A lot of people ask why they have to test their dog before beginning to give them heartworm preventative. Once infected by heartworm, the adults can produce an enormous number of larvae which circulate in the blood. See the video above to watch heartworm larvae "dancing" in a drop of blood. We recently had a 20# dog that tested positive for heartworm. We saw at least 100 of these larvae in a single drop of blood. Multiply that by the total blood volume of a dog that size, we figure there are at least 1.5 million of those things in that dog's blood stream. If you were to give heartworm medication to that dog and kill all those larvae at once, the release of antigen in the blood stream could cause a severe, possibly life-threatening, allergic reaction. In that case we would still give heartworm preventative, but we would do it under medical supervision so that we could treat any adverse reaction that might occur. If your dog is not on heartworm preventative, it should be. But get it tested for heartworm first!
Mosquitoes are out!
If your dog isn't already on heartworm preventative all year round (and they should be), make sure you get them on preventative NOW!
Heartworm is transmitted by mosquito bites. The mosquito bites a dog infected with heartworm, then bites your dog and transmits it to them. If you give your dog an effective heartworm preventative within a month of the bite, the heartworm will die.
If the dog is not taking an effective preventative (or if you forget to give it), the microscopically small heartworm larvae transmitted by the mosquito will grow up to a worm large enough to easily be seen by the naked eye which lives in the pulmonary artery coming off the heart. If untreated, these worms can cause heart failure and death.
If you discover that your dog is positive for heartworm, the treatment is a series of painful injections in the back muscles with a drug containing arsenic. What this does is kill the adult worms, and what you are left with is dead worms in the pulmonary artery. These can also cause death by pulmonary embolism (blood clots to the lungs).
It is much better and easier to prevent heartworms than it is to treat them after they have developed to the adult stage.
Heartworm is common in this area. The local resevoir is the dogs that have the adult form of the disease and the coyote population. Mosquitoes bite these animals then bite your dog, transmitting hearworm larvae.
Come in now, get your dog tested for heartworm and pick up some heartworm preventative.
Sooner is better than later....
Most people would rather not have their pet undergo a dental cleaning. They worry about the cost and the anesthesia, and they try to wait until absolutely necessary (smelly breath, bleeding gums) to have their pet's teeth cleaned. But dental health is very important for your pet's overall health and comfort level. Bad teeth are associated with increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, and, worst of all, pain and discomfort.
Here is why it is bettter to get your pet's teeth cleaned sooner rather than later: First of all, it will be less expensive. Less tartar to remove, less periodontitis to treat, fewer (hopefully no) teeth to remove - the procedure won't take as long, and consequently we don't charge as much.
Secondly, it will be safer. A shorter procedure means a shorter period of anesthesia which will be safer. Also, the pet will be younger if you do the procedure now than they would be if you wait until later to do the dental. In general, a pets health deteriorates as they age (especially if they have significant dental disease), so doing the dental sooner rather than later means they are healthier, and so, again, it's safer.
It will be less painful. Even though we do everything we can to keep dentals procedures from causing pain, such as giving pain meds beforehand and using nerve blocks, a simple cleaning and polishing is always going to be less painful than periodontal treatments and tooth extractions would be.
Your pet's mouth will be healthier. Mild gingivitis is reverible. Gingival recession and periodontitis is not. So if you wait too long, your pet will still have significant gum, bone, and potentially tooth loss, even after cleaning and periodontal treatment. Do it sooner and your pets mouth will be "like new."
Lastly, if you have your pet's teeth cleaned sooner, the cleaning will last longer. If the teeth are still healthy but just have some tartar, when we clean the teeth your pet will be left with nice healthy smooth enamel. Enamel is the hardest substance in the body and is relatively resistant to the accumulation of tartar, so tartar will not develop as quickly. If you wait until the enamel has been damaged and underlying dentin is exposed, or if the gums have receded and the cementum of the roots is exposed, those two substances are much less resistant to the accumulation of tartar, and you will see it begin to develop on the teeth again within months of having them cleaned! Teeth that are compromised will need to be cleaned again much sooner than teeth that are healthy. If you begin dental cleanings at an earlier age and an earlier stage of dental disease, you will have a pet with a healthier mouth, a healthier body, and one which will not need as many dental cleanings over the course of it's lifetime compared to a pet who had to wait until later to have it's teeth cleaned.
One last note about safety: we screen our patients very carefully prior to dentals with exams and blood tests to make sure it will be safe for them to undergo anesthesia, and we will have a very candid conversation beforehand about the potential risks. In addition, we monitor them very carefully during anesthesia both with machines and by continually examining them for any signs of problems. Consequently to this date, having done hundreds of dental procedures, we have a 100% success rate. We have never lost a patient due to a dental procedure.
Actually it's pretty much already here. It's cold out!
Here are a few things to remember that will help keep your pets safe during cold weather:
In spite of the fur coat, animals get cold just like we do. Pets with a thick fur and some extra padding (fat) will be relatively cold tolerant. But pets on the thin side and with short hair get cold very fast. Smaller animals (for example chihuahuas), young animals, and geriatric animals are also going to be more susceptible to the cold.
