All posts by dr. vogelsang

What You Need to Know About Lyme Disease

bright-eyed-pupper

If you’ve ever had the displeasure of finding a tick on your pet, you know how revolting they are. The first time I found one on my Golden Brody, I was petting him when I felt what I thought was a skin mass. When I looked closer I found to my horror that it was a huge, engorged tick. We had just moved to another part of the county a month prior; in our previous home we never had a tick issue, so I was using just a flea and heartworm preventive. That changed quickly!

Which brings up a couple of points. First, as gross as ticks are, the bigger concern here is that they carry a variety of diseases that can negatively impact your pet’s health. The most prevalent of these tick-borne diseases is Lyme disease. Second, even within relatively tiny geographical regions, the parasite risk can vary tremendously. If you read last month’s blog post on heartworm disease, you’ll remember this trend of microclimates combined with two years of hot, wet weather has created a huge increase in the prevalence of heartworm in areas where they were never a problem before. The same goes for fleas and ticks.

If you haven’t heard of the Companion Animal Parasite Council (capcvet.org), bookmark their site now. It has the most comprehensive parasite data available. Although it’s geared towards veterinarians to help them educate clients, you can absolutely use and share this wonderful resource with your pet parents friends. It's an invaluable tool for assessing the specific risks in a particular geographic location.

sad-pupper

Lyme disease is transmitted through the bite of an infected tick. It affects both pets and people, but it is not transmitted to you directly from your companion animal. A bacterial disease, symptoms begin with headaches, fatigue and fever, but it can progress throughout the body and negatively impact multiple organ systems if left untreated. Because the signs are so vague, many cases are left undiagnosed for a very long time. For more detailed data about its symptoms, visit cdc.gov/lyme/signs_symptoms/index.html.

The CAPC just released their 2018 Parasite Forecast, and it’s got some bad news about Lyme disease. As the tick population has spread, so has the incidence of Lyme disease. While veterinarians in the northeast are well-versed in recognizing signs, it is becoming a much bigger problem in areas such as the Dakotas, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina. It may not even be on the radar for most people who live in these areas, but it should be.

The data is so specific that you can click on your state and find the statistics by county - how many pets were tested for Lyme and how many came back positive. As a well-informed pet parent this is invaluable if you find a tick on your pet. It can help you answer questions like "should I tell my vet?" and "should I really pay for the test?" We encourage all of our readers to search the database, available here: capcvet.org/maps/#2018/all/lyme-disease/dog/united-states.

reading

But it’s not all bad news! Once diagnosed, Lyme disease can be treated with a course of antibiotics. And there’s plenty that you can do right now! First, be aware of the risk in your specific area. Second, use a good tick medication. You have choices ranging from monthly spot-ons to collars and even oral medications available from the vet. They are all quite effective, so it’s a matter of personal preference and what works best for you. There is a vaccine as well. If you live in a Lyme endemic area, talk to your vet about whether the Lyme vaccine is a good option for you.

And mostly importantly, check your pet for ticks, especially in the areas where they like to hide: under ear flaps, between the toes and in the armpits. Removing ticks promptly decreases the risk of Lyme disease, as most cases of transmission occur when the tick has been attached longer than a day.

Fortunately for us, Brody’s tick issue was a one-time affair. From that day forward for the rest of his life, he was on year-round prevention. As soon as Dakota hit the weight limit for the preventive I wanted to use, I started him on tick prevention as well. I check him every day but so far all I find are little burrs from his rolling around in the grass. Hopefully it stays that way!

We love sharing our collective knowledge and experiences here at Life’s Abundance. Have you ever had a pet diagnosed with Lyme disease? How was it diagnosed? Please let us know in the comments section below.

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Lessons for Heartworm Awareness Month

Pug

April is National Heartworm Awareness Month, so I wanted to give everyone both a refresher and an update on this disease. Heartworms are transmitted via mosquito bites, meaning it is not transmissible directly from pet to pet. The tiny larvae are injected into the bloodstream, where they mature into fully grown adults. They live in the heart and large blood vessels. The mature worms produce larvae, which go back into circulation and can be picked up by mosquitoes, ready to transmit to another host, thus repeating a vicious cycle.

While dogs make for ideal hosts, cats can also be infected. However, canines experience the most severe form of the disease. If you are unsure whether your cat should be on heartworm prevention, speak with your veterinarian.

