North Paws Newsletter

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The veterinarians and staff at North Paws Veterinary Clinic are pleased to provide you with an online newsletter of pet-related articles and news stories.

This fun and fact-filled newsletter is updated on a regular basis.

Included in the newsletter are articles pertaining to pet care, information on our animal hospital, as well as news on the latest trends and discoveries in veterinary medicine. Get started by browsing the Current Newsletter Topics links that pertain to each article.

Please enjoy the newsletter!

April is Heartworm Awareness Month

Pets and their people love being outside in the summertime - and so do mosquitoes. Because mosquitoes are the most common carriers of heartworm disease, keeping pets up to date on preventive heartworm treatments during mosquito season is especially important.

Heartworms are exactly that—large worms that live in the hearts of cats and dogs. Known as Dirofilaria Immitis, heartworms are long, spaghetti-like worms that range in size from 6 to 10 inches. Heartworms are almost always transmitted by mosquitoes. A mosquito bites an infected dog or cat; that mosquito picks up microfilariae, a microscopic version of the heartworm. When that mosquito bites your dog or cat, the heartworm microfilariae are transmitted to him / her. Within 70 to 90 days, the microfilariae make it to your pet's heart and, once mature, begin reproducing. The cycle then begins again.

Signs of heartworm disease in pets vary based on the age and species of the pet and the number of worms present. Because the worms are usually located on the right side of the heart and lung, coughing and shortness of breath are common signs in both dogs and cats. Dogs that have just acquired the disease may have no signs, while dogs with a moderate occurrence of the disease may cough and show an inability to exercise. In extreme cases, dogs may experience fainting, weight loss, fever, abdominal swelling and death. In cats, the symptoms of heartworm disease are similar to those of feline asthma, including coughing and shortness of breath. Some cats may exhibit no signs of the disease, while others may suddenly die.

Heartworm Disease Cycle

When it comes to preventing heartworm disease, pet owners have a number of options. Before beginning preventive medication, pet owners should have their pets tested for the presence of heartworms. If heartworms are present, a treatment plan should be discussed with your veterinarian. Most heartworm prevention is done by administering your pet a once-a-month heartworm preventive medication. Many of these monthly products are administered as a chew-able treat. Some are combined with other preventive medications. Your veterinarian will recommend the product that is best suited for your pet.

If you would like to have your pet tested for heartworm or you would like additional information about the disease, please contact your veterinary hospital.

Emergency Kit For Your Pet

Of course, the best way to handle emergency situations is to avoid them by keeping your pet safe and healthy. However, in spite of your best efforts, accidents can happen. Here are some tips to consider before you need to use them.

Pet First Aid Kit

Always keep within reach the phone numbers for your veterinarian, emergency clinic, poison control center, etc. Keep a copy of your pet's health records where you can easily find them. You may also want to invest in a book that covers first aid procedures. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations. For example, the ASPCA's Complete Dog Care Manual and Complete Cat Care Manual have excellent information on first aid principles, as well as what to do in case of traffic injury. The book also contains useful information on how to perform artificial respiration and what steps to follow in case of poisoning, burns, insect bites, etc.

Have a pet carrier so you can safely transport your pet to an emergency clinic or veterinary hospital. Remember: An injured or ill pet may not act like its normal, sweet-tempered self. Handle the pet with care so you don't get bitten or scratched and need emergency treatment yourself!

Keep an emergency kit on hand with such items as:

• Bandages

• Adhesive tape

• Cotton

• Antiseptic cream

• Sterile dressings

• Gauze

• Thermometer

• Tweezers

• Scissors

• Blanket

Ridding of Fleas in Your Home

Work to Eliminate and Prevent Fleas from Your Pets and Home

Finding out that your pet has fleas can be a stressful experience as both a pet owner and a home owner. There are multiple steps to take and we want to make sure that you’re fully aware and educated on all you need to know in order to protect your furry friends, as well as your living area. Below, we break down how your pet can get fleas, how to get rid of them, and how to prevent them in the future.

How do fleas get in my house?

