Leptospirosis: What Is It & How Can You Protect Your Pets?
You may have seen a lot more people walking in your neighborhood with their dogs, and this increase isn't just because the weather has warmed up. The COVID-19 pandemic has emptied many shelters of dogs (YAY!), and more people are taking lunch breaks from home to walk their furry friends.
As restrictions loosen, our local dog parks and nature trails will reopen. While we're so excited to use these outdoor spaces again, we want you to know about a common disease that both canines and humans can contract from the places that our dogs love so much.
What is Leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that is difficult to pronounce and deadly, caused by a corkscrew-shaped bacteria called Leptospira interrogans. These spiral-shaped bacteria attack vital organs like the liver, kidneys, lungs, and brain. When left undiagnosed and untreated, it can be fatal for dogs and people. Cats can get leptospirosis too, though it's much less common.
Many people haven't heard of leptospirosis, but according to the CDC, it's the most widespread zoonotic disease in the world. So, how do dogs and people contract this life-threatening illness?
It's not the most pleasant thing to talk about, but the infection spreads through urine. The bacteria can penetrate soft and vulnerable areas of the skin like the mouth, nose, and eyelid, or enter the body through open wounds and fresh scratches. If your dog is an enthusiastic pee-spot sniffer or likes to drink from every puddle they see, they are at risk of getting infected.
What Locations Have the Highest Risk of Leptospirosis?
Anywhere wildlife or an infected dog may urinate, there is a risk of leptospirosis. This includes:
What Are the Effects of Leptospirosis?
The Leptospira bacterium enters the body and heads straight to the bloodstream. From there, it multiplies and moves throughout the body, often concentrating within vital organs, particularly kidneys.
Most healthy dogs become ill but can fight off the infection, but others cannot. There are also instances where dogs become sick and recover. Still, some of the bacteria may remain, causing the dog to become reinfected and start the healing process all over again.
Fortunately, it's possible to kill Leptospira bacterium with antibiotics like doxycycline. Since vomiting and diarrhea are common symptoms, your dog may first need to receive treatment through an IV before switching to oral medication.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Leptospirosis
Dogs with leptospirosis often show symptoms similar to the flu. However, some may be asymptomatic. (Sound familiar?) The most common symptoms include:
Vomiting and diarrhea
Lack of appetite
Shaking and shivering
How Can You Protect Your Dog from Leptospirosis?
As the temperatures rise, your dog will seek out water sources on walks, increasing the chance of picking up Leptospira bacterium. As cases of leptospirosis in dogs rise in the U.S., we recommend dog owners protect their pets with a vaccine.
Make an appointment with us today for your dog's leptospirosis vaccination. All it takes is a simple injection to keep your dog from getting sick.
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Preventative Veterinary Care: As Easy as ABC
If only our pets could live forever. Fortunately, with proactive preventative care, many diseases and health conditions can be avoided or have their effects eased. Read on to learn how simple steps can give your furry friend the best shot at a long, happy life.
What is Preventative Care?
Preventative care reduces the risk of becoming sick through proactive treatment. It helps provide pets with better lives through early diagnosis. Some precautionary measures can be done at home, while others conducted in our office.
In the simplest of terms, preventative care emphasizes taking steps to maintain your pet’s wellness and quality of life.
The ABCs of your Pet’s Preventative Care
A - Annual Wellness Exams & Vaccinations
Regular checkups are one of the best ways to give your pet the opportunity for a long life. Annual exams allow us to assess their health and administer vaccinations that will protect your pet from inside out.
During an exam, we will check for underlying illnesses that might not be obvious. We’ll examine your pet’s heart, lungs, eyes, ears, and mouth, and body. We also use tests to check your pet’s blood and feces for parasites or health concerns.
During your pet’s wellness exam, we can also administer vaccines to prevent some of the most threatening illnesses such as:
- Feline Leukemia Virus
- Feline Immunodeficiency
- Feline herpesvirus
B - Be On Board with Parasite Prevention
Parasites aren’t just disgusting. They also can steal your pet’s health and happiness.
Fleas can cause dogs, cats, and other pets great distress. They relentlessly bite and can consume enough of your pet’s blood to cause anemia. Pets with flea allergies experience even more discomfort.
Ticks can carry a wide array of disease and they rob your pet of their blood.
Heartworms are one of the most deadly internal parasites a pet can experience. They grow and multiply in your pet’s bloodstream, and when left untreated can cause heart failure.
