It's important to protect your pet from heartworm all year long, but it’s especially urgent in the warm weather months with more mosquitos present. Infected mosquitos can transmit heartworm disease to your dog or cat with a single bite. They can also reproduce once inside your pet’s body.
 
Although far more dogs are affected by heartworm than cats, the parasite is even more destructive for cats. This is due to their smaller body size and the fact that no heartworm treatment exists for cats.  We recommend that puppies start taking preventive medication for heartworm by eight weeks of age. Puppies that young don’t need testing before starting a prevention product. However, puppies over six months old should have a negative heartworm test before starting any type of preventive product.
 
Heartworm testing in dogs requires only a simple blood test. Testing is a bit more complicated in cats and requires several blood tests before a veterinarian can make a diagnosis. This testing is typically done at the request of the cat owner when he or she suspects the animal may have contracted heartworm disease. 
 
How to Spot Heartworm Infection in Your Pet
Difficulty breathing is the most common sign of heartworm infection in cats. Dogs tend to have more varied symptoms due to the heartworm living in the heart ventricles and the actual heart. These symptoms include:
  • Coughing
  • Fatigue, with or without exertion
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
It’s also important to keep in mind that some pets don’t show any sign of heartworm. This is especially true with cats, whose first symptom might be sudden death. Since mosquitos can get into your home easily, even pets that stay indoors need heartworm protection. Regular preventive care appointments at Battletown Animal Clinic are essential as well. 
 
Heartworm Treatment for Dogs
Once Dr. Henke has positively identified heartworm in your dog, the next step is to complete a course of antibiotics, heartworm preventives, and steroids. Next, your dog receives a series of injections over the course of 60 days to kill adult heartworms. This requires staying at Battletown Animal Hospital for observation. Another dose of steroids may be necessary at this time as well. Lastly, you need to return with your dog in six months for a follow-up to ensure that all larvae and adult worms have died. 
Ask Us for a Product Recommendation

Preventing heartworm is far easier than treating it. We carry Heartgard Plus, Interceptor, and Revolution monthly heartworm prevention products. Dr. Henke will take your pet’s age, lifestyle, species, and weight into consideration before recommending a specific product. He will also go over how to administer the medication during your pet’s regular preventive care exam. Although heartworm can have devastating consequences, the good news is that it’s 100 percent preventable. 

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Easter is quickly approaching on Sunday, April 16. Besides going to church services and enjoying a ham dinner, the holiday is associated with candy, baskets, hard-boiled eggs, and artificial grass. These things may be delightful for the human members of your family but may pose dangers for your pets. Cats and dogs are naturally curious creatures and can’t always resist the urge to investigate by sniffing, licking, and chewing items not meant for them. To avoid an illness or injury, it’s important to take a few simple precautions this Easter season.
 
Keep All Food and Treats in a Safe Location
Chocolate, table scraps, and any type of candy that contains xylitol, a sugar substitute, are especially dangerous for pets. Theobromine, the primary ingredient in chocolate, can cause an elevated heart rate, seizures, and hyperactivity in pets. Artificial sweetener, which is present in certain baked goods, gum, and candy, is linked to liver failure and seizures in pets. 
 
The fat content and spices in table scraps can make your pet seriously ill. He could also choke on bones still present
in meat. Make sure your guests know not to share, no matter how much your pet begs or looks sad. If possible, it’s best to keep your dog or cat in another room until everyone has finished their lunch or dinner. This is also a good idea if your pet tends to get anxious when you have company.
 
Easter Flowers and Artificial Grass
Cats are naturally drawn to chew on grass and plants and Easter lilies are no exception. Unfortunately, this specific plant can cause lethargy and vomiting. If your cat is a jumper and can get to the plant no matter where you place it, avoid bringing it into the house altogether.
 
Many people enjoy decorating Easter baskets with artificial grass, but it’s almost impossible for pets to resist chewing on it. It can get caught in your pet’s windpipe and cause choking or severe gastrointestinal distress if swallowed. If you still want to use artificial grass, avoid bringing it out until Easter morning and keep your pet in another room while your children find their baskets.
 
