Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Heartworm Season is Upon us....

Canine heartworm disease is a common condition in many regions of the world. It is caused by the filarial (threadlike) worm Dirofilaria immitis that lives in the pulmonary arteries (blood vessels leading from the heart to the lungs) in most infected dogs. The name "heartworm" is a bit misleading because only in very heavy infections do the worms actually reside in the heart itself.

Nonetheless, the presence of these worms causes strain to the heart and an intense reaction in the blood vessels, resulting in problems for the pooch as heartworm microfilaria (tiny larve)  is injected into the dog by infected mosquitoes.

The most important predisposing factor is failure to receive heartworm preventative medication. All dogs living in an area where heartworm disease exists are at risk, even if they live entirely indoors.

Transmission occurs when a mosquito bites an infected dog and ingests heartworm larvae (baby heartworms), which live in the bloodstream. When the insect bites another dog or cat, some of the larvae are injected under the skin. The larvae grow for 3 to 4 months and eventually make their way into the heart where they develop into adults, and the process is ready to repeat itself.

What To Watch For

Symptoms don't usually develop until damage has already occurred to the heart. Dogs can have a wide range of symptoms, with some dogs being completely asymptomatic (no symptoms at all). Symptoms usually occur because of heart failure. These include:

  • Coughing

  • Coughing up of blood (hemoptysis)

  • Heavy breathing

  • Unwillingness to exercise

  • Signs of right sided congestive heart failure, which include fluid distention of the belly, pulsation of the jugular veins in the neck when the dog is sitting or standing and heavy breathing.

    Here at AVH we use heartworm serology. This test checks for proteins in the bloodstream of the dog that are produced by the heartworms. These tests are very sensitive and accurate.

  • PreventionThe modern heartworm preventative medications are highly effective and, if religiously administered, should prevent heartworm infection. Look in our spring newsletter or call our office if you are unsure if you should test this year or next. All preventative medicine should be started June 1, 2011. Heartworm testing begins April 1st 2011.

    Tuesday, March 22, 2011

    Spring is here and so are the Porcupines!

    Porcupines are quiet, amusing little creatures who simply want to be left alone.  They do not shoot or eject their quills but will swipe their tails swiftly and leave a bunch of needle like quills in whatever the tail happens to touch.  When threatened  tiny erector muscles in the skin will make the  hundreds of quills over the back "stand up" in defense.  Any dog, that dives in thinking an easy meal awaits makes a startling discovery!  If the eyes or throat are affected by the quills, the canine is in real trouble.  Left untreated, as happens in the wild, the quills will eventually create festering and oozing and eventually the quill may be rubbed or scratched out,sometimes it  just may be a long drawn out affair.

    A quick trip with anesthesia to the veterinarian's office is the best solution for a quick and easy painless removal.  Porcupine quills do not have barbs at their ends, and have the possibilty of migrating through the dog's tissues if left in.  The points of the quills are extremely sharp and stiff and under the microscope actually appear as if they have scales or  shingles, not barbs, that point backward. Once imbedded into tissues they can be difficult to remove, especially the tiny ones that want to break before they are extracted. Antibiotics may be needed.

    Bottom line the sooner the better to remove these needles! Call our office as soon as possible if your pet tangles with a porcupine!A closeup look at the business end of a porky quill!

    Friday, March 18, 2011

    Hello world....

    Each week we blog about diseases, but this week I decided to make it a bit more personal. Let me introduce myself, my name is Lisa. I have been an RVT here at this hospital since 1994 ( long time now !). I absolutely love the nursing aspect but have a particular interest in anesthesia. In 2009 I flew down to chicago and became a veterinary technician specialist in Anesthesia. Although it was hard work it was very rewarding! Dr. Lechten Anita and I also went t o Jamaica and volunteered at a stray (non kill) shelter and spayed and neutered Jamaican dogs. A definate highlight of my career! Ok enough about me, let's move on. Over the years we have done many wonderful things here at our hospital like complimentary client education seminars, pet fairs, open houses, BBQ's, golf tournaments, and more! If there are any topics that you would like to see on our blog please do not hestitate to contact me here at the hospital or email me at

    I will be keeping you informed as to our new hospital. We are all very excited to move to a new building that will be a state of the art facility. It will be well equipped with many more exam rooms! Yeah! We also will have a rehab area as well, with a hydrotherapy pool for pets. Our boarding area will also be upgraded to many more spaces, as well as "luxury" boarding which will include private themed rooms! We are looking for ideas on the themes and we will likely run a contest in the near future. Stay tuned.

    Our facebook site is up and running and we have had an enormous response to it! Right now we running a "Like Us" contest and giving away some fantastic gift certificates! Congrats to our recent winners! Gift certificates will be able for pick up after Mar 31st.

    Wednesday, March 9, 2011

    Ear's to you!

    Otitis externa, commonly referred to as an "ear infection", is an ear condition characterized by inflammation of the external ear canal. It is particularly prevalent in dogs with long, floppy ears. Ear infections represent one of the top 10 reasons dogs present to veterinarians and may affect up to 20 percent of dogs.

    Infections are caused by fungus, bacteria or parasites. Laboratory tests can help to determine the underlying cause of the infection.
    Several factors may predispose dogs to ear infections, including:
  • Long floppy ears

  • Abnormal ear conformation or anatomy

  • Water or hair in the ears

  • Allergies

  • Trauma

  • Tumors

  • Foreign material in the ears

  • Parasites

  • Autoimmune disease

  • Generalized skin disease

    Ear infections can occur in dogs of any age breed or sex.

  • Dogs predisposed to otitis externa include those with genetic predispositions to abnormal ear canals, such as the Chinese shar-pei chow chows and English bulldogs; breeds with hair in the ears like poodles and terriers; dogs with pendulous pinnae such as the cocker spaniel and Springer spaniels; or outside and working dogs that are exposed to water or foreign bodies. Infections are most common in humid environments or during the summer months.

    What to Watch For

    Common signs of an infection include:
  • Scratching or rubbing the ears

  • Head shaking

  • An abnormal odor or discharge from the ear

  • Pain when you manipulate the ear

  • Redness and swelling of the external ear canal

  • Treatment

    Treatments for otitis externa may include the following:
  • Cleaning the ear. This can be accomplished by placing solutions in your pet's ear at home or by having the ears cleaned by your veterinarian or technician. Moderate to severe infections may require sedation and in-hospital flushing.

  • Topical therapy. It usually consists of an ear medication that you place in your pet's ear once or twice daily. The specific medicine and directions will depend on the cause of the infection. It is extremely important to follow your veterinarian's directions carefully.

  • Systemic therapy with glucocorticoids (steroids) to decrease pain and inflammation.

  • Antibiotic therapy in cases of severe bacterial infection or ulceration.

  • Antifungal therapy in cases of severe or recurrent yeast infections.

  • Anti-allergy therapy.

    Home Care and Prevention

    Optimal treatment requires a combination of home and professional veterinary care. Be sure to have your veterinarian or his/her staff show you how to place medication into your pet's ears.

  • Do not use cotton swabs in the ear; these may push infection and/or discharge deeper into the ear canal. Clean the ears before applying medication.

  • Return to your veterinarian for follow-up examinations as suggested.

    At home special care of your pet's ears can help to maintain healthy ears. Dry the ears after bathing or swimming and check ears for foreign matter.

    Also, at the first sign of scratching, head shaking, pain, swelling, odor, or discharge, have your pet's ears checked by your veterinarian.