As you can imagine, foreign bodies the size of spaghetti strands can do a lot of damage in the heart. As the parasites disrupt normal heart and lung function, pets display signs of heart disease such as cough, low energy and coffee-colored urine. Treatment involves either surgery to physically remove the worms or injections of a drug called immiticide. Once a heartworm dies it can cause an embolus (a blockage) as it travels through the bloodstream, so patients are under strict cage rest to minimize treatment risks.

Bottom line, heartworm disease is a terrible thing and no one wants their companion animal to experience it. 

Here’s the good news … it’s completely preventable. Once the mosquito injects the larva into the bloodstream, it takes six months for them to mature into adult heartworms. During that time the larvae are susceptible to a variety of medications. Heartworm prevention is available in a number of forms: pills, injections and topicals. They are all prescription medications, so your veterinarian can advise you as to which choice is best for your dog or cat.

Buddies

If you have a dog or a cat, here are five important things you need to know about heartworm disease.

1. While heartworm disease is indeed more prevalent in the Atlantic and Gulf states, it has been diagnosed in all 50 states! Even if you live in a state with low incidences of the disease, all states have microclimates where heartworm flourishes. The American Heartworm Society tracks diagnosis information and publishes an incident map every three years. To see how many cases have been reported in your area, visit https://www.heartwormsociety.org/veterinary-resources/incidence-maps.

2. Dogs travel more than ever before. 2005 was a turning point in prevalence of the disease. Why? After Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf states, humane organizations rallied together to relocate homeless animals across the nation. Some of those dogs carried heartworm disease. Suddenly veterinarians who had never seen heartworm disease in their careers were diagnosing it for the first time.

3. All-natural remedies simply don’t work. I think by now you all know by know how much I value honesty and transparency. If you want to treat your pet for fleas with natural remedies, I will let you know that they simply don’t work as well as the medications I recommend, but I’m not going to fight you on it. Fleas don’t kill dogs and cats, though. Heartworm does. It is simply too devastating a disease to trust anything but the prescription medications that we know work. Anyone who claims otherwise is, in my opinion, displaying their ignorance and spreading poor advice.

4. Pets need monthly prevention to be adequately protected. A very common question is, "why do I need to give my pet monthly heartworm prevention pills if it takes six months for a larva to turn into an adult heartworm?" As the larva develops into an adult, it transitions through several phases. Not all of those phases are susceptible to our heartworm preventives. If we only dose heartworm prevention intermittently, there’s a chance we will miss our window for catching the larva at the susceptible stage.

5. Pets should be tested yearly. Yes, even pets on regular heartworm preventive. Why? Because sometimes things happen. You are late with a dose. The dog spits out the pill when you aren’t looking. Once your pet has adult heartworms, those preventives aren’t going to work. Will it harm your pet to give preventives with active heartworm disease? No, but it’s not going to cure it either.

Here’s the bottom line: we give you very conservative, comprehensive protocols for heartworm prevention because treating adult heartworm disease is so hard on pets. Some do not survive. Having a patient die during heartworm treatment is one of my more devastating memories. Trust me, better to be safe than sorry.

It’s impossible to give a comprehensive overview of heartworm disease in this short blog post, but that covers the basics. You might have questions about things you have heard about such as heartworm that is resistant to the normal medications, or about different protocols for treating heartworm disease. If you do, congratulations for being such an informed pet parent! Your veterinarian, as always, is the best source of information for you.

Enjoy your summer and maintain that prevention regimen!

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Five Ways a Puppy Changes Your Life

Labradoodle-puppy

Is there anything quite as wonderful as puppy breath? I keep reminding myself of this, and all the other happiness-inducing qualities of puppies in general, while mine is attempting once again to gnaw on my fingers even as I write this. But seriously, watching a pupper experience all of his “first things” is a source of joy. And guess what … March 23 just happens to be National Puppy Day, so let’s celebrate!

First-Ride-Home
Dr. V's new puppy, Dakota, on his way to his new home

It’s been eight years since we’ve had the pitter-patter of puppy paws in the house, and we’re just a couple of weeks into the process with our poodle mix Dakota. As a vet, I try to warn prospective pet parents that puppies require a significant investment in time and energy. Our memories are kind when it comes to recalling just how much work they can be. Even so, it’s worth every second. In honor of Dakota and National Puppy Day, here’s my list of the Five Ways a Puppy Changes Your Life:

1. Get a Head Start on Spring Cleaning.

Puppies get into everything, and I do mean everything. Dust bunnies under the couch. Shoes you forgot you had. Every little crumb and morsel you missed while you were vacuuming. All the socks you thought you’d lost. The cat’s litterbox. Puppies force you to be very honest with yourself about how good (or not so good) of a housekeeper you’ve been. A few days of that and you’ll be cleaning up more than ever before.

