West Chester Veterinary Center
7330 Liberty Way, West Chester OH 45069 - Phone: 513-755-2273

What are Heartworms?

They are parasitic worms (Dirofilaria immitis) that inhabit the cardiovascular system of animals. As adults, they reside in the right side of your dog’s heart and procreate. Cats rarely have adult heartworms, but can be fatally affected by the damage caused by the juvenile parasites.
 

Which pets are at risk? Dogs and Cats.

How would my pet get Heartworms? It takes the bite of one infected mosquito for the parasite to be transferred to an unprotected host.  With the increased prevalence of wild hosts (coyotes and foxes) in our suburban, even urban, areas the risk of Heartworm has increased… even in Northern states.  In Ohio, the mosquito continues to evolve into a hardier species, and our winter continues to shorten, making Heartworm prevention a year-round necessity.  Unfortunately, Cincinnati has ranked number one in the Nation for positive Heartworm test results.

 

Heartworm life cycleSource: The American Heartworm Association

 

How do I protect my pet?  Dogs should begin prevention at 7 months of age, and then be tested at a year, then annually.  Unfortunately, prevention is not 100% if the pill is given late or is vomited or coughed up.  The test for dogs is a simple blood test and you can often receive the results the same day from your veterinarian.  If the test is positive, then additional tests will become necessary.  Your veterinarian will guide you through the treatment process at that time.  For cats, the test is a little more involved because they rarely have an adult parasite shedding proteins into the bloodstream.  Prevention in cats is even more important because 1. There is no approved method of treatment for cats, and 2. In many cats, the only symptom of heartworm infestation is sudden death.

 

Is there a vaccination for Heartworm Disease?  Not at this time, there are only prevention options.

 

What are some symptoms that my pet may be infected?  In dogs: coughing, lethargy, labored breathing, decreased appetite and weight loss, dark or bloody stools may indicate Heartworm Disease.  In cats: vomiting, coughing, asthma, lethargy, loss of appetite and weight, or sudden death.

 

 

What are my prevention options?  There are a few FDA approved prevention protocols for dogs and cats, in Pill, Spot-on and Injectable formulations.  Speak with your veterinarian about which protocol would be appropriate for your pet as some breeds have shown resistance and/or reactions to some forms of prevention.  At this time, there are no approved “natural remedies”.

 

My dog tested positive for Heartworm Disease, what now?  Fortunately, this disease is very treatable:

  • Confirm the diagnosis.Once a dog tests positive on an antigen test, the diagnosis should be confirmed with an additional—and different—test. Because the treatment regimen for heartworm is both expensive and complex, your veterinarian will want to be absolutely sure that treatment is necessary.
  • Restrict exercise. This requirement might be difficult to adhere to, especially if your dog is accustomed to being active. But your dog’s normal physical activities must be restricted as soon as the diagnosis is confirmed, because physical exertion increases the rate at which the heartworms cause damage in the heart and lungs. The more severe the symptoms, the less activity your dog should have.
  • Stabilize your dog's disease.Before actual heartworm treatment can begin, your dog’s condition may need to be stabilized with appropriate therapy. In severe cases of heartworm disease, or when a dog has another serious condition, the process can take several months.
  • Administer treatment.Once your veterinarian has determined your dog is stable and ready for heartworm treatment, he or she will recommend a treatment protocol involving several steps. The American Heartworm Society has guidelines for developing this plan of attack. Dogs with no signs or mild signs of heartworm disease, such as cough or exercise intolerance, have a high success rate with treatment. More severe disease can also be successfully treated, but the possibility of complications is greater. The severity of heartworm disease does not always correlate with the severity of symptoms, and dogs with many worms may have few or no symptoms early in the course of the disease.
  • Test (and prevent) for success.Approximately 6 months after treatment is completed, your veterinarian will perform a heartworm test to confirm that all heartworms have been eliminated. To avoid the possibility of your dog contracting heartworm disease again, you will want to administer heartworm prevention year-round for the rest of his life.

cat getting examMy cat tested positive, what can I do?

 

  • Treatment  Unfortunately, there is no approved treatment for cats.  But because the parasite rarely grows to adulthood in cats, there can be spontaneous shedding of the parasite.  You and your vet can provide symptom support, aiding your cat’s recovery.
  • Monitor  Due to the damage the parasite can inflict on your Cat’s lung function, you need to be aware of symptoms so that you and your vet can support your cat medically.
  • Prevention  It is vital that you continue monthly prevention for your cat.  The cumulative affect of multiple infestations can be painful and, often, fatal.

Heartworm 101: Final Exam Cheat Sheet:  Test.  Prevent. Talk to your Vet.

