Tick Season Is Around The Corner!
Remember when you used to hear warnings about tucking your pants into your socks before wandering in Point Pelee National Park? Those warnings were to prevent people from getting Lyme disease from the deer ticks found in the Park. Thanks to environmental change we now have ticks in our area that carry the organism responsible for Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi.
Different species of ticks carry different disease causing organisms. If you take your pet with you across the border you might pick up an extra passenger. Your pet might return with either Ehrlichiosis or Anaplasmosis. Both of these diseases attack the blood cells causing either severe anemia or immune deficiencies. As with Lyme disease, people can also suffer from Ehrlichiosis.
Ticks become active in temperatures as low as 4 degrees Celsius. Because we have been experiencing extreme variations in winter temperatures and we are seeing an increase in the number of pets with tick borne diseases, we are now recommending year round prevention for fleas and ticks. Depending on which prevention you choose, it can also protect your pet against Sarcoptic Mange, which we discussed in last month’s newsletter.
Don't worry though, prevention of flea diseases and related issues is simple. Bring your dog in annually for a simple blood test that will detect the presence of B. burgdorferi, Ehrlicia, Anaplasma and Heartworm and we can treat it accordingly so larger issues don't develop.
There are many diseases that can cross between species, for example from dogs, cats or lizards to humans. That means that if Rover tangles with a parasite, you and your loved ones could potentially contract a disease if the right precautions are not taken. As March is Zoonotic month we thought we would address some of the common parasites that we see at our clinic.
What is Toxoplasmosis
& Why Pregnant Women Should Care?
Pregnant women are warned not to clean litterboxes because of an organism called Toxoplasma. This organism has the ability to cross the placenta and can cause varying degrees of blindness in the newborn. It can also cause a variety of severe neurological conditions and at its worse can lead to miscarriage or stillbirth. This sounds frightening but please don’t give away your cat if you are thinking about starting a family. The organism takes 24 to 48 hours after passing from the cat (in feces) to become infectious. Cleaning the litterbox at least once a day and wearing rubber gloves will prevent infection. Better yet, get someone else to clean the litterbox!
Toxoplasma can also be transmitted from animals to humans by ingestion of undercooked meat.
What's The Big Deal About Roundworms & Hookworms?
Both Roundworms and Hookworms from dogs and cats can infect humans. We can become infected from contact with feces and possibly from being licked in the face by our pets.
Young children and the elderly are at the highest risk along with people who are immune suppressed from HIV-Aids, organ transplant recipients on anti-rejection drugs and anyone who is on immune suppressing drugs.
In the above population these intestinal parasites can cause Larval Migrans which means “migrating larva.” When ingested by humans, who are not their first choice as a host, the larvae travel from the digestive tract and can cause damage wherever they end up. For example, larvae migrating to a child’s eye can cause blindness.
Visceral (organ), ocular (eye), and neural larval migrans.
Visceral (organ) and cutaneous (skin) larval migrans.
Puppies and kittens need to be dewormed beginning at 2 weeks of age, every 2 weeks thereafter until they are 4 months of age and then monthly until 6 months of age.
How Periodontal Disease Develops in Pets:
The cause of gum disease is the same in cats and dogs as it is in people. Gum disease is an infection resulting from build-up of soft dental plaque on the surfaces of the teeth around the gums. The bacteria in dental plaque irritate the gum tissue if plaque is allowed to accumulate, which often leads to infection in the bone surrounding the teeth. Hard dental tartar (calculus) consists of calcium salts from saliva deposited on plaque. Tartar starts to form within a few days on a tooth surface that is not kept clean, and provides a rough surface that enhances further plaque accumulation. Once it has begun to grow in thickness, tartar is difficult to remove without dental instruments.
Consequences of Periodontal Disease in Pets:
Bad breath is the most common effect noted by owners. However, this is often only the tip of the iceberg. The gums become irritated, leading to bleeding and oral pain, and your cat or dog may lose its appetite or drop food from its mouth while eating. The roots may become so severely affected that some teeth become loose and fall out. Bacteria surrounding the roots gain access to the blood stream ("bacteremia"). Studies have shown that dogs with severe periodontal disease have more severe microscopic damage in their kidneys, heart muscle and liver than do dogs with less severe periodontal disease.
Keep your pets away from stream or pond edges so they don’t fall through the ice.
Ensure your vehicles are not leaking antifreeze as even a small amount (as little as one tablespoon) ingested by a dog or cat can be deadly.
Honk your horn prior to starting your car to alert any stray cat that may be seeking warmth under the hood.
Don’t tie a pet outdoors during periods of extreme cold. Even a few minutes in the cold without protection from wind and wet can cause hypothermia.
PET SAFETY DURING THE HOLIDAY SEASON
The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can be stressful and sometimes dangerous for pets. Encounters with strangers, bright Christmas lights, chocolate treats and fatty table scraps are just a few holiday dangers a pet may encounter. The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association & Blue Mountain Veterinary Services offer the following tips for pet owners and their animals to enjoy a safe and happy holiday season.
