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WHAT'S EATING YOUR DOG?

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TICKS

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All you wanted to know about ticks and more

Ticks are categorized in the class of Arachnida, phylum Arthropoda. Even if your Latin is rusty, you might recognize Arachnida as the class of creature that also includes insects such as spiders, scorpions, and mites. While ticks are a hassle, be glad that most of us don’t have to worry about keeping scorpions off of our cats.

Arachnida are characterized by four pairs of segmented legs and a body that is divided into two regions.

  • There are over 800 species of ticks worldwide and they all feed on the blood of mammals, birds and reptiles.
  • The two families of tick are called Ixodidae (hard ticks) and Argasidae (soft ticks). The Ixodidae have a hard dorsal scutum (shield). Argasidae have a soft exoskeleton with no scutum.
  • While one would seem to be weaker, both groups unfortunately have the ability to transmit disease.
  • The saliva of the hard tick has an anesthetic effect at the site of the bite.
  • The saliva also helps keep the blood flowing by keeping it from clotting while the tick is feeding.
  • In many hard ticks, the saliva also acts like cement, helping to anchor the tick in place and making it harder for you to remove it.

FLEAS

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Facts About Fleas

  • Fleas can bite up to 400 times a day!
  • Fleas can jump ...
    • a distance that measures 150 times their own size.
    • 30,000 times in a row without stopping.
    • in opposite direction (left and right) with every jump.
  • A female flea consumes 15 times her own body weight in blood every day.
  • A female flea can lay 2,000 eggs.
  • Just one flea can multiply to 1,000 fleas on your pet and in your home in 21 days.
  • Flea fossils date all the way back to the Lower Cretaceous period …  about 100 million years!
  • On average, a flea lives 2-3 months.
  • Adult fleas spend most of their lives feasting on your pet.

All of these facts mean one thing: fleas are tough to deal with.

The good news is, new veterinary-grade products not only kill adult fleas but prevent young fleas from maturing. With these products—plus time, patience and perseverance--you can get rid of fleas.

No dog or cat needs to live with fleas. Here are a few tips for relieving your pets’ misery. To learn more about fleas and what you can do about them, see the resources at the end of the article.

Your pet

Use a veterinary-grade flea insecticide on your pet. The purpose is to kill the adult fleas that live on your pet. Since most veterinary-grade products work for at least 30 days, your pet is well-protected. That’s because a veterinary-grade product will kill the adult fleas that jump onto your pet—and the eggs or larvae, too.

Even better: The newest veterinary-grade products contain growth inhibitors that prevent fleas from maturing.

Dogs and cats need different care. Several formulations can be used to rid your pet of fleas, including topical and oral treatments. But not every product is right for every pet. For example, some products are fine for dogs but unsafe for cats. If you share your home with both dogs and cats, you’ll want to avoid treating your dog with products that are unsafe for cats. Let Doctor Anders know if you share your home with both dogs and cats so you can be sure to protect all of your pets safely.

More is not better. Never use more than one flea product on your pet without Doctor Anders'  approval. Using a shampoo or dip along with a topical or oral flea product can cause your pet to take in too much of the active ingredients in these products, leading to a bad reaction or even poisoning.

Your home

There was a day when it seemed you had to kill fleas over and over again, or spray your house and yard with dangerous pesticides, because the parasites kept reproducing. That day is over.

With veterinary-grade products that contain growth inhibitors, fleas do not mature, which means no more eggs! This means you probably won’t need to spray your home or yard.

The best way to rid your home of fleas is by vacuuming. Research at The Ohio State University proved that vacuuming kills 96% of adult fleas and 100% of young fleas. This is an easy way to deal with the fleas living in your carpet and fabrics, but needs to be done every 2-3 days for at least four weeks.

When vacuuming, pay special attention to the places fleas like best. Immature fleas shy away from light, burying themselves in carpets, fabrics, and nooks and crannies. Be sure to focus your efforts on areas that are shady or dark.

When you are done vacuuming, put the vacuum bag in a garbage bag, seal it tightly, and put it in an outdoor trash container.

Wash your pet’s bedding once a week for at least four weeks. Or throw it away.

Your yard

If your pet lives outdoors where fleas are plentiful, you may need to treat the yard. Most fleas are found in your pet’s bedding and areas where your pet rests or spends time. If you are using one of the new veterinary-approved products, the yard is not the highest of concern. Just be sure to clean the area and wash or change the bedding.

HEARTWORM

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What causes heartworm disease?

Heartworm disease or dirofilariasis is a serious and potentially fatal disease. It is caused by a blood-borne parasite known as Dirofilaria immitis.

Adult heartworms are found in the heart and adjacent large blood vessels of infected dogs. Rarely, worms may be found in other parts of the circulatory system. The female worm is 6 - 14" long (15 - 36cm) and 1/8" wide (5mm). The male is about half the size of the female. One dog may have as many as 300 worms present when diagnosed.

"Adult heartworms may live up to five years..."

Adult heartworms may live up to five years and, during this time, the female produces millions of offspring called microfilaria. These microfilariae live mainly in the small vessels of the bloodstream.

What is the life cycle of the heartworm?

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"...the parasite requires the mosquito as an intermediate host..."

The life cycle of the heartworm is complicated; the parasite requires the mosquito as an intermediate host before it can complete its life cycle in the dog. As many as 30 species of mosquitoes can transmit heartworms.

