Category: Medical Conditions

Dog Days of Summer

It’s summer time in Houston and that means hot, hot, and hotter! Here in Texas we are experts at staying cool on a hot day, but we can’t forget our little four legged friends who are literally walking around in fur coats. Heat exhaustion is a very serious situation for dogs that can lead to potentially fatal conditions such as heat stroke. It’s our job as pet owners to be aware of how the heat affects our fur babies.

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It’s important to understand that dogs don’t sweat out excess body heat like humans, they have a few sweat glands on their paw pads but mostly they keep themselves cool by panting. However, panting isn’t always enough to keep their body temperature cool in extreme heat.

First off, just like with your children, never leave your pet in a locked car! The interior temperature of a car can raise almost 30º within 20 minutes. The AVMA has a whole section on their website about pet safety in cars here you can read.

What are the signs to look for?

The first signs of over-heating to look for are excessive panting, being less responsive to commands, disoriented, glazed or sunken eyes, excessive drooling, and lethargy. Dogs may experience these symptoms when their body temperature is above 103º. Some more severe signs include possible collapsing, convulsion, vomiting/diarrhea, or gums and BA5F44AC-5056-8063-181731A193F2C757tongue turning blue or bright red. Once a dog’s temperature reaches above 106º, they are at a high risk for a heat stroke where the organs can begin to shutdown and the heart can stop all together.

If you recognize any of these signs immediately move your dog to a cooler area such as the shade or indoors. If there is a body of water nearby you can let them cool off in it as well. Other ways to help cool them down would be to get a cool wet towel and place it on the neck, armpits, and between the hind legs. It’s also helpful to gently wet your dog’s ears and paw pads. If your pet is willing to drink you can offer some water, but NEVER force them to drink or feed them ice cubes (ice cubes can cause the body temperature to drop quickly causing shock).

Get to your vet as quickly as possible – if you are able to take your dog’s temperature it could help the vet judge the severity of the situation. It is always best to go to the vet even if you feel you have the situation under control. Your veterinarian can do a full exam to make sure no internal damage was done and that your dog is both fully hydrated and healthy.

Some breeds are more sensitive to heat

All dogs can be affected by the hot summers but there are some that should be extra cautious in the heat. It may seem obvious, but thick and long hair canines are likely to get hotter quicker. The best way to prevent this is letting your pup have a nice air conditioned spa day and get a “cool” shorter hairdo (if appropriate for the breed). Just be careful not to have them shaved to the skin as that hair also protects their skin from the sun.

However, these dogs are not the only ones at risk when it comes to heat and hot weather. Brachycephalic breeds (short noses and flat faces such as boxers, pugs, ect.), overweight dogs, and dogs with any breathing or medical problems (such as heart conditions) should all be monitored closely while outside during the summer.

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Walking your dog during the cooler hours of the day like early morning or later evenings can greatly reduce exposure to heat while still giving them the exercise they need. Carrying water for them will be greatly appreciated by your four legged friend as well. There are all sorts of portable water bowls available, so you should have no issue finding one that works for you and your pet.

Lastly, keeping an eye on your working/hunting dogs is also very important. Working breeds often times become extremely focused on their task that they don’t stop to rest or drink water. It’s up to us as their guardians to make sure they rest and stay cool.

Always be prepared!

Living in Houston we know all about the heat and how to beat it or tolerate it at the very least, we also know a thing or two about hurricanes. Our summer months falls smack dab in the middle of hurricane season and that means we always have to be prepared for power outages or possible A/C breakdowns. When preparing for these situations don’t forget about your furry family members, and if you plan to evacuate make sure your pet is welcome where ever you are going. If your A/C units go out have extra water for your pets and keep an eye on them to make sure they stay cool. Read our previous post on preparing for disasters and evacuating safely with your pets here.

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When it comes to our pets we do everything to keep them happy and healthy. The best thing we can do for them is to keep ourselves well informed on the dangers that they may encounter and how to prevent them. Because there is nothing quite as special as having fond memories of summer nights with our amazing dogs that will last a lifetime!

