Heartworm Disease

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Heartworm season is coming!  Starting June 1st we recommend that all Colorado dogs be on monthly heartworm prevention.  You are likely getting phone calls from us to update your dog’s heartworm test and pick up heartworm preventative. But…. Why?  I will tell you!

Heartworm disease, also called Dirofilaria immitis, is truly a worm that can live in a dog’s heart and pulmonary (lung) arteries.  It can also be transmitted to cats and ferrets but very uncommonly.  This worm can grow up to 14 inches long!  Gross!

Heartworms are spread by mosquitos so a dog does NOT have to be interacting with other dogs in order to get the infection.  Puppies can also get heartworm disease from their mothers when they are in the placenta.  Some of the mosquitos that like to carry heartworms also like to live in our houses, so your dog does not necessarily need to spend a lot of time outside in order to get the infection.  Treatment for a heartworm infection is very difficult and expensive.  Prevention is very easy, relatively inexpensive, and almost 100% effective.

At Mesa we recommend that every dog in Colorado get an annual heartworm test.  Though the chances of your dog getting heartworm disease is low, it is possible and you definitely want to catch a positive dog on a test and NOT when they are showing signs!  If they are already showing signs of the infection, they could be in very big trouble. Even if your dog is taking heartworm prevention as they should, the preventative is not 100% effective and if you’re like me at all you may be a few days late a month or two, which leaves your dog at risk for infection.  A heartworm test is a little blood test and is very accurate.

We also recommend dogs in Colorado take a monthly preventative June through November.  These preventatives kill baby heartworms that your dog may have been infected with before they can cause any damage to the body.  Most heartworm preventatives also help with gastrointestinal parasites as well.  There are many types of heartworm preventatives but the ones we carry are ivermectin (Heartgard), selamectin (Revolution) and Milbemycin (Interceptor).  If your dog travels outside of Colorado, there may be other recommendations for heartworm prevention use.  Please discuss your travel plans with us so we can make sure your pup is protected!

When a dog is infected with heartworm disease it actually can take 6 months before the heartworms are detectable because the tests look for adult heartworms.  This is why we do not test puppies under 6 months of age for heartworm disease.  As discussed, adult heartworms travel to the heart and blood vessels in the lungs and they grow… and grow… and grow!  The dog’s own immune system will try to defeat the worm, but they are unable to.  In the process they produce a lot of inflammation that can damage and scar the heart and blood vessels.  Blood flow is abnormal in these areas and life threatening clots can form.  Some arteries are completely blocked by the number of worms, which then cannot circulate blood or oxygen as they should.  Worms that die in the dog can move and clog the lungs.

It can actually take a very long time for dogs to show signs that they have heartworm disease.  Signs can include coughing, shortness of breath, exercise intolerance, fluid accumulation in the chest or abdomen (because the heart is failing), and even sudden death.

Heartworm disease is a very damaging and sometimes fatal disease that we take very seriously!  We are lucky in Colorado.  Because of our cool nights and low humidity, heartworms have a hard time replicating.  However, we still see it every year (we’ve had two cases already this spring) and it is a terrible disease.  If you haven’t already, make sure you get your pup in for his annual heartworm test and pick up your heartworm preventative!

Julia Katzenbach, DVM

 

April Showers Bring… Toxic Plants!

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Many of you know the list of foods toxic to dogs and cats, but there are a wide variety of household plants that are toxic as well.  Below is a VERY short list of the common toxic plants we see every day.  See the ASPCA’s website for a thorough list.

Aloe Vera –  Great for our skin!  Toxic to dogs and cats.  If ingested it can cause vomiting, lethargy, and diarrhea.

Azalea (Rhodedendron) –  This beautiful plant can make a dog or cat very sick, even if just a small amount is ingested!  It can cause vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and potentially serious heart issues!

Carnations – Though they cause mild toxicity, they are very common in floral arrangements.  If ingested, can cause mild intestinal upset and mild dermatitis.

Daffodil – Another common perennial seen in many floral arrangements and gardens!  The bulb is the most toxic part of the plant.  If ingested in small amounts you may see vomiting, hypersalivation.  If ingested in large quantities, can cause convulsions, low blood pressure, and serious heart issues.

