Recent Educational Articles

Fear of Fireworks

The summer is full of celebrations involving fireworks especially of the 4th of July. Dogs and cats react to fireworks. Some aren’t upset by the explosions, and others can get hurt by panicking and jumping through closed windows or bolting through doors to get away from the terrifying noise and lights.

The 4th of July Day is the busiest day of the year in shelters, and that many pets get lost, injured.  You should know which clinics or emergency hospitals will be open during fireworks season, in case you need one, as this will help you avoid time delays and stress.

Signs of anxiety

The can include pacing, trembling, panting, drooling, attention-seeking, vocalizing, pawing, nuzzling, and climbing on people, hiding, and bolting. Escape attempts tend to involve hiding behind furniture, and staying in a basement or bathroom. Because the source of the noise is confusing, inside dogs may want to escape to the outside and outside dogs may be frantic to get inside.

Nervous pets tend to drink more water, so keep more available than usual. Remember these summer events usually mean hotter weather so extra water is already a good idea. Bring outside pets inside so they can’t bolt. Keep your cats securely inside and if your dog needs a potty break during the fireworks, take him outside on a leash. Make sure all your pets are wearing an ID tag or a collar that contains your phone number. Tags and collars can be lost so a microchip is even more useful in helping you find your lost pet.

Drug-Free Remedies

What can you do to keep your frightened pet safe and calm? For many frightened pets, just staying in a crate as long as they are used to one or in a safe room with a closed door is all that’s needed.

Synthetic pheromone sprays for cats and dogs are available at pet stores. These sprays imitate the properties of the natural pheromones of the lactating female that gives kittens or puppies a sense of well-being.

Some pets respond to some commercially available pressure wraps . The pressure on the body may have a calming effect.

In behavior modification controlling the intensity of the fireworks is necessary and often the most challenging part. While it often isn’t possible to expose a fearful dog to only little fireworks, controlling other factors can help. Distance from the fireworks can be less intimidating, as would be keeping the dog indoors.  Music may disguise the bursts of noise; consider loud music with a regular beat.

Classical counter conditioning can create a positive association with fireworks if the anxiety isn’t extreme. Give high-value food rewards (canned food or peanut butter), offer your pet his favorite toys or food puzzle toys, or have your pet practice his tricks with you. The goal is for him to learn that fireworks result in highly pleasant rewards. You can teach a desirable coping response. The appropriate response for a dog facing something frightening is to retreat to a safe place until the frightening thing ends. Providing a safe retreat, such as a crate or a closet, will give security and confidence, although selecting the location is up to the pet. Blankets to muffle the sound and a pheromone diffuser will provide natural motivation for the dog to seek this location. Being able to cope when the world becomes overwhelming is a life skill essential for both people and dogs!  Hiding is not a sign of a problem, if the pet quickly returns to a normal behavior when the fireworks are over.

Medication

It’s easier to prevent a fearful reaction than it is to reverse one. If your pet is nervous around loud, unexpected noises, a short-term sedative before the fireworks start may be just the ticket. Talk to your veterinarian ahead of time, so you can have something on hand to give your pet before the fireworks start. Some severely anxious pets may benefit from drugs that increase the level of serotonin. However, these drugs can take several weeks, if not more, to build up to an effective level, so this is not a quick fix. We can help you decide which products may work the best for your pet.

You have many choices of how to help your pet cope with fireworks stress.  Talk to us about what is best for your pet. Hopefully, everyone in the family will then be able enjoy the holiday!

Why Is Heartworm Prevention Important?

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease in pets in the United States and many other parts of the world. It is caused by foot-long worms (heartworms) that live in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of affected pets, causing severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body. Heartworm disease affects dogs, cats and ferrets, but heartworms also live in other mammal species, including wolves, coyotes, foxes, sea lions and—in rare instances—humans. Because wild species such as foxes and coyotes live in proximity to many urban areas, they are considered important carriers of the disease.

Dogs. The dog is a natural host for heartworms, which means that heartworms that live inside the dog mature into adults, mate and produce offspring. If untreated, their numbers can increase, and dogs have been known to harbor several hundred worms in their bodies. Heartworm disease causes lasting damage to the heart, lungs and arteries, and can affect the dog’s health and quality of life long after the parasites are gone. For this reason, prevention is by far the best option, and treatment—when needed—should be administered as early in the course of the disease as possible.

