If you’ve ever taken a walk with your dog in the woods or through a field, only to have your best friend scratching up a storm for the next several days, you might have experienced a chigger attack.
In cats, chiggers are most commonly found around the ears and between the toes, but can be found almost anywhere on the body. Because of intense itching caused by these mites , your cat may chew or scratch itself, causing self-inflicted wounds. The resulting skin lesions vary from crusted spots to areas of hair loss to raw moist bleeding areas.
These tiny orange – red mites (harvest mites) reside in grass and underbrush during September through January in the Santa Cruz Mountains. They are so small that you might not even notice them on your dog or cat but, once they become a source of itchy discomfort, they’re difficult to ignore.
What are Chiggers?
Chiggers, are commonly found in forests and grasslands and are relatives of spiders. They are nearly microscopic measuring only 1/100 of an inch (0.4 mm) and have an orange hue. In their larval stage, they attach to various animals including humans, cats and dogs.
Contrary to popular belief, Chigger larvae do not burrow deep into the skin and live underneath the skin. Instead, the larvae live on the skin’s surface. During feeding, they pierce the skin with their small, hooked fangs and inject powerful enzymes that digest skin cells, that become liquefied and are consumed by the larvae. The enzymes are irritating to the skin and result in intense itching.
How is a Chigger infestation diagnosed?
A sudden onset of intense itching during the late summer or early fall suggests that chiggers may be present. Many pets will ingest the biting larvae while grooming and owners may not see any of the characteristically orange insects.
Your veterinarian will make the diagnosis by identifying the mite. Accumulations of Chiggers may be seen as intensely orange spots on the skin. If fewer mites are present, they may only be seen on microscopic examination of a superficial skin scraping.
How do I treat Chiggers?
Chiggers must be physically removed and pets treated with medication.
Your veterinarian will prescribe safe and effective treatment.
Many dogs love summer as much as we do, but high temperatures can present a problem for our canine friends.
We talked with Dr. Debbie Mandell, staff veterinarian and adjunct associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital, about what factors can increase your dog’s risk of heat-related injuries and even death. Heatstroke is one of the many problems that veterinarians at Ryan see in the 13,000 emergency cases that come through their doors each year. Here are five factors that Dr. Mandell says can put your dog at risk for heat stress.
What Makes Some Dogs More Vulnerable
1. Congenital defects or underlying respiratory problems. One of the top risk factors, Dr. Mandell says, is upper-airway problems. You may coo at every adorable, flat-faced dog on your block, but breeds like Pugs, Bulldogs, French Bulldogs and Boxers can suffer from brachycephalic airway syndrome. Unlike humans, who sweat when we’re hot, dogs use their respiratory system to get rid of heat — and these flat-faced breeds’ airway abnormalities put them in danger of heatstroke when they’re exposed to higher temperatures.
Another underlying respiratory condition that can land dogs in big trouble is laryngeal paralysis, which is common in medium and large breeds like setters, Labradors and Pit Bulls. Additionally, small dogs like Yorkshire Terriers, Pomeranians and Maltese are commonly affected by collapsing tracheas. In both of those situations, Dr. Mandell explains, the dogs will pant to release heat, and their panting causes swelling in the airway, which causes them to pant harder, which results in more swelling. “They enter this vicious cycle where they get worse and worse really quickly,” Dr. Mandell says.
2. Not being acclimated to hot weather. “On the first hot day, everyone wants to go for a run with their dog or play outside in the yard,” Dr. Mandell says. “Dogs are not going to stop, even when they can’t breathe or are about to collapse.”
It’s up to you, then, to know the signs of heat stress, so you can help your dog cool down before it becomes an emergency. Those signs include excessive panting and drooling, a fast pulse and gums that have changed in color from pink to bright red. Vomiting and bloody diarrhea are signals that the heat may have started to affect internal organs.
3. Being kept outdoors without access to shade and water. It can be dangerous for an indoor dog to overexert himself in hot weather, but pets who are primarily housed outdoors are also in danger. “As much as we try to discourage it,” Dr. Mandell says, “there are people who have outdoor dogs.” Keeping a dog outside in the summer, especially without appropriate access to shade and cool water, is a risk that’s not worth taking.
