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Tomorrow’s Forecast: Parasite Prevention

If you have pets, understanding the risks and means of preventing parasites is a key part in keeping them happy and healthy.  While the cost of preventatives may seem high, and to some an expense greater than the risk, the costs of treating many of the common parasites seen in companion animals is much higher.  Some may even think that parasites are merely a nuisance, and pose no real threat when in reality many of the common parasite infections we strive to prevent in our patients can lead to illness, lethargy, chronic arthritis, dehydration, and even death.

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Now that we’ve decided that preventing them is safer and easier than treating them, how do we decide which parasites our pets are at risk of?  CAPC, or The Companion Animal Parasite Council, is “an independent council established to create guidelines for the optimal control of internal and external parasites that threaten the health of pets and people. (capcvet.org). Every year CAPC issues a forecast map of the predicted areas affected by particular parasites.  The map includes fleas, ticks, heartworm, mosquitos, among others as well.  These predictions are a good resource for you and your veterinarian to consider when selecting preventatives.  Per their recommendations, the old idea of only using preventatives during warmer months is certainly no longer considered safe or current.

And while preventing fleas and ticks in general is valuable, what is also an important, and often overlooked factor, is the prevention of the diseases and pathogens that they carry.  Among their predictions for 2014 is that the tickborne diseases Lyme and Erlichiosis are on the move and the areas threatened are expanding.  Below are a few of the highlighted predictions that are expected in the 2014 report:

  • Ticks that spread Lyme disease are expanding their territory from the Northeastern states westward into areas of the Midwest and southward into the Mid-Atlantic states. Lyme disease will continue to be a threat in New England and the Pacific Northwest.
  • The risk of ehrlichiosis will be very high from Virginia to Texas and as far west as Texas.
  • Heartworm disease is also expected to be a substantial threat, with Texas, the Southeast and Pacific Coast areas from Northern California to Washington state seeing higher than normal levels of infection.

CAPC is still in the process of releasing all of their predictions, but they do offer an interactive and very useful tool call the Parasite Prevalence Map on their site.  The map allows you to select down even to the county level for several parasites & tickborne diseases. We selected a few to share below for highlighting the prevalence of these in Loudoun County.  While the data is limited to those dogs and cats tested through the laboratories used by CAPC’s data, it is significant as a means of gauging the areas risks.  As the CAPC as well as the American Animal Hospital Association guidelines suggest, we recommend annual Heartworm testing which includes testing for three tickborne diseases: Lyme, Ehrlichiosis, and Anaplasmosis

Heartworm Prevalence in Dogs:  1 in 79 Dogs tested positive in Loudoun County

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Lyme Prevalence in Dogs:  1 in 11 Dogs tested positive in Loudoun CountyImage

Ehrlichiosis Prevalence in Dogs:  1 in 10 Dogs tested positive in Loudoun CountyImageRoundworm Prevalence in Cats:  1 in 21 Cats tested positive in Loudoun County

ImageWhen you consider heartworm or flea & tick preventatives, and break their costs down per month, the cost is well worth knowing that your pet and your family are protected from the effects of parasite infestation…both internal parasites and external parasites.  It’s always important to discuss your pet’s specific needs with your trusted veterinarian to assess their risks and review the options that are available in preventatives.  Some are truly better than others, and many of the manufacturers will only back their products if purchased through a veterinarian.  Your veterinarian can also inform you of any rebates or offers that are available for the recommended products.

The veterinarians at Old Mill Veterinary Hospital currently recommend using year-round prevention with Sentinel (Heartworm, Roundworm, Hookworms, Whipworms, Fleas) and Vectra 3D (Fleas, Ticks, Mosquitos, Biting Flies, Lice, Mites).  We do carry other preventatives for those patients where the previously mentioned options may not be the best fit.  These two options provide the greatest advantages while remaining cost effective.  While there are many products on the market that make claims, it is always important to apply them correctly and ensure you understand their risks and proven effectiveness.  Our team of dedicated and trained team members are always happy to review the application process, and you’re even welcome to schedule a free technician appointment for us to do it for you!

Reference Sites: – Capcvet.org    – Parasite Prevalence Maps    –  DVM 360 

Positive Behaviors at the Vet

As a passionate pet parent, you ultimately see your pet as a reflection of you and the love and devotion you have for them.  It’s always important to remember that our canine and feline companions receive an enormous about of feedback from our own emotions and behaviors, even when we think we’re not sharing anything at all.  Often times when we’re bringing our pets to our veterinarian, even for routine wellness visits and vaccinations, we have some stress related to the visit.  Even when we know that the veterinarian staff and doctors adore our pets, and treat them as if they were their own.

