I am so glad to hear your dog's allergies got better with a diet change. It is great when you find a diet that really works. The best way to avoid these infections is by getting rid of the underlying cause - such as the allergy.View Thread
Most of the time, you won't need to call your vet about fleas and ticks. But, of course, there are times when visiting the vet's office is a must. Here are a few instances when you should call your vet:
1. You are applying flea and tick protection, and you are still seeing live fleas. Sometimes a certain product just does not work for your pet. You may also be seeing fleas and ticks if the products are not applied correctly, or is applied at incorrect intervals. You may see fleas even when the products are working, but are being overwhelmed by too many fleas and ticks in the environment. A phone call to your vet can help you figure out why you are seeing fleas. A vet can talk to you about how you should apply these products and how often, and may also recognize issues that might be preventing the product from working.
2. Your pet has a flea allergy or a very serious reaction to fleas. This happens often, and a couple of flea bites could send your allergic pet into a dangerous reaction. Pets with flea allergies often have to be treated aggressively with medication, or they will develop serious skin infections. If you see only one flea but your pet is tearing its fur out, then you should call your vet. If your pet has a flea allergy, or you suspect your pet has a flea allergy, treating him early could hopefully cut down on the amount of inflammation and discomfort he will have to endure.
3. Your pet becomes anemic due to long standing and overwhelming flea infestation. We call this "flea anemia". Believe it or not, fleas can bite so much as to reduce the number of red blood cells in your pet's system. This can be so serious that your pet could need a blood transfusion. So if you notice lots of fleas and your pet is very lethargic, then your pet needs to be evaluated to see how anemic she may be. If she is severely anemic, your vet will need to get rid of the fleas, and might also have to give her a blood transfusion.
4. You find a very large tick that has most likely been feeding on your pet for days. Usually these ticks are engorged and there will be a larger red circle on the skin around where the tick is attached. This concerns us because of the length of time the tick has been attached to the pet. Many tick-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease, will be spread only after the tick has been attached for 48 hours. When we see large ticks like this, I will typically look at some blood work to make sure the pet has not contracted one of the many of the tick-borne diseases.
5. Your pet is having a reaction to the flea and tick product you're using. The type of reaction typically depends on the active ingredient in the product. Some of the side effects include lethargy, weakness, staggering, disorientation, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, or hair loss at the site where the product was applied, and even in the worst case, death. We take all reactions to these products seriously, although most are not life threatening and can be treated successfully. However, these pets need to see the vet sooner than later.
6. You try to remove a tick and it does not go well. Your vet should be able to remove the rest of the tick before it causes a problem. Most of the time the body will do its job and breakdown any part of the tick that was left over after removal. However, it is always better to try to remove the rest of the tick before too much time has passed, in order to prevent infection.
If you have lingering concerns about a problem with fleas and ticks -- a problem that I did not list above -- be sure to give your veterinarian a call.View Thread
A hot spot is usually the result of a superficial bacterial skin infection in your pet. But these days, what you might think is just another hot spot could actually be evidence of a potentially dangerous Staph infection.
The two main types of Staph of concern for pets and pet owners are Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus pseudintermedius (MRSP). Here are a few facts that every pet owner should know about these bacteria: -- MRSA can move between animals and people. -- Although extremely rare, MRSP can cause infections in humans. If your immune system is compromised, there is more of a chance that you could catch this infection if your pet has it. -- In the past few years there has been a significant increase in the number of MRSP infections that are being reported in companion animals (cats, dogs, rabbits, horses, etc.). -- MRSA and MRSP can both be life threatening if not properly treated. -- MRSP appears to be growing more and more resistant to many of our popular antibiotics.
If your pet has had a history of hot spots that don't seem to heal with regular vet care, be sure she is being tested -- and treated if necessary -- for Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus.
Also, if your pet has MRSA or MRSP: -- Avoid contact with the infected area. Keep the infected area covered, if possible. -- Avoid contact with his mouth and nose, since many times the bacteria will be there -- no cuddling and kissing. -- Don't allow your pet to sleep with you or a family member. This increases exposure to the bacteria. -- Wash your hands frequently. -- Wash your pet's bed and playthings. -- If you have a compromised immune system, inform your veterinarian so you can discuss how best to protect yourself and your pet. Also, be sure to speak with your own physician.
