Posts Tagged ‘disease’

October is National Pet Wellness Month, whether your pet is a dog, cat, rabbit, ferret, or mountain lion (let’s hope not). We’ve listed 5 ways you can keep your pet healthy and safe. They are:

  1. Twice a year examinations
  2. Protective vaccinations
  3. Pet health insurance
  4. Microchipping
  5. Spay/neuter

But is that all there is? Heck, no! There are three Mondays left in the month (including today), so we have to keep going with this theme!

        6.  Internal parasite control
        7.  External parasite control

An internal parasite lives inside the host body (your dog or cat.)

An external parasite lives on the surface of the host body.

Parasites not only rob your pet of blood and nutrition, they often carry diseases and other parasites which get passed on to your pet for an added whammy. People may also be affected, as in the case of fleas that transmit plague and Bartonella (also known as cat scratch fever) and ticks that transmit Lyme disease.

Common internal parasites in our region include:

Common external parasites in our region include:

  • fleas
  • mosquitoes
  • ticks
  • lice
  • mange mites
  • ear mites (even though they live in the ears, they are considered external parasites)
  • ringworm
  • maggots 

Flies lay eggs at the site of open wounds; maggots hatch out and feed on the decaying flesh. Pets that live outdoors and are rarely tended to are at greatest risk.

Protect your pet from parasites with these steps:

  1. Use a veterinary-approved monthly heartworm and intestinal worm preventative. Revolution for cats also protects against fleas and ear mites.
  2. Use a veterinary-approved monthly flea control product. Regular monthly application is the key to reducing the flea population on your pet.
  3. Do not allow your pet to contact or ingest feces or garbage.
  4. Brush or comb your pet daily, if possible. Check for visible bugs like fleas, ticks, and lice. If you find maggots in a wound, take your pet to the vet ASAP for treatment. Look for changes in the skin that may signal microscopic bugs. You may see patches of fur loss; red, flaky skin; “dandruff” that walks; lesions; and raised red rings. 
  5. Bathe your pet at least monthly (more often if it is a dirt-lover). Keep the skin free of dirt and fur mats that can provide shelter for parasites. Fur mats that are left untended can also lead to sores, which then become a target for flies ready to lay eggs.
  6. Inform your veterinarian of changes in your pet’s skin or coat condition. Those changes may be due to parasites or to food allergies or an under-performing thyroid, so an exam and tests may be necessary to properly diagnose the problem.
  7. Gently swab your pet’s ears with a drop of baby oil on a cotton ball. Some yellowish to brownish ear wax is common – it protects the ears from dirt and bugs. If you see crumbly black debris, pus, or drops of blood, your pet may have an infection or ear mites. Have your vet check it out.
  8. Keep your pet on a high-quality food appropriate for its lifestage and activity level. Malnourished pets are at greater risk for becoming overrun with mange mites.

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     In medicine, health problems are often described by using a combination of a word element referring to a body part/system/activity plus a word element referring to the condition of that part/system/activity.

     For instance, when we combine dys (difficult) + phagia (swallowing), we get dysphagia (difficulty swallowing.)
Or: ot (ear) + itis (inflammation) = otitis (inflammation of the ear.)
Or: hypo (abnormally decreased) + glycemia (presence of glucose in the blood) = hypoglycemia (abnormally decreased level of glucose in the blood.)

     This is by no means a complete list, but it can start you on the path to understanding disease names and medical jargon.

ger(o)-………old age
hyper-………abnormally increased, excessive
hypo-………..abnormally decreased, deficient
dys-………….bad, difficult, disordered
poly-…………many, much

Common Suffixes
-gram…….written, recorded
-iasis……..state, condition
-ology…….a branch of learning
-osis………disease, abnormal increase
-pathy…….morbid condition, disease (without inflammation)
-phagia…..eating, swallowing
-trophy……growth, development

Shortcuts to other Medical Definition entries:

Colorful Definitions

Parts Department

Sounds Like Trouble


Resource: Saunders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary, Second Edition

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     …don’t let the bedbugs bite.  That’s getting tougher than ever:  the U.S. is being hit with a resurgence of these nasty bugs since the most effective pesticides have been outlawed.  Boo.  And now comes word that our pets may be bothered by the little blood-suckers, as well.  That makes sense; bedbugs live on blood and they aren’t terribly picky about the source.

My dog scratches all the time and has bug bites, but I don’t see fleas.

     If your pet’s been keeping you awake nights with the sounds of constant scratching and chewing, and you’re plagued with itchy welts, too, bedbugs could be the culprits.

How do I find the little suckers?

     Get a flashlight, pull back the sheets and mattress covers and look for specks of blood, droppings, shed skins and eggshells and the little brown bugs themselves.  Inspect behind the headboard and all around the mattress and boxspring, especially at the seams.  Check nearby furniture, including chairs, nightstands, and bureaus.  The bugs like to insert themselves into the thinnest cracks and crevices, so examine all spots, however small.  Remember to inspect the undersides of furniture, as well.

