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Thanksgiving with your pets

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The Thanksgiving holiday is nearly upon us, with its smells of turkey roasting and sounds of happy chatter as friends and family gather to celebrate. Uncle Bob looks at Rover’s begging puppy eyes and ca’t help but give him the turkey leg bone to chew.

Then cousin Sally decides she doesn’t like the sage stuffing, so she tosses some under the dining table to a grateful Miss Kitty. The dishes are cleaned, football is over, and company goes home. Everything seems peaceful until later that night when Rover’s belly starts hurting and Miss Kitty vomits on the rug.

Don’t let your Thanksgiving holiday get ruined by an emergency visit to your veterinarian! Taking a few precautions can keep your pet happy and healthy this turkey day.

Never feed bones to your pet. Bird bones are especially dangerous because they are brittle and easily splinter leaving sharp ends. The bone pieces can get stuck in the esophagus or GI tract and cause irritation and obstruction. The sharp points can pierce through the wall of the stomach or intestines and cause fatal internal bleeding. A punctured intestine can also result in peritonitis – a potentially deadly infection that occurs from spillage of GI contents and bacteria into the abdomen.

Giving table scraps to your pets is also a no-no. Foods that are rich or fatty can trigger inflammation of the pancreas, a disese called pancreatitis. The pancreas makes enzymes that are released into the intestine to aid in the digestion of food. In pancreatitis, these enzymes are activated early and begin to digest the pancreas itself. Signs include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, depression and decreased appetite. Pancreatitis requires aggressive treatment and can be fatal.

Sage and other herbs are frequently used in Thanksgiving recipes. These herbs contain essental oils and resins that can be toxic to pets, causing GI distress and depression of the central nervous system. Cats, in particular, can be especially sensitive to these essential oils.

Even foods that are no high in fat or richly seasoned can cause stomach upset, abdominal discomfort and diarrhea. It is best to continue to feed your pets their regular diets during this holiday.

Watch the garbage. All sorts of tempting, but dangerous, treats are beckoning to your pet from the trash can and counter tops. Aluminum foil, plastic wraps, turkey bages, strings, and other items can cause choking or intestinal obstruction if swallowed. Emergency surgery may be required to remove these foreign objects – which is no one’s idea of a happy holiday tradition!

It is easy for all those extra feet in the house to accidentally kick over or spill your pet’s water bowl. Be sure to check it frequently to ensure there is always plently of fresh water available.

And finally, remember that not every pet is a social butterfly. The Thanksgiving festivities can be overwhelming to our furry friends. Make sure they have a quiet refuge to which they can retreat and observe them carefully for signs of stress.

Happy Halloween!

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Halloween is one of my favorite holidays – fun for the whole family! But Halloween can hold some hidden dangers for our furry friends. Here are some tips to ensure that a happy and safe time is had by all.

Don’t give any of your Halloween treats to your pets. All chocolate candies, especially dark chocolate and baker’s chocolate, are dangerous for your pets. Chocolate can cause a variety of problems ranging from simple GI distress (vomiting and diarrhea) to more severe toxicity, including abnormal heart rhythm, seizures and death. Many sugar-free candies and gums are made with the artificial sweetener, xylitol.

This sweetener results in release of excessive amounts of insulin, resulting in a severe drop in blood sugar. Signs may progress to depression, seizures, and liver failure. Another big toxic risk for dogs includes anything with raisins or grapes. Even just a few raisins or grapes can cause sudden kidney failure and death.

The constant ringing of the doorbell and sounds from excited trick-or-treaters in scary costumes can be stressful to even the most well-adjusted pet. Keeping your pet in a room away from the front door during trick-or-treating hours can help prevent unnecessary anxiey. It is also easy for a pet to slip out the door unnoticed in all of the Halloween excitement. Be sure your pets have collars, tage and microchips so they may be safely returned home in the event of an unplanned escape. If you are going to be away from the house, consider leaving a television or radio on for your pet to mask the sound of loud noises outside.

