Lifes Abundance content relating to 'dog health issues'

Protect Your Dog from Heat Exhaustion

keep-your-dog-safe-in-summer-heat

Every summer, our local parks department posts warning signs at the trailhead of my favorite hike warning of the dangers of overheating. Not for people. For their dogs.

The trail is five miles round trip, winding up a rocky mountain with little shade and no access to water. If you get into trouble out on the trail, you have to either be carried out or airlifted. Fortunately, most people heed warm weather warnings for themselves, bring enough water and have the appropriate hiking attire, all of which help make rescues a rare event. The same cannot be said for their dogs, unfortunately … hence the sign.

Dogs love us and want to go along with whatever we ask them to do. This leads to dangerous situations when well-meaning nature lovers, who just want to include their canines in summer activities, forget the very real risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke in dogs.

Risk Factors

Heat exhaustion doesn’t come out of nowhere, making it a problem we can both anticipate and prevent. That’s a good thing! While any pet or person can experience this condition, there are specific risk factors that you need to be aware of that make some dogs more susceptible to heat than others:

Age: Both the very young and the very old are more affected by heat. Regulating body temperature is a complicated physiological process, and pets at both ends of the age spectrum have more difficulty fending off temperature extremes.

Breed: You can’t walk ten feet these days without encountering an adorable Frenchie or Boston Terrier, but hopefully those walks are taking place early in the morning (hint, hint). Any squishy-faced breed (referred to as brachycephalic) is more prone to heat stroke due to their anatomy.

Coat: When I first adopted my black lab Kekoa, I was shocked at how much more quickly she heated up during walks. Why? Dark-coated fur absorbs more heat. In addition, those beautiful thick coats that keep breeds like Huskies toasty in the snow can also predispose them to heat-related illness.

Weight: As if we needed another reason to warn against carrying extra pounds, obesity is a known risk factor for heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

All of these risk factors add up. Let’s just say, if you have a black-coated, overweight, senior French bulldog, you might as well just follow them around with a fan and a thermometer all summer (and get them on a diet!).

Early Warning Signs

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are progressive illnesses. It takes time for a pet to go from normal body temperature to dangerously hot. During that process, he or she may exhibit any one of the following signs, meaning it’s time to stop what you’re doing and get into the shade.

Panting: Yes, dogs pant as part of the normal cooling process- but if they’re panting so much they can barely pause to take a sip of water, they’re too hot.

Drooling: Excessive drooling is a sign of heat exhaustion. Paradoxically, so are dry gums. A pet’s mouth should be moist but not dripping with saliva, nor should the gums be dry to the touch.

Red gums: Gums should be pink. Dark gums, which can look nearly red, can signal a problem.

check-your-dog-for-heat-stroke

Late-Stage Warning Signs

If your pet exhibits any of these during hot weather, I would proceed to a veterinarian immediately. Left unchecked, heat stroke can sadly lead to kidney failure or even death.

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Staggering gait
  • Seizures
  • Petechiae (pinpoint red spots on gums & mucous membranes)
  • Blood in stool or tarry, dark stool

What Should You Do if You Suspect Heat Exhaustion or Stroke?

If you’re not sure how severe your pet’s symptoms are, you can always call your local veterinary ER for advice. It’s better to be safe than sorry, especially with something as dangerous as heat stroke.

Avoid the temptation to douse your pet in cold water. It can actually worsen things by causing the peripheral blood vessels to constrict. You can spray your pet with cool (not cold) water while you proceed to the ER.

The best solution is, as always, prevention. Make sure pets have plenty of access to shade and cold drinking water when they’re outside during warm weather. Keep them indoors entirely during significant heat waves. Avoid walks during the middle of the day. If you’re going on a hike where help is not likely to be easily accessible if you run into trouble, over-prepare.

Have a fun, and SAFE, summer!

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Why Consumers Trust Lifeʼs Abundance Pet Food

Lifes-Abundance-Cares-About-Your-Dogs-Health

NOTE: Life’s Abundance is not the subject of any FDA investigations or cases of DCM.

The FDA’s June 27 update linking 16 dog food brands to reports of the canine heart disease dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) has pet parents understandably concerned. Our hearts go out to affected families, and we’re happy to address your questions about our brand.

Our Purpose is You

At Life’s Abundance we are fueled by our passion for helping families, including pets, live longer, happier, healthier lives. You and your family are at the top of our minds as we develop products, select ingredients, choose suppliers and answer your questions.