4. Being left in the car. Speaking of risks that aren’t worth taking, it is never OK to leave a pet in a hot car. “It’s been documented that the temperature inside a car can reach over 120 degrees in minutes,” Dr. Mandell says. “If you have that window cracked a tiny amount, it’s really not going to help.” Fortunately, Dr. Mandell says, thanks to lots of recent news stories about dogs (and even children) being left in cars, she’s not seeing as many of those cases.
If you see an animal locked inside a hot car, there are steps you can take to help rescue it safely. The Humane Society of the United States, and the ASPCA recommend that you write down the car’s make, model and license plate; attempt to locate the owner; and call animal control or your local police department for help.
5. Obesity. While it is not a congenital defect like brachycephalic airway syndrome, obesity can certainly put your pet in harm’s way when it comes to heat stress. It makes dogs more susceptible to many issues — like joint and back problems — and heatstroke is no exception.
Dr. Mandell explains it this way: While some heat can escape through the respiratory system through panting, “70 percent of the heat loss in dogs and cats occurs by radiation and convection through the skin.” When the core body temperature rises, blood vessels dilate, the heart pumps harder, and there is increased blood flow to the skin, where heat is lost to the environment. In obese dogs, the large layer of fat under the skin serves as insulation and can prevent some of that heat from getting to the skin to be released.
One last note: An extremely thick coat of fur can cause the same situation, so you should also watch closely for signs of heatstroke if you own a furry breed like the Newfoundland or Great Pyrenees.
And if you think your dog is experiencing any of the signs of heatstroke, contact your veterinarian or local emergency clinic immediately.
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Spring has definitely sprung in the San Lorenzo Valley, and if you’re like us, you and your pets can’t wait to get outside more and more. But before you head outside this spring and summer for gardening, trips to the dog park, hiking, and general frolicking, let’s get up to date on parasite prevention.
When the Felton flora and fauna wake up from their winter slumber, you better believe that parasites are awake, too. However, we’ve also noticed that mosquitoes, fleas, and even ticks are even more resilient than ever, and with overall warmer winter temperatures and their ability to overwinter indoors (think: your garage, your shed, your house!), we’re now recommending parasite prevention and control all year round. Here’s more from Felton Veterinary Hospital about why prevention is your best medicine.
Flea and Tick Prevention
Fleas and ticks are external parasites that can cause extreme discomfort and serious illness in pets and in people.
In our area, fleas are prevalent due to the semi-rural nature of mountain living – lots of wildlife close by ensures that fleas have plenty of carriers. That, coupled with the number of domestic pets that are outdoors much of the time, leads to flea problems that can get out of control quickly! Pets can be made really uncomfortable by fleas, and fleas contribute to the spread of tapeworms and cat scratch fever (bartonellosis).
Fleas can also cause a severe allergic reaction in some pets, known as Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD). Pets with FAD are really miserable, and even one flea bite can cause pets with this condition to suffer. Hair loss, incessant itching, and raw, painful skin can result.
Ticks are also found in abundance in the San Lorenzo Valley. They are most prevalent in early spring and fall, but are well adapted to live throughout the year. Ticks live in grassy areas or in brush and dark, moist areas where they wait for a host to walk by. They then crawl onto your pet and bite, attaching for up to several days while they feed.
Tick bites can be painful and irritating, and can even become infected. But of more serious concern are the diseases that can be transmitted by a tick bite. These include:
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever
- Lyme disease
These diseases can be serious, complicated, and painful and can affect your pet’s health for months or even years. Many of them also affect humans, so it’s important to test your pet regularly for tick transmitted disease to know if you may also be at risk.
Luckily, flea and tick prevention for your pet is easy, safe, and affordable. We recommend a monthly preventive and offer both topical or chewable alternatives. Talk to us about your pet’s lifestyle at their next preventive care exam, and together we can form a plan of attack.
Heartworm infection is a deadly disease for both dogs and cats. It is transmitted by a single mosquito bite, and can take months to show symptoms in your pet. Signs of heartworm disease include lethargy, exercise intolerance, and sudden onset coughing.
