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Keeping Pets Safe in Hot Weather

Posted by DeniseDVC on June 01, 2019  /   Posted in blog

Warm spring and summer temperatures can be dangerous for our pets. Here are some tips to help keep your pets safe and cool throughout the warmer months!

Practice basic summer safety
  1. Never, ever leave your pets in a parked car
    Not even for a minute.  Please, don’t do it.  On a warm day, the temperature inside an automobile can quickly rise to dangerous, even lethal levels. On an 85-degree day, for example, the temperature inside a car with the windows opened slightly can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes.  After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120 degrees. At such temperatures your pet can easily suffer irreversible organ damage or die.  Even if it feels only pleasantly warm outside to you, it isn’t worth the risk to your pet. Well-known animal advocate and veterinarian Dr. Ernie Ward spent half an hour in a parked car with the windows cracked on a warm summer day to find out what it really feels like, and filmed the process.
  2. Keep an eye on the humidity.
    According to Dr. Barry Kellogg, of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, “It’s important to remember that it’s not just the ambient temperature but also the humidity that can affect your pet. Animals pant to evaporate moisture from their lungs, which takes heat away from their body. If the humidity is too high, they are unable to cool themselves, and their temperature will skyrocket to dangerous levels—very quickly.”
  3. Limit exercise on hot days
    Use caution when exercising your pet, and adjust the intensity and duration of said exercise in accordance with the temperature. Just because your dog wants to come with you doesn’t mean they necessarily should – some animals will walk or run well past the point when they should do so. On very hot days, exercise should be limited to the early morning or evening hours, when it is cooler outside. Be especially careful with pets with white-colored ears, who are more susceptible to skin cancer, and short-nosed pets (such as Boxers, Pugs and Bulldogs), who are prone to breathing difficulty in warmer weather. Asphalt paving gets very hot, and can burn your pet’s paws, so walk your dog on the grass if possible. Always carry water with you to keep your dog from becoming dehydrated.
  4. Don’t rely on a fan
    Pets respond differently to heat than humans do. For example, dogs sweat primarily through their feet. The simple fact is that fans don’t cool off pets as effectively as they do people.
  5. Provide ample shade and water
    Any time your pet is outside, make sure he or she has protection from heat and sun and plenty of fresh, cold water. Tree shade and tarps are ideal because they don’t obstruct air flow. Please be aware that a doghouse will not provide relief from the heat, and in fact, will likely make it worse.
  6. Cool your pet inside and out
    Whether your pets are outside or indoors, always provide plenty of fresh water. For a tasty cooling treat, try this recipe for easy DIY peanut butter popsicles for dogs. (You can use peanut butter or another favorite food.)You can also keep your pet from overheating with a cooling body wrap, vest, or mat. Soak these products in cool water, and they’ll stay cool (but usually dry) for up to three days.
Watch for signs of heatstroke

A dog’s temperature should never be allowed to rise over 104. Extreme indoor or outdoor temperatures can cause heatstroke. Signs of heatstroke include heavy panting, glazed eyes, excessive thirst, lethargy and/or dizziness, difficulty breathing, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, fever, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, seizure, and unconsciousness.

Dogs who are very young or very old are at increased risk for heat stroke, as are overweight animals. An animal who has not been properly conditioned to exercise is also at risk, as are animals with heart or respiratory disease. As mentioned above, breeds with shorter muzzles and narrow nostrils are also significantly predisposed to heat stroke.

How to treat a pet suffering from heatstroke

Move your pet into the shade or an air-conditioned area. Apply cool towels to her head, neck, and chest or run cool (not cold) water over her. Let her drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes. You should also take any pet you suspect to be suffering from heat stroke immediately to a veterinarian.

Power outages

Summer storms have been known to knock out power, including air condition. Think of the derecho that hit D.C. in June of 2012 – some neighborhoods had power outages lasting for days. To be on the safe side, we recommend that you create a disaster plan to keep your pets safe from heat stroke and other temperature-related trouble.

Tips and tricks adapted from this article by the Humane Society.

Boutique & Grain-Free Diets and the Risks of Heart Disease in Dogs

Posted by DeniseDVC on May 01, 2019  /   Posted in blog

Excerpted from “A broken heart: Risk of heart disease in boutique or grain-free diets and exotic ingredients” by Lisa Freeman, DVM, PhD, ACVN, head of the Nutrition Department at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine (6/4/2018):

Heart disease is common in our companion animals, affecting 10-15% of all dogs and cats, with even higher rates in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Doberman Pinschers, and Boxer dogs.  Most nutritional recommendations focus on treating dogs and cats with heart disease and there is much less information on the role of diet in causing heart disease.  However, a recent increase in heart disease in dogs eating certain types of diets may shed light on the role of diet in causing heart disease.  It appears that diet may be increasing dogs’ risk for heart disease because owners have fallen victim to the many myths and misperceptions about pet food.  If diet proves to be the cause, this truly is heart-breaking to me.