A Word About Eggs
Both plastic and hard-boiled eggs can pose a danger to your pet. Swallowing parts of a plastic egg can present a choking hazard and cause an upset stomach. It’s also important to make sure that you don’t leave any real hard-boiled eggs behind in the yard during your family’s Easter egg hunt. Because it doesn’t take long for them to spoil, your pet could become extremely ill from eating one.
 
Emergency Contact Information
Since Easter falls on a Sunday, Battletown Animal Clinic will be closed. In case of an emergency with your pet, contact The Life Centre at 703-777-5755 if you’re in Loudoun County or Valley Veterinary Emergency Service at 540-662-7811 if you’re in Shenandoah Valley. For emergencies during our regular office hours, please contact us at 540-955-2171.
 
Happy Easter from the entire staff at Battletown Animal Clinic.

Photo Credit: A Dog's Life Photo / Getty Images

According to the Centers for Disease Control, cases of Lyme disease in Virginia are rapidly escalating in both people and pets, especially in highly elevated areas. With the peak season just around the corner, pet owners need to know how to protect them from Lyme disease as well as recognize the symptoms of a dangerous tick bite. Even indoor pets are at risk of contracting Lyme disease if another pet or a member of your human family carries one in without knowing it.
 
Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Cats and Dogs
One thing that makes Lyme disease detection difficult is that your pet may not show any signs of infestation for several months after the original tick bite. Be certain to check your pet for ticks every day, whether he went outside or not. Run your hand down your pet’s entire body, including his underside. Don’t forget to check inside his ears. If you spot a tick, pull it out swiftly and in a straight line with a pair of tweezers. Twisting as you pull could leave part of the tick’s body behind. You then need to drop the tick in rubbing alcohol to kill it. 

The following are common indications of Lyme disease:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Swollen joints or lymph nodes
  • Stiffness and pain when walking
  • Change in mood or behavior
  • Refusal to eat
Please contact Battletown Animal Clinic immediately if you notice any of these symptoms. It doesn’t necessarily mean that your pet has Lyme disease, but it’s important to rule it out. Testing may include an electrolyte, fecal, thyroid, or urine test, a blood parasite screening, or a chemistry test to determine how well your pet’s internal organs are functioning. The typical course of treatment includes antibiotics, plenty of rest, and loving care at home from you. 
 
Best Practices for Preventing Lyme Disease in Companion Animals
While you can’t remove all risk, controlling your pet’s exposure to infected ticks greatly reduces her chances of developing Lyme disease. We recommend doing the following:
  • Clear tall grass and brush from the edge of your lawn and the outer parameter of your home.
  • Promptly dispose of furniture and mattresses that give ticks a hiding place.
  • If you stack wood outside, place it in neat piles in a dry area to avoid attracting rodents that carry ticks.
  • Place wood chips or a gravel barrier between your lawn and any wooded areas. If you have a patio or playground equipment, it’s a good idea to put some type of barrier there as well.
  • Be sure to mow your lawn weekly and don’t allow leaves to pile up in your yard.
Tick prevention products are also essential. Your pet’s regular veterinarian would be happy to give you a product recommendation.
 
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It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day, that holiday known for green beer, corned beef, and cabbage. Many people choose to celebrate on March 17, whether they are Irish or not. With St. Patrick’s Day falling on a Friday this year, it makes it easier to celebrate without having to worry about getting up for work the next day. If you have a pet and choose to celebrate with friends or family at home, it’s important to keep the safety tips outlined below in mind.
 
Keep Food and Drinks Away from Pets
It’s never a good idea to give table scraps to dogs and cats, but it’s especially important to avoid the practice on St. Patrick’s Day. That is because traditional Irish foods, such as sauerkraut, sausage, corned beef, and cabbage all have a high fat content that is hard for animals to digest. Too much of these types of food also increase the likelihood of your pet developing pancreatitis. Place your pet in a separate room away from guests if you don’t think they will be able to resist tossing a few table scraps your pet’s way.
 