If you choose to dress your pet in a costume this Halloween, be sure that the costume fits correctly and does not cause any restriction to your pet’s movement, hearing, vision, or breathing. There should be no dangling parts or small pieces to the costume that could pose a stangulation hazard, or that could be chewed off, swallowed or choke your pet. Always be sure your pet is not showing signs of stress while costumed. If your pet seems miserable or anzious, take the costume off right away.

Remember that Halloween is supposed to be fun! By following a few precautions and being mindul of your pet’s behavior and stress level, every one can have a happy and safe Halloween.

Happy Halloween from Dr. Dawn Karnicki & the staff of Delaware Animal Clinic!

Holiday Travel with Your Pet

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The holiday season often means traveling out of town to visit friends and family. Including your pets in these holiday adventures can be fun for everybody, but it is important to plan ahead and take some basic precautions to keep your furry family safe and healthy.

Before you decide to travel with your pets, make sure they are comfortable with travel. Cats are extremely attached to their own territory, so think twice before including them in your travel plans. Unlike dogs, who often view car rides as a grand adventure with their beloved family, most cats see travel as an entirely negative prospect. Cats not only fear leaving their familiar environment, those not used to being in a crate are additionally stressed by their fear of being enclosed. The strange sounds and motions of a car or plane can make them even more frightened.

If you must travel with your cat, introduce your cat to a carrier that has no precious negative experiences associated with it. Keep the carrier out in an area where your cat likes to play and sleep so that it is available for your cat to explore. Line the carrier with a soft blanket and put treats, food, or toys in it. Once your cat becomes comfortable with the carrier, you can start closing the door, then going on short trips. A synthetic feline facial pheromone product, called Feliway, can be sprayed in the carrier 30 minutes prior to travel. This product decreases signs of anxiety in cats and can help them relax during their journeys.

Many dogs are already used to going for car rides with their family, but some dogs do not travel well. They may whine, bark, pace, drool, or even vomint or defecate. Just like cats, the stress these dogs experience can be eased by advanced training to become comfortable in a crate. The same crate can then be used as a safe “home” for your dog in the car. Be sure to place familiar and favorite toys in the crate, too. Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) spray or collar can also reduce anxiety and fear.

Even dogs that are excellent travelers should be restrained in some way in the car to prevent distraction to the driver and increase safety for the pet. There are car seats, hanesses, and seat belts especially designed for dogs of all sizes. Always use a leash when getting your dog in and out of the car to prevent escape or injury.

Now that everyone is ready to go, don’t forget to pack for your pets when you are packing for yourself. All pets should wear an identification tag with your name and cell phone number. Having your pet also implanted with a microchip increases your chance of recovery should it become lost. The microchip data can even be updated with contact information for the hotel, friend or family member where you are staying on your trip.

Bring along your veterinarian’s contact information and a list of veterinary phone numbers and emergency clinics located along the way and at your final destination. A copy of your pet’s records, or at least a summary of medical conditions and vaccine records, including rabies certificate, should be with you.

If you are traveling by airplane, a health certificate issued no longer that 10 days prior to the flight will be required. This health certificate is only available from a licensed veterinarian after an examination has been performed. Individual airlines may have additional restrictions or requirements, so check with your airline.

A leash, collar or harness, bed or blankets, toys, bowls, food and water should be brought for your pet. A supply of your pet’s medications for the entire duration of your trip, plus a few extra days should also be packed. If your pet experiences motion sickness, talk to your veterinarian about medication options. Many pets do better on an empty or near empty stomach when traveling.

As pets are increasingly considered family members, it is natural to want to include them in your holiday travel plans. With some preparation and an honest evaluation of your pet’s travel tolerance, a safe and pleasant trip can be had by all.

Vaccine Overview Part 3

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In parts one and two of our vaccination “alphabet soup” series, the core vaccinations recommended for all cats and dogs were reviewed. But these vaccines are only part of the story. There are two additional categories of vaccinations: noncore/optional and not generally recommended.

Noncore vaccines are those that should be administered under certain circumstances based upon the pet’s lifestyle and where the pet lives or travels.

