Lifes Abundance content relating to 'cat facts'

Why Does My Pet Eat Grass?

Tempted to Graze

It’s a question pet parents routinely ponder. While there are competing theories regarding why dogs and cats consume grass, a conclusive answer has yet to be supported by scientific study. Here’s a brief overview of the current speculation behind your companion animal’s impulse to graze …

1. It’s an ancestral thing. The prey of wild dogs and cats frequently have grasses in their intestinal system, so domesticated dogs and cats still retain a yearning for a spot of grass in their diet.

2. Our companion animals know of some nutritional value in grasses that we have yet to uncover (such as antioxidants).

3. They do it to provoke vomiting if they’ve eaten something that has upset their stomachs.

4. They are augmenting their keen sense of smell with taste to discover more about their environment.

5. They simply like the taste and texture of grass, so it’s just for the sake of satisfaction!

Although we may never know the exact reason why, we do know that this is one of the most commonly asked questions that veterinarians hear from their clients. If you notice excessive grass-eating with either your dog or cat, please consult your vet.

What Pet Parents Need to Know About Vaccines

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“Vaccines are good!” “No, they’re bad!” “Do a half dose of the vaccine!” “Titer instead!”

There sure is a lot of noise surrounding vaccines for our pets, isn’t there? I don’t blame you if you think it’s confusing. Heck, I think it’s confusing and I’ve been doing it for almost 20 years. How, when, and what vaccines to use in pets is one of the most common questions I get both in person and online. When it comes to the truth about vaccines, here’s the real life, not-so-neat reality: there is no one size fits all answer. But the more we understand the principles behind the recommendations, the better equipped we are to make good decisions on behalf of our loved ones.

The immune system is complex, as is the science behind how we optimize it using various vaccinations. Here’s the basic information every pet person needs to understand.

How the Body Fights Disease

As we all know, a well-functioning body fights disease using white blood cells. However, not all white blood cells are the same! They come in three general categories:

1. Macrophages: These cells are the first line of defense. They engulf infected and dying cells, and save pieces of it to present to the other immune cells. Think of them as first responders. They save little pieces of the invader, known as antigens, as evidence from the crime scene!
2. B cells: These cells produce antibodies in response to the antigen. An antibody is a substance that helps the body fight disease in a variety of ways. For example, it can neutralize the invader, or act like a homing beacon for other types of cells to identify the invaders quickly. B cells are like Dr. Nefario from "Despicable Me" ... they don’t take part in the fight directly, but they produce all the gadgets that help the good guy win the battle.
3. T cells: These cells directly attack infected cells. They’re trained to identify a specific antigen, so it can react quickly to destroy the invader. T cells are the trained assassins of the body, honed in on their target.

After an infection is overcome, the body retains some T and B cells specific to that antigen, just in case it encounters it again. In order for those B cells and T cells to react quickly, they must have already been exposed to antigens from the infecting agent. That’s where vaccines come in.

How Vaccines Help

Vaccines imitate infection without causing the actual disease. This allows the body the benefit of those B and T cells carrying around a blueprint for how to respond to the disease, without actually having to survive the infection first. Here’s the important thing to note ... not all vaccines work the same way. Here are the most common types of vaccines we use in veterinary medicine:

1. Attenuated vaccines: These are live infective agents that have been weakened or altered in some way so they do not cause the actual disease. Distemper, parvo, and adenovirus-2 are this type.
2. Inactivated vaccines: These are whole bacteria or viruses that have been killed so they cannot replicate. The most common vaccines in this category are rabies, Leptospirosis, Lyme, influzena, FeLV, and injectable Bordetella. Because these organisms are dead, they are often combined with a substance to “draw” the immune system’s attention: like sending a flare into the sky. These substances are called adjuvants. Vaccines in this category are, according to some, the most likely to cause an adverse reaction.
3. Toxoid vaccines: These are a detoxified toxin - these are not actually in response to an infectious agent at all! Rattlesnake vaccine is the most common example.
4. Recombinant vaccines: These vaccines represent a new generation of vaccine technology. They take a piece of DNA or RNA from the infectious agent and insert it into a benign live virus that will not cause infection. Because the organism is live, it triggers a nice strong immune response without the need for adjuvant. If your cat has been vaccinated with adjuvant-free Purevax, then you’re familiar with this type of vaccine.

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How often do we need to re-vaccinate?