Holiday Food & Drink
Alcohol: Dogs in particular may be attracted to alcoholic beverages. Alcohol is a dangerous substance for pets, so keep drinks and bottles out of reach at all times. Signs of alcohol intoxication in pets may include vomiting, wobbly gait, depression, disorientation, and/or low body temperature. If alcohol ingestion is suspected, bring your pet to see a veterinarian immediately.
Chocolate: All foods containing chocolate, which can be toxic to animals, should be safely stored away in areas inaccessible to pets.
Poultry bones: Avoid feeding poultry bones to cats and dogs. A turkey bone can splinter and become lodged in the throat or further down the digestive system.
Table scraps: Many pets are adept at finding food on counter tops and tables, so keep the meal out of reach. Ask guests not to feed your pet table scraps.
Xylitol: Ingestion of this low-calorie artificial sweetener found in chewing gum, candies and baked goods from grocery stores or bakeries can lead to liver injury or even liver failure.
Christmas trees with their prickly pine needles, wire hooks, shiny ribbons, and small ingestible ornaments are particularly hazardous. Tinsel, which is sparkly and attractive to pets (especially cats), can cause blockages in their intestines, leading to an emergency trip to the veterinary hospital. Chewing on Christmas light cords could shock, burn or electrocute a pet. Christmas tree water can also be harmful to pets.
Hazardous Holiday Plants
Holly: Ingestion is most commonly associated with signs such as digestive upset and nervous system depression. Holly has some of the same toxic components as chocolate (caffeine, theobromine).
Mistletoe: Can produce quite severe irritation of the digestive tract, as well as whole body symptoms including low heart rate and temperature, difficulty breathing, unsteadiness, excess thirst, and sometimes seizures, coma, and even death.
Poinsettia: Ingestion of leaves generally causes mild to moderate digestive upsets. Excess saliva, vomiting, and diarrhea may also result.
If you suspect your pet has chewed or ingested something unusual, call your veterinarian immediately. Do not wait until the end of a weekend, or overnight for regular office hours. Some toxins can damage internal organs and may cause significant (and perhaps irreversible) injury in a short time frame.
CONTRIBUTORS TO CANCER IN OUR PETS
Pets have an increased risk of cancer as they age just as we do. What can we do about it?
Smoking indoors increases the risk of cancer in exposed pets. Yes, this means if you smoke in your house you are increasing not only your own risk of getting cancer but your indoor pets will also be more likely to develop cancer. Furthermore, cats are very much at risk for feline asthma if they live in a house with a smoker.
Lymphoma, which is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in dogs, resembles non-Hodgkin lymphoma in humans.
Risk factors that have been demonstrated for both of these cancers
include pesticides, household chemicals (in particular paints and paint strippers) and living in an industrial area.
The bottom line for both you and your pets is, live a healthy lifestyle including being aware of your environment, ensuring optimal nutrition and getting regular checkups.
In Canada's Pet Wellness Report (published in 2011), Canadian veterinarians identified weight control/management as the number one thing a pet owner can do to increase the length of their pet’s life.
Diagnosis of health disorders is more difficult in obese pets, because it is more difficult to auscultate (listen with stethoscope) efficiently, or palpate (feel the abdomen or other structures), or to get proper samples (for example, venipuncture, or vein access may be more difficult).
Obese pets are at a greater risk during anaesthesia and surgery since they have reduced lung function, sometimes decreased liver and kidney function, greater risk of wound infection and require more anaesthetic than healthy weight pets. The surgeon may also be challenged due to excessive body cavity fat stores, as internal structures may be embedded deeply in these fatty accumulations.
High blood pressure (hypertension) may develop; increases the risk of kidney, heart and vascular (blood vessel) diseases.
Obese pets tend to play and exercise less, and if exercise is vigourous pets are more likely to develop torn knee ligaments (known as “cranial cruciate rupture”); obesity leads to impaired endurance during exercise, increased fatigue.
Obese pets tend to be less able to fight off infectious diseases and may have slower healing.
Because of the insulating properties of fat, obese pets are less able to endure hot weather, and may become more irritable or require enhanced cooling strategies to avoid overheating (hyperthermia).
Breathing problems may be significant if breeds of pets with very short nose/skull conformation (known as brachycephalic) become overweight as the fat presses in on the airways, and heat or exercise both may further compromise the system in these obese pets.
All these effects contribute to a reduced life span and negatively affect the quality of a pet's life. Pets that are healthy and physically fit tend to live longer, are happier and enjoy life more. Talk with us to find out how you can keep your pet physically fit and a healthy weight/body condition score.