How do you know if your pet is cold? They want to come in right away, and they shiver. Just like people.
Even if they love the cold and never want to come in, that doesn't mean they aren't cold. Exposure to extreme temperatures can lead to hypothermia and frostbite in pets. So don't leave them out there too long even if they are having fun.
How can you keep your pets warm? Dry them off when they come inside (and before they go outside). Don't leave them outside unsupervised. If it's too cold for you to stand out there in a coat watching them, it's probably too cold for them to spend a lot of time outside. Consider a dog coat or sweater for short haired and smaller breed dogs.
Another frequent problem in the winter is sore feet. This happens for a variety of reasons. De-icing chemicals can be irritating. Snow and ice and can be sharp and scratch the feet. Feet that are wet are going to be more prone to injury and infection. Wipe your dog's feet when they come in from outdoors both to dry them and to remove salt and ice that might be stuck to the fur in between their toes. (It'll also help cut down on the dirty footprints in the house.) There are many booties on the market available for pets. If you are going to try that, make sure they fit well, as that will make it more likely the pet will let you put them on and keep them on.
Toxins are also a problem associated with winter. De-icing chemicals can be toxic. Try to buy those that are "pet friendly." Anti-freeze is toxic. Do not let your pets ingest spilled anti-freeze. If they do, consult your veterinarian immediately.
One last thing to be aware of: cats and other animals will sometimes crawl under the hood of a car in winter in an attempt to get warm. Starting a car with an animal under the hood can lead to injury or death to the animal and damage to engine. Bang on the hood a couple times to wake up any sleeping critters before you start your car. If you don't like winter, you can say a few naughty words when you do it. It might make you feel warmer.
What is Leptospirosis?
Lepto is a disease which affects animals and humans which is caused by a number of different sub-types of the Leptospira bacteria. We tend to see an increase in the number of cases after periods of wet weather in the spring and fall. Dogs and humans are particularly susceptible. Cats seem to be resistant to infection.
What kind of illness does Lepto cause?
Lepto can cause a wide range of symptoms, from no symptoms at all to sudden death. Common symptoms include: loss of appetite, lethargy, fever, dehydration, pain, vomiting, diarrhea, red or cloudy eyes, and nasal discharge. Signs of kidney failure (increased drinking and urination) and/or liver failure (jaundice) are also common.
How is Lepto transmitted?
Lepto infects the kidneys and can be shed in urine for years if the infection is not treated. Therefore, contact with or ingestion of water or soil that has been contaminated with the urine of an animal carrier is the most common cause of Lepto. Rats, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, opossums, and deer are among the animals that can carry Lepto. It is important to note that a dog can transmit this infection to its owners or caretakers if they come in contact with its urine when the dog is infected or if it becomes a carrier.
How can Lepto be prevented?
There is a very safe and effective vaccination against Leptospirosis. The initial series is two vaccinations given 3-4 weeks apart. After that, an annual booster must be given.
How is Lepto treated?
Leptospirosis is treated with antibiotics. Often patients infected with Lepto are very ill and will require a period of hospitalization and intensive care. Because the symptoms of Lepto are varied and non-specific, making the diagnosis can be challenging. We often begin treating suspected cases before a definitive diagnosis is made. As with most serious infectious diseases, we would prefer to avoid possible infections by vaccination rather than treating animals that are severely ill due to what is a preventable disease.
For additional information go to:
Blastomycosis is a fungal infection that is common in our area, and unfortunately seems to be even more common in our neighborhood. We have had 3 cases of Blastomycosis in the less-than-a-year that we have been open. Blasto is a mold that lives in the soil and in decaying leaf litter, usually within close proximity to a source of water. If forms spores which are inhaled into the lungs. At body temperature the mold spores turn into yeast and can spread throughout the body. Most of the time Blasto will cause small non-healing sores in the skin or will cause a cough. Sometimes it presents as limping, when the yeast invades bones and causes lesions that can be mistaken for cancer on an x-ray. Blasto can also infect the eyes and cause a loss of vision.
Dogs are most commonly affected by Blasto since they spend a lot of time sniffing close the ground where the spores are present. But people can also be infected, and so can cats that venture outside. The picture above is a view through the microscope of Blasto yeasts surrounded by white blood cells taken from a skin lesion of a cat that we saw last week.
If there are skin lesions, it is a simple matter of looking under the microscope for the tell-tale yeasts. If there are no skin lesions, we look in the eyes, and we may take x-rays of the lungs and/or bones. There is a urine test that can be sent to the lab to determine whether lesions see in the eyes or by x-ray are due to Blasto.
The treatment for Blasto is long term treatment with anti-fungal medication. However, if the infection is not caught early and spreads to the lungs, it can cause severe pneumonia which may be fatal even with treatment. Therefore, we encourage anyone with a pet that has unusual skin lesions, unexpected limping, coughing or changes in breathing pattern, or sudden loss of vision, to bring the pet into the clinic quickly for a check up.
If you have any questions about Blasto (or anything else), please call us a the clinic at 847-934-5530.
Pain is a common problem in pets, especially as they age. They often don't make it obvious. The graphic above is a good summary of some things to look for.