Well, here’s where it gets tricky. Some vaccines last longer than others because of the nature of the infection itself. Or, the exact same vaccine may last longer in one individual than in another. I have a colleague who needs a rabies vaccine every three years; mine lasted 20! There is no guaranteed answer.

So, what do we do? We make recommendations based on minimizing the number of vaccines while maximizing the level of protection for animals taking into account the wide variability in response. The American Animal Hospital Association assembled a gold star panel of the world experts in immunology who make, in my opinion, the most informed recommendations for dogs. The American Association of Feline Practitioners has done the same for cats. These are guidelines that are tailored to your pet with help from your veterinarian.

When you talk to your vet about what your pet needs, you balance risk versus benefit for the individual. You look at lifestyle, likelihood of exposure to diseases, severity of those diseases, current health, and vaccine history. The two most important factors are risk and health history.

Risk: Not all pets are at equal risk for disease. A pug who lives in a skyscraper in San Francisco is not at the same risk for certain diseases as a hunting dog in Louisiana.

Health History: A healthy one year old who is just finishing up their initial vaccine series has different needs than a sixteen-year-old diabetic who has been vaccinated on time her whole life. A sick pet, one with a history of reactions to vaccines, or one with a history of immune mediated disease will have different recommendations.

The exception is rabies, a disease that kills both pets and people. Most jurisdictions have mandated rabies vaccination guidelines written into law.

Can’t I just titer?

Titers are, for those willing to pay for them, a decent (but not foolproof) way of feeling out a pet’s immune status. Titers check for circulating antibodies to a specific disease. Remember when we were talking about B cells and T cells? Titers only tell you about long term B cell response. A pet with a high antibody titer may still be bottomed out on T cells, and vice versa. It’s only part of the picture. It’s not a guarantee that a pet is protected, but it gives you more information to make an informed decision particularly when it comes to how often to boost vaccines in an adult animal who already has several boosters.

What about half doses for smaller pets?

It’s tempting to think of vaccines the same way that we do drugs, whose efficacy is dependent on the concentration in the blood. Not so with vaccines. Vaccines work more on an all-or-nothing proposition: either they get the body’s attention, or they don’t. The degree of the response is determined by the body’s production of those T and B cells. This is the same as in human medicine: my kiddos get the same volume of flu vaccine as my husband. It’s not worth the risk to gamble with a vaccine not working, with no proven benefit.

It’s challenging to dilute a textbook’s worth of information into a single blog post, but hopefully this gives you a little background for your discussions with your vet. Vaccines, nutrition, weight control, exercise ... lots of moving parts come together to help ensure the best health outcomes for your pets. The best decisions are those you make with your trusted health care providers as a team!

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

References:
“Understanding How Vaccines Work” from CDC.gov
AAHA canine vaccination guidelines
AAFP feline vaccination guidelines

Four Pet Trends to Look for in 2019

Does your dog have her own dedicated Twitter following? Is your cat a fabulous Instagram star? Do you find yourself skimming the trades to make sure your puppy or kitten will have the freshest, from everyday chic wear to the slickest tech toys? If so, trends are def your thing.

Now that 2019 is well and truly underway, we're taking a closer look at pet trends for the coming year. Specifically, we'll check out four distinct areas: smart tech, alternative health, special diets and emotional health.

So, without any further ado, let's check out what's hot and what's not for doggos and kittehs for the immediate future. To view the full-size PDF, simply click on the image below. And be sure to share this handy infographic with other like-minded pet parents, too!

Four-Pet-Trends-for-2019Four-Pet-Trends-for-2019

How Your Cat Really Wants to be Fed

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What does your cat’s dish look like? Is it plastic, stainless steel, or maybe ceramic? No matter what you’re imagining, it's almost certainly one of these types of cat food dishes.

But is that about to change? What if the best answer to "how does my cat really want to be fed?" is, “not in a dish at all!”

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), a collection of the best and brightest minds in feline medicine, just released a 2018 consensus statement on the feeding of cats.1 Contrary to the usual debate over cat food which centers on wet versus dry, this discussion focuses not on the ‘what’ of cat food, but the ‘how’.

Here in the States, we often encourage people to keep their cats indoors in order to keep them safe from predators, and from themselves having an adverse effect on native bird populations. While an indoor life is the safest option, this doesn’t provide them much opportunity to act like, well, cats. Outdoor cats routinely roam over ranges as far as two miles, so it’s no wonder their behavior changes when they are confined to a 2,000 square foot house.

