Heartworm disease can have a devastating effect on your pet's health. National Heartworm Awareness Month, observed annually in April, reminds pet owners about the health dangers this preventable d ...View Article
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Clearlake Veterinary Clinic
Compassion & Integrity in Practice
3424 Emerson Street
Clearlake, CA 95422
Heartworm is a potentially fatal disease that is found in all 50 states. Heartworm can affect both dogs and cats, although it is much more common in dogs. It is also found in wild animals like foxes, coyotes, raccoons, opossums and sea lions. As its name implies, heartworm lives in the heart and blood vessels of the lungs of these animals. The adult heartworms living in the heart produce offspring, called microfilariae, which circulate in the infected animal’s blood stream. It is spread only by mosquitoes. When a mosquito bites an infected pet, it sucks out blood containing the microfilariae. After about two weeks in the mosquito, the microfilariae become infective larvae. Then, when the mosquito bites another pet, the infective larvae are transmitted. It takes 5-7 months after this mosquito bite before the larvae have fully migrated to the heart and lungs and become adult heartworms. The adult heartworms can grow to lengths of up to 14 inches long, and can live for 5 to 7 years in the dog. Worms are smaller and their life spans are shorter in the cat.
If a dog has a new or weak heartworm infection, there might not be any signs or symptoms of heartworms. As the infections advances, there may be a cough, exercise intolerance, weakness, lethargy, decrease in appetite, or difficulty breathing. An examination and blood test is often the first step in diagnosing heartworm disease. Sometimes other tests are required to determine the severity of the disease, such as a full blood profile, urinalysis, radiographs (X-rays) or echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart). Prompt detection and early treatment are vital to a successful cure. If not detected and treated, heartworms can lead to congestive heart failure and death.
Although heartworm is less common in cats, the disease can still pose a danger. There are no consistent clinical signs of heartworm disease in cats. Common signs may include coughing, rapid or difficulty breathing, weight loss and vomiting. However, these signs are also common in many other diseases. Diagnosis is much more difficult in cats. A series of different tests may be needed and, even then, the results may be inconclusive. Heartworm disease in cats may also cause sudden death.
It is always better to prevent heartworm disease than to treat it. However, there is a treatment available for dogs. The goal of heartworm treatment is to kill the adult heartworms as safely as possible. It is not without risk, but serious complications are much less likely in a dog that is in good health.
Unfortunately, there is no heartworm treatment available for cats. Surgical removal is possible in some cases. A cat suspected of having a heartworm infection may be prescribed medications to treat its symptoms.
Heartworms are easily prevented in both dogs and cats. There are several brands and types of monthly heartworm prevention. Most commonly used are oral flavored tablets or soft chews; or topical applications. These preventions are also available in combination with other types of parasite control. They may include medications to prevent intestinal roundworms, fleas, ear mites, and skin mites. Preventatives do not kill adult heartworms, and will not eliminate an infection, but will prevent the pet from becoming infected with heartworms. A blood test is advised to check for existing heartworms before starting any of the preventions, as adverse effects may occur if prevention is given to a pet with a pre-existing heartworm infection.
Prevention is only effective if it is administered on the proper schedule.
The name foxtail is applied to a number of grasses that have bushy spikes of seeds that resemble the tail of a fox. The foxtails separate easily, the barbs cause the foxtail to cling to fur, and movement of the animal causes the foxtail to burrow into the fur, the barbs permit it to move only in the direction of the spike therefore causing the foxtail to migrate further. Seeds are yellowish-brown in color and about 1/4in long.
The most common locations for foxtail entrapment include the webbing between the toes, the ear canal, eyes, mouth/trachea, and the nose. A foxtail between the toes can cause a pocket or tract in which the foxtail causes irritation with redness and swelling. A foxtail trapped between toes can migrate under your pets skin in any direction. In ear canal migration they can cause ruptured ear drums. With entry into the eye(s) or behind/under an eyelid they can cause ulcers and lead to further eye damage or loss of the eye. All eye problems are considered to be emergencies. Lodged in the mouth/trachea they can cause coughing, irritation and infection. Inhaled through a nostril they can cause excessive sneezing and bloody discharge from the nose. Foxtail foreign bodies are also found in the lungs/chest cavity, stomach, small intestine, and have even migrated into the brain. They affect pets, livestock, and wild animals.