Unfortunately, there are multiple ways that fleas can find a way into your home – and your pet isn’t always the one to blame! Fleas can attach themselves to both animals and humans, so it could be something that you’ve unknowingly brought into your house.

  • Your pet’s exposure to other animals: Whether you’re at the park, the vet, or even another person’s house with a pet that has fleas, your pet is still vulnerable to exposure.
  • Other pets entering your home: If a friend or family member brings their pet over your house, fleas are able to inhabit the warm space and try to make a home of their own.
  • The backyard: Both you and your pet could become a new host for fleas that are loitering in the backyard and find a place in your house to stay, or simply stick around with your pet.

Once fleas are present, they’re very difficult to find and identify how they got into your home in the first place.

How do I get rid of the fleas?

When you finally realize that there are fleas in your home, there are multiple steps to take to officially get rid of them. They’re not only found on your pet, but they can be in hard-to-reach and hard-to-see places like your carpet, furniture, and tiny crevices throughout the house.

With these helpful steps, you’ll be able to protect you, your pets and your home from fleas!

  • Bring your pet to our office for treatment: Even if they’re not the ones who have fleas on them, start the prevention process as soon as possible.
  • Clean everything: Wash and dry all of your pet’s belongings, as well as your own!
  • Apply treatment to your home: Find the best ways to clean your house so there are no secret spots left that the fleas could be hiding.
  • Repeat this process at least 3 more times: You’re not only trying to clean out the fleas, but any sort of eggs and larvae that they may have left behind.

How can I prevent fleas from returning?

After you’re sure that all the fleas are gone, the next step is prevention. We want you to be aware of all the ways you can protect your home and your pets from dealing with fleas for as long as possible.

First, ask us about our flea treatment and what the best option is for your pet. There are multiple options and it’s important to learn about each of them to see which one would benefit both your pet and your home. Don’t be afraid to ask us as many questions as possible so you have all the proper information you need before choosing the best treatment.

When cleaning your home, your pet’s blankets and toys, and anything else that fleas may love, make sure you’re thorough as possible and maintain a consistent cleaning schedule. Prevention can be simple when you turn it into a routine, so be sure to ask us for any helpful tips if you’re still unsure.

To learn more about ridding your home of fleas, click here.

Help Your Pet Be Healthy with Preventive Care

Please remember that regular wellness care not only saves money over the course of your pet's life, it also helps ensure his or her life will be long, happy and healthy. Some excellent reasons to maintain a regular preventative care schedule for your pet include:

• Wellness exams are not only about vaccines, but include a full examination of mouth, ears, eyes, skin, respiratory system, heart, lymph nodes, abdomen, joints and muscles, along with an evaluation of organ function, changes to your pet's weight, habits, activity level, and blood work—as well as a chance for us to answer any questions you might have.

• Routine exams help us develop a baseline for your pet, making it easier to assess any changes that take place from one visit to the next. Declines in health may not be as obvious to you because you see your pet every day, but with regularly updated records, we can recognize differences and take steps if needed.

• Early signs of illness can be detected before they become serious—signs that can only be identified by a veterinarian during a comprehensive exam.

• Dogs and cats can hide illnesses and pain, and in the absence of other obvious symptoms, could be struggling without your knowledge.

• Senior pets have evolving health issues as they age, and routine wellness exams will give you an opportunity to manage your pets aging and understand any lifestyle changes that may be needed.

• Dental issues in your dog or cat can affect his or her body more than you may imagine. Advanced stages of dental decay can cause heart, liver and kidney disease due to the bacteria entering the blood stream.

• Even indoor cats need preventive care. Problems ranging from ear infections to cancer can still occur and need early detection only regular examinations can provide. An indoor cat can still come in contact with a rabid bat or a mosquito carrying heartworm.

• There are physical and emotional costs associated with illness, not just for your pet, but for you and your family. Illness can be time-consuming, messy, worrisome and stressful—all of which impact your household and the way your pet interacts with family members. A stressful car ride and wellness exam once or twice a year pales in comparison.

