Heartworms: What are they and how to prevent them

dr lee new bio photo 2015Veterinarian Mary Lee of Lone Mountain Animal Hospital in North West Las Vegas discusses how heartworms can affect your pet’s health and the importance of prevention

Heartworms do not discriminate.

They can affect any pet in the United States and many other parts of the world. Heartworms can live in dogs, cats, ferrets, and sometimes, even humans. Heartworm cases are found in many urban areas due to coyotes and foxes who are large carriers of the disease.

Heartworm disease can cause long term damage to the heart, lungs, kidneys, and arteries. One thing unique to this disease is the negative affect the parasites can have on the health of your pet long after they are gone.

The mosquito is the most common culprit in spreading the disease from one affected animal to the other. Adult female heartworms living in an infected mammal produce tiny baby worms called microfilaria. These microscopic baby worms circulate in the bloodstream and when the mosquito takes its blood meal, these worms are ingested as well. The baby worms then mature into larvae which is the “infective stage” over the span of 10 to 14 days. These larvae are then transferred through the mosquito’s bite wound on the next animal.

It takes six months for the larvae to mature into adults after entering the new host. Adult heartworms can live anywhere from five to seven years in dogs and two to three years in cats. These worms can reach up to 14 inches in length and your pet may show no symptoms until serious disease appears in the heart, lungs, kidney, and liver. By the time the heartworms make themselves known, your pet may be experiencing coughing, lethargy, or fainting spells.

Heartworm may not be as prevalent in Clark County as in southern states, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) 16 positive cases of heartworm have been found out of the 2,708 dogs tested in Clark County. That number may seem miniscule, but when we break it down, that’s 1 out of 169 dogs-60 percent of positive cases of heartworm cases in the state of Nevada are found in Clark County. There are a number of factors that can affect these results such as the lifestyle and region your pet lives in and of course, parasite prevention efforts. Families that take their fur buddy on a trip to nearby states like California increase the risk of him being infected.

Veterinarians suggest to start preventative care for your pet when they are young. Puppies under seven months can start preventative care without a pretest. They should go on monthly preventative life long and annually receive testing after the first year to ensure they are heartworm free.

It is harder to detect heartworm in cats as they are more unlikely to have them. There are a few different methods to test for the disease in cats, and it is best to discuss these options with your local veterinarian. Cats should be tested before starting prevention and then re-tested as the doctor deems fit for your cat. There is no approved treatment for heartworm found in cats which means that prevention can be very important in the health of your pet.

Prevention is easy and less expensive when compared to treatment for a positive result. Annual testing for dogs is necessary, even if he is on year-round prevention. Heartworm medications are highly effective but nothing is guaranteed. If one dose is missed or given late, your dog goes unprotected. The best chance you can give your loved one against this parasite is prevention.

New addition to the pet family? Find out how to introduce to the other family members.

dr g for blogVeterinarian Talia Gattenuo of Lone Mountain Animal Hospital in North West Las Vegas discusses how to help introduce a new addition into a multi-pet household.

Meeting and greeting. Socialization is important for your dog or cat because it can reduce his stress, and make him more comfortable when encountering new environments, people, and other pets. It can be beneficial for his overall health, making him a friendlier, happier, and more predictable companion.

Under-socialized pets can become aggressive, anxious, shy, and fearful, especially at the veterinary hospital.  We love our pets, and we know these are the last things we would want him to feel. Puppies that are under-socialized and playfully aggressive, often grow into adulthood with the same habits that were once believed to be cute.

Many adopted pets show these same behaviors for a number of different reasons. There is no way to truly understand the entire history of an adopted pet, and sometimes these traits are a result of an abusive environment or neglect. But there is hope. A little patience and extra TLC can help turn your fearful pup into a friendly one.

