With the recent devastation in Texas and Louisiana, the wildfires in the west, and Irma lurking in the Atlantic, it is time to review disaster preparedness for you and your pets. Below is a list of things that are recommended to help you and your pets survive a natural disaster.
- Microchip your pet. It is a permanent, traceable form of identification. Any animal can be microchipped. Make sure to update your microchip registration when you move, change phone numbers, or get a new emergency contact. Also keep collars with tags on all cats and dogs. In an emergency, there may not be access to a microchip scanner.
- Plan for a pet friendly place to stay if you need to evacuate. Consider pet friendly hotels, kennels, or loved ones. NEVER LEAVE YOUR PETS BEHIND IF YOU MUST EVACUATE. Some shelters are now set up to accept people with pets.
- Start a buddy system. Exchange keys with someone who can evacuate your animals if you are not home when disaster strikes. Give that person your pets’ information and your emergency contact information. Make sure that person is comfortable handing your pets.
- Identify an emergency vet outside of your immediate area.
- Plan to have to temporarily confine your pet. If your pet is not use to a crate or carrier, take time to get them use to them.
- Know where to search for lost animals.
- Take photos of you with your pets so you can prove ownership (this is where microchipping can eliminate this problem).
- Assemble a disaster kit.
- Food – a one week supply in an airtight, waterproof container. A can opener and spoon if you feed canned food. Rotate the food every two months to avoid spoilage.
- Water – a one week supply in an airtight container out of direct sunlight. Rotate every two months.
- Basic animal first aid kit. One week supply of any medication your pet is on, plus flea and heartworm medication.
- Proof of vaccinations and photos to prove ownership.
- Collar, leash, harness, crate, collapsible food and water bowls, blanket, toys, and treats.
- Paper towels, dish soap, plastic bags, litter trays with litter
You can visit RedRover.org to find more resources for disaster preparedness. Hopefully you will never need these tips, but it never hurts to be prepared.
Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.
August 15th is Check The Chip Day! This is a day to remind people to have their pet’s microchip checked to make sure it is working properly. 1 in 3 pets will get lost in their lifetime. Without proper identification, 90% will not return home. According to the American Humane Association, only 17% of lost dogs, and 2% of lost cats will find their way back to their original owners. Four million pets are euthanized each year at nationwide shelters.
Microchips are inserted between the shoulder blades with a needle and is a relatively painless procedure. Microchips are tiny transponders made of a special plastic or surgical glass. They are encoded with a unique set of numbers and letters that when read by a scanner can be traced back to the owner through the company’s registration. Most microchips read for about 25 years. The reports that microchips are the cause of cancer are false.
Please remember to register your pet if you have a microchip, and update the information with the chip company if you move or change phone numbers. Unfortunately, I have encountered several animals that could not be returned to their rightful owners because the chip was never registered or had outdated information on the registry.
Our staff will be happy to scan your pet’s microchip at your next visit to make sure everything is working.
Keep your pet safe – chip them!
Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.
How many worms, ticks, viruses, or fleas on your pet are OK with you? Ten? One hundred? One thousand? I am going to bet that your answer is zero. Unfortunately, parasites are a constant threat to our pets. Most parasites are microscopic, so the threat goes unnoticed. It is amazing how many people decline an annual fecal exam because “they don’t see anything in their pet’s stool”!
There is a very interesting website (www.capcvet.org) that breaks down the incidence of parasites in all the counties in the United States and Canada. The following are the current statistics for Berks county:
Lyme disease – 18.9% (1 of 6 dogs test positive)
Erhlichiosis – 1.81% (1 of 56)
Anaplasmosis – 8.36% (1 of 12)
Roundworms – 3.11% (1 of 33)
Hookworms – 2.46% (1 of 41)
Whipworms – 1.11% (1 of 90)
Giardia – 4.95% (1 of 21)
Heartworm – 0.04% (1 of 157)
FeLV – 1.97% (1 of 51 cats)
FIV – 5.7% (1 of 18)
In our practice, we diagnose dogs with Giardia on a regular basis. Currently we have 2 dogs that are undergoing heartworm treatment. So, the threat is real. Please bring in a fecal when your pet comes in for their annual exam. Our staff is ready to answer any questions about the threat of parasites to your pet, and will help you formulate a plan to lessen the risk to your pet.
Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D
The recent outbreak of canine influenza, affecting dogs in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, and Texas as of this writing, involves the influenza virus H3N2. The strain is referred to as the Chicago strain, as it first appeared in Chicago, Illinois in the spring of 2015. The virus is an extremely contagious airborne disease that is easily spread among dogs, and can be contagious to cats. Two deaths have been reported in North Carolina. Listed below is some additional information about the virus and how to minimize the risk and reduce the spread of the disease.