We are learning new things about these bacteria all the time. So information on how to protect people and pets is constantly changing. Many veterinarians take a very proactive approach when dealing with such cases and will try to make sure everyone in the household is protected. We treat pets' infections aggressively and make sure all members of their families understand the potential problems that Staph infections can cause.
Always check with your veterinarian if you are concerned. New information is becoming available all the time. Also, remember that most hot spots are initially caused by fleas. So year-round flea control may help you and your pets avoid these types of infections completely.View Thread
Is it better to have an inside cat or an outside cat? This is a question I get all the time. But it really depends on the animal and the pet owner's situation.
Personally, I would prefer if all cats stayed inside and never went out. It's a rough and scary place out there, even in the best neighborhoods. Outdoor cats are up against cars, other cats, dogs, wildlife, and more. And don't forget all the parasites cats can pick up from being outside, or the possible exposure to both natural and man-made toxins. Not a day goes by in my practice when we are not treating an injured cat due to one of these hazards.
With that being said, I do understand that the outdoor-indoor decision is not always so black and white. My family cat, Sally, was a stray barn cat that someone brought to my office. She had just had kittens and had already lived a tough life outside. I fell in love with her. So I had her spayed, vaccinated, and cleaned her up. I brought her home to live with my family, and my plan was to keep her inside for the rest of her life. She would have regular meals, a clean litter box, and kids to play with -- a perfect and safe life.
My plan lasted all of one week. For the first week, she was happy indoors and loved all the attention. She got along with my kids and my dogs. But then she started standing by the door, wanting to get out. Having been a barn cat, she had some real street smarts. So when I tried to slip in and out of the front door, she learned to hide across the room and dart for the door when opened. And she was fast, so she got out often.
One day, when as I was trying to get her back inside, I noticed how she was just sitting on our deck, looking happy in the sun. Right then I realized that my everyday struggle to keep her inside was no good for either of us. She was much happier going outside. So I rethought my plan and concluded that there are some pets you just cannot keep indoors. She was miserable being inside all the time. And as soon as we started letting her out -- making her an indoor-outdoor cat -- she was happy.
In appreciation for my change of heart, she rewarded us daily with "gifts" that she'd catch outside. The only problem was that her "gifts" were usually alive, resulting in our having to chase a chipmunk, squirrel, bird, mole, and even a snake out of our house. My wife still hasn't recovered!
As a veterinarian, I would love for all pets to live inside in controlled environments without the exposure to so many outdoor dangers. But for many animals this is torture. If you have a cat like Sally, the best you can do is try to protect it as much as you can. Keep its flea, tick, and heartworm preventatives current. Try to get it to stay in your yard away from cars, and watch it carefully for any signs of trauma or abscesses.
What has influenced you to allow or prevent your cat from going outdoors? What steps do you take to keep your wandering cat as safe, healthy, and protected as you can?View Thread
In my practice, I deal with many pets that have behavioral problems, such as aggression and obsessive compulsive disorder. I've seen these behaviors get much worse when pets are agitated from skin disease and irritation, allergies, or other medical conditions.
One of my patients, Tiger, is a cat who is grumpy even on a good day. You can pet him, but it has to be quick. If you linger too long, you will get bitten. On top of his gloomy disposition, he also has seasonal allergies. So when his allergies flare up, he will attack even his owner. She walked into the same room with Tiger during one of his flares, and he actually ran over and bit her! After treating his allergies multiple times, we noticed that he calms down once they're under control. Since the owner is scared of him when his allergies are bad, I am very proactive about treating his allergies with antihistamines so that his behavior and demeanor remain more controlled.
I have canine patients who display symptoms of obsessive compulsive behavior, such as repetitive barking, excessive grooming, and circling. These behaviors, too, will often get much worse at times when pets are uncomfortable. Dogs may start barking incessantly. And their owners can't get them to stop until we deal with any additional issues. So when a pet in this situation is brought to me for a behavioral consult, in reality, she may need to be treated for an unforeseen medical condition first.
