Life's Abundance | Makers of premium health products for dogs, cats and pet parents, too!

The Best Way to Pet a Cat

cat-petting

If you haven't had much experience with cats, or if you want to teach your kids how they can be affectionate without worrying about getting scratched, we’ve got the inside scoop on how felines want to be petted.

So, what’s the correct way to pet a cat? You may think, no one needs to tell me how to do a simple thing. But the truth is that petting a cat isn’t something you can do by intuition alone. If you’ve never had a close relationship with a cat, maybe because you had a bad experience before, don’t worry. We can help you change all that with a short tutorial. Simply follow the guidelines below and you too can begin to know the joys of feline companionship.

If there’s one rule to keep in mind, it’s that petting a cat is very different from petting a dog. While dogs usually love a good belly rub, cats typically do not. Why is this true? It boils down to psychology. Generally speaking, dogs are usually pretty secure in their identity as a predator. You may even know of a few tiny dogs who believe themselves to be big bad wolves (looking at you Chihuahuas and Terriers). However, cats are more cautious, because in the wild, they identify as both predator and prey. That’s why cats remain on high alert much of the time. If a cat feels threatened – like when someone they don’t know unexpectedly touches their soft underbelly - he will act defensively to protect his vital organs. Better you than him, he would say.

right-spot

So, the secret spots where cats enjoy being scratched are where a cat’s scent glands are located: in the cheeks, the top of the head and at the base of the tail. When a cat rubs against a piece of furniture or your leg, it’s referred to as bunting. Bunting is how a cat spreads his scent. It’s his way of saying, “Hey, I like you and want to include you among the things that make me happy.” Bunting releases pheromones, making objects – or people - in his environment smell familiar. It also has the added benefit of reducing stress!

Around the head is a sure-fire hit with most kitties. Rub your cat along the crown at the top of the head, gently under his chin, in front of the ears and cheeks behind the whiskers. Hit this last spot just right and your cat will actually rotate his whiskers forward, indicating interest and friendliness.

With cats, it really pays to be observant about how each individual responds to different kinds of touches. Most cats like it when you run your hand along the spine. Some even enjoy gentle pressure at the base of the tail. In fact, they’ll let you know by sticking their tails straight up. If you notice any growling or tail-swishing, these are clues that your cat is becoming overstimulated and may lash out. For cats with heightened sensitivities, it’s best to stick with gently scratching their head and neck.

kitty-scritches

If you’re interacting with a timid kitty, always let them come to you first. As you might imagine, chasing someone down is not a good way to start a new relationship with a cat (or anyone, for that matter). Instead, try a “peace offering.” When approaching timid cats, give them a couple of tasty morsels, like our Gourmet Cat Treats for Skin & Coat Health, to show that you’re friendly and mean no harm. This positive reinforcement for affectionate behavior could have your cat saying, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

We hope you find these tips helpful for tuning you in to your inner cat nature, and that you too will now feel completely at ease with all kitties.

7 Tips to Help You Sleep Like a Baby

perfect-night-sleep

Are you one of the millions of Americans who tosses and turns every night? It might be that, without even realizing it, you’re breaking the cardinal rules of sound sleep.

Stress, lack of exercise, poor diets and more play a significant role in insomnia. But since those are all “big things” to deal with, we’re focusing on low or no-cost, simple strategies you can try tonight to help you sleep like a baby. Here are seven simple adjustments you can make in your nighttime routine to help you drift off quickly and slumber more soundly.

Think Herbal. People all over the world have been using herbal remedies to get a good night’s sleep. Melatonin is produced naturally by the body, but if your schedule’s out of whack, taking a melatonin supplement can prove beneficial. Additionally, valerian has been used for centuries as a remedy for various sleeping disorders.

Be Comfy. There’s really no understating the importance of a quality mattress and pillows. Also, discover your perfect sleep temperature, which according to experts is between 60-67 degrees. 

