While this means heartworm disease often goes undiagnosed in cats, it’s important to understand that even immature worms cause real damage in the form of a condition known as heartworm associated respiratory disease (HARD). Moreover, the medication used to treat heartworm infections in dogs cannot be used in cats, so prevention is the only means of protecting cats from the effects of heartworm disease.
How is heartworm disease transmitted from one pet to another?
The mosquito plays an essential role in the heartworm life cycle. Adult female heartworms living in an infected dog, fox, coyote, or wolf produce microscopic baby worms called microfilaria that circulate in the bloodstream. When a mosquito bites and takes a blood meal from an infected animal, it picks up these baby worms, which develop and mature into “infective stage” larvae over a period of 10 to 14 days. Then, when the infected mosquito bites another dog, cat, or susceptible wild animal, the infective larvae are deposited onto the surface of the animal's skin and enter the new host through the mosquito’s bite wound. Once inside a new host, it takes approximately 6 months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms. Once mature, heartworms can live for 5 to 7 years in dogs and up to 2 or 3 years in cats. Because of the longevity of these worms, each mosquito season can lead to an increasing number of worms in an infected pet.
What are the signs of heartworm disease in dogs?
In the early stages of the disease, many dogs show few symptoms or no symptoms at all. The longer the infection persists, the more likely symptoms will develop. Active dogs, dogs heavily infected with heartworms, or those with other health problems often show pronounced clinical signs.
Signs of heartworm disease may include a mild persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after moderate activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss. As heartworm disease progresses, pets may develop heart failure and the appearance of a swollen belly due to excess fluid in the abdomen. Dogs with large numbers of heartworms can develop a sudden blockages of blood flow within the heart leading to a life-threatening form of cardiovascular collapse. This is called caval syndrome, and is marked by a sudden onset of labored breathing, pale gums, and dark bloody or coffee-colored urine. Without prompt surgical removal of the heartworm blockage, few dogs survive.
What are the signs of heartworm disease in cats?
Signs of heartworm disease in cats can be very subtle or very dramatic. Symptoms may include coughing, asthma-like attacks, periodic vomiting, lack of appetite, or weight loss. Occasionally an affected cat may have difficulty walking, experience fainting or seizures, or suffer from fluid accumulation in the abdomen. Unfortunately, the first sign in some cases is sudden collapse of the cat, or sudden death.
How significant is my pet's risk for heartworm infection?
Many factors must be considered, even if heartworms do not seem to be a problem in your local area. Your community may have a greater incidence of heartworm disease than you realize—or you may unknowingly travel with your pet to an area where heartworms are more common. Heartworm disease is also spreading to new regions of the country each year. Stray and neglected dogs and certain wildlife such as coyotes, wolves, and foxes can be carriers of heartworms. Mosquitoes blown great distances by the wind and the relocation of infected pets to previously uninfected areas also contribute to the spread of heartworm disease (this happened following Hurricane Katrina when 250,000 pets, many of them infected with heartworms, were “adopted” and shipped throughout the country).
The fact is that heartworm disease has been diagnosed in all 50 states, and risk factors are impossible to predict. Multiple variables, from climate variations to the presence of wildlife carriers, cause rates of infections to vary dramatically from year to year—even within communities. And because infected mosquitoes can come inside, both outdoor and indoor pets are at risk.
For that reason, the American Heartworm Society recommends that you “think 12:” (1) get your pet tested every 12 months for heartworm and (2) give your pet heartworm preventive 12 months a year.
What do I need to know about heartworm testing?
Heartworm disease is a serious, progressive disease. The earlier it is detected, the better the chances the pet will recover. There are few, if any, early signs of disease when a dog or cat is infected with heartworms, so detecting their presence with a heartworm test administered by a veterinarian is important. The test requires just a small blood sample from your pet, and it works by detecting the presence of heartworm proteins. Some veterinarians process heartworm tests right in their hospitals while others send the samples to a diagnostic laboratory. In either case, results are obtained quickly. If your pet tests positive, further tests may be ordered.
When should my pet be tested?
Testing procedures and timing differ somewhat between dogs and cats.
Dogs. All dogs should be tested annually for heartworm infection, and this can usually be done during a routine visit for preventive care. Following are guidelines on testing and timing:
Cats. Heartworm infection in cats is harder to detect than in dogs, because cats are much less likely than dogs to have adult heartworms. The preferred method for screening cats includes the use of both an antigen and an antibody test (the “antibody” test detects exposure to heartworm larvae). Your veterinarian may also use x-rays or ultrasound to look for heartworm infection. Cats should be tested before being put on prevention and re-tested as the veterinarian deems appropriate to document continued exposure and risk. Because there is no approved treatment for heartworm infection in cats, prevention is critical.
What happens if my dog tests positive for heartworms?
No one wants to hear that their dog has heartworm, but the good news is that most infected dogs can be successfully treated. The goal is to first stabilize your dog if he is showing signs of disease, then kill all adult and immature worms while keeping the side effects of treatment to a minimum.
Here's what you should expect if your dog tests positive:
What if my cat tests positive for heartworms?
Like dogs, cats can be infected with heartworms. There are differences, however, in the nature of the disease and how it is diagnosed and managed. Because a cat is not an ideal host for heartworms, some infections resolve on their own, although these infections can leave cats with respiratory system damage. Heartworms in the circulatory system also affect the cat’s immune system and cause symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing. Heartworms in cats may even migrate to other parts of the body, such as the brain, eye and spinal cord. Severe complications such as blood clots in the lungs and lung inflammation can result when the adult worms die in the cat’s body.
Here’s what to expect if your cat tests positive for heartworm:
(Information provided by www.heartwormsociety.org)
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