Monday, March 24, 2014

Heartworm Medication Importance

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition caused by parasitic worms living in the arteries of the lungs and occasionally in the right side of the heart of dogs, cats and other species of mammals, including wolves, foxes, ferrets, sea lions and (in rare instances) humans. Heartworms are classified as nematodes (roundworms) and are filarids, one of many species of roundworms. Dogs and cats of any age or breed are susceptible to infection. Learn more...

Where is Heartworm Disease?

Heartworm disease has been reported in all 50 states. The map below shows particularly endemic areas based on the number of cases reported by clinics.


The first published description of heartworm in dogs in the United States appeared more than 100 years ago in an issue of "The Western Journal of Medicine and Surgery."1 Heartworm in cats was first described in the early 1920's.2, 3
Since then, naturally acquired heartworm infection in cats and dogs is identified as a worldwide clinical problem. Despite improved diagnostic methods, effective preventives and increasing awareness among veterinary professionals and pet owners, cases of heartworm infection continue to appear in pets around the world.
1 Osborne, TC. Worms found in the Heart and Bloodvessels of a Dog; Symptoms of Hydrophobia. The Western Journal of Medicine and Surgery, 1847.
2 Riley, WA. Dirofilaria immitis in the heart of a cat. J Parasitol 1922;9:48
3 Travassos, LP. Notas Helminthologicas. Brazil-Med. An. 1921;35 2(6):67

How Heartworm Happens: The Life Cycle

First, adult female heartworms release their young, called microfilariae, into an animal's bloodstream. Then, mosquitoes become infected with microfilariae while taking blood meal from the infected animal. During the next 10 to 14 days, the microfilariae mature to the infective larval stage within the mosquito. After that, the mosquito bites another dog, cat or other susceptible animal, and the infective larvae enter through the bite wound. It then takes a little over 6 months for the infective larvae to mature into adult worms. In dogs, the worms may live for up to 7 years. Microfilariae cannot mature into adult heartworms without first passing through a mosquito.
hearworm cycle

What Are the Signs of Heartworm Disease?

For both dogs and cats, clinical signs of heartworm disease may not be recognized in the early stages, as the number of heartworms in an animal tends to accumulate gradually over a period of months and sometimes years and after repeated mosquito bites.
Recently infected dogs may exhibit no signs of the disease, while heavily infected dogs may eventually show clinical signs, including a mild, persistent cough, reluctance to move or exercise, fatigue after only moderate exercise, reduced appetite and weight loss.
Cats may exhibit clinical signs that are very non-specific, mimicking many other feline diseases. Chronic clinical signs include vomiting, gagging, difficulty or rapid breathing, lethargy and weight loss. Signs associated with the first stage of heartworm disease, when the heartworms enter a blood vessel and are carried to the pulmonary arteries, are often mistaken for feline asthma or allergic bronchitis, when in fact they are actually due to a syndrome newly defined as Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease (HARD).

How Do You Detect Heartworm Disease?

Heartworm infection in apparently healthy animals is usually detected with blood tests for a heartworm substance called an "antigen" or microfilariae, although neither test is consistently positive until about seven months after infection has occurred.
Heartworm infection may also occasionally be detected through ultrasound and/or x-ray images of the heart and lungs, although these tests are usually used in animals already known to be infected.


Because heartworm disease is preventable, the AHS recommends that pet owners take steps now to talk to their veterinarian about how to best protect their pets from this dangerous disease. Heartworm prevention is safe, easy and inexpensive. While treatment for heartworm disease in dogs is possible, it is a complicated and expensive process, taking weeks for infected animals to recover. There is no effective treatment for heartworm disease in cats, so it is imperative that disease prevention measures be taken for cats.
There are a variety of options for preventing heartworm infection in both dogs and cats, including daily and monthly tablets and chewables, monthly topicals and a six-month injectable product available only for dogs. All of these methods are extremely effective, and when administered properly on a timely schedule, heartworm infection can be completely prevented. These medications interrupt heartworm development before adult worms reach the lungs and cause disease.
It is your responsibility to faithfully maintain the prevention program you have selected in consultation with your veterinarian.


Heartworms in the heart of a dog
Usually, all but the most advanced cases of heartworm disease can be successfully treated in dogs. Currently, there are no products in the United States approved for the treatment of heartworm infection in cats. Cats have proven to be more resistant hosts to heartworm than dogs, and often appear to be able to rid themselves of infection spontaneously. Unfortunately, many cats tend to react severely to the dead worms as they are being cleared by the body, and this can result in a shock reaction, a life-threatening situation. Veterinarians will often attempt to treat an infected cat with supportive therapy measures to minimize this reaction; however it is always best to prevent the disease.

Heartworms in the Pulmonary Artery of a dog
Adult heartworms in dogs are killed using a drug called an adulticide that is injected into the muscle through a series of treatments. Treatment may be administered on an outpatient basis, but hospitalization is usually recommended. When the dog is sent home, exercise should be limited to leash walking for the duration of the recovery period, which can last from one to two months. This decreases the risk of partial or complete blockage of blood flow through the lungs by dead worms.
Re-infection during treatment is prevented by administration of a heartworm preventive. These preventives may also eliminate microfilariae if they are present. Dogs in heart failure and those with caval syndrome require special attention.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Affects of Fleas and Ticks on You and Your Pet.

