Canine Schistosomiasis

Does your dog play in the ponds and canals in our area? If so, you may want to re-consider….

In the past month, one of our patients came in with bloody, watery stool, vomiting, pain and lethargy. After several days of treatment and medications she was not improving and was transferred to the Internal Medicine Department at The Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists. Following more aggressive diagnostics and treatments, they discovered that she had “Canine Schistosomiasis”.

What is Canine Schistosomiasis? It’s actually a disease caused by a parasite that lives in stagnant freshwater and can enter a dog’s bloodstream through their feet/pads. Most people have never even heard of this parasite. It can be a deadly parasite and difficult to diagnose and treat, but it isn’t all that uncommon- especially in the Southern regions of Texas. Here is an open-letter from our client regarding her recent experience with this parasite:

A warning to dog owners along the Gulf Coast (and southeastern US):

We had the unfortunate experience of learning all about a parasite that is endemic to the Gulf Coast, particularly Texas and Louisiana. It is called Heterobilharzia americana. Dogs are at risk if they swim/wade in water that contains a certain type of freshwater snail. The parasite penetrates the dog’s skin or mucous membranes and gets into the bloodstream. It then migrates to the liver then moves to the intestine. In the intestine, it invades the blood vessels and intestinal tissue causing a significant amount of inflammation. Eggs are passed in the feces. If the eggs contact freshwater, a form of the parasite is released that can penetrate a snail’s soft tissue. The parasite reproduces inside the snail and free-swimming forms of the parasite are released and the sequence starts over again.

Life cycle of Heterobiharzia americana
Some interesting tidbits we learned:
  • Infected dogs have bloody vomiting and diarrhea, weight loss, lethargy, and significant debility.
  • Often there is a significant delay in diagnosis because symptoms are usually attributed to other things. Too much of a delay can be deadly.
  • People will not be in infected with this parasite. However, humans exposed to the contaminated water may have “swimmers itch” because of skin penetration from the parasite. Once inside a human, the parasite is unable to complete its life cycle.
  • Raccoons are the natural definitive host, but apparently dogs and some other mammals work too. The snail and freshwater are required for transmission. There is no direct transmission between dogs, or between dogs and raccoons.
  • It takes about 10 weeks from the time of initial skin penetration to when eggs are shed in the dog’s feces.
  • Most cases are in Texas and Louisiana, but cases have been diagnosed in dogs throughout most of the southeastern US and as far north as Kansas.
  • Samples are sent to Texas A&M for diagnosis.
  • Treatment is not always effective, but a high dose of a combination of antiparasitic medications can result in resolution of the clinical signs in some dogs.
  • The recommendation for prevention is to not allow your dog to swim in canals or ponds.

Ripley had significant intestinal bleeding, intractable vomiting, was weak, miserable and in a significant amount of pain. She needed to be carried into the car because she was too weak to walk. Thanks to the wonderful people at Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists, she was able to come home after only three days in the Doggy ICU. She is doing much better now but is not 100% yet. She still has a long road ahead. She is just starting her treatment, which at such high doses has unpleasant side effects. Thankfully only two days now, then another two days in a month. Fingers crossed that it will be effective.

“Thanks to the wonderful people at Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists, she was able to come home after only three days in the Doggy ICU. She is doing much better now but is not 100% yet. She still has a long road ahead.”

Of note to the people in this area, the only real pond she has splashed around in is the retention ponds (Sunrise Lake) in The Reserve. I do not know for certain but am concerned that this water may be contaminated. I would hate for other dogs to go through what ours has.

Interestingly enough, our client shared this post on Next Door and a neighbor responded detailing their recent experience with this parasite. Their dog contracted the parasite from stagnant water towards the back of Sylvan Rodriguez Park and almost died during treatment. They too were completely unaware of the parasite and the risk of exposure by allowing their pup to play in the water at the park.  

Prevention is key! Avoid allowing your dogs to play in stagnant bodies of freshwater in the area. Be sure to tell your vet if your dog has been playing in stagnant bodies of water- especially if they have had any sort of gi issues.

Thankfully, Ripley is finally starting to feel like her happy, sweet self again!

