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Saturday, November 9, 2013

An Ode to Veterans Day

Veterans Day: Honoring our Military Working Dogs

By Terri Johnson, AAHA Accreditation Coordinator

November 11, Veterans Day, is the day we set aside each year to honor all American veterans, both living and dead. It’s important to recognize and thank veterans for their dedicated and loyal service to their country and to acknowledge the invaluable part they have played in keeping our country safe and free.
Military Dog
Military Dog
We are all more aware of the effort and sacrifice members of our military undergo every day due to recent world events. On Veterans Day, we would like to recognize an additional and important group who serve our country selflessly: Military Working Dogs (MWDs).
Today, MWDs play an integral role in the safety and security of many military missions. Each division of the armed forces and many other government agencies, including the Secret Service, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), use working dogs as valuable additions to their teams. Typically, MWDs are involved in patrol work and in explosives and drug detection. When not deployed, many MWDs assist in drug interdiction along the U.S. southern borders and work as drug and explosive detector dogs with the Secret Service and TSA. And, the role of the MWD continues to expand.
The U.S. military has recognized what great additions well-trained dogs are in many areas of service. So much so that they’ve dedicated the entire 341st Training Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, as the home of the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Military Working Dog Program. This squadron is responsible for raising and training MWDs to detect drugs and bombs, and to perform patrol functions in support of missions all over the world. In addition to breeding and training dogs, this squadron is also responsible for training all handlers, kennel masters, and specialized mission function dog teams for the DOD. They also support the TSA canine detection program, sharing training facilities and in procurement of their working dogs. Having responsibility for dog training for the DOD and TSA means they take care of an average of 900 dogs every day.
MWDs may spend their entire working lives with the military or other government groups, so it's important that they receive the best veterinary care possible. The Holland Working Dog Hospital, named after an Army veterinarian who died in the line of duty in Iraq, is a state-of-the-art veterinary facility dedicated to providing for all kinds of health care needs, from skin diseases to orthopedic surgery. Holland Military Working Dog Hospital provides health care services for all dogs throughout the program. MWDs that have been injured during missions in the Middle East receive emergency care by deployed Army veterinarians and then, once stabilized, are flown to Germany and then on to the Holland MWD Hospital if additional specialty treatment is needed.
The hospital, which has been AAHA accredited since 1977, employs over 40 personnel, including a mix of military and civilian veterinarians, many of whom are board certified with specialties including small animal surgery, internal medicine, critical care and emergency medicine, radiology, behavior, clinical pathology, and epidemiology. They also have an American Board of Veterinary Practitioner’s (ABVP)-certified veterinarian (specializing in canine and feline) on staff. Services available include routine and emergency care; advanced imaging (including CT and available MRI); in-house laboratory; and high-tech services such as orthopedic surgery and rehabilitation services. In addition, the hospital provides unique clinical rotations for numerous veterinary and veterinary technician students annually. Lieutenant Colonel Cheryl Sofaly says, “We recognize the AAHA Standards of Accreditation as an adjunct to the high quality of care we strive to provide to each and every dog on a daily basis. AAHA Standards support our vision of providing world-class veterinary care guided by ethical consideration for the health and welfare of each dog.
“Not only do we support the dogs within the breeding and training programs, we provide a consultation and referral service for veterinarians caring for MWDs worldwide. Each year, many dogs return to our hospital for advanced diagnostic, medical, and surgical care as well as post-injury rehabilitation. Our staff provides around-the-clock care for over 900 onsite dogs in various stages of life and training and referral services for MWDs and other government agency dogs currently in service,” says Sofaly.
Military working dogs, although very resilient both mentally and physically, can be affected by traumatic experiences, and some have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Dr. Walter Burghardt, a veterinarian, psychologist, and animal behaviorist, is currently studying and treating MWDs with canine PTSD. In recent years, there have been more cases where highly trained dogs, who love their work, experience stress after incidents similar to what people experiencing PTSD go through. Dr. Burghardt works with MWD handlers and veterinarians in the field to help them identify signs and symptoms of PTSD. He’s been working with several dogs and the goal is always to get the dogs back to work as soon as they are ready.
In 2005, the 341st Training Squadron began an operational breeding program to help fulfill the DOD’s need for working dogs. The dog of choice for this program is the Belgian malinois. About 100 Belgian malinois puppies are born at the facility every year. The puppies are raised by foster families to ensure they develop good social skills before being returned to the center for training. Roughly 50 percent of these have what it takes to go on to be MWDs. For the working dogs that don’t pass the tough military certification program, 60 percent may go to other law enforcement agencies or organizations and the remainder are adopted as pets. For the dogs that have finished serving their country and are ready to retire, there is also an adoption program which allows these canine heroes to be placed in approved homes for their golden years. Most (95 percent) of these retirees are adopted by former handlers, but the remaining 5 percent are adopted by non-handlers. For information on adopting a retired MWD, email
Military Working Dogs perform some of the most dangerous tasks—work that would be difficult, or even impossible—for their handlers and military personnel. MWDs often put their lives at risk, and because of their dedication and training, they have prevented countless injuries and have saved thousands of lives.
This year on November 11, Veterans Day, take a moment to think about, appreciate, and, if you have a chance, thank a veteran, including all those MWDs that are an integral part of maintaining our country’s independence and freedom.