Internal parasites include tapeworms, hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms. These nasty worms can lead to malnutrition by sapping your pet’s energy and causing vomiting and diarrhea.
Prevent parasites with easy-to-administer medications. We’re happy to discuss, recommend, and prescribe treatment options to protect your pet.
C - Care for Your Pet’s Oral Health
Your pet’s mouth matters. Regular cleanings, dental exams, and extractions can extend your pet’s life by 3 to 5 years. Undiagnosed dental issues may lead to chronic pain and trouble eating.
Don’t wait for your pet’s teeth to become a problem. As many as 70-80% of cats and dogs show signs of gum disease before the age of 3. Schedule an appointment for your pet’s dental checkup and provide your pet with plenty of healthy chewing options like dental treats and toys.
D- Do Your Research on Diet and Nutrition
Pet obesity is a growing problem. Carrying extra weight can lead to an increased risk for diseases like diabetes and heart disease. It can cause other health problems like arthritis, depression, and joint aches.
Dogs and cats need a wide range of vitamins and minerals to stay healthy, and there is no one-size-fits-all diet for pets. Read your pet’s food labels and feed them high-quality chow.
If your pet’s a bit of a porker, we can holistically assess their condition and recommend a diet for safe weight loss. Are you noticing scratching, itching, and hot spots? We’ll help you get the bottom of your pet’s dietary allergies and food intolerances.
E - Engage in Mental Stimulation
Your dog thinks the world of you, but what happens when thinking becomes more difficult? Our pets seem to fade and become more distant as they age. Keeping your pet’s brain stimulated can reduce the psychological side effects of aging, and can reduce anxiety and depression in pets. Buy or DIY puzzle toys for your pooch, or use a feeding system designed to make your cat work for their dinner.
F - “Fix” Your Pet
Studies show dogs and cats that are spayed or neutered live longer. On average, a dog that’s altered lives six months to two years longer, and cats live between 39 and 62% longer than those that stay intact.
G - Get Your Appointment to See Us!
Our pets mean the world to us, and as their protectors, we’re responsible for their wellbeing. There’s no better time than to make an appointment for your pet’s annual exam or to finally address that issue you’ve been wondering about.
We’re here for you and your pet. Help your pet live their best life with preventative care.
Image credit: Pexels.
Fat Facts: How Obesity Impacts Your Pet’s Health and Happiness
When it comes to our pets, it can be difficult to resist pathetic puppy eyes and piteous kitty mews. We’ve all found ourselves giving in and handing over “just one more” treat or “just a taste” of our leftovers, but these small indulgences can have a huge impact on your pet’s health.
While having a chubby companion may seem harmless, your pet’s weight significantly affects their wellbeing. Maintaining a healthy size and weight can keep your dog or cat from suffering from a wide variety of weight-related issues like arthritis or diabetes. Read on to learn about how extra pounds impact the pawed members of your family.
Overweight Pets Have a Higher Risk of Serious Health Issues
Obese pets are more likely to develop diabetes, kidney disease, and some types of cancer. Additionally, they tend to suffer from respiratory problems. Overweight and obese dogs and cats have more problems with joint pain, arthritis, bone injury, and muscle soreness. Many overweight pets also struggle with skin disease and high blood pressure.
Extra Weight Can Make Having Fun Impossible
Chubby cats and dogs may get a lot of likes on Instagram but excess pounds hold your pet back from enjoying life as much as they could.
Weight affects your pet’s ability to move and breathe. They will be easily fatigued and will lose their breath quickly. Joint pain can make walks and time outdoors less enjoyable and make pets reluctant to partake in activities they once loved. A dog that may have once played for hours at the dog park may only be able to engage for a few minutes once obese.
Obese Pets Have Shorter Lifespans
Your pet’s weight is directly tied to their life expectancy. Carrying around extra pounds can reduce a dog’s or cat’s life by more than two years.
What Can I Do to Help My Pet Lose Weight?
It’s easy to feel guilty about your pet’s size. After all, as pet owners, we’re responsible for their meal size, treats, and exercise. If your pet is overweight, you’re not alone and we’re here to help you get them fit.
You’re also not the only pet parent with an overweight cat or dog. Almost one in five canines is obese and over 50% of dogs and cats are overweight. How can you help your pet reach their ideal weight?
Identify and Recognize the Issue
Pet parents are frequently unaware of their pet’s weight problem. How does this happen? You see your pet every day and weight gain happens gradually, making it easy to miss the change in their body.