2. You’ll Get in All Your Steps.

One of the benefits of housetraining a dog is achieving your step count earlier in the day. Going outside every couple of hours means extra moving on your part, especially if you’re taking them on a short walk. And don’t get me started on chasing him around when he finds whatever forbidden item you thought you had hidden well but really hadn’t. Yes, you’re going to be burning all sorts of calories!

Muddy-Dakota
Uh-oh, you didn't track that through the house, did you?

3. Better Stock Up on Cleaning Products.

Even if you’re religiously housetraining your pup, accidents are bound to happen. Just like with babies, messiness is part of the puppy bargain. Be sure to check out our pet-safe, family-friendly cleaning product, Bio-Base Floorwash, available on our Pet Care page.

4. Improving Your Agility.

Avoiding the tiny, shark-like puppy teeth provides an excellent opportunity to perfect your lightning-fast reflexes. Pretty soon, you’ll be honing ninja-level quickness almost overnight.

Dakota-and-Kitty
Dakota isn't sure what to make of this kitty creature

5. Spending Quality Time With Your Vet.

Ever wish you got to see the smiling face of your veterinarian just a little more often? Good news! You’re going to be spending a lot of time shuttling back and forth over the next few months. Bring your favorite Life’s Abundance pet treats to ensure your puppy has a positive outlook on trips to the vet’s office. Want to score some bonus points? Bring cookies for the people too! Positive reinforcement is fun for everyone.

OK, this list might be a bit tongue in cheek, but it does reflect the amount of time you need to be prepared to dedicate to raising a happy, healthy, well-adjusted puppy. As we can all agree, the effort you put in at the beginning is well worth the results! Between your time commitment and a healthy Life’s Abundance diet, your puppy - and my Dakota - are going to be off to the best start possible!

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

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Health Scares & Family Togetherness

Golden-sheen-2

It’s no secret amongst medical professionals that December is one of the toughest months for pet parents. No one really understands why, but both people and pets fall ill this time of year more frequently than at other times, making what should be a happy time of year one of the saddest. In my time working the veterinary ER, I got to see it firsthand, and it was always just heartbreaking.

We had our own scare last month. The week before Christmas, my beloved Golden Retriever became seriously ill. At 8, he’s old enough to be susceptible to a myriad of problems but young enough that despite his whitening muzzle I still think of him as an overgrown puppy with lots of time ahead of him. He collapsed on a Sunday morning. We headed straight to the ER.

Although Brody was stabilized on intensive care and had undergone myriad tests, they were unable to determine the cause of his symptoms and suggested we take him to a cardiologist as soon as possible. In between taking the kids to a holiday play and maintaining some semblance of normalcy, I shuttled him to the specialty center an hour away at midnight, hopeful for some sort of resolution or at least answers.

After three days of hospitalization and test after test, we were still without a diagnosis. Multiple specialists at the top of their fields came up empty. The “cancer” word was suggested multiple times. After all, this is a Golden Retriever we’re talking about. But despite our best efforts, every diagnostic evaluation came up short. We did what you always do when you don’t know what’s going on: treat the symptoms and hope for the best.

I brought Brody home with a pile of medications worthy of your Great Uncle Joe’s medicine cabinet while we regrouped to await test results. Biopsies, ultrasounds, blood tests, all normal. And despite all indications to the contrary, Brody started to slowly improve.

No one was more shocked than me. In all my years of practice, I can’t recall the last time I saw a dog as ill as mine bounce back. It was truly a Christmas miracle, and we couldn’t be more thrilled and grateful. I had fully planned to spend Christmas staring at his empty stocking in a puddle of tears, and here we were instead, cuddled on the couch like nothing had ever happened.

lap-of-luxury-doggo

I’m sharing this with you for a couple of reasons: first, as hard as it is for me to not know what happened, it’s a good reminder to all of us that medicine is an imperfect science. The people on his case are the smartest I know, and the fact that they couldn’t tell me what was wrong isn’t an indication that they were somehow lacking so much as the fact that sometimes there’s just nothing that can be found. I am so incredibly grateful to the medical professionals who spend the holidays away from their families so that we have somewhere to go when our pets are sick. Their care brought him back to me.