A commonly administered noncore vaccination is the Leptospira or “Lepto” vaccine – the “L” in your dog’s vaccine record alphabet soup. This vaccine protects against a group of bacteria that causes the disease leptospirosis, which can result in kidney failure, liver failure and death. This disease is of particular importance because it also occurs in people. The Lepto bacteria are found in bodies of water, moist soil or vegetation contaminated by the urine or tissues of infected animals. Raccoons, possums, rabbits, skunks and rodents can all transmit these bacteria. The geographic distribution in Texas is in the central and eastern portions of the state where the highest rainfall is expected. Annual vaccination is recommended.

Another pair of noncore vaccines typically given to most dogs includes the Parainfluenza virus and Bordetella bacteria. These organisms play a role in the disease commonly known as kennel cough. This infection is highly contagious and spreads quite readily amond dogs that are housed together. Therefore, dogs that have a “social” life, including visits to the groomer, pet store, dog park or boarding facility are at increased risk. Most commonly this disease causes a loud, harsh cough, often described as a goose honk. Booster vaccines are advised every 6-12 months.

For our feline friends, the most commonly recommended noncore vaccine is Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV). This virus is transmitted between cats that have close contact with each other, such as mutual grooming, mating, sharing food bowls or litter pans. The immune system gets severely suppressed with this disease, making infected cats susceptible to infections they would normally be able to clear – similar to HIV in humans. In addition, infected cats may develop certain cancers and blood disorders.

FeLV has no treatment and is usually fatal. In fact, 80-90% of infected cats die within 3-4 years of initial diagnosis. Kittens are especially susceptible to this virus. Therefore, all kittens should receive a set of two vaccinations followed by a booster in one year. After the initial series of vaccines, a cat’s lifestyle determines whether revaccination is needed. An indoor only cat has little chance of exposure, but a cat that goes outside has a high exposure risk and should be boostered yearly.

Other noncore vaccines exist, but are not routinely given in this area due to low risk. For instance, Lyme disease is a tick-borne disease for which a vaccination exists. This disease is common on the East Coast and in the Upper Midwest, so owners of dogs traveling to those regions should discuss the Lyme vaccination with their veterinarian.

The final group of vaccines includes those categorized as not generally recommended. The diseases involved are either of little clinical significance or respond readily to treatment. Alternatively, these vaccines may have been shown to be ineffective in prevention of disease or may even produce adverse reactions with limited benefits.

Dog vaccines not recommended include: Giardia, canine coronavirus, and canine adenovirus type 1. (Note that canine adenovirus type 2 is a core vaccine that should be given to all puppies and dogs. So don’t get confused!) The vaccines that cats should not receive are FIP and Giardia.

Hopefully, you will now have a better understanding of the “alphabet soup” of vaccine letters on your pet’s records. Be sure to discuss your pet’s lifestyle with your veterinarian so that he or she receives the most appropriate vaccines. There truly is no “one size fits all” when it comes to our furry family members’ vaccination.

Vaccine Overview Part 2

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In our last blog we dove into the alphabet soup of canine core vaccines – DA2P and RV. Our feline friends have their own “alphabet” of vaccine abbreviations. Your cat’s record may have such notations as FeLV, FVRCP or FIV

Similar to dogs, a panal of experts, in this case from the American Association of Feline Practitioners, has provided vaccination guidelines that allow veterinarians across the county to provide the best preventative care for cats. Vaccines are again divided into “core”, optional or “noncore”, and “not generally recommended”.

There are four core vaccines for cats. Core vaccines are recommended for every kitten and cat. The first core vaccine is Rabies virus. Vaccination guidelines are the same as for dogs. Every kitten should receive a Rabies vaccine which should then be boostered at 1 year of age, then every 1 to 3 years depending upon local ordinances.