Alcohol isn’t good for pets any day of the year. It can cause even greater stomach upset when green food coloring is added to it. If you decide to serve alcohol, keep it and any food dyes out of your pet’s reach. Any amount of alcohol, whether it’s beer or another beverage, can be toxic for dogs and cats. Let your guests know that it’s not a funny prank to give your pet any type of alcoholic beverage.
 
Anxious Pets and Kids at Parties
Some pets don’t want anything to do with visitors and that’s okay. You should never force a pet to interact with guests. If your dog or cat is on the shy side, prepare a room in advance of the party with food, water, bedding, and toys. Your pet will likely have a much more enjoyable evening passing the time alone than with strangers. 
It's also important to assess your pet’s ability to interact with children. Kids can be unpredictable and do things like try to ride a dog or pull a cat’s tail. Since you don’t know what your guests have taught their children about pets, make sure an adult supervises all interactions between the two.
 
Contact Information in Case of Emergency
Battletown Animal Clinic is open until 7 p.m. on St. Patrick’s Day. You may reach us at 540-955-2171. After hours, please call Valley Veterinary Emergency and Referral Service at 540-662-7811.
 
Photo Credit: A Dog's Life Photo / Getty Images
Even when pet owners know that a routine check-up when their dog or cat is well can be beneficial, they often get busy and forget to schedule the appointment. At Battletown Animal Clinic, we urge you to leave yourself some type of reminder. We will also send you a postcard if it’s been a while since we have seen your pet. Veterinary studies show that keeping an annual preventive care exam schedule can help your dog or cat enjoy a longer, happier life. Isn’t that what every pet owner really wants?
 
Deciding on the Best Check-Up Schedule for Your Pet
If your adult pet between 12 months and seven years has no pressing health problems, bringing him in once a year should be sufficient. Because dogs and cats are already middle-aged by seven, we recommend bi-annual appointments starting at this age. We do additional screening for common age-related problems at six-month intervals, such as arthritis, diabetes, and kidney disease. If you have a puppy or kitten under one year, schedule the first appointment as soon as possible. Dr. Henke will give you information about the first-year vaccine schedule at that time.
 
Required vaccines for dogs include canine adenovirus, canine parvovirus, distemper, and rabies. Cats need to be vaccinated against feline calicivirus, feline panleukopenia, rabies, and rhinotracheitis. Dr. Henke will also discuss optional vaccines you may wish to consider. Some factors that determine whether your pet needs a non-core vaccine include age, breed, lifestyle, and species. If you don’t plan to breed your dog or cat, we recommend spay or neuter surgery as early as six months.
 
The Typical Preventive Care Exam
The annual or bi-annual appointment is a good time to learn if you’re doing all you can to control heartworm, fleas, ticks, and other internal and external parasites. Dr. Henke checks your pet for parasites and may recommend changes to your parasite control program if necessary. Your pet also receives any vaccines or boosters he’s due for at this appointment. Some of the other things that Dr. Henke checks for specifically include:
  • Respiratory problems such as allergies, asthma, coughing, sneezing, or unusual nasal discharge
  • Eye issues such as cloudiness or discharge that could indicate a problem with vision
  • Condition of her teeth, gums, mouth, tongue, and jaws
  • Problems with the coat or skin, including pigmentation changes, anal sac formations, excess shedding, rashes, and hair loss
  • Indications of abdominal distress, such as frequent diarrhea, vomiting, or constipation
  • Condition of the ears, including whether any discharge is present or your pet appears to have difficulty hearing
  • Symptoms that could indicate bone problems, including limping or favoring one limb
Of course, this isn’t an all-inclusive list. We know every pet is unique and tailor our approach to meet his needs. Dr. Henke will order a diagnostic test if he feels that your pet shows any type of abnormality. He will contact you to let you know the results and a follow-up plan as soon as possible.
 
We look forward to seeing you and your pet at the next preventive care exam. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns in the meantime.
 
Photo Credit: gurinaleksandr / Getty Images