Heartworm disease: Not just for canines

Indoor catsMost pet owners are aware of heartworm disease, the clinical symptoms, and how we can prevent this process from occurring in our four legged canine family members. However, many cat owners still remain unaware of the serious nature of the disease and the huge risk that it presents to their feline companions.  Feline heartworm disease manifests itself differently, although it can be just as life threatening in cats as in dogs.  According to Memorial Cat Hospital in Houston, TX, prevention is simple, and yet many feline owners remain unaware of the importance of monthly prevention in their pets. Unlike dogs, there is no treatment for eliminating heartworm disease in cats, making prevention all the more critical.

Although outdoor cats are at greater risk of being infected, a relatively high percentage of cats considered by their owners to be totally indoor pets also become infected. Overall, the distribution of feline heartworm infection in the United States seems to parallel that of dogs but with lower total numbers. There is no predictable age in cats to become infected with heartworms. Cases have been reported in cats from nine months to 17 years of age, the average being four years at diagnosis.

Heartworms do not need to develop into adults to cause significant disease and illness in cats.  Much of the clinical symptoms seen with Feline Heartworm Disease is caused by the microfilaria migrating through the lung tissue on the way to the cat’s heart.   Heartworm disease in felines affects the cat’s pulmonary system, not the heart, as in canine patients. Newly developing worms and the subsequent death of most of these same worms can result in acute pulmonary inflammation response and lung injury. This initial phase is often misdiagnosed as asthma or allergic bronchitis but in actuality is part of a syndrome now known as Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease (HARD).

Monthly heartworm prevention is a simple, easy step that you as an owner need to take to keep your kitty happy and healthy for life!  If you have additional questions or need more information, please take the time to discuss with your veterinarian today!

To learn more about Feline Heartworm Disease and prevention of this insidious disease in our kitties, please visit The American Heartworm Society. Or, watch this informative video which explains heartworm disease in feline patients very well, and be sure to protect your furry feline friend.

 

Anxiety in pets

It has been said that anxiety can almost always be traced back to the first two years of life, a traumatizing event or both. Three main types that owners need to be aware of are separation anxiety, noise anxiety, and social anxiety.  According to Dr. Parrish Tanner of Quail Hollow Animal Hospital in Wesley Chapel, FL, it is important to know when to spot these behavioral problems and know when it is time to call in the doctor for assistance. Bringing these issues up with your veterinarian is a good idea. They will be able to help eliminate the behavior or even help your pet cope with it’s underlying anxiety issues.Lonely Days

Some common behaviors that may be exhibited with separation anxiety dogs are excessive barking or howling, inappropriate defecation or urination, destructive chewing or scratching of windows, walls, doors, digging up of carpet and flooring in front of closed doorways when left alone.

Self mutilation behavior is also a sign of anxiety which can result in the formation of lick granulomas (a thick, firm oval-shaped plaque that results from excessive licking of the lower leg). Aggression exhibited toward the owners when they leave the house is one of the more serious behaviors.

Dogs with noise anxiety might behave as follows: shaking, hiding, cowering, urinating uncontrollably or refusing to leave your side. For dogs at the other end of the spectrum, destructive or self-mutilating behavior may be exhibited. Please note that dog’s have the ability to sense changes in the weather. If your dog is thunderstorm-phobic, he may start his noise-phobic behavior well in advance of an approaching storm because he knows its coming.

These are just a few behaviors that dogs with anxiety may exhibit. If you believe your pet may have anxiety problems, Dr. Tanner encourages you to contact your veterinarian for an appointment. It is a good idea to address these issues prior to the fireworks this Independence Day.

For additional details, visit Organic Pet Digest to receive more information on preventing and treating pet anxiety.

Beat the heat!

With the approaching of the warmer weather and increased temperatures comes an increased risk of heatstroke.  According to Sahuaro Vista Veterinary Clinic,iStock_000015255391XSmall_jpg in Oro Valley, AZ, heatstroke occurs when a pet become extremely overheated and cannot lower its body temperature by itself.  This condition can come on very quickly, and without intervention.