The influenza virus is an airborne virus that is spread through proximity to infected dogs and can travel up to 20 feet. It can also be spread by contact with contaminated items (bowls, leashes, crates, tables, clothing, dog runs, etc.). People moving between infected and uninfected dogs can spread the virus. Eighty percent of all dogs that are exposed to the virus will contract it. The virus lives on soft surfaces for up to 24 hours and 48 hours on hard surfaces.
Some exposed dogs will be sub-clinical carriers, meaning that the dogs will contract and spread the virus without showing symptoms. Once exposed, dogs show clinical signs within 24 to 48 hours, and can shed the virus for up to 28 days after exposure. Most dogs recover with proper supportive care.
Symptoms of the virus are a dry hacking cough, a lack of appetite, lethargy, discharge from the eyes or nose, and fever. Untreated, the virus may progress to pneumonia, sometimes severe, that may make dogs extremely sick with potential for fatalities. Most dogs take 2 to 3 weeks to recover.
Prevention includes vaccination. The vaccine requires an initial series of 2 vaccines, and full immunity is not present until 7-14 day after the 2nd booster. Sick animals should be isolated for 30 days after symptoms subside. A 1:30 bleach solution should be used to disinfect common areas such as tables, bowls, leashes, crates, etc. The solution should be made daily, and a drying time of 10 minutes should be used before a new dog is exposed to the items. Stainless steel bowls should be used. Hands should be washed between dogs. At a minimum, hand sanitizer should be used between handing dogs. Disposable gowns, and wiping down shoes and clothing with a bleach solution are recommended after leaving an area where dogs congregate.
Willow Creek Veterinary Center is striving to keep up-to-date on the latest information regarding this outbreak. We are happy to answer any questions you have about your pet’s exposure risk; and whether vaccination is appropriate for your dog.
Dr. Ann Bastian
Recently I performed a dental on a 16-year-old dog, after which I removed an infected eye from a one pound, four-week-old kitten. While the cases were very different, they had one common denominator. At one point or another, someone suggested the patients should not have surgery based solely on their age. Now I will admit, I kind of held my breath a little on the one-pound kitten. It wasn’t because of its age; it was because of its size. It was hard to dose the medication accurately; and even harder to get an IV catheter in. However, I trusted my staff, they trusted me, and the kitten did very well during the surgery.
Age is not a disease process. There are certain diseases that are more common in elderly patients; but the diseases, not the age, dictate whether anesthesia and surgery are plausible. As an emergency vet, all my surgery cases were very sick when they were placed under anesthesia. We didn’t have the luxury of waiting to anesthetize healthy animals. Are there times when an animal is too sick to have a routine procedure on them? Absolutely… but the disease, not the age dictates that.
While I was at the Western Veterinary Conference in March, I attended a lecture on anesthesia. The board-certified anesthesiologist described a phone call he got for a consult with a former student. The dog was healthy, all the pre-anesthetic bloodwork was normal, but the doctor was terrified to anesthetize the dog. When the specialist asked why, the local doctor explained that the dog was 27 (it was an AKC registered dog, so the age was accurate). With a gentle prod and a reminder that age is not a disease, the 27-year-old Bichon had his dental done successfully, and the owner was very happy. So, the next time you think your cat or dog shouldn’t have something done because it is older, remember the 27-year-old Bichon!
Ann E Bastian, V.M.D.
Recently a client reached out to us asking about the recent outbreak of Leptospirosis in New York city. Three people were diagnosed with Leptospirosis in the Bronx, with one person dying. A veterinary hospital in Paramus, New Jersey reported treating 5 dogs with 3 fatalities this month. So, what is Leptospirosis? Leptospirosis (lepto for short) is a worldwide disease caused by spiral bacteria affecting both dogs and people (cats don’t seem to get Lepto). Lepto is carried by cattle, pigs, horses, dogs, mice, rats, racoons, skunks, squirrels, opossums, and deer. Lepto is transmitted to people and dogs through contact with urine or body fluids. Lepto is also transmitted through water, soil, or food contaminated with urine from infected animals. The bacteria enter through breaks in the skin, mucous membranes, or drinking contaminated water. Lepto can survive in the water and soil for weeks to months. There are multiple forms (serovars) of Lepto. Lepto is found in all 50 states. The World Health Organization states that very little is known about the true incidence of Leptospirosis worldwide.
Signs of lepto in dogs are fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, anorexia, weakness, depression, stiffness, severe muscle pain, and jaundice from liver failure. Time from exposure to clinical signs can range from a few days to a month. Lepto can be shed in the urine for up to 3 months after infection, especially if not treated appropriately. Clinical signs in people include kidney disease, meningitis, liver failure, and respiratory distress.