When an infected mosquito bites your pet, it transmits the heartworm larvae into your pet’s bloodstream. These microfilaria travel to your pet’s heart and the arteries of the lungs, where they mature into foot long adult heartworms. Heartworms can live for 2-3 years in the cat, and 5-7 years in the dog, and during that time they wreak havoc on your pet’s heart, lungs, and other organs. Left untreated, heartworm disease is fatal in all cases – cats, and dogs.
Heartworm disease has been endemic in the San Lorenzo Valley since the 1940’s, largely due to our climate of lots of winter moisture followed by warm spring and summer temperatures. Mosquitoes are extremely resilient, and they love this climate as much as we all do, and unfortunately we have treated literally hundreds of heartworm cases over the last 10 years.
Heartworm treatment for dogs is long, expensive, and very involved. There is no approved treatment for cats. For these reasons, we recommend heartworm prevention all year round.
Preventives are available in topical (Revolution) or chewable (Heartgard) form, and and are effective and easy to give. Heartworm testing every year is also recommended for each pet, as the heartworm life cycle can take up to 8 months to complete.
Don’t make the mistake of letting your pet’s parasite preventives lapse or fall away. This is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to keep your pet healthy and happy. If you’ve let things slide this winter, give us a call and let us help you get back on track. We’re here to help!
Our four legged friends tend to be active and adventurous, and we love that about them! However, at times they can – shall we say – “get into things” that they shouldn’t. Hopefully your pets have never ingested anything that caused a pet emergency, but it’s always great to be prepared!
As we spring into spring, we’re all itching to get outside. It’s amazing (and somewhat scary!) how many potential poisons are in and around the average garden, yard, and home. With that in mind, Felton Veterinary Hospital has put together here a few tips and ideas for how to prevent pet poisoning at home.
Pet Toxicity 101
First, a few basics on pet poisoning. Poisons act fast, so if you feel your pet has ingested something potentially toxic, you should act fast, too. Give us a call or come in right away – don’t spend time on the internet trying to figure things out or leave a voicemail for your veterinarian. If it’s after hours, seek emergency care immediately.
Pet poisoning signs can be subtle at first, and may not even show up until several days after your pet ingests something toxic. Signs that your pet may experience include:
- Pawing at the mouth
- Pale or grayish gum color
- Racing heartbeat
- Weakness/ collapse
- Difficulty breathing
- Muscle tremors
- Excessive thirst or urination
Prevent Pet Poisoning in Your Home
Awareness is key when considering items in your home that you’ll want to keep out of your pet’s reach. This is a basic list, and is not exhaustive – so if you have any questions, let us know.
People food — people foods such as chocolate, bread dough, fatty table scraps, onions/garlic/chives, raisins and grapes, macadamia nuts, and xylitol (sometimes found in peanut butter) can all be toxic to pets.
Medications — keep all human medications far from pets! Some can be especially toxic to them. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and Ibuprofen (Advil) are two medications found in many medicine cabinets that can cause big problems for pets. Keep human and pet medications separate, read the labels each time you give medication to your pet to make sure it’s the right one, and be on the safe side – don’t share unprescribed medication between pets.
Flowers and plants — there are certain flowers and plants commonly used around the home that can be toxic and even deadly to pets, such as lilies and cyclamen. The safest flowers and plants to use in homes with pets are of the silk or cloth variety – and even those should be out of curious cat’s reach!
Cleaning supplies and chemicals — you may have guessed that some cleaning supplies and chemicals can be irritating to pets noses and mouths, and can also be toxic if ingested. Ventilate your home well when cleaning, keep pets away from “helping” you when you clean, and keep all cleaning supplies and chemicals out of their reach.
Essential oils and liquid potpourri — essential oils and liquid potpourri can be damaging to pets’ organs and toxic if ingested. In addition, even the aromatherapy smells you like can be very irritating and potentially harmful to pets. Talk to us before using any essential oils around (or on) your pets, and give them a way to “escape” diffused smells.