Heatstroke can affect any animal at any time, but is most commonly seen in pets that have been left in parked cars.  A recent study showed cars parked on a partly cloudy, 93 degree day, saw temperatures increase to 120 degrees in just 15 minutes, making this a very real danger for pets.  Risks include exercising in warmer weather and being left outside during hot weather—especially if there is limited access to water and shade.  It is recommended to exercise your pet in the coolest hours of the day—early morning or later evening, and cool them off with a drink or a cool bath afterwards.

Under normal circumstances, animals pant to cool off.  If panting is not sufficient, their bodies redirect blood to dilated blood vessels in the skin—this helps the animal radiate heat to eliminate it from the body.  In a heat-stressed animal, the hotter the animal gets, the more blood is routed to the skin—and away from critical organs like the brain, kidneys and liver, causing these organs to fail.

Symptoms of heatstroke cover a wide range, including: heavy panting, vomiting/diarrhea, dehydration, collapse, seizures, coma and death.  It is imperative that if it is believed that an animal is suffering from heatstroke to be seen by a veterinarian immediately.  Not only will the doctor externally cool the pet, but fluids may need to be administered as well.  Death is common in patients with heatstroke, so time is of the essence.  Stay vigilant this summer and prevent unnecessary suffering.

 

Feline Leukemia Virus (FLV) Explained

Most cat owners have heard of feline leukemia virus or seen the acronym, FELV.  Perhaps you have had a new kitten tested for the virus, maybe you have discussed the leukemia vaccination, but few have had the chance to discuss the gravity and prevalence of this incurable disease states Deborah Karpf, Hospital Manager at Galveston Animal Hospital in Galveston, TX.

Graycat_jpg_jpgViruses attack the body by taking over their cells and turning them into virus producing machines.  This can kill the cell, or potentially cause it to become cancerous by changing the cell’s genetic makeup.  “The feline leukemia virus has a particularly devastating effect to the cells that make up the immune system and help produce blood cells,” explains Dr.Christina Guillory at Galveston.  This destruction to the immune system causes the infected cat to be less able to fight off disease and infection than a healthy cat, and more likely to experience harsher symptoms and longer recovery time before being well again, if at all.  The cat’s health will become progressively worse due to persistent illness, and possible cancer or anemia.  Even with the best of care, the life expectancy of the patient is usually no more than 1-4 years from the time of infection.

The feline leukemia virus is fairly easily spread through close contact among cats because the virus can be found in the saliva, feces, blood, milk and urine of infected cats warns Dr. Guillory.  Sharing litter boxes and bowls, mutual grooming, fighting, and sexual activity can all lead to the transmission of the virus.   The incidence of this virus is rather alarming; according to the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 2.3% of the feline population in the United States is infected, with higher concentrations in areas that have large stray populations.

However, there is a bright side to this disease; the feline leukemia virus is preventable through vaccination!  The leukemia vaccine has been available for years and is very effective in stopping the virus from infecting our four-legged friends.   The American Association of Feline Practitioners advises vaccinating all kittens and at-risk adult felines, such as outdoor cats and group housing feline foster families.  Discuss with your veterinarian what the recommended preventive care plan is for your feline family.

Don’t let your pet get wrapped up in the holiday celebration!

As we celebrate the holiday season, we’d like to make sure that our furry friends don’t get wrapped up in some of the decorations or festive treats that may be hazardous to their health. Mary Jean Calvi, LVT, from Pawling Animal Clinic in PawliView More: http://hailiejayphotography.pass.us/ebah2013ng, NY alerts us to some of the dangers that may be lurking around the house to ensure your pets can enjoy a safe and happy holiday.

Resist the Fancy Feastings
As a part of our family, most of us try to share our holidays with our pets. But as difficult as it may be, try and resist the urge to indulge your pet in the rich foods of the season. Gastrointestinal upsets which can actually lead to more serious conditions such as pancreatitis are common complaints we see this time of year. Pets are not people and will do much better on a quality pet food diet!

Did you know that ingesting several ounces of chocolate can kill a small dog? Dark chocolate and baking chocolate are even more toxic. Make sure to keep all chocolate far out of reach of pets.

Deck the Halls
While decorative plants adorn many homes at this time of year, be aware that many ornamental plants of the season can be toxic to pets. Mistletoe, poinsettia, holly, and lilies are just a few. Symptoms can range from mild gastrointestinal upset, nausea and vomiting to kidney failure. When decorating with plants, remember to restrict animal access.