Second, this gives me a real impetus to actually follow through on a New Year’s Resolution for once. I always say I’m going to value my relationships more and spend more time with my loved ones, but this time there is an urgency to it that I’ve never had before. I was quite sure I was going to enter into the new year minus one fluffy lovebug, and yet here we are: I still get to wake up to his face on the side of the bed, roll my eyes in a not-really-mad kind of way at the amount of fur he sheds, and wrestle with him for space on the couch at night.

Every day with our loved ones is a gift, and nothing makes you appreciate that more than the prospect of no longer having it. I have no delusions that everything is back to normal; although we could find nothing wrong, something did go wrong with my dog, and it is very likely to come back. But since I have no control over it, for now I will just be grateful for the small things that fill a dog lover’s heart with joy: dog kisses, tail wags, and unabashed joy at something so simple as a short walk. There are no givens for the upcoming days or weeks.

No matter what happens tomorrow, our time together today is a blessing, so let’s make the most of it. From all the pet lovers here at Life’s Abundance (that’s pretty much everyone), wishing you and yours all the best for 2018!

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Pack a Go Bag for Your Pet

It’s hard to pick up the news these days and not be worried about the safety of our family. As a California resident, I can tell you … the fire here is pretty terrifying. When a wildfire grows larger than the size of Manhattan, it truly beggars belief.

Whenever I start to worry, I make plans. Plans help us feel more secure in the moment, and should disaster strike, we’ll have the confidence of being prepared.

Most of us will probably never have to deal with anything more extreme than an extended power outage. But, as we see in the news, situations can arise at the drop of a hat that necessitate having to leave home in a hurry.

Few things can put your mind at ease like having a go bag. You’ve probably seen these in films and TV shows. It’s a pre-packed travel bag with a few days’ worth of supplies. You may already have one ready to go … but can you say the same for your companion animal? Here’s a short list of items to pack in case you need to bug out with your dog or cat.

Simply click on the image below to view the full-size PDF and print for later reference. It’s always good to be prepared!

PDF Document
PDF Document

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Which Holiday Character is Your Pet?

Yorkshire-Holiday

No matter how old I get, I don’t think I’ll ever outgrow my inner child when it comes to excitement over the holiday season. The characters in this play of life may vary, yet one thing remains the same: as soon as Thanksgiving dinner is done, my holiday season begins.

My pets may not know what Christmas is, but they do know something is happening: the furniture moves around, someone’s always cooking and they get to spend their nights curled in front of a fire (well, as many as our warm SoCal evenings allow). Most of our December evenings are spent watching some sort of holiday movie or show. After so many years, I know all the beloved casts of characters by heart.

Part of the fun of revisiting these classics is imagining which roles my companion animals most closely resemble. Like people, our dogs and cats each have their own distinct likes, dislikes and personality quirks. Does your dog or cat remind you of any of the following pop-culture favorites?

The Grinch

Does your dog skulk around the house with a Grinch-like frown? Does your cat steal random ornaments and hide them away in the fireplace? Could be because the holidays can be stressful for many companion animals who are disturbed by the extra activity, changes in routine and houseguests. If your pet becomes Grinchy every December, make sure to provide them their own sanctuary. Just as the Grinch needed a cave on Mount Crumpit, sometimes they just need a temporary escape from all the noise, noise, noise, noise!

Kitty-Christmas-Tree

The Bumble

In Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the angry, roaring Bumble is reduced to a big old softie after Hermie the dentist removes his teeth. Dental disease is a big problem for both dogs and cats. Often going untreated, the result is many cranky mini-Bumbles wandering around with sore mouths. Want to give your pet a truly meaningful holiday gift? Make sure their mouths are healthy and disease-free. I am astounded at the turnaround many make once their dental disease is addressed and the source of constant pain resolved.

Heat Miser

Who can forget the Miser Brothers angrily hurling snowflakes and lightning bolts at each other in The Year Without a Santa Claus? While cold winter air can be refreshing, seniors (especially those with arthritis) might find winter less than comfortable on ailing joints. If your dog or cat seems to slow down when the temperature drops, shows difficulty negotiating the stairs, or seeks out the warmest spots in the house, make like the Heat Miser and crank up the heat. Cozy orthopedic beds, keeping the house at a comfortable temperature when they’re home alone and providing joint support can help seniors stay comfy even when the weather is frightening. Of course, make sure any new symptoms are brought to your veterinarian’s attention.