By: Deanna Smith

Parvovirus – Deadly, but Preventable!

First things first – What is Parvo?

Almost every mammal species has its own parvovirus. The canine parvovirus was discovered in 1967. At first the strain present CPV-1 did not represent much of a threat except to newborn puppies. In 1978 a new variant appeared called CPV-2. At this time the virus was still new and no dog had any kind of immunity against the virus. With no resistance and no natural immunity to the virus, the resulting epidemic was disastrous.

canine-parvovirus-parvo-in-dogs-1In 1979, the virus mutated again creating the CPV-2a. This strain was even more aggressive that the first two. Vaccine manufacturers were unable to keep up with the demand. The virus is able to rapidly spread and infect dogs because it is shed in large numbers by infected dogs and is especially hardy once in the environment.

At this point in time, the virus is considered to be in every environment. Simply trying to keep a puppy from exposure to the virus is a futile task. Luckily, most dogs have some level of natural immunity to the virus and vaccination against it is common practice now.

How is it spread?

Parvo is spread through the feces of infected dogs. Very little fecal material is needed to transmit the virus. Parvovirus can remain in the environment for six months to a year. It is especially tough and it can survive both extreme heat and subzero temperatures. The virus enters the body through the mouth as the puppy or dog cleans itself or eats food off the ground. There is a three to seven day incubation period. First, the virus hangs out in the lymph nodes in the throat and begins to multiply. Once the virus has reached sufficient numbers, it then begins to attack the bone marrow and begins to kill the young cells of the immune system. 

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Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of parvovirus include severe, bloody diarrhea, lethargy, vomiting, weight loss, lack of appetite, and fever. Parvo should be considered as a possible diagnosis for any young dog presenting with vomiting and diarrhea.

The GI tract is where the most damage is done by the virus. The lining of the intestinal tract is covered in finger like projections called villi. The villi are covered in even smaller finger like projections called microvilli. These projections increase the surface area of the intestine allowing for absorption of nutrients. The cells that make the the microvilli are short lived and are replaced by cells deeper in the tissue that rapidly multiply. The parvovirus strikes these cells. The villi then become blunted and the dog is not able to absorb nutrients. The lining between the digestive bacteria and the blood stream is broken down. This is what causes the characteristic bloody diarrhea of parvo. Bacteria can now enter the bloodstream causing widespread infection.

The virus kills in one of two ways. The first is dehydration and fluid loss brought on by diarrhea and vomiting. The second is bacterial infection from the loss of the intestinal barrier.

parvotestHow is it Diagnosed?

A diagnosis is made by Parvo ELISA test. This is performed in clinic and takes about 15 minutes to run. The biggest drawback to the ELISA test is that recent vaccination with a live virus vaccine can cause a false positive. In this case, doing a complete blood count to look for a drop in white blood cells may also be done.

Treatment

With proper treatment and hospitalization, the survival rate is 75-80%. Treatment of parvovirus centers around supportive care. Supportive care includes keeping the dog hydrated, comfortable, and as strong as possible. There is no way to kill the virus inside the dog. The only way to cure parvo is to keep the dog strong enough that eventually the immune system is able to make enough antibodies to the virus to fight it on its own. When treating parvo, be prepared for a 5-7 day hospital stay and intensive care. Unfortunately, treatment can be expensive. 

puppy-diarrhea-vetThe first step in treating parvo is keeping the dog hydrated. IV fluids are needed to replace the fluids lost by the extreme vomiting and diarrhea. Antibiotics are also needed to help prevent septicemia. The loss of the intestinal barrier allows bacteria from the GI tract into the bloodstream. Since the virus destroys the the immune system, the dog has no way to fight on its own. Keeping the patient comfortable is a key part in treating any disease.

Tests are done to monitor the progress of the disease and effectiveness of the treatment throughout the puppy’s time in hospitalization. These tests include white blood cell counts, complete blood count, electrolyte and glucose levels, urine specific gravity, lactate levels, and total blood protein.

