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

ARCHIVE

2016

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Best Friends Pet Care : The Dog Dish

Tag Archives: preventative pet care

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

Heartworms: a primer for every pet parent

As a responsible pet parent, you know that you are supposed to keep your fur babies on heartworm preventive, but have you ever wondered why it is so important? What would happen if you didn’t? What if your pet has heartworms – what now?

We believe that information is power and there is A LOT of information on this dreaded disease. Over the next 3 posts, we will cover:

  • An overview of the heartworm lifecycle and how prevention fits into disrupting it
  • How the worms cause signs of illness and what the most accurate tests are for diagnosis
  • What are the safest strategies for treatment

Overview of heartworm biology

So what are heartworms anyway? Heartworms are really just that, worms that live in heart of a dog or cat. But how do they get there?

By now you know that mosquitos are the way these little buggers get into our pets. Mosquitos can carry heartworm larvae (microscopic baby worms called microfilaria) which can enter into the bloodstream of a dog or cat when they are bitten by a mosquito. These larvae whoosh around in the bloodstream for about 6 months, getting bigger and bigger until they can’t fit in the small blood vessels anymore. This is when they essentially get stuck in the heart or, in the case of cats, in the large blood vessels in the lungs.

Once they are in the heart or lungs as adults, male and female worms start making babies (more microfilariae!) which also go out and whoosh around the entire blood stream. Adult heartworms can live for 5 to 7 years in dogs and up to 2 or 3 years in cats! This means that every mosquito season can potentially lead to higher and higher numbers of worms living in your pet.  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.

Pets with microfilariae circulating around in their bloodstream also pose a risk for other pets in the area as well by serving as a reservoir. Mosquitos can bite an infected dog, then carry the microfilariae to another dog and the cycle continues.

How does heartworm prevention work?

This is the part where you come in. The monthly medications that you give your dog or cat to prevent heartworm disease works by killing the baby larvae and microfilariae that may have gotten in via the dreaded mosquito bite. Every month you give the medication, you are potentially killing off a new round of invaders before they have the chance to grow into adult worms and cause disease.

This is why monthly heartworm preventive is critical in areas where there is any mosquito activity. According the recommendations from the American Heartworm Society, the safest option for prevention is for pets to be on heartworm prevention year round.

Our next post cover the basics of how the infection actually makes your dog or cat sick and what are the most accurate way of confirming a diagnosis. Stay tuned…

Tags: Ask the Vet, Cats, Dog safety, Dogs, Health, Pet advice, Preventative pet care

Pet Dental Health Month – Periodontal Disease

Brush Your Pet's Teeth

Periodontal disease is the loss of the periodontal attachment apparatus (periodontal ligament, alveolar bone, cementum and gingiva). Since 75-85% of these structures are identified below the soft tissues of the oral cavity (e.g. gingiva, alveolar mucosa, and palatal mucosa), a thorough clinical subgingival evaluation and intraoral radiographs are required to assess, diagnose and treat periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease may be potentiated by, but not limited to, malocclusions, crowding and rotation of teeth, systemic disease, nutritional status, individual patient susceptibility, genetics, trauma, and increased tooth to jaw size ratios.

The clinical signs of periodontal disease are often hidden and insidious. Halitosis, gingivitis, supragingival plaque and calculus, reluctance to chew, head shyness, pawing at the mouth, dropping food, sneezing, nasal discharge, are clinical signs. Unfortunately, many of those clinical signs require astute client observation and/or careful questioning from the clinician. Most commonly, there may be no obvious clinical signs to the owner and untrained veterinarian.

Stages of periodontal disease:

Stage 1 – Marginal gingivitis with no attachment loss. Minimal plaque and calculus

Stage 2 – Moderate gingivitis, bleeding upon probing. More plaque and calculus     accumulation is present, especially in the gingival sulcus. Dental radiographs may show signs of up to 25% attachment loss and some horizontal bone loss may be evident.

Stage 3 – Moderate periodontal disease. Periodontal pockets may be present and dental radiographs may show signs of attachment loss between 25% and 50%. Teeth may become mobile. Vertical bone loss and infra-bony pockets may be present.

Stage 4 – Severe periodontal disease. Periodontal pockets greater than 9 mm. Attachment loss is greater than 50%. Significant infrabony pockets with very mobile teeth associated with severe halitosis and generalized stomatitis.

 

Tags: Ask the Vet, Cats, Dogs, Health, Pet dental health month, Pet health, Preventative pet care
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