When we first schedule our appointment, we may be thinking things like:

  • “I hope I can make that appointment, I’ll have to rush home from work, grab Barkley, and pray there is no traffic.”
  • “Hopefully the lobby is quiet, Fluffy hates her carrier and is not a fan of dogs.”
  • “I hate needles, hopefully they can do the vaccinations in another room!”.

The list of other thoughts could goes on and on.  The goal for us as pet parents, is always to provide the care and support our pets need, as they are endlessly providing us with their joy.  So, many times we unknowingly transfer the stress of our day and any worries we may have about our veterinary visit right onto our pet.  Then, when we get there and are surrounded by other pet loving parents, our instinct to want our pets to be on their best behavior sets in.  As a long time veterinary professional, and certified dog trainer, I can attest to the fact that the majority of all veterinary professionals are just thrilled you love your pet enough to provide them the wellness care and medical treatments they need.  If Fluffy is bouncing off the walls excited, or cowering under the chair, it’s important to understand that a group of trained and attentive veterinary staff are not judging their behavior.  To be honest, they’re usually relating it to their own pet’s crazy ways!

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There are many things we as pet parents, as well as your veterinary team, can do to make the experience easier, for any pet showing signs of extreme excitement or fear…and everything in between.  Below we’ll touch on just a few examples.

1. If your pet is overly excitable or extremely nervous, you can ask to be taken to an exam room quickly, and let the staff know you understand if there is still a wait, but your pet will calm down more quickly and be more prepared for the exam and treatments.

2. Avoid being overly verbal with commands and elevated expectations.  There is a lot going on at a veterinary clinic for your pet to take in.  Lots of smells, sounds, and movement.  Imagine if you had your overly zealous personal trainer at your doctor appointments, making you do sit-ups and lunges in the lobby before your physical.  Just take that time to reinforce any good behaviors your pet chooses to do, capturing those moments with calm praise, and a high value treat reward.

3. Desensitize your pet to the hospital.  This is a step we work with our new puppy patients and any pets that show fear or nervousness, and we see great improvements quite quickly in their comfort at future exams.  When you’re out and about with your pet, and anywhere close to your veterinary hospital, stop in!  Take your pet in, have them great their favorite staff members, give them a treat, and leave.  If you’re watching the treats…maybe slip in a weight check while you’re their, and praise your dog and yourself for any progress in your goals.  These “just for fun” visits will do wonders for you, your pet, and the staff when they need treatments or in the event they need to be seen for an emergency. They will recognize it as a familiar place, and not just a place where they get a few pinches on the hind end and their temperature taken.

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4.  For our feline friends…always keep the carrier as a regular part of your cats routine.  Not just for trips to the vet.  Our cat companions often don’t travel with us as much as our dogs do so many times the carrier is just associated with trips to the vet. We often allow ourselves to create elaborate plans of surprise and cunning stealth to trick our cats into the carrier, or just resort to a battle of agility and handling.  Don’t ever forget how trainable cats are!  Try tucking the carrier out of the way, leave the door open, and provide your cat with a comfy place to relax.  Use toys and treats to motivate them to go in and out comfortably.  If your cat is a fan of wet food, feed it at the back of the carrier…rewarding them for being in the carrier.  This way, when it’s time to go to the vet, you can just toss in a treat or toy, close the door, and be on your way.

5.  Stay calm and ask for help!  If you’re having trouble handling your pet in any situation, or if you’re frustrated that their behavior isn’t improving…ask for help.  Discuss behavior training with your veterinarian or seek help from a trainer.  Having a very reliable group of positive behaviors that your dog performs in many situations and levels of distraction, can make getting them our and to the vet much easier.  Also, working with a trainer can help you build a stronger level of confidence in the foundations of positive reinforcement and how dogs develop, strengthen, and maintain positive behaviors while working to decrease or eliminate inappropriate behaviors, anxiety, and fear.

There are plenty of other methods and tricks to reduce anxiety and improve the likelihood you and your pet will have a positive and enjoyable vet visit.  Hopefully these get you thinking and continue to support the bond you and your pet share.

Taking the Bite Out of Home Dental Care

Darin Sellers – Friday, February 21, 2014

As pet parents there is always a lot of information to take in when you’re visiting your veterinarian for a routine wellness exam, let alone a visit when our pets are not feeling their best.  Could you imagine if when we had to rely on our annual physical for all of our preventative vaccines, dental screening, eye exam, behavioral/mental health screening, and occasionally a manicure and pedicure?  I don’t know about you, but I think I would need more than a few cookies to convince me to schedule my own physical exam!   At Old Mill Veterinary Hospital, our doctors understand that there is a lot to cover, and we are here to listen to all of our concerns, and review all of the things that go in to helping your pet have a long, happy, and healthy life.

