The veterinarians and staff at the Animal Emergency and Referral Center are pleased to provide you with an online newsletter. This fun and fact-filled newsletter is updated on a regular basis. Included in the newsletter are articles pertaining to pet care, information on our animal hospital, as well as news on the latest trends and discoveries in veterinary medicine. Please enjoy!

April is Heartworm Awareness Month

Pets and their people love being outside in the summertime – and so do mosquitoes. Because mosquitoes are the most common carriers of heartworm disease, keeping pets up to date on preventive heartworm treatments during mosquito season is especially important.

AERC_heartwormHeartworm Disease Cycle
Heartworms are exactly that—large worms that live in the hearts of cats and dogs. Known as Dirofilaria Immitis, heartworms are long, spaghetti-like worms that range in size from 6 to 10 inches. Heartworms are almost always transmitted by mosquitoes. A mosquito bites an infected dog or cat; that mosquito picks up microfilariae, a microscopic version of the heartworm. When that mosquito bites your dog or cat, the heartworm microfilariae are transmitted to him / her. Within 70 to 90 days, the microfilariae make it to your pet’s heart and, once mature, begin reproducing. The cycle then begins again.
Signs of heartworm disease in pets vary based on the age and species of the pet and the number of worms present. Because the worms are usually located on the right side of the heart and lung, coughing and shortness of breath are common signs in both dogs and cats. Dogs that have just acquired the disease may have no signs, while dogs with a moderate occurrence of the disease may cough and show an inability to exercise. In extreme cases, dogs may experience fainting, weight loss, fever, abdominal swelling and death. In cats, the symptoms of heartworm disease are similar to those of feline asthma, including coughing and shortness of breath. Some cats may exhibit no signs of the disease, while others may suddenly die.

AERC_hworm-map-13When it comes to preventing heartworm disease, pet owners have a number of options. Before beginning preventive medication, pet owners should have their pets tested for the presence of heartworms. If heartworms are present, a treatment plan should be discussed with your veterinarian. Most heartworm prevention is done by administering your pet a once-a-month heartworm preventive medication. Many of these monthly products are administered as a chewable treat. Some are combined with other preventive medications. Your veterinarian will recommend the product that is best suited for your pet.

If you would like to have your pet tested for heartworm or you would like additional information about the disease, please contact your veterinary hospital.

How to Care for Your New Puppy or Kitten: Feeding & Grooming

Congratulations on your new family member! If you are new to pet ownership or a seasoned veteran, it is important to stay up to date on proper care for your new puppy or kitten.

The Importance of Nutrition

Proper nutrition is extremely important for the health of your growing puppy or kitten. For this reason, we recommend a quality food that is specially balanced for your pet’s needs. Because nutrition is such an important part of good pet health, we cannot emphasize the need to feed a puppy or kitten enough quality food. When you bring your new pet in for its first examination, be sure to ask us about the diet you are feeding to make sure it is appropriate for your pet’s nutritional needs.

Which is better, canned food or dry food? This question has been steadily debated for years, “Should I feed my pet canned or dry food?” The truth is that feeding canned or dry food is a matter of personal choice and pet preference. It is important to understand that dry and canned foods are nutritionally equal. However, there are some facts that may help you in your decision making. Dry food tends to be more economical, it doesn’t spoil as easily, and it is better for tartar control and tooth strength. Canned food tends to be more flavorful and provides higher moisture content. Your decision to feed canned or dry food is going to be dependent upon what you and your pet wants. Keep in mind that you can also mix canned and dry food to successfully combine economy and taste!
It is very important that your new puppy or kitten be fed at regular intervals to help prevent episodes of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Small breed puppies and all kittens should be fed three or four times daily after being weaned from their mothers. This should continue until around three or four months of age. At this point, you can reduce their feedings to twice daily. Larger breed puppies tend to do well on a twice daily feeding schedule. Before you commit to a feeding schedule for your puppy or kitten, be sure to ask your veterinarian which schedule is right for your pet. Feeding schedules become very important when housebreaking becomes an issue. Because young animals associate feeding with their need to eliminate, planning a good feeding schedule proves very helpful in housebreaking.

