Xylitol products

Sugarless Sweetener: Not So Sweet for Canines

Xylitol is a common ingredient used to sweeten human food products.  It’s most notably found in sugarless items like chewing gum, peanut butter, Jell-O, pudding, or other household products like vitamins, mouthwash, and toothpaste.  Ice Breakers Cubed gum is the most common culprit we’ve seen lately at Aldie, and unfortunately has a high amount of xylitol.  Just ONE tiny, little, delicious cube can cause toxicity in a 25-pound dog!

Xylitol toxicity is not documented as well in cats; most research indicates they are a bit more tolerant than their canine counterparts.  However, it is not recommended to give cats xylitol and you should contact your veterinarian if you believe your cat has ingested any amount.

WHAT DOES IT DO?

A dog’s body responds to xylitol in the same, but exaggerated, manner that it would typically respond to sugar: it releases insulin.  This causes a low blood glucose (blood sugar) level, which can result in subsequent weakness, muscle tremors, or even seizures or death. Xylitol is absorbed rapidly after ingestion; the drop in blood sugar can occur as quickly as 30 minutes after ingestion, but signs may take up to 12 hours to develop.

Xylitol can also cause damage to your dog’s liver.  It can take up to 2-3 days for evidence of the damage to appear on lab work.  The liver damage can range in severity from mild and temporary, to extreme and life-threatening.  The liver is an important organ and has many jobs.  We typically think of it as the filter/recycler of the body, as it processes blood from all around the body and “cleans” it up.   However, the liver also makes many things, including clotting factors. Clotting factors allow the body to stop a severe hemorrhagic event from occurring following a simple injury (think bumping your knee=small bruise, not life-threatening hemorrhage).   Dogs with severe liver damage may become jaundiced (have a yellow tinge to eyes/skin).   If the clotting factors are also affected, life-threatening anemia can occur, and a blood transfusion may be required.

WHAT SHOULD I DO?

Time is of the essence! As soon as you realize your dog has ingested something containing xylitol, contact the veterinarians at Dulles South Veterinary Center and bring them in right away!  Blood glucose can drop as soon as 30 minutes after ingestion, so there’s no time to waste.

WHAT DOES THE VET DO?

We will induce vomiting, and make recommendations for further treatment and monitoring based on how much xylitol your dog ingested.  Inducing vomiting at home with hydrogen peroxide can work, sometimes. However, there are studies that show that burns from the peroxide ingestion can persist in the esophagus/stomach days after the vomiting episode. Veterinarians have a much more potent vomiting agent, which is more likely to be successful than just peroxide, and less likely to have the abrasive side effects.

After vomiting occurs, we often recommend hospitalization for IV fluid support, dextrose (sugar) supplementation, liver protectant medications, and frequent monitoring lab work.  These hospital stays range from 1 day for minimally affected dogs, to a week or more in very severe cases.

PREVENTION

Xylitol is a sneakily dangerous food ingredient.  Make sure to double check what kind of peanut butter you use to feed treats/medications, and use extreme caution with oral hygiene products, medications/vitamins, and chewing gum in the house. Make sure to keep your toothpaste and mouthwash in a drawer if you have a counter surfer, and keep purses and bookbags with gum up high on hooks to deter “shopping” from these items.

The veterinarians at Dulles South Veterinary Center are here to answer any questions or treat your pet if he/she happens to get a hold of xylitol-containing goodies.

Skipper's Reaction

Neutering and the Cone of Shame

Skipper is now 6 months of age, a milestone which brings up an important conversation about the future of those two things between his hind legs. Does he really have to lose them? What health benefit is there to neutering my pet? When is the best age to part ways with them? Let’s go over some of the most common questions.

Should Skipper be neutered?
Breeding dogs has its place, for responsible, thoughtful breeders, who want to contribute to an individual breed’s future. Breeding a litter of puppies sounds fun, right? Who wouldn’t want a litter of tiny wriggling puppies in their house for a few weeks? But, whelping (birthing of puppies) is a full-time job. Keeping momma and puppies safe and healthy is tough, requires hard work, conscientious, round the clock care, and should be left to the educated breeders who truly have a passion for the duties associated.

Now, obviously Skipper isn’t having puppies himself, so where does that put us? Un-neutered male dogs (we call them intact males) are more likely to go off roaming, to find a mate. This could put another dog owner at risk for having to care for an unwanted litter and put Skipper at risk for injury on his wandering adventure.