FIV & FeLV – Not Just Letters from Your Alphabet Soup

While it is entertaining & instinctual for your cat to be outside hunting like a regal panther, there are risks involved in letting your feline friend outdoors. Coyotes, stray dogs, hawks, parasites, cars… But what about other cats that are on the prowl?

First let’s talk about kitty communication; cats are pretty independent creatures. We joke about cats not really needing owners as long as they have food, water, & a place to go to the bathroom. If your cat is an outside adventurer, they can be protective of their territory (aka your yard). They may not be so friendly when some other strange cat decides to invade it. That is when we have to worry about diseases like Feline Immunodeficiency Virus & Feline Leukemia.

FIVNow, what is Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) & how do they contract it?

Similar to the human strain, HIV, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is a virus that suppresses the immune system. Typically speaking, felines that contract this virus do not die from it but they are at a much higher risk of contracting other diseases & illnesses due to their compromised immune systems. Wounds from bites or scratches can take much longer to heal for FIV+ cats as well, making them more prone to abscesses & secondary infections.

FIV is primarily spread through bite wounds from an already infected cat. The infected cat’s saliva carries the virus & deep puncture wounds can allow the virus to take hold. It can also be spread through sex or transmitted to kittens through their mother’s milk if she is infected, but these methods are much are less common.

So, what about Feline Leukemia (FeLV) & how do they contract it?

Feline Leukemia (FeLV) is a retrovirus that severely inhibits the immune system. Similar to FIV, FeLV+ cats are more susceptible for infections & diseases, but they are also more likely to develop kidney disease or cancer (lymphosarcoma) during their lifetime.Understand Why Cats Fight

While FIV is spread primarily through bite wounds, FeLV is able to spread in multiple ways. This virus is spread through direct contact involving saliva, urine, feces, nasal discharge, & blood. So, not just bite wounds but scratches from an infected cat could possibly spread the virus as well. Other direct contact would include grooming, sharing litter boxes, or sharing food or water bowls. It can also be passed on to kittens through their mother’s milk if she is infected.

There are 4 different types of FeLV infection:

  • Abortive infections are those in which the exposed feline produces an effective & early immune response. This prevents viral replication & eliminates virus-infected cells. These cats are negative for the infection.
  • Returning infections are those in which viral replication is limited, but a small population of virus infected cells remain. These cats will test negative, but the virus can be detected in a small percentage of blood cells measured by a type of blood test called a PCR. These infected cats are not contagious, but may be infectious through blood.
  • Dormant infection refers to the cats in which a moderate amount of infected cells remain. These cats will test negative, but will produce a positive PCR test. The inactive infected cells do have the potential for the virus to reactivate, but the cats are not contagious as long as the infection remains dormant.
  • Progressive infections are those in which the virus has infected a majority of the cells. These cats are actively shedding the virus primarily in saliva & feces, they are likely to become ill with FeLV-related disease (lymphoma).

greyOh NO! So how do you find out if your cat has contracted FIV or FeLV & how often should you test?

There is a simple blood test that can be performed at your cat’s next vet visit & results can be available in 10 minutes. This test is commonly called a “Combo Test” because it tests for both FIV & FeLV.

If your feline friend regularly goes outside, or there are other cats in your house that do so, it is recommended that this test be performed every 6 months to a year. If they are indoor only, typically we will perform an initial test at their first vet visit & recheck in 4-6 months for confirmation. Sometimes a “false positive” may happen, this can be from antibodies transferred to them from their mothers or from recent vaccination. Retesting for indoor only cats is usually not necessary unless they take an unexpected vacation outside. Combo tests should always be done any time you don’t know a cat’s history, especially if you’re considering adding this new kitty to your feline family.

Okay! So now that we know about these viruses, is there any way to prevent them?

Luckily, the incidence of FeLV disease has dramatically declined over the past several decades. This is likely due to a combination of screening tests, improved awareness of the disease, & vaccination of at-risk cats. Vaccination is recommended yearly for cats that are at higher risk, while indoor only cats can be vaccinated every two years.

While there are vaccines available for FIV, studies have shown these to not be as effective & can also lead to false test results for your cat. For these reasons, our doctors FIV2at TLC Animal Hospital have decided against carrying this vaccine in clinic.

