It's by far the most common complaint among dog owners in our area--"My dog won't stop scratching!" There are many different reasons why your dog may be scratching and in order to stop the scratching we must determine what is causing the dog to scratch.
Some of the most common causes of your dog's constant scratching are;
--External parasites (i.e. fleas, demodex)
--Skin allergies (environmental or food)
The number one rule out when dealing with an itchy dog is flea-allergic dermititis. Flea-allergic dermititis (FAD) is an allergic reaction to the saliva of a flea when it bites your dog. Obviously, the best way to treat allergies related to fleas is to kill the fleas. We always recommend year round flea prevention for all animals, regardless of whether they are indoor or outdoor pets.
Your pet, like some of us humans, can also suffer from environmental allergies such as dust, pollen, or mold. These allergens can cause your pet to itch severely. Environmental allergies tend to be seasonal and show up at the same time every year.
Your veterinarian can prescribe your pet a medication to help prevent the itchiness associated with these types of environmental allergens and prevent further skin infection. You may also try lifestyle changes such as wiping your pet's paws and belly with a baby wipe after they come in from outside.
A less common cause of itchiness is food allergies. Food allergies are most often diagnosed by participating in a food trial where the pet is fed a novel diet containing one protein and one carb. It is very important the pet have no other food or treats during the 12 week food trial period in order for the trial to be accurate.
Metabolic illness such as hypothyroidism can also cause changes in the condition of the skin and severe itchiness which may lead to hair loss. In order for your veterinarian to diagnose this, your pet would need a complete bloodwork panel which tests organ function. The good news is metabolic illness, such as hypothyroidism is easily manageable with medication.
In addition to itchiness, you should also be aware of the other symptoms of allergies so you can notify your veterinarian during your visit. They are:
--Shaking of the head
--Red inflammed skin
If you feel your pet may be suffering from any of these symptoms, please feel free to schedule an appointment to get your pet some relief from the itchiness.
It's on the Rise
For years now, heartworm disease incidences have been on the rise in the US despite advances in our ability to prevent the disease. Heartworm disease is a very serious and potentially fatal disease contracted by pets who are bitten by an infected mosquito. Heartworms are often times up to one foot long and live in the hearts and lungs of infected pets. If left untreated, pets will develop cardiac and respiratory failure, which leads to death.
Heartworm Disease-Not Only a Dog Disease
When pet owners hear about heartworm disease, many believe it only affects the canine population. However, the same mosquitoes that infect dogs also infect cats. Generally speaking though, that is where the similarities between canine and feline heartworm disease end.
There are many differences between canine and feline heartworm disease. According to the Companion Animal Council, the rate of incidence of adult heartworms in cats is only about 10% as often as dogs. This is because, often times, a cat's immune system will kill the larvae before they become adults. Also, the number of heartworms present during an infection vary greatly between cats and dogs. A cat is usually only infected with 1-3 adult heartworms where a dog can harbor up to several hundred. However, just 1 adult heartworm in a cat can cause serious illness.
What to do? Test and Prevent
The test typically used to diagnose heartworm disease in dogs is not shown to be effective in diagnosing heartworm disease in cats. In addition to bloodwork, cats will most likely need radiographs, ultrasound, or echocardiogram to get a more definitive diagnosis. Unlike dogs, cats who are diagnosed with heartworm disease face a large challenge as there is no approved medical treatment to kill those adult heartworms.
Once again, prevention is really the best case scenario to protect your cat from heartworm disease. Here at Evans Animal Hospital, we always recommend year round heartworm prevention for all of your pets as mosquitoes are a year round problem here in the southeast. Even indoor pets should remain on prevention as it only takes one mosquito to infect your pet. Some of the products approved for the prevention of heartworms in cats are Selamectin, Milbemycin, and Ivermectin. Feel free to call and speak to one of our staff about which product is best for your cat.
Owning a Dog is a Privilege
The love that owners have for their dogs is evident everyday in veterinary medicine. The lengths that dog owners go to ensuring their dogs quality of life is maintained is often extraordinary. Most of us can agree that the payoff is also often extraordinary. There is no more faithful companion than a dog. Josh Billings once said, "A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than you love yourself." And he couldn't be more right! If you recognize that owning a dog is a privilege and as with any privilege, also comes responsibility to properly take care of the dog.
