Fleas – The Essential Facts

 

Think fleas are just a summer problem? Not so but somehow this myth persists despite our best efforts. Arm yourself by reading our primer and learning all the things flea that your mother never taught you.

 

  • Fleas and their predecessors have been around since the Cretaceous era (65 million years ago).

  • Fleas used to be bigger (Up to 2 cm long). Today’s fleas are smaller (1.5 to 3.2 mm) but more athletic.

  • Fleas don’t have wings, but they can jump 50 to 100 times their body length.

  • Some people have theorized that humans evolved their hairlessness not just to attract a mate and cope with life on the hot savannahs but also as an adaptation to rid themselves of fleas and other external parasites.

  • The flea life cycle has four stages (egg, larvae, pupae and adult). More than half of the fleas in your house are eggs. That means for every adult you see, there are 100 more preadults waiting to emerge.

  • Fleas need a blood meal to reproduce.

  • Once a flea is on your pet, it will rarely leave since it needs to feed every 12 hours.

  • Once a flea has fed for 24 hours it will die of starvation within 2 – 4 days without a blood meal.

  • Fleas might bite you, but they are species specific and can’t survive on human blood alone

  • Adult fleas may need blood, but their larvae can survive on anything from dead bugs to poop to vegetable matter.                  

  • Fleas are hardy. They have a dormant stage in which preemergent adults can survive in a cocoon for up to 5 months

  • Fleas can’t survive out in the snow and cold, but they do just fine in your home or on a warm and furry host, even outdoors.

  • In your home, the flea life cycle can complete in 12 – 26 days.  

  • Fleas carry diseases such as Plague, Typhus, Cat Scratch Fever and Mycoplasma haemofelis (which effects the red blood cells in cats causing anemia and fever).

  • Fleas also transmit one of the more common tapeworms that plague pets.

  • Many pets are allergic to flea saliva and develop a severe dermatitis from as little as one bite.

  • The best way to deal with flea problems is prevention. Keep your pet on a quality anti-parasitic product all year.

  • If you already have a flea infestation at home, consult your veterinarian. The products and science of flea prevention and treatment change very quickly. Your veterinarian can make sure you get the best, less environmentally impactful product available.

The Scary Consequences of Not Doing that Dental

 

Don’t wait for the telltale signs of bad breath before scheduling dental care for your pet. By the time an unpleasant odor is evident they will be well on the way to serious dental disease.

Think Dog Breath = Early Disease. Bad Breath = Bad Disease.

 

    • Gingivitis:   Is defined as inflammation of gum tissue caused by a buildup of plaque and tartar. This is the start of dental disease and provides the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive.  Inflammation, swelling and bleeding gums are the body screaming for dental care before things get worse.

      • Inflammation: The presence of inflammation and bacteria will cue up your pet’s immune system. With chronic inflammation, the immune response never shuts off which can damage heart, lungs and kidneys.

    • Gingival Recession: Untreated gingivitis and inflammation damages tissues causing  gums to pull away from teeth.  This exposes  sensitive tooth roots which do not have the same protective enamel as the crown and are more susceptible to damage.

    • Bone Loss:   Once the more vulnerable roots have been exposed, destructive bacteria release toxins which then eat away surrounding bone.

    • Root Abscess: The combination of inflammation, bacteria, gum recession and bone loss can lead to tooth root abscesses resulting in the loss of affected teeth.

    • Tooth Loss: As the cascade of damage continues, teeth will begin to wobble.  A decrease in appetite, weight loss and general malaise brought on by pain follows.

    • Oronasal Fistula: Severe dental disease can damage enough bone to create an opening between your pet’s mouth and nasal tract. At this stage, chronic respiratory issues are added to dental pain and disease.

    • Jaw Fracture: Continued bone loss can lead to fracture of the lower jaw.

    • Organ damage and Systemic Disease: This is the end game for untreated dental disease. Bacteria and chronic inflammation wreak havoc on the kidneys, liver, heart and overall health robbing your pet of not only quality but quantity of life.

5 Whys of Pet Wellness Visits

  • Animals mask illness.

    • Domesticated, well maybe but first and foremost your dog, cat, rabbit, bird etc… is still an animal and the number one rule in the animal kingdom is that the critter that shows weakness gets eaten first. Even if fluffy lives on the couch that fact is hardwired into his/her brain.

    • Wellness visits are our chance to circumvent to the “no talk rule.” They give us the information we need to catch brewing illnesses before they become major problems.

  • Preventative care costs much less than sick care.

    • Don’t like the cost of vaccines? Paying for the cost of treating Parvo, pneumonia or heartworm disease, far outweigh the cost of prevention.

    • Simple economics. Prevention is always less costly than treatment plus your pet doesn’t suffer damage to the organs that many diseases cause.

