Ticks and Prevention

It’s getting later in the summer, but we are nowhere near the end of “tick season,” which has stretched longer and longer due to milder winters and movement of tick species into new areas. Ticks can carry diseases such as Lyme and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, so year-round prevention is extremely important! Today we are going to discuss ticks and how to keep them off you (and your pets!).

Ticks to Be Familiar With

Here in Huntsville, you are most likely to spot one of three different kinds of tick: the Blacklegged Tick, the Lone Star tick, or the American Dog Tick. All three species can carry

CDC_TickSizeComparison
Center for Disease Control

disease; in Alabama we are most concerned about anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease, rickettsiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, southern tick-associated rash illness, and tularemia. All of these are transmitted through the bite of the tick so that’s what we want to try and prevent!

Prevention- Big Picture

The best defense is a good offense! The first order of business is to keep your home turf from becoming tick friendly. Mow frequently and clear back as much brush as you can. If possible, put up fencing that will discourage wildlife, especially deer, from getting onto your property. Deer are a major vector for tick spread, so if possible, keep them out of your yard.

In addition, do what you can to keep from bringing ticks home with you. Use repellent during hikes, and do a cursory tick check before you hop in the car to head home. Once you get home, the CDC recommends showering and a full check within 2 hours to decrease the risk of attachment to you. Since all of the above listed diseases can cause serious illness in humans, make sure you do this!

Products that Protect

The above steps will help decrease this risk of ticks at your home, but sooner or later you hikingare going to want to take your dog for a hike on all of our beautiful trails, and they will need something that repels ticks. There are three major products that we recommend to protect your dog, and each is a little different.

Bravecto

Bravecto is our favorite product for tick and flea protection. It is a tasty chewable, and it provides 3 solid months of flea prevention. For ticks, the protection doesn’t last quite as long: you will get 12 weeks (or 3 months) of good protection against the blacklegged tick, American dog, and brown dog ticks. However, it only completely protects against the Lone Star tick for 8 weeks; you will get some protection after that, but it won’t be as complete as it was the first 2 months. For most dogs that only go out for the occasional hike (once a month or less), this is the best product because it doesn’t require remembering a monthly pill.

Seresto

Seresto collars are another great choice for both tick and flea prevention. It comes in a collar that offers up to 8 months of protection against blacklegged ticks, American dog ticks, brown dog ticks, and Lone Star ticks. It must be fitted tightly, but not too tight (you want to be able to fit two fingers under the collar). Very occasionally, dogs will get irritated by the collar. It does decrease in efficacy if your dog bathes or swims more than once a month (offering about 5 months instead of 8 months of protection).

Nexgard

Nexgard is great for growing puppies as well as for dogs that are going to be heavily exposed to ticks (those that live in a wooded area or go hiking weekly or more). It is a monthly chewable pill, similar in taste to Heartgard (it’s actually made by the same company). It protects for the entire month against the blacklegged tick, Lone Star tick, American dog tick, and the brown dog tick. Unfortunately, unlike Bravecto and Seresto, it only provides protection for 30 days, which can be harder for some people to remember, causing lapses in protection.

 

Even with protection, we recommend doing a full tick check after taking your dog into wooded areas, as no prevention is 100% efficacious. If you have any questions about ticks, tick borne diseases, or any of the products we recommend (or any others!), please give us a call at 256-881-2482. Enjoy your summer!

 

Heatstroke in Dogs

simon heatstroke

It has certainly been hot the past few weeks! Since we have had a few days with a heat advisory, we wanted to be sure to discuss ways to protect your pet from the dangerous effects of heatstroke!

Dogs have a normal body temperature that is hotter than ours. “Normal” is between 100oF and 102.5oF. Anything hotter than that would be considered hyperthermia, which can be caused by a fever (the body warming in response to illness), or due to excessive heat. Unlike humans, dogs don’t sweat (except a small amount on their paws), and they can’t take their coats off when they get hot either! Dogs rely primarily on panting to keep cool, dropping their temperature through evaporation of the water on their tongues.

Because of these factors, some dogs are more prone to overheating than others. These include brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds such as the pug and bulldog, as well as long coated dogs and those carrying extra pounds. Although it might seem like a good idea to shave your thick coated dog (malamutes and huskies), this can actually cause more problems, as the longer coat serves to help protect the skin from sunburn and other irritants. Protection for these high risk dogs involves being aware of the ambient temperature and limiting outdoor activities during the hottest part of the day.

