Signs of Parvo: What Every Pet Owner Needs to Know

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Parvo, or canine parvovirus, is a highly infectious viral infection that affects dogs. While parvo can be quite serious, it’s often manageable through good veterinary care if caught early enough—and completely avoidable with the right course of puppy vaccinations.

Most cases of parvo occur in puppies between six weeks and six months old. The virus spreads either through direct contact with an infected dog or through contact with an infected dog’s feces—yet another good reason to always pay attention to what your dog is doing when you’re out for a walk.

Parvo comes in two varieties. The most common form is intestinal parvo which can affect your dog’s stomach and digestive tract. This is the form of the infection we’ll focus on for most of this article.

There’s also a rare cardiac strain of the disease that can damage the heart and often leads to death—either in utero or during the first weeks of the puppy’s life. But since the cardiac form of parvo typically passes only from an infected pregnant mother to a fetus, it’s often not a concern for most dog owners.

Let’s take a closer look at the warning signs of parvo you need to look out for, what breeds are more vulnerable to this disease, and the most effective ways of preventing or managing this virus.

Constant Vigilance–Spotting the Signs of Parvo

When a dog is infected with parvo, it usually takes from three days up to a week before symptoms to develop. The primary signs of parvo include:

  • lethargy, or a general lack of energy
  • vomiting
  • fever
  • diarrhea (often bloody)

Further signs to look for include decreased appetite and sudden weight loss. Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances may also occur since parvo impairs the ability to absorb nutrients from food. This could also weaken your dog’s immune system and possibly lead to secondary infections, either viral or bacterial.

Parvo also compromises the lining of your dog’s intestines. This allows blood and protein to leak into the intestines, eventually leading to anemia. It also allows for endotoxins to leak out into the bloodstream which could potentially lead to a condition known as endotoxemia. By this point, your dog’s white blood cell count will drop, and they could even develop a distinctive, unpleasant odor.

Since the advanced stages of parvo could lead to shock and even death, it’s a good idea to have your dog checked out by a vet as soon as possible once the first signs of parvo arise.

Which Dogs are Most Vulnerable to Parvo?

Though parvovirus primarily affects dogs, it has been known to make the species jump to other mammals. While humans don’t have anything to worry about, there are documented cases of parvo in wolves, foxes, and skunks. The virus can also be transmitted to cats, but don’t worry, cat owners—it doesn’t lead to disease when this happens.

Also, some dog breeds seem more susceptible to parvo than others. These include:

  • Doberman Pinschers
  • English Springer Spaniels
  • German Shepards
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Pit Bulls
  • Rottweilers

Owners of these breeds should be aware of the signs of parvo and the very real benefits of having their puppies properly vaccinated (more on this below).

Diagnosing Parvo

Parvo is a relatively new virus. It was first officially recognized only in 1978. But because of its highly virulent nature, the disease managed to spread worldwide in under two years.

Most often, a simple stool sample is all we need to know your dog is infected with parvo. Save the baggie when you pick up after your dog and bring them both in if you see signs of parvo in your puppy.

Sometimes, parvo can be confused with coronavirus or other forms of small intestine inflammation (enteritis). If this is ever the case, the presence of blood in the stools, a low white blood cell count, and possible necrosis of the intestinal lining help us make the right diagnosis so we can help get your dog the right treatment as quickly as possible.

Treating Parvo

While there’s still no cure for parvo, early detection and proper medical treatment of the virus can greatly improve an infected dog’s chances of survival.

Veterinary care for parvo may require an initial hospitalization. The infection often leads to severe dehydration and could also damage your dog’s intestines and bone marrow. Around-the-clock veterinary care will be crucial. Treatment often involves intravenous fluids to offset dehydration and nutrition therapy to help your dog regain strength and vitality. Medication to help control vomiting might also be included, as well as a course of antibiotics and antivirals to deal with secondary infections. In some extreme cases, a blood plasma transfusion from a donor dog might also be required.

The survival rate of parvo treatments varies depending on how soon parvo is diagnosed, how old the dog is, and how aggressive the treatment is. Left untreated, the virus has a 91% mortality rate. However, with effective veterinary intervention, the survival rate is almost 70%. Sadly though, puppies are more susceptible to the virus because of their less developed immune systems.

Preventing Parvo–Vaccines to the Rescue

They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and when it comes to parvo, that statement was never truer. Because the disease is so virulent and contagious, vaccinations are the best way to protect your dog.

At The Pet Vet, we recommend puppies get three rounds of vaccinations, which will protect your puppy from parvo and other preventable diseases. Shots are recommended at 8-10 weeks, 11-13 weeks, 14-16 weeks, and 22+ weeks. You can find a complete breakdown of our pricing for these services right here.