If you already feed your companion Life’s Abundance food, thank you for placing your trust in us. If you or someone you know is considering making a switch, we hope you will choose Life’s Abundance.

Our way of thinking sets us apart, but it doesn’t end there.

  • Authenticity. We don’t buy into fads and marketing gimmicks. Our formulas are based on proven science and evolve only when research confirms that an adjustment will provide a nutritional benefit. In fact, because we are proactive in our approach, we were among the first to include guaranteed probiotics in our foods.
  • Guaranteed Taurine. We guarantee minimum amounts of taurine in all of our dry dog foods. Though this nutrient is not required by AAFCO, we have always seen it as an important and beneficial supplement in our dog foods.
  • Regular Testing. We regularly test all of our dry foods. Some tests are standard protocol and some go above and beyond standard requirements. For example, after a 2018 FDA report indicated there may be a link between DCM and taurine deficiency, we re-tested taurine levels in all of our dry dog food diets. Then, later that year we re-tested Vitamin D after a series of recalls due to an excess of this nutrient. In all cases, we remain vigilant about the safety of our products.
  • Proven Results. For two decades families like yours have trusted us to provide the best nutrition for their pets. Generations of dogs and cats have thrived on our products and thousands of pet parents have shared their experience through reviews we can be proud of.
  • Feeding Trials in Process. We recognize the importance of standardized, scientific testing and the value of Feeding Trials and we are underway with the process to trial all of our dry dog foods.
  • Quick Notification System. We are proud of the fact that we have never had a recall. But, what we are most thrilled with is our Quick Notification System. Unlike most brands, because we have a direct relationship with customers, in the event there is ever an issue with a product, we will be able to notify consumers immediately. Rather than waiting to hear about a problem in the news, from a friend, or never hearing about it all, Life’s Abundance will contact you directly by email, phone or even mail. That’s a level of service you simply can’t get anywhere else.

As a company and as pet parents ourselves, news of events like DCM makes us pause to acknowledge what it means to be based on a foundation of integrity, and to appreciate those families whose well being our products support.

Be assured, we are monitoring this investigation closely and will provide updates as they become available.

What Pet Parents Need to Know About Vaccines

Loving-couple-and-lab

“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

Say Goodbye to Doggie Breath

goodbye-doggie-breath

February is National Pet Dental Month so it's a great time to reassess your dental care plan for your companion animals. If you're a new pet parent, or if the idea of cleaning your dog's teeth seems at all daunting, it's a great time to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian for an assessment of your pet’s oral health and, if needed, schedule a dental cleaning.

If you’re wondering why the awareness campaign lasts for a whole month, it’s because periodontal disease is the most commonly diagnosed disease in dogs. Crazy, right? According to the latest stats, four out of every five dogs over the age of two have some degree of periodontal disease!

“But his teeth look fine!” you might protest. The problem is that plaque (the gummy film that forms on a pet’s teeth within hours of eating) isn’t obvious to the naked eye. Over the course of several days it combines with minerals to harden into tartar. Over weeks and months, this tartar builds into a thick brown stain.

Many put off professional dental cleanings due to costs or feared risks. But there is a steep price to pay for neglecting your companion animal’s dental health. Avoiding a consistent care regimen can lead to excessive tartar, tooth decay, periodontal disease, even painful abscesses. These conditions can be the gateway to other major medical conditions involving the heart, liver and kidneys ... even joint problems. As with humans, such advanced dental disease can diminish your doggo’s quality of life and may even shorten his or her lifespan. Some older pets have mouths that are so painful that eating becomes an ordeal. By addressing periodontal concerns early on, your dog will also live longer, healthier and enjoy a better quality life.

happy-woman-smiling-dog

There are many benefits to having your pet’s teeth cleaned. No matter how much we joke about dog breath, the odors caused by dental infections are no laughing matter. After a dental cleaning, your pet’s breath will be fresh again. Best of all, it can actually remain fresh with regular home care. Keep in mind that the regular use of health-promoting dental care products and treats can help reduce plaque buildup and freshen breath, too.

Thanks to National Pet Dental Month, now is the ideal time to take advantage of dental cleaning specials offered by veterinary clinics. Be sure to check with your clinic soon to inquire about any current promotions. Think of your veterinarian as an informative partner who can help you to ensure that your pupper has the kind of regular oral healthcare that will help to support a long and healthy life.

