Category Archives: iowa veterinary wellness center

Parasites and Your Pet

It’s that time of year again when most pet owners start thinking about all the bugs and parasites that come with warmer weather. Many people are starting to purchase their pet’s flea and tick preventative products and heartworm prevention products. At Iowa Veterinary Wellness Center, we believe that it’s best for your pet if you give preventatives year-round instead of just during the warm months of the year. And here’s why….

Most heartworm preventions on the market today also have a deworming component in them to combat intestinal parasites. This means that by giving monthly heartworm prevention year-round, you are also protecting your pet from potential infection of roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and/or tapeworms (depending on the product you’re using). No one likes dealing with worms, so that’s a definite plus.

Year-round heartworm prevention is also important because of the life cycle of a heartworm. Heartworms have a somewhat complex life cycle (check out this awesome graphic that helps explain the life cycle of heartworms: Heartworm Cycles

Microfilariae (heartworm larvae – the baby worms) are carried by mosquitoes. Microfilariae need to be in the body of a mosquito in order to mature enough to their infective stage. When an infected mosquito bites a dog or cat, the microfilariae are injected into the pet’s tissue and eventually end up in the heart. Once the mature worms accumulate in the heart and blood vessels, this is known as heartworm disease. Heartworm disease is very dangerous and can be fatal, as the heartworms can cause heart failure and the formation of blood clots. Pets can also develop Caval syndrome if they have a large amount of worms in the heart. There are heartworm disease treatments available for dogs, but the process of treatment is dangerous as well, and it is very hard on the animal being treated. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for heartworm disease and heartworm-associated respiratory disease in cats – if a cat gets heartworms, it is fatal. For more information on heartworm disease in cats, check out this article: 

Heartworms and Cats

Heartworm tests can only detect a worm that is mature. It takes the microfilariae at least 6 months (from the time the dog was bitten by an infected mosquito) to mature enough to be detected by the heartworm test. And heartworm prevention is only effective if given at the regular recommended interval – if you give the medication a week late or accidentally skip a month, your pet could still potentially be susceptible to a heartworm infection. So make sure you write it down or put a reminder in your smartphone to give the heartworm prevention on the same day each month.

In Iowa, we recommend giving flea and tick prevention products year-round, but if you choose to give prevention seasonally, you do need to be mindful of the weather. If there is no solid freeze or long-lasting freeze during the winter, the fleas and ticks will definitely survive. Fleas have been around for ages and they are very good at adapting to the weather to stay alive. If it starts getting cold, they are going to jump onto any warm being they can find. Wildlife and backyard critters (squirrels, rabbits, etc.) are carriers of fleas, so even if your dog or cat doesn’t really go anywhere outside of your own yard or home, there’s still a risk they will pick up fleas. You can also carry fleas into your home, if you happen to have a flea jump on your pant leg or perhaps you pick up a flea egg or larvae on your shoe. Once you get a flea infestation, it can be difficult to try to get rid of them – it’s just much easier and safer to give your pet flea prevention. Flea preventative products typically only kill one or two life stages of fleas, so it’s important to stay on top of giving the product as directed. If it’s a mild winter (as it has been in Iowa for the last couple of years), you should consider giving your flea and tick prevention year-round.

Ticks are also very troublesome as well. Not only are they gross and scary-looking, they also carry many life-threatening diseases. Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are two common diseases that ticks can carry, as well as Anaplasmosis, Erlichiosis, Babesiosis, and Tularemia. Tick-borne diseases can affect pets, as well as people – chances are if your dog has been exposed to a disease-spreading tick, you probably have been, too. Treatment for these tick-borne diseases is available, but the illnesses the diseases cause are no fun at all. Many signs and symptoms of tick-borne illnesses don’t show up until 7-10 days after the tick has bitten its host, and resemble flu-like symptoms. Most preventions that kill ticks work only after the tick has bitten the pet – but as long as the tick falls off the host (because it dies) within 24-48 hours, the risk of disease transmission is very minimal. Most preventatives are labeled to kill ticks within that time period. So besides taking care of those itchy, jumping fleas, flea and tick prevention is important for your pets to keep them from getting tick-borne illnesses as well.

For more information on tick identification and tick-borne diseases, check out this link from the CDC:

“Tickborne Diseases of the United States”

There are a lot of preventative products on the market. We recommend products that are available only through veterinarians. There are some products that are available over-the-counter at pet stores, department stores, online suppliers like Amazon, etc., but these are not guaranteed to be safe or effective – some products are even potentially harmful to your pet and/or you and your family. If you’re not sure what product(s) would be best for your pet, come on in to see us and we’ll be happy to help you out! We don’t want your pet to suffer through the gross effects of parasite infections, and we’re pretty sure that you don’t want to deal with fleas, ticks, or worms either. Help us help you and protect your pet today!

Periodontal disease is the most common disease in dogs and cats

Did you know that the bacteria associated with periodontal disease may cause damage to the kidneys, liver and heart?  It is easy to prevent this from happening with routine care in between professional dental cleanings.  Performing routine care at home will help protect your pet from developing increasingly serious stages of periodontal disease.

There are four stages within periodontal disease:

Stage 1: Gingivitis -You will see inflamed or swollen gums at the top of the tooth.  Plaque covers the tooth.

