What is heartworm and how does my dog get heartworm?
Heartworm is a blood parasite that lives in the pulmonary vessels near the heart.
Mosquitos transmit heartworm. If a mosquito that carries heartworm bites your pet, they may infect your dog with heartworm larvae. This larvae takes a number of months to develop into adult heartworms.
What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?
Symptoms of heartworm disease can vary from a cough and exercise intolerance to absolutely no symptoms depending on the number of adult parasites. The heartworms live in the blood vessels, and can cause damage to the vessels and the heart even though we may not see clinical symptoms.
How do we diagnose heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is tested for with a blood test. A small sample of blood is needed to run a test in the clinic. Usually we will have results within 10-15 minutes. This test checks for an antigen produced by adult female heartworms.
If a blood test comes up positive, confirmation that the test is correct is usually done by examining the blood under a microscope. Below is a video of microfilariae moving under a microscope. These microfilariae are produced by adult heartworms.
Prevention is the best medicine!
Heartworm disease is becoming more common, even in Ontario. We recommend all our canine patients be on a heartworm prevention throughout transmission season (late spring, summer, and fall). There are a variety of heartworm prevention medications – either oral or topical.
These medications work retroactively meaning that your pet may be exposed to larvae transmitted from mosquitos during the month of June, but then the dose of prevention given July 1st will clear these larvae from your dog’s bloodstream so the larvae never have the chance to mature into adult heartworms.
Heartworm is a much safer than heartworm treatment. As always, prevention is the best medicine!
.Don’t forget to schedule your dog’s parasite screen with one of our friendly technicians! Ask us if you have any questions about your current prevention protocol!
Ticks have become a growing concern in Ontario in the past decade. A lot like very tiny spiders, these little pests feed on blood of mammals – that includes dogs and cats, rodents, deer, and humans.
Ticks are active when it is above 4°C. That means in Chatham ticks were active throughout most of February. Although March has been a little colder, we have still had temperatures above 4°C this month.
There are two main types of ticks in Chatham-Kent: the dog tick (Dermacenter variabilis) and the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis). The dog tick is larger, although still very small! The deer tick is much smaller, and the more concerning tick in our area. Both ticks can be found in wooded areas, or areas with tall grass. There are very large numbers of deer ticks in areas on the northern border of Lake Erie such as Rondeau Park or Point Pelee.
Of these two ticks, only the deer tick carries the bacteria that causes Lyme disease in both dogs and people. Once the tick attaches to its host (dog or human), it starts to feed on blood. As the tick feeds, the body gets larger and becomes engorged. The tick may stay attached and feed for many days. In this time it is able to transmit Borrelia burgdorferi – the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
At your pet’s annual exam or yearly in the springtime it is recommended to run a parasite screen. This parasite screen is a blood test that tests for Borelia burgdorferi (which causes Lyme disease), heartworm disease and two other tick borne diseases.
If you and your dog travel to areas with significant tick populations, make sure to tell your veterinarian so we can make sure they are on the appropriate prevention this year.
Fleas are tiny parasites that live in the environment but can be sometimes be seen crawling through your pet’s fur. Their bites can be very itchy, making your dog or cat scratch more than usual!
how did my pet get fleas?
The flea life cycle starts when a flea is brought into your home. This can be a flea that hitchhiked their way in on your dog when he was out for a walk, or your cat that strolls the neighbourhood. But it can also be from a visiting family member’s pet, or occasionally one you brought in from outdoors.
Even dogs or cats that only lounge in the backyard can pick up fleas and bring them into the house. All it takes for a stray cat or wildlife to walk through your yard and leave some fleas or flea eggs in your yard to start a flea problem for your own pet.
Indoor only cats are also at risk of getting fleas, especially if there are cats or dogs in the household that do go outside, or if you live in an apartment building where other animals in the apartment may have fleas.
Once fleas are in your home, they very quickly multiply. A flea will jump on a dog or cat for a blood meal. They then lay eggs. These eggs will stay in your carpet or furniture as they go through their life cycle as larvae and pupae. They mature again into adult fleas that will jump on your pet to continue their life cycle.
My pet has fleas - now what?
If your pet has fleas it is best to stop the infestation from continuing by using a flea medication for your pet. There are both oral and topical products available depending on your pet and their needs.
Once a flea medication has been administered to your pet, when fleas jump on and take a blood meal they will die instead of laying eggs. This stops the flea cycle! But there are also larvae and pupae in the environment the need to be cleaned up or hatch into adult fleas in order to be exposed to the medication from your pet that will kill the adult fleas.