In my 20 years as a veterinary nutritionist, I’ve seen vast improvements in our knowledge about pet nutrition, in the quality of commercial pet foods, and in our pets’ nutritional health (other than the unfortunate rise in obesity).  However, in the last few years I’ve seen more cases of nutritional deficiencies due to people feeding unconventional diets, such as unbalanced home-prepared diets, raw dietsvegetarian diets, and boutique commercial pet foods.  The pet food industry is a competitive one, with more and more companies joining the market every year.  Marketing is a powerful tool for selling pet foods and has initiated and expanded fads, that are unsupported by nutritional science, including grain-free and exotic ingredient diets.  All this makes it difficult for pet owners to know what is truly the best food for their pet (as opposed to the one with the loudest or most attractive marketing).  Because of the thousands of diet choices, the creative and persuasive advertising, and the vocal opinions on the internet, pet owners aren’t able to know if the diets they’re feeding have nutritional deficiencies or toxicities – or could potentially even cause heart disease.

Dilated cardiomyopathy

Dilated cardiomyopathy or DCM occurs in cats where it is associated with a nutritional deficiency (see below).  DCM is a serious disease of the heart muscle which causes the heart to beat more weakly and to enlarge.  DCM can result in abnormal heart rhythms, congestive heart failure (a build-up of fluid in the lungs or abdomen), or sudden death.  In dogs, it typically occurs in large- and giant-breeds, such as Doberman pinschers, Boxers, Irish Wolfhounds, and Great Danes, where it is thought to have a genetic component.  Recently, some veterinary cardiologists have been reporting increased rates of DCM in dogs – in both the typical breeds and in breeds not usually associated with DCM, such as Miniature Schnauzers or French Bulldogs.  There is suspicion that the disease is associated with eating boutique or grain-free diets, with some of the dogs improving when their diets are changed.  The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine and veterinary cardiologists are currently investigating this issue.

Is diet the cause?

It’s not yet clear if diet is causing this issue.  The first thought was a deficiency of an amino acid called taurine.  DCM used to be one of the most common heart diseases in cats but in 1987, it was discovered that feline DCM was caused by insufficient taurine in the diet.  It was shown that DCM in cats could be reversed with taurine supplementation, and now all reputable commercial cat foods contain enough taurine to prevent the development of this lethal disease.  We still occasionally see taurine deficiency-induced DCM in cats but it is usually when owners are feeding a vegetarian or home-prepared diet, supplemental diets, or a diet made by a manufacturer with inadequate nutritional expertise or quality control.

In dogs, Golden Retrievers and Cocker Spaniels were found to be at risk for DCM caused by taurine deficiency, and one study showed that Cocker Spaniels with DCM improved when given taurine supplementation.  Since then, additional studies have shown associations between dietary factors and taurine deficiency in dogs, such as lamb, rice bran, high fiber diets, and very low protein diets.  And certain other breeds were found to be at increased risk for taurine deficiency and DCM, including Newfoundlands, St. Bernards, English Setters, Irish Wolfhounds, and Portuguese Water Dogs.  The reasons for taurine deficiency in dogs are not completely understood but could be reduced production of taurine due to dietary deficiency or reduced bioavailability of taurine or its building blocks, increased losses of taurine in the feces, or altered metabolism of taurine in the body.

No matter what the reason, the number of dogs with taurine deficiency and DCM subjectively appeared to decrease since the early 2000’s.  However, recently, some astute cardiologists noticed higher rates of DCM including Golden retrievers and in some atypical dog breeds.  They also noticed that both the typical and atypical breeds were more likely to be eating boutique or grain-free diets, and diets with exotic ingredients – kangaroo, lentils, duck, pea, fava bean, buffalo, tapioca, salmon, lamb, barley, bison, venison, and chickpeas.  Even some vegan diets have been associated.  It has even been seen in dogs eating raw or home-prepared diets.

So, is this latest rash of DCM caused by taurine deficiency?  Most of these affected dogs were eating boutique, grain-free, or exotic ingredient diets.  Some of the dogs had low taurine levels and improved with taurine supplementation.  But even some of those dogs that were not taurine deficient improved with taurine supplementation and diet change.  Fortunately, cardiologists reported the issue to the FDA which is currently investigating this issue.  [Note: Dr. Joshua Stern from the University of California Davis is conducting research on taurine deficiency and DCM in Golden Retrievers.

It’s not so simple

Currently, it seems that there may be two separate problems occurring – one related to taurine deficiency and a separate and yet unknown problem (with a third group of dogs likely having DCM completely unrelated to diet).  Identifying the potential dietary factors contributing to DCM in the non-taurine deficient dogs is more difficult, but the FDA and cardiologists are hard at work trying to solve it.  What seems to be consistent is that it does appear to be more likely to occur in dogs eating boutique, grain-free, or exotic ingredient diets.

Exotic ingredients are on the rise

Why are pet owners feeding these exotic ingredients?  I think is it primarily because pet owners are falling victim to marketing which portrays exotic ingredients as more natural or healthier than typical ingredients.  There is no truth to this marketing – and there is no evidence that these ingredients are any more natural or healthier than more typical ingredients.  This is just good marketing that preys on our desire to do the best for our pets.

There is no proof that grain-free is better!

Many pet owners have, unfortunately, also bought into the grain-free myth.  The fact is that food allergies are very uncommon, so there’s no benefit of feeding pet foods containing exotic ingredients.  And while grains have been accused on the internet of causing nearly every disease known to dogs, grains do not contribute to any health problems and are used in pet food as a nutritious source of protein, vitamins, and minerals.

