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ARE YOU & YOUR PETS READY?

Posted Apr 01 2012 12:00am

What's that???  Oh, no, it's a tick!  And this is only March!  This past winter was, by all accounts, a much milder one than most throughout much of the USA.  As a result, springtime seemed to arrive somewhat sooner as well.  We've all enjoyed the early blooming flowers but, it has also has become evident that we're going to be experiencing an earlier onset of external parasite season...for us and our pets.  Experts are not fully in agreement that there will be MORE ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes than normal but they all agree that the bothersome season will be longer than normal.  So, rather than put your head in the sand and hope that nothing bad happens, you'd be wise to heed the warnings and brush up on your defense mechanisms for these external parasites.

This Season's Ticking Bomb
Warm Weather Means Ticks Will Be Out Early; A 'Horrific' Season for Lyme and Other Diseases
They can wait for months, clinging to the edge of a blade of grass or a bush, for the whiff of an animal's breath or vibration telling them a host approaches.


Around the country, state and federal health officials are battling a continued rise in tick-borne diseases including Lyme, babesiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Laura Landro has details on Lunch Break.


They are ticks—and when they attach to your skin and feed on your blood over many days, they can transmit diseases. Often hard to diagnose and tricky to treat, tick-borne illnesses—led by Lyme disease—can cause symptoms ranging from headache and muscle aches, to serious and long-term complications that affect the brain, joints, heart, nerves and muscles. Preventing bites to head off illness is particularly important, experts say, because the complex interaction between ticks, their hosts, bacteria and habitats isn't completely understood.



Warmer temperatures are leading some experts to warn that tick activity is starting earlier than usual this year, putting more people at risk.


"This is going to be a horrific season, especially for Lyme," says Leo J. Shea III, a clinical assistant professor at the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, part of New York University Langone Medical Center. He is also president of the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society.


Lyme may be identified after a tick bite, for example, by an expanding rash that looks like a bull's-eye. But that doesn't always happen, and even after a tick bite, antibodies against Lyme may not show up for weeks, so early blood tests can turn up false negatives. Symptoms such as fatigue, chills, fever, headache and swollen lymph nodes may be misdiagnosed. Some infections can go undetected for months or even years. When caught early, tick-borne diseases can be treated successfully with two weeks of antibiotics, but doctors and researchers still argue about whether a chronic form of Lyme exists, and whether it should be treated with longer courses of the drugs.


Between 1992 and 2010, reported cases of Lyme doubled, to nearly 23,000, and there were another 7,600 probable cases in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But CDC officials say the true incidence of Lyme may be three times higher. Other infections, including babesiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and anaplasmosis are steadily increasing, too. While not all ticks carry disease, some may spread two or three types of infections in a single bite.


Researchers say the primary reasons for the global rise of tick-borne illness include the movement of people into areas where animal hosts and tick populations are abundant, and growth in the population of animals that carry ticks, including deer, squirrels and mice.


"We haven't even begun to scratch the surface of the type of pathogens ticks can be harboring and transmitting," says Kristy K. Bradley, state epidemiologist and public health veterinarian for the Oklahoma State Department of Health.


Animals "are a traveling tick parade," Dr. Bradley adds, with pet dogs "bringing them into the home and onto furniture and carpets."


Regularly checking the body for ticks can reduce exposure, because removing them quickly can prevent transmission of disease, says Kirby C. Stafford III, chief entomologist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, or CAES, in New Haven.


Showering or bathing quickly after being outdoors can also help wash off crawling ticks or make it easier to find them. What won't work: simply jumping in the pool or lake, because ticks can hide in bathing suits and don't quickly drown in water. There are tick-repellent sprays for clothes, but it is wise to immediately launder and dry garments at high temperatures after hiking or golfing in areas where ticks are present.


The CDC is conducting the first study of its kind to determine whether spraying the yard for ticks can not only kill pests, but also reduce human disease. Participating households agreed to be randomly assigned a single spray with a common pesticide, bifenthrin, or one that contained water, without knowing which they would receive.