Poop Scooping Solutions

Picking up your dog’s waste is an unpleasant, yet unavoidable task for most pet parents. Odds are you’ve become accustomed to awkwardly waiting while your pet does his business so you can scoop it up into a nearby waste bucket or dog poop bag.
Poo bags come in a range of sizes and offer benefits such as being “heavy-doody,” ecofriendly or freshly scented. There are even a variety of carrying case options for the bags, from simple pouches to plastic fire hydrants -but the poop scooping market doesn’t stop there.

AERC_poop_scoopOther products available to help make the task more bearable include:
Pawsby PooPatroller – Although this one may not be on the market for much longer, Pawsby was introduced as a dog-walking assistant. It is essentially a plastic dog contraption, complete with a hemp leash and collar. It features a crank flashlight, water bowl, and hands-free pooper scooper that allows you to store waste within the unit until you can dispose of it elsewhere. It’s bulky, but much cuter to be seen walking with than a full bag of doo-doo in your non-leash-holding hand.
•Poop-Freeze – It doesn’t get much worse than feeling the heat of a fresh #2 through your dog waste bag as you hurriedly try to pick it up. That’s where Poop-Freeze finds its bathroom niche. If you’ve ever used Duster for your computer keyboard, this is essentially the same thing. Aim, spray and your pet’s poo will be cooled to -62 degrees. We can’t make this stuff up. Poop-Freeze makes poo easier to pick up and eliminates most (if not all) of the smell. It can even be used indoors on your carpet if Fido has an accident.
• Pooch Power Shovel – Weighing in at about four pounds, the Pooch Power Shovel is a leaf blower turned vacuum, specially designed to pick up – you guessed it – poop! This cordless device sucks waste into a biodegradable bag that you can remove and toss after each use. After a 12-hour charge, you’ll be good to go for nearly 50 uses (that’s about a month if you have one dog)!
• Doggie Doo Drain – For the environmentally-minded, this product helps cut down on the amount of pet waste in landfills. The funnel is screwed directly into your septic tank. Just scoop your pet’s waste and then send it down the Doo Drain!
• Doggie Dooley – If you don’t have a septic tank, or are interested in other options, the Doggie Dooley is a leach-style system that works like a miniature septic system. Once placed in the ground, natural-acting bacteria within the unit compost dog waste into a liquid that is absorbed into the ground. It’s safe, eco-friendly and affordable.

Dog Spays: Avoiding Psuedopregnancy

A normal, annoying, sometimes disappointing, and dangerous behavior pattern seen in unspayed female dogs is pseudopregnancy (also called false pregnancy or pseudocyesis). Pseudopregnancy is a condition that occurs slightly less than two months after estrus. The bitch develops enlarged mammary glands and an enlarged abdomen. She may even show typical “nesting” behavior associated with having puppies. Often, a stuffed toy or other inanimate object is taken to the “nest” and she appears to be protecting or even nursing it. Problems arise when she becomes aggressive or attacks a person or other animal whom she perceives as threatening her “offspring.”AERC_dog_in_bed
The natural evolution and advantages associated with pseudopregnancy are still being debated. The most widely accepted theory is one that recognizes ancestral wolf behavior. In wolf packs, bitches who did not give birth to pups might act as the pups’ “nursemaids.” This particular behavior, as well as milk secretions, is associated with pseudopregnancy and results from production of the hormone prolactin. This is the same hormone that is produced during the final stages of a normal pregnancy. Thus, pseudo-pregnant behavior would prepare these nonpregnant bitches for their protective and nursing role. Obviously, for a dog that lives in a human household, and not in a pack, this behavior is inappropriate and undesirable.
Uterine infections are not uncommon in bitches that frequently experience pseudopregnancy. Once the pseudopregnant behavior has ceased, the bitch should be spayed in order to prevent this behavior as well as the infections from recurring.
Having your female dog spayed (ovariohysterectomy) is an inexpensive and realistic method of pet population control. The number of unwanted adult and young dogs that are euthanized each year in the United States is astounding. Aside from the pet overpopulation problem, spaying your female dog helps prevent — and even eliminates — medical problems associated with hormonal imbalances.