Oh Christmas Tree …
A veritable wonderland for animals, especially cats. But dangers abound! Water from your tree may contain fertilizers that can upset your pet’s stomach. Ribbons, tinsel, and string can easily become lodged in intestines and cause obstructions. Glass or other ornaments, if ingested, can cause internal lacerations. Close proximity to candles can singe hair quickly … or cause fires if accidently knocked over.

Dangers also lurk under the tree. Electric cords are potential electrocution risks. Small toys can cause obstructions and batteries contain corrosives that can cause ulcerations to the mouth, tongue and GI tract.

The Weather Outside is Frightful …
Adequate shelter from the elements should always be available for your outdoor pets. And don’t forget … water bowls left outside WILL freeze!

Outdoor cats will often seek the warmth from a car engine and climb right up under the hood. To avert any CATastrophes, bang on the hood or honk the car horn before starting your vehicle to warn any unsuspecting cat time to flee!

Winter Wonderland
Ice melting products, depending on the active ingredient, can be irritating to pet’s skin, pads and mouth. Restrict your pets’ access to areas where these products have been applied or make sure they wear their rubber booties too!

Antifreeze is sweet to the taste but did you know that one teaspoon can be lethal to a cat (4 teaspoons to a 10 pound dog!). Thoroughly clean up all spills and store antifreeze in tightly closed containers.

Not a Creature Was Stirring ….
Except for the mice! Ingested rat and mouse bait can cause serious clotting disorders. When using these products be sure to place them in areas totally inaccessible to pets. Always keep the product information should a problem arise. In an emergency, it is helpful to know which active ingredient was involved.

 

Osteoarthritis signs and treatment

Bassettdog_jpg_jpg“My dog seems to be getting up and moving slower since the weather change. What should I do?”

The most common reason for an increase in lameness or stiffness secondary to changes in the weather is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is the deterioration of joint cartilage and the inflammation associated with this damage. It can be limited to one joint or can affect multiple joints of the body. It is most commonly seen in middle age to older patients, and it can be a result of previous injury, genetic predisposition, conformational stresses, obesity, or excessive wear and tear from overuse. According to Parrish Tanner, DVM, at Quail Hollow Animal Hospital in Wesley Chapel, FL, the typical symptoms of arthritis include difficulty standing up or sitting, stiffness after laying down that improves with activity, and worsening symptoms with weather changes especially rain and cold. Osteoarthritis is seen often in all breeds of cats and dogs.

The first step for any patient displaying symptoms consistent with osteoarthritis is to evaluate their body condition/weight. The vast majority of dogs with symptoms of arthritis are heavier than their ideal body weight. If your dog is overweight, weight reduction through reducing food intake and moderate consistent low impact exercise (fast paced walks, swimming, etc.) of 30-60 minutes a day can have a profound positive effect. Even if a patient is not overweight, moderate exercise is almost always beneficial because it helps maintain or even build muscle mass.  This helps to support the damaged joints, reduces pain in the joint, and improves a patient’s range of motion. It is important to note that osteoarthritis and its symptoms are usually slowly progressive and lifelong, therefore, treatment and lifestyle changes to combat arthritis are life long as well.

Medical treatment for osteoarthritis usually comprises a multimodal approach. Treatment can include but not be limited to dietary changes, nutritional supplements, anti-inflammatory and pain medication, physical therapy, acupuncture, cold laser therapy, and occasionally surgical intervention. By treating arthritis in multiple ways, improvement of clinical symptoms is more greatly achieved while at the same time reducing side effects associated with high does of pain medication.

Dietary changes and nutritional supplements are often the first logical step to combat osteoarthritis. There are two prescription diets that have been shown in studies to help control symptoms of arthritis, and they also help in achieving an ideal body weight through calorie restriction. Supplementing the diet with omega 3 fatty acids and glucosamine/chondroitin can also have a very positive effect on patients that are suffering with arthritis.