Cats. Heartworm disease in cats is very different from heartworm disease in dogs. The cat is an atypical host for heartworms, and most worms in cats do not survive to the adult stage. Cats with adult heartworms typically have just one to three worms, and many cats affected by heartworms have no adult worms. While this means heartworm disease often goes undiagnosed in cats, it’s important to understand that even immature worms cause real damage in the form of a condition known as heartworm associated respiratory disease (HARD). Moreover, the medication used to treat heartworm infections in dogs cannot be used in cats, so prevention is the only means of protecting cats from the effects of heartworm disease.

My pet spends all of his time indoors, so I don’t have to worry, right?

All it takes is one mosquito bite from the wrong mosquito and your dog or cat can become infected. In dogs, it may take up to 6-7 years to develop illness, or just several months, depending on how many bites and thus how many adult worms.  In cats, all it takes is one worm to cause signs, and since the most common sign of heartworm disease in cats is up 2-3 years or sudden death, you may never know there was a problem until it is too late.

How can I tell if my pet has heartworm disease?

In the early stages of the disease, many dogs show few symptoms or no symptoms at all. The longer the infection persists; the more likely symptoms will develop. Active dogs, dogs heavily infected with heartworms, or those with other health problems often show pronounced clinical signs.

Signs of heartworm disease may include a mild persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after moderate activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss. As heartworm disease progresses, pets may develop heart failure and the appearance of a swollen belly due to excess fluid in the abdomen. Dogs with large numbers of heartworms can develop a sudden blockages of blood flow within the heart leading to a life-threatening form of cardiovascular collapse. This is called caval syndrome, and is marked by a sudden onset of labored breathing, pale gums, and dark bloody or coffee-colored urine. Without prompt surgical removal of the heartworm blockage, few dogs survive.

How can I protect my pet from Heartworm infection?

Whether the preventive you choose is given as a pill, a spot-on topical medication or as an injection, all approved heartworm medications work by eliminating the immature (larval) stages of the heartworm parasite. This includes the infective heartworm larvae deposited by the mosquito as well as the following larval stage that develops inside the animal. Unfortunately, in as little as 51 days, immature heartworm larvae can molt into an adult stage, which cannot be effectively eliminated by preventives. Because heartworms must be eliminated before they reach this adult stage, it is extremely important that heartworm preventives be administered strictly on schedule (monthly for oral and topical products and every 6 months for the injectable). Administering prevention late can allow immature larvae to molt into the adult stage, which is poorly prevented.

Online Pet Store in Carmel: Beagle sitting outside

What is Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a disease caused by infection with Leptospira bacteria. These bacteria can be found worldwide in soil and water. There are many strains of Leptospira bacteria that can cause disease. Leptospirosis is a ZOONOTIC disease, which means it can be spread from animals to people. Infection in people can cause flu-like symptoms and can cause liver or kidney disease. In the United States, most cases of human leptospirosis result from recreational activities involving water. Infection resulting from contact with an infected pet is much less common, but it is possible.

Leptospirosis is more common in areas with warm climates and high annual rainfall but it can occur anywhere.

Risk factors for Leptospirosis

Dogs are most commonly affected. Leptospirosis in cats is rare and appears to be mild although very little is known about the disease in this species. Common risk factors for leptospirosis in dogs residing in the United States include exposure to or drinking from rivers, lakes or streams; roaming on rural properties (because of exposure to potentially infected wildlife, farm animals, or water sources); exposure to wild animal or farm animal species, even if in the backyard; and contact with rodents or other dogs.

Dogs can become infected and develop leptospirosis if their mucous membranes (or skin with any wound, such as a cut or scrape) come into contact with infected urine, urine-contaminated soil, water, food or bedding; through a bite from an infected animal; by eating infected tissues or carcasses; and rarely, through breeding. It can also be passed through the placenta from the mother dog to the puppies.

Treatment and prevention

Leptospirosis is generally treated with antibiotics and supportive care. When treated early and aggressively, the chances for recovery are good but there is still a risk of permanent residual kidney or liver damage.

Currently available vaccines effectively prevent leptospirosis and protect dogs for at least 12 months. Annual vaccination is recommended for at-risk dogs. Reducing your dog’s exposure to possible sources of the Leptospira bacteria can reduce its chances of infection.

Although an infected pet dog presents a low risk of infection for you and your family, there is still some risk. If your dog has been diagnosed with leptospirosis, take the following precautions to protect yourself:

  • Administer antibiotics as prescribed by your veterinarian;
  • Avoid contact with your dog’s urine
  • If your dog urinates in your home, quickly clean the area with a household disinfectant and wear gloves to avoid skin contact with the urine
  • Encourage your dog to urinate away from standing water or areas where people or other animals will have access
  • Wash your hands after handling your pet.

If you are ill or if you have questions about leptospirosis in people, consult your physician.