Paul Mead, chief of epidemiology and surveillance activity at CDC's bacterial-illness branch, says preliminary results from about 1,500 households indicate that a spray reduced the tick population by 60%.


"But there was far less of a reduction in tick encounters and illness," indicating that even a sharp drop in tick populations leaves infected ones behind. "We may have to completely wipe out ticks to get an effect on human illness," he says. The CDC is enrolling households for a second arm of the study and expects final results late in the fall. Organic repellents such as Alaska cedar are also being tested in other studies.


Sometimes fire is the only solution: Wildlife biologist Scott C. Williams roams Connecticut's woods armed with a propane torch to incinerate clumps of Japanese barberry, an invasive plant species that chokes off native vegetation and provides a favorite habitat for ticks.


The CAES program to control the red-berried shrub—once cultivated as decorative—is part of the growing, multifaceted effort around the country to prevent the spread of infections like Lyme, which Dr. Williams has been treated for twice since beginning the project in 2007.


Dr. Bradley's home state of Oklahoma is one of several working with the One Health Initiative, a global program to improve communication between physicians and veterinarians to prevent the spread of infectious disease from animals to people, such as recommending tick collars, sprays or topical treatments with pesticides for dogs.


One problem, says Laura Kahn, a founder of One Health, is that "vets don't like to advise people on human health and physicians don't typically think about these things, so it falls through the cracks." About 75% of new diseases that have emerged globally in the last 30 years are spread from animals to people, many of them through ticks, says Dr. Kahn, who is also a science-and-global-security researcher at Princeton University.


Jason Lipsett, 21 years old, was diagnosed with Lyme in November, after suffering for three years with symptoms including problems with his jaw, recurring sinus infections, migraines and trouble sleeping. He had to give up playing tennis and take a medical leave from Bentley University in Waltham Mass., where he was a senior. He doesn't remember being bitten by a tick but had been camping in the woods in New Hampshire and often spent time outdoors during the summers at a family home in Cape Cod.


Doctors told him he might have chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia. Depressed about his health, he began seeing a therapist who knew about the symptoms of Lyme and referred him to another physician. That doctor determined he had Lyme—and babesiosis, caused by a parasite that destroys red blood cells.


Mr. Lipsett has been on an antibiotic regimen for four months. He says he has felt better each month and that he is prepared to stay on the drugs until he and his doctor are confident the disease is under control. He is making up courses and hopes to graduate next year. He plans to participate in a 5K run on April 29 to raise money for Time for Lyme, a Stamford, Conn. nonprofit that supports research into Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses.


"I may not be able to run, but I'm going to try to walk it," he says

Adated from: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303404704577305630267988716.html?mod=dist_smartbrief
 
Veterinarians Worried Worst Flea Season About To Begin
As Caitlin G’Sell enjoyed an early spring day in Forest Park, Missouri, with her 13-year-old Labrador Cosette, it was pretty obvious to her when the weather is this nice for this long at this time of year, flea season is going to be terrible.

“I think it snowed twice and there was hardly any freezing so a lot of the parasites and their eggs will survive this winter,” she said.


Many veterinarians are worried the worst flea season in recent memory is about to begin, or perhaps is already upon us.


“We probably saw more live flea cases throughout the winter than what we normally would, because it never got cold enough. They were still hatching out and able to get on the pets,” said Dr. Teresa Garden from Animal Health and Healing in Richmond Heights.


The problem with fleas is once you have one, you can soon have an infestation because a single female can lay up to 800 eggs.


“It is much easier to prevent the problem than to deal with it after it has started,” said Dr. Steven Schwartz, the director of veterinary services at the Humane Society of Missouri.


Like many veterinarians, Schwartz recommends flea and tick protection year round, and not just for outdoor pets.


“The classic we come across is that someone will say, well I have cats that stay indoors, my dog goes outside so since the cats are indoors there is really no reason to worry about flea problems with my cats. That is unfortunately not true. All of the animals become susceptible as soon as one of the animals goes outdoors,” Schwartz said.