Before You Get a Dog, Think!
Before you make the decision to get a dog, you should really think about the commitment it takes to responsibly own a dog. Owning a dog is a long term commitment and you should really consider whether you are willing and able to make the commitment to take care of a dog, both physically and financially. Do not make a hasty decision when it comes to adopting or purchasing a dog. The success of the union between you and your dog is dependent on you. If you decide you are ready to make the commitment to dog, be sure to pick a dog who matches your lifestyle. For instance, if you live in a small apartment, perhaps a large dog with high energy may not be a good fit for you.
Keeping Your Dog Healthy
There are many aspects beyond simply vaccinating to keeping your dog healthy. While annual physical examinations and vaccinations by a veterinarian are essential, other healthy routines should also be established. For instance, dogs should be spayed or neutered and stay on regular heartworm, flea, tick, and intestinal parasite prevention. Especially here in the south, it is recommended year round and not just in the winter. Your dog also needs fresh water and a good diet that is appropriate for their breed, age, and activity level. It is up to a dog owner to ensure their pet maintains an optimal weight to help stay healthy.
Keeping Your Dog Safe
In addition to keeping your dog healthy, it is also the owner's responsibility to keep their dog safe. Keeping a dog safe means more than just providing a permanent shelter for the dog to live out of the elements of heat and cold, but also, making sure your pet has identification, and making sure your pet travels safely.
There are several ways to identify your pet in case they are accidentally lost. At the very least your dog should have a tag attached to its collar with your name and phone number. An even better and more permanent form of identification is microchipping. When a microchip is implanted, it gives veterinarians and shelters the ability to scan the microchip with a reader and contact the owner so they can be reunited.
Making sure your pet is secure in your car is just as important as us humans wearing seatbelts. This is not only for their safety but also yours. Your dog should be secured with a harness or special dog seatbelt or inside of a secured crate. Also, never leave your pet in your vehicle unattended, especially during times of warmer temperatures. Dogs can succumb to heat related illness very quickly.
Make Your Pet Part of the Family
To most dog owners, their dog is not just a pet. Instead, they are treated as another member of the family. Spending time with your pet is important--pet them, play with them, and show them you love them just as much as they love you. And just as children are taught rules and boundaries, dogs must also be trained to respect rules and boundaries. In addition to teaching your dog basic commands like "come" and "sit", dogs should also be socialized by taking them to interact with other dogs and people so they are comfortable in any setting.
Summer is a great time of year for the whole family, including your pets to get out and adventure! However, with adventure comes risks. Here are some tips to help keep your furry family members safe during summer months:
Prevent Heat Stroke!
Heat stroke in pets happens when their body temperatures raise to a dangerously high temperature and their body is no longer to cool itself effectively. Heat stroke in pets can result in seizures, coma, cardiac arrest, and death. The good news is that most cases of heat stroke in pets are preventable.
The most common cause of heat stroke in pets is when owners leave them unattended in their cars. This can happen even when the temperature outside is only mildly hot. For instance, when it is only 70 degrees outside, it is possible for the temperature inside of a car to get up to 104 degrees in only 30 minutes!
Another common cause of heat stroke is exercising your pet during the hottest times of the day. You should always try to exercise your pet early in the morning or late in the evening once the sun goes down. Even during times of non-exercise, your should always make sure your pet has free access to fresh, cool water, and plentiful shade.
Some symptoms of heat stroke include:
If you believe your pet may be suffering from heat stroke, you should seek immediate care from a veterinarian.
Protect the Paws!
Sidewalks and streets heat to extreme levels in the sun! For example, when it is 77 degrees Fahrenheit outside, the asphalt temperature can get as high as 125 degrees. It is best to avoid walking your pet on asphalt during the heat of the day. A good way to test the asphalt is to press your hand onto the surface for 30 seconds. If it is too hot for your hand, it is most likely too hot for your pet's paws.