There are vaccinations available for dogs, although the current vaccines only cover 4 of the serovars. In the most recent vaccine guidelines, the lepto vaccine is considered a lifestyle vaccine. That means that veterinarians may make recommendations based on each dog’s risk of exposure. Lepto is the “L” part of the distemper vaccine. The vaccine needs a series of shots to start, and then is a yearly vaccine thereafter. Contrary to the old wives’ tale, lepto does not cause vaccine reactions. We have many people who come in to the office with the recommendation from their breeder not to vaccinate for lepto. When a vaccine reaction does happen (about 1 in 10,000 vaccines), it is caused by the adjuvant in the vaccines. Adjuvants are the liquid part of the vaccine that contains material used to stimulate the immune system.
I encourage everyone to ask their veterinarian about the lepto vaccine, and come up with vaccine schedule that best suits your dog’s lifestyle. And yes, my dog is vaccinated for lepto!
Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.
Although February 2017 is in the books, it was Responsible Pet owner month so I thought it was worth reviewing some basics of what is involved in being a Responsible pet owner
- Research various breeds to decide which breed is right for your family. Things to consider include size, activity level and grooming needs. Talk to breeders at shows, ask your veterinarian, read information about different breeds at akc.org or breed specific websites. Make sure if you decide to buy from a breeder they are reputable. Shelters and rescue organizations have wonderful dogs and cats as well.
- Know the cost of pet ownership. Besides the initial adoption or purchase price, there is food, vaccines, medication, and insurance.
- Keep up on your pet’s health. The staff at Willow Creek can make recommendations on needed vaccines and preventative medication that will keep your new family member healthy and happy. Preventative care can help you avoid some of the larger medical bills in the future.
- Feed your pet a healthy, balance, age appropriate diet.
- Spay or neuter your pet. Besides helping with the pet overpopulation problem, spaying or neutering pets can help avoid medical problems such as mammary tumors, infections and tumors of the uterus, testicles, and prostate.
- Make sure your pet has ID. Microchips are a way of permanently identifying your pet if tags or collars come off.
- Have a basic first aid kit, and know some basic first aid skills. Keep the ASPCA Poison Control phone number in an easy to find location (1-888-426-4435).
- Train your dog to be a good citizen. There are several excellent trainers in the area. We can provide you with a list of local trainers. Your pet will be easier to care for, and you will enjoy your pet more if they are well behaved.
With the right preparation, pets are a wonderful part of our lives.
Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.
February is National Pet Dental Health Month. By the age of 3, most dogs and cats have signs of periodontal disease. Signs of dental disease include bad breath, broken or loose teeth, retained baby teeth, tartar, discolored teeth, abnormal chewing or drooling, dropping food from the mouth, decreased appetite, bleeding, or swelling around the mouth. The only way to address periodontal disease is with a dentistry performed under general anesthesia, so the health of the teeth can be checked from all angles, including under the gum line. In celebration of National Pet Dental Month, Willow Creek Veterinary Center is offering $50 off a dental procedure performed during the month of February. Please call to schedule your consultation today.
Once we have professionally cleaned your pet’s teeth, many people ask how we can keep the remaining teeth healthy. Ideally, brushing daily to several times a week with a toothbrush and a pet toothpaste is the best method. If your pet is not willing to go along with that option, there are additives to the water, raw hide treats that are treated with an enzyme to prevent tartar, and the new Oravet chews that scrape the plaque off the tooth as the dog chews. If you are looking at the large variety of over the counter chews, make sure to look for the VOHC seal of approval, which indicates that the treat meets the Veterinary Oral Healthy Council criteria for teeth cleaning protocols.
Recently, I performed a dental on a 14-year-old Chihuahua. The owner had been told by another veterinarian that the dog was too old for a dental. We safely performed the dental, and extracted multiple teeth that had advanced periodontal disease. At the next visit, the owner asked me what I did to her dog. Then she laughed, and explained her dog had a new lease on life. He was jumping into bed with her, playing with toys that had been ignored for years, and generally acting like a dog half his age. Dental disease hurts! Dogs that are labeled as grumpy, “slowing down”, and old may in fact be dealing with chronic pain. If your dog or cat suffers from dental disease, don’t let age stop you from talking to us about a dental. Age is not a disease, and we may be able to give your pet a new lease on life.
Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.
With less than two weeks until Christmas, just a quick reminder of the hazards the holidays can pose to our pets. The change in décor, schedules, and holiday guests can all cause stress because our pets are creatures of habits (I mean seriously, who thought it was a good idea to bring a tree in the house?). Lights, tinsels, and ornaments are all things to be investigated, chewed on, and possibly ingested. The house often gets decorated with amaryllis, lilies, yew, holly, mistletoe, and poinsettia which are all toxic plants. Then the food. Chocolate, garlic, onions, alcohol, unbaked bread, and xylitol can all be present in holiday baking and gifts. It is enough to drive any pet owner crazy. So, try and be aware and as safe as possible; and as always, if your pet does get into something, call us right away. It is much easier to deal with something that has been recently ingested, than deal with the aftermath.
From the staff of Willow Creek, we wish you and your family health and happiness through this holiday season and the coming year. Merry Christmas and Happy New year.
Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.