Just as with annual wellness exam, or semi-annual for our senior pets, regular dental care is imperative to our pet’s overall well-being.  Dental health can be greatly improved by routine home care, as well as regular professional cleanings with your veterinarian.  Just as with their human parents, pets cannot rely on one or the other as an exclusive path to healthy teeth and gums.  Getting your pet used to the idea of regular brushing is easiest when they’re young, but don’t think an old dog can’t learn new tricks.  Even older cats, through positive reinforcement, patience, and desensitization, can learn to enjoy having their teeth brushed.  Patience is a big part in having your pet relaxed and happy for their at home dental care.  The slower you introduce them to the process, and the more they associate the tooth brush with their favorite treats and their doting parent’s praise the more success you will have.

If your pet has accumulated tarter, it must be removed ultrasonically at the hospital under a procedure called prophylaxis.  By introducing them to home care when they’re between 8-12 weeks, and continuing it regularly, you can reduce the accumulation of tarter and possibly push back the need for a dental cleanings with your veterinarian.  But as with our own teeth, every pet’s dental needs vary, and are related to many factors including: breed, diet, toys/treats that affect their teeth positively or negatively.   After your pet’s dental cleaning at Old Mill Veterinary Hospital, our Licensed Veterinary Technicians will carefully review the procedure and provide training on at home dental care.  Below are the steps to introducing and successfully brushing your pet’s teeth.

Day 1: Gently pet and scratch the muzzle, slowly lifting the lip for about 30-45 seconds.  Reward with a treat at the end of this session.  For shy dogs, or dogs that are being introduced to this process later in life, repeat this step for several days to 2 weeks until they are relaxed and comfortable.

Day 2: Repeat as above and gently run your finger over your pet’s teeth for 30-45 seconds.  Reward and praise again.  (Repeat as above when necessary)

Day 3: Repeat Day 2, adding 15 seconds time to running over your pet’s teeth.  Always reward with praise and treat.

Day 4: If all is going well, insert your finger brush over your index finger and then gently insert into your pet’s mouth and rub the teeth for about 30 seconds.  Alternatively you can use a small, soft children’s toothbrush, especially for pets with longer muzzles.  To increase the success, you can place a small amount of broth, peanut butter (for dogs), or anchovy paste (for cats) on the brush.

Day 5: Repeat as above and increase the time the brush is in your pet’s mouth by 30 seconds.

Day 6: Repeat as above, adding a small amount of the CET dentifrice to the brush and gently pass it over the teeth.

Day 7: You know your pet best of all.  If you feel he/she is accepting the brushing well, gradually increase the brushing time until you are able to spend at least one minute on each side.  The goal is to always end with both you and your pet relaxed, calm, and happy!

Here are a few more helpful hints:

  • Be patient.
  • Praise your pet.
  • Reward your pet with treats at the end of each session.  It should be fun so you both want to make it a regular part of the week!
  • Stop immediately if your pet shows any sign of aggression.  Call the hospital for advice.
  • Human toothpaste is for humans, NOT pets.  It can be quite harmful for your pet and cause digestive upset and even vomiting.
  • Remember to just lift the lip to apply the brush or your finger to their teeth, attempting to hold their mouth open will be uncomfortable for your pet and decrease the success of the process.
  • Brushing teeth at home will decrease the frequency of professional dental care.
  • Most importantly – Make it fun!

If you’d like to learn more about dental care and the important role it plays in your pet’s health, visit our videos page HERE and view the dental healthcare video or call 703-779-2903 and our trained and animal loving staff can assist you.  If you’d like a brushing demo, please feel free to ask and we can certainly set up a technician appointment to review the steps above with you and your furry friend.

Pet Dental Health Month

We may not all admit we accept kisses from our canine and feline companions, but regardless of the rules we try and hold true to, they happen.  If you regret them, maybe it’s time to discuss dental health with your Veterinarian.  At Old Mill Veterinary Hospital, every month is dental health month, but since February is National Pet Dental Health Month we put a little more focus on sharing the important facts as to how your pet’s dental health relates to their over-all well-being.

Old Mill Veterinary Hospital is Accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) which means we meet or exceed over 900 Standards of Veterinary Care.  Included in those are our level of care for your pet’s dental needs.  AAHA studies have found that “dental care of dogs and cats is one of the most commonly overlooked areas of pet health care; however, it is necessary to provide optimum health and quality of life. Diseases of the oral cavity, if left untreated, are often painful and can lead to more serious health problems including heart, lung and kidney disease.”

We will be dedicating this month’s blog posts and facebook facts to all things dental!  A routine exam with your veterinarian should include a comprehensive oral exam and an opportunity to discuss concerns related to your pet’s dental health needs.  We will be featuring tips or not only addressing problems related to your pet’s teeth and gums, but preventing problems too!  Read more on AAHA’s Dentistry standards here. http://bit.ly/1fDHfbz