Pet Poison Prevention in Your Yard and Garden
With rain (finally!) and spring approaching, it’s important to realize how many things in your yard and garden might pose a poisoning risk to your pets. Common sense and precaution are good watchwords, and again, if you think your pet has eaten something poisonous, don’t wait to seek treatment.
Here’s a basic list of things to watch for.
- Bone and blood meal
- Mushrooms – which often bloom after the rain!
- Cocoa mulch
- Rat and mouse poison
- Snail bait
We’re always available to help if you need assistance with questions about pet poisoning. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control hotline is also a great resource to keep close by. Give us a call if you have any questions or want more ideas about pet poison prevention in your home and yard.
Have you made any New Year’s resolutions yet? 2017 has wound down, and with 2018 just beginning it’s a great time to look ahead and think about what we want to do differently this year. Maybe you want to eat better, hit the gym more frequently, and enjoy life more? Well, why not include your pet in some of your new year’s resolutions? Not sure where to start? The team at Felton Veterinary Hospital has you covered. Below are some ideas for New Year’s resolutions for pet owners, to get the New Year started off right for your pet.
Feed the Best Quality Diet You Can
Is one of your resolutions to eat better? Our pets are no different! Feeding a high quality, balanced diet can do so much to lengthen their lives and help keep them healthy and feeling great. There are so many diet options out there, but each pet is an individual. So, talk to us about your pet’s nutrition needs at your next preventive care appointment.
Extra credit: Measure your pet’s food each and every time you feed, to prevent unwanted weight gain. Ask us for a free pet food measuring cup!
Establish a Daily Grooming Routine
Not every dog and cat needs a daily brushing (although some do!), but establishing a daily rub down or brushing has many benefits. Of course, one is that removing loose hair means fewer hairballs across your living room floor!
But grooming has other benefits too. During these daily sessions, you’ll become familiar with your pet’s body, and any lumps, bumps, or changes will be more easily noticed. The sooner you can have your veterinarian check things out, the sooner action can be taken, and early detection of disease can often mean a better prognosis.
Stay on Track with Preventive Care
The old adage “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is absolutely true in veterinary medicine. At Felton Veterinary Hospital, preventive care is tailored to the individual pet, but our preventive care exam will include discussion with you about the following:
- Comprehensive, nose-to-tail physical exam
- Monthly flea, tick, and heartworm prevention
- Early detection diagnostic tests as warranted by your pet’s age and condition
- Dental health grading, oral health and regular teeth brushing
- Body condition scoring and nutrition
Make sure to schedule your pet’s annual or biannual preventive care exam. And, January is a great time to also schedule your pet’s monthly preventives in your iCal, or whatever calendar system you use. It’s so easy to set reminders nowadays, that keeping track of your pet’s monthly dose of flea, tick, and heartworm preventive is literally push button. It might feel like an investment, but keeping up to date on preventive care can save you money in the long run.
Update their tags
Unfortunately pets do get lost. If you have moved or changed phone numbers, take the time to update your pet’s tags with your current contact information. Make sure your pet’s microchip is registered with the correct information as well. A microchip is the single best way to ensure a reunion with you if your pet is ever lost, but only if the registration information is accurate!
Carve Out Time to Play
Play is so important for all of us! Kittens and puppies as well as adult dogs and cats thrive on daily play, and there are so many ways to do that in our area. Why not teach your dog a new trick, or combine your workout routine? Cats can also learn new tricks and thrive on new and fun toys and games. Get creative, and see how good it makes you feel to play, too!
So, there you have them – our top ideas for New Year’s resolutions for pet owners. And these goals aren’t just good for your pets – strengthening the bond between you is good for you, too. If you have any questions or want more ideas, give us a call. We’re always ready to help you keep your pet healthy and happy!
Happy New Year, and cheers!
The holiday season is upon us, and many of us want to include our furry family members in the celebrations. As you prepare for the holidays, remember that it is important to try and keep your pet’s exercise and feeding routine as normal as possible. To help you along in this magical time of year, the team at Felton Veterinary Hospital has compiled some tips for celebrating the holidays safely with your pet.