Exotic ingredients are more difficult to use

Not only are the more exotic ingredients unnecessary, they also require the manufacturer to have much more nutritional expertise to be nutritious and healthy. Exotic ingredients have different nutritional profiles and different digestibility than typical ingredients, and also have the potential to affect the metabolism of other nutrients.  For example, the bioavailability and metabolism of taurine is different in a lamb-based diet compared to a chicken-based diet or can be affected by the amount and types of fiber in the diet.

Small pet food manufacturers might be better at marketing than at nutrition and quality control

Making high quality, nutritious pet food is not easy!  It’s more than using a bunch of tasty-sounding ingredients.  The right nutrients in the right proportions have to be in the diet, the effects of processing (or not processing) the food need to be considered, and the effects of all the other ingredients in the food need to be addressed, in addition to ensuring rigorous quality control and extensive testing. Not every manufacturer can do this.

How could diet be increasing the risk for DCM?

What is the consistent factor between the diets being implicated in diet-related DCM?  It may be related to companies’ inadequate nutritional expertise or rigorous quality control.  We published a study several years ago in which we measured a single nutrient in 90 canned cat foods that all claimed to be nutritionally complete and balanced.  We found that 15% of the diets were deficient in that nutrient (all of those diets were made by small companies).  If companies don’t have the quality control to ensure all nutrients are at the minimum levels, deficiencies could occur and could contribute to DCM.  However, these problems could also be related to problems with bioavailability or interaction with other ingredients in the diet (especially the more exotic ingredients, which are not as well studied or understood).  And DCM could even be the result of an ingredient in the diet that is toxic to the heart.  The FDA is investigating this potential association between diet and DCM…

– – –

Excerpted from “It’s Not Just Grain-Free: An Update on Diet-Associated Dilated Cardiomyopathy” by Lisa Freeman, DVM, PhD, ACVN, head of the Nutrition Department at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine (11/29/2018):

  1. It’s not just grain-free. This does not appear to be just an issue with grain-free diets.  I am calling the suspected diets, “BEG” diets – boutique companies, exotic ingredients, or grain-free diets.  The apparent link between BEG diets and DCM may be due to ingredients used to replace grains in grain-free diets, such as lentils or chickpeas, but also may be due to other common ingredients commonly found in BEG diets, such as exotic meats, vegetables, and fruits.  In addition, not all pet food manufacturers have the same level of nutritional expertise and quality control, and this variability could introduce potential issues with some products.
  2. Most dogs being diagnosed with DCM do not have low taurine levels. Some owners continue to feed a BEG diet but supplement taurine thinking that this will reduce their risk for heart disease.  In our hospital, we currently measure taurine in all dogs with DCM, but more than 90% of our patients with DCM in which taurine has been measured have normal levels (and the majority are eating BEG diets).  Yet some of these dogs with DCM and normal taurine levels improve when their diets are changed.  This suggests that there’s something else playing a role in most cases – either a deficiency of a different nutrient or even a toxicity that may be associated with BEG diets.  Giving taurine is unlikely to prevent DCM unless your dog has taurine deficiency.  And given the lack of quality control for dietary supplements, you can introduce new risks to your dog if you give a supplement without evidence that she needs it.
  3. Raw diets and homemade diets are not safe alternatives. Out of concern, some owners are switching from BEG diets to a raw or home-cooked diet.  However, we have diagnosed DCM in dogs eating these diets too.  And raw and home-cooked diets increase your dog’s risk for many other health problems.  So, forego the raw or home-cooked diets and stick with a commercial pet food made by a well-established manufacturer that contains common ingredients, including grains.  If your dog requires a home-prepared diet for a medical condition or you feel strongly about feeding one, I strongly recommend you consult with a Board-Certified Veterinary NutritionistTM (acvn.org).  However, because home-cooked diets are not tested for safety and nutritional adequacy like good quality commercial diets, deficiencies could still develop.

Current thoughts on DCM

Currently, it appears that there may be three separate groups of dogs with DCM (although this may change as we learn more). I am listing them in the approximate frequency that we are currently seeing them in our hospital:

  1. Diet-associated DCM with normal taurine levels. While this form of the disease was first identified in dogs of breeds not predisposed to DCM that are eating BEG diets, it appears to also occur in dogs of typical DCM breeds that are eating a BEG diet.
  2. Primary DCM in predisposed breeds that is unrelated to diet. This is the traditional, genetically-related DCM in typical breeds, such as the Doberman Pinscher, Boxer, Irish Wolfhound, and Great Dane.
  3. Diet-associated DCM with taurine deficiency: This is the least common form we are seeing in our hospital. This appears to happen both in breeds predisposed to DCM and breeds that are not predisposed to DCM.

Common questions

We still have a great deal to learn about diet-associated DCM.  However, I’m providing answers to some common questions I’ve been getting based on what is currently known:

