It’s me, Mani. I haven’t written in a while because this summer has been really busy. I turned nine this year. Mama Stef says that’s almost old but not quite actually, really old.
So anyway… I was supposed to have surgery in June to take some lumps off my leg, tummy, chest, neck, and chin. I had to go to work with Mama Stef at the pet hospital. She made me skip breakfast and wouldn’t even give me a sip of water! It made me sad. When I got there, they took some of my blood with a needle so they could make sure all of my organs were working. Guess what. They found out my kidneys are old and tired! Then, they checked my blood pressure and said it was too high. Dr. Coffin said I couldn’t have surgery yet.
Mama Stef got worried, but Dr. Coffin said I just have to eat special food to help my kidneys and take one pill every day to make my blood pressure settle down. Now, I get special food that none of the other dogs get to eat. That’s pretty cool. It’s made by a company called Royal Canin, and it’s called Hydrolyzed Protein Renal. It’s made just for dogs who have kidney problems and food allergies. It tastes REALLY good, so I don’t mind that I had to switch from my old food.
The medicine for my blood pressure works so well; I had to—I mean, I GOT to—go back and have my surgery. Dr. Coffin used a special kind of anesthesia to make it easier for my kidneys to handle it. I fell asleep, and when I woke up, my lumps were all gone, and I had stitches. Mama Stef is making me wear a silly blow-up donut collar so I can’t lick or chew at them. I’m not allowed to run or play rough with the other dogs until I get my stitches out in 2 weeks. I’m getting a lot of extra love and attention, so I don’t feel left out when the other dogs wrestle.
So, as I said—it’s been a really busy summer. I hope this fall is less exciting.
Last week at our weekly staff meeting, I was discussing some data that I had just received showing that only 50% of our canine patients are on heartworm prevention. This started a conversation about why this number is so low. I believe it’s because many people don’t understand the difference between heartworms and intestinal parasites. I decided to get the word out!
Intestinal parasites are exactly what the name implies; they are worms that live in the intestinal tract (heartworms are worms that live in the heart). Roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms are the most common intestinal parasites in our geographical area.
Roundworms and hookworms are very common in puppies and kittens as they are transmitted from their mother while they are in the uterus or through the mother’s milk. The adult worms live in the intestinal tract most of their lives and produce microscopic eggs that pass in the feces. Did you know that one female roundworm can produce more than 100,000 eggs per day? Only under severe infestation or after deworming will you see adult worms passed in the stool. These two parasites can also be transmitted to people, especially children, as they are often less careful about hygiene, more likely to put their hands in their mouths and commonly play in potentially contaminated soil. A recent study revealed that 14% of the human population is infected with these parasites.
Tapeworms got their name because they are thin and flat, like strips of tape. A tapeworms body is made of jointed segments which detach and are seen around the pet’s rectum or in their stool and they look like rice segments. These segments cannot infect other cats or dogs. The only way that dogs and cats become infected is by eating an infected flea or rodent. Therefore, a flea eradication program is important to prevent further infestation.
There are many oral and some topical medications used to treat intestinal parasites. A few of these products are available over the counter and unfortunately, don’t work very well. Now to the main point of this entire article: I believe that many people go to the store and get dewormer for their pets and believe that they are also treating their pet for heartworms. Heartworm prevention is a prescription only medication, which means you must get it from your veterinarian. Heartworm prevention and medication to treat intestinal parasites are relatively inexpensive and prevent transmission to other animals and, most importantly, humans. Ask your veterinarian about the products that they recommend.
“It’s too expensive.” “They should be allowed to have at least one litter.” “I can make money selling the puppies.” These are just a few of the reasons we hear for why people haven’t spayed or neutered their pet, with the cost being the most frequently heard reason. People still believe that it just costs too much to get their pet spayed or neutered. What they fail to realize is the enormous cost of not getting their pet fixed. Unfortunately, we see it nearly every day, especially in the spring.
It usually starts out with a very pregnant momma cat or dog. The owner calls and says she has been in labor for three days and still no pups/kittens. After an exam and testing the momma dog is rushed into surgery with an infected uterus (Pyometra,) a condition that can be fatal if untreated. Surgery and antibiotics can cost hundreds of dollars to treat a condition that could be avoided with a simple spay.
