Posts Tagged ‘preventative care’

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If you’ve lived in Hampton Roads for very long, you know that mosquitoes are here to stay.  Unfortunately, these pests can carry deadly heartworm disease, which affects dogs and cats.

As the name suggests, heartworms live in the heart, but they can also migrate to the lungs and brain.  While a dog can carry a burden of numerous heartworms before dying, a cat can have a deadly reaction to the presence of a single worm. 

And treatment for heartworm disease is not as short and sweet as it is for intestinal worms.  Ongoing treatment for heartworm disease can last up to 6 months, requires total cage rest for the entire treatment period, and – perhaps scariest of all – involves the use of an arsenic-based drug.  If your pet’s doctor has been harping on the issue of heartworm prevention, now you know why.

The Heartworm Life Cycle

  1. A mosquito bites a heartworm-infected dog and ingests tiny heartworm larvae along with the animal’s blood.  (Wolves, foxes, and coyotes can also carry the disease.)
  2. Inside the mosquito, these larvae develop into their infective stage.
  3. When the same mosquito bites another dog (or a cat), the larvae infect the healthy animal.
  4. Without a monthly dose of preventative, the larvae continue to develop inside the dog or cat, eventually reaching the heart and lungs.

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Information for this article was borrowed from the Merial publication “Protector,” Summer 2010 issue.

This article originally appeared on April 4, 2011.

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FUNNY ANSWER:  No; let your vet do it.

SERIOUS ANSWER:    If you own a female dog or cat, you will be faced with the question of whether or not to spay your pet. Many animal shelters make that decision for the prospective owners, as they often will not adopt out an intact pet. Cats that come in and out of heat every few weeks, yowling, rolling, and trying to escape outdoors, are typically spayed in a hurry, so the owner can relax. 

But female dogs can be quiet about estrus*, perhaps not shedding much blood or making a nuisance of themselves. Male dogs jumping the fence in search of a mate may be the worst part of the problem. Still, pet owners wonder whether the risk of spay surgery is acceptable. Spaying – at least for now – is still an elective, rather than a legal mandate, in most places. 

[*Italicized words are defined in the glossary at the end of this article.]

For the purposes of this post, we will consider as a “spay” an ovariohysterectomy, in which the uterus and ovaries are removed. Another type of spay surgery is the ovariectomy, in which only the ovaries are removed. 

What are the benefits of spaying?

  • Reduced risk of mammary cancer
  • Eliminated risk of uterine and ovarian tumors
  • Eliminated risk of uterine infection (pyometra)
  • Eliminated risk of unwanted litters
  • Financial incentive, i.e. greatly discounted rate for city license fees 
  • Fewer unwanted “suitors” coming to call

Focus on pyometra
Pyometra
 is a preventable disease, in that it can be prevented through spay surgery. Intact (non-spayed) females are at risk for pyometra, which often presents 1-2 months after estrus (or “heat”). Elevated hormone levels can lead to greater than normal secretions in the uterus, providing a breeding ground for bacteria.

Affected dogs may have an “open” pyometra, in which pus, mucus, and blood may be seen draining from the vulva. In a “closed” infection, the accumulated pus does not drain, and the pet may show more severe signs of illness. In either case, look for lethargyanorexia, depression, excessive thirst. Pets with ”closed” infections may exhibit vomiting and diarrhea, shock, and collapse. Interestingly, fever is not always present.

In most cases, spay surgery is the preferred remedy for pyometra. Due to the illness, the risks of surgery are elevated. To wit: the infected organ must be removed from the body without introducing its contents to the body cavity. Adding to the risk is the pet’s poor general health as a result of the infection. For these reasons, prevention through early spay surgery is recommended.

