Keeping Your Dog Heartworm Safe

A single bite from a single infected mosquito can cause an otherwise healthy dog to develop heartworm disease and potentially die.

A heartworm is a parasitic worm (Dirofilaria immitis) that lives in the heart and pulmonary arteries of an affected dog. The worms travel through the bloodstream, damaging arteries and vital organs as they go, before arriving at the lungs and heart approximately six months after that initial mosquito bite. Several hundred worms can live in a single dog from between five and seven years, and if left untreated, can prove fatal.

The best protection against this insidious disease? Prevention. Prevention is both safe and effective, whereas treating the disease itself is complicated, costly, and can, like the disease, have serious, even fatal, effects on the stricken dog.

Preventives work by killing the heartworm larvae before they can grow and mature into adult heartworms. Although a variety of preventives are now available to conscientious pet owners everywhere, the first step in the prevention process is a visit to the vet.

Most vets recommend yearly testing for heartworm in dogs older than 6 months, usually in late spring. If your dog is heartworm negative, inexpensive, chewable pills are available with your vet’s prescription. The pills, which are palatable to most dogs, must be given to your dog monthly, and are manufactured by several companies. These pills can also be given to dogs under 6 months of age without a blood test.

Besides pills, there’s a vet-administered injection called ProHeart 6 whose effectiveness lasts for 6 months. There are also specially designed, chemical preventive products that you apply directly onto your dog’s skin. Application of these topical preventives should begin June 1st and continue for six months. Some heartworm preventives contain additional ingredients that will control other parasites, such as roundworms or hookworms, while the topical preventives prescribed by your vet will protect your dog against fleas and ticks as well.

If you choose the vet-prescribed pill, you can opt to give it to your dog only during mosquito season (from spring through the first frost), but the most recent recommendation from the American Heartworm Society is to keep giving them all year round. And remember, although your dog may not go outside, mosquitoes can still get INside.

For those preferring to NOT use either the pill or the topical preventive, homeopathic veterinarians advise testing your dog for heartworm twice yearly.

In short, consult with your vet. Protect the dog you love against these invasive, potentially fatal parasites, and this summer, all of you can rest, assured.

Tick Alert: Dog Owners Beware

With the arrival of spring comes the arrival of an annoying and possibly fatal pest: the tick.

While ticks aren’t generally a problem in Colorado, exercise caution on trips to the high country to keep from returning with any unwelcome “hitchhikers.”

What was once considered a nuisance found only in the wooded countryside has been persistently and increasingly invading cities both large and small. Now ticks can be as close as your neighborhood park or your neighbor’s backyard.

What, precisely, is a tick? A tick is a fairly common, external parasite that embeds itself in the skin of both animals and humans. Once it lands, it inserts its mouth parts into the skin and feeds on the blood. And that single tick has the potential to pass on multiple diseases.

Deer ticks and Western Blacklegged ticks can carry Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which animals (and humans) can contract.

Prevention and early detection are the best ways of protecting your dogs against Lyme disease. The intent is to stop it before any symptoms appear. Should the disease progress, symptoms can include stiff, painful and swollen joints, and a limp that comes and goes, often appearing to switch sides. Some dogs have an arched back and a stiff walk. More serious, however, are fever, difficulty breathing and kidney failure. Heart and neurological problems are rarer.

To help protect your pet, there are several preventatives available – such as K9 Advantix – which stops ticks BEFORE they bite, killing, not only all of the major tick species, but acting as a flea treatment as well.

Such preventatives are particularly important for high-risk animals such as hunting dogs, cottage dogs and dogs hiking through fields. But it’s important to remember that dogs can pick up ticks in the city as well.

When bitten, the skin of some pets may become red and irritated around the site, while others may not even notice the parasite attached to them. It is imperative then, that you inspect your dog thoroughly when returning from areas known for ticks.

Should you find a tick on your dog, it must be removed very carefully to ensure that the mouthparts are fully removed. If left behind, they can abscess and cause infection. Kill the tick by placing it in a zip-lock bag and pouring rubbing alcohol over it. For the uncertain owner, special tick removal devices are available, while the squeamish can have their vet remove the tick instead.

Some experts now advise that when your dog is tested annually for heartworm disease, the same test should include screening for Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis (both bacterial infections). A positive test result enables you to start treating your pet early — before the onset of any symptoms.

Never was the expression “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” more true than in the case of tick prevention.

Allergy Alert! “Itch” that Time Again

Has your dog suddenly started scratching himself or biting certain areas of his body? Chewing on his feet? Rubbing his face back and forth across the carpet?

If so, he may be suffering from seasonal allergies. These reactions to an obvious, but invisible itch is his body’s way of responding to molecules called “allergens.”

The major culprits: trees, grasses, pollens, molds and ragweed. The main cause: inhaling these irritants through the nose and mouth.

Unlike humans, most dogs’ allergies manifest themselves as skin irritations or inflammations known as allergic dermatitis. Left untreated, your dog’s constant scratching can lead to open sores and scabs, hair loss and hot spots. Ear infections, running noses, watery eyes, coughing and sneezing may also occur.

To determine the source of your dog’s allergy, ask your vet to conduct a series of tests: intradermal, blood or both.

Once a specific allergen has been identified, you can try the following:
Avoidance: for pollens, keep your dog away from fields; keep lawns short; keep him indoors when pollen counts are high; vacuum and wash floors with non-toxic agents instead of regular household cleaners containing chemicals.
Topical therapies: frequent baths with an oatmeal-free shampoo; foot soaks to reduce tracking allergens into the house; topical solutions containing hydrocortisone to ease the itching.