Naughty-Nice

Garfield

All Garfield wants for Christmas is plate after plate of lasagna. As a vet, I can tell you he’s not the only one with an ambitious appetite. The holidays are one of the busiest times of year for emergency clinics who witness firsthand the aftermath of counter-surfing Collies and trash-diving Torties. Pancreatitis, foreign bodies and the ever-present carpet-ruining “GI disturbances” are just some of the unfortunate consequences of four-footers gobbling holiday goodies. If your dog or cat has a reputation for sneaking a snack or seven, try not to leave them unguarded. Also, give them some healthy treats instead. Life’s Abundance offers a host of wonderful options that make for perfect stocking stuffers for dogs and for cats!

Peanuts

I’ve saved my favorite special for last. In A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie Brown frets about the consumerism of the holidays. He takes in a sad little tree and transforms it into something beautiful. As much fun as it is to get swept up in buying gifts for our furry companions, or how tempting it is to try and capture the perfect “Santa Paws” pic for Instagram, at the end of the day, the only things our critters want from us is our love and attention. Being with family and making time for each other truly makes the season special.

My dog Brody is a Linus for sure. No matter how many holiday cookies I stress eat over travel plans or finding “the right gift” for someone, Brody is there to offer a constant source of friendship and calm. I can count on him to put his head in my lap and remind me to take a breath, and be grateful for all the gifts I have this season.

I wish you and your family joy, love, and good health this December and in the New Year to come!

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

The Future of Veterinary Medicine

orange-tabby-outdoors

Our lives have been immeasurably changed since the dawn of the computer age. It’s hard to overstate the impact of technology on the future of medicine: it’s changed virtually everything. Much of it is already working its way into your veterinary office. So, what does the veterinary clinic of the future look like? Here are my predictions:

1. You’ll Be Taking Advantage of Telemedicine Options

Fifteen years ago, if your vet wanted a radiologist’s opinion on an x-ray, she would have to pack the film into an envelope and send it off. Nowadays, with digital x-rays, an expert opinion is just a click away.

Right now, telemedicine is mostly used as a means for one veterinarian to consult with another one. Having a remote veterinarian examine and diagnose your pet without seeing him or her in person is currently against the law in most states. Expect veterinary medicine to follow the trends in human medicine; I can talk to a doctor I’ve never met before over the phone about my child’s ear infection and get a prescription, so it’s only a matter of time before consumer demand will make veterinary telemedicine more accessible. It won’t happen until state regulatory boards make it legal, though, so don’t expect this to happen anytime soon.

The intermediate step you will probably notice first is either remote consultations with a veterinarian you already have a relationship, or a third-party triage service that can provide general advice without providing a diagnosis or treatment recommendation. Both of those options are legal under today’s laws. Once that becomes the norm, the rest will follow suit pretty quickly.

2. Health Monitoring Technology Will Grow

Each night, my husband and my son sit down to compare notes from the little fitness trackers they wear on their wrists and see who got the most steps in for the day. In the morning, my husband can tell me exactly when he was in REM sleep and how often he woke up. These devices even sync with our scales. The amount of data is almost overwhelming!

Over the past five years, multiple fitness trackers for dogs have come and gone. Most are still too large to fit on a cat’s collar due to the limitations of the battery size, but we’ll get there soon. Some of them just track steps for the day, but the latest versions can look at data such as breathing rate and whether or not a dog is scratching excessively. That’s good data to have if you are concerned your pet is in pain or wondering if those new allergy meds are helping!

In veterinary medicine, these fitness trackers are just the start. For those who live with diabetic cats, a litter box is in the works that can track glucose in the urine, a vital marker for diabetes. Imagine if that same litter box also could tell you when your cat loses a pound, which is a substantial health concern but often subtle enough that owners don’t notice right away. Expect these technologies to help us catch disease processes sooner rather than later, which will undoubtedly save lives!

chocolate-lab

3. We’ll Be Using DNA Analysis to Predict Health

Ever swabbed your cheek and sent it off for a DNA analysis to learn about your ancestors? That’s only the beginning. Genetic testing to see what dog breeds make up your dog’s DNA has already expanded into an enormous database that helps improve our understanding of canine disease. Mapping of the dog genome already allows us to pick up early markers for many genetic diseases such as the MDR1 gene, degenerative myelopathy and Von Willebrand’s disease. Our ability to anticipate these disease processes before they develop will allow us to provide much more meaningful care and prevention.