Although it is important to socialize your puppy with other dogs as early as possible, we recommend you avoid socializing with unfamiliar or unvaccinated dogs until two weeks after your puppy gets their last round of vaccinations—just to be on the safe side.

Your Puppy’s Best Shot at Survival

Parvo is one of the hardiest viruses known to science. While most flu viruses die outside a host body in less than 24 hours, parvo can live in feces and the surrounding soil for up to a year, regardless of the weather. The virus endures extreme temperatures, both high and low, with no problem. In the face of such a relentless foe, you need to give your puppy the best defense possible.

Giving your puppy a complete round of vaccinations—including parvo—is your best chance of beating this terrible, often deadly virus. While there are effective treatments available in case your puppy contracts parvo, there’s still the risk of death involved, no matter how well developed your dog’s immune system is. While knowing the signs of parvo can help lead to an earlier diagnosis of the disease and increase your puppy’s chances of survival, it’s much better to give your puppy the best shot possible for a long and healthy life.

Visit The Pet Vet at your nearest location if you see signs of parvo in your puppy or give us a call today!


Tips for Exercising An Aging Cat

Tips for Exercising An Aging Cat

Just like humans, cats need exercise to remain healthy. And while exercising does get difficult the older your cat gets, it’s still essential (if not even more important) for them to remain active in their senior years.

Exercising an older cat presents a little bit of a problem for some people because they are not going to have as much energy or be capable of as much movement as they once were, which will likely prevent them from getting exercise in the way they have been for most of their life.

Cat towers or trees for climbing, for example, might require too much exertion for a senior cat. If you own one of these, your strategy for keeping them active may have to change. 

It can be stressful watching your pet’s body start to deteriorate, so you should familiarize yourself on what to expect. Read on for a few tips on how you can exercise your aging cat:

Get Specific Toys

When it comes to the toys, you should find some that require less energy but still ensure that your cat gets some exercise while playing with them.

Stuffed toys are always a good choice. A cat can smack around a stuffed toy if they’re in a hunting mood, and they’re not as hard on the body as a track toy. Similarly, you could get a peek and play toy box, which is very similar to those whack-a-mole games you find in arcades. Things pop out that your cat will try to grab. This gets them active while also allowing them to stay in the same place and not put too much strain on their joints.

There are also some great toys out there that will help keep a cat’s mind active too, which brings me to my next point:

Don’t Forget Brain Training

Your cat is going to age mentally as well as physically. This is easier to forget about because it’s not as visible of a process. You can watch your cat try and fail to get up to the top of their tower, but you can’t really see them losing their sharpness or sense of their surroundings.

If a cat isn’t reacting as quickly to things or is less coordinated than they once were, they can become anxious and scared. They’re essentially losing track of their senses, which is a frightening thing to deal with. 

Unfortunately, some degree of it is inevitable, and you have to deal with that, too (take a look at this article from Dogviously). Cats’ and dogs’ brains are more similar than you might think, and a lot of the methods from the article will work on cats, too.

As far as the brain training itself goes, try to make it enjoyable. Some of the best cat toys out there right now are puzzle-based. They’re designed to hide a treat that gets released when the cat solves a small puzzle. The puzzles are simple, of course, as cats aren’t scientists, but are enough to stimulate the cat’s mind. If the cat does something to stimulate their mind every day, it will definitely help to keep them sharp.

Encourage Light Climbing

Serious climbing might not be an activity that your cat is capable of in their twilight years, but if possible, you should try to get them to do a little bit of it. They don’t have to be climbing towers anymore, but you could introduce some smaller objectives.

For example, try putting their food or water bowl on a low shelf so that they have to climb up if they want to eat. Of course, if it does become impossible for them to make this small jump then you should move their food back to the ground. You don’t want to keep them from eating, rather, just give them a little bit of exercise.

You could also move some furniture around or get some lower furniture. If you have a cat who liked to climb up on the couch but can’t do so anymore, consider getting an ottoman or a small armchair that they can jump on instead. Otherwise, they will probably just resign themselves to staying on the floor, which will cause their agility to decrease even more over time. 

If they also like to sleep on your bed with you, make sure that they can still get up. Maybe place a short step next to the bed that they can climb up on to maneuver their way onto the bed. For as long as they are capable of some light climbing, encourage it.

The important thing is to remain positive with your pet. Don’t get down because they’re not as spritely as they used to be and try not to get frustrated when trying to keep them active. They need you now more than ever, and there are plenty of ways to get them up and exercising.

Crazy Cat Lady’s Guide on How to Keep a Cat

Crazy Cat Lady’s Guide on How to Keep a Cat

I am a crazy cat lady.  Okay, okay I only have two cats, but I am obsessed with their care and behavior.  I’ve been a veterinary technician for 10 years and it has only increased my love for kitties.  Cats are complex little critters.  Some people think of them as small dogs and some people think of them as aloof and unaffectionate.  But really, they are their own little, independent spirits. Not everyone immediately understands all of their behaviors and what to do about them if they are undesirable. Let’s go over a couple of the most common reasons that keeping your cat may not work out.  Maybe we can find some solutions on how to keep a cat in your home where you want her to be.

