Sunday, September 27, 2015

Even Our House Pets Can Pick Up Intestinal Parasites! | Madison Cloninger, DVM

When our dogs and cats are part of our family we often forget that they still have some animal habits that put them at risk for picking up intestinal parasites. It is important that we recognize these risks for both our pets’ health and for the health and protection of the rest of the family cuddling in bed with them. 

The Companion Animal Parasite Council recommends we check our pet’s stool twice yearly by microscopic examination for evidence of intestinal parasites. Below are listed some of the common intestinal parasites we see, how your house pet may pick them up and a few key points about why it is important. Lastly there are a few tips for minimizing your pet’s risk.
Roundworms: These are seen in even the most well cared for of pets because their larvae are very hardy and can remain infective for years in the environment. Pets pick these up from infected dirt or eating a host such as a bird, rodent or even earthworms. Think about how often your dog may come in with dirty paws from its potty break and lick its paws to get them clean, play with a cute puppy while taking a walk in the neighborhood, or even try to chew on your hiking shoes from over the weekend. Has your cat ever groomed the dog that goes outside, played in a pot of flowers inside, or much less had a serious bug hunting episode in your house or up the curtains! These are very normal, ‘clean’ activities our house pets do, but can be an opportunity for them to pick up those microscopic parasite eggs and larvae. 

Roundworms cause the most severe problems in our puppies and kittens but even adult pets can suffer irritation of the intestine and stomach with occasional diarrhea or vomiting. This parasite is of high interest for families with children because it is transmissible if children put contaminated dirt or objects in their mouth. The larvae can travel not only in the intestines, but can also move through other organs such as the liver, lungs and eyes causing permanent damage and even death if they damage the nervous system. Google ‘ocular larval migrans’ and you can understand the importance of keeping this in mind as a public health concern and keeping your pet parasite-free for your kids’ sake.

Whipworms: These also remain infective for years in the environment. In a recent study 10% of dogs that presented to a veterinary teaching hospital tested positive for these worms, as well as over 14% of shelter dogs. Often, infestations don’t cause symptoms but some animals experience bloody diarrhea, weight loss, anemia, dehydration and death.
Hookworms: Also spread from ingestion of larvae from a contaminated environment or host (such as a cockroach!) or penetration of the skin. Sometimes irritation is seen on the paws especially between the toes. These larvae only last in the soil for a few months, however, if your pet becomes infested the adults may live in their intestine for 4-24 months! In the intestines, the parasite creates small bleeding ulcers where they feed. Gardeners and children who play in areas where pets defecate are at risk of being infected, usually by penetration of the skin. In most people, the worm migrates within the skin causing severe itching and lesions, though we can also get infections in our intestines like dogs if the contaminated material is accidentally ingested or the larvae migrate.

Tapeworms: We commonly see tapeworms in our pets after they have had fleas since they act as hosts. Tapeworms can also be picked up by eating other animals’ fecal material, lice or an infected rodent. Children can pick up this parasite from ingesting an infected flea causing a mild diarrhea. Cats are such fastidious groomers that they often bite and eat a flea before we even are aware of a flea problem in a home or screened in porch, etc. The hunters cats are, can also put them at risk of catching a mouse that may have entered your home through a small opening without you even knowing (mice can enter in spaces as small as a quarter!).
Other parasites seen in fecal tests: There are other common parasites we pick up on fecal exams such as giardia and coccidia. Most giardia of pets is not thought to be transmissible to people as is the species typically coccidia puppies and kittens often carry, but toxoplasma gondii is a very important type of coccidia of cats that can be transmitted to people. Toxoplasma gondii causes significant inflammation and can cause birth defects in developing fetuses. If pregnant women are going to be cleaning a cat’s litter box, it is important to clean it at least every 24 hours, before the organism reaches its infective stage.