Warning signs that your dog is experiencing heat stroke include distress, excessive panting, bright red or blue gums, and weakness. If you notice any of these signs, the best thing you can do is get your dog to the veterinarian immediately, as heatstroke can be life threatening. En route, you can begin cooling your dog with fans and cool (not cold) water. Do not try to force them to drink water as this can cause aspiration.

Heat stroke can be deadly and it can happen fast. Even on a cool 70oF day (that we won’t see for a while), the temperature in your car can rise over 40o in one hour. Exercise during the hottest parts of the day can also increase the risk. Try to schedule your daily walks at dusk or dawn and keep an eye on your furry friends. If you have any questions about protecting your pets from the summer sun, give us a call at 256-881-2482.

Microchipping

Hello and welcome to another edition of Simon Says! Today we are talking about microchips- what are they, how do they work, and why are they important?

What Is a Microchip,  Anyways?

Microchips are tiny little computer chips that are enclosed inside an inert glass. They are about the size of as grain of rice- small enough to fit inside a needle! This chip has a unique number programmed into it. When the chip is scanned with a special microchip reader, that number is sent to the reader via a radio signal. The number can then be matched to a database identifying your pet and giving contact information to reach you.

Because microchips are so small, they just have room on them for that identification number. There are no batteries or moving parts. Microchips are strictly used for identification purposes- there’s no active emission telling where your pet is.

Why Should You Microchip?Simon Microchip

There are countless stories of pets being united months or even years later with their owners after being scanned for a microchip. Cats can sneak out when a visitor comes in the door, dogs can break a leash or jump a fence. Unlike collars, microchips are permanent and can’t be lost or destroyed. They will always connect you to your pet! If your pet is found loose, a microchip can save their life, as scanning for a microchip is the first thing an animal shelter will do when picking up a stray pet.

When Should You Microchip?

The short answer is, as soon as possible! Puppies and kittens can be microchipped as young as 6 weeks of age and any size pet can have one. Microchips feel about the same as any other shot and have nothing that will burn or irritate the tissue. They are implanted with a needle in just a few seconds and don’t require sedation.

What Else Do You Need to Know?

Two things: whenever you move (or get a new phone number), make sure you contact the registry your microchip is made by to change your information. The second thing to know is this: we think microchipping is very important, and because of that, we are offering a discount for the entire month of May! Give us a call at 256-881-2482 to schedule your appointment today.

Employee Spotlight: Dr. Shelby Agnew

It’s time for another employee spotlight! We want you to meet Dr. Agnew, a fairly recent addition to our hospital, but a much loved and appreciated one.

Dr. Agnew 2

What is your position at McCurdy Animal Hospital?

I’m the new associate veterinarian!

What is your favorite part of working here?

Honestly, all of the people. I really love my coworkers and my clients. People think we go into veterinary medicine because we like animals more than people but in all reality, we wouldn’t have any patients without the wonderful, caring owners at the other end of the leash. I adore getting to see dogs and cats every day, but I really love partnering with clients to help them keep their pets healthy.

How many pets do you have?

I have three wonderful dogs, all girls- Stella, Joule, and Herriot. Stella and Joule are beagles, and Herriot is a “wonder dog”- we often wonder exactly what she is, but we think she is a malamute mix.

What is your favorite indoor/outdoor activity and why?

I have recently taken up running and I LOVE it. I was never very athletic growing up (I’m still not), but I really enjoy running because it’s so accessible- all you need are your feet and a pair of sneakers.

What is your favorite month of the year and why?

This sounds very cliché, but I love the month of October when the weather is starting to get just a bit crisp. I love watching Auburn football and going to corn mazes and fall festivals.

If you could choose anyone, who would you pick as your mentor?

I’m sure I’m going to make Dr. O’Reilly blush with this answer, but it would be him. I have learned so much from him in just the past few months and I can’t wait to keep learning from him!

What is your absolute favorite food?

I actually have a cartoon on my wall that says “my favorite food is whatever you’re eating.” It’s a shameful habit, but it’s so true! Any time my coworkers pull out a snack, I am all over it.

What was the last movie, TV show or book that made you cry?