Socialization is a lifetime lesson and should not be neglected as they get older. It is also important to understand the personality of your dog or cat. As for any pet, some are just more social than others. A kitten might be more susceptible to making friends with a dog other than the 6-year-old cat that has never had to share your affection. But no matter the age, it doesn’t make this feat impossible.

Confinement of the new pet might be a great start. Keep the new pet in his own room with his own toys, litter box, food, and away from the resident pets. Feed both pets at the same time on each side of the door so that they can both get used to each other’s smells while doing something enjoyable (food makes everyone happy). Over time, move the food dishes closer and closer towards the door keeping them on their own side during their meal. Dogs can do well with a high, sturdy baby gate between the two. Remember that this type of gate will not prevent a cat from jumping over. Reinforcing positive conduct with a favorite treat and affection can help solidify good behavior.

Once a new pet is acclimated to the new environment let him run around and explore your home while the old pets are in confinement. Do this several times a day but only when you are home to supervise. Once you feel comfortable with allowing them to begin to interact, you can try having them meet face to face but pay attention to their body language. Cats with flattened ears, crouching, and hissing are showing signs of aggression. Dogs will bare their teeth, growl, or become stiff-legged. You can clap, spray them with a water bottle or throw a pillow in another direction to distract them. If a standoff ensues, very carefully separate them until they calm down. Placing a leash on each pet, before interacting, helps to separate them if an aggressive behavior is elicited without getting the pet or you injured. Never get in the middle of a fight, you can get hurt. By paying attention to their body language, you may be able to prevent a fight and have time to use the necessary steps before it occurs.

It is very important to stay patient. Forcing your pets to get along will diminish your chances for success and might create a negative experience for both. Remember to work at their pace, not yours. The more patient you are, the higher your chances are of success. All interactions must be closely monitored and supervised until you are absolutely positive they are comfortable and safe within each other’s company.

This can take anywhere from one week to months depending on your pet. If you feel these tips may not be working, try discussing other options with your veterinarian.

Good luck, you’re on your way to having a larger and happy family.

 

Xylitol – buyer beware, danger to your pets

By:  Dodr-calloway-156ris Calloway, DVM

Recently, I’ve noticed that there has been a lot of articles on various social media sites about xylitol and its danger to dogs.  I have had several friends and family forward me articles asking if they were true.

Unfortunately, the articles are true.  Xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs (and ferrets!).  Deadly, actually.

Xylitol is a low calorie sweetener found in many human products:
-Chewing gum
-Toothpaste
-Breath sprays
-Mouthwash
-Sugar Free Candy
-chewable vitamins and other nutritional supplements
-cough drops/lozenges
-baked goods (especially low carb/low sugar varieties)
-peanut butter and other nut butters
-baby wipes and diapers!
-drink powders
-BBQ Sauce, Ketchup, pancake syrup and other condiments
-protein powder
-Lip Balm/Lipstick and other makeup (even foundation)
The worst thing?  Its in some products manufactured specifically for pets.  A trip to my recent pet supply retailer revealed that a few brands of drinking water additives and dental sprays sold for pets contain xylitol!  The lesson there is buyer beware.  Read all labels carefully.

So what exactly happens?  Well, there are two phases.

The first phase causes life-threatening hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.  Even though xylitol is low calorie in people, in dogs it somehow manages to trick their pancreas into producing insulin.  It essentially causes an insulin over-dose, which in turn causes extremely low blood sugar.  Symptoms include seeming “drunk”, wobbly, sleepy, and can progress to seizures and coma.  You may also see vomiting during this phase.  This usually happens minutes to hours after ingestion.  In some cases where dogs have ingested gum this can occur up to 12 hours later.

The second phase is liver failure.  This happens 12 hours to 3 days after ingestion occurs.  This phase can still occur even if your dog does not suffer from low blood sugar.  In fact, you are MORE likely to see this occur if your dog does not get low blood sugar.   The signs you may see for this phase are very non-specific.  Lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea are usually what you see in this phase, but you may see signs of more severe liver failure: yellowing of the whites of the eyes and skin (jaundice) or urine that is very dark yellow or orange.