Normal canine uterus.  Photo by Jennifer Miele

Normal canine uterus. Photo by Jennifer Miele

Normal canine uterus. Photo by Jennifer Miele

Normal canine uterus. Photo by Jennifer Miele

Infected canine uterus (pyometra).  Notice the sausage-like appearance.  Photo by Jennifer Miele

Infected canine uterus (pyometra). Notice the sausage-like appearance. Photo by Jennifer Miele

 

 

 Glossary

  • anorexia – loss of appetite
  • estrus – the portion of the reproductive cycle in which female animals will accept a mate; “heat”
  • intact – not spayed or castrated
  • lethargy – tiredness, reluctance to move or engage in normal activity
  • ovariohysterectomy – surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus; “spay” surgery
  • pyometra – infection of the uterus
  • vulva – the external female genitals

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Resources:
Saunders Manual of Small Animal Practice (Birchard, Sherding)
Saunders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary (Blood, Studdert)

This article was originally posted on January 30, 2012.

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If you think only people can catch the flu – think again. A flu strain known as H3N8 affects dogs all over America.

Get the facts here, then make an appointment with us to vaccinate your dog for Canine Influenza.

Some quick facts about Canine Flu:

  • Only affects dogs
  • First reported in March 2003, in Florida
  • Highly contagious, especially in kennels, shelters, grooming parlors, dog parks
  • Signs include persistent cough, fever, nasal discharge, lack of energy, lack of appetite
  • Nearly 20% of infected dogs will develop high fever and pneumonia
  • Spread through direct contact; cough or sneeze; contaminated hands, clothing, surfaces

My dog’s records say she’s received the Parainfluenza vaccine already.  That’s the same thing as the H3N8 Flu, right?
No.  Parainfluenza is a different virus, unrelated to the (relatively) newly discovered H3N8.  Your pet’s immune system will know the difference!

My dog is already vaccinated against Bordetella (Kennel Cough.)  Isn’t that the same thing?
No.  Although the symptoms may look the same, the organisms responsible are different.  Bordetella is caused by bacteria; Canine Influenza is caused by a virus.  Vaccinating against one does not automatically provide protection against the other.

How can I tell whether my dog needs the Canine Flu vaccination?
The same situations that call for the Bordetella vaccine, also call for the Flu shot. Check this list* to see which situations apply to your pet:

  • Pet comes from a shelter, rescue group, breeding kennel, pet store
  • Pet boards at a kennel or goes to doggie daycare
  • Pet attends group training classes
  • Pet goes to a groomer, dog parks, or meets other dogs during its daily walks
  • Pet is entered into dog shows
  • Pet comes into contact with other dogs in veterinary clinic or pet store

How many Canine Flu shots does my dog need?
Initially, dogs should receive two Flu shots spaced 2-4 weeks apart; after that, one booster yearly is recommended.

So if my pet gets the Canine Flu shot, it won’t develop the disease?
The Canine Flu vaccine makes it much less likely that your pet will develop the disease.  And if he does get sick, he is more likely to have a mild case and recover more quickly than a dog that has not been vaccinated.

Why did the veterinarian give my dog antibiotics, if the Canine Flu is a virus?
The doctor may opt to treat suspected secondary bacterial infections with antibiotics.  Bacterial infections are often responsible for a thick yellow/green nasal discharge that can accompany the Flu, but there can be other symptoms, as well.   

Remember:  when your pet is sick, its immune system is fighting the primary illness, but it is still vulnerable to other diseases that come along.  In our clinic, we call those secondary infections “opportunistic” because they are taking advantage of the opportunity infect a pet with a weakened immune system.  And, unfortunately, Mother Nature has no law against people or pets suffering more than one illness at a time.

Learn more about reducing your dog’s risk of contracting Canine Influenza.

*Borrowed from “Canine Influenza: What do I need to know?” by Intervet Schering-Plough Animal Health. Pamphlet is available at our office.

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This article was originally posted on November 10, 2011 and November 14, 2012.

