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Nothing Heartwarming About Heartworm

I wanted to share an article Sasha’s vet sent to me:

Heartworm is a long, string-like parasitic worm that has the scientific name Dirofilaria immitis. It earns its common name by living in the host’s heart, lungs, and blood vessels. Heartworm can cause severe lung disease, heart failure, organ damage, and death. It is transmitted only through mosquitoes to a variety of species including dogs, cats, ferrets, wolves, foxes, ferrets, sea lions, and in rare instances, humans. Heartworm can affect any breed of dog or cat.

Heartworm infects animals all over the world. Once inside an animal, a heartworm can live five to seven years, and grow up to twelve inches long. Adult heartworms look like strands of cooked spaghetti.

Mosquitoes spread heartworm to the host animal.  When a mosquito bites the animal, it transmits infected larvae through the bite wound. Once inside an animal, it takes six or seven months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms. These adult heartworms mate and the females release the offspring, called microfilariae, into the host animal’s bloodstream. Mosquitoes then ingest these microfilariae when they bite the infected animal, completing the lifecycle of heartworm.

The parasite lives  inside a mosquito, and develops into infective larvae in 10 to 14 days. Microfilariae cannot become infective larvae without first passing through a mosquito. This means heartworm is spread  only through mosquito bites and not by casual contact.

The presence of the parasites inside the heart and lungs causes a large degree of inflammation, and can severely interfere with blood flow. This can cause coughing, asthma -like signs, heart failure, weight loss, fluid build-up in the abdomen, or sudden death. If  your pet develops heartworm, your veterinarian will do tests including chest x-rays and blood tests  to determine how seriously it is affected.  Treatment includes doxycycline and an injectable drug named Immiticde ℞ which is derived from arsenic. The treatment takes several months, and can also cause side effects.

For all these reasons,  it is much better to just prevent heartworm in the first place.

What Can I Do to Prevent Heartworm?

Luckily, there are several excellent heartworm preventatives available. Before starting preventative treatment in the dog though, a veterinarian will do a blood test to check for adult heartworms.  If a dog is given the preventative medicine but it already has the infection, there can be a reaction that may be severe, even possibly fatal. So it is mandatory that all dogs be checked for the disease before starting any preventative.   Also, several organizations, including the American Heartworm Society, recommend that dogs be tested annually for heartworm, and remain on the preventative medicine year round.

There are many brands of oral monthly preventatives, two types of topical monthly preventatives, and an injectable medication which is given every six months.   All these medications  are by prescription only.

If you have concerns, make an appointment to speak to your veterinarian about testing, prevention or treatment. Your veterinarian is a local expert at preventing and treating heartworm.


American Heartworm Society

West Nile Virus

Recently, there have been reports in the news regarding an outbreak of this disease, moreso than previous years.

West Nile Virus is a swelling or inflammation of the brain, which can be lethal if not treated.

Mosquitoes are the major carrier of this disease and that is how our pets get the disease – by being bitten by a mosquito that has been infected with the disease.

The good news is that only 1% of those who are infected with it ever get sick, but it is scary to think if our pet is one of the 1% that does get infected.  It is rare, but it does happen.

The symptoms tend to mimic that of meningitis, if any of those kinds of symptoms are observed in your pet, please get them to the vet immediately.

Treatment if your pet does get sick usually involves hospitalization, fluids, observation.

There is a product out there that can be a defense mechanism against bug bites.  BioSpot Defense Spot On will help kill fleas, ticks, larvae, and mosquitoes.

Here is the article with more information.  The link at the bottom of the article is broken, so I provided you with the link above to find the BioSpot Defense.


Canine Bloat

Just the other night, a friend called me in a panic, thinking that his dog was dead.  He has a purebred German Shepard, and the dog had finished eating and then soon after, he said his dog went down like a brick.  I told him to call the emergency vet and get there ASAP.

After tests and worry and shock, come to find out, his dog was suffering from Bloat.

I briefly mentioned this disease on a post I did back in November, and now that it has come up again, I wanted to go over it more in depth as it can be a scary situation if not treated immediately.

Bloat is also known as Gastric Dilation-Volvulus, (when too much gas or foam builds up in a dog’s stomach) which causes problems when the stomach can twist 90 or 360 degrees.  This creates a “seal” so that the rest of the digestive system is cut off, where the dog cannot get expel the gas or foam, making the stomach enlarge.  Kind of think of it as a balloon stuck in a small space and it keeps on inflating.  That is the pain that the dog goes through when they are unable to purge what is making their stomach essentially expand.

There isn’t that much that is known in preventing Bloat from happening, other than recognizing the possible signs and being educated as to what Bloat actually is and acting fast when the symptoms appear.

While not much is known in the cause, some factors can be when a dog gulps their water, or gulps their food down too fast.  Getting slow feeding bowls can help, feeding them good, healthy food, and using a good water fountain type dish can help.  Larger breed dogs are more at risk than smaller dogs of developing this.