Turn Off Your Screens. When you’re in bed, the light from your phones, tablets and laptops can seriously affect your circadian rhythms. That’s because these devices emit light that’s on the blue end of the visible spectrum, which can make it harder to fall asleep. If you can’t give up your devices, be sure to use “night mode” to avoid disruptive lighting. Some believe that the electromagnetic interference from these devices can cause sleep deprivation, so it’s better not to sleep by a charging device.

expose-your-feet

Mind Your Feet. Have you ever woken to find at least one foot exposed? Though we’re not exactly sure why this tip works – most connect it to your body’s unconscious desire for a cooler temp – some find that leaving one or both feet uncovered will actually help you drift off faster.

Eat & Drink for Sleep. Everyone knows, don't eat a big meal before bedtime. Same goes for not eating, as your body has built-in protections against hunger which manifests as discomfort. And lay off the caffeine and alcohol. Even if you don’t feel jittery, caffeine’s effects can last for hours. While a nightcap might make you feel sleepy, it has a seriously negative effect on your body’s ability to remain soundly asleep.

Embrace Ritual. To prepare your body for sleep, adopt a new ritual! Having a regular task – like reading, listening to calming music or a hot bath – can be an unconscious signifier to your body that it’s time to enter “sleep mode”. Drinking herbal tea or warmed milk with honey is easy, quick, and not to mention, tasty.

Be Predictable. Champion sleepers swear by sleep schedules, allocating no more than eight hours for sleep (healthy adults typically require at least seven hours). Again, keeping to the same schedule will subconsciously train your body to sleep when you’re ready.

If you’re still having trouble sleeping after trying these tips, we advise that you speak with your physician.

Have you found a reliable solution to your insomnia? Be sure to leave your personal insights in the comments section below!

Summer Wonder Slushie

summer-wonder-slushie

We think it's time you adopted a new favorite beverage. Something chilled, tropical, real fruit flavor but nothing fake. Something easy, that you can blend to perfection in mere moments. Something that reminds us of the brash colors and bright sounds of summers long past. Something truly refreshing, delighting your taste buds, cooling your insides when it's impossibly hot out, and giving your body the nourishment it truly craves. 

Our culinary team has whipped this smashing summer apéritif that seriously might become your new favorite fruit drink! What’s so amazing is that it’s packed with nutrients, thanks to our incredibly nourishing Minerals & Antioxidants Drink Mix.

The following ingredients will make one large "Summer Wonder Slushie". If you're serving at a party, multiply times however many slushies you want to make, and enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups chopped fresh fruit
  • 1 cup ice
  • 1/4 cup sparkling water
  • 1 scoop Minerals & Antioxidants (Cherry or Tropical Fruit)
  • Herbs, spices, honey or other flavor add-ins

Directions

1. Wash and roughly chop the fruit, discarding any pits or unwanted peels.

2. Add all ingredients except Minerals & Antioxidants to a blender. Blend on high until the ice is completely crushed and fruit is blended. Add more ice or fruit as needed to reach your desired slushie consistency.

3. Pour into a glass and stir in Minerals & Antioxidants.

4. Sip the slushie, close your eyes, and be transported to the paradise of a carefree summer.

Cat Adoption Made Simple

kitty-cuddle

June is Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month and we are ready to celebrate! Even though adopting a cat is rewarding, it is a big step. To make it more doable, we’ve broken that big step down into a bunch of manageable steps. 