 

 

It seems that the entire world is obsessed with nutrition, diets, and superfoods. The variety of choices seem endless in the human world, and downright confusing when it comes to deciding what to feed our pets.

Nutrition is vital to the health and happiness of our pets and ourselves, so research is very important. Your best resource for your pet, by far, is your veterinarian. They have the training and the experience to know what is best for your pet and can provide you with a list of suitable options.

Dog FoodWith so many choices, how do you narrow it down? Is “consistency the key,” or is “variety the spice of life.” In short, yes.

Through experience of the not-so-pleasant, aromatic kind we have found that changing our pets’ food on a whim, (or a sale) does a number on their digestive system. So any time you introduce a new food, do so slowly over about 10 days. This will allow your pets’ digestive system to adjust to the new protein source and digestive enzymes, keeping their gut in check. And, unless your pet has a specific health issue (for example: an allergy or kidney disease) it is ok to change their food, slowly, throughout their life to keep them interested and allow their bodies to absorb different nutrients. If Petunia suddenly turns her nose up at her bowl, work with your vet to come up with a list of additives (like pureéd pumpkin or cottage cheese) that might entice her to tuck in once again. Or your vet may suggest another brand of food or a different formulation within the same brand that you could switch to… using the same 10-day formula, obviously.

We all know that waffles are delicious, but we certainly wouldn’t want to eat them twice a day, every day for the rest of our lives. Similarly, our bodies will crave different nutrients at different stages to keep our bodies balanced and working the way they should. Pet nutrition is similar, but we cannot directly relate their dietary needs to ours; for instance: their anatomy demands more meat protein, while our bodies do better with plant protein. In other words, if you are vegetarian or gluten-free or a pescatarian, that’s great! You do you, but help your pet do what is best for their bodies. Your vet will help you understand the evolution of the animals we share our lives with, and why their bodies are designed to process different nutrients than ours. We are not suggesting you go out and hunt down the specific prey of a wolf, your dog is an evolved descendent, with a great deal of breeding and manipulation of genes that have altered his dietary needs. Your vet can help you understand how to read the labels and identify the percentages of fat content and protein content that would be appropriate to your pets’ specific needs during each stage of their life.

Dog Food Bowl

Limiting access to food processed for human consumption (AKA “people food”) and Treats will also help your pet stay fit and healthy. Especially for breeds that tend to be overweight, extra treats can lead to a variety of health issues. If we had someone to measure and provide our allowed caloric intake for every meal, and didn’t allow us access to the candy aisle at the local Kroger, we would not have any issues with weight gain. It might help to recognize that our need to show our love for our pet through treats can lead to obesity, joint pain, pancreatitis, and more. Show your love through more walks, grooming sessions and play dates… it is a healthier choice that will lead to a longer life for both pet and owner.

Food Change Formula

Day 1: 90% Current Food/10% New Food

Days 2 - 3: 75% Current Food/25% New Food

Days 4-5: 50% Current Food/50% New Food

Days 6-9: 25% Current Food/75% New Food

Day 10: 10% Current Food/90% New Food

 
 

Love is in the air, but as much as we love our cats… we do not love the way their litter box smells permeate our living spaces. One of the biggest concerns we get from cat owners has to do with potty issues. There may be no replacement for the litter box, but there are strategies we can recommend to make your life with your cat more, well, aromatically harmonious.

Cat HealthThere are typically two reasons your cat may choose to potty outside of their designated litter areas:

  1. Medical/Discomfort
  2. Lack of access to an acceptable bathroom

And often, reason #1 is a result of reason #2. Think about it, the same is often true of humans: when we get stuck in traffic; or, perhaps the only choice is a well-used porta potty. Reflect upon the access your cat has to its bathrooms. Is it in a room with a lot of traffic? Is it cleaned daily? How many cats have access to the same box? Does your cat have to run a gauntlet of other pets or children to get to their bathroom?

Here are some ways to update your cat’s bathroom experience while enhancing your cat-owning experience:

  • Each cat should have access to their own litter box, and there should be a spare.
  • Multi level homes should have a box on each level.
  • Keep them clean! If need be, invest in an automatic cleaning litter box, and check it often. Or make it a daily chore for a cat-loving child.
  • Make sure your cat can get to the litter box area without having to brave the cat-loving child, see above, or a well-meaning, playful pup. In general, dogs should not have access to the cat’s potty area at all.

Chip the catThe actual litter may affect the cat’s desire to use the box as well. Some cats are very particular (yes, shocking, we know) about what they feel under their paws. Be consistent with type (for example: pine vs. clay) of litter. If you plan to change types, you may have more success if you do so slowly, changing the ratio over a period of days.