Intact males are at risk for development of testicular cancer, infection of the testicular cord and/or testicles, testicular torsion (a painful twisting of the spermatic cord which chokes off blood supply to the testicles), and prostatitis (inflammation/infection of the prostate). Without the testicles, the risk for these conditions drops impressively, to 0%.

Some intact males may also have some undesirable behaviors, like roaming, wandering, marking, and in some cases, aggression/reactivity to other dogs or humans. Some groomers, boarding facilities, and doggie daycare facilities have policies that restrict or prohibit access to their facilities.

OK, so when do we plan this?
For small to medium breed dogs, anywhere in the 4-6 months age range is appropriate for neutering. For larger breeds, like Labradors, Rottweilers, Great Danes, etc., I often discuss waiting until the dog is more skeletally mature. There are several studies documenting a beneficial, protective effect of sex hormones on joint development in these bigger dogs.

The breeds listed above are inherently at a higher risk of developing some orthopedic conditions, like a torn cruciate ligament (like an ACL tear in humans). Allowing these guys to remain intact until around 1 year of age may decrease that individual’s risk of injury. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Skipper will never have an orthopedic injury if I allow him to stay intact until he’s a year old. Likewise, it doesn’t mean that every dog neutered before a year of age will definitely have an orthopedic issue. It’s just a factor in the planning process to discuss with your dog’s veterinarian.

What should I expect before, during, and after a neuter?
Within 30 days of your dog’s procedure, a pre-operative blood test needs to be completed. The lab work will tell us if his liver and kidneys are up for the job of processing anesthesia and pain medications. It also ensures that we know his red blood cell, white blood cell, and platelet counts are normal, which is important before any surgical procedure.

The day of his neuter, withhold breakfast to ensure he doesn’t become nauseous following anesthesia. Check-in for surgery is usually between 7-8 am. The procedure itself is fairly quick, usually about 30 minutes, and once your dog is up and awake, he can go home, sporting his brand new e-collar. Sometimes this is as early as lunchtime; it all depends on where your dog’s procedure falls in that day’s surgical line-up.

Your dog may feel a bit “funny” the night following anesthesia. Some dogs whine or pace, others will just want to go home and go to bed. He will need to take it easy for the next 7-10 days and MUST wear the oh-so-glamorous lampshade, to make sure he doesn’t damage his surgery site until it has time to fully heal. For those dogs who spend more time jumping around on two legs than walking on four, we often recommend a light sedative to help encourage him to stay quiet during the healing period. He’ll also have some pain medications for the first few days after surgery to keep him comfortable.

Since Skipper is a large breed puppy, and so far very well behaved, we’re planning his neuter for around 10-12 months of age. Discuss the best plan for your puppy at his puppy examination; we can help create a plan that fits each individual, and answer any questions you may have.

-Skipper & Dr. Conroy

#Vetsrus #SkipperAndConroy #FollowFriday #FF

I can Help

Outings to the Super Pet Expo

The Super Pet Expo is just a week away! This event has lots of fun things to offer both humans and canines.  For the humans, you can shop from many vendors of unique, pet-related products: beds, treats, collars, clothes, toys, etc. For the dogs, there are several activities: small and big dog play areas, a dock diving pool, and a lure game for dogs who like to chase!

 

So it sounds awesome, and you want to take your dog. But how do you know if your dog is going to enjoy his time at the Expo as much as you will?

 

For adult dogs, consider the following:

  1. Does your dog like being around other dogs?
    • Does he greet other dogs in a calm, friendly manner? Look for signs such as a loosely wagging, raised tail, ears forward, and a relaxed face.
    • If your dog is pulling so much that you don’t need to go to the gym tomorrow, and lunging at other dogs, he is not a good candidate. While your dog might be enjoying himself, he’s going to intimidate others.
    • Likewise, if your dog is hiding behind your leg, tail tucked, ears are back and his lips are pulled back tight into a “smile,” he would rather let you shop alone at the Expo.
    • Check out this link for more information on identifying signs of anxiety/stress in your dog: https://fearfreehappyhomes.com/fearful-fido/
  2. Your dog likes being around other people and is comfortable with tiny humans
    • LOTS of people come out to enjoy the Expo and look at all the cute dogs! If large crowds, strange people, or the unpredictable hands and fast movements of tiny humans make your dog uncomfortable, you should think twice about bringing him along.
  3. Leash Manners
    • With so many toys, treats, people, and other pets around, it’s very important that your dog is obedient on a leash to avoid an accident.
    • I strongly recommend using a harness rather than a collar. A dog who pulls on collars can put a lot of pressure on his windpipe, and cause discomfort, difficulty breathing, coughing, and/or gagging. Front-lead harnesses (the ring to clip the leash is on the front of the dog’s chest, rather than on the back) are really helpful for dogs who like to pull. Or look into a gentle leader- with a halter type loop over the nose. For any leash/harness, always make sure to read the instructions to ensure a proper fit
  4. Vaccinated
    • This is the MOST important consideration. Before taking your dog (especially a puppy!) out into a dog-dense location, it’s critically important that he is up to date on vaccinations to protect himself and others.
    • Dogs socializing with other dogs in public should be up to date on their rabies, distemper, and bordetella vaccines.
  5. Caution Alerts:
    1. If you are unsure of how your dog will react, attach a yellow or red ribbon to his leash and/or harness, to alert others that he may not like attention.
    2. You can also get creative and make a t-shirt with a gentle warning, “Anxious. Please do not pet me.”

 

What if you have a young puppy, working on socialization skills and outings, and want to use the Expo as a training time?  This could work, with a few precautions.

  1. First and foremost, make sure your puppy is on track with his vaccination schedule.
  2. Attend the Expo at times less popular times of day to avoid overwhelming his senses.
  3. Bring your pup in a cart/stroller to minimize exposure to germs on the ground, especially if he is less than 5 months of age.
  4. Keep some sanitizer handy for new people to use prior to petting your puppy to avoid disease transmission.
  5. Minimize or prevent interactions with other dogs, as there is no way to know their vaccination status or how they may interact with the puppy.
  6. Remember, it’s your responsibility to advocate for your puppy. It is OK to decline peoples’ request to pet your puppy or ask them to refrain if they forget to ask permission.

 

The Super Pet Expo is a very fun family-friendly event for all.  Make sure to bring LOTS and LOTS of treats from home for positive reinforcement. Keep an eye on your dog’s behavior for signs of anxiety, and make adjustments as needed. That may be offering some treats and re-focusing, taking a time-out in a quiet corner, or even leaving the Expo a little early.   Do not force your dog to participate in the dog activities. Remember to use lots of positive encouragement, treats, and patience.  For example, Skipper has not yet been exposed to water (only ice so far this year, sadly), so you would not find us leaping from the dock diving exhibit. We suspect he *might* like the lure exhibit though!

Have a great time at the Super Pet Expo, and make sure to stop by and see our emergency team at the Dulles South Veterinary Center booth for fun freebies from March 15, 2019 to March 17, 2019!

 

Dr. Conroy & Skipper

#SuperPetExpo #SkipperAndConroy #Vetsrus #FollowFriday #FF

 

Skipper Flies

Preventatives Part II: Stopping the Creepy Crawlies

So last week we covered heartworm disease and its prevention. Skipper and Lily line up on the first of the month, all year round, even if there are 4 inches of snow on the ground, to get not one but TWO very special treats. The first is a heartworm/intestinal parasite preventive, and the second is a flea/tick preventive.  Whisper, the feline housemate, aka Boss of the House, is not so excited for her topical heartworm/flea/intestinal parasite treatment each month, but a little tuna makes everything better in her world.

 

FLEAS

Everyone’s familiar with these little jumpy, black bugs. Flea infestations can be quite nasty to control once they’ve taken hold.  And this isn’t just a warm weather issue: a flea that hitch-hikes into your warm house with carpet, blankets, baseboards, or rugs to ride out the winter has hit the jackpot and will have no intention of vacating.  They can live on wild animals (rodents, squirrels, deer, etc.) and jump on your pet from a shared yard/outside space.  Fleas feed off the animal host and lay eggs which fall into the environment (most worrisome, the carpet/floor in your house).  Fortunately, they won’t “infest” a human, but they may incidentally bite humans if they jump off their nearby animal host.

 

If you have seen live fleas on your pet, take care to thoroughly wash any bedding and vacuum carpets/furniture they frequent to remove all flea eggs.  Talk to your veterinarian immediately about treatments to kill the adult fleas present on your pet quickly, and preventives to address future generations. A single female flea will start laying eggs within 24 hours of feeding on a pet and can lay 40-50 eggs per day.  Eek!

