Early Detection = Key to Healthy Pets by Dr. Hilty Burr
I have worked in animal health care for over forty years. The main thing I have learned is that early detection is the key. When I was a young veterinarian, our work was primarily reactive. Clients presented us with health problems that needed fixing which is certainly still true. But today, most of my time is spent helping my 4-legged patients by being proactive. Our emphasis today is developing health strategies that prevent those health problems that need fixing.
The first technology that was employed to prevent illnesses, specifically infections, was the widespread use of vaccines. Veterinarians have done a great job of explaining the value of vaccines to prevent devastating diseases such as rabies, distemper and parvo virus concerning the canine species. The next research and development breakthrough that is considered standard of care today is the widespread use of parasite prevention and control products. This began in the 1960s with the daily use of oral diethylcarbamazine (tradename Filaribitsä) which was highly effective in preventing canine heartworms. Convenience drove the science towards longer acting prevention products that are given less frequently (monthly, quarterly, or every 6 months) using topical, oral or injectable formulations, so essentially all the more common and devastating parasites including heartworms, fleas, ticks, and GI parasites are easily prevented and controlled and fully protect pets and our families from these horrific parasitic diseases.
The most recent advancements in veterinary care involve the diagnostic arena. In my early practice days, the only laboratory testing that were routinely done were fecal parasite floats and filter heartworm tests. On rare occasion, we would run some blood samples to the local human hospitals and convince them to do CBC and blood chemistries using human lab reagents which we would extrapolate to the specific species normal values. Let’s zoom forward four decades. Today you will see there is essentially no diagnostic capability that cannot be provided for pet care that includes comprehensive onsite blood and urine diagnostic capabilities, tissue cytology and histopathology, endless reference laboratory tests, and digital radiology, ultrasonic and endoscopic imaging. C-Scan and MRI imaging and telemedicine for pets is available and will be accessible next even in our remote rural area.
The ultimate question is what drives these remarkable developments in veterinary health care? The answer is the incredible power of the human / pet bond and the reality that families today demand that their pets have access to the same medical care that is available for them. In addition, the diagnostic advancements have provided us the remarkable tools to more easily prevent diseases and to detect and diagnose health problems earlier. Because the cost of treating diseases and medical conditions in pets continues to dramatically rise just like in human medicine, the emphasis on being proactive and diagnosing problems earlier has enabled us to prevent more advanced disease thus providing tremendous incentive by greatly reducing and even eliminating the higher costs that comes with treatments. This means we can ultimately reach the goal of enabling our pets to live longer and healthier lives but at an overall reduced cost, which truly explains the greatest value of early detection as the key to healthy pets.
DOES YOUR PET HAVE A NEW YEARS RESOLUTION?
Why are so many of our pets overweight? The first step toward solving the problem is to admit that there is one. For most of our pets, there is no excuse, we are simply feeding them too much food and exercising them too little.
Just as in people, obesity is a serious problem in our pets and it is the leading cause of nutritional disorders. Obesity increases heart and circulatory disease by up to 75%, reproductive disorders by 65%, musculoskeletal disease by 54%, cancer by 50% and skin conditions by up to 40%. The bottom line, obesity will shorten our pets’ lives. Even more distressing, the quality of their lives will decrease too. How can they be happy if their joints hurt or they are constantly out of breath when they try to play, if they even try to play? Surprisingly, most people are not even aware that their pet is overweight. A simple way that your veterinarian uses is to measure your pets’ body condition score (BCS). This is a scoring system that rates a pet’s body fat on a scale of 1 to 9. Look at your pet’s physique from above, paying close attention to the pelvic bones, the waistline and the rib cage. BE HONEST. A pet with a BCS of 1-4 is too thin, the ribs and pelvic bones will be easily seen and felt. With an ideal BCS of 5, your pet should have an obvious waistline, the ribs should be easily felt under the skin but not seen and the pelvic bones should be well muscled. A pet with a BCS of 6 or more is too chubby, the ribs will be harder to feel and the waistline lost. A pet with a BCS of 9 is morbidly obese, the ribs cannot be felt and the waistline is bulging. Occasionally there really is an excuse for our pets’ sudden change in weight; some pets may be suffering from a hormonal condition. Simple blood tests and medication can be used to diagnose and treat this disease.
HELPFUL HINTS FOR WEIGHT LOSS
♥ Begin by weighing your pet. This will help you keep track of their progress.
♥ A diet change will likely be required but changing to a new food suddenly can cause diarrhea. When changing to a new diet, gradually introduce the new food by mixing it with the previous food over a 5 to 7 day period.
♥ Treats should never make up more than 10% of your pets daily caloric intake and should be factored in when assessing your pet’s daily needs. Try to select low calorie rewards.
♥ Measure feeding portions accurately. Use a measuring cup.
♥ Feeding leftover foods, table scraps or additional high calorie supplements can cause a nutrient imbalance and lead to obesity.
♥ Increasing your pet’s exercise by even 10 minutes per day will make a significant difference in his or her overall health.
♥ It is best to divide your pet’s daily caloric requirements into 2 to 3 equal portions throughout the day. Smaller more frequent feedings will leave him or her feeling more satisfied.