So between the stool checks your pet receives to deworm for any specific parasites they may have picked up by killing that bug in your house or playing in the yard, here are a few tips to minimize them from getting an infestation. 
  • Pick up the feces from your yard daily before it contaminates the soil
  • Wash any raw fruits/veggies you may feed
  • Don’t let your pet drink out of standing or run off water. 
  • Keeping your cats indoors certainly decreases the risk of picking up parasites from hunting (though as pointed out there are still windows of opportunity for indoor kitties too). 
  • Check with your veterinarian before putting your pet on a raw meat diet. 
  • Keep little ones safe by keeping sandboxes covered. 
  • Try to have separate areas of the yard where the children can play that the dogs are not contaminating. 
  • Follow leash laws and clean up after your pet to keep everyone safer.

Information pulled from Companion Animal Parasite Council.

This article was written by Madison Clonginger, DVM of Plaza Veterinary Hospital.  Contact Plaza Veterinary Hospital for more information about this article or any other questions you may have about your pet by visiting:


Monday, September 7, 2015

Have Your Pet Featured on the Cover of Triad Happy Tails Magazine!

It's that time of year again: Your adopted pet could be featured on the cover of Triad Happy Tails Magazine this winter!  

Cover Model Contest - Sponsored by Biscuitville:

Enter the Cover Model Contest for your chance to have your pet featured in a winter issue of Triad Happy Tails Magazine!   Contest winners will also receive a professional 5x7 portrait of your pet and a $50 gift certificate to Biscuitville! 

How to Enter: 
  • Submit a photo of your cat or dog with a brief story (300 words or less) about why you adopted your pet and how this changed your life.   
  • The team at Triad Happy Tails Magazine will choose one cat and one dog winner who will be featured on the cover of the December 2015 or January 2016 issue.  (Both winners must be transported to a studio for a photo shoot, which will take place the week of 11/2/2015.)

See Who Won Last Year's Contest!

Sir Richard - Feline Model Winner

 Stevie - Canine Model Winner

For full contest details, see the ad in our September 2015 issue of Triad Happy Tails Magazine!  Magazine distribution locations can be found at:

Monday, June 29, 2015

Complementary & Alternative Therapy for Pets | by Hunter Hodges, DVM

The term complementary is used to indicate other modalities that are an adjunct to Western care and not only an alternative. Examples would be Acupuncture, Chiropractic, Herbal, Laser, etc. These modalities may provide alternative outcomes including reduction in medications needed, an option to surgery and fewer complications with treatments. Complementary modalities can enhance the quality of care that we can provide, and more importantly enhance the quality of life for our pets.

Imagine for a moment that your dog has significant osteoarthritis or a soft tissue injury. To develop a treatment plan with conventional Western medicine, one would first get a complete history, examine the pet and note any observations. Radiographs would be the most common diagnostic, followed with a treatment plan of restricted activity and anti-inflammatory medications scientifically proven to relieve this type of pain. At this point, a complementary therapy could be easily integrated into the plan. In caring for animals, my thought process is and always will be rooted in the principles learned in veterinary school, but I have also come to understand that to do what’s best for my patients I have to keep an open mind and consider alternative therapies to complement the Western approach.

Based on traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture aims to correct imbalances in the body’s Qi (energy flow) that are believed to cause health problems. In Western terms it is believed that pain impulses can be blocked before reaching the brain or that the brain can be stimulated to release powerful endorphins to ease pain. Very fine needles are inserted under the skin and left for 15­-20 minutes which is well tolerated by most animals. Other techniques may involve mild electric currents (electroacupuncture), liquid vitamin injections (aquapuncture) and even lasers to stimulate points. 

Involves careful and accurate manipulation of joints of the spine and extremities to help re-­establish proper alignment, reset joint receptors and increase range of motion. Ninety percent of the input to the nervous system is from joint and stretch receptors located in tendons, ligaments and muscles. The nervous system runs the whole animal, therefore, managing the nervous system through these receptors can provide efficient and accurate care. When a more normal range of motion is re­-established by the adjustment, the animal can move in a more comfortable and coordinated manner. Symptoms like abnormal gait, back pain and reluctance to jump or climb stairs will often improve.

Laser therapy is the painless use of laser energy to generate a photochemical response in damaged or dysfunctional tissue. Laser therapy can alleviate pain, reduce inflammation and accelerate recovery from a wide range of acute and chronic conditions. As rehabilitation specialists know, the main goal of treatment for many painful, debilitating conditions is to facilitate improved function and mobility. Laser therapy is a drug-­free, surgery-free technique to help make that goal a reality.