Photo Credit: ©

Friday, November 1, 2013

Getting older: How to help your senior pet age comfortably

By Veronica Daehn Harvey
The puppy you adopted years ago may not be quite as spry anymore.
Old Dog
Old Cat
Just like humans, pets’ bodies, minds, and behaviors change as they grow older. Senior dogs and cats can face issues of mobility, achy joints, failing eyesight and hearing, incontinence, confusion, forgetfulness, respiratory problems, poor coat, weight loss, trouble chewing and swallowing, low energy, neediness, anxiety, and stress, among others.
But senior companion animals don’t have to suffer. As your dog or cat ages, consider these tips to keep them comfortable, from Nancy Hugenberg, DVM, of Orchard Mesa Veterinary Hospital in Grand Junction, Colo.
  • Watch for soreness and discomfort and see a veterinarian for arthritis and pain medication. Acupuncture and Class IV laser therapy can be helpful.
  • Provide quality bedding. A mattress made of memory foam or egg-carton-patterned foam help with comfort.
  • Watch for floors that are slippery. Provide rugs or mats to help your pet with his or her footing.
  • Avoid rearranging furniture, so as not to confuse your senior dog or cat.
  • Check your pet’s teeth. They may be painful.
  • Exercise your senior pet, but do not hike as far or push him to play as long. Swimming is a great option for older dogs, as it’s easier on their joints. Using a life jacket can be comforting for them and you.
  • Make sure your dog or cat does not get too cold or hot. Senior pets may struggle to make smart decisions as they age and may lie in the sun or stay in the cold too long. Rather than cooling or warming their bodies, energy should be spent on digestion and healing.
  • Feed your senior pet a quality diet that is appropriate for her age. Choose a protein-rich pet food that has quality ingredients (but skip food with extra protein). Provide soft pet food if your animal’s teeth or jaw are sore. Don’t feed your pet too much or overdo it with treats. Excess weight aggravates arthritis and other health issues.
  • Provide clean, fresh water in a clean bowl. Washing your pet’s food and water bowls helps prevent bacterial buildup.
  • If your pet has arthritis in his neck, raise his food and water bowls off the ground slightly.
“If your pet just isn’t himself, a physical exam by a veterinarian can help uncover health issues. Treating concerns sooner rather than later is better for everyone,” Hugenberg says. Exams are recommended every 6 months for pets older than 7.
Veronica Daehn Harvey plays house with her husband, children, cats, dog, and chickens in the western Colorado desert. She likes red wine, acoustic guitars, good books, and great friends.

Photo Credit: ©

Monday, October 28, 2013

3 Reasons Your Pet Hates Halloween

By Sarah Rumple

My dog has been dressed up every year for Halloween since he was 6 months old. One year, he was a banana (to my human son’s monkey). Another year, he was a dinosaur. Last year, he was Waldo from “Where’s Waldo.” He never wears the costume for long—just long enough for us to snap a few photos—but he hates every moment of it.
(Left Image)Henry, who belongs to Dr. Hamryka of Sugar Hill Animal Hospital in Sugar Hill, Georgia.
(Right Image)Jack, who belongs to Sarah Rumple, the writer of this article.
My dog isn’t the only pet that hates Halloween, and for good reason. Actually, for three good reasons:
  1. Costumes—Of course costumes are No. 1 on this list, and there are countless websites and articles out there with evidence as to why. Some pets don’t mind being dressed up; they may even like it. Others, like my pup, are comfortable enough in their own skin, er, fur, and would rather be left alone. On a serious note, however, tight costumes that affect movement or breathing can be health hazards. And, always avoid costumes that impede vision or hearing—if your pet can’t see or hear well, his behavior could be impacted.
  2. Candy—Who decided that candy was going to be hazardous for pets? Unfortunately, candy—and especially chocolate—can be toxic to animals. It can cause vomiting, restlessness, heart disturbances and even death. Candy wrappers can also be problematic, causing possible blockages and irritation in the digestive system. Don’t tempt your pets—keep these things out of reach (and preferably out of sight). Instead, indulge your pet with a special, pet-friendly Halloween treat.
  3. Changes in environment—Unless your pet is accustomed to constant knocking on your door; scary ghosts and goblins yelling loudly with excitement; and the other sights, sounds and smells associated with Halloween, he is likely to become overwhelmed or frightened. Make sure your pet is placed in a secure location during trick-or-treat time—scared pets may run off and become missing pets, which isn’t good for anyone.
Get out there and enjoy Halloween, but keep in mind that your pet may not find it quite as enjoyable as you do. Dress him up, if you must, but be sure to show him some extra love after the festivities are over.