I have a few patients whose allergies trigger their excessive grooming behaviors. The grooming and licking can get so bad that pets will actually lick themselves raw or pull out all their fur. Once I have treated the condition, a pet sometimes will not stop licking his hotspots. This keeps the existing inflammation active and leads to a very frustrating cycle. Once we finally break the cycle, I do everything I can to keep the animal's skin issues under control from then on. Many of these pets are very sensitive to all allergens, such as fleas and ticks. So I make sure they have good flea and tick protection on all year round. Again, I want to do everything I can to prevent the cycle from starting again.
The connection between certain pet behaviors and wellness is understandable. I know when I don't feel well, I certainly have less tolerance for all types of annoyances. And why should our pets be any different? A pet that's in pain or is suffering from inflammation might do things that seem to be out of his nature, which is yet another reason to make sure our pets are cared for and comfortable. So, if your pet starts displaying unusual behavioral problems, always consider that there may be a medical condition that started the behavior. You cannot always just work on fixing the behavioral problem; you may have to investigate and treat an underlying medical condition before things will improve.
Have you ever had to deal with a pet's behavioral decline due to illness? Share your story about what you did for your furry friend.View Thread
Anyone who has ever found a tick on their pet (or on themselves) knows that these creatures can be really bothersome. They burrow into the skin of other creatures and actually feed and live on their blood. The CDC reports that ticks are found in every US state and that the number of tick-borne diseases is currently on the rise. To dispel some of the mystery, here are a few commonly-held myths about ticks and the facts that we have to debunk them.
Myth # 1:Ticks are insects. Ticks are actually parasites that belong to the arachnid family. An arachnid is classified as having eight legs, although the front legs of some species have converted to a sensory function. Ticks are joined in this class by other wonderful creatures such as spiders, scorpions, and mites.
Myth # 2:Ticks live in trees. Many people think that if they live in an urban setting -- where there are few trees -- their pets are safe from ticks. Unfortunately, ticks are everywhere. Many are found living in grass. They sit at the end of blades of grass and cling to warm bodies as they pass by. Then they migrate upwards on their hosts, which is why they are usually found around the head and neck of a pet.
Myth # 3:Ticks are easy to kill in the environment. Ticks are great survivors. They can live in some of the toughest environments. They will actually cease their own development in order to survive in harsh conditions. This is why environmental control of ticks can be very difficult.
Myth # 4:If you live in a cold environment, you do not have to worry about ticks. As I said before, ticks can stop their own development and wait until environmental conditions are more favorable. They are also good at laying eggs in areas where they can survive, such as your house. This is why year-round tick protection is so important.
Myth # 5:If your pet gets a tick-borne disease, it will be easy to diagnose. The tick-borne diseases that veterinarians deal with most often include Lyme disease, ehrlichia, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Each of these is very difficult to diagnose and symptoms may not appear until long after the tick is gone. It may take multiple blood tests to confirm a diagnosis.
So, if you were not worried about ticks before, you should be. Not only are they tough to kill and the source of some significant and hard-to-diagnose diseases. They are something your pet can pass on to you and other people they come in contact with. So remember to protect your pet from these nasty little parasites.
Was anyone surprised by the truth behind some of these myths? What bits of information have you heard about ticks and tick-borne diseases that have struck your curiosity? Share them with the Community.View Thread
Treating seasonal allergies is all about managing the allergies and keeping inflammation to a minimum. And the key is knowing what time of year these reactions occur in your pet. I have many patients who are spring reactors, some that are fall reactors, and a few that react in the winter. So after several years of treatment, if I see a distinct pattern of allergy symptoms, I will encourage pet owners to start treatment in advance of their pet's reactive allergy season.
For starters, I recommend:
-- Using drugs and therapies that have the fewest side effects. Antihistamines typically have very few side effects. But there are many types of antihistamines, so check with your veterinarian to see which one is best for your pet. -- Increasing how often you bathe your pet. Sometimes just washing all the allergens off your pet can make a big difference for how they will react. However, there is a fine line for how much bathing is too much. Excessive bathing can wash away important oils which protect the skin and coat. -- Choosing a shampoo specifically for your pet's needs. There are many kinds of shampoos for specific skin conditions, and your veterinarian can help you choose which will work best. -- Getting your pet's hair cut shorter. I discovered this with my own dog, Ellie, who suffers from seasonal allergies. Once, in the midst of trying to get her allergies under control, I had her groomed with a shorter hair cut because her hair was getting tangled from all her scratching. Lo and behold, she was much better after the grooming. But as soon as her hair grew back, she was miserable again. I had her groomed short again, and sure enough, she once again was relieved. (Of course, I was happy that she was better. But my ego was a little bruised since the groomer did more for her allergies than I could!) I believe this works because shorter hair holds less pollen and allergens. I have suggested it to many of my clients who have also had success with shorter grooming.