One way to discover fleas early is to go over your dog with a flea comb, which can find fleas and flea dirt much better than you can just with your eyes. If black specks fall out of the hair you’ve combed, chances are you’ve found fleas. The best way to tell is to shake the hair pulled out by the comb over a white surface. Then add water to any black specks you find. If those specks melt and turn red, it is flea dirt, meaning your fleas have already made a home on your pet.


Along with fleas, ticks are expected to be bad as well, especially for pets that spend much time around water.

Adapted from: http://fox2now.com/2012/03/06/veterinarians-worried-worst-flea-season-about-to-begin/
 
The Downside of a Balmy Winter? Long Walks With the Dog Aren’t Carefree
By KAREN ANN CULLOTTA

Annette Kowalczyk, a retiree, and her trusty dog, Beau, were extraordinarily active last month, relishing long walks through her suburban Chicago neighborhood — a pleasant change from last winter, when icy sidewalks and bitter cold made their favorite pastime downright treacherous.


Alas, for poor Beau, a Bichon Frisé who suffered a nasty tick bite in February, the balmy winter weather also appears to have encouraged legions of ticks to abandon their typically sedentary winter habit of lounging docilely under snow drifts, in favor of feasting heartily on a late-winter canine blood meal.


“The vet said the tick didn’t settle down until he found a juicy spot on Beau’s neck,” said Mrs. Kowalczyk, 74.


“I was horrified,” she added. “It wasn’t like we were walking in the forest. We were on the sidewalk, in my neighborhood.”


While entomologists say that the mild weather in much of the country this winter is unlikely to spawn a tick population explosion this spring and summer, they suggest that just like humans and dogs, the pesky critters appear to be enjoying the great outdoors a month or two earlier this year.


“Usually, by late December it’s too cold for ticks to be out questing for a blood meal,” said Richard Pollack, a public health entomologist and instructor in the department of immunology and infectious diseases at the Harvard School of Public Health.


“Last year at this time, people were sitting in their living rooms watching TV, but now they’re out in their neighborhoods, enjoying the warm weather with their dogs and wearing T-shirts,” Dr. Pollack said.


“It’s not necessarily so that the warm weather has created more ticks,” he added, “but it has created the opportunity for both humans and ticks to be more active, and to make contact with each other.”


While some experts say the prevalence of dog-biting ticks this mild winter indicates neither a more virulent tick nor an increased risk of Lyme disease in dogs and humans, a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that data from dogs may help predict areas of Lyme disease emergence. In addition, the study found that combining data from both humans and dogs could assist health officials in targeting Lyme disease prevention efforts.


Though most entomologists decline making any predictions about the coming tick season, Dr. Scott Demanes, a veterinarian from Peoria, Ill., said that ticks this winter had kept him busy treating dogs with tick bites well beyond late fall.


“The whole winter, there’s never really been a lull,” Dr. Demanes said.


“If a dog is not scratching the area a lot, many owners have no idea the dog has a tick bite unless it starts to engorge with blood,” he said.


At the Bristol County Veterinary Hospital in Seekonk, Mass., Dr. Amy Hurd recommends that all dogs be tested annually for Lyme disease. She also worries that the bleak economy has led some pet owners to forgo buying the protective lotions that ward off ticks.


“Times are hard for a lot of people these days, and for some pet owners, tick lotion can seem like a luxury — they just don’t have the money,” Dr. Hurd said.


“There are a lot of choices to make, but with the warm winter weather we’ve just had, dog owners should be applying a tick lotion and checking their dogs every day,” Dr. Hurd said.


Of course, even the most vigilant pet owners can discover that despite their best efforts, they have not eluded the ever intrepid and terribly tiny tick. Aggie Hozempa of Warren, R.I., and her yellow Labrador retriever, Libby Lane — one of Dr. Hurd’s patients — both received a diagnosis of Lyme disease contracted from tick bites in November.


“I had severe pain in my right knee, and when an M.R.I. ruled out an injury, the doctor ran a blood test, and I tested positive for Lyme disease,” Ms. Hozempa said. “Dr. Hurd tested Libby Lou, and it was the same story, but my dog had zero symptoms.”