How to Keep a Cat Step 1: Potty Training Your Cat

One of the most common reasons people get rid of their cats is inappropriate urination, but it doesn’t have to be the end of your relationship with your little kitty friend.  After ruling out a medical reason, such as a urinary tract infection, it might be time to look at your cat’s litterbox a little more closely.

Although cats like enclosed spaces, a litter box with a lid trap in bad odors.  Use an open litter box with unscented litter.  What smells good to us, doesn’t necessarily smell good to your feline friend.  Speaking of scooping, it should be done at least once a day to keep your cat happy and using that box.  You should keep one litter box per cat plus one extra in the house.  This gives your cat plenty of places that they can go without competing for space with another cat.  Even if you only have one cat you should have two litter boxes. It will keep each litter box a little cleaner between scooping.

how to keep a cat | The Pet Vet

What if you use all your litterbox tricks still aren’t working?  Then it is time to retrain your cat to use the litter box.  This takes some time, but it really can be effective and can be one of the most important steps to keep your cat.

  1. Get yourself a large dog kennel with only enough room to keep a litterbox, a bed, and food and water bowls.
  2. Keep your cat in the kennel for several days to a week, making sure to clean that litterbox at least once a day.
  3. Upgrade your kitty quarters to a bathroom or any other small tiled room. Keep your cat in that room for several days to a week.
  4. Then you can move your cat to a bedroom sized room. Carpet is okay for this step.
  5. If all has gone well and your cat continues to use the litter box reliably through this process, you can let your feline friend free.

It is important to clean the area that your kitty has been urinating on.  If it smells like urine, it will be harder to keep your cat from falling into old habits.  Use an enzymatic cleaner for getting that urine smell out.

How to Keep a Cat Step 2: Solving the Scratching Problem

Another common reason to find another home for your cat is scratching up your carpet and furniture.  Some people’s first reaction is to go get their kitty declawed.  Let me urge you to stop and think about that first response.

how to keep a cat | The Pet Vet

First, let’s discuss what declawing actually is.  The procedure removes the third phalanx, also known as the toe bone.  There are three main techniques using sterilized nail trimmers (guillotine method), a scalpel blade, or a laser to remove the toe and the nail.  No matter the procedure used, it is still a surgical procedure with the risk of complications.

The most common complications are bleeding, claw regrowth, and the surgical site opening before it is fully healed.  This can cause lameness and a slow healing process.  The larger your cat is the more likely there will be complications.  Think about it this way: the more weight on your cat’s feet, the more pressure there is and therefore it is more likely to have excessive bleeding and a higher chance that the surgical site will reopen.

There are other alternatives to declawing.  Keep the nails short by trimming them regularly.  Another option is nail caps.  You simply trim your cat’s nails, apply glue to the inside of the nail cap, and place on the nail.  They can last for about a month.  You could also train your cat not to scratch by following the following steps.

  1. Start by redirecting your cat’s attention every time she tries to scratch inappropriately. Use a toy to catch her attention.
  2. Make the scratching post a desirable object. Start by using treats every time you see your kitty using the post.  If your cat responds well to catnip, you could try sprinkling a little bit of dried catnip onto the post to avoid giving too many treats.  There are also pheromone sprays and wall plug-ins to encourage the use of the scratching post.
  3. Place tinfoil or tape on the items that are being scratched inappropriately to deter the behavior.
  4. Use a scratching post made of sisal or cardboard. You don’t want to have a similar material as your couch.  Some cats prefer something to scratch on vertically, while others prefer scratching horizontally.  Provide both types of scratching surfaces until you know what your kitty prefers.

how to keep a cat | The Pet Vet

A combination of all three approaches usually is the most effective.  You can use the nail caps while you are teaching your cat the scratching post is the place to be.

When is it appropriate to declaw?  If it will prevent the cat from being euthanized, becoming an outdoor cat or having to be rehomed, sometimes it is the right decision.  It may be worth the risk of surgery to save a cat’s life.

There are some challenges to being a cat companion but hopefully, I have given you some ideas on how to keep a cat and make those challenges a little easier.  Cats are great additions to a home and a family.  If you are like me, then you think a home is not a home without a cat.