Feline Panleukopenia Virus (FVP) is the second core vaccine. This virus behaves very similarly to the Parvovirus in dogs; in fact, they are in the same virus family. Rapidly dividing cells, such as white blood cells and intestinal cells, are attacked by the virus. The white blood cell numbers decrease, weakening the immune system. As the intestinal cells are destroyed, vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration rapidly result. This disease is life-threatening and requires aggressive medical care. A full kitten series of Panleukopenia virus vaccinations followed by an adult booster one year later is needed. After that time, revaccination every 3 years is considered protective. This vaccine may be abbreviated as the “P” in your kitty’s record.

The third core vaccine is Feline Herpesvirus-1 (FVH-1). This virus causes the disease known as feline viral rhinotracheitis or, in our alphabet soup, the “FVR” of the vaccination abbreviation. Rhino- refers to the nose, trache- to the windpipe, and- itit indicates inflammation. Putting it all together, you may have guessed that this virus causes upper respiratory infection. The eyes may also become infected by this virus. Signs include sneezing, nasal congestion, conjunctivitis, fever, depression and discharge from the eyes and nose. Just like the herpesviruses that affect people, when a cat becomes infected, it wil carry this virus for the rest of its life. In times of stress, the virus can be reactivated and ifection can occur all over again.

Feline Calicivirus (FCV) is the final recommended core vaccine. This virus is another important cause of upper repiratory infections in cats. Signs are similar to the Feline Herpesvirus. However, this virus also may cause oral disease in cats. Ulcers on the tongue, hard palate, gums, lips or nose may develop. You may notice excessive drooling and reluctance to eat because of these painful ulcers. Both the Herpes- and Calici- viruses are highly contagious and are easily transmitted from cat to cat. Vaccination guidelines are the same for both diseases. After the initial kitten series of FVR and FVC vaccinations and first adult boosters, revaccination is recommended every 3 years.

If you have been paying close attention, you may have noticed some letters of the vaccination “alphabet soup” have not yet been mentioned. In the final installment of this vaccine information series, noncore vaccines for both dogs and cats will be discussed. Start thinking about your pet’s lifestyle – it is an important factor in determining what other vaccines your veterinarian may be recommending.

Vaccine Overview Part 1

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DHLPP, FVRCP, BORD-PI, RV, DA2PPC….. Ever wonder what all those letters on your pet’s receipt after an annual vaccine visit mean? What diseases are your pets being vaccinated for anyway? Are all vaccines needed every year for every pet no matter what?

Before I was a veterinarian, I remember dutifully taking my dogs and cats into my vet every year for “shots”. The receipt always had an alphabet soup list of letters that showed what vaccines were administered. But I never really understood what was given or why.

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has developed comprehensive canine vaccine guidelines that allow veterinarians across the county to be consistent and provide the best preventative care. Vaccines are divided into “core”, optional or “noncore”, and “not generally recommended”.

Core Vaccines are recommended for all puppies and dogs. There are four core vaccines: Rabies, Canine Distemper Virus, Canine Parvovirus and Canine Adenovirus-2.

Most of us have heard of rabies, especially in wild animals such as bats, raccoons, foxes and skunks. This virus is of paricular importance because of the serious risk it represents to people, as well as to pets. Affected animals often show erratic behavior, anxiety, restlessness or aggression. The virus is most commonly transmitted by the bite of an infected animal. Humans who are bitten by a rabid animal and do not receive prompt treatment typically die from respiratory failure within 7 days after symptoms begin. Unvaccinated dogs and cats that are bitten are often euthanized. There are Rabies vaccines available that protect for 1 year or for 3 years, but local ordinances may require annual revaccination.

Canine Distemper Virus is highly contagious and can cause illness in dogs, as well as other animals such as roccoons, ferrets and skunks. The virus affects multiple organ systems, including respiratory, gastrointestinal and neurologic. Since many systems may be involved, clinical signs may vary. Common symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, a thick yellow discharge from the eyes and nose, and coughing. Tremors and seizures may also develop and, if the dog recovers, occur life-long. However, there is no specific cure for this virus and often the disease is fatal. After the initial puppy series of Distemper vaccinations and first adult booster, most formulations of this vaccine provide protection for 3 years. This vaccine is the letter “D” in the canine vaccination alphabet soup.