Both Ms. Hozempa and Libby Lane were treated with doxycycline and are now healthy and symptom-free, resuming their daily walks, covered with a protective tick lotion and never straying from a paved bike path.


“As a golfer, if on occasion my ball ends up in the woods, I will not go and get it,” Ms. Hozempa said. “Tick bites and Lyme disease are just so bizarre and frightening. I’m trying to be proactive, but these ticks are like the size of a pepper flake. The wind can blow one on you or your dog, and you’d never know it.”

Adapted from: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/19/us/a-mild-winter-means-a-longer-tick-season.html?_r=1
 
Tick talk: Experts recommend precautions against Lyme disease after mild winter
By Alana Melanson

Though the tick season may have started earlier due to the mild winter the region has experienced, it does not necessarily mean there will be more ticks later on, experts say.  According to Dr. Sam Telford, a professor of infectious diseases at Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in Grafton, there is no surefire way to predict the cycles of tick populations.

Telford has been studying Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses since 1984, and says there is still no predictive model that observations could be plugged into to determine how future seasons will go, despite predictions some are making that this season will be particularly bad in terms of a larger tick population and more cases of Lyme disease.


Telford said the fall of 2010 was a particularly bad time for ticks because of a number of environmental factors that came into play. For instance, oak trees produced more acorns, meaning squirrels, mice and other rodents were plentiful and able to survive longer through the cold weather, he said, acting as hosts for the ticks and spreading them wherever they scurried.  The amount of moisture available in the environment plays a role as well, he said.  Ticks require very high humidity to survive for a long time," Telford said. "That's why we don't see ticks on well-groomed lawns."  With the sun beating down and nowhere for the ticks to hide, Telford explained, they can't survive for long in those hot, dry conditions and will often take shelter where there is more vegetation.


Someone would have to spend four hours in the center of a lawn, or 20 minutes at the edge of a yard bordering a forest, to be exposed to the same amount of ticks one could pick up from five minutes in the deep woods, he said.  Telford said there are likely to be about 10 times fewer ticks present from noon to 4 p.m., as that is when daytime temperatures usually reach their peak and when it tends to be least humid.  If May and June are dry, he said, there could be relatively fewer ticks than normal at that time of year. But because no one can accurately predict the long-term course of New England weather, he said it is best to practice good sense when it comes to traversing through wooded areas.


A large deer population also affects whether there will be a boom in deer ticks, Telford said, and deer are staying closer and closer to suburban areas as development takes over their woodland homes. Retaining a proximity to houses and settled areas also means the deer are less likely to be hunted in those areas, he said.  According to Tom O'Shea, assistant director of wildlife for Mass Wildlife, Fitchburg and its environs tend to be around the state's deer-density goal of 12 deer per square mile, but east of the area, deer densities are significantly higher.  Lowell and its environs, for instance, have some of the highest deer densities in the state, he said, at between 20 and 30 deer per square mile.  Some communities further east, such as Andover, Dover, Medfield and Sudbury, have experienced a surge in Lyme disease, and as a result have allowed hunting on municipal properties to bring the deer population down, O'Shea said.


Although ticks can pose quite a problem, that shouldn't stop people from enjoying walks in the forest, Telford said, adding that they should simply be more vigilant and take proper precautions.

Wear long sleeves and tuck long pants into socks, he said, and spray ankles and shoes with bug repellent. Although most strong repellents with DEET will work, he recommends permethrin, a chemical used in military uniforms that causes ticks and mosquitoes to die within a few hours of exposure. It is also the active ingredient in most head-lice shampoos, he said.  "What's even more helpful is to take a shower after walks in the woods," Telford said, explaining that running water is likely to remove any ticks that have not implanted themselves.  He recommended checking one's own body for new bumps as well as having a partner check areas that are difficult to see.


If bitten by a tick, it generally takes an attached tick about 24 hours to transmit Lyme disease and other tick-carried illnesses, Telford said. Only Lyme may boast a bull's-eye rash, but all will produce flu-like symptoms, including fever and muscle aches, he said, so if those are present, it is best to see a doctor.


