NewsletterNewsletter

The veterinarians and staff at the Animal & Bird Hospital of Del Mar are pleased to provide you with an online newsletter. This fun and fact-filled newsletter is updated on a regular basis.

Included in the newsletter are articles pertaining to pet care, information on our animal hospital, as well as news on the latest trends and discoveries in veterinary medicine.

Please enjoy the newsletter!

Current Newsletter Topics

February is National Pet Dental Health Month

Dental care is vital to your pet's health. If you've already established a dental care program for your pet, you're off to a great start. But if your pet hasn't received a dental exam from your veterinarian, it's time to get started. February is National Pet Dental Health Month, the perfect time to schedule a dental exam for your pet and develop a home dental care regimen for your best friend.

Why is dental care so important for your pet? Periodontal disease is the number one diagnosed problem in pets. By the age of two, more than 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats have periodontal disease in one form or another. The buildup of plaque and tartar on your pet's teeth leads to bacterial infections that can enter the bloodstream and infect other parts of your pet's body. Periodontal disease has been linked to heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, osteoporosis and other problems.

The good news is that periodontal disease is easily prevented. Regular dental cleanings and a home dental care regimen can eliminate the plaque and tartar that lead to gum disease and oral infections. During a dental cleaning, your veterinarian also performs a complete oral examination of your pet. This includes screening for oral cancer, broken teeth and cavities. Spotting these problems early makes them easier to treat and improves your pet's overall oral health.

Your pet's dental cleaning is more involved than the same process you go through at your dentist's office. Anesthesia is required to keep your pet still and comfortable during the procedure. Because of this, your pet undergoes a thorough physical examination before each dental cleaning. Laboratory blood tests, as well as other diagnostic procedures are also used to screen for potential problems and risks before anesthesia is administered. Using these results, your veterinarian develops a safe anesthetic protocol specifically for your pet.

A Cat's Teeth Before and After a Dental Cleaning

During a dental cleaning, tartar is removed from your pet's teeth with a hand scaler. Next, a periodontal probe is used to check for pockets under the gumline - where periodontal disease and bad breath start. An ultrasonic scaler is used to clean above the gumline and a curette is used to clean the teeth under the gumline and in the crevices. Finally, the teeth are polished and an anti-bacterial solution is applied to help delay future tartar build-up.

Dental care doesn't end in your veterinarian's office. Brushing your pet's teeth at home is an added level of protection against gum disease. In order to be most effective, brushing must be done at least three times a week; however, daily brushing is ideal. Brushing your pet's teeth can be supplemented with antiseptic rinses. Some pet foods and treats are also effective in preventing plaque and tartar buildup. However, there is no substitute for regular brushing and professional dental cleanings.


Call your veterinary hospital to schedule a dental examination and cleaning for your pet today. Your best friend will thank you!

Your Dog and Heartworm Disease

Heartworm is a serious, life-threatening disease of dogs. It is due to the presence of the adult stage of the parasite, Dirofilaria immitis, in the pulmonary arteries and right ventricle of the heart. Until the early 1970s, the occurrence of heartworm in the United States was primarily confined to the southeastern part of the country. Today, it is found almost everywhere in the continental United States and is a major threat to the dog population of Canada.

Transmission

Transmission of heartworm depends upon the mosquito population of an area. About 70 species of mosquitoes are capable of transmitting the disease. The more mosquitoes in an area, the greater the chance of heartworm transmission. Heartworm disease occurs most commonly in dogs. It has recently been shown that heartworm is a major cause of heart disease in cats. Heartworm also infects wild animals. Coyotes, wolves and foxes are carriers of the disease in the wild. In a particular area, when the wild animals are infected, the disease is permanent.

The adult heartworm is 6 to 14 inches in length. It is thread-like, white in color, and primarily found in the pulmonary arteries and right ventricle of the heart. When adult male and female heartworms are present, mating occurs. The female releases large amounts of small, microscopic "microfilariae" into the bloodstream.