To aid in the quick removal of fleas from your home there are a number of cleaning options:
When should I worry about fleas?
Our usual flea season is spring through to the fall. With the warm weather this year, fleas have been around most of the year. Don’t forget to continue your pet on their monthly flea prevention through the fall months. Often times this is one of the worst time for pets to get fleas, yet many people discontinue their flea prevention at the end of the summer.
Give the clinic a call if you have any questions about fleas or flea prevention for your cat or dog!
How often do you brush your own teeth? Most people brush their teeth at least twice daily to remove plaque. Every 6-12 months most people visit their dentist to have a thorough cleaning done and check for any changes or problems that may be occurring in their mouth.
What about your dog or cat? They likely see their veterinarian for their annual exam each year, and their mouth will be examined, but most dogs don’t say ‘aah’ when we ask. We also aren't as diligent in brushing or pet’s teeth as we are with brushing our own, but plaque and tartar build up in your dog and cat’s mouths too!
Within a few hours of brushing, plaque starts to form on your pet’s teeth. By brushing on a daily basis you can remove the plaque and prevent it from accumulating on your pet’s teeth. Without brushing, plaque can accumulate until it starts to form hard tartar. Once hard tartar accumulates it is more difficult to remove and may require your pet to have a professional dental cleaning under general anesthesia.
Nothing will replace the benefits of daily brushing, but if brushing your pet’s teeth is a battle, talk to your veterinarian about dental diets and other alternatives that may better suit your pet.Kibble diets will be more beneficial than canned food diets, and there are veterinary diets that are made specifically for dental health. We can help you find the best dental home care for your cat or dog.
Dental disease starts when plaque – a thin layer of bacteria, accumulates on teeth. When allowed to stay on your pet’s teeth, this plaque can harden into tartar extending from the crown – the visible portion of the tooth, to the root – the portion of the tooth that hides beneath the gumline. When bacteria which resides in plaque and tartar, starts to live under the gum the gum becomes inflamed. This is called gingivitis and is noticeable when the gums become red and inflamed.
Dental disease can affect more than just your pet’s mouth. By harboring bacteria in your pet’s mouth it can cause infections in other organs including the heart, lungs, and kidneys. In order to keep your pet's whole body healthy, we need to keep their teeth and gums healthy!
Be sure to talk to your veterinarian about your pet’s dental health at their annual examination or sooner if you notice any of the signs of dental disease in your dog or cat.
Diesal is an almost 13 year old Brittany Spaniel. He came in a couple weeks ago to have his teeth cleaned and to have a couple problem teeth extracted.
Prior to his dental cleaning he had pre-anesthetic bloodwork run. As an older dog this was important to pick the right anesthetic protocol for him to keep him safe during surgery.
He was given a pre-medication injection for sedation before we placed his intravenous (IV) catheter for fluids. The IV fluids help to maintain his blood pressure during surgery, and gives direct access for any additional medications that may be needed.
Through his IV catheter, his induction medication was given. His IV catheter is also important incase any emergency or supportive medications need to be given during his procedure. The induction medication allows us to be able to place an endotracheal tube which is hooked up to oxygen and gas anesthetic for the duration of his dental cleaning. The endotracheal tube fits in his esophagus and helps prevent fluid from his mouth from being inhaled during his dental cleaning.
During his dental procedure his body temperature, heart rate, oxygen saturation, mucous membrane colour, and blood pressure were monitored and recorded by one of our talented veterinary technicians.
To start his dental cleaning, the tartar was cracked off of his teeth. A hand scaler and water scaler was used to remove tartar from the crowns of his teeth which are visible to us, as well as to clean beneath the gum line. Cleaning below the gum line is very important to keep teeth and their roots healthy, and can only be done under general anesthesia.
Diesal was already missing a few teeth from a previous dental procedure, but had a few more taken out at his cleaning that were unhealthy and bound to cause him problems in the future.
Then his teeth were polished with a paste that smooths the surface of his teeth and removes plaque. Plaque is the bacterial biofilm that is invisible to the naked eye, but if left it will turn into hard tartar that is visible. We will talk more about removing plaque to prevent dental disease later this month.
Diesal recovered well from his dental cleaning and extractions. Above are his before and after pictures. At almost 13 years old he has some permanent staining and wear and tear on his teeth, but his mouth is much more comfortable now that his teeth are free of plaque and tartar, and his sore teeth are gone.
BUT we all like giving our dogs their favourite treat
There are ways we can work treats into your pet’s diet. This often requires a consultation with your veterinarian to discuss your pet’s current food and treats and how we can change this to suit your pet’s lifestyle.
If your dog’s favourite treat is a full slice of toast, we are likely going to want to change that. Many dogs find vegetables are a suitable replacement – many dogs love carrots or peas, and these are great low calorie options. If you have a dog that loves to chew on dental chews or other chew toys, they may also enjoy chewing on broccoli stems. Be sure to always monitor your dog while chewing to be sure they aren’t trying to eat large pieces too quickly which could make them choke.
Your veterinarian may also recommend cutting down your dog’s regular amount of food. Sometimes this proves difficult when your dog is used to their heaping scoop of food twice a day. In these cases, you can try decreasing the total amount they get in a day, but feeding it in more meals. This way your dog may be getting less at breakfast, but now they have a surprise lunch meal that keeps them full until their smaller supper.
It’s time to start playing with their food
Many dogs lead sedentary lifestyles. This can lead them to eat more because they are bored. Using treat dispensing toys can be helpful in keeping your dog busy for longer, encouraging them to use their brain to work out how to get their food and tiring them out all with some time with a tricky treat ball or a kong wobbler.
Be sure to always monitor your pets with food dispensing toys, and make sure they aren’t chewing on them or tearing pieces that could be dangerous from the toys. Most food dispensing toys are very durable, but some dogs are very determined!
Fresh air is good for the whole family
Dogs love to go outside, sniff the pee mail, and stroll through their neighbourhood. Make an effort to get your dog out for a walk on a daily basis. Of course our Canadian weather can prove challenging, but by doing it daily you will make it part of your routine and will help your dog’s cardio with daily activity.
If your dog isn’t used to walking regularly, start with short walks and increase by 5 minutes weekly until you are at a 30-40 minute walk daily.
Many dogs develop arthritis which makes exercise a bit more difficult to get started, but just as important. Talk to your veterinarian about how we can help get your dog more comfortable and more active.
There are also many dogs with other health problems including food allergies or easily upset stomachs that make diets challenging. There are many diets available so talk to your veterinarian about an appropriate diet for your dog.
Let’s start the new year with a new routine and a healthier body for your dog!
It can be difficult to convince a cat to exercise, and just as difficult to regulate how much food they are allowed. Many cats have us trained to feed them what they want, when they want. It is also usually quite challenging to motivate an overweight cat.
Measuring out your cat’s daily food requirement is important and will help you monitor how much they are allowed to have in meals and snacks for that day. I often recommend measuring the total amount of food your cat is allowed for the day and putting it in a Ziploc bag or container. Then throughout the day, you can give meals and treats from this container. When the food is gone, you know they’ve reached their limit for the day.
Below are some ways you may need to approach changing your cat’s food and exercise regime to help with their weight loss.
Suggestions for the "Always Hungry" Cat
Some cats will bug their family for food all the time! They feel they need breakfast first thing in the morning, and snacks all day long. These are often cats that are looking for attention even more than they want food.
Try taking out a toy and playing with your cat. Using an interactive toy such as a wand toy with a feather or crinkle ball on the end for your cat to hunt and catch may satisfy their need for attention. Play for 5-10 minutes, then allow them to find a comfy spot to relax with a few of their kibbles from their allotted amount for the day.
For a cat that ignores the toy and really wants their food, make them work for it! Use food dispensing toys for them to push around the house that dispense kibble as they roll in the right direction. This will help increase your cat’s activity while they work for their food.
Many cats will enjoy working for their food, and another low cost option is giving your cat a treasure hunt with their meal. Take some of their kibble from their allotted daily portion and place it in various places throughout the house – some in their bed, some in their bowl, some on the different levels of their scratching post, etc. Only place a few kibbles in each location.
Cats that continue to feel hungry may need a diet that makes them feel more full. Talk to your veterinarian about a diet food for your cat to help satiate their hunger.
Suggestions for the cat that doesn’t eat that much
Many times we will see overweight cats that we are told don’t eat that much. They are often cats that are free fed, meaning food is available to them all the time.
In these cases we like to start by measuring how much food is going into the bowl on a daily basis. It may also be important to measure how much is left the next morning. A “bowl full” is often a lot more food than expected, so make sure to use a measuring cup. Assigning one person in the house to feeding may be important in ensuring that the bowl isn’t being refilled unknowingly.
Once we find out how much the cat is eating on a daily basis we can assess whether this amount is appropriate or needs to be scaled back.
Also take note of what the cat gets besides their dry kibble – Do they get a canned food meal throughout the day? Do they get treats on a daily basis? How many? All of these little snacks add to your cat’s daily calorie intake.
The next step for the cats who are free fed is encouraging them to be more active throughout the day. These cats are usually poorly motivated by food so food dispensing toys are not usually a good option. You can move their food bowl to different floors of your house throughout the day to encourage them to walk further and use the stairs to burn more calories.
Again, finding toys they like to play with and interactive toys may help in increasing their activity level. See the link at the end of this post for more ideas for encouraging your cat to be more active.
Suggestions for the multi-cat household
In houses where there are two or more cats there will often be one cat that eats more and weighs more than the other. There are a few ways in which we can prevent the larger cat from over eating or stealing the other cat’s food.
If the cats are of a significant size difference, feeding the smaller cat in a box with a door big enough only for the smaller cat to access the food can prevent the larger cat from entering and stealing more food. This can be particularly helpful in homes where the cats are free fed.
Meal feeding is another option where each cat is fed their own bowl of food. Some cats will be slower eaters than others, so separating the cats in separate rooms for their meals may once again help with a cat that steals the other cat’s food. If you are able to use separate rooms, you can also create a treasure hunt in each room for separate cats to encourage them to search to find their food.
Here are some additional ideas to encourage your cat to play and exercise: http://www.everydayhealth.com/pet-health/ten-cat-exercises.asp
Remember when trying to find toys your likes to play with that each cat has different preferences. Some love feather toys, while others love crinkle balls! Experiment with different types of toys to find what your cat enjoys.
The suggestions above are also useful to increase your cat’s mental stimulation and environmental enrichment, so you can apply these to cats that are of appropriate weight as well. If you continue to battle with your cat’s weight issues, make sure to talk to your veterinarian about the next steps which may include ruling out medical issues or starting on a prescription weight loss diet.
Most companion dogs and cats have a tendency to becoming overweight. While we are at school or work, our pets are often lazing around our home. It is easy for them to over-eat or be over-fed. Small cats and dogs require only a fraction of the calories humans require, so treats and extra snacks quickly add up.
Weight loss is best achieved through a combination of monitoring diet and food intake and increasing exercise and activity level.
What to feed and how much?
Since many pets are getting more calories than they require on a daily basis, we recommend starting their weight loss diet by removing the extras. This includes table scraps (breads, pastas, meats, leftovers). Vegetables are good treats and can be used as a low calorie filler for your dog – carrots, green beans, broccoli and cucumber are all good options for treats.
Starting a New Exercise RegimE
Exercise is a very important, but when our lives get busy sometimes it gets overlooked.
For pets that are not used to any activity, start slowly. This may mean a 5-10 minute walk twice daily. Brisk walks will increase their heart rate and metabolism better than a slow walk, but start with what your dog can handle. Increase the time you walk by 5 minutes every 1-2 weeks until you reach two to three 25-30 minute brisk walks per day.
Daily walks will always be more beneficial for your dog than one long strenuous walk once a week. More consistent walks more regularly are also less likely to cause your dog injury as they are more appropriately conditioned to their regular exercise.
Cats can be more difficult to exercise. We will be looking at ways to exercise your cat later this month.
Monitoring Your Pet’s Weight LosS
Rabies vaccine is important for both indoor and outdoor cats as we discussed in our last post. Even indoor cats have a risk of being exposed to wildlife that finds their way indoors. As many know, some cats do not like being at the veterinary clinic. Others are very tolerant, but when they are painful or ill they may not appreciate our attempt to help. If your cat bites you or a member of the veterinary team while in the clinic we are required to report it to public health, whether your pet is vaccinated or not. Being vaccinated makes the incident less concerning to public health as it prevents the risk of people being exposed to rabies.
Rhinotracheitis and feline calicivirus
Feline rhinotracheitis or herpes virus and feline calicivirus are both upper respiratory system virus that often cause upper respiratory tract infections in cats and kittens. Symptoms include sneezing, eye and nose discharge, and can be severe in young kittens or unvaccinated animals that may develop a fever and become uninterested in food. These are viruses that we can’t cure, and cats will often have an outbreak if they become stressed. Most of the cat population is affected with upper respiratory tract infections, but vaccinating them helps to minimize their symptoms and their outbreaks.
Panleukopenia virus is a very similar virus to parvovirus in puppies. Panleukopenia virus causes very ill cats and kittens that develop vomiting and watery diarrhea, and small kittens will quickly become dehydrated. This virus can also be fatal, especially if left untreated, and it is highly contagious.
non-core vaccine - feline leukemia