We're incredibly pleased to announce that starting February 1st, Life’s Abundance will be celebrating National Pet Dental Health Month with exclusive savings on select products. Throughout the entire month of February, Gourmet Dental Treats for Adult Dogs and Porky Puffs are available to everyone at their discounted Autoship prices ... up to 18% savings off retail! 

There's never been a better time to provide your dog with yummy, nutritious treats that can actually help to maintain a healthy mouth. So place an order today and say "goodbye" to doggie breath!

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!

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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

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.

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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

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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

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

Heart Health in Humans & Pets

canine-cuddle

When we think of February, Valentine's Day sucks up all the holiday energy in the room. With so much attention paid to the affairs of the heart, it's no accident that February is also Heart Health Awareness Month! And while the human heart plays the star role in these holidays, many of us care just as much (and maybe even more) about the healthiness of our companion animals' heart.

Most people have a basic understanding of the risks of heart disease in humans, but when it comes to canine and feline heart health, these areas remain a tad more mysterious.

In the following FAQs, we’ll look at some of the similarities between humans, dogs and cats, hopefully resulting a better appreciation of these amazing feats of biological engineering.

1. How Widespread is Heart Disease?

Humans: In America, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Annually, about 610,000 people die of heart disease, accounting for a quarter of all deaths.

Dogs & Cats: Even though reliable statistics are not readily available for adult felines or canines, we do know that heart disease is not nearly as common as in humans. Only about 10% of dogs ever develop valvular heart disease. As with many maladies, risks for heart disease increase with age, especially for dogs over the age of nine (later for some breeds). Tracking heart disease in cats has proven challenging, as felines exhibit very few if any physical symptoms due to this condition.

2. What’s the Most Common Form of Heart Disease?

Humans: In adults, coronary artery disease is the most prevalent kind of heart disease. The main type involves accumulation of arterial plaque, which affects blood flow to the heart. As the layers of plaque thicken and harden, blood flow can be further restricted.

Dogs & Cats: The biggest difference here is that companion animals are not at-risk for coronary artery disease. While that’s good news, keep in mind they can face other medical conditions. For example, dogs can suffer from mitral valve disease or dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). Mitral valve disease describes a condition where a valve on the left side of the heart fails to close properly. The problem with this is that blood pools into the left atrium, rather than exiting the left ventricle. Older, small breeds are more likely to develop mitral valve disease, a condition that can be aggravated by periodontal disease. DCM weakens the heart muscle so that it pumps less vigorously and regularly, a condition more common in large breeds. Cats, on the other hand, are more likely to experience hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). Here, the walls of the heart thicken, resulting in reduced muscle flexibility which decreases the volume of blood pumped. HCM is a genetic disease that is found in both pure and mixed breed cats.

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3. What are the Symptoms of Heart Disease?

Humans: Symptoms vary depending on the disease, but patients with coronary artery disease often have chest pain, arm pain and shallow breathing. As the condition deteriorates, there’s a risk of heart attack.

Dogs & Cats: Dogs typically exhibit signs such as low energy, general discomfort, labored breathing and even a low-pitched, chronic cough. On occasion, they might actually pass out. Cats may also become lethargic, sleeping excessively or hiding for extended periods. It's also not uncommon for cats to lose their appetite. Some may even be at risk of blood clots, which in some cases may lead to pain and possible paralysis.

4. Is Exercise Equally Beneficial?

Humans: Yes, definitely! Exercise lowers the risk of heart attack and reduces stress, another risk factor for heart disease.

Dogs & Cats: The kinds of heart disease commonly found in cats and dogs can't be avoided through exercise. But, as with people, regular exercise will improve overall health and help prevent obesity in pets, which certainly factors on heart health.

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5. One Thing Everyone Can Agree On - Eat Healthy!

It’s hard to overstate the importance of quality food for humans and for companion animals. While significantly more research has been done on the benefits of essential fatty acid supplementation in humans, the science demonstrates similar results for dogs and cats, too.

But how can you be certain that you and your companion animals are getting plenty of omega-3’s and omega-6's? By taking an ultra-refined supplement daily! To ensure you are getting the quality you and your pets deserve, choose an omega supplement that has an IFOS 5-Star Rating. This independent, third-party testing validates that you are getting a safe and effective supplement that you can feel confident giving to any member of your family! If you're in the market for a superior supplement, look no further than Life's Abundance Fish Oil Supplement for people and Ultra-Pure Fish Oil Supplement for dogs and cats!

Take care of your heart and it'll help take care of you!

Dr Jane Bicks  

Dr. Jane Bicks

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