 

A flea infestation can take months to get under control once it occurs.  As the old adage goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!” Better to never see these guys than have to try to get rid of them later. Flea bites are exceptionally itchy to dogs, to the point that some quite literally pull their hair out and/or develop skin infections.  Very small/young animals can suffer from anemia in severe cases. Fleas also happen to transmit tapeworms, among other diseases, which can rob an adult or juvenile animal of nutrients.

 

TICKS

Ticks are nasty little creatures which can carry several different diseases, including Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Ideally, we prevent the ticks from attaching at all or kill them as quickly as possible once they do attach. Unfortunately, ticks are also fastidious bugs that can survive the winter, even under snow and during frigid temperatures. They tend to bed in leaf debris to survive these cold spells. For this reason, we need to keep all dogs on tick prevention year round. You can also make your yard less tick friendly, by keeping the grass cut short, and remove all leaf litter/debris regularly.

 

So, how do you prevent these?

I usually recommend giving flea/tick/heartworm prevention on the 1st or 15th of the month, as these dates are the easiest to remember. You can put reminders in your phone calendar to keep on track. Or go old school and use the monthly reminder stickers on the family calendar- super fun for the kids to do!

 

There are several options for flea/tick control: topical medications, oral medications, or collars.

  • Topical Medications: These are easy to apply and fairly effective.  Just part the pet’s fur, and squeeze the contents of the tube onto the skin. There is an oily carrier (nontoxic to humans/pets) which can leave a little greasy spot for a few days.  Some of these products also have the benefit of repelling fleas/ticks, rather than just killing them after they bite. Take care to use only veterinarian approved products.  Store labeled products can be caustic and harm your pet’s skin.
  • Oral Medications: These medications are easy to administer, safe, and very effective.  These products are labeled to kill quickly (<24 hours) after a flea/tick bites. They also have the benefit of not leaving that temporary greasy residue behind on the pet’s fur!  These products are not designed with a repellant.
  • Collars: The Seresto collar is a reputable, effective product which kills and repels fleas/ticks.  These collars should be replaced every 5-8 months. Frequent swimming/bathing can decrease the duration of coverage for this product, so for those water-lovers, we recommend changing them every 5 months.

 

Your veterinarian may even recommend a combination of the treatments, such as oral product combined with a Seresto collar for additional coverage, especially in peak tick season (March-September). Keep in mind, that even if a product has been proven to be 99% effective, if a dog is exposed to 100-200 ticks in a day (shockingly not unreasonable in some parts of our state!), 1-2 could easily attach and have a chance to transmit diseases.

 

It’s recommended to purchase these products through your vet’s office, or approved pharmacy to ensure quality control and avoid counterfeit products that can filter their way onto online markets.  Please feel free to ask any of the Aldie vets about which product would best fit your pets’ lifestyle!

 

Much love from Dr. Conroy & a Bug-free Skipper

#FollowFriday #FF #SkipperAndConroy #Vetsrus

Heartworm Sample

Preventives Part I of III: Protecting Your Puppy’s Heart

Virginia is a perfect environment for many parasites of dogs and cats!  Fortunately, we have a wide variety of products that protect Skipper and other pups from these nasty pests.  It’s recommended to have puppies over 6 weeks of age started on preventive products, to make sure their little puppy bodies aren’t susceptible to diseases and complications secondary to a parasite burden.  Let’s go through a few of the parasites we protect against:

 

HEARTWORMS

Heartworm disease is transmitted through mosquito bites, meaning that every dog and cat is at risk of contracting this disease. Heartworms set up shop in a chamber of the animal’s heart and can have devastating, even deadly, consequences on cardiac and respiratory function.  There is a treatment for canine heartworm disease.  The treatment process occurs over several months, and unfortunately, some parts of the treatment can cause significant discomfort to the dog.  There are also notable risks/complications possible. It’s SO much easier for the dog, and safer, to prevent the disease rather than treat it after the fact.  Cats, on the other hand, have no approved treatment. It’s also much harder to identify this disease in cats, and often the first sign is sudden death.