  1. What’s causing diet-associated DCM in dogs? For the vast majority of dogs, we do not yet know what is causing this disease. There are definitely some dogs with DCM that have low taurine levels, many of which will improve with taurine supplementation and change of diet.  For dogs that have normal taurine levels, however, other nutritional deficiencies may be present. Some nutritional deficiencies can affect the heart’s normal function, so an insufficient amount of these nutrients (or reduced bioavailability) in the diet could cause heart disease.  Diet-associated DCM could also be due to an ingredient in the food that is toxic to the heart.  The FDAand many researchers are actively studying this issue so that it can be solved as quickly as possible.
  2. My dog was diagnosed with DCM. What should I do? Ask your veterinarian to measure taurine levels and give heart medications as directed by your veterinarian. If your dog is eating a BEG diet or other unconventional diet (including vegetarian, vegan, or home-prepared diets), I recommend following the steps outlined in my previous post, including switching to a non-BEG diet.  Three updates to my previous post are:
    • Taurine supplements: Consumer Lab is expected to release a report on independent quality control testing of taurine supplements in late 2018. Given the lack of quality control for dietary supplements (human and pet), having these results will be very useful to find good quality products for dogs that require taurine supplementation. Your veterinarian or veterinary cardiologist can help you determine an optimal dose for your dog.
    • Other dogs in the household: We are now recommending that other dogs in the household of dogs with DCM that are eating the same BEG diet be screened by their veterinarian since their hearts could also be affected (even if they are showing no symptoms).
    • Outcome: Not all dogs with DCM will improve and improvements in the echocardiogram, when they do occur, can take a long time (often more than 6 months).
  3. If my dog is eating a BEG diet but has no symptoms, should I test for DCM or switch to a different diet? It’s unlikely that most dogs eating a BEG diet will develop DCM. However, given the fact that we don’t yet understand why BEG diets are affecting some dogs and because DCM is a life-threatening disease, I recommend you reconsider your dog’s diet until we know more.  Contrary to popular belief, there are no health benefits of grain-free or exotic ingredient diets except in the rare case of food allergy. If your dog is a part of your family and you want to feed him the very best, be sure to base this important decision on more objective factors than marketing and the ingredient list (see our post).

    Be sure to watch for early signs of heart disease – weakness, slowing down, less able to exercise, shortness of breath, coughing, or fainting. If you notice any of these, get your dog checked out by your veterinarian who will listen for a heart murmur or abnormal heart rhythm (although not all dogs with DCM have any changes that can be heard with a stethoscope). Your veterinarian (or a veterinary cardiologist) may do additional tests, such as x-rays, blood tests, electrocardiogram, and ultrasound of the heart (echocardiogram – the test of choice to diagnose DCM).Tell your veterinarian what you’re feeding your dog. You can help your veterinarian by bringing a list of everything your dog eats to every appointment.

    If your dog has no symptoms, additional testing is really up to you.  Some owners have measured plasma and whole blood taurine levels or scheduled an echocardiogram to check their dog’s heart size and function.  However, given the cost of an echocardiogram, other owners have elected to have their veterinarian do a blood test called NT-proBNP, which goes up when the heart is enlarged.  While a normal value doesn’t guarantee your dog has no heart disease, a high level suggests your dog’s heart should be evaluated further.
  4. Has diet-associated DCM been seen in cats? The association between BEG diets and heart disease has only been reported in dogs so far. However, that doesn’t mean cats are immune.  If your cat is diagnosed with DCM and is eating a BEG, vegetarian, vegan, or home-prepared diet, I recommend following the same protocol as described for dogs with DCM.

Lastly, if your dog has been eating a BEG diet and has been diagnosed with DCM, please don’t feel guilty. I’ve talked to owners who feel terrible because they wanted to provide the finest care for their dog by feeding them the best diet possible. They often spent a lot of money buying an expensive boutique diet and now that same diet may be associated with their dog’s heart disease. Trying to decide what is really the best food is confusing and difficult because of the many different products available, nutrition fads, and compelling marketing. My hope is that the one bright side of this serious situation is that it will shine a light on the complexities of making safe and nutritious pet food and the importance of nutritional expertise and quality control, rather than just what is new and trendy.

For more information about heart disease in dogs, please see our HeartSmart website.

Learning About Leptospirosis

Posted by DeniseDVC on April 20, 2019  /   Posted in blog

Adapted from StopLepto.com

Overview

Leptospirosis is an infectious disease that causes serious illness in dogs, other animals, and people. The disease is caused by spiral-shaped bacteria called leptospires that live in water or warm, wet soil.

Initial signs of leptospirosis include fever, lethargy, and lack of appetite. Left untreated, it can develop into a more severe, life-threatening illness that affects the kidneys, liver, brain, lungs, and heart.

The prevalence of canine leptospirosis has increased in recent years; as many as 8.2% of dogs are shedding leptospires, some asymptomatically. Weather changes, population growth, and habitat encroachment have all increased human and canine exposure to pathogens and their carriers.

Transmission

Transmission of leptospirosis can occur through direct contact or indirectly through environmental exposure.

  1. Leptospires enter the body through mucous membranes in the mouth, eyes, or nose, or through abraded or water-softened skin.
  2. Leptospires multiply in a host animal’s bloodstream.
  3. Leptospires move from the bloodstream to the kidneys and other tissues to continue reproducing.
  4. Leptospires pass from the kidneys into the urine; then are shed back into the environment.
  5. Other dogs, wild animals, or people can become infected through direct or indirect contact.