EEEEK!  I found some!  Now what?

     If you discover an infestation, call a professional licensed exterminator for help.  Some companies use insecticides to combat the bugs, while others use extreme heat-producing appliances.

Where do bedbugs come from?

     Well, kids, when a mommy bedbug and a daddy bedbug love each other very much – oh wait, that’s not what you meant, is it?  We’ll save that story for another time.  Bedbugs can be transported in on used furniture, clothing, and suitcases.  I’ve made it a habit to travel with a Maglite and carefully check the bed and other furniture in hotel rooms.  For Craigslist fanatics, beware the Curb Alert – free furniture is not a bargain if it comes with bugs.

If I have bedbugs, does that mean my house is dirty?

     Bedbugs don’t distinguish between dirty homes and clean ones.  They’re just looking for a food source and that is you.  And sometimes your pet.  Cleanliness has nothing to do with it.

Are bedbug bites dangerous?

     They’re more annoying than anything.  The bites may become infected due to excessive scratching.  Otherwise, bedbugs are not known to transmit disease.  In severe infestations, though, a patient may develop anemia. 

Where can I go to see bedbug photos that will freak me out and make me feel itchy all night?

     Glad you asked!  The College of Agriculture at the University of Kentucky has an awesomely informative PDF on bedbugs here.

How many beds could a bedbug bug if a bedbug could bug beds?

     Tragically, that question remains unanswered to this day.



Some information for this article was gleaned from an interview between Clinician’s Brief and Dr. Susan Little.

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The Case for Vaccines

Whether you’re leaving your pet at a kennel or taking it with you for the holidays, ensure that your pet is up-to-date on its vaccines.  This isn’t just a good idea:  it’s also the rule in many places.

As noted in a previous installment, vaccines themselves do not fight disease.  Rather, they prepare the body to respond to an actual viral or bacterial onslaught.  The effectiveness of a vaccination protocol depends on the health of the pet’s immune system and its ability to respond to vaccines as designed.

Not all pets will develop the desired high level of immunity to disease.  (Titer tests are available to gauge how well a pet is protected against a limited number of diseases at any particular point in time.)  Vaccination is proven beneficial to communities as a whole, as well as to individual pets.  Where disease is adequately controlled, pets with weaker immune systems benefit because they are less likely to be exposed and therefore are less likely to have to combat disease.

Boarding kennels are small communities in which disease can spread like wildfire if vaccination rules are not enforced.  Canine flu first reared its head some years ago by running rampant through kennels and dog pounds.  Once researchers became aware of the disease, they were able to develop a vaccine to slow its spread.  You may think the boarding kennel’s long list of required vaccines is a bit draconian, but it is based on real-world experience with epidemics and the desire not to repeat them. 

Even if your pet is typically healthy, someone else’s pet may not be.  If your pet is a non-symptomatic carrier of an illness, another pet could develop a full-blown illness.  At this stage, the virus or bacteria will multiply rapidly and gain strength while taking advantage of the pet with low immunity.  The now-stronger organism can spread to the other pets housed nearby.  Faced with such a challenge from a fellow boarder, even a healthy dog or cat will likely develop some degree of illness while its body responds to the invading organism. 

Knowing this, it is everyone’s responsibility to adhere to the vaccine regulations for their pet’s health and for the health of the community.  Rabies-free countries (like England) and states (like Hawaii) are especially driven to prevent the introduction of disease.

Which vaccines are most often recommended?

For dogs:

*DAPPv (also called DHPP) – combines Distemper, Adenovirus, Parvovirus, Parainfluenza


*Bordetella – also known as Canine Cough or Kennel Cough

*Canine Flu – also known as H3N8.  It is caused by a different virus than Parainfluenza.

For cats:

*FVRCCP – combines Panleukopenia (Feline Distemper), Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, Chlamydia



Why does my pet need vaccines for a road trip?

Travel can bring stress and stress can lower immune response.  Coupled with outdated vaccines, that can make a pet more susceptible to illness.  Consider that you will likely walk your pet at some point during the trip.  Can you guarantee it won’t come across other animals or animal droppings? 

Why does my pet need vaccines for airplane travel?

Most airlines and destinations require only Rabies vaccine for travel.  Not all pet owners choose to inoculate their pets against airborne diseases such as Flu or Bordetella.  Your pet may be sharing space with unprotected animals, which leaves your pet exposed.  Again, combining travel-induced stress with a lowered immune response and outdated vaccines, your pet could end up with a severe illness.  Don’t take that chance.

As a final note… 

Immune systems need time to respond to vaccines and prepare the body to fend off illness.  For this reason, we advise vaccinating your pet at least one month in advance of traveling or kenneling.


This is the final installment of the travel series.  Is there anything not yet discussed that you would like to know?  Leave a comment or send a private e-mail to

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