Sometimes during the second phase we can also see problems with the blood’s ability to form clots.  You may see bloody stool or vomit, bruising anywhere on the body, petechiation (small dots of blood on the skin surface), red/bloody urine, or unexplained bleeding anywhere.

So, what do you do if your dog eats something with xylitol in it?  GET TO THE VET. NOW.  It’s worth the cost of the emergency fee to have a professional make your dog vomit and remove as much of the xylitol as possible.  Your vet will probably also run blood work and  start your dog on IV fluids +/- IV dextose (sugar) if your dog gets low blood sugar.  It may seem expensive to do this, but it’s actually far cheaper than treating your dog after he’s already in liver failure and has a poor chance of survival.

Read all labels carefully and try not to purchase products that contain xylitol if your dog is the type of dog who chews on things.  Use trash cans with lids and baby locks on cabinets if you have a super-motivated dog who routinely gets into things.  I have noticed that I also have to be very watchful when my kids are brushing their teeth (they always seem to want to offer the dog their tooth brush).

If you are unsure if a product has xylitol after your dog has eaten it, you can either go to your vet, or you can call animal poison control (there is a fee).

Please leave any comments or questions below!

Why can’t my pet get vaccines if they are sick?

dr-calloway-156
By: Doris Calloway DVM
 
You have to bring Fido to see the vet for his diarrhea.  He’s due for his vaccines, has not been vaccinated yet and you think he may have Parvo, can’t you get his Parvo vaccine now to help him? Unfortunately, the answer is no.  
 
Vaccines are great – they protect against horrible diseases that there are no cures for.  They work by telling the immune system to make antibodies against those diseases. This is great when your pet is healthy, but not when he’s sick.   When your pet is sick, vaccines basically act like a distraction – they pull your immune system’s attention away from focusing on why your pet is sick. 
 
If Fido is having diarrhea (or has an ear infection, or is coughing, etc), we need his immune system to fight whatever’s wrong with all its might.  One hundred percent of his immune system needs to be fighting whatever is causing his diarrhea.  We don’t want to have his immune system giving 50% of it’s attention to make antibodies for the vaccine.  
 
If we give vaccines while something else is going on, he could potentially get sicker.  It’s just not worth the risk to vaccinate while your pet is sick.  It’s much safer to wait until Fido’s recheck and have the vaccines done at that time (assuming Fido is all better!).
 

Meet our staff

Each month we will introduce you to a staff member allowing you to get to know the people who care for your pets.

 

 

MIchelleMichelle – Receptionist

Michelle was born in Bronx, New York, but has lived in Las Vegas for many years.  She shares her home with her husband, children, 2 dogs, a snake and a bird. 

Michelle was an employee of Lone Mountain Animal Hospital over 10 years ago, she left when her and her husband started their family.  One of Michelle’s favorite memories is holding her babies for the first time. She  also loves going on adventures with her hubby and kids.  Michelle came back to Lone Mountain in 2014.  Many things have changed at LMAH while she was away, but she has acclimated great and we are glad to have her back. 

We asked Michelle the following questions:

If you had just one box for all your stuff what would you put in it?   Makeup

If you won 50 million dollars you would: Buy and island for hubby and me.  Invest the money and share with my kids.

 

 

 

Caren – Licensed Veterinary Technician

 

caren

Caren is originally from California and shares her home with her 2 corgi’s, one tortoise, one hamster and one fish.  She attended  CSN (College of Southern Nevada) – veterinary technician program where she graduated with honors, just as she did in high school.  Caren was originally hired at our sister hospital Craig Road Animal Hospital, but when we needed help she volunteered to join our staff.  Caren loves hanging out with her family and enjoys drawing, puzzles, movies and roller coasters.