You can take steps to prevent a foxtail plant seed from harming your pet. Remove the plants from your yard, especially early in the green phase before they seed. This reduces their numbers and eliminates exposure.
If you live in a neighborhood with a lot of foxtails or you hike frequently, it is prudent to check your pets coat daily, especially between the toes and under the ear flaps. Cats who have a longer hair coats are recommended to be groomed (lion cut) to avoid entrapment of foxtails. A veterinarian's advice should be sought as soon as possible in any of these cases.
A Few Holiday Precautions
The holidays are a fun time for everyone, pets included. However, there a few things to watch out for ensuring our pets have safe and healthy holidays with us.
It is very tempting to allow our pets to enjoy all the rich food we have during holiday dinners. However, remember that some foods are dangerous to cats and dogs (chocolate, macadamia nuts, onions, alcohol, raisins/grapes, xylitol to name a few). These foods should be avoided completely. Another danger for our pets is getting too much of a good thing. Dogs or cats that eat too much rich, fatty foods can develop gastrointestinal disease and/or pancreatitis resulting in a painful abdomen, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. These conditions can even be life threatening in severe cases. If you feel obligated to give your companion a treat, chose either a pet-specific treat, a very small piece of lean meat, or steamed or raw veggies without sauces, and remember to guard the kitchen and the trash. If your pet has had issues with GI disease in the past or is on a specific diet, it is best to stick with what your pet is used to and instead reward with extra playtime.
Often times the decoration we use to celebrate the season may appear to be a fun toy to a dog or a cat. If you are using easily accessible decorations, make sure to monitor your pet for any interest in inappropriate objects. Dogs and cats can eat ornaments and decorations causing gastrointestinal upset or even intestinal blockage. Cats have been known to ingest string or ribbon causing intestinal issues as well. These conditions can necessitate surgery to correct and be life threatening if not handled quickly. So remember to monitor your pets and remove anything that may turn into a problem later.
Plants can fall into the category of a fun new toy for some pets. Be aware that ingesting any kind of a plant an animal is not used to can results in gastrointestinal disease. Holly, mistletoe, poinsettias and lilies are the common culprits. Holly and poinsettias usually cause irritation, vomiting and diarrhea. Mistletoe can have serious effects on the cardiovascular system. Lilies are especially toxic to cats and can cause severe kidney disease. Keep all of these out of reach of your furry friends.
Holidays are time to enjoy parties and family activities, but remember, this can be overwhelming for a pet that is used to smaller crowds and quieter activities on a daily basis. If a pet is feeling stressed, they may hide, bark, growl, hiss or even bite. When you notice your pet showing signs of stress (pacing, panting, cowering, trembling, etc) remove them from the situation by placing them in a dark, quiet familiar room or kennel to calm down. If your pet is prone to over-stimulation then stashing them away in a quiet area with food, water, bedding and few toys may be for the best. You can always bring one or two guests at a time to meet your furry family member or bring them out at the end of the party when everything is quieter.
With a little extra caution and restraint, the holiday season can be fun and healthy for you and your animal family. There are several good websites including the ASPCAs for more information that can be accessed by searching "Pets and holiday hazards". If you have any immediate questions or concerns, your veterinarian is your best resource for assistance.
The UC Davis VMTH vaccination guidelines below have been based on recently published studies and recommendations made by task forces (including the AAFP/AFM Advisory Panel on Feline Vaccines, AAHA Canine Vaccine Task Force, and the AVMA Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents), which include representatives from academia, private practices, governmental regulatory bodies, and industry. These groups have evaluated the benefits versus risks of the vaccines currently available on the market.
***Canine Core Vaccines
Core vaccines: are recommended for all puppies and dogs with an unknown vaccination history. The diseases involved have significant morbidity and mortality and are widely distributed, and in general, vaccination results in relatively good protection from disease. These include vaccines for canine parvovirus (CPV), canine distemper virus (CDV), canine adenovirus (CAV), and rabies.
Canine Parvovirus, Distemper Virus, and Adenovirus-2 Vaccines
For initial puppy vaccination, one dose of vaccine is recommended every 3-4 weeks from 6-8 weeks of age, with the final booster being given no sooner than 16 weeks of age. For dogs older than 16 weeks of age, two doses of vaccine given 3-4 weeks apart are recommended. After a booster at one year, revaccination is recommended every 3 years thereafter, ideally using a product approved for 3-year administration, unless there are special circumstances that warrant more or less frequent revaccination.