Photo Credits: ©Sugar Hill Animal Hospital(left image)/©Sarah Rumple(right image)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Separation Anxiety: When Your Dog Misses You Too Much
by Maria St. Louis-Sanchez
Is your dog clingy? Does he whine or cry when you leave the house? Do you come home to find torn-up curtains? Are there deep scratches on your doors? If so, your dog may have separation anxiety.
It is often difficult to determine the cause of separation anxiety. Some pets are genetically predisposed, but there are many other causes, such as poor socialization, past neglect or abandonment, and changes in routine, to name a few.

Ask Your Veterinarian: Is it anxiety … or is it medical?
If your dog is destructive, barks or whines repetitively, or has elimination problems while you are home as well as while you are away, she may be suffering from an undiagnosed medical condition.
Before embarking on any behavior program, check with your veterinarian to confirm that the problem really is separation anxiety and not a physical illness.
When left alone, these dogs may show subtle signs, such as whining or loss of appetite, or they may develop destructive or even self-injurious behaviors, such as urinating in the house, destroying furniture, obsessively licking or chewing their bodies, or jumping out of windows.
Dogs with separation anxiety are often unfairly labeled as “bad” or thought to be spiteful, but they are actually suffering from uncontrollable fear, akin to panic attacks in humans, and scolding them will only make the problem worse.
Suzanne Hetts, PhD., a certified applied animal behaviorist in Littleton, Colo., said, “True separation anxiety problems don’t have quick fixes.”
But most pets can and should be helped.
According to Stefanie Schwartz, DVM, director of behavior services at VCA South Shore Animal Hospital in Massachusetts, even pets with mild separation anxiety experience real emotional distress and deserve relief.
If you think your pet may have this disorder, make an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss the symptoms and possible treatments.
Most behaviorists will focus on relieving the animal’s distress through positive desensitization techniques and behavior and environmental modification. There are also prescription medications available from your veterinarian that can help ease your pet’s anxiety.
Hetts explained, “You have to deal with the underlying phobia.” The key to success is to be consistent with your actions and understand that changing the behavior will take time, she added.

Don’t Leave Me!
Signs of separation anxiety can include
  • Howling, barking, panting, or whining as family members prepare to leave
  • Destructiveness at doors and windows
  • Vomiting or incontinence when left alone
  • Trembling or restlessness
  • Excessive salivation
  • Reluctance to spend time outdoors alone
  • Loss of appetite when alone
  • Prolonged excitement during homecomings

For more information about separation anxiety and tips on how to work with your pet at home, ask your veterinarian for the pamphlet, “Home Alone: Solving Separation Anxiety Problems,” from AAHA Press.
AAHA, "Dogs and Separation Anxiety"
Separation Anxiety: A Destructive Mental Illness

Monday, October 14, 2013

Could Your Pet Have Allergies? Tell-Tale Signs And Available Treatments
Allergies represent a change in a pet’s immune system and represent the number-one reason for veterinary visits outside of routine medical care, said Paul Bloom, DVM, a board-certified veterinary dermatologist in Michigan.
Allergies occur when the immune system sees normal substances as foreign and tries to attack them, Bloom explained. The internal attack prompts inflammation, which accounts for allergy symptoms that you see in your pets.
    Although pet owners worry that they have caused allergic reactions by using new products or switching foods, it takes months for the body to develop allergic sensitivity, according to experts.
    “Allergies are always caused by something the pet has been exposed to for a long time,” said Leonard D. Jonas, DVM, MS, at AAHA-accredited Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital in Colorado.
    Flea and environmental allergies – caused by pollen, trees, grass, wheat and mold – are the most common in pets in comparison to food and contact allergies that are caused by physical reactions to touching substances.
    Veterinarians and veterinary technicians identify allergy triggers by listening to symptoms reported by pet owners and confirm their diagnoses with blood tests.
    According to Bloom, diagnosis is the easy part. “It’s figuring out what the culprit antigens are and managing allergic dogs” that’s difficult, he said.