Caren really does not like people who text and drive, so make sure you follow the road rules around her, although she no longer drivers her first car which was a 95 Pontiac Sunfire.  If she finds out you are headed to Australia she may try to tag along, so watch your bags.

When we asked Caren two very important questions she answered as follows:

If you had just one box for all your possessions what would you put in it? cell phone, laptop, photo albums, puzzles (she did say she likes to do puzzles) and favorite horse models.

If you had 50 million dollars I would: Travel the world, buy a house, horses and exotic animals.

Lumps and Bumps

By:  Dr. Callowaydr calloway

I noticed this lump on my pet.  Do I need to be worried about it?”  I get asked this question by animal owners several times a day, about all sorts of lumps and bumps in all sorts of places.  My answer is usually, “well, maybe”. 

I know it’s not a very specific answer, but it’s the truth!  The good news is that a lot of the lumps and bumps you can feel on your dogs skin are benign.  The bad news is that there are some that are malignant (cancerous).  It’s absolutely impossible to tell by look and feeling it which of the two categories it falls into.  In order to know if you need to worry about it, we need to do testing.

One type of testing we can do is called a fine needle aspirate.  Basically, it involves poking the lump with a needle to collect some of the cells.  We put these cells onto a slide, and then send the slide to the lab.  A specially trained veterinarian, called a pathologist, will look at the cells underneath a microscope and give their opinion as to whether or not the lump is malignant.  This is a great starting point and the least expensive option – if the pathologist can give you an answer.  Unfortunately, the pathologist cannot always give you an answer – sometimes the lump is so solid that we can collect enough cells, or collecting the cells is too bloody and the pathologist can’t differentiate between the cells in the blood and the cells from the lump.

Another type of testing we do is called a biopsy.  This is the “gold standard” and the ONLY way to get a certain, definitive answer as to whether or not the lump is cancerous.   This requires your veterinarian to surgically remove the lump, or sometimes sample a piece of it.  The entire lump is sent to the lab and the pathologist can then look in more detail at what kind of tissue the lump is made up of.  This is more expensive than the fine needle aspirate because usually full anesthesia is required, and the lab usually charges more for this service.  However, it usually possible to entirely remove the lump during this procedure, which may be the only treatment needed if it turns out that the lump is cancerous! 

I wish I had a crystal ball or x-ray goggles so that I could tell you what kind of lump it is by looking at it.  But until those have been invented, we have to actually send the lump to a pathologist to see what it is!

Stray wildlife in Las Vegas

Dr-Lee

 Have you come across a stray rabbit or bird in your yard, neighborhood or just out and about? Dr. Lee talks this month on what you should do when you find stray wildlife.

 

Spring is here in Las Vegas, and with the warm weather comes young wildlife.  You may come into contact with wildlife that appear to be orphaned or abandoned by their mothers.  The best policy if you encounter wildlife is to leave the animals alone unless they are obviously sick or injured.  Most of the young animals encountered in the wild are not orphaned or abandoned. Their mother will likely return for the babies once the coast is clear.  The most common types of wildlife encountered in Las Vegas are cottontail rabbits and songbirds.

Cottontail rabbits only feed their young at dawn and dusk so the mother is never at the nest during the day and you will likely never see her. A rabbit nest is typically a depression in the ground, lined with grass or fur. If you find a nest, leave the rabbits in the nest.  You may place a grid of string or twigs over the nest, and if the string or twigs have been moved after 12-24 hours, then the mother is around and tending to the nest.  Also, if the rabbits are warm and hydrated, then the mother has been tending to them.  If humans are hovering around the nest, this may cause a mother to stay away and abandon the young, so remember to keep your distance.  Young rabbits grow quickly and will leave the nest within two to three weeks. If a small rabbit is seen by a nest, fully furred, with its eyes open, the rabbit is most likely on its own. 

