Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Flea and tick prevention - always important!

Summer is in full swing – hello heat wave!  The only creatures enjoying this weather are the creepy crawlers so now is the time to be extra vigilant with your flea, tick and heartworm prevention.

Everyone knows how annoying those relentless mosquitoes are when you are trying to enjoy your yard or back porch. But these pests are more than just irritating – they can endanger your pet’s health by transmitting heartworm disease. Heartworm disease is a parasitic infection transmitted when an infected mosquito bites your dog or cat.

Monthly heartworm prevention is essential year round for dogs and cats, even indoor kitties. There is NO treatment for heartworm in cats, and sudden death is a common result of heartworm infections. While it’s true that infected dogs can be treated, the treatment itself is very dangerous—and can even be fatal. Left untreated, heartworm disease will kill a dog.

Protecting your dogs and cats against fleas and ticks is important as well. Tick borne infections such as Lyme disease, Erlichia and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are transmitted when an infected tick bites your dog.  The best way to ward these infections off is with topical flea and tick preventatives like Frontline, Parastar Plus, K9 Advantix II, Revolution, or Advantage Multi.  I recommend sticking with the brand names for these medications.  The generics are not as good and some are downright dangerous, especially for cats.  I also do not trust any “natural” product enough to effectively repel fleas and ticks.   I know the though of applying chemicals to your pets is unappealing but so are the diseases these critters transmit.

Lyme disease is an especially tricky beast as it is very common and the medical community does not yet fully understand how it affects dogs making diagnosis and treatment a challenge.  Many dogs will test positive but this does NOT mean they have the disease, only that they were bitten by a tick carrying the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.  In fact the vast majority of the Lyme-positive dogs I see never develop clinical signs of the disease. The best way to protect your dog from Lyme disease is through a combination of prevention and monitoring.

Fleas can be extremely itching and irritating to both you and your pets. Some animals are allergic to fleas and one bite can lead to a significant skin infection. Once a flea infestation invades your home it can be very difficult to clear it out. The best bet is to prevent that from happening by applying the same topical medications that protect against ticks.

Luckily, prevention is easy: just a pill and a topical medication once a month, every single month.  If only everything were that simple.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Fireworks and dogs - how to keep your dog relaxed and happy

 Happy Fourth of July week!  For most of us that means cookouts, fireworks and fun but for owners of dogs that suffer from noise phobia this particular holiday can be an absolute nightmare. Fireworks and other loud noises such as thunderstorms can cause panic in affected dogs.  My parents had a Jack Russell terrier (she passed at the age of 20) that used to tremble, pant and hide under the toilet at the mere thought of an approaching storm.  Once the thunder was cracking or the fireworks were bursting she was inconsolable and destroyed many a door, baseboard, crate or any other item that she turned her attention to during her state of terror. 

If you have experienced this to any degree with your own dog don’t despair there are steps you can take to help ease their fear and calm them down.  You want to be sure and start treating any anxiety as soon as you notice the signs, as it will only get worse with time.

Create a safe space for your dog to weather the storm.  Some dogs will pick a place and if this is the case just leave them there; don’t force them into an alternative space that you choose.  You can offer them toys stuffed with tasty treats to help get their mind off the noise and hopefully start to create a positive association.

Adaptil is a synthetic compound that mimics a pheromone that lactating mother dogs give off and this compound has been clinically shown to reduce anxiety.  Adaptil comes in a spray that can be applied to blankets or a neck bandanna for intermittent use.  Alternatively it comes as a collar that emits the pheromone continuously for a month. 

The Thundershirt is another option and I have clients that swear by it.  It works by applying constant gentle pressure that is thought to clam anxiety.  This is the same idea as swaddling babies or Dr. Temple Grandin’s development of the “Hug Machine” for helping people with Autism.

Finally medication should be considered and discussed with your veterinarian.  It is best to not wait until the phobia progresses but to intervene early and hopefully prevent development of worsening anxiety.  A sedative called acepromazine has long been used for noise phobia but it is no longer the drug of choice and can actually make things worse. With this particular medication the dog is sedate which may hide many signs of anxiety.  The problem is that they are still anxious; they’re just too knocked out to do anything about it.  The preferred medication will target anxiety directly to help address and hopefully eliminate the underlying problem.

I hope these tips help to make for a happy Fourth of July celebration for you and your dog!  These pictures are from last summer of my dogs enjoying a swim and some beach time in Massachusetts.