IS YOUR CAT IN PAIN - THE MANY FACES OF PAIN
THE CROISSANT - SHOWS WELL CONTROLLED PAIN
Cats ears are pricked (upright) and forward, the eyes are not slanted. A horizontal line could be drawn through the center of each eye. The back is minimally hunched and the cat appears bright and alert. Posture also displays a relaxed, tucked in leg posture, resembling a croissant.
A cat with a hunched back, legs straightened often sitting quietly at the back of the cage may be in pain. This posture is often seen after abdominal surgery.
Cats with their heads down, ears "droopy" and eyes half closed and in a slanted position may be in pain.
Cats which are recumbent, tense or rigid may be in severe pain.
Previously friendly and easy to handle cats that hiss, snarl or flinch or try to claw or bite in reaction to gentle pressure to a wound, or those that generally resent handling are probably in pain. A cat's reaction can be expected to be proportional to the amount of pain being experienced.
To see examples of these facial expression sign up for our September newsletter.
Preventative Health Care
Just as we take our children to the Doctor for vaccinations to prevent diseases we need to give our pets the same preventative measures.
Vaccinations are our best tool for eradicating viruses capable of causing serious illness or death. For example, Canada and the US are polio-free but in Afghanistan and Pakistan children are still becoming disabled or are dying from this disease.
Rabies is a disease we are all familiar with. It is always deadly and can infect any mammal, including humans. Rabies is on the increase again in Ontario. Vaccination against this extremely dangerous virus is very effective at preventing the spread of disease.
Did You Know That Raccoons Can Carry and Spread The Canine Distemper Virus?
For the last couple of years, distemper has been spreading through the raccoon population in epidemic proportions. If your dog comes in contact with an infected raccoon and is not up to date on vaccinations there is a real risk that the dog will develop distemper.
How Do Vaccines Work?
Vaccines work by teaching the immune system to recognize the virus as an invader. This can result in vaccine “reactions”. As Veterinarians we always weigh the pros and cons for each individual in our care. We ask questions to get an idea of the individual pets’ risk of exposure to various diseases. We use vaccines with longer lasting protection when possible thereby decreasing the frequency of vaccinating. We can also offer to not give all required vaccines during one visit. It means an extra trip to the Veterinary Hospital but studies have shown that the risk of vaccine reaction increases if more vaccines are given at the same time.
Every year many dogs are lost when they are taken to fireworks displays. Many dogs are afraid of loud noises such as fireworks and will bolt.
Leave your dog at home during fireworks displays
If your dog is very afraid stay home with him
If your dog is very, very afraid we can prescribe a sedative to administer prior to the fireworks
Consider getting a thunder shirt for your dog
Have your pets microchipped
Keep a current photo of your pets
Keep cats indoors
Keep dogs on a leash unless in a fenced area
According to the US National Fire Protection Association almost 1000 fires are started annually in the US by pets. Some tips to avoid being part of this statistic:
Remove stove knobs when leaving the house
Kennel pets when they are left home alone
Opt for flameless candles
Puppy proof all electrical cords
Keep heat-producing appliances such as irons and curling irons out of pets' reach
Install a barrier around fireplaces and portable heaters
When we think of animal rights we often think of farm animals in crowded trucks on their way to market or hens in battery laying cages. We can all do our part to reduce their suffering by being mindful as consumers.
What can we do to reduce the suffering of cats and dogs?
- The first thing everyone can do is have their pets spayed or neutered. This will significantly reduce the number of unwanted pets.
- We can also make better choices. When looking for a pet go to shelters first. If you do go to a breeder and you are looking for a dog whose breed standard requires ear cropping or tail docking tell the breeder you will only buy a pup from them if it does not have the procedure done.
- If you come across a puppy mill while looking for a pet report them to the SPCA. If there is no SPCS in that area phone the police.
- Be aware of the signs of abuse.
- There are two kinds of abuse, physical and neglect.
Physical abuse must be reported.
Statistics show that someone who is abusive to a pet has a high probability of being abusive to people. Some infamous murder investigations have revealed that pet abuse preceded horrendous attacks on people. (Reference: Columbine School shooting: The Link Among Animal Abuse, Child Abuse, and Domestic Violence, Mellissa Trollinger)
By reporting animal abuse you may prevent human tragedy as well.
Abuse through neglect can come in various forms: no stimulus or contact for long periods of time, lack of fresh food and water or lack of required veterinary care. This type of abuse is often through ignorance rather than cruelty. It can be passed down through generations. In these situations, the SPCA and veterinarians can often educate the people involved thereby improving the lives of the pets without having to place them in shelters.
We all face circumstances that can inadvertently lead to cruelty. For example, running into the grocery store while your pet is in the car can rapidly lead to the pet’s death from heat stroke.
We can all do our part daily to improve the lives of the pets and people that surround us. Always strive to be kind. Always think of the possible consequences of your actions.
If you or someone you know don’t have a pet to celebrate in June with please consider adopting one of these beautiful babies. They are looking for their forever homes.