Songbird and raptor nestlings may fall out of a nest or be blown out of a nest with strong winds or after a storm.  If you find a nestling on the ground without feathers, look around for a nest.  If the nest is easily accessible, then place the bird back into the nest.  If the nest cannot be reached or found, then place the bird as close to the nest or on a branch in the tree nearby.  Birds have a very poor sense of smell.  It is a misconception that baby birds will be abandoned once touched by a human.  Fledgling birds are young birds with fully developed feathers that are not yet fully flighted.  Fledglings may spend a lot of time outside of the nest on branches or on the ground and may be “practicing” flying.  The mothers will still tend to and care for these young birds until they have mastered flying.

These are signs that an animal may need the help of a wildlife rehabilitator or veterinarian:

  • The parent is dead
  • The animal has been attacked by a predator
  • The animal is bleeding or injured
  • The animal is emaciated
  • The animal is cold or shivering

If you have to chase young wildlife, then it probably does not need to be rescued.  If you accidentally remove wildlife from its nest, they can be returned to the nest and the mother will continue care for them as long as they haven’t been absent for more than 36 hours.  Wild animals are delicate with very specific dietary and environmental needs and usually fare better with their mothers than with human intervention.  Never attempt to rehabilitate wildlife yourself.  If a wild animal is injured, sick, or truly orphaned, then a licensed wildlife rehabilitator or veterinarian should be contacted to care for the animal as these individuals are trained and equipped to provide temporary care and treatment until the animal may be released.  Rehabilitating wildlife without a license is illegal.  Wild animals also carry diseases which can be transmissible to humans and pets. 

You can help to protect young animals by checking for nests before mowing or trimming trees or bushes.  Keep pets indoors or on leashes to prevent injury to wildlife.  Place caps on chimneys, vents, and window wells to prevent nesting in these areas.  Educate children to respect wild animals and observe them from afar.

 

 

Avian Bornavirus

Dr. Starks talks this month about Avian Bornavirus.

starksAvian Bornavirus (ABV) is a progressive and often fatal disease that causes neurologic symptoms in birds. It is ubiquitous and approximately 1/3 of companion parrots are infected with the virus. Although prevalence is high, most parrots are asymptomatic carriers and not all of these infected birds will demonstrate signs or become ill. Until recently recognition and diagnosis of ABV in parrots was rare. In 2008, ABV was identified as the causative agent for Proventricular Dilation Disease (PDD). PDD, also known as “Macaw Wasting Disease,” is the most prevalent manifestation of disease with parrots showing classic gastrointestinal signs of undigested food in feces, regurgitation, delayed crop emptying, diarrhea, and severe chronic weight loss.

Below are some key points to know about this disease

ABV infection is not limited to parrots. This disease was initially tied to new world parrots like macaws, but has since been recognized in waterfowl, ratites, and raptors.

ABV transmission is not well understood and it is generally accepted that the virus is transmitted through a fecal – oral route. Recent studies suggest that this virus is often spread from parents to chicks, and possibly through eggs. While this is a contagious disease, observation in ABV infected aviaries show that this virus does not spread rapidly throughout a flock. ABV is an RNA virus, and as a general rule, RNA viruses are unstable outside of the host and break down rapidly due to naturally occurring enzymes. This means that if you have a multi bird household with an ABV positive parrot with clinical signs, there is a chance that your other birds can remain free of the disease with appropriate preventative veterinary care and good husbandry.

Because this virus has an affinity for nerve tissue, signs of ABV vary significantly. Any neurologic parrot – those having difficulty perching, walking, flying, or abnormal limb/ head positions should consider testing for ABV. In addition, because ABV is considered to be the cause of PDD, any bird with unresponsive, chronic diarrhea, regurgitation, or ravenous appetite with weight loss should also consider testing. It is important to note that most parrots show very vague forms of the aforementioned signs, and are commonly missed by most owners.

There is no standard treatment for ABV. Most veterinarians use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like meloxicam or celecoxib to reduce neurological signs. Other medications may be used to treat diarrhea, secondary infections, and regurgitation.