  • Your pet will live longer.

    • Good preventative care that catches problems early extends lifespan.

    • Good dental care adds even more.

  • Some of the things we prevent can make you sick too.

    • Most of us let our pets sleep with us so it’s a good idea to make sure they are healthy and parasite free.

  • It’s just the right thing to do.

    • Come on! Pets give us so much unconditional love, protection and service. Let’s do what we can to give them a long and healthy life in return.

Summer Safety Tips for Pet Parents

 

Wow! It’s getting hot out there! Temperatures are already hitting the 80’s on some days and the humidity has increased as well. At our house, we cope by switching to shorts and light t-shirts, drinking lots of water and taking breaks indoors or in the shade. We produce quite a bit of sweat and take extra showers. That works for us but what about our pets?  Read our summer safety tips to help keep your best friend healthy.

What can you do to make summer more comfortable and safer for your pet?

  • Provide lots of fresh water. Make sure it is in a container that can’t be overturned by mistake and that there is enough to last all day. In addition, if you use a zip line or some other type of tether you need to make double sure your pet can’t become entangled and unable to reach either shade or his or her water source.
  • Indoors or out. Is there a place where your pet can stay cool and out of the sun? That may mean keeping your pet indoors in the air conditioning in the summer. However, there is nothing wrong with a dog run or backyard shelter providing there is access to shade, water and hopefully a cooling breeze.
  • Jogging – maybe not. I know that your dog is in good shape. He jogs with you all winter long. However, that doesn’t mean that it is safe to continue jogging with Rover in the summer heat. Remember, dogs can’t cool themselves like we do. Add that to the fact that your loyal companion will keep going no matter how hot he/she gets and you have a recipe for disaster. Unless you run early in the day, long, before the heat sets in, please leave your dog at home.
  • Never leave your pet in the car! Want to know why? Check out this data compiled by the Animal Protection Institute. If your car is closed with no open windows and it is 82 degrees outdoors, in no time at all, the temperature in your car is 109.   At 91 degrees, it’s 115 in the car.   Think cracking the windows help? If it is 84 degrees outside the temperature in the car is still 98 degrees.   At 90 degrees, it is 108 in the car. Got the picture? Even leaving your pet in the car while you run in for a short errand can be deadly.
  • What are the signs of heat stroke? You may see excessive panting, stumbling, weakness, stupor and bright red gums. Body temperatures of 104 degrees or more can occur. As heat stroke progresses, seizures, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, coma and death may follow. “Parked car” or brachycephalic breeds such as Bull Dogs, Pugs, Boxers and others are much more susceptible to heat related problems. Even your bunny, chinchilla or reptiles can suffer from heat related problems. If the weather is warm, think shade and water.
  • If you suspect heat stroke – it’s an emergency! Hose your pet down and bring him/her to the clinic immediately! Don’t try to treat heatstroke on your own. Heatstroke can literally cook internal organs. Pets who have suffered heat stoke may also experience swelling and edema of the trachea making it difficult for them to breathe. Too much cooling can make your pet even sicker. It’s a balance of IV fluids, supportive care and monitoring. Leave it to the professionals.
  • Pet pools – are great for helping your buddy cool down in the summer heat but remember to change the water frequently. If you are lucky enough to have a people sized pool, treat your pets just like your children. Protect them from accidental drowning by never leaving them in the pool area unsupervised.
  • Cool Ideas – Think about getting a pet fountain that provides a continuous stream of fresh, cool water to drink. Fans can help where air conditioning isn’t available. Recently, bandanas and body wraps made specifically for cooling have been developed. After soaking in cool water, these products can provide relief for a limited time. Frozen pop bottles are fun for pets to play with in the pool or on the ground. Even bunnies can benefit from a frozen pop bottle in their cage. Just make sure to wrap it in a cloth before placing it in with your rabbit but don’t let bunny start chewing on the cloth or bottle.
  • Shaving?? – That’s up for debate but if you do, remember your pet will be much more likely to sunburn in the summer sun. Double coated breeds do best when their undercoat is brushed out leaving their guard hair. This allows trapped air to cool your pet.
  • Exotic tips – Cold blooded pets need warm weather care too. Air conditioning can be TOO COLD for many exotics BUT a terrarium placed up against a hot window may become an oven. This applies to birds as well. Too much draft and cold will result in upper respiratory problems. Too much heat can cause heat stroke and death.

Pancreatitis – Unhappy holidays.

A pug shows her teeth for the camera in this comical pose.

 

The holiday season is here. We love all the yummy foods that are part of the celebration . Our pets love them too. Unfortunately,  all those goodies can also cause pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis is commonly seen in both dogs and cats. It  can occur in either an acute (rapid onset) or chronic (slow and subtle) form.   Although small in size, the pancreas can cause serious illness. It is very sensitive and if irritated,  becomes swollen,  inflamed and painful.