The life cycle begins when a female mosquito bites an infected dog and ingests the microfilariae during a blood meal. The microfilariae develop further for 10 - 30 days in the mosquito's gut and then enter its mouthparts. At this stage, they are infective larvae and can complete their maturation when they enter a dog. The infective larvae enter the dog's body when the mosquito bites the dog. They migrate into the bloodstream and move to the heart and adjacent blood vessels, maturing to adults, mating and reproducing microfilariae within 6 - 7 months.

Where is heartworm disease found?

"Canine heartworm disease occurs all over the world."

Canine heartworm disease occurs all over the world. In the United States, it was once limited to the south and southeast regions. The highest numbers of reported cases are still within 150 miles of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean coastlines and along the Mississippi River and its tributaries. However, the disease is spreading and is now found in most regions of the United States, including California, Oregon and Washington. In Canada, the disease is problematic in areas where mosquitoes are prevalent, such as along waterways and coastlines in many provinces. The greatest number of cases in Canada occurs around the southern Great Lakes.

How is heartworm disease spread?

"...the disease is not spread directly from dog to dog."

Since transmission requires the mosquito as an intermediate host, the disease is not spread directly from dog to dog. Spread of the disease therefore coincides with mosquito season, which can last year-round in many parts of the United States. The number of dogs infected and the length of the mosquito season are directly correlated with the incidence of heartworm disease in any given area.

The mosquito usually bites the dog where the hair coat is thinnest. However, having long hair certainly does not prevent a dog from getting heartworms.

What do heartworms do to the dog?

heartworm_2_2009It usually takes several years before dogs show clinical signs of infection. Consequently, the disease is diagnosed mainly in two to eight year old dogs. The disease is rare in dogs less than one year of age because the microfilariae take five to seven months to mature into adult heartworms after infection. Unfortunately, by the time clinical signs are seen, the disease is usually well advanced.

Adult heartworms: Adult heartworms cause disease by clogging the heart and major blood vessels leading from the heart. They also interfere with the valve action in the heart. By clogging the main blood vessel, the blood supply to other organs of the body is reduced, particularly blood flow to the lungs, liver and kidneys,causing these organs to malfunction.

The signs of heartworm disease depend on the number of adult worms present, the location of the worms, the length of time the worms have been in the dog and the degree of damage that has been sustained by the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys.

"Signs of heartworm disease are a soft, dry cough, shortness of breath... and loss of stamina."

HOOKWORM

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Similar to tapeworms and roundworms, hookworms are intestinal parasites that live in the digestive system of your dog (or cat). The hookworm attaches to the lining of the intestinal wall and feeds on your dog’s blood. Its eggs are ejected into the digestive tract and pass into the environment through your dog’s feces.

Larvae (young hookworms) that hatch from hookworm eggs live in the soil. These larvae can infect your dog simply through contact and penetration of the skin and through the dog eating the larvae when they ingest dirt or during their routine licking (cleaning).

How will hookworms affect my dog?

Hookworms suck blood and therefore cause internal blood loss. They are a serious threat to dogs, especially young puppies that may not survive the blood loss without transfusions. In older animals the blood loss may be more chronic, and the pet may have diarrhea and show weight loss.

If you think your dog is infected with hookworms, call your veterinarian to schedule an appointment for evaluation, diagnosis, and safe, effective treatment.

How do I prevent my dog from getting hookworms?

Similar to steps for prevention of other intestinal parasites, it is essential to keep your dog’s surroundings clean and prevent the dog from being in contaminated areas.

Puppies should be treated for hookworms at 2, 4, 6, and 8 weeks of age with a deworming medication you can get from Doctor Anders. This frequent treatment schedule is recommended due to the very high rate of hookworm infection in newborn puppies. Most monthly heartworm preventatives include a drug to prevent to treat and prevent infections so additional deworming medications are usually not required if the dog is reliably treated with a heartworm preventive. Fecal examinations should be conducted 2 to 4 times during the first year of life and 1 to 2 times per year in adults. Nursing mothers should be treated along with their puppies.

Consult your Doctor Anders for safe and effective prevention and treatment options.

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Ascariasis in Dogs

Ascariasis is a disease affecting dogs caused by the intestinal parasitic roundworm (or Ascaris lumbricoides). Roundworms are often quite large -- up to 10 to 12 centimeters in length -- and can be present in extremely high numbers within an infected animal. When they are found in a dog's body, it can lead to abdominal swelling (distension), colic, gastrointestinal issues and even intestinal rupture.

The condition or disease described in this medical article can affect both dogs and cats. If you would like to learn more about how this disease affects cats, please visit this page in the PetMD health library.

Symptoms

The following signs or symptoms are common in dogs that have roundworms:

  • Colic
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Abnormal feces
  • Poor nursing (in females)
  • Anorexia
  • Coughing (caused when the roundworm larvae have migrated into the dog's lungs)

Causes

Adult dogs can become infected through the ingestion of roundworm eggs, which are found in infected food, water, vomit, or feces. Pups can then contract the parasite during the pregnancy or by drinking the milk from an infected pregnant animal. And if one of the newborns in a litter is exposed to roundworms, the entire litter can contract the parasite.

Diagnosis

Upon examination of the dog, a swollen abdominal region is commonly detected. There may also be signs of weakness and loss of appetite. A fecal swab will then be taken to detect the presence of roundworm eggs. Dead roundworms being passed out of the animal's body is another good indicator of the disease.