Best Friends Pet Care : The Dog Dish
Best Friends Pet Care : The Dog Dish
Best Friends Pet Care : The Dog Dish

So you have a new puppy – now what?

Golden Retriever Puppy

Is there anything better than a warm, wiggly, cuddly puppy? A new bundle of joy always brings smiles but also, responsibility. Making sure your new fur baby is healthy and well cared for now, will save you time and money down the road. So, what now?

First, schedule a visit with your family vet within the first week of getting your new pup. Be sure to bring in any paperwork you have about vaccinations, wellness checks, or medications they have been given. The purpose of this general check-up exam is to make sure your puppy doesn’t have any obvious health problems or birth defects. For example, your veterinarian will check the mouth for a cleft palate, listen to the heart in case of a heart murmur, check for an umbilical hernia, etc. This exam is also a good time for you to discuss anything you have noticed at home that you are concerned about. Is your pup not eating well? Have you noticed any vomiting or diarrhea? Have you noticed a runny nose or watery eyes?

It is important to remember that even if your new fur baby is not showing any signs of a health problem at the time of their visit to the vet, they may still be incubating an illness. Diseases such as parvovirus or distemper can take 7 to 10 days to start causing symptoms, so be sure to keep an eye out for any signs of a problem.

During your visit, your veterinarian will also recommend getting a poop sample to check your new puppy for intestinal parasites and discuss a deworming schedule. Pups are often born with intestinal parasites and, even if they have already been dewormed, will often need more than a single dose of deworming medication.

Vaccinations (shots) are critical to keeping your puppy healthy and can help them avoid common puppy illnesses such as parvovirus and distemper. During your initial visit, your veterinarian will go over a vaccine schedule for your new pup. The first set of shots should happen at around 6 to 8 weeks of age with boosters given every 3 to 4 weeks until they are about 16 weeks old. Remember, until your pup is fully vaccinated, be sure to keep him/her isolated from other dogs. This means no boarding, no dog parks, pet stores, etc.

This initial visit is also a good time for you to talk to your veterinarian about microchipping. This means inserting a chip about the size of a grain of rice under the puppy’s skin that contains your contact information. If your dog is ever lost or separated from you in an emergency, a veterinary clinic or shelter will be able to scan your pet and contact you. Inserting the chip is easy (it’s just like getting a vaccine) and the cost is typically low.  Even if your pet is chipped however, they should still wear a collar with their name and your contact information.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions at this (or any) vet visit! This is the time for you to ask about anything you are concerned about. Your Best Friends veterinarian and the entire veterinary team are there to help you be the best pet parent you can be and to make sure that life with your new pup gets off to a safe and healthy start!

Tags: Best Friends Spotlight, Dogs, Pet advice, Pet behavior, Puppies, Puppy, Tips

Heartworms 101: Part 3

Border Collie

So how is heartworm infection treated?

So your dog or cat has been diagnosed with heartworm disease, now what? For dogs, there are approved medications and well established guidelines about how to treat depending on the severity of their disease. For cats, things are a bit trickier since there are no approved treatments for heartworm infection in cats. This is why prevention is so critical.

Let’s cover the basics of treatment for each species individually.

Dogs

Once a diagnosis has been made, your veterinarian will want to perform some additional tests to get a better idea of how much, if any, damage has already occurred. The reason behind this approach is that the severity of the changes can help gauge the risk for complications. However, even dogs with mild changes can develop complications and will need to be monitored closely. One the most important things that you can do as a pet parent once your dog has been diagnosed with heartworm disease is restrict their activity.  Exertion can increase the risk for further damage and increase the chance of complications either before or during therapy.

Heartworm disease in dogs is typically classified as:

Mild No clinical signs or minimal clinical signs
Moderate May have a cough or exercise intolerance, abnormal lung sounds during physical exam
Severe Cough, exercise intolerance, anemia, abnormal lung sounds during physical exam, enlarged liver, or fluid in the abdomen
Caval syndrome Sudden onset of severe weakness, collapse, discolored urine

Prior to heartworm therapy, your veterinarian will prescribe an antibiotic called doxycycline or minocycline. This medication helps eliminate a bacteria carried by the heartworms that can cause complications during therapy. Your veterinarian may also recommend a medication at this time to begin to kill off any baby heartworms (microfilariae) as well.