More pets get lost on the 4th of July than any other time of year. This is likely linked to the high incidences of fireworks. The loud noises associated with fireworks cause many dogs to have anxiety and flee from the scene. It is best to leave your pet at home in a secure location instead of taking them to fireworks shows. If you must take them, make sure they are on a short leash with a secure collar with identification.
Have a Fun Summer with Your Pets!
We always recommend getting out and socializing your pet and allowing your pet to exercise. Get out and enjoy summer--just do it wisely and use common sense when it comes to heat. If you have any questions about whether your pet is at risk for these summertime dangers, please feel free to contact us!
If you have ever lost your pet, you know how painful of an ordeal it can be. Unfortunately, most pets that are lost are never reunited with their families. In fact, according to HomeAgain, 1 out of 3 pets will go missing during their lifetime and without proper identification, 90% of them will never make it home. At the very least, we recommend an ID tag attached to a collar. An even better idea would be to have your pet microchipped.
What is a Microchip?
Pet microchips are small, electronic devices about the size of a grain of rice, that is implanted under your pet’s skin which provides a permanent identification number that, in the event your pet is lost, can link your pet to you with a simple scan of the device. Most veterinarians and animal shelters have a microchip scanner which detects the microchip and provides them with the unique identification number so the lost pet can be reported and hopefully reunited with their family.
How Can I Get One?
Microchip implantation is easy and is no more painful than a normal injection. Your pet does not need to be sedated or put under general anesthesia to get a microchip and it can be implanted at any routine veterinary visit. It is registered and your pet is protected within 24 hours. Many clients choose to have their pets microchipped during routine spay/neuter surgery, and that is fine too. There is no maintenance or subscription required to keep the microchip active. Once the microchip is registered, it will stay in the database for the pet’s lifetime. However, it is important to make sure that you notify the microchip company should your contact information change.
Do Microchips Really Work?
Do microchips really work? Yes, they do! According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, a study of more than 7,700 stray animals at animal shelters showed that dogs without microchips were returned to their owners 21.9% of the time, whereas microchipped dogs were returned to their owners 52.2% of the time. Cats without microchips were reunited with their owners only 1.8% of the time, whereas microchipped cats went back home 38.5% of the time. (Lord et al, JAVMA, July 15, 2009) If you want to give your pet the best shot at reunification should they be accidentally lost, microchipping your pet is the best guarantee. Identification tags on your pet’s collar can fall off and become lost, whereas microchips are a permanent solution regardless of whether the pet is wearing a collar.
The Basics of Fleas
There's nothing quite like the look on a pet owner's face when we tell them their pet has fleas. It's somewhere between horrified and disbelief. Fleas are tricky little critters--and in the case of fleas--an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. Flea infestations happen quickly and resolve very slowly, with the cycle taking, at the very least, many months to completely resolve.
Flea infestations can cause a pet a variety of problems from minor skin irritation to more severe problems such as anemia. So, yes, pets can actually die because of a flea infestation. When a pet has fleas on them, which are too numerous to count, all taking multiple blood meals per day, the amount of blood consumed by the fleas leaves the pet without enough blood in their body to survive. Although this is rare, it is 100% preventable. Some more common issues associated with flea infestations are flea allergic dermatitis and tapeworms.
It helps to understand the life cycle of the flea in order to help prevent an infestation. Let's take a look:
The Life Cycle of Fleas
Step one: An adult flea jumps on your pet and your pet becomes what is known as a host. The adult flea can live up to several weeks on your pet and during that time will take 2-3 blood meals per day while living on your pet. Each day, the flea will lay 20 to 30 eggs and those eggs fall off of your pet and onto the carpet, bedding, yard, or anywhere else your pet goes.
Step two: The eggs will develop where they fall and since they are significantly smaller than adult fleas, can get into small cracks and crevices. The amount of time they take to hatch can vary between 2 days and 2 weeks.
Step three: Once the eggs hatch, they are known as Larva, little worm-like creatures that live in carpet fibers, bedding, even outside in the environment. During this stage, which normally lasts between 5 and 18 days depending on the environment, the larva will molt twice and then form a cocoon and become pupa.