Preventive Care is the Key to Optimum Health
We are often asked what vaccines and parasite prevention programs and products are needed for pets. There are some prevention needs that we call “core” because all pets should receive these regardless of age, breed or lifestyle. The core vaccines for dogs include rabies, distemper and parvovirus. Included in these vaccines are adenovirus (respiratory and hepatitis), parainfluenza (respiratory), and leptospirosis. Cat core vaccines are rabies, panleukopenia (feline distemper), and rhino and calici respiratory viruses. FeLV (leukemia) is considered a core vaccine for all cats under 1 year of age and all adults that spend any time outdoors. FeLV and FIV (Feline Immuno-deficiency Virus) are so common that all veterinarians recommend the in-house blood test to make an early diagnosis or establish a negative status. For dogs, there are several non-core vaccines that should be provided for dogs at risk. Bordetella (Kennel Cough) is required for all dogs that board, and recommended for all dogs that socialize (i.e. go to groomers, pet parks, obedience classes, etc). Canine influenza is available and should be considered for all boarders. We personally recommend influenza vaccination in dogs that are currently vaccinated against Kennel Cough since these pets have the same risks and probability of severe disease. Lyme and Rattlesnake venom vaccination is recommended for dogs that spend a significant time outdoors especially in our mountainous area with high populations of venomous snakes and ticks.
All veterinarians recommend year-round flea and tick control.. The highly effective monthly products now make it easy to do, and we see flea infestations even in the winter months. Tick control is especially important in dogs because ticks are vectors for several serious diseases such as Lyme, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichia and Anaplasma. Year-round heartworm prevention is now recommended for all dogs and cats, even indoor pets since infective mosquitoes can make their way indoors and it only takes one bite to transmit heartworm larvae. There are many products that can provide full protection which our staff can discuss with you to find out what is best for your pet.
Lastly, annual heartworm and fecal GI parasite testing remains very important. Although preventatives are very effective, we still see “failure to protect” positive results and early diagnosis and treatment is crucial when dealing with parasitic diseases that can be life threatening if it goes undiagnosed or you wait until symptoms are obvious. We have adopted the recent recommendation to test cats annually for heartworm disease since a large recent study has shown feline heartworms to be as common as canine heartworms, and the disease in cats is potentially even more devastating. Because of the concern about feline heartworms, our recommendation is to use Revolution as the preferred flea control product because of its broad spectrum of parasite efficacy that includes heartworms.
We recommend the following as your BEST choices for year-round parasite prevention and control:
· K-9: Trifexis with Scalibor 6-month collar or Ovitrol/Effitix monthly topical
· K-9: Advantage Multi with Seresto 8-month or Scalibor 6-month collar or Ovitrol/Effitix monthly topical
· K-9: Heartgard Plus with Nexgard or Simparica monthly chews, Bravecto quarterly chews or Seresto 8-month collar
· K-9: ProHeart 6-month injection with monthly topical, Nexgard or Simparica monthly chews, Bravecto quarterly chews or Seresto 8-month collar
· Feline: Revolution monthly topical, Bravecto quarterly topical or Seresto 8-month collar
Choices will depend upon your preferences for oral, topical, collar or injection. We also offer great rebates and free products to reduce your costs.—available only through veterinarians. Contact LCAH or TCAC with questions and help in selecting the right options for you and your pet.
February is National Pet Dental Health Month
Imagine what our teeth and mouth would look, feel, and smell like if we did not brush our teeth or visit our dentist! While we are all aware that our pets cannot brush their own teeth, less than one third of pet owners are compliant with veterinary recommendations regarding dental care for their pets. It is not surprising to discover that the American Veterinary Dental Society indicates 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of oral disease by three years of age. Symptoms of dental disease may include bad breath, reddened gums, yellow or brownish build up on the teeth, pus oozing from the gums, bleeding gums, drooling, facial swelling, pain, a change in eating or chewing habits, pawing at the face or mouth, or displaying a depressed attitude. In addition to the problems dental disease can cause within the mouth, it is important, for the overall health of our pets, to understand that dental disease is progressive and can lead to other serious health problems such as heart, lung, liver and kidney disease.
The stages of dental disease include:
The great news is that dental disease is preventable and providing our pets with dental care prevents chronic oral pain and has been estimated to add two to three years to their lives! Your pet’s dental visit will be individualized to meet the specific needs of your pet. Based on your pet’s needs, components of the dental visit may include:
Physical Exam and History- determines the current status of your pet and is essential for developing a preliminary care plan
Pre-anesthetic laboratory testing – based on life stage and any existing disease
IV catheterization/fluid therapy- for circulatory maintenance
Anesthesia- necessary for the successful completion of tooth by tooth visual examination, probing and dental procedures
Radiographs - permits accurate tooth evaluation and diagnosis, and assesses treatment outcomes
Tooth scaling- removal of plaque/tartar above and below the gum line
Subgingival irrigation and debridement- removes debris below the gum line
Polish - smooths tooth surface after scaling
Application of anti-plaque substance- seals teeth to help prevent future plaque buildup
Home dental care recommendations and education – how you can help to keep your pet’s teeth looking their very best and reduce the frequency of professional dental cleanings
(Additional dental services may include periodontal therapy/surgery, extractions, antibiotic fillings, or pain medications.)
Make your appointment now for a dental cleaning in February and receive 25% discount.
Your pet’s dental health is just as important as your own and while February is National Pet Dental Health Month, dental health should be a daily ritual for you and your pet all year long.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
from all of us at Lake Chatuge Animal Hospital