The Tree — Perhaps the quintessential holiday icon, the Christmas tree can pose some health hazards for dogs and cats. You may want to secure the tree to the wall, so that it can’t tip over. Watch carefully that pets don’t drink the Christmas tree water, which could cause stomach upset or diarrhea.
Poisonous Plants — Holly, mistletoe, and poinsettias all pose serious risks to pets if ingested. Substitute silk flowers and place them high up where they cannot be ingested.
Tinsel and Lights — Kitties especially love tinsel and twinkling lights, and often can’t resist bringing them down for some chewing. However the nibble can result in a swallow, which can lead to digestive tract issues, possibly requiring surgery. Hang them high, or decorate your tree with something else.
Ornaments — Glass and delicate ornaments can break, possibly cutting a paw or mouth. Keep ornaments to soft felt or wood, and again you may want to hang them high to avoid curious paws from reaching them.
Holiday Foods for Pets to Avoid
Common holiday foods that we all love to share can pose some serious health risks for our pets. If you want to share with your pets, keep it simple – a small piece of well cooked, lean turkey meat, unseasoned carrots or green beans, or a dollop of pumpkin puree can all be lovely treats for your furry friends this season. To avoid a trip to the emergency veterinary service this holiday season, here are the top holiday foods for pets to avoid.
- Macadamia Nuts
- Fatty Table Scraps
- Grapes and Raisins
- Onions, Garlic, and Chives
- Yeast dough
Pets are creatures of routine and habit, and holiday visitors and loud gatherings may be stressful for them. To keep them calm and happy, here are some tips
A Quiet Place — Make sure your pet has a comfortable quiet place inside to retreat to if they wish. A crate or a room away from the action can let your pet calm down and give them a welcome break from the action.
Prep Ahead — let your guests know that you have pets, in case of allergies.
Exotic Pets — Exotic pets may be especially stressed by gatherings. Keep them safely away from the hubbub of the holidays.
Watch the Door — make sure your pet cannot slip out during comings and goings and get lost.
Microchip and Tags — Speaking of lost, make sure pets have a well-fitting collar and tags to make sure they can be identified if lost. Better yet, a microchip with up-to-date registration information can be your pet’s best chance of a reunion with you, should they slip out and get lost.
Clear the Food — Make sure food is cleared away before your pet can counter or table surf. Many a case of pancreatitis has been started by pets that get to a carcass or trash can during the holiday feast.
Wrapping Paper and Ribbon — Trash should be cleared away immediately, before curious pets can be tempted.
If you have other questions or concerns about how to keep your pets safe during the holidays, don’t hesitate to contact us. With a little planning and preparation, you can include your pets safely in your holiday celebrations!
Our pets love us unconditionally and provide us (their humans) with companionship, love, fun, and exercise. Our pets are good for us in so many ways – mentally, emotionally, and it’s been proven over and over that even our physical health benefits from our relationships with our pet companions.
Senior Pets (defined as seven years or older for most dogs and cats, and 6 years in larger dog breeds) can experience many of the same problems seen in older people – such as:
• Heart Disease
• Kidney and Urinary Tract disease
• Liver Disease
• Joint or Bone disease
Your pet’s health in later years is not entirely under your control but with a regular health examination and simple diagnostic tests, many of the problems associated with aging can be spotted even before symptoms show.
The cornerstone of preventative care is a once-a-year, or ideally twice-a year health examination for your senior pet. During these visits, your veterinarian can review other preventative care strategies such as good nutrition, parasite control, and maintaining a healthy weight and an active lifestyle.
Due to improved veterinary care and dietary habits, pets are living longer now than they have ever before. There are many medication, supplement, and diet changes that can benefit your pet for senior issues including: Liver and kidney disease, cardiovascular and respiratory disease, diabetes, thyroid diseases, obesity, cognitive dysfunction (pet senility), and more. One result of this is that pets, along with their human companions and veterinarians, are faced with a whole new set of age-related conditions. In recent years there has been extensive research on the problems facing older pets and how to best address their special needs. Next week we will explore some ideas to do this!