Clinical Signs of Leptospirosis

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Weight loss and lack of appetite (anorexia)
  • Depression
  • Acute kidney failure
  • Jaundice
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Blood in urine is uncommon, but may occur
  • Respiratory distress

Dogs at Risk

Dogs at risk for developing leptospirosis include those with:

  • Access to ponds, lakes, streams, or standing water
  • Exposure to urine from other infected animals, including:
    • Other dogs in shelters or other pet care facilities
    • Wildlife (e.g. rodents, raccoons, opossum, deer), either through direct contact with urine or through contaminated water

Threats to Canine and Human Health

As leptospirosis progresses, it can result in:

  • Leptospiremia
    • Leptospires can multiply in the bloodstream and spread to many tissues and organs
  • Vascular damage/thrombocytopenia
    • Can lead to kidney failure and interfere with liver function
    • Contributes to coagulation abnormalities and hemorrhages
  • Severe kidney and liver damage
    • Acute renal failure occurs in dogs with severe clinical signs
    • Acute hepatic dysfunction or chronic hepatitis have been caused by specific serovars
  • Leptospiruria (urinary shedding)
    • Infected dogs can enter a carrier state where organisms may persist in the kidney and be shed in the urine for weeks to months

What to Do

If you have questions about the disease, or about vaccinating your dog for Leptospirosis, please ask us at your next visit!

To learn even more about Leptospirosis, watch the video below.

Springtime Safety Tips

Posted by DeniseDVC on April 01, 2019  /   Posted in blog

The sky is blue and the flowers are blooming  – spring has arrived! With that in mind, we suggest that you take a look at these springtime safety tips, courtesy of the ASPCA:

 

Spring has sprung, and with the change of season, our thoughts inevitably turn to Easter celebrations, spring cleaning and much-needed home improvement projects. But the new balmy weather can prove not-so-sunny for curious pets—or their unwitting parents. Before you embark on seasonal chores or outdoor revelry, take inventory of potential springtime hazards for your delicate, furry friend. To help you out, our ASPCA experts have come up with a few seasonal tips that will help prevent mishaps or misfortunes.

  • Easter Treats and Decorations
    Keep Easter lilies and candy bunnies in check—chocolate goodies are toxic to cats, dogs and ferrets, and lilies can be fatal if ingested by our furry friends. And be mindful, kitties love to nibble on colorful plastic grass, which can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting and dehydration. Moreover, while bunnies, chicks and other festive animals are adorable, resist the urge to buy—these cute babies grow up fast and often require specialized care!
  • Screen Yourself
    Many pet parents welcome the breezy days of spring by opening their windows. Unfortunately, they also unknowingly put their pets at risk—especially cats, who are apt to jump or fall through unscreened windows. Be sure to install snug and sturdy screens in all of your windows. If you have adjustable screens, make sure they are tightly wedged into window frames.
  • Buckle Up!
    While every pet parent knows dogs love to feel the wind on their furry faces, allowing them to ride in the bed of pick-up trucks or stick their heads out of moving-car windows is dangerous. Flying debris and insects can cause inner ear or eye injuries and lung infections, and abrupt stops or turns can cause major injury, or worse! Pets in cars should always be secured in a crate or wearing a seatbelt harness designed especially for them.
  • Spring Cleaning 
    Spring cleaning is a time-honored tradition in many households, but be sure to keep all cleaners and chemicals out of your pets’ way! Almost all commercially sold cleaning products contain chemicals that are harmful to pets. The key to using them safely is to read and follow label directions for proper use and storage.
  • Home Improvement 101
    Products such as paints, mineral spirits and solvents can be toxic to your pets and cause severe irritation or chemical burns. Carefully read all labels to see if the product is safe to use around your furry friends. Also, be cautious of physical hazards, including nails, staples, insulation, blades and power tools. It may be wise to confine your dog or cat to a designated pet-friendly room during home improvement projects.
  • Let Your Garden Grow—With Care 
    Pet parents, take care—fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides keep our plants and lawns healthy and green, but their ingredients aren’t meant for four-legged consumption and can be fatal if your pet ingests them.  Always store these poisonous products in out-of-the-way places and follow label instructions carefully. Check out our full list of garden care tips.
  • Poisonous Plants
    Time to let your garden grow! But beware, many popular springtime plants—including Easter lilies, rhododendron and azaleas—are highly toxic to pets and can easily prove fatal if eaten. Check out our full list—and pics!—of toxic and non-toxic plants for your home and garden.
  • Ah-Ah-Achoo!
    Like their sneezy human counterparts, pets can be allergic to foods, dust, plants and pollens. Allergic reactions in dogs and cats can cause minor sniffling and sneezing as well as life-threatening anaphylactic shock. If you suspect your pet has a springtime allergy, please visit your veterinarian as soon as possible.
  • Pesky Little Critters 
    April showers bring May flowers—and an onslaught of bugs! Make sure your pet is on year-round heartworm preventive medication, as well as a flea and tick control program. Ask your doctor to recommend a plan designed specifically for your pet.
  • Out and About
    Warmer weather means more trips to the park, longer walks and more chances for your pet to wander off! Make sure your dog or cat has a microchip for identification and wears a tag imprinted with your home address, cell phone and any other relevant contact information. Canines should wear flat (never choke!) collars, please.