If one is worried and does not want to wait until symptoms are exhibited, most doctors will prescribe a single dose of the antibiotic doxycycline to try to prevent an infection, he said.


If possible, Telford recommends taping the tick to an index card and writing the date on it, to show to a doctor later should symptoms arise. Several online resources for identifying types of ticks and other insects are available as well, he said, including www.identifyus.com, a site run by colleagues of his.


In addition to Lyme disease, consideration must also be taken for Babesiosis and Ehrlichiosis (also called anaplasmosis), Telford said, similar bacterial infections that ticks in this area are known to carry, though to a much smaller extent.  The vast majority of people with Babesiosis exhibit no symptoms and may go their entire lives without knowing they are infected, provided they remain in good health, Telford said. Only in cases of those with suppressed immune systems or those who lose their spleens due to accidents can the infection become fatal, he said.  The problem that is beginning to arise, however, is that Babesiosis-infected people may donate blood and pass the infection along to those who may not be able to fight it, Telford said, as it is not among screened-for diseases.


While a Lyme disease vaccine exists for canines, there is not one available for humans, Telford said.  Though SmithKline (now GlaxoSmith-Kline) developed one previously, he said, the company stopped offering it because it was losing money on the product in a time when Lyme disease wasn't as big a problem as it has become.


As there is no way to ensure zero risk of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses, Telford said exercising caution, for both humans and animals, is the best way to reduce risk.


Though people tend to think of the winter months as a safe time from ticks, local veterinarians say it is best to keep pets protected year-round.  "We see ticks on dogs and cats every month of the year," Dr. Carl Flinkstrom of the Lunenburg Veterinary Hospital said. "One out of seven dogs that walk in this door test positive for Lyme disease."  At Twin City Animal Hospital in Fitchburg, Dr. Terra Baldarelli said about one in four dogs tests positive.  "We live in an endemic area," she said. "It's extremely common here. But it doesn't mean that they all get sick."  Only about 5 percent or less of the dogs actually come down with symptoms, she said, but those that test positive do get treated to ensure they do not become sick later.

Adapted from:
http://www.sentinelandenterprise.com/topstory/ci_20170458/tick-talk-experts-recommend-precautions-against-lyme-disease
As Temps Rise, Veterinarians Advise Early Flea & Tick Prevention
DENISON, TX--They're not just in your pet's fur--they're everywhere. With the warming temperatures, they might be jumping earlier than usual. Fleas may be ready to dive into your animal, but there's a way to stop the scratch before it starts.


"It's always skin irritation. Being sensitive to the flea bite," Billy Martindale, DVM,  Animal Hospital of Denison, said.  Man's best friend may have something to sweat about this summer.  "When you have animals, you're going to have fleas unless you control them," Martindale said.


As the mercury rises earlier than usual this year, veterinarians advise pet owners to use flea prevention early.  "Fleas feed on animals. That's the only place they feed. That's the dinner plate. They can be off the animal for a long period of time, actually for years," Martindale said.  Fleas thrive when it's 80 degrees with 80 percent humidity. However, cold weather doesn't stop dormant bugs from looking for a bite to eat.  "Doesn't mean the fleas aren't going to be inside the house, doesn't mean they're not going to be on the animal, because they will be," Martindale said.  Fleas aren't just outside. They could be in the carpet. Martindalae recommends spraying your home for pests regularly, not just once a year.  "You got to be able to control the pet and do something inside the house, or even outside the house," Martindale said.


During summer hikes in the woods, ticks are another pest to be wary of because of the diseases they may carry.  "Fleas do not pose as much of a human health problem. Ticks pose a humongous human health problem," Martindale said.


Flea prevention can come from a pill or topical treatment.


"Some animals are predisposed to being sensitive to fleas," Martindale said.


It might keep Fido from scratching later.


The Environmental Protection Agency advises pet owners to vacuuming frequently to remove eggs, larvae and fleas. It's also important to clean carpets and cushioned furniture.

Adapted from: http://www.kten.com/story/17243143/as-temperatures-rise-veterinarians-advise-early-flea-tick-prevention


 
Protecting your pets from parvovirus
Mild winter blamed for parvo outbreak
• Heidi Voight


SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - Unseasonably warm temperatures are being blamed for a recent outbreak of parvovirus in Connecticut.