Ivy Arum – Seems to be a silly thing to chew on, but if it is it can cause severe oral irritation, burning of the mouth, and vomiting.

Lilies – Lovely fragrant flowers, but VERY toxic to cats!  Any plants in the Lilium family (Tiger, Asian, Japanese, Easter, Stargazer, and more) can cause kidney failure in cats, even when ingested in only small amounts.  Keep them out of the house!

Morning Glory – Another beautiful plant that can have very strange side-effects if ingested by your pet.  Pet’s will experience vomiting, tremors, and potentially hallucinations if ingested in large amounts.

Oleander – This plant can have significant effects to the cardiovascular system if ingested by your pet.  Signs can include drooling, diarrhea, depression, and potentially death from cardiac failure.

Poinsetta – Though not as toxic as once thought, this common household plant should not be eaten by your pets.  If chewed, it can cause significant irritation to the mouth and stomach, as well as mild vomiting.

Tomato Plant – Though ripe tomatoes are not toxic, the plant itself can be if ingested by your pet.  Signs include severe intestinal upset, depression, weakness, and heart issues.

Tulips – Beautiful in your yard, but beware if your dog likes to dig in the dirt.  If the bulbs are ingested, they can be quite toxic.  If ingested, it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and depression.

This list does not even get close to mentioning all of the plants toxic to your pets.  Again, please see the ASPA website (https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants) for a thorough list.  If your pet ingests something toxic, contact us or the ASPA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) to see what treatments your pet should receive!

Julia Katzenbach, DVM

Care of Red-Eared Sliders

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Red-eared sliders are a popular reptile pet that we see very commonly at Mesa Veterinary Hospital.  However, their care can be very difficult!  Below is information on the care for these wonderful reptiles.

Scientific name:  Trachemys scripta elegans

Native to the United States east of the Rockies.  They are freshwater turtles.

Husbandry concerns:  All red eared sliders need both a warm, dry area and a large pool of warm water.  In the wild, they choose water that warms up quickly in the sun each day.  You will need to provide a warm enclosure with both heated water and a warm place for your turtle to climb out and dry off.  The water must be kept clean!  Rotting bits of food mixed with feces will combine to make an unhealthy habitat.  See below specific information on how to design your turtle’s new home.

You can use clean aquarium rock and gravel to build a slope up from the wet end (the pool) to the dry end (the land). Floating or anchored cork rafts or logs are another alternative. Rough rocks must not be used as they can scratch turtle shells which allows bacterial and fungal infections to get started and penetrate into the turtle’s body.

One of the biggest mistakes that aquatic turtle owners make is not providing a large enough tank for their turtle. The minimum size required for a young turtle will not work for a middle age or full grown turtle. Since turtles will grow relatively quickly when they are cared for properly, you should start off with an enclosure size big enough for your turtle to comfortably grow into for at least 1-2 years. For the smallest turtles, start with at least a 30-50 gallon glass aquarium.  The water must be at least 2 times your turtle’s total length in depth, with several extra inches of air space between the surface of the water to the top edge of the tank to prevent escapes. The tank length needs to be at least 5 times the turtle’s length, and the front-to-back width should be at least 3 times the turtle’s length.  Having two turtles can be fun, but then your tank should be twice the size to accommodate both of them!

Proper water filtering systems are necessary to keep the water fairly fresh between your weekly changes. If you have a powerful filter system and you feed your turtle in another tank, you may be able to get away with replacing 25-50% of the water each week for two or three weeks, emptying and cleaning out the tank thoroughly every third or fourth week. Remember to replace the water with warm water. You will also need some type of automated siphon for the partial changes of water between the overall heavy-duty changes and cleaning.

The water temperature must be maintained between 75-86 degrees F.  If you buy a submersible pre-calibrated heater, test it first and make sure the water is the proper temperature before you put your turtle in the water.  Use a heat lamp above the dry area to create a basking area, which should reach 85-88 F.  It is VERY important that you do not guess at either of these temperatures and that they are directly measured!  Their requirements are very specific and they can become very ill if these temperatures are too low.