This is super embarrassing, but I read the Harry Potter series at least twice a year (and have since college), and I cry EVERY TIME someone dies in those books (spoiler alert: a lot of people die). J.K. Rowling is so good at making you get attached to even minor characters that it’s hard not to feel something when she kills them off.

What did you do growing up that got you into trouble?

I used to slide down the staircase banisters at my high school every day, and I got caught at least once a week! My teachers would always get onto me, but eventually I think they just gave up and decided I would stop when I got hurt (… and I did!).

Where is Waldo?

I don’t know. I heard he wears stripes because he doesn’t want to be spotted!

Fleas- Treating the Environment

Simon YardWe are spending the month of April focusing on fleas. This week we are focusing on how to treat the 95% of fleas that you DON’T see- the ones in the environment! We recommend treating the house and the yard at least once monthly, but twice a month is ideal. You must use a product that kills adults, eggs, and larva. Most products only kill adults, which means you are only killing 5% of the flea population.

Treating the House

When your dog (or cat!) comes in the house with fleas on it, they start dropping eggs wherever they go- the kitchen, the living room, their bed… your bed… EVERYWHERE. You might be tempted to go out and buy a “flea bomb” to launch a full scale attack on those suckers. However, instead of flea bombs, which can sometimes mean a 12-24 hour timeframe of being locked out of the house (and can miss th, we recommend Knockout area spray.  When you spray the house, concentrate on the “darker” areas, meaning baseboards, long drapes that touch the ground, and under furniture. These are the areas where most fleas will be. Remember that they will also live in the cracks of hardwood floors and tile grout, so treat the entire house, not just the carpeted area. You will also want to treat the furniture that your pet gets on, treating the cushions and even underneath the cushions.

Treating the Yard

When treating the yard you also must use a product that kills adults, eggs, and larva. We recommend Siphotrol yard spray. Concentrate on the areas that your pet spends most of their time in when outside and spray a 2-3 foot perimeter along the fence line. This will prevent any flea eggs that are dropped along your fence line by other animals (like the neighbor’s pups!) from hatching out and getting on your precious pooch. Remember that it will take up to 6 months to really see a difference in the flea population, so don’t give up and stop treating!

This month at McCurdy Animal Hospital, we are hoping you will take control of the fleas in your environment. To help out, we are offering a discount on our Siphotrol yard spray to get you started. Give us a call at 256-881-2482 or come by to pick some up!

 

Fleas

It’s springtime! The birds are singing, the flowers are blooming…The fleas are multiplying! Over the next few weeks we are going to focus on a common problem this time of the year- fleas!

The Flea Life Cycle

When an adult flea hops onto your pet, they immediately take a blood meal and start doing what they do best- laying eggs! One female flea can lay up to 50 eggs a day! These eggs fall off your pet as they go about their daily lives, ending up in their beds (or yours) and around the house. In a short amount of time, they will turn into a larval stage, then a pupal stage before becoming adults. This process takes, on average, about 3 weeks and is variable based on the temperature and humidity in the environment. Adult fleas are smart little devils; they lay in wait until they detect movement via shadows to jump back onto your pet and the cycle begins again. Because they lay so many eggs so quickly, the adults you see on your pet are just the tip of the iceberg; about 95% of the flea population in the environment is made up of the egg, larval, and pupal stages.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis

Most dogs and cats can have a few fleas on them with only the occasional scratching around the collar. However, there are a subset of pets that are allergic to the saliva of the flea, making them particularly sensitive. These animals have what is called “flea allergy dermatitis” and can experience intense itching and will often get secondary infections on their skin from scSimon Fleasratching or chewing. Even one bite from a flea can cause a severe reaction! Generally (but not always) dogs with flea allergy dermatitis will have hair loss and red lesions around their tail head, while cats often have bumps and hair loss around their neck. These pets need to be evaluated by a veterinarian as soon as possible, as the secondary infection can exacerbate the itchiness, causing worsening lesions that can take weeks to clear up.

