Red Roof Animal Hospital
   

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DOES YOUR PET HAVE WORMS?
Internal parasites, commonly known as "worms," are more widespread in our pets than we'd like to imagine. Internal parasites can affect your pet in a variety of negative ways,  ranging from minor irritation to life threatening illness. In addition to being detrimental to your pet, internal parasites can also be a threat to your human family. The most common internal parasites found in our pets are roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms,heartworms, and coccidia.

Symptoms:  Weight loss, diarrhea, bloody stools, "pot belly" appearance, poor hair coat, and presence of worms in stool or vomit.  Roundworms look like cooked spaghetti and can be passed in stool or vomit.  Tapeworms look like rice and are often attached to you pet's hair around the anus.

How Does my pet get worms?:  Pets ingest parasites from hunting or scavenging on wildlife.  Your pet can also get parasites from other dogs or cats that are harboring them, by walking through infected stool and then licking their feet.  A dog that likes to get tootsie rolls out of the kitty litter box can get any parasites the cat may have.  Puppies and kittens get infected by drinking their mothers milk if she has a parasite problem. 

Diagnosis:  A fresh fecal sample is the best way for you veterinarian to identify if your pet has any parasites.  The stool sample needs to be from the same day, and cannot be frozen.  For cats that use the litter box the sample needs to be fresh and with as little litter as possible. 

Treatment:  Not all parasites are treated with the same medication.  There are liquids, pills, and even some injections that will treat different parasites. 

Prevention:  To prevent your pet from getting parasites you can do a few simple things.  Keep you dog on a leash when in unfamiliar areas, pick up all stool in your yard on a regular basis, and keep cats as indoor only animals.  Also you can keep your pet on a monthly  year round heartworm/deworming  combination medicine.  These are available by prescription at your veterinarian's office.

Human Implications:  Parasites that your pets can get don't always just affect the pet,  we are at risk too.  Children who play in sandboxes and gardens are most at risk of coming into contact with infected fecal material.  Without knowing they will touch their mouth and could be at risk.  In humans the parasites can get off course and migrate through the skin to eyes and lungs.  There is an organisim called Toxoplasma gondii that is associated with cat stools that can cause birth defects if a women becomes infected while pregnant.  

 
HEARTWORM INFECTION:                                                                                                                               
Heartworms are common in dogs throughout the United States and are increasingly being recognized as a problem in cats as well. If contracted heartworm infection is life threatening, but the good news is it is 100 percent preventable. Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes, and once mature, take up residence in the large vessels around the heart and lungs. The adult female heartworm can measure from 9-16 inches in length. Animals infected with heartworms exhibit signs such as shortness of breath, coughing, exercise intolerance, and wheezing. If left untreated, heartworms are fatal. Animals may show no symptoms until the heartworms are well established, so it is important to have a yearly heartworm screen performed to catch infection early. Heartworm screening can be done at any veterinarian's office. It involves a quick blood draw and an in house test allow us to have results in 10 minutes. Heartworms are currently treatable in dogs but not in cats, so it is very important to keep dogs and cats on a monthly heartworm preventative, such as Heartgard. It is much more cost effective to give a monthly preventative then to pay for the costly treatment of heartworm infection. Changing weather patterns and natural disasters may actually be increasing the heartworm positive cases. Hurricane Katrina left many dogs homeless and these dogs were dispersed throughout the United States. Many of the Katrina dogs were heartworm positive and now have brought heartworm to areas where it was less prevalent. Mosquitoes that feed off these infected dogs can then spread it to your dog if they are left unprotected.


 TOXOPLASMA:
Many people have heard the warning that pregnant women should not be cleaning the cat litter box, but do you know why? The reason is Toxoplasma gondii, a protozoa that is passed into the environment through an infected cat's feces and can be picked up by humans accidently. The more common source of Toxoplasma infection is from eating and handling raw or undercooked lamb and pork. In the United Staes, approximately 10-20 percent of the population has the organisms in their body. In healthy individuals the organism may cause symptoms similar to influenza for a couple of days. In women who are pregnant the organism can cross the placenta and depending on the stage of pregnancy can cause miscarriage, blindness in the child, or a range of neurological symptoms. Women who are infected prior to pregnancy are immune to re-infection and the organism will not harm to the unborn child. Cancer patients on immune suppressant treatments and HIV patients are also at risk of more serious illness due to this organism. Prevention is simple. Don't eat raw meat, wash hands after handling raw meat, wear gloves while gardening, and always wash your hands. Women who are pregnant should wear gloves while cleaning out the litter box and then wash hands well. Cleaning the cat box once to twice a day also decreases risk of infection, because for the protozoa to be infectious it takes at least 24 hours after being passed in the stool. Of course the risk free way is to have someone else clean the litter box.