Continue…

Not Just a Pretty Face: Grooming for a Healthier Pet

Funny Dog Taking Bubble BathWhen you think of grooming, you might think of a poofy poodle or sleek Persian cat, but all pets need groomed. Some require just the occasional bath, brush, and nail trim while others need more intense care.

Grooming your pet doesn’t just make them prettier and better smelling, though. Regular pet grooming can be an important part of your pet’s regular care. Learn how grooming for a healthier pet can be an essential part of proper pet care. Continue…

Promoting Healing, Lessening Pain: The Advantages of Pet Laser Therapy

AnimalFamily_iStock_000014701110_XXXLargeLaser therapy to treat pet pain and promote healing is an exciting component of modern veterinary medicine. Yet, sometimes the mention of the word laser can cause a bit of trepidation in pet parents who imagine a more invasive or scary experience for their beloved pets. In reality, pet laser therapy is non-invasive, pain-free, and often offers a relaxing experience as the laser produces a warming sensation in the area being treated.

Companion laser treatments have offered tremendous benefits for pets who previously suffered with chronic pain or mobility challenges, and we continue to learn more about the efficacy of this leading-edge method of treatment. Continue…

Strategies for Pet Weight Loss

 

Once you have determined that your pet is overweight what is the next step? First you need to determine what weight your pet should be. We can help with that at the clinic. There is an actual measuring system that will provide an accurate result.

  • Decrease caloric intake
    • For real weight loss to occur, your pet must eat at least 30% fewer calories than what it would take to maintain their ideal weight not their current weight.
    • Keep your pet out of the kitchen and away from the dining table.  This will decrease begging and you will be less likely to cave in to big, sad eyes.
    • If your household has more than one pet be sure to feed them separately.
    • Meal feed.  Don’t leave food down all the time.  There is no way to keep track of intake
    • If your pet seems hungry in between meals, divide the same amount into smaller portions and feed more frequent smaller meals.  Just remember begging is simply a learned response to getting, not requiring food.
  • Feed a diet that is formulated for weight loss.  Diets have become much more advanced and feeding the right diet can be a huge help. Science Diet recently added Metabolic Diet to their line of weight loss foods.  Our clients who have tried it have been pretty happy with the results so far.
  • Increase Activity
    • Take your dog for a walk.  It’s good for both of you!  Don’t just stay on the street. Try varying the surfaces.  Use sand, water or even snow, in the winter, for resistance.  Add some obstacles like logs, hills or ditches.
    • Try introducing fetch, fly ball or agility to your routine.  It’s fun, great exercise and a wonderful new way to bond with your dog. 
    • If you have access to water, try swimming.  However, please be careful with the strong current in the local rivers.  Stick to areas that are safe for both of you.
    • Don’t forget Day Camp.  This provides plenty of activity for your pet while you are at work.  It’s the best cure for working owner’s couch potatoes we have come up with in a long time.
  • What about cats? 
    • Cats are problematic.  Most are indoors and many also very thrifty when it comes to calories. 
    • Pay attention to what you feed.  Yes, cats can be meal fed and they generally don’t require near as much food as you think. Again we have had very good results with Hill’s Metabolic Diet.
    • Cats do better with canned food.  It is generally higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates than most dry kibble.
    • But…stay away from canned foods with gravy. They are almost always higher in calories.
    • Use a food specifically formulated for weight loss in cats.
    • Never, ever starve your cat to induce weight loss.  They are particularly susceptible to fatty liver disease and not eating for more than 24 hours or too rapid of weight loss can cause this syndrome in cats. 1% or 0.2 to 0.4 pounds per week is plenty for a 20 pound cat.
    • Weight loss and cats is tough and cats are way harder to induce into activity.  It may be that the best exercise for a cat is simply adding another cat.
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Pet Obesity-Are We Loving Our Pets to Death?

 

Has the U.S. become the nation of too much?  When it comes to weight, yes we have!   Pet obesity has become a huge, no pun intended, health issue for both dogs and cats in this country.

How to Tell if Your Pet is Over Weight

1)    Run your hands down the side of your pet with medium pressure.  You should be able to feel ribs under a thin layer of subcutaneous fat.  If you can’t your pet is probably too heavy.

2)    If you feel your pet is too heavy bring them in for a more precise body measurement.  This set of measurements can determine exactly how over weight your pet is and what a good target weight is.

Causes of Obesity

1)    Sometimes obesity is just a matter of too much food and too little activity. 

2)    However, obesity can also be rooted in other issues. 