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NPWM 009

In recognition of National Pet Wellness Month, we present the

Top Ten Ways to Keep Your Pet Healthy:

  1. Twice a year examinations
  2. Protective vaccinations
  3. Pet health insurance
  4. Microchipping
  5. Spay/neuter
  6. Internal parasite control
  7. External parasite control
  8. Dental care
  9. Proper diet
  10. Exercise

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Nation’s Largest Pet Insurer Reveals Most Common Causes of Veterinary Visits

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Brea, Calif. (April 2, 2013) – Just like their human counterparts, when pets are afflicted with even seemingly minor ailments such as an ear infection, stomach ache or cough, it can prompt a visit to the doctor. While the majority of these conditions are rarely life threatening, they can become chronic and expensive to treat. Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI) policyholders spent more than $58 million in 2012 treating the 10 most common medical conditions affecting their pets. VPI, the nation’s oldest and largest provider of pet health insurance, recently sorted its database of more than 485,000 insured pets to determine the top 10 dog and cat medical conditions in 2012. Below are the results:

 

Top Dog Conditions  Top Cat Conditions
1. Skin Allergies 1. Bladder Infection
2. Ear Infection 2. Periodontitis/Dental Disease
3. Skin Infection 3. Overactive Thyroid
4. Non-Canerous Skin Growth 4. Chronic Kidney Disease
5. Upset Stomach/Vomiting 5. Upset Stomach/Vomiting
6. Arthritis 6. Diabetes
7. Intestinal Upset/Diarrhea 7. Intestinal Upset/Diarrhea
8. Bladder Infection 8. Skin Allergies
9. Periodontitis/Dental Disease 9. Lymphosarcoma (Cancer of Lymph Node
10. Bruise or Contusion 10. Upper Respiratory Infection

 Compare this list with the Top Ten Medical Claims of 2010 and Top Ten Medical Claims of 2011.

“Although a few of the top 10 dog and cat conditions can be associated with an animal’s natural aging process, many of the conditions listed above can occur in any pet,” said Dr. Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for VPI. “Regardless of the age or breed of the dog or cat, pet owners should familiarize themselves with their pets’ daily routine in order to identify abnormal behaviors that might indicate an injury or illness.”

In 2012, VPI received more than 68,000 canine claims for skin allergies, the most common cause for taking a dog to see a veterinarian. The average claim fee was $96 per office visit. For cats, a bladder infection was the most common reason to take your kitty to the veterinarian. VPI received more than 4,000 medical claims for this ailment – with an average claim amount of $251 per office visit.

The most expensive canine condition on the list (arthritis) cost an average of $258 per visit, while, for cats, the most expensive condition (lymphosarcoma) cost an average of $415 per visit. In addition to familiarizing themselves with their pets’ routine and behavior, pet owners should schedule their pets’ semiannual veterinary examinations on a regular basis to help prevent and identify certain conditions before they become serious or costly.

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Annual Examinations Can Save Pet Owners from Racking Up Expensive Bills

Brea, Calif. (March 5, 2013) – Pet owners can save hundreds and even thousands of dollars on veterinary costs each year by taking pets to their veterinarian for routine examinations. Preventive care is one of the most important factors for pet owners to maintain their pet’s health, and has the added benefit of minimizing total expenses on veterinary care. Nose-to-tail wellness examinations are an excellent way of catching any potential – and likely expensive – problems early on. Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI), the nation’s oldest and largest provider of pet health insurance, recently sorted its database of more than 485,000 insured pets to determine costs associated with the most common preventive canine and feline conditions in 2012. Following is a cost analysis of the five most common ailments that can be avoided through preventive care:

 

Dental Diseases: 
Definition: Diseases caused by, or directly related to inflammation or infection of the gums or teeth due to overgrowth of bacteria. 

Examples: Tooth infection or cavity and periodontal disease. 
Average cost per pet to treat: $531.71 
Average cost per pet to prevent: $171.82 
Prevention tips: Routine dental care, such as brushing teeth or feeding pet foods designed to help reduce dental tartar, can result in improved overall health. The most effective preventive treatment for dental disease is a professional teeth cleaning which will remove plaque buildup and tartar before it leads to more serious oral issues, such as tooth decay and periodontal disease.

 

Internal Parasites: 
Definition: A parasite is a plant or animal that lives within another living organism (called the host). Pets may acquire conditions caused directly by a parasite or the pet’s response to the parasite living within its body.
Examples: Round worms, tape worms and giardia.
Average cost per pet to treat: $179.93
Average cost per pet to prevent: $29.51
Prevention tips: Keep your pet and the environment free of fleas. Clean up your pet’s feces immediately, and eliminate exposure to the feces of other animals when your pet goes for a walk. As recommended by your veterinarian, annual fecal exams and preventive medications can greatly reduce the chance of a parasitic infestation.