Having such specific health information about individual companion animals will allow us to make completely individualized treatment plans!

4. We’ll Be Using Bioengineered Solutions to Treat Disease

Stem cells are a huge buzzword these days … but do the results really backup the hype? According to many veterinarians who use them to treat dogs, cats and horses, the answer is “yes!”

Stem cells are unique in that they can differentiate into different cell types, which makes them particularly useful in orthopedic disease where regeneration is a challenge. Stem cells can be harvested from a dog or cat’s own adipose tissue, grown at the lab, and returned to the veterinarian to be introduced to the site of an injury. A 2008 study in Veterinary Therapeutics showed a significant improvement using stem cells in dogs with elbow injuries, a notoriously difficult joint to treat.

Another area of research that makes this vet excited is immunotherapy: a cancer treatment that helps the pet’s own immune system recognize cancer cells as abnormal. Scientists are currently investigating the ability to create immunotherapy treatments for tricky cancers such as mast cell tumors, melanoma and osteosarcoma. Imagine a future where an injectable vaccine reduces the need for more invasive treatments such as chemotherapy, surgery and radiation!

Technology is both a blessing and a burden. I admit I sometimes long for the days when I wasn’t accessible 24 hours a day, and have to chase my kids outdoors and off their mobile devices. That being said, I am also so very excited to see how these amazing new developments will improve life for both pets and people!

Are pet health monitoring devices something would consider using? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Canine Influenza: What Pet Parents Need to Know

SadPug

Two years ago, if you had asked me whether or not I recommended the canine influenza vaccine, I’d have told you, “probably not.” Even as recently as one year ago, I probably would have said the same thing, at least here in San Diego. But that’s the thing about medicine, especially when it comes to emerging diseases ... situations can change rapidly. Recommendations that made sense as recently as six months ago no longer hold. Such is the case with the current outbreak of canine influenza. Here’s what we know based on the latest information from the CDC, American Veterinary Medical Association and the veterinary schools who are helping to research the disease.

What is Canine Influenza?

Influenza is a family of viruses that affect a wide variety of species. It has two characteristics which really set it apart from other types of virus: one, it can mutate very rapidly (hence the need for a new flu vaccine every winter); and two, it often jumps species. Such is the case with canine influenza.

Until recently, the only strain we saw in dogs was H3N8, a mutation of equine influenza that’s been circulating in the United States since 2004. While a vaccine is available for H3N8, few veterinarians recommended it as the disease was very limited and most infected dogs recovered on their own.

All this changed in 2015, when H3N2 emerged on the scene. H3N2, thought to be a mutation of an avian influenza, arrived in Chicago with a group of dogs imported from Korea. This virus behaves very differently from H3N8, as the veterinary community soon discovered. It mutates very rapidly, meaning there are already different strains of the virus all around the country. Also, it is highly infectious, spreading to all corners of the US much more quickly than anyone had anticipated. As of now, H3N2 has been identified in 46 states.

What Does Canine Influenza Do to Dogs?

Canine influenza manifests in two forms. In the mild form of the disease, dogs experience a soft cough that lasts from 2-4 weeks. They may act lethargic, demonstrate a diminished appetite, have a low fever (102.5-104), exhibit sneezing, and maybe have some eye and nasal discharge. As you can see, these are fairly vague signs that show up with many sorts of canine disease processes, so many cases of canine influenza have probably gone unidentified.

In its rarer, more severe form, dogs can become very ill. They can run a high fever (104-106) and develop pneumonia, which can lead to life-threatening complications. The fatality rate for canine influenza is less than 10%.

Other species can be infected with H3N2: it’s been diagnosed in cats, ferrets and guinea pigs. In these species, it manifests like an upper respiratory infection and usually resolves on its own. Fortunately, H3N2 has not manifested in people according to the latest data from the CDC.

Which Dogs Are Most At-Risk?

In theory, all dogs are at-risk of H3N2. Virtually all dogs who are exposed to the virus become infected (i.e. have circulating virus in their systems); about 80% of those dogs show some clinical signs of disease. What makes this virus particularly nasty is that infected dogs shed tremendous amounts of the virus whether or not they are showing signs of disease; they can shed virus for more than three weeks! That means one dog, travelling across the country to dog shows or staying in boarding facilities, can infect hundreds of other dogs in a short period of time.