Heartworm Prevention:  The Growing Threat and How You Can Stop It

Heartworm Prevention | The Pet Vet

Heartworm Prevention:  The Growing Threat and How You Can Stop It

The Key to Heartworm Prevention: Know Thine Enemy

In the fight against heartworm disease, the greatest weapon veterinarians and pet owners have is knowledge about the parasite, its life cycle, and the damage it causes to the vital organs of its host.  Heartworm prevention starts with a basic knowledge of heartworms and how to avoid them. Adult heartworms are thin roundworms that live in the heart and surrounding vessels.  They can grow to be up to 10 inches long! Their natural host is the dog, but other animals can be infected as well, such as cats and ferrets, and wild animals like coyotes, foxes, and wolves.  They have a predilection for the pulmonary artery (the vessel that connects the heart to the lungs), but they can live inside the chambers of the heart and in the other large vessels of the heart as well, such as the aorta and vena cava.  The usual life span for an adult heartworm is 3-7 years if they go untreated.  Dogs can carry hundreds of worms and sometimes the infection can be so bad that conventional treatments do not work and the only option is surgical removal.

Understanding the life cycle of the heartworm can help you understand how infections work as well as the best ways to prevent infection in your own pets.  The most immature stages of the heartworm are known as microfilariae or L1 (for Larvae 1).  These babies come about from the mating of a male and a female adult in the heart of an infected animal.  The microfilariae then float around in the bloodstream.  When a mosquito bites the dog they are ingested by the mosquito.  Inside the mosquito, the L1s become L2s, and then L3s.  It is these third stage larvae that actually cause heartworm infections in our pets.  The L3s live in the mouthparts of the mosquito (think about how tiny they are!), and are transmitted into the skin of an animal when the mosquito bites it.  The L3s become L4s in the tissues of the dog and spend the next 8-12 weeks migrating around and trying to find a blood vessel.  Just before the worm enters the vascular system, there is one final molt and the L4 becomes a young adult.  The adult worm migrates through the wall of a blood vessel and travels to the heart.  The entire process from mosquito to the heart takes about 4 months.  Even though the worms are now in the adult stage, they are still not detectable by the testing methods available at this time.  The worms must be at least 6 months old to be detected via blood test.

Let’s Talk About Tests, Baby

These days, the most common method of testing used by veterinarians is a tabletop antigen test.  These tests are convenient because they can be performed in the clinic and take minutes to run.  Just 1-3 drops of blood are needed for the test.  Antigen testing is considered reliable because it detects antigen that can only be produced by an adult female worm.  This means that false positives are unlikely. However, due to the specificity of the test, immature stages and adult males cannot be detected, so false negatives may occur.  This is also why it is not necessary to test puppies less than 6 months old as any heartworms present would not be mature enough to cause a positive test result. However, it is important to note that if that puppy has some immature adults living in its vessels when it is started on heartworm prevention (maybe at 4-5 months of age), those worms will still be able to mature and may cause a positive test the next year when the dog is tested. The reason for this is because current preventives are only effective at killing L3’s and L4’s, the stages present in the tissues before they enter the bloodstream.  This is why it is so important to get a puppy on heartworm prevention as soon as possible.

How Can Heartworms Affect My Dog?

Obviously, worms living in the heart is a health hazard, but let’s talk about exactly what kind of damage these worms can cause.  During the life cycle, the worms must find a way from the skin into the vessels.  They do this by migrating through the tissues into a blood vessel and then straight to the heart.  The vessel is damaged from the worm entering the vascular system, but the endothelium (the inner wall) of the blood vessels is also damaged as the worm moves around inside of them.  This leaves scarring that causes blood flow to be more turbulent, leading to inflammation.  When the inflammation cascade is activated by the presence of worms, the body goes into overdrive to try to fight them off.  White blood cells, platelets, and antibodies are created in response to the insult.  However, despite the body’s efforts, these forces are not strong enough to combat a live adult worm and only cause more problems for the animal.  Also, since the worm never leaves, this inflammatory cascade is in a permanent state of attack and cannot shut itself off.  This overload of white blood cells can lead to a weakened immune system, as stores are depleted in the constant fight against heartworms.  Additionally, the increased levels of circulating platelets can cause life-threatening blood clots.

Inside of the heart, the worms cause damage to the delicate tissues of the heart- especially the valves that aid in proper blood flows into and out of the heart.  Once the valve leaflets are damaged, they become scarred and can develop leaks, leading to backflow of blood and a heart murmur.  The damage to the heart can cause the organ to have weaker contractions which decrease the outflow of blood.  The blood can get backed up in the heart causing an increase of blood pressure in the lungs (pulmonary hypertension).  This can lead to an enlargement of the right side of the heart, and ultimately heart failure.

The damage that heartworm infections cause is not exclusive to the heart, lungs, and vessels.  Heartworm disease can also affect the kidneys of your pet!  Remember the inflammatory cascade discussed earlier?  The antibodies do a great job of targeting the heartworm antigens and attach themselves to tiny antigens released by the worms.  However, the antigen-antibody complexes are too large and numerous for the body to easily excrete.  These large complexes damage the delicate filter the kidney uses to excrete water and waste products.  This damage is known as glomerulonephritis and can eventually lead to full-blown kidney failure.