If lifestyle changes, dietary changes, and nutritional supplements are not controlling the symptoms of arthritis then medication and other therapies would be indicated. The most commonly used medications for arthritis are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. NSAIDs can have a significant effect on the inflammation and pain of arthritis, but it is important to understand that there potential side effects associated with these medications and all other medications used for arthritis. Consistent monitoring, examinations, and bloodwork are needed when patients are on any medication for arthritis.

As our pets age, the signs of osteoarthritis can become evident to us either gradually over time or sometimes very acutely. Dr. Tanner stresses the importance of contacting your veterinarian for an examination, if your dog has started to have difficulty with mobility. An exam is the first step in determining whether a patient is developing osteoarthritis or has other medical cause for immobility. If arthritis is the cause, we can begin tailoring therapy for your dog to hopefully give him/her the most pain free, happy life possible.

Why all the Feline Wellness Talk?

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Feline Wellness Exam

“Each veterinarian’s primary goal is to allow your pet to have the best quality of life feasible for as long as possible.”

As the practice of medicine, both human and veterinary, has evolved over time, physicians increasingly share a philosophy of promoting wellness. But what does wellness really mean? This mindset of wellness and prevention means that doctors are looking to provide care for their patients before the worst has already happened, and put into play supportive measures that can delay, if not completely prevent the onset of illness and disease, especially those related to aging and the environment states Bush Animal Hospital in Eugene, OR. Each veterinarian’s primary goal is to allow your pet to have the best quality of life feasible for as long as possible . The tools a veterinarian has available to achieve this can range from simple regular routine examinations and vaccinations to more complex nutritional and pharmaceutical support.  Wellness examinations do not necessarily mean that your pet is going to be subjected to a barrage of complicated medical tests and treatments.

Some animals may need close monitoring of blood work, x-rays or other tests or many pets benefit simply from being physically examined, having their heart and lungs listened to and their general health assessed. Thus preventing a health issue from developing undetected. A general health assessment before surgery can help prevent complications and assure a speedy recovery. Ask your veterinarian for guidance in developing a plan for your cats health care to give you as many years as possible with your cat companions.

From Frisky to Risky: Detecting Feline Diabetes

Spotting feline diabetes is not easy. Why? If human beings with diabetes often overlook their own symptoms, imagine how difficult it can be noticing the signs your kitty may be diabetic. When it comes to noticing symptoms of diabetes in cats, recognition is even more difficult as pets lack the ability to effectively communicate how they are feeling. Any delay in diagnosis can allow the disease to advance to the point where it can cause extensive physical damage. Knowing the potential symptoms of feline diabetes is a proactive approach, ensuring your pet gets the help he or she needs before it’s too late.

Excessive Thirst

It is natural for cats to act thirsty in the hot summer months or after rambunctious exercise. However, excessive drinking throughout the day that continues for a number of days may be a sign of feline diabetes. If you notice you are fillingcalicocat_jpg the water dish more often, you should have your pet tested for diabetes. Spotting excessive thirst can not only help with early detection of diabetes, but many other diseases as well.

Excessive Urinating

If your pet is drinking more water, he or she will likely need to use the litter box to urinate more frequently. You may not recognize excessive water intake right away, as it tends to increase gradually. However, you should notice when you are changing the litter box at a greater frequency, or they may be coming in and out of the house as if through a revolving door. These are great indications that a trip to the veterinarian is warranted.

 “Sweet Breath”

Most every pet owner is accustomed to the unappealing odor of warm kitty breath. If you notice that your pet’s breath has sweetened, it may mean that his or her blood sugar levels are off. Although you may appreciate the appealing change in your pet’s breath, it could be a sign that something is amiss.

Shivering

If you notice your cat shivering even though temperatures are relatively warm, it could be a sign of hypoglycemia, also known as low blood sugar. This could potentially be a medical emergency. Your pet may require an insulin injection to stabilize blood sugar levels. Seek professional help as soon as possible, or your pet may suffer serious, permanent injury.

Lethargy

Cats suffering from feline diabetes may appear very tired and weak most days. If your normally active pet suddenly develops lethargy symptoms over the course of several days, take him or her to your holistic veterinarian to have their blood sugar tested.

Loss of Weight

Too much weight loss can lead to feline diabetes. If your pet is rapidly losing weight, he or she could have diabetes or a more serious illness. Take your cat to the veterinarian without delay.

What is Feline Diabetes?