Dogs are at highest risk of exposure when they are in direct contact with other dogs. The virus only lives in the environment for 24 hours, so most infection occurs from contact with respiratory secretions like sneeze droplets. Dogs at boarding or daycare facilities, training classes, competitions, dog shows and shelters are at highest risk. Of these dogs, those who become the most ill are the very young, seniors and the immunosuppressed.

How is Canine Influenza Diagnosed and Treated?

Canine influenza can’t be definitively diagnosed based on history and examination because the symptoms are so vague. If your veterinarian suspects influenza, she may recommend specific blood or nasal swab tests which can isolate the canine influenza virus.

Like human influenza, the treatment consists of supportive care and treating the symptoms while the body fights off the virus. Fluid support and antibiotics for secondary infections are the mainstays of supportive care. Infected dogs should be quarantined from other dogs for at least 21 days.

Is There a Vaccine?

Two manufacturers make vaccines for H3N2. The vaccine schedule consists of two doses three weeks apart, with a yearly booster. If you are considering this vaccination for your dog, make sure you are getting the right one because a vaccine for H3N8 also exists.

If you’re not sure whether or not you should get your pet vaccinated, your veterinarian is always going to be the best source of information as they will be aware of whether the disease has been diagnosed in your area. You can also check out the Infectious Disease Risk Calculator from the Ohio State college of veterinary medicine, which asks you a series of questions and gives you a risk assessment based on the most current data (https://idrc.vet.ohio-state.edu).

The virulence of H3N2 took the veterinary community by surprise. Fortunately, public health surveillance exists specifically for this reason. The infectious disease community was able to identify and get the word out about H3N2 quickly, so veterinarians are able to better support the wonderful canines we are fortunate enough to treat. While the virus is scary, we know a lot more than we did even a few short months ago, including how to protect your pups. You can help by getting the word out about this virus, and encouraging those you know to visit the vet if there’s any concern H3N2 may be present.

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

For more information, check out these trusted resources:

www.vetgirlontherun.com
https://www.dogflu.com
http://www.cfsph.iastate.edu/Factsheets/pdfs/canine_influenza.pdf
https://ahdc.vet.cornell.edu/news/civ.cfm
https://www.cdc.gov/flu/canineflu/keyfacts.htm

5 Reasons Why Dogs are the Absolute Best

corgi-walk

August 26th marks National Dog Day, giving us ample opportunity to celebrate everything we love about dogs. To honor this special day, Dr. V shares her personal observations and some truly amazing facts about why Americans love dogs so much.

It is perhaps fate that I was destined to consider myself a dog person … after all, my birthday falls on August 26th, National Dog Day. From the first time I held my floofy little Lhasa Apso puppy in my arms when I was seven years old, I knew that I felt a special camaraderie with canines. Often, I felt more comfortable with them than I did with people. I thought I was a weirdo for feeling that way, until I met other dog people and realized it’s just who we are.

Dogs have always made me stop in my tracks the way my friends stopped for babies. Don’t get me wrong, I love children. But I’ve never felt compelled to stop a stranger and ask to pick up their baby the way I have pretty much every puppy ever. I look at them and see patterns: the way their coat so often matches their caretaker’s hairstyle; the easy way a dog will run up and comfort someone without a word being said; the sudden brightening in children's faces when they first see their dog after a day at school. The easy bond between people and pups has been thousands of years in the making.

Everyone has their own personal reasons for wanting to share life with a canine companion. That being said, dog lovers share some common reasons for why they enjoy life more when there's a dog around. Here are the most frequently cited explanations for being an enthusiastic supporter of Team Dog …

1. Family. Dog lovers often share that their dog feels like a member of the family, as opposed to a roommate who just hangs out, eats a lot, and makes a mess. This deep bond explains why many people say that the death of a dog is just as hard emotionally as losing any other family member.

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2. Personality. With 190 recognized dog breeds and countless lovable mixes, dog personalities are as varied and unique as we are. People often spend a great deal of time researching, visiting breeders and shelters, and getting to know different dogs before finding the one whose temperament, activity level, and size are the exact right fit for them.

3. Loyalty. A dog’s loyalty to his or her family is unmatched. As pack animals, they truly depend on us for all the necessities of life plus lots of love and interaction. In return, we are rewarded with boundless love and a friend who doesn’t care about morning breath, what we look like before our first cup of coffee, or what we sound like when we sing in the shower.