If you suspect your pet may have come in contact with or ingested a potentially poisonous substance, contact your local veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

Cold Weather Safety Tips

Posted by DeniseDVC on December 06, 2018  /   Posted in blog

Now that winter has arrived in the Northern Virginia area, it’s time to make sure your pets are protected from potential seasonal dangers. Here is an excellent guide, courtesy of the ASPCA:

Exposure to winter’s dry, cold air and chilly rain, sleet and snow can cause chapped paws and itchy, flaking skin, but these aren’t the only discomforts pets can suffer. Winter walks can become downright dangerous if chemicals from ice-melting agents are licked off of bare paws. To help prevent cold weather dangers from affecting your pet’s health, please heed the following advice from our experts:

  • Repeatedly coming out of the cold into the dry heat of your home can cause itchy, flaking skin. Keep your home humidified and towel dry your pet as soon as he comes inside, paying special attention to his feet and in-between the toes. Remove any snow balls from between his foot pads.
  • Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth. If your dog is long-haired, simply trim him to minimize the clinging ice balls, salt crystals and de-icing chemicals that can dry his skin, and don’t neglect the hair between his toes. If your dog is short-haired, consider getting him a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly. For many dogs, this is regulation winter wear.
  • Bring a towel on long walks to clean off stinging, irritated paws. After each walk, wash and dry your pet’s feet and stomach to remove ice, salt and chemicals—and check for cracks in paw pads or redness between the toes.
  • Bathe your pets as little as possible during cold spells. Washing too often can remove essential oils and increase the chance of developing dry, flaky skin. If your pooch must be bathed, ask your vet to recommend a moisturizing shampoo and/or rinse.
  • Massaging petroleum jelly or other paw protectants into paw pads before going outside can help protect from salt and chemical agents.Booties provide even more coverage and can also prevent sand and salt from getting lodged between bare toes and causing irritation. Use pet-friendly ice melts whenever possible.
  • Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.
  • Pets burn extra energy by trying to stay warm in wintertime. Feeding your pet a little bit more during the cold weather months can provide much-needed calories, and making sure she has plenty of water to drink will help keep her well-hydrated and her skin less dry.
  • Make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts. A cozy dog or cat bed with a warm blanket or pillow is perfect.
  • Remember, if it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet, so keep your animals inside. If left outdoors, pets can freeze, become disoriented, lost, stolen, injured or killed. In addition, don’t leave pets alone in a car during cold weather, as cars can act as refrigerators that hold in the cold and cause animals to freeze to death.

East Asian Tick in Virginia

Posted by DeniseDVC on September 30, 2018  /   Posted in blog

05/16/2018 Release from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services:

On May 14, the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa confirmed the finding of the Haemaphysalis longicornis tick (otherwise known as the East Asian or Longhorned tick) in Virginia. The tick appeared on an orphaned calf on a beef farm in Albemarle County.

In late 2017 H. longicornis was found initially in New Jersey. No known direct link exists from the Virginia farm to the area in New Jersey where the first ticks appeared on a sheep farm.

Virginia state veterinary officials will continue to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other federal and industry partners to determine the extent and significance of this finding.

Livestock producers and owners should notify VDACS if they notice any unusual ticks that have not been seen before or that occur in large numbers on an individual animal. The site below contains images and descriptions of the common Virginia ticks. Typically, ticks are seen in the greatest numbers in spring and fall, but can persist through all four seasons, especially in warmer weather.

https://pubs.ext.vt.edu/content/dam/pubs_ext_vt_edu/2906/2906-1396/ENTO-250.pdf

Livestock producers should work with their herd veterinarians to develop a tick prevention and control program. Livestock owners also may contact VDACS’ Office of Veterinary Services at 804.786.2483.

Fall Safety Tips

Posted by DeniseDVC on September 30, 2018  /   Posted in blog

Ah, fall—there’s nothing like crisp, cool air, the first months of school and luscious foliage to get you excited for the changing seasons. Your pet, too, is probably welcoming the break from hot, sticky weather. But pet parents, beware—fall is also a time of lurking dangers for our furry friends. From household poisons to cold weather hazards, the season is a minefield! Here are some tips to keep your pet snug and healthy during the autumn months.

  • The use of rodenticides increases in the fall as rodents seek shelter from the cooler temperatures by attempting to move indoors. Rodenticides are highly toxic to pets—if ingested, the results could be fatal. If you must use these products, do so with extreme caution and put them in places inaccessible to your pets.
  • It’s back-to-school time, and those of you with young children know that means stocking up on fun items like glue sticks, pencils and magic markers. These items are considered “low toxicity” to pets, which means they’re unlikely to cause serious problems unless large amounts are ingested. However, since gastrointestinal upset and blockages certainly are possible, be sure your children keep their school supplies out of paw’s reach.
  • Training tip: If you and your pooch haven’t been active outdoors in a while because of the summer heat, do some remedial recall training. Dogs, like people, get rusty on their skills if they aren’t using them.
  • Fall and spring and are mushroom seasons. While 99% of mushrooms have little or no toxicity, the 1% that are highly toxic can cause life-threatening problems in pets. Unfortunately, most of the highly toxic mushrooms are difficult to distinguish from the nontoxic ones, so the best way to keep pets from ingesting poisonous mushrooms is to keep them away from areas where any mushrooms are growing. Contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center immediately if you witness your pet eating a wild mushroom.
  • In order to generate body heat, pets who exercise heavily outdoors, or who live outdoors, should be given more food during colder seasons. Make sure horses and other outdoor animals have access to clean, fresh water that is not frozen.
  • Autumn is the season when snakes who are preparing for hibernation may be particularly “grumpy,” increasing the possibility of severe bites to those unlucky pups who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Pet owners should know what kinds of venomous snakes may be in their environment—and where these snakes are most likely to be found—so they can keep pets out of those areas.
  • Many people choose fall as the time to change their car’s engine coolant. Ethylene glycol-based coolants are highly toxic, so spills should be cleaned up immediately. Consider switching to propylene glycol-based coolants—though they aren’t completely nontoxic, they are much less toxic than other engine coolants.

