Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Understanding And Preventing Heartworm Disease

One of the most common, dangerous and yet easily prevented diseases that our beloved pets can catch is heartworm disease. Learn about heartworm disease, the symptoms and preventative treatments here; to keep your pets healthy and active all year round.

What Is Heartworm Disease?

Heartworms are parasitic worms that live in the heart and nearby blood vessels, causing decreased blood flow to the heart and other major organs. In severe cases heartworms can grow up to 12in long and .8in thick in populations of over 200. Overtime, and if not treated, heartworm disease can cause:

  • Damage to the lining of the artery leading from the heart to the lungs (pulmonary artery)
  • Clogging of the pulmonary artery
  • Heart valve malfunction
  • Heart enlargement and failure; causing death

How Do Dogs Get Heartworm?

The spread of heartworm begins when an infected dog is bitten by a mosquito, which then results in that mosquito being infected. When that infected mosquito bites another dog, the mosquito spreads the infection. In the newly infected dog, it will take between six and seven months for the infective larvae to mature to adult heartworms. The adult heartworms mate and the females release their offspring into the host’s bloodstream, completing the lifecycle. 

Heartworm disease is not contagious, meaning that a dog can’t catch the disease from being near an infected dog. Heartworm disease is only spread through the bite of a mosquito, which makes it difficult to monitor without an effective preventative treatment plan. 

Symptoms of Heartworm Disease

Often very subtle and tricky to detect, the initial symptoms of heartworm disease can be very mild. Early in the disease progression, there may not be any symptoms at all, which is part of what makes heartworm such a difficult disease to diagnose. As heartworm disease progresses from stage one through to stage four, treatment methods become increasingly more severe and invasive.

Stage One: No symptoms or mild symptoms such as an occasional cough.

Stage Two: Mild to moderate symptoms such as an occasional cough and tiredness after moderate activity.

Stage Three: General loss of body condition, a persistent cough, and tiredness after mild activity. Trouble breathing and signs of heart failure are common. For class 2 and 3 heartworm disease, heart and lung changes are usually seen on chest x-rays.

Stage Four: Also called ‘caval syndrome’. The severity of the worm burden will physically block blood flowing back to the heart, due to the large mass of worms. Caval syndrome is life-threatening and quick surgical removal of the heartworms is the only treatment option. The surgery is highly risky, and even with surgery, most pets with caval syndrome die.

Heartworm Prevention

The good news is that this detrimental disease can be easily prevented and there are a variety of treatment options available. However, it is very important to understand that preventive treatments will not kill adult heartworms. If a heartworm-positive dog is not tested before starting a preventive, the dog will remain infected with adult heartworms until it gets ill enough to show symptoms. Also, giving heartworm preventive to a dog that has an adult heartworm infection may be harmful or deadly. Annual testing of all dogs on heartworm prevention is recommended. Talk to your veterinarian about the best time for your dog’s annual heartworm test.

Once your pet is cleared of heartworm disease, there are a range of options to provide your pet with year round protection from this deadly disease. These include:

  • Heartgard Plus chews can be fed to your dog, once a month, year round
  • Tablets can also be taken monthly; Generic Heartgard or Valueheart
  • Alternatively, Revolution or Advocate external pipettes can be applied to the skin once a month. An added bonus in using these preventatives is they also treat fleas and various other intestinal worms.
  • More frequent preventative treatments like Dimmitrol tablets can be administered daily
Have you ever wondered why your cat chooses to run laps of the house at 3 A.M? Click here to read more.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Winter Joint Pain

During the cooler months does your dog prefer to curl up rather than play fetch? A sudden reduction in activity can trigger joint pain and joint problems in pets. It’s important as pet owners to monitor your fur friends and know how to spot the signs of joint pain. By following a few simple steps and becoming familiar with arthritic and joint pain warning signs, you can help put a stop to your pet’s aches and pains this winter.

What Causes Joint Problems in Pets?

Fun and games or fun and pain? Your dog’s joints can take a real pounding when chasing after that tennis ball or jumping off the back deck. For some dogs this can be a significant problem that may lead to joint-related problems such as ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tears or even osteoarthritis. 
The two major categories of joint related problems are developmental and degenerative problems. In dogs, developmental problems affect the ongoing functional developmental milestones. This can be things such as hip or elbow dysplasia, where the joint does not develop correctly in a number of different aspects. Degenerative problems cover many areas, however the most common cause of arthritis in dogs is cruciate ligament problems. This is when the ligament degenerates over time and causes instability and secondary osteoarthritis.  


You may notice that your pet is doing less or perhaps showing difficulty when performing standard activities. You may also notice your pet now has a problem with getting up on the couch, or maybe going up the stairs. For others it may be that they can no longer play or go on walks as long as they use to. From here it can progress to overt lameness (holding the limb up or in an abnormal way). These are the most common symptoms your pets may show- rarely will you see overt pain as the first complaint.  

How Can You Help And Prevent Your Pet From Having Joint Problems?

Joint problems can’t be reversed once they have been attained, however there are ways to slow down the progression and possibility of greater problems. Here are five ways to help keep your pet’s joints healthy:

Start Early

Joint problems in most cases develop as a result of injury much earlier in life, even when your pet is a puppy or kitten. Excessive exercise, jumping too high, and running too hard before a puppy’s bones and joints are mature can injure the joints. Try ensuring that you monitor and set boundaries to your young pet’s exercise and play routines.

Make Environmental Accommodations

No matter what the age or size of your pup is they can still hurt themselves when jumping from high surfaces. Try making it easier for your dogs to do what they love without risking injury. For example, provide a dog ramp when getting out of the car, or offer them a footstool so they don’t have to risk the full distance of the leap (keeping in mind that they actually are willing to use these alternatives). 

Treat Injuries Promptly

As suggested by Veterinarians, it is vital to treat any suspected joint injury immediately to reduce and prevent the worsening of joint problems as your pet ages. This may involve forced rest, specific Dog Joint Supplements or Cat Joint Supplements or event surgical repair. 

Keep Pets Moving

Exercise feeds the joints by pumping natural lubrication into the areas being used. Gentle exercise keeps joints limber, and assists with keeping your pets fit and healthy. Joints can stiffen after naps, especially in the cooler months, so it can help to provide a heated bed or a gentle massage and stretch each morning to get your pet ready for the day ahead. Also noting in the cooler months to maintain and continue your usual walk routine, just don’t forget your jackets! 

Feed Appropriate Food

Overfeeding or providing your pet with a poor diet can lead to obesity. Excess weight adds strain on pet’s joints’, which results in greater energy needed as well as pain when performing standard movements. Choosing the correct diet or adding Joint-Supporting Dietary Supplements can slow down the progression or even prevent joint problems in your pets. 

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