Heartworm is a serious illness that can cause heart failure, lung disease, organ damage and even death in dogs, cats and ferrets. Heartworm is most prevalent in pets living along the Atlantic Gulf coasts from New Jersey to the Gulf of Mexico as well as in those living alongside the Mississippi and its main tributaries. However, it has been found in pets in all states across America.
Heartworm is caused by parasitic worm larvae that live inside mosquitoes. When the mosquito bites an animal, it transfers some of the worm larvae into the animal where the larvae then mature, mate, and produce offspring inside its living host. The offspring produced by female adult heartworms is known as microfilariae, which lives in the host animals’ bloodstream. When a mosquito then bites an infected animal it draws microfilariae into its body where it turns it into infective larvae, beginning the cycle again.
Once an animal has been infected, it takes time for the larvae to mature into adults that are capable of reproduction. In dogs, this period is usually 6-7 months and in cats and ferrets is around 8 months. Adult heartworms look like cooked spaghetti and can range in size from 4-6 inches in males and 10-12 inches in females. The number of worms found in a pet is known as its ‘worm burden’ and can vary depending on the species of animal and the severity of the infection.
The lifespan of heartworms within an infected dog is between 5 and 7 years with the average worm burden being 15. However, dogs have been seen with worm burdens ranging from 1 to 250.
The severity of symptoms of heartworm in dogs is dependent on the worm burden of the animal, how long they have been infected, and how well their body can cope with the disease. However, it is usually broken down into four stages.
Class 1: No visible symptoms or very mild symptoms, such as an intermittent cough or wheeze.
Class 2: Mild to more moderate symptoms including intermittent coughing, lethargy or breathlessness after light to moderate exercise. At this time, some heart and lung changes may be seen on x-rays.
Class 3: Symptoms will include frequent or persistent coughing, lethargy, and breathlessness after mild activity. Heart and lung changes will definitely be visible on x-rays.
Class 4: This stage is otherwise known as Caval Syndrome and is reached when an infected animal has been left untreated for an extended period of time. At this stage, the animal experiences restricted blood flow to the heart caused by a blockage of worms. Heart failure is imminent and emergency surgery to remove the worms is the only course of action. However, this comes with its own risks and most dogs with Caval Syndrome do not survive.
When it comes to bringing a new pet into your home, preparation is crucial in order for them to make a successful transition. It can take days, weeks or even months for your pet to really feel at home. Here are our top tips for helping your new pet settle in.
Ensure that you have all of the supplies and equipment your new pet will need. This includes basic supplies such as a bed, water bowl, and food, as well as toys and other items to stimulate their cognitive development and keep them entertained. Remember, your pet's emotional wellbeing and mental stimulation is just as important as their physical needs.
Ensure that any other pets in the home are up to date with their vaccinations. Whilst shelters do their best to treat any viruses, occasionally adopted pets do bring new diseases with them that could be transmitted to existing pets in the household.
You may also have to introduce existing pets to your new pet gradually until they get used to one another.
As soon as you bring your pet home you should register with a veterinarian and make an appointment for your pet to have a thorough health check. Ideally, this should be done within a week of their arrival. They will be able to advise you on the correct vaccine schedule for your pet and ensure that there are no underlying illnesses or concerns.
You should also speak to your veterinarian about spaying or neutering your pet if it is not done already. There are thousands of animals in shelters across the United States that are desperate for loving homes. Limiting population growth further by having your pet spayed or neutered is the responsible course of action for any owner.
Establishing some basic house rules ahead of your pet's arrival can help create a routine that your pet will quickly adopt as his own. Knowing what to expect will also help him settle in much faster. Also, assigning specific responsibilities to family members can help them bond with your pet and take ownership of their commitment as a pet owner.
Being consistent with rules for your pet will make training them much easier. For example, do not start off by letting your pet sleep on the sofas if this is not a behavior you want to continue in the future.
Accidents and emergencies don't just happen to humans, and while first aid is no substitute for emergency veterinary care, basic first aid knowledge can be crucial for treating certain injuries and in preventing symptoms or situations from worsening.
In critical emergencies, opting to administer first aid before heading to your veterinarian could make the difference between the life and death of your pet.
As a pet owner, it is your responsibility to try and ensure the safety and well being of your pet at all times. With that in mind, here is our guide to basic first aid for pets.
External bleeding is typically the sign of a fight with another pet or an accident, and unless it is a severe wound and/or located on the legs, it can usually be dealt with relatively quickly and simply
In order to establish the site of the injury, you may need to muzzle your pet, as they may be in some pain. Once you have located the injury, press a thick, clean gauze pad over the wound and apply pressure until the blood begins to clot. It may take a number of minutes for the clot to gain enough strength to sufficiently stop the bleeding, so instead of checking every few seconds, hold the gauze in place for at least two minutes before lifting to check if the bleeding has ceased.