The week before

  • Gather supplies! Most cats prefer a dust-free, unscented clumping litter. They also usually prefer a litter box without a lid. Your cat will need water and food bowls, toys and something to scratch. You already know where to go for the perfect cat food!
  • Create a cozy space. As a species that can be both predator and prey, cats like somewhere they can feel secure and safe. There are added bonus points if this space has some height, which is one of the reasons cats love tall cat trees so much.
  • Prepare a room. During the first few days, plan to have your cat contained to a smaller space like a laundry room or bathroom while she adjusts to her new surroundings. Once she’s feeling braver, she'll be ready to explore on her own.
  • Prepare family members. If your family isn’t used to having a cat around, make sure they understand the basic rules about gentle play, and giving the cat space when they make it clear they would rather be alone. Older kids can be assigned chores such as feeding, brushing and litter box cleanup (they love that one.) Younger kids, especially toddlers, will need direct supervision as they often do not understand gentle play.

comfy-kitty

The first day

  • Congratulations, your cat is home! Now leave her alone. OK, maybe not entirely alone, but give her some time to explore her new surroundings without being stared at by multiple sets of strange eyes. If you have a dog, make sure he’s not sniffing loudly under the door or pawing at it thus scaring the heck out of the cat.
  • Make sure you have food. Cats can be very finicky, and many refuse to adjust to a sudden change in food. Plan on several days minimum, and maybe even several weeks or more, to adjust to a new food. It will be worth the effort.
  • Make a vet appointment. Always start a new life together with a clean bill of health! Vaccines may need updating, de-wormers may need to be given, and you’ll want to know if there are any health issues to be aware of.

nuzzle-cat

The first few weeks:

  • Be patient! Social kitties may come out and cuddle right away, but others need a little more time. Don’t push a cat who’s not ready to be held or petted. Over time their personality will shine through!
  • Make that first vet visit. Ask the veterinarian if they are cat-friendly or use Fear Free practice guidelines, a new way of low-stress handling that minimizes the pet’s discomfort during visits. This is a great way to ensure a lifetime of good health!
  • Course correct as needed. Remember, you and kitty are going through a transitional period. She needs to learn about you just like you’re learning about her. If she scratches in the wrong place, doesn’t want to sleep in the new bed you bought, or kicks litter all over the floor, take a deep breath and remember that it’s all going to be all right. Don’t be afraid to enlist the advice of a vet or cat behaviorist if you are concerned.

Just keep in mind, any new pet relationship may encounter some bumps, especially at the beginning. But, with love and patience, you too can make that deep connection and begin to forge a bond that will last a lifetime. It’s a lot of work, but well worth it to bring in a new family member!

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

3 Easy Fitness Tips

summer-freedom

It’s right about that time of the year, when you can’t go on Facebook or Instagram without being inundated with advice on how to get ‘bikini body ready’ or ‘fit for the summer’. Upping your fitness and improving your nutrition are absolutely goals to strive for. However, for some people, there is a fair amount of stress that comes along with this ... especially at this time of year. You might get swayed into thinking that a one-week hardcore cleanse is finally the magic bullet to getting into the jeans you’ve always dreamed of, or think that going from 0 to 100 with your workout schedule will be the answer to your physique prayers. And, year after year, you’re reminded that it’s not quite so simple. However, there are a few strategies you can use to improve your fitness routine and eating habits so that they will transform into lifelong positive lifestyle changes.

Here are three ways to improve your fitness, overall health and your fun this summer.

1. Play Like a Kid. I’m not talking about breaking out the legos and action figures, but getting outside and mixing it up! Getting away from your regular 20-minute walk on the treadmill will make exercise accessible and fun. Join your kids in a volleyball game in the backyard. Add a jump rope progression into your weight routine. Turn on music the next time you’re doing a deep clean of the house and work up a sweat. Take the leap and join the recreational basketball team you meant to sign up for last summer. When you get creative in your thinking, you can find a good workout almost anywhere.

greek-recipes

2. Eat Like a Greek. The summer is the perfect time to improve your diet, as loads of fruits and veggies are coming into their peak season. It’s also the perfect time to adopt a mostly Mediterranean Diet, which is inspired by traditional Greek and Italian diets. It emphasizes plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, plenty of extra-virgin olive oil and fresh fish. True followers focus on eating seasonally although depending on where you live, the seasonal foods available may not exactly be those that are available near the Mediterranean. How you eat also matters: preferably with friends and family while enjoying red wine and each other’s company. So when you’re making your meals, think tons of fresh veggies, some fruit, whole grains like brown rice, beans and nuts. Fish and chicken are key, especially flavored with fresh herbs and spices. Dairy is included occasionally - in the form of fresh cheeses and yogurt - as are eggs. While pasta is a staple, it’s usually consumed in small portions at the start of a meal and freshly prepared. Picture a vibrant Greek salad with greens, juicy tomatoes, cucumbers and feta tossed in EVOO and herbs, then topped with a piece of grilled chicken or fish. Yummers!