 

Even though mosquitoes are much less prevalent in the winter, Virginia winters CAN be mild enough on certain days that pets are still at risk. Think back to that occasional 60-degree day this January! Skipper was so excited to get out and play fetch in the false spring, but also very exciting for mosquitoes and other bugs. For this reason, we recommend consistent, year-round heartworm prevention administration.  Many heartworm preventive products also have the benefit of helping to cover for several types of intestinal parasites. While cats less commonly contract heartworm disease, the disease is much more severe.  For this reason, it’s also recommended that all cats are on heartworm prevention, as mosquitoes can make their way into the house.

 

Dogs should be tested once a year to ensure they are negative for heartworm disease, EVEN IF they are on consistent preventive products. Preventives are extremely effective, but there are a few resistant heartworms out there, that can squeeze by monthly medication.  Annual testing ensures that we catch and treat any sneaky infections early on. If you’ve recently adopted a pet with an unknown preventive history, or if you happened to miss a few doses, additional testing may be recommended. Also, the “heartworm test” has the benefit of looking for three tick-borne diseases (ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, and lyme disease) in addition to heartworms.

 

Aldie’s veterinarians recommend using a monthly oral or topical preventive:

  • Oral products: these are typically a flavored tablet or chew given by mouth once monthly. This is the easiest option and the most common choice of pet owners. Most of the products taste delicious; Skipper thinks he’s just getting another treat! I can even get some good high five’s before giving his medication. It’s really a win-win situation for us!
  • Topical: this is more commonly used to administer heartworm prevention in cats, though there are topical dog products as well.

Here’s to long lives and happy, worm-free hearts!

-Dr. Conroy & Skipper

See more information on heartworm disease

#Vetsrus #SkipperAndConroy #FF #FollowFriday

Baby Teeth Missing

Doggie Tooth Fairy

February is Dental Month at Aldie Veterinary Hospital! Did you know that our dogs and cats need dental care too?  Daily teeth-brushing is the best way to cut down on the plaque and tartar build up.  While your puppy is young, practice brushing his teeth a few times a week to get him used to the process. Start by just rubbing your finger across his teeth on each side, and then graduate to using a finger brush or toothbrush for dogs, adding flavored toothpaste makes this activity way more fun.  While it sounds absolutely repulsive to us, there are chicken, beef, and even peanut butter flavored toothpastes for dogs!

 

Now, I know some of you are thinking, “Yeah right, I’m never doing that.”  I encourage you to try because some dogs LOVE this activity and it only takes 1-2 minutes of your day!  And, it can save you hundreds to thousands in dental costs later. Remember, you and I brush our teeth twice a day, and still go to the dentist twice a year. Imagine years of plaque buildup without a single brushing or dentist visit, and how gunky those teeth would feel.

 

Personally, I don’t remember canine oral health being a concern for our family dogs as a child. It just wasn’t a popular topic in veterinary medicine even 10-15 years ago. Many of those pets were silently suffering from dental disease, rotten/wiggly teeth, tooth root abscesses, broken teeth with exposed pulp cavities, or undetected oral masses.  If you’ve ever experienced tooth sensitivity, had a loose/diseased tooth, or felt the sting of an exposed dental nerve, I’m sure you can sympathize with those dogs and cats. The difference is, most of our cats and dogs continue eating without showing any signs of discomfort. They just don’t know any better, and can’t say, “Hey Mom, lately that cold water and hard food really hurts!”

 

So why is all this “old dog” information on Skipper’s puppy blog? Because oral healthcare starts now!  Work on getting your pup used to teeth brushing so that we can delay the timing of his first dental cleaning, and increase the intervals between them.  If you have a toy breed dog, like a fluffy little Maltese or sweet Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, this becomes even more important; those guys LOVE to build nasty tartar on their teeth even at a young age.

 

There are also some dental concerns for young puppies. Skipper is still in the process of losing his teeth, and he’s apparently not read the book on a “typical puppy,” yet again! Most puppies will lose their baby teeth as their adult teeth come in. Well, as you read this, Skipper has 7 canine teeth. 4 adult canines (the big pointy teeth) have come in, but 3 of his baby canines refuse to be evicted.  He’s a little too young to get too worried just yet, and these teeth are wiggly, so I’m keeping an eye on them.  If these “persistent deciduous teeth,” aka stubborn baby teeth, are still around at the time we decide to neuter him (or maybe even before!), I’ll need to extract them.