Education is always important when it comes to preventing our furry friends from harm. Talk to your veterinarian & they can help you decide which vaccines are best for your cat based on their lifestyle.

By: Shelly Crosson, CVA

 

 

Rethinking How We Feed Our Pets

While looking online or in pet stores for goodies for your furry children, you’ve probably come across some really, really weird things. Like that cat bed that looks like an over-sized fur-lined Croc shoe and the dog muzzle that looks like a duckbill. But let’s be real – it’s just a bed and it’s just a muzzle. Your pet doesn’t get more enjoyment out of it because of how it looks (that’s just for us because c’mon, those duckbill muzzles are hilarious).

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Planet Dog’s Orbee-Tuff Link Toys & Mazee Balls are perfect for treats!

Believe it or not, some of these goofy looking pet products have an actual purpose and benefits that your pet will actually be able to pick up on.

Treat Toys
Dog owners are already familiar with treat dispensing toys. How many different types of KONGs are out there? Fill ’em up with treats, peanut butter, or even doggie toothpaste and let your pup have at it! Depending on the dog and the contents, this could mean hours of entertainment for your pup! KONGs aren’t the only ones, either. A quick search for “dog treat toys” brings up pages and pages of results. We even have some here in clinic from Planet Dog that our boarders love to use. Toys likes these are important for your pup. Not only can they help with separation anxiety when you’re away, but they offer mental stimulation and environmental enrichment as well.

That’s great for treats, but what about full meals?
Slow Down Bowls and other slow down feeders take this same idea and apply to it meal time. How often does your dog inhale their dinner without even chewing it? Or maybe they eat it too fast and throw it up a few minutes later? Does one dog inhale their food and then try to take bowls1food from the other dog?

Making your dog take their time with their food is important for numerous reasons. They can choke or aspirate on the food, have other GI issues such as gas or vomiting, or they can bloat (which is an extremely dangerous condition and can be fatal). Going through their food too quickly can also leave them feeling unfulfilled and dissatisfied. And we all know how hard it is to ignore a pet that is begging for more food – just look at the statistics for obese animals in the United States.

Eating too fast can also keep them from receiving the full benefits of their diets. For example, the Royal Canin Dental Diet (for cats and dogs) is designed to be chewed multiple times before breaking, therefore “brushing” their teeth while they eat. Swallowing the food whole completely negates that benefit.

Wet food, dry food, raw diet, homemade… it doesn’t matter! Slow down bowls and feeders work for every kind of pet food. Of course, some may work better for wet food than others. With so many different shapes and sizes out there, you should be able to find one that works for you and your pet.

When looking for a slow down feeder for your pup – you need to consider a few things.
1) How large of a bowl do you need? – Pay attention to your pup’s portions and make sure you get a bowl that’s appropriately sized. One that’s too small isn’t going to help your dog 039b16e26948ba65ab8e2dacb55643dbmuch because the food will just cover the prongs or spill out and one that’s too big won’t be much of a challenge. Bowl size is also based off of what kind of dog you have. For example, a Pug wouldn’t use the same size bowl as a Boxer.
2) Does this shape work with my dog’s snout? – Dogs with longer snouts are going to need feeders with larger prongs for them to navigate. On the other hand, smooshed face dogs would need shorter prongs, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to get the food out.
3) Can my dog flip it over and spill the food everywhere? – Most slow down bowls have non-slip bases. Be sure to get one if your pup likes to throw their bowls around!
4) Is it easy to clean? – With all of the nooks and crannies of these bowls and feeders, you need to be sure that you’re able to keep it clean. There are dishwasher safe ones, but be sure to check it afterwards for any leftovers. Especially if you’re feeding a wet diet – that stuff can be pretty stubborn when it dries! Clean them on a regular basis as well – leftover food can attract bugs and gives mold a place to hangout.

rsz_shutterstock_1034640622What about our feline friends?
Cats need to have the environmental enrichment with their toys, bedding, and scratching posts. Cats are also hunters. That is what they’re wired to do. You know that bobcats and mountain lions hunt, but our indoor cats have that instinct to hunt, too. Yes, even the lazy cats. We’ve all seen it – your cat is crouched down and doing that goofy butt wiggle, ready to get that mosquito hawk that made a grave mistake by coming into your cat’s domain. Maybe you’ve even received a “gift” from your cat in the form of a half-eaten lizard. Yes, it’s gross, but that just means that your cat loves you and doesn’t want you to starve because you’re terrible hunter.

