My Dog Spends Most of its Time in the House. Why Do I Need Heartworm Preventatives?
Heartworm disease is a devastating, potentially fatal parasitic infection that is caused by the bite of an infected mosquito. As you have probably experienced, it does not take long outside in the warm months to be bitten by a mosquito, and it is very easy for a mosquito to get inside your house.
With the variable winters we have had recently, there is no guarantee that mosquitoes will not survive the colder months as well. Heartworm disease is treatable, however, the treatment is dangerous and requires hospitalization followed by extreme activity restriction for months afterward.
However, heartworm disease is entirely preventable by giving a tasty beef chew once monthly. Not only does the heartworm preventative stop heartworms from infecting your dog, but it also helps prevent your dog from picking up intestinal worms from outside. As intestinal worms can be transmitted to your family members, especially small children and the elderly, it is very important to keep your dog parasite-free.
My Dog is on Year-Round Heartworm Preventative. Why Do I Need to Do an Annual Heartworm Check?
We follow the recommendations of the American Heartworm Association, which advises once yearly heartworm checks, or anytime prior to restarting preventative if treatment has lapsed. Heartworm preventatives are antibiotics, and while they are highly safe and effective, there is a risk of the development of antibiotic resistant heartworms that may eventually begin to elude our normal preventatives.
It is also common for people to forget to give a dose from time to time, leaving their pet open to infection. Some dogs are very clever about taking their pill and then hiding it somewhere in the house or outside. Some dogs could have a subclinical viral infection that disrupts the normal metabolism of the preventative by the liver, rendering the dose ineffective.
There are numerous reasons why you may not be able to guarantee that your pet has gotten every dose of preventative during the year. There is a risk associated with giving heartworm preventative to a heartworm positive dog, potentially turning a heartworm into a deadly embolism (like a blot clot). In addition, as the manufacturers guarantee the efficacy of their product when given monthly, if your pet were to contract heartworm disease while taking the preventative, the company will pay for all costs incurred in treating the disease, but only if there is a record of a negative heartworm check each year in your pet’s history. Please visit www.heartwormsociety.org.
Do You Recommend Spaying and Neutering All Pets Who Will Not Be Bred?
Absolutely, spaying or neutering your pet when it reaches 6 months of age will prevent a number of health problems in the future. For example, if you spay your dog or cat before its first heat cycle, you dramatically reduce the probability of malignant mammary gland tumor development down the line. If you do it prior to the first heat, the probability is less than 1%. That probability increases with each heat cycle.
In addition, during a heat cycle, the uterus can develop cysts on the uterine wall, and fluid produced during the cycle begins to build up within the uterus. Over time, that fluid can become a breeding ground for bacteria, leading to an infectious condition called a pyometra, which is a surgical emergency. As for males, by neutering early, not only do you avoid the development of unwanted sexual characteristics like urine spraying/marking, aggression, wanderlust, and “humping” behaviors, but you help protect the prostate gland from enlargement and infection.
In older non-neutered males, the prostate, which wraps around the urethra, will enlarge, putting pressure on the urethra and causing urine leaking and straining to urinate. The enlarged prostate is also much more likely to develop prostate infections, which can be very painful. Finally, neutering can prevent the development of testicular tumors.
I Want to Breed My Female Dog. What Should I Do?
First of all, remember that dog breeding is a lot of work! It can also be very expensive, especially if your dog has a difficult labor, which could result in a C-section. It is also important to remember that you want to wait at least until your dog is 24 months old, so she is physically developed enough to withstand the stressors of pregnancy.
For larger breed dogs such as labrador retrievers, you should consider having her hips certified by OFA to decrease the possibility of breeding dogs with hip dysplasia. This certification can be done at 24 months of age. Also consider whether your dog has any other medical issues that could be passed on to puppies, such as allergies, “trick knees” (luxating patellas), or temperament issues.
Finally, if you have a non-neutered male dog in the same house as your female, you must remember to keep them separated to prevent accidental breeding before the female has matured enough. Young mothers can face increased risks both during pregnancy and during nursing.
My Cat is an Indoor-Only Cat Who Never Goes Outside. Why Do I Need to Vaccinate Him/Her?
We believe in tailoring vaccine protocols to each patient, so your indoor-only cat will not receive the same vaccines as an outdoor cat. However, we do advise that even indoor cats be vaccinated with a Feline Rhinotracheitis-Calici-Panlekopenia-Chlamydia Psittaci Vaccine (commonly called the “feline distemper” vaccine) and a Rabies Vaccine.