 

Persistent deciduous teeth can cause numerous problems for that adult tooth which needs to last him for the next decade or so. Abnormal tartar accumulation and food bits can get stuck between the two teeth sharing the same slot, and damage that adult tooth. They can also detour the normal path for the adult tooth to come in and can change the way the upper and lower teeth meet when he takes a bite/chews.  If you notice your dog looks like they have two sets of teeth after about 5-6 months of age, ask your veterinarian if they are a concern. Often times we find extra teeth at the time of a young dog’s spay/neuter surgery and can easily remove them to prevent problems from developing later on.

 

Much love from Skipper, Dr. Conroy, and the Tooth Fairy

#SkipperAndConroy #Vetsrus

Dental Month

February is National Dental month in the Veterinary world. We wanted to take just a minute to let you know why regular dental cleanings on your fur baby are important.

Each day plaque, the soft white material, accumulates on the teeth. If this plaque is not removed, it becomes tartar. Tartar is the “cement-like” yellow material you may see on your pet’s teeth.

Plaque and tartar contain bacteria that circulates through the bloodstream, therefore going through each and every organ in the body. These bacteria can “stick” to organs, including the valves of the heart. Over time, even healthy animals can be affected. This bacteria and tartar also cause halitosis or bad breath.

When the tartar accumulates, it makes a heavy coating over the teeth. If left untreated, this tartar will push on the gingival above/below the teeth, causing gingival recession and gingivitis, the first stage of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is defined as inflammation of the tissue and boney structures supporting the tooth. If left untreated, the tooth will have no structure holding it in place, therefore requiring surgical extraction.

During a dental cleaning, also known as a comprehensive oral health assessment and treatment, our licensed veterinary technicians clean the teeth, examine the entire oral cavity, and take radiographs. Once the cleaning and oral examination are complete, our veterinarian also does an oral exam and reviews radiographs for any signs of periodontal disease. Once they have completed their exams, a treatment plan is recommended.

What can be done to help? Starting a routine home dental program! There are multiple options available including brushing, adding a water supplement, sprinkling powder on food, or using chews impregnated with an antimicrobial enzyme. Brushing daily is the best option but we are aware not every dog or cat will tolerate this immediately! Like anything else we want our pet to do, it takes time and training!

As with anything, do not hesitate to call and speak with one of our staff members about products, cleanings, or training tips!

Skipper_in_the-bath

Veterinary Pet Insurance Companies

While Skipper is young (and highly accident prone!), I’ve been looking into pet insurance.  Often the rates are lower when applying for coverage for a young/healthy dog, as compared to an older dog with chronic conditions.  These policies are becoming more and more common and can offer peace of mind in an emergency setting.  There are several different types of insurance and many companies from which to choose.

There are two main categories on the market right now: all-inclusive/complete insurance and accident/illness insurance. All-inclusive/complete insurance will help cover part or all costs of your dog’s annual examinations, routine vaccines, as well as assist with covering any sort of emergency care.  Accident/illness coverage will not help with annual examination and vaccine costs and is geared more towards unexpected, emergent issues, or chronic conditions requiring extended care.

 

For most pets, their annual examination is planned ahead of time, and the vaccine recommendations are fairly stable from year to year. Typically, these costs can be anticipated and planned for in advance. Conversely, Skipper doesn’t particularly care if it’s Christmas time or just a random Tuesday when he starts eyeballing socks to eat. In sudden, emergency situations, it can be helpful to have an accident/illness policy to alleviate some of the unanticipated financial burdens.  Owners often feel much less stress and pressure making health decisions for their fur-baby during emergencies when they know they can count on some assistance from a pet insurance company.

There are many options out there, depending on your goals for the pet insurance policy, budget, and risk aversion. Please be sure that you read all the fine print and speak with the insurance companies directly to fully understand your policy.

 

Pet insurance is a bit different from human insurance, in that your veterinarian’s office doesn’t typically work directly with the insurance company. The veterinarian is typically responsible for signing a paper verifying diagnoses and invoices for the insurance company. But, in most cases, the pet owner is responsible for covering the costs initially, filing the claim/receipt with the insurance company, and ensuring that the company reimburses them in a timely manner.  From my experience, most companies will reimburse within a 30-60 day period.

 

ASPCA, Embrace, and Trupanion are all very reputable companies, with a few different options.  Your own insurance company, such as Nationwide, may also offer a policy which could be bundled with your existing insurance policies.   The policies often have waiting periods of 2-4 weeks, so you’ll want to have it ready to go before your puppy decides to eat that chocolate or sock. We hope that you’ll never need it, but it’s always nice to have a little extra security if there is an incident.