The use of complementary medicine has been growing very rapidly for the past 10 years and as more people utilize it for their own health, they naturally seek it out for their pets. Owners frequently will not notice the effects of complementary treatments until several days after the procedure and in some cases it may take multiple treatments to see changes. The complexity of each case often determines the number of treatments needed and the frequency. So the next time your pet has an injury, ask your veterinarian if there are any complementary (alternative) therapies that may aid in the healing process, and then find a veterinarian that has received the appropriate training and certifications.

This article was written by Hunter Hodges, DVM of Brassfield Animal Hospital and published in the June 2015 issue of Triad Happy Tails Magazine. Contact Brassfield Animal Hospital for more information about this article or any other questions you may have about your pet's health by visiting:


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Canine Heatstroke Prevention | by Meredith Witherspoon

Guest writer, Meredith Witherspoon's beloved pet, Dawson

It’s that time of year again! 

The kids are out of school, and it is summertime in North Carolina. The weather is hot and very humid. There are lots of fun activities for your whole family to participate in. Including fun activities involving your canine family pet. Participating in family cook outs, going swimming, boating at the lake, and taking (much needed) vacations. Then of course the many errands to the store and other places that you will have to leave your dog in the car. You then tell yourself, “I won’t be too long”, but how long is too long? I did an experiment before writing this article to see how much the temperature increases in a vehicle in only twenty minutes. From 2:35-2:55 p.m., the outside temperature was 91.4°F and the car temperature was 113.4°F in direct sunlight. I then experimented with the same vehicle in complete shade. The outside temperature was the same as before, 91.4°F, and the car temperature was 105.4°F. So, even if the car was in the direct shade with the windows cracked for 20 minutes, the dog would overheat at a temperature of 106°F!

Dr. Swanner of Creekside Animal Clinic answered some of my questions about canine heatstroke and the warning signs. How many cases of heatstroke have you experienced? Dr. Swanner replied, “I have seen dozens in my medical career, mostly during the summer months. Some of these unfortunately did not end well. When a dog or cat gets over heated and cannot cool down, major organ failure can occur.” What are the symptoms of heatstroke? “When dogs get overheated, their first action is to drink water and pant. If they cannot cool down, they start to pant excessively, the heart rate rises and they stumble/become disoriented, and abnormal gum color (dark red to purple) can also be seen. Soon, if the body temperature cannot be lowered, then unconsciousness/convulsions and death can occur.” Can a dog recover from heatstroke? “If pet owners notice these symptoms and seek immediate medical attention, then the dog may recover. To treat heatstroke, we cool the patient down slowly by a combination of IV fluids and other active cooling methods.” What would be your recommendations to prevent heatstroke? “Never leave a dog in a vehicle. If it is an outdoor dog, make sure it has access to plenty of water in the shade. If you have breeds such as a pug, boxer or bulldog (the short nose breeds), avoid long periods outdoors during the warm parts of the day since they are very vulnerable to overheating. Try to limit exercise and walks to early morning hours and late evening when it is cooler and have plenty of water breaks. If a dog does get heatstroke, hose them down with a garden hose and put them in the car with the A.C. on high and bring them to a nearby veterinary clinic. Do not try to treat heatstroke at home – this is an emergency.”

I can’t count the number of times I have seen a dog in a vehicle, in direct sun with the windows slightly cracked in a store parking lot, or outside with little shade or water. If you want to take your dog out in the summer, please make sure that you have cold water for your dog and remember to turn the A.C. on in the car and to park it in the shade! I also found a link to 19 dog friendly stores Being informed about the dangers of heat stroke and the many ways to prevent it could save your family pets life.

Meredith is the daughter of Adam & Valerie Witherspoon (Shiloh K9 Dog Training Services LLC). She has been working with all types of animals since she was five years old. Meredith is currently working towards becoming a Registered Nurse, BSN.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Skin-ny on Your Pet's Skin | Ask the Vet: Jessica Taylor, DVM

Long hair, short hair, curly or straight–our pets come with all sorts of styles. Some breeds are even hairless! Regardless the type, your pet’s skin and fur is the largest protective organ they have, and it is under constant assault. Keeping your pet’s skin in top shape will go a long way in ensuring their comfort and good health.