Think outside the litter box… a cat that has an environment that makes them feel confident often will not feel the need to “mark its territory”. Cat perches, lofts, and lookouts can help a cat engage with its environment and feel like it can find safe spots to nap, play and observe.

If your cat has suddenly decided that litter boxes are not for her, please seek veterinary care as soon as possible. A simple urine test and some antibiotics will help her feel better. Left untreated, urinary tract infections can develop into more serious kidney infections. Equally important: a review of her bathroom situation will help ensure she remains healthy.

Pro tip: When it becomes necessary to eliminate the less than pleasant aroma, steer clear of fragrance sprays that temporarily mask the smell. An enzymatic solution (found in any pet aisle or pet store) liberally applied will actually break down the particles; thus, erasing the source of the smell.   

 
 

‘Tis the season for visiting relatives, and with the human/animal bond being stronger than ever, many people choose to include their pet in their travel plans over the holidays.
Before you head out, here are some Pro Tips for traveling safely with your pet:
 
Take to the Air

Cat in CrateIf you choose to fly with your dog, a health certificate will need to be written by the veterinarian within thirty days of travel. Please plan ahead and schedule an appointment because many veterinary centers are extra busy during the holidays. The health certificate’s purpose is to prove that your animal is free of any contagious diseases. Some airlines have regulations regarding rabies vaccine status, so check with your airline to make sure you have all the paperwork in order ahead of time. Some airlines will allow smaller pets to board with you. It is recommended that you fly with your pet in the cabin as often as possible. It is much less stressful for them, has better temperature and pressure regulation, and allows you to keep a close watch on them while you are flying. Again, check with the airline to find out what their policy is. If your pet is larger they may be placed in cargo. In this case, make sure your pet has a comfortable, ventilated carrier that is airline approved. Make sure your pet has been out for exercise and has used the bathroom prior to placing him in the carrier. Ensure he has access to water while in the carrier, but food is unnecessary in most circumstances. Another important thing to realize is that most pets traveling under the plane may sit outside the plane for up to an hour with the luggage before being placed on the plane. Thus, if the temperatures are not comfortable outside during this time, flying with your pet may not be a good option. Most airlines have regulations regarding what ground temperatures must be for pets to fly. This is also breed specific, for example, a husky would be fine outside in the cold for an hour, whereas it would not be a good idea to keep a bulldog outside in a crate in July.

Traveling with Emotional Support Animals

Pet lovers have long recognized the soothing power of our furry friends during times of stress, and travel by airplane can be highly stressful for many. Fortunately, airlines have begun to make it possible for pets to join their owners in the cabin as long as they meet the requirements and have the correct documentation. Please see your airlines’ website for specific requirements. Documentation usually includes (at the minimum) an ESA form, a letter from a licensed mental health professional, proof of proper training, health certificates for your pet, and a recognized diagnosis.

Sedation

Many people request sedation for pets to travel. The most common sedation prescribed for pet travel is a tranquilizer called acepromazine. Acepromazine is a common tranquilizer that’s safe if used as directed. Your pet should have a full exam before taking this medication. The most common side effect of acepromazine, other than sedation, is a drop in blood pressure. As long as your pet is healthy and you follow proper dosing instructions, any effect on blood pressure will not be noticeable. If tranquilization makes you uncomfortable, you can also give Benadryl. Benadryl should be given one hour before travel. This will make your pet tired and will hopefully help them rest. Benadryl wears off in about four to six hours. Another class of medication that may be prescribed is benzodiazepines, or valium-like medications. Most sedatives are safe for car travel when you will be keeping a close eye on your pet. However, sedation is not recommended for pets traveling in cargo, because they are not closely supervised.

Safely Restrained

Dog in CarWhether traveling with your pet by plane or car, many people choose to use a crate or carrier. This is the safest way to travel with your pet for long rides. If pets are not safely restrained, they may become stressed in the car and want to sit on your lap for comfort or can even get under your feet. As you can imagine, this makes for very distracted and dangerous driving. It is important that the first time you place your pet in his travel carrier is not the first car or plane trip. Your pet needs plenty of time to get used to his crate before the travel date. Introduce your pet slowly to his crate with positive reinforcement (using food or praise) several weeks to months before traveling. Let him get used to it slowly in a positive fashion. Also, don’t forget to make sure your crate is airline approved. Many airlines have specific height, length and width requirements.

Hawaii-Bound?

Finally, you will need to plan months in advance if you are flying to Hawaii. Hawaii is the only rabies-free state, and the rules to bring any animal into the state are exceptionally stringent. There will be a significant time and monetary investment on your part to be able to take your pet into the state. 

 
 
 

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Spay and Neuter

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