Dogs and Heartworms

Author: gibbywmu
August 7, 2008


Heartworm Caused by MosquitoesHeartworm disease is caused by a parasite called Dirofilaria immitis, which lives in the right side of the heart and the adjacent blood vessels. Its presence in these blood vessels causes cardiovascular weakness, compromised lung incapacity, and eventual death. Heartworm disease occurs primarily in dogs but can occur in cats and other animals on rare occasions.

Heartworm is transmitted from dog to dog (and cat to cat) by mosquitoes. Over 70 species of mosquitoes have already been implicated. Transmission of the parasite occurs as follows: when a mosquito draws blood from a dog or cat infected with heartworm, it takes with it a number of small immature worms called microfilariae. Once inside the mosquito, the microfilariae develop into larvae. Later, when the mosquito bites a new victim, the larvae are injected and that dog or cat becomes infected.

It takes about six and a half to seven months for the larvae to mature and start producing thousands of new microfilariae inside the circulatory system. The adult worms end up occupying the right chamber of the heart and the pulmonary arteries, while the microscopic microfilariae circulate throughout the bloodstream.

All these worms within the blood vessels produce an increased workload on the heart, along with restricted blood flow to the lungs, kidneys, and liver, eventually causing multiple organ failure. At first, pets may exhibit a chronic cough and reduced exercise tolerance, followed by sudden collapse and death.

Once infected, one pet can easily become a “carrier” or reservoir of infection for an entire neighbourhood. Sometimes, a dog or cat may have heartworm disease but show no symptoms. By the time symptoms do occur, the disease is well advanced.

Prevention is preferred to treatment. While there are effective treatments available, most veterinarians prefer to promote prevention of heartworm disease. Oral and topical medications that are administered monthly and have shown to be highly effective in preventing heartworm disease are available from your veterinarian.

When giving heartworm preventative medication to your dog, such as Heartguard, Interceptor, or Sentinel, use it as a reward.  Most dogs love the flavor of Heartguard, but just to be sure, act as if its a dog treat for them, like cow ears , so they wont refuse it every month.

August 6, 2008


Core Vaccinations
The Rabies virus is transmitted by the bite of an infected animal, most commonly bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes.  It causes a fatal brain and spinal cord infection, and signs of disease can vary from depression and dementia to aggressiveness.  The virus can be shed for up to 14 days before signs of infection are apparent.  The virus can be shed by the infected animal for a variable length of time, ranging from days to months.  This disease is not only fatal to the infected animal, but is a considerable public health issue because it can be transmitted in the same manner to humans.  Vaccination against Rabies is generally required by law, and is done once at 16 weeks of age and then boostered once a year.  Depending on public health regulations, new three-year vaccines may now be used by your veterinarian.

Canine Distemper Virus
Distemper in dogs was once very common, but thanks to widespread vaccination, has now become quite rare and almost unheard of in vaccinated dogs.  This virus affects multiple organ systems and can involve the brain.  Again, signs of infection can vary and include discharge from the eyes and nose, coughing, vomiting, and diarrhea; neurological signs soon follow, progressing to trouble walking and seizures. Treatment is usually futile and the prognosis for survival is poor, which is why vaccination against this disease is so important.  This vaccine is given at 8, 12, and 16 weeks, and then boostered once a year from then on.

Adenovirus Type 2
Canine Adenovirus Type 2 is a component of a syndrome known as Kennel Cough, characterized by a hacking cough, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.  This vaccine also protects against Infectious Canine Hepatitis, an often acutely fatal disease that causes destruction of the liver.  This vaccine is given to puppies along with the other core vaccines at 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age, and then boostered yearly.

This virus causes a respiratory infection known as Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis, and is another major component of Kennel Cough.  It is acquired by close contact with other infected dogs, most commonly at boarding facilities, dog parks, and puppy classes.  Signs to watch for include: coughing, gagging, and retching.  This vaccine is given in combination with the other core vaccines at 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age, and then boostered once a year from then on.