  •      Hypothyroidism
  •      Cushing’s Disease
  •      Diabetes:  Diabetes can be caused by too much weight but can also be the                 cause of weight gain if an animal develops non-insulin dependent diabetes.  Confusing but ultimately weight loss will help both.
  •     Any disease process that affects the hypothalamus or pituitary gland:  The hypothalamus regulates appetite and the pituitary gland regulates most hormone production in the body.
  •   Breed:  Beagles, Labs, Bassets, Cattle dogs, Cockers, Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, Golden Retrievers and most cats to name a few.
  •   Age: Just like us as pets age their metabolic rate slows and the tendency to become over weight increases.
  • Neutering and Spaying: When they are not hormone driven animals will put on weight more easily.  That said the benefits of altering your pet far outweigh the negatives.
  •  Activity level:  Too many pets spend all their time inside with too little activity.  This is a particular challenge for cat owners.
  • Food quality:  The quality of food we feed has improved.  Pets need less to stay fit and healthy.  Conversely if you have a finicky pet who has trained you to only feed them high caloric “junk food” they will quickly become overweight.
  •     Medications:  Glucocorticoids, Anti-seizure drugs and  tranquilizers can all contribute to weight gain.

 Health risks associated with obesity

1)    Diabetes:   When food intake and body mass out strip the body’s ability to make insulin, Diabetes Mellitus develops.

2)     Heart and blood pressure disease:  The heart has to work much harder in overweight pets.  That leads directly to high blood pressure and heart disease.

3)    Bone/Joint damage:  Extra weight leads to increased stress on bones and ligaments. Almost all of our cruciate repairs could use a little weight loss.

4)    Respiratory problems:  Too much fat makes for a greater work load and puts extra pressure on the lungs and trachea. If you own a dog or cat with a shortened, also known as brachycephalic, facial structure this can cause serious health problems.  Likewise, many of our collapsing trachea dogs show improvement with weight loss.

5)    Increased anesthetic risk:  What happens if you have a lot of fat and your anesthetic is fat soluble?  You wake up more slowly.  How much harder is it to perform surgery in an abdomen that is full of fat?  A lot harder.  Has obesity been shown to decrease resistance to bacteria?  Yes.

6)    Decreased lifespan and quality of life:  Everything mentioned above will shorten your pets’ life.  It will also seriously impinge on their ability to enjoy the life they have.

On the next blog we will talk about strategies for weight loss.

Taking the Mystery Out of Pilling Your Pet

 

A while back there was a particularly funny e-mail circulating about pilling a cat.  What made us laugh was the rather large kernel of truth within the humor.  Who hasn’t experienced the frustrations of trying to get a pill inside your pet first hand…only to have it end up on the floor or wall.  This is a rerun of an earlier post but we could all use the refresher.

The easiest and most time honored way to give a pill remains hiding it in something else If you can get your pet to take a pill this way and he/she is not on any food restriction this is still the best method.  One of our favorites at Animal Family is Pill Pockets made by Greenies.  They are a meat flavored soft treat that molds around the pill.  A large number of both dogs and cats will happily take their medications in a Pill Pocket.  Other choices are peanut butter, cheese, yogurt and canned food.  Just make sure your pet doesn’t spit the medication out.

If your pet either won’t eat a hidden pill or eats around it, you may have to do it the old fashioned way.  Even then, it is possible to make the process easier.

  • Make sure your pet is in a safe area.  For dogs we recommend either having their butt in a corner where they can’t back away.  Small dogs and cats should be placed on a counter or other raised surface.
  • Stand to the side of your pet.  Cats and small dogs should be placed in the crook of your elbow.  Don’t approach your pet from the front. 
  • Coating the pill with butter will give it a slippery and yummy tasting coating.
  • Tilt your pets head back.  For large dogs you may just place your fingers behind the canines and pull upward.  A gentle squeeze at the corner of the jaws works best for smaller pets.
  • Once their mouth is open you will need to get the pill far back in the mouthThis is the scary part for most owners so we recommend that you use a pet piller.  This can literally take the bite out of pilling.
  • In one smooth motion, place the piller so the tip is at the back of the mouth and depress the plunger to release the medication.
  • Leaving the head tilted backwards, immediately close your pet’s mouth and blow into their nose.  Return the head to a normal position and gently rub the throat until you see swallowing…  Be careful not to get in your pet’s face.  Make sure you are above and to the side or back of the pet’s mouth when you blow.  If your pet is aggressive…don’t get close to his/her face.
  • Make sure your pet has swallowed before releasing him/herLook for swallowing or licking of the lips.

What happens if your pet is like the cat in the funny e-mail?  If you absolutely can’t get pills down your pet there is another option…Compounding.  Most medications can be compounded into taste tabs, liquid suspensions or topical gels.  It may involve some additional cost but can be a life saver with a non-cooperative animal.  Be sure to ask your veterinarian especially is your pet is on maintenance medications

Remember, if you don’t feel confident, please don’t attempt this without help from your veterinarian.