What Happens in Heartworm Disease
By Wendy C. Brooks DVM, DABVP
Heartworm Disease vs. Heartworm Infection
Before reviewing the clinical signs seen in heartworm disease, an important distinction must be made between heartworm disease and heartworm infection. Heartworm infection by definition means the host animal (generally a dog) is parasitized by at least one life stage of the heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis). Dogs with heartworms in their bodies do not necessarily have adult worms in their hearts; they may have larval heartworms in their skin only. Dogs with heartworms in their bodies are not necessarily sick, either. Dogs with only larvae of one stage or another are not sick and it is controversial how dangerous it is for a dog to have only one or two adult heartworms. These dogs are certainly infected but they do not have heartworm disease.
On the other hand, dogs with heartworm disease are sick. They not only have the infection but they have any of the problems listed below because of it. Fortunately, heartworm disease is both treatable and preventable. Further sections of this web page explain both treatment and prevention; we will now discuss the damage heartworms can do to a dog’s body.
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Fleas: Know your Enemy
Despite numerous technological advances, fleas continue to represent a potentially lethal plague upon our pets. Current products are effective so there is little reason for this; the problem seems to be one of understanding.
There are over 1900 flea species in the world. Pet owners are concerned with only one: Ctenocephalides felis, the cat flea. This is the flea that we find on our pets (cats, dogs, rabbits, and other species) in 99.9% of cases and in order to understand how to control the damage caused by this tiny little animal, you should learn all you can about it.
What Kind of Damage Can Fleas Cause?
It would be a grave mistake to think of the flea as simply a nuisance. A heavy flea burden is lethal, especially to smaller or younger animals. The cat flea is not at all selective about its host and has been known to kill dairy calves through heavy infestation. Conditions brought about via flea infestation include:
• Flea Allergic Dermatitis (fleas do not make animals itchy unless there a flea bite allergy)
• Flea Anemia
• Feline Infectious Anemia (a life-threatening blood parasite carried by fleas)
• Cat Scratch Fever/Bartonellosis (does not make the cat sick but the infected cat can make a person sick)
• Common Tapeworm infection (not harmful but cosmetically unappealing)
Fleas can kill pets.
This is so important that we will say it again: Most people have no idea that fleas can kill. On some level, it is obvious that fleas are blood-sucking insects but most people never put it together that enough fleas can cause a slow but still life-threatening blood loss. This is especially a problem for elderly cats who are allowed to go outside. These animals do not groom well and are often debilitated by other diseases. The last thing a geriatric pet needs to worry about is a lethal flea infestation and it is important that these animals be well protected.
Also consider that in about 90% of cases where an owner thinks the pet does not have fleas, a veterinarian finds obvious fleas when a flea comb is used. Despite the TV commercials, the educational pamphlets, the common nature of the parasite, there are still some significant awareness problems and a multitude of misconceptions.
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* Diabetes Mellitus Center
What is Diabetes Mellitus?
In order to understand the problems involved in diabetes mellitus, it is necessary to understand something of the normal body’s metabolism.
The pancreas is nestled along the stomach and small intestine. It secretes digestive enzymes into the small intestine but it also secretes hormones into the bloodstream to regulate blood sugar.
The cells of the body require a sugar known as glucose for food and they depend on the bloodstream to bring glucose to them. They cannot, however, absorb and utilize glucose without a hormone known as insulin. This hormone, insulin, is produced by the pancreas. Insulin is like a key that unlocks the door to separate cells from the sugars in our bloodstream.
Glucose comes from the diet. When an animal goes without food, the body must break down fat, stored starches, and protein to supply calories for the hungry cells. Proteins and starches may be converted into glucose. Fat, however, requires different processing that can lead to the production of ketones rather than glucose. Ketones are another type of fuel that the body can use in a pinch but the detection of ketones indicates that something wrong is happening in the patient’s metabolism. Ketones may therefore be detected in the urine of starving animals because of massive fat mobilization is required for ketone formation. Ketones can also be detected in diabetic ketoacidosis, a severe complication of unregulated diabetes so it is helpful to periodically monitor for ketones in a diabetic patient’s urine. The point is, for now, that in times of extreme fat burning (such as in starvation), ketones are a byproduct.
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