Why Parasite Control Really Matters: Video

Dr. Mike Paul, former head of the Companion Animal Parasite Council, discusses why parasite control really matters.

“Back-To-School Blues” For Your Dog

dogwaitingParents and youngsters aren’t the only ones who have to adjust to a new schedule every fall. Just as kids grow accustomed to the care-free days of summer, dogs get used to the constant attention and play time that a child’s constant presence brings. Many dogs will adjust quickly to the change, but those prone to separation anxiety may look for ways to lash out.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Dr. Nick Dodman of Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine recommended the following tips to help ease the transition between summer and the school year:

  • Make departure time happy using toys and treats
  • Create a place in the house where the dog feels safe
  • Try starting the routine before school begins
  • Do not indulge with baby talk or sympathy
  • See a veterinarian if the dog’s disposition doesn’t improve

With a little advanced planning and a few tweaks to you and your dog’s morning routine, you can keep your dog relaxed and content while his favorite playmate is gone for the day. Before you know it, your dog’s “back-to-school blues” will be a thing of the past.

Dog Storm Phobia

thunderIt’s storm season, and Spot is going wild. Maybe he’s pacing, hiding under the bed, shaking, panting, or simply craves your attention – whatever it may be, he’s scared and needs your help. Many pet owners think that their dogs will grow out of their phobias, and therefore don’t bother to indulge in Spot’s tantrums. Yet oftentimes it will only get worse with time if nothing is done to help curb your dog’s fears.

There are various theories about why dogs are particularly affected by storms. Some say that low-frequency waves and even electric shocks effect dogs immediately preceding the storm, which humans cannot even hear or feel. This builds anxiety, and by the time the storm has hit, your dog has gone full-fledge manic. But really, can you blame him?

Here are a few tips to help alleviate your dog’s storm phobia:

  • Calm him down like you would your own child. Speak to your dog in a soft and soothing voice in order to assure him that there is no need for stress and fear. Never yell at him when he reacts to the storm, this will only increase his fear – and with it, his barking. This does not, however, mean you should over-coddle him. This may only worsen his phobia.
  • Reward calm behavior. Try to train your dog to settle down on command and learn that becoming calm is a behavior that – along with sit and stay – will be rewarded.
  • Exercise and tire out your dog before a storm is scheduled to hit. This way he’ll have less energy to focus on stress.
  • Create a safe room for your dog to go during the storm. This can be a carpeted room without windows, a basement, or other place where you can play calming music without hearing the outside commotion. However, don’t confine your dog to a small space, especially a crate, as this will only build anxiety.
  • Play a CD with light storm sounds in order to better acclimate your dog throughout the year. You can supply him with treats while he remains calm through the sounds, and gradually increase the volume over time.
  • Consider melatonin or other anti-anxiety drugs. Melatonin doesn’t typically make dogs sleep, but it is known to calm them down and help thwart against bothersome noise. If you think your dog could benefit from a prescription – or if you have any other concerns, don’t hesitate to consult your veterinarian.

Although there’s no easy solution, a few minor adjustments and a bit of patience will go a long way towards helping your Fido weather the storm.

Contagious Yawns…In Dogs

Just when you thought contagious yawns in humans was weird, it’s gotten even weirder: dogs catch our yawns, too! And new studies from Universidade do Porto in Portugal show that dogs are prompted to yawn just from the sound alone. But perhaps the most interesting finding is that our four-legged friends seem to “catch” these yawns more easily from their owners than from anyone else. And this seemingly small discovery may open up a large window into understanding empathetic processes in dogs.

old_dog_yawningA similar study with humans revealed that people who showed more empathetic qualities also tended to be more susceptible to contagious yawns, ultimately proving yawns to be more empathy-based and emotionally charged than pure physically induced – even for dogs. And although the recent dog studies are not conclusive, many researchers are hopeful that their findings will aid in selecting appropriate dogs for certain emotionally-driven tasks, such as handicap services and therapeutic needs.