 CHOCOLATE TOXICITY:
Chocolate is potentially lethal to your dog if too much is ingested. Chocolate contains the ingredient theobromine which is toxic. The amount of theobromine differs between milk chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, and baker's chocolate. Baking chocolate contains the most theobromine and is therefore the most toxic if ingested by your dog. Symptoms of chocolate toxicity range from vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, seizures, and death.
Toxic amounts:
Milk chocolate- 50 lb dog = 50 oz
Semisweet chocolate- 50 lb dog =15 oz
Baking chocolate- 50 lb dog = 5 oz
If your dog ingests chocolate call your veterinarian immediately for instructions on inducing vomiting. If a toxic dose is ingested your dog may require hospitalization with the administration of activated charcoal and fluids.


 BENEFITS OF SPAY/NEUTER:
The decision to have your pet spayed or neutered is one of the healthiest choices you can make for your pet as well as your community due to the large number of unwanted animals. Millions of animals are euthanized in our nation's shelters annually and surgical sterilization is the only 100% effective method of preventing pregnancy.

Spaying and neutering of your pet provides many health benefits. When a female is spayed before here first heat cycle at 6 months of age, her risk of developing mammary cancer is virtually eliminated. Another disease process that is eliminated is pyometra , an infection that sets up in the uterus, and can only be treated by emergency surgery. Intact female cats will find a way to get pregnant. The idea of keeping them indoors is fine, however once a cat goes into heat she remains that way until she is bred. While in heat she will posture, vocalize constantly and even start urinating around the house. At this point they either escape while a door is left open or they get thrown out because people do not like the behavior. The next thing we have is unwanted kittens. Spaying will prevent all of this.

Neutering prevents testicular cancer and reduces the risk of prostate cancer. Early spay and neuter also decreases the likelihood of your pet to want to roam. The hormonal urge to find a mate is eliminated and a pet that stays home is much less likely to get hit by a car, or shot by unhappy neighbors. Male aggression towards other dogs is dramatically decreased if neutered at 6 months of age. Neutered cats are less territorial and less likely to get into fights that can cause infected bite wounds, and transmission of deadly viruses such as Feline Leukemia and FIV.

Most of the perceived disadvantages to spaying and neutering are false. The most quoted of these are that "your pet will become fat and lazy." It is true that altered pets do not require as many daily calories as an unaltered animal, but obesity is the result of overfeeding and lack of physical activity, not spaying or neutering. Regulating your pet's diet and caloric intake are important to maintaining a healthy weight. There is no medical justification for the misconception that your female pet needs to have at least one litter before being spayed. Surgical sterilization doesn't cause a change in personality, intelligence, hunting ability, playfulness, or affection.


 LYME DISEASE:

Lyme disease is caused by the transmission of the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi from an infected deer tick to its host. Not every deer tick is infected with the bacteria but there is no way of knowing if the one on you or your pet is, so protection and removal are your best defense.  Infection has to be from the bite of a tick and cannot be transferred from pet to pet or pet to human.  An infected tick must be on its host between 24-48 hours for transmission to occur so prompt removal or using medications that kill ticks in contact with it are crucial.  In dogs the symptoms of lyme disease can vary but most commonly they include limping, which shifts from limb to limb and has sudden onset, fever, lethargy, and swelling of lymph nodes.  Dogs may not exhibit signs for 2-5 months post infection.  If left untreated lyme disease can lead to kidney disease and progress to kidney failure, which is lethal.  An annual vaccination is available for the prevention of Lyme disease in dogs.  This vaccine is recommended for those dogs that are at risk such as hunting dogs, dogs that are hiking companions, and dogs that live in grassy wooded areas.  Deer ticks are out in abundance during the cooler spring and  fall, however they have been documented to be found in every single month even in cold Minnesota winters.  If you suspect your dog has Lyme disease there is a quick in-house blood test that your veterinarian can perform to screen for the disease. If a dog is infected by the Lyme disease bacteria they are put on a course of antibiotics.  Tick prevention is the most important key to keeping your pet safe from Lyme disease. Unfortunately Lyme disease is not the only infection your dog can get from the bite of a tick and there is no available vaccine for the other infections.  Ask your veterinarian about waterproof topical products such as monthly Frontline to keep your pets safe. 

 FELINE LEUKEMIA VIRUS:
Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) is found in cats worldwide.  FeLV is one of the most important infectious viruses in cats.  Between 1-2% of the cat population is infected with the virus.  It is more commonly found in multiple cat households and cat colonies.  This virus is contagious between cats.  Transmission of the virus requires prolonged close contact.  The virus is shed in the saliva, and other bodily fluids such as urine and feces, therefore, cats that groom each other, share food bowls, and litter boxes are more prone to contracting the virus.  Cat bits are the easiest way to readily transmit the virus.  FeLV can suppress the immune system making it harder to fight off infection tha would normally not cause a problem in a healthy cat.  It can also cause life threatening anemia, abortion, neurologic signs, and cancer among many other disorders.  Some signs that you may see are inflammation of the gums (gingivitis), lethargy, fever,  diarrhea, and loss of appetite.  Most infected cats will not survive longer than 3-4 years after the initial diagnosis.  An easy blood test, performed by your veterinarian will give you accurate results.  There is currently no treatment for FeLV, most cats are euthanized or die from diseases related to the infection.  There is however, a vaccine to prevent FeLV, and it is highly recommended to cats that are exposed to the outdoors or in multiple cat households.