There’s no shortage of interactive cat toys to help fulfill their need to hunt (seriously, just look up “automatic cat toys” online and you’ll have enough content to browse through to last for hours). But treat toys hit that need differently because they contain food. The hunt isn’t simply for fun now, they’re going to actually get something to eat out of it. There are so many different kinds out there, you should have no issue finding one that works for your cat. Depending on the size of the treat toy, you may be able to use it for slimcat_summary_largefull meals. Using this method can help your indoor kitty get some additional exercise, which is especially great for overweight cats.

However, if your house is prone to having ants or other bugs, moving treat toys may not be the best option since they can leave crumbs and small pieces of food all over your floors. Otherwise you need to be sure to sweep up after using them. Most moving treat toys work gets on hard floors, like wood or tile. They can work on carpet, but it depends on how thick it is. You would definitely need to vacuum afterwards if used in carpeted areas.

But what about with their real food?
Maybe your cat is fine with having food simply presented to them in a bowl, or left out in an automatic feeder. Or maybe your cat is a complete pig and eats their food waaaaay to fast, only to throw it up a few minutes later. There are all sorts of ways to make meal time fun time for your feline friends.

Puzzle Feeders are meant for full meal portions and they provide a different kind of challenge for your cat. Your cat can’t just sick their head in the bowl and inhale the food (which can lead to vomiting or aspiration). Your cat will have to actually stop and think about how to get the food out. Some puzzle feeders have covered holes that the food goes in and your cat has to uncover the food before eating. Others have food that’s released when part of the puzzle is rotated from them pawing at it.

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We’ve used this particular puzzle feeder for Sushi before.

Know that your cat will refuse to do a puzzle to get to their food? Not to worry! There are smaller sized slow down bowls and feeders for cats, too. Similar to the dog ones, these have raised ridges or shapes to space the food out. You’ll find that some are better for wet food than others as well. The same tips above apply to finding the right bowl or feeder for your cat. For example, smooshy faced Persians would need a bowl or feeder with shorter prongs.

Not sure where to start? That’s fine! Ask your veterinarian or their staff for suggestions! Here at TLC, several staff members have used these methods with their own pets at home. We’ve even used some for our own Clinic Cats!

By: Ashley Elliott & Mariah Lamb

“Mite”-y Creepy Ear Mites

ear_mite
The “mite”-y Ear Mite!

Otodectes Cynotis is actually the very fancy name for Ear Mites. What exactly are Ear Mites? They are part of the arachnid family (just like ticks and spiders). Their food of choice? Wax and oils from your beloved pet’s ear canals. They’re particularly fond of cats, but can also be found in dogs and ferrets. Yikes!

Ear Mites are more common in outdoor animals, but that doesn’t mean your indoor pets can’t get them. These mites, just like fleas, can travel on clothing and shoes. It only takes one mite to make it to your pet’s ear canal to start causing problems. These little buggers can also spread very quickly in multi-pet homes. Especially if your pets like to sleep next to each other, groom each other, or play together.

How Do I Know if My Pet Has Ear Mites?
The most notable symptom you may see is your pet constantly scratching at their ears. You may notice a brown, slightly reddish discharge coming from your pet’s ears as well. Sometimes the discharge will look like ground coffee beans. Their ears may also become red, swollen, and painful. If you notice these symptoms, don’t wait too long to address them. Heavy scratching can lead to open wounds which can cause secondary infection of the skin. If a severe infestation is left untreated, it can eventually lead to hearing loss. Oi ve!ear-mites-in-dogs-01

I Think My Pet Has Ear Mites! What Do I Do Now?
Fret not! If you think your pet has Ear Mites, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to get things checked out! Ear Mites are easily seen with a microscope, so a cytology will be performed to confirm the presence of Ear Mites. This cytology can also show if there is any secondary infection present in your pet’s ears, such as bacteria or yeast.