It is important to note that most of the effects of heartworm disease are due to the live worms in the system and the inflammation that they cause.  Endothelial damage, lung infiltrates, decreased immunity, and kidney damage will continue to worsen as the dog remains untreated and the worms are left living in the vessels.

Heartworm Prevention

The good news is, there is an easy way to keep your fur babies safe from these tiny parasites year-round!   All you have to do is remember to give your dog a dose of preventive every month forever.  Yes, this can seem like a daunting task.  I often advise pet owners to make it routine by always dosing on the 1st of the month, or setting a repeating reminder on their phone.  If you know that monthly dosing is not a good option for you and your pet, you may want to consider Proheart.  It is an injectable preventive that lasts for 6 months.

This works great for most owners since you only have to remember to go see your veterinarian twice a year to ensure your dog is protected for the entire year, and most veterinarians send out reminders when it is time for you to come back in for a refill or heartworm test to renew your prescription.  That’s right, you need a prescription for heartworm prevention.  This is because it is important to ensure that your dog is heartworm free before placing him/her on a preventive.

A sudden dose of certain preventives can be very dangerous for a dog with a severe heartworm infestation because it can cause a mass die-off of microfilariae in the bloodstream which can result in thrombi, emboli, and even anaphylactic shock.  Keeping this in mind, you must go to your veterinarian and have your dog tested for heartworms once a year.  During this appointment, your dog should also have a physical exam.  Any time a veterinarian writes or fills a prescription for a patient, they are legally required to have what is called a “Veterinary-client-patient-relationship” (or VCPR for short) with you and your pet.  This is established by having sufficient knowledge of the health of your pet (i.e., performing yearly physical exams).  These exams can also help keep you on top of vaccination needs, or developing health problems that may have gone unnoticed over the course of the past year.

If you are wondering what type of prevention is the “best” there is a simple answer for that.  Whichever one works for you, your pet, and your lifestyle!  Will you remember every month or should you try the 6-month injection? Do you need a preventive that also covers fleas and ticks? Do you want a chewy treat?  Would you prefer a topical?  Is cost an issue for you?  All of these questions are best addressed by a veterinarian, but here are some fast facts to get you started:  For cats, Revolution is a great heartworm preventive, and it also covers intestinal worms, fleas, ear mites, and some ticks.  There are no preventives that cover everything (intestinal parasites, fleas, all ticks, and heartworms), so using two products together is often the best way to go (like Heartgard for internal parasites, and Nexgard for fleas and ticks).  Whatever your preferences or needs, your veterinarian can help you find the perfect product!

Many people feel that preventives are unnecessary for their pets because they are “inside only.”  Unless these dogs are trained to go to the bathroom inside, then they are not truly “inside only”.  Have you ever seen a mosquito inside of your house?  A study out of North Carolina State University found that 25% of the cats found infested with heartworms were indoor only cats.  Additionally, the burden of heartworms in dogs and wild animals is heaviest in south Texas and the Mississippi River Valley, and these areas are rapidly growing!  It is also important to note that once a dog is infected with heartworms, the treatment can be quite expensive and painful for the animal. It is much less expensive and less stressful for you and your pet to simply use a monthly heartworm preventive.

Treatment for Heartworms

Treating an animal infected with heartworms can cost anywhere from $2000-$5000.  This includes the drug to kill the heartworms, steroids, and antihistamines to prevent anaphylaxis and reactions, and hospitalization will be required for at least the days the treatment is administered.  The most dangerous aspect to the treatment is what happens to the worms after they die.  Your pet needs to be healthy enough to break down the dead worms in the bloodstream.

Blood clots are a serious threat and your pet must be monitored closely during and after treatment.  The critical period lasts about 4-6 weeks.  Before treatment, chest X-rays will be required to stage the heartworm disease to determine if traditional treatment is a safe option.  Additionally, the drug used to treat heartworms in dogs cannot be used in cats, so there is no treatment available for cats.  Once a cat is infected, it must be monitored carefully until the worms die off on their own.

The drug used to treat heartworm infestations is called melarsomine.  It is basically a derivative of arsenic and is currently the only effective treatment.  In the past, veterinarians would use what is called the “slow-kill” method.  This method uses certain heartworm preventions to “slowly kill” adult worms, and eventually, the dog will test negative.  However, more and more research is being published showing that this method does not actually work and it could be harming the fight against heartworms, not helping.

