Friday, July 16, 2010

The Trouble with Heartworms

What is a heartworm?
A heartworm is an actual worm that can live inside the heart. Heartworms are nematodes related to free living worms like earth worms. The adult heartworms are six to ten inches in length and when they reproduce, the baby worms are called microfilaria. These microscopic baby worms are released into the dog's blood stream.

How do dogs get heartworms?
The microfilaria are picked up and carried from dog to dog by mosquitoes. So we see a lot of heartworm infections in any area with a lot of mosquitoes. We see many cases of heartworm disease throughout the southeast, but Florida has the greatest number of heartworm cases of anywhere in the U.S.

What are the symptoms of heartworms?
Symptoms include weight loss, lethargy, and coughing. Left untreated, heartworms will lead to heart failure and eventually death.

Are heartworms treatable?
While heartworms are treatable, the procedure can be costly and there can be side effects.
Most importantly, safe and effective preventative medications are available from your veterinarian. Most of these medications are given once a month and kill the baby heartworm before it becomes an adult worm.

So what should dog owner's do to protect their dog from heartworms?
  • Your veterinarian will perform a blood test to make sure your dog is not already infected.
  • If the heartworm is negative, the doctor will prescribe a heartworm preventative medication.
  • Continue the heartworm prevention all year long, for the life of the animal.
  • Have an annual blood test to make sure the medication has been effective.

Dear Labby

Dear Labby,

My Lab has really bad breath! He could peel the paint right off the wall! Is there any hope for kinder, gentler breath from my four legged friend?

Craig in Cumming

Dear Craig,

I know what you mean! Sometimes my Lab's breath curls my toes! But all is not lost. There are many things you can do to eliminate the stinkiness!

Did you know it is estimated that up to 80% of all dogs have periodontal disease? That's serious business. It causes inflammation, mineral build-up, plaque, tooth decay and gum disease. Even worse, Periodontal Disease predisposes your dog to heart disease, respiratory disease, diabetes and arthritis.

So, what can you do?

First of all, encourage your dog to chew. Dog biscuits, Nyla bones and chew toys work really well for scraping the teeth clean and they usually have fun doing it. Avoid canned or wet food. The hard crunchy kibble makes a huge difference in keeping those choppers sparkling!

Second, at least once a week, brush your furry friend's "furry" teeth. Introduce the toothbrush gradually and be sure to follow up the brushing with plenty of praise so your pup will start to look forward to it. Be sure to use dog toothpaste. People toothpaste has additives that can be harmful to our four-legged friends since they don't spit it out.

If those simple fixes are not improving the problem, talk to your vet about it. Your vet will look for warning signs like brownish spots on the back teeth, a thin red line running along the gum lines and deterioration of the root and bone. Once the issue is identified your vet may suggest a thorough cleaning, particularly of the affected teeth or application of an antibiotic gel under the gums in the area where bacteria may have settled.

Just like in people, tooth problems may be irreversible, and your dog only gets one set, so be sure to pay attention to them. There is no need to breathe in the toxic fumes from your pooch's mouth for eternity. Dog bad breath has a cure! Until next time...Woof!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Vets warn about effects of heat on pets

by Winston Jones/Staff Writer

This time of year is often called “the dog days of summer,” but the current hot temperatures can cause heat strokes and other problems in dogs, just like in humans, a local veterinarian warned Monday.

“Animals instinctively know to stay out of heat,” said Dr. Justin Verner, DVM. “But dogs are such loyal companions, they often stick with us out in the sun until they’re overcome by the heat.”

Unlike humans, dogs don’t sweat, Verner noted. He said dogs cool themselves by panting, passing air rapidly over the tongue to cool the blood circulating through the mouth.

“It’s an inefficient system of cooling,” he said. “Dogs need to find a cool, shady spot when outdoors, under the deck or beneath bushes.” He said they also need lots of fresh water.

He said dogs with short snouts, the “smashed in” face dogs, such as bulldogs, Boston Terriers, pugs, pekingese and shih tzus, are especially prone to heat problems since they can’t breathe as effectively as longer snout dogs.

Verner said pet owners often miss heat stroke symptoms and dogs rapidly progress to death without treatment. The common signs of heat stroke in a dog are rapid panting, twitching muscles, lethargy, hot skin and a dazed look.

“I’ve seen many dogs with heat stroke and they usually don’t make it,” he said. “They have trouble breathing and when their temperatures get above 106 degrees, their organs begin shutting down.”

Verner said if you think your dog might be having a heat stroke, cool it off with a water hose and get it to a vet immediately.

He also warned against leaving dogs in cars, even when the windows are partially down and even on days that don’t seem hot.

“Some breeds of dogs are very intolerant of heat,” he said. He said asphalt paving drives the heat up fast.

“It’s best to keep your dogs out of the midday heat,” Verner said. “Take them out for exercise in the early morning before the sun comes up or late in the afternoon after it’s gone down.”

Additional heat suggestions from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) inlcude:

• if you see a dog in a parked car, take down the car’s information and have the owner paged over the store intercom or notify law enforcement authorities;

• don’t take your dog with you jogging except during cool times of the day and provide plenty of water and rest;

• keep dogs indoors and provide them with shade and drinking water when outdoors;

• and if you see a dog that looks in distress, contact authorities.

© 2009 Atlanta Lab Rescue