Antibiotics and Your Pet

When bacteria invade the body, a bacterial infection is present. Often, the bacteria are removed by our own immune system before there are any obvious signs of disease. But if bacteria multiply faster than our immune system can destroy them, an infectious disease develops. An infectious disease is treated by drugs that harm the bacteria - either by killing them or by preventing them from multiplying - without harming the host (animals). These drugs are called antibiotics.

Many people simply use the term antibiotics to apply to the broad group of drugs that prevent the spread of or kill microorganisms. Sometimes, though, a finer distinction is made. An antimicrobial is a drug that kills or inhibits the multiplication of microbes or microorganisms. Bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoa are all microbes. Antibiotics, however, kill only bacteria. They have no effect on viral or fungal disease.

An antibiotic such as penicillin, is bactericidal and therefore kills bacteria. A bacteriostatic antibiotic, such as tetracycline and erythromycin, stops the bacteria from multiplying. After the invading bacteria stops multiplying, the body's natural defenses usually kills the existing bacteria.

History of Antibiotics

The discovery and development of antibiotic drugs are two of the most important therapeutic advances of the twentieth century. Penicillin was discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1929, and was introduced into clinical use in 1940. Fleming was awarded the Nobel prize in 1945 for this discovery. Since then, antibiotics have dramatically changed the course of many illnesses (both in humans and in animals) from almost certain death to little more than an inconvenience.

The Problem of Resistance to Antibiotics

Very often, an animal is treated successfully with amoxicillin (the most commonly-prescribed small animal veterinary drug in the United States) on three separate occasions for three different infections. Then, amoxicillin doesn't work for the fourth infection. Since different antibiotics have different spectra of activity (only work on certain bacteria), this particular bacteria may not be sensitive to amoxicillin.

Another problem with antibiotic resistance occurs when an animal is treated for the same infection several different times with the same antibiotic. The antibiotic works perfectly during the first two or three episodes, then on the fourth episode, it fails to work. The most likely reason for this is that the organism has become resistant to that particular antibiotic.

Bacteria become resistant to some antibiotics through genetic mutations, which are then passed on to succeeding generations of bacteria. Amoxicillin is ineffective against infections from staphylococci, for example, because those organisms have developed resistance to the entire group of penicillin-type antibiotics (called beta-lactamins), including amoxicillin. These bacteria produce an enzyme, penicillinase, which changes the structure of the drug and makes it inactive. This is an example of bacteria developing resistance to antibiotics by inactivating the drug via specific enzymes. There are other mechanisms by which bacteria become resistant to antibiotics. These include alterations in the bacterial target enzyme as well as changes in the ability of the drugs to accumulate in or on the bacteria.

Important things to remember when your pet is taking antibiotics:

Antibiotics need to be given at specific times - Even though it may be difficult to give a medication every six or eight hours, it is necessary in order for these medications to work properly.

Antibiotics need to be given for a particular duration - During the first few days on the antibiotic, our pet usually feels much better. The antibiotic zaps most of the bacteria; however, there are usually still some bacteria left in their system. At this point, if the medicine is discontinued, the surviving bacteria quickly grow and multiply, and may overwhelm our pet once again. Continuing the medication for the full course usually prevents this from occurring.

Antibiotics need to be stored properly so that they do not lose their effectiveness - Some call for refrigeration; especially those that are liquids. Also, be sure to shake liquid formulas before administering them.

It is crucial that you do not begin to give antibiotics to your pet without first talking to your veterinarian

As a general rule, antibiotics are very safe and have few side effects - Loss of appetite, upset stomach, vomiting and diarrhea are the side effects most commonly encountered.

Occasionally, an animal will develop an allergic reaction to an antibiotic - This usually occurs within the first 30 minutes after administration. Severe allergic reactions - panting heavily, difficulty breathing, intense vomiting or diarrhea, seizures or lethargy - are emergencies and should immediately be seen by a veterinarian.

If you have any questions regarding an antibiotic or any medication, please contact your veterinary hospital.