There are some additional treatments that can be done to help the puppy (such as plasma transfusions and certain kinds of cold medicine). However, these options are not a substitute for hospitalization and need to be discussed in detail with your veterinarian before starting them. 

Aftercare

Once the puppy has recovered from the worst of the infection, they can then be sent home. They will most likely be sent home with antibiotics, anti-nausea, and anti-diarrhea medications. It is important to follow your veterinarian’s instructions for the medications and home care.

puppyeatingYour puppy will probably be very hungry after going so long without solid food. He should be fed in small portions every 1-2 hours. If he is allowed to gorge himself, this can upset his already delicate tummy.

Your puppy should be considered contagious to other puppies for at least a month after infection. It is important to keep him confined from any dogs that have not had the full vaccine series. Your veterinarian will let you know when it’s ok to resume vaccines. It is possible that your puppy has developed a life long immunity from the parvovirus since the infection. You should still continue vaccinating him for parvo along with all other recommend vaccines. There should be no permanent ramifications from the parvovirus. After the 2-3 week recovery period your dog should go on to lead a happy, healthy life.

Prevention

To prevent parvovirus infection in your puppy, you must follow the recommended vaccine schedule. Starting at six weeks of age your puppy should be vaccinated every 3-4 vxweeks until he is 16 weeks of age. Until your puppy has completed the vaccine series, he should be kept away from other puppies and kept out of dog parks or other social situations. Once your puppy has had all necessary vaccines he is ready to begin exploring the world with you!

Protecting your Pet from Heartworms!

What exactly is Heartworm Disease?kisspng-mosquito-insect-mosquitoes-insects-5a8089cadd8e94.9340606815183733229075

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition in dog. It is transmitted through infected mosquito bites. Dogs of all ages are susceptible to infection. Different signs range from no sign at all to persistent cough, fatigue, fainting, and weight loss.

After a bite from an infected mosquito, heartworm larvae migrate through the tissue. once in the tissue, the heartworm life cycle begins with the presence of infected larvae. Left untreated, larvae can grow into adult worms in just over 6 months. Once larvae arrive in the heart and lungs, they can cause damage as early as 70 days. Heartworm disease is usually detected with a blood test at your Veterinarian office. Treatment is expensive for the owner, and a painful, prolonged ordeal for the dog.

Heartworm prevention is exponentially cheaper than treatment. As we’ve talked about before, cats are also at risk for heartworm disease and there is no treatment available for cats. It is just at important for our feline friends to be a on a monthly heartworm preventative as it is for dogs.

That’s why both the Companion Animal Parasite Council and the American Heartworm Society recommends year-round treatment with a broad-spectrum parasite control product without interruption, regardless of where you live.

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“The severity of heartworm incidence as shown in this map is based on the average number of cases per reporting clinic. Some remote regions of the United States lack veterinary clinics, therefore we have no reported cases from these areas.”

There are several different products available to prevent heartworms on the market. Here at TLC Animal Hospital, we carry ProHeart6, Trifexis, and MilbeGuard for dogs. We carry Revolution Plus for cats. We also offer Heartgard Plus and Revolution through our online pharmacy.

Before starting any preventative, talk with your veterinarian about your pet’s past and current health, including: general health, any issues with vaccines or medications, changes in behavior, allergies, current medications, supplements, or special diets. This information is crucial to picking out the right preventative for your pet.

Don’t forget about flea and tick prevention! Not all heartworm preventatives contain medications for those pesky parasites. Learn more about the importance of Double Defense against mosquitoes here!

Canine Heartworm Preventatives

ph6-product-shotProHeart 6 (moxidectin) is the only preventative that can prevent heartworm disease for a full 6 months with just 1 injection given by your veterinarian. This can be used in dog 6 months of age and older. This is for heartworm prevention only and does not do anything for fleas or ticks.