So don’t hold back those yawns. Spot is just waiting to commiserate – or is he?

VIDEO: Saving Money on Pet Care

In today’s economy, saving money wherever you can is a smart thing to do. There are many opportunities for pet owners to not only save a few dollars, but also provide the best care for their pets. Routine vaccinations for infectious diseases, proper heartworm prevention, routine dental care and healthy diets are just few of the things that can end up saving pet owners big bucks. Watch this video to learn more.

A Safe Home for Your Cat

Since many of us believe that a house is not a home without a cat, we need to ask ourselves if our home is a safe place for them. If you have children, many of the safety measures needed for cats are probably already in place. If not, then it is necessary to look around the house and fix potential hazards.

Even cats that spend most of their time indoors may be exposed to a number of potential hazards. Disinfectants, drain cleaners, and detergents are among the many household chemicals that are toxic to your pet. They should be stored in tightly closed containers and secured cabinets where pets are unable to reach them. Medicines should also be stored out of reach.

cat_cabinetGood Thing This Cat Doesn’t Have Thumbs!

Sharp objects such as knives and forks, carpet tacks and pins should be kept out of reach. Children’s toys and small objects may attract a playful kitty and become lodged in its mouth or swallowed. Although kittens are sometimes pictured with a ball of yarn, a playful kitten and yarn are a bad combination. If ingested, yarn as well as any kind of thread, twine or ribbon could cause serious damage to the esophagus and intestinal tract.

According to the National Safety Council, as many as 5,000 house fires a year can be attributed to pets as a result of their chewing of electrical cords. In order to prevent this hazard, do your best to keep electrical wiring out of your cat’s sight and reach. Exposed lamp cords and other wires should be kept as short as possible. If extension cords are used, tack them against a baseboard or run them under a carpet so they cannot be played with or chewed.

If you live in an apartment, your cat may be vulnerable to “high-rise syndrome.” If your window screens are not securely fastened, a cat may fall from a window and suffer serious injuries, if not death. A cat should be sufficiently restrained or confined if allowed on an apartment balcony.

cat_on_window_ledgeA Definite No-No!

According to the Center for Disease Control, 74 percent of homes in the United States built prior to 1980 contain hazardous amounts of lead paint. As with humans, any item containing lead can be extremely harmful to a cat. Harmful effects may not show up until weeks after ingestion. Signs of lead poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, loss of appetite, loss of muscle coordination, blindness, and seizures. Consult your veterinarian immediately if you think there is a possibility of lead poisoning.

In addition to indoor dangers, outdoor hazards are often found in the garage or shed. Harmful products include windshield cleaners, weed killers, insecticides, used motor oil and antifreeze. Many cats are attracted to the sweet taste of antifreeze (believe it or not!) containing the chemical ethylene glycol which is highly toxic to cats. If it is spilled on the ground or leaking from your car, it can combine with a puddle making it exceptionally easy for your cat to drink it. New antifreeze products have been introduced that claim to be non-toxic to pets, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Be sure to clean up spills of any questionable liquid to avoid injuring your kitty!

Wherever the hazard may come, it is important to remember that your cat is not so different from a child. Curious paws and noses may inevitably discover areas that have yet to be “kitty-proofed.” Once you get to know the likes and dislikes of your cat, it would be much easier to determine what is hazardous and what has not made your cat’s priority list of noteworthy attractions.

Meet Bretagne, The Last Surviving 9/11 Rescue Dog

As a remembrance of the lives lost on September 11, 2001, here’s a story of the recovery effort from a unique perspective.