4. Understanding. Many of us intuitively sense that our dogs understand us, but does the science back it up? Researchers in Brazil and the U.K. studied a group of dogs and determined that dogs could correlate the tone of our voices with the expressions on our faces.* Up until this study, that particular cognitive ability was thought to only be found in primates! Turns out that dogs often have a better read on us than we do on one another!

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5. Forgiveness. A friend recently recalled an incident when she had accidentally closed a door on her dog’s tail, whereupon she burst into tears. Seeing this, her dog immediately ran over to comfort her! His concern was not over his own well-being, but over his guardian’s distress. While dogs exhibit so many wonderful traits we value in each other, they seem to be missing some of the really ugly ones we humans sometimes suffer: greed, malice and holding a grudge (to name a few). They live in the moment, and never seem to hold our failings against us. So amazing!

When I speak about the most profound moments I’ve shared with my dogs, I often get choked up. Like even right now. Even in our worst moments, they provide the comfort of a loving presence that’s continually by our sides, without judgment. All they ask in return is a warm bed, nourishment and loving scritches. I think members of Team Dog will agree, that’s a small price to pay for one of the most joyful relationships a person can have!

Why are you a dog person? Share your reasons why in the comments section below.

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Reference:

 * www.reuters.com/article/us-dogs-emotions-idUSKCN0VP1DH

The Real Reasons Why People Prefer Cats

majestic-white-kitty

On August 8th, we celebrate International Cat Day. To mark the occasion, Dr. V takes a look at why millions of pet parents are more inclined towards cats than dogs. Enjoy! 

Ask any pet lover if they consider themselves Team Cat or Team Dog, and you’re probably going to get some strong opinions. Although the number of U.S. households with dogs exceeds those with cats, felines win in measures of overall numbers. According to the latest survey, about 94 million felines live in the U.S. right now. Clearly, plenty of people play for Team Cat. 

After a long dark era where cat lovers were given a hard time (crazy cat lady stereotypes, anyone?), I’m pleased to see the merits of living with cats far outweighing any negative remarks. In fact, we seem to be enjoying a great renaissance of cat appreciation! Even in the virtual world, cats rule the internet thanks to endless YouTube videos. They're beautiful, mysterious creatures who share a deep and abiding connection with us mere humans. What’s not to love? 

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If you spend enough time talking to people who consider themselves cat people, a few common themes emerge. Let’s take a look at some of the top reasons people find themselves gravitating towards Team Cat … 

  1. Ease of Care. When you bring home a puppy, you wind up with a 10-page list of requirements covering training, harnesses, toys and socialization. Cat parents view such lists with mild amusement. By comparison, cats are pretty low-maintenance. Once you cover the basic necessities such as food, water and a litter box, the rest is just bonus points! 
  1. Independence. Cats are naturally independent, unlike dogs who long to be part of a pack. Of course, certain cats are more social than others, but overall they aren’t as stressed by alone time as your average dog. To many people, this laid-back relationship can be very appealing! Like the cool kid in school who's a bit aloof, you almost love them just a little bit more.
  1. Big Personalities. Interestingly enough, both dog lovers and cat lovers mention personality as one of the reasons they chose one over the other. Clearly, they’re both right. It’s all about who meshes best with the family!

On a purely personal note, certain types of people tend to gravitate towards feline companionship. Folks who describe themselves as introverted, laid-back, shy, refined and independent seem to be naturally inclined toward the feline temperament. There are some who also claim intelligence as a trait of cat people, but as a dog person myself I’m not going to touch that one!

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As for the notion that it’s mostly women who love cats, nothing could be further from the truth! Cat dudes are loud and proud with their love of all things feline. A few feline fans who just so happen to be famous guys include Christopher Walken, Macklemore, James Franco, Gilles Marini, Russell Brand and Tom Hardy!

Of course, there are many among us who simply can't pick one over the other. In fact, more than half of cat households are also dog households. My son and I are Team Dog while my husband and daughter are Team Cat. We're fortunate enough to have one of each, and we all love them both equally! While it’s fun to play up the differences between dog people and cat people, we’re all animal lovers, and that’s what matters the most.

So, how about you? Are you a charter member of Team Cat? Share your reasons why in the comments section below.

All my best to you and your lovable companions!

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM