Heartworm Disease Article
Heartworm disease is a preventable, but potentially fatal condition caused by parasitic worms living in the arteries of the lungs and occasionally in the right side of the heart of dogs, cats, ferrets, and other species of mammals. While dogs and cats of any age or breed are susceptible to infection, dogs are primarily at risk. Cats, while susceptible, have proven more resistant hosts to heartworm than dogs. Heartworm can damage the heart muscle, the circulation, and the kidneys of an infected animal. Once infected, treatment is also a dangerous, painful process which can result in lung embolism and sudden death. Prevention is critical for susceptible animals.
Infection: Heartworm is transmitted from one animal to another by mosquitoes. Mosquitoes become infected with microfilariae when taking blood from an infected animal. Microfilariae mature to the infective larva stage within the mosquito. When the mosquito bites another susceptible animal, the infective larvae enter through the bite wound. It takes approximately six months for the infective larvae to mature into adult worms. In dogs, the worms may live for up to seven years.
Signs of Heartworm Disease: Clinical signs of heartworm disease may not be recognized during the early stages of heartworm development in cats and dogs. Once adult worms have developed, dogs and cats may show clinical signs:
- Mild, persistent cough
- Exercise intolerance
- Fatigue after only moderate exercise
- Reduced appetite and weight loss
- Difficulty or rapid breathing
- Lethargy and weight loss
Detection: Heartworm infections are usually detected with a blood test for a heartworm substance called an antigen or microfilariae. Ultrasound and x-ray images of the heart and lungs may also be used on animals with a positive heartworm test and that are already exhibiting clinical signs.
Prevention: There are a variety of safe heartworm preventatives for dogs and cats. When administered properly, infection can be completely prevented. Consult your veterinarian for the appropriate medication for your pet. Before animals can take heartworm preventative, it is imperative that they test negative for the infection due to potentially harmful side effects for infected animals.
Treatment: While prevention of heartworm is easy and affordable, treatment is a complicated, expensive process and requires an animal to be confined for six to eight weeks. Adult heartworms in dogs are killed using a drug called an adulticide that is injected into the muscle through a series of treatments and the recovery period can last from one to two months. There is no effective treatment for heartworm disease in cats.
For more information on heartworm disease visit the Heartworm Society atwww.heartwormsociety.org.
Fleas and Ticks Article
Fleas and Ticks
External parasites, such as fleas and ticks, are a common problem for pets and can result in severe skin irritation. In addition to being extremely irritating and causing skin problems, parasites can also carry disease that can cause serious illness and death. Fortunately, there are many medical options for treatment, control, and prevention of fleas and ticks.
Infestation and the Life Cycle: The flea life cycle can range from 12 days to 6 months. Pets typically get fleas from an infested area, often in places frequented by other cats and dogs. Adult fleas, which are brown and about the size of a small seed, bite animals and suck their blood. Female fleas begin laying eggs within 24 hours of finding a host pet. They can produce up to 50 eggs each day which fall from your pet onto the floor, furniture, your pet’s bed, or any other indoor or outdoor area where your pet frequents. Small, worm-like larvae hatch from the eggs and burrow into soil, carpets, or furniture before spinning a cocoon. Cocooned flea pupae may lie dormant for weeks before emerging as adults and starting the infestation cycle again. While fleas thrive when the weather is warm and humid they may be a year-round problem depending on your climate.
Clinical Signs of Infestation: Clinical signs of flea problems include:
- Redness and skin irritation;
- Scratching; and
- Black flea droppings left on your pet’s coat sometimes called “flea dirt”.
Besides common skin irritation, infestation can lead to more serious problems including:
- Open sores and skin infections;
- Anemia for young or small pets from loss of blood;
- The development of allergies to flea saliva, resulting in more severe irritation and scratching;
- Infection with certain types of tapeworms if pets ingest fleas carrying tapeworm eggs.
In areas with moderate to severe flea infestations, people may also be bitten by fleas. While fleas are capable of transmitting several other infectious diseases to pets and people, this is rare.
Treatment and Control: Your Bayside veterinarian can recommend the appropriate flea control for your pet. Regular vacuuming and cleaning of the pet’s living area helps to remove or kill flea eggs, larvae, and pupae. You may also have to treat your house or yard with insecticides to kill fleas. Consult with your veterinarian about products safe for use around pets and children.
Infestation and the Life Cycle: Ticks have a four-stage life cycle. Immature ticks often feed on small, wild animals found in forests, prairies, and brush. Adult ticks seek larger hosts like dogs and cats. Tick exposure may be seasonal, depending on geographic location.
Clinical Signs of Infestation: Ticks are most often found around your dog’s neck, in the ears, in the folds between the legs and the body, and between the toes. Cats may have ticks on their neck or face. Tick bites can cause skin irritation and heavy infestations can cause anemia in pets. Ticks are also capable of spreading serious infectious diseases, such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, to host pets and people. Disease risk varies by geographic area and tick species.
Treatment and Control: Your Bayside veterinarian can recommend an appropriate tick preventative for your pet. When pets are in tick-prone areas, they should be examined for ticks immediately upon returning home. Ticks should be removed immediately to lessens the chance of disease transmission. Use tweezers to firmly grip the tick as close to the pet’s skin as possible and gently pull the tick free without twisting it. Once removed, crush the tick while avoiding contact with tick fluids that can carry disease. Do not attempt to smother the tick with alcohol or petroleum jelly, or apply a hot match to it, because this may cause the tick to regurgitate saliva into the wound, increasing the risk of disease. If your pet picks up ticks in your backyard, trimming bushes and removing brush may reduce your pet’s exposure to tick habitats.
Animal Acupuncture Article
The Chinese have used acupuncture to treat disease for over 4000 years in humans as well as animals. The ancient Chinese believed that the health of the body depended on the state of the Qi (pronounced “chee”) or “vital energy”. There are two opposite forces of Qi, the Yin and Yang. According to Chinese belief, when an animals Yin and Yang were in balance, it was healthy. Accordingly, when these forces were unbalanced, the animal would become sick. Acupuncture was developed to balance the flow of Qi, enabling the body to heal itself.
Acupuncture is now recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association and is considered an integral part of veterinary medicine. Bayside offers acupuncture to complement traditional therapy or provide an alternative form of medical therapy.
How does acupuncture work? The Chinese discovered 173 acupuncture points in animals. Modern research shows that that acupuncture points (or acupoints) are located where there is a high density of free nerve endings, mast cells, small arterioles and lymphatic vessels. Studies show that stimulation of acupoints induces the body to release endogenous or natural beta-endorphin, serotonin, and other neurotransmitters. Stimulation of the points can be done in several manners, but is typically done with needles and electro-stimulation. Endorphins control pain by causing blood vessels to dilate, which increases blood flow around joints and muscles, thus increasing nutrient and oxygen delivery to the desired area.
Who is qualified to perform acupuncture? Only a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist (“CVA”) should perform acupuncture on animals. These techniques should be regarded as surgical and medical procedures and should only be done by someone with the extensive medical knowledge of a licensed veterinarian. All but one state require that acupuncturists are certified.
What can you treat with acupuncture? It is best to develop a comprehensive, integrative approach using both acupuncture and traditional western medicine to address an animal’s medical needs. Acupuncture has proven extremely successful in addressing the following:
- Neurological disorders such seizures and disc disease,
- Behavioral problems,
- Metabolic disease such as kidney and liver failure,
- Pain management and arthritis,
- Cardiovascular disorders,
- Chronic respiratory conditions,
- Dermatological disorders,
- Gastrointestinal disorders,
- Immune-mediated disorders, and
- Musculoskeletal disorders.
Is acupuncture painful? For small animals, the insertion of acupuncture needles is virtually painless. Once the needles are in place, there should be no pain. Most animals become very relaxed and often fall asleep.
How long do acupuncture treatments last? The length and frequency of acupuncture treatments varies depending on the condition of the patient. A typical session will last 20 to 30 minutes. Stimulation of an individual acupuncture point may take as little as 10 seconds or as much as 30 minutes. While some acute problems may require only one treatment, more severe or chronic conditions may need several treatments.
Read more about animal acupuncture at US News and World Report.
Spay & Neuter Article
Spay & Neuter
Each year over 10 million animals are euthanized at shelters because homes could not be found for them. Most of these animals are the off-spring of family pets with as many as 30% pure-bred animals. Spaying and neutering your pet helps control populations at healthy levels and has other benefits for you and your pet. Female pets that have been spayed do not go into heat, avoiding the nuisance and mess involved with estrus every six-to-nine months. Spaying and neutering also reduces the risk of certain health problems such as uterine infections and uterine, mammary, or testicular cancer. Animals, especially those with a submissive personality, are usually better pets if they are neutered. They may have less desire to roam, to mark territory (including furniture), to exert dominance over family members.