3. Drink Like a Fish. I mean water in this case, although throwing a mocktail or healthy cocktail into the mix wouldn’t hurt, either. If plain water becomes too yawn-worthy to you, mix it up by adding a scoop of Minerals & Antioxidants to up the flavor, nutritional profile, and overall benefit. Drinking enough water throughout the day can help with weight loss, improved moods, more energy and clearer skin. Liquids may also help move food through your digestive tract smoothly, so your water intake could actually prevent bloating and constipation. Score! With all that it has going for it, it definitely makes sense to keep up with the sipping before, during and between meals. 

Open yourself up to fun and start living your best life!

Keri Keri Glassman, MS.RD.CDN

For more info:

http://nutritiouslife.com/olive-oil-vs-coconut-oil-healthier
http://nutritiouslife.com/spices-health-benefits
https://nutritiouslife.com/recipes/greek-salad
https://nutritiouslife.com/drink-up/low-sugar-cocktails-delicious
http://nutritiouslife.com/do-i-really-need-to-be-drinking-water-to-lose-weight
http://nutritiouslife.com/8-food-tips-for-glowing-skin

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

Make Vet Visits Less Stressful

car-trip

Does your dog experience mild-to-severe apprehension when it comes time for a veterinary check-up? If so, you’re definitely not alone. My own dogs, Oliver and Zelda, are well-adjusted happy campers. But when it’s time to go to the vet’s office, they both start to freak out before we’re barely out of the door.

Until something dawned on me. I had been going about vet visits all the wrong way. Even though I had incorporated all the tricks I’ve learned over the years – travel to places other than the vet, trips to the vet where we just visited with the techs and no exam was given, taking a pocket full of Tasty Rewards or Turkey & Berry Chewies – and though there was marginal improvement, the fear factor continued to be all too real for my puppers.

My realization? Dogs are fundamentally pack animals. I know, I know, everybody knows this. But how might I apply that to vet visits? What if, I thought, instead of one person taking one dog to the vet, we made it a family outing? And so it was settled. Both my wife and I decided we’d BOTH make the time to take BOTH of our dogs, even though Zelda (the younger) was the one with the appointment.

And the most amazing thing happened. There was no jittering or shaking. There was no rapid panting, just the regular riding-in-the-car excitement. We were traveling as a pack. I truly think dogs feel like they can handle anything as a complete pack.

Traveling-to-vet
Zelda accompanied by her big little brother/therapy dog Oliver

We arrived 15 minutes early at the vet’s office, and we walked all around the building, taking our time. I think not being in a rush helped too. We entered the office as a united front, and low-and-behold both dogs were fine!

When it was time to go into the patient room, we all went in and hung out on the floor. The vet tech came in and asked us about Zelda’s history as she fed both doggos some of the treats I had brought. We asked that any tests be done while we were together, which they were happy to do. Of course, it helps to have a great veterinary staff, which we’re fortunate enough to have found. When Zelda was getting her exam, we were all nearby and talking calmly and cheerily. And for the first time in nearly four years, she barely even noticed when she got her vaccines or had blood withdrawn. We were all honestly amazed at the difference!

We hope you’ll try this "power of the pack" strategy to make your next vet visits less stressful … maybe even enjoyable! And feel free to submit your own ideas in the comments section below.

For those interested in learning more about the effects of pet stress, be sure to check out Dr. Jane’s insightful post on pet anxiety.