According to a study performed by Purina, Diabetes is a very common disease in cats affecting up to 2% of the feline population in the United States.  This disease occurs when the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin, resulting in high blood sugar.  Richard Henderson, DVM of Gavelston Vets in Gavelston, TX warns that if left untreated, many other health problems can occur which can result in blindness, kidney damage, muscle weakness, and urinary tract infections.  Diabetic cats often require daily insulin shots at home, and frequent trips to the veterinarian for blood sugar tests and monitoring.

The increasing number of diabetic cats in today’s society is a result of sedentary indoor life styles and free-choice feeding, ending in an epidemic of obese felines.  There is also research that, for many cats, the carbohydrates in dry cat food cannot be used for energy, and is easily converted into stored fat.  For this reason, feeding canned cat foods that are high in protein anPicture2d low in carbohydrates can be fed to aid in weight loss and prevention of diabetes.

Your veterinarians will take a medical history from the cat owner and perform blood tests and urinalysis to determine if your cat has developed diabetes.  Dr. Henderson notes that diabetic cats can be successfully managed but requires a dedicated owner.  In cases where a cat is overweight but not yet a diabetic, a successful weight loss program will prevent the disease from developing and increase your cat’s longevity and quality of life.  Many feline diseases can be prevented through weight loss and weight management.  Proper diet is key not only caring for the diabetic patient, but also to prevent this debilitating condition from developing.

 

Watch out for Leptospirosis

Star, a seemingly healthy 9 year old Boston terrier, had been unable to retain food for the last 24 hours.  After being examined at Caton Crossing Animal Hospital in Plainfield, Dr. Heather Stopinkski delivered the troubling news to Star’s family: Star may have leptospirosis.

An often fatal and contagious bacterial infection, leptospirosis is transmitted through the urine of livestock and wildlife, such as raccoons, skunks, and rats.  In a recent study, 60% of raccoons were found to be infected with the bacteria.

Infection typically occurs when dogs drink from streams, ponds, or stagnant water where infected wildlife may have urinated.  Dr. Stopinkski warns, even if the dog walks through contaminated water, there is a chance the bacteria can enter through a cut on the paw.

Cats are naturally resistant to this bacterial infection, however it is possible for dogs to pass leptospirosis on to their human owners should they come in contact with the dog’s urine.  The infection is becoming more common in humans, with almost 200 cases of leptospirosis diagnosed each year.

Dr. Stopinski cautions even handling an infected dog with a cut on your hand or touching the dog and then putting something in your mouth can transmit the infection, which is just as dangerous to humans as it is to dogs.

Although symptoms may take a few days to manifest from initial infection, warning symptoms to look for in your pet include fever, loss of appetite, diarrhea and vomiting.  Typically, within the next few days following these initial symptoms, the dog will become lethargic, followed quickly by kidney and liver failure. Even if treated early enough, and the infected dog survives, Dr. Stopinksi has noticed the chance of permanent damage to the dog’s kidneys and liver remains high.

There has been an increase in infections in suburban areas due to the building of houses and resulting destruction of wildlife environment.  Dr. Stopinski realizes dogs now have a greater chance of contact with wildlife, and are thus becoming exposed more often. 

Fifteen years ago, the vaccine guarding against leptospirosis only protected against two strains of bacteria and caused adverse reactions such as vomiting, diarrhea, and breaking out in hives.  Today’s vaccine provides better coverage against the bacterial infection with fewer negative side effects.

Typically, puppies receive two injections given two to four weeks apart once they have reached 12 weeks old.  Dr. Stopinski suggests evaluating older dogs for the vaccine on a case-by-case basis depending on their exposure to wildlife and their present health conditions

Treatment for leptospirosis is aggressive, especially if the dog’s kidneys and liver have already failed.  Treatment includes hospitalization, antibiotics, and intravenous fluids.

Unfortunately for Star, the Boston terrier, treatment did little to cure the infection and she continued to decline in health.  The pain became unbearable and Star’s family made the heartbreaking decision to euthanize Star to alleviate her suffering.

It is important to talk with your veterinarian to determine if your dog runs the risk of contracting leptospirosis.  Get your dogs vaccinated against leptospirosis to protect your health and theirs.