Diet: one low in carbohydrates like grain, or low in fat; put omega-3 fatty acids and/or coconut oil in his food; add a combination of the naturopathic supplements quercetin, bromelain and papain to his meals.

Drugs: antihistamines, cyclosporine or steroids.

As always, consult your vet before starting any form of treatment. Monitor your dog’s behavior closely and report any improvement or worsening in his condition.

It may take several attempts before the proper treatment is found. But when it is, your dog will be much more comfortable — and so will you.

“Go Orange for Animals” in April

Statistics show that in America, an animal is abused every 10 seconds.

And so, April has been designated “Prevention of Cruelty to Animals” Month. A month during which everyone is urged to “Go Orange for Animals” to increase public awareness about these unconscionable, and usually unreported, incidents.

How YOU can help:

RAISE FUNDS

Using your personal Face Book account, create a fundraising page for a specific rescue group or shelter to celebrate an important occasion (birthday, graduation, anniversary, pet’s birthday, etc.) then share it with family and friends. Or instead of gifts, ask them to make a donation in your name to the rescue or shelter of your choice.

ORANGE, ORANGE EVERYWHERE

Show your support by wearing something orange all month. For young and old. Female and male. For her: barrettes and bows, scarves and shoelaces, brooches and bracelets, tank tops and teddies, necklaces and nail polish. For him: ties, tie tacks and tee shirts, bow ties and baseball caps, socks, suspenders and sneakers, pocket scarves and pins on lapels. Or go BIG! Tie a broad orange ribbon around a tree in your yard for everyone to see – and hopefully imitate.

SUPPORT A SHELTER OR RESCUE

Drawing on your own, personal contacts, team up with a local shelter or rescue group and assist them at a “Go Orange for Animals” event such as an adoption day or weekend. Or set up your own donation drive – from jars of pennies, animals toys and pet food, to garage, yard and bake sales — and give the proceeds and/or supplies you’ve collected to the shelter or rescue you’ve selected.

MAKE ADOPTION YOUR ONLY OPTION

Both shelters and rescue groups have loving animals of every breed and age, size and color, personality and temperament, desperate to find loving homes. By opting to adopt, not shop, you’re saving two lives: the life of the animal you adopt and the life of the animal taking its place. And please, spread the word!

IF YOU SEE IT, REPORT IT

Should you witness an act of cruelty towards an animal, report it the SPCA and the police in that area. The more information you have the better. If at all possible, photograph the act of abuse (cell phones and other devices will have the time and date stamped on each shot). If others have witnessed the same act of cruelty, ask for their cooperation by getting their names, contact information, and if possible, brief written statements. Make copies of everything for your own records before giving them to anyone else. Whether you report the abuse in person or call it in, keep a record of the person you contact, the date, and the content and outcome of your discussion. Make it clear that you are interested in pursuing the case, and that you will help in any way you can.

Remember. ONE person CAN make a difference. If YOU speak out and speak up, imagine how many other “YOU’S” are doing and will do the same. Imagine what an enormous impact the effect of your combined voices can and will have on the lives of imperiled animals everywhere.

SOS: Keeping Dogs Safe in Disasters

As unpleasant as the prospect may seem, planning for emergencies may mean the difference between life and death for the canine member(s) of your human family.

Simply put: if a situation is dire for you, it’s equally dire for your dog.

If you live in an area prone to such natural disasters as tornadoes, earthquakes or floods, plan accordingly. Determine in advance which rooms are “safe” rooms — easily cleaned areas like utility rooms, bathrooms and basements. Because access to fresh water is critical, fill bathtubs and sinks ahead of time in case of power outages or other crises. In the event of flooding, take shelter in the highest part of your home, preferably in a room with high counters or shelves for your dog to lie on.

When first alerted to the approach of severe weather — and the possibility of eventual evacuation — ensure that your car’s tank is full, all essential fluids are topped off, and a high power flashlight (with fresh batteries) is in the glove compartment. If you must evacuate, prepare for the worst-case scenario: think weeks, not days.

And being prepared includes a canine emergency evacuation kit equipped with a first aid kit; two weeks worth of dry dog food; bottles of water; food and water bowls; disposable cage liners and/or paper toweling; plastic poop bags; brush, hand sanitizer, liquid dish soap and disinfectant; treats, toys and chew toys, towels and blankets.

Of critical importance are photocopies and/or USB of medical records and a waterproof container with a two-week supply of any medicine your dog requires (medications must be rotated out of the kit if close to their expiry dates); recent photos of your dog (should you be separated and have to print “Lost” posters); and an extra collar with updated ID tags, leash and harness, although microchipping your dog is the best precaution of all.

And, of course, a traveling crate or carrier (if more than one dog — ideally one for each) with complete contact information attached.

While ensuring your dog’s safety, ensure your safety and that of your family’s as well by putting your own emergency plan in place. Tailor your emergency “kit” to meet your own specific needs, but ensure that your car is equipped with: a first aid kit; several gallons of water; non perishable foods, protein bars, etc.; a cell phone with chargers; a battery operated radio; flashlights and batteries; a multi-purpose tool, duct tape, scissors and whistle; sanitation and personal hygiene items; hand sanitizers and baby wipes; protective clothing, footwear and emergency blankets; maps(s) of the area; extra money and medications; copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance

policies); extra house and car keys, and family and emergency contact information.

Forewarned, as they say, is forearmed. And planning ahead helps dog owners keep cool heads while keeping their dearest dogs safe at the same time.