-adapted from the website of the ASPCA

Canine Influenza Update

Posted by DeniseDVC on July 05, 2018  /   Posted in blog

There are currently two viral strains primarily responsible for causing influenza (flu) in dogs. These Canine Influenza Viruses (CIVs) are H3N8 and H3N2.

Updated 7/5/18

Overview

H3N8 is a previously-known strain of CIV that was first identified in 2004, and caused outbreaks of dog flu in the NoVa region in 2009. It is a variant on an equine (horse) strain of flu that gained the ability to infect dogs. A vaccine for this strain has been on the market for several years, and is currently offered here at Deepwood. For more information about H3N8, you can visit this Veterinary Partner website.

The “new” CIV is H3N2; you may have seen newspaper articles or TV reports about it over the last couple of years. H3N2 is an avian (bird) strain that has gained the ability to infect dogs and to transmit between dogs. It was also diagnosed in cats with respiratory disease in a shelter in the Midwest.

There have been multiple outbreaks of H3N2 in the United States; the first began in Chicago in March, 2015, following the transport of an infected dog from South Korea to Chicago via O’Hare Airport. The majority of the outbreak was been confined to the Chicago area, but some spread has been seen. Smaller pockets of infection have been seen in California (also caused by the transport of infected South Korean dogs) and New York City, as well as in other locations. According to the CIV Surveillance Networks, dogs have tested positive in over half of the states in the USA. As of June 2018, no animals have yet tested positive in Virginia or Washington, D.C. Four dogs have tested positive in Maryland, 36 in North Carolina, and 30 in Pennsylvania. The most up-to-date information is available via this link to the Cornell School of Veterinary Medicine.

 

H3N2 cases, 3/15-6/18

 

Transmission and Symptoms

CIV is primarily transmitted through close contact with a dog who is infected. This usually occurs in confined spaces such as animal shelters, boarding kennels, grooming facilities, training classes, dog shows, or doggie day care centers. Infected dogs do not shed large quantities of virus, so casual contact is less likely to spread the disease, but dogs frequently exposed to other dogs at dog parks are at higher risk than those who do not socialize regularly.  However, the virus can survive for 24-48 hours in the environment, and can be transmitted via food and water bowls, clothing, and human hands from one dog to another. Age and breed have not been shown to affect the odds of infection. As most dogs have never been exposed to CIV before, they do not have immunity to it and are likely to become infected if exposed to the virus. Dogs with suppressed immune symptoms due to age, medical condition, or treatment with immunosuppressive medications (steroids, cyclosporine, chemotherapy, etc.) are at increased risk of infection.

Clinical symptoms typically appear 2-3 days after infection, although some dogs take longer to develop signs. Peak virus shedding occurs 3-4 days post-infection, meaning that dogs who are not yet showing symptoms of illness could still potentially be shedding virus particles. Dogs may continue to be contagious for up to 2-3 weeks after initial appearance of symptoms.

There are two clinical categories that have been seen in dogs infected with CIV: a mild form of disease, and a more severe illness, often accompanied by pneumonia.

  • Mild form – May be asymptomatic. Other possibilities include a cough that persists for 10-30 days (usually soft and moist but may be harsh and hacking), lethargy, decreased appetite, clear ocular / nasal discharge, and mild to moderate fever. Thick nasal discharge from secondary bacterial infection may also be present. Medical treatment may be needed depending upon symptoms.
  • Severe form – High fever, cough, lethargy, lack of appetite, increased respiratory rate and effort. Vomiting and diarrhea have also been reported. Secondary bacterial infection may cause pneumonia. Prompt medical care is warranted, and some pets may require hospitalization and intensive veterinary care. Fatal cases have been reported, but the mortality rate is less than 10% and most dogs will recover in 2-3 weeks.

 

Testing and Treatment

PCR testing is available for CIV, but it should be performed within one or two days of the onset of symptoms for maximum accuracy.

As with all upper respiratory infections, treatment for mild cases is generally supportive, and may include expectorants/cough suppressants if needed. These pets will typically recover fine on their own without significant intervention. Treatment for more serious cases generally involves hospitalization with IV fluid therapy, broad-spectrum antibiotics for secondary infection, and respiratory/oxygen support if needed.

 

Risk Prevention

There are two vaccines (under conditional license from the USDA) currently available for the H3N2 strain of CIV. At this time it is believed that vaccination against the previous CIV stain (H3N8) will not provide protection from the new strain, and vice-versa. If you are trying to decide whether vaccinating your dog against the new strain is right for you, please let us know.

Our region is not currently experiencing an H3N2 outbreak. However, should one occur, the best prevention will be to minimize contact with other dogs. This entails avoiding places such as dog parks,boarding facilities, dog day care, group get-togethers, grooming facilities, and training classes. Walking your dog by his or herself should be fine.

If your dog develops respiratory signs, such as coughing, hacking, gagging or difficulty breathing, please promptly schedule an appointment. When calling to schedule, let us know that your dog has respiratory signs, so that we can take appropriate precautions to minimize the possibility of contaminating the hospital. When you get to the clinic, please stay in the car with your dog and call us from your cell phone – we’ll take it from there!