Even if a dog has eaten the same food for years, he/she can develop an allergy to it, said Christine Horst, DVM, at AAHA-accredited Mesa Veterinary Hospital in Colorado. Wheat, soy, corn, dairy products, beef and chicken are common causes of food allergies.
While people sneeze or get runny noses from allergies, the hallmark sign of pet allergies is itchy skin.
Repeated ear infections in dogs and lip ulcers and oral nodules in cats are also signs of allergies. When asked if your pet is “itchy,” ask yourself if your pet has done any of the following recently:
    Excessive licking
    Chewing, biting or rubbing of the skin
    Flea allergic dermatitis is the most common skin disease in dogs and cats, but you want to rule out itchiness caused by parasites like Sarcoptic mange or demodex.
    “If we’re suspicious of parasites we perform scrapings of the skin,” Jonas said. A ringworm culture is often performed to rule out fungal infections, he added. 
     Once parasites and ringworms are ruled out, professionals test for environmental and food allergies. Some doctors start with food trials.
    Even if a dog has eaten the same food for years, he/she can develop an allergy to it, said Christine Horst, DVM, at AAHA-accredited Mesa Veterinary Hospital in Colorado. Wheat, soy, corn, dairy products, beef and chicken are common causes of food allergies.
    Jonas puts pets with suspected food allergies on hypoallergenic diets that consist of protein and carbohydrates that are new to the pet. For example, he may suggest duck, venison, and potatoes, for up to 12 weeks. If an allergy is food related, improvement will be noted during that time.
    If it’s not a food allergy, doctors may use blood tests to identify environmental agents that cause allergies. Treatment for environmental allergies entails shots given periodically to decrease allergic sensitivity. In most cases, pet owners can give these shots to their pets at home.
    “If we do immunotherapy (allergy shots) based on blood work that takes a while to kick in and assess if we are successful,” Horst said.
    Bloom agreed and said that improvement can take six to 12 months after allergen-specific therapy is started. “It’s a very special client who is dedicated enough to take the time, energy and dollars it can require to manage this problem effectively,” he added.

Friday, October 11, 2013

AAHA/AAFP Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats


Our pets can’t tell us when they’re in pain – we have to notice the signs. If your puppy steps on a thorn and starts limping, it can be fairly obvious that his foot hurts. But often animals instinctively mask injury and illness to protect themselves from predators, so it can be challenging to detect when they’re in pain. To help veterinarians provide excellent care and educate pet owners about how to recognize when their pets are in pain and what to do, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) worked together to create the AAHA/AAFP Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats. Major highlights of these guidelines are included in this article.

Unexpected and Easily Overlooked Sources of PainRecognizing when your pet is in pain and quickly seeking treatment not only helps alleviate your pet’s suffering, but strengthens the bond between the two of you. Even subtle changes in your pet’s behavior are reasons to contact your veterinarian because these are the first signs of illness and pain. Sometimes these symptoms can be easily overlooked, particularly in cats. Often, for example, arthritis is attributed to “old age” in cats, rather than pain. Similarly, a cat that urinates inappropriately may have a painful lower urinary tract disease rather than a behavior issue.

Signs of PainBecause cats and dogs tend to hide pain as a protective mechanism, pet owners need to be aware of signs that their pet is in pain. General signs include a change in normal behavior, such as decreased activity, lethargy, decreased appetite, and in the case of cats, decreased grooming. Abnormal behavior such as inappropriate elimination, vocalization, aggression, or decreased interaction with other pets and family members, altered facial expression, altered posture, restlessness, and in the case of cats, hiding can also be expressions of pain. Another sign to look for is how your pet reacts to being touched – if they have increased body tension or flinch in response to a gentle touch in an injured area, it’s time to seek help. Finally, elevations in their heart rate, increased breathing, higher body temperature and blood pressure, or dilated pupils are other pain indicators. In all cases, see your veterinarian to discuss your concerns.

The Importance of PreventionBy taking steps to reduce the potential for painful conditions in the future, you’ll help your pet avoid unnecessary problems in the future. For example, providing lifelong dental care reduces the development of oral pain, and preventing obesity reduces the incidence and severity of osteoarthritis. Good nutrition and exercise combined with regular wellness checks at your veterinary clinic will go a long way to helping your pet have minimal pain and a healthy life.