Where Did My Pet Get Fleas and Ticks?
     You probably won’t even notice that your pet is already suffering from a flea infestation because you’d seldom see them scratching at first. But as time goes by, the insects that are living in your pet’s fur multiply. Soon, you’ll not only notice excessive scratching, but you’ll also see skin irritation. Furthermore, such insects cannot be contained. If you allow your pet to roam inside your house, then the fleas and ticks will find their way to other food sources, which will be you and your family.
So, how did your beloved cuddly companion get infected?
It’s actually quite easy for your pet to get fleas or ticks. For one, stray dogs or cats easily spread these bloodsucking insects. Other wild animals, such as raccoons, which just passed by your neighborhood can distribute the eggs of such ectoparasites too. Once the eggs hatch, the insects will just be waiting to jump on your canine or feline companion as it frolics in your yard. Ticks also crawl up on shrubs or grass so that it’ll be easier for them to leap onto a possible host.
 Flea and Tick Effects on Animals
 When ticks and fleas feed on animals, they inject foreign substances that cause skin irritation. So, it’s very common for animals to experience skin irritation. Flea allergy is a more serious condition wherein the infected animal bites and scratches until its skin becomes raw and its hair falls off.
Pets can also get tapeworms and other dangerous conditions from such bloodsucking insects, such as canine anaplasmosis, canine hepatozoonosis, as well as anemia. Other tick-borne diseases that can severely affect humans, such as Lyme disease, babesiosis, and ehrlichiosis, can also be fatal to animals. But not all disease-causing organisms affect dogs and cats the same way. For instance, cats don’t get Lyme disease but they can contract tularemia. Hence, once you notice fleas and ticks on your domestic furry companions, act immediately to get rid of the pests.
Also, visit your vet if you believe that your animal is sick because of a pest infestation. Flea and Tick Effects on People Just like bed bugs, fleas can transmit pathogens that cause tapeworms, murine typhus, cat scratch fever (bartonella henselae), and also the rare but serious bubonic plague.
As for ticks, there are different species that transmit organisms that cause Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and tularemia, to name a few. The most common condition that people experience from fleas and ticks is skin irritation. The bite of such creatures can be extremely itchy and overly scratching the affected area can injure the skin. Once the skin is injured, it’s easier for other organisms to cause infection. Call us at 940-855-0451 today to assure your pets and you are protected against theses pesky insects.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Flea and Tick Prevention

Flea and tick prevention is an important part of taking good care of your cat or dog. That’s because pets can get a variety of diseases from fleas and ticks. And flea and tick bites can make your pet (and you!) very uncomfortable. But flea and tick preventives contain substances that can be harmful if not handled properly, so it’s important to know how to use these products safely.

When to Use Flea and Tick Control Products

When should you treat your cat or dog with flea or tick products? It depends on where you live. Fleas are worst during warm weather months, but they can live inside all year long. Spring and summer can also be the worst time for ticks. In some areas of the U.S., they survive year-round. If you see signs of fleas or ticks on your pet, be sure to treat them right away. Otherwise, start treating at the beginning of flea or tick season.

Types of Flea and Tick Prevention

Many products are available for flea control in cats and dogs. Some products also prevent ticks or other pests. The most popular products for their effectiveness at A Caring Heart Veterinary Hospital are: Vectra, Trifexis, Preventic Collars, Ovitrol, Siphotrol and Knockout.

Flea and Tick Prevention: Medication Safety Guidelines

1. Check with your vet before using flea and tick products, even if you purchase them over the counter. This is especially important for elderly or sick pets, puppies or kittens, pets who are on other medications, or pets who are pregnant or nursing. For these and pets that have had reactions to tick and flea products, your vet may suggest using a flea comb instead to pick up fleas, eggs, and ticks. Deposit them in hot, soapy water.
2. Read and carefully follow instructions when using flea and tick products. Do not use dog products on cats or cat products on dogs. Cats are very sensitive to insecticides – a few drops of a spot-on treatment designed for dogs can be fatal to a cat. Only apply the amount needed for the size of your cat or dog. Never double up on products – applying powders in addition to spot-on products, for example.
3. Wear gloves or wash your hands with soap and water after applying a flea and tick preventive. Be sure to follow the instructions for proper storage and disposal of packaging.
4. When applying spray or spot-on flea and tick preventives, keep pets separate while the product dries. This will keep them from grooming each other and swallowing the chemicals.
5. After applying a product, watch your cat or dog for signs of a reaction, especially if it’s the first time you’re using it. Call your vet if your pet has symptoms such as:
  • Poor appetite
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Excessive salivation
  • Depression
If you cat or dog has a bad reaction to flea and tick products such as spot-ons, sprays, or powders, immediately bathe your pet thoroughly with soap and water and follow any instructions from the package insert. Call your vet at 940-855-0451 and report problems to the National Pesticide Information Center at 1-800-858-7378.