The third core vaccine is Canine Parvovirus. Canine parvoviral infection is one of the most common and severe infectious diseases of dogs – the one I most commonly see in my practice. It can cause life-threatening damage to your pet’s intestinal tract and immune system. This virus is extremely contagious and strikes rapidly. Signs of “Parvo” include vomiting, diarrhea (often bloody), lack of appetite, fever, and lethargy. This virus may be fatal even with aggressive medical treatment. Just like Distemper, a full puppy series of Parvovirus vaccinations followed by an adult booster one year later is needed. After that time, revaccination every 3 years is considered protective. As you may have guessed, this vaccine is often abbreviated with just a “P” in the pet record.

Canine Adenovirus-2 is the final core vaccine recommended for all puppies and dogs. This virus is also known as the hepatitis virus. Therefore, it may be noted by either “A”, “A2” or “H” in the alphabet soup. Infected animals shed the virus in urine and the secretions from the eyes and nose. Dogs become infected by exposure to these fluids. Signs may be mild such as fever, decreased appetite and energy, or may be severe and include vomiting, diarrhea, swelling under the skin of the head and neck. Respiratory symptoms of coughing and dischard from the eyes and nose may also be present. Severe cases are often fatal. AAHA vaccination recommendations for this virus are the same as for Distemper and Parvo viruses.

Whew! We covered quite a few letters in this blog. We will dive further into the vaccine alphabet soup in Part 2.


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My 3 year-old cat, Princess, just tested positive for the feline leukemia virus. She seems healthy. She is playing, eating and acting normally. What does this test result mean and what can I expect?

The feline leukemia virus (or FeLV) is one of the most important viruses affecting cats. It is found in every region of the country with a nationwide prevalence of 3-4%. In other words, three or four out of every 100 cats have FeLV.

The virus is spread in one of three ways. Most commonly it is spread by direct contact between infected and non-infected cats. FeLV is shed in large amounts in the saliva, as well as other bodily fluids such as nasal secretions, urine and feces. Cats with prolonged close contact, such as cats that live in the same area, share litter pans or food bowls, mate or groom one another are at highest risk for virus transmission.

Kittens can also be infected by the queen (mother cat) in utero during pregnancy. A less common method of transmission is via infected blood.

Once a cat is infected with the leukemia virus, it may be possible for the cat to mount an immune response that clears the virus from the body. However, only about 30% of adult cats infected with FeLV are able to clear the virus. The remaining 70% of cats will become permanently infected.

A confirmatory test submitted to a special reference lab can help assess if the infection may possibly be cleared. I recommend that you ask your veterinarian to run this test (FeLV antigen IFA test).

There may be a period of months or even years between when a cat is infected with FeLV and when she starts showing any clincal signs. So it is not unusual the Princess is still acting normally. Unfortunately, 85% of FeLV-infected cats die withing three years of diagnosis.

The virus invades cells, especially cells of the immune system and bone marrow. Over time, mush like HIV in people, the immune system becomes suppressed. This weakening of the immune system makes the cat susceptible to a wide variety of other infections that she would normally be able to fight off without difficulty.

The virus can also alter the genetic make-up of a cell. When the genetic code is changed, these abnormal cells may then result in a variety of cancers such as lymphoma, leukemia or other tumors.

It is important to carefully monitor your cat for any problems such as: loss of appetitie or decrease in drinking, vomititng, diarrhea, mouth sores, pale or bleeding gums, weakness, weight loss, infected wounds, dull or matted hair coat or any unexplained behavioral changes. If any of these signs are noted, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.

Regular visits to your veterinarian for exams and laboratory testing while your cat is acting normally should also be performed. These visits and tests may detect subtle changes not evident at home. Often early detection of a problem can lead to interventions or therapy changes that may prolong your cat’s life.

There is a vaccine available to help protect cats from contacting FeLV infection. The American Association of Feline Practitioners currently highly recommends FeLV vaccination series in all kittens, with annual boosters for adult cats at risk for exposure. Also, all cats should be tested for FeLV before bringing them into a household.