Managing PainTreating your pet’s pain will depend on the source. Once the source of the pain has been determined, surgery may be necessary for acute pain. Because fear and anxiety can amplify pain, and physical restraint can contribute to pain, do your best to keep your pet calm. Often animals in pain can be temporarily distracted and calmed by interaction or handling.

If your pet suffers from chronic pain, many basic lifestyle changes can reduce their pain. For example, controlled exercise and weight management are used to decrease joint stress and improve muscular support of the joints. Easy access to litter boxes (no hood, ramp or stairs, and a low-entry side), soft bedding, raised food and water dishes, nonslip floor surfaces (especially in the food and litter areas), baby gates to prevent access to the stairs, modified access to the outdoors (particularly in hot or cold weather), and appropriate warm-ups prior to exercise may all contribute to pain alleviation. Now there are also more options for pain management, so talk to your veterinarian about your options. Perhaps most importantly, positive and consistent interaction with your pet can improve his or her demeanor.

Monitoring PainNo one knows your pet better than you. While veterinarians are trained to detect pain and illness, the first person to recognize if your pet is hurting will be you. Noticing and reporting any changes in normal behavior is the “front line” to getting the problem resolved. Once the treatment begins, if your pet has had surgery or a traumatic pain, monitor them at least every two hours. For pets with chronic pain, it’s good to keep an eye on them as much as possible, and take them to see their veterinarian at least every three months. By working with your veterinarian to prevent and manage your pet’s pain, you’ll be helping them enjoy a happy life.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Zoonotic Disease: Controlling Sand Monsters

As weather warms and families head outdoors, remember that sandboxes, gardens and lawn areas may be home to potentially dangerous parasites. The tiny organisms are introduced to areas where pets go to the bathroom.
     These parasites are zoonotic, which means they can be transmitted from pets to people and can penetrate the skin if someone walks barefoot through sand or soil that contains parasites. Protect yourself and your family from these parasites, which can cause serious health problems, such as blindness in children. Talk with your veterinary professional today to learn how.
     An easy way to protect family members from parasites is to clean-up pet waste from outside areas, including your lawn. Before bringing a new pet home, schedule a thorough exam so that your veterinarian can recommend the right vaccines and provide a de-worming service.
     The following parasites pose risks to pets and people: roundworm, hookworm, tapeworm, ringworm, whipworm, Toxoplasmosis, Giardia, and mange infections. To learn more, visit the Companion Animal Parasite Council online.
     “Roundworm (Toxocara) infection is the sixth most common reported disease in people in the United States,” said Elizabeth S. Maimon, DVM, MPH, of Hills and Dales Veterinary Clinic, an AAHA-accredited practice in Dayton, Ohio.
     “Hookworm infections represent a reported 4,000 or more cases annually. We know that hookworms and roundworms may live for years in soil,” she added, referring to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Trust the Experts
 Maimon warns pet owners that the best medicine comes from veterinarians.
     “The de-worming process can take at least three weeks or more to be effective,” she said. “Clients are mistaken when they believe over-the-counter de-worming medication is efficacious. Without a proper fecal [poop] evaluation, one is hard pressed to know what specific intestinal parasites the pet has and [prescribe] the right de-worming agent. Sadly, many intestinal parasite infections go undetected, because they are not visible to the naked eye.”
    Jeff Bender, DVM, MS, DACVPM, suggests de-worming for puppies and kittens as early as three weeks of age. “Pets should get routine checks for internal and external parasites,” said Bender, a professor of veterinary public health at the University of Minnesota. “[Exams are] one of the most important public health measures,” Bender explained. “Early evaluation is essential.”
    In addition to vaccinations and check-ups, Bender stressed the importance of limiting contact between pets and wildlife, including raccoons and coyotes, to prevent the spread of disease to domestic pets.
     Prevention of infection is the best way to keep family members safe, Maimon said. “Raccoons can leave behind Baylisascarids, a dangerous member of the roundworm family that people can inhale, causing dermal [skin] infection and neurological disease.”