Since heartworm is most commonly seen in dogs, this article is focusing primarily on canine heartworm. However, most of this information is also true for the other species that contract heartworm. The circulating microfilariae can live up to two years in the dog's bloodstream. Several microfilariae are ingested by a mosquito when it bites a dog. The mosquito serves as an intermediate host as well as vector (the transmitting agent) for the disease. The mosquito spreads the disease to another dog by injecting the microfilariae at the time of the bite.

Infection

In order for the microfilariae to become infectious, they must develop inside the body of the mosquito. This development occurs only under certain environmental conditions. Two weeks of temperature at or above 70 degrees F is required. As a result of this temperature requirement, transmission of the disease is limited to the warm months.

After the microfilariae have gone through their development, they are ready to infect a new victim. During a blood meal (mosquito bite), the mosquito injects the microfilariae into a new dog. These small, microscopic worms migrate under the skin and eventually enter the dog's blood stream. About 6 months after the initial mosquito bite, the microfilariae arrive at the heart. The final maturation and the mating of the heartworm occur in the pulmonary arteries. The adult worms live in the pulmonary arteries and right side of the heart, where they can survive for seven years.

Adult heartworms cause inflammation and thickening of pulmonary arteries. As time passes, more arteries become inflamed and clots begin to appear. The blocked pulmonary vessels lead to an increase in blood pressure. This increase in pressure places a strain on the right ventricle of the heart. Eventually, heart failure occurs.

Symptoms

Clinical symptoms of heartworm disease develop very slowly. Often, symptoms are not noticeable until 3 years after the initial infection. Most of the symptoms are due to problems associated with increased work load for the heart. Lack of energy and exercise intolerance are early symptoms. Chronic coughing and difficulty breathing are both common symptoms associated with heartworm disease. As the disease progresses, most dogs develop congestive heart failure and ascites. Dogs often collapse in the final stage of the disease.

Prevention

Administration of once-a-month preventive medication is the best method for keeping dogs free from heartworm disease. Ask your veterinarian about the best medication for preventing heartworm disease in your dog.

Allergy Testing in Pets

The goal of allergy testing is to identify the specific allergen(s) to which your pet has an allergy. Allergy testing is done either with a blood test (sometimes also called 'ELISA' or 'RAST testing') or with intradermal testing (sometimes also called 'skin testing'). Following the identification of the allergen(s), your pet usually begins a series of injections of a dilute solution of the allergens, with the idea of desensitizing his or her immune system to future allergen exposure. This is called immunotherapy. The exact schedule of injections is tailored to each individual case, but often begins as a once a week injection. The injections are usually carried out over the course of several months to years, and most patients require the injections for life.

Skin problems (particularly itching) and ear problems are two of the most common reasons why veterinarians see pets. Unlike humans who react to allergens with nasal symptoms, dogs react with skin conditions. These problems may range from poor coat texture or length, to itching and chewing, to hot spots and eventually self-mutilation. Allergies may also play a part in chronic ear infections. To make matters more difficult to diagnose and treat, thyroid disease may add to the problem as well.



Many times, severe skin itching and inflammation is caused by allergies to fleas, foods or environmental substances. If we can determine exactly what your pet is allergic to, it will allow us to provide more effective treatment. For pollen and dust allergies, it allows for the possibility of treatment with allergy shots (also called immunotherapy or hypo sensitization), which help to decrease the immune system's exaggerated response to these substances. Knowing exactly what the allergies are may also allow you to avoid things to which your pet is very sensitive to, such as fleas.

There are basically two types of allergy tests performed by veterinarians. The goal of allergy testing is to identify specific substances that are causing the allergic reaction, so that avoidance (if possible) and/or desensitization through allergy shots may be attempted.