Step four: The time a flea stays in the cocoon can vary greatly and can emerge in as few as 3 days or it can stay in the cocoon for up to a year if the environment is not favorable. Once the flea detects there is a host nearby, mostly by heat and vibrations, the adult flea will emerge from its cocoon, jump on the host and the life cycle starts again.
Here in the south, fleas do not ever go away! It is amazing how many pet owners stop giving their pets flea prevention in the winter months. In this map provided by Bayer Animal Health, you can see that fleas in Georgia are active all year round.
The best defense against fleas is a strong offense. Monthly flea prevention is the number one key to safeguarding your pets against flea infestations. There are many options on the market to choose from and your best option will always come from your veterinarian. Over the counter flea prevention does not work and some over the counter products are known to cause severe neurological deficits including death.
There are several different ways in which flea prevention products work on fleas. The products we always recommend work by killing adult fleas. If you are able to kill the adult fleas, they can not lay eggs and the flea cycle stops there.
Pets on flea prevention will still have fleas occasionally, but the difference is, that flea will die and will never be able to lay eggs making an infestation impossible. If you are battling a flea infestation, it is very important to also treat your pet's environment to shorten the amount of time it takes to recover. We recommend you vacuum daily to remove any flea eggs and larva and also frequently wash bedding and blankets used by your pets.
If you believe your pet may be suffering from fleas, the best option is to consult your veterinarian and work together to find the preventative that is right for your pet.
The Problems Associated with Pet Obesity
More often than not, veterinary trends follow closely behind the trends of human medicine. Just as human obesity has become an epidemic in our country, the prevalence of obesity in pets is also on the rise. According to a 2016 survey, 54% of dogs and 59% of cats are either overweight or obese. Unfortunately, being overweight and especially obese can cause many adverse effects on your pet's health. Not only does it shorten their life expectancy, but it can also play a major role in your pet's quality of life. Some of these adverse effects which affect a pet's quality of life are an increased risk for respiratory disorders, orthopedic diseases, skin disorders, diabetes, and even an increased risk for certain cancers. Most pet owners agree they want their pets to live the longest life they can, but in order for pets to live long, healthy lives, it is up to their owners to be conscious of their pet's weight.
Is my Pet Obese?
Here at Evans Animal Hospital, we use a 5 point body condition score chart to determine if your pet is the appropriate weight according to his or her species, breed, and body type.
What Can I do for my Obese Pet?
If you think your pet may have a weight issue, we highly recommend a visit to your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can help you determine whether there may be an underlying medical condition that is contributing to your pet's weight problems, such as hypothyroidism, or low levels of the thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism is easily diagnosed with a blood test and can be treated and managed with medication.
If it is determined there is no medical explanation for your pet's weight issues, your veterinarian can provide nutritional counseling and in some cases recommend prescription pet food to help your pet shed any unwanted pounds. One of the main reasons we see pet obesity is pet owners who feed their pets table scraps or an abundance of treats. We always recommend low calorie dog treats, given in moderation. Raw baby carrots, in moderation, are also an acceptable treat to help keep pets happy and healthy.
Keep Your Pets Active
Exercise is just as important as diet when it comes to your pet's weight loss. While exercising your dog seems pretty easy, exercising your cat can be a bit trickier. You should always visit your veterinarian before initiating an exercise routine for your pet to ensure healthy heart and lung function. Once your vet clears your pet for exercise, start slowly and work up to at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. For dogs, physical activity could include walking, jogging, or playing fetch. Exercise for your cat could include activities such as chasing a laser, playing with a feather on a string, or allowing them to chase remote controlled mice. If started at a young age, some cats will walk with a leash and harness.
Preventing Pet Obesity
As with us humans, in most cases, it is much easier to prevent obesity than cure it. Also as with humans, the most important factors for fighting obesity are with diet and exercise. From an early age, you can choose to feed your pets high quality pet food appropriate for your pet's breed and size and resist the temptation of feeding your pet table scraps. Feeding low fat treats only in moderation will help reduce your pet's caloric intake and help keep off extra weight. Our regular annual wellness exam includes recording your pet's weight and noting any trends in your pet's medical history. Our veterinarian is a great resource for nutritional counseling and providing recommendations for your pet's weight loss and maintenance.