Turtles also require specialized lighting, called UVB lighting. The best source of UVB is the sun, but if your turtle is remaining indoors a special light needs to be purchased.  ReptiSun and Megaray are two great options, but these lights can be purchased at pet stores as well.  Be sure to read the box carefully, as most UVB lights only emit UVB for approximately 6 months!  This means the fluorescent light will still be present, but no UVB is being emitted.  Be sure to label the light fixture with the month the bulb should be changed.  UVB light also does not go through glass or plastic, and should be within 18 inches of the turtle’s basking area.  Make sure there is absolutely no way for the lights to fall into the water or for the turtle to come into direct contact with the light bulbs. Make sure that all lights are securely fixed so they cannot be moved.

Diet:   Red eared sliders are omnivores, eating both animal protein and vegetable/plant matter.  Younger turtles need up to 40% of their food from protein sources.  Adult turtles feed more heavily on vegetation.  All red eared sliders should be fed a varied diet.  Young turtles should be fed daily, where adults can be fed every other day.  Do not feed more than they can eat, as the excess food will just dirty the water.

There are a few different categories of foods to obtain for your turtle.  Commercial foods are very common and convenient, but should be only 25% of your turtle’s diet.  Animal protein should make up another 25% of the diet.  This can include live feeder fish (NOT frozen fish), earthworms, cooked beef and chicken (sparingly).  Earthworms can be gut loaded so that they contain added vitamins and minerals.  A gut loading formula (such as those made by Flukers) can be purchased and fed to the worm before it is fed to the turtle.  Plant matter should compose the remainder of the diet, around 50%.  Examples of foods to try include dark leafy greens (collard, mustard, and dandelion), shredded carrots, squash, and green beans.  Fresh vegetables are better, but frozen vegetables can be fed occasionally as well.  Some fruits can also be offered, such as apples, melons, and berries.

Health care:  It can be difficult to know whether your turtle is healthy or not, and an annual exam to discuss husbandry and thoroughly examine your turtle is recommended.  At that time a routine fecal exam may be recommended, and potentially other tests depending on how your turtle is doing.  Common signs of illness including closed or swollen eyes, breathing with their mouth open, discharge around the nose or mouth, not eating, swimming abnormally, or abnormalities of the shell.

Other information:

Life span:  Some have been reported to live for over 100 years.                                                                                                       Sexing:  Males are smaller than females in overall body size but have longer tails and toenails.

*All reptiles can carry salmonella, which can be transmitted to humans.  Wash your hands thoroughly after handling*

If you have any questions about the care of your red-eared slider, or are interested in adding one to the family, give us a call!

Julia Katzenbach, DVM

National Pet Dental Health Month is Coming!

4618906969_a74b52a800_bFebruary is dental month, and it is just around the corner!  Dental health is just as important in your furry pets as it is in you, and we do not tend to think of it nearly as often.    During dental month we try to promote and educate owners regarding dental disease.  We also have an incentive this month only for a discount off of your final bill if your pet receives a dental prophylactic cleaning.

Periodontal disease is the most common type of dental disease that effects dogs and cats.  It starts with plaque formation, which is noticed most obviously during an examination.  This then progresses to tartar build-up.  It can appear as a thick, tan to brown plaque on your pet’s teeth, and is created by the bacteria in the mouth.  This tartar is unsightly, but more importantly it can get underneath your pet’s gums and cause gingivitis.  This appears as red, swollen gums and can be uncomfortable for your pet.  If there is disease under your pet’s gums, this can eventually affect the support structures, the roots, and the bone surrounding the teeth which can cause tooth root abscesses and loss of the tooth.  These abscesses can be very painful, and can generally only be cured by extraction of the tooth.  The goal of routine dentals is to do them preventatively, so that we never get so far as to have tooth root abscesses in our pets!

Cats also have a unique form of dental disease called resorptive lesions.  This can affect up to 60% of cats.  At this point we do not know exactly what causes it, though there are many theories.  However, we do know that these lesions cause the teeth to be eaten away and can be very painful.  The typical treatment for these teeth is extraction.  We do know that preventative care can help prevent development of these lesions in some cases.