ProHeart is convenient for owners because it is done just twice a year instead of every month. Worried about forgetting when it’s time to come back in? We call you a month ahead of time as well as two weeks before the due date if you don’t already have an appointment scheduled. If you’re signed up for email reminders, you’ll receive an email as well. No email? No problem – you’ll receive a postcard reminder instead.

When first starting your dog on ProHeart 6, a heartworm test will need to be performed with the first two injections. This is to ensure that there is no underlying heartworm infection that could have happened before using Proheart 6. After that, the heartworm test is performed just once a year like usual.

MilbeGuardWebsite_Homepage_Products_Retina_NoWordsMilbeGuard (milbemycin oxime) is a once-a-month flavored chewable tablet for dogs, puppies, cats and kittens. While this can be given to cats, our doctors would rather have our feline patients on Revolution or Revolution Plus because of the added protection against fleas and other parasites that those products offer for them.

For dogs, MilbeGuard prevents heartworm disease, controls adult hookworm infection, removes and controls both adult roundworms and whipworms. MilbeGuard can be given to dogs and puppies four weeks of age or greater and weighing at least 2 pounds.

10765_001_xxlHeartgard Plus (ivermectin and pyrantel) is a beef chew that kills heartworm larvae and helps to treat and control roundworms and hookworms. It kills the heartworm larvae before they have the chance to mature.

Heartgard Plus can be given to puppies as young as 6 weeks of age. This tasty chew is given once every 30 days. It can be given just as a treat as well. However, if your dog has the MDR1 gene they should not take certain medications, including Ivermectin. (You can learn more about MDR1 and DNA testing here). Because of this, we have decided to only carry MilbeGuard in clinic. Heartgard Plus is still available through our online pharmacy.

triTrifexis (spinosad and milbemycin oxime) is a monthly, beef-flavored chewable tablet that kills fleas and prevents heartworm disease. It also treats and controls adult hookworm, roundworm and whipworm infections. It does not protect against ticks.

It is best to give Trifexis after your dog has had a full meal. This helps prevent any stomach upset as well as helps the medication to be better absorbed. This can be used in dogs and puppies 8 weeks and older and weighing at least 5 pounds.

Feline Heartworm Preventatives

The majority of cats are described as “indoor-only”, yet 2 out of 5 indoor cats are NOT getting the protection that they need. Parasites are NOT “outdoor-only”! Fleas, ticks, ear mites, intestinal worms, and mosquitoes can get into any home. Parasites hitchhike indoors on other pets or creatures, on shoes and clothes, or get inside through doors and windows.

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Revolution Plus (selamectin and sarolaner) is the only 6-in-1 preventative with broad-spectrum action against parasites. It is a simple-to-apply, quick-drying, monthly topical solution that protects against fleas, ticks, ear mites, roundworms, hookworms, and heartworms. It can be used on cats and kittens as young as eight weeks of age and weighing 2.8 pounds or greater.

revRevolution (selamectin) is just like Revolution Plus, but it does not protect against ticks. Because of this, we’ve decided to carry only Revolution Plus in clinic. But don’t worry – Revolution is still available through our online pharmacy! Regardless of which one you choose to use for your cat, they are still going to be protected against heartworms.

In conclusion, heartworm disease is everywhere and it is extremely important to keep your pet on a year-round preventive.

By: Mi’a Smith

There’s a Fungus Among Us!

Ringworm is a fairly common and highly contagious skin, nail, and hair or fur infection that despite its name does not always manifest as a ring and is NOT caused by a worm! Ringworm is actually caused by a fungus! There are several different types of fungi that are responsible for ringworm infections and many of them are zoonotic, meaning the infection can be transmitted to and from both humans and pets. The infection is easily spread by skin to skin contact and from objects or surfaces that have been touched by an infected person or pet such as clothing, towels or bedding, and brushes or combs. The fungi also occur in soil.

So what does a ringworm infection look like?

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Symptoms of Ringworm in Pets

Ringworm is not a life-threatening disease, but it is very contagious and does require the intervention of a veterinarian. Knowing the symptoms of ringworm can help you catch the disease before it passes to humans or other pets.

ringworm3aRingworm usually presents as circular areas of hair loss throughout the body. These lesions may start to heal in the center as they enlarge, creating a patchy appearance, and may become inflamed or scabbed.