By watching your cat closely for any changes in condition or behavior, and by working closely with your veterinarian, you can provide your cat with a good quality of life for as long as possible.


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Mosquitoes! The very thought of them makes me start itching. To our canine and feline friends, mosquitoes represent a much more serious threat than a few itchy bumps. Mosquitoes carry a deadly parasite called the heartworm, which is especially prevalent her in Southeast Texas.

Heartworm disease or dirofilariasis is a serious and potentially fatal disease. It is caused by a blood-borne parasite known as Dirofilaria immitis. This parasite requires the mosquito as an intermediate host before it can complete its life cycle in your pet. As many as 30 species of mosquitoes can transmit heartworms.

Adult heartworms are found in the heart and adjacent large blood vessels of infected dogs. Adult heartworms can grow up to 12 inches in length and life 5-7 years. During this time, the female produces millions of offspring called microfilaria. Adult heartworms cause disease by clogging the heart and major blood vessels leading from the heart. They also interfere with the valve action in the heart. By clogging the main blood vessel, the blood supply to other organs of the body is reduced, particularly blood flow to the lungs, liver and kidneys, causing these organs to malfunction and eventually leading to dealth.

In our feline friends, the worms usually settle in the blood vessels of the lungs. Cats develop more of a lung disease than dogs, complete with respiratory distress and chronic coughing, vomiting or sudden death. There is no single good test for heartworms in cats. And there is no safe treatment. Therefore, prevention is key.

All dogs and cats are at risk, even those animals that live indoors. There may be an indoor-only cat, but there is no such thing as an outdoor-only mosquito! In fact, 1/3 or more feline cases are seen in indoor-only cats.

The good news is that heartworms are easy to prevent. There are flavored heartwom pills or topical liquid preventatives that are administered every 30 days all year-long which provide effective protection against heartworm infection. For dogs there is even a convenient injection that only has to be administered once every 6 months. Many of these products also protect your pet against certain intestinal parasites, such as roundworms and hookworms. In addition, some prevent external parasites such as flease and ear mites.

Puppies and kittens should be started on heartworm preventative at 6-8 weeks of age. Dogs older than 6 months of age should have a sinple blood test done by their veterinarian prior to starting medication. This test only requires a few drops of blood and results are typically available withing 10 minutes.

Southeast Texas has one of the higest incidences of heartworm infection in the United States; but a simple, once a month preventative (or once every 6 months injection) can protect your pet against this deadly parasite.


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My pets are having a problem with fleas. Nothing I do seems to work. What options do I have?

Fleas are the most common parasite I see in dogs and cats. Due to the mild weather in Southeast Texas, they are a year-long problem. Pets can acquire fleas any time they visit an area that is infested. Such places may include areas frequented by other dogs or even areas with wildlife, such as raccoons and opossums.

The most common flea of both dogs and cats is the cat flea. To understand how best to rid your pet of fleas, it is important to be aware of the flea life cycle. There are four stages to the life cycle. The first stage is the egg, which represents about 50% of the total flea population in your environment. A single adult flea can lay 40 to 50 eggs every day and up to 2000 fleas in her lifetime. The eggs fall off your pet into the carpet, bedding, furniture, cracks in the floor, etc. Anywhere your pet spends time may be infested with eggs.

In as few as 14 to 28 days, the eggs may hatch into flea larvae. These larvae account for 35% of the flea population. Larvae dislike light, so they migrate into warm, dark, moist areas such as deep into carpet fibers, under furniture, or under leaves, decks, or branches.

The flea larvae then develop into a cocoon-like form called a pupa, which makes up approximately 10% of the fleas in your home. Their cocoon is like a thick, protective coat which makes the pupae resistant to insecticides. A pupa will not hatch until stimulated by vibrations, heat or carbon dioxide emitted from your pet.

Under appropriate conditions, a pupa can emerge into an adult flea in 5-10 days; but it can also survive for up to 9 months. So if you have ever experienced a ?sudden? flea problem after returning home after a vacation or moving into a new home, it is very probable all these pupae were already present, just waiting for the right signals from you and your pet.