The good thing about periodontal disease in our pets is that it can be almost entirely preventable with diligent at home care!  There are many options for at home care including dental treats, dental diets, chews, rinses, wipes, and brushing.  Brushing is by far the most effective way to prevent periodontal disease and tartar build up in your pet.  A pet specific toothpaste should be obtained, and your pet’s teeth should be brushed THREE to FIVE times per week in order for it to help!

However, we do understand that it can be difficult to commit to brushing your pet’s teeth frequently, and some pets do not tolerate it.  I have had some cases where owners are very devoted to brushing daily and their pet still develops dental disease.  Routine prophylactic dentals are indicated in all pets.  Again, the goal of these dentals is to save the teeth so that hopefully we never need extractions!  But, we also want to find those problem teeth before they cause your pet discomfort or start to affect the surrounding teeth and bones.  In this case, dental radiographs (xrays) are often performed and we may discuss removing the problem tooth.  Routine dental care also helps the health of a pet’s entire body!

A dental cleaning requires general anesthesia, so your pet is asleep while his teeth are cleaned.  This allows us to adequately clean beneath the gumline and assess for diseased teeth.  Anesthesia free dentals exist, but are actually illegal in some states as they do not appropriately clean and address the teeth, and sometimes even harm the teeth.  Without anesthesia, dentals are painful for the pet and cannot address disease underneath the gums.  Anesthesia is always taken very seriously, and a full physical exam and appropriate bloodwork is performed before the dental cleaning.  Your pet is monitored closely by a certified veterinary technician, which includes an electrocardiogram, blood pressure, and oxygenation status.

Also, a quick note on our smaller furry friends.  Some of the exotics critters get dental disease as well!  I most commonly see ferrets with dental disease, which get similar issues as dogs and cats do.  Occasionally I see dental tartar in hedgehogs as well, and gingivitis is common in bearded dragons!  Our hindgut fermenters (rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas) can get overgrown teeth which can cause ulcerations and pain.  During every visit, your pet’s teeth are always assessed!

Please do not hesitate to contact us regarding your pet’s dental health, or call to schedule your pets dental cleaning and health assessment next month!

Julia Katzenbach, DVM

It’s Officially Summer!

13147844_10106233973379190_4450138960645126294_oSummer means camping, hiking, and enjoying the great outdoors!  It also brings a handful of things to consider for your beloved pets.  The following are a few important things to consider with the warm weather.

PARASITES:

Heartworm disease:

Hopefully you have all heard one of us discuss heartworm disease in an appointment, but here is a summary in case you forget the details!  Heartworm disease is named very appropriately, as it is a worm that can truly live in a dog’s heart.  It can be transmitted to cats as well, though much less commonly.  It is spread by mosquitos, so even if your dog does not interact with unknown dogs it should still get prevention.  Many of these mosquitos like to live in your house, so even if your dog remains mostly inside it should STILL get prevention!  These worms can cause severe damage to the heart and lungs, and can grow to be a foot in length!  Treatment for this disease can be very difficult, dangerous, and expensive.  However, prevention is easy, relatively inexpensive, and almost 100% effective.

For every dog, we recommend a once a month preventative from June through November that kills any baby heartworms your dog may have been infected with before they become dangerous.  This medication also helps to prevent other gastrointestinal parasites.  In other states, year round prevention is necessary.  A yearly blood test to detect heartworm disease is required before a prescription can be filled, to make sure that your pet has not been infected.  These medications are generally very safe and it is very rare for a dog to have a negative side effect.  There are multiple options, including oral flavored tablets and topical treatments.

Internal Parasites:

There are many other different types of internal parasites that can infect our pets.  Usually they live in the gastrointestinal tract and can cause signs such as vomiting and diarrhea.  This can often be detected with a simple fecal exam, which are recommended yearly.  Many of these parasites are zoonotic, meaning that humans can get them as well.  Some of these parasites are prevented by your monthly heartworm preventative, but if you have any concerns with how your pet is doing a test should be performed just in case.

External Parasites:

There are many different types of external parasites that can effect dogs and cats.  Luckily they are much less common in Colorado!  Fleas, ticks, lice, and mites are a handful of these.  Monthly prevention is available for these parasites, and the majority of these consist of a topical liquid that is absorbed into the sebaceous glands in the skin.  Most of the time we use it after we find the parasites to help kill the parasites and prevent further infestations.  But these medications can be used every month even if you have not seen a parasite on your pet.  Ticks are known to spread other diseases, so if you notice one it should be removed right away.