First, if we are just going to put a positive dog on prevention, why are we still requiring tests for prescriptions?  We are requiring them because veterinarians are legally obligated to do so, but placing an infected dog on a preventive can be a dangerous practice if done incorrectly.  This practice is also contributing to strains of resistant heartworms showing up in our pets.  When many of the preventives came out, they were 100% effective and that number has dropped to 95% for many products.  Exposing adult worms to preventives that are not designed to kill them is allowing their offspring to develop resistance and those resistant microfilariae can be passed to other dogs.  This is one reason why the “slow kill” method is no longer recommended by the American Heartworm Society or the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Another reason is that it may not actually be working at all.  A recent study out of Oklahoma State University shows that many heartworm positive dogs placed on preventive (for the “slow kill” method) produced false negatives when retested for heartworms.  This is because the antigens that are detected by the test becomes bound to antibodies produced by the dog and are not available for binding to the test.  These days, when a dog who was once positive suddenly tests negative, it is recommended that a “heat-fix” test is performed, which will break down the antigen-antibody complexes and allow for true antigen testing.

The final reason that slow kill is not the best option is simply for the health of your pet.  Remember all those health effects discussed earlier?  Those do not stop occurring until all of the heartworms in the dog are killed.  It seems that the “slow kill” method may just be allowing the heartworms to live out their lives while you pay for your dog to be on preventive.  It is also important to note that all the dangers that come from treatment with Melarsomine (or “fast kill”) are still present with “slow kill”, but with a fast kill, all the worms die at once so it is shortened, albeit intensified.  With slow kill, the worms die on their own, at any time, and your dog cannot be hospitalized, monitored, or placed on cage rest for 3-7 years!   In short, it is cheaper, easier, and safer to keep your pet on a heartworm preventive year-round than to face any sort of heartworm infestation.

Call your veterinarian or find a Pet Vet location to set up an appointment to get your pet started on prevention today!


How to Fight the Bite: Flea and Tick Prevention for Dogs and Cats

flea and tick prevention for dogs and cats

Fleas and ticks are external parasites that most pet owners will have encountered at least once in their pets’ lives. Itching is the most common problem that is noted with these parasites but they can cause hair loss, skin infections, reduce your pet’s activity level and even transmit diseases. Knowledge of these common parasites and proper prevention techniques can ensure that your pet is healthy and happy. This blog covers some best practices for flea and tick prevention for dogs and cats.

how to fight the bite

Flea and Tick Prevention is a Year-Round Battle

Fleas and ticks are everywhere from the lake to parks and even your own home. As a pet owner, you have to constantly be on guard when it comes to protecting your furry friend. There are many ways to prevent flea and tick infestations. The most important step is keeping your pet on monthly preventative. Year-round prevention is imperative to reduce the risk of infestation of both fleas and ticks. It is a common misconception that fleas and ticks are dormant in the winter months. The southern region of the US has a warm climate that is hospitable for these pests throughout the year. There are a lot of preventatives on the market today. It is important to discuss with your veterinarian what medication is the best for your pet. Nexgard and Revolution are offered at all Pet Vet clinics. These are both great options for flea and tick prevention. It is important to note that flea and tick preventatives are specific to dogs or cats. Make sure to read the label carefully before applying any preventative to your pet.

There are also some ways that you can try to control these pests in your yard. Fleas and ticks prefer to live in areas with lots of vegetation. Mowing the lawn regularly and removing any brush, weeds or leaf litter are great ways to keep external parasites from your lawn. Fencing your lawn to keep wildlife, such as deer and rodents, out can also be helpful as they are common carriers of external parasites. There are sprays available to treat outside areas. If you live near wooded areas or large pastures, this might be necessary to keep your parasite population under control. Make sure that all products used are safe for animals.

What to Do If Your Pet Already Has Fleas

If your pet becomes infested with fleas, it is important to bath them and apply flea prevention when dry. Cleaning all areas that your infested pet has inhabited is also important. Fleas actually jump off your pet to lay eggs in the surrounding environment, such as bedding, carpets and even the spaces between wood flooring. This means that all bedding must be washed. Carpets need to be shampooed. Any

surfaces or furniture that cannot be washed should be steam cleaned. There are also room sprays that can help kill fleas. If you elect to use these sprays, make sure the room is well ventilated and that humans or animals do not inhabit the room until the fumes of the spray have dissipated. The flea life cycle is 21 days so these areas may need to be cleaned again in a month to ensure that your pet is safe from re-infestation. This long lifecycle is another important reason to continue monthly preventatives if your pet has recently been diagnosed with fleas as re-infestation is very common if this medication is not given when due.