Major symptoms to watch out for are:

  • Stomach distended
  • Nausea and attempting to vomit without being able to
  • Showing severe discomfort
  • Collapsing
  • Excessive drooling

Please read on to find out more about bloat.  Keep watch on your dog when they are eating and drinking and make sure they are not gulping too much air.  If your dog collapses or shows any of the symptoms above, please call your vet or the emergency vet (keep the number on the refrigerator and programmed into your phone).  Time is of the essence in treating bloat.


Pets Passing Diseases to Humans

Yes you read the title correctly.  All of us who have pets, can get diseases from our furbabies.  One way to protect ourselves is to wash our hands after handling litter box issues, or vomit.  Also, keep your pets vaccinated.

If your cat scratches you, you are at risk of getting Cat Scratch Fever.  Make sure as soon as you can, you clean and disinfect the cut.

Do not worry too much about getting most diseases, as long as your pet is vaccinated against diseases like rabies, they usually get vaccinated for diseases that are common to your area.  Although the incidence of rabies is not that high, we must still be diligent and ensure our pets are on a regular vaccination schedule.  There are people who do not believe in vaccinations and that is fine, but if you are a vaccinating pet parent, please keep on schedule with them.

There is a wealth of information in this article about diseases that can be transmitted from pet to human.  Hopefully it will help in determining the best cause of action in keeping your family (pets and humans) safe from diseases and grow to be healthy and happy senior pets.



For many people, this can be something that occurs when you first adopt a dog from a shelter where they are not fed/exercised/bored.  This is a term for when dogs eat their own waste.

Luckily this can be reversed in most cases very easily.  If not, and even if it can be, it is probably best to take your dog to the vet to ensure that they are getting all their proper nutrients and do not have parasites.

Exercise, keeping your dog from getting bored and upgrading their food to better, nutrient rich food can help.

Here is an article that explains this more in depth.  Hopefully if your dog suffers from this, a trip to the vet and a change in their diet/exercise regime can help solve the problem.

Heartworm Disease

This disease has been prevalent for a long time and it seems to be getting worse and worse.  For the longest time, it was virtually non existent where I live and now, it seems that more and more dogs here are testing positive for heartworm disease.

The next time you go to your vet, have your dog tested.  Some of the signs and symptoms of this disease are very subtle (inflammation internally, tired, out of breath easily while playing, lethargic,etc), some are not so subtle.  It’s best to get them tested and to be on top of things.  If they have the disease and it is caught early, there are simple treatments and it can be reversed.  If not caught early, the prognosis is usually grim.

Please have a look at this article and get your  dog tested.  It can be the difference between a healthy life and an early death.



Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)

A friend of mine recently had to make the agonizing decision to put one of her cats down.  When I asked her what happened, she said her 18 year old cat was suffering from FIP.

Not being completely up on what this disease is, I found an article about it and read about it.  What a horrible, sad and just…devastating disease.

It is so important to take your cat to the vet the minute they start showing any symptoms of the disease (poor appetite, failure to thrive (in kittens), weight loss, ratty-looking fur, eye problems, fever, anemia, lethargy, jaundice, neurological symptoms).

Please read the article and if your cat exhibits any of these symptoms, get them to a vet.  It is especially important to watch for these symptoms if your cat is elderly, or if they are a baby.  It is less common in middle aged cats.

Hopefully if this information can help one cat, we can also help their parent not have to go through what my friend did.

Dry Cat Food – Does It Clean Teeth?

I had someone write to me after I made my post about what kind of food to feed your cat.  The writer asked me why I don’t feed dry food to my cat because she was told that all dry cat food is good because it cleans their teeth.  This is a common myth.  All dry cat food does is shatter against their teeth, it does not combat or remove tarter.  Some cats will just swallow the food whole, so that doesn’t even help clean their teeth at all (and I would imagine swallowing food whole could lead to indigestion, stomach ache and couldn’t that lead to vomiting?)

Keeping a cat’s mouth and teeth clean takes patience and persistence on your part.  Brushing your cat’s teeth and getting regular dental cleaning from your vet are important.  Periodontal disease in cats can be devastating.  It can be lethal.

If you want to brush your cat’s teeth, you can buy a tooth brush and toothpaste here.  DO NOT use a human tooth brush or tooth paste.

Getting your cat used to letting you brush their teeth can be a daunting task.  Take your time, try it and do it in short bursts, and make sure to give your cat treats after allowing you to do that. There is a great video here, explaining how to brush your cat’s teeth.  It is not me in the video.

There is an amazing article here to explain more about the effects of dry food on cats vs. raw food diets.  Great comments at the end of the article.  It is written by a veterinarian and gives a lot of food for thought.

The same information can also be helpful with dogs and their dental health.

Take care of your pet’s mouth and they will live a longer, happier and healthier life, think of the great feeling you will have, knowing that you helped to provide a great life for your furbaby.