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.
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
• Pale gums and lips
• Developing cat scratch disease
• Anemia due to severe blood loss
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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