If your pet’s ribs are hidden behind a layer of fat, they may be overweight. Want to find out for sure? Make an appointment and we will weigh your pet, analyze their body condition, and partner with you on a plan to lose pounds.
Updating Your Pet’s Diet
Considering a change in diet? We can help determine if your pet’s food and treats are helping or hindering weight loss, or if you can simply change the portion size and their feeding schedule. If your pet does need weight-control food, we’ll help you find a variety that works for your companion and budget.
Beginning An Exercise Regimen
Well-meaning pet parents may try to begin a rigorous exercise routine with their overweight pet but this is often a bad idea. Since excess weight causes breathing problems and joint issues, these can be aggravated by too much exercise too soon. If you’ve ever tried running a 5k after spending five (or more) weeks on the couch, you can relate.
Obese pets need to start slow but get moving. From a hide-n-seek dinner to short walks, there are many ways to get your pet’s heart rate elevated. Low-impact exercise like swimming can be fun for overweight pets and provide a low-impact exercise alternative.
Remember to make it fun and stay positive as your cat plays or your dog enjoys their exercise. Pets love play, so look for ways to challenge their minds and their bodies.
We’re Here to Support You and Your Pet
If you’re looking for answers and solutions for your pet’s weight loss, call us and we’ll ready the scale. We’re committed to helping you keep your pet healthy, happy, and living their best life.
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5 Eggcellent Tips for a Safe Easter and Spring with Your Pet
Does your dog believe in the Easter Bunny? Is your cat enjoying watching the birds return from their trip down south? Whether they watch the season changing from their favorite window perch or they’re bursting through the front door for fresh air, we hope that everyone gets to experience lots of sunshine this spring.
While this year’s celebrations may be a bit untraditional, we still want to share some tips to have a hopping good time with your pets and family while keeping everyone safe.
1. Smell the Flowers, Don’t Chew Them
As we find ourselves staying at home, fresh air and gardening can be a great relief. It’s one of the healthier ways to stay busy while social distancing, as opposed to sitting on the sofa snacking. (No judgment, whatever you choose.)
Whether it’s your green thumb’s time to shine or you’re hoping that this is the year you keep a plant thriving for more than a week, keep these poisonous blooms out of chewing distance in and outside your home:
Keep pesticides, herbicides, and other gardening chemicals stored out of reach of your pets.
2. Spring Allergies Are in the Air
Have you noticed your dog or cat with itchy, watery eyes? Or maybe they’re sneezing a bit more than usual? Canines and felines can both experience seasonal allergies from pollen, mold, and dust.
When you’re spring cleaning, dust in the air can become a temporary but unpleasant allergy trigger for pets. Open a window and let in some fresh breezes if the weather is nice or let your dog play in the yard as you collect Easter dust bunnies.
For pollen allergies, wipe your dog or cat down with a damp towel after an outdoor romp. Pay special attention to their paws and watch for redness, rash, and excessive grooming.
If you suspect your pet has seasonal allergies, we can help. From allergy tests to antihistamines, we can help your pet breathe clearly and soothe itchy skin.
3. Silly Kitty, That Grass is for Kids!
Cats often love to play with the gifts and filler in an Easter basket, finding the glint of plastic green grass hard to resist. When it comes to those adorable mini stuffed animals and eggs filled with jelly beans, can we blame them? They’re often the same size and shape of popular pet toys and offer a playful rattle when rolled.
But what happens when your cat swallows a mess of green plastic strings or gets tangled in a nest of Easter glory, tearing their claws? Dogs are no less likely to eat the filler in search of food, potentially leading to an intestinal blockage.
A simple fix: Keep supplies stored in a closet with a closing door, on a high shelf, or in pet-proof containers. Store or dispose of baskets promptly after the kids have absconded with their treasures, or at least toss the decorative extras.
4. Easter Candy, Chocolate, and Decorations
There’s little that beats seeing kids’ eyes light up on Easter morning when they discover their Easter baskets. And little is worse than waking up to find that your dog or cat discovered the Easter basket before your kids had the chance.
This Easter-ruiner is more than just a small misfortune. Chocolate, candy, and other goodies can seriously injure your pet. Xylitol-sweetened foods can cause kidney failure, seizures, and even death.
Dogs are notorious for finding their way to food so be particularly careful about where you hide the goods. After the big reveal, talk with your kids about responsibly storing their bounty and what’s not safe to share with their furry friends.
5. Shoo Flies! and Other Bugs
Walking is a popular spring pastime and is a great way to get out of your house and exercise while social distancing. But, there is one… well, more like one-thousand bugging issues that can make outdoor activities less enjoyable: insects!