We also see female cats that have been attacked by intact toms hoping to either abort the unborn kittens or destroy a new litter of kittens to bring the female back into a heat cycle. Not only do we then have to contend with the physical wounds and injuries of these fights, but there becomes a real concern about the spread of diseases such as distemper, feline leukemia, feline aids, or even rabies.
We get panicked phone calls from owners of small dogs who have bred with much larger dogs, and the owners have waited until the mom dog is in mid-delivery to worry about if the pups might be too big for her to deliver naturally. Trying to find a vet who can perform a C-section on short notice can be costly and near impossible in some communities. All because someone thought their female should be allowed to experience motherhood at least once.
Pure breed puppies can be wildly expensive, especially if you don’t educate yourself on both the breed and the breeder. Dogs seen as money makers will be overbred, causing harm to both the moms and the pups. Without informed and careful attention to health conditions, breeders can create weakened bloodlines that result in litter after litter of pups with chronic conditions such as skin allergies, kidney disease, behavior issues, and heart conditions. People who buy these pups are entering a lifetime of chronic illness and facing the financial responsibility of treating these issues for the lifetime of their dog.
Dogs and cats that are not spayed or neutered can ultimately have hundreds of offspring, all of which are likely to contract some illness while living on the streets. Puppies can go from fun-loving and healthy to full-blown Parvo in no time, which can be fatal if left untreated. Having a pup contract Parvo while living with you can also be a death sentence to future pups, as the virus can live for up to a year in the soil in your yard. Treating Parvo requires a dedicated and attentive vet staff providing hospitalization and hourly attention, often for several days, all of which is an expensive endeavor.
Every spring, we see waves of kittens come through the clinic, foundlings that have lost their moms. Upper respiratory infections are almost a given, which can progress to lung infections, neurological issues, and ultimately, death. Kittens that survive to be weaned and become members of feral colonies can contract and spread numerous diseases, including bobcat fever, a nearly 100% fatal infection contracted through a tick bite.
Every year we see puppies, and kittens suffer needlessly. Spayed and neutered pet’s mean not only preventing an increase in the feral population but preventing the spread of illness and disease. It means keeping your existing pets healthier. It means less worry about pets developing conditions and cancers later in life.
There are numerous programs out there to offset, if not completely absorb the cost of spaying and neutering your pet. Don’t get caught up in the notion that every animal deserves to be a mom at least once, or that there aren’t real concerns for the future health issues an intact pet may face. Being a responsible pet owner starts at the very beginning. Test your newly adopted cat for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus and Feline Leukemia and your newly adopted dog for heartworms and tick-transmitted diseases. Schedule your vaccines as recommended get your pet spayed and neutered when they are old enough. Investing in that first year of pet ownership can help ensure a long and healthy life with your new family member, and that can be priceless in the long run.
External parasites are a major problem for pets in Oklahoma during the summer months. I bet there are a few things in this article that you didn’t know. The main take away is to protect your pet so they don’t get sick.
Did you know that a single flea can bite your pet 400 times a day, drink more than its body weight in blood and produce hundreds of eggs each day? Besides causing skin and allergy issues, fleas can transmit tapeworms to your pet. When you see fleas on your pet, you only see 5% of their population. The other 95%, (consisting of eggs, larvae, and pupae) are living in the environment, such as your carpet, couch, and grass. Weather permitting, new adult fleas emerge every 2 weeks.
Ticks are not only disgusting but also dangerous. They can transmit several different blood parasites that can be life-threatening to you and your pet. Recently, a new tick-transmitted disease called Bobcat Fever has been discovered in our area. This illness is 100% fatal to cats. Did you know that when a tick bites your pet, the anesthetic in their saliva keeps the bite from hurting and contains an anticoagulant that keeps the blood flowing? Some life stages of the tick can be so small that they can be difficult to see.
Heartworms are transmitted from animal to animal via mosquitoes. Did you know that mosquitoes are the number one disease carrier to humans in the world and ticks are number two in the United States? Mosquitoes have a multitude of sensors designed to detect their prey – including heat, chemical, and visual sensors.
For you and your pet’s safety, strict control of external parasites is paramount. There are many products available, prescription and over the counter, that control flea, ticks, and mosquitoes. For successful treatment, all pets in the area need to be treated as well as the environment. Prescription products are typically more expensive but much more effective and last longer than over the counter products. If you have a cat, make sure the product is labeled for cats, as certain types can be life-threatening. If you are having problems controlling fleas and ticks, contact your veterinarian for advice.