Fleas as Vectors

In addition to being bad all by themselves, fleas can act as “vectors,” or carriers of disease. The most obvious parasite that fleas can carry is Diplideum caninum, which is a type of tapeworm. If your pet has tapeworms, you will generally notice segments of the worm (which look like grains of white rice) in their feces or around their bedding. Luckily this tapeworm doesn’t cause disease in humans, but they still need to be treated.
Fleas can also carry bartonella, the bacteria that causes the disease known as “cat scratch fever.” In addition to causing disease in humans including local swelling and a fever, bartonella can also cause anemia and occasionally more serious disease (and even death) in cats. It’s important to note that immunocompromised people (for example, the very young, very old, or those undergoing chemotherapy) can have more serious disease from bartonella. For these people, having good parasite prevention is even more vital.

 

Fleas may seem like a minor bother, but they have the potential to cause major problems! At McCurdy Animal Hospital, we recommend year-round flea prevention to stop the problem before it starts. We will be detailing our recommendations for flea and tick prevention over the next few weeks but as always, if you have problems with an itchy pet, or questions or concerns about flea prevention in your home, please give us a call at 256-881-2482.

Canine Parvovirus

We hope you are having a great Monday morning! We’re back discussing medical topics this time, and today, with the summer months coming, we’d like to address a disease we all know and hate- parvovirus. What is it, how do we treat it, and most importantly- how do we prevent it?

Parvovirus- the Why and How

Parvovirus is a deceptively simple organism- it’s made of a protein coat covering a single strand of DNA. Unfortunately, this small little virus can cause a lot of havoc. Parvovirus is shed in huge numbers by infected animals (through their stool) and it can live in the environment for months. Additionally, the virus can be spread on the clothes and shoes of people that have come in contact with the virus. Parvovirus is considered “ubiquitous;” it can be picked up in any environment, although it is much easier to get in an area where an infected dog has been due to the large numbers of virus. Because of this, almost every dog in the United States has been exposed to parvovirus in some amount, giving some immunity to most adult dogs. Unfortunately, puppies and adolescent dogs who have not had time to build immunity are the most likely to get the disease.

The Disease

After exposure through infected feces, there is a 3-7 day incubation period before signs of illness are seen. The virus grows in rapidly dividing cells, and the first place they go to is the lymph nodes in the throat. After they have increased in numbers, they enter the bloodstream and head to more rapidly dividing cells- the bone marrow (where the pre-cursors to white blood cells are made) and the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. This is when signs of illness are initially noted, in the form of vomiting and diarrhea. When the inside lining of the intestinal tract is severely damaged, the dog is less able to absorb Simon Parvonutrients and fluid. In addition, damaging this lining can allow bacteria which are normal flora in the gastrointestinal tract to flow into the bloodstream. Either severe lack of nutrition and dehydration or sepsis can ultimately lead to death.

Treatment

Treatment is largely supportive, as there is no curative agent for parvovirus. The basic goals of treatment are to keep the puppy hydrated, increase calorie intake, and prevent sepsis- all for long enough for the puppy to mount an immune response to fight the virus on his own. This involves aggressive nursing care under hospitalization during which we give fluids and antibiotics IV, as well as other treatments  depending on the severity of the illness or other concurrent diseases, such as intestinal parasites. In addition, we monitor blood work closely. Hospitalization can be as short as 24 hours in mild cases or over a week in severe cases. With aggressive care, survival rates reach approximately 80%.

Prevention

Parvovirus is a horrible disease and ubiquitous in the environment. With that in mind, we know that prevention in the form of proper vaccination is key. When puppies are born, they ingest colostrum that contains antibodies from their mothers that protect them against parvovirus which wane in the second to fourth months of life. These antibodies will bind to and destroy parvovirus; unfortunately, they will also bind to and destroy the parvovirus vaccine, leaving nothing for the puppy’s immune system to respond to. Because of this, we vaccinate puppies in a series of 4 vaccines- every 3 weeks between the ages of 6 weeks and 15 weeks. Giving these vaccinations on a regular schedule is very important to allow the immune response to build optimally and give adequate protection.

Before a puppy is fully vaccinated, they can still be susceptible to parvovirus. As we discussed before, parvovirus is ubiquitous in the environment, but it is in higher numbers in areas where ill or unvaccinated dogs have been. This would include dog parks, pet stores, and any public place where dogs visit. We recommend staying away from these places with your puppy until they are fully vaccinated!

 

If you see any signs of vomiting or diarrhea in your puppy, please call us immediately at 256-881-2482. Early detection and treatment can mean the difference between life and death!