If there are wounds present from all of that scratching, your veterinarian may want to do a skin cytology as well to make sure that there isn’t any kind of skin infection going on.

Ugh, Ear Mites Sound Like the Worst! Are They Hard to Treat?
Fortunately with a little ear cleaning and medication, Ear Mites are typically a simple problem to resolve. So ensure that all of the ear mites have been taken care of, treatment lasts anywhere from 3-4 weeks. Depending on the results of your pet’s exam, you may be given additional medications for pain and inflammation, or antibiotics if there are secondary infections present.

imagesBecause Ear Mites are easily spread, if you have more than one pet in your home you’ll most likely be asked to treat all of them at the same time.

Prevention is possible as well! Most monthly parasite preventatives (like Revolution Plus) have medication in them to help treat Ear Mites. Using these products every month as directed can help keep your pet’s ears mite free!

By: Tiana Bell

 

COVID-19 Update

We are living through some very uncertain times right now and new information regarding COVID-19 is being released daily. Over the last several weeks we have heard all kinds of information and recommendations- some of which conflict with each other. We want to assure you that we are constantly keeping up with news from the CDC, Whitehouse and American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA) – especially in regards to your pets.

As most of you have probably already heard, a tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York has demonstrated symptoms and has tested positive for COVID-19. What does this mean for you and your pets? The following statement was issued by Texas A&M COVM yesterday and it provides excellent insight into the situation:Coronavirus-CDC-768x432

04/08/20: Statement from Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine on Animals and COVID-19

SARS CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19, is a novel, or new, virus, and there is much yet to be discovered.

There have been recent news reports of a tiger that contracted the disease from a handler who was an asymptomatic carrier and other reports where experimentally exposed animals have developed clinical signs consistent with coronavirus infection that was then passed on to other animals. These studies were performed on very small numbers, have not gone through the normal review process, and have focused on human-to-animal and animal-to-animal transmission.

However, there have been no studies to date demonstrating that domestic animals and pets can transmit COVID-19 to their owners.

The Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) and its Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) are continuing to monitor research and news regarding the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the COVID-19 outbreak as it relates to companion animals.

Based on the information that is currently available, the CVM and VMTH recommend pet owners continue to follow United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), and American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) guidelines for proper hygiene and social distancing.

Specifically, the CVM and VMTH recommend:

  • Pet owners should continue taking basic precautions such as frequent and thorough hand-washing and limit “face-to-face contact” interactions with your pet.
  • Owners who are not sick do not need to isolate from pets, nor is there any recommendation to discontinue routine activities such as walking or playing with your pets if you are well.
  • If you have tested positive or are presumptively positive for COVID-19, separate yourself not only from other people but also from your animals. This may include having someone who is healthy feed your pets and not allowing your pets to sleep with you.
  • If an animal has to be removed from a household with someone who is ill, the pet should be bathed or their coat should be wiped to prevent transmission of the virus from the animal’s fur.

The COVID-19-Positive Household

If you or a family member have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and your pet becomes ill and shows signs of upper respiratory disease, we encourage you to contact your veterinarian. They may elect to test your pet for COVID-19. Testing requires approval from public health and animal health authorities and is only recommended for those animals exhibiting respiratory signs and that come from a household with someone who has been diagnosed presumptive or positive for COVID-19.

We want to repeat that there have been no studies to date demonstrating that domestic animals and pets can transmit COVID-19 to their owners. CVM veterinarians will continue to monitor news and scientific journals regarding COVID-19 transmission for animals and humans and with time and as new information becomes available, the CVM will continue to update its recommendations on COVID-19.

For more information about COVID-19 and pets, please see the USDA question-and-answer page here:
https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/newsroom/news/sa_by_date/sa-2020/ny-zoo-covid-19

You may also visit the Texas Animal Health Commission’s (TAHC) webpage on companion animal coronavirus testing here:
https://www.tahc.texas.gov/covid19/TAHCVeterinaryGuidance_COVID_CompanionAnimalTesting.pdf

By: Tara Sansing