 

External Parasites: 
Definition: A plant or animal that lives upon another living organism. Pets may acquire conditions caused directly by a parasite or the pet’s response to the parasite or its bite. Some conditions are the result of a toxin or organism (e.g. bacteria, virus, etc.) transmitted by the parasite which can cause an illness. 

Examples: Heartworms transmitted by mosquitoes, Lyme disease transmitted by ticks and flea allergic dermatitis. 
Average cost per pet to treat: $180.67 
Average cost per pet to prevent: $84.89 
Prevention tips: Keep your pet and the environment free of fleas and ticks. Thoroughly check your pets after outdoor activities and remove any ticks you find with a pair of tweezers. As recommended by your veterinarian, use preventive medications and vaccines to limit your pet’s exposure to fleas, ticks and the diseases they carry.

 

Infectious Diseases: 
Definition: Conditions transmitted via bite or contact with another animal which carries a transmittable or communicable disease (virus, bacteria, fungi, etc). Transmission of disease can occur in various ways including physical contact, contaminated food, body fluids, objects, airborne inhalation, or through biological vectors (any agent that carries and transmits an infectious pathogen into another living organism). 

Examples: Parvovirus, Lyme disease and feline leukemia virus. 
Average cost per pet to treat: $678.24
Average cost per canine to prevent using core vaccines: $85.14 
Average cost per feline to prevent using core vaccines: $73.52 
Prevention tips: Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent contraction of common canine and feline infectious diseases. A vaccination protocol will be recommended by your veterinarian, which may include additional vaccines based on your pet’s exposure risk (e.g. outside cat, area with high prevalence of ticks, etc). Keep your pet and the environment free of fleas and ticks to limit exposure to organisms that external parasites carry. In addition, keep your pet away from any other animals that may be sick.

 

Reproductive Organ Diseases: 
Definition: A reproductive organ is any of the anatomical parts of a pet’s body which are involved in sexual reproduction. Pets may develop conditions caused by, or directly related to, the pet having intact reproductive organs. 

Examples: Pyometra (infection of uterus), prostatitis (infection or inflammation of prostate gland) and ovarian neoplasia. 
Average cost per pet to treat: $531.98 
Average cost per pet to prevent: $260.69 
Prevention tips: Spay (removal of the ovaries and uterus of a female pet) or neuter (removal of the testicles of a male pet) your pet, as recommended by your veterinarian.

“As the data above shows, regular pet preventive care can significantly lower potential costs,” said Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for VPI. “Similar to ensuring that all members of the family see their doctor regularly for wellness visits, it’s just as important for pets. Taking preventive measures can avoid more serious and expensive medical conditions from arising down the road and helps keep our furry, four-legged family members on track for a long and healthy life.”

 Est. 1973

 

About Veterinary Pet Insurance

With more than 485,000 pets insured nationwide, Veterinary Pet Insurance Co./DVM Insurance Agency (VPI) is a member of the Nationwide Insurance family of companies and is the oldest and largest pet health insurance company in the United States. Since 1982, VPI has helped provide pet owners with peace of mind and is committed to being the trusted choice of America’s pet lovers.

VPI Pet Insurance plans cover dogs, cats, birds and exotic pets for multiple medical problems and conditions relating to accidents, illnesses and injuries. CareGuard® coverage for routine care is available for an additional premium. Medical plans are available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Additionally, one in three Fortune 500 companies offers VPI Pet Insurance as an employee benefit. Policies are offered and administered by Veterinary Pet Insurance Company in California and DVM Insurance Agency in all other states. Underwritten by Veterinary Pet Insurance Company (CA), Brea, CA, an A.M. Best A rated company (2012); National Casualty Company (all other states), Madison, WI, an A.M. Best A+ rated company (2012). Pet owners can find VPI Pet Insurance on Facebook or follow @VPI on Twitter. For more information about VPI Pet Insurance, call 800-USA-PETS (800-872-7387) or visit petinsurance.com.

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