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.