If your pet has severe blood loss from the legs, use a thin strip of gauze, elastic band or similar material to create tourniquet between the wound and the body. Once it is in place, you should cover the wound with a gauze pad and continue to apply gentle pressure.
Loosen the tourniquet for about 30 seconds every 15 to 20 minutes so that you don’t cut off the circulation from the wound entirely, and get someone to drive you to an emergency veterinarian immediately as severe blood loss can be fatal.
It may not always be possible to tell that your pet is bleeding internally, but some of the symptoms that you can look out for include:
Coughing up blood
Bleeding from the nose, mouth or rectum
Blood in urine
Rapid pulse rate
If any of the above symptoms present themselves, make your pet as warm and comfortable as possible, and take them straight to your emergency veterinarian.
If your pet suffers from any form of burn injury, you should first muzzle your pet, then apply large quantities of ice-cold water to the affected area.
In the case of chemical burns, the water should be free-flowing in order to cleanse the skin as much as possible. Otherwise, hold an ice-cold compress to the burned area and immediately transport your pet to your emergency veterinary service.
Choking is just as common in pets as it is in humans, and knowing how to assist your pet if they choke could save the life of your pet. Symptoms of choking include:
Struggling to breathe
Pawing at the mouth and nose
Lips or tongue turning blue
Since your pet will be in an extreme state of panic, it is more likely that they may accidentally bite you, so using caution, try and look into your pet's mouth to see if any blockages are immediately visible. If you can see something obstructing your pet’s airway, carefully try and remove it using tongs, pliers or tweezers, taking extreme care not to push the item further into the esophagus. If it is not easily removed, don’t spend extra time trying to reach it.
If you are unable to remove the object or your pet collapses, you should try and force air from the lungs in an attempt to push the object out from the other direction. The way you should do this is by putting both of your hands on the side of your pet’s rib cage and applying short, sharp bursts of firm pressure.
Keep doing this until you manage to dislodge the foreign object or until you arrive at the emergency veterinary service.
Ticks are arachnids that belong to the same family as spiders and mites. They are parasitic and feed on the blood of host animals. Ticks are visible to the naked eye but are only about the size of a pinhead before swelling with blood as they feast.
Animals living in the Southern States or near heavily wooded areas will have increased exposure to ticks as they like to live in thick, long grass and will attach to host animals as they walk by. They are most active during the late spring and summer months and are not fussy about what species of animals they feed on. However, animals that spend a lot of time outdoors will be more susceptible to ticks.
Animals with only a few ticks can present with little or no symptoms, which is why it is often not until there is a larger infestation or infection from the bites that signs become apparent. If and when symptoms do materialize, they can include itching, scratching and red or inflamed irritations on the skin.
Ticks can transmit a number of diseases including Babesia, Cytauxzoonosis, Lyme disease, and Mycoplasma. Some animals can also have allergic reactions to tick bites which can result in infections. Symptoms from these reactions or diseases can include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite and pain and can last for several days or even weeks. If you are concerned that your pet has developed an illness from a tick bite, consult with your veterinarian as soon as possible.
It turns out that the benefits of owning a pet include more than just adorable cuddles and trips to the dog park. Owning a pet can also improve your overall health and wellness.
On a psychological level, pets are shown to decrease levels of depression and anxiety. And for overall health, owning a pet can decrease your blood pressure, increase your immune system, make you less likely to suffer from a heart attack or stroke, and more.
A study in 2002 by the State University of New York at Buffalo found that having your pet around during difficult tasks helped to decrease stress. They found that having pets around helped participants stay calm and focused on the task at hand and were even more beneficial than having a close friend or family member nearby.
Promises Treatment Centers, which helps recovering drug addicts, allows pets into their rehab facilities. The CEO of the facility believes that having your pet around makes the recovery process less stressful, making drug addicts less likely to reach for unhealthy or dangerous substances as a way to decompress.
So, the next time you’re going through a tough time at home or work, try taking a breather and hang out with your pets.
A study by the CDC suggests that having a dog can lower blood pressure, especially for high-risk hypertensive patients. High blood pressure is often caused by stress and when life throws you stressful curveballs, having a dog (or cat) that loves you unconditionally can help you feel at ease. It’s also thought that owning a pet gives you more opportunities to go outside and exercise, which strengthens your heart and lowers your blood pressure that way.
The CDC suggests that another healthy component of owning a pet is lowering your cholesterol. Research has found that people who own pets (particularly men) have lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides than those without pets. Who needs Cheerios, when you can get a dog! Like lower blood pressure, it’s not known if the pet’s presence is specifically lowering cholesterol, or if it’s caused by the lifestyle that comes with owning a pet.
Chewing is a natural part of life for any dog. It helps to keep their teeth healthy and is a way for them to play and explore. Chewing can also be a sign of when they are particularly anxious or lonely. However natural it is, there is no escaping the frustration that accompanies returning home from work to find your favorite slippers, remote control or some other household object chewed beyond all recognition. Some breeds of dogs are more aggressive than others when it comes to getting their teeth into things, and even specially designed chew toys can be turned to rubber mulch in just a few days. To save you from spending heaps on toys that just won’t stand up to your dog’s teeth, we have put together this list of the best virtually indestructible dog toys for aggressive chewers.