Tips to Prevent the Spread of Parasites between Pets and People
•Take pets to your veterinarian regularly to check for internal and external parasites
•Over-the-counter de-wormers may not work. Veterinarians should do de-worming
•Avoid interaction between pets and wildlife
•Do not leave pet food outside; it may attract wildlife
•Pick up after pets; obey “No Pet” signs for beaches and playgrounds
•Cover your child’s sandbox when not in use, and avoid public playground sandboxes
•Do not let children touch pet litter boxes
•When changing litter, wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly afterward
•Pregnant women should wear gloves and masks when gardening and avoid litter boxes
•Use disposable liners, and change litter daily
•Remove pet droppings from your yard daily
•Do not feed pets undercooked or raw meat
•Control fleas, lice, flies and other insects in your pet's environment
•When traveling, bring water for your pet, and do not let him/her drink from puddles or standing water
• Wear shoes and socks indoors and outdoors

For more information,please visit the AAHA Petsmatter e-newsletter

Friday, October 4, 2013

Our pets provide us with fun, companionship, and unconditional love. In return, we incur the responsibilities that go along with pet ownership, including veterinary care. Providing our pets the preventive health care they deserve, as well as keeping them in a safe environment, significantly reduces the risk of illness and injury. Together, you and your veterinarian can take control of your pet’s health.
What health care considerations should I plan for when determining how much to set aside for my pet’s care?
  •      Pets are not a one-time expense. Your accredited veterinary hospital will recommend you consider the following before bringing a pet into the home:
o   Costs for regular preventive health care such as immunizations, parasite control, and dental care
o   Costs for treatment of unexpected illness or injury
o   Breed-specific predisposition to certain conditions such as:
§  Allergies and dermatologic diseases
§  Ear and/or eye disease
§  Cardiovascular, endocrine and immune-related diseases
§  Orthopedic conditions
o   Costs to provide appropriate daily care including proper nutrition for the lifestage and lifestyle of the pet
What kind of veterinary care do I have available to me for my pet?
  •          Today, pet owners have access to the same advanced technologies that are available in human medicine, including emergency healthcare services, veterinary specialists, diagnostic imaging, x-ray, MRI, laboratory services, surgery, pain management, boarding services, and more. Management and treatment of health conditions like diabetes, thyroid disorders, hip dysplasia, oncology, arthritis, and dermatological issues are also enabling animals to live longer, pain-free.
What ways can I pay for veterinary care?
  •        The ability to budget for pet health care costs varies greatly. Some individuals and families simply pay for these things out of the household budget as they arise. Others may need to consider other options for funding proper care for their pets. These options include:
o   Regular contributions to a savings account designated for veterinary care
o   Credit card reserves
o   Medical credit cards
o   Monthly payments to a preventive care plan available through many veterinary hospitals to cover normal preventive care services
o   Pet health insurance to cover unexpected illness or injury
How can my veterinarian help me reduce the cost of veterinary care?
  •        The best way to reduce the cost of veterinary care is to invest in preventive care for your pet early on. This means scheduling regular exams during which your veterinarian can help your pet avoid preventable conditions and detect diseases early on, which helps to avoid costly and painful treatment down the road. Just like with humans, preventive health care is widely recognized as a method of helping reduce long-term medical costs.
How do I know what kind of preventive care is right for my pet?
  •          Talking with your veterinarian can help you determine what kind of preventive care is right for your pet based on its lifestage and lifestyle. Each pet is different and unique - your veterinarian can give you a personalized assessment of what kinds of routine tests and care your pet needs to stay healthy. Preventive care includes routine tests such as bloodwork, fecal tests, X-rays, parasite preventives, immunizations, dental cleanings, and more.
I love my pet, but do I really need to come see my vet regularly for dental cleanings?
  •        Yes! You visit your dentist regularly for dental cleanings and procedures, so it makes sense that your pet receives the same care. An estimated 80% of adult dogs have periodontal disease, which is painful for your pet and can lead to other health issues. Because 60% of a dog and cat tooth lies beneath the gum line, regular cleanings by your veterinarian are necessary to keep your pet’s mouth disease-free.
How does the cost of veterinary care compare to that of human health care?
  •        Veterinary care is actually a good deal compared to human medicine. We are lucky enough to live in a world where veterinary hospitals can use the same technologies that are being used in human health care. Thankfully for pet owners, veterinary hospitals offer medical care for a fraction of the cost of human medicine. In human medicine, we often do not see the cost of health care, as it is generally covered by a health care program and we do not realize the greater cost.
How are veterinary fees determined?
  •         Fees for veterinary health care take into account the complexity of the case and treatment options, operational cost of maintaining hospital facilities with the appropriate technologies and equipment, and support personnel to provide the elevated level of service and care that pet owners expect and deserve.
Why do the fees at my veterinary hospital differ from those at the hospital my friend takes their dog to?
  •        It is important to recognize that just like any other health care service, veterinary hospitals provide varying levels of care and expertise. Hospitals may be different in the services they offer. As consumers of health care services, pet owners must choose based on a combination of the quality care they seek as well as their financial constraints.
What can I do to keep my pet healthy and avoid costly and painful disease treatments?
  •        Scheduling regular examinations with your veterinarian and following recommendations for routine tests (bloodwork, fecal tests, X-rays) can help your veterinarian spot disease before it becomes serious. Diet and exercise are vital, too: Asking your veterinarian for a nutritional recommendation for the individual needs of your pet can contribute to your pet’s overall health.
Pet owners are in control of their pet’s health. Providing appropriate nutrition in a safe, enriched environment is the obligation of the pet owner. Seeking proper veterinary care and developing a strong relationship with the veterinary practice team is also essential in promoting good health and longevity. Providing appropriate nutrition, environment and veterinary care is a small payback for the unconditional love, enrichment of our lives, companionship and joy that pets give us.
For more information, please visit the AAHA position statement on Meeting the Cost of Pet Care.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Leptospirosis Vaccine: Protecting Pets and People
Leptospirosis, a disease that damages the liver and kidneys, can affect you and your pets. It has reemerged in North America, say professionals at the Center for Disease Control, who describe the disease as a notable source of mortality.
    As the number of cases climbs, some veterinarians are suggesting Leptospirosis vaccines to protect pets and their families. To learn more about the disease and whether the vaccine is right for your pets, talk to your veterinary team