Therapy to kill the adult heartworms will involve a medication called melarsomine which is given as a series of 3 injections over the course of 1 month. Your dog will get one injection then another 2 injections, 24 hours apart, 30 days later. In addition to STRICT EXERCISE RESTRICTION, your veterinarian may also prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication during this time to help decrease inflammation that may occur as a result of the dying worms.

About 6 months after treatment, your veterinarian will perform a blood test to confirm that all of the adult worms have been eliminated.

Cats

There are no approved drugs to treat cats with heartworm infections. Unlike in dogs, the goal of therapy in cats is not to eliminate worms, but to manage the clinical signs and try to reduce further damage. For cats with clinical signs such as coughing or wheezing, your veterinarian may prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication called prednisolone to help reduce inflammation in the airways.

Radiographs (x-rays) of the chest will also be important to determine the severity of the changes in the lungs and assess progression.

Cats can sometimes overcome a heartworm infection on their own over time so blood tests should be performed every 6 to 12 months in heartworm-positive kitties to see if the infection has cleared.

Tags: Ask the Vet, Best Friends Spotlight, Cats, Dogs, Health, Pet advice, Pet behavior, Pet health, Pet info, Tips, Vet

Heartworms 101: Part 2

Sitting PugWhat are the signs and how is heartworm infection diagnosed?

 So if you read the first part of our series (insert link), you now have a better sense of how these dreaded little creatures get into our pets. Now let’s talk about what they do once they get in there and how they can make our fur babies so miserable.

How does heartworm infection become heartworm disease?

So once this parasite sets up shop in your dog or cat, the male and female adult worms make more baby worms (microfilariae). As this cycle of reproduction goes on over months to years, the adult worms are continuously causing damage to the inside of the heart. In the case of cats, the problems are even more severe since the worms are actually in the lungs and wreaking havoc there.

These worms can cause disease in a variety of ways.

  • They cause inflammation
  • They cause an obstruction in blood flow
  • They cause an allergic reaction

Any of these issues will lead to clinical signs that can vary from mild to severe. Some pets, specifically dogs, can have an infection and show no signs at all early in the disease process.  These clinical signs can also be seen as worms die, either from old age or due to treatment (more on this in the next part of our series).

The most common signs of heartworm disease in dogs are:

  • Coughing (this can vary in frequency and severity)
  • Reluctance to exercise
  • Fatigues easily
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • In dogs with severe advanced disease, you may see a distended abdomen, labored breathing, pale gums, or discolored urine

The most common signs of heartworm disease in cats are:

  • Vomiting
  • Asthma-like symptoms (wheezing, labored breathing)
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • In severe cases, the first clinical sign may be sudden collapse

How is heartworm infection diagnosed?

The American Heartworm Society recommends that dogs and cats be tested annually, even if they are on heartworm preventive. This is to ensure that the prevention plan is working. The test only requires a small sample of blood. In dogs, the test will look for a specific protein (antigen) in the blood that is released by the adult heartworms. The test is very sensitive and even a dog with a low number of adult worms will be positive. Dogs can also be screened by looking for the baby worms (microfilariae) in the peripheral blood but this test is not as sensitive as the antigen test.

In cats, heartworm infection can be harder to detect. Since their infections commonly only consist of low numbers of immature worms, the ideal test will screen for the antigen as well as an antibody level which detects exposure to heartworm larvae. Some cats may require other tests as well if the blood tests alone are not definitive. These may include x-rays of the chest or an ultrasound of the heart.

In our next installment, we will discuss treatment of heartworm infection in dogs and cats.

Tags: Ask the Vet, Health, Pet advice, Pet behavior, Pets, Preventative pet care
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