Once the adult flea emerges from the cocoon, it heads for the light and waits for a passing dog or cat to feed upon. It is a common misconception that fleas jump from pet to pet. Once on an animal, the flea will remain on the pet for the remainder of the flea?s life. The adult fleas that you see account for only 5% of the total flea population.

If conditions are right, the entire life cycle from egg to adult flea can be completed in as little as 14-28 days. So in just 30 days, 10 fleas can become an infestation of up to 250,000 adult fleas!!!

Successful flea control includes treating your ALL your pets year-round. Even one untreated pet will serve as a constant food source and allow new fleas to develop.

The type of flea product used is also important. The powders, sprays, shampoos, dips and flea collars available at your local store are not generally effective. They may kill some of the adult fleas on your pet, but are gone in a few hours and do nothing to treat the other 95% of the flea problem. And many of the over-the-counter dog preventatives, if mistakenly applied to a cat, are toxic or even deadly. Excellent, veterinary-recommended flea preventatives that are administered to your pet once every month are available.

There is no single ideal product for every dog or cat; so your veterinarian can help you decide what will work best for your situation. Just remember that the keys to successful flea control include understanding the flea life cycle, being consistent with prevention every month all year-round, and treating every household pet ? indoors and out.

Stinky Dogs

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My dogs have lately had an awful, musky odor. I washed them only two days ago and the odor was back again. Could it be the smell of sweat?

Doggy odors can come from many sources. Some of these odors may be unpleasant to us, but are completely natural and normal. However, there are other times that a foul odor can indicate disease.

Dogs do not have the human-type sweat glands that produce perspiration used in cooling and body temperature regulation. They do have several other types of sweat glands in the skin, nose and paw pads.

The skin glands, called apocrine glands, produce chemical signals that are used to communicate with other dogs. These glands also make anti-microbial substances to help keep the skin and coat healthy. Some, dogs especially those with seasonal allergies, can produce excessive amounts of apocrine gland secretions which can make the coat feel wet.

Another type of sweat gland, the eccrine gland, is found on a dog’s nose and on the pads of the feet. Their function is to keep these areas moist and working properly. Natural micro-organisms such as bacteria live on the surface of the foot pads and are responsible for some of the odor there. When the paw pads are wet or moist, their odor becomes much more pronounced.

More odor-producing glands called anal glands are found around the dog’s rectum. These sacs secrete a particularly foul smelling natural substance that is another way dogs signal to each other. This material coats the stool as it passes and allows a personal “calling card” to be left. If a dog is stressed or frightened, a large amount the the anal gland secretions can be expressed all at once, leaving a very strong fishy or musky odor behind. Whenever a dog sniffs another dog’s rear end, it is this smell they are investigation.

Stinky dogs can also indicate that there is an underlying medical problem. Bacterial or yeast skin infections or overgrowth are often quite foul smelling and can be particularly severe in a dog with a thick undercoat. The summertime often makes this condition worse, especially if the dog likes to swim. Medicated shampoos and thorought drying, even with a dair dryer, can be helpful for our water hounds.

Ear infections are another common source of unnatural doggie odor. Since a dog’s ear canal is deep and crooked, it can be easy to miss an ear problem. Pay attention if you notice a yeasty or sewage-type smell coming for the ears.

Imagine how bad your breath would be if you never brushed your teeth! Now think of how often you brush your pet’s teeth. It should come as no surprise that dental disease is another top cause for doggy odor. Remember to “flip the lip” to check for red gums or tartar build-up.

Even what your dog ingests can result in an unpleasant odor. Fatty acid supplements containing fish oils and some salmon or other fish-based dog foods can result in fishy-smelling dogs. And dogs can get flatulence, which can be worse with certain diets or with gastrointestinal disease.

So, a “stinky dog” can be completely natural or may be due to certain diseases. A visit to your veterinarian can help sort out the source of the odor and put you on the path to sweeter smells.