Did you know that May is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month? While the campaign is aimed at humans, both people and pets experience more allergy and asthma symptoms in the early spring. It’s important to recognize the symptoms of both since your pet can’t communicate his discomfort with words. Additionally, animals often display allergy and asthma symptoms in different ways than people do.
 
Asthma in Dogs and Cats
Asthma is somewhat of a common condition in cats, although dogs can develop it as well. Due to the growing number of environmental pollutants, more animals are being diagnosed with asthma every year. Some of the most common triggers for an asthma attack in dogs and cats include:
  • Car exhaust fumes
  • Cat litter dust
  • Chemical solutions and household sprays, including deodorant, flea spray, hair spray, and perfume
  • Dust
  • Fireplace and tobacco smoke
  • Mold and mildew
  • Pollen from grass and trees
Prolonged coughing and wheezing are the main symptoms of asthma. Unfortunately, people with cats often don’t recognize these asthma symptoms because they assume their cat is coughing due to a hairball. These symptoms normally occur only during an asthma flare-up. When asthma becomes severe, the animal deals with coughing, wheezing, and constant panting daily. Prolonged breathing with an open mouth can lead to serious complications for your pet. 
 
Allergies in Dogs and Cats
Allergies in companion animals typically fall into one of these categories: 
  • Contact: A contact allergy develops due to your pet making direct contact with the allergen, such as ingredients in grooming products.
  • Flea Dermatitis: Some dogs and cats develop an allergy to flea saliva. This can cause severe irritation on the skin and intense scratching. Your pet may even scratch her skin raw.
  • Food: Food ingredients, including wheat, soy, beef, and chicken, can cause allergy symptoms in some pets. We offer Royal Canin and other prescription diets for pets who can’t eat food that has been commercially prepared.
  • Inhalant: This category of allergies included pollen, cigarette smoke, dust, or anything else that your pet breathes in and has a reaction to.
When people have allergies, they typically have watery eyes, a stuffed nose, and sneeze a lot. Dogs and cats won’t necessarily display these symptoms. Instead, they lick and scratch frequently to try to get rid of the discomfort. This can cause additional irritation to the skin and a potential infection.
 
Treating Allergies and Asthma in Companion Animals
Excessive scratching, wheezing, and coughing are typically the first indication that a dog or cat has asthma or allergies. Please contact us at Battletown Animal Clinic for an immediate appointment if you notice these symptoms. Your pet’s veterinarian will ask questions about his home environment and behavior and run some tests to determine the triggers for his symptoms. Most pets with asthma or allergies respond well to environmental changes and prescription medication. 
 
Memorial Day weekend is the official summer kick-off and perhaps the first three-day weekend you have had in months. Besides paying tribute to those who died for our country, many people spend the holiday swimming at the local beach, hosting a backyard barbeque, or just relaxing with friends and family. These are all activities that dogs enjoy as well. Unfortunately, the busyness of a holiday weekend makes it easier for your dog to become ill or sustain an injury. As long as you remember to supervise her, most incidents can be avoided.
 
Grills and Dogs Are a Bad Combination
Your dog could easily burn himself by jumping up on the grill trying to score a tasty treat. Additionally, lighter fluid and matches are toxic to dogs if swallowed. Matches can cause kidney and blood cell damage as well as difficulty breathing. The most common effects of ingesting lighter fluid include gastric and respiratory distress as well as skin irritation. Eating uncooked food dropped near the grill is not safe for your dog either. It’s best to keep him in the house or his kennel while the grill is in use.

Be Sure to Follow Your Dog’s Regular Diet
While you may avoid giving your dog table scraps, it’s important to let other guests know to do the same. Avocados, grapes, onions, raisins, and yeast dough are particularly harmful for pets. Alcohol can cause severe illness even in small doses. A large amount of alcohol can put your dog in a coma that he may not recover from. If anyone seems to think that getting a dog drunk would be funny, let them know it’s a cruel practice that you won’t allow.
 
Swimming Doesn’t Come Naturally to All Dogs
Some dog breeds will naturally start swimming in water but this isn’t true of all of them. Those with short legs and a large chest area may sink instead of swim. If you take your dog swimming over the Memorial Day weekend, make sure you’re within an arm’s length of her in the water. Keep in mind that everyone in a boat needs a life jacket, even your dog.
 
Don’t Forget the Insect Repellent and Sunscreen
Protecting your dog from insect bites and sunburn is important, but make sure you buy products meant for dogs and not people. Human sunscreen and insect repellent can cause diarrhea, drooling, excessive thirst, lethargy, vomiting, nervous system damage, pneumonia, and respiratory distress. Follow the product instructions and be sure to re-apply throughout the day if your dog will be outside for a long time.

In Case of an Emergency
If you’re traveling over Memorial Day weekend, make sure your dog has proper identification. A change in routine can be both exciting and stressful for your dog, which makes it more likely he will run off. We also recommend traveling with a pet first-aid kit and keeping one stocked at home. For urgent situations with your pet during regular office hours, please contact Battletown Animal Clinic at 540-955-2171. After hours, you may contact Valley Veterinary Emergency and Referral Service at 540-662-7811. This includes weekends and holidays.

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. 

Photo Credit: GordZam / Getty Images

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.
 
Photo Credit:  Schegelfotos / Getty Images