Feline Distemper is a serious, often fatal disease that is extremely stable in the environment (studies have shown it to last as long as 30 years), and it can be carried in to your cat on your shoes or clothing. Not only is a rabies vaccine required for all cats, dogs, and ferrets by state law, regardless of whether or not your pet goes out, but rabies is a serious human health risk. It is invariably fatal, and if your pet is exposed to the virus, all humans who may have contacted the pet will require post-exposure treatment for rabies. In addition, if your pet is not current on its rabies vaccine and either bites a human or sustains a bite wound from a suspicious animal or animal of unknown origin, you may be legally required to quarantine your pet or have your pet humanely euthanized for rabies testing. We have had several unfortunate cases in the past several years where a cat accidentally escapes from the house and is bitten by a wild animal, or a normally docile pet suddenly bites a person, and because the pet was not current on its rabies vaccine, for the sake of the family members of the pet, the pet had to be euthanized and tested. The feline rabies vaccine is given annually and is given for free at vaccine clinics sponsored by the township in the spring. There is absolutely no excuse for not keeping your pet up to date on its rabies vaccine.
I Have Decided to Allow My Cat to Go Outdoors. What Vaccines Would be Recommended?
There is one additional vaccine that we recommend for cats who go outside the Feline Leukemia (FeLV) vaccine. This is a viral infection that is incurable, fatal, and transmitted by cat-to-cat contact.
Feline Leukemia can be transmitted through bite wounds, mutual grooming and shared food bowls and litter pans.
Prior to vaccination, a blood test will be performed to confirm that your cat is not presently infected, then the series of vaccine boosters can begin. The FeLV vaccine can be administered annually.
Are There any Other Recommendations for Outdoor Cats?
We do advise annual fecal examinations for intestinal parasites, as well as routine dewormings. We also recommend using Frontline Plus for cats, to prevent fleas and ticks. It has been found that “cat scratch disease”, which is a skin infection people develop after a cat scratch, is actually caused when flea dirt (dried blood particles in the coat of an animal with fleas) is injected under the skin from the cat’s nail.
Fleas are also a source of tapeworms in cats and dogs. Tick bites can transfer a number of infectious diseases, including Hemobartonella, which causes anemia in cats.
What Vaccines are Recommended for Dogs in This Area?
Just as with cats, we like to tailor a vaccine protocol specifically for each dog. The two vaccines we recommend for all dogs, whether they spend any time outside or not, are the canine distemper vaccine and the rabies vaccine.
The canine distemper vaccine is actually shorthand for a vaccine that protects your dog from a number of dangerous infections, including distemper (which attacks the nervous, respiratory, and gastrointestinal tracts and is usually fatal), parvovirus (a severe gastrointestinal infection that causes bloody diarrhea) and a hepatitis virus (which attacks the liver). These infections do not always require direct contact to spread.
As discussed above, the rabies vaccine is required by state law for every dog. Rabies is a serious human health risk. It is invariably fatal, and if your pet is exposed to the virus, all humans who may have contacted the pet will require post-exposure treatment for rabies. In addition, if your pet is not current on its rabies vaccine and either bites a human or sustains a bite wound from a suspicious animal or animal of unknown origin, you may legally be required to quarantine your pet or have your pet humanely euthanized for rabies testing.
A rabies vaccine is good for two years (after a dog is over 1 year of age), and is given for free at rabies vaccine clinics offered by the township every spring. There is absolutely no excuse for not keeping your dog up to date on its rabies vaccine.
There are 3 optional vaccines that we administer to dogs if it is appropriate. The first is the Lyme vaccine, for protection against Lyme disease. Unfortunately we live in an area with high rate of Lyme disease, but the vaccine is safe and effective.
If your dog spends any time in grasses, brush, in the woods, or at the beach where ticks are commonly found, we highly recommend the Lyme vaccine. The second optional vaccine is the Bordatella vaccine, which is required for dogs that will be going to a boarding facility or doggy day care.
It is often recommended for dogs that frequently go to the groomer as well. Finally, a vaccine for a bacterial infection known as Leptospirosis is available. This vaccine is recommended for hunting dogs and dogs that have access to standing water that can become contaminated by urine of an infected dog, raccoon, skunk, horse, or small rodent. Your dog must drink the contaminated water or have it contact mucus membranes (such as the eye, nose, or open wounds) to become infected.
Leptospirosis can be transmitted to people, and it causes liver and kidney failure. If your dog can drink standing water with wildlife access, we recommend the leptospirosis vaccine.
Lyme Vaccines in People Were Known to Cause Signs of Illness and Are No Longer Available. Why is There a Lyme Vaccine for Dogs, and is It safe?
are aware that the Lyme vaccine used in people had its problems and is no longer available. However, the Lyme vaccine we use in dogs is both safe and effective.
When Lyme bacteria are injected into a vaccinated dog’s bloodstream, the antibodies formed against the surface protein destroy that protein, rendering the bacteria unable to attach themselves to cells in the bloodstream to establish infection.