Ringworm usually does not itch. The affected hair follicles are brittle and break easily, which helps spread the disease throughout your home. In some cases the fungus infects the claws, making them brittle and rough.

Contact your veterinarian if your dog or cat experiences any or all of these symptoms:ringworm3

  • Circular areas of hair loss
  • Dry, brittle hair
  • Scabby, inflamed skin
  • Rough, brittle claws

How is Ringworm diagnosed?

Often your veterinarian can determine from the symptoms your pets has that it is a ringworm infection. There is also a special type of ultraviolet lamp called a Woods Lamp that can be used. Some types of ringworm fungi will fluoresce when exposed to this light.

Unfortunately, not all ringworm infections will fluoresce. Your veterinarian may need to set up a culture to determine the best course of treatment.

How is ringworm treated?

Your veterinarian will determine the best course of treatment. The most common way to treat ringworm is to use a combination of topical therapy (application of creams, ointments or shampoos) and systemic oral therapy (administration of anti-fungal drugs by mouth). In order for treatment to be successful, all environmental contamination must be eliminated.  All surfaces must be cleaned and all bedding should be washed. Humans should be diligent about washing hands frequently and thoroughly. If you suspect you have ringworm you should see your doctor. The earlier the infection can be diagnosed the more the chance of spreading the infection decreases.

By: Kathy Berrier

Hyperadrenocorticism? Is that even a real word?

What is it?

Hyperadrenocorticism (more commonly known as Cushing’s disease) is an overproduction of cortisol hormone. At normal levels, cortisol helps in response to stress and regulate the immune system. Cushing’s disease is one of the most common endocrine diseases in dogs.

Some common symptoms include:

  • Increased thirstcushings2
  • Increased urination
  • Increased hunger
  • Increased panting
  • Distended abdomen
  • Obesity
  • Loss of hair
  • Muscle weakness and loss
  • Darkening of skin
  • Lack of energy
  • Increased Urine Cortisol:Creatinine Ratios

Not all symptoms are present in every patient and some of these symptoms can also be seen with other diseases. Only your veterinarian can diagnose if your pet has Cushing’s.

There are multiple causes:cushings1

  • Excessive administration of corticosteroid medications.
  • Benign pituitary tumor (rarely can be malignant).
  • Adrenal gland tumor (adrenal-dependent hyperadrenocorticism/ADH).
  • Pituitary-dependent hyperadrenocorticism (PDH) – the body naturally produces too much hormone.

Diagnosis

Your pet’s veterinarian will first take a detailed history and do a complete physical exam. Next step is to perform a full blood chemistry, complete blood count, and urinalysis. These diagnostics will help the veterinarian get a bigger picture of what is happening in the body. Further testing that can help diagnose specific causes include: urine cortisol/creatinine ratio then ACTH stimulation test or Dexamethasone suppression test. The stimulation and suppression tests help determine specifically how much cortisol is being produced and how best it should be treated.

Treatment

  • Excessive administration of corticosteroid medications: Treatment is to slowly wean off the medications according to your veterinarian’s instructions.
  • Benign pituitary tumor and Adrenal gland tumor: First, a metastases check is performed to make sure the tumor has not spread to other organs. Then, a medication is given called trilostane (Vetoryl) to shrink the tumor. Once the tumor has decreased in size, it is removed.
  • Pituitary-dependent hyperadrenocorticism: The pet is put on trilostane for life. This controls the production of cortisol.

Living with Cushing’s Disease

This is a serious disease, but it can be managed if pet owners and veterinarians work together. This is a lifelong diagnosis and does require medications to be given long term. Periodic monitoring will be required to make sure the treatment is going as it should and to help the veterinarians know if an adjustment needs to be made.

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Sources:
Common Diseases of Companion Animals By Alleice Summers
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By: Jamie McAfee