Prevention and being proactive is key; ask your breeder or pet store if they have tested their birds for ABV. Quarantine any new birds for 30-45 days in a separate room before introducing them to your current flock. Most importantly, remember to contact your veterinarian for advice or questions concerning ABV.

References
Presence of Avian Bornavirus RNA and Anti-avian Bornavirus Antibodies in Apparently Healthy Macaws. Siwo R. De Kloet and Gerry M. Dorrestein. Avian Diseases Digest 4(4):e10-e11. 2009.

Proventricular Dilatation Disease in Cockatiels (Nymphicus hollandicus) After Infection With a Genotype 2 Avian Bornavirus . Negin Mirhosseini, MS, Patricia L. Gray, DVM, MS, Sharman Hoppes, DVM, Dipl AVBP (Avian), Ian Tizard, BVMS, ACVM (Honorary), H. L. Shivaprasad, BVSc, PhD, ACPV, and Susan Payne, PhD. Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery September 2011 : Vol. 25, Issue 3 (Sep 2011), pg(s) 199-204

Vertical Transmission of Avian Bornavirus in Psittaciformes: Avian Bornavirus RNA and Anti-Avian Bornavirus Antibodies in Eggs, Embryos, and Hatchlings Obtained from Infected Sun Conures (Aratinga solstitialis). Anelle Kerski, Arne H. de Kloet, and Siwo R. de Kloet. Avian Diseases Digest 7(3):e9-e10. 2012.

Therapy Laser Has Arrived At LMAH!

Dog Treatment 14

Laser Therapy for Pets

For many years, world-class athletes and thoroughbred race horses have benefitted from laser therapy treatments. Fortunately, this technology is now available for pets.

Infrared laser light from therapy lasers harmlessly penetrates deep into tissues where it is absorbed in the cells, and this energy is converted into chemical, not thermal, energy.  In athletic environments, therapy lasers are primarily used to reduce swelling, reduce pain, and speed the healing process. These mechanisms allow veterinarians to successfully treat a wide range of conditions non-invasively and without drugs.

Laser therapy speeds healing, so veterinarians routinely treat injuries with the laser, as well as treating patients immediately after surgery so incisions heal more quickly. Studies indicate that laser-treated wounds heal in a third to a half faster than the time required in normal healing. A single laser treatment is usually all that is required for post-surgical patients to reduce swelling and to speed healing. Skin wounds, abrasions, bite injuries, dermatitis, and burns all respond well to laser therapy.

Acute conditions may require more than a single treatment, but also respond well to laser therapy.  Because laser therapy laser can be administered without touching the painful area, veterinarians are able to provide immediate pain relief and edema control to very sensitive tissues.

Laser therapy also reduces inflammation by increasing vasodilation, activating the lymphatic drainage system, and reducing pro-inflammatory mediators. As a result, inflammation, erythema, bruising, and edema are all reduced when treated with laser. This is especially important for conditions where anti-inflammatory medications are risky for the patient because of the patient’s age, liver health, or species. Laser therapy is a drug-free treatment modality that can often replace or enhance other treatment plans recommended by your veterinarian.

A benefit of the more modern, higher-powered therapeutic lasers, like the Companion Therapy Laser, is that adequate dosages of laser energy, or photons, can be painlessly and efficiently delivered to deeper tissues. This is a huge benefit in treating chronic conditions such as arthritis, hip dysplasia, back disease or injury, and degenerative joint diseases. Geriatric patients often suffer from one or more of these painful problems, as well the aches and pains that come naturally with aging. There thousands of reports of pets who were lame an inactive who return to normal, or almost normal function after laser therapy. More chronic and more severe cases may require multiple treatment sessions to fully benefit.

Veterinarians are also using therapeutic lasers to stimulate muscle and acupuncture points painlessly and without needles.