In the aftermath of 9/11, hundreds of service dogs aided in search and recovery efforts at Ground Zero. Today, just one remains. Bretagne, a golden retriever, recently celebrated her 16th birthday with a trip to New York where she dined on gourmet cheeseburger, explored the city in a vintage taxi, and took the time to pay her respects at Ground Zero.

Bretagne and her owner, Denise Corliss, came from Texas in the wake of the disaster. It was the first deployment for both Corliss and the then-two year old dog. As a search dog, Bretagne was responsible for searching through areas of rubble. If no one was found, the rubble would be removed. According to Corliss Bretagne regularly spent 12 hours per day searching alongside other rescuers and their canines.

After 9/11, Bretagne and Corliss worked together during Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Ivan. She retired as a search dog in 2009 and now serves as a therapy dog at elementary schools in Texas.

In an interview with the New York Daily News, Corliss said that Bretagne also helped in another way. At one point, Bretagne spotted an exhausted and expressionless firefighter and ran to his side, ignoring Corliss’s calls to return. “It was like she was flipping me the paw,” she said. “She went right to that firefighter and laid down next to him and her head on his lap.”

What You Need to Know: Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) in 2015

Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is a chronic, slow-developing and contagious disease of cats. Though FIV is closely related to human AIDS, the virus is specific to cats and cannot be transmitted to humans.

What FIV is and How is it Spread

FIV infects and destroys lymphocytes, which are important white blood cells that help your cat fight infection. Without lymphocytes, your cat’s immune system becomes suppressed.

FIV is most commonly transmitted through bite wounds among cats. Due to their aggressive territorial behavior, non-neutered male cats are most commonly infected. Any cat that is bitten by another cat is at risk of contracting FIV. Casual contact, such as social grooming and sharing litter boxes and food bowls, does not appear to be a source of transmission. FIV is rarely spread from an infected mother cat to her kittens or through sexual contact.

Three Stages of FIV Infection

Within four to six weeks after exposure, your cat’s lymph nodes will become enlarged – a development often accompanied by fever. Although the lymph nodes may remain enlarged for two to nine months, these early symptoms of FIV generally go unnoticed.

During the second stage, enlarged lymph nodes and fever disappear, and your cat may enter a long period of latency. This period may last several years and few (if any) clinical signs are observed. Other infected cats may slowly and progressively deteriorate, or experience recurrent illness mixed with periods of relative good health.

The last stage is the chronic or terminal phase of the infection. Secondary infections are common and may last months or years. More than 50% of infected cats have gum infections (gingivitis) and/or mouth infections (stomatitis). Skin, bladder and respiratory infections are also very common. Other symptoms include poor coat, fever, weight loss, seizures and behavioral changes. Due to the vague and generalized symptoms of FIV, your veterinarian may test your cat when he / she is ill in order to rule out this disease.

Diagnosis, Vaccination and Treatment

The diagnosis of FIV is made by your veterinarian. Your cat’s history, the presence of clinical symptoms, and the results of a specific blood test are instrumental in diagnosing the disease.

If your cat is diagnosed with FIV, any other cats in your household should also be tested. All FIV-positive cats should be kept indoors to prevent the spread of infection and reduce their exposure to secondary infections. Cats in the terminal stages of the disease can shed large quantities of the virus in their saliva and can pose a greater threat to uninfected cats. To best monitor your cat’s health, we advise scheduling wellness appointments every six months. Although there is no specific treatment for FIV, your cat’s health and well-being can be prolonged by easing the secondary effects of the disease.

Currently there is a vaccine to help protect against FIV infection; however, there are several problems with it. Not all vaccinated cats are protected by the vaccine, so preventing exposure, even in vaccinated animals, remains important. Vaccination also interferes with FIV test results. Before deciding on vaccinating your cat, it is best to discuss the advantages and disadvantages with your veterinarian.

FIV-positive cats who receive proper medical care, live in a calm indoor home and are fed a nutritionally balanced diet can live many happy months or years before the disease reaches its final stage. For more information about FIV, or to make an appointment to have your cat tested, please call the veterinary hospital today.