Dave Mattox
Content Editor

Small But Mighty Chihuahuas

They may be the tiniest of puppers, but Chihuahuas have big personalities in spades, as well as a storied history and a loyal following. That's why May 14th has been named International Chihuahua Appreciation Day!

Learn more about the origins of this ancient breed in the fun and handy infographic below. 

Do you have a Chihuahua or Chihuahua mix? Share your stories about this clever little breed in the comments section below! And don't forget to celebrate these tiny tykes on May 14th!

 

Chihuahua Appreciation Infographic

Six Principles of Eating Clean

Clean-breakfast

Everything old is new again, as is common with all sorts of trends, but now Millenials are seeking out a simpler, more nourishing philosophy of food. Thanks to their renewed commitment to health, the principle of "eating clean" has found a home in this demographic. And, for some of their parents as well.

Eating clean is a new way of referring to a relatively longstanding mindset. In the 1960's, the natural food movement rejected processed foods, which were wildly popular at the time, not for health reasons, but rather for ethical ones. Today, it's about choosing more nourishing options than those offered by giant corporations that use unrecognizable chemical ingredients.

The whole idea behind eating clean is a reliance on healthy, whole and unprocessed food. Rather than counting calories, or restricting oneself to one kind of food (like, for instance, only those low in carbohydrates), this guiding philosophy is more a lifestyle, a consciousness about what qualifies as nutritious. Those who practice it find that it gives you more energy, and because it's flexible and thus adaptable, regardless of your unique routine. For our modern times, where people generally feel pressed for time and always in need of quality fuel to burn, it's the perfect fit.

Colorful-salad

To adopt the "eating clean" mindset, you won't have to keep up with complex formulas or calculations. Fortunately, you'll only need to understand six essential principles of this dietary philosophy, as follows ...

1. Stop eating processed foods in favor of whole, natural foods. A simple rule to remember is that if it comes in a box, can or brightly colored packaging, it's probably processed. Your grocery cart should be full of color, but only natural colors - fruits, veggies, nuts ... you get the idea.

2. Just say "no" to refined foods. Obviously, it takes a great deal of effort to do this 100% of the time, but committing to a daily intake of whole grains from sources like brown rice, quinoa, amaranth and millet is definitely the way to go. And don't forget legumes and beans, as they're great vegetarian sources of protein. You'll also want to end your consumption of high fructose corn syrup, opting instead for sugars from maple syrup, honey and dehydrated sugar cane juice.

3. Say "goodbye" to meals with huge portions. Instead, spread out your consumption with 5-6 small meals evenly spaced throughout your day. These meals don't have to be all exactly the same size. A less drastic change for people who are accustomed to eating breakfast, lunch and dinner is to have three primary meals with small snacks in between. By adopting the small-snack strategy, you'll be less inclined to overeat at your main meals. Additionally, you'll find that spacing out your meals and snacks will help keep your energy up and your blood sugar levels even.

Fruit-salad

4. Every meal should include proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Most Americans don't need to be told to consume carbs and fats, but we often fall short when it comes to protein intake. Not only is protein essential for healthy muscles, it's great for curbing your appetite. Like with almost anything in life, balance is key.

5. Don't overdo it when it comes to the consumption of sugar, fat and salt. Don't worry, it's not that difficult when you eliminate processed foods from your diet. As you live with your new mindset, you'll soon find this is true, because clean foods are typically low in all of these ingredients.

6. Remember to move your body. Just as important as consuming clean foods is using that fuel to power regular physical activity. Establishing an exercise habit may be challenging at first, but within just a few weeks, it'll become second nature. Not only will you feel better, you'll sleep better too! And when you're burning that healthy fuel, you'll be decreasing your body's store of fat while also building your muscles. Soon, you'll be burning more energy even when you're resting, with the added benefit of improving your heart, lung and bone health, too!

We hope you'll start adopting some of these super healthy clean food attitudes and habits. We guarantee that once you commit to living healthier, you'll be able to enjoy the fruits of clean eating.

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