Lumps and Bumps
You are petting your dog (or cat) and feel something on the skin that wasn’t there yesterday. What to do now? Bumps can arise on or under the skin and can range from a mild problem to a symptom of a serious condition. First, try to part the hair to get a good look at the problem. Try to see if it is a tick or an object stuck to the skin. If so, gently remove it or seek help from your vet. If it is not something stuck, note the day that you first noticed it and call your veterinarian immediately if you are concerned or the area seems painful or uncomfortable to your pet. There are many types of masses, and some of them can be benign, or harmless. However, some types of skin masses can be cancerous and need to be removed. Your veterinarian may perform an aspirate (needle stick) or biopsy to determine if the mass needs to be addressed. It is always better to have something new checked out when the bump is small.

Creepy Crawlies
The skin protects muscles, nerves, and organs. It can also be prime real estate for parasites, too! Fleas and ticks are a constant threat in the southeast, and these pests can cause serious reactions and infections. The best way to prevent infection is to prevent the parasite, and there are many oral and topical options available that provide great flea and tick control. Mites such as Demodex and Sarcoptes are another problem and can first show up as hair loss or severe itching. Some of these insects and mites can also affect people, so it is important to report any changes in the hair coat or skin as soon as you see it. Resist the urge to try any “home remedies” before an exam, as these can sometimes make the condition worse or trigger other problems that make finding the underlying cause difficult!

Itchy, Itchy Allergies
It is spring, and in the South, that means pollen- and lots of it! While we sniffle and sneeze the days away, pollen and other allergens tend to make pets itchy. And when we say itchy, that can mean a lot of things. Pets can scratch with their feet, but chewing on the fur, licking the feet, or even shaking the ears or head are signs of itchiness. If you notice rust colored areas on your pet’s feet or fur, this can be a sign that your fur friend is licking, sometimes when you are not looking. Our feline and canine companions can be allergic to grass, pollen, trees, mold, storage mites, and more. They can be allergic to ingredients in their food, often a protein they have been exposed to for many years. The problem often lies in the secondary infections that occur due to the licking and irritation.

If you see scabs, bumps that looks like pimples, or a moist area that has an odor, there is a good chance your pet has an infection. This bacteria or yeast can make your pet even itchier, and the itching will not go away until the infection is cleared. Often doctors use tests like skin scrapes, fungal tests, or cultures to determine what the problem may be. Thankfully, finding the right antibiotic and anti-itch medication can make a huge difference. Allergies can be difficult to dissect, but once managed, pets can live a much more comfortable life!

Getting Rid of the “Dog Smell”!
Our pets get dirty and sometimes smelly. Bathing your pet can make them easier to live with, especially if they sleep in your bed! Bathing seems straightforward, but using the wrong products can make things worse. First, don’t use people products! Even gentle products like baby shampoo are designed for people skin, not pet skin, and can dry out the oils that help protect your dog’s and cat’s coat. Flea and tick products can also be dangerous and potentially toxic to many dogs and especially cats. Additionally, the flea shampoos don’t do anything for fleas once the bath is over, so don’t bother! In general, mild, non-drying pet shampoos are good for routine bathing, but if your pet has a special condition, a medicated shampoo may be best, so ask your vet!

We share our lives with our pets- including our homes, our cars, and our beds. Snuggling up with your puppy or having your cat purring on your lap can make a bad day fade quickly. So, we want to be sure we can give those hugs as often as we want, and keeping your pet healthy includes the outside as well as inside.

This article was written by Dr. Jessica Taylor, Veterinarian at Guilford-Jamestown Veterinary Hospital, and published in the June 2015 issue of Triad Happy Tails MagazineContact Guilford-Jamestown Veterinary Hospital for more information about this article or any other questions you may have about your pet's health by visiting:

Guilford-Jamestown Veterinary Hospital