Canine Parvovirus
Canine Parvoviral Enteritis is a serious and not uncommon disease in unvaccinated puppies.  The virus destroys the cells in the intestines, causing vomiting, diarrhea, and intestinal bleeding.  Immune suppression can also result when the virus infects the bone marrow.  For some unknown reason, there is evidence that Doberman Pinchers, Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, and Labrador Retrievers are more susceptible to infection.  The virus persists for a long time in its environment, and thrives in unsanitary conditions.  The vaccine for Canine Parvovirus is given to puppies in combination with the other core vaccines at 8, 12, and 16 weeks, and then once yearly.

As always, it would be a great idea when your dog comes home from a tough day at the vet, to let him lay down, and chew on his favorite dog treat, like cow ears.

July 25, 2008

Dog Breath

Treatment of Bad Breath

1) Yearly Checkups
Even if you do not give yearly booster vaccinations it is wise to take your pet to a veterinarian yearly to get a general checkup that includes a dental exam. The older your pet is the more important early exams become.

2) Diet
To retard the formation of plaque feed your pet a name brand dry commercial pet food. The crunchy biscuits help massage gums and wear away tartar. Some brands, like Friskys, market dental diets engineered to minimize plaque and massage the gums. Other brands incorporate enzymes to dissolve plaque. One of the worst things you can do to your pet’s teeth is to feed canned diets. The build up of plaque in pets fed soft, canned diets is very rapid. In a Duke University study, it was found that feeding cow tracheas (windpipes) with a little meat attached kept dogs teeth in great condition. Other investigations in research dog colonies fount that feeding oxtails once a week prevented serious periodontal disease.

3) Treats
Feeding chewy treats (like cow ears), bones, rawhide and treats impregnated with enzymes minimize dental plaque. Nylon bones work equally as well if the pet accepts them.

If you give your pet real bones be sure they are heavy shin and shank bones. Dogs and cats do better chewing on bones if they start when they are puppies and kittens. Do not give your pet chicken bones.

4) Brushing teeth
Brushing your pet’s teeth is the most important thing you can to maintain healthy teeth and gums. Use a child’s toothbrush and meat or malt favored toothpaste designed for animals. Use a very small amount of toothpaste – it is the brushing that is important – and concentrate on the gum margins. . If you start when your pet is a puppy or kitten the pet will not dislike the procedure. Even older pets learn to accept the toothbrush.

5) Mouth wash and sprays
Veterinary hospitals and pet supply out lets sell chlorhexidine sprays and mouthwashes that contain enzymes that dissolve plaque and help reduce bacteria. They are not nearly as effective as brushing the teeth but are better than no home care.

Manual tartar removal
If your pet has a placid temperament it is not difficult to scrap the tartar from the teeth and clean under the margins of the gums at home. Many pet professionals perform excellent tooth cleaning at home eliminating the need to have their pet anesthetized at a veterinary clinic. Your veterinarian or a pet supply catalog is a good source for a tartar-scraping tool. The best ones are double ended, one end suitable for the right and the other for the left hand side of the mouth.

Ultrasonic cleaning
Because the whine of the ultrasonic machine is distressing to most animals, this procedure is performed with general anesthetic or heavy tranquilization. Since it is often older patients, many of whom have heart disease, that need the procedure, I keep them under very light anesthetic.

Removal of diseased teeth
Once the ligaments that fasten teeth to the bone of the jaw have been damaged by periodontal disease ultrasonic cleaning will not heal them. Mildly loose teeth can sometimes be preserved by cleaning and several weeks of doxycycline therapy either with oral tablets or oral patches. Severely loose teeth are best removed. Dogs and cats do very well with few remaining teeth. Problems are more in the minds of owners due to fear than to any difficulties experienced by the pets.

Tooth restorations
Some veterinarians and dentists specialize in crowns for damaged pet teeth. Other than for attack dogs, this is a purely cosmetic procedure satisfying the owner, not the pet. I suggest you spend the money on your pets in other ways – such as a trips with your pet to the country or the park and contributions to your local Humane Society.