There are so many different companies out there that it can be overwhelming on where to start and how to begin comparing the many available policies. This article provides a great chart comparing many of the well-known insurance companies out there. In addition, this is a great questionnaire to help make sure you are asking all the right questions.

 

Happy Shopping!

 

-Dr. Conroy & Skipper

 

Risk Based Vaccines: Is My Puppy at Risk?

So we discussed the “core” vaccines last week. This week’s blog will go over a few elective vaccines. You should discuss your puppy’s lifestyle, home environment, and travel plans with your veterinarian to determine if he/she is at risk for these diseases and could benefit from vaccination.

 

Canine Influenza

Canine influenza is similar to human influenza and often presents as coughing and sneezing.  Very young and very old dogs are at the highest risk of severe disease symptoms, such as pneumonia.  Influenza is transmitted between dogs and can be spread before an infected individual even starts showing any symptoms.  Vaccination for this virus may be recommended for dogs which are likely to be around lots of other dogs at parks, boarding facilities, daycare, or travels to regions that report a high number of influenza cases.  There are many strains of the flu virus, just like with people, so the vaccine targets the most common strain at this time. Fortunately, this particular canine strain is unlikely to infect humans.

 

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is transmitted by ticks, and most commonly causes issues with a dog’s joints and kidneys.  Stopping a tick from attaching long enough to transmit Lyme disease or one of many other tick-borne diseases, is the most important component of preventing disease. All dogs should be kept on monthly flea and tick prevention that kills ticks quickly. There are many options for these, and your veterinarian can help you select one that works best for you and your puppy.  The Lyme vaccine is an added layer of protection and can help prevent or decrease the severity of Lyme disease if a tick slips by your monthly preventive medication.  In our area of northern Virginia, there is a high tick load, and a large percentage of these ticks are positive for carrying Lyme disease.  If you live near woods, go hiking, or find lots of ticks in your yard, talk to your veterinarian about this vaccine.  While Lyme disease does infect humans, transmission requires a tick bite, so humans cannot be directly infected by contact with their dog.  However, this is just another reason to be sure your dog is on an effective preventive, so they don’t bring ticks inside the house!

 

Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease transmitted in the urine of wild animals, like mice and deer. Dogs are typically exposed by sniffing around areas outside, or drinking from water sources outside, like puddles or ponds.  This disease causes liver and kidney damage in dogs and can be transmitted to humans by contact with an infected dog’s saliva, urine, or feces. There are multiple strains of this type of bacterial fortunately the vaccine covers for several all in one immunization. Many deer claim neighborhoods in our region as their home, so even if you’re not planning to take your puppy on hikes/camping trips in the future, you should discuss your dog’s individual risk with your veterinarian.

Aldie Veterinary Hospital’s staff is here to work with you and determine the best steps to protect your fur baby against potential diseases.  In Skipper’s case, he lives on a small farm with tons of wildlife and creeks.  He is also exposed to lots of dogs through my work, and from coming to the clinic, so I developed a timeline to vaccinate him against all of the above and ensure he is protected.  Canine Influenza, Lyme, and Leptospirosis vaccines are each given as a two-part initial series, with a booster given 2-3 weeks after the first vaccine.  After that initial series, these vaccines can be maintained with one booster at your dog’s annual examination.  Skipper, like most of our patients, has yet to even notice when he’s gotten a vaccine, because he’s always so distracted by the love and pets and $20,000 squeeze cheese from our lovely assistants!

 

Much love & squeeze cheese distracting!

 

-Dr. Conroy & Skipper

#Vetsrus #SkipperAndConroy

Puppy Vaccines

Core Vaccines: What Are They and Why Does My Puppy Need Them?

The first few months of your puppy’s life are filled with many important responsibilities. For you at home, that means lots of love, training, and teaching him to be a good pet. For us at Aldie Veterinary Hospital, that includes making sure we’re working together to make sure he’s healthy and protected against diseases and parasites.  Your first vet visit can be overwhelming, and information from Dr. Google can be confusing and scary.  Please feel free to ask any questions about diseases, vaccines, and preventive measures you may have. We are here to help and provide you with evidence-based information.