Several animal shelters there have been forced into emergency quarantine mode. But a veterinarian for the Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society explained parvo is a hardy virus that survives even the coldest winters.


Dr. Katie Spaulding says the uptick is probably due to simply more dogs being taken outside in the warm weather. Unlike a rabies vaccine, a parvo vaccine isn't required by law, which is why some pet owners skip it. "That definitely is a factor for why we're seeing more parvo now, because the economy being what it is and people not having the money to spend on vaccines, we have seen an increase in incidents of parvo," said Spaulding.




If your pet shows any symptoms of parvo, including vomiting, bloody diarrhea and abnormal drowsiness, you should act quickly. Parvovirus is fatal in roughly half of all cases.

Adapted from: http://www.wwlp.com/dpp/news/local/hampden/protecting-your-pets-from-parvovirus
 
Allergies: How Pollen is Affecting Your Pet


Springtime brings flowers and warmth. But along with all the benefits of the season come the dreaded symptoms of allergies. Eyes water, noses run and a layer of yellow pollen seems to coat everything in sight.



And it turns out even pets are affected.  Vets and pet owners have noticed their furry friends scratching and sneezing earlier than usual this year, corresponding to the unusually warm weather.  “I’ve noticed a lot of changes,” said Martha Grossman, the owner of Lily, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel. “She’s had her flea medication and everything but she’s just scratching a lot more lately.”


“Dodger rolls around in the grass a lot,” said Diana Battaglia of her Boston terrier. “A lot more than usual.”


According to veterinary dermatologist Dr. Heather Peikes, pets fall victim to the same allergies as people.  “They even have the same symptoms,” Peikes said. “Runny eyes, running noses, itchy skin, ear infections.”


And while allergies affect both people and animals every year, Andy Mussoline, a spokesman for Accuweather, says it’s happening much earlier this year.  “The Eastern two-thirds of the country is experiencing an especially high pollen count,” Mussoline said. “This is due to a combination of factors. Typically during normal springs, we have cold fronts moving through and changes in the wind. The fresh air pushes the allergens out. But now there aren’t many cold fronts moving through, which creates stagnant air. At the same time, the very warm weather has created a high pollen count earlier than usual.”


For some pets, as for many people, allergies are more than just a nuisance.


“He itches his legs and behind his ears all the time,” said Chris Kobus of his three-year-old Boston terrier, Wilbur. “Many nights he can't sleep because he’s up all night itching. I’m taking him to the vet tomorrow. I feel so bad.”


Dr. Peikes says the treatment for pet allergies is also similar to the treatment for humans.  “There’s allergy testing, allergy shots, air purifiers and even antihistamines that can help pets with allergies,” she said.  But Peikes says always consult with a vet before taking any action. Some treatments may be safe for humans, but not for your pet.

Adapted from: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2012/03/23/allergies-how-pollen-is-affecting-your-pet/
 
Warm weather brings the threat of heartworm to our pets


This warm March weather is unbelievable. Yesterday, on the radio, a weatherman was asked if there were going to be more bugs this year due to the lack of freezing temperatures. The reply was: “I can’t say there are going to be more bugs, they may just come out earlier.” That’s a pleasant thought: a longer season for mosquitoes.
With that thought in mind, I called our veterinarian and made an appointment for my dog, Kasey, for his heartworm test and heartworm preventive. Both the American Heartworm Society (www.heartwormsociety.org), the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Animal Hospital Association (www.healthypet.com) provide information about the parasite and heartworm disease.


According to the organizations, heartworm is a preventable but serious and potentially fatal parasite that primarily infects dogs, cats and ferrets. Heartworm has recently been diagnosed in about 30 species of animals in all 50 states and affects millions of indoor and outdoor pets. All dogs, regardless of age, sex or living environment, are susceptible to heartworm infections, notes the AVMA.


