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How to Protect your pet during Tick & Heartworm Season!

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By Dr. Brian Laing

With the warm weather comes the return of parasites attempting to prey on our pets.  How do we choose what to use to protect our pets and family with the plethora of products on the market?  I personally believe in tailoring preventive care, both vaccines and anti-parasitics, to your family and pet’s lifestyle and situation. As an example, a pet with a town or city lifestyle will have different risks with regard to parasites than a pet with a country or cottage lifestyle. Similarly a family with very young children who are constantly putting their hands in their mouths will have different concerns than a retired couple. Parasite Facts:

Ticks

Lyme disease CircleTicks are a relatively new risk in this area (York and Durham Regions, Ontario) . Aside from the obvious unappealing prospect of being bit by a tick, ticks can carry a number of diseases, the most dangerous being Ly
me disease.  Lyme disease is Lyme disease has been reported in the Rouge Valley so it is now a risk in this area if your dog frequents long grassy or bushy areas. The first symptoms your dog develops if it contracts Lyme disease is arthritis and it starts weeks to months after the bite. The most serious long-term effects are heart disease, neurologic signs and kidney disease.  Humans are much more susceptible to Lyme disease and the symptoms develop rapidly after infection. 80% of people develop a rash and/or flu like symptoms. In the next few weeks 15% of people develop neurologic signs and 5% of people developing heart problems. All of these symptoms develop in humans before a similarly affected dog develops its first signs. Are ticks attached to my dog a danger to me? No, once a tick attaches and starts feeding it does not change hosts. However, your dog can transport unattached ticks that can drop off and pose a risk to owners. Due to this potential risk, if you are in a high risk area a topical tick preventative on your dog may be the best option. This is what I do for my Golden Retriever Orion.

Ticks survive our winter and are out ‘questing’ when temperatures are above 4o C so now is the time to start with your tick preventatives. We are already finding ticks on clients’ pets. Unfortunately, with the changing climate the ‘tick season’ is getting longer, now becoming 8-9 months depending on when it gets cold. Also, it is harder to decide if a dog is at low or ‘no risk’ as we are finding ticks on dogs that frequent areas where we would not expect to find ticks. For instance the tick pictured below was found on a Cairn terrier whose only area of ‘risk’ was the long grass surrounding a baseball diamond.

Heartworm 

Unlike the start of tick prevention which is highly dependant on outside temperatures and is hard to predict with our changing climate, heartworm prevention is still predictable and doesn’t need to start until June 1st. This is because when you use your heartworm prevention it kills any ‘baby heartworm’, called icrofilaria, injected into your dog in the last 50 days which is April 10th.

It takes a heartworm larva 10 days under warm conditions to migrate from the mosquito’s stomach to its mouthparts where is can infect the next dog that the mosquito bites. This means that for your dog to require starting heartworm medication before June 1st there has to have been 10 days of 280C (820F) before April 10th, something that as of yet does not happen. An average mosquito harbours about 12 heartworm larvae.  Once injected into a dog, it takes the heartworm 6 months to reach the heart and produce baby heartworm. At this point they can be detected by a blood test. Adult heartworms are said to live 5-7 years in a dog.

Tick infogram with border

Cats are more resistant to heartworm infection than dogs and only 5-10% of larvae injected into a cat develop into adults whereas close to 100% of injected larvae develop into adults in dogs.Consequently an infected cat has on average 1-3 adults in its heart whereas an infected dog can have over 100. Cats are also poorer at transmitting heartworm.


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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

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Holiday Warnings

christmas pic

This may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also be some of the most dangerous to our beloved dogs and cats. From deliciously rich holiday treats to enticingly shiny decorations, the holidays bring plenty of risks and temptations for our pets. Even the most vigilant owners can become distracted with the extra responsibilities and additional people coming and going during this season.

Even though we love seeing your pets don’t make an emergency visit to the veterinarian part of your holiday festivities. Follow our advice below to help keep your pets safe this holiday season.

Feasts are typical during the holidays, with them numerous friends or family inundate our homes and not all of them may be pet wise. Feeding rich holiday foods to our pets can very quickly lead to a trip to the hospital. Fatty foods lead to pancreatitis, a painful and potentially life-threatening condition. Educating visitors about the detrimental health issues that feeding table scraps can cause may help minimize this risk. Furthermore, guests may feel that giving our pets leftover bones is not harmful but this is not the case. Apart from being a choking hazard, bones can shatter or splinter and perforate the intestines or cause intestinal blockage.

If you’re like me, then a Christmas tree is an integral part of the holidays, but they can be a danger to our furry little friends. Mischievous cats love playing in and around Christmas trees and this brings up a couple of issues. Firstly, these trees are only designed to carry the weight of lightweight ornaments and not little old kitty. Securing Christmas trees to the ceiling using a fishing line can prevent it and kitty from crashing down. Additionally, Christmas trees are decorated with fragile ornaments, tinsel and other objects that are prime candidates for causing lacerations or foreign bodies. Creating a moat of foil around the base can deter cats from climbing the tree in the first place.

Holiday plants, milestone, lilies, amaryllis and holly, are hidden dangers that we may not commonly think of. These plants may get you in the holiday spirits but they can be toxic to pets. If you suspect that your animal has ingested a poisonous plant, call your local veterinarian or the ASPCA’s Pet Poison Control Hotline.

A bountiful Christmas tree is always a pleasant sight. It’s important to be mindful of what is placed underneath it though. Just because wrapping paper keeps presents a mystery to us, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will to our pets. Cats and dogs have very keen sense of smell. Depending on the breed, their sense of smell is 1,000 to 10,000,000 times more sensitive to ours. Therefore, they are quite adept at seeking out that decadent box of chocolates. Chocolate ingestion is toxic to both dogs and cats. If you suspect that your pet has ingested chocolate, call your local veterinarian immediately.

Do you have a sister-in-law that is difficult to handle? An aunt that is hard to listen to after a couple of wobbly-pops? There are families that fight like cats and dogs, so is it any surprise that forcing pets to interact together can also be a contentious experience? Take caution when introducing new pets to each other. Consider separating pets in closed off rooms or leaving them at home altogether.

Preparedness is the key to a successful holiday season. Understanding the risks that come with the festivities is the first step. Remember to be conscious of friends, family, loved-ones as well as our furry little friends. From all of us at Town and Country Animal Hospital, we wish you Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!

 

It’s Heartworm Season !

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It’s been a long tough winter.  That’s for sure!
Another sure thing, with the warm weather, will come mosquitoes.291

Heartworm disease is a threat to our dogs and cats in Ontario.  Mosquitoes carry the disease from coyotes, wolves or dogs to our pets.  Statistics show that Heartworm is on the rise in Canada for both dogs and cats.  Ontario is the hotspot in the country.

Heartworm disease is caused by worms that live in the heart and lungs of dogs.  Symptoms include cough, exercise intolerance and occasionally death in severe infections. Thankfully, it is rarely fatal but subclinical disease (no symptoms), is fairly common in certain areas.  Infection is diagnosed by a simple blood test.  Treatment is available but costly and not without risk.

Preventative medication is highly recommended during the summer months for dogs exposed to mosquitoes.  The medicine is given orally or on the skin once a month from June to November.  It is safe and highly effective.  Don’t let your furry friend beat risk to this preventable disease.

Please contact our office at 905-640-4107, to arrange a visit to get your pet protected.  Check out Dr. Brian Laing discussing Heartworm Disease on Daytime

Here is an interesting poster with current statistics
on Heartworm Disease in CanadaHeartworm