How old does my pet need to be in order to be spayed or neutered?
Dogs and cats can be spayed or neutered as early as the age of two months (or two pounds). This practice, called Early Age Neutering, has been endorsed by The American Veterinary Medical Association because animals recover more quickly from surgery when they are young. Typically animals are spayed between two and six months of age. It is important to spay animals before they go into heat to reduce the chance of mammary cancer.
How soon can a female get pregnant?
Cats and dogs as young as five months can get pregnant. For this reason and to reduce the risk of mammary cancer, it is important to spay your pet before six months.
How soon after my cat or dog has had a litter can I get her spayed?
A mother can be spayed as soon as the kittens or puppies are weaned, (5 to 6 weeks for kittens and 4 to 5 weeks for puppies). Mother cats or dogs can become pregnant while nursing, so it is important to keep a nursing mother away from other adults of the opposite sex.
Does an animal feel pain during surgery?
Animals are under anesthesia during surgery and feel no pain. Bayside uses a laser to reduce bleeding and post-surgical swelling and improve recovery time. Animals need to be kept quiet after surgery while they heal.
Does an animal’s behavior change after being spayed or neutered?
Typically an animal’s personality does not change except that male dogs and cats will be less likely to fight, roam and spayed females will no longer go into heat.
Dental Health Article
Proper dental care for your pet is critical to their health and ensures that they lead a happy, active life. Without dental attention, plaque builds up on the teeth and turns into tartar, or calculus. These areas grow bacteria and eat away at the teeth and gums. As a result, animals suffer from halitosis, periodontal disease, oral pain and tooth loss. The American Veterinary Dental Society reports that 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease by age three. Periodontal disease is the #1 diagnosed disease in animals and can lead to a host of other problems as infected mouths shed bacteria into an animal’s bloodstream. While the body is good at dealing with bacteria, it stresses the immune system and, in the longer term, can lead to heart, lung and kidney disease, liver problems, or removal of most of the teeth. Gum disease can be prevented through proper dental care.
What is Periodontal Disease? Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissue surrounding the teeth. Initially, it starts as a bacterial film called plaque that attaches to the teeth. When the bacteria die, they become calcified by calcium in saliva and form a hard substance called tartar or calculus. Without dental cleaning, plaque can lead to gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums causing them to bleed easily. In the final stages of periodontal disease, the gum tissue is destroyed, the bony tooth socket erodes, and the tooth becomes loose. This is a very painful process for your four-legged friend, but these problems can be averted before they even start.
How to Identify Dental Disease. Veterinarians can perform a basic oral examination on patients that are awake. However, a short-lasting anesthetic is required in order to provide a complete and thorough examination as well as dental cleanings. Signs indicating dental disease include the following:
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Reluctance to chew or crying out when chewing
- Increased salivation
- Red or puffy gums
- Bleeding gums
- Tartar/Calculus (hard coating on teeth that is usually brown or yellow)
- Missing or loose teeth
Preventing Dental Disease in Pets: There are several things you can do to help keep your pet’s teeth in good shape. Bayside recommends regular oral examinations and dental cleanings, under general anesthesia, for all adult dogs and cats. AAHA recommends these procedures at least annually starting at one year of age for cats and small-breed dogs, and at two years of age for large-breed dogs. The following are steps pet owners can take to keep their pets healthy.
Brush their teeth. Use a “finger brush” or special toothbrush designed for use on dogs or cats. Never brush your pet’s teeth with human toothpaste because it can make them sick. Use special enzymatic toothpaste made for animals.
Use an oral rinse. Special rinses can be purchased that are sprayed on a pet’s teeth and help prevent dental disease.
Give your pet special dental food and treats. Studies show that hard kibbles are slightly better at keeping plaque from accumulating on teeth. There are also a variety of specially formulated diets and treats for cats and dogs that help prevent dental disease. Avoid real bones for dogs because they not only can they lead to gastrointestinal upset, but also they can cause tooth fractures.
Professional dental cleaning. Professional dental cleaning by your veterinarian is the most effective way to clean your pet’s teeth and ensure that they remain healthy. During the procedure, your pet’s teeth and gums will be examined closely for problems, teeth will then be scaled and polished, and problem teeth will be extracted. Because of the extensive nature of the procedure, it requires general anesthesia.
Pets can live longer, healthier lives if oral health care is managed and maintained throughout their lives. Talk to Bayside about developing a dental care plan for your companion.