How to Keep Your Pet Safe During Lyme Disease Season

 

According to the American Lyme Disease Foundation, the disease is abundant throughout most of Wisconsin and either abundant or common in at least half of Minnesota. Now that spring is here, your pets have the opportunity to spend more time outdoors and in wooded areas where the ticks that carry Lyme disease thrive. Grantsburg Animal Hospital encourages you to learn about this serious and sometimes fatal tick-borne illness so you have all the resources you need to protect your pet.
 

How Ticks Transmit Lyme Disease to Dogs and Cats
Several species of ticks carry Lyme disease, including the American dog tick, black-legged (deer) tick, brown tick, and the Rocky Mountain tick. Some of these species are so tiny that you cannot see them, even when they are fully engorged with your pet's blood. Since these ticks require blood to survive and reproduce, they bite the host animal and can remain lodged in the body. The bacteria that causes Lyme disease is transmitted through the tick's saliva. 

A tick needs to remain attached to the animal for at least 48 hours for Lyme disease transmission to occur. Fortunately, many drop off after they feed and before they can infect the animal with Lyme disease. Another positive is that only a small percentage of dogs end up developing the disease even when the tick remained on their bod past 48 hours. The disease is rare in cats. Pets that do develop Lyme disease typically do not show any symptoms for two to five months.

Recognizing Lyme Disease in Your Pet
Be sure to check your pet daily for ticks, especially if you live in a wooded or rural area. Due to their tiny size, you need to run your fingers down your pet's back and tail as well as check her underside. It’s essential to check the head and ears since these are the most common areas for ticks to lodge. If you find one, pull it out with a pair of tweezers and place it in a jar of rubbing alcohol to kill it. The most common symptoms of Lyme disease in companion animals include f
ever between 103 and 105 degrees, lethargy, loss of appetite, joint swelling and stiffness, swollen lymph nodes, lameness, and frequently shifting weight between legs.

Preventing Lyme Disease
In 2015, we confirmed 259 cases of Lyme disease at Grantsburg Animal Hospital. Because Lyme disease can be deadly in some animals, we encourage you to contact us immediately if you suspect that your pet may have developed it. This is true even if she is not yet displaying any symptoms.

The easiest way to prevent your pet from developing this disease is to keep ticks away from him. We recommend Bravecto flea and tick prevention for dogs, which is available in our online store. This comes in the form of a chew that you only have to remember to give four times a year. Ticks die when ingesting the Bravecto and fall off your pet's body. We also carry several flea and tick options for cats in our online store. Lastly, be sure to discuss the possibility of getting the Lyme disease vaccine with Dr. Palmquist. He will evaluate your pet's lifestyle and risk factors to determine if the vaccine would be appropriate. 

Photo Credit: Dobric/iStock Photo

 
 

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Make Sure Your Pet is Protected from Common Parasites This Spring

preview full Common Parasites This Spring
 
In just a few short days, it will officially be spring in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Like any Midwesterner, you have probably been looking forward to the change of season for months. The warmer weather means more time outdoors for your pets, which unfortunately increases their risk of flea, tick, and heartworm infestation. 
 

During Flea and Tick Prevention Month, we encourage you to learn more about the damage caused by these parasites and the importance of year-round protection. To fully appreciate the importance of parasite prevention, consider that we diagnosed 562 cases of tick disease and 11 cases of heartworm disease in dogs during 2015.

Fleas
According to the American Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, fleas are the most common external parasite that threaten the health of companion animals. They live from two weeks to one year and can produce millions of offspring in that time. Fleas are wingless insects that survive by feeding on the blood of a host animal. Signs that your dog or cat could have fleas include:

• Loss of fur
• Flea dirt in the coat that looks like grains of sand
• Persistent scratching, biting, or licking skin
• Developing allergies
• Flea eggs that appear as tiny white grains
• Tapeworm
• Pale gums and lips
• Developing cat scratch disease
• Anemia due to severe blood loss

Ticks
Ticks also feed on the blood of host animals, although their presence does not cause as many obvious symptoms as fleas. To starting feeding on host blood, a tick first burrows its head into the skin. It's most common to find ticks on your pet's head, ears, neck, and feet. Unlike fleas, pet owners can usually spot a single tick with the naked eye. They are the size of a pinhead before they bite and then swell up as they gorge with blood. If you spot one, pull it out with a pair of tweezers and then place it in a jar containing alcohol to kill it. 

Ticks can inflict pets with serious diseases, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Anaplasmosis. Additional complications include anemia from blood loss, paralysis, and skin irritation. If your pet displays signs of an infection such as fever, vomiting, or lethargy, contact Grantsburg Animal Hospital immediately for an evaluation.

Heartworm
Your pet can get heartworm from a single mosquito bite if the mosquito has bitten an infected animal. Once inside your pet's body, the heartworm can grow to a foot long and live in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of your pet. Heartworm can also reproduce rapidly, causing lung disease, organ failure, or even death. Sadly, some pets don't display any symptoms until heartworm disease is advanced. Typical signs of heartworm infestation in dogs include a persistent cough, loss of appetite, fatigue, intolerance of exercise, and weight loss. Cats display the same symptoms in addition to vomiting and difficulty walking.