This ultra-durable ball has a tug-o-war rope at each end, making it good for play as well as a chew toy. Additionally, its clever design means that the
ball will float even after it has been punctured, making it perfect for water-based fun.
The Romp-n-Roll ball is available in three sizes based on the weight of your dog and ranges from 4.5” to 8” in diameter, meaning there really is one for every
chewing champion out there!
Check out their website to find where it is available near you.
The Goughnut ring is an extremely strong rubber chew toy that was designed with safety in mind by means of a ‘chew toy safety indicator’. The concept behind the Goughnut is that when your dog chews through to the red inner layer, the toy should and will be replaced under the Goughnuts guarantee.
There are three sizes of rings available, starting at 3.75 inches and going up to 6.25 inches in diameter. There are no weak points on this toy and despite its durability, it even floats!
Find out more about the Goughnut by visiting their website.
While for many people the concept of grooming your pet conjures up notions of brushes and bows, it is, in fact, a vital element to their overall health and wellbeing. Regularly grooming your animal allows any underlying diseases or conditions to be caught early which means earlier and more efficient diagnosis and treatment.
If you have a puppy or a kitten, it will be important for you to begin training them to like or at least tolerate the grooming process, which will be beneficial to them as they reach maturity. This is especially true of nail clipping and ear cleaning which requires them to sit completely still for the process.
Reputable breeders will often begin grooming their litters as soon as they are old enough to help get them used to the process. However, despite training and conditioning, not all animals enjoy the grooming process and many owners find it easier to send their pet to a professional groomer instead. Even if you do opt to use a professional pet groomer, there are still a number of regular grooming techniques that you can do at home with your pet to strengthen your bond.
Here are some of the important benefits of pet grooming.
Just like humans, pets can have days where they feel a little lethargic or under the weather, but it is a natural instinct of an animal to try and disguise any signs of illness. They do this because in the wild, showing signs of weakness can leave them vulnerable to predators and open to attack. Unfortunately, this can make it tricky to determine if your pet is feeling a little unwell or if they are suffering from a more serious illness.
There are a number of symptoms and changes in your pets’ appearance, behavior and physical condition that you should look out for.
These include but are not limited to:
Abnormal vocal noises
Bloating of the abdomen
Blood in the stools or urine
Decreased energy or activity levels
Diarrhea and/or vomiting
Discharge from the nose or eyes
Excessive scratching or licking of the body
Foul odor from ears, mouth or skin
Increased shedding or bald patches
Lumps or tumors
Reluctance to use stairs
Straining or an inability to pass urine or stools
If your pet is showing any of the above symptoms, they should be checked out by a veterinarian within 24/48 hours.
Symptoms that require immediate veterinary treatment include:
Bloated or hardened abdomen
Excessive vomiting or diarrhea
Inability to stand up or urinate
While a sick pet may require inpatient treatment from your veterinarian for several days or even weeks, they will often need continuing care to aid in their recovery when they come home. This can include administering medication, supporting physical rehabilitation, emotional care, and fulfilling any special dietary requirements.
A healthy and balanced diet is essential for a healthy and happy pet. Not only will it provide your pet with enough energy for their day to day activities, but it is also vital for proper brain function, especially for animals in the early stages of their development.
One of the most important things to remember when it comes to feeding your pet is to feed them by ‘life-stage’. Nutritional requirements differ based on the animal's species and stage of life. For example, puppies around 12 weeks of age will require around 3 meals a day and it is not until they reach around 6 months of age that this amount should be reduced. That said, your animal may prefer smaller, more frequent meals, so the key to feeding your pet properly is understanding what works best for them.
A popular method of feeding is known as ‘free-feeding’. This is where a bowl of food is left out so that a pet can eat as much or as little as they want in the frequency that they prefer. This works best for dry foods since they don't spoil as quickly as the wet variety. Unfortunately, some studies show that this method can result in over-eating and subsequent pet obesity, but it may be the best option for you if you cannot stick to a feeding schedule.
Scheduled, portioned feeding requires a strict routine that you need to be able to stick to. Your pet will know when meal times are and ensure that they are ready for them, such as when cats come indoors specifically at these times. This method limits the amount that your pet eats either by portion size or by time as some pet owners prefer to give their animals a specific time frame in which they must eat. This method also works well if you have pets that require medication to be mixed with their food, or have an animal on a calorie-controlled diet.
If you are unsure which method is right for your pet, please consult with your veterinarian who will be more than happy to provide advice.
Do NOT offer home-cooked meals unless specifically instructed to do so by a veterinarian. Most home-cooked meals do not meet the complex nutritional needs of your pet. Instead, stick to specifically formulated pet foods.