Stings and bites from hornets, bees, and wasps are itchy and painful and can send your pet into anaphylactic shock, while fleas, ticks, and mosquitos can harbor deadly diseases.
Keep your pet protected with flea, tick, and heartworm preventative and keep an eye out for the signs of an allergic reaction to bug bites or stings. These can include:
- Swollen face or muzzle
- Trouble breathing
If you’re seeing any of these in your pet, please contact us right away.
Have a Hoppy, Healthy Spring, and Easter!
As pet owners ourselves, we know that companion animals bring great comfort in uncertain times, and we hope your spring is filled with good memories of staying home with your furry friends. But if your pet needs a vet, give us a call. We’ll hop on the phone to help.
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7 Frightening Facts About Canine Lyme Disease
Ticks love our dogs. As a concerned dog dad or mom, you don’t want these tiny arachnids making a meal of your pet, as these disgusting, creepy, and dangerous bugs can carry diseases. One of the most common tick-borne illnesses that affect dogs is Lyme disease. While you’re probably familiar with this painful condition, there are some details you may not have heard. What do you need to know about Lyme disease?
1. Ticks Aren’t Just Found in the Woods
While many people rightfully assume that ticks live in heavily wooded areas, ticks tend to go where their hosts take them and where they’ll find new victims. Since ticks can’t fly or jump, they will wait on leaves or grass for a potential host to brush past them and then attach themselves to skin, fur, or clothing.
Where are some areas people report finding ticks?
- Trails and nearby sidewalks
- Bushes and shrubs
- Tall grass
- In and around trees
- Backyard play structures
- Around standing water and streams
2. Bacteria Cause Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is the result of bacteria spread by a tick feeding on its host. While there are two forms of bacteria that cause Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi is the one found in Virginia. These bacteria look like microscopic spiraled worms.
The other form of bacteria that spreads Lyme disease has yet to be discovered in our area. We hope that it stays this way!
3. Not All Regions of the U.S. Are Equally Affected
Cases of Lyme disease can be found all over the U.S. but are highly concentrated on the East Coast, and in 2018 our Commonwealth had the second-most reported cases in the South Atlantic region. If you’re planning your spring break or summer vacation, other eastern coastal states, the Midwest and northern California are also areas with elevated rates of Lyme disease.
4. Dogs Often Hide the Symptoms of Lyme Disease
It’s frightening to think that your dog can be silently suffering and harboring a disease that can cause long-term pain and discomfort. Unfortunately, this is often the case, as many dogs don’t show any symptoms of Lyme disease for months. Some even go more than a year without showing any signs.
What are some symptoms of Lyme disease?
- Sore and swollen joints
- Lack of appetite
- Limping and lameness
- Reluctance to play
5. Lyme Disease Affects the Whole Body
When the bacteria that cause Lyme disease are transmitted by a tick bite they circulate through the bloodstream. While joint stiffness and pain is often an early sign of infection, the ability for the bacteria to move throughout the body means that the heart, kidney, and other internal organs can also be affected, causing significant and long-term damage, even after treatment.
6. People Can Get Lyme Disease Too
While you cannot catch Lyme disease directly from your dog, you can be infected by a tick with the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. If a tick were to feed on an infected animal and then bite you or a family member, you are at risk of contracting Lyme disease.
7. Lyme Disease is Easy to Prevent
We can treat Lyme disease but treatment is most effective when paired with early detection. Because of the nature of the condition, this is rarely the case. Instead, Lyme disease often gets ample opportunity to permanently damage your dog’s health.
How do we diagnosis Lyme disease? We use blood tests to detect the antibodies the dog’s body produces to combat the bacteria associated with Lyme disease. Because it is bacteria-based, we often prescribe antibiotics for treatment.
We always recommend prevention as a first step. When you can prevent your dog from contracting Lyme disease, you save your dog the agony of joint paint and save yourself the worry and cost of treatment.
Prevention can be as simple as applying a topical ointment, adding a new collar, or giving your dog a tasty chew. These solutions kill ticks before they are able to transfer Borrelia burgdorferi to your dog’s body, as it can take up to 24-36 hours for a feeding tick to infect its host.
Don’t Risk Your Pet’s Health
Ready to protect your pup? Make an appointment today and we’ll work together to find the right preventative medicine for your dog. When you don’t give Lyme disease a chance to harm your pet, you’re protecting them, your wallet, and your family. We’re ready to help keep your dog free of Lyme disease so give us a call today.
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