As hunters, cats are hardwired to hunt small prey. Unlike a snake, which may go days or weeks in between feedings, a cat in the wild eats multiple small prey every day. The typical household practice of filling a food bowl twice a day doesn’t do a whole lot to fulfill this instinctive need. Without the job of hunting to keep cats occupied, they may become bored and overweight. It may also contribute to stress, particularly if the household contains multiple cats sharing a single food source.

Fortunately, there is a way to manage this issue without making all indoor cats become outdoor cats. The AAFP offers several suggestions to better approximate natural cat behavior in the home, including:

  • Feeding multiple smaller meals a day versus one or two large ones. Automated feeders can do this on a timer.
  • Ensuring multiple food sources for multi-cat households.
  • Using puzzle feeders to encourage natural hunting behavior.

I love puzzle feeders and recommend them routinely for both dogs and, now, for cats. They are based on the very simple principle that companion animals need to work for their food. You can find elaborate feeders that require pets to remove pieces and move doors around, and others that are as simple as a ball with holes in it that drops food out as it rolls. However, puzzle feeders made specifically for felines encourage their natural pouncing and tossing behavior. You can buy feeders for both wet and dry food, so find one that works best with whichever Life’s Abundance premium cat food your sweet kitty prefers.

Although we’ve domesticated cats and dogs, there’s no reason that we can’t continue to adapt and accommodate their instinctual behaviors, especially as our understanding of their physical, mental and emotional needs continues to expand. I’ve spoken to multiple behaviorists who recommend puzzle feeders as a part of any treatment for behavioral issues in cats, from aggression to inappropriate elimination to over-grooming. It’s such a simple thing to do, so why not give it a try with your cat? We feel confident that your little hunter will be super pleased with the change.

Stay well, and happy hunting to your kitty!

Dr V Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

REFERENCES

1. https://www.catvets.com/guidelines/practice-guidelines/how-to-feed

Pudgy Pet? Surprisingly Easy Fixes

woman-and-pug

The latest surveys indicate that over half of the dogs and cats in the U.S. are overweight. Moreover, a sizeable percentage fit the criteria for moderate to severe obesity. The extra heft puts pets at-risk for serious conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, painful arthritis, high-blood pressure, kidney disease and cancer, all of which can shorten their lifespan. The good news is that solving your companion animal’s weight problem might be easier than you’d expect.

A pet parent’s strongest weapon in the fight against obesity is small and powerful … a measuring cup! If you’re like many pet parents, you guess at the amounts, or simply replenish the bowl when it’s empty. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention states that as few as 10 extra pieces of kibble can lead to excess weight gain in smaller dogs. Amazingly, just by measuring meal portions, you can help your dog or cat shed unwanted weight!

While the feeding guide on a label offers a good rule of thumb, remember that most of these standardized charts are based on the needs of young adult dogs. If you’re feeding an older “couch potato” based solely on the label, you could be over-feeding your dog by about 20%. Each pet’s metabolism is different, so it’s a good idea to consult with your veterinarian … they can calculate your pet’s ideal daily intake.

Another vital measure towards curbing weight is also a simple one … selecting the perfect food. Choose a diet that states an animal-specific protein source (such as chicken or fish) as the number one ingredient. Avoid foods pumped up with corn, wheat and glutens, as carbo-loading will sabotage any weight-loss efforts. Made for canines with weight issues, Life’s Abundance Adult Weight-Loss Formula has 28% less fat and 32% fewer calories per cup compared to our original formula. This recipe also features higher protein levels to aid metabolism, and is enhanced with L-carnitine to support a healthy metabolism and weight management.

happy-frenchie

Now, let’s talk about treats. You know that great feeling you get when you give your pup an edible goodie? Yeah, you might not be doing them a favor, because too many treats on the market aren’t much better than canine candy bars. Again, stick with a trusted brand, one that commits to only selling treats with a targeted health benefit. For example, Life’s Abundance offers a whole line of baked treats, each made to promote overall health and happy tummies. Wholesome Hearts are delicious, low-fat dog treats, perfect for dogs who need to be careful about their weight. The rich aroma makes Wholesome Hearts simply irresistible. Break treats into smaller pieces and dole them out as mini-rewards for your pupper.

Lastly, research has proven the most effective way to living a long, disease- and pain-free life is daily exercise. Dogs make the best exercise partners … they’ll never tempt you to skip your new routine in favor of a flavored latte. We’re not talking about going out and running a marathon. As little as 20-30 minutes of brisk walking can have a remarkable effect, improving cardiovascular health, enhancing mood and boosting immune function. Plus, you’ll likely eliminate behavioral problems common among cooped-up canines. Do yourself and your dog a favor and commit to daily walks.