 

Other Species

At this time, there is no evidence to suggest that either CIV strain (the new H3N8 or the old H3N2) is infectious to people.  Data from studies done in Asia does indicate that transmission of H3N8 from dogs to cats is possible (though limited), but as of this time no cases in cats have been diagnosed in the U.S.

 

Written by Danielle Lafave, DVM – Deepwood Veterinary Clinic

Food for Thought

Posted by DeniseDVC on June 01, 2018  /   Posted in blog

If you or someone you love has food allergies, we urge you to read this article by Dr. Amy Goulart, written for the Veterinary Information Network News Service. Dr. Goulart describes how ingredients that are common antigens for children and/or adults are increasingly being found in pet foods and treats. Even ingredients that we would not necessarily associate with pet food, like dairy products, are sometimes incorporated into pet foods in the form of casein or whey. Dog treats often contain peanut butter, a common childhood allergen. We all know that dogs many love licking kids’ faces, but for some children this may not simply be unsanitary, it could be downright dangerous.

Full article: Hidden Dangers in Pet Food

Holiday Safety Tips

Posted by DeniseDVC on December 05, 2017  /   Posted in blog

Brought to you by the ASPCA

 

The holiday season is upon us, and many pet parents plan to include their furry companions in the festivities. As you gear up for the holidays, it is important to try to keep your pet’s eating and exercise habits as close to their normal routine as possible. Also, please be sure to steer pets clear of the following unhealthy treats, toxic plants and dangerous decorations.

 

Be Careful with Seasonal Plants and Decorations

  • Oh, Christmas Tree: Securely anchor your Christmas tree so it doesn’t tip and fall, causing possible injury to your pet. This will also prevent the tree water—which may contain fertilizers that can cause stomach upset—from spilling. Stagnant tree water is a breeding ground for bacteria, and your pet could end up with nausea or diarrhea should he imbibe.
  • Avoid Mistletoe & Holly: Holly, when ingested, can cause pets to suffer nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems. And many varieties of lilies can cause kidney failure in cats if ingested. Opt for just-as-jolly artificial plants made from silk or plastic, or choose a pet-safe bouquet.
  • Tinsel-less Town: Kitties love this sparkly, light-catching “toy” that’s easy to bat around and carry in their mouths. But a nibble can lead to a swallow, which can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting, dehydration and possible surgery. It’s best to brighten your boughs with something other than tinsel.
  • That Holiday Glow: Don’t leave lighted candles unattended. Pets may burn themselves or cause a fire if they knock candles over. Be sure to use appropriate candle holders, placed on a stable surface. And if you leave the room, put the candle out!
  • Wired Up: Keep wires, batteries and glass or plastic ornaments out of paws’ reach. A wire can deliver a potentially lethal electrical shock and a punctured battery can cause burns to the mouth and esophagus, while shards of breakable ornaments can damage your pet’s mouth and digestive tract.

 

Avoid Holiday Food Dangers

  • Skip the Sweets: By now you know not to feed your pets chocolate and anything sweetened with xylitol, but do you know the lengths to which an enterprising pet will go to chomp on something yummy? Make sure to keep your pets away from the table and unattended plates of food, and be sure to secure the lids on garbage cans.
  • Leave the Leftovers: Fatty, spicy and no-no human foods, as well as bones, should not be fed to your furry friends. Pets can join the festivities in other fun ways that won’t lead to costly medical bills.
  • Careful with Cocktails: If your celebration includes adult holiday beverages, be sure to place your unattended alcoholic drinks where pets cannot get to them. If ingested, your pet could become weak, ill and may even go into a coma, possibly resulting in death from respiratory failure.
  • Selecting Special Treats: Looking to stuff your pet’s stockings? Stick with chew toys that are basically indestructible, Kongs that can be stuffed with healthy foods or chew treats that are designed to be safely digestible. Long, stringy things are a feline’s dream, but the most risky toys for cats involve ribbon, yarn and loose little parts that can get stuck in the intestines, often necessitating surgery. Surprise kitty with a new ball that’s too big to swallow, a stuffed catnip toy or the interactive cat dancer.
  • Please visit our People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets page for more information.

 

Plan a Pet-Safe Holiday Gathering

  • House Rules: If your animal-loving guests would like to give your pets a little extra attention and exercise while you’re busy tending to the party, ask them to feel free to start a nice play or petting session.
  • Put the Meds Away: Make sure all of your medications are locked behind secure doors, and be sure to tell your guests to keep their meds zipped up and packed away, too.
  • A Room of Their Own: Give your pet his own quiet space to retreat to—complete with fresh water and a place to snuggle. Shy pups and cats might want to hide out under a piece of furniture, in their carrying case or in a separate room away from the hubbub.
  • New Year’s Noise: As you count down to the new year, please keep in mind that strings of thrown confetti can get lodged in a cat’s intestines, if ingested, perhaps necessitating surgery. Noisy poppers can terrify pets and cause possible damage to sensitive ears. And remember that many pets are also scared of fireworks, so be sure to secure them in a safe, escape-proof area as midnight approaches.
  • Deepwood Veterinary Clinic

    Deepwood Veterinary Clinic
    7300 Ordway Rd.
    Centreville, VA 20121
    (703) 631-9133
    email: deepwoodvet@gmail.com
  • Office Hours

    Open 7 Days a Week, 8am - 8pm
    Monday - Saturday by Appointment
    Sunday for urgent/emergency care

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