“You’ve got to be really careful because Leptospirosis can spread to people as well, so it’s urgent to protect pets as well as ourselves.”
- Anne Pierce, DVM, of AAHA-accredited North Academy Veterinary in Colorado
The disease, which is transmitted through contact with water, food, or soil that contains urine from infected animals,
affects many animals (including people) but cats are rarely affected. Symptoms in pets, which can be similar to the flu, should be reported to veterinary professionals as soon as possible. Early treatment can prevent serious health problems.
    In addition to exposure from eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated with urine from sick animals, pets can get Leptospirosis by sniffing the ground or rolling in grass where a sick animal has urinated. Pets with scrapes or scratches on their skin are particularly susceptible.
    Leptospirosis has been diagnosed in pets worldwide but it is most common in places where temperatures are mild. It is also seasonal. Veterinarians report most cases in late summer to fall, especially in places with notable rainy seasons.
    Linda Ross, DVM, MS, recommends the vaccine in places where Leptospirosis is common. However, cases have also been reported in areas that were once considered safe.
    Although some doctors say the disease is rare in dry, arid areas of the country, the number of Leptospirosis cases in Colorado – and other arid climates – has increased, in the last few years.
    The vaccine requires yearly boosters and provides pets with some protection, but nothing is foolproof since so many wild animals carry Leptospirosis, said Ross, who works at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in Massachusetts.
    “I tell my clients, you can limit the area in which your dog walks, but you can’t prevent other animals from walking in that area, [or] even in your own yard,” Ross said.
    Anne Pierce, DVM, of AAHA-accredited North Academy Veterinary in Colorado recommends the Leptospirosis vaccine because she has seen a rise in cases, which she attributes to wet summers.
    “The vaccine is worth doing despite the potential for adverse reactions,” she said. Because Leptospirosis comes in several different serovars (species), no vaccine can protect against all of them.
    “Even so, partial protection is better than no protection,” Pierce argued. “It’s important to catch Leptospirosis before your pets are ill…. In really bad cases, [pets] were fine one day, and the next morning they can’t get up. You’ve got to be really careful because Leptospirosis can spread to people as well, so it’s urgent to protect pets as well as ourselves,” she emphasized.
    Vaccines require yearly boosters, but they do not always guarantee immunity for a complete year, say veterinary professionals. That is why it is important to watch pets closely even if they get the vaccine and annual boosters.
    “Citing an alarming increase in Leptospirosis cases, bacteriologists at the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine's Diagnostic Laboratory in New York, are urging dog owners to watch for symptoms of the disease until improved vaccines are available,” wrote Roger Segelken in a Cornell study.
    Michael A. New, DVM, MRCVS, does not recommend routine Leptospirosis vaccines because he has not seen the disease where he practices in southeast Alaska. “Since dropping Leptospirosis from our vaccination protocol two years ago, we have had almost no vaccine reactions,” he added.
    When clients move, New suggests that they contact AAHA hospitals for vaccine recommendations. “In areas of the country where Leptospirosis occurs, it is crucial to identify the serotype responsible for local outbreaks and to vaccinate annually against that particular serotype as there does not appear to be any cross-protection with vaccination against the eight known strains,” New cautioned.
    Peter Rodgers, DVM, of Holistic Veterinary House Calls in Colorado, does not typically recommend Leptospirosis vaccines, partially because of the adverse reactions associated with them, which may include skin irritations, diarrhea, vomiting, and personality changes. The new vaccines may produce less of a reaction, he added.
    “Sometimes the reactions to vaccines are very subtle, and things just aren’t quite right [afterward]. Any time a vaccine is given, there’s potential for some kind of reaction. When you use a vaccine, what’s the risk of the illness you’re trying to protect against? You weigh that risk against the risk of the vaccine. When Leptospirosis occurs, it’s really serious, but is that enough to warrant mass vaccination? Individual clients must weigh this and be educated about potential adverse reactions,” advised Rodgers.
    Ask your veterinary professional if the Leptospirosis vaccine is right for your dog.
Some dogs do not show signs of illness but common symptoms include:
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Refusal to eat
  • Severe weakness
  • Depression
  • Stiffness
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Bloody urine
  • Jaundice
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Shock or collapse
Leptospirosis can be identified with blood and urine tests as well as clinical observation
Fluid therapies, anti-nausea medication, antibiotics, and, in extreme cases, dialysis and other therapies