(Clearlake Vet Clinic recommends vaccines through 20 weeks of age due to the large exposure of Parvovirus in Lake County)
Canine Rabies Virus Vaccines
In accordance with California state law, we recommend that puppies receive a single dose of killed rabies vaccine at 16 weeks or 4 months of age. Adult dogs with unknown vaccination history should also receive a single dose of killed rabies vaccine. A booster is required one year later, and thereafter, rabies vaccination should be performed every 3 years using a vaccine approved for 3-year administration.
***Canine Non-Core Vaccines
Non-core vaccines: are optional vaccines that should be considered in light of the exposure risk of the animal, ie. based on geographic distribution and the lifestyle of the pet. Several of the diseases involved are often self-limiting or respond readily to treatment.
For Bordetella bronchiseptica, mucosal vaccination with live avirulent bacteria is recommended for dogs expected to board, be shown, or to enter a kennel situation within 6 months of the time of vaccination. For puppies and previously unvaccinated dogs, only one dose of this vaccine is required. Most boarding kennels require that this vaccine be given within 6 months of boarding; the vaccine should be administered at least one week prior to the anticipated boarding date for maximum effect. Although some kennels require immunization every 6 months, annual booster vaccination with B. bronchiseptica vaccines is considered adequate for protection.
Canine Influenza Virus (CIV)
At the time of writing, only a few cases of CIV infection have been documented in northern California and the infection has not been widely documented in the general dog population, so we do not recommend routine vaccination for dogs expected to board, be shown, or enter a kennel situation within northern California.
Canine Leptospira Vaccines
Leptospirosis is not uncommon in Northern Californian dogs with exposure histories involving livestock and areas frequented by wild mammals, the disease can be fatal or have high morbidity, and also has zoonotic potential. Therefore, we suggest annual vaccination of dogs living in/visiting rural areas or areas frequented by wildlife with vaccines containing all four leptospiral serovars, ideally before the rainy season, when disease incidence peaks. The initial vaccination should be followed by a booster 2-4 weeks later, and the first vaccine be given no earlier than 12 weeks of age. In general, leptospiral vaccines have been associated with more severe postvaccinal reactions (acute anaphylaxis) than other vaccines.
Canine Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme) Vaccine
The incidence of Lyme disease in California is currently considered extremely low. Furthermore, use of the vaccine even in endemic areas (such as the east coast of the US) has been controversial because of anecdotal reports of vaccine-associated adverse events. Most infected dogs show no clinical signs, and the majority of dogs contracting Lyme disease respond to treatment. Furthermore, prophylaxis may be effectively achieved by preventing exposure to the tick vector.
Other Canine Vaccines
Several other canine vaccines are currently available on the market. Currently, information regarding the efficacy of the canine rattlesnake vaccine is insufficient.
II. Feline Vaccination Guidelines
In general, guidelines for vaccination of cats have been strongly influenced by the appearance of vaccine-associated sarcomas in cats, and in particular their epidemiologic association with feline leukemia virus vaccines and killed rabies virus vaccines. The definitions of core and non-core vaccines described in the canine vaccination guidelines above also apply to the feline vaccines.
***Feline Core Vaccines
Feline Herpesvirus 1, Feline Calicivirus and Feline Panleukopenia Virus Vaccines
For initial kitten vaccination one dose is recommended every 3-4 weeks from 6-8 weeks of age, with the final booster being given no sooner than 16 weeks of age. For cats older than 16 weeks of age, two doses of vaccine given 3-4 weeks apart are recommended. After a booster at one year, revaccination is suggested every 3 years thereafter for cats at low risk of exposure.
Feline Rabies Virus Vaccines
In general we recommend that kittens receive a single dose of killed or recombinant rabies vaccine at 12-16 weeks of age. Adult cats with unknown vaccination history should also receive a single dose of killed or recombinant rabies vaccine. For the recombinant vaccines, boosters are recommended at yearly intervals.
*** Feline Non-Core Vaccines
Optional or non-core vaccines for cats.
Feline Leukemia Virus Vaccine
We recommend vaccination of FeLV-negative cats allowed to go outdoors or cats having direct contact with other cats of unknown FeLV status. Vaccination is most likely to be useful in kittens and young adult cats. As of 2006, the AAFP recommends primary vaccination of all kittens for FeLV, but the decision to administer booster vaccines is based on risk assessment (Discussed with your veterinarian). Vaccination is not recommended for FeLV-positive cats.