 

Rattlesnakes:

In the state of Colorado we have one main rattlesnake, the Prairie Rattlesnake.  Luckily for us, it is generally a wuss as far as rattlesnake goes.  99% of dogs survive their bite wounds, but 100% of dogs feel very ill after being bitten.  The majority of rattlesnake bites are in the front range foothills, especially on North Table Mountain, South Table Mountain, and Green Mountain.  Keep your dogs leashed in these areas and stay on trails to avoid rattlesnakes.  If you see one, give it a wide berth and it will likely leave you completely alone.

Signs of a rattlesnake bite include extreme swelling and pain in the affected area.  Often you will see two puncture wounds.  If your dog is bitten, it should be seen by a veterinarian right away!  As mentioned, these dogs are extremely painful, often in shock, and can have some severe changes in their ability to clot blood.  If they are bitten on the nose or throat, the severe swelling can affect their ability to breath.  It will be recommended that they are hospitalized for intravenous fluids, pain medicine, and possibly antivenin.  Most dogs are much improved in a day or two without severe complications.

 

Leptospirosis:

Leptospirosis is caused by a bacterial infection that can be carried potentially by any mammal, including wildlife.  It can be transmitted to your pet through contaminated water, soil, or by coming in contact with the animal itself.  It is more common in the summer, though can be contracted all year long.  This disease can be very serious, as it can cause detrimental damage to the liver and kidneys and can potentially be fatal.  This disease is also zoonotic, meaning it can be spread to people.  Luckily, there is a vaccine for this disease that is quite effective!  We are seeing more and more of this disease in Colorado and at this time recommend that every dog, even those that do not spend very much time outside, be vaccinated for it.  Generally this vaccine is given apart from other vaccines, due to a slightly higher risk of vaccine reactions.

 

Heat Stroke:

Heat stroke can be very serious and can affect your pet very quickly.  Remember, your dog is wearing a permanent fur coat!  If you’re going to take them out for a run or a hike, do it during the cooler times of day or head into the mountains.  If it feels at all warm outside, please do not leave them in your car!  Your car can easily become 20 degrees warmer than the temperature outside, and can put your pet at risk.  Dogs that are brachycephalic (have shorter noses) such as bulldogs, boxers, and pugs, are at a higher risk of being effected by the heat.  If your dog seems very hot, try to find a body of water to let them submerge and cool off.  If they are lethargic or their gums are very bright or very pale, you should seek medical attention right away as this can be life threatening.

 

Plague:

Many people believe that plague is a disease of the past, but it actually still exists in some southwestern states, including Colorado.  It is a bacterial infection spread by fleas who live on rodents, namely prairie dogs.  Pets can come in contact with this disease by hunting or interacting with prairie dogs, so it is often seen in cats who spend a large amount of time outside.  This disease can be very serious, and can affect the lungs, lymph nodes, and blood stream.  It can also be spread to people.  The easiest way to prevent your pet from contracting this disease is to keep them inside.  If your pet spends time outside unsupervised, and is showing any signs of lethargy, breathing heavy, or just not doing well, they should see a veterinarian right away.  This disease can be cured with antibiotics if caught early enough but can be fatal if left undetected.

 

Rabbit Fever:

Rabbit fever is a disease that is new to Colorado.  It is also known as Tularemia, and has already been diagnosed in multiple people and dogs this summer in Jefferson County.  It is a bacterial infection that is spread by certain types of ticks that live on rabbits.  This disease can cause a fever, enlarged lymph nodes, and can damage many internal organs.  It can also be spread to people.  Keeping your pets inside and away from rabbits is the best way to prevent this disease.  This disease can be treated with antibiotics if caught early enough but can be life threatening.

What is AAHA?

 

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You may have seen the AAHA label on our hospital’s sign, our website, and our name tags.  This signifies that Mesa is AAHA accredited, and having this accreditation is something we are very proud of. What is AAHA and how does that effect you and your beloved pets?