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Consult Veterinary Professionals to Ensure Worry-free Kennel Care
A stressful part of travel is leaving pets in the care of others. Careful planning, however, can help ease anxiety for both pets and their owners. The first step is to talk with your veterinary professional to get recommendations on pet sitters and boarding facilities.

What to look for in kennels:
  • Cleanliness, including regular changes in bedding
  • Centrally monitored fire alarms
  • Access to your veterinarian if medical care is needed
  • Regular walks on a leash
  • 24-hour supervision
  • Medications given regularly
  • Fenced area in the event an evacuation of the building is required
  • Staff that asks for contact information and verification of vaccinations
What to look for in pet sitters:
  • Good references, personal recommendations
  • Sitter who can recognize signs of illness
  • Sitter who can transport your pet to your veterinarian if necessary
  • Sitter who is comfortable handling and walking your pet
  • Sitter who can monitor food and water intake
  • Sitter who is insured/bonded
 "When selecting a kennel/boarding facility, consider the facility’s cleanliness and housekeeping, [which are] essential to the prevention of contagious diseases such as kennel cough or other illness," said David Crawford Carroll, DVM, of AAHA-accredited Eastlake Animal Clinic in Watsonville, California.
    Cleanliness should be obvious. “Smell tells a lot,” Carroll explained. “If it smells like urine or feces, leave. A facility should be open 24 hours, and they should allow you to take a tour.”
    Carroll also advises pet owners to think twice about requesting dogs to be housed in the same cage even if they are normally at home together. “I think it’s a real negative,” he said. “There’s no way to keep track of whether each animal is eating and going to the bathroom regularly, getting adequate drinking water, or otherwise thriving.”
     If your area does not have a kennel or veterinary boarding facility, look into hiring a pet sitter who will come to your home.
    Nancy Peterson, DVM, of AAHA-accredited Bryan Animal Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa, said that pet sitters – in some cases – are the best solution to pet care.
    “For some animals that are easily stressed, home care can be the better choice,” Peterson said. However, she continued, “Be certain to get references and personal recommendations documenting the sitter’s experience.”
     Professional experience is important when hiring a sitter, said Carroll. “The neighbor’s child or someone down the block is generally not the best choice. Get someone who is paid on a regular basis, knows animals and what to look for, and asks you who your regular veterinarian is in case there’s any problem.”
    Peterson also suggests having the sitter and pet meet before the trip, but warns that if a pet is typically very nervous, he/she may not eat while an owner is away.
    In addition to providing a familiar environment, another reason to consider in-home care is the prevalence of canine influenza, which is spread when pets are in close proximity.
    A highly contagious respiratory infection caused by a virus, canine influenza spreads quickly from dog to dog.
    Ask your veterinary professional for more information about this disease and how you can protect your pets from it. You can also ask your vet for kennel/boarding recommendations or to refer you to a reliable pet sitter.
    In general, be sure your pets are properly vaccinated. Ask kennels to provide proof that all guests have the following vaccinations: Parvo, distemper, rabies, canine infectious hepatitis (adenovirus), and Bordetella. Lyme disease and Leptospirosis are advised in areas where the diseases are common.
    For sick pets, boarding with veterinarians or at facilities with around-the-clock care may be the wisest choice.