If you implement these simple suggestions, your companion animals will be well on their way to slimmer figures and healthier lifetimes.

Be sure to share this post with other pet parents. It just might be the first step in the process toward a better life for an overweight pet.

5 Meds That Are Toxic to Pets

dog-at-vet

The past four months have been a blur of training, cleaning up and chasing around after our new puppy, Dakota. I wouldn’t change it for the world, but I did forget how much trouble a curious puppy can get into! Last week I found Dakota chomping on a travel-sized bag of trail mix that included chocolate covered raisins. Chocolate covered raisins! How did that even get into the house? I still don’t know where it came from, but fortunately I was able to intervene before he opened the bag.

Most people know that chocolate and grapes can be toxic for pets, but potential threats can lurk elsewhere in your home. Prescription and over-the-counter medications are among the top reasons people call into poison control hotlines for both kids and pets, and with good reason. Here are the top five medications of concern when it comes to pets and toxicity:

1. Ibuprofen. As the active ingredient in common over-the-counter products such as Advil and Motrin, ibuprofen is unfortunately ingested by pets both accidentally and intentionally by owners unaware of its potential side effects. Cats are particularly sensitive to its effects. The most common clinical sign is vomiting or gastrointestinal ulcers, though it can also lead to kidney damage. Other NSAIDS such as Aleve can also be problematic.

2. Acetaminophen. Speaking of pain medications, acetaminophen-containing products such as Tylenol are also high on the list of pet poisons. Like ibuprofen, cats are particularly sensitive to the effects of this medication, and one pill is enough to kill a cat. Both cats and dogs can experience liver damage as a result of this medication, starting with decreased appetite and leading to yellow skin (a sign of jaundice), swollen paws or difficulty breathing. Acetaminophen is a common ingredient in combination products like cough and flu remedies, so be careful to read the label on your products!

pill-spill-dog

3. Stimulants. ADHD medications such as Adderall and Ritalin can be toxic to companion animals. Sadly, they are more likely to be ingested by pets as they are often prescribed for children who may be less vigilant about keeping the pills out of the reach of the household dogs and cats. Signs of ingestion may include dilated pupils, seizures, shaking or hyperactivity.

4. Antidepressants. Antidepressants fall into several categories depending on their mechanism of action. In the most commonly prescribed medications (such as Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft and Effexor) work by increasing the concentration of neurotransmitters in the brain. When overdosed, the brain can be flooded with these chemicals and pets can experience a variety of symptoms such as depression, hyperexcitability, seizures and vomiting.

5. Vitamin D. As doctors are starting to diagnose Vitamin D deficiency more often, this is a common supplement in people’s medicine cabinets. When there is too much in the body, blood calcium levels also rise, resulting in serious damage to the kidneys. It is so effective at causing damage that it's commonly used in rat poisons such as d-Con. Vitamin D might appear on rodenticide labels as “cholecalciferol,” and should be avoided.

There’s no time like the present to ensure any of these items in your house are safely secured away from prying pet paws. If you suspect your dog or cat has ingested any of these harmful substances, call your veterinarian or a pet poison control helpline ASAP!

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Infographic: 5 Common Cat Allergies

You hear a lot about people being allergic to cats, but did you know that sometimes THEY are allergic to US?

The truth is that you hear very little about what allergies cats suffer, even though a significant percentage of domesticated cats have them. In this month's infographic, we're highlighting five common feline allergies that pet parents should be aware of.

Do you already suspect your cat is suffering from a chronic allergy? Be on the look-out for the symptoms, such as:  sneezing, coughing or wheezing; itchy skin and watery eyes; ear infections; vomiting or diarrhea; noticeably louder snoring; and swollen or irritated paws. Some of these symptoms aren't what you would expect, so keep a journal (or at least a running list) of any health-related issues. That way, you'll be prepared to discuss all the relevant details should a vet visit become necessary.

In the meantime, here’s our handy infographic that reveals the most common causes of cat allergies and what pet parents can do to help their feline companions feel better. To view the full-size PDF, simply click on the image below.

PDF DocumentPDF Document

The Best Way to Pet a Cat

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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.

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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.

Cat Adoption Made Simple

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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.

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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

Lessons for Heartworm Awareness Month

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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