Pain in pets can be managed in a variety of ways: adding rugs over slippery surfaces, massage, and physical therapy are a few of them. A variety of medications are also available which are safe and effective. Your veterinarian can help you figure out which approach is best for your pet's particular problem.
The first step is to have them evaluated. And as always, for new patients the first exam at North Hoffman Veterinary Clinic is free. So if you even just suspect your pet might be in pain, there's no reason to wait. Call or stop by today:
Late summer through fall is a time of year when allergies are very common in pets. The combination of warm, moist air, more time spent outdoors, time spent swimming, and the presence of lots of grass and pollen and mold in the air, all conspire to make our pets itchy. Whereas humans tend to sneeze, have runny noses and itchy eyes, dogs tend to have itchy skin, ears, feet and bottoms when they have allergies.
The first step you can take to keep your pets from having an allergy flare up is to make sure they are on an effective flea and tick preventative. Dogs and cats are very allergic to fleas, and it makes them very itchy! So keep the fleas off of them!
More frequent bathing during allergy season can also help keep itchiness at bay. As long as your pet doesn't have any sores, you can use a good all purpose dog shampoo and bathe as often as a couple times a week. Make sure you use room temperature water (hot water tends to irritate their skin), rinse the shampoo out completely, and dry them off thoroughly.
If your pet is noticeably itchy for more than a day or two, if sores are beginning to develop, or if they are beginning to smell bad, you need to take them to the vet. Allergies very often lead to skin infections. If your pet has a skin infection, it will not go away on its own. It needs to be treated medically. If it is not treated, your pet will continue to be miserable, and they may even pose a threat to your health. Although it isn't common, dogs can sometimes spread their skin infections to the humans in their home, especially if the person has an immune system that is not functioning well or if they have skin problems of their own, a burn for example.
Every pet that comes to our clinic will have their skin, ears and nails examined for infections. We will then prescribe medication (oral or topical) to treat whatever infections we find. If the pet is still itchy after taking care of the infection, we may prescribe additional medications to reduce their itchiness.
Pets with mild season itchiness in most cases can be treated with one medication or another for a few weeks to keep them comfortable during itchy season. Pets with more severe or long standing allergies may benefit from additional testing to find out precisely to what they are allergic.
If your dog (or cat) is itchy, don't let them be miserable. We can help them! Call today for an appointment:
Finally, it's going to be a warm weekend in Chicago! Get out there and enjoy it with your dog!
But please remember: it is now officially warm enough that you should not leave your pets (or your kids!) in the car. They can develop heat stroke very quickly even with the windows cracked open or parked in the shade.
Exercise induced heat stroke is also very common in dogs when the weather first turns nice. Don't forget: Dogs don't sweat! They can't cool themselves off quickly. Prolonged vigorous exercise (chasing a frisbee or ball for example) can lead to heat stroke in dogs even when the weather is just getting warmer and not that humid. In most dogs, their enthusiasm far exceeds their common sense. It's up to you to make sure that they have plenty of water to drink and that they don't play so hard or long that they get sick.
If you have a pet, especially if you have a dog, there are three insect "vectors" you need to worry about: fleas, ticks and mosquitos. If you have a cat that spends time outdoors, these vectors are of concern for them too.
Fleas cause itchiness, dermatitis and can be a source of tapeworms! They are very easily spread from pet to pet and lay lots of eggs. So a single treatment is not going to be enough to rid your pet of fleas once they have them.
Ticks are a source of Lyme disease, which most people have heard of, and for which there is a vaccine for dogs. However, they are also a source of some other tick borne diseases like Anaplasmosis and Canine Ehrlichiosis for which we do not have vaccines, and these diseases can be an even greater threat to your dog's health than Lyme is.
Luckily for dogs and cats, mosquito bites rarely cause the itchy welts for them that they do in humans. Dogs and cats are not as allergic to mosquito saliva as we are. However, unluckily for dogs and cats, they can contract heartworm disease from mosquito bites.
In the case of fleas and ticks, we try to prevent the diseases they carry by killing and/or repelling the fleas and ticks. In the case of mosquitos, while there are some flea/tick products which also repel mosquitos, we do not rely on them to prevent trasmitting heartworm. Instead we give a medication that would kill any heartworm larvae that may have been transmitted by a mosquito bite.
Another difference between that approach to fleas/ticks and the approach to mosquitos/heartworm is that the flea/tick medication, once it has been given, is typically going to last for a month (or up to three months depending on the product). Heartworm treatment typically only lasts a few hours. What it does is it kills any larvae in the pet that were obtained within the last month by a mosquito bite. So we give heartworm preventative monthly, not because it will last for a month, but because it can kill any heartworm that the pet was exposed to in the previous month. Once those heartworm larvae have been living in your pet for more than a month, they get harder to kill with preventative.
So when do you begin flea/tick/heartworm preventative, and when can you stop it? The answer depends on the weather and the temperature. If it's an early spring or an unusually warm fall/winter, it is easy to start too late or end too early giving the preventative medications that you need to keep your pet healthy. For that reason, we recommend giving these medications all year round.