As mentioned previously, allergy testing is done either by blood testing or by intradermal skin testing. The intradermal test involves clipping the fur from the side of the animal's chest and injecting very small amounts of pollen from trees and grasses, molds and insect extracts, into the superficial layers of the skin. Often, the test is administered under a light sedative/analgesic so that the pet feels no discomfort. If the animal is allergic, a hive-shaped mound forms at the site of one or more injections. This type of testing is more traditional, more involved and more expensive than blood testing, but has very few false positive reactions.

For the blood test, a small amount of blood is taken and sent to a special laboratory. Generally, the test results come back in about three weeks. This type of testing is newer and less expensive however, interpretation is more difficult. Although serum allergy testing can give meaningful results, intradermal skin testing is considered to be more accurate and is the preferred method of allergy testing.

If you have questions regarding your pet's skin problem or potential allergies, do not hesitate to call your veterinarian for more information.

Tips for Multiple Cat Households

Despite their independent ways, your cats are very sociable animals. Of course, they will never let you know that, which is why they quickly hang up the phone when they hear you coming. But the truth of the matter is, they can get lonely and bored if you don't spend enough time trying to get them to play with you.

To minimize the chance of your cat feeling isolated, you may want to consider getting another cat. And to minimize the chance of that cat getting lonely, you may want to get yet another cat...and so forth. Here are some tips you might find useful for multiple cat households.

Cats are very sociable

In general, the following combination of cats seem to work best: two kittens, a mature, neutered cat and kitten, or two mature neutered cats (either two females or a male and a female). The most volatile combination seems to be two uncastrated mature male cats.

Consider your current cat's personality before introducing a new cat. An active cat is more likely to accept a new kitten. A quieter, more reclusive cat might prefer a mature, adult cat as a companion.

If your cats exhibit personality conflicts, you can reduce the tension between family felines by making sure each cat has enough personal space and personal possessions to fulfill its needs.

Make sure you have at least one litter box on every floor and that they are easy to get to in an emergency. To avoid territory conflicts between cats, consider placing litter boxes in various locations throughout the house to avoid the exclusion of one cat from another cat's territory.

Be sure to keep plenty of clean, fresh water available for your cats at all times. Keeping bowls in multiple locations throughout the house might be a good idea.

Keep scratching posts and beds in several locations to accommodate all the cats in your household.

Is Sleeping With A Pet Beneficial Your Health?

A recent study by the Mayo Clinic's Center for Sleep Medicine in Arizona reported some people may benefit from sharing a bed with a pet. The study looked at 74 pet owners – 56 percent of whom allow their pet in the bedroom with them. Of those, 41 percent believe sleeping with their pet is beneficial to sleep.

A good night's sleep does more than leave you feeling well-rested. It plays an important role in overall immune function, metabolism, memory, learning and more.

Strengthen Your Bond by Sharing Your Bed

Dr. Ken Tudor, former Veterinary Medical Officer for the United States Department of Agriculture, believes the benefits of sharing a bed with a dog stem from our evolutionary partnership. Domestication of the wild dog undoubtedly included the animals joining "man at the camp fire and later snuggling closely with him for mutual warmth."



In addition to reporting better sleep, respondents also noted a greater sense of security. This could be from the simple reassuring presence of another warm body or because pets often double as protectors who will alert their owners to intruders. Dr. Tudor emphasizes that being in consistent proximity with an animal fosters bonding and a more intimate relationship.

"Some people find that sleeping with their animal actually helps them feel cozy," said Dr. Lois Krahn, a sleep medicine specialist at the center. "One woman said her two small dogs warmed her bed. Another person felt her cat who was touching her during the night was comforting and soothing."

Results May Vary

Although the majority of pet-owning respondents reported sharing their bedroom with their pet, another 20 percent admitted the bed-hogging, snoring or moving around can be disruptive.

Interrupted sleep has been linked to preventing slow-wave sleep and a worse mood than non-interrupted sleepers upon waking. The Mayo Clinic advises patients who have sleep concerns to inquire about whether or not their sleep environment should be shared with a companion animal.

"I think from a sleep standpoint, multiple pets increase the risk of bad sleep," said Krahn.