Another important measure for seasonal allergy treatment is good flea and tick control for your pet. This may seem unrelated. But remember, once pets already have inflammation in the skin, they tend to be more reactive to other types of allergens and irritants. For example, since I already know that I'm going to be managing my dog's seasonal allergies in the spring, I keep good flea control on her all year around. If she gets a few fleas while her seasonal allergies are flaring up, then she will be so much itchier than she would if she got fleas another time of the year. Once pets have inflammation, their systems are primed to react, which makes it harder to get things under control.
Have your pets ever shown symptoms of seasonal allergies? What have you learned about treating or preventing these symptoms?View Thread
As tick season approaches, I get a lot of questions about Lyme disease. Lyme disease is very frustrating because it can be hard for veterinarians to diagnose.
Transmission The causative agent for Lyme disease is a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato. These bacteria can affect both dogs and humans (not seen in cats) and are passed along mainly through Ixodes ticks. Ixodes are generally small ticks that will feed on multiple hosts during their lifespan.
The good news about Lyme disease is that it takes 48 to 50 hours of tick attachment for transmission of the bacteria to occur. Yet, many flea products kill ticks much quicker than 48 hours. In fact most ticks are killed within 12 hours of attachment. So when you find a tick on your dog, as long as it is either dead or you remove it within 48 hours, the chance of your pet contracting Lyme disease is small. Also, ticks that are attached for 48 hours tend to be very large and easier to find.
Lyme disease bacteria multiply in the skin at the site of the tick attachment. Then, they will typically migrate through other bodily tissues. They are normally found in the skin, joints, connective tissues, and -- in the worst case -- the nervous system.
Symptoms Clinical signs of Lyme disease only occur in 5% - 10% of infected dogs. Symptoms usually develop between 2 and 5 months following infection. So if your dog had a tick removed in March, for example, clinical signs of Lyme disease may not arise until August. These symptoms can be very subtle, such as fever, swollen lymph nodes, joint swelling, and a condition called "shifting leg lameness."
When a pet has shifting leg lameness she will limp, sometimes a lot, sometimes a little. But the source of the limp will shift from leg to leg. This lameness is a result of erosive arthritis that develops as the bacteria migrate into the joints and cause inflammatory reactions.
Lyme disease bacteria can also migrate to the kidneys and lead to kidney failure for the host.
Diagnosis The best way to diagnose Lyme disease is through a C6 antibody blood test. This test measures antibodies to the C6 protein that is produced by these bacteria. A positive C6 test does not always indicate illness; just that your dog has produced antibodies to the bacteria. This is why veterinarians get frustrated with this disease. I usually perform C6 tests annually and run blood work to see if there is evidence of active bacterial infection.
The result of a C6 antibody blood test is not affected by whether or not your pet has been vaccinated for Lyme disease.
Treatment If one of my patients gets a positive result on a C6 test, but everything else looks good, I will continue to monitor the animal for any change. I usually don't treat a pet immediately because the test only indicates exposure, not active infection. However, if there seems to be any evidence of active infection then my patients are treated with antibiotics and sometimes a steroid, depending on the how advanced the condition is. It is important to be treated for Lyme disease early in order to prevent permanent damage such as kidney disease.
Prevention The vaccine for Lyme disease is routinely used in areas where there is a high incidence of the disease. In areas where it is not as common, many veterinarians will not vaccinate.
Whether you have your pet vaccinated or not, the best way to prevent an infection is to kill any ticks you find and to use long-lasting, topical tick control on your pet. As stated before, tick control products will kill any ticks that jump onto your pet long before the 48 hours it takes for an attached tick to transmit Lyme disease bacteria.
Has your pet ever been affected by Lyme disease? What was your experience with its symptoms and treatment?View Thread