Stage 2: Early periodontitis – the entire gum itself is swollen, the pet’s mouth seems painful and bad breath is very noticeable.

Stage 3: Moderate periodontitis – infection and calculus are now actively destroying the gum.  Gums appear bright red and possibly bleed very easily.  This is the point where the pet’s mouth may be very sore and the disease can start affecting eating and behavior.

Stage 4: Advanced periodontitis – this includes the chronic bacterial infection which is destroying the gums, teeth, and even the bone.  Bacteria may be spreading at this point through the blood stream, reaching the kidneys, liver and heart.

We want to make sure that your pet’s teeth do not progress past stages 1 and 2.  This is where prevention becomes important.  Home care is essential to maintain oral health for your fur babies.  The #1 prevention is, of course, the brushing technique.  Other preventions include products like Healthy Mouth, which comes in a liquid, gel or a flush form for your and your pet’s convenience.  All of these products work on your pet’s teeth to wick away bacteria to prevent buildup, ensuring and helping to maintain a healthy mouth.

Here at Iowa Veterinary Wellness Center, we support “Dental Month” year round by providing reasonably priced dental packages for stages 1 and 2.  These packages are approximately 30% off of regular pricing!  Did you know this includes pre-anesthetic lab work, a pre-surgical examination, IV fluids, full mouth radiographs and a professional dental cleaning?!  We also go the extra mile to give a $20 credit/incentive if you perform pre-anesthetic lab work early!

We truly care for your pet’s health, so please give us a call today for a free dental exam.  Let’s “flip the lip” today and see what grade of periodontal disease your pet may have!

Did your dog make it onto Santa’s naughty list in 2017? Never fear; you’re not alone.

It’s all about the communication – it’s easy to forget that dogs don’t speak human. Humans communicate primarily through verbal means. Dogs, and animals in general, use body language as their primary means of communication.

There is no Rosetta Stone for working through this verbal/non-verbal communication obstacle course.   However, there isn’t a need to reinvent the wheel, either. There are many ways to teach a dog new tricks. But there’s only one approach to consider – it needs to be done using positive reinforcement. Dolphin trainers can’t get their wards to offer behaviors by jumping in the water and hitting them when they get it wrong. They instead use a reward-based system to target a specific, desired behavior.

So, now you’re saying that’s great about dolphins. How does that apply to Fido? I say think about it from a dog’s perspective. You were just torn away from your family and dumped into an environment wherein your caretakers speak by non-verbal means. You are expected to assimilate and inherently know how to behave. When you get it wrong, whatever “wrong “ is, you are punished. How quickly would you start acting out? How quickly would you cringe at the mere thought of going to school to learn? Wouldn’t you be more willing to learn if every time you were asked to do something, you were given a reward (for me it would be a Snickers bar) if you got it right? When you got it wrong, nothing happened. You just had to instead use your cerebrum to think about how to alter your behavior to get the reward.

The learning/teaching method I just discussed is called operant conditioning. It has been shown through research that animals learn better and offer behaviors faster using this learning theory. They try to learn new behaviors rather than just becoming a reactive pupil.

Yadda, yadda, yadda. How does this apply to problem behaviors, you ask? Simple. We use training to teach the dog what we want it to do. We don’t use training to teach a dog what not to do. Teach incompatible behaviors. If Fido jumps on new visitors, teach him to go to “place,” which can be a bed, a rug or some other designated area away from the visitor. If Fido “goes to place” every time the door bell rings, can he be jumping on the new visitor at the same time? Nope. Incompatible behavior.

Training incompatible behaviors can be fun – it can include tricks and fun movements to spice it up a bit. The end result is that you don’t have a problem behavior anymore and you have a dog who loves it when new people come over. It’s a win-win!

All of the above works in helping your dog to have a fear-free veterinary visit as well. You first need to find your dog’s currency. For most, that’s food. For others it’s a tennis ball, good pets, or something similar.   Plan visits to the clinic for no reason. Stop by, give rewards, and leave. If needed, work up to more and more time in the office. Maybe next time try to get your dog’s weight on the scale (my dog runs to the scale now because she knows it’s treat time!). The next time have a staff member say hello and give rewards. For a lot of dogs, especially puppies, you can do several of these steps in one visit. For older and/or more anxious dogs, it might take a dozen trips to the office before Fido comes in excited to be here.

The time spent working towards fear-free visits is well worth it. When Fido comes in for wellness exams, or even if he is ill or injured, it makes it so much less stressful for him if all he has is pleasant memories. If he ever needs to be hospitalized, he won’t be terrified. That’s crucial for recovery and healing.

One quick note – it’s a certainty that an empty stomach is your best friend during training sessions. A hungry dog is a self-serving creature! Use it to your advantage. Nothing in life should be free.

The bottom line is that the primary reason behind dogs ending up in shelters and sometimes even euthanized is due to problem behaviors. It really doesn’t cost us much as their caretakers to help prevent that. It just takes time. Time is a precious commodity, but then again so is your best friend, Fido.

Now I’m off to have a Snickers. It’s my reward for writing this blog. Even *I* can be trained!

‘til next month,

Jessica Briggle