AAHA stands for the American Animal Hospital Association.  AAHA was established in 1933 and is the only companion animal exclusive veterinary association.  It is responsible for accreditation of companion animal practices.  Accredited practices undergo regular comprehensive evaluations by AAHA veterinary experts who evaluate the practice on about 900 standards of veterinary care.  Approximately 12% of veterinary practices in the United States and Canada are AAHA accredited.  Accreditation standards include a wide variety of requirements, ranging from having certified veterinary technicians to anesthesia standards to cleanliness of the hospital.

We are very proud to share that Mesa Veterinary Hospital has been AAHA accredited since 1986!  We work hard to practice high quality medicine and hold ourselves and our staff to a higher standards for you and your pets.

For more information regarding AAHA please visit their website:  https://www.aaha.org/default.aspx (and note Dr. Horst on the front page!)

Or see an informational video at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0cil3GyVuks

Julia Katzenbach, DVM

Leopard Gecko Care

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Whenever a client or friend asks me what type of reptile I would recommend them getting, leopard geckos are always towards the top of my list!  They are so fun to watch, generally well mannered, and make good pets.  Here is a bit more information regarding their care!

Leopard geckos are native to India and Pakistan, and come as many color varieties.  They generally live 10 to 15 years and can grow to be 10 inches in length.  They can be housed alone, or can be housed as a group of females.  It is difficult to tell their gender until they are older, so it is recommended they are kept separate until then.  Most geckos are housed in aquariums, which should be at least 2 feet long and 1 foot wide per gecko in the tank.    They are ground dwellers and do not do very much climbing, but you can give them small rocks and logs.  They should have at least one area in which to hide.  It is recommended that the bottom of the cage is lined with newspaper or artificial turf for easy cleaning.  Small substrate is not recommended, as it is not uncommon for geckos to accidently ingest the substrate and it can become stuck in their intestines.  The cage can be cleaned with dilute bleach.

A leopard gecko’s tank also needs to be adequately heated.  You can use a ceramic heat lamp (no hot rocks or heating pads) which should give a basking area temperature of 90-95°F.  At the cool end of the tank the temperature should go down to approximately 80°F.  Ideally there are two thermometers in the tank, one on each end.  Make sure that the light turns off at night, and the temperature can decrease to the 70s at that time.  A red heat lamp can be used at night if needed.  It used to be believed that leopard geckos do not need UVB lights as they are generally nocturnal in the wild.  This has been found to not be true!  UVB light from the sun is reflected off the moon at night, which is absorbed by the gecko.  UVB light provides Vitamin D for your reptile so that he can metabolize calcium.  Putting your gecko’s tank in front of a window is not enough, as UVB light can NOT go through glass or plastic!  The light should be within 18 inches of your reptile and should be placed in his basking area.  Read the box when you purchase your light, as most lights expire in approximately 6 months and this date should be noted so it is replaced when needed.

A shallow water dish should be placed into the tank, large enough for him to climb into but not completely submerge himself.  This dish should be changed daily.  Some geckos have difficulty with the low humidity found in Colorado, so the cage can be misted with water twice daily to help increase the humidity.  This is especially important during shedding, as the low humidity can lead to dysecdysis (difficulty shedding), which can lead to retained shed on the digits and tail and can cause damage to these structures.  Soak your gecko daily during his shed to help with this process.  You can also make a “humidity chamber” for him.  Use a tupperware and cut a hole in the side for the gecko to crawl into.  Then you can place damp sphagnum moss in the tupperware, which will greatly raise the humidity of that area.  Geckos often eat their shed, so you may never see it happen!

Leopard geckos are insectivores.  Juveniles should be fed every day, and adults every other day.  They should be fed a mixture of small insects such as crickets, earthworms, and mealworms.  The insects should be no larger than the gecko’s head.  The insects should be gut-loaded and dusted with calcium powder.  Remove any uneaten insects after about 30 minutes.

We recommend that your leopard gecko be examined yearly.  A fecal examination should be performed for all new geckos.  An exam helps to catch infections, organ diseases, behavioral problems, and most importantly husbandry issues.  Call to schedule your appointment today!

Julia Katzenbach, DVM