Our Recommendations
The veterinarians at Grantsburg Animal Hospital recommend Bravecto for the best protection from fleas and ticks for dogs. Bravecto is a chewable supplement that comes in several different flavors and sizes. Your dog thinks he is getting a treat and you only have to give it to him once every three months. We carry several additional canine and feline flea and tick prevention products in our online store and in all three clinics, including collars, shampoos, drops, and spot-on kits. 

We also recommend Heartgard to protect against heartworm for both dogs and cats.  Heartgard is a monthly chew that provides your pet with unparalleled protection from this aggressive parasite.

Image credit:  MeePoohyaphoto| iStock Photo

 
 

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March is National Pet Food Nutrition Month

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics originally started National Nutrition Month to call attention to the importance of nutritious food choices for children and adults. The awareness campaign has since evolved to include the veterinary industry. At Grantsburg Animal Hospital, we see first-hand the effects of both good nutrition and poor nutrition. Some of the consequences of the latter include malnutrition, obesity, skin and coat problems, allergies, and an increased risk of diabetes, heart issues, and cancer. 

Choosing the Most Nutritious Food for Your Pet
While nobody wants their pet to experience such serious health problems, it can be hard to select the most nutritious pet food. Before making a purchasing decision, it’s important to consider your dog or cat’s age and special health requirements. Many companies that manufacture pet food tailor their product to age categories and common issues such as a sensitive stomach. It’s also important to check the pet food label. Both dogs and cats benefit from food that has animal protein as its first ingredient.

For dog food, other important ingredients include water, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Cat food should contain antioxidants, fat, and fiber. Pet food labels are regulated by the American Feed Controls Office and must contain the following:

• Product name
• Ingredient list
• Guaranteed analysis that states the percentage of main nutrients in the pet food
• Nutritional adequacy statement
• Feeding guidelines
• Net quantity statement
• Manufacturer’s name and address

While this list sounds impressive, it leaves room for many omissions. For example, ingredients added by anyone other than the original manufacturer do not have to be included on the label. Additionally, a manufacturer can add words such as premium or all-natural to the packaging without having to create a higher quality product. That’s why knowing how to decipher a dog or cat food label is important. For additional information on how to interpret each of the above categories, go to the website Dog Food Scoop or Cat Food Analysis.

If you still feel uncertain about which type of food and brand is best for your dog or cat, our staff is happy to help. Just give us a call or bring it up at your pet’s next wellness exam. Your pet’s veterinarian will consider individual factors such as species, breed, age, weight, and general health before making a recommendation. 

Grantsburg Animal Hospital carries Purina Pro Plan and Purina Prescription diets in all three of our clinic locations located in Grantsburg and Frederic, Wisconsin and Wild River, Minnesota. The Purina brands are also available from our online store. If your pet has allergies, we encourage you to consider feeding him or her Taste of the Wild grain-free food. This specialty food is also available in all three clinics.

Image credit:  cynoclub| iStock Photo

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Outdoor Winter Safety Tips for Your Pet

It only takes a quick glance out your window to see that winter is here to stay for a while. Like every season, it presents unique safety challenges for dogs and cats. Fortunately, you can easily minimize these risks to ensure that your pet stays happy and healthy all season long. 

Protecting Your Pet Outdoors
Unlike cats who could stay indoors all winter, dogs still need to go for walks and go outside to relieve themselves. When the temperature and the wind chill are below zero, limit this time to no more than is absolutely necessary. A dog-sized coat and covers for the paws will help your dog stay warm when you go for a walk. Additionally, the dog booties protect his paws from road salt that can be painful to step on and get lodged between his toes. 

The Pet Poison Helpline fields hundreds of calls this time of year from people who are frantic because their pet ingested anti-freeze. Even a small amount of this substance can be toxic or fatal, particularly for cats and small dogs. If you have anti-freeze spills on your driveway, be sure to keep your pet away from that area entirely. It's also important to keep unused anti-freeze in a sealed container on a high shelf. This substance is attractive to them due to its sweetness and clear appearance.

Mice and other rodents are pesky at any time of year, but they are even more of a problem in the winter because they seek shelter inside of your home to escape the weather. If you use outdoor rodenticides, train your pet to stay away from them and supervise her when she is outside. Like anti-freeze, ingesting rodenticide can create toxic effects in animals within minutes.

When you are outside with your pet, be sure to look for signs of hypothermia or frostbite. Excessive shivering, lethargy, black or bright red tissues, and icicles on the body are the most common indications that one of these conditions has occurred. Please contact us immediately for treatment advice or to schedule an appointment to evaluate your pet's symptoms.

In case of an emergency this winter, please contact the clinic nearest you during regular office hours. After hours, you may contact our on-call doctor at 1-800-924-0588. Our veterinarian will arrange to meet you or refer you to another emergency service if not available to see your pet right away.

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