It's a picture familiar to most of us. We're stuffed full of turkey and all the trimmings and making plans and plotting routes to get the best deals on Christmas gifts. We wake up at 3am from our turkey coma to go fight crowds and stand in lines to save on that one electronic item our teenager is just dying to have. Retailers have been planning all year for their biggest sale of the year. Well, guess what? Retailers are not the only ones planning for Black Friday. Veterinarians are too!
Black Friday Pet Illness is Preventable
However, Black Friday takes on a whole new meaning in veterinary medicine. Veterinary Black Friday consists of case after case of pancreatitis from pets who were allowed to lick the turkey drippings. It consists of case after case of foreign body surgeries from pets who were allowed to eat the turkey carcass. Unfortunately for pet owners, Veterinary Black Friday does not include sale prices. Often times pet owners are forced to seek treatment at an emergency animal hospital during the holidays which means inflated treatment prices. The good news: most Black Friday pet illnesses are preventable!
Thanksgiving Foods You Should Avoid Giving Your Pet
Here is a list of common Thanksgiving foods you should avoid giving to your pet:
Foods You Can Give Your Pet for Thanksgiving
So, if the need persists to include your four legged family member in your Thanksgiving celebration, there are certain items you can give your pets to make them feel included in the festivities and minimize the risk of having to spend your Black Friday shopping money at the emergency vet. When fed in moderation, some of the safe items include:
Keep in mind, even though the above foods are considered "safe", they still have the potential to cause GI upset if your pet is not used to eating table food. There are also other ways to make your pet feel a part of the big day rather than a plate of food. Take a nice walk, play a game of fetch, or just curl up on the couch together and watch your favorite Christmas movie.
For more information on Thanksgiving Pet Safety, please click here to visit the American Veterinary Medical Association's website.
Halloween and Your Pet
We, people, love Halloween. Who doesn't love the chance to give someone else's child a boatload of candy and send them on their way? Or get all dressed up in a fancy costume and scare that co-worker who's been annoying you all year? There's a million different reasons why Halloween is such a popular holiday. But, there's also a bunch of reasons why your pet may not be as fond of Halloween as you are.
Ideas to Keep Your Pet Safe on Halloween
As with most holidays, Halloween comes with its own set of problems for your pet. Below are some tips to help keep your pet safe on Halloween.
For more information on Pet Halloween Safety, please click here to visit the American Veterinary Medical Association's website.
Your Pet Does Not Have to Live in Pain
We all know your pet is not just a pet. More often than not, owners will state that their pet is like their child or any other member of the family. The veterinary care given to pets today is much more advanced and comprehensive than 30 years ago. One area which has advanced greatly is the area of pain management. The days of giving your pet a baby aspirin are officially over! Veterinary specific options for pain management medications have evolved and are much safer than any over the counter medications.
Symptoms of Pain in Pets
Animals by instinct, for survival purposes, are very good at masking pain. Would you know if your pet was in pain? Besides the obvious not bearing weight on a leg or screaming out in pain, there are several much more subtle clues which may indicate your pet is in pain. Some of these clues are:
What You Can Do if Your Pet is in Pain
If you notice any of these symptoms, a consultation with your veterinarian may be recommended. We assess pain on every pet at each examination and pain is scored from 0-3, with zero being no pain and 3 being severe pain. When we discover a patient is in pain, we not only want to treat the pain, but also look for the cause of the pain and treat that as well. We also want to determine the type of pain your pet is having. The two types of pain are:
Pet Pain Management Plan
Each pet's pain management plan is directly related to the type and cause of the pain they are experiencing and can encompass many different approaches such as pharmaceutical, surgical, physical therapy, weight loss plans, etc. If you feel your pet may be in pain, your veterinarian can assess your pet's pain and implement a plan which is tailored to your pet's needs and make his or her quality of life exponentially better. For more information on pain management for your pet, please click here.