What to Do If Your Pet Already Has Ticks

Ticks are concerning not only because they bother your pet and consume their blood. They also can transmit diseases that can be life-threatening to your pet. If you find a tick, it is important to remove it as soon as possible. This can be done by grabbing the tick as close to your pet’s skin as possible with tweezers and pulling straight out quickly. If you have any hesitation or concern about removing a tick, bring your dog or cat to The Pet Vet and we can remove it safely. After the tick is removed, keep the tick in a securely closed container and bring it to a veterinarian for identification. This can be helpful if your pet happens to get ill after a tick bite as specific ticks carry specific diseases. Knowing the tick means that we know the diseases that could potentially be causing your pet’s illness. A month after any tick exposure, a simple blood test should be performed to ensure your pet has not become positive for some of the most common tick-borne diseases. It is important to wait a full month as doing it any earlier can result in a false negative. This test can be performed at any Pet Vet Clinic and results are completed in 10 minutes.

Just a few simple steps of maintaining your yard and giving monthly preventative can greatly reduce your pet’s chance of becoming infested with uncomfortable and potentially deadly parasites. Fleas and ticks are everywhere but they should never be on your pets. The Pet Vet can help ensure that your furry friend is healthy and free of any these uncomfortable pests.

Teeth Cleaning and Dental Care: An All-Encompassing Guide For Pet Owners

Pet dental care

Although veterinarians often explain the importance of brushing, a staggering 65% of pet owners do not brush their pet’s teeth. Little do many pet owners know, failing to provide your pet with adequate dental care can lead to both short- and long-term health issues. But, never fear. Keeping your pet’s pearly whites healthy and fresh is easier than you think if you’re willing to take a “paws” and learn about the process. Here’s a quick, easy guide you can use as a pet owner to keep your pet’s teeth healthy for years to come.

Which Factors Are The Biggest Contributors To Dental Problems In Cats And Dogs?

Inflammation of the gums, the vital support structures of the teeth, is common in cats and dogs. Buildup is a slow but steady process that can cause decay, bleeding, infection, and even bone loss.

Plaque builds up quickly in a pet’s mouth, and when it is not removed in a timely manner, it hardens and turns into tartar. If an animal care doctor doesn’t remove the hardened tartar in time, it eventually contributes to bone loss and other severe damage.

How Can I Brush My Pet’s Teeth?

The key here is patience: it takes time to develop a method and routine that works! If you’ve never brushed your pet’s teeth before, it’s best to start small. First, introduce your pet to their (vet-approved) toothpaste. Letting them lick a small amount from your finger will do the trick. Most veterinarians recommend getting your pet comfortable with your hands near their mouth, as well. A rubber finger brush is a good place to start! Once your pet gets used to regular sessions with the finger brush, you can start graduating to a full-fledged toothbrush. It’s a long process in some cases, but daily cleaning is recommended to prevent and remove plaque buildup. If you can’t manage daily brushing, you should at least aim for several times per week. Feel free to offer your pet some sort of reward for letting you get the job done — although of course, it’s best to avoid treats directly after brushing.

How Can Pet Owners Prevent Dental Issues?

It’s estimated 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of dental disease by age three, leading to abscesses, loose teeth, and chronic pain. While maintaining a consistent teeth cleaning routine is essential to ward off disease and decay, it’s equally as important to make trips to your local pet clinic. Vets suggest twice-yearly checkups for older pets, but it’s a good suggestion for younger pets as well. The fact is, visiting an experienced animal doctor is often the only way to diagnose any current or future dental issues that your pet may be suffering from.

While performing frequent visual inspections of your pet’s teeth can help you detect irregularities, only a vet at your local pet clinic has the tools needed to safely provide your pet with a safe cleaning using anesthesia. Yes, in most cases, anesthesia must be provided to allow the vet to perform a thorough examination. But don’t worry, this procedure is virtually 100% your veterinarian will ensure that the procedure is safe for your pet and it will help your pet maintain good oral health throughout their lifetime.

What Are Some External Signs That My Pet May Be Suffering From A Dental-Related Issue?

While many dental issues originate underneath the gum line and are therefore unidentifiable without dental x-rays or deep probing indistinguishable to the untrained eye, many pets may exhibit some unusual symptoms when suffering from this kind of affliction, especially when in the advanced stages. Keep an eye out for some signs of dental issues, like an abnormal chewing method, excessive drooling, or continuously dropping food from the mouth. Bad breath is also a sign of dental issues. And of course, there are the more obvious signs, including dental bleeding, darkening or breaking of teeth, swelling in areas around the mouth, and a reduced appetite. General changes in behavior or demeanor may also be cause for concern.

What Are The Risks Of Untreated Dental Or Periodontal Disease With My Pet?

Untreated dental issues do more than cause your pet pain and discomfort (though these symptoms alone should prompt you to take immediate action). Experts say that when left untreated, dental issues can grow and develop into other issues involving vital organs, such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver, making early detection crucial.

What Role Does My Pet’s Food Play In Their Overall Dental Health?