There are two main groups of vaccines for your puppy: core and non-core. Core vaccines are essential vaccines for all dogs to receive throughout their lives. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) lists the rabies vaccine and the combination distemper/parvovirus/adenovirus vaccine in this category. These are dangerous, contagious diseases which are typically preventable with appropriate immunization.

The need for a “noncore” vaccine is based on each individual dog’s lifestyle.  There are four main vaccines listed by AAHA for this category. Your veterinarian is the absolute best resource to help you determine if your dog should have these vaccines; be sure to tell them about where your dog will live, if he will travel, and if he will be around other dogs often, so that you can work together to create a tailored, individual vaccine plan to protect him.

Let’s start by discussing the core vaccines: rabies and distemper.

 

Rabies

Rabies, of important note, is 100% fatal and can be transmitted to humans via contact with saliva from infected animals. Because of this risk, all dogs over the age of 16 weeks are required by Virginia law to be up to date on their rabies vaccination. The rabies vaccine is given once as a puppy, then boostered once at 1 year of age, followed by once every 3 years from then on.  In the event of an altercation with a wild animal outside, the vaccine is often boostered again as a precaution.

Virginia State Law has very strict protocols for unvaccinated dogs who are exposed to possibly infected wildlife, or if there is a dog-human bite incident.  Depending on the scenario, these protocols range from strict quarantine to euthanasia, so it’s important for your dog to stay current on this vaccine.  In our area, raccoons are the number one source of rabies, though other animals like foxes, skunks, and bats could also be carriers. You can help decrease your pet’s risk of encountering one of these animals by securing trash cans and other food sources outside, and always being vigilant about watching your pet outside.

Check out rabiesaware.org for more information.

 

Distemper/Adenovirus/Parvovirus/Parainfluenza aka DA2PP

Veterinarians often refer to this vaccine as just the “distemper vaccine,” but, it is actually a power-packed combination vaccine that offers protection against distemper virus, parvovirus, adenovirus, and parainfluenza virus.  These are all viruses which are transmitted amongst dogs through sneezing, coughing, or sharing bowls. Some viruses can also be passed directly from a mom to her pups.

Distemper virus starts with respiratory/eye symptoms before progressing to neurologic disease. It can be fatal, and some pups that survive will have lifelong deficits. Parvovirus causes severe gastrointestinal disease with profuse vomiting, dehydration, and diarrhea. Affected puppies require intensive care in a hospital for many days at best, but unfortunately many do not survive. Adenovirus affects the lining of blood vessels and can damage many important organs, including the liver, kidneys, spleen, lungs, and eyes. Infected dogs may require blood transfusions, or may not survive the disease. Parainfluenza virus is a highly contagious respiratory virus which causes signs such as nasal discharge, coughing, and fever. Young puppies are at the highest risk for contracting all four of these diseases and suffering from complications associated with them.

Fortunately, we can keep your puppy safe from these diseases with appropriate vaccination. This starts with a vaccine once around 8 weeks of age, then a repeated booster every 3-4 weeks until he/she is over 16 weeks of age. Puppies younger than 4-5 months of age are most susceptible to these diseases, so it’s important to stay on schedule with frequent boosters. He likely has some immunity to these diseases from his mom, but over the first few months of life, her immunity will wear off, and we need to be there with our vaccine to take over protection duties. Your dog will receive another booster at 1 year of age, and then every 3 years from then on, similar to the rabies vaccine.

 

Bordetella

Bordetella bronchiseptica is more commonly known as kennel cough. This is a respiratory disease that’s easily shared amongst dogs at parks, veterinary clinics, boarding facilities, doggie daycare, etc.  This vaccine is a liquid absorbed across the lining of the nose or mouth.  No shot needed, and most dogs just think we’ve given them a weird tasting bit of squeeze cheese. At Aldie Veterinary Hospital, we consider this a core vaccine for all our patients, to ensure the safety of all our patients when they come into the clinic for exams, boarding, or treatments.

 

Making It Fun

Aldie Veterinary Hospital staff members are trained in how to make the vaccination process as easy as possible for your pet.  Squeeze cheese, peanut butter, baby food, or other yummy snacks are great distractors and often the puppies don’t even notice the small needle used to give their vaccinations because they are so excited about the treats!

Stay tuned for next week’s blog which covers the three non-core, or lifestyle based, vaccines!

 

Much love from a happy, healthy, and vaccinated Skipper!

#SkipperAndConroy #Vetsrus #Puppy