Heartworm can only be transmitted from animal to animal by mosquitoes that are infected with heartworms. One bite and your dog (or other animals) can be infected. The cycle goes like this: When a mosquito bites an infected animal, young heartworms enter that mosquito’s system. In the next two weeks, they develop into infective larvae inside the mosquito. Then the mosquito bites another dog or cat and the infected larvae enter through the bite wound.


Once inside the body, the heartworms develop invisibly within the animal, nesting and reproducing, lodging in the lungs and/or right side of his/her heart. The infective larvae mature into adult heartworms in approximately six months. The larvae migrate through the animal’s blood circulation, eventually reaching the blood vessels of the lungs. The immature worms continue to develop and grow into adults, with females growing to a length of 14 inches. The heartworms damage blood vessels and reduce the heart’s pumping ability. When the animal shows signs of illness due to adult heartworm infection, it’s called heartworm disease.


If a dog is recently or mildly infected with heartworms, he may not show any signs of illness until the adult worms have developed in his lungs and signs of heartworm disease are observed. These signs include a mild and persistent cough, reluctance to move or exercise, lethargy, fatigue after only moderate exercise, reduced appetite, weight loss and difficulty breathing. Heartworms in the vital blood vessels of the lungs can cause death.


The AVMA reports there are numerous diagnostic tests available with which your veterinarian can detect the presence of adult heartworm infection in your dog.  Antigen tests detect the presence of adult female heartworms and antibody tests determine if your pet has been exposed to heartworms. The antigen test is most commonly performed and is very accurate in dogs.


There is an FDA-approved treatment available if your dog becomes infected with heartworms. There is substantial risk involved in treating a dog for heartworms. However, serious complications are much less likely in dogs that are in good health and when the veterinarian’s instructions are followed carefully.


The goal of heartworm treatment is to kill the heartworms present in your dog as safely as possible. When a dog is treated, it’s important to consider that heartworms are dying inside the dog’s lungs. Therefore, while your dog is treated, he will require complete rest throughout hospitalization and for some time following the first treatment. Also, other medications may be necessary to help control the body’s inflammatory reaction as the worms die and are broken down in the dog’s lungs.


Both the AVMA and the AHS report heartworm infection is almost 100 percent preventable. There are several FDA-approved heartworm preventives available including daily and monthly tablets and chewables and other formulations. Your veterinarian can recommend the best method of prevention based upon your dog’s risk factors and lifestyle.


The AHS sums it up: “Heartworms — agonizing to treat. easy to prevent.” If you haven’t already done it, get your dog tested and get the heartworm preventive. If you share your life with a dog, heartworm testing and giving him the preventive year round will help keep him safe. He trusts you to do it for him.

Adapted from: http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20120325/news/703259982/

All of these topics (Ticks, Fleas, Parvovirus, Heartworms, and Skin Allergies) have been covered before in previous issues of Questions On Dogs and Cats.  For more information on them, click on the topic in the column marked "Labels" to the left.

For any questions, send an e-mail to: dogcatvethelp@gmail.com   and Helpful Buckeye will answer you.
 
SPORTS NEWS
The Ohio State Buckeyes played a good first half against Kansas in the Final Four...however, they seemed to forget that basketball is a 40-minute game and Kansas was able to come back from a big deficit to win the game at the end.  Helpful Buckeye wasn't too upset by the loss since we weren't expected to go this far back early in the season.  Plus, only 4 teams make it this far and we were good enough to do that.  The really good news is that the sun did come up this morning...and baseball starts this coming weekend.

And, speaking of baseball, the LA Dodgers were officially sold this past week to a group that promises to make them competitive again.  Helpful Buckeye is already planning a couple of trips to Phoenix to see the Dodgers play the Diamondbacks.

PERSONAL STUFF

Desperado and Helpful Buckeye had another really good hike in Sedona this past week, with beautiful scenery and wildflowers.  Desperado is back to her old self as far as enjoying a decent hike...after working through a lot of pain and discomfort last year...and, it's great having her back with me on the trail!

“Remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That’s why it’s a comfort to go hand in hand.” Emily Kimbrough, author



We got to test my new bike rack this week in preparation for a much longer drive later this month.



~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~
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