While many veterinarians who specialize in dental care agree that proper brushing and veterinary care are the two primary factors of good pet dental health, your pet’s food may also play a role in the condition of their mouth and teeth. Just like human food, ingredients and foods high in carbohydrates turn to sugars and speed up the process of decay. Fortunately, your pet’s primary doctor can consider their specific dietary needs and recommend a brand or formula of food that’s best for all of your pet’s health concerns, including their dental needs.

Ultimately, it’s up to you as a responsible pet owner to stay diligent when it comes to your pet’s pearly whites. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a veterinary professional for any specific concerns about your pet. For more information about veterinary clinics that provide dental care, contact The Pet Vet.

Spaying/Neutering Your Cat? Don’t Fall For These Common Myths

Most households in the U.S. have at least one pet, and as a pet owner, you have to be responsible when it comes to keeping your furry friend healthy. Cats, especially, can suffer when it comes to having their needs recognized. As more independent animals, many cat owners believe they don’t need to intervene in their health as often. From good dental hygiene to keeping those claws trimmed, cats still need to be looked after. Many people believe that spaying and neutering is something that doesn’t affect their cat’s health; however, this isn’t the case. Here are a few more common myths about spaying and neutering your cat that you just shouldn’t believe.

Myth #1: All veterinary clinics will spay or neuter my pet in the same way.

Even though cats and dogs can get pregnant once they’re five months old, you can’t just walk into any vet clinic and expect them to be able to perform a spaying or neutering procedure. This procedure should only be performed at a clinic fully equipped for surgery, so take your time in researching instead of picking among cheap vets. Additionally, some low-cost places will do a spay for extra cheap, but most of them are not doing any blood work on your pet, and there are often questionable or unmonitored anesthesia protocols. At The Pet Vet, no animal undergoes any anesthetic procedure without full blood work assessing many parameters including liver and kidney function, white blood cell counts and ensuring there is no anemia or hidden infection present before surgery. It is definitely worth paying a little extra for the safety of your beloved pet.

“Both neutering and spaying … must be performed only by a licensed veterinarian. Most cats are able to resume their normal activities within a few days, and the stitches are removed after about two weeks,” writes The Purrington Post.

Myth #2: Spaying or neutering won’t change my pet’s demeanor or personality.

Both kittens and puppies can be spayed or neutered when they reach six months old, and the procedure typically does change their behavior — but not for the worse. Most of the time, spaying or neutering will make your cat calmer and more affectionate. Female cats will no longer have heat cycles every three weeks during their breeding season. Male cats, who are prone to aggression and marking their territory, typically become calmer and less territorial after neutering.

Is your cat aggressive towards other cats? After a spaying or neutering procedure, this will likely change also, fortunately for the better. In fact, cats are typically more friendly to other cats after the procedure.

Myth #3: The procedure is traumatizing for cats.

This myth could not be less true — spaying and neutering are both low-risk procedures, and there are no known negative psychological effects on male or female cats! Most animal doctors agree that it’s in your pet’s best interest. Not only does it prevent unwanted litters, but it can also help reduce the risk of certain kinds of cancer and infections. Plus, if your cat roams outside, you won’t need to worry about contributing to overpopulation in your neighborhood. Countless stray cats suffer on the streets or are euthanized as a result of overpopulation. Spaying or neutering one cat could save so many others!

Myth #4: The procedure is expensive.

This is another common misconception — in most cases, the spaying and neutering processes are very affordable. The only exception would be if you have a cat that needs special treatment during the process due to other conditions. The spaying and neutering processes are important to the overall health of your cat, so the majority of animal doctors aim to make the procedure as affordable as possible. That being said, if you’re on a strict budget and are worried about having trouble financing the procedure, don’t panic. You may be able to find payment plans or finance the procedure. It may even be covered by your pet insurance. The bottom line: don’t let perceived costs deter you from making the right decision for your pet’s health.

Myth #5: My pet stays indoors, so they don’t need to be spayed/neutered.

This major misconception can actually cause health issues for pets with owners who don’t know the facts. Getting your pet spayed or neutered doesn’t just prevent accidental litters: as mentioned above, spaying and neutering present a multitude of health benefits for your cat. In female cats, there is a lower risk of mammary cancer, uterine cancer, and infections. In male cats, neutering effectively eliminates the risk of testicular cancer and prevents spraying behaviors that can cause problems in the household.

Furthermore, the aggression issues that lead to fights and injuries? They’re not limited to outdoor cats. If you have more than one cat living in the same household,  there can be an increased risk of physical injury for all cats involved even with only one unaltered cat present. Spaying and neutering can help ease these aggressive behaviors and ultimately protect your cats from some real physical harm.

Understanding the facts about spaying and neutering procedures can help you make the most informed decision for your